Sunday, May 25, 2014

Royal Tour - from Peterborough to Halifax

Forever and Ever - Royal Wood

With a little tongue in cheek I speak about the Royal Tour to Halifax and not the royals living in a castle who also happened to visit. Less than a week ago, the Prince of Wales (Charles) and his wife did indeed leave the stone castle to take on a whirlwind visit to Canada and one stop was spending the day in this city. In three different locations in my neighbourhood I could have hob-nobbed with the blue bloods. But didn't. Leave the front row for the real keeners :)

Instead I rubbed shoulders with another Royal. Royal Wood! and Peter Katz!

I bought my ticket for this event back in mid-March when they first went on sale. From that moment one, I wasn't sure if I would make it. After the purchase that I realized the date and became concerned that it would coincide with the annual Blue Rodeo concert I attend in Ontario at that time. But dates for Blue Rodeo hadn't been released so I hung onto the ticket and waited. I was thrilled to learn that Blue Rodeo was pushed back and so I was good to go to attend both. 

The real panic set in on Thursday of this week. I wasn't worried about the tickets because I knew exactly where I put them for safe-keeping. Or so I! I looked a bit that day and just frustrated myself. I cleared the calendar for Friday and declared it "Look for Royal Tickets" day. I nearly tore this place apart and cursed myself to the depths of hell but in the last place I looked, there they were. Sigh of relief, followed by a celebratory beverage. 

The day of the concert we had a really early "supper" so that we could be in line for the general admission show first. For a full hour and a half I played doorman at St. Matthew's Church for the staff entering. This marked two auspicious occasions, firstly the first time I lined up to enter a church and secondly entering that place willingly...except for weddings and funerals. Both of which left me feeling empty in one way or another. 

Early fans - photo credit Radio 96.5 Halifax
We weren't in that line up 10 minutes before we were joined by another party of enthusiasts. And my favourite local radio station joined the party and added some music. Radio 96.5, plays the music I want to hear, except they could play more Blue Rodeo and add the Devin Cuddy Band...hint hint. When you are waiting for an event to start, time seems to pass very quickly because you all have one similar interest and therefore a topic of conversation. I was initially more concerned with the layout of the church so I would know which way to go to get my coveted front row seat. An early glimpse of the artists as they passed by was a bonus. The handsome gentleman who helped assure my prime viewing spot was also a pleasure.  

We were a large group, so it was pretty tough to get past us to the front row. Middle centre at a concert can often offer a better acoustic experience. But I don't go to concerts for the sound, I go for the band. The closer the better because I feel more like I am a part of an intimate show...and sometimes there is dancing below the stage. We just got our seats when nature began to call. A few of us headed for the nearest washroom to the side of the stage. In my defence, I hadn't been in this tabernacle before and didn't know we were encroaching on the staging area for the musicians. So another unexpected chance to mingle with the magic of musical talent, and reminding Peter Katz to put on shoes before the show. It seems he hadn't "dressed up" yet. :) But all too quickly, "some guy" comes along and boots us out. All good, churches are a bit of a foreign land to me lately.

And then it began. Peter Katz had his shoes one, his plaid shirt was tucked in and he wore a bellboy-style suit jacket, (sorry couldn't resist). Actually the style of clothing fit very well with the style of music. From the first notes of Days and Nights, I was entranced. His voice was a pleasure to the ears and beyond the melody and the music the words hit me. In fact it was in these early notes that I began to rummage for paper and pen feeling my hearts insistence that I relate my experience. It was simply too good not to share. And it got better as the evening wore on.

Peter and Royal photo credit Radio 96.5 Halifax 
Peter had an easy rapport and made a quick connection with his audience. I love hearing the relationship of the song to the creator, it gives the song more depth. And I gotta say that as amateurs we did a pretty good job when we helped him sing. We even got a preview of the main star when Royal came out for the "Brothers" duet. In keeping with the theme of getting better as the night progressed I was completely blown away by the final song that Peter Katz did in his set. It was Oliver's Tune. I've put a link to this song in the credits and I encourage you to check it out. There is a commentary regarding the origins of the song before hand. Oliver was a Canadian violinist who passed away prematurely of cancer, the song is penned in his memory. Let these simple words strung together like an orchestra sink in for a moment "I was never wrong doing what I was doing all along". This mantra would serve many well, especially those suffering. It's an awesome tune.

A quick adjustment of the stage and last minute instrument check by the roadies, heightened the anticipation that royalty would soon be among us. There is a comfort and confidence that emanates from this man as he walks on stage. But there is also the feeling that your best friend has just entered the house, you can hardly wait to hear the news he has come to share. After a simple greeting to the audience his voice finds its natural strength and beauty in song. It was honestly surprising to hear the richness of voice coming from such a slight man. It seemed to come from the very depths of his soul. He has a passion that he shares easily with the listener. 

Royal Wood photo credit Radio 96.5 Halifax
Royal Wood is always aware that he is playing to an audience and engages them in song and conversation. And I for one became a part of the show when Royal began coaching the audience on singing along with him on his hit Forever and Ever. Our part was easy "Hey Hey Hey" three times followed by "Forever and ever and ever". I had been taking notes throughout the concert and was doing so during the lesson. And then I am being called out by the teacher :) The words were simple and I shouldn't have to write down the lyrics to remember them, he said with a chuckle. And then he comically back-pedalled when he thought aloud that he may have just screwed himself if I was a reviewer. What could I possibly say that was bad about this event...except that the pews, even covered with padding were hard? That's just a cornucopia of honesty :)

Music is about a connection. Between the singer and their songs and the listener. Sometimes I feel that connection very strongly, deeply and passionately. Not in the stalker "I want to be the most important person in your life" way but as an admirer of talent and grateful for the response the music allows in me. When Royal was talking about his admiration of Halifax, he said that if was to leave his home for another it would be here. I get that, because I did exactly that! Except for me the guiding force in my life is less girls and beer and more guys and beer :) When he spoke about staying in a little cottage in Ireland away from the trappings of modern society and wandering the streets in contemplation, I almost felt like I was there too. I would love the opportunity some day to do the same. 

Both Peter Katz and Royal Wood made an effort to engage the city in the show. They each had a local guest vocalist join them on stage. In the case of Peter it was Kim Harris and Royal brought up Rose Cousins for some added vocals. It was a real treat when Samba Nova was invited on stage to accompany the Royal Wood band for I'll Be Gone. Samba Nova is a local percussion group who happened to be rehearsing when Royal arrived at the venue for a sound check. A collaboration was born that worked brilliantly. What a treat!

The paid for portion of the show was concluded by a fabulous encore which included Royal and Peter joining on stage to play with Betsy. Betsy being Royal's ukulele. They did Irish Road acoustically and is was amazing. Amazing show overall, kudos to the crew and the band.

There was an added bonus for everyone who attended and that was a personal meet and greet with both artists at the Merch table. Despite the long line, there was no complaints of hand cramps from signing every piece of sold or brought memorabilia. I made my contribution and even had the playlist I snagged from the floor in front of me signed. 

When the last CD was signed our hearts began to beat a little faster in anticipation of the next treat for us. A photo op. The group shot with Royal. The group shot with Royal and Peter. I can hardly wait to see the pictures. An awesome memory captured forever and ever. 

If you get a chance to see either of these two artists don't make the mistake and pass it up. They are amazingly talented! Listen to their music. Buy their music. 

Unusual door handle at St. Matthews Church
The interior of the church flanked by the pipe organ

Peter Katz

Royal Wood

A strange laser thing used by the guitarist...Explain please?

Royal Wood

The Band (l-r)
Royal, Mark on drums, Some Guy on bass (Steve),
Dean on electric
Royal at the ivory keys
With some of the members of Samba Nova

Royal at the piano again

my signed playlist :)
My merch!
credit where credit is due
- Royal Wood
- Peter Katz
- Radio 96.5
- Rose Cousins
- Kim Harris

- Peter Katz - Oliver's Tune
- Blue Rodeo
- Devin Cuddy Band

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dating and Mating in 2014

Hot 'n Cold by Katy Perry

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus then I want to meet on the middle ground - Earth. I firmly believe that there are fundamental and critical differences between the sexes and I like it. I like it a lot! 

A lot of really worthwhile issues were resolved or at least recognized with the feminism movement. Women should never be thought of as lesser beings just different ones. Equal pay for equal work, yes! Equal opportunities yes! Burn the bra, no! But you should be able to travel the road both ways without being dictatorial. If I want to be Prime Minister or CEO I should have that opportunity if I qualify. If a dude wants to be a stay-at-home dad or secretary, they should be allowed without judgement. 

But going off on a wee detour, a company should not be forced to hire either men, women, minorities or immigrants because of some arbitrary protocol. I don't want to be a boss because of what I look like but because I can do the job better. 

And, we're back. The problem with the feminism movement is the effect that it seems to have had on men. There were very specifically defined roles between men and women at one time. Men earned the money and women kept the house. Men chased and women were the pursued in the dating and mating ritual. Suddenly women had options and became more vocal and (dare I say) aggressive. Men no longer knew if their advances would be accepted or turned down. They didn't know if they were supposed to open the door or if they would be chastised for the effort. They stepped back and didn't know when it was the right time to step up to the plate if ever. Chivalry and social protocol is now a very hazy line where men fear to cross and face a potential backlash from a staunch feminist. Some men have begun to feel emasculated by the women with higher incomes and job positions. This competition has led in part to no one willing to play the game anymore. 

Personally, I miss the day when the roles were more clearly defined. When a man opened a door ahead of me or put a hand of support at the small of my back as he guided me in the direction we were going, was a way that I knew I was cared for and valued. And of course on this road of equality there are many ways that women can and should show that men are valued as well. Ego stroking, if you will. I do believe that these gender specific roles can be very helpful in the elevation of self-esteem for both parties when the intention behind the act is accepted. We all feel good when we are treasured.

Since the 1970's when women began to defend their rights in the real world and take charge of their destiny, I was otherwise engaged. I missed learning how to adopt the new feminist role in the relationship arena and I don't feel comfortable in the pursuers role. And it seems that I am not alone. Afraid of stepping on our pedicured toes, men have backed away from openly pursuing a woman they are attracted to. A woman who is self-sufficient can be seen as too domineering and therefore intimidating to some men. Perhaps the men of the younger generation have come to accept this new role assignment, but speaking from some experience, men of my generation tend to want to hide their "caveman" persona. 

Coupled with the increase in divorce rates and both genders more focused on establishing careers and conquering the planet through infinite travel options, traditional marriage has taken a back seat. The older members who have "been there, done that" seem to be less inclined to jump on the marriage bandwagon having been burned and hurt before. Raising another family in the "new" middle ages is not always a welcome prospect. Certainly I am more open to the idea of grandmother than mother-to-another at my age. Not that I'm old :)

To be clear, I think that same sex relationships should be considered conventional and although I speak to what I know specifically, I think that the concept here can be applied to all unions. And there is a new term for these people shunning conventional relationships. "Otherhood" as opposed to parenthood, motherhood, etc. Women and men are choosing to remain without a permanent committed relationship. Children are becoming secondary in the fulfillment of adulthood and with adoption becoming more open and liberal, both sexes can be parents without a significant other or donor. Being single is becoming more of lifestyle choice and pet ownership is taking the place of a human life partner.   

For some believe, that they can have their cake and eat it too! Being a single parent no longer means your relationship ended. Being a single homeowner no longer means you got the house in death or divorce. Living alone with a cat no longer makes you a crazy cat lady/man. In fact, one in four women entering the housing market are single women compared to one in ten men. I was a pioneer in this realm when in the late 1990's I became a single female homeowner with no co-signer or guarantor. Mind you it took a lot of persistence and a lot of rejection from typical male dominated banking conventions. We've come a long way, baby!

But a feminist, I'm not. Unless it meant that I embrace my femininity and being woman. I love being a woman. I love that I was able to carry children and be a mother. I also love that I was able to use my talents and gifts to raise and support them alone. Because I had to, not necessarily because I personally wanted to. I want to get dolled up, put on a dress and heels and feel pretty. I want to be coddled and cuddled. But I don't want to be a ditsy female. I can use power tools and mow the lawn while he does the cooking. I don't want to emasculate anyone, I want to embrace the differences in ourselves. The beauty of the male is intoxicating to me.

When it comes to relationships with a potential sexual partner I don't want to be the aggressor and step on his pedicured toes. I don't want to go to a bar and tell a man that I am interested. There are signs that can be read that clearly identify a mutual interest and attraction. Taking the first step scares me. I understand that it can be equally scary for him but I guess I'm old school. For as much as I embrace my femininity I admire and appreciate his manliness. So with respect in mind, please ask and you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. For me it is less of a weak female trait and more so a lack of confidence thing - I'm still working on repairs in that area.  

For now, someone has to make the first move and I would be more than happy to follow :) I will respectfully and playfully call you Master :p

Friday, May 09, 2014

Differently-Abled and Judged by the Lower Court

I Wanna Get Better - Bleachers

It starts off with a whisper - the words of a song that bring me back to the reality of the moment and sends my thoughts off on a new tangent. I suppose it has always been like that for me, the difference now is that I feel compelled to write it down. And quickly before I forget where the thoughts were going. Following those thoughts as they meander are partly self-discovery and healing, partly fantasy with a bit of fun, and sometimes painful.  

Today it was this song, I wanna get better. Alright fine, it's been a topic that has been the focus of my life for nearly four years now. Four years...let me just take a moment for that to sink in. 

Four years ago, I was a full time mother to two children who were almost complete in their post-secondary academic endeavours. I had a full time job that I loved and was damn good at. I had a fairly new vehicle and was finally able to do some of the needed upgrades on my house. My debt load was low after many years of  struggles. Definitely on an upswing. 

When I took my third stress leave, I thought it would be just another break from the continued harassment I was experiencing at work. I did not know that I would still be struggling with the effects of that so many years later. I refer to it as the time I fell apart. It was a swift and nearly deadly tumble into the abyss of depression. 

There was only one thing I knew for sure and that was that for reasons unknown to me my supervisors at work hated me. I didn't know how to change who I was so I embarked on a quest to change what I looked like. Plastic surgery was out of my comfort zone and budget. So I began to diet and exercise. Carbs were out, cardio and weight training was in. Despite the effort and determination, nothing was happening. Not a pound was shed. I lost nothing except maybe a bit more of my sanity which had become very fragile.

I was so focused on the scale and its infernal readout that I didn't realize that when I was not exercising, I was sleeping or crying. And I couldn't stop doing any of it. I didn't see it as not okay. Combining all of those things with alcohol one weekend brought the fragile house of cards falling down flat. The game couldn't be played any longer. Referees in the form of psychologists, psychiatrists, nutritionists, chemical rehab and medical doctors became a mainstay in my life. And my "compassionate" employer steadfastly maintained that if I was unable to work, it was because I had suffered a traumatic event 40 years prior. It still makes my blood boil when I think of that!

While I have had a lot of support with my mental health, my physical health continued to suffer. The attitude towards me by my employer really took a toll on my self-esteem. Before the breakdown I did like myself. I could look into that mirror with a critical eye and still see mostly good. There are always things we'd like to improve or change for to truly live and be alive we must continually grow. But the growth I could no longer tolerate (and still can't) is my skin. There is more, not less and I am so afraid that it will continue, that eating is a mental struggle. The "eat/don't eat" voices in my head are too strong. And the fear of physical growth is far louder than the get healthy whisper. I am often very literally scared to eat. I continue to work very hard to try and learn what is going on and how I can fix my bodies response to food. I know that I have caused my metabolism to slow, I have been told that the way to increase it is to eat - apparently my body thinks I am starving it. lol! But I tried that for a time and at 900 calories a day, I gained.

And just when I think I might be getting better, someone makes a comment about the importance of body language and I want to scream. Why is it that our physical presence is more important than our soul? This is but a shell. Who I am lies deep within. But society keeps telling us that we can never makes a second first impression. How we present ourselves leaves a lasting image. If someone has a prejudice, it is not politically okay to express it but it doesn't mean it's necessarily gone. I was once told by a manager of a retail store that I couldn't work there because I would scare away the customers. Nobody would dare say that today, but do they still think it? 

I would like to think that we have become more tolerant of our differences but have we really? Nobody would bat an eye if they saw a pencil-thin waif coming out of McDonalds with a burger in one hand while sucking on a milkshake. Now, what if that person was so big they barely fit out the door, how many people would stare as they waddled away? And possibly even make derogatory comments - just loud enough to be within ear shot. The thing is we assume that because we see a larger size person eating junk food that that is all they eat, that they are lazy and never get off the couch. Where as reality might be quite different. Or not, but you don't know.

I met a person recently and they were concerned that when they dressed "as themselves" that I wouldn't accept them. To be fair, there are dress codes at certain places and I don't think it's my place to be disrespectful of someone else's wishes, but such was not the case here. The attire was more than acceptable at the venue in question. I just didn't happen to share their choice of wardrobe. It's never occurred to me to judge their style. Under the physical decoration, they were the same person I had met and known prior to this meeting. But they were correct in their belief that others are not so tolerant and look upon the accoutrements with disdain and negative judgement. If they took the time to look beyond they would see a kind soul, with a warm heart and friendly smile who is also a great parent and wonderful friend.

We have no right to judge unless we can sit back as we too are judged. Love that lives in the heart isn't always visible on the outside. Perhaps I have a greater understanding and compassion regarding this subject because I have been there. I have lived it. I once went on a family road trip and when I came back I was (I thought) the same person, albeit sadder - but I looked like someone else. And some had no problem letting me know what they thought. Truth is, the face in the mirror wasn't mine and the body had changed - it was forever marked by life's scars. Even the sound coming from my mouth was different. Some people didn't even recognize me on the phone. But my soul was the same. It's me! To some I became and stayed a stranger from then on. Not good enough anymore.

So stop please! Before you chastise someone and judge them as unworthy based on their appearance...stop and ask yourself if maybe there is a real worthy person under the physical form. The person staggering down the road as if drunk may be re-learning how to walk. The person hugging themselves may be lonely and afraid, not angry. The person who can't speak, is not stupid. The person you think is disabled is just differently-abled. I have always believed that we are all disabled in some way. Some of us share it for the world to see, others can keep it hidden from view. Science is one of my weaknesses, the word received is another. I don't think I have ever spelled that word correctly! 

The person who can't see is not always the blind person. 

Today a video was shared by a friend on Facebook and I am going to share it with you here. It is in French but language is unimportant. I had started writing this missive yesterday and when I watched this video I was saddened to my very core. How can we be so self-absorbed that we don't care about each other? Where did we go so wrong? How can we sit in church on Sunday, praise our boss on Monday, volunteer with our community on Tuesday, spend time with our family on Wednesday, give to charity on Thursday, pray for a safe weekend on Friday and step on our neighbours on Saturday. 

The Importance of Appearances Experiment - NorniTube

Regardless of how this man is dressed, he is in need and yet people walk past him and don't even see him or worse - notice and choose not to care. BECAUSE OF WHAT HE LOOKS LIKE!

My link to the video may not work on this page, so here is a link on YouTube.
If that still doesn't work. I will tell you that a man in an overcoat, hat and jeans, collapses on a busy sidewalk and lies there repeating "help me" as people walk by mindless. Some stop to look. They see and hear him but don't notice him and his pleas. When the same man falls wearing a suit and a tie, his head isn't even on the pavement when he has commandered the attention of a gathering of concerned passersby who stop to help and have no fear touching him, talking to him, helping him. It's the same man! 

So tell me, how am I ever supposed to like myself and accept myself if I can't change my appearance? How will I ever be safe from the people who want to step on me and discard me like trash? Was I living in a fantasy world I created on my own until I was forced to face the truth. I am not good enough? I don't want to believe it but every day, the beauty magazines and the role models I am shown on tv tell me it's true.