Sunday, January 26, 2014

Grammys Current and Future

Today is Grammy Sunday. Will you be watching tonight? I probably will. And I probably will be feeling like I have felt watching such awards shows for the last many years...a bit older and not as impressed.  I don't enjoy watching those shows in the same way that I used to. I still enjoy watching them for the spectacle that they are. But they were enjoyable in a different way when I was starstruck, younger and believed all the nominees were really talented and deserving.  There will be several very talented and deserving musicians as there are every year, but those usually are overshadowed by the ones camouflaging their lesser talent in extravagance and musical subterfuge. But even so, I will be watching and hopeful for the real talent to rise to the top.

I feel a bit more prepared for the Grammys this year thanks to my sons. I actually have several nominees on my iPod. I will be listening on Rhapsody today to the 2013 Grammy Nominees playlist so I can be even more prepared by showtime.

Do you wonder why the proper plural form of Grammy is Grammys and not Grammies? It's because you don't drop the "y" and add "ies" on proper names. I feel better now getting that out there.

Speaking of music, we were recently treated to a performance by several potential future Grammy nominees. It was once again the TJ Feeder Pattern Concert here and hundreds of elementary, middle and high school students banded together, literally, to perform a combined concert. The five elementary bands feeding into the local high school performed together as a united group. The two middle schools and high school bands performed as well.  Then the entire group took the stage and performed as one.

Nothing tugs at the heartstrings and national pride quite like the sound of hundreds of school children playing America the Beautiful.

The highlight of the evening for us was one particular future potential Grammy hopeful and his participation in the crowd-pleasing performance of the Theme from Rocky. Everybody loves Gonna Fly Now and especially when the song starts with an eight bell, herald trumpet fanfare!

Click on the photo to watch the performance!
The herald trumpet is as long as Helios is tall. That was true for most of the students playing the fancy instruments. To balance the length and weight for the players, they each rested the trumpet's elongated bell on a music stand. Helios had a loose stand and had to compensate for its movement...but he played on!

It was a great night of music. The players were inspiring. The audience was supportive and fully entertained. The music teachers and band directors executed an impressive feat of logistics, gathering all the students for their one combined performance with only one rehearsal! The entire concert performance was award worthy.

Let's see if we can say the same about the Grammys tonight.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Posers on the Pow

Winter persists. While this winter has not yet won any superlative, it is currently in the running for Most Likely to Snow. It has snowed too many times for me to count and it is snowing again today. Since snow is queen around here lately, we decided this weekend to give in and play along with the weather.

In the Olympic spirit, we jumped right in to winter sports and....snowboarded. Why start small? Honestly, this was Forced Family Fun executed in reverse. FFF is usually implemented by the parents to keep the family bonds strong. But in this instance, the boys were exerting the force. They have been asking, begging, annoying us for so long to go snowboarding.  And we have avoided taking them for as long as they have been asking.

Why would we not take them? Well....there are reasons. We don't ski much less snowboard. My husband has a clinical aversion to temperatures under 60. And neither my husband nor I look forward to injury. So we put it off.

The closest we have ever been to snowboarding is noticing the uncanny resemblance that one certain snowboarder has to one certain stay-at-home mom.  I'm sorry...I had to throw that in. The opportunity was just too good to pass.

In defense of our resistance, there wasn't enough snow last winter. At least that's what we said even though there was plenty of the manmade stuff. Now that Winter 2013-2014 has thrown its name into the superlative running, we can't use that excuse any longer. But last week as the boys looked longingly out at the cold, frozen land which is our front yard, something came over me. A desire to join with our sons in their quest for adventure and fun set in and took hold. We could meet them where they live instead of always expecting them to join us. Snowboarding we shall go!

We got up extra early to beat the crowds. We layered. We rented gear. We clipped in. We took lessons. We learned to turn. We learned to stop. We kept our knees bent. We learned to use our toe side and our heel side. And we definitely got reacquainted with our backside.

We were posers but we didn't care.  We were ridin fakie and goofy and didn't even know it. We faceplanted and ragdolled and held a few yard sales on the slope. We were stoked.

It was a phenomenally fun time! Reverse FFF works! For so long, my husband and I had resisted this activity with our kids. Selfishly, our expectations for our own good time were low but we were happily proved wrong.  There is something about a shared experience which binds you tightly together with your companions in fun or in peril. And we had a little of both with our snowboarding adventure.

No medals were won but we all were proud of our own accomplishments. We all were contentedly exhausted and satisfactorily sore. And we all were reminded how much fun it is to step...or slip and slide...outside of your comfort zone. Awesome dude!

Friday, January 10, 2014


For most of the time I have owned my smart phone, I have resisted using its camera for anything other than silliness or emergency photo needs. In a pinch, I would use it to get a visual reminder of something I wanted to buy later or take a shot of a funny something-or-other I wanted to show to my husband.

The image quality and size generated from my phone were inferior and I wasn't going to stoop as a photographer to the low depths of taking photos with a phone. And if I did take a photo with my phone, you bet I wouldn't be sharing it.

That has changed. I got tired of always lugging around my big, impressive camera. Sometimes I felt conspicuous whipping out my large-lensed baby when all around were holding up sleek, barely bigger than a credit card options. Everyone thought I was a reporter at school events.

And then there was the immediate gratification that I wasn't getting. With my real camera, I have to download my images to my computer and convert them from RAW format to something the rest of the world can use. And of course, once I am in there converting and whatnot, I must tweak and crop and sharpen and pump up the brightness and manipulate the shadows and process until the shot was perfect and my gratification has been sufficiently delayed. Then I could share, post and enjoy my photos to my heart's content.

Lately, I figured out what everyone else knew. With phone images: there is none of that waiting. I know I could play around with sepia or black and white effects, but the shot is the shot. And you can enjoy and share it the second the moment is over...or even while it's still happening.  That's the plus of a camera phone. Immediate gratification experienced and then move on to the next gratifying moment, if you are into that sort of thing.

Sheepishly I must admit, I have sort of gotten into that sort of thing lately. I am not Instagramming myself all over town but I have been using my phone to capture lots of moments and I have shared them...on this blog. You probably didn't even know it. And you probably care even less. But I care. I take pride in my photography and don't want negative image quality to reflect my abilities.  You might think I need to get over myself but let's just think about it...would Martha Stewart serve EasyMac over her signature macaroni and cheese recipe? Not without a serious excuse or not without adding gruyere or bacon when it came out of the microwave.

In the world of my mind, my photographer's eye is the gruyere and my blog posts are bacon.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Compassionate New Year!

Have you made your resolutions? I haven't and I am not going to make any. But that doesn't mean I don't have any ideas for 2014. I am approaching this year a bit differently than I have started my previous New Years.

To be honest, I didn't set any resolutions for 2013 either. But that wasn't a conscious decision. I was reeling from events of 2011 and 2012 and the thought of having resolve about anything other than breathing in and out was more than I could imagine. I spent most of my time in last half of 2012 and all of 2013 seeking solace on the mat, making myself breathe. Here it is, 2014, and I am still breathing in and out, but still not making any resolutions.

Maybe it's the yogini in me or maybe the past few years have made me believe that control is a complete illusion, but setting out a list of firm decisions for myself seems pointless and a set up of sorts. You know what is said about the best laid plans...they often go awry and leave us grief and pain for promised joy (said Robert Burns to a mouse). With that in mind, intentions rather than hard resolutions seem a bit more forgiving.

They also say that a certain road is paved with good intentions. So I guess I better tread carefully with my intentions.

Most yoga classes begin with an invitation to set an intention for your practice. Lately, without premeditation, the same intention has floated into my mind repeatedly. Compassion. By definition, the sympathetic concern for the sufferings of others.

Compassionate is not a word that I would have used to describe myself in the past. I would not say that I have been indifferent to others' suffering. But I haven't invested myself in considering the suffering of others. By setting an intention of living compassionately, I am bringing an awareness of others' plights and adjusting my responses and reactions accordingly. I said it myself in 2012, on my list of 45 Things.
#15: Be kind to everyone; we are all carrying some load.
That's compassion. In honest retrospect, I am not sure that I could be truly compassionate without the events of the past few years to ground me in my own suffering, experienced and potential. I have not suffered nearly what Anna, her parents, my mother-in-law or countless other families have suffered, but I have a glimpse of that suffering when I look in my brother's and sister-in-law's eyes. I won't always recognize suffering when I look in a stranger's or friend's eyes, but I am assured now that some is there. And they need kindness at the very least.

But what does it really mean to "live compassionately"? That definitely sounds like an easy thing to say on the safe confines of a yoga mat, where the real world is shut out for 60 minutes at a time. But to put it into practice in daily life is another matter. Aside from being kind, donating to charity, opening doors for people, minding your manners, how else can you live compassionately? One way is just realizing that everyone has a load (see #15 above). If you recognize that, you can hardly continue to push your own agenda with disregard of others. And with that realization comes a change in your own agenda or at least an understanding of those with different agendas. Interactions based in compassion are fertile ground for progress and positivity even when differences exist.

Compassion is not reserved only for extreme suffering or for the stranger in need.  We can't all just pick up, move to the needy corners of the world and offer our services. Thankfully there are people who can do that. They are living compassionately in a grand, global sense. But compassion can be expressed on smaller stages too. I have a family here that needs my compassion. As a mother, my sons need my compassion as they navigate this world, filled with obstacles I never imagined for them. My compassionate responses will help them over, around and through these hurdles.

Compassion can be directed inwardly too. Choices we make for ourselves display the compassion we carry for our own heart. Practicing thoughtful dietary choices, good sleeping habits, uplifting friends, daily exercise and positive entertainment all are displays of personal compassion. Think of it as a garbage in, garbage out approach. And personal compassion is contagious. Are you unconsciously creating your own personal waste heap, adding to the worldly garbage dump? Or are you compassionately planting a garden of humanity for all to enjoy?

In yogic terms, living compassionately falls under the umbrella of ahimsa or non-harming. Ahimsa is the very first item on the yogic agenda.  All yogic bets are off if compassion is absent.

So, I am setting an intention to operate from a place of compassion in 2014 and beyond. I do it for me, for my family, for those I know and those I will meet. This road, intentionally paved as it may be, can only lead to good things.