Who You Gonna Call?

 

 

For those of you who reached out after yesterday’s post, thank you. Really.

 

I know it sometimes seems like we’re all alone, but we’re not. And it is precisely during those times that we need to call on one another for support. Maybe we need someone to offer a kind word or guidance. Maybe we just need an ear. No matter the need, let’s keep in touch. Somehow.

 

We are not alone. I promise.

Rock Camp 2015 – Day 1

 

 

Yesterday was Day 1 of Rock Camp and it was awesome! First thing, I hit my usual duty of greeting campers in the parking lot, and I had fab-o company, as a few volunteers joined and helped. We like to high-five the arriving campers (and their parents/guardians) and help get the good vibes going. The campers aren’t always sure how to respond, it being Day 1 and all, but the parents are sure. They love it! It’s the kind of thing that puts their minds at ease. After all – we’re caring for their children. It’s a big deal.

 

 

So after morning assembly, instrument instruction went down and then it was lunchtime. Day 1′s lunch entertainment was Storeetellers and they were amazing. I loved their energy and their spirit, and their songs were such fun! In the real world, lunchtime concerts aren’t that easy to come by. At Rock Camp, it’s a daily happening and I adore it.

 

 

The rest of the day went by smoothly. The campers formed bands. They had songwriting workshops. They had band practice. And in a snap, it was time for the afternoon assembly and then Day 1 was over.

 

 

On the way home, I was thinking how lovely it was. There was so much support from other volunteers and everyone worked together to make the day happen. Personally, I didn’t experience any drama all day. Honestly, I was so relaxed that on the way home I nearly fell asleep. You know what they say: Teamwork makes the dream work.

 

True dat, Troy. True dat.

Well That Just Happened

 

 

Last week, on Tuesday I believe, I was walking down a sidewalk when I stopped and had a radical thought: I’ve turned the corner. I’m well. I don’t know what prompted it. I don’t remember what I was thinking about before that thought. I just felt it somehow, and knew it was true.

 

A couple of days later I told the Healer about the experience and she was quite supportive. She loosened the reins on my restrictive diet and told me I could have a little salad here and there (I’ve been off all raw vegetables for quite a while now). She also said I could have a wee bit of sugar once in a while. You know – like a birthday doughnut. She did say I shouldn’t sit down to a baker’s dozen or anything, and I assured her I wouldn’t. I agreed to continue with the other dietary restrictions (no fruit or fruit juice, no alcohol, no soda), even though I somehow knew I was well. We scheduled a couple of maintenance visits and I headed home.

 

That appointment took place last Thursday. Today is Wednesday and I am here to tell you my intuition was dead-on! I am well. I just am. I feel it. I know it. My body is behaving like, well, my body. And that’s that. Those salads I’m eating are scrumptious and greatly appreciated. I’ve had very few sweets, but I’ve enjoyed the heck out of those, too. After I see the Healer this week, I’m hoping some other heretofore banned food/beverage will be back in my diet. And pretty soon, I hope there are no restrictions.

 

I’m beyond happy that whatever the hell kind of virus I’ve had has finally kicked the bucket. And I will never, ever, ever go on a Princess Cruise again, thank-you-very-much, as all signs point to that being ground zero of my physical troubles. (I guess ground zero can occur at sea. Go figure.)

 

I can also see some good that came out of this nearly 5-month illness. I have a new-found appreciation for health. (Boy – do I appreciate it!) I recognize and respect how it feels to be in working order. And I have learned to actually care for myself when I’ve needed it.

 

Perhaps the greatest good I’ve gained during this illness is the gift of not judging myself harshly. It has taken a lot, granted, but I’ve stopped beating myself up about my appearance, or my hips, or my curves. In the past, I’ve worked out and counted calories and deprived myself (or not) and still I was disappointed in my physicality. Being sick took that out of me. It was hard to criticize my weight when I couldn’t eat anything or do anything due to illness and weakness. Somewhere along the line, I guess I just stopped the self-criticism. And I haven’t gone back to that old, ugly habit. (I pray I don’t backslide.) I mean, I want to be healthy and fit, and I want to feel good about myself and think I’m doing alright, but I also want to motivate myself toward those feelings with positive thoughts. Tearing myself down serves no useful purpose whatsoever.

 

So that’s where things are. I’m much, much better. And I truly appreciate hearing from so many of you. It’s been awesome having your support and good vibes. Not only have you called and checked in on me, you’ve also sent me little notes and made darling gifts to perk me up. Never underestimate the power of friendship. I certainly don’t.

 

As for my magical moment on that random sidewalk last Tuesday, I can only tell you how it went down. It was simple and there was no thunder bolt. No one else on the sidewalk even noticed me there. But I was there, and it was magic. Knowing I’m better and feeling it in my very soul is a precious gift.

 

Good for me!

“Found Words” at The Ebell

 

 

 

This week I participated in a night of storytelling at The Ebell in Los Angeles. Six other writers and I got together to weave tales in The Ebell’s historic Fine Arts Theater. Friends, family and complete strangers gathered for the sole purpose of listening. I think Mister put it best when he said, “This is throwback entertainment.”

 

When I was initially asked to participate in this event, I immediately wanted to say no. The mere thought of getting up in front of people to read one of my stories paralyzed me with fear. What would I share? Why would anyone be interested in something I wrote? I’ve never done that! These thoughts of self-doubt (and about a jillion others) raced through my mind and very nearly kept me from saying yes.

 

But then I realized my fear was only fear. And that the worst case scenario was I would keep my head down and read my story during my time on stage, never looking up. I mean, it was a reading after all, right?

 

So before I could second-guess myself… Before I could shun the people who believed in me enough to invite me in the first place… Before I could sabotage what might be a new and positive experience, I said Yes. I committed to participating in the event and that was that.

 

I worked on my story. I did. I practiced reading and I even consulted a fabulous actor friend, taking her advice and trying my best to incorporate her excellent suggestions. She told me that the more I could memorize, the better my eye-contact with the audience. I knew what she meant. I’m often “the audience” at such events and it definitely makes a difference if one feels a connection with the performer. I love that feeling. Of course I wanted to foster that from my side of the podium. So I practiced some more. On one particular day, I went over my 10-minute story so many times I was left hoarse. But it was the right thing to do.

 

I wanted to give my best. Now, I felt this way simply because, but I had also invited several folks to the reading. And – lo and behold – they were actually planning to attend. If I told you how uncomfortable I was in simply inviting people to this event, you wouldn’t believe me. I go see friends as they pursue various performing endeavors all the time. And I love it! Concert? Sure! Stand-up? You bet! Theater? Dance? Recital? Gallery Show? Yes, yes, yes and yes! But to ask people to show up for me is beyond painful. Let me just say there was a lot of deep breathing involved and a lot of denying my dark side. But I did take the breaths and I did quiet the critic and I did ask my friends to attend.

 

Here’s what happened: people showed up. They braved traffic. They bought their tickets. They gave me more love and support than I ever expected. And though I’m not very good at receiving, I tried. And I said Thank You. And I hugged each of them, and even slow-danced with the gal with the second greatest dimples on earth (Mister’s receive top billing, don’t you know). I marveled at the love I was given. I felt my heart stretch at its crooked seams. And I realized I actually have friends. As much as I go through life thinking my love for these wonderful souls is one-sided, it absolutely isn’t. Whether or not I’ve admitted it, I am loved in return. I can’t tell you how it makes me feel to own that. To accept it. To allow it into my walled existence.

 

Anyhoo, the other night I got up and read my story, and I was fine. I was off-the-page enough to feel good about looking at the audience, and when I did look down I somehow managed to know just where I was in the telling. I got to hear the other stories and I got to meet the other writers and I got to check off my First Reading. All in all, it went pretty well.

 

For what it’s worth, I can tell you my goal was to warrant being included with that group of storytellers. I simply wanted to hold my own, to be my finest version of me. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less. I think that goal was accomplished.

 

But if there were doubts, they were certainly quelled when I received a beautiful note from a friend the morning after. She shared a personal experience, then tied it to my self-doubts about the previous evening’s Reading. Her note ended, “Just let go. You’re a lot better than you think you are.”

 

To her, and to all the Friends who showed up, laughed and applauded – Thank You. You will never know what your support means. And if your affection for me is a mere smidgen of mine for you, well, I am blessed beyond all measure.

In Progress

 

 

My painting teacher is absent from these here parts, on a much-deserved vacation. He’ll be gone quite a while, and that means no painting for most of us students.

 

Or does it? A couple of my painting buddies and I decided to hold our own painting class. We got together the other night here at the new pad and tackled our individual projects. We also drank wine and talked and laughed up a storm. We even consulted one another when we needed advice.

 

I had so much fun with those gals. And I so admire their painting abilities. We all choose such different subjects, such different styles. And yet we’re all supportive of one another. We all believe in each other. And I daresay we genuinely like each other.

 

We’re gonna give our little wine & painting get-together another go next week. Until our teacher gets back, we figure it can’t hurt. If we screw up our canvases, so what? As he always tells us, it’s only paint.

 

And a whole lot of fun.

Thank You For Your Support

 

 

To all of you who’ve checked in on me and sent your most excellent vibes, thank you for your support.

 

The A/C guy showed up 2 days ago and so far – touch wood – the unit is keeping us cool. As I said a couple of days back, we can’t hang meat in here or anything. But it is cool enough to not flip our freakin’ lids.

 

Honestly, I don’t know how folks without conditioned air do it. When it hit near 90 degrees inside, I actually started to cry.

 

And when that A/C dude got the cold air flowing the other day, I actually cried a bit then, too. He just smiled. Probably not the first time he’s seen that. I certainly hope it’s the last time he sees it from me.

Rah! Rah! Sis Boom Bah!

 

 

“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”

Maya Angelou

(1928 – 2014)

 

 

It started with a playwright. Actually, it started so many years ago, I can’t fully trace its origin. Lord knows, I’ve tried, but for the life of me I can’t figure out when I started doing it.

 

The playwright. I met her some weeks ago and during the evening’s events, I introduced her to a few people and got the ball rolling on a couple of new professional relationships. We were both in the same place, and it seemed easy enough to make introductions that might be fruitful for her, so I took the reins and did it. It was no big deal.

 

Or was it? A few days later the playwright sent me an email, thanking me for being an advocate on her behalf. She expressed her gratitude for my actions, for building her up and recognizing her talent and validity. Her appreciation was sincere and honest.

 

So I started thinking: am I a cheerleader to the good people in my life? That question’s answer came pretty easy, for yes – I am definitely a cheerleader to those around me. And I’m okay with that, as it’s an honest part of my being. But in acknowledging that part of myself, I was faced with a larger, darker question: if I’m a cheerleader for others in the world, why am I not a cheerleader for myself?

 

That hit me hard, folks. For sadly, it’s the truth. I do tend to encourage and support the souls in my life. I can build someone up and in the very same breath, I can tear myself down. For instance, the night I met the playwright, it was said by someone that perhaps I could perform at a specific venue in the near future. Without a second’s hesitation, I shot down the idea and changed the subject. What’s that about?

 

After reading the playwright’s email, I thought about my cheerleader tendencies a bit, but didn’t obsess over it. Then the other shoe dropped: Mister and I watched “The Spectacular Now.” If you saw this beautiful film, you know it’s about a high-school dude who happens to – what else – support and encourage everyone around him without giving the same attention to himself. (It’s about a lot of stuff, actually, but I’m short-handing this, y’all.) I loved the movie, and I’m so glad to have seen it. I did not expect to relate to any of its characters, however, least of all a teenage boy. But there you go. Life throws you for the occasional loop. Some are big, others fit on a screen.

 

After seeing “The Spectacular Now,” I decided to confront myself and reconsider my stance on excluding me from the support I give to the world. And here’s what I decided…

 

I am worth my own faith. I deserve to believe in myself. When I try something and fail, I can love me enough to get up and try again. When I succeed, I can love me enough to appreciate me. When life places opportunities right in front of my danged face, I can scream Yes! Yes! Yes!

 

Okay. I don’t see me doing a lot of screaming anytime soon, but saying “Yes” should be an option, y’all. Why not? I mean, I get this one go-round and it’s all-too-short. Shouldn’t I make the most of it? Shouldn’t we all?

 

So here’s my big plan: I’m going to become an advocate for myself. I’m already doing it for those nearest and dearest to me. I’m just adding my name to the roster. So far it’s a subtle life change. But I can’t help but thinking that in the long run, it could equal monumental change in my little world. My beautiful, small, overwhelmingly large world. 3 cheers – for all of us!

Ladies Rock Camp 2014!

“Jump in and feel it

Your invitation to freedom

Enjoy this moment

Believe, Wonder, Love”

Jump In

words and music by “Wonderlove”

 

 

This past weekend just about killed me.

 

 

“Ladies Rock Camp” rolled around on the calendar and I had signed on to teach Vocals and be an all-around volunteer. It sounds simple, I know. And maybe that simplicity of idea is what keeps me coming back every year. I mean, my job is to show up, teach Vocals, and be of service wherever else I’m needed. No big deal, right?

 

 

On Friday morning, I cajoled Mister into dropping me off at a fellow volunteer’s pad for a carpooling session. It was 7:30am. Lauren and Beth were ready to go and just as excited as I. We’ve all been through this before and know how rewarding it is. The 3 of us climbed into Lauren’s car and we hit the road, with downtown L.A. in mind. Traffic was, well, it was traffic, so we arrived at Camp just at 8:30 and headed up the stairs to greet the other volunteers.

 

 

This summer will mark the 5th year of Rock & Roll Camp For Girls L.A. As that camp has always been held at the same location (same for Ladies Rock Camp), the joint has become quite familiar. Climbing the stairs to the school is such an easy experience. It brings me comfort, and makes me smile. That was a pretty good start to the first day.

 

 

We volunteers got in, went over the schedule and the campers started arriving. We all dove in together and there was no turning back. Before I knew it, those chicks had formed bands, popped their instrument cherries, started writing their original songs and jumped head-first into songwriting. The day flew, and by the time shadows were cast by the downtown buildings, the entire camp was dancing and singing to live band karaoke! At 9:45, we all vacated the premises and headed home for the night. Lauren, Beth and I were pretty tired. We did talk on the way home, but not nearly as much as we had that morning. Day 1 down.

 

 

Mister again dropped me off for Saturday morning’s carpool. Lauren, Beth and I were a wee bit more sluggish than we’d been the previous day. As it was Saturday, there was zero-point-zero traffic, so we flew along the 101 to downtown L.A. It was grand!

 

 

Saturday of Ladies Rock Camp is similar to Wednesday of Girls Camp: there are a lot of breakdowns. You’re exhausted. Really exhausted. For the campers, emotions run high and there’s a tremendous amount of anxiety and fear: the showcase is only 1 day away. Will the songs get finished? Will the various parts be learned? Will it all come together? There are always a ton of questions and what-ifs. And there is always only one answer: yes. Yes, the songs will be finished. Yes, the parts will be learned. Yes, it will all most assuredly come together, and brilliantly. I don’t know how it works. It just does. In that regard, the lady campers are no different from the girls. And as the volunteers who’ve watched this again and again, it’s up to us to keep the boat steady. We provide the calm. We show – through our behavior – that there’s nothing to worry about. I like to think it helps. I certainly hope it does anyway.

 

 

So Saturday saw more instrument instruction and band practice, as well as through various workshops and panels. Late in the afternoon, it was time for a stage run-through for all the bands. That’s when the nerves really get going.

 

 

And you know what happened? They were fine. No, they were great. They all got up on that giant rehearsal stage and rocked it. Ladies who’d never ever played their chosen instruments just wailed! And it was awesome. It prepared them for the real showcase and helped to explain the process. For me, it was a revelation when I witnessed 2 bands step up and into their greatness. You see, both of those bands were formed without vocalists. But do you think they let that stop them? Noooooooo. Those gals just grabbed microphones and let rip. In harmony, I might add. I was grinning from ear to ear and felt so inspired. Yes, they were afraid. And yes, they did it anyway. I know I could use some of that Rock Camp Gusto in my life. How about you?

 

 

After the run-through, it was time for dinner and our big old Rock Camp Jam night. There may have been beer involved as well. Ahem. Let’s just say it was an awesome night and I was more than a little tired at its close. Day 2 down.

 

 

On Sunday morning, Mister dropped me off for the final carpool. Lauren, Beth and I barely spoke at all as we cruised across the city’s empty highways. The previous 2 days had been long (8:30am to almost 10pm), but this one was going to separate the girls from the gals: the showcase wasn’t due to start until 9pm. All of us stood strong and hit it hard.

 

 

While the lady campers were going through band practice, final workshops and band photos, we volunteers were wearing multiple hats. Not only were we helping the bands wherever they needed us, but we were also breaking down the camp itself. For on Monday morning, school would be back in session and that place had to look the way we’d found it. That meant taking down all the vibe, cleaning up after ourselves, returning desks and chairs to their homes, getting gear to the club for the showcase and packing away the rest of our gear and equipment. I can’t speak for all the volunteers, but let me say for myself how glad I was to have been P90-X-ing for so long. I put my muscles and stamina to good use, y’all. And then some.

 

 

I caught a ride to the club with excellent volunteer and Drum Instructor, Danita. We both were pretty quiet on the way, as we were dog-tired and knew the night was young. Once there, all volunteers got to work to get the club and stage ready. As my two co-vocal-instructors were working hard at other duties, I grabbed all the vocalists (including the chicks who decided to sing while playing other instruments) and we headed backstage for warm-ups. That was fairly quick, as I didn’t want to keep them from their bands for too long. I knew there was nervous energy to be shared with their fellow campers. So after our quick warm-up session, the gals headed back into the club. Speaking of the club, it was filling up fast. And that was beautiful, y’all. Spouses, partners, family members, friends – so many folks came out to support the lady campers. I was mightily impressed. As I looked around the club, smiling, the lights began to dim. The show was beginning…

 

 

Mornings at Rock Camp begin with Punk Rock Aerobics. This serves to loosen up the campers (and the volunteers), as well as warm up our bodies for the day’s activities. For giggles, we start our showcases the same way. So as we all began following Captain Chaska’s on-stage moves, I looked around the club. Men, women, old, young – we were all doing the routine and there was no judgment. As far as I could see, all were participating and that was cool. Personally, I booty-bumped a rather famous attendee and he just smiled. Why not? We were all smiling, moving our bodies to Enya and Salt-n-Pepa. And then the bands took the stage.

 

 

One after another, they blew my mind.

 

 

They blew their own minds!

 

 

And perhaps most importantly, they had fun.

 

 

Yes, every single dollar of their tuition went to pay for young campers’ scholarships at summer camp.

 

 

Yes, they did some things they’d perhaps never done before.

 

 

And yes, they (hopefully) experienced growth.

 

 

And they did it all while having fun. I smiled that night and I’m smiling now.

 

 

At the end of the evening, Baker Jen offered to give me a ride home while Lauren and Beth soaked up the last of the Ladies Rock Camp glow. I accepted the ride and Jen’s fine company. When I got home, I washed my face and brushed my teeth as quickly as I could. It was 1:10am when I crawled into bed.

 

 

I fell asleep thinking that I had survived, and about that day’s closing ceremony, which took place just before we left the school and headed over to the club for the showcase. Each lady camper shared something personally significant that was experienced over the weekend. Then we volunteers took turns doing the same. Amazing, deep, joyful, heartfelt words were spoken. Vulnerability was firing through the air. So was safety. And support. We knew we could be honest with each other. We knew we could expose our souls. When it was my turn to speak, I told how each year, when I’m driving to Rock Camp for Girls or Ladies Rock Camp, my inner critic yells at me, telling me I don’t belong there, that I have nothing to offer and that I simply don’t measure up to the other amazing, awesome volunteers. I fought back tears, then I said that this was the first year I’ve actually thought that maybe I do belong there. That maybe those chicks are my tribe, and that maybe I’m part of theirs. This was the first year my inner critic didn’t outweigh my hope, my self-belief. Just before I left the club, many amazing volunteers approached me, hugged me and told me I absolutely do belong. That I am a crucial part of the tribe. And I believed them. For the first time, I really did believe them.

 

 

Best Ladies Rock Camp ever.

Women

 

 

I recently joined a women’s group. When my dear friend asked me to attend, I did quite a bit of soul-searching.

 

I’m not a group kind of girl. I don’t know how to function in that environment. I mean, I can handle the side of things where you support others and give positive vibes, but the receiving? I have actually broken down while others did nothing but look at me while thinking positive thoughts about me. I’m working on it, on my own. But in a group?

 

After much deliberation, I decided to give this particular group a try. These women are getting together on a regular basis to share stories. That’s right – it’s a writing group. They’re writing stories about other women who’ve inspired and helped them. I love stories. I love writing. So I showed up.

 

I knew a few of these gals, but the rest were fresh faces. After some coffee and socializing, we sat together and listened to the writers who’d brought new stories. We read our short tales aloud and it couldn’t have been lovelier. This group showed amazing encouragement and validation. That would have been enough, but to me the greater glory was in the talent. These women can write! I was awed and entertained. I was moved and felt tremendous empathy. Women. Here we were, just sitting together in a room – sharing. Wow.

 

At the meeting’s close, it was determined that we could use more attendees and more stories. Our facilitator wondered aloud if perhaps we wouldn’t benefit from writing another story, on top of our initial offerings. I raised my hand before I realized I was doing it, and said that I’d love to write another story. That it would be good for me. That I’d enjoy the writing process.

 

And just like that, I knew I’d be going back to the next meeting. To the group. I’m working on short story #2, in preparation for January’s meeting. The writing work is good for me. The women are even greater.