Friday, August 26, 2011

The Meme Project

The idea of recording on cassette, my Grandmother, Doris Progen, paint her stories and pass down her lessons by way of spoken word, in an interview format with my aunts, has floated around, in my Family's mind for years. Meme has so many stories that she hasn't misplaced and photographic memories of her family, the War and her years as a registered nurse that she still can see when she closes her eyes. I wanted to go bigger and better with the idea. I knew I somehow wanted more than just her written words to hold onto long after she leaves us.

In the digital age of technology with iphones, laptops, tablets and programs like GarageBand, I wanted to step the project up a notch. I wanted to follow in the foot steps of some of my favorite independent bands, by digitally recording my grandmother on my Apple Macbook and creating a full length, feature album right here in my own home. Facebook has become a monumental outlet for getting your voice heard and promoting current projects. I'm not promoting this project to the public by any means but I am documenting the process through pictures and video to keep our close friends and family updated. The currently untitled album is set for a "holiday release," if you will.

I think they'll be a delicate balance of Meme's favorite songs to play, some of the grandkid's favorites and maybe I can get her to throw in a Beatles song, if I ask nicely. I want to collect questions from her children and include her answers on the disc, as well as a story or two of her own choice. I feel what also should be included is one of her essays from her recently graduated, college credit, creative writing course, read aloud. I've ordered a microphone and USB adapter for my Macbook and it has arrived. The piano needs to be tuned, however Meme's favorite tuner has since past away. Other than that, I'm all plugged in and once I figure out what I'm doing, we'll be set to start.

When I picture my grandmother, she's either wiping her hands on her apron, after preparing a feast or tickling the ivory keys of her Schubert, upright piano, which survived the journey from Maine, 6 years ago. Since I can remember, music has flowed deep in my home and in hers. Resurfacing photographs of myself in my baby jumper, reaching for for the keys of her then, refinished grand piano will always show up in old photo books and left over pencil scribbles, created by my choosy, two-year-old hands, still reside in her "Chopin: Preludes & Etudes" song book. When I was a little older, I was even one of her many students she taught piano lessons to, throughout the years spent living in Fitchburg. Piano notes never stuck with me but guitar chords reverberate at my finger tips. Another haunting musical memory with my grandmother is from one weekend, when I was in my teens, in my parents den, playing George Harrison's "Across The Universe" with myself and my father on acoustic guitar, Meme on piano and my Aunt Lisa backing us up with her vocals. These musical memories with the family are memories I never want to loose. I never want to forget the melodies that her fingertips can launch.

Like anyone her age, she has her fair share of health issues and with each scare, I can feel the tension in the air. No one wants to loose the Matriarch of the family, especially when she has done so much for her kids and grandchildren. I never want my aunts feeling guilty, living in fear of loosing her shining stories. I wanted to honor Doris' stories in hopes of never forgetting them. Since Mem is currently feeling happy, healthy, spunky, upbeat and courageous, I approached her with my idea. She quickly responded, "Whenever you're ready, I'm ready." We should never be afraid to fall, just scared to land. Take the leap and accomplish what is accomplishable. Why not capture that process along the way, composing a possible hour and 20 minutes that we can hold in our hands like a snapshot, a memory in our hearts, for a lifetime.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Done With Distractions

       The emotional roller coaster of life has taken me on quite a journey over the past year, as it is usually best at doing. I know I've taken a long absence from what had been my new decision to start blogging last winter. It's so easy to write when you're upset. It becomes this amazing outlet to focus your attention onto anything else but what is bothering you the most. But who wants to write when they are happy? Don't they just want to bask in it?

After separating with Andrew last summer, I took it really hard. I threw myself into long and tiring work weeks to save some money and keep occupied. I turned into a bit of a crazy person and knew that scaring the people around me wasn't what I wanted to accomplish. I knew I needed to make some sort of a change. I don't regret the four years we had spent together, they were amazing and I learned so much from him. In the end, we just weren't compatible enough to spend an entire life time together. I will never, ever love anyone the way I loved him and he's still constantly in my dreams. The spilt gave me that push and it gave me that shove to start over and make a life plan for myself.

I realized that going to Austin, TX for the first part of this year would be the perfect distraction to start a clean slate and get my train back on track. I had my moments where I struggled to maintain confidence but being in Austin for four months, challenging myself to be independent and creating myself into who I really wanted to become, proved to be absolutely incredible. I told myself the beginning of this year, that 2011 would be my year to focus on me and to do the things that I need to do for myself, in order to take charge of my own life. I'm ready to see more of the world. Now that I've lived in a different locale and setting, having seen what I have seen, my eyes are now wide open and I'm constantly looking around. I'm so excited to see more. I've got a lot to do before I die and I learned how to unleash my energy in Austin. I know I touched lives in that musical city with my whimsical charm and determined passion but I also knew, I had said to my best friend in Portsmouth a year ago, that I wasn't making anymore friends, just connections from here on out. Austin proved me wrong. I made friends and it has been shocking and amazing because I didn't think I had it in me. I didn't think people would support me as much as they have and be as appreciative of my friendship as they have but I now know I can look into their eyes and find trust. I know I now have friends who would let me crash on their couch if need be. I met really amazing people who opened my eyes up to love and honestly. I learned how to love in ways I didn't think I was still capable of.

I can honestly give all my gratuity for this experience to KJ Doyle. We met years ago when I signed up to help out her non-profit organization Rock For A Remedy, when it was on tour with the Indigo Girls. We kept in touch and before we knew it, she was set up in Austin and we had plans for me to come down and clear my mind. If it wasn't for her, I would not have had a place to live when I first got to Austin, I would not have got to know my way around town as fast as I did and I would not have met some pretty unique people and hear some really great southern, rockboy music. Thanks, girl.

  In Austin, I danced under strobe lights, I laughed in crowded bars, and I lived with cockroaches. I tended to a German Shepherd, I passed out in a random kitchen, I was adopted by a kitty and I enjoyed the view from Mt. Bonnell with a friend who shares bits of the same past as I. I witnessed SXSW 2011, seeing bands I never thought I'd see for dirt cheap and ate German Chocolate cake, quoting Ellen outside Quack's Cafe one evening. I transferred jobs, worked with rats and volunteered some time with The Human Rights Campaign's fancy "All You Need Is LOVE"  event right before Valentines day at the Four Season's Hotel. I was inspired to write poems, I got pierced, I did yoga at 4:00am, I jogged around Lady Bird Lake, and I went to Easter Service at the Frank Irwin Center to see the children from Uganda sing. I ate my weight in Indian and especially Mexican foods. I walked a couple miles each day, sang '90's songs in my courtyard at night and tried to learn how to two-step. I found out I was selected to serve with AmeriCorps NCCC at Ego's Karaoke bar, I celebrated the Oscars in style and drank a bottle of wine by the pool at midnight to ring in my 24th birthday. We actually had a snow day in February and oh yeah, I learned how to open a beer bottle with my teeth!

I do regret not helping out the less fortunate people of Austin in whatever ways I could. The homeless rate is high and there are definitely times you can tell just by looking around. Each night I walked home from work, I passed the church across the street from the store, in which the front stoop was morphed into bunk beds upon sun down. The bricks that lined the side of the Church were lined with tired bodies in sleeping bags. I regret not helping out there or at any other church that opens their doors to those in need. During my time in Austin, I was focused on creating friendships that I can hold with me wherever I go in the future. I was focused on enjoying the sunny afternoons on campus and the rowdy nightlife down town, in ways I never had before. I lost some close friends in the process, something I never thought would happen. I hope to someday regain their company. I know that after returning from Texas, instead of maintaining an internal, flickering candle, my spark has been reignited into a vibrant flame. I aspire to do great things and i want to help change the world. Changing the world is now, a near impossible task but if my smile can change the lives of people around me and i can promote positive self esteem and do my part to serve the community, I am that much closer to my goal.

I've finally been selected for a ten month stint with Americorps NCCC! Americorps NCCC is much like the PeaceCorps, however it's for a shorter amount of time and stays in the United States. This October I will be going to Sacramento Ca. to travel the pacific region and serve the community with my ten or so team mates. It's going to feel awesome, lending a helping hand. As of yet, I'm unsure of what is specifically on our agenda but I do know I could be working with the elderly or with children. I could be working in the woods or on city revitalization. (View my previous blog about AmeriCorps, here: I'm still a little shocked when I think about being selected but I know that I shouldn't be shocked. I'm not conceded, I just know that I have a lot to give and I am a hard worker when I put my mind to it. I know that AmeriCorps, with all of it's training, certifications, reflecting, media representing, focusing on a healthy way of eating and living and the experiences to unfold, is going to open up many, many doors in my life. I have a life plan now. I will go back to school, I will start a career in the travel industry. I will settle down, somewhere, eventually. I will continue to travel. And life will be good.

It was good to come home for the summer to see my parents and my family and to spend time with my grandmothers. I've been playing my guitar, sitting on my friends roof, playing frisbee and visiting my grandfather's grave. I've been laying low and staying local but have also enjoyed a week on the road with the Indigo Girls and my friends, I spend as much time in Portsmouth as I can, I gave a motivational speech at my old high school and I've attended a surprise birthday party, weddings and a sleep-over on Cape Cod in a familiar cottage. It's been a good summer working at the Woodbound Inn in Rindge, NH part time and also at my old stomping grounds in Peterborough but for the most part, I've enjoyed the privacy of my own back yard. A friend got me hooked on this summer's season of Big Brother. Oy, the drama and whispering that goes on, on that show… now that's a distraction!