Sunday, January 19, 2014

a celebration of love and life...

I was recently looking at some knickknacks on the bookshelf, and I decided that they must have been given to my parents by someone who did not know my mother very well at all. The reason I surmised this was because the color scheme was predominantly black and yellow, and anyone who knew my mother or ever stepped foot into our home would have instantly known that blue was her color.

My mother was both a pragmatist and an optimist, intuitive but methodical. If she liked you, you could not have a stauncher ally. If she didn’t, well, let’s just say nothing was ever going to change that. Be that as it may, she was a good judge of character and she never seemed to doubt the veracity of her initial inclinations about anyone, which, more often than not, turned out to be accurate.

For a quiet woman, she was a huge presence, and to her I owe my love of Verdi, Barbra Streisand, ballroom dancing, and movies where the underdog rises to the occasion and decidedly prevails, frequently beating the crap out of the bad guys.

While I did not end up with one iota of her skill at the crafty things at which she excelled, like knitting, sewing, and crocheting, one cannot argue that I put some of her better maxims to good use in my life.

“Show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are,” she used to say to us growing up. Case in point: I have the most wonderful friends in the world.

“Just because someone is loud doesn’t mean they’re right.” Yeah, that’s a good one, isn’t it?

And my personal favorite, which was taught to me in Yiddish, but I’ll translate loosely for you here: “If two people say you’re drunk, the third should sleep it off.” I’m pretty sure that she was not imparting this as words to live by regarding alcohol consumption, though there are those whom I’m sure it would benefit. But I always apply it when contemplating advice or opinions. If one person tells me something, I can take it or leave it. But when two people tell me the same thing, I’m apt to give it serious consideration.

Today is the 11th anniversary of the day we buried my mom. And though in the past, I have felt very melancholy about this day, today I sense her joy and her love more prominently than any feelings of loss or sorrow. I know that her most profound wish for me (and for my brother) was for us to be happy. And so I feel compelled to oblige and make this day a celebration of life – both hers and my own.

So off I go to play the piano she played for me growing up and maybe to write a song about the underdog succeeding. That’s a scenario she (and I) never tire of.

Whatever your Sunday holds in store for you, I hope it is a celebration of love and of life. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. 

My Mom

Sunday, January 12, 2014

where are we now?

I went to a birthday celebration last night. And you might be thinking to yourself, big whoop, so what? But the thing is, this one was not merely a love-fest for the birthday girl; this gathering was like living the musical version of A Christmas Carol. But instead of Christmases, we revisited the ghosts of songs past, present and future. And not just any songs – our songs.

The birthday girl was Lorraine Ferro. And sure, there were some of her students and some non-music people thrown into the mix, people who had never heard these songs before, but for the rest of us, these songs were like a home we used to live in, that lovingly secured our memories of people and places and dreams safely within its walls. And last night we got to revisit them.

The music business attracts multitudes of people who want to try their hand at it. Everyone wants to be a rock star, or the next American Idol. Everyone thinks they can write a hit song. Most people try, fail, throw in the towel, and move on. Yeah, that’s what most people do. Did I mention we aren’t most people?

We’re the ones I’m sure Teddy Roosevelt was talking about in this quote, which is one of my favorites:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

So we lived to tell the tales…of how JJ wound up on stage with Lorraine singing with Billy Joel (hand to God, I was there), and of the publisher who signed Lorraine telling his secretary before their initial meeting to come in and say he had a phone call five minutes into the meeting. (He wound up telling the secretary to “hold all his calls.”)

Most of us have had hits in one category or another. Lorraine and I won back to back Abe Olman Awards from the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

I got up and sang a birthday ditty for Lorraine. I think ditties might be my new thing. Or not.

Mega-multiple-super-hit-songwriter, Arnie Roman, who not 2 hours prior at dinner told me he hated performing and so would not do it, got up and played and sang one of his songs with his wife, Tanya Leah.
Tanya, who also hours prior told me she would not be playing, um, did.

Because here’s the thing: we cannot help ourselves. It’s that line we got ecstatically excited about, that melody that haunted us, that thing inside us that we just had to express, that moment we had to pull off the road because inspiration was calling and would not wait another minute.

So the beauty of remaining with these extraordinary souls over time is that we’re not only friends who have stood by one another through the triumphs of success and the losses of family members, but we’ve stood by encouraging each other to step into the fullness of who we are meant to be at our best.

A few nights ago, on Oprah’s Where Are They Now, Kenny Loggins said, “I needed to write music that touched my heart that had something to do with who I am and where I am in my life.”

I think that sums up what we’re all doing now. We’ve got as much optimism as ever, but it’s a different kind, tempered by hard earned wisdom and miles traveled, battles won and lost, and an abiding sense of humor about it all.

It’s kind of an amazing thing to be able to say your friends wrote one of your favorite songs of all time. But three of mine did. And yes, it was a #1 song. I don’t think the three of them have ever sung it together…but they did last night. (And hopefully they won’t kill me for posting this!) So because I want to bring you to the party, too, I give you “Stand” by Lorraine Ferro, Tanya Leah, and Joanne Sonderling (with Garry Novikoff on keyboard). Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My One New Year's Resolution for 2014

It’s 2014, and I’ve spent the first few days of the New Year with a migraine that feels like what could best be described as the torture scene of, well, any movie with a torture scene, I suppose.

Oh, like the serenity prayer suggests, I’ve learned to accept the things I cannot change, so I know the headache will eventually pass, but it kind of put a damper on that running start we all make to the gym at the beginning of a new year, as well as my attitude about diet, which quickly went from an optimistic, “I can do this” to “fuck it, give me a cookie.”

So the New Year’s resolution thing has been put off for a few days, and it may not be the wisest choice to sit down now to do it, while I’m both medicated AND still in pain, but I wanted to show this headache who’s boss…which, it turns out, is not me at the moment.

Anyway, I started thinking about my potential list of resolutions. I was gonna keep it simple – finish my CD and book, start doing yoga, manifest lasting peace in the world – you know – the usual stuff. But then I saw a Wayne Dyer post on Facebook and it changed everything. (Damn that Dyer guy.)

It said, “What if the only resolution you made was to love yourself more?” And I started thinking. Well, first, having only one resolution on my list would drastically increase my odds of success. And second, wouldn’t that encompass anything else I could think of to put on my list?

Think about it. What does someone who loves him or herself look like? How would they show up? Wouldn’t they be respectful of their mind, body, soul, job, relationships, the planet – you get the idea.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, (and if you haven’t been, you are welcome to go back in the archives and read to your heart’s content), you might remember that, for a brief period, I contemplated what the tenets would be if I started my own religion. (My logic was if L. Ron Hubbard could do it, then, really, couldn’t any of us?)

I started my religion with the very lofty: Clean up your own mess.

Yup, mine is the religion of personal responsibility, though I need a much catchier name for it than that. And I didn’t limit the word “mess” to one thing. Nope, I’m a big picture kind of gal. I mean it for everything from, when you have an item in the grocery store that you decide you don’t want, don’t just randomly leave it on another shelf in another aisle; put it back where you got it. And I meant “clean up your own mess” for those who litter, pollute, and destroy the environment, both on the smallest as well as on the grandest scale. And I also meant it about relationships. No one can fix your relationships but you, even if that means forgiving. Even if it means a silent prayer of release. Even if it means apologizing. Whatever it is, taking ownership and dealing with it, if multiplied by every person on the planet, would have enormous impact.

My second tenet, if memory serves correctly, was – wait for it, Wayne Dyer – Love yourself.

Here’s the thing. In the Ten Commandments of the Judeo-Christian faiths, the commandment reads, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The only problem with that is we have no idea how to love ourselves, and it presupposes that we do. So of course, we have no idea how to honor other people. We haven’t figured out how to do that for ourselves. And we’re not to blame for that. We’ve been taught by other people who had no idea how to love themselves. And so on. So we’ve perpetuated a system where we are pre-programmed for failure, instead of making the goal to start from the inside and work outward.

So I’ve decided that I’m gonna go with loving myself more as my one and only resolution for 2014. More today than yesterday, more this year than last. I’m gonna keep that at the forefront of my mind and see where it takes me. I’m open to new adventures this year, to heading for fantastic places not yet contemplated. Plus, I am still working on what perks could be given away for followers of my new religion. I think getting your own planet has already been done. Hmm, this could take some time...

Whatever your resolutions are for 2014, I hope you achieve them and revel gleefully in your success. Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.