September 24, 2012
Serenity Stewart sang in her minivan. Occasionally, she’d step in front of a choir and do the same. But for years she hid her secret gift of song, in which she had been classically trained, just to get by.
With four children to raise on her own, she kept her creative self locked away while she did what she needed to do. Working as an office administrator for a busy health care practice, Serenity ran a tight ship, always looking after others.
But that creative self needed to live. It took Serenity’s nearly dying to breathe life back into it.
In July 2005 she suffered a brain aneurysm that left her bleeding out of her nose and even her eyes. As she lay on the cold ER table, her last view was of the gorgeous doctor with tan, tight arms scrubbing up for surgery.
“God, this can’t be my last vision,” she spoke to the sky. “Look at how beautiful this doctor is. I’ve got some unfinished business to do!” It was this sense of humor that got her through the next months of recovery. For the first time in her life, she started to strip away the layers of “mainstream” as she calls it to really live. In an act of self-discovery, she began to realize that an empty vase has the most potential.
“Every possibility starts with courage,” she told me over the phone. She took a year off and sailed around the world. She discovered her passion for deep sea fishing and even caught a marlin off the coast of San Diego. She literally emptied herself out to start anew.
Serenity now sings jazz reminiscent of the 1940s. Hers is sultry music that speaks of a long-lost era of community and togetherness. At the end of September she will start her P.S. I Love You tour, which will land her in Paris next March (yes, I’ll be going!).
Music helps her and her audience tune into the healing energy that only music can bring. It is a meditation, and a dedication, to life.
Listen to one of her songs today. You will be glad you did!
September 20, 2012
Fame. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
I work with famous people on occasion when I’m on a film or TV set. And what I’ve observed is the pressure they endure on a daily basis, trying to uphold a standard that the public has set for them. It is tiring, taxing and at best, unnerving. Everyone has an opinion of you and if you aren’t in the best of moods, it somehow lands in the tabloids the next day.
My sister once said, “I’d like to be just left of the limelight. In the mix, but not in the public eye.”
I see what she means now.
The other day I had the chance to drink champagne with several celebrities, but after a day’s work in a dusty studio that smelled of manure and pyrotechnics, I was ready for a shower and some pizza with the kids instead. So I drove the hour home, racing through the door with a heightened level of excitement to see everyone again, only to find my family busy with their iPods, laptops and television sets.
Enter the feeling of let down. It’s what my friend Donald calls the moment of doom right before you enter your familiar space at home. You know it will be different than you hope it to be, but hope dies last, as they say.
It wasn’t until we had assembled at the dinner table an hour later that I realized why I had run home instead of sipping the bubbly with the stars. It was a moment of belly laughs and connection and jokes with the kids that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. It may have been slower in coming than I had wished, but the love was there all along beneath the distraction of our digital world.
Fame can’t give you that. Family can.
September 19, 2012
Every once in a while someone comes along to change your life in surprising ways. You don’t expect it. You don’t anticipate the vastness of their effect on your life. And then there it is ~ a newness you never thought possible.
Alanis Morissette is one of those people. And because I love her so much, in all her frailty and grace and honesty, I thought I’d pen a love letter just to say it to her too. So here goes.
It may seem strange to receive a letter from someone you don’t know, but I’m sure you have had some practice. How did you jump inside my head, read my thoughts, then sing about it like that? You recorded seemingly every painful, joyful, messy, divine experience I have ever had. And you belted it out like you had experienced the same thing too.
I love you for your honesty. I love you for your courage. I love you for showing me your authentic self.
Your latest album Havoc and Bright Lights once again hit a nerve. At first I was a bit skeptical as your sound seems to have ripened with age. Maybe it was the years between this album and your prior one, Flavors of Entanglement, which I played until the CD gave up cough and wheezing into retirement (I burned a new one – totally legally of course!). Maybe it was motherhood, which is bound to change anyone, but your lyrics, once digested, are as profound and moving as all your other work. As a fellow writer, I am left astounded by your keen ability to squeeze multiple human experiences into tiny words.
Listening to your voice gives me the sense that all is right with the world, even as you sing of the things that are not.
There is another reason why I am writing you. You give me courage. You give me the feeling I can do anything. And while you sing, I think you are simultaneously listening to my reaction. It is as if you know how I feel. That is your art. That is your talent. That is the beauty of you.
You sing of empathy and how you appreciate that in others. You speak of the creative spirit in Magical Child that carries us forward. You recognize how powerful women are (and love them for it). You ask if we have found our own true North, that direction in life that keeps us centered and on task.
I’m not sure I have yet, but I am trying. With your help I may just get there yet.
July 30, 2012
I have been known to say “I used to be a nice person…until I had children.” Now that I’ve been at this parenting gig for well over a decade, I realize that children bring out everything in us that is unresolved, unattended or carefully hidden from view.
It was an uncool thing to do, yet it seemed nothing could stop me in that moment. The fuse had finally burst. I had been pushed to a precipice never seen before. But to admit my weakness is the first step in recovery.
Or so I hope.
The shadow side is as much a part of us as our light. And as much as I’d like to dance in that light 24/7, I have come to realize ignoring those parts of myself that are mean, ugly and hateful simply doesn’t work. Sending those pieces love is the only thing to do.
Raising a teen in this world of escapism through video games, television and other digital media is harrowing at best. I’ve not yet figured it out, but one thing is for certain: where shadows lurk there is also light.
I hope to keep mine shining, even in the darkest of my days.
Let’s embrace the shadows, invite them to dance and not be fearful in their midst. They make us whole. They make us real. They make us feel the entire spectrum of humanity.
And that is worth something indeed.
July 13, 2012
Motherhood is as sacred as Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and Yahweh combined. People often have specific notions about it so most people don’t address the topic with much neutrality.
Therein lies the challenge.
When we start to dissect contemporary motherhood, different lines of thought emerge. There are those who think mothers should care primarily for their children (and lay succinct judgement on those who opt not to), while others believe mothers are people too who don’t stop being people once they push that baby out into the world. In their view mothers should be allowed to lay claim to things beyond childcare. Then you have a grey spectrum of people who have super ideas about what a mother should be and either aren’t one themselves or can’t remember how hard it is to raise them.
According to a recent report by the Motherhood Recuperation Society (a loose translation for Müttergenesungswerk, a German group that support moms to return to sanity in the throes of motherhood), the number of mothers in Germany who suffer from a psychological illness has increased by 33% in the last eight years.
I’m not surprised.
The increased pressure through the school system that syphens out “low performers” by age nine sets up an expectation that you, the parent (read: the mother, really) are solely responsible for the child’s ability to either make it in this highly competitive world or not. The added crush of little to no childcare available before the age of three leaves many mothers scrambling for less than ideal solutions.
Life is full of compromise. Indeed that is true. But when left alone mothers are getting sick by the thousands.
If we are to perpetuate humanity, how about a little more help? If you are a mom reading this, know that you are doing the best you can. Let’s support each other and remove those taboos.
It really is okay to be human, just like the people you are raising.
April 17, 2012
Remember when phones were large and looked like this?
We have moved on from the early 1980s when rotary was the norm and push-button was for ultra-modern folks. I had a phone just like the one pictured above. I paid $1.50 a month and shared the phone with my sisters. Those were the days.
Today our kids clog the talkwaves wherever they are. Only they usually aren’t talking, but typing.
According to a Vondane Mobile survey, texting and calling habits vary drastically between individuals ages 13-24 and 25+. Here are some highlights:
- Nine percent of people ages 13-24 send over 1000 text messages a week. (My thumbs hurt just reading this, much less typing it.)
- The majority of teens/young adults age 13-24 only make between 1-5 calls a week. (And usually not to Grandma, but to their friends ~ at least at my house!)
- Seventy-six percent of parents keep track of the number of calls/texts their children make. (I wouldn’t go near my daughter’s cell phone. “It’s like my diary, Mom. Hands off!” Okay…)
- The majority of those surveyed say cost is the most important consideration when deciding on cell phone service. (Agreed.)
- Seventy-five percent of those surveyed own an iPhone or Android phone.
Below is the state of telecommunications today. Where do you land on this spectrum? Text like a teen? Are you a Scrooge on Skype?
November 18, 2011
Some days it’s all you can do to shuffle across the floor. The art of slow movement takes practice. You need to learn to release the expectation that it’s going to go any faster than this.
I don’t know what expresses this sentiment better than this three and one-half minute video.