Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Magical Moment 208, "Dance"

"When you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance." 
-LeeAnn Womack

I am not a parent, but I can imagine the burden of responsibility, concern, and even guilt that comes along with parenthood. My mother, for example, will forever bear the guilt knowing that she didn’t put me in tap dancing lessons as a child. It will be my lifelong sorrow, and one I never let her forget, that I’m not shuffle-ball-changing my way through “Tea for Two and Two for Tea” on some grand stage.

As a child, I sat on our living room floor, 6 inches from the television as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire clicked their way through “Cheek to Cheek” in one of my all time favorites, Top Hat. I scrubbed black scuffmarks off the linoleum kitchen floor after I performed a musical number in my Sunday school shoes, the only ones that made a tap sound with the heel.  To this day, my mother rolls her eyes and lowers her head in defeat when I casually mention my “dream that got away.”

I fear however, that I can no longer blame it on her. Today as I interviewed and auditioned for a ballet school piano accompanist, I observed one of the advanced classes. Although I tried to stay focused on what the current accompanist played, the tempo, the number of bars, etc, I was soon entranced by the dancers. Such a whimsical, fairy-tale like, and elegant scene. Slender ballerinas with fluid lines and pointed toes, dressed in tights and flowing chiffon skirts filled the large mirrored room and in unison, gracefully moved to the music. It was truly a beautiful picture and I marveled at their poise and strength.

Only minutes into the first exercise, I noticed one of the ballerinas and couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was petite in size, performing all the movements with as much focus and beauty as the other dancers, but she was the only grandmother, maybe even great-grandmother, in the room. Her short gray and white hair was pinned up at the sides. She wore the fine lines in her face as sophisticatedly and confidently as her white leggings and point shoes. I was truly amazed when I learned later that she was in her mid-80s.

What a shame when we talk ourselves into believing that a chance has passed us by. That it’s too late. That there is no point in trying something new or different. How blessed to have a reminder like today that unordinary things are achievable. And how lucky for my mother to finally be relieved of her guilt, for fulfilling my dreams is all on me now.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Magical Moment 207, "Sick Day"

I don’t know how one develops a horrible cold in the middle of summer, but somehow I did. What better time to have a sick day than on a weekend, with nothing to do but cuddle up on the couch within arms length of Kleenex, cough drops, and all 4 remote controls (I'm still not sure which goes to what gadget). Oh, but not this sick day. I had a gig in Sparta, NJ which entailed packing and loading up Ray (my keyboard), the stand, microphone, microphone stand, amps, cords, and music. Then driving for an hour in Sunday afternoon traffic (which is surprisingly horrible here for some reason), unloading it all, playing for an hour and a half, re-packing, re-loading….well, you get the point. It’s a lot of work any day, but especially when you’re still hung over from a late night dose of Nyquil.

After miles of interstate and winding roads, we finally arrived at quite possibly the largest house I’ve ever been to. The gig was entertainment for a metaphysical church gathering at a parishoner’s home. I was to perform with 2 other vocalists and provide their accompaniment as well as sing a few of my own songs. We set up in one of the spacious, high ceiling rooms and performed an hour and a half long set. The atmosphere was extremely casual, though I was very aware of the upper class audience. Here are 2 videos from the set. The first is “Dimples and Brown Eyes.” You’ll hear me very lady-like clear the huge frog from my throat in the middle of the first verse. I’m just thankful I was able to sing at all that day. Go Mucinex! And the second is "Bless This House," sung by Greta Herron. I just thought it was a really beautiful song. Enjoy the videos.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Magical Moment 206, "Katrina"

Ten or eleven years ago, my family went on a vacation to Florida. We chose the route to and from our destination that would allow us to drive through as many different states as possible, including Louisiana. And that was the first, and really only time since that I’ve thought about New Orleans. Until today.

As early as ten o clock this morning, I found myself sipping my coffee, watching news coverage of the 5th anniversary of Katrina, and wondering, where the heck was I five years ago, and why am I hearing more about this now than when it actually happened? I was a newly commissioned Lieutenant back then and working at the University of Nebraska as an ROTC recruiter. I’ve never been a current events buff, but how did something like that go right past me, barely grazing me in the process? I recall making a small donation to the Red Cross, and then…I don’t know, I’m ashamed to say I never really thought about it much after that.

I couldn’t believe my eyes today when I saw five-year-old interviews and footage of the wreckage. Politicians pleading through tears on live TV for help to come. A son whose mother died at the dome because she hadn’t drank water in days. They covered her in a blanket and left her sitting in her wheel chair.

I watched, trying to imagine the pain that was experienced in those few days. If pain could be measured, or weighed, it would have broken a world record that week. So today, I remember those victims who five years ago, suffered grief and sorrow I cannot fathom. I’m not giving an opinion on the issues of race, class, or politics that soured the tragedy even further, only that the tragedy happened and I’m so sorry. I’m reminded of just how blessed I have been my whole life. How I can do more than donate online when horrible disasters happen. How to open my eyes to the world around me and not be blind to things, good or bad. And just how strong the human spirit can be in overcoming so much loss and pain.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Magical Moment 205, "What a Wonderful World"

It must be a world-wide beautiful day today, at least in the northeast of the US anyway. It was a perfect Saturday to sit under a tree with my husband and dog, and just hang out for an afternoon. Here is another video from the Play Me, I'm Yours project on a day very similar to today. The weather was gorgeous, the sun was shining, and I discovered a gorgeous, small park in upper Manhattan called Harlem Art Park. The name certainly suited the piano that sat on the cobblestone courtyard, as it was brightly painted with New York City landmarks. Under the shade of picturesque trees, in a tucked away sanctuary in New York, seated at a vibrant piano, what else could I play, but "What a Wonderful World?"

To see more photos from the Play Me, I'm Yours project, click here.
To see more videos, click here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Magical Moment 204, "Leonardo Da'Beth"

The last time I attempted to paint anything, was when I tackled the white walls of the guest bedroom in our old house, which looked...ok I guess, but upon closer inspection, were sloppy edges, chipped paint, and brown drips on the white carpet. Today while Eddie shopped for finishing varnish to apply to his completed paintings, I browsed through Michael's and discovered a Donna Dewberry paint kit. Donna Dewberry (for those of you who do have cable and don't spend your free time watching PBS) is an artist with a simple style of creating masterpieces with one very effortless brush stroke. The result when this brush stroke is repeated in a variety of shape patterns and color pallets is a remarkable scene of flowers, vines, birds, and butterflies.

The technique seemed so easy on TV, that I thought I would buy the kit and give it a try. My surface of choice was a glass vase. After a few practice brush strokes on a white sheet of paper, I decided to dive right in and start on the vase. Surprisingly, I found myself really enjoying the process. And this technique really is easy! I would definitely say if you've ever thought about painting but didn't think you had the knack for it, watch this lady's show. As a certified self critic, I'm actually pretty happy with the way my very first paint creation turned out. What a great day to try something brand spankin' new!

(But really, take a look at Donna Dewberry's website, she has some really beautiful stuff) http://www.dewberrycrafts.com/home.html

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Magical Moment 203, "My Sliding Doors Decision"

I had a strange, very real feeling dream last night. It may have been from the 6, yes 6 pieces of Pizza Hut pizza I ate, or from the odd movie we watched on instant Netflix, so ridiculous that we turned it off after only 15 minutes. But I have a feeling it had more to do with the hours I’ve spent lately searching for an additional job. Music gigs are irregular and unreliable, as well as the few writing jobs I’ve secured recently. I’ve been sending out resumes in response to everything from personal assistant, to receptionist, to legal office admin. So far, no luck. I guess the economy really is in the toilet. I’ve even gone so far as to consider…CONSIDER…joining the Army Reserves. A thought I was sure would never cross my mind until I was faced with the reality of possibly having to relocate to find decent work.

As I walked back home after dropping off my resume to a near by company, the apartment resident manager was out for a walk and struck up a conversation with me. Now well into her 60s, she once was a Marine during the Korean War. Only for a few years, but she remembers those days with pride and feels a sense of camaraderie with me being a female Veteran as well.
“Beth,” she said, catching her breath from a recent trip up some stairs. “Do you ever regret getting out?”
“No.” I said without hesitation.
She proceeded to tell me how she often wonders what her life would be like had she stayed in for 20 years and got out with honors and full retirement. I knew what she meant. The military has a way of taking care of its own. And life would certainly be much easier in many aspects had Eddie and I decided to stay in.

As I walked away, I pondered thoughtfully the things I sacrificed after giving up the Army, for maybe the first real time since I got out exactly one year ago this month. A beautiful house with a swimming pool that certainly would have come in handy this scalding summer. Purchasing airfare to visit family without significant cutbacks on other things like...food. Seeing something at Wal-Mart that one of my nieces or nephews would love and sending it to them in the mail, just because.

That night, I dreamed I was sitting in a C-130, squished between a pile of fellow paratroopers and dripping with sweat as I balanced my painfully uncomfortable rucksack on my knees. The plane jerked sharply in the night, and all I heard was the white noise of the loud engine, barely suppressed by my foam earplugs. We all stood up in unison and scooted towards the door at the back of the plane, waiting for the green light to jump out, but it never came. We flew right past the drop zone as the Jump Master signaled, “22 knots.” The wind was too strong to jump. We flew in a giant circle, attempting a second chance to jump. Still too strong. By now I was woozy with motion sickness and fighting to stand upright and hold my static line above my head. A third pass. No-go. We got the signal to unhook and sit back down. Then we landed on the runway back at Green Ramp, unloaded the aircraft, and removed our parachutes and equipment. And that’s when I realized in my dream that that was to be my final jump ever, and I actually felt disappointment because it was scratched.

When I woke up the next day I thought about my real last jump. I don’t even remember it. In fact, that very scenario could have happened, but I really have no clue. And I was disappointed by that. I guess we never know when something is going to be our “last jump.”

I thought about the earlier conversation. Did that dream mean that maybe I did regret getting out on some level? Remember that movie, “Sliding Doors” with Gwyneth Paltrow? It flashes back and forth between 2 possible lives after she makes 1 defining decision.

We don’t get to see the consequences of our choices play out neatly condensed and edited like a movie, but I did picture what my life might be like if I was still on active duty at Fort Bragg. There would be some very nice things about it, that’s for sure. One of them being the pride that comes with being a paratrooper and military service member. Another being financial security. But I know I could never squelch the passion inside me that I have for something else. And I know that in my alternate “Sliding Doors” life, when another character asks me, “Do you ever regret staying in?” I would say without hesitation. “Yes. I do.”

“The sin is not in the failure. The sin is in not trying.” –Paula Deen

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Magical Moment 202, "Fifth String"

I spent several hours today in artistic creation, sandwiched between 2 dreadful bus rides and 4 smelly trains. Though the weather is gloomy, windy, and even chilly, it didn’t dampen my spirits for my 5th pre-production meeting.

We picked up on “A Builder,” still completing the demo recordings for my EP, which the musicians will take their cue from when it comes time to record the actual tracks. Recording musicians are really amazing and talented people. They can come into the studio, listen to a song they’ve never heard before, and in a day, play it to perfection for a permanent, professional recording. My producer explained that guitar, bass, and drums will take slight liberties in their renditions and are encouraged to explore spontaneity and creativity. Often, fresh ideas will flow when artistic minds begin to wander. But strings... strings get printed music and play only the notes that are written. And that’s what we worked on today. A string arrangement for “A Builder.”

The strings in a song are like nourishing water to a surviving plant. They envelop the song and make it warm, complete, and full of life. I found myself being very picky and uncharacteristically vocal as we decided on harmonies and melody lines for the cello and violin. There has to be the right amount of intensity and balance, yet it cannot overpower the voice or bury the other instruments.  If we get the strings just right, the song will be amazing, and I think we’re on the right track.

Sometimes I catch myself wondering if this is too good to be true. Will my songs really sound like I hear them in my head when this is over? I know I can’t control every note that's played by the dozens of instruments that will contribute to this EP, but I am putting my trust in Modern Vintage Recordings and praying that the result is just what it ought to be. Music to my ears. And hopefully a few other ears as well.

Here are my entries in order, as I chronicle my process to record an EP with Modern Vintage Recordings:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Magical Moment 201, "The Sailor's Tale"

He had been watching the darkening sky for an hour now. The wind picked up, giving him haunting chills up and down his arms. He knew the storm would strike at any moment. He gazed out into the chilly water, now brewing uneasily, and prepared himself for a fight. He straightened his back and drew in a deep breath, resolving to combat the elements and save his ship at all cost. That’s when a gust of wind came out of nowhere and like a fist, knocked him off his feet. It had begun.

His ship violently rocked from side to side, making it impossible to keep the wheel steady though he gripped with all his might. He had lost his crew in the last storm and now only he remained. Powerful waves crashed upon the deck and swept him across the wooden floor. Just as he braced himself to crash into the wall, an enormous wave tipped the ship just so, threatening to dump him over the side into the vast, unforgiving ocean. At the last second before he was separated from his ship forever, he managed to grip the ledge of the wall with his fingertips. When the wave had passed, turning his ship upright again, he found himself hanging over the side, struggling desperately to pull himself back over. At last, his adrenaline-fueled strength momentarily saved him and he dropped to the interior side of the ship’s wall.

He fought his way back to the wheel and wiped the water from his drenched face, squinting and straining to focus on the horizon. Just as he began to get back on course, he saw it. The sea monster. He reached for his water-powered laser gun, the only weapon not lost in the storm, and began to fill it with the sea water that now pooled around his ankles. The monster was rising out of the sea, towering over his insignificant ship. Hurry up, hurry up! He urgently told himself as he watched the water level of the gun slowly rise. The monster leaned back, gaining momentum to strike and then with full force, lunged straight towards him. At the exact moment, the laser gun was finally fueled with enough water and he raised the weapon, aiming at the grotesque monster right between the eyes. He tightened his trigger finger and let out a determined, victorious cry.

“Hey!” His mom said, shocked and holding her arms out questioningly as the neon blue water gun shot her right in the face.
“Sorry mom.” He said guiltily when he realized what he’d done.
“I told you to come inside. It’s gonna start pouring any second.” she handed him a towel. “Now pick up your toys and put them on the deck, then come inside and eat dinner.”
He pulled up his sopping wet swim trunks as he stepped over the flimsy side of his ocean blue wading pool, cuddled deep into the warm soft towel, and followed his mother inside for homemade pizza.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Magical Moment 200, "Two Hundred"

It's hard to believe that I've gone through another 100 of these things! When I think back to how this blog began and the place I was at in my life, I realize that I've come a long way. It began as a way for me to force myself to look for at least one positive, happy, and beautiful moment a day. Had I not done this and followed through, who knows. Maybe I would be in a darker place right now, or let the weight of the world pull me down even farther. In a business where I've taken self-esteem beatings and rejections almost daily, this blog has been a way for me to outlet some of my thoughts and emotions that I didn't even know I felt until I typed them in black and white.

Thank you to those who take the time to read my blog and I sincerely hope and pray that you too have found something positive from it. I hope you'll keep reading as I continue to give it my time, thought, and heart on a daily basis. Below, I've linked some of my personal favorite blogs. If you haven't ever read my very first post, "Number One Fan" from February 4th, I invite you to at least read that one today, as it is the basis and purpose for this whole thing. Enjoy.

Magical Moment 1 Number One Fan

Magical Moment 179 Tune Me

Magical Moment 151 Sweet Secret Moment

Magical Moment 84 Fly with the Wind

Magical Moment 93 First Love

Magical Moment 35 The Line Between Dedicated and Crazy

Magical Moment 3 Victory at the Broadway Comedy Club

Magical Moment 6 I Knew You'd Come

Magical Moment 48 A Rain Haiku

Magical Moment 40 Another Train

Magical Moment 64 Fly Girls

Magical Moment 121 Airborne Subway

Magical Moment 104 Blessings that Fall

Magical Moment 114 Two Fools

Magical Moment 160 Sunburst

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Magical Moment 199, "Destined for Chicken"

Tonight, I had the first 3-hour music set that I’ve had in a looong time. I was booked at a restaurant in Brooklyn called Los Pollitos 2.  Most gigs I’ve played recently involve only a few songs and usually none of which are my choice.

Eddie and I made our way down Manhattan in a torrential rainstorm that added at least an hour’s time to our travel in backed up traffic. Thankfully we arrived on schedule and I set up Ray (my keyboard) in the tiny corner of the small dining space designated for the musician. Thank goodness Eddie is available and willing to be my “roadie.” I don’t know what I would do if I had to unload and set up all those stands, amps, and cords on my own.

Initially, I was a little nervous about the performance, but after a few songs, I really felt at home. I played the same songs I used to play at Lee’s in Lincoln – boogie-woogie, Billy Joel, and other popular standards. At Los Pollitos, I earned a decent amount of tips and an unexpected bonus from the manager at the end of the night, so I was pleasantly satisfied. 
Three of my “fans” even came out to support my performance– my 2 neighbors and a fellow Nebraskan piano player who now lives in NYC.

Towards the end of the night, they started requesting songs – Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Elton John. And that’s when it hit me. I had gone from Lee’s Chicken, to Little Chicken (Pollitos).  I guess in 5 years, my biggest transformation in my career as a struggling musician, is geography. Oh well, how can you beat playing in a place with famous $4 margaritas?!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Magical Moment 198, "Felicity"

Felicity is the name I gave to the robin I found in the yard today. When I walk Joy in the enclosed grassy area near our apartment building, I often let her off the leash so she can chase and bark at the birds as they scatter to the sky. She’s never come close to catching one.

Today from afar, Joy and I spotted one lonely robin digging in the grass for worms. “Ready Joy?” I asked. As soon as Joy’s eyes were locked on the bird, I unclipped her leash and watched her shoot like a rocket straight towards the robin. But I instantly felt something was wrong when after a few seconds, the robin made no effort to fly away. I hollered at Joy who was overcome with excitement at the prospect of catching her very first illusive, flying creature. As I always suspected, when Joy was near enough to the bird to actually do something, she froze, stunned at the sight of the helpless little creature who was only inches away from her nose. I rushed to the scene and restrained Joy from the bird who was no doubt reeling with terror. She hopped to the safety of a near by bush as I tried to discern just what her injury could be.

A few hours later, I went back to check on Felicity, this time with a box and a towel. She was still there. Eddie and I cornered her against the fence where I scooped her up into the towel and placed her gently in the shoe box. I made several phone calls to wildlife rehabilitation centers from 4 nearby counties, but couldn’t get a hold of anyone. As I wondered what to do next, my neighbor, Barbara, came home. She is one of only a few people I know other than myself who would lose sleep over an injured or orphaned critter. We spent the next few minutes peeking into the box and tossing peanuts to Felicity, thinking if pigeons eat them, maybe robins do too.

Finally, I got a hold of a professional who told me that because we saw the robin open and close its beak, it’s most likely a fledgling. Fledglings are no longer babies, but not quite adults. They’re still learning how to fly and catch food on their own, but its parents are mostly likely nearby ready to feed it if necessary. I was relieved that it looked like Felicity would be okay after all. No broken wing, broken leg, or sickness. She would be soaring the skies in a matter of days. And next time she sees Joy charging towards her with a crazed look of determination, she won’t hesitate flying away for even a moment.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Magical moment 197, "Seashells and Life"

Today at the Jersey Shore, Eddie and I tried to soak up every ray of sunshine possible, realizing that somehow, the summer is nearly over already.  The water had warmed considerably since our first visit in June when we nearly froze to death. We waded in the shallow end, slowly inching deeper until we finally let the waves wash over our heads as we bounced on our tip-toes and spread our arms out, swaying in the murky water to steady our balance.

After the waves tossed us around to the point of exhaustion, we walked up and down the shore, scanning the sand for seashells. When my friend Deb visited, she took some shells from the shore back to her daughter, Zoey who was enthralled with the tiny objects.  So I decided if I found another pretty one, I would clean it off and send it to her. I was shocked to find that almost every shell was chipped or broken. I had a lot of trouble finding even one that was in good shape.  That was until we got further along the shore.

After a while, my eyes began to focus on the ground that lay just below the ankle deep water. The more I really looked, the more miraculous objects I discovered.  Soon, both of my hands were full, as well as Eddie’s pockets. My goal changed from finding one suitable seashell to send to Zoey, to finding enough to create a necklace. And then something for her brother. And then something for all the other nieces and nephews. (Of course, I don’t know what yet…I’m not really one for arts and crafts.)

It made me realize just how vast goals can become with just a little more experience and knowledge. Just like the more I see of the country, different cultures, and new experiences, the more I broaden my own horizons and expand my ambitions. And the world certainly has more experiences to offer in a lifetime than the Jersey Shore has of seashells. Just think what could happen if we focus our eyes, really see them when they're there, and pick them up.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Magical Moment 196, "Hey Jude"

This video is from the very last of the 60 pianos that I played for the Play Me, I'm Yours project in NYC. I remember how totally exhausted Eddie and I were as we scoured the city for the final piano. It happened to be one of only two pianos that were indoors, making it all the more difficult to find. As I reached into my brain for one last song to play by memory, I suddenly felt sad that our piano hunting journey would be over soon. So here is "Hey Jude" at the piano on 51st and Park Avenue. Enjoy.

To see photos from the project, click here.
To see videos, click here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Magical Moment 195, "To Accordion or not to Accordion, that is the Question"

Today was yet another meeting in the pre-production process of recording my EP with Modern Vintage Recordings. We’re at the stage of brainstorming exactly how the musical arrangements for each track should sound - the style, mood, and feel for each song. To do that, we spent the day experimenting with different instrumental sounds and laying down a very crude arrangement in Pro-Tools. This recording is what the “real” musicians will hear and base their performances off of when it comes time to the final recording.

We focused on only one song today (and this should make my dad very happy), “A Builder.” I explained that I wanted a very full, orchestral sound in this powerful song, and with Irish-sounding undertones. After several hours of trial and error, I think we hit the nail on the head. The drums are the foundation for the entire song, keeping the music moving, rolling like the vast green hills of Ireland.  The bass underlies and enhances the dark chord progression. And unlikely sound effects such as music box chimes and even an accordion, make the song stand out with unique quirkiness.

However, this basic guide is always up for change, new ideas, and additions and edits. But I am happy to see the skeletons of my music slowly filling out and taking on a life of their own. More updates to come!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Magical Moment 194, "Back to Life"

After 4 days of experiencing the Jersey Shore, Times Square, line dancing, and karaoke with my best friend Deb, I drove her to the airport so she could make her way back to her family in Nebraska. She purchased the airfare for this trip months ago, and we’ve been making plans and building up our excitement ever since. I was shocked today as I drove home from Newark Airport by myself and realized just how fast our time together had flown by. We’ve already started planning our next “Friendiversary,” tossing around the idea of a cruise.

We’ve always hoped that some day in the future, our paths will lead us near each other again and we grew a little sad today as we said our goodbyes, living that moment all too often since I left Nebraska. But I reminded myself of all we’ve been through since – marriage, kids, a few career changes, and thousands of miles – and we’re still as close as ever. And I think that’s worth something. So tomorrow, when we both wake up to our regular jobs, family, and daily life, we’ll have the memories from the past, plans for the future, and genuine friendship for everything else in between.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Magical Moment 193, "Edelweiss"

This is a video from the Play Me, I'm Yours project at Columbus Park in Brooklyn. Edelweiss has always been one of my favorite movie songs. I hope you enjoy it!

To see more photos from the project click here.
To see more videos, click here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Magical Moment 192, "Durango"

My husband finished his second painting. He painted it from a photo taken in Durango, CO on a ski trip a few years ago. When we were both in the Army, we took advantage of nearly every 4-day weekend holiday. We would hop into the car and drive as far away from Fayetteville, NC as possible in one day, hang out for a few days, then drive home in time for work. We drove all along the East coast to Virginia, West Virginia, and South Carolina. Once, we got really ambitious and flew all the way to Durango, CO. I remember what a great trip it was. The scenery was amazing, it was my first real time skiing, and we took an amazing train ride through the mountains. I'm happy that Eddie chose to paint this photo and commemorate a very happy memory.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Magical Moment 191, "No Idea"

Today I went to the Statue of Liberty for the 4th time in less than a year. My best friend, Deb is in town and it was number one on our list of touristy things to do in the city. I recalled my first trip to Lady Liberty and the wonder, amazement, and majesty I felt in its presence. But somehow, after a few more trips, hours of standing in line, boarding and exiting the crowded ferry, and countless aching muscles, the thrill has begun to dwindle. Regardless, it's impossible not to feel some sort of twinge of excitement and curiosity at the Ellis Island Museum when gazing upon the old, blown-up, black and white photos of past immigrants traveling to their new home.

On our final ferry ride back to New Jersey, I was amused by the little girl seated in front of us. She was maybe 4 or 5. I couldn't pinpoint the foreign dialect of her or her parents, but I guessed it was an Eastern European language of some kind. Despite the long tiring day the little girl no doubt experienced, she was full of boundless energy. She sang songs, hung from the hand rail, and even counted in broken English, "One, two, three!" Her mother directed her to pose for a picture with her dad as the ferry passed by the Statue of Liberty, to which she paid absolutely no attention. Instead, her father picked her up under her arms and held her squirming body next to his face. There he stood for a moment as the picture was snapped, while her arms and legs wiggled uncontrollably, her child-like song uninterrupted. I laughed as Deb said to me, "She has no idea the monumental landmark that's right next to her."

I began to think about the thousands of men, women, and children who've passed this very spot, seen this very sight, yet had no idea the amazing place in history it would hold. They carried all of their belongings as they walked from ship to shore, with the Statue of Liberty in the background. The spot of so many hopes, and so many tears. I wondered how many of them were oblivious to the significance, yet so very innocent, hopeful, and with their whole new life ahead of them, just like that little girl.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Magical Moment 190, "Funny Thing Happened on the Bus Today…"

Often the bus from New York City back to Jersey is so crowded, people are forced to stand the whole way because all the seats are taken. I could tell this would be one of those times. Luckily, I was early enough in the boarding line, that there was still a seat or two left. I took the nearest open seat to the door which happened to be next to an unassuming gentlemen, captivated in the music of his iPod. We didn’t exchange a greeting of any kind. I wasn’t even sure if he was aware that someone was now sitting next to him

Somewhere in the middle of the 30-minute bus ride, the man took out his earphones, turned to me and said in a very thick exotic accent, “Excuse me, are you a model?” After I processed what he asked, I let out a snicker through my nose and chuckled, “No.” I’m pretty good at reading when people are hitting on me, but I really didn’t sense that from him, which was even more flattering. I explained that I was a musician and he told me that he helped organize several events for New York City’s Fashion Week, some of which required the aid of live musicians.

We exchanged business cards and I exited the bus not really believing he would ever hire me for an event, but I figured, anytime someone mistakes you for a model…good day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Magical Moment 189, "Redeemed"

Today was my third EP pre-production meeting with Modern Vintage Recordings. We’re very early on in the recording process and so far, have only laid down guides for each song. A guide is a simple piano and vocal track that sets the tempo and key before the real recording begins. From these guides, we’ll come up with an entire instrumental arrangement for each of the 5 songs. After that is recorded, the next step is to record vocals. And finally, everything will be mixed and mastered to perfection.

My last meeting didn’t go so well. I was nervous, distracted, and had a difficult time playing my songs in time with the electronic click track. I realized a few days later that we completely forgot about one of the songs, “Throw Some More Dirt,” and when I reminded the production team, they called me in again to lay down a guide for it.

Thank goodness they did, because today went fifty bazillion times better than last time. So much better in fact, that after we laid down “Throw Some More Dirt” in only one take without errors, my producer asked me to re-do all the guides from the last time. I happily obliged. I went through each song, with ease and confidence and before I knew it we were done…less than an hour.

I was relieved. Now my producers know I’m not an idiot. I can in fact play the piano in rhythm. I’m looking forward to the next step in our pre-production process. Until then, I am grateful for my redeeming chance.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Magical Moment 188, "Boredom Beads"

I recently started attending open mic nights around the city to gain a little more experience and confidence in my performing. It’s a little bit of a process. The night begins at 6 pm when we leave our house an hour and a half before the sign-up starts, allowing time to fight through the rush hour traffic. Once we find a parking spot, plug the meter, and walk several blocks to the cafĂ©, restaurant, or bar, I stand in line to draw a random number. I’ve done open mic nights in North Carolina, and in Lincoln a long time ago. There were like, 5 people willing to brave the stage. But in New York City, the anxious, artistic crowds are so numerous, the line is backed up out the door.

Some nights, I get lucky and draw a number under 20, other nights it can be as high as 50. And at 8 minutes or 2 songs per person, that adds up to a late, late night of waiting your turn. At a recent open mic night, Eddie and I sat at our small, round table drinking water and feigning interest for hours.  And while most nights, the talent is enjoyable, other nights it’s just plain atrocious. This happened to be one of those nights. Because the crowd is generally considerate of whoever performs, whether it be a magician, comedian, heavy metal guitarist, rapper, or otherwise, we found ourselves desperately trying to restrain our looks of surprise and confusion at some of the artists.

Eddie left midway through the evening to plug the parking meter, leaving me alone to sit through a maddening series of talentless singing and obscene lyrics. When he returned, he discreetly took his seat and we silently exchanged glances of, “we’re in this together.” Most places require a 2-drink minimum, which for 2 people who’ve already paid $8 in toll fees and $10 for parking, adds up to a lot. We usually order 2 Sprites at a time and suffer through the night with stomachs growling. But when Eddie returned that night, he pulled out…the magical boredom beads. Skittles. He purchased them at a convenience store on the way back from plugging the meter.

It may not sound like much to you, but when you’ve experienced mind-numbing boredom for 4 hours, with several left to go, and had your ears flooded with chaos and tone-deaf shouting, those tiny, fruitalicious, colorful candies are like a savior. Eddie spread them out on a napkin, lining them up by color, and we took our sweet time slowly eating them one by one. And though our ears were practically bleeding, and our back and neck muscles were stiff, at least our mouths were happy, if only for a few moments.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Magical Moment 187, "Drown in My Own Tears"

Thank goodness I have so many videos from the Play Me, I'm Yours project. I've committed to One Magical Moment Per Day, but to be honest, there are days when it's difficult to find that moment. There are days when I can't remedy my "blues," and conjuring up a fluffy paragraph or two just seems hypocritical. But when I look back at some of my videos, I can pull out a memory to share with you all and hope you see something in it that makes you smile for a moment. So here is a "blues" song from Gansevoort Plaza in Chelsea. I love the depth of this song by Ray Charles and I wish I could do it justice. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Magical Moment 186, "The Cutest Thing Ever"

As I walked Joy, she drew the normal amount of attention from strangers cooing over her sweet, innocent face. I paused on the sidewalk to speak to a mother whose tiny baby scooted on his stomach on a blanket covering the grass. I kept Joy on a short leash so she wouldn’t scare the baby, but soon let it go lax as I got caught up in conversation.

A mere moment later, I looked down in time to see that the little baby had scooted himself to the edge of the blanket and pulled himself up onto his hands and knees. It took all his strength to hold up his wobbly frame. Joy saw him, and though she was practically bursting with excitement and her tail wagged so hard it nearly knocked her over, she instantly dropped to her stomach just a few inches from the baby’s fascinated facial expression and inquisitive large blue eyes. She now was the same height as the baby and slowly inched herself straight towards him as he continued to fearlessly crawl towards her. There they were, both on all fours and nose to nose in wide-eyed curiosity of the other. Joy stayed on her stomach until the encounter was over, successfully avoiding scaring and overpowering the baby.

The mother and I laughed as we watched the stare down and I was suddenly so proud of how Joy handled herself around such a small child. I wished I had captured the moment on camera because it was definitely the cutest thing ever.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Magical Moment 185, "Groundhog Day"

At a lovely picnic area on the small Army base of Fort Dix, you’ll find well-landscaped grass, a sparkling pond, and lots and lots of groundhogs. My husband’s Reserve unit held a family picnic today after a Change of Command ceremony, to which I hesitantly attended. Big social gatherings, plus people I don’t know, equals some anxiety for me. Plus I still feel weird being a new civilian around military. This morning at the ceremony, I snapped to attention when the General entered the parade field, then quickly looked over my shoulder to see if anyone noticed the Army spouse in flip flops and a sundress make a fool out of herself.

At the picnic area, I soon found myself relaxed as I walked Joy around the pond. That was when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye scurrying across the ground, then got very excited when I realized it was too large to be a squirrel and too small to be a dog. I inched closer to examine the critter. It was one of about 10 groundhogs I would see throughout the day.

Joy was too oblivious to notice the groundhog. She was determined to re-create a game from home where she chases her leash around a tree trunk that happens to be the exact circumference at which Joy always sees the end of her leash, but can never catch it. I pried her away from the tree to show her the ground hog, and after much directing, she finally took notice.

I unhooked the leash from her collar and watched her take off like a rocket towards the groundhog. It was a new creature, different from her regular squirrels and pigeons in our backyard. And she was shocked when she actually caught up to the running, waddling little guy. Suddenly, she had no idea what to do. Her perplexed expression lasted only a second though, and the groundhog slipped into one of its dozens of holes in the ground. Joy spent the next few minutes sniffing and digging at every hole in the area.

Watching Joy today tear across the wide-open lawn without care or thought made me smile. I caught myself wishing I was a child and could do the same thing without others staring in wonder, or without injuring myself. Instead, I ate my grilled hot dog and potato salad, and enjoyed this beautiful summer afternoon dubbed, “family day.” But for us, it was groundhog day.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Magical Moment 184, "Before the Next Teardrop Falls"

This is a video from the Play Me, I'm Yours project. There are pianos made for classical music, there are pianos made for jazz music, and then there are pianos that are just perfect for honky-tonk music. This piano at Willoughby Plaza was one of them. Enjoy "Before the Next Teardrop Falls."

To see more photos, click here.
To see more videos, click here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Magical Moment 183, "Note Passing"

When I was in elementary, junior high, and senior high school I wrote and passed hundreds of notes to my best friend Deb. We would scribble them down on crunched up notebook paper, text book covers, even on our hands and sneak them to one another somehow during class. We told secrets, gossiped, and had more inside jokes than we could ever keep track of. I remember several years ago, sorting through old memories before I moved to Texas. I had to decide what to leave, what to take, and what to throw away. And when I came across a shoe box of 10 year old notes between Deb and I, I just couldn't let them go. To this day, I still recognize her handwriting at a mere glance.

When we found ourselves in college together, we still passed notes, only in a different format. I remember sitting through my criminal justice courses and having an entire conversation with Deb via text message, while she received and responded from the nurse's building. We complained of boredom, made weekend karaoke and dancing plans, and dished about guys.

I still pass notes with Deb. I got one today in the mail. It was an unexpected card, for no occasion other than she read the words and thought of me. And inside was a hand written message in Deb's consistent, neat penmanship that I recognize with ease. I still feel the same excitement, anticipation, and sense of friendship when I get a note from Deb as I did 16 years ago.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Magical Moment 182, "Pre-Production Meeting Two"

So I’m continuing on with chronicling my quest to record an EP with Modern Vintage Recordings. Today was our second pre-production meeting in which I recording 6 tracks with only piano and vocal as a blue print for the production to come. This stage in the process is the equivalent to a movie pre-production stage in which story boards, drawings and models are made so that when true production takes places, every one knows exactly what to do. One song will still be eliminated within the next few weeks, leaving us with only 5. The production team will add some very basic guitar, bass, and other musical effects to give each song a true musical feel. Our next step will be to add sound effects, mood, style, and color to each song. After we have a basic idea of how each song will sound, we will hire professional musicians to lay down the actual recorded arrangements of each track.

The songs we whittled it down to are:

1.     A Builder

It was a bit emotional for me today. Maybe it’s something about the plexiglas divider in front of me and the smell of a real recording studio. The microphone with a soft, un-faded black cushy cover. The brown baby grand piano, (which I’ve always secretly wanted in my house) that sits among cables, wires, and music stands. The headphones and controls in the adjacent room that make my voice sound so heavenly “reverbed” in my ear. It’s like being in a glorious chapel. It’s surreal.  I wanted to pinch myself to see if it was truly happening and I was terrified of ruining it.

As I played with the click track in my ear (like a metronome to keep time), I felt a twinge of despair. I know I can play with a click, a drum, a band, anything, but today I was so in my head, afraid of ruining the experience that I couldn’t get control of myself enough to get the job done. We did take after take. I eventually simplified my piano arrangements to a skeleton of what they were. My producer told me to just focus on the music. He knew I could do it. It was no big deal. Everyone has trouble at first.

I wondered where my trouble was coming from. No, I knew. Personal lives and relationships always spill over into the professional. I thought I was good at quenching emotions when needed, but today I could not. There was something gnawing at me that I could not shake or forget, as if a cloud continuously hovered above my head. 

In a room that made me feel as peaceful as a church, I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do. I recited the Lord’s prayer. There was no immediate miracle. I didn’t suddenly feel rejuvenated and capable. But I slowly accomplished what I needed to do. And by the time we got to the final song, I was smiling with pride. I can do this, I know I can. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Magical Moment 181, "The Rescue"

Early this morning, I woke up to Eddie asking me where the scissors were kept. I sat up in a confused state, first because Eddie was awake before me (which never happens), and second, shouldn't he know where the scissors are by now? When I asked why he needed them, he explained that he found a baby bird outside that was tangled. Suddenly, I shot straight up, threw on a sweatshirt and flip flops and raced outside to the bird. I've always had a soft spot for animals and couldn't bear the thought of one in danger or pain. Over the years, Eddie and I have rescued countless rabbits and birds that have found themselves in turmoil in our back yard.

When we got outside, I saw the little brown bird, maybe a sparrow, caught in a mess of string and twine which was tangled around his leg. I held the small, scared bird in my hand while Eddie gently snipped away the mess around his fragile limb. We set the bird back on the ground where we discovered him and stood back to see what he would do next. He was terrified. Too terrified to move. We went inside and googled what to do next and learned that fledglings are thrown to the ground by their parents before they can fly. This is how they learn to eat, fly, and survive on their own. Their parents are most likely nearby, watching over their fledging and will eventually bring him food if he cannot find any on his own. I felt much better after we checked on him a few hours later. He was hopping around the ground, and looked very strong and fast. I believe that he will find the food he needs and in a few days, learn to fly. I'll soon be looking for him in the sky, rather than the ground.

It may seem childish to care about seemingly insignificant animals so much. But I take the verse to heart (Mat 10:29), that God sees and cares when the sparrow falls. As a child, I loved the picture on our wall, that now hangs on my wall. It says, "Said the robin to the sparrow, 'I should really like to know why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so.' Said the sparrow to the robin, 'Friend I think that it must be, that they have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.'"

Yesterday, I received 3 e-mails in response to my short story submissions to online magazines. They were all rejections. It's difficult to let myself feel sad about that, when I know so many other things are far more serious in the world. But today I was reminded, of course God cares. He cares about the sparrow's tangled leg and that he couldn't learn to fly or find food unless he was rescued. God let me find him and rescue him. Yes, I can see how magnificent of a plan God must have to put all those details together to show me, teach me, make me feel a little better. Yes, I believe God did all that today. And I'll check on the bird until one day soon, I no longer see him taking shelter in the bushes. And I know God will check on me. I am not too small for Him to care about and neither are you.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Magical Moment 180, "I Auditioned For American Idol and all I Got was this Beer Coozie"

Yesterday morning as I casually flipped through the TV morning talk shows, I discovered that I must be living under a rock. It turns out that American Idol was holding auditions practically in our back yard in East Rutherford, NJ at the IZOD Center. In a very spur of the moment decision, I decided to drive over and pre-register for the auditions that were held today.

Well, first let me put an end to your suspense, no I didn’t pass the audition. Our schedule for today’s exciting events were as follows: Arrive at 5 am. Sit on sidewalk for three hours. Wait in bleachers for ten hours. Audition for 15 seconds. Go home.

Oh, there were perks. When Eddie won a free, styrofoam beer coozie for recycling his Sprite can, I thought it was a sign of good things to come. However, after paying $15 for a parking space, and almost $9 for a kids size personal pizza which Eddie and I split (I’m starving right now by the way), I began to have my doubts.

Twelve tables were set up in the middle of the huge indoor arena that held about 10,000 contestants and on-lookers. Each table had 1 or 2 producers, and 4 contestants at a time were sent to sing a 10 second solo in front of them. All this happened simultaneously, so the auditorium continuously echoed of, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, and Christina Aguilera sounding hopefuls. If you were lucky enough to pass this first audition, you were sent to a second audition in front of more TV producers. If you were lucky enough to pass that audition, you were sent to the judges, which is what we all see on TV. If you’re scratching your head at all, yes, that means that those horribly tone-deaf individuals that Simon and the others mock, have made it passed 2 previous auditions already.

Eddie and I passed our 10 hours of waiting by playing the one sad little video game that came free on our iPod and walking laps around the outside of the stadium. I knew early on that my gentle singing voice, even at its most powerful, was not the right style or fit for American Idol. Still, I knew that if I passed up the opportunity, I would kick myself later. So, if nothing else, Eddie and I found out that we could entertain ourselves pretty easy in the face of total and absolute boredom. I also was reminded of what a rare husband I have to support me so willingly on such a dreadfully long day. And of course, I got an awesome title for today’s blog!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Magical Moment 179, "Tune Me"

For two hours today I sat in my living room wincing as the piano tuner slowly transformed my sadly out of tune instrument into something playable again. I keep my piano in the spare bedroom where the worst temperature fluctuation in our apartment takes place. The cool air flow of the living room window air conditioner can’t reach the piano in the devastating heat and humidity of summer, and the radiator with no thermostat, blasts warm air directly onto the piano all through the winter.

I watched through the doorway as the piano tuner took apart my shiny May Berlin, emptied his case of tools, and began the painstaking process of plunking, tweaking, and adjusting each key, one by one until all 88 of them were in perfect tune. I was suddenly ashamed of how out of tune I let my precious piano get and hoped he wouldn’t scold me for it. I keep the outside clean. I polish, dust, and buff away marks. I keep the area around it clean, tidy, and vacuumed. But I’ve neglected the inner workings for far too long now.

How easy it is to focus on the outside. After all, that’s what everyone sees. So much effort is put into appearing clean, strong, and put together. But it can only be kept up for so long. Eventually, what’s inside our hearts comes out. And if we don’t take care of it, those around us will soon be wincing at our contradiction and hypocrisy. We all require maintenance, and more than the bi-yearly tuning that my May Berlin requires. I wonder, when was the last time I let the Piano Tuner come in, use His tools, and go through every aspect of my heart until each one was perfectly in tune with His will? Maybe today, more than just the piano will be tuned.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Magical moment 178, "Besame Mucho"

Here is a video of "Besame Mucho" with Kevin Marin at Lincoln Center. After one very short rehearsal, we performed the song had a few mishaps throughout. We totally botched the end, but tried our best to recover. I guess that's the thing about live performance. The show must go on. Enjoy.