Saturday, September 24, 2011

Magical Moment 586, "One New Voicemail"

One rainy day, stuck indoors with a million things on my to-do list piling up, I notice I have a voice mail on my phone. With no number showing up in the history, I dread who it could be. Work asking me to come in tonight. Eddie calling to say he has to stay late. The talent-booking guy canceling my gig that I've been looking forward to for a month. I suddenly realize my own pessimism, justifying it with, "It's just been one of those days today."

I dial my voicemail, expecting the worst when instead, I hear a kind, warm voice through the ear piece, 
"Hello cutie!" She brimmed with congenial energy and quivered slightly, her voice worn with age.
"Do you want to go with me to the Opera Luncheon at the Coronado Country Club on Saturday? I'll be home all day, so let me know. Love you! Bye!"
Her voice was so familiar, so welcoming and cheerful. I'm touched by her lively and sincere invitation and for a moment, I'm disappointed that I have to work all day Saturday. But my day dream is interrupted by the robotic voice instructing me, 
"Press 1 to repeat. Press 2 to delete. Press 3 to save."

The only problem is, The Coronado Club is in El Paso. I live in New Jersey. She dialed the wrong number. But I press 1 to repeat anyway. And then smiling, I press 3 to save.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Magical Moment 585, "Tackling Hills"

I got another life lesson while running the other day.
Hills. They can either kill your morale, or light a fire under you.
I might not be the fastest or strongest runner, but I don't often let a hill get the best of me.

Yet I've felt myself slowing down in other ways lately. There are so many obstacles in my path. Haven't I worked and sweat enough? I've become accustomed to the comfortable pace of 2 steady piano jobs (which I'm more than grateful for), but my original goal when moving here, was to song write and record. A process which is proving to be more time consuming and complicated than I would have ever imagined. Just when I think I see the finish line, another hill arises in my path. 

That's when I'm reminded of the old saying (and excuse the cliche) it's not the destination, but the journey that's important. And so with each step, I admire the view around me and appreciate more than ever those miles stones that I pass along the way. 

Chasing your dreams can be exhausting! Avoiding the hill might be easier, quicker, simpler. But as the opera singer, Beverly Sills once said, "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."

One recent mile stone:
The first time any of my music has been played on the radio. I was included on Evan Ginzburg's "Legends Radio" during his show theme featuring Independent Artists. This link will take you to the archive of the show. Press play, and my song begins at about 8 minutes:

For those curious about the progress of my upcoming's coming up...I promise. :)
And here are the past posts, in order as I describe the process of recording!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Magical Moment 584, "Conversation with Willie"

I opened the glass door of the retail store and walked inside, eyes immediately drawn to the mannequins donning outfits I could never pull off. Yet I couldn't keep my fingers from running over the fabrics displayed on racks that were laid out, row after row around me. Months of penny pinching and shopping-deprivation made me like a hungry child in a bakery. My arms were full of clothes in mere moments.

A sales clerk politely offered her assistance and asked my name. 
"Elizabeth," I told her.
"I'm Willie," She replied with a slight southern accent, cheerfully as if we were about to become best friends. She was an older black woman who I noticed was just as attentive to all the customers in her section. Animated and friendly, Willie drew my complete attention as she continued, "Elizabeth, I can remember that. That's my sister's middle name. Her first name is Mary," she explained.
Before I could help it, I told her that my first name was actually Mary as well. She was taken aback, as pleased as if I just handed her the winning lottery ticket.
"You don't say! Your birthday's not February 13th is it?" She asked, her voice full of hope.
"No, but that happens to be my father's birthday," I offered, trying to match her enthusiasm but failing.
It was almost too much for her to bear, "What are the chances? Can you believe that?!"

In a matter of minutes, I learned about Willie's sister, how they grew up together, and where she's living now. I patiently listened with a smile. Willie tapped her co-worker on the shoulder, introducing me as if I were a celebrity, and proceeded to explain the entire story once again from the beginning. Her co-worker didn't find it quite so interesting and quickly moved on.

When it came time to check out, I handed her a pile of clothes over the counter but held back a few shirts, unsure of whether or not to purchase them. 
"Oh these are all great," Willie coaxed. "Just go ahead, you deserve it."
I laughed and gave an explanation, "It's just that my husband might flip out a little."
It was here Willie stopped sorting hangers and looked at me square in the eye, suddenly switching from her exuberant demeanor into something more serious and intense, "Honey, the best piece of advice I ever got was from my daddy. He was a minister."
I was intrigued and leaned in closer.
"He told me, 'Baby, your husband don't gotta know everything!'
I laughed out loud as she continued.
"My husband was a jealous man and he would get so angry when I told him someone made a pass at me. 'Course, I was fly back then."
I now looked around the room to see who else might be listening that I could share a snicker with. But there was no one. The thought of a hidden camera game show even entered my mind at this point. Willie repeated several more times that she was "fly" back then, making me wonder if she was waiting for me to offer a, "You still are!"

We revisited her sister's name a few more times, exploring the possibility of other similarities between us 2 strangers cosmically connected in the universe by first and middle name. We discussed maiden names, husband's names, even shoe size came up - but no more links existed.

I spent far more time in the store than planned, not shopping, but captivated as the one-person audience of Willie's dynamic personality.  I left wondering what Willie's sales record was. And I couldn't bear to dishonor her daddy's best advice ever, so I kept all the clothes. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Magical Moment 583, "Up"

"Go on with your normal day." That's what we were told to do on this 10th anniversary of 9/11. So I went for a run, practiced the piano, and cleaned the kitchen. I went to the grocery store, took a nap, and did laundry. 

I walked to and from the laundry room, white basket balanced on my hip, held steady with my right arm. And with every airplane that flew overhead, I couldn't help but look up. I did my best to suppress the paranoia that no doubt crept over the majority of New Jersey and New York. Neck craned and imagination running wild, I followed the jet soaring above that was no larger than a dot in the sky. It glided from one horizon to the other, momentarily being eclipsed by a tree branch that arched overhead. It was then I noticed a birds nest I'd never before seen, tucked firmly within the sturdy limbs of the mighty tree. I wondered what birds had hatched and lived within the woven walls of twigs and leaves. "They're safe up there," I thought.

At sunset, two beams of light glowed for only 10 hours out of the year. They began on the ground where the towers once stood, and extended above the tallest skyscrapers in New York City. Neck craned, I could not see its end, through the clouds, beyond the sky, ever extending up into the heavens. They're safe up there.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Magical Moment 582, "A Change"

Change, whether it's the gradual shift in seasons, or sudden like an unpredictable storm, it's bound to happen. The changes in my own life over the past year and a half, are obvious when I take to the time to reflect. And each one held its own set of struggles and benefits. 

There is a change today in the name of this blog, from "One Magical Moment Per Day," to simply "Magical Moments." For 582 days, I've made an effort to choose one positive moment to write, sing, or video about and share with whoever feels compelled to follow this blog. And while I no doubt will experience numerous more of these moments on a daily basis, I've decided to lessen my posts. 

I began this blog during a time when I needed accountability within myself to choose to see the positive aspects and beauty throughout difficult situations. My original intent was to post one of these moments every day for one year. When a year came and went, I still felt like I had much more in me, and it was not time to stop. And I'm glad that I didn't because I have learned an enormous amount about finding inspiration in things that 2 years ago, I would have glanced right past. But forcing myself to sit with those moments, sort them out, write about, and share them, has given me insight, encouragement, and pride I would not have otherwise known. 

So while I continue to search for, experience, and share these magical moments, I will no longer be doing so every day. Thank you to those of you who follow this blog, or just stop by when you can. I'm certain I wouldn't have kept it up this long if not for the readers and encouraging feedback. 

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."
-Maria Robinson

First Post, Feb 4, 2010 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Magical Moment 581, "Receding"

Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and now the 10th anniversary of 9/11 looming. This area has been through quite a bit recently. The local news is packed with stories of road closures, heightened security, and power outages. It's enough to make you not want to go outside. 

But I did go outside. I can go to Shoprite now and buy groceries because the water has receded. I can drive to and from work, when just last week I was forced to miss a day due to flooded highways. I can jog outside with Joy, because the rain let up this morning. 

It takes a while, and we still have a ways to go, but these daily routines are a gentle reminder that hard times do pass. Sometimes, it's only 5 or 6 days for the waters to go down. Sometimes it's a decade before a country starts to heal from a horrifying loss and gaping wound. But this too will pass. And yes, what you're going through, that will pass too.

Said Charlie Brown to Snoopy,
"Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don't worry...I'm here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you."

This photo was taken by my good, talented friend Autumn, when we explored the aftermath of Irene.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Magical Moment 580, "Toilet Paper of Love"

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know that my husband, Eddie, is quite a romantic. He never fails to make me feel special, and I still smile when I think of how we met and fell in love. In our early days, it took Eddie a little while to discover that I was not as openly "lovey-dovey" as he was, though I secretly adored his romantic antics. He re-proposes to me at least once a year and writes me text message poetry. We joke about "The Five Love Languages" (a book by Dr. Gary Chapman), and that Eddie has 6 of the 5, while I have 1 or 2. (Good book, by the way).

Eddie and I had a day off together, but were so tired from a busy week that we spent most of the day lounging around the apartment, taking advantage of the opportunity to just do nothing. We ended up watching early episodes of "The Office," where Jim and Pam's romance develops. In a particularly love struck moment, Eddie called to me, "I want to hold your hand." The only problem was, he was on the couch and I was on the recliner. And we were both in a much too vegetative state to move. We jokingly reached our arms out to each other, grasping at the air, yet still not willing to make the enormous effort of moving from our comfortable positions. 

There was a roll of toilet paper near Eddie that I was using as Kleenex for a runny nose earlier. He unrolled it a bit, and tossed it to me, while still holding onto the free end. I laughed at his innovative solution. So we sat, each holding our end of toilet paper in place of each other's hand. 
"I'm sending you love through the toilet paper." He said.
I laughed, "I'm getting it."

Eddie's one guest post:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Magical Moment 579, "Great Falls"

Despite living in New Jersey for 2 years, and being married to a National Park Ranger, I just discovered today that we live only a few miles away from a pretty significant National Historical Site. The Great Falls in Paterson, NJ, dates back to the 1700s when Alexander Hamilton and a group of investors, began to look for a way to harness the power of the Passaic Falls. They developed the most significant power system of its time, and today the Great Falls and to this day remain the 2nd largest volume falls on the East Coast.

The rain fall from Hurricane Irene has created a fury of water flow and brought some local and national attention to the site. President Obama even inspected the falls after Irene subsided. 

We could see the water is unusually high.

And sadly, the havoc from the flooding has swept an enormous amount of garbage into the water.

It's a very powerful sight.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Magical Moment 578, "Blue Hair"

Well, I dyed my hair blue today. 
Not kidding. 
Not exaggerating. 
Not on purpose. 
Not blue in a "certain light." 
Blue. Blue like the sky. Blue like my mood when I didn't have time to fix it before I went to work. It was supposed to be a light, golden attempt at saving money was to use a box instead of a professional. 

Recently, I've started to imagine that dreaded day when I look in the mirror and discover my first gray hair. Well, whatever trauma gray hair may cause in the future, it cannot be worse than blue hair now.

Wishing that baseball caps were appropriate work attire, I went to work, avoiding eye contact with everyone. Wouldn't this be the day when the outspoken boy with dreadlocks came to class? 
"Hey!" he called when he saw me sitting behind the piano, "Your hair's not red any more!"

Definitely not red.

There was an awkward pause. That moment when the person who notices the change is supposed to say, "Looks nice" came...and went. 

First thing tomorrow will be a trip to a real hair salon. I guess I'm not mean to know if blondes really do have more fun. But I can tell you one for thing for certain, blue-heads do not!

Embarrassing moments are a hobby of mine:
A Backwards Writer

Monday, September 5, 2011

Magical Moment 577, "Hang On"

"I never see that prettiest thing,
A cherry bough gone white with Spring.
But what I think, 'How gay twould be,
to hang me from a flowering tree.'"
-Dorothy Parker

"I think I've discovered the secret of life - you just hang around until you get used to it."
-Charles M. Shulz

"Anything large enough for a wish to light upon, is large enough to hang a prayer upon."
-George MacDonald

"Hang in there like fruit, my soul, till the tree die."
-William Shakespeare

"You may break, you may shatter the vase, if you will,
but the scent of the roses will hang round it still."
-Thomas More


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Magical Moment 576, "Feeding the Pigeons"

I watched a little boy sitting on the front porch with his mother. She opened his small fist and placed a handful of breadcrumbs inside. He studied them for a moment, and then tossed the crumbs as hard as he could into the green grass just a few feet in front of them. Suddenly, out of the sky, several gray and lavender pigeons swooped down to enjoy the feast. The little boy laughed and looked up at his mother in amazement. She smiled back at him, and refilled his hand with bread crumbs.

Children don't know that rain water puddles are mostly mud.
They don't care that a doggy kiss on the face will include a whiff of bad breath.
They don't understand that jumping off a couch in a superman cape, is not technically flying.

And this little boy didn't care that his neighbors considered the pigeons a nuisance. To him, they were magical creatures that he summoned from the sky. They came just to see him.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Magical Moment 575, "Women: Created to Rule"

Boys clubs. I've been in them all my life, but never as an accepted member. And I always felt in the pit of my stomach, that there was something wrong with that, though I could never articulate exactly what. I remember as a little girl, sitting in a pew of our Baptist church, seething....I mean seething whenever the pastor preached his annual Ephesians 5:22 sermon (he always started in verse 22, not 21), "Wives submit." And he always made the same jokes, "Uh oh. I'm gonna get in trouble with this one, but ladies, this is what Scripture says." And so I could never argue. I've since learned that what the Bible says and what the Bible reads can be 2 different things,  "It is the struggle to understand context and language and culture
 and custom that helps us to understand the meaning or what [the Bible] is saying." -Rev Dr Laurence C Keene.

I wondered, why on earth can women teach Sunday School to the kindergartners, but not oversee the youth group ministry? Or why doesn't the pastor ever ask a woman to pray out loud at the end of each service? Why must it always be a man? Why are women only allowed to serve in the kitchen or in the choir? Would Jesus honestly care if a woman helped pass around the offering plate? 

This desperate quest for equality and to prove myself, was probably in part what led me to the Army. In the Army, we did weekly Combative drills. We all had to roll around in the dirt with a partner for 2 minutes at a time and try to pin each other or choke the other out. We were told to work at about 60% strength, and to "tap out" if things got too rough. I once rolled with a 6 foot 4 Captain, weighing probably 230 pounds. He got a choke hold on me pretty quick (what a shock), and I tapped out, but he didn't stop right away. Finally, just as I began to see tunnel vision and spots floating in the air, he let up. An hour later,  after I showered, I looked in the mirror to see the imprint of his shirt sleeve seam, still marked across my neck. I never confronted him. Congratulations, you choked out a 5'8 woman who weights 100 pounds less than you. 

I once took my car to an auto shop and the man gave me a $450 estimate for a tune-up. I said no thanks and asked my neighbor, a mechanic himself, to look at my car. He discovered that my alternator had been un-plugged by the previous mechanic. Manually unplugged, so he could charge me to fix it and I would never be the wiser. After all, I'm a woman who knows nothing about cars and he saw an opportunity to take advantage of that.

My husband, Eddie and I, looked for a new church when we moved to our new home. We visited a Baptist church that had no music leader at the time. A young man was doing his best to bring the congregation in on time to the piano accompaniment, and trying desperately to sing on key himself. Eddie leaned over and whispered to me, "If we join here, you could be in charge of the music ministry."
"No," I replied. "Because I'm a woman." And we both knew that that wouldn't be allowed here.

For years, I've been searching the Bible desperately to find something I always knew in my heart to be true. God doesn't want women to be oppressed. That couldn't have been His purpose. When I realized that the Proverbs 31 woman buys fields, and plants a vineyard out of her "earnings," and "sees that her trading is profitable," I was shocked. Why don't I ever hear a sermon on that? Why do I just hear that she's not gaudy and her husband is an elder? It was my husband who told me when we got out of the Army, "I'll move wherever you feel you need to go to fill your complete potential." 
And when I said, "New York City to be a musician,"
This Texas, farm boy without hesitation said, "Big Apple, here we come."
That felt right to me. Eddie's response was so freeing, yet it was a foreign concept to so many and I still didn't have the words to articulate to them, why this was right for us.

A friend gave me a recording of a sermon by Kris Vallotton called, "God's Most Beautiful Creation." And here, I found words to describe so much of what I already knew to be true, despite being made to feel wrong and guilty about it by society. I'd like to share some of the highlights that spoke to me.

The first thing that struck me, was the phrase "Suitable helper" in Genesis when God is creating the universe, animals, and mankind. "Yes, yes, yes..." I would begrudgingly roll my eyes growing up. "My destiny in life is just to be some dude's helper. Lucky me." Because from what I saw in church, and in life (not with my parents by the way), was that to most people, "helper" meant "slave," and to blindly follow whatever the man says. But Vallotton explains that "suitable helper," is used 19 times in the creation process. Only 3 times when referring to woman, and 19 times when referring to God. And the Hebrew definition means "opposite" or "corresponding." God wanted Adam to have the opposite of himself. Adam needed God. And God wanted Adam to need woman, just like he needed God. Eve wasn't created to carry out Adam's every whim, she was created to fill a need in Adam, in the same way that he needed God.

Furthermore, God created man and woman equal. Adam was given rule over the beasts and fish (Gen 1:28), not over woman. They had the same dominion over the garden. Why else would the serpent approach Eve, unless she had equal authority to make the decisions as Adam? If Adam was the dude in charge, Satan would have needed to get him to eat the fruit first. When they both ate the forbidden fruit, Adam, Eve, and the serpent were cursed by God. He said that there would be enmity between woman and the serpent. And it was here, that God told Eve, "Your husband will rule over you." She wasn't created this way. She was cursed later, as a punishment for her sin.
And so Kris Vallotton asks the provocative question (I'm paraphrasing), "Why is that when Jesus died on the cross to free his children, only half of his children were released from the curse?" After all, when Jesus died on the cross, He freed His children from the old rules and laws. And while we were all released from the curse of sin, women remained under legalistic oppression by religious men who have used a few verses in the Bible to keep themselves just where they want to be. In charge.

He goes on to point out that nearly every religion and society on the planet oppresses women in some way. Why is that? Because there is enmity between Satan and women. Well Satan got lucky there. He has kept countless women from fulfilling their potential. How many Mozarts, Shakespeares, and Picassos has the world lost because they were women, and not worthy of being documented, heard, or remembered?

Yet I hear over and over, "Men have authority, they're the leaders, they're in charge." Got it, guys. Talk about beating a dead horse. Vallotton says, "The question isn't, 'Does man have authority over women?' The question is, 'What will man do with that authority?'"
Doesn't Jesus have authority over us? Heck ya. What does He choose to do with that authority? Well...
"And God raised us up WITH Christ and seated us WITH Him in the Heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." Eph 2:6

Christ didn't use his authority to dominate, or oppress us. He used it to free us and He put US on the same level with HIM! He makes us "FELLOW heirs with Christ." And if men are to love their wives in the same way Christ loves His church, shouldn't they do the same thing? Raise them up? Co-reign? 

Remember how crazy it was when Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton ran for President? That was a BIG deal! They actually stood a chance. Mind blowing. Women weren't allowed to be in the military until last century (and some parts of the military are still off limits). We couldn't even vote until the early 1900s. That wasn't very long ago. The Bible was written thousands of years before that, in a far more oppressive society where women were considered possessions and had absolutely no voice or worth. And yet, Jesus talked with them, ministered to them, gave them a purpose. This was shocking, even to His disciples who were Believers. Valloton points out that Mary was the first Evangelist after Jesus rose from the dead, "Go tell everyone I'm alive!" In the Old Testament, Deborah was the leader of the entire military. Eddie once confided to me that he wished the Bible would talk more about women's rights so that men couldn't use Scripture to oppress them. But when you consider the culture and it's time period, the Bible was the most out-there, liberal, crazy-talkin thing ever written!

One of the hardest things for me to concede in my entire life, was that, I as a woman, would have to do whatever my husband says. What a grim outlook for my future. Sometimes I imagine if I had a daughter who had a God-given passion and talent for medicine or something. But she was taught that her duty was only to get married, have kids, and obey her husband (what if he wasn't a Godly man, or simply made mistakes like all humans? She still has to obey him.). It breaks my heart that some women miss their calling because of this misconception. "He has the authority." I hated the idea of it. I mean HATED it. He says something, I'll have to do it (which Vallotton points out, is actually the definition of slavery...hmmm.) But what God really wants, is for men to use their authority to exalt women, raise them up, co-reign. In fact, I Peter 3:7, is often quoted and then used by some men as a "So there!" verse. "You're weaker! It says so right here!" But read it, 
"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."

What I say is, "Heirs WITH you! So there!" And if you don't make us heirs with you (not under you) and respect us, God won't take your prayers seriously.

Vallotton ends his sermon with saying that transition is hard. Any change in history will tell you that. But if we want to see a change in the world, and in religion, why not free half of the Christian Army?! Women were originally created to rule. Let women rise to their full potential, whatever that may be. Whether a woman's calling is to be a stay home wife and mother, or whether her calling is to become a doctor, or the President. Let God decide what He wants that woman to become, and let the men use their authority to help her become that. That is what God did with mankind, and I believe that is what He expects from us. 

Here is the link to Kris and Kathy Vallotton's ministry (What?! He includes his wife's name in his ministry? Unheard of!)
And if you're interested in hearing this sermon, I can e-mail you an mp.3 of it.

I have other soap box posts...
Where Has the Compassion Gone? (How we judge others, including homosexuality, and other tabboos)
Jesus is a Feminist (Feminism and abortion)