unique is…as unique lives…

( Move your mouse over each photo, to read its caption.) 

To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour

-SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL –

I would like to credit the assembling of this post to another blogger from whom I borrowed SWC’s words. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to relocate the blog from whence it came. If you recognize this quote, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due. Without it, I would not have thought to post this homage to my UNIQUE AND BELOVED…DAUGHTER.

………HUGMAMMA.

talent…has no age restrictions

Detail from Three Amblers and a Dancing Clown ...

Detail from Three Amblers and a Dancing Clown by Aelita Andre (Photo credit: Defining The Capture)

I like to think that one’s natural abilities and passion for something aren’t prejudiced by age, or anything else for that matter. 

Though a latecomer to writing, my senior status is just a point in time. The culmination of my experiences to date probably gave me the resources I needed to begin telling stories. That and a certain carefree attitude that is like a breath of fresh air, after years of having lived within the confines of other people’s opinions. 

Children, if allowed, can comfortably live outside the boundaries imposed by society.  Mind you, I’m not condoning wild, uncivilized behavior. But creativity and imagination thrive where abandonment abounds.

My friend nuvofelt at http://chittlechattle.com introduced me to a tiny powerhouse of talent, Aelita Andre. An extraordinary artist, the child has an obvious eye for colors, textures and how they interrelate. She throws everything at the canvas…with measured thought, knowing when to stop.

As someone who loves to decorate, using my home as my “canvas” and furnishings as my “paint,” holding back is prime to getting it just right. Too little is not quite there; too much is over the top. Either extreme leaves a less than satisfied feeling. An artist knows it in her gut, as does an astute audience.

As I watched Aelita on Youtube, I was mesmerized by both her abandonment…and her reserve. She’s got my stamp of approval…

…as if she needed it………hugmamma.    

 

rooting for…the underdog

America's Got Talent

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been catching glimpses of America’s Got Talent in between getting chores done, like ironing clothes that had been sitting on top of the dryer for ages. And I’ve been tidying up the kitchen, here and there as well. What brought me to my laptop was something Piers Morgan said to one of the contestants, a Black girl of 12, Monet who sang the song “Home.” She and her family are homeless, having lost everything in a hurricane. Morgan correctly, I thought, advised Monet that unlike a former contestant who finished as a runner-up a year or so ago, Jackie Evancho, Monet needed a few more years to grow into a more mature singer. To which she replied, that if she made it to the next level, she would show him that she was already there.

Earlier in the show, another singer, a Black man in his 30s, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., was acclaimed by the 3 judges, Howie Mandel, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan, as being the real deal…a star. While I agree that Landau has all the makings of the next Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra, I kept thinking that someone needed to help groom the singer into the next biggest thing. A car washer in his hometown of West Virginia before garnering a spot on America’s Got Talent, it would be a great loss to music if Landau’s natural ability was not developed, and that he disappeared back from where he came… oblivion.

Nine-year-old Jackie Evancho deserves the fame she is now enjoying. She is a phenomenon. But what I couldn’t help thinking is that she lives a wonderful life with doting parents and loving siblings in middle-class suburbia. And she’s a trained singer, having had a coach, before she ventured onto the stage on Amerca’s Got Talent. Compare her background with those of Monet and Landau. Obviously the playing field is anything but level.

Life is what it is…but we have to cheer the underdog who has to make it to the finish line pretty much on his or her own. So I am rooting for Monet and Landau, that life gives them a handup as a result of their worldwide exposure on America’s Got Talent.

reality shows offer hope to some…and helps them…help themselves   …hugmamma.

Portrait of Nat King Cole, New York, N.Y.

Image via Wikipedia

freshly pressed…wordpress lottery

From time to time, I take a gander at WordPress “Freshly Pressed” pages. Like tonight when I happened to see that another blogger had listed FP on her blogroll. The pages seemed endless. I don’t think I got past 9 or 10 of them. Each one contained 10 or more blogs, recognized as being the best on any given day. I think I perused the guidelines for winning a coveted spot once, but decided I couldn’t recommend my own blog. The Catholic nuns who’d taught me humility would surely roll over in their graves. God bless their souls, and mine for even thinking of self-aggrandizement.

But more importantly it seems a blogger must jump through certain hoops to be chosen. Can’t remember what they all were, but at my age, and with my limited knowledge of technical wizardry, I’m certain I wouldn’t make it through all the hoops. My arthritic back would give out. It’s like when I watch all those reality TV talent shows. I give the thousands who show up to audition a mountain of credit. I could do equally poorly as most of them, but they have one thing I don’t have…guts! Sometimes I must admit to many looking like idiots. But hey! To each his own; whatever makes their world go ’round.

So back to FP. For the life of me, and it’s getting shorter by the hour, though I’m in no hurry, I’ll never, ever in a million years figure out how to get on that moving locomotive. And I’ll soon be looking down the gun barrel of my 62nd birthday, so there’s no hope in h—k that I’ll be able to throw myself onto the train as it speeds by my hobbit hole.

So I wish all those with membership into the exclusive Freshly Pressed club a no-holds barred, hearty congratulations! I’m glad someone hits the lottery every day. “You’ve gotta be in it to win it,” as the saying goes. And those bloggers are obviously doing something right. I applaud their efforts, because blogging is hard work. But those of us with a passion…

reap its rewards…even when it’s not an FP award of recognition   …hugmamma.

eyes…on the dummy

Talented marionette…and, of course, a little credit goes to the man behind the puppet, pulling the strings. A gift from my English friend Sylvia…and the French for this refreshing piece of entertainment. Where are my tea and biscuits? Care to join me in a little repass?

…if the guy dangling from the strings can do it…why can’t i?………………. makes you wonder ………………………..hugmamma.

this generation…”the voice”

If, like me, you feel totally disconnected from ” whassup?” with this generation, I highly recommend you start watching the latest, reality talent phenom, The Voice. It airs Tuesday nights on NBC. The first in the series ended last night with one of four challengers being hailed as “the voice,” in addition to walking away with $100,000 and a recording contract.

Trust me when I say, I knew very few, if any, of the songs that were sung throughout the course of the competition. Every once-in-awhile I recognized a piece of something from having heard it on my car radio, as I ran errands. Fortunately I love music with a beat, or tunes that have heart. I can be-bop to almost anything. I love singing; I love dancing.

Christina Aguilera performing during the Sanre...

Image via Wikipedia

Of the 4 judges, who also coached the challengers, I’d only heard of Christina Aguilera. And it was only recently when I saw her starring with Cher in a film, that I became a huge fan of the blonde songstress. She is one amazing vocalist! But as I tuned in faithfully to watch The Voice each week, I became a huge fan of Blake Shelton, country crooner, and Adam Levine, pop rocker, who served on the panel with Aguilera. I’m still not familiar with Shelton’s songs, can only recognize a couple by Levine, and am well acquainted with only one by Aguilera, Beautiful.” Knowing who they are now, still doesn’t give me entree… into this generation. But at least I can step up to the peep hole and be a “peeping tom” into what makes the young folk tick.

Adam Levine from Maroon 5

Image via Wikipedia

Adding to my credibility as an honorary member of this generation, is the fact that I’m the one who got my 25-year-old, professional dancer daughter hooked on The Voice. Like me she really wasn’t committed to watching any of the other talent shows. But The Voice definitely persuaded us to delay our phone conversations until we’d both watched it in our own time zones. Now that’s saying something!

I heartily encourage seniors and anyone wanting to “get with it” to watch the next season of The Voice. By the way, the talent crosses all generations. One of the TV audience favorites was a 42-year-old, bald, Lesbian, with tatoos, who got the studio audience on their feet, moving to her powerhouse vocals. Beverly McLellan could belt it out with the best of them. She was one of my favorites.

Blake Shelton - 1

Image by tncountryfan via Flickr

While I liked many of the singers, my favorite was Dia Frampton. Coached by Blake Shelton, she succeeded in coming into her own as a performer, right before our eyes. Though still shy and exceedingly humble, Dia showed her creative genius for songwriting, versatility at playing the piano and guitar, and exquisitely different tonal quality which ranged from barely audible and raspy, to scintillatingly explosive. It didn’t hurt that she was Miss U.S.A. caliber either. While she wasn’t voted the winner by America, Dia wasn’t far behind. Only 2% separated her from Javier Colon, the guy who already had “the voice,” even before he joined the show.

I don’t think there was a doubt in anyone’s mind that Javier should’ve walked away with
the grand prize. Evidently he’d had a couple of non-starters at a musical career. With the unfailing love and support of his wife and 2 young daughters, as well as other family members, Javier continued to search for his breakthrough moment. Luckily for him, and for music afficionados, he found his way to The Voice, and a win he very much deserved.

Dia Frampton

Following YouTube videos are of Dia Frampton singing “Heartless,” Dia and Blake Shelton singing I Won’t Back Down,” and Javier Colon singing “Stitch by Stitch.” Hopefully these videos will convince you to tune into season two of “The Voice.”

…celebrating the voices…of this generation…hugmamma.

 

“hope springs eternal”

My daughter continues to progress well in her recovery from health issues. When I first posted of it last September in “It’s a Good Morning, there’s always hope,” I wrote that “Every new day is a good morning, the opportunity to right what’s wrong.” And as 2011 gets underway, the hope that my daughter continues to flourish grows with each passing day.

Not only did my daughter return to work as a professional ballerina after a 2 month medical leave, to solo in a piece staged by an internationally recognized choreographer, but she also won a second coveted role in another piece. Two couples are the principal dancers in Twyla Tharp’s “Short Stories,” and my daughter is one of the partners. She and the others were selected by Tharp’s representative, after a brief audition of all the company dancers.

If you’ve watched any of TV’s reality dance shows, you’ll understand how intense the competition can be. It doesn’t let up even in the professional world. But once a dancer has proven herself repeatedly in talent and work ethic, she’s rewarded with good roles. Those values, along with patience and hope, are the mainstay of longevity, and self-satisfaction for a job well done, not only in dance, but in life.

it’s true what they say…hope does spring eternal…hugmamma.

crooner michael grimm, no gimmicks

I don’t usually watch America’s Got Talent, but the latest captured my attention “hook, line and sinker!” How judges Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan and Howie Mandel, maintain focus throughout endless, mind-numbing days of auditions, is beyond me. Earning fabulous salaries and world-wide attention, must convince them to stay put. Not even a million bucks could spare me falling asleep, eyes wide open, or resting my head wearily on crossed arms, loud snores competing with the performers on stage. So I applaud the judges for their stamina.

The 4 acts making it into the finals were each worthy of being selected. Doubts about such variety shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, Dance Your Ass Off, and America’s Got Talent, are appeased when I witness phenomenal talent that might otherwise go unnoticed. In this case, all 4 will reap the rewards of discovery, Defying Gravity for its uniqueness and inventiveness; Prince Poppycock, for his self-deprecating, over-the-top, ready-made Las Vegas act; and angelic Jackie Ivancko for a voice which belies her 10 years, and the wisdom of an old soul. Michael Grimm, the grand prize winner, walked away with $1 million, and a 1 year Las Vegas contract.

The final moments in any awards ceremony are usually pensive, especially for the contestants. The face-off between the America’s Got Talent finalists, were no less stomach churning. I kept telling my daughter that Grimm, given his humility, probably expected Ivancko to win. Between both, her voice was “other-worldly.” In each of the shows leading up to the finale, it was heartwarming to witness Grimm quietly speak with Ivancko, a sweet-faced child.  It seemed obvious that he understood and appreciated her huge talent. So when the show’s host, Nick Cannon, announced Grimm as the winner, his stunned look wasn’t a surprise, but it brought tears to my eyes.

Grimm entered the competition as a long shot, a young man from Memphis wanting to buy his grandparents a new home since their’s was destroyed in Katrina. Each time he made it through another round, he expressed amazement and gratitude for making it thus far. His demeanor was calm, quiet, shy, humble. Dressed simply in dark gray, casual jacket, shirt, jeans, very small hoop earrings, a trademark fedora pulled low, sporting dirty-blonde hair with blue eyes, Grimm was the epitomy of a heart throb. Looking like a cross between James Dean and Michael Bolton,  Grimm sang “When a Man Loves a Woman,” his “ace-in-the-hole.” Bolton’s number worked for him a long time ago, and it worked its magic once again, for Grimm. He was catapulted to stardom, and as they say, his life will never be the same.

Yesterday as I was typing away at my keyboard, I overheard a news reporter give a “thumbs down” to Michael Grimm’s win, in favor of Defying Gravity because of its innovative, gimmick-laden, Las Vegas appeal. This act will probably make it to “Sin City” on its own merits, that’s how good it was. Execution of the performers wasn’t always in sync, so it didn’t look professional. But they will surely perfect the act with more practice, a luxury not afforded them in the  time constraints of the show. The reporter complained that Grimm and Ivancko belonged on  American Idol, saying “They’re just singers!” But actually, that’s what appealed to me.

Viewers chose 2 singers for the final competition. I agree with the pundits’ speculation that a 10-year-old headlining a Las Vegas show, probably didn’t appeal to the masses. Show host Cannon, when interviewed afterwards, opined that Grimm had indeed won the theatre audience, who was all abuzz after his sensational performance. As judge Osbourne summarized earlier in the contest, he consistently “stepped it up,” each time he took the stage. What I found charming was that Grimm’s humility never took a back seat to his obvious talent, and growing showmanship. Minutes after being declared the winner, he bent down, scooped Ivancko into his arms, gave her a peck, and spoke what could only have been comforting words, while looking deeply into her bright blue eyes. My daughter and I agreed that Ivancko most likely developed a crush on the handsome, soulful crooner.

Michael Grimm, a singer with no special effects, belting out ballads in the style of other great artists before him, Sinatra, Elvis, Bouble. Sometimes simple is better than wild and glitzy, that’s what the voters felt, and that’s what I felt.

grimm and ivancko, buying their CDs for sure…hugmamma.

coffee with friends, so much more than

If women were the world leaders of governments, corporations, learning institutions, medical facilities, courts of justice, sports teams, the entertainment and music industries, and any other body having great societal impact, they’d probably do their venting over coffee with girlfriends.

Coffee with the women means, friends gathering together to vent about anything, and everything. Surely centuries old, this female ritual has probably saved countless marriages, and kept our prison population from overflowing. Our ancestors, cave women, must have wanted to crack a few skulls. Being dragged around by the hair would not have been an endearing prospect. Native American women didn’t drink coffee (or did they?) but using smoke signals to communicate their marital woes was, perhaps, the start of environmental pollution. A frontier wife might have envied Annie Oakley her skills with a gun, when her cowboy came through the door smelling of whiskey and women. And a Victorian lady must’ve ripped off her corset and took a swig, when she was in a snit. Would Sonny and Cher have continued as a duo, if she’d had regularly done coffee with the women? “And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on. La, de, da, de, do, la, de, da, de, day…”

Women, coffee and conversation are like a game of Ouija. One speaks, another interrupts, the first resumes speaking, and the ebb and flow of conversation continues. The chatter is spirited, peals of laughter ring out, continuing to ripple through the group. Then voices quiet into whispers, while knowing glances and nodding heads silently agree that “it’s so frustrating…” whether it’s talk of jobs, husbands, children, mothers, even mother-in-laws. All agree that these sessions are more productive than paying for psychotherapy and a lot more fun as well.

The best coffee gatherings are among women whose personalities are in accord. Allowing one another time to speak, rather than hogging the conversation is also important. Egos are stroked, each feeling uplifted knowing others care, so that they needn’t continue shouldering their burdens alone. Coffee (for me) with a good friend (tea for her) became an important “life-line” when I moved with my, then 16-year-old, daughter to Atlanta. For two-and-a-half years I chaperoned her while she journeyed toward a career in ballet. My husband, our financial support, remained behind.

When my daughter was invited to train with the professional company where we relocated, our family consented without hesitation. Rushing forward without thought, we moved into an apartment with my husband’s help. The day he departed for home, we breakfasted at a pancake house. It was then that the finality of our decision hit me like a “ton of bricks.” I burst into tears. Ever the pragmatic one, my husband assured me he’d visit in a month or so. That seemed like an eternity to be without my best friend of so many years. But as moms have always done, I “placed one foot in front of the other,” and carried on.

It’s been about 5 years since I returned home to my husband. Having apprenticed with a ballet company in another state, my daughter was promoted to full member a year ago. She begins her second season this fall. Through hard work and maturity beyond her years, she has accomplished every young ballerina’s dream. There were peaks and valleys to be sure, but my daughter weathered them with our help, and the encouragement and prayers of many who have loved and supported her through the years.

Offering me a shoulder upon which to lean, or cry, was a woman who became, and remains, a very dear friend. It wasn’t unusual for Becky and I to linger over a cup of coffee, or tea, for hours, kibbitzing about her son and my daughter. Both aspired to being professional ballet dancers. We’d compare “war” stories about people with whom we had dealings, who seemed insensitive to the difficulties our children encountered. Very little was ever resolved, but reinvigorated, we could return to parenting, knowing a friend was nearby.

I was able to offer Becky some advice, since I was already in the midst of helping my daughter wend her way through the maze of becoming a career ballerina. It is such a singular path, not like being in college with thousands of like-minded youngsters. How one dancer succeeds is not a ready prescription for another’s success. But from my observations, certain facts seemed applicable to every wannabe professional.

Success seems dependent upon 50% talent and 50% other factors like a solid work ethic, quickness at learning choreography, resiliency to criticism, continuing good health, and a lot of luck. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be “in the right place, at the right time.” When it comes to casting, being a favorite of resident and visiting choreographers is a plus. Less tangible is having “the look” that an artistic director wants for a role or for the company in general. This alone can force a dancer to audition wherever there may be openings, in the hopes of a perfect match. With much effort and good fortune, a job is found, if not, the dream will likely end.

Deciding to go the college route, Becky’s son graduated with a Fine Arts Degree in Dance. To his credit and due diligence, he is in his second year apprenticing with a ballet company. This is no small feat in the current economy when the arts are suffering the loss of patronage.

Belonging to a rare breed of women, moms of professional ballet dancers, Becky and I continue to enjoy a mutually supportive friendship. Circumstances may prevent us from meeting as we once did, but given the ease of travel these days, it’s not too far-fetched to assume we’ll be meeting for coffee, tea and friendly conversation somewhere, some time… 

it’ll be like old times, only better…hugmamma.

new album

Not sure if there are any Michael Jackson fans reading my blog. If there are…good news! A new album of 10 unreleased, new songs should be in stores in November. Evidently someone found a hard-drive with hundreds of songs sung by MJ. Among them, was “Hot Time In The Summer Sun” by Sly and The Family Stone. In my mind, I could see and hear Michael singing the lyrics to the rhythmic tune. Head bobbing up and down, back and forth, while he sat moving to the beat. Happily doing what he loved to do, what he was obviously born to do. That’s how he should be remembered, how I’ll remember him.

My favorite memories of MJ are captured on a DVD of his live concert in Yokohama, Japan. He was in his late 20’s at the time. He cut a lean, mean, “dancing machine” figure. Belting out song after song, gliding and spinning across the stage, he owned it. The ultimate performer, MJ gave himself totally to the act, to the fans. Therein lay his Achille’s heel.

Jackson grew up in front of his fans; realized his full artistic potential because of them; he earned hundreds of millions of dollars because they bought his music, attended his concerts; and he felt completely engulfed by their love. On the flip side, Michael didn’t enjoy a normal childhood; he didn’t grow in other areas which might have given balance to his life; he spent money as fast as he made it, knowing he could always make more; and he kept many individuals who knew him and loved him, at arm’s length. He dedicated his life to his fans, the only ones he seemed to trust as being loyal and truthful to him. He lived in a fantasy, peopled only by himself, his fans and a select few, very few.

In his naiveté, MJ’s total trust in his fans was his final undoing. Inviting those who seemingly adored him to take shelter under his roof cost him dearly. While he went about the daily routine of his life, the free-loaders dug in their heels aiming to stay on the payroll for as long as they could. When MJ’s attention and devotion strayed from them, mother and children resorted to “bringing him down.” And they did.

Michael fled Neverland, a land of fantasies and wild imaginings, where all his dreams, and nightmares, came true. Living abroad with his 3 children, MJ tried to heal his life, himself. Their love, an innocent one, nourished his soul, bringing him back to a shadow of his former self. But at least he was alive, focusing upon them, and not his audience, his fans. But at 50, he contemplated a comeback, a personal performance for his children now old enough to understand and appreciate his talent. But in the bigger picture, Jackson owed millions in unpaid debts. Creditors were clamoring for their money. So “This Is It” was an answer to so many prayers.

Performing 50 live concerts was probably not in the realm of possibilities for Michael Jackson. In older age, he was not what he had been as a dancer, or even as a singer in his earlier years. But he was still amazing. My daughter and a couple of dancer friends were dumbfounded when they saw the film showing what might have been “the greatest show on earth,” for this generation. In their 20’s they could not believe MJ could belt out tunes and “shake his body” alongside younger dancers. They sat in the darkened theatre until the credits were done and the last strains of his voice were heard. I think they felt humbled by Michael’s huge talent.

Sad that MJ is gone, but like Elvis and others before him, such a predictable end to a glorious, but unreal life. Too much too soon, too fast to slow down, and fans always wanting more, expecting more. And their icons always aimed to please.

who controlled whom?…hugmamma