Thursday, June 30, 2011

Magical Moment 511, "Thankful"

It just hit me recently, that I'm a musician. No really. When people ask me what I do for a living, I can actually reply, "I play the piano." Not, "I wait tables, but really, I want to play the piano."

A year ago, I was hopelessly unemployed, and totally clueless as to how to go about entering the confusing, frustrating world of the music industry. I was questioning my talent, my future, and my prospects. So far in that I actually applied to law school as a "back-up" for when music didn't work out. But somehow, a ballet accompanist job landed in my lap - a position that intimidated me and left me wondering if I was even qualified for it. And after some struggles and much studying and practice, I am comfortable in the job and more thankful for it than ever. It has made me a much better and more professional pianist.

Last night was my first day at work in a beautiful restaurant, not waiting tables, but playing dinner music for its customers. I love this job and can't believe how lucky I am to have been selected as one of their regular performers. I love to watch people's faces light up when they recognize a song I play. They slap the shoulder of the person beside them and say, "I love this song!" And I love that they love it.

And thanks to the help and support of my husband and family, I've been fortunate enough to record an album of my own compositions with Modern Vintage Recordings. I haven't blogged about the progress of this album in a while, but it is going very well. So well. And the finish is near. I would expect it to be complete within the next month or two. 

It's hard to believe, but I can't deny it. I'm a musician. It nearly brings tears to my eyes because this is what I have always dreamed of. And so today, as the realization hits me completely, I just have to share my thankfulness.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Magical Moment 510, "It's Alive!"

My thumbs are not green. The budding sprouts that my husband got me in a dummy-proof plant kit however, are! It's so simple, just add water and place next to a window. I have no idea what kind of flowers these will turn out to be. Hopefully, I won't kill them before I have a chance to find out!

"Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart."  
-Russell Page

"Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration."  
-Lou Erickson


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Magical Moment 509, "A Smile from Song"

One undeniable truth about music, is that the simplest melody or lyric has the power to conjure up a flood of memories and emotions. Nowhere is this more evident, than in an intimate hospital room, where the charity organization Sing for Hope reaches out to patients through music.

Five volunteer performers met in a NYC hospital for the first time last night, to visit patients, room to room, and provide a bedside song for them. This was my third time and I knew to expect many smiles, stories, and maybe even a few tears.

Some musicians are brave enough to perform a song acapella. I'm not one of them. Neither am I a great guitarist, but I bring it anyway. It's no piano, but at least it's something to hide behind. I have a few songs I do on guitar, and it seems to be enough of a selection to accommodate what the patient might want to hear.

We entered an older woman's room. She was lying in her bed with who appeared to be her daughter standing next to her. Both were in great spirits and very welcoming of the traveling troupe that had just invaded her tiny room. I don't know why, but I thought they might like to hear the song, "Edelweiss." When I asked them if that would be okay, both nodded an exuberant yes. 

The daughter squealed with delight. "I LOVE that song! My daughter's name is Liesel! My password to everything is Edelweiss!" 
I couldn't stop smiling as I played for the 2 grateful ladies, and my smile got even wider when they both joined in. I'm no Julie Andrews, but we were all beaming at the sound of music and the joy it brings.

Other hospital visits:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Magical Moment 508, "A Childhood Funny"

I was 6 years old when my mom became pregnant with my little sister, Erica, and 7 when she was born. I've heard a few stories about my childhood, mostly the same few funny ones over and over. But recently, my mom told me a new one that I had never heard, and certainly have no recollection of. I don't know what spurred this memory, but she told me the story in between bouts of uncontrollable laughter and with tears rolling down her cheeks. 

Apparently I asked my mother something about the new baby sister that was on the way. She gave me the usual spiel about how the baby lives in the mommy's tummy until she's born. I then asked the logical question, "How does the baby get out of the mommy's tummy?"
To which my mom eloquently and truthfully replied, "Through a hole in the mother's body."

It was here in the story that my mom paused to compose herself long enough to do her best impression of a 6-year-old, little Elizabeth asking with honest, inquisitive eyes, "Through the mommy's nose?"

My mom and I

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Magical Moment 507, "Unusual Sightings"

I'll never get used to the out-of-the-ordinary things I see walking around NYC. Commuting in and out of New Jersey, I'm usually only in the city for a specific purpose or job. I'm focused on getting where I need to be and rarely get the chance to roam around, get a cup of coffee, and people watch. I've learned to always have my camera with me, because who knows what shots I might get to or from the subway!

...Like a high fashion photo shoot in Chelsea with this model in a fur coat in 90 degree weather. Just as I passed by I heard the photographer yell, "That's a wrap!" So I snapped a quick picture before they packed up their gear.

...Or a beautiful grand piano with first rate musicians serenading the passers-by of Washington Square Park. This pianist is there pretty often and I'm dying to know how he drags his piano to and from the park each day. 

I guess part of what makes New York so special, is these "unusual sightings" are actually pretty common.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Magical Moment 506, "Eating My Words For Dinner"

Remember a few days ago, when I was feeling completely dejected and deflated from an audition gone bad? It was for a steady gig that paid well and I would be perfect for. But I didn't have that confident feeling when I left, like everything went perfect and they would call me immediately, begging me to take the position. I went home and thought, I shouda done this. If only I had played that. Oh, I'll NEVER get the job now!

Well I got the job.

And now I must eat my words.

I wonder if they'd be good sauteed in butter?

When will I ever learn? Don't make automatic bad assumptions about myself! Positive thinking, uplifting thoughts, not self-loathing and putting down! Hello?! Isn't that what I try and write about every day? Why can't I take a piece of my own advice?

So I have a new opportunity to do just that. My first day is Wednesday. I will be prepared, practiced, and confident. The job is exactly what I love doing most of all! Me and a piano, playing to a crowd, songs of my own choosing, while they enjoy dinner. Not too much pressure because I'm background, and not the center of attention. I love reading crowds and selecting songs for them and I always thought I was pretty good at it. (That's how you learn to survive on tips, it's like Darwinism for musicians. Play the right songs for the right people, and wa-la! You survive.)

This experience has been another reminder to silly me...I'm not in control of everything, God is. And I need to trust Him, rather than worry about my own capabilities so much.

If you're ever in New Jersey on a Wednesday night between 6:30 and 10, come by the Bernards Inn. Eat a nice dinner. I'll play a tune for you. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Magical Moment 505, "Howlin at the Moon"

My husband and I drove an hour and a half west to the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Warren County, NJ. Whenever we both have a day off at the same time (about once every 2 weeks!), we try and do something out of the ordinary and special. Eddie found this Wolf Preserve on the internet and we booked a Wolf Watch Tour. How cool is that?!

The Lakota Wolf Preserve cares for dozens of wolves, who for whatever reason, could not survive in the wild. They have Arctic, Timber, and Tundra wolves in an open habitat with plenty of space to be healthy and happy. On our wolf watch tour, we saw many of these animals, separated into their different packs by reinforced, double chain-linked fences. Since many of these were raised here since pups, they were not afraid to approach the humans on the other side of the fence. I have to admit, when I first saw these legendary, intimidating creatures walk towards us in a pack of 4 or 5, I tensed slightly. 

This preserve also conducts photography tours, where they remove sections of the chain link fence and you can get clear shots of the animals. They do their best to "pose" the wolves for optimum shots using meat. I learned that nearly every photograph of a wolf that you see, is taken at a preserve like this because wolves are frightfully elusive of humans when in the wild. If you're close enough to take a photo of a wolf, chances are, he smells you first and is gone before you even realize it. But for the coolest event of the day, you have to scroll to the very bottom and press play. I had goose bumps all over for about 5 minutes!

The main care-taker of these wolves, is an expert "wolf-caller" and with just one of his howls, he conjured up a reply from all of the packs. He explained that each howl is different, and he can recognize nearly every single one, and tell you the name of the wolf it came from. The wolves recognize his howl too, and that's why they answer him. I listened in amazement. I've never heard anything like it, but it made me want to try my own howl out...maybe on the next full moon!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Magical Moment 504, "Take it and Be Blessed"

A priceless and necessary summer memory for all to possess, is a dusky, humid evening spent chasing lightning bugs. The chiggers nibbling on your ankles as you race through the freshly mowed grass, eyes fixed on the luminescent spec that fades in and out before your eyes, while arms flail haphazardly through the invisible air to snatch it in your palms.

Imagine my shock and sorrow, when my husband commented that he had never done so. A crime which I felt must immediately be remedied.

I don't own brilliant diamonds, or the luxurious glitter of gold. But once, my grandpa made me a ring to adorn my childishly small fingers, of a lightning bug and twist tie. Twas a piece of jewelry that lasted for only a moment on my hand, but has remained in my beloved thoughts for a lifetime. 

And so, Eddie, you must accept this specially created piece. A lighting fixture, fit for all styles of decor, made of a glass jar, paper towel, and rubber band. The designer is God Himself, with only me as the assembler. I hope it lights a small corner of a room for a moment or two. And then, the rubber band will come off. The paper towel will flutter to the ground. And the the magical specimens will venture out to illuminate their own corner of the great, black sky. Then we will sit back and watch with wonder. We may confuse them with a star for a moment, but who is to say they're not just as lovely?

A lightning bug does not think what they do is extraordinary. It's just how they are. It's just how God made them. But when others see lightning bugs do what comes natural, they are blessed. 

That is my prayer.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Magical Moment 503, "Pop Up Pianos"

I can't believe it, but it's been exactly one year since Eddie's and mine's adventure of the Play Me, I'm Yours pianos.

Last summer, our very first summer living just outside of New York York City, a charity organization called Sing for Hope placed 60 pianos all over the city. On a more or less "whim" I decided I wanted to play each one and drug my husband all over creation to help me complete the goal. 

We spent about a week exploring the outer boroughs of NYC for the first time, and discovering parts of Manhattan we would probably never see otherwise. It was quite a feeling of triumph when we crossed off the 60th piano from our list. Tired, exhausted, and hot, we now felt like true New Yorkers who had seen it all! 

Sing for Hope is repeating the program this summer, calling it Pop Up Pianos. As a Donor Artist for Sing for Hope, I had the honor of taking part in meetings to help plan the project. This time, there 88 rather than 60 pianos. Eddie and I won't be playing each one this year!

Here is a video from last summer taken at Greeley Square in Manhattan.
For all other 59 videos, click here!

Click here for more information on Sing for Hope and the Pop Up Pianos

**In answer to some of the questions, the pianos stay for 2 weeks. Each one has a "buddy" who covers and locks it at night. And yes, anyone can play them!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Magical Moment 502, "Longest Day"

It began before sunrise, when I awoke in a nervous fret. I often awake in nervous fret, for as soon as my brain wakes up, it begins to list all the things I need to do that day. The next day. In the next 5 years. What are my long term goals for life?! What about my future?!?! Seriously, I think about all this within the first few minutes I'm conscious while still lying in bed. It gets to be a problem sometimes.

But on this particular day, I had an important audition to worry about. One that I had been preparing for and hoping would go smoothly. Every minute until the scheduled appointment seemed to tick by in slow motion as I anticipated all it would entail. And then suddenly, for as long as I've dreaded today's audition, it was over in a matter of minutes. Or what seemed like mere seconds. 

Instead of relief though, I felt like a deflated balloon. It didn't go bad, it just didn't go great. I was hoping for raving reviews and a job offer...or at least a word or two of positive feedback. Instead I got a "Thank you, we'll be in touch." I immediately had to drag myself to work where I played for ballet rehearsals, but my mind was elsewhere. The class seemed to drag on. The drive back home took forever. And even though technically the day was over, I still had to wait for Eddie to finish his shift at midnight. 

For the first day of summer, I didn't feel the care-free things you're supposed to feel today. Instead, I felt that it was very literally, the longest day of the year!

But the nice thing about a long day, is when it's over. The sun goes down. My mind shuts down. And when I wake up in the morning, the days will go back to being normal. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Magical Moment 501, "Hear's to IMAX"

I sat through 2 hours of ear-piercing thuds and ground-vibrating explosions. Not in war zone, but in the safety and comfort of our local IMAX Theatre, Skittles and popcorn in hand. I had never been to one before, when Eddie took me a few nights ago on a date.

I suppose the images were sharper than a regular movie screen. It was certainly larger. But what really shocked me was how loud it was! We were still sitting through the previews when I slapped my hands over both of my ears and gave Eddie a terrified glance. Like a child sitting through fireworks, trying to enjoy the magnificent display but in painful discomfort. 

I soon discovered that Eddie's shoulder was the optimum level at which to lean my head on. After all, that is the best way to watch a movie with someone. Eddie could feel when I tensed, winced, or jerked in reaction to a sudden booming sound. Only one ear drum found protection, pressed against his shoulder. And so with his hand, he reached around to my exposed ear and covered it as well. For the next 2 hours, my head would remain sandwiched between Eddie's shoulder, and Eddie's hand. He said it was one of his favorite dates. And that is how I made it through my first IMAX experience, hearing in tact. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Magical Moment 500, "Fathers"

My dad comes up quite a bit in this blog. In fact, he was in the very first of these 500 (wow, time flies) consecutive posts. I suppose it's a testament to the good father he's been throughout my life, supporting every crazy thing I've done from jumping out of airplanes to moving to New York. As much as he may hate that I've been away from home for so long chasing my ambitions, he knows that he has only himself to blame. For he taught me to always follow my passion. And I learned that by his example.

I always remember my grandpa today as well. We lost him when I was 16, but thankfully have a lifetime of memories to carry with me. I remember him standing at the grill as the family gathered outside, enjoying a summer afternoon. I remember his collection of Energizer Bunnies, and the way he sat side by side with my grandma in their rockers with his dog, Sam on his lap. When I think of him, I think of a man who survived more obstacles in his life than probably anyone else I know.

There are few occasions more important to a woman, than her wedding day. Mine was beautiful and everything I could have wanted for such an event. I wasn't nervous about seeing Eddie for the first time, or vowing to be with him forever. I knew that would be fine. I didn't need a ceremony to tell me that. But I was nervous about my dad walking me down the aisle and "giving me away." I knew that would put a lump in my throat. And our father/daughter dance later on, did even more than that. But nearly 4 years later, I am still my father's daughter. And one of the most wonderful things about getting married, is gaining a new family. I have two wonderful grandpas now and a father-in-law, all who I know I can depend on for anything. So today, I am thinking about all the fathers in my life and how blessed of a daughter, granddaughter and daughter-in-law I am!

"A son is a son till he takes him a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life."  
~Irish Saying

"I may have found my Prince Charming, but dad will always be King!"
~Author Unknown

"What was silent in the father speaks in the son, and often I found in the son the 
unveiled secret of the father."  
~Friedrich Nietzsche

"Don't wait to make your son a great man - make him a great boy."  
~Author Unknown

Little Eddie and his dad (Awwww!)

**Top 2 photos by Frank Ekeler**

More on Dad:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Magical Moment 499, "Wrong Side of the Ocean"

And you thought I was crabby?!

The crab walk is an 'exo-lent' muscular workout.

No flab on these guys.

He sees me. I sea food.

You'd be cranky too if you had one enormous hand to drag around.

Hangin out in his 'crab shack.'

Crab meat salad

Why so crabby? I was just saying hello!

...And I'm outa one-liners (actually maybe I was out a few back!).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Magical Moment 498, "Fotos For Fun"

Been spending some time at the Jersey shore, so I'll probably share more of that in the future...





Almost fly, but rather flail! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Magical Moment 497, "Take it Off!"

Summer's a comin! It's that time of year to bare it all in the hot sun. 

If you're a bit pudgy, like Zach, you may be less happy about it than others...

If you have to shed a few, why not do some running? It helps if you have a goal in mind.

Then, there are some that have a lot more to 'shed.'

And the excess seems to just fall off without any effort! (Albeit, mostly into my carpet).

But whatever you have to do to get into summer form, do it! Cuz you don't wanna miss looking 'hot' in the hot sun!

 "Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.  A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world." 

~Ada Louise Huxtable

Wednesday, June 15, 2011