Although we have passed the caroling season, the cold is still with us. And for many people there is a direct relationship between sunlight, degrees and our mood. In addition, flu season is constantly sneaking in ways to weaken our immune systems. One of my oldest and closest friends used to always say “…it’s the weather”. My advice for anyone who gets the winter blues, frequent colds or overall sluggishness is to sing!
We speak of singing uplifting the heart and thereby our mood. Sometimes this occurs because we love the music or love to sing but sometimes it is physical. Singing brings more oxygen into your body which in turn makes you feel more alert (often more happy) and oxygen gives you more energy. With diminished time outdoors it’s important to continue to keep our respiratory systems energized (or flowing with chi as the Eastern medics would say). So sing for fun and receive the benefits of improving your instrument and your health. Sometimes you can use the blues to your advantage…and in more ways than one.
Has anyone written or read this book? I will certainly be first in line when it comes out in paper back. I am living proof of having no contact with this information. Despite touring and the global map printed on the notebook I am wriitng in, I feel like my family missed a few steps today. I think that like everything else even traveling takes practice.
Both my husband and I grew up with frequent and distinclty different experiences in international travel. His experience was a childhood steeped in all things Austria with retuns to the States every summer and mine was traveling alongside my touring mother when she danced with the Urban Bush Women. But this morning it occured to me (a little late) to ask my husband did he take into consideration our international flying status when arranging our car pick up and he replid ¨no¨.
Up until this point I had happily relinquished all reservations to him, while my daughter and I took over the packing. (Mind you, in the past we have had to purchase multiple plane tickets because of my husband mis-selecting dates or times). So why I would relinquish all itinerary details to him is a bit questionable. Plus I am the queen of lists. Yet I still forgot to write
¨Leave 3 hours before flight time…regardless of what Nikolai says!¨
So it is true¨practice makes perfect¨.
1000 Gold Hula Hoops
A week ago I was teaching young, children how to sing and dance at Young Players Theater Camp and the night before last the child in me was reminded to…shall I say “work it!” ? An old friend of mine organized a going away party at an art installation in Chelsea with two various sculptures configured by 1000 gold hula hoops. It has been a long time, in my humble opinion, since the perfect ingredients have been piled together to create a great dance party…not a grinding party or a “lets get wasted” party but lets really have fun and just move. The music was great (gasp!). Songs that actually ignited the listener’s dancing strings (with or without intoxication). There was ample space (being on a rooftop), clever video footage (in case the hairdos and faces weren’t enough), free liquor, red velvet cupcakes, and those golden hula hoops to set everything straight…or not…straight.
So one by one a hoop would be liberated for free hips, arms, necks, what-have-you until at least 1/2 of the party was figuring out how to dance to Fela and keep their hoop going at the same time.
I just have to mention that they still felt nothing like my snakeskin hula hoop from NYAHH but I was more than psyched for the challenge. And at the end of the day (actually the next morning) when I picked up my daughter from her sleepover, she still had more sizzle in her hoopin style than any of the grown ups at that party. But what would we would do without the reminder to let loose our inner child even for a night?
Kale From The Yard
When it comes to tips for a healthier lifestyle, my husband knows, I always have two rules of thumb “greens and more greens”…and probably some extra zzz’s. Whenever I start sensing a cold going around my house, I turn into the green goddess dominatrix (if those labels can even be mixed). If you’re throat is sore…greens! If you’re energy is low…greens!
Despite my studio apartment (with bathtub in kitchen) upbringings, I have grown more and more into a nature devotee. Like my mother who relocated to the ocean (aka San Diego) over a decade ago, I find myself utterly soothed and excited by the great greens of my backyard. And I never would have thought in my early 20’s with my proud LES self-studded jean jacket that I would even know a life in New York with a backyard. I believed backyards and in-house washing machines only existed in the suburbs.
Chicken Pesto with baby kale, quinoa and beet salad.
However, I do remember my part as the magic genie in Ellen Fisher’s dance (performed at the 9th street garden I believe) and my mother’s planting adventures. So I suppose now I am truly embracing those community gardening experiences to their fullest. This afternoon I happily picked baby kale I planted from seed and cooked it for lunch. I know that my dreams of a full vegetable and fruit garden with live chickens to boot is proof of my naive urban origins, but dreaming is how I get by.
I just got home from a chock full day of teaching, music networking/info and just relaxing and I have to say if I had to write a song this very minute I feel like it would be pretty bad. I say that because I am exhausted and I have had this lingering, semi hunger headache since 3 or so hours ago. Anyhow, if I were asked to write a song right now I think it could be bad, but who’s to say ?
This evening ended sitting at the 12th Street Bar & Grille with a group of mostly singer/songwriters and music business folk talking about the mysteries of this industry. One of the women, an amazingly talented singer who performs near to 5-6 nights/week, had brought up her under-productive writing time. (Isn’t interesting that she didn’t affirm her OVERLY productive performing time, especially in a market like today’s?). She noted that the only time she connects to the cosmic song cloud is when she is packed up and heading out to her gig. Although she sets up everything the same. Stretching, incense, candlelight. It is still only warming up in the shower or as she double checks her gig bag for her microphone, that the most stellar melody arrives at her door. And that’s when I said “well, then write a bad song, write a really bad song”.
I know this feeling so well and many of us at the table all nodded to her cry for advice. But in the end what has helped me lately is just allowing myself to write on those allotted writing days or minutes. Writing days are a gift. So even if my “lizard brain” (as Lane refers to it) is trying to talk me out of furthering an idea (which it often does), I am trying to write the song anyway. So what if it’s “bad”…usually its not, just different than I expected.
Right now as gallons of oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico, we are faced with the many truths of what it means to have an endless supply. An endless supply of something which we don’t need coupled, with a sincere desire for a true necessity and simple pleasure.
Like many I often set myself up with an expectation for an endless supply of creativity, a well of captivating, funky and maybe brilliant songs. But even before I have finished one song, I am already onto two other could-be-compositions. I have now been witness to how great expectations can cause intimidation and lead to procrastination or at least a fear of finishing.
In my various notebooks I often make lists (to my husband’s amusement) of song titles as they come to me. Along with these song titles I include summarized concepts for a particular song. About a year ago I decided I wanted to write a song called “Endless Supply” about a system that seeks to get bigger and bigger while overlooking the pleasure and fulfillment in simple things. But today I think why don’t we all just pat ourselves on the back for our good intentions, steady focus and that one song that we did complete. Maybe we don’t want one billion songs, maybe we just want one hundred really great ones.
I don’t know about you but I have finally realized that between the demands of being a mother, scheduling rehearsals, socializing, teaching, practicing, trying to eat healthy and spending quality time with my husband, I have to make a conscious effort to do just nothing. I just read Steven Pressfield’s blog “Do It Anyway” which I loved and also agree with. (Thank you Lane!) However, I am the type of person who is juggling 13 ideas in my head and strongly considering skipping lunch just so I can begin the 14th. Now I am not saying I finish all 14! (That’s a separate article in itself :). But I have actually started valuing “nothing time”.
When I stare at the ceiling, or the wall, or the backyard for no good reason I now trust that I am freeing my brain. I’m allowing the junk to spill out so that the good stuff, those things that I am affirming and meditating on, can come on in. And if I really allow myself to receive the bliss of blankness I will even be inspired towards the next, best step to actualize one of my many ideas.
A friend and mother of one of my daughter’s good friends recently summed this up by saying “a relaxed mind, is a creative mind”. So I am going to “do it anyway” but after I allow myself to stare at the ceiling for just a little while.
Most people who know my husband think of him as the guitar guy because he teaches music classes for little kids and has a kids cd. Many don’t know that he also builds amazing chairs (http://www.nikolaim.com). He can build practically anything, especially if it is made out of wood. But my husbands chairs aren’t your average chairs (says the biased wife), they are a hybrid between art and function. What all the designs have in common is that each chair actually moves. Unlike the reprimanded child in the classroom, you are actually encouraged to never sit still. Years after grad school I feel that researchers are actually backing up my husband’s instincts.
Just earlier this month on the Brian Lehrer show there was a special entitled “You’d Better Stand Up!” focused on the harm done in sitting. On an intuitive and conscious level I think many of us know this but it was nice to actually hear the facts. Lehrer’s guest Arianne Cohen (author of the article in BusinessWeek’s “Your Office Chair Is Killing You!”) described how all chairs and sitting really isn’t good for us (and that includes ergonomic chairs as well as that Yoga ball you are bouncing on as you read this). All these seats increase ones already weakening abdominal muscles and spine into a C curve. So what do they suggest? Standing! Just like your balanced diet with 9 servings of fruits and vegetables, one should also include a balanced portion of standing. The reason being that standing actually supports the flow of your metabolism (and bone density). Whereas sitting, as Arianne explains it, actually releases fats into the blood stream which is part of what makes us tired. Now of course we all need a healthy amount of fat in our bodies and if you are a New Yorker, like I am, we all know that standing should not be equated with rushing. And we can’t stand ALL the time. But you can learn to sit (stand and lie down) consciously.Training and teaching in the Alexander Technique got me to do just that. I went to improve my singing and found my entire body expanded (not just my voice). So for the C curve in you desperately wanting to be an S, try out some private lessons in the Alexander Technique and throw in a good dose of mindful standing.