Don’t Give Me Songs, Give Me Something to Sing About

Today’s post is in participation with Women On Writing’s mass-blogging event, Everybody is Talking About Finding the Music in Life. We are celebrating the release of Sonia’s Song by Sonia Korn-Grimani. To read Sonia’s post and follow our symphony of participating bloggers visit The Muffin. Share your comments on any participating blog for a chance to win a copy of Sonia’s Song!

Sonia’s Song is the story of one girl, who rises from war’s ashes to sing the songs of hope and love world-wide. A heart-wrenching and poignant memoir, by internationally renowned singer Sonia Korn-Grimani.

 

 

I have been singing since I learned how to speak. So to ask me how I find music within life is like asking me how I find music within a song. You just cannot have one without the other. I think the best way I have been able to describe my feelings about music was in a paper I wrote for my high school choir class. The teacher read it aloud to everyone, and ultimately decided to put it on the choir page in the yearbook:

“Music is the greatest and purest expression of emotion. Every high or low, the greatest ecstasy, the most crushing depression, the most intoxicating hatred or love are all best understood through music: the universal language. People don’t have to understand the words used, because they will hear the passion in the song and know what is being said. Sometimes words just aren’t enough. When a word has yet to be invented for so strong a feeling that it is overwhelming, a song is born.”

I still believe this (although I’m sure every artist will tell you the same thing about her/his own medium of art).

For my twenty-first birthday, my gift to myself was a tattoo. I wanted something that I knew I would always love. Since I didn’t have any children at the time, the answer was clearly music. Nothing will ever take the music from me.

The notes are a line from the Moulin Rouge song, “Come What May,” and the words for the line are: “Listen to my heart, can you hear it sing?” Because when music affects you as much as it affects me, even your heart sings.

 

I’d like to leave you with a short excerpt from my novel, Finding ‘Ohana, of Cinnamin and Naali’s first date:

 

I’d been scared to let Naali know how I thought of her, but I’d still dressed up for her, hoping she might think of me the same way. We went to see The Princess and the Frog, which I had suggested because I’m such a Disney nut. I was excited to see the newest princess movie, but I was more excited for an excuse to see Naali outside of class. I’d had no idea it was a date until halfway through the movie.

My eyes had been glued to the screen as the Cajun firefly, Ray, started singing about the evening star, Evangeline. I’d been too nervous to look at Naali in the seat next to me.

Look how she lights up the sky, ma belle, Evangeline, Ray sang of his true love.

My eyes flicked over to Naali. She was not looking at the screen. Instead, her gaze was focused on me. My face had burned at getting caught looking at her during the romantic song, and I’d retreated to watching the movie again.

Love always finds a way, it’s true. And I love you, Evangeline. A trumpet solo had played and I’d felt Naali’s hand reach for mine. Shocked, I’d turned to her, but her eyes were closed, head swaying gently to the music. I let her fingers intertwine with mine. 

Donating Hair!

So I have finally grown my hair out 10 inches and I am ready to donate it!

I’ve donated my hair a few times in the last five years, and I always go through a new organization. This year I’m going with Locks of Love.

They make children’s wigs because kids grow so fast that they need new wigs more often than adults.

(A couple other organizations that turn donated hair into a new opportunity for children and adults facing hair loss are Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths and Wigs for Kids.)

A lot of people don’t know that it takes not one, but six hair donations before one wig can be made. This was the inspiration for my untitled novel I’m working on, which follows the six strangers who unknowingly come together to help create a wig for a seventh character, whom they will never meet. It’s amazing to me how much people touch the lives of others without ever realizing it or even seeing the face of the person whose life they’ve changed.

Anyway, I’m still researching the procedures of the organizations that take wig donations, but stay tuned for more info on my new novel!

 

In the meantime, how about I placate my readers with an excerpt from my written novel? I know you’re hungry for more!

I’ve discovered through my writing that I have kind of an odd fascination with hair. It will come out fully in my untitled novel, but even in Finding ‘Ohana hints can be found.

Before we get to the excerpts though, here’s a reference for what Cinnamin looked like throughout most of high school:

 

The first excerpt below is from Cinnamin’s first day of kindergarten, when she meets Lucas. Then we fast forward to a camping trip during Cinnamin’s senior year of high school.

 

I sat down to join him where he was building a tower out of blocks on the floor. His white-blonde hair was styled in a mushroom-cut, and he was already wearing Coke-bottle glasses, even at such a young age.

After a while, he said, “I’m Lucas. What’s your name?”

“Ethelfleda,” I said.

He scrunched up his face, but kept his gaze on the building blocks.

“You can call me Ethel if you want.” But I did not really like either option.

“Nah. You don’t seem like an Ethel.”

I could not disagree.

He finally looked up from the blocks and smiled. “I like your hair.”

I smiled back. My hair was down for the first day of school, and it already reached almost to my waist. “Thank you,” I said. It got in the way, being so long, but I loved the color. It was the one part of myself that I always thought was beautiful. (Until I met Naali and she helped me see that every part of me was beautiful.)

“It looks like cinnamon,” Lucas had said.

That morning, during recess, Lucas had called me Cinnamin on the playground. It felt more connected to me than Ethelfleda ever did.

A spark had landed in my hair. Lucas had tackled me to the ground before I had even felt the heat from the fire as it quickly spread closer to my face.

But I could not tell my parents that, because they did not know Lucas was on the camping trip. So I returned home, hair suddenly falling only a few inches past my chin (although the longest chunk reached as far down as my shoulder blades). My parents were furious. Especially because we still had to go to church. Mom did her best to tie it back, but I nonetheless earned plenty of pointed looks from the other members of the church. We went to a salon that afternoon so it would not look so ragged, and the stylists told us that it might never grow back. I found myself not being so upset by this information. All that hair was heavy, and it felt good not to have its weight on me anymore.

As the edges were cut away, an actual style began to take shape. I stared at the mirror as my face stopped being one of a pathetic, shy little girl, and turned into the face of a girl with attitude. Even wearing my most modest dress, I looked like a different person. I looked like a movie star.

Barefoot Summers

I wrote today’s post as part of the WOW – Women on Writing’s “Everybody’s Talking About Favorite Childhood Memories” mass-blogging event celebrating the release of Finding Emma by Steena Holmes.

Steena is a woman who believes that “in the end, all things succumb…to the passions of your heart.” Steena’s life revolves around her family, friends and fiction. Add some chocolate into the mix and she’s living the good life. She took those passions and made them a dream come true by pouring her heart into each of her stories.

Finding Emma has quickly become a bestseller. Proceeds from each book will be donated to The Missing Children’s Society of Canada – an organization dedicated to reuniting families. Visit www.mcsc.ca for more information.

If you comment on today’s post on this blog or any of the others participating the “Everybody’s Talking About Favorite Childhood Memories” day, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Finding Emma! 

To read Steena’s about childhood memories and view a list of other blogs participating in the “Everybody’s Talking About Favorite Childhood Memories” day please visit The Muffin.

 

 

It’s been getting warmer lately – even though it’s still officially spring, it feels like summer. And who can help but think of childhood in the summer? There was something magical about the freedom that came with those long, sunny days. Even once I was old enough to have a summer job, and even now that there is no difference  for me whatsoever between the last day of school and the first day of summer, my childhood memories are brought back to me by a sweet summer breeze.

There is a part of me that still wants to make-believe a world full of fairies and magic, that still cannot think of dandelions as weeds rather than pretty flowers to make necklaces with,  that still wants to run through tall grass and talk to trees like the Disney Pocahontas, that still sees summer as a freer time when anything is possible.

This week I found a place that my childhood self would have loved. The thing is, there is probably nothing special about it to the general grown-up. Every so often we came across some purple clover blossoms,

but they were few and far between, not to mention much shorter than the tall grass. I had to watch my feet in order to pick them out. And other than that the field was just a patch of weeds to the unimaginative eye, like Thumbelina first thought the Vale of the Fairies was.

Thumbelina sings and the “patch of ordinary weeds” becomes a garden bursting with color and life, winter becomes summer, and she becomes a fairy. Every child’s imagination has the same power that Thumbelina’s song has.

To a kid the field I found this week is an unexplored wilderness full of possibilities. The grass would come up to the waist of childhood me, all the way up to my chest in some places. And the field is so big even the dullest imagination could pretend that it stretched for miles and miles until the suburban cloned husks of homes in the background were invisible.

In that field, childhood me might have been a tiny fairy, stranded with a broken wing in a human’s backyard, surrounded by birdhouses the human had put up around the garden. Or childhood me might have been a young Native American girl, not unlike Pocahontas, bored with the quiet life and unaware of the adventures to come. Or childhood me might have been content to just run, barefoot and free in the tall grass and sing all her favorite songs as loudly as possible, knowing that no one would be able to hear.

In the middle of the field, surrounded by several acres of flat land overcome by natural grass, was a tree. A single tree in the center of a small circle of dirt, the only clearing in the whole field.

Trees are one of those things for me. I just can’t get enough of them. I am a tree-hugger. In a book I read as a kid the main character tried kissing a tree once, and said they tasted like blackberries. I’m not ashamed to say that I tried it after reading about it. I wouldn’t necessarily do it again, but I’d say smokey blackberries is a fairly accurate, if romantic, description.

When I was little, my brother and I used to climb trees at the park almost more than we would play on the playground there. I preferred to do so barefoot. If the bottom branch of a tree was too high for us, our dad would pick us up and place us on it

so we could climb up the rest of the way as far as we could go.

One of my best friends, Katie, has said that her first impression of me was that I was a wild child because I had to climb down barefoot from halfway up a twenty-foot tree in order to be introduced to her.

This particular tree in the field this week reminded me of Grandmother Willow from the Disney movie, Pocahontas.

You should know that Pocahontas was huge for me as a child. I saw it twice in theaters, a lot for a six-year-old, and I got the VHS for my seventh birthday.

Maybe the movie wasn’t exactly accurate, but I loved it. I adored the way Pocahontas respected nature, the way she was awed by it. I knew the words to “Colors of the Wind” by heart and could sing it without music before the movie even came out (the song was in a preview before The Lion King, and I probably watched the preview more than the movie it preceded).

In any case, this tree, rooted in an almost perfect circle of earth, in the middle of an enormous field,  felt like a magic place. Summer brought me back to my childhood self.

 

 

 

To close, I want to include a summer childhood memory of Cinnamin’s, the main character in my novel, Finding ‘Ohana. Truth be told, it is my own childhood memory, with only the least significant details changed:

 

When we got off the plane, our first stop was the beach. As soon as our feet touched sand, we dropped our enormous suitcases that would get us through the semester and made a run for the waves. We had worn our swimsuits under our clothing for hours and hours just for that moment.

I was shocked at how warm the water was. Of course I knew the air was warm in Hawai‘i, but I thought all bodies of water were inherently cold, no matter what part of the world they were in. The next thing I knew, I was neck-deep in salt water. I floated with the waves, letting them wash away my exhaustion from the flight. One went higher than I expected, and I found myself sputtering the salt out of my mouth.

I was instantly brought back to our family trip to Florida. I could not have been more than eight years old. Billy was just a toddler, playing in the sand with Mom while Dad took me out past where I could touch the ocean floor. He held me above the waves, swinging me in and out of them as they swelled around us. I was scared to be where I couldn’t reach, where I had no control, but I trusted my dad. He laughed at my joyful screams. It was one of my happiest memories of him, probably because I was still innocent – the part of me he could not accept had not emerged yet. I had not had the taste of salt water in my mouth and nose since then, until I was in another ocean, thousands of miles away.

New Beginning

I’ve gotten some feedback that the beginning of Finding ‘Ohana is a little slow, and that it gives too much away too soon. So I’ve written a short alternate opening. I’m still deciding if the voice works with the rest of the book, but I thought I’d post what I have here:

 

I had been to funerals before, but not like this. Never like this. Everyone else on the boat and riding the waves around it, everyone but me, was in aloha wear: a white background covered in bright blue Hawaiian flowers. Even the ocean matched them. But I was wearing the black and white memory of a time when I had been happy.

The boat rocked gently on the waves, like a baby’s basinet. A few people around me closed their eyes and reveled in the salty breeze. They looked as though they were relaxing. As though this were just another day at sea. As though they had not just lost a person that had held them together like glue.

I suppose they still had each other to hold them together. They were a family, and to them that meant they could never be alone.

The boat lurched more vigorously than usual, and I gripped the edge to remain upright, although no one else seemed affected. The boat returned to its rocking, gentle as a cradle. I held on, knowing that if I let go I would fall, cradle and all.

Ihupani started the funeral by reminding us all why we were there. But I knew why. We were there because of me. Because I wanted to have a baby.

Hawaiian Wedding

Hawaiian Wedding

Since earlier today I posted about my next novel, I thought I would take the time to show off my resources for Finding ‘Ohana. When I was writing Cinnamin and Naali’s wedding, I based it off of the information I found at the site linked above, with the obvious changes necessary for a ceremony with two brides.

I started researching Hawaiian weddings so I could understand how Naali might want their wedding to be like. But once I saw exactly what the customs are, I couldn’t help but incorporate them in the story. What can I say, I’m a sucker for symbolism.

 

When Naali and I had stood on this beach four years ago, I had been so nervous, knowing that all those eyes were on us. I had wriggled my bare toes in the sand, happy to have the long gown conceal my fidgeting. All I had wanted was to be somewhere, anywhere, alone with Naali and to kiss her all over, starting with my two favorite freckles on her shoulder, just above her collarbone.

“Love is an eternal bond,” the Kahuna said after he had welcomed our friends and Naali’s family to celebrate our marriage. “Just as these leis are unbroken circles, so will your love for one another have no end.” He pulled two leis from the small table that had been set up behind him. Also on the table were a large leaf and a wooden bowl filled with water.

“Each flower in the lei,” the Kahuna said as he handed one lei to Naali, “continues to have its own individual beauty when it is added to the circle.” He handed me the other lei. “Its beauty is enhanced by the rest of the flowers. In your marriage you will keep your own individual identity and beauty. Also like the lei, your beauty is enhanced by the beauty of your partner – it is with the support of your relationship that you will grow more fully into the person with whom your partner fell in love.”

Naali reached up to put her lei around my neck. “Lei no, au ko, aloha.” Please wear my love like a beautiful lei.

I closed my eyes as the lei fell over my face. I felt the tips of Naali’s fingers brush my cheek. She did not let go of the lei until it was resting on my chest, and I could feel the warmth of her hands lingering on my skin. My face became hot and my smile turned embarrassed as I wondered if anyone had noticed. But I only briefly thought about the other people there; when Naali’s hands left my chest, I opened my eyes, and all I could see was her.

I gingerly put my lei around Naali’s neck, too embarrassed to touch her as intimately as she had touched me. “Lei no, ow-koh, aloha,” I fumbled through the line I had practiced with Naali yesterday.

She reached up to flip her hair out so that the lei rested underneath it, and slid her hands to grasp mine, still at her shoulders. She squeezed gently, reminding me that we were the only two people there – the crowd was watching a wedding, but we were the only ones experiencing it. I relaxed, and was able to feel the warmth in her skin instead of only touching it. We moved our hands in front of us again, so our bodies were connected by two sets of arms reaching toward each other.

“Continue to celebrate your love,” the Kahuna said. “And may these leis be a reminder to you of the bond you share.” We’d had the leis preserved after the wedding. They were still hanging behind glass on the wall in our living room. I had not been able to bring myself to take them down when I went to our house after the hospital, to get the things Kalani and I needed.

‘Apona handed a ring to Naali, and Lucas handed the other to me. I turned it over and over in my hand as I listened to the Kahuna recite the vows.

“Manaali‘i, do you take Cinnamin to be your wife, to have and to hold from this day forth, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health? Do you promise to treasure her in your heart as the special makana that she is to you? And do you promise to respect, love, and cherish her, as long as you both shall live?”

“I do.”

Naali’s voice was strong, and unwavering, as it always was. But she allowed softness to it as well. She drew out the last vowel, sinking it into a whisper. Her promise was not for the ceremony, or because it was the standard response to the question she had been asked, it was for me. Only for me. I saw our lives stretch out in that promise, further than the ocean stretched into the horizon. I saw us both as old women, hands still entwined as they were when we began.

I answered the same when the question was posed to me, and I tried to give Naali my full meaning in those two syllables. I squeezed her hands, trying to make all my love for her flow down my arms, concentrate in my fingers, and course into Naali’s hands so that she could feel exactly what I felt. When I told her this later, she’d said she did feel it, for me.

At the Kahuna’s request, Naali and I reached out, with our rings resting in the palms of our hands. He took the wooden bowl and the leaf from the table behind him. Naali had told me beforehand that the bowl was made of Koa, the most precious hardwood in Hawai‘i – it represented integrity and strength as the foundation in our marriage. It was filled with water from the ocean not twenty feet from us.

The leaf was a Ti leaf, the symbol of the gods, and represented prosperity, health, and blessing of mind, body, and spirit.

The Kahuna dipped the leaf into the bowl of water, and sprinkled three drops first onto the ring in Naali’s hand, and next onto the ring in mine, symbolizing all of our relationship’s hindrances being washed into the Pacific. Both our separate and shared pasts were cleansed in the salt water so that we could begin anew.

Ei-Ah Eha-No. Ka Malohia Oh-Na-Lani. Mea A-Ku A-Pau,” the Kahuna chanted. May peace from above rest upon you and remain with you, now and forever. “E Ke Akua, E Ka Uhane Hemolele.” Bless these rings and those who wear them. May they be eternally surrounded by Divine love and light.

Naali placed her ring on my finger and repeated the Kahuna’s words: “With this ring, I wed you, Cinnamin, my Evangeline, for today, for tomorrow, and for all the years to come. Please wear it as a sign of my love and that you have chosen me to be your wife.”

I did the same for Naali when she was done. When the Kahuna said, “You may now kiss your bride,” I nearly glanced out at the crowd of faces staring at us. But Naali squeezed my hands, and I shifted my gaze to her face. She was beaming. I forgot that anyone else was there on the beach. Our lips met, and moved together slowly. It felt sweet, with a hint of passion underneath.

And the Kahuna pronounced us married. We did not have a marriage license or certificate, but Naali had said that did not matter. When we had first announced our engagement, Ihupani told me that we were already married, as far as their family was concerned. I was already part of their ‘ohana.

“The wedding itself isn’t even so much about making it official,” Ihupani had said. After all, nothing was really being made official on that day. “It’s more about celebrating the bond you already have.”

Still, as we entered Kamea and Ihupani’s house for the wedding reception, we were introduced, for the first time, as Manaali‘i and Cinnamin Makaiau. And it felt official.