The Waiting is the Hardest Part…And the Most Revealing

Well after a self-imposed hiatus which included my moving half way across the states this summer and relocating my life – I am back to the show. I was almost getting worried there for a second wondering what I’d done. But I am starting to find that breaks from the show have never really proven to be a bad thing. Because when the muse returns, she returns in a big way… usually right as I’m drifting off to sleep. Like last night.

I started thinking of this one song and started having (HAVING) to sing it to myself out loud at about 11:00pm, (sorry, Neighbors), so I could remind myself how to make the changes I want. Of course that led me to other bits and pieces and before I knew it I was out of bed and into my trusty red little notebook to get it all out of my brain and onto the page before it disappeared forever.

I am so happy to be feeling the inspiration again. I don’t think I could have finished it before now.

There are also interesting coincidences, if you believe in that, or I could say synchronicities, that are proving very helpful to the storyline of the show. These synchronicities appear in the form of boxes.

Life in a box.

Life in a box.

When you move back near family, not only do you unpack your own boxes but you become the recipient of all the unsolicited shit that everyone has been holding for you; holding way more than you knew you ever owned. So now I am delving into the past through pictures and childhood items; artwork, reviews, letter, and tutus. What am I gonna do with the tutu? I can’t throw it away! It’s been waiting inside a box for 20+  years for me. How would you feel to live in a box for 20+ years only to be freed into a dumpster?

Tutus aside, the biggest discoveries are the letters. Letters from sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers. Wonderful letters written in a time when people still put pen to paper and stamp to envelope. I am grateful to have been born before the public school system decided to stop teaching cursive writing to grade-schoolers.

My father wrote letters. I am being introduced in part to the man he was before he was the man I remembered. This is more valuable to me than gold or little red tutus. To be witness to his handwriting which bears resemblance to my own brings me into a silent reverence. To see his lyrical, cursive, flowing handwriting stops the outside world. He is alive again – for the moment.

For once I am grateful to my mother for never throwing anything away.

The letters are why it was necessary to wait. The letters. Patiently waiting to reveal their life within. Waiting. The waiting was good.

Thank God I waited. The letters knew. And so, now, will the writing.

So – what are you waiting for?

Revving Up

Hi Friends,

I have been away too long. But there’s been a lot of change going on. Movin’ yet groovin’. The last news of the show was that I had done my first few demos. You can hear them here on Sound Cloud or here if you are ReverbNation. Listen to Difficult and Where is Your Daddy.

Somewhere between worrying about the fact that I had not been writing on the show and moving across country I realized I needed to not write. Because the show is based on my life there’s an amount of self-realization that needs to happen to get where I want to go. The great news is that the creative juices are beginning to flow again and I’ve had some wonderful (tiny but big) ureka moments.

Stay tuned. Who’s My Girl is rounding third.

First Demos from Who’s My Girl

Here are the first demos from Who’s My Girl. It’s a work in progress and progress is happening. Thanks to Eric Stuart for a great day in the studio (and for letting me use your awesome shaker). These first two were recorded in Nashville. I’m on Guitar and Vocals. Had a great time doing it. More to come.

Music… Together

I am an actress, a writer, a songwriter, a singer. That is how I have defined what I do for thirty years.

About three years ago I began my life as Music Together teacher. You know, a complimentary occupation, since I was already great with kids, to my vocation in the arts. My director would call me an “Early Childhood Music Specialist”. I teach Basic Music Competence through the forms of playful rhythm and movement and song.

Or you could say, “To earn her keep she sings ditties all day long, playing with little red rhythm sticks. She hops a lot.”

Photo by Suzanne Fiore

Until recently, I might have jokingly agreed with you. It is true. If hopping were a crime I would have been sentenced to life in prison by now. I am … a hopper.

But then one day I hear the horrific news that a mother has lost her two little children in a senseless act of bloodshed right around the corner from where I sing with these cherubs and their families.

I go to class. I welcome the moms and dads and nannies and aunts and uncles and best friends who are all there for this little piece of joy they love so well. They are all ready to sing. But today is different. I don’t say anything about it. There’s no need. Everyone knows. Today I sing for the Mom and Dad and Grandparents who no longer have their children to lullaby to sleep. I can feel my families singing a little more sweetly on this day, too. I feel reassured. I feel un-alone. So do they.

Then a hurricane rips through New York and renders thousands homeless overnight.

I am unable to teach my classes because there’s no transportation. There’s no gas much less the heart to sing. No class Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…. Then Thursday arrives. There’s a chance to get as many classes as we can jammed into one day with the teachers who can find a way into the city. I am one of them.

By this time I have watched endless hours of disaster coverage on every possible news channel sickened by what I see, feeling helpless. A forty minute commute takes two hours. Thank you, Sandy.

The classes were packed. Moms, dads, friends, nannies, big sisters and big brothers, you name it. They were there burning with cabin fever. They wanted to sing. They needed to sing, to connect. They needed their community.

They kept coming all day. What else can one do in the face of such pain or the feeling of helplessness, the sense of hopelessness? I watch the kids’ grown-ups courageously opening their hearts for the sake of their children. For some of them singing does not come naturally. Others find it difficult to march to the beat of any song. The children effortlessly lead the way to all that is sound. (Pun whole-heartedly intended.)

After the shock settles the heart desires to open again and music holds the key. The children teach us how do this. They demand we remain present. They remind us how to play and remember what it is to come alive – with your community by your side. The sound of our voices fills the air with hope, with joy, with ease and for forty-five minutes that hopelessness is transformed by grace.

I have just finished my final classes for the fall session an after I had been given hugs, kisses, cranberry jam and cards that read “Thank you for making my Friday mornings magical…,” I can’t help but tear up from feeling loved and valued. I feel better after having been tackled by a running hug. My life has meaning.

Then a madman goes into an elementary school in a small rural town in Connecticut….

I used to be just an actress, writer, singer, songwriter.

I am a Music Together Teacher. I teach music…together. I teach how to put down the gun and pick up the guitar (tambourine, bongo drum, egg-shaker). I am taught love, passion, play, creativity, confidence, joy and, according to one grandmother, “magic” by the real experts, our children.

Take my hand, kick up your heels, find the beat, sing boldly, sweetly, or as badly you like.

But please, above all, sing.

Our lives depend on it.

In The Wake of The Storm: Create

Well this may be an unpopular thing to say but I am grateful to the hurricane because it’s giving me time to sleep, write, compose and record. I say this fully knowing of the victims currently being evacuated from their homes even as I write. I have not forgotten them. I was very very lucky to be on high ground in New York and away from trees, flooding and electrical hazards. So it would be inexcusable for me to loaf around when I spend a lot of time otherwise thinking about how much time I don’t have to sleep, write, compose and record. So I won’t allow this hurricane to come and go in vain. l will continue to create until I go back to work tomorrow. 

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Work tomorrow? Singing and making music for the tiny tots and their loved ones who care for them. It’s gonna be a party. Because at that point most of us will have spent 3 days with nowhere to go all pent up indoors. The toddlers are gonna want to party. I’m bringing Halloween with me and we are going to rock it out to Monster Mash and the Witch Doctor. I am going to sing and make music for those who can’t right now.

Until then I will continue to sleep, write, compose and record. 

And pray for those who do not now have a bed, or a pen with which to write (not to mention a computer), an instrument (even if they never held one before), or a voice to record what’s in their heart right now.

Halloween, Big Brothers & Butcher Knives

We begin with a butcher knife. It hung on the kitchen wall as long as my childhood lasted. To say that my brother was fond of it would be an understatement. One of Patrick’s* favorite past times was secretly removing the butcher knife from the wall and, with it held high above his head, he’d chase me throughout the house cackling in his most sinister Texas Chainsaw Massacre voice:

“I’ve got the butcher knife! I’ve got the BUTCHERRR KNIIIIIIIFEHEH HEH HEH! 

Butcher knife

popscreen.com

Technically it was a meat cleaver. But he called it the butcher knife. In the interest of full disclosure I should probably state that this butcher knife was a fancy “menu” from a Steak and Ale that my parents frequented for their nights out. I found it!

Meat Cleaver 1968 Steak and Ale Menu

I found it on Ebay! This is it! This thing chased me down hallways! Scary shit, right?

Dad liked it and took it home with him. It had a blunt blade. But I must maintain that it was still a butcher knife and SCARED THE SHIT OUTA ME! I always ended up behind a locked bathroom door until I thought it was safe to come out. This usually meant that my mother had somehow intervened and I could hear her voice. But if it was too quiet I knew to stay put. The Butcher Knifer was always waiting around the corner counting on my false sense of security. God my brother was a brat. I still get the heebie-jeebies thinking about that “menu.”  Twenty years later he can still whisper “I’ve got the butcher knife” in my ear and I immediately turn nine years old again.

There was also a box in the attic. Every Halloween the box would come down and we’d rifle through the odds and ends of Halloween costumes of the past. Being the youngest of five there were always costumes waiting for me to be the right size. My mother sewed. She made a Matador costume for my brothers, complete with torero,

Ours was made of black felt with stuffed “ears” on either side. The ears went lopsided over years of back packing. – Squidoo.com

and a Geisha costume for my sisters. Well, it was a red satin kimono with long lovely sleeves and a large black (bad) wig to go with it. A picture exists of me being the last to wear it but, alas, nowhere to be found today. I wish I could remember all the costumes. It was so much fun to rummage every year through the aging fabrics trying to figure out what paired with what.

What wasn’t there? Plastic capes and insta-witch hats from the nearest Eckerd’s. It was a different time. A time when Christmas decorations didn’t go up until December 1st and pumpkins didn’t go out on the front porch until mid-October and we didn’t trace our hands in school to make a picture of a turkey until sometime in early November.

I never thought I’d be the one to get nostalgic. Isn’t that what our parents do?

What kind of nostalgia will the little gremlins and goblins trick-or-treating this week be pining for in thirty years? It won’t be how they used to go door to door and dump out their bags of candy for Mom and Dad to check when they get home. Mom and Dad would be with them… if they were allowed to knock on doors at all….

downingtowndoes.com

Happy Halloween! Happy costumes! Happy candy corns!

Happy trick-or-treating (at a safe party with the people your parents know.)

Happy haunted houses and scary lawns!

Happy Blunt Butcher Knives. (Heh heh heh!)

May all your bathroom doors have locks.

*Name not changed 🙂

A Huge Leap Forward Regardless of Where You Land

I have made the decision to afford myself my first ever bonafide writing retreat. I cannot wait and I have chosen not only a place that I feel very much at home but I also around those who will hold me accountable.

I am going to Nashville to finish Who’s My Girl and to begin recording the demos. This is a very exciting time for me in my life. Why Nashville you ask? Because it’s Nashville! And because my girlfriend said, “Hey why don’t you come out here and stay with us and finish that damn musical of yours. Use my car. Come and go as you please.” That’s why Nashville. You’d go, too. And because I hear there are some, you know, recording studios there…I think. But most importantly because I’m from the South. I feel like fresh cut grass and daisies there and I happen to look good in green. See?

Me on a farm in Nashville

Me with the trees on a farm in Nashville. A Farm! Look! No puffy eyes!

This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this for myself. I hear stories of “writer’s retreats” but that was only for the …other… writers. It was always something they did while I was auditioning, rehearsing, performing… or trying to find a J-O-B.

But I have done this crazy thing called “planning ahead.” Heard of it? It’s FANTASTIC. Now I have all this time to focus on whatever I need to do to be in the mental and material zone by the holidays. It’s really just good ole fashioned goal setting, I guess. I won’t say I’m not good at goal setting. But I will say I’m not always consistent.

All I know is I have X amount of weeks. Oh wait. I can actually count them… that would be 8 1/2 weeks until wheels up and chords down. The actual time there is meant for the rewriting (and “finishing”) the book…and recording the music. <Gulp>

The music portion, the writing of it, so I can do the singing of it, needs to be happening now. (I just felt my stomach turn over. It does that lots these days.) <Flip>

Fleur in LA

LA Reading of Who’s My Girl

I had this dream that I saw review “bites” for the show floating in the air. Good stuff. But after I woke up thinking “Oh My God It’s a SIGN!” I immediately figured my psyche was screwing with me. I better get to work to make that dream real and love it up as much as I can before the inevitable pissing critic comes a callin’.

When I think of recording my own music and lyrics in Nashville (or anywhere) I feel such a sense of accomplishment and well-being. It really is a whole new creative world for me. I’ve sung countless demos for countless composers. I have stacks of CDs with my vocal print on them. But this is the first time I will be singing for myself with words and music of my own. It’s a huge leap forward regardless of where I land.

I am so happy I decided to tell my own story this time. I am so happy to be creating my own work; my own world. That old saying of sitting by the phone and waiting was for rotary phones. It’s a mobile world now.

Stomach flipping or not. It’s time to fly.

Little Girl One of the Boys?

“Fleur, c’mere…pssst…C’mere!

In hindsight, my first clue to walk away should have been the sight of my brother and cousin, both three years my senior, including me in… anything.

These were the perpetrators of Tabasco sauce in the Kool-Aid pitcher, of usurping TV time by switching the channel (by walking up to it and actually switching the channel dial) then standing in front of the 13″ TV set for the entirety of Gilligan’s Island, and these were the boys who invented “Hey, c’mere and smell my hands! They smell like lemons. No really they do. No REALLY!”

They did smell like lemons. The first time. The second time they smelled like adolescent boy-ass. And I know you won’t admit it but you know what that smells like. Somehow we all have that unfortunate thing in common. Boy-ass smell gets around.

I was barely six and not yet savvy to the duplicities of persuasion.

Sfari.org

We huddled (they huddled) in the hallway just outside my grandmother’s 1950’s style kitchen adorned with formica table and yellow floor tiles.

“Go in there and ask Aunt Betty what that is.”

They spoke of her vagina.

We understood it to be that “V” space between her legs that met her torso.

So I walked into the kitchen where my mother, my grandmother and my aunt sat talking and smoking as they did. My aunt sat casually, legs uncrossed, facing my mother. She wore polyester slacks.

I knelt before her, leaned in with my pointer finger, zoned in toward the “V” and recited my line:

“What’s that?”

Before I could finish the final “T” I felt my body flying through the air by right forearm.

I landed in the bathroom face-down over my mothers knee as she held her second favorite instrument: the pink plastic hair brush, for a hoedown swatting of the butt cheeks. First fave was the fly swatter.

There was an added cruelty in the color of the brush. Pink was reserved for princesses and party dresses. To be spanked by the back end of a pink plastic 1970’s bristle hair brush had an added touch of betrayal.

When it was over I could hear adolescent boy-snickers coming from the living room.

I’d been framed! Oh! The consequences of persuasion. Why hadn’t I read Jane Austen at six?

Truth be told, I knew what I was doing and that I probably shouldn’t be doing it. But I wanted to be one of the boys. I was the youngest. And the only little girl in the family. I wanted to play with my big brother. This was only okay when he was alone with no chance of being caught being nice to the “shrimp.”

So in part (very small part) I deserved what I got. But as far as I can remember they never got theirs. That day anyway.

I finally stopped trying to play with the big boys.

I have found playing full woman is far more rewarding.