Rock Camp 2015 – Showcase at The Troubadour & Wrap-up

 

 

Saturday was this year’s Rock Camp showcase and it all went down at The World Famous Troubadour!

 

Though the day’s moments followed the same order as those of years past, it was fresh and exciting. Each of the camper bands was unique. And all the campers were bold and brave.

 

 

I witnessed young girls taking the stage and owning microphones, shredding on lead guitars and bass guitars, wailing on keys, ripping on drums – and every girl on that stage was a Rock Star. It was astounding to hear their songs and watch their performances. I was not only impressed, I was also moved. It was a beautiful way to end a week at Rock Camp. And it touched my heart.

 

After the last camper band left the stage, our interns for the week performed an original composition. Then all the campers took the stage for the last time and collectively sang the camp theme song. And just like that – it was all over. Rock Camp 2015 came to a close.

 

 

I want to be honest with you. I do. With that in mind, I admit that the very end of Day 5 was challenging for me. I am not at liberty to disclose specific details, but I can tell you I felt so many things that broke my heart. I was disappointed in myself. I doubted my contributions. I wondered if I truly belonged. That last one really stung, because all week long I kept thinking how amazing it felt to be an integral part of the team that makes Rock Camp happen each year. I love those volunteers. More than once I’ve said they are my tribe. And I’ve meant it. Doubting my place among them hurt. Still does. I’m guessing the pain won’t subside for some time.

 

Usually at Rock Camp, campers and volunteers learn of new abilities. Their eyes are opened to their being able to claim a new talent or skill. I love that about Rock Camp and I’ve counted myself lucky to have experienced my own growth during camp. This year, I learned of my limitations. And while I absolutely do not like it, I did still learn something. And I’m trying to see that as growth. I’m trying.

 

Finally – many parents approached me at The Troubadour to tell me how much they appreciated my greeting them and their girls in the parking lot each morning. Some parents shared lovely things their girls had said about me. Some parents simply told me I had helped them start their own days with a smile. All those nice words made me feel a bit better. So did the sweet note I received from a fellow volunteer, thanking me for my work during the week. But the thing that really pushed me over the top and into cry-eye mode happened on the stage.

 

 

The band I and 2 other volunteers coached this week was called “Apparently Famous.” Those 4 campers were so utterly amazing, I almost couldn’t process it. They were – each of them – kind, intelligent, respectful, open-minded, polite and ready to rock. Anyhoo – after they had finished performing their song, “Devils in Heaven,” they leaned into their microphones and in unison said, “Thank you, Mikki!” Just typing the words makes me cry. I don’t know why they did it. I don’t know why I was singled out. I mean, they had 2 other amazing volunteer coaches all week, too. Why my name was spoken is a mystery. Tremendously appreciated, but a mystery all the same.

 

Sometimes when I’m doubting my place in this world, when my value as a human soul is questioned within, when I just don’t know if I matter – the universe reaches out to me to get my attention, to remind me to hang in there. Sometimes I get it. Sometimes I don’t. At Saturday’s showcase, the universe reached out to me through the voices of parents, volunteers and 4 amazing young girls, who absolutely-positively made my day. No matter what my future holds, I will always be grateful for those Apparently Famous campers and their loving hearts.

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.

A Lot of SPAM A Lot

 

 

When I was a kid, my family ate SPAM. (We also ate Potted Meat and Vienna Sausages, but let’s save that for another day, shall we?) I know that in Hawaii, folks eat the heck out of some SPAM.

 

I don’t eat SPAM anymore, and I don’t judge those who do. It’s just not my thing. To each his own, you know? And because I don’t eat it, it simply doesn’t pop up in my little world.

 

Only it does. Do you know how much SPAM email I receive each and every day? I’m guessing it’s somewhere around the 300-count marker. And that’s not including what goes straight into my SPAM folder. I’m merely counting the stuff that busts through and ends up in my in-box.

 

While I’m not fooled by it, I do sift through the crap in order to sort out real communications. In scanning those subject lines, I’ve noticed a sorry trend: a lot of the SPAM I receive carries subjects having to do with slamming or tearing down celebrities.

 

When did all this ugliness become a pastime? Have we always gravitated toward negativity about others, or is this a new preoccupation? What the heck is wrong with us anyway?

 

I guess I noticed this because I’m planning a get-together for my Rock Camp Volunteer buddies, and the very thought of those folks sends me floating in a bubble of positivity. It’s an amazing group, really. We are comprised of mostly women, and we are incredibly supportive of one another. I joke about all our high-fiving, but it’s for reals, y’all. We don’t snark and we don’t act catty. We believe in each other. We cheer each other on. It’s beautiful.

 

Earlier this week I witnessed something unfortunate in a parking lot. I walked by a mother and daughter (probably around 11 or 12 years old) and heard the mom saying something critical about what another nearby lady was wearing. The mom went straight from that insult to another, all the while teaching her daughter – by example – how to follow in her footsteps and denigrate other women. The daughter appeared to be learning well, as she was laughing at her mother’s words and joining in the barbs. It occurred to me that while it may be too late for the mother, perhaps that daughter will find herself at Rock Camp. Maybe she can learn the power of building up her friends. Maybe she will someday walk across a parking lot and marvel at how awesome this or that chick looks. Maybe she’ll find herself smiling, just because. Anything’s possible.

 

As for the assholes of the world who send out all that SPAM, well, they aren’t going to change and I don’t spend time thinking about them. But I do feel sorry for folks who are tempted to click on that crap, looking for dirt or ugly photographs of well-known people. Life’s too precious for that waste of energy. Too beautiful.

 

I’m thinking the only way to acceptably consume SPAM is from a plate. Definitely not from a screen.

RCGLA 2014 – Showcase at the House of Blues!

 

 

First, let me say that yesterday was a major catch-up day for me. Load after load of laundry, shopping for food to fill empty cupboards and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. I didn’t finish everything, but I made a dent. Not only that, but I must’ve been in the afterglow of Rock Camp, as people out in the world kept coming up to me to share some positive thought or another. At first I didn’t notice it. Then a little girl walked up to me and said she liked my shirt. That’s when I figured it out. And I smiled even more brightly. I may have even high-fived 10,000 angels. But that’s neither here nor there. The point of this missive is to fill you in on last Saturday’s Rock Camp Showcase…

 

Let me just say that the sound at the House of Blues was the best yet. I’ve always enjoyed seeing shows at HOB, and now I know why. The sound! The girls played their hearts out and it was awesome.

 

I spent most of the show in the audience, dancing and cheering on the performers. There were a couple of times when I caught sight of audience members expressing their shock at how good some of our campers were. To those (mostly dudes) let me say this: we’re not messing around. Chicks be rocking, okay? I mean, a few of those gals totally shredded and faces were melted. Seeing a shocked audience simply made me smile.

 

 

Just like every year, it’s incredibly rewarding to witness the joy of campers after they perform. Their accomplishments are monumental, y’all. Those girls show up on Monday and form a band, most likely with complete strangers. Over the next few days, they not only work hard to learn how to play an instrument, they also write their own original freakin’ song. Come Friday, they do a stage run-through and are then sent home. Saturday afternoon arrives super-fast and the next thing they know, they’re being introduced onstage to a crowd of 600 people. It’s phenomenal!

 

And it’s often life-changing. I’ve seen it time and time again. I suppose lives have also been changed and I’ve not been privy to that growth. That’s perfectly okay, too.

 

But I have been privy to my own growth, each and every year. I know that means nothing to the campers, nor should it. But it means everything to me, and I hold on to it more tightly than you can imagine.

 

After the showcase had ended, after our gear had been loaded out and our vibe had been removed from the walls of the club, we volunteers headed over to a Mexican restaurant for our decompression session. We were all pretty amped up, so there was a lot of clapping and cheering going on. There was also a lot of hugging and loving. Personally, I didn’t cry. I think it’s because I know that I’ve turned a corner with this group. In the past, I’ve doubted whether or not I truly belonged in their esteemed company. I’ve been self-critical of my skills and talents, and I’ve not believed I was worthy of their friendship. But not anymore. For the first time, I actually feel that I am with my tribe. That I truly belong. And I know that going forward I will make every effort to see these phenomenal women on a regular basis.

 

No need for tears. Just smiles. And occasionally high-fiving 10,000 angels.

RCGLA 2014 – Last Day of Camp

 

 

 

Day 5. Camp is over.

 

I’ve never seen so many campers arrive early! The day began with the last Instrument Instruction classes. This was important for the girls, as it was their last opportunity to work out any kinks with their instructors. As a Vocal Instructor, I and the 4 other Instructors did what we could to help the singers relax and trust their voices. Class seemed fun – for us, at least – and there was some super strong singing going on in the hallways!

 

 

After the final Instrument Instruction of the week, it was time for lunch! Sista Eyerie was one of our performers and that chick was boss. Her flow was mad sick and she was so positive and groovin’! Seriously – I danced the whole show and hope to catch her again.

 

After lunch, we had Showcase run-throughs and the bands I was able to hear simply crushed it. After the run-through, the band I’ve been working with had their final Band Practice. They worked hard to figure out their song’s ending and I was super-proud of their progress. We then broke down the equipment, headed out for final assembly and the campers went home. It was fast. It was final. It was the end.

 

After the campers went home, we Volunteers stayed at the school and broke down the entire camp. When I left the school at 9 pm last night, the gear was being loaded onto a truck for storage and the school – which had been our own private Rock Utopia – had reverted back to being, well, a school.

 

There were definitely a lot of emotions being felt and expressed throughout the day. Even typing this is stirring tears. But they’re happy tears, so I won’t fight them.

 

Today is our Showcase at the House of Blues! I can tell you now this day will probably lead to a cry-fest for some Volunteers. Why? Because we care. More than anything, we want to see these young girls tap into their true selves. Without fear. Without self-judgment. No holds barred.

 

Can’t wait for the Showcase.

RCGLA 2014 – Day 3

 

 

 

So Day 3 began with a fun carpool ride to Camp. I’ve been carpooling with my buds Betro, Lauren and Dawn. It’s such a cool start to our long days, talking and laughing through traffic. We catch up on how everyone’s doing and we talk about the coming day. It’s a nice check-in time.

 

Anyhoo, I’ve been wanting cake since Day 1. I don’t know why, I just have. So late Tuesday night I took my tired self to Costco and got a gi-normous cake for the volunteers. And on Day 3 I ate a piece of that cake. And y’all – it was good.

 

Speaking of food, Chef Olivia is again volunteering her culinary skills and feeding our bodies and souls. I would volunteer for the food alone, friends. It’s that good.

 

At the end of Day 3, we had our annual Volunteer jam-fest. That midweek decompression session really helps us keep going and giving. I would volunteer for that alone, too.

 

Today is Day 4. I can hardly believe it’s down to only 2 days before the showcase. Then again, I can believe it. And I love it.

And So It Begins…

 

 

I don’t know why it catches me off-guard each and every year. You’d think I’d have adjusted by now. You’d think I’d at least know it was coming.

 

Earlier in the week I felt myself dipping a toe in the quicksand of my insecurities. My body language changed. I was experiencing odd people in the world, who were not being very nice and trying to take advantage of me. It didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t. What was going on? What was I putting out there that showed me as less than myself? As vulnerable?

 

It only took a couple of hours for the underlying truth to dawn on me: in the face of my upcoming stint at Rock Camp for Girls, I was starting to doubt myself. This will be my 5th year volunteering at Rock Camp. The previous 4 years have found me succumbing to my particular brand of comparing-myself-to-others and failing. The volunteers at Rock Camp are without a doubt the most amazing humans I’ve ever had the gift of knowing. I adore these chicks. I am incredibly grateful to simply be in their presence. And, like I said, in the past I’ve compared myself to them. That, friends, has never worked out. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a waste of time. It’s a useless activity. I know this. So why was I slipping down that ugly slope, yet again?

 

Once I recognized my pattern, I was able to process. And you know what? It didn’t take long at all for me to break through the rising tide of insecurity and plant myself on the shores of confidence. I don’t have to be anyone else. I only have to be me. Actually, I get to be me. And that’s pretty cool.

 

So I’m philosophically ready to start this year’s session of Rock Camp. Not sure about my physical state, though, as Rock Camp week is exhausting. Pray to all the gods for me, please. There are a lot of stairs.

 

And maybe learn a lesson on me. Don’t compare yourself to others, friends. It’s always a losing battle. Like the computer “Joshua” in the movie War Games said, “The only winning move is not to play.” True dat, Troy. True dat.

Dear Rock Camp…

 

 

Dear Rock Camp,

 

As another year of volunteering at Rock Camp has come to a close, I am left reflecting on my experience. As this was my 4th year with this amazing group, I should be used to the come-down process. But I’m not. I don’t know if I will ever be.

 

 

For some reason, I come into the week the same way each year: timidly. I doubt myself. I doubt my abilities to add to the week. I doubt my gifts. I doubt my even belonging with the amazing group of volunteers. This year was no different, and I even had a nasty dream about being told I don’t belong, the very morning Day 1 began. I know that’s just my brain working out my issues, but it’s still uncomfortable. And I still have to do the work to move past that. Thank God for therapy.

 

 

And thank God for all of you. I have never – not once – been made to feel like an outsider at Rock Camp. Each and every volunteer has always welcomed me and, dare I say, valued my presence. I feel lifted and supported by all of you. I feel appreciated and respected. For the 5 days of Rock Camp (and the 1 showcase day), I feel like there’s a cheering squad in my corner, rooting me on to own the beauty of simply being me. I am able to describe all this because I participate in the reciprocity of these same acts with all the volunteers around me. And I relish the opportunity to support my sisters. What a gift! Caring for all of you, supporting all of you – I am privileged to direct my energy toward these goals.

 

 

It doesn’t really surprise me to see campers mirroring this same behavior. The positive energy trickles down, after all, and is infectious. The girls can’t help but mimick the actions of the volunteers. And when we, as adults, witness their bravery and strength, it only serves to increase our own. How awesome is that!

 

 

Don’t get me wrong – I know this is all about the girls. Always is, and always will be. And I love that. I love them. They are more inspirational than words allow me to describe. So while I’m quite clear about them being the focus, I am just amazed to receive so very much from Rock Camp.

 

 

But that’s how it goes, isn’t it? You think you’re giving. Your intent is to give. And in doing so, you open yourself up to receiving more than you ever expected. I will never understand how it all works. It is a beautiful mystery, and I’ve just stopped trying to figure it out. At this point, I guess the best thing I can do is keep showing up, try my best to be of service, and then endeavor to graciously accept the rewards. I struggle with that last part sometimes, but I choose to keep trying.

 

 

If I have any complaint at all about Rock Camp, it is this: one week a year is just not enough. I want the beauty of this group of people in my life all the time! I want the glow of this organization to be a constant in my world! And I want to be a part of that! Not much of a complaint, really.

 

 

Before I sign off, I want to share something from the morning of the big Showcase. When I woke, I was in the middle of a strange dream (much like I was the first morning of camp). In this dream, I was finishing a round-the-world vacation. The entire journey had found me traveling first-class. And everyone was so friendly! I was addressed by name, I was shown respect, I was appreciated and felt happy. On the final leg of my travels, as I was headed home, I was booked in coach. All of a sudden, some people were rude. Some appeared unhappy. Some refused to acknowledge my existence, even when I spoke directly to them. I took my assigned seat and wondered what was going on. Why were all these people in such a dark mood? And that’s when I woke up. I thought about the dream for a few minutes, and then I understood. The dream represented my feelings about leaving Rock Camp (the first-class experience with all the friendly, respectful people) and the return to regular life (folks who aren’t riding the highs of all that Awesome-ness).

 

 

As I got ready for the Showcase and then headed to the Troubadour, I was thinking about the dream and how I could change its outcome. The most obvious action I can take is to simply carry on with my Rock Camp behavior. Why not high-five people at the hardware store? Why not tell store clerks “You’re Awesome” when they do a good job? Why not smile and sing throughout my day? Why not, indeed.

 

 

So I thank you, Rock Camp, for once again bringing a richness to my world. For once again raising the bar of how much joy I can feel in one day. For once again, quite simply, giving your best. It’s been an honor and a privilege.

 

With eternal gratitude and respect,

Your Friend – Mikki

Rock Camp – Day 3

 

 

Hump-day.

 

It happens. Every year. The mid-way point of the week brings a lot of emotion. Some campers are still unsure what’s going on. Some are frustrated. Some are overwhelmed. Some are simply realizing there are only 2 more days of camp, and they just don’t want it to end. I understand all those feelings. We Volunteers go through the roller coaster that is Hump-day, too.

 

 

We don’t always know what’s going on. Are the band members communicating with one another? Are they working as a team? Are they figuring out their instruments? Their parts? How do we help?

 

We get frustrated. Is each band’s song going to be finished? Can each camper feel good about her performance? How do we help?

 

We become overwhelmed. There are so many campers who are going through this crazy/awesome/creative experience, and they’re blowing minds, left and right (including their own), and it’s emotional. So while the girls are on the verge of exploding out of their skins due to their growing confidence and emotions, the Volunteers are admiring the wave of growth taking place before us. And we’re trying to keep it together, as we don’t really want to let on just how proud we are. Just how affected we are.

 

 

And we’re realizing there are only 2 more days of camp, and we just don’t want it to end. Each and every year of Rock Camp, a sort of safe utopia is created. Being part of that is so nurturing and wholesome. This is truly the most amazing group of women I’ve ever had the pleasure to share space with. It’s no wonder we don’t want it to end. It’s just too good to be true. And yet is is true. Super true.

 

 

As Jessie Payo performed for all of us at lunch, it occurred to me how beautiful it is for these campers to attend 5 concerts during the week (before playing their own show at Saturday’s showcase). All in all, I have to admit it wasn’t too shabby a day. Especially for Hump-day.

Rock Camp – Day 2

 

 

Another 5 am morning. More P90-X. More traffic. But it’s not about the traffic, y’all.

 

 

More amazing food. I could blog about nothing but the food served at Rock Camp, and I’d never run out of superlatives. And it isn’t just our lunches. We have snacks, coffee, breakfast and more. You name it, and we’re fed it. We even have our very own treat-maker: Baker Jen…

 

 

It’s pointless for me to list her creations, so I won’t. Let me just put it this way: we’re blessed to have Jen at her oven. But it’s not about the food, y’all.

 

 

More amazing Volunteers. There are so many awesome, talented, vibrant, soulful women working at Rock Camp. I can hardly stand it, as they tend to make me feel bigger than the limits of my skin. Each and every day, I am in awe. Each and every day, I am blessed to spend time with these women. But it’s not about the Volunteers, y’all.

 

 

More amazing music. Today’s lunchtime entertainment was Ceci Bastida. She played for us last year, and she was so into what Rock Camp is about that she not only came back to perform again this year, she’s also a Volunteer. The vibe truly is infectious, and it clearly bit a guest performer. But it’s not about the guest performers, y’all.

 

 

It’s about the Girls. It’s about their Rock Camp adventure. It’s about their discovery of themselves. It’s about their souls. It’s about their spirits. It’s about them, period.

 

Today was challenging. It was rewarding. It was a typical Rock Camp Tuesday. And that’s why the end of the night found me crying joyful tears, with a full heart. That’s what Rock Camp is about, too.

 

Hallelujah.