Thursday, March 31, 2011

Magical Moment 420, "The Critter Awards"

I'm nearly 28 and I still love to go to the zoo - even with no nieces or nephews to use as an excuse. I went to the Turtle Back Zoo in NJ with Eddie today. It was cold and rainy, but I thought I'd take the opportunity to have fun snapping photos of my favorite critters.

The Happiest Critter award goes to: Cassie the Sea Otter
This is Cassie's first nomination as she is a new addition to the zoo. She thanks her parents for making her so cute, and the zoo keepers for feeding her and keeping her energy up to entertain the guests.

The Most Hypnotizing Critter award goes to: The Sea Horse
The Sea Horse was also nominated for Brightest Critter.

The Brightest Critter award goes to: The Blue Fish
The Blue Fish and the Sea Horse are considered rivals in many aspects, but personally maintain a good friendship. "We work together in our goal to inspire awe in our spectators," said the Blue Fish.

The Best Dressed Critter award goes to: The Peacock
The Peacock has won this award several consecutive years.

The Big Beast Award goes to: The Brown Horse
"I'd like to thank my 2 little bird friends, for always making me look big in comparison, " said the Brown Horse.

The Most Illusive Critter award goes to: The White Wolf. 
He had no comment.

The Toughest Critter award goes to: The Prairie Dog
The Prairie Dog lost his left ear and tail in a scuffle with a predator. "I'm just thankful to be here," The Prairie Dog said as he received his award.

And finally, the Most Adorable Critter award goes to: The Prairie Dog
This is the Prairie Dog's 2nd nomination and win for the evening, and the first time in history the same critter has won an award for both Adorable and Tough. 

Thank you ladies and gentlemen, and have a great evening!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Magical Moment 419, "Make Noise, Joyfully"

I spent the day practicing the Weeping Willow Rag by Scott Joplin. Ragtime music is great for ballet tondu exercises and I'm trying to expand my repertoire for rehearsals. I printed out the sheet music and began the daunting task of sight-reading a new song. One line at a time, I played the right hand, then the left hand. Over and over, drilling the new patterns into my head. 

I opened the window to feel the breeze as I practiced, and suddenly became too distracted to continue. The most obnoxious crow was squawking! Over and over! It was harsh, and loud, and repetitive. He just would not stop. So I tried to block him out and play louder. When I did, it seemed like he only squawked louder!

Eventually Eddie poked his head in the music room and asked, "Uh, what are you playing?" 
"It's the Weeping Willow Rag! Can't you tell? It takes a while to learn it well enough to sound recognizable!"

That's when I thought, hmmm. That poor crow was probably sitting outside on his little wire, minding his own business, when the most obnoxious, clunky piano music came bursting from a nearby window, ruining his quiet time. Poor little guy couldn't even make out a tune to whistle along with, just a mess of discombobulated notes! At least the crow's song was steady and solid. And who knows, maybe he's practicing his own piece and he just hasn't got it up to par yet. Who am I to judge? No matter what your song sounds like, just sing it! 

"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise." 
~ Psalm 98:4

Since I'm still working on this one, here are a few other rags:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Magical Moment 418, "Five Senses"

Choosing one positive moment a day to share is very easy some times. When I've seen an amazing sunset, been around my nieces and nephews, or experienced the kindness of a stranger, I know immediately what to write about. Other times, it can be more difficult. The days when I spent hours doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and putting in piano practice hours, it can feel sort of hum drum. On those days, I have to become a little more resourceful, depend on my 5 senses to heighten, and find me that one magical moment among the day to day activities of an un-extraordinary day.

As I play the cool, smooth ivory keys of my beautiful piano, I suddenly feel Joy's wet nose nudge my knee. It startles me at first. I thought she was asleep at my feet. But she's awake now. And she wants to be touched too. 

My husband brought home a treat for me. Easter's coming. That means the stores are filled with...chocolate bunnies! Yum. I like their peanut butter ears best.

I don't live near the postcard like scenery of Hawaii or Colorado. But as I walk to and from the laundry room, I pass several trees. Today I make an extra effort to crane my neck and look upwards. Bare branches. They sway in the wind. On one thin branch, a nest. I never noticed it before today.

Eddie and I run several miles together, then play a good game of racket ball. We stink. But it feels so good to smell healthy.

Turn the TV off. Turn the radio off. I open the windows to let the breeze in and I hear a song. Not one that I know or can hum to, but beautiful nonetheless. Wind chimes. Several of them throughout the neighborhood. A beautiful symphony of perfectly tuned wooden knocks, and sweet chiming bells. 

For an un-extraordinary day, I suppose 5 magical moments is quite lucky.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Magical Moment 417, "Last Minute Decision"

When my friends or family come to me for advice, I have two "go-to" replies. I decided I should get the sayings needle-pointed on a pillow some day. 
When a question begins with the words, "Should I..." I usually reply with, "Follow your heart."
When a question begins with the words, "How do I..." I usually reply with, "Google it."

I mean think about it. Should I take this new job? Should I switch my major? Should I spend the day cleaning the house or taking the kids to the park? Should I get a new dog? Should I break up with this guy?
Follow your heart. Your heart, your conscience, your voice inside your head, your cartoon cricket named Jiminy. Whatever it is inside you that tells you right and wrong, follow that. You can't go wrong!

How do I get to your house? How do I make tuna noodle casserole? How do I re-cover my furniture? How do I learn Spanish? How do I fix my sink?
Google it. Thank God for the internet. I google everything from how to change my guitar strings, to how to train my dog. 

I've been trying to take my own advice lately with this whole Law School thing. Should I, or shouldn't I? I even googled it. Yep. I typed in the words, "Should I go to Law School?" Then I watched the screen in anticipation, waiting for the answer to appear like a magic 8 ball. And for the first time, Google wasn't very helpful. As for my heart, it's getting pulled in every direction, so I find that pretty unreliable as well. I've separated skittles into "Pros" and "Cons" piles. Flipped quarters. And asked random people their opinions. Prayed and looked for signs. And I still have no idea. The kicker is, I have to mail a check by tomorrow morning. How's that for a last minute decision?!

I think tonight may be a restless night's sleep. If only I had a comfy pillow. With some helpful advice needle-pointed on it for me to follow!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Magical Moment 416, "Light"

When I play piano for a show, often the only way for me to see the music in front of my face is from a little, clip-on book light. But you'd be amazed just how brightly the light reflects off the white pages in a pitch dark theatre.

It reminds me of the lighthouses on Long Island we visited recently. Although we went during the day, I imagined how a relatively small building could illuminate a dark ocean well enough to guide the great ships.

I got to thinking; a small, battery operated light bulb can allow me to play music for a theatre full of people. And an enormous lighthouse lamp can prevent disasters. The sunshine of spring will certainly do wondrous things. I'm feeling warmer already.
(that teeny silhouette sticking up in the center is a lighthouse)

"Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe.  It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished."  ~Michael Strassfeld

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Magical Moment 415, "Long Lost Twins"

I love visiting old, cluttered antique shops. I love rummaging through the mess and spotting something that sparks an old memory. I think, Oh I remember seeing something like that in my grandma's basement. And then for a minute, I can reminisce over that thought.

Sometimes the feeling is so overwhelming, I just have to buy whatever it is I see. When we lived in North Carolina, I found this doll and I couldn't believe it! It was just like one that my mother had as a little girl. I remember because I played with her too. Her name was Hilda. I bought the doll, took pictures, and e-mailed them to my mom. A short time later, she sent me her doll Hilda because she thought they should be together. I know nothing about the two dolls except they are identical down to the hand stitched lace on their bonnets, and their hair is a different color. They now sit together on my shelf, thankful to have found each other again after all these years.
Left: Hilda, Right: Hilda's twin

Only a few short days ago, in Sleepy Hollow, NY, I discovered another remarkable find. I immediately recognized her long, flowing skirt. My mother had given me her old figurine just this last Christmas. She now sits on a glass shelf in my hallway. I picked up her win at the antique store and brought her home. On the bottom of each girl's skirt are the hand-etched words, "Josef Originals." It makes me think that maybe there are more out there. At least these two have each other now.
Left: My mother's figurine, Right: Her twin

I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together

Mmm, it's always better when we're together
Yeah, we'll look at the stars when we're together
Well, it's always better when we're together
-Jack Johnson

Friday, March 25, 2011

Magical Moment 414, "Blind By My Mind"

I'm playing for a new musical one-man show by Nathan Lucrezio called "Unheard."  It's a funny, artful, entertaining, toe-tapping, and heartfelt play that I'm proud to be a part of. At the emotional height of the show, Lucrezio describes his battle with cancer in this moving, intimate number. His sister, Elizabeth Lucrezio dances as he plays piano. At the end of the dance, I come and take over piano for him and he sings the beautiful ballad, "Blind by my Mind."

I read another blog post today by Dawn at Puzzle Pieces and it meant SO much to me. Musicians are often the background. It's easy to blend in. For me, it's safe and comfortable. It's easy to be overlooked by others and when that happens often enough, you start to overlook yourself. The post beautifully illustrates that the "backdrop" has a very important job - to make the "scene" stand out. So I do not take my job lightly. And I hope I never do.

Enjoy the video. The show closes Saturday night.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Magical Moment 413, "Opening Night"

For a performer, there is no greater feeling of anticipation and excitement than in those moments before "show time." I am fortunate to be part of the debut show by Nathan Lucrezio, "Unheard." A short 2 weeks ago, I received a phone call out of the blue from someone I worked with a year and a half ago on my very first New York City gig. They needed a last minute replacement pianist for a new musical and there was no written sheet music - and only 2 weeks until opening night. 

I spent the next several days transcribing music and chords from recordings and watching the hands of the musical's composer, Lucrezio, play the songs for me. In typical show business fashion, everything came together at the last minute, with our first and only complete run through finishing 2 hours before curtain. Opening night was a success. The audience was pleased. Eddie my dedicated fan and honest critic, had nothing negative to say and found himself tapping his foot along with the energetic, original songs. 

The best moment for me however, was earlier in the day when Lucrezio checked his voice mail in the dressing room. He made a face of surprise at me as he listened to one message. When he hung up, he explained, "That was one of the pianist we called before you. Boy, I'm glad he never called me back!"

The show runs tomorrow and Saturday night at the HERE Theatre in Soho. Come check it out!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Magical Moment 412, "Harry's Got the Right Idea"

To celebrate the new spring season, I thought about taking Joy for a good, long run today, but then I looked outside. Hello white snow flakes. Welcome back. Instead, I ran on the treadmill where it was warm.

When I looked outside later, I realized Harry the squirrel (named by my neighbor) had a very similar idea. Spring, you deceptive little thing.

"Forget it. I'm staying underneath the tree where it's still spring!" -Harry

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Magical Moment 411, "The Entertainer"

Yet another video from the Play Me, I'm Yours project in New York City last summer. I am lucky enough to be involved with the planning of this year's 88 pianos throughout the 5 boroughs sponsored by the charity organization, Sing for Hope.

This video was taken at City Hall Park in Manhattan and was pretty early on in our exhausting hunt for all 69 pianos. Enjoy the video and take a moment to check out Sing for Hope's website!

To see other videos from the project, click here.

Sing for Hope also does bedside performances at local hospitals:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Magical Moment 410, "Come Spring"

An man once said in the frustration of the winter season, "I get so angry at the snow. It kills the plants and leaves my trees bare."

His wife reminded him, "The trees are bare, but they haven't been killed by the snow. All the moisture is giving them the strength they need to bloom again come spring."

And spring has come!

Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!

~Thomas Blackburn, 
"An Easter Hymn"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Magical Moment 409, "Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears"

The museum at Ellis Island is filled with photographs, stories, facts, and written interviews of the historic days when immigrants to the U.S passed through the "Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears." I've been there a number of times now and am always struck by something new and fascinating. I can't get enough of the stories, some joyful, some heartbreaking. Thousands of people were sent back to their homelands after the excruciating voyage because they were deemed unfit for labor, a burden to society, or illegal in some way. There are stories of translators who hated to see immigrants deported, and so they would translate to the officials in a way that might keep them here. Over 300 babies were born on Ellis Island. Many people reunited with their families here after years, decades of separation. 

However, this short paragraph, transcribed for a particular exhibit, remains my absolute favorite part of the entire museum. This time, I remembered to take a picture so I could share it. I think you'll understand what a magical moment this was, for this girl and now me.

*I don't know if the second photo is of Katherine Beychok or not, I just thought it very sweet.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Magical Moment 408, "Shadows"

Those of you with an over active imagination, take one step forward. It's a curse and a blessing, am I right? It can be fun, creative, inspiring, and productive. When I was a little girl, I don't often remember complaining that I was bored. I played queen and slave with my sister, and never minded one bit that I was always the slave. That made a better story line anyway. I never got bored in school because even though I wasn't listening a lick to the teacher, I had plenty of doodles to keep me occupied in my spiral notebook. And all that diligent note-taking in Sunday morning sermons? Well, I wrote some of my best break up songs during that preaching. On the other hand, my sister now feels guilty about forcing me to be the slave so many years ago. She thinks it affected my self esteem. My grades, I've always had to make an extra effort to stay focused in school. And church, well, I know what my priority should be there.

It's like trying to control a beast. Some people struggle with gambling, adrenaline highs, or other impulses. I struggle with staying reasonable. Not over-reacting. Not over-worrying. Not over exaggerating every little thing. In childhood, I could make a tree into an enchanted castle. In adult hood, I can make a mole hill into a mountain. And believe me, I DO!

It's like seeing a shadow of a mouse that's magnified on the wall and has become some great, terrifying monster! It doesn't matter what it really is, it only matters what it has become in my mind. Shadows are misleading. They're usually lies. Of course, if you know they're only shadows, you can control your fear. Reason with it. So I've done it before, and I'll do it again. That black, intimidating mountain on the wall? It's no mountain at all. It's only a mole hill. And its steps lead to the conquerable top.

If every shadow were as lovely as this
stained glass door, I wouldn't worry!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Magical Moment 407, "A Suitable Frame"

Everyone knows that the picture frame can make or break a photo you wish to display. We spent a day on Long Island. First at Theodore Roosevelt's home, then at the north shore, then down to Fire Island. I picked up a few decorating tips to share:

Whether your taste is rugged or not, a plain wooden frame goes a long way.

Sometimes simple is best. This ocean blue mat is all that's needed to frame this lovely swan.

Day moons make beautiful pictures. You'll find that a forrest green colored frame offsets the blue nicely.

Next time on Elizabeth's Home Decorating Tips: how to choose a wall color. :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Magical Moment 406, "Orange Irishmen"

When I was in elementary school, a woman asked me if I was Irish. I remember thinking, "What gave it away? The green eyes, freckles, reddish brown hair, or that my last name is Daugherty?" (Maybe I was a bit of a smart aleck?). In truth, I'm a bit of a mixed breed. The two main ingredients though are Irish and Mexican

My dad always told us that our ancestors changed their last name at Ellis Island from O'Daugherty to Daugherty. Which is too bad, I'd love to have that O still around. O well. I've always been proud of my name (now maiden). He also used to tell us that we're Orange Irishmen. And after nearly 28 years of hearing that, I finally decided to google what on earth that even means. It means....drum roll please. That we're protestant Irish. Simple as that. 

"May your blessings outnumber

The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go." 
- an Irish blessing

Happy St. Patty's Day!

And a wee bit oorange for my dad

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Magical Moment 405, "Getting Flipped the Bird. Awesome."

Living near New York City definitely has it's perks, as well as it's draw backs. Perks: going to Broadway shows whenever you want, exposure to all different cultures, the finest art, the best music, and no shortage of interesting things to do. Draw backs: public transportation, cold winters, hot summers, rude people, dangerous traffic. It's a balancing act, but one that I've enjoyed for the year and a half we've lived here in northern New Jersey. 

In that short amount of time, our family and friends have come to visit, and we've taken them all to the touristy, "must-see" spots such as Times Square, the Empire State Building, etc. Today, we took my mother-in-law to see the Lion King on Broadway. The show was mind-blowingly well-produced, with ingenious costumes, lighting, and set pieces. I don't want to give too much away because if you're ever in New York, you must see it. However, it is no secret that the show has managed to bring to life the magical animation of the beloved Disney characters with costumes and props that will make your jaw drop.

At one point in the show, a colorful bird flew directly in front of my eyes. I gasped and smiled in delight, then I turned my head back and forth to figure out how it was done. Behind me, a man was holding a wire and was controlling the bird much like you would a kite. He fluttered and flipped the exotic creature through the air, and when I caught his eye, he flashed a huge smile at me. I was absolutely tickled pink that he directed the bird to swoosh by my face. Out of all the times it's happened to me before, I had never been so happy to be flipped the bird in New York City.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Magical Moment 404, "The Lighthouse"

We visited the charming, historic town of Sleepy Hollow, NY today with my mother-in-law who is visiting from Texas. We walked to this lovely little lighthouse near the Tappan Zee Bridge. Hours later, I realized that I had been humming the same tune all day long, one I hadn't thought of in years. Growing up very Baptist, I still have a special place in my heart for the old hymns. I recall hearing this particular one at week long revival meetings, belted out in four part harmony with a deep baritone voice bellowing the pick up notes. When I got home, I looked up the lyrics and began playing it. Soon the old song took on a new and personal meaning for me, and I wanted to share it with you all. 

"The Lighthouse" 
by Ronnie Hinson

There's a lighthouse on a hillside
That overlooks life's sea
When I'm tossed, it sends out
A light that I might see
And the light that shines in darkness now
Will safely lead us oer
If it wasn't for The Lighthouse
My ship would be no more.

Chorus: And I thank God for The Lighthouse
     I owe my life to Him
     For Jesus is The Lighthouse
     And from the rocks of sin,
     He has shown a light all around me
     That I might clearly see
     If it wasn't for The Lighthouse
     Tell me, where would this ship be?

Ev'rybody that lives around me
Says tear that lighthouse down.
The big ships don't sail this way anymore
There's no use of it standing 'round.
Then my mind goes back to that stormy night
When just in time, I saw that light.
Yes that light from that old lighthouse
That stands up there on the hill

Monday, March 14, 2011

Magical Moment 403, "All 'er Nuthin'"

I told Eddie when we met, "I'm kind of an all or nothing girl." That's probably why we got engaged 2 months after we started dating. For some reason, maybe it's genetic, maybe it's a brain abnormality, maybe it's psychological. Either way, I can't seem to do anything half way. It can't be in between. It can't be now and then. No half and half of anything will do. I can't just be in the Army, I have to be paratrooper and an officer. I can't just apply to graduate school. It has to be law school. I can't just record my songs, I have to record them in New York City. Anything less to me, is substandard.

It makes for some great experiences, some great personal goals, some great ambitions, but it really takes its toll in pressure. How much can one person take upon themselves? How much is too much? When can I be satisfied with my choices? This struggle is nothing new for me if you've read much of this blog. For me, everything goes back to myself. What I think of myself, what I want for myself, what I need for myself. I am the only one who makes choices difficult. I know my family and friends will support and love me unconditionally, it's only me that cannot be satisfied. So if I physically cannot do it all, how do I decide what to do? Build a dart board? Nail it to the wall? Hurl an arrow at it? I'm nearly to that point. Will I forever be "all or nothing," or will I learn to just be satisfied with what's within my limits?

"The only pressure I'm under, is the pressure I've put on myself." ~Mark Messier

Reflection by Elizabeth Grimes
A million eyes, all looking at me.
I’m terrified of what they might see.

It matters not how I hide, or where.
I can’t escape their watchful stare.

I try to move, but feel paralyzed.
And I’m pulled apart as I’m scrutinized.

Soon it changes, after a breath.
Now there’s only one spectator left.

I reach my hand to touch the cruel eyes
And suddenly realize I’d been seeing lies.

It was water I felt. People, none!
The ripples made thousands out of one.

Another truth! I see it clearer.
A crowd created by a broken mirror.

It’s only me, and was all along.
I’m the only one who needs to like my song.