Saturday, October 26, 2013

LET YOUR HEART SING

White tulips, yellow roses, Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, 6 archipelago black forest candles, a large animal print (cheetah or leopard) throw rug, white drapes, lavender drapes, one avocado, a stick of butter, Yves veggies dogs with toothpicks, a cheese plate (non-sweaty, non-stinky), one case Smart Water (12 cold, 12 warm)....

These are a few real-life celebrity dressing room demands which will give me some good ideas with which to start my own list.  Because I am a singer.  As in stand at the microphone and sing into it.  Last weekend I went from zero singing experience to performer in less than 24 hours.  Now I am in high demand.  I can tell by how no one is contacting me.  No phone calls, or emails, or social media posts or trending on Twitter.  The pubic is obviously intimidated.  And who can blame them?  I am awesome.

I am unsure why I was so hesitant to take the "Let Your Heart Sing" voice workshop last week.  Maybe it was because all previous attempts to sing were met with underwhelming response.  OK, so I'm a little flat and can't carry a tune.  OK, so I can't conjure up the melody to any song beyond Happy Birthday all on my own.  I am fine at "singing along", especially when Adele is singing lead.  But I struggle a bit when it's only my voice attempting to belt out a number.  Still...a voice workshop?  How hard can that be?

How hard can it be to walk into a room with 13 other people, mostly friends and acquaintances, but some strangers too, with a sweet, encouraging teacher whose musical talents and amazing singing voice are legend?  How hard can it be to be led through a 3-hour journey of learning about how our hearts want to sing our own "heart song" if only we can feel our bodies, touch our emotions, find the images that come before words, and let Spirit push us out of our own way to let our song come through?

I'll tell you how hard that can be...damn hard!  There was a lot of nervous laughter, an enormous amount of vulnerability and fear,  and a cacophony of "inner critic" voices screaming inside 14 heads that we should each turn tail and run or at least sit down and shut up.  But we persevered and eventually were led on a guided imagery journey culminating in an exercise where we wandered off to  quiet, alone places in the building to "compose" our own heart song of longing, or questioning, or finding answers.  We were instructed to reconvene after about 20 minutes to share our songs...

Imagine.  Yes.  Stand up and sing your "heart song"; the song in your heart that only you could know.  Everybody did it.  The room was electric with joy, tears, courage, and triumph!  Whoa!

And that's not all.  The very next morning workshop participants were invited to be in the "Heartsong Choir" at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  We thought we'd be singing back-up to our workshop facilitator who was the special guest.  We thought maybe we'd be singing along with the congregation.  We didn't think a few of us, only an  hour ahead of the service, would be asked to sing our OWN heart song all alone into the microphone in front of all those gathered!!!

Saying "no thanks" was a option, but where is the courage in that?  Each of us who was asked, stepped up.  Hub, myself, and two other women each took our turn.  We stood there in front of 80-90 people and SANG OUT LOUD.  We were nervous, with quivery voices, sometimes slightly off-key, hitting some notes and missing others, but singing from our hearts.

And isn't that what art really is?  An expression of creativity, of heart, of soul?  We can all improve on technique and breath control and pitch.  We can all work on stage presence and friendly banter.  We can wear cooler outfits.  But when we step through fear, take a risk, show our vulnerable soft bellies to others, we are already awesome.  We, each of us, however or whenever we take risks at any juncture in our lives, and "sing" our truth, are already breaking through the barriers that hold us back from being fully engaged and fully engaging.

I hope some of the tears I saw among the assembled were tears of recognition and appreciation and not the pain of referred embarrassment.  Whatever.  This was my brave act.  What's yours?  Give me a call...I'll cheer you on....and outfit your dressing room with caviar and chocolates.

At least, that's the view from here....






Wednesday, October 23, 2013

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL

Angel's childcare provider up and left for 2-1/2 months to visit her family in Pakistan, so Hub and I volunteered to help out last week until another provider stepped in this week.  It was a week when semi-retired Hub was scheduled to work 3 out of the 5 days -- wouldn't you know it?!

I decided that to keep both Angel and I sane during our 10-hour days together, I would schedule "theme days" with outings each day.

Last Monday was "Art and Nature Day".  Most of the morning was spent with art supplies, primarily focused on Angel's idea to create a Halloween mask.  Hub took over in the afternoon with a "hike" through a local park on wooded trails leading to the playground.  Then, naturally, they went to Costco since Hub can't get in the car without ending up a Costco.  They scored big time, since it was "sample day" and returned with Food Court frozen yogurts for everyone!  Yay!

On Tuesday I was on my own.  "Library Day"!  Angel's first library visit delighted her, starting with the huge aquarium at the entrance to the children's section and finding little Nemo swimming around in the coral.  She was overcome with excitement at the amazing numbers of books and DVD's, kicking off her shoes and settling in for a lengthy perusal.  She played with some toys and the dollhouse,then we retired to the Library Coffee Shop for a hot coco and a mini lemon scone, paging through the books and chatting about art.  We stopped at the park on the way home.

Wednesday was "Girls Go Shopping" day, when we met up with a friend of mine for browsing antiques, gifts, and bookstores in a nearby town.  Angel's favorite store, also my own favorite, had so many wondrous things to touch!!!  And tiny purses that just fit a 4 year old's hands.  I try to not encourage impulse buys, but she did, in the end, walk out with a little purse.  We also stopped for coco and croissants and a joint coloring project as my friend and I talked and colored with Angel for over an hour.

Thursday Hub helped plan a day-long "Public Transportation Day".  We took the bus from the bus/train station to the ferry landing, then hopped on the ferry for the crossing to a nearby island where we spent two hours playing on the beach, building sand castles, collecting seashells and exploring a "cave".  We also stopped at a coffee kiosk for coco and cookies.  Late in the afternoon we took the ferry back to the mainland, had a bite of lunch, watched a guy crabbing off the pier,  then boarded the train for a ride back to the station.

Friday, on my own again, and OK, maybe dragging a bit, I declared it "Halloween Day".  We went shopping for a costume.  I was delighted she wanted to be "Spiderman Girl" and was all set to find a terrific super hero costume for her, but once in the store the fairy princess sparkle took hold and we came home with a winged pink and purple sequined frock.  We stopped at Starbucks for coco and bought a small pumpkin to carve, saving the seeds for roasting, and then made sugar cookies shaped like pumpkins and ghosts, frosting them in orange and white and black.

I think we had a pretty good week.  I do have to wonder if Angel was as exhausted at the end of each day as I was.  Probably not.  Her creativity and imagination seem to power her through each day with constant enthusiasm.  I love being with her.  And I get tired.  Friday night I sort of collapsed in gratitude -- for the time spent together and for her aunt, who would be taking over care this week.

But I think I did a good job teaching her a few new things -- her first trip to the library and her first bus and train rides, how to make a mask, roast pumpkin seeds and make cookies.  And other stuff too I'm sure; things that kids just absorb with no effort or recognition by the adults around them.

Most importantly, though, I taught her that no day is complete without a brief respite over coffee, coco, and a sweet treat, best enjoyed with a good friend.  And since she has declared me her "best friend", I look forward to many more cups and conversations in the years to come.  This Gramma thing is awesome.

At least, that's the view from here....




Wednesday, October 9, 2013

FOUR HUGS A DAY...

Son One is a champion hugger.  Always has been.  He should give lessons.  Tender, yet firm.  Loving, not suffocating.  Just the right length of time to be meaningful without getting creepy or smarmy.  And perfectly reciprocal...it's as much for hugger as for the huggee.  Everybody feels good when it ends.

(I take credit, since this Charlotte Diamond song was our theme song when he was in preschool!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI7JzSW7PJ0)

Still, hugging is something I continue to find interesting and slightly startling.  Strange, given that a lot of people would consider me a huggy type too.  It's been an acquired taste, a learned skill.

I didn't grow up in a huggy family.  Oh, within the family we were all quite affectionate -- my parents were huggers of us kids.  But I don't believe I EVER saw either of them hug an adult -- not a friend, not another adult family member.  Just wasn't done -- until my sister-in-law came along.  My brother's wife was/is such a friendly, loving force of nature that to deny her sweet hugs would be to deny everything good in the world.  Still, I came to understand the pre-sister-in-law "no hug zone" as a cultural thing, in my mom's case especially, being of the Norwegian persuasion.  Pure, undiluted joy was mainly expressed with a half smile.  In my dad's case hugging was not, no not at all, macho.  Guys don't touch guys.  And guys only touch most women with one goal in mind, otherwise why bother?  End of story.

So, when I met Hub's family for the first time I was startled and overwhelmed by the hugginess that was part of every greeting and parting.  At first I was quite uncomfortable with it, but with time I came to look forward to the big smiles and open arms at their front door.  I felt welcomed and loved.  I felt wanted.  And my own family's more refined greetings felt devoid of emotion by comparison.  I was learning a new way.

Much later, when Hub and I started to do our personal growth work, hugging was a given, almost a requirement.  The men were all about embracing their newfound freedom in emotional expression and  brotherhood.  Men hugging men was a common ritual everywhere we went.  The women were set free to hug away too, without restraint, in expression of our deep and abiding female...femaleness, I guess.  We even started to judge those for whom hugging was not the di rigueur greeting as less emotionally and psychologically evolved.  Oh, give people a little learnin' and they will lord it over the uneducated!

On the other hand, I have been the victim of unwanted hugs.  A woman of my acquaintance some years ago would barrel at me with arms wide every time she saw me, which was rather frequently, engulfing me in her clutches, murmuring "great to see yous" while I struggled to breathe into her ample bosom as she towered a good 8 inches over me, thinking to myself, "But I don't even like you!"  Finally I had to set a boundary with her and say, "If I want a hug, I'll ask for one; otherwise, um, no."

Another memorable and decidedly uncomfortable hug came from a man who's father had just died.  For some reason, he sought me out for solace, and naturally I felt a nice sympathetic hug was in order. He proceeded to cling to me far, far, far beyond good sense and good taste.  He wasn't crying or talking or doing anything other than embracing me with a vice grip that felt assaultive after awhile.  I lost most of my compassion for him and avoided his physical approaches thereafter.  I felt he took advantage, or was just weird.  I know I felt violated.

So, I've become a little selective about my hugs -- both getting and giving.  There are friends and family for whom a hug is a given.  It feels good and expresses warmth and caring.  There are others where a smile, a handshake, or a high five are more appropriate.  I try to not assume anything.   I protect my boundaries and respect those of others.

I love that Son One, his wife, and their daughter are all great huggers -- all three able to make that warm embrace feel like a non-verbal expression of caring, freely given without any agenda other than to make a meaningful loving connection.

Same as the Scandinavian half smile, only softer.

At least, that's the view from here....

Thursday, October 3, 2013

WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?

Obviously I have a little writer's block.  My son's beautiful wedding and all the prep and hoopla around that last month occupied almost all my time and energy.  Writing, and everything else, took a back seat.

I wonder if that would have been the case if this blog was "about" something?  I took a writing seminar last spring and my instructor took a look at this blog.  She was complementary about the writing, but questioned my purpose.  "What's your blog about?"  She said if I just wanted it to be something for family and friends, it was fine as far as it goes.  But if I wanted a wider audience it should be "about" something.  Like crafts, or cooking, or gardening, or politics or...something!  I felt a little discouraged.  I thought it was about something.

I thought it was a way to connect, to relate, to express what others might also be experiencing or point out what others may have missed or not appreciated about their own lives.  That's what I love -- the connection of, "Wow, me too!" when I write something that others find familiar.  I thought it might be about a woman in her 60's looking back, looking forward, reflecting and anticipating, at a time in life when a little perspective on history can inform a better future.

I don't know...

I guess this exercise really is just about me reflecting on my life. Yet, maybe that's not enough.  Maybe that puts it in the too-close-for-comfort "journal" genre.  Who else really cares about the thoughts in my head or the people and events that I come across everyday that make me pause and reflect?

So, I've tried to come up with a specific topic to write about regularly, but the thought of that makes me claustrophobic.  I don't think there is anything I want to devote my writing to that I can sustain for more than a few posts.  So, what this blog is, and will continue to be, is just a bunch of essays on whatever I feel like writing about.

If you're still with me on this, I'm still here, for now -- puzzling out my life and hoping a few of you are along for the ride.  We're in this human thing together, ya know.

At least, that's the view from here...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

MEET THE FOCKERS?

I'm going to sleep for a week or so.  11 months of planning and fretting and focused attention culminated in Son One's wedding last Friday night.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Not a dry eye during the moving ceremony and heartfelt toasts at the reception.

 Son One and his gorgeous wife are so obviously in love and so incredibly happy...yet with the the realistic groundedness that comes from having been together for 3 years, raising a child together from DIL's previous marriage, buying and fixing up a home together, and working full-time in jobs that do not reflect their professional capabilities. (But they feel lucky to have employment at all.) These "kids" are starting their marriage with love in their hearts, but not necessarily stars in their eyes.   This should work out.

We've been the onsite parents for wedding support and planning since DIL's family lives far away from here.  All were in town for the wedding, we in-laws meeting for the first time.  They are friendly,  generous people who obviously love their daughter and their other 4 grown children who were here also.  I loved how much they all smiled!  We hosted everyone for the rehearsal, day of wedding bride and bridesmaids prep, and day after wedding get-together for gift opening, so we saw quite a lot of each other even outside the wedding itself.

It was a bit like "Meet the Fockers" at times, but with a twist.  Hub and I are Unitarian Universalist, Buddhist-leaning, meditation-sitting, Yoga-posturing, Kirtan-chanting, Obama-loving Liberal Democrats, but with a bent toward agendas and organization and punctuality, especially where event planning comes in.  They seemed to be Catholic Christian, FOX-news watching, Tea Party-leaning Republican Conservatives, but with a free floating, free spirit, go-with-the-flow attitude toward organization and timeframes.  Just imagine.

Those differences were interesting to note, and I am certain they were duly noted by our counterparts as well.  Yet also true is that we are all good, caring people who love our kids beyond reason.  We all had a lovely time at the wedding.  And that is what was important this week -- more important than politics or differences in personal style.

And now, if you'll excuse me, my inner Introvert is screaming for solitude and quiet.   I have a bag full of yarn, a DVR full of favorite TV show season premiers, and a 'fridge full of leftovers.  I will come out of hibernation in a few days.  Maybe.

At least, that's the view from here...