Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Tunes

Winter is my second favorite season of the year behind Fall.  Yes, I'm a fan of snow, cold weather and even ice when it comes to ice skating.  I know it isn't Winter yet and that Chicago really hasn't had it's first official snow fall in my eyes.  Nothing has stuck to the ground yet.  I'm in full swing holiday mode.  Well, not exactly since I don't have my tree up.  I'm talking about all the holiday lights, the bustling shoppers and the wonderful Christmas music I've been playing since a few days before Thanksgiving.  Then there are the really good ones I sneak year round or for my Christmas in July.  Yes, it's never to early to listen to a catchy holiday tune. Today's blog will be about my 10 favorite holiday songs.
10.  War is Over - John Lennon & Yoko Oko
I really like songs talking about social/political issues.  I wonder if Marvin Gaye and John Lennon ever collaborated on anything.  The lyrics to Happy Xmas (War is Over) are simple, yet they tug at my heart.  The kids backing up John and Yoko are too precious.  It's has a great sing-a-long chorus part too.
9.  All I Want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey
 I liked the video for this song.  It's a very catchy little tune.  This is the perfect song to sing to a significant other while dressed up in a cute little santa suit.  Santa Baby would be fun as well, but I think there's a chance to be categorized as a gold digger.  We don't want that hovering over our pretty little heads. 
8.  It Must Have Been Ol Santa Claus - Harry Connick Jr.
Mr. Connick Jr. is a brilliant musician & composer.  His acting isn't too bad either.  Who wouldn't want to be the little kid in this story?  You believe in Santa when you're little, but once you become a big boy, you know it's dad.  Then one magical Christmas Eve you meet the big fellow and a talking Rudolph!!  Santa lets you take a ride above the city in his fancy sleigh and he gives you his cool red hat.  What an awesome ride Connick takes us on.  You know what the best part for me is?  It's the syncopated rhythm with that jive hand clap.  I love trying to keep count during the entire song.  There's a lot going with this song.  Great New Orleans feel.  This is one of the songs I play year round. 
7. Do They Know it's Christmas Time - Band Aid
It's another great social song for a good cause.  I'm still fans of some of the artists who participated in this collaboration.  It's a song that makes you realize how blessed you really are. 
6. Merry Christmas Darling - The Carpenters
For some reason Karen's voice haunts me during this song.  It reminds me of a life that vanished too soon.  It reminds me of family back east.  This is a great holiday love song for that special someone you're missing.  
5. Last Christmas - Wham
Taylor Swift and the Glee cast did a nice job with the remakes, but no one touches George Michael's rendition.  It's my you broke my heart, shame on me, screw you, now on to better things.  See it all works out in the end.  I play this song after some promising dates go sour.  It's a year round song in my household. 
4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland
I just love the way Judy Garland sung this song in the musical Meet Me in Saint Louis.  It was sung from the heart with love.  
3.  White Christmas - Bing Crosby   
When it's 95 degrees, humid and too hot during those dog days of summer, this is the song I pull out of my CD collection.  I rather have the snow over hot weather :)  A white Christmas is what most people and kids would want.  It's the quintessential postcard photo: nice ranch house, smoke coming out of the chimney, huge wreath on the door, a vibrant red bow on the mailbox, the tree showing through the living room window and a snow covered yard. 
2. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Johnny Mathis
I think my birthday is the real most wonderful time of the year, but that's in October.  The winter season is a close second.  This song excites me for what's coming.  I must confess I've experienced none of them: caroling out in the snow, roasting marshmallows, parties for hosting or mistletoeing.  Go figure.  This time of year brings forth hope for the new year.  That's what counts.  Mr. Mathis makes me happy when he sings it.  Andy Williams does a good version as well.  
1.  O Holy Night
This is my favorite holiday/Christmas song of all time!  I love Celine Dion's and Clay Aiken's version as well as many others.  The first time I really remember hearing this song was in high school.  There was a young lady name Geraldine Montgomery.  I'm sure I don't have her first named spelled correctly, so forgive me. She performed this song at the winter concert.  I remember watching in awe at how beautiful and angelic her voice sounded.  It was then where I tried to really listen to the lyrics.  As my mom drove me home from my orchestral concert, I thought about the song and wished I could sing like Ms. Montgomery.  This song, this hymn is what the true meaning of Christmas is for those of us who celebrate this holiday. 
What did you think about my list?  Yes I omitted some big ones like The Christmas Song and Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer, but it's a free country.  These were my favorites :)   Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On The Road Again

Since I've been in Chicago these 6.5 years, I haven't driven much.  I have a Zipcar membership, but have only reserved a car once.  I'm probably wasting money, but love to have the option in the event I need to run a quick errand.  One of the best things about driving I miss is listening to the radio.  I don't get good radio reception at home.  While I work, I listen to Internet radio.  It really isn't the same.  I'm kind of old school.  I loved blasting my radio and letting my hair blow.  I looked cute behind the wheel of my little Neon with the sunroof open.  This feature of Thursday Thoughts will be about some of my favorite road-trip songs.  Isn't that what summer is all about?
The 1980's had some wonderful music that I still love to listen too.  During a trip to New Orleans for the 1984 World's Fair, I kept hearing Missing You by John Waite and Drive by the Cars.  Two of the great ballets to sing to in the car.  I appreciated the power of lyrics at a young age. 
My favorite road-trip song of all time came out in 1985.  My parents were taking me to Disney World for the first time.  They drove all the way from New York to Orlando.  While our little Nissan was cruising along I-95, I must have heard The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News over twenty times.  I know it was in the movie Back to the Future; however, I now associate this song with my Disney World trip.  Mom and I loved singing it.  We probably drove dad crazy.  Even now if I hear it on the radio or play my CD, it takes me back to that wonderful time. 
I'm not a fan of the movie The Breakfast Club.  However, I must say the soundtrack rocks.  On family road-trips to Bear Mountain, Connecticut and Eastern Long Island numerous songs were played from the soundtrack.  Ironically, I didn't see the movie until 2009. 
As I reached my early teens, mom had a secret weapon to keep the peace in the car when it came to road trips.  The three of us all loved oldies.  When we were no longer in NY/NJ and couldn't listen to 101.1 for our oldies, she hurried up and found another local station that did.  Anything by a Motown artist, Elvis, Dion & the Belmonts, Johnny Maestro and the Crest or Brooklyn Bridge, The Del Vikings and Bobby Darin kept us all happy.
My solo road-trips in 2003/4 were mainly weekend getaway trips from Northern VA to Baltimore, Richmond, Annapolis or NY.  My taste in music changed to more R&B, Pop and Dance.  I had to go more upbeat to avoid getting sleepy behind the wheel.  Lots of Beyonce (Crazy in Love), Justin Timberlake (Rock Your Body), Missy Elliott (Work It) & Outkast (Hey Ya!).  Good times!!
Last week I had a long overdue vacation to the Hampton Roads section of Virginia. My dear friend Sofia was nice enough to drive me to King & Queen CH to visit my 100 year old grandma. We had a great time listening to the radio. This road-trip took us over the James River Bridge and on I-64 past Williamsburg. What were some of our favorite songs? Nelly's Hot in Here really had us jumping in our seat. It really was hot... over 100. Adele's Rolling in the Deep had us singing. Other good songs were Lady Gaga's The Edge of Glory and Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run.  We had some old songs and some new stuff to keep us company.
Do you have a favorite road-trip song?
Safe travels!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Chat with Dad

This past Sunday was Father’s Day.  Though my dad is back east in South Carolina, we still try to find time to chat a couple of times each month.  I’ve had in depth conversations with my mom, but never my dad.  He’s a private individual who doesn’t like showing his emotions.  When I told him I wanted to feature him for my blog, I wasn’t expecting a yes.  After a 90 minute conversation, I learned some stuff my mom didn’t even want to discuss.  For my Tuesday Talks, here’s an intimate conversation I had with my dad.

Cydania: How did you find out you were going to be a dad?

Dad: Your mom wasn’t feeling well for a while, she went to her doctor and found out she was pregnant again.

Cydania: Were you excited?

Dad: Of course.  Very excited. We tried for a long time.  Two years earlier your mom had a miscarriage.  We were getting up in age and didn’t think we were going to have a kid.  We went to City Island and had a lobster dinner.

Cydania: What were your first impressions of me?

Dad: You had a very hairy head.  Your hair was over an inch long.  All the nurses were like look at the hair on that baby’s head.

Cydania:  My mom also told me one of the first things the doctor said after I was born was congratulations you have a baby girl and she’s the hairiest baby I’ve ever seen.  I was cursed from a young age. 

Cydania:  I always get comments about my name.  Did you play a role in naming me?

Dad: No role.  Your mom already had the name picked out.  She wanted to know if she was carrying a boy or girl as soon as she could.  The doctors said she was carrying a girl.  You got Cydania.

Cydania: Was I a quiet baby?

Dad: You were a good baby.  You didn’t get in trouble.  No temper tantrums.  You didn’t run or knock over stuff when in the store.

Cydania: What was your favorite event with me?

Dad: We had a few.  We’d go to Flushing Meadow Park for a picnic or BBQ’s.  You liked running around.  You didn’t want to leave the park.  We were still living in the Bronx at the time.  We didn’t have a backyard.  You loved trip to the parks.  We also liked going to Orchard Park.

Cydania: I remember playing whiffle ball in Hempstead and watching wind sailors at Jones Beach.

Dad: We also went fishing a lot in Queens and at Long Beach.  You would catch more fish than me sometimes.

Cydania:  I always made you bait my line because I didn’t want to touch the worms.

Dad: When we moved to Hempstead, I got you a bike with training wheels.  You learned to ride quickly.  I didn’t have to run behind you that much once the training wheels were off.

Cydania:  Any bloopers or funny moments?

Dad: At the time it wasn’t funny.  You were learning how to walk in your walker.  You somehow got lots of speed and ended up crashing head first into the pointy end of the coffee table.  You cried, but you got back up.  You just didn’t go near that table anymore. 

Cydania:  I still have that little dent on my forehead.   I’m surprised I didn’t knock myself out.  I must have been hard headed.

Now you all have had the opportunity to meet my dad, Cliff.  Dad has always been a great provider.  He made sure that mom and I had food to eat, a roof over our heads and clothes on our back.  Though mom took care of the inner workings of the household, dad was in charge of the outside.  It was with him where I learned how to mow the lawn, trim the hedges, help change the car oil and brake pads, help dig holes for fence poles and put together a ridiculous utility shed.  Then there were times when my Pontiac broke down on Route 74 in North Carolina and dad came and got me.  He also gave me money to pay my bills when I was unemployed.

To my dad,

I thank you for being there for me and for letting me interview you on the phone for over 90 minutes.  Who knew dad could talk so much J


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guitar Time

Have you ever wished you were a kid again and playing with your favorite toy that gave you pure bliss?  I’m sure mine would have been my Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels or spending hours up and down the sidewalk in my blue and white roller skates.  I think I may have found another activity for this young 34 year old.  For this extensive edition of Thursday Thoughts, I want to share my new found passion for learning to play the guitar.

I’ve been taking guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music for seven weeks now.  I must confess that I’m having a blast!!  I can still remember my first day of class.  I was so nervous since I had never officially studied guitar.  My friend let me mess around with his guitars in the past, but I was never taught.  I’m walking into this auditorium with this amazing Takamine my friend let me borrow while at the same time being scared out of my mind.  While I mingled with the other students, I found out I’m the only beginner so far.  Yikes.  Three of the instructors asked everyone who needed tuning done to stand in one of their lines.  I stood in Linda Smith’s line.  As she tuned my instrument, I told her I was very nervous.  She asked if I was a beginner.  I felt like a four year old attending kindergarten all over again.  I timidly said yes.  Linda said it’s common to be nervous, but you’ll have fun.  She even said I’ll be able to play a song by the time lessons ended.  What??  Was she crazy?  Now I’m in shock.  All I know is that there are two E strings on the guitar.  This instrument has more strings than my violin.  I’m assuming the strings on the violin are on the guitar as well.  I find out that the beginners will have class in the auditorium while the other students perform in classrooms upstairs.  Great!  They already have us performing on the big stage in the auditorium.  Talk about pressure and being in the spotlight.

My instructor is Bob Goins, a self-taught guitarist.  He’s a long haired, hippy guy who can fingerpick like no one I’ve seen.  Oh crap!  I’ve gotten way in over my head now if he thinks the seven of us are going to play that fast.  We go around and introduce ourselves, mention previous music experience and what song we want to learn how to play.  We have some former musicians.  Half the class wants to play some Blackbird Song by the Beatles I never heard of.  I’ve been educated now J  I say I want to play Sting’s Fragile, any Rodrigo y Gabriela song or Johnny Cash’s Hurt.  Big mistake!  This is not going to happen for a while.  What does happen?  I experience lots of pain from very sore fingers as we learn the A7 and D chords.  You know what?  I loved it!!!  It takes me back to my violin days.  Linda was right after all.  We ended up playing several songs with A7 and D chords along with an early introduction to the G chord.  We played Pay Me My Money Down, Jane’s Addiction and other songs I’ve never heard of.  It’s all about learning and having fun.

I’m like the eager child wanting to get home and play with a new toy.  I practice those chords and songs at home for another 90 mins.  I didn’t put two and two together and stop after my 2 hour group lesson.  I sounded horrible, but I still wanted to play and make it right.  I was back in my violin mode of practicing 1-2 hours a day at home.  Come Monday morning, I have nasty blisters on my fingers.  Nooooo!!!  I want calluses.  Maybe this is good?  I don’t know.  I get impatient and pop them all.  Don’t do that.  Eventually, that pain goes away and my fingertips start getting rough.  Not pretty to touch, but the strings don’t hurt as much now J 

Five weeks later, I’ve added a few more chords, tried a few strumming patterns and I’ve increased slightly in my chord changes.  I’m no-where near the speed I had on the violin, but I must be patient.  I even had my first trial and tribulation when I thought about giving up.  I opted to return the dreadnought Takamine to my friend so I could buy myself a guitar.  Guitar playing is serious.  I wanted my own baby.  After a two hour stay in Guitar Center and 7-8 guitars, I fell in love with a Takamine Nex GS430S Acoustic.  I read once that once you’ve played a Takamine, you’re hooked.  So true!  I played Yamaha’s, Mitchells, a Seagull and another Takamine.  Nothing beats the tonality and resonance of a Takamine. Once I get home with my new Takamine things get sour.  What I didn’t notice in the store, I now notice at home.  My friend who tested all the guitars for me immediately noticed that the neck was too small for him, but might work with me.  I’m on the small size and didn’t find a dreadnought that fit me well.  Comfort first!!  My Takamine is a little smaller than a dreadnought, but bigger than an auditorium/body concert style.  I sound horrible on the majority of my songs.  I can’t hit most of my chords.  The neck size really messed me up.  I had to come up with a new game plan.  During my 1 hour practice sessions at home, I spend 30 mins just relearning all the chords and the next 30 mins focusing on some of the songs featuring those chords.  By Saturday, Sahara (my Takamine) meshes with me perfectly.  I just needed a little adjustment.  Sunday’s class was my best practice yet.  I was even able to keep up with the teacher on Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart.  That’s my favorite song we’ve learned so far.  That will be the one I’m going to perform during my recital.

What’s up next?  Guitar 1 Rep of course!!  I’m advancing to the next level.  I’ve signed up for another 8 weeks with the same professor.  First I have to buy a finger exerciser machine since we’ll be dealing with some complex chords.  I’ve noticed that my fingers aren’t what they used to be. 

Even when I’m at lunch or commuting, I constantly think about my guitar.  I can’t wait to go home and practice.  When I’m having a crappy day, I look at a picture of my guitar I took on my cell phone.  Sad isn’t?  My guitar is like a new puppy.  Sahara brings a smile to my face and takes me to another place where everything in the world is good and innocent.  I believe all adults should have this experience no matter what age.  Have you found your bliss?


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The List

The other day I came across an article about baby boomers and retirement.  Lots of these individuals said though they're near retirement, they have lots they want to accomplish.  Many had bucket list items.  It got me thinking.  Bucket list items shouldn't be for those late in life or near retirement.  Everyone, young and old should have a bucket list.  For my Thursday Thoughts, I'm going to mention 10 bucket list items I'd like to accomplish before I turn 40. 
10.  Friends know that I love to travel. I've always wanted to see the Great Wall of China. I know I could have picked somewhere more exotic, but the Great Wall is one of the few items you can see from space.  It's ancient and it's in a part of the world I have never been to.
  9.   I always wanted to go horseback riding on the beach as the sun sets.  It sounds romantic right?  I've never been on a horse either.
  8.   Help build a house for Habitat for Humanity.  I admire those who give their time and volunteer. 
  7.  Attend a NY Rangers game at Madison Square Garden.  I know it's shocking.  I've   seen all my Rangers games at the Cap Center, MCI Center and United Center.  I've never been surrounded by fellow NY Rangers fan.  I think it would be amazing!
  6.  Be in an exclusive, committed relationship with a nice chap.  Maybe I should give myself until I'm 60 for this one.  LOL. 
  5.  Be a mentor to a young child. I don't have any kids and haven't been around that many, but I think we could learn from each other.  I could tell the kid about art, classical music, literature and travel and she/he could teach me how to have fun.
  4.  I want to take private tango lessons and then dance the tango in Buenos Aires.  I already took salsa, merengue, cha cha and samba.  I missed my tango lesson.  The tango is a very passionate dance.  I'd love to be able to move like that.
  3.  Go skydiving.  I know it sounds crazy.  I would jump out of a plane with a parachute.  Of course it would be a tandem jump.
  2.  Be a home owner.  I don't need a huge 10 bedroom mansion on 30 acres with three lakes.  I'd like a cute two bedroom/two bathroom condo with a nice sized walk-in closet in the master bedroom :)
  1.  Write a screenplay or treatment for a television series.  I need to put those scriptwriting classes to use.
My month long blog trial is coming to an end.  I'm planning on using this time to start my creative writing again.  Who knows, I might even start a screenplay.  I'll still swing by and write something every now and then.  Thanks to all of you who read my posts and gave me words of encouragement :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bidding Adieu to the Queen of Talk

This week marks the end of one of the most successful talk shows in modern history.  Oprah Winfrey will say goodbye to her show to focus on her cable network (OWN) and her acting career among many, many projects.  For today's Tuesday Talks, I'd like to ask Ms. Winfrey a few questions.  I'll be good and not mention this job rejection letter I'm still holding on to from Harpo, Inc.  That's probably bad karma.  I should have shredded it after all these years. 
Dear Oprah,
May I call you that?  You seem personable enough for that.  I always thought we shared a common bond since we both have unique first names.  After spending 25 years in the living rooms of many homes, we've gotten accustomed to just calling you Oprah.  You were part of the family.  I recall my mom watching your show daily after General Hospital.  You had the 4pm-5pm time slot in New York when I lived there.  Of course I was doing my homework, so I didn't watch your show that much until the summer.  I do recall the show featuring the Alaskan men searching for wives.  I even taped that one.  Darn it.  If only I were older at the time.  There aren't too many places where men out number women.  You should have done more shows like that.  Maybe you can even feature a dating show on OWN.  I'm almost certain I mentioned a job I had in the past that required me to pitch show ideas to producers.  Sorry, getting off track.
We've all heard about the challenging upbringing you've had.  I commend your grit and determination to overcome all those obstacles.  What do you think were the keys to your success so far?  We know you have the brains.  Was it timing by being in the right place at the right time?   Was it networking or forming alliances?  The media can be a dirty business at times.
What were you hoping to accomplish by having your talk show?  Do you think you've succeeded?  There have been plenty of talk shows on since I've been alive.  Some have been on as long as you, others are still going and many have failed after a few seasons.
I noticed on your website that you have the 25 highest rated Oprah Winfrey Show episodes.  Do you recall any that you wished you had never done?  I still remember the episode you did when you lost all that weight.  You were in a great pair of fitted jeans and you came out with a wagon of fat equaling all the weight you lost.  I can only imagine all the pressure you probably put on yourself to try to keep the weight off.  Did you ever feel threatened by doing any of the shows?  I know you've done shows featuring the KKK or dealing with racist communities.
You worked in Baltimore, headed to Chicago and eventually started your talk show.  Why not New York or LA?  It seems like you have always had a passion for the theater and movies.  It would have seemed like either coast would have been a better fit.
In the beginning, did the network executives want you to change your format?  Did they believe Phil Donahue owned the market and that his viewers were untouchable?  What do you think about the flurry of talk shows that appeared on the radar after your success?  How did you feel about the format for Geraldo, The Jerry Springer Show, The Montel Williams Show and Ricki Lake?
If you hadn't found your niche in acting and hosting your own show, what would you be doing with your life now?  Did you have a backup career choice if things didn't go so well?
How do you deal with the harsh criticism that non-fans hold for you?  For all the good you have done philanthropy wise, there are many who still can't stand you.  They say you live in another world and that you've lost touch with the average person. 
Have do you deal with failure?  What have been some of the lessons you've learned from it?
As we wind down to the final two episodes, I thank you for paving the way for future women in this field.  We appreciate your openness, your vulnerability, your willingness to discuss challenging topics, your passion & enthusiasm and your courage to be you.  Best of luck with OWN!  If Rosie's and Sarah's shows don't work out, a dating show for minority women would be great.  Harpo, Inc should still have my cell number in their file.  You know where to find me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Real Pitchers Hit

We're almost a month from summer and it still doesn't feel like that in my part of the country.  I'm tired of all the damp, cold weather.  So much for spring weather.  When I think of summer, I think of amusement parks, cookouts, power walking and baseball.  I know the NBA & NHL have their playoffs right now.  I'm not a huge basketball fan and my NY Rangers are no longer in the hunt for Lord Stanley's Cup.  Now I focus on my NY Mets.  For this addition of Thursday Thoughts, I'd like to discuss the main aspect of baseball I despise the most: the designated hitter. 
For those non-baseball fans, the designated hitter a.k.a. the DH is an actual baseball rule that allows managers from an American League team to use another player to hit in lieu of the pitcher.  There are two leagues that make up major league baseball: The American League and the National League.  My beloved Mets play in the National League.  Notice how I said the American League uses the DH.  There is no DH in the National League unless it's interleague play or it's World Series time and those games are played at an American League ballpark.  For the first time starting this year, all All-Star games will have the DH even if played in a National League park.
I'm a baseball purist to a point.  I believe only the nine positioned players (Catcher, 1st, 2nd and 3rd basemen, SS, LF,RF, CF and Pitcher) should be able to come up to the plate and hit.  I don't want to see no stinking DH come up for an American League pitcher.  Go out there and hit and help yourself by advancing the runner and getting a sac fly.  Rumors have it that Connie Mack back around 1906 hinted at a possible DH because he got sick of seeing the pitchers attempting to hit.  Come on.  Babe Ruth started out as a pitcher.  Pitchers can hit if given the opportunity.  The DH didn't enter the rule book until 1973.  The American League used it, but the National League has yet to adopt it.  I hope they don't.
Having the DH is basically like having 10 players.  The DH doesn't even play a position on the field full-time.  Most DH's are back up 1st basemen like David Ortiz or Frank Thomas back in the day.  This player is only used for his hitting.  If you're an aging player who still has pop in his bat, but bad knees or shaky fielding skills you want to go to the American League.  You just sit on your butt the bulk of the game, make your millions and just come up 3 or 4 times and take a few swings.  Boo!!  Since the American League has adopted this rule, their batting averages have been higher of course.  They have scored more runs. 
When I think baseball, I'm more of a pitching girl.  Offense is very good, you need runs to win, but stellar pitching make the game better in my opinion.  I rather see a great old fashion pitching duel like Bob Gibson vs Sandy Koufax over a hitter's duel between Alex Rodriquez & Justin Morneau.  I love it when the pitcher is in a jam, maybe gives up a run, but the manager has faith in him and keeps him in.  The next inning, the pitcher is allowed to bat and drives in a run.  Paycheck well earned!!  Some of these National League pitchers have had a reputation of having some pop in their bat, not of the cork kind: Carlos Zambrano, Jason Marquis and Dontrelle Willis.
I'll deal with the DH during interleague play, the WS and All-Star Game.  It would be interesting to have the AL go a season without the DH so both leagues can be on the same playing level.  What do you think baseball fans?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Letter to an American Hero

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.  Before that major event, there was another war that got the wheels turning to make what we now call America.  The American Revolutionary War last from 1775 - 1783.  Numerous figures played a major role on and off the battlefield during it's time span: Samuel Adams, George Washington, John Adams and Paul Revere to name a few.  For my Tuesday Talks, I'd like to focus on a person who participated in a major event that lead to this war against England for independence.  Little is known about Crispus Attucks and those other four men who died during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770.  If given the opportunity, what would I have asked this American hero?
Dear Mr. Attucks,
You were the first person to die in what we now call the Boston Massacre.  You were a runaway slave who died amongst fellow Bostonians.  What was life like for you in Massachusetts?  When did you realize you didn't have the same rights as non-blacks?  We know more about the life of slaves from southern states, but not so much those in the north.  Though the north abolished slavery before the south, they to at one time allowed slavery across their lands.  I read somewhere that you had an alias and eventually escaped the mainland as a harpoonist on a whaling ship. 
Where you aware of the mounting tensions between the colonists and the British?  How did you remain free for so long without anyone willing to turn you in for a reward?  I also read somewhere that you had a sister that remained in Massachusetts.  Did you fear for what could have happened to her?  Lots of runaway slaves fled to Canada.  Did the thought of leaving the colonies and heading to Canada cross your mind?
What most people probably would like to know most was what lead you to be on that particular street on March 5th.  There are conflicting stories of what actually happened that night.  Some say you struck a British soldier first.  Others say you did not.  Did you know the other men who died with you that night?  Regardless of the specifics, three of you were dead on the spot.  Two others died later.  Due to your deaths, a spirit of unit for a common cause ignited the desire of freedom for all.  How does it feel to have played a major role in history not just for your generation, but for generations hundreds of years later?  Do you think your actions went in vain considering what happened in the Civil War?
Thank you Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr for the ultimate sacrifice.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Windy City Changes

Next week will be the end of an era for a political powerhouse and the start of a new beginning.  Richard M. Daley will end his tenure as Mayor of Chicago on May 16th.  He has been at the helm of this ship for a little over 22 years.  His father, the late Richard J. Daley, was Mayor of Chicago for 21 years.  As many of you have heard, President Obama's former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, will be Chicago's new mayor on May 16th.  Why did it take this long for change?  This week's Thursday Thoughts will be about term limits.
In my humble opinion, I believe 22 years for any political office is way too long: state, local or federal.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a native Chicagoan.  I'm not going to talk about voting records and policy.  I look at politics in terms of what's going on in a particular area or in the nation in general.  I believe lots of citizens fear change and vote for what they feel comfortable with.  This trend leads to incumbents being re-elected for several terms.  The status quo doesn't always gets us to where we need to be. 
From what local Chicagoans tell me, they're happy with what Mayor Daley did to the Navy Pier area and Millennium Park area.  It does look beautiful, but I sense that was more for tourism.  As much as I've heard my few years in Chicago of people complaining about high taxes, cuts in programs, high crime rate, companies relocating to neighboring Wisconsin and Indiana and poor test results coming out of our local schools, Daley still got re-elected. 
For the next election, I wish there would be a referendum on the ballot about an 8 year limit for all local and state offices.  No one can serve more than 2 terms (4 years equals 1 term).  If the president can be in office no longer than 8 consecutive years, I don't think a mayor or governor should be either.  I definitely think 6 years for a senator is too long, 2 years for a congress person is too short and a life time appointment for the Supreme Court is ridiculous. 
If we have term limits, I think we'd get more younger people involved in politics and we'd have more new ideas brought to the table.  We need to evolve more as a nation. For those rare politicians who happen to be really good at what they do, step aside after your two terms and mentor the next generation.  In all honesty, I'm sure politicians would find a loophole and be back in the same spot four years later. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Talk With Mom

This past Sunday was Mother's Day.  As I wished many a Happy Mother's Day, I reflected back on memories of my mom, the late Sarah Waymer.  Mother's Day is a tough holiday for me.  I see lots of mothers and daughters attending brunch and doing other cool stuff.  My mom died 10 years ago this month.  In fact, she died a week after Mother's Day in 2001. 
I've been without my best friend for a decade.  It would be great to have an opportunity to sit down and have just an hour long conversation with my mom.  I'd love to catch her up on what has happened and ask her what I never had the chance to.  For this Tuesday's Talks, I have this dream conversation with my mom.
Dear Mom,
It's been way too long since we've chatted.  The last somewhat happy memory I had was us watching General Hospital from your hospital room.  My boss was nice enough to let me take a two hour lunch to visit you and to feed you since you didn't want to eat.  Cancer makes you lose your appetite.  You always enjoyed watching your favorite soap opera.  You'd be very pleased to know that it's still on and that Sonny got married.
So much has happened in the world in general and in my personal life.  Thank goodness you missed the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  If the Cancer hadn't done you in, the tragedy that struck the nation would have.  Thankfully we didn't know anyone who perished that day.  As an adopted New Yorker, I know a piece of you would never have been the same.
You passed away shortly before my first television episode aired.  I was trying so hard to get all the research and re-enactments done quickly, but things get caught up in post-production.  You missed my debut by a few months.  I remembered how you never wanted me to go into television.  Yet, you stood by me and became my greatest amount of support.  When I was having difficulty researching these true-crime cases, you were always a shoulder to lean on.
I also had my first boyfriend a few years later.  It lasted for a few years, but you never had the opportunity to see me bring a date home.  I wonder if you would have liked him.  As I recalled, you wanted me to marry a reverend.  You told me to stay away from jocks.  Okay, I've gone out with a few of those, but you were right in the end. 
Mom, you always told me to go out and explore.  That I have.  Not as much as I wanted to.  I've gone on a cruise to the Caribbean, Toronto, numerous US cities and a few cities in Spain.  Traveling is very liberating and humbling.  I can't wait to head back out.  I still have the travel bug.  Hopefully one day I'll reach two of the cities you always wanted to visit: Honolulu and London.
As you predicted, I ended up in Chicago.  Don't know if that's a blessing or a curse.  It's different from the east coast.  I think you had a crazy idea I was going to be the next Oprah.  That's probably why you thought I'd end up in Chicago.  Since I've been here, hardly any friends or family have visited me.  I get by as I can.  Traveling back east, writing and long phone calls help. 
I'd like to think we had a good relationship when things didn't involve my education and upbringing.  When we were just talking it was more like a sister-sister relationship.  There were a few things I would have loved to ask you that I never did.   
I know it was considered taboo back in the 70's to have a kid late in life.  You never thought that you would have kids.  What was going through your mind when you found out you were expecting me? 
You always got upset when there was any mention of wars or anything disturbing involving our military.  I know you were very upset when your brother Linwood lied about his age, joined the US Navy and then got killed at sea a few weeks before WWII ended.  What was Uncle Lenwood like?  I know you were young when he died.  Grandma doesn't like to talk about it.  I vaguely remember hearing you tell me about that horrific day when representatives from the Navy showed up to your home and informed you of what happened.  You said grandma let out a deathly scream.  You also told me he was a good guitar player.  I'm studying guitar now. Maybe one day I'll take up piano like you did.  Uncle Lenwood looks exactly like you.  Grandma still has a picture of him in his Navy uniform hanging in the living room.
You know kids always want to please their parents.  What were some of your proudest moments involving me?  I would think it was the times I played my violin, graduation and awards night.  To a mom it could be just being a good kid and not getting in trouble.
I remember Sunday, May 20, 2001 very clearly.  You died shortly after I left the hospital.  Per dad's request, he wanted me to go home, get some rest and come back later.  I found out you died in his arms sometime during my commute back home.  I always wondered if you were upset with me for not be there.  Till this day, I still can't discuss that day with my dad. A part of me believes you knew you were going and didn't want me to see you suffer anymore.  That was how you were.  You always cared about someone else more than yourself.
I'll close by asking if there was anything you wanted to tell me, but didn't have the chance.  We all feel that we have plenty of time left to say what we want to.  In reality we're only on this Earth for a short time.  Until we meet again.
Your daughter,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dating Tips for the Alpha Female

Welcome to my second installment of Thursday Thoughts.  As several of you may know, I've been single for about five years.  Though I've read a few dating books and dating blogs, attended speed dating events, gone to singles socials and tried the well known online dating websites, I still haven't been able to really click with someone.  After so many unsuccessful dates, there comes a time when you can't keep saying it's always the guy's fault. I never really thought that.  I'm very guarded when it comes to dating for my own personal reasons.  I figured I had to start digging deep to see what I could be doing to turn off potential suitors.  I attended a two hour local dating seminar.  The advice I received was great!  I can't keep all this knowledge to myself.  There could be other fellow Alpha Females out there who could use this information.
First the audience was given a broad definition of an Alpha Female.  She's one who likes to be in control and plan everything.  At times she's high maintenance & expects the guy to act/dress a certain way. She also tends to be non-flexible, very career oriented & very confident. Sound familiar?
The panel said this is not what the majority of the men want out there.  I can clearly remember the gasp coming from the audience, including my mouth.  We professional women found nothing wrong with that description.  How can a man not want to date one of us?  We're strong, confident & intelligent women.  It was at this moment when we were all educated on the 8 Good Dating Behavior tips.
These 8 dating tips make up the acronym S-O-F-T-E-N-U-P.  Be more feminine by softening up.  Guys don't want to date the female version of themselves was the key the panel stressed.
S-Smile.  Even if you're having a bad day.  Show off those pearly whites and new lipstick.
O-Open Arms( no crossed arms, it makes you appear closed off)
F-Forward Leaning (show interest by leaning in/inching closer)
T-Touch appropriately (the hand, the knee..aka flirt a little)
E-Eye contact (no need to stare, a quick glance here and there, bat those lashes)
N-Nodding (it shows you're paying attention)
U-Undivided attention (no distractions, no textings, checking messages, etc.)
P-Positive (do have confidence, but not cockiness & no attitude) 
I also learned during this seminar that lots of women make the mistake of approaching the date like they're HR managers.  Don't interrogate the date.  Don't ask him right off the back, where he works, how big his house is, what kind of car he drives, when do you want to have kids, etc.  Try to dress more lady like and leave the power suits at home/work if you can.  You can always carry the jacket with you and bring a cute flirty top to change into before your date.  Don't wear too much makeup to the point the guy doesn't know what "you" really look like.  Makeup should enhance your natural beauty.   
For those that prefer online dating, a great photo, tagline and bio are your first impressions.  Don't chose a glamor shot or one of you all decked out to the nines.  That was my fault.  This gives off the appearance you're too high maintenance and intimidating.  If you're in a ballgown in a fancy banquet hall, you might automatically turn off a bunch of guys who feel they can't compete with that.  You don't want the guy to say, "She would never want to go out with me the 6th grade teacher.  She's looking for a CFO."  Have a great close up of you, looking natural and having a great time.  If you love sailing, a great shot of you at the helm of the boat would be awesome. For your bio, pick two or three adjectives about yourself and then briefly tell a story using those words. 
We women need to stop being picky.  Every guy is not going to be 6'0", have an MBA, be a world traveler, own a new condo and take home a six digit salary.  Your match might be 5'7", have an associates degree and not own a passport.  This is the guy who more than likely will call when he says he will, treats you like a queen, has set work hours and is happy as long as you're happy.  He's not the Alpha Male: basically the same characteristics as the Alpha Female. 
The final point the panel requested is that we women leave our inner CEO at home.  Lots of us are working and/or have advanced degrees and top leadership positions with our employers.  These strengths play against us in the dating world.  Some of us talk too much about our jobs, career goals, degrees we have, upcoming projects, etc.  Don't do that on a date.  Most men will get intimidated or they think she'll be great to hire, but not to date.  This is why you won't get asked for your number or why they will never ask you out for a second date.
I put the 8 Good Dating Behavior tips to use on a recent date.  So far so good.  We've both agreed to a second date.  I'd love to hear your comments/tips as well.  Happy Dating!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Friend Till the End

There's a quote by Thomas Jefferson that says, "But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine." 
Today's Tuesday Talks is about friendship.  True friendship is very rare indeed.  I have the pleasure of featuring one of my dearest friends, Jackie, who has known me for over 20 years.  I must confess that being a friend of mine is no easy task.  I wouldn't say I'm a prima donna, but I do have a habit of relocating frequently.  This means Jackie has kept in touch with me annually for twelve moves covering four states to be exact.  I'm honored that she kept updating her address book with my information.  I hope she used a pencil. 
To me, friendship means being there during times of joy and during times of sorrow.  Friendship is when one takes time out of their busy schedule to reach out to you and say hello.  Without further ado, let me introduce you to one of my besties: Jackie.
Cydania: How long have we been friends?
Jackie: Fall 1989. 
Cydania: Where did we first meet? 
Jackie:   We met in the 8th grade.  We were probably in the same homeroom in 7th, but I didn't know you at all.  8th Grade you were in a few classes with me.  I think we became friends in English, Mr. Overmyer's class.  I sat behind you, alphabetical order :)
Cydania: When you have a fellow classmate with a last name near the end of the alphabet, you will be near each other quite often. 
Cydania: What does friendship mean to you?   
Jackie: Our friendship... means alot to me.  You are one of my oldest friends dating back.  I admire your maturity at such a young age.  You are non-judgmental (at least you don't convey any judgment when I tell you things.)
Cydania:  Have we ever gotten in a dispute and not communicated with each other for a while? 
Jackie: No, because you are not argumentative.  I would say there are times when we don't talk but that's more because of our busy lives and the fact that we don't live close to each other.
Cydania: Best friendship memories? 
1) Hanging out, admiring the NYC skyline and having a drink at the top of 230 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.  
2) You visiting me in DC during my summer internship. We watched a preempted Mets/Yankees game at the ESPN Sports Zone.
3) Picking you up at LGA and going straight to the Mets game at Shea.  You changed in the parking lot while no one was near us.  Ha ha!
Cydania: What are some common interests we have?  
Jackie: METS METS METS.  We are both big sport fans, plus we are like-minded Democrats and loved playing in the orchestra at school growing up.
Cydania:Why do you think we are still friends? 
Jackie: I would say the wonder of email kept us close in college (when you moved out of state). I honestly don't think we would still be this close had it not been for that.. maybe i am wrong.  Plus, you are such a wonderful person and friend!  I love you!
I have many more friendship memories I could share about Jackie.  I remember the time we went to Philadelphia for our 8th grade National Honor Society trip.  After we toured the historical sites, I bought a huge Jordan Knight poster and couldn't stop grinning.  I still have those photos that I will not post.  Very bad hair day.  Don't laugh, NKOTB (New Kids on the Block) are touring this year.  Jordan is still the lead singer.
Another time, we went to Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS between the Mets and Cardinals at Shea.  We were all decked out in Mets gear except for that one Scott Rolen fan in our section.  The winner would go to the World Series.  I flew to NY for this game.  Even though Endy Chavez made an amazing catch in the outfield, we still lost.  That was a very sad & long drive back to Long Island :(
The most touching friendship gesture that Jackie did was when she drove down from NY to be with me days after my mother passed away from cancer.  Jackie was busy with her own responsibilities and college, but she felt that she needed to be with me.  That meant the world to me.  I was a complete wreck emotionally and physically.  Jackie comforted me and gave me the love and support I didn't even get from some immediate family members.  For that, I can't thank Jackie enough.
If you are fortunate enough to have one or a few really close friends, tell them what their friendship means to you. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Save the Music ~ Enrich Your Mind

 We are a day away from the wedding of the century.  Instead of focusing this first feature of Thursday Thoughts on William and Kate, I want to discuss a matter that's near and dear to my heart: music education.
It seems that more and more school districts each year are canceling their music programs when it comes to budget cuts.  School boards don't get it that social studies, physical education and math are all equal when it comes to the overall success of a young student.
My first introduction to music was from my mom.  She was a talented singer and pianist though she never went professional.  She just won the majority of her school talent shows or came in first and second place.  Mom even offered to play the piano for some of her classmates who participated as well. 
I had my first musical performance in a Seventh-Day Adventist pre-school.  We sung Jesus Loves Me This I Know.  I remember destroying my doll collection trying to find the perfect baby Jesus for the performance.  Luckily for me, that wasn't the end of my musical experience when I enrolled in public school.
I was very fortunate to grow up in a school district on Long Island, NY where music education started young: 2nd grade.  Not only did we study the basic school subjects, we were required to be in chorus.  For those who couldn't carry a tune, we had simple musical instruments: triangle, cymbals, drums and tambourine.  The most exciting thing that happened to me was when an orchestra & band performed in my school's auditorium.  I don't recall if it was the principal or assistant principal, but we were told that the following school year we could learn to play one of the instruments on the stage.  I immediately fell in love with the saxophone and the violin.  After considering the pros & cons of each, I opted for the violin.  The violin sounded like a human voice to me.  With that, one could passionately play what they felt inside.  That started a life long love for the instrument and classical music in general.
Music education helps develops a child's mind & builds self-confidence.  Learning a new instrument takes dedication, it takes good math skills to be able to count the beats, it allows for creativity which comes in handy for improvisation exercises and it introduces you to team work or even a leadership position if you become the concertmaster/lead chair.  The benefits of studying music don't end there.  Students can also be introduced to other cultures via their musical instruments.
I hope future generations will be able to experience the joys of performing in a music ensemble while in school.  Don't let the talents of a future Wynton Marsalis, Hilary Hahn or Renee Fleming go undeveloped.  For those who played an instrument long ago and stopped, try to pick it up again, donate it or try a new instrument.  Wish me luck as a start my 8 week Guitar 1 class this Sunday!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Heart to Heart Talk With Myself

This year marks a big milestone for me.  I'll be turning 35 in the fall.  As I sit at my desk and reflect on what I've done with my life till this point, I see a fabulous highlight reel along with some major disappointments. 
Wouldn't it be great if we had the opportunity to go back in time and guide our younger self?  I think it would be pretty awesome!!  We could possibly be stopped from making a horrible mistake or be given words of encouragement to continue pursuing our goals even when it seems like it'll never happen.
My first Tuesday Talks blog will feature me talking to my 13 year old self.  As I recall, 1990, was a challenging year.  It's those awkward times as a new teenager when you're trying to find yourself and create your own identity.  I was also in the 9th grade, the first year of high school.  These are the times you should really focus on your school work and seriously consider a career path you'd like to follow.  Besides that, there's peer pressure, dating dilemmas, proms, drivers ed, college applications, SAT's and ACT's to name a few.  
Here is my advice to the timid, studious 13 year old Cydania as she prepares for her first day at North Babylon High School in New York.
Dear Cydania The Younger,
1. Please don't always keep your head in the books.  It's okay and encouraging to have a social life.  Compromise with your mother so you can go out and have fun with your friends once a week.  It's really beneficial to be social and people oriented.  This helps greatly as you get older and need to network or want to ask a cute boy out.  There's more to the world than the four walls in your house and in your room. 
2.  Cydania, carefully choose a career path.  Pick one with longevity, where there will be a constant need for your skills & one where you can make a difference.  Perhaps moms are right?  You've had really good grades, so no wonder she wants you to go in the medical, legal or educational field. 
3. As a well known goo-die two shoes, I'd say it's okay to be rebellious once in a while.  Have a little fun.  It goes back to living a little.  I'm not saying go ahead and do something completely stupid that will land you in jail or harm another person.  If you have a curfew, stay out a little later and see what happens.  Do find a pay phone and call saying you'll be late :)
4. Pay more attention in Science, Technology & Math classes.  You have no idea how cool it will be 20 years later to be a computer geek.  Atari has nothing on what the video game consoles of the future will be like. 
5. As an American, enjoy your youth and innocence.  It appears every decade or so there's something that defines that generation.  You'll remember where you were 50 years down the road when it happened.  Yours was probably the Challenger explosion.  There's a much greater danger ahead.  Continue to not be ignorant to worldly events & other cultures no matter how far away you are.
6. Be more family oriented.  I know I know.  Older people are not as cool as teenagers.  However, you do have a very hip 79 year old grandma.  You were one of a handful of grand-kids that didn't grow up near immediate family.  Try to visit those out of state more often, call, write and go to family reunions if possible.  You never know.  You might learn something or heaven forbid have fun.  There will always be delicious southern cooking :)
7. If there's only one suggestion you chose to follow, do your best to have more talks with your mom.  There's now a term for her: tiger mom.  It will be to your benefit to engage in mother/daughter talks and just enjoy each others company.  Talk about boys, how do you know when you're in love, how life was decades earlier and other stuff before it's too late. 
Your biggest supporter,
Cydania The Elder
PS-You better remain a Mets fan though dark days are ahead.  Don't worry about the Rangers, they'll win the Stanley Cup before you know it. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Embracing the 21st Century

I'm a little late joining the dance, but at least I'm here. After staying in the 20th century for an extra decade, I've finally upgraded to an entry-level smart phone, an i-Pod, an e-Reader, a Twitter account and now a blog. I also realized I might have a small addiction to texting and the Angry Birds phone app. That's okay right? This means my reflexes won't slow down as I age. I'm also stimulating my brain. All that's left is to dispose of the tube TV and get a high-definition, LED, flat-screen TV with 3D capabilities. Just kidding...I still haven't recovered from the day my VCR kicked the bucket.

Seriously, what I hope to accomplish is a successful introduction back into writing and into what gets the wheels spinning in my mind. I've named my blog Talks and Thoughts. In my Talks feature, I plan to compose conversations I've had or would love to have with family and friends, and dream chats with cultural or historical icons. My Thoughts feature allows me to leave comments, wishes or ideas on a topic of my choosing.

This is my trial period just to get my feet wet and to see if I have the dedication and wit it takes to be a blogger. I hope you'll join me on this journey for Tuesday Talks and Thursday Thoughts officially starting Tuesday, April 26th. Until then, keep embracing your inner talks and thoughts.