Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks

      Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving brimming with tasty treats, peaceful moments and time to enjoy the beauty all around.   ♥
Daughter G's photo of the Farmstand down our road


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

52 Days on a Freighter from L.A. to Buenos Aires

     Do you ever get a whiff of something that brings up a memory from your childhood?  My daughter, while visiting recently, suddenly exclaimed, "I smell Gramma's house right now!"  She was standing in the hall, outside our bedrooms; 550 miles from her G'ma's house.  "That's so amazing," I said, "because I sometimes smell my gramma's house here!"  Cozy, warm, happy-memories was what we were both smelling.
My dad must have taken this of me, (nearest the water) mom, and fellow ship-mates.
     The olfactory sense can easily evoke memories.  I remember first learning about that after a childhood ocean voyage.  My family of five made up half of the passengers on a freighter bound from California to Argentina in the 60s.  We stopped at many ports along the way.  The smell of docks and diesel brings up for me, to this day, so many exotic memories of that trip.

     Sometime during that almost-2-month floating sojourn, I gained the camaraderie and confidence of the steward.  Bill Hawkins, a kind and patient man, knew I was fascinated by the ringing tones of his four-bar hand-held instrument that summoned the passengers to meals. Wherever we were on the ship, those chimes, with a pavlovian effect, would bring us hungry diners eagerly up and in to the dining room. The silver sound tubes and their charming chimes were pure magic to me.  I longed to feel the instrument in my hands and the vibrations they made.  Such power it held----to call people forth with its tonal patterns reverberating down the hall!

     Thanks to Bill, the steward, I was allowed to "help" with that part of his job.  I became the dinner bell ringer.  I struck the bars of silver that brought the happy, hungry diners to mealtimes.   My 11 year old self reveled in the pleasure and power of it all.

     When the freighter delivered us to our final port, I had to give Bill back his chimes.  It wasn't long though, until another instrument won my heart: my first guitar which my mother helped me find and buy in a music shop in Buenos Aires.   I've loved playing the guitar ever since.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Play the "Unstick that Stuck Song" Game

     Last week I wrote about what to do when we get songs stuck in our heads.  I mentioned a couple techniques for getting them out.  I also included a link to a song that is good to have spring into your mind, "Stop, Look and Listen" for safe street-crossing, and alert readers pointed out that it's good for all ages!
Going where no song-thinker has gone before!
     I came up with a game that is guaranteed to get a stuck song out and make it stay out.  It can be played solo or with others.  Points awarded to the player who comes up with the most songs within an agreed upon time limit.  Solo players, give yourself bonus points just for "effort", no matter the time!.  Here are the rules.

     Name a song, any song.  Take the first two notes and use those notes to think of another song that starts with those same two notes, either forwards or backwards.

     Example:  Start with the song Yesterday.  Think of the first two notes, "Yes-ter-day..."  (the second two syllables beng the same note.)  Now use those two notes to start Danke Schoen, simply reversing the two notes, "Dan-ke-schoen..." and then What a Wonderful World, "I see....".  And then In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning "In the...."

     One or both notes can be repeated, as long as it's only those two notes used to start the next song.  The key can change, depending on the song----that doesn't matter.

     It's a challenge!  It's brain exercise!  It takes some practice, but stay with me!!--- you get the hang of it and can "play" it anywhere.  I enjoy practicing this in my head, going a few rounds until, down the road, it's happened again and I've got another refrain stuck in there.  I challenge you to try it!  Take any song's first two notes, and see how many other songs you can plug into this game!

     Try it with Michele.  Those first two notes are the same as in Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head (remember you can duplicate one of the two main notes), and in One Hand, One Heart "Make of our hearts..." (West Side Story)

     Here are others that start with the same two notes:: Morning has Broken,  Softly as I Leave You, Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me

     What else can you come up with?  Let me know how it goes!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Got a song stuck in your head? Want to make it stop?

     You know, that chorus or solo or lead line that keeps running through your mind.  It can be maddening. It happens to me all the time.  It seems that the one that gets stuck in my head is the last one I heard.  It will go round-and-round until I do something about it.  Like shout (in my head usually, but sometimes aloud) Stop!!
Stop!!  As in, get that song out of my head now!

     Another technique I've found helpful is to switch to another song.  It takes practice, and it's helpful to have a stash of songs to go to, ones that are personally spirit-lifting and inspiring.  For me, this list encompasses old hymns from my childhood, new upbeat ones found online or from friends, and silly, happy made-up verses to old familiar tunes.

      I have a third technique which I guarantee works every time. Since it takes a bit of explaining and requires some effort----all worthwhile and actually fun, I promise!---I'm going to make it the subject for my next week's music blog. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a song I wrote to help young children learn the skill of safe street-crossing, Stop, Look and Listen! My adult daughter tells me that it automatically pops into her head to this day when she's crossing a busy street. Mom's mission accomplished! :D

p.s. Thanks to Deborah Giraud on facebook for giving me the idea for my music blog post this week. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Red Grammer in Concert

     And it's tomorrow, Thursday the 29th!!  If there's any chance you're in the Eureka, CA area and can take a child or a group----or just yourself-----I highly recommend it.  Oct. 29, 2015, 10:00am in the new Sequoia Center at Humboldt County Office of Education.                                                             
Red Grammer
     I've had the privilege of joining Red in concert.  He's the real deal.  An enormously gifted singer/songwriter, a dynamic advocate for children and families and just a wonderful, big-hearted person.

     We're lucky to get him in our area.   Thanks to Holly Sage and her production team!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Spontaneous Family Music Video

     Our kids aren't shy about bursting into song at the drop of a hat.  They're no strangers to the song-creating process, and it didn't take much for them to be coaxed, prodded, and bamboozled into helping out with any number of steps in the recording process..
In the kitchen, doin' our thing.  To listen, click link on first line above.
      Rick and I have been immersed in the music industry since before we met and married, and when our son and daughter came along, it was a natural progression to include them in the family business.   Along the way, we've learned much more from our kids and been introduced to ear-opening new sounds and artists.

      This week when daughter Genevieve was in town, while driving around together, she launched into the chorus of a Heart song, to which Rick automatically added a harmony.  From the back seat, I said, "Do the chorus again" and added a third part.  That night while making dinner, it was decided on the spot to record this. Son Matthew, working at the stove in charge of pasta, was asked to add another part.  Claire, daughter-in-law and a professional singer herself, was put in charge of documenting this with a smart phone.   Four takes and 15 minutes later, we were all pleased, declared it a "wrap" and sat down to eat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Felines in the Family >>> #8 in a series on Music Mentors

     I grew up with dogs, cats, horses, pet rats and snakes.  The pet rats were all snowy white fur and pink pin eyes and were just "visiting" from my dad's lab at the university.  The snakes were collected in the fields around our house by my brother who revered them and kept them briefly in cages in his room, regularly taking them out, and eventually returning them to the wild.*    My fondest memories are of the cats, though.                                                
It's really all about the cats.
     Someone asked recently if I had a dog.  It still kind of surprises me to realize that, no, I don't have a dog, and I haven't had a dog since I was a child.  I love dogs and always assumed I would inevitably have one claim me again.  But as my children grew, in the company of assorted beloved cats, our family just never did get around to a dog.   We were busy with the cats and then, for a brief period, pet rats----three sets of two females.  Domesticated rats are actually wonderful little companions and very smart and sweet----highly recommended pets, although their life span is only 3 years.

     But back to the cats.  I've catered to cats my whole life.  I've watched some being born and I've sorrowfully parted with others at the close of one of their nine lives.  We even had a cat during my childhood year living in Argentina (where having pet cats was not de rigueur) which we named Mishi, "kitty" in English .  How it found us and what became of it when we left are secrets my parents took to their graves.

     Both my own children came into this world welcomed by Minnie who, incredibly, hung around with us through eight moves, five major career changes, two human births, and a litter of her own.  Thanks to Rick, husband/dad/fellow cat-lover, we have video proof of what an intrepid character she was, standing her ground, demanding her rightful pampering and concessions.
Matthew with Minnie enjoying a good read in the company of twin bears.
     Who could've known that a feisty, no-nonsense, furry little ball-of-fire like Minnie would turn into a softie with the kids?  She'd let them haul her around, chase after her for hours, and erupt in frenzied squeals of delight at the mere sight of her.  Wily little Minnie's secret to success with handling her tiny adoring fans?  She had an uncanny ability to take all this devotion with kitty aplomb----when she was in the mood---and then to thumb her furry little nose at it all by shimmying and sashaying safely out of reach under cabinets or atop bookshelves.

     Minnie was our kid before we had kids.  Minnie was their first cat.  Minnie inspired the song "Tickles the Cat" that I wrote to humor kids and cats everywhere.  You can listen to a sample here, Track #15  I humbly thank Minnie for giving us master lessons in compassion, plus all those duck-and-cover skills.

     * except the 5' long garter snake that escaped and was "at-large" for several days, resulting in Grandpa's refusing to enter the house.