Saturday, December 29, 2012

"Fan" mail

I've been getting cards and letters from some of the residents from a nursing home.  Notes telling me how much they appreciate my singing and playing there. At times it is very hard to read their handwriting and it reminds me of the days before my cochlear implant, when I had to listen very hard to understand at least one word being said out of a whole sentence and piece it all together. One  may not understand handwriting but I do understand the gesture of appreciation and it means a great deal to me.

I remember some years ago I was working in housekeeping at Omega (in NY) and I was cleaning the room of a then famous singer. (name withheld) In the trash can were several letters, cards and  notes from people telling her how much they loved her music.
I remember being stunned to find them in the trash!

See these cards pictured above? I don't plan on throwing them away. They are what gives me motivation to keep doing what I do. Thank you, M.J. for the nice letters! See you Monday! :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

This Little Light of Mine...

I'm gonna let it shine!

What fun we had today out at Mountainside Senior Living.  The group started off rather small and a bit sleepy when all of a sudden, during, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" came a big voice from behind me.   I turned to see a sprightly African American woman singing louder than any of us as she push herself in her wheelchair to join us. Or should I say, lead us. From there we sang, "Down by the Riverside", "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and by the time we got to, "This Little Light of Mine" a crowd was gathering around. Usually the people in the group sing softly but this woman was a powerhouse! When we sang, "Wade in the Water" she harmonized with me as if we had been a professional duo for a long time. The others in the group noticed it too. "Wow! you are a good team!"

After each song, we gave a hearty laugh until the next song started up. We sang a bunch of Christmas songs too and ended with "Happy New Year to you" (to the tune of Happy Birthday)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Blue Christmas

Riverdale is an assisted living center in Cville and I adore the residents there.  Of all my holiday gigs, I was looking forward to this one the most.   We had a delicious lunch together and sang just about every song I had (over 40) and all the while, Misty (puppy pictured below) seemed to enjoy herself.
This gig is the last Christmas gig of the year and so it's time to put my holiday song binder away. Not just yet though.. I will leave it out on the kitchen counter where it has been since October.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Think globally, act locally

So much sadness in U.S. lately with the shootings in CT. Sometimes it is hard to know what one person can do to make a difference. Yet I will tell you that just about every day I see people who make a difference. Ok so they are not in the National news, but here in our community, they make a difference.

Today was the annual Christmas party at a Region ten based organization. Most of the participants have severe disabilities and many of them do not have family in the area.  And yet Santa comes and brings each and every one of them not one--but a few presents! To see the joy, surprise, gratitude in their eyes as they hug Santa and receive their gifts!

This is a non-profit organization, so you have to know that it is the staff members themselves who buy the presents out of their own money. Who stand in long lines to shop. Who listen to each of them and hear the longings of what they want and go and buy it for them.

This is no small thing.  They make such a difference with so many people.

I try to do the same with my contribution of music. We sang Christmas carols until Santa arrived. After that I stayed to watch the giving of the presents--or should I say Presence.

Some of the folks are shy and won't approach Santa for a picture with him on their own. So I sought of them out and accompanied them to Santa where they got their picture taken.

If only I could be that simple again, that gleeful to be with Santa---who we all know is not what he appears to be--but we choose to believe anyway.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Glad to not be "normal"

Last night I was talking to a friend about where we find ourselves in our lives now.  I can remember times when I was younger, how I wished I could be "normal". I know, "what is normal"? well there is no normal anymore.. I don't think.  I guess whatever we are not, we sometimes think we should be.

As a child, I went through a period of standing out for various reasons (new kid in town, academically ill prepared, dressed funky when funky was not "in", etc). Secretly, I wanted to be just like others but I didn't know how to do that. (they were "normal")

Today I sang with a group at a club house where people with mental health issues hang out.  How I love their refreshing world views and delightfully eccentric ways. What I love about them is that some of them appear to be rough and tough on the outside --a person you might not want to pass walking alone on a dark street. But when they sing they are so gentle and sweet. Even a tear comes to their eyes at times.  You see how music can do this to people?

I got lots of hugs today too. I love where my life takes me now--in club houses for people who don't fit in other places. I am finding a sense of belonging with them. Growing up, I never felt I "fit in" but it's great to be with group where none of us fit into any mold or convention. We are our own unique selves. Our singing unites us with common memories of songs from the soundtrack of our lives.

No, I am not missing anything from a life I thought I should have had. I am glad I am not normal!
(above picture is from singing at Mary Williams yesterday)

Also the good part about my early years when I did not "fit in", that is when I found music --or it found me. And that has made all the difference.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I have really been enjoying singing Christmas songs with lots of groups recently. Last week I did a family holiday sing along at a library in a neighboring town.  This week and next, I sing with my nursing home groups.

This year I learned a lot more old songs and I love how the spark of recognition comes with a light in someone's eyes, a smile, tears, a look of surprise. Here are some favorites:

I'll Be Home for Christmas
Blue Christmas (of course :)
The Christmas Song
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Silver Bells
Winter Wonderland
Let it Snow
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

What are some of your favorites? Any requests?

Let's do a virtual Christmas carol event!  Skyping---that would be fun, huh?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Heart of the Forest Lives Forever

I love nature and enjoyed living near a forest out behind my house where I live. It was there I saw the Owls in the trees which inspired my song, "Owl's Dream".

 The week of Thanksgiving brought bulldozers to destroy the forest in order to build Dunlora Forest. (a new housing complex) Many of my friends keep hearing about how devastated I have been with the forest removal here.

Of all the trees in my yard, I was most attached to the one right outside of my window. There was a hollowed out hole where a family of squirrels lived for the last couple of winters.

I was happy to see that the bulldozers left this tree but then a few days ago I  was told that the tree would be cut down because it is dead and about to fall. (on my house!) This morning after a gig at a nursing home, I saw the the tree crew preparing to cut it down. I left the house to escape the noise but all the while I felt strangely calm and ok about it. I think because I know it was dead and it would not hurt the tree.

When I came home I was stunned to find the stump the way I found it pictured above!  A big beautiful heart!  I was so happy and relieved to see this! I can't help but to think it is some kind of message.  I have been asking others, "what is the good in all of this?"

Each time I look out my window now, I see this lovely heart the tree left behind. 

Love cannot be killed and the heart of the forest lives.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Peaceful music

I love to play special music for church services.  Pictured above is from an Advent service I played for at the Park Street Christian church.  Especially this time of year, I really need  quiet peace anywhere I can find it.

On that note, local folks may wish to come to the monthly Taize service I play on the second Wednesday of the month. (Dec. 12th) --it is lovely! Tonight in fact we are learning some new music! Here is a little info about it:

Taizé Evensong

Organization: Charlottesville Mennonite Church
Description: Find a little peace and stillness within the hecticness of daily life at this ecumenical Taizé service held every second Wednesday evening of the month at 8 pm at the Charlottesville Mennonite Church, 701 Monticello Ave, Charlottesville. The hour-long service follows the format of evening prayer used in the ecumenical community of Taizé in France. It is mostly a service of sung prayer with additional periods of silence, scripture reading and intercession. Other languages are used at points in the service to symbolize the worldwide Christian community.
Coffee, tea and cookies are served after the service with time for fellowship with each other.
Address: 701 Monticello Avenue
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Contact Name: Maren Hange
Contact Phone: 434.293.8306
Contact Email:
More Info Link:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Music for cats

Hello world! This is Jasper and I am Blue's cat. I was born in her loft apartment in Nelson county nearly 7 years ago. Anyway, she does not no I am writing to you! (so don't say anything)

I wanted to tell you that sometimes I help her with her shows.  If I like a song for instance, I will let her know staring at her so hard she can't help but stop what she is doing and eventually look at me.

Today I made her laugh because I got in the bag (pictured above) and told her I wanted to go with her to her gig. I tried to tell her that I could get us more money when I do my 1-800-Save-the Animals Look.  We could have tuna every night for dinner then!!

Anyway  today because I made her laugh, it gave her the idea to find some Christmas jokes to say at her Christmas program at the library next week. Here are a few (they made me laugh):

Q. Why is Santa so good at karate?
A. Because he has a black belt!

Q. What do elves learn in school?
A. The elf-abet.

Q. What did Mrs. Claus say to Santa when she looked in the sky?
A. "Looks like rain, dear."
What does Santa Claus use when he goes skiing? A North Pole.

What do you call a chicken at the North Pole? Lost. 

Ha ha! Ok I have to go because mommy is home!--jasper

Friday, December 7, 2012

Goosebumps & grey days

Sometimes a grey day makes the simple things stand out all the more.  The nursing home where I played today is out near Madison county (pictured above is a photo of the view from their yard). I have craved a quiet place amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season upon us.

I had the day to myself, so when I started singing, it was the first time I heard my voice out loud today. I sing with a microphone here and this is something most homes don't have. Usually it is noisy and chaotic with many distractions to overcome.

As I sang, a few times I got the goosebumps. I love it when that happens! To me that says, magic is afloat. I am not claiming that it comes solely from me--it is about all that is taking place in that moment. Something about the quality of presence of everyone in the room. The alchemy of spirit the music brings that transports me.

The goosebumps came during some Christmas songs. Some of those melodies are haunting, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear", "O Come all Ye Faithful."
The whole time I was singing above the smiling faces and singers among me I could see out the window the view pictured above.
Such peace.. I needed it, don't we all? I  will look at this picture when I feel stressed and remember there are quiet places and places where I shared music.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tears & Laughter & Christmas

Today singing with a group, there were tears and laughter as we worked our way through the soundtrack of our lives. Songs from school and camp days and now holidays to come. I've always thought that when a song brings you to tears, that is one of the best feelings there is. It is a kind of sadness that feels good. I've often been brought to tears from hearing a song, even if I didn't know the words to it. Then I cried even more once I learned the words.

Christmas time comes during a time when the dark comes early. Both literally and figuratively speaking. With all the commercials to spend money (we don't have) or visit family (who have passed on for some), it can be a challenging time of year.

All religious parables talk about finding the light in the darkest days. That is what winter time is about. Music brings us there faster than anything. No sooner have we been brought a shade of darkness, a ray of light comes up with another song. And so it goes.