Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Think therefore I Am Invincible

You are what you think and for me, I was one of those girls who thought I was invincible and if you are what you think, than I was just that; invincible. I never feared anything. Nothing ever bothered me. It was as if I were this emotionless being living in this emotion-filled world.

I was like a bull; ready to fight at the vision of a something red. I would fight to get my point across to make sure that my point held strong and it was my point that would be chosen. I could never be wrong and always had to be right about everything. But when you are right you are right; right? Unless you are so right that you fail to see the left because you are wrong.

It was a summer-right-around-the-corner evening. I had decided to take a drive out to Philadelphia in my green 98 Nissan Altima. My little hooptie was one of those cars that if you saw it, you probably would be afraid to get on the road with it. But it had a good engine and I feared nothing, so thought “hey why not.”

My cousin had been celebrating his first communion. What a beautiful event it was. Always elucidates me to see a young person dressed in all white and looking sharp. They say if you train up a child to be upright before he hits his teenage years, you will lead him or her on the right path. His mother has done such a great job with him, so I know his future will be bright.

My cousins decided that they wanted to hit the clubs, but not close by; in Atlantic City. I am hardly a sleeper. I can get about two hours of sleep sometimes and be ready to roll for another twelve hour day.

I remember a few years back when I got cast as an extra for Mariah Carey’s movie “Glitter”, the filming was done at night beginning at 10 PM in midntown Manhattan; primarily at the limelight. I got home at about 5 AM and usually get up for work at 6 AM. Nothing could keep me from following my routine because you are what you think and I am invincible so I made it in with no problems, whatsoever. If you haven’t seen Glitter yet, here is the link to a really fabulous movie: Glitter.

So everybody decided on going to Atlantic city and we all went in our own cars, packing others in so that everybody could have a chance to be there and have fun. While everybody was partying and drinking, I held in my mind the fact that I would be driving back to New York soon because I had to make sure to make it back on time for my youth choir to sing. They usually sang every second and fourth Sunday and I really didn’t want to disappoint them by not showing up. So I didn’t drink.

When I agreed to go to Atlantic City it was mostly because a friend of mine promised to drive back to New York with me when I was ready. But of course at the moment in time, my friend wasn’t ready and so I decided that I had to make the trip on my own. Good thing I didn’t drink because it would have been more of a disaster than it turned out to be.

I’ve driven down roads that have no lights on it but never thought I’d be on the dark, two-laned Garden State Parkway at 3 AM driving for a three hour stretch to get back home. It started out fine. I had my radio on and singing always keeps me awake. I love to sing, so when I get into my car and put on my radio, it is almost as if I were on stage and performing in a live concert. I get very into it. Singing and listening was keeping me energized for a while but music can often be comforting and so I began to get tired.

Suddenly my eyes started to burn. Garden State Parkway had very little cars on it but mine. I was like the only car on the road. The exits were far apart but I was so glad to see a rest area approaching and so I got off to go get a cup of coffee. I drank my coffee and thought like usual, it would give me the energy I needed to stay awake. And so, I got back on the road and was okay for a minute. A minute was also how long it took me to close my eyes and not realize I had fallen asleep behind the wheel.

But something told me “Stephanie, watch out!” I woke up on the side bar and had drifted from the local side of the road, into the dirt and on to the express side of the road. I could imagine what would have happened if there were other cars on the road, or buses, or even trucks. Lucky for me, there weren’t any; just me on this long stretch. and it was just me behind the wheel crying my eyes out like a baby. I couldn’t help but call out to God and start praying for his protection. I couldn’t help but start singing Gospel songs I had taught my choir.

A guy I’d recently dated told me that when he is tired, he refuses to get behind the wheel because it is dangerous. I never understood it until now. Check out the article Driving while tired.: An article from: FLASH. My eyes still burned and would make the motions to close, but after three and a half hours of driving while batting my burning eyes, I finally made it into Brooklyn and found a safe place to position my car so I could take a short nap.

I got to my house at about 7:30 AM. I had never been so happy to reach home in my entire life. it was as if a victory for me to be able to walk inside and climb into my bed for about three hours before I had to head to church to direct my kids in Sunday morning worship.

I got to church and the invincibility simply broke down. I couldn’t contain the tears of joy. I actually made it through and couldn’t believe that I had almost lost my life.

I’ve tried to equate losing things with losing a life and I cannot find anything that equivocates it. I lost money and got so upset and depressed about it because it was money I earned and needed it but you can always earn more, even if it might take time to. I've lost other possessions and got mad because I wanted it not thinking they can be replaced but the thigns that you lose or let go of is to make room for other things. I've lost battles because all I wanted to do was fight and not compromise thinking that I had to be right about everything and lost friends over it but friends come and go. But a life cannot be replaced. Once the life is gone, it cannot be replaced.

When you lose someone to their new birth, it is so final. You never see them again. The only thing that is left is a memory. Life is too short to let little meaningless things become big issues or to not value the little goods because you expect everything to be big and flashy for you. Sometimes it is the little things that count the most. Like the little moments that you had that you can always go back to in time and remember in exchange for a smile. For me, I remember in the middle of the night which prevents me from sleeping. Sometimes a memory is all you have left.

I’ve fought everything in life like a bull seeing red. I thought I was strong enough to handle any and all things and never feared much in life, except death. But then I realized something. There are so many things in life that as a person, we fight. I am a shop steward for a local Union in NYC and as a union delegate, you fight for a voice and represent others to be taken seriously at the work place. As a sibling with sisters, you fight over clothes and to gain attention. You can fight for so many things in this world, but you can’t fight death. When it is your turn it is your turn; even for the most invincible person.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

JNotes - Writer's Log: My Most Creative Experience

JNotes - Writer's Log: My Most Creative Experience: "I have always loved harmony. I think it is a key portion of a song, adding this sort of uniqueness to it. What one person hears, anoth..."

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Most Creative Experience

I have always loved harmony. I think it is a key portion of a song, adding this sort of uniqueness to it.  What one person hears, another may not because some people have wider ears than others.  For one, it depends on what part of the song you hear first when it comes on.

For me, the first thing I hear in a song is the bass line. While it is at the bottom of a song, for some reason it stands out.  Music is like an easy Sunday morning for me: peacefully beautiful. Singing is my escape from the ever changing world.

A few years back, I started working with a group of kids.  I become the youth choir director for a huge church in Harlem, NY. We would meet on Saturdays to learn songs and every second and fourth Sunday, they would sing songs of praise at the church's worship service.  

I started to notice some interesting things about the young people.  The kids started to get annoyed with the song selections I was choosing and would protest them every single week saying, "Ms. Stephanie, I don't like that song." Also, the sanctuary was a very wide space and their young voices were getting strong but not at the strength that they were one day destined to be yet.  So to help them to sing stronger, I needed to find a method to build them up and songs that they would accept.

I consulted books. I found a few that were helpful with different fun exercises that I could bring to rehearsal with me.  I started to meditate to try to reach my creative center. I got advice from my peers on how to strengthen voices and they gave me concrete information that proved to work. But the attention span of young kids varies depending on the age, so I had to be able to appeal to kids from the ages of five to 14 and it wasn't an easy thing; especially on the days when they would send me home crying trying to figure out how to go about things differently.

Then one day while trekking home, I decided that I had to take matters into my own hands and did two things.  I put together a program called "Vocal Boot Camp."  Vocal Boot Camp consisted of 30 minutes of intense vocal training for expanding and strengthening vocals.  Because the choir consisted of Sopranos, Altos, and tenors, I was forced to create a thirty minute boot camp CD exclusively for sopranos, a thirty minute boot camp CD exclusively for altos, and a thirty minute boot camp CD exclusively for tenors.  I distributed one to each of the youth with hope that they would take it home and do the exercises.

Second, I made a commitment with myself that for Christmas, I had to put together a CD of Christian music written and produced by me that might appeal to them for the purpose of teaching them to sing something they might like. I worked day and night sometimes not sleeping at all to meet my deadline.  By Christmas day, I was able to complete a fourteen track CD entitled, "I Believe" featuring 10 full length songs, a short intro, two interludes, and a short outro.  I wrote every song,  played all the instruments except for the song "I Know" which featured live bass by Ozzie Jones Jr of Organic the Band. The following link is a sample of "Worthy", one of the songs on the album

On Christmas day, as a present I gave it to them. They took it home and then surprised me when some of the youth came back and asked me if they could lead some of the selections featured on the CD. I never felt more accomplished in my entire life; especially for being able to meet my milestone.  Working with those kids made me believe in myself.

Next thing I knew, they were singing songs at a level that hit me hard.  While their voices were already beautiful, they honed it to be even more.  And then all of a sudden, one of the youth came to me and asked me to make them a new updated CDs of both the vocal boot camp and of my originals.  One of the youth blessed me even more and asked me to write songs for her, which I did and produced a song for her.

Many times, I try to accomplish things and get discouraged thinking that I am wasting my time. But suddenly, confidence started to build up in me like it never had before.  You never know the things that will come into your life and help to make a difference.  For me, my greatest accomplishment was working with the youth. They helped me in so many ways to find myself and to be more openly accepting of who I really am.

Hey, if you are interested in building up your vocals, why not try my boot camp. Currently, I only have the alto vocal boot camp available.  Check out for more information.