Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Concert Review from 1984: A Jackson's Victory

As many mourn today, I thought I would contribute to the energy of remembering and sharing. As a good friend so aptly expressed, "Sometimes flawed people give the world great gifts."

To follow is a concert review I wrote in October 1984 in the Chelmsford High School newsmagazine, The Voice. I was 16 years old.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Chriss Bliss!!!"

Chriss Bliss?? Who is he? I thought I was at the Jackson's Victory Concert.

The lights dimmed in the R.F.K. stadium in Washington, D.C. The audience was clapping but not exactly knowing for whom. The spotlight shone on the stage and heeree's... no, not Johnny. It is Chriss Bliss -- a juggler. I'm not kidding. There was a juggling act as a lead-in for the Jacksons.

Generally speaking, I don't get too aroused by watching someone throw oranges around, so I took the opportunity to observe the crowd and the many people in it.

It was very crowded but not anywhere near the mob-scene I was expecting. One great surprise to me was that at least one quarter of the spectators were under 15 years of age. When I studied the common attire of most of the "fans," and compared it to that of my own, I felt like such an earthling. Not that I have anything against spaced out leather jackets and paint by number leather and gold pants, but, as the Romans would say, "there is a limit in things." I also noticed the numerous people wearing the infamous, single, silver ski glove.

The house lights came on again. Is that it? Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your opinion of Michael Jackson) the Jackson's are yet to come. After waiting an additional hour in the midst of popcorn sellers, Pepsi vendors, and the technical flurry...the lights dimmed once more.

Suddenly I heard a loud voice say, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Jacksons and Pepsi present to you... the Torture video!"

At that time, I noticed a huge screen hovering over the stage. After a terrific light show consisting of colorful lasers and a wall of spotlights that could give a blind person sight again, the Torture video was shown. Again, more lights and more lasers...and the moment you have all been waiting for, the actual concert!

Well, at least that is what I thought. The music started, but it wasn't the Jacksons. It was the theme song from "The Dark Crystal." Then...huge, ugly, glowing monsters came out onto the stage as a narrator did a small tidbit on the Disney movie.

I was just trying to figure out why they were doing all of this when I heard the introduction to "Wanna' be Startin' Something." The crowd was screaming wildly as Tito, Randy, Jermaine, Marlon, Jackie and especially Michael started their captivating session. While a little rough at first, by the end of the song, everyone was really getting psyched. Michael did practically all of his songs from the "Thriller" album, excluding "Thriller" itself. It was said by some that he thought twice about the song and decided that as a Jehovah's Witness, it went against his beliefs. Outside the stadium, there were many Jehovah's Witnesses holding a huge cross. They were passing out propaganda about Michael and the Jacksons' support for the Witnesses.

As the concert went on, I, who to be perfectly honest am not a huge fan of the Jacksons, found myself swept away and really feeling the energy which seemed to be affecting everyone so greatly. All of the spectators were clapping, dancing in the aisles and SCREAMING! Believe it or not, one of the songs which got the most reaction was not sung or written by Michael. It was Jermaine Jackson's, "Dynamite."

Everyone was literally "spazzing out!" Yes, I'll admit it, even I was finding it hard to stay in control.

Feet. For any other concert, this word would be meaningless (unless, of course Ozzy Osbourne was chewing on them.) But for Mikey Baby, his feet are just two more reasons why he is so successful. Naturally, by looking far at the stage, one couldn't even tell that he had feet, let alone be able to see what they were doing exactly. So again, that big screen was the main focus of attention. Michael Jackson moonwalked, twirled, twisted and danced until I felt like my feet were going to fall off just watching him! The Jacksons also did some spectacular synchronized breakdancing together.

I have to give the Jacksons, especially Michael, credit for giving their absolute all for the entire two hours. The energy level stayed constant throughout the concert. Towards the end of the concert, you could definitely see the strain on Michael's face -- it even looked like actual pain, but that didn't stop him. Finally, after he informed us that, "I'll be There," and told us to, "Scream, and Shout, Shake Your Body Down to the Ground," Michael said farewell. Actually, it was, "Farewell, My Summer Love."

As I have said, I never really went crazy over Michael, Tito, Jermaine, Randy, Marlon or Jackie, and I still don't want to marry any of them. However, after seeing them in the concert and feeling the intense energy that got everyone up and dancing, including me, I really understand and appreciate what people mean when they refer to the "Jackson Magic."
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dear Ol' Dad... The Consistent Parent

Today being Father's Day, I thought it only appropriate to write about my own "Dear Ol' Dad."

The Ol' has nothing to do with his age as you may have guessed; it's just something we've always said. My parents divorced when I was two years old and my dad was about the age I am now. My mom had "custody" and my dad, "visitation." Daddy's usual parting words after a visit were something like, "Love you. See you soon. 'Til then, try to think of your Dear Ol' Dad sometimes."

Of course I did think of him. Often. Reality or not, my "inner story" painted his home (a Deck House) as the beautiful castle and my dad as the king, strong but kind and fair. I was only allowed to visit the castle on some weekends and a couple of weeks during the summer. The rest of the time was spent cleaning cinders (well, sheds), fighting with my wicked siblings and wondering how my fairytale went so wrong.

Even couturier mice couldn't help me when I would crawl under the covers while my fairy godmother was clearly out on a bender. I'd cry myself to sleep and whisper over and over, "I want my Daddy."

Something which always made me feel better was "Daddy Thursday." Happy memories. I was in elementary school and got out at noon on Thursdays. Every week, Dear Ol' Dad picked me up from school and we went to Spiro's Deli. We ordered Italian submarine sandwiches, loaded, extra hots. I may be imagining the "extra" but that's the way I order my subs (grinders, heros, hoagies, wedges, zeps, torpedos) to this day and have always attributed it to some early childhood programming.

We also shared a bag of BBQ potato chips and pretended to fight over the burnt chips. Actually, we weren't really pretending once I learned that the burnt ones might be the ugliest, but they taste the best. Thank you to my dad and dozens of bags of potato chips for teaching me at an early age that external beauty doesn't necessarily define whether or not something (or someone) is "good."

It's a philosophical stretch maybe... but sometimes life can also look yucky on the outside and still be pretty darn fabulous.

The other thing these Thursday outings taught me is that consistency counts.

It's probably not fair to my mother that I have such fond, vivid memories of doing the simplest things with my dad, like eating potato chips. I know my mom did the best she could at the time to create special memories with me as well.

Yet, there was something about looking forward to those Thursday afternoons each week and being able to count on the fact they would actually happen. As an adult I appreciate it even more. Knowing what my daily juggling act is like, I can picture my father looking at his watch whilst trying to finish a crucial project or needing to rush out of a meeting. "Sorry - I have to run. Gotta take my little girl out to lunch."

Even though he lived in a different state, was a corporate VIP and a workaholic, I never once remember waiting for him or wondering whether or not he was going to show.

In general, I've always known that if Daddy said he'd do something, it would be done. When he said he'd be there, he was there. When I really needed him, he was always there for me. (Still is.) Even if it was something silly like my teenage obsession with getting a white blazer, he would take me to a dozen stores until we found it. Hey, it was the 80's... white blazers were "cool" then.

It wasn't just about getting what I wanted. It also held true when it came to discipline. For example, if he promised I'd be in BIG trouble for using a bad word, it happened every time.

It was about consistency.

As I think about my quest to minimize my own kids' need for the accumulating funds in the "Therapy Jar," I truly believe that this lesson is key.

Set expectations and follow through. Whether rewards or consequences. Be consistent.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Doobedoobedoo & More Secrets

Reading my archived blog entries (and feeling groovy about the fact that I even have archives), there's a lot of the "inside-out" stuff.

Philosophically, I feel good about this.

BE --> DO --> HAVE instead of DO --> BE --> HAVE and all that.

It's oddly satisfying to me that others question how I maintain such a positive attitude inside no matter what is going on outside. From some people's perspective, certain circumstances would have justified taking the elevator to the top floor of the nearest, tallest building and doing my best Superman impression. Some of these people even know that I can't actually fly.

Recently on my Facebook wall, someone accused me of being stuck in a Folgers coffee commercial. Reverse fade as the sun rises above the horizon in all it's glory; rays of light and hope spread across my smiling face. A grateful appreciation for my mere existence physically radiates throughout the scene as I inhale the wondrous essence of life itself........ or at least the aroma of my morning coffee.
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So...um... the Folgers thing was a a compliment, right?
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Most of the time I'm pretty sure when people ask rhetorical questions like, "How do you stay so positive?" what they really mean is, "What the hell is wrong with you??"

What they really want to know is, "What are your tricks?" ... Despite my best efforts, they want to know about the DO. How do I DO it all?
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Here's the big secret: WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER.

Okay, not a secret. It's just plain common sense that in order to have life balance in this crazy busy world, you have to be somewhat organized and efficient.

I'm very thankful to have had some wonderful productivity mentors. In addition, I've learned to make a mild case of OCD really work for me in positive ways. Thank you dysfunctional childhood!.

OCD = Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Luckily, my OCD comes in the form of a deep desire to keep my Inbox empty vs. the need to wash my hands three hundred times a day. (Though I do recommend frequent hand washing as a rule.)

In the same way I can't get it all done if I am a wreck internally, I've learned that I really can't get it all done if I'm a disorganized mess externally.

Even for the majority of you who don't have an OCD bone in your body, it's about having systems and using tools which create that environment for you.
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I have lots of favorite websites, tools and resources. Of them all, here are a few which I use every single day. I believe these things truly contribute to my life balance success as far as the "external" stuff goes.

Protopage: This is a customizable, online home page which keeps all of your favorite links and widgets in one place. All your categorized sites, cryptic work links, lists, reference search boxes, weather forecasts and even your daily Dilbert comic can be easily accessed from any computer connected to internet. It's free and you can password protect it so that only you can see your Protopage. I've included a screen shot of mine here; I could not function without it.

Notepads by LobotoME: In general, I try to do as little with paper as possible. At work for example, my files are almost exclusively electronic. Much easier to keep track of things and no ugly filing cabinets cluttering up my lovely corner office.
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However, I love notepads and disposable lists of various kinds. LobotoME is the candy store of lists. Just this morning I ordered a new package of eight different notepads which will help me with my grocery shopping, meal planning, packing, "Honey Do" lists and more. They also have a MomME weekly planner which actually has a place for "Me Time" on the handy scheduler. LOOOOVVVEEEE it! The creators must read my blog.

The Get-It-Done-Guy (TM): Some people worship action heroes. I worship Stever Robbins. In summary, his "Quick & Dirty Tips to Work Less & Do More" include every productivity tip I could ever share plus many, many more. I've had a lot of moments listening to Stever's podcast when I thought excitedly, "Hey - I actually do that!" I've also had moments of complete deflation as I realised that yet again, I had not actually invented the tip.
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That aside, the podcasts are very entertaining in addition to being truly informative. Stever as a knack for infusing wit and creative eloquence which is completely enviable. Well, to me anyway. Now that I think of it, maybe it's not worship. Maybe it's jealousy? Stever Robbins might very well be living my professional dream life. *sigh* I hear he's even writing another book which will no doubt be wildly successful. (On the plus side, I now have a fabulous gift idea for friends and family.)
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EditGrid: I know you may not find online spreadsheets very exciting, but I love this tool which I stumbled on completely by accident. This site has loads of great spreadsheet templates; everything from a matrix for Thanksgiving dinner to penny stock tracking to Jr's baseball schedule. You can also create your own, share with others and collaborate as needed. Some friends and I are currently sharing an online spreadsheet to track healthy eating/fitness activities and goals. It's very cool. (Hey K., congrats on losing five pounds last month! Whooohoo! And, I'd love your "Super Slimming Thai Quinoa" recipe. Can you please post it on tab 2? Thanks!)

This summer, I'm sharing babysitters with my friend J. .Using EditGrid, I just created a detailed online schedule which we can both update/edit as needed without having to email a document back and forth. Our babysitters will also be given "read-only" access so they too can see the latest and greatest schedule from the comfort of their own home. Or mine for that matter.
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MommyTips: The name says it all! I'm all about sharing best practices. There are lots of parenting sites out there but this helpful site and online support group has been a favorite of mine for almost a decade. In addition to parenting tips you can find shopping tips, family fun tips, household tips, coupons and more.
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In thinking about the "Support" element of tackling life's biggest problems (per my May blog entries), this site has been a great resource for me over the years. The Community section of Mommytips provides a safe, supportive, judgement-free zone with women from all over the world. These are people who are going through, or have gone through, the same kinds of issues. There are women on MommyTips who know more about my six pregnancies (and four losses) in greater detail than any of my doctors.
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They've also given me the best ideas for peanut-free school lunches and helped me with a great "get up & go" system for the morning family routine.
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ActiTrainer: Unlike all of the above resources which are free, this one actually cost me some money. Personally I think it's worth it. I don't belong to a gym these days so maybe there's a trade-off there. It's basically a fancy digital pedometer which tracks steps, calories burned and other info. My goal is 10,000 steps minimum per day. It's one of my many sneaky ways of "working out" all day long. As my daughter so loudly shared at a recent school fundraiser, I also don't get my "treat" of a glass of wine at night until the ActiTrainer shows my 10K.
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In the event that I do structured "exercise," I wear the heart rate monitor so I can see my BPM and optimize my workout for maximum fat burning, cardio efficiency, etc. There is an online "Virtual Trainer" where I can enter and track all kinds of data. The device syncs with the website and keeps track of where I am against my goals.
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In the past, I accomplished almost the same thing (sans heart rate monitoring and other "extras") using a freebie pedometer I got at a trade show and the free version of Fitday online tracker. A great combo solution if you're not quite ready to go hard core and/or spend the money.
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As we continue on this journey together, I'm sure I'll be sharing more of my "favorites." For now, I hope this has fulfilled some of your hunger for the DO.

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