Posted in Personal Journal Blog

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” NA

Steps in a positive direction are being taken all around the world. Many of our military soldiers have left Afghanistan ending the 20 yr war, Inspiration4 the first entirely civilian crewed SpaceX mission, has successfully launched and is orbiting the earth. And on a smaller scale, I achieved my first of many 3.15 mile/5 km runs probably since 2008. To say I was excited is an understatement. If I could do back handsprings to celebrate, I would have, but even in the best of shape, I’ve never been able to do those.

We are sadly still in lockdown here in Auckland, which means everything but grocery, gas, pharmacy, and utilities are closed. We are in the 5th week in isolation (additional to the two weeks Zoe and I spent in MIQ). Our three daughters and I have been holding up in their tiny one-bedroom flat. The only option for escape or sanity is to exercise outside. That, for the most part, means walks, runs, and biking. So I have been walking and walking and walking. First 3 miles daily, then 5 or 7. I got to the point where I ran out of land to cover unless I doubled back. Last week I decided to make myself run on any area flat or downhill. To my absolute amazement, on the second attempt at this, I forgot the flat and hills and just kept running. My legs are heavy, and I may run as fast as the tortoise racing the hare, but I got into the zone I used to get into as a young runner and did what I thought was no longer possible for me. I have watched my daughters run over the last 13 years and dreamed of running again. With failed attempts to get back into it, I’ve often tried to convince them that I used to be a runner, and I’m not sure they believed me. On my first run of 2 miles/3.21 km, Sabrina and Zoë walked behind me. As I pulled away from them, they doubted my ability to get very far. I forgot about what they thought, though, and kept peddling my feet along the pavement through the cool air. Man, the freedom of running can’t be beat.

There’s also something empowering about knowing that you may someday be able to outrun a hungry predator if needed, something I had decided I was beyond in my previous blob state. I figured I would inevitably be gator bait sometime in the future. At the end of my first attempt, the girls caught up with me. As Sabrina walked beside me, she said, “I’m proud of you, mum. You can talk a pretty big game, and I have to admit, I didn’t think you would do it, but you did. Good on you!” So I’m charged up and feel like I’m getting younger. I’m heading for a new pair of Hoka’s instead of a walker and triple X spandex covered by an even larger T-shirt to cover my bits. Being here with my girls has empowered me; I call it the power of 3. They encourage me, push me and cheer me on, then celebrate my wins with me. They make me feel special, and I’ve needed that. I’ve needed them, their energy. So between running, I am blogging, chipping away at my memoir, and developing the social media presence and website pages for my favorite non-profit. I’m in isolation yet more productive than ever. We live on a postage stamp, yet I have been moving and stretching myself wider than I have in over a decade. Who knows what ill achieve next! In the profound words of Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” or in my case, woman and womankind.

Posted in Personal Journal Blog

So you want to sing!

If there is anything, I know way too much about its singing. I am an expert in the area of vocal training; even though, at the moment, I am not in the best vocal shape. To be honest, I am a bit rusty because I haven’t practiced what I am about to share with you daily. But this is not about me; it’s about you. So you want to sing! Before you decide to quit your job to go on the road and sell out Madison Square Garden 10 times over, you need to learn some basics. The first and most important thing you need to work on as a budding vocal master is your stance, posture, and breathing. Here are three things I do when I start a voice lesson with my students.

• Loosen up: Place your knees shoulder-width apart and bend them slightly. Loosen your hips and rock them side to side. Relax your torso. Shake off the tension of the day and kind of bounce lightly from the knees. Relaxation is necessary so that you can expand your muscles as needed to create sound. 

• Stand tall: Now that you’re relaxed, I want you to look in a full-length mirror (if you have one) and look at your posture. Without tensing up your body, stand tall (don’t lock your knees or tighten your gluteus Maximus, or for you smaller people minimus, lol). Stand tall as you look in the mirror and picture a string running out the top of your head. Pull it up with your hand. Keep your body soft and lift your chest, keep your shoulders down, tuck your butt under and still keep your knees slightly bent. This stance is necessary for support when you’re singing.

• Breathe like a baby: Standing in the correct position, place the palms of your hands on your belly, just below your belly button. You are going to take a breath, but not the kind of breath that you take into your chest that raises your pecks. You are going to take a deep diaphragm engaging breath. Drop your jaw slightly and breathe in as if you are giving a big sigh. You should feel no tension in your body with this breath, and your lower abdomen should expand. (If you lifted your chest, you didn’t do it right). Picture watching a baby breathe. If the standing method is not working for you, lay on your back. Place your hands on your lower abdomen and take in a sighing breath. Your chest will be still, and your hands will rise and fall with each breath. Remember the sleeping baby? When you watch them breathe, their stomach is actively going up and down. Connect with the lower part of your belly; this is where you want your air to land. Getting this down before you go any further is vital because your breath is what supports your sound. 

That’s all I’m going to give you for now. Practice this for a week and watch this space for the next steps. Comment or IM me with questions; I’m happy to help you troubleshoot these basics. Remember trying something new or fine-tuning an old skill and breaking bad habits takes time. Do the best you can, have fun, relax and be gentle with yourself and you’ll be singing before you know it. Who knows, someday you may be the next up-and-coming Facebook karaoke superstar!

Posted in musicians, writing

It’s Not Just A Song

When I listen to music, it sparks me. I feel a range of emotions that sometimes overwhelm me. It’s not just the tune or the lyrics, but sometimes it’s the artists, the fact that they made it. I wonder, what sets me apart from them? I look at the career i had and think of the “what if’s,” and dig deep to find what’s left in me. I get up and sing, memorize and internalize the words. I sing them loud and make them mine. I want to be heard! I want a voice, their words, their perfection, their power of fame. I have the need to stand for something greater than what I am right this moment. I want to be seen and my feelings, dreams, and beliefs to be considered.

I am driven to share my story, to connect the way the artists I’m listening to are. They pull me in. I bend my mind and ride the melody on a wave that changes with every song that plays on my HomePod. When I listen to music, it inspires me to write, dream, live and soar. I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to be adored, to be carried away on a sea of cheering voices, singing the words that came from my mind back towards me—visualizing the future only to sadly arrive to silence.

I don’t just put on a song and relax; I can’t. It has never been that for me. Listening to music is a reminder of every dream and aspiration my mother, family, and teachers ever had for me, for my future and their future. It stirs up where I’ve been, where I was headed, which way I turned, and where I am now. Music is in my blood, a blessing and a curse that I wish I could cut from my soul at times. It is an eternal desire for greatness and a blow of crushing defeat. Sometimes it takes me soaring as high as the sun and other times drops me to rock bottom regret. My melody, always bright enough to propel me to the stars; Only to fall short and flash across the sky, making one last wish on its dimming flicker.

It’s not just a song on a Saturday morning as I sip a cup of coffee or ride in my car. My car, the one place I still crank it up, could drive for days and sing thousands of songs, one after another, breathlessly, endlessly, numbingly baring my soul. The music moves and simultaneously grounds me, glueing me to a single moment. It sends me flowing backward and forward in time and, with a single note, can set my life flashing before my eyes. It is rebirth, heartbreak, joy, love and delight, death, praise, and worship. Music is so much, wrapped up in one single simple pattern of rectangular bars, little black notes, dots, and sticks floating over a white page or just spinning in my brain.

When I listen to music, I see a snapshot of every moment that coincides with the particular lyric I am listening to. My life rises and falls with the melody. When I listen to music, it is more than just a sound; it is the fiber of my being that no one else will ever experience or understand because their not me. My memories shape the unique way I hear, sing, feel, remember, see and understand music. Music has asked a lot of me and also given me so much. It has scared me, freed me, made me wild, disciplined, and moved me. It has taken me not just emotionally but physically from state to state and country to country. It has introduced me to the loves in my life and taken me away from them. Taunted me until I’d spill my secrets or to bend the truth to tell my story. When I listen to a song, I hear the sound, and I brace myself as the waves of audible art surge over me in its power, and it penetrates me. In wonder, I’m transported. In all honesty, when I listen to music, it’s not just the tune, the lyrics, or the Artist; it’s everything.