Welcome to “Hot Step Granny Speaks Her Mind”

Greetings to my intelligent, smart ass friends of any age, race, gender identity, or planetary affiliation. This blog is about Aging with Gusto.

I’m talking about bringing our whole selves to the feast of life at any age. I will hold forth on Fashion, Humor, Politics, Relationships, Sex, Spirituality — and anything else that seems fun or newsworthy.

Disclaimer: Refrain from reading if you are unwilling to be occasionally shocked, pissed off and/or amused by the contents.

Opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, but feel free to borrow any that make sense to you. If you do quote me, please give credit and send other people here to read my blog (hotstepgranny.com). I’ll do the same for you — if you have a blog. (BTW, why don’t you have a blog?)

Thank You, Mom

  

Hi! It’s the official day when we celebrate love. I’m blessed to have lots of people that I love in my life. The person I’m thinking about  this afternoon, though, is my first beloved — my mother.  I lost her more than half my lifetime ago. Well, I didn’t exactly lose her. She died and I couldn’t call her on the phone anymore. I still have the gifts she passed to me as an artist, teacher and humorist.

Before she had children, my Mom was a nursery school and kindergarten teacher. She was brilliant at encouraging the children in her life to express their creativity and make stuff. I remember fingerpainting at the kitchen table, cutting out paper dolls and snowflakes, and singing lots of songs with her. She even wrote songs for all kinds of birthdays and other occasions so I always had the idea that I could do that too. She taught me to knit and crochet, and enlisted the help of my grandmothers to teach me more crocheting and embroidery. She was always delighted with anything that I produced creatively.

My mother played piano really well and could  sightread and play by ear. I wanted to play too, but she wisely decided to have me study with someone else and she made me wait to take lessons until my legs could reach the pedals. Luckily, I was tall for my age, and started piano lessons at age 7.

I hated that she smoked cigarettes but I would go sit with her in the kitchen where, in the evenings, she usually sat by herself smoking, reading and playing solitaire. I went in sometimes to sit at the same table to do homework, and other times to play cards with her. That’s where I started becoming a humorist because we would play and tell stories and jokes and laugh and laugh and laugh. My father would come in but he couldn’t stand how fast we talked and the way my mother and I could talk at the same time and still understand each other, overlapping with ears wide open. He also just didn’t get our sense of humor which sometimes had no content at all. The point was the laughter and we often laughed until we cried, a necessary release for the mother of 5 children and her oldest child who was precociously terrified about what she knew about the Holocaust that happened before she was born, and the arms race that might kill us all right now.

Now, one of the things I love to do most is support the creativity of my professional speaking students, my improvisation students, my friends, and the children in my life.

Thanks, Mom. I will always love you and what you gave to me.

 

Tantric Comedian

Wow. This is a historic moment. I’ve been called many things before, but never “Tantric Comedian”.  (I had to add it to my list of jobs in my previous post, “Lady of a Thousand Resumes.) Tantric Comedian is how I’m billed for the Friday night performance during my friend Judith Condon’s 5 Day Tantric Workshop in March.

https://www.facebook.com/lynn.grasberg/posts/1722848081068804?comment_id=1725527520800860&notif_id=1517923399355418&notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic&ref=notif

 

Lessons from Las Vegas, Part One

The Call                                                                    

On October 5, four days after the shooting in Las Vegas, I received a message from my inner voice. I was actually dozing, then startled awake to hear,

“Go to Las Vegas!”

I wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea. I was taking a bubble bath at the time. “What? Who, me? Why?”

The answer was relentless and simple. “Go to Las Vegas.”

“Why?” I asked again. The answers I got didn’t really relax me.

“You’ll know when you get there.”

“Don’t go alone, if you can help it.”

“You might be making a documentary with the video camera in your cell phone.”

“But I don’t have any money for the trip!” I protested.

“Just go to Vegas!” was the message I got repeatedly until I got out of the tub.

Because we are all so battle fatigued about public shootings in the last few years, you may have tried not to pay attention to the Las Vegas shooting. Or . . .  you may have had a hard time not taking your eyes off the images on TV. To catch you up briefly:

On the night of October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Hotel/Casino on a crowd of 22,000 concert goers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in a field across the street from Mandalay Bay, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured. People had come from all over the U.S. as well as other countries to attend the concert.

Flying on a Wing and a Prayer 

I bought an airplane ticket for the following day and made a room reservation at the Luxor Hotel and Casino which is right next to Mandalay Bay. I charged it to my credit card, put up a quick fund raising request on Facebook, and made a couple of phone calls but no one had responded by the time I left for the airport with my friend “R”, who decided to come with me at the last minute. She didn’t have any money either so I also put her plane ticket on my credit card. I didn’t know how, but I had a feeling that we would both be taken care of for this trip.

The trip was a series of MIRACLES and synchronicities.

I notice miracles are starting to happen a lot lately when I listen to my inner voice and take action, often with no clue about what the outcome will be. I have listed a few of the miracles here, but there were so many that this article would be a book if I mentioned them all.

First Miracle                                                                                                               

On the way to the airport, I received a phone call from an angel donor who offered to pay $1,000 for our expenses. Phew! We didn’t have to worry about how we would pay for transportation, lodging and food.

When we got to the airport, there was a long line at security. We were invited to sign up for TSA Pre which lets you skip the long wait and go more directly through security. The sign-in requires having your driver’s license read by a machine. R’s went through easily, but after numerous attempts by the agent, mine would not. Meanwhile, my friend and I talked to the agent  about our self-directed mission to listen to people in Las Vegas and see what we could do to help with the situation. Our agent was excited about what we were doing and made an executive decision to push us through security even though my application was incomplete.

I suddenly felt an excruciating pain in my chest and collapsed into a nearby wheelchair which the airport provides for disabled people. Since I was temporarily disabled, we were allowed to use it and R rolled me through security but now we were really late. She heroically took off, pushing me and  RUNNING us to our gate. My mysterious pain subsided as we arrived at the gate a couple minutes after boarding time was officially over and the agents were closing up the ticket counter.

Second Miracle                                                                                                    

We were told that we could not get on the plane, even though there was room and it was not due to take off for another 25 minutes. In fact, we could not make any changes to the conditions of our flight since we had “cheap” tickets. So, even if we were on the plane, we would not be able to sit together, etc. R has an amazing ability to not take “no” for an answer when the situation calls for it. She repeatedly brought up practical solutions to the problem, until a supervisor showed up and said, “Oh, just let them get on the plane!” We thanked everybody and hurried down the ramp.

Third Miracle

When we got to my row, the people who originally had the two other seats in the row had (mysteriously) been upgraded to first class, so my friend was able to join me there and we even had an extra seat!

Arriving in Las Vegas

We had an uneventful short flight and headed for our hotel. As we got out of the airport shuttle  and began walking to our hotel, we noticed that all through the city, giant electronic billboards sponsored by a group called Vegas Strong were broadcasting messages of hope and assistance.

We stopped at a restaurant in a casino to get some lunch and when our waitress heard why we were in Las Vegas, she immediately volunteered her story. She wasn’t working the day of the shooting and no one she knew had been shot. She said it hadn’t really affected her but she cried the next day, and for days afterward, when she listened to the radio on her way to work and heard people calling in to the station to share their stories of loss and community support.

We found out there was LOTS of community support. Here are a few things we became aware of:

  • Restaurants donated free food for first responders (police, firefighters, EMTs etc.) and local people directly affected by the shooting.
  • Car detailing businesses donated their services to remove blood and clean taxis, shuttles and Uber/Lyft cars that had carried injured people away from the concert area.
  • Blood banks received an overwhelming response from people wanting to donate blood — so much that people had to be turned away.
  • There was a focused effort through billboards and other outreach media to encourage people to get help and not be isolated with their physical or emotional pain.
  • Free counseling was made available to help people with the trauma of the event.
  • Churches mobilized to provide food, provide transportation for out-of-towners who missed their flights home, work with blood banks, visit people in the hospital, and provide counseling and prayer support.
  • Mercy Mericopa activated a crisis support line (1-800-203-CARE (2273) and broadcast information on how to deal with trauma.  https://www.mercymaricopa.org/lasvegas-shooting.

Listening on the Spot

Everywhere we went, from the check-in desk at the hotel onward, as soon as we said something simple like, “We’re here to help,” people jumped in (when they saw we had attention for them) and told us their stories. Retail clerks, hotel customers, the manager at the buffet where we had dinner . . . people melted and poured out their stories and feelings. As they told us what happened, many of them released emotional pain as they cried with grief, shook with fear, yelled with anger, and laughed, releasing more fear.

My friend and I were so busy listening that we never turned on our phone cameras to record the stories. Also, most of the stories were too intimate for public broadcast. In a way, we made a documentary but at this point, it only exists in our heads and is not recorded. So, consider this an excerpt from Viva Las Vegas: Healing in Community.

As a team, R and I  listened to each other well, worked through minor conflicts efficiently, and in general, laughed a lot to keep each other in good shape to be able to listen to the  myriad of people we encountered.

Credit Where Credit is Due

I credit my years of practice with Co-Counseling (also known as Re-Evaluation Counseling)  for my ability to have good attention and listen well to people in Las Vegas and other stressful environments. I find this has great ripple effects:  when people are listened to non-judgmentally and compassionately, their own attention and capacity to deal with whatever is going on improves. You can find information about Co-Counseling and resources in your community at www.rc.org.

Miracles Upon Miracles

As I mentioned earlier, our trip was filled with unexpected miracles. The final one: R and I flew back to Denver International Airport where I needed to pick up a flight to the East Coast. We decided to have dinner together before I left and spent the time de-briefing and appreciating each other. When I looked at the time on my phone, I was running late! Also, my ankles were hurting. I was just starting to say, “We could use another wheelchair,” when a nearby elevator door opened, and a man walked toward me, pushing a wheelchair.

“Can you help me?” I asked. I waved good-bye to my friend as this airport employee literally RAN me to my gate, depositing me 10 minutes before the final call. How amazing (and strange) to begin and end my trip by being pushed in a wheelchair at top speed!

Thank you to everyone who sent prayers, money, and practical assistance for this trip!

P.S. Last week, I took a second trip to Las Vegas – to be continued in Part Two.

 

 

 

Bakers Dozen of Excuses

Dear Friends,

I can’t believe it’s been more than a  month since I blogged anything to you. So much has been happening that it’s been a challenge just to keep up with living it, let alone, to write about it. Here’s a brief outline.

I took a trip to the East Coast where I:

  1. Went to an amazing Co-Counseling workshop in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
  2. Visited with family and friends in New Jersey, New York and Delaware.
  3. Made new friends.
  4. Ate incredible food in NYC, the WORLD CAPITAL of incredible Food.
  5. Stayed with my friends, Marci and Terry Stern, at their home in Wilmington, Delaware, just across the river from Philadelphia.
  6. Blissfully played with their  1-year old grandson, Jackson, when he came to visit with his mother, Leah.
  7. Stayed at the Yotel in the theater district of Manhattan (the most amazing hotel EVER).
  8. Stayed at the US Pacific Hotel, a former rooming house in Chinatown (cheap but clean and safe).
  9. Went to Friday night Shabbat services at Beit Simchat Torah where the newly installed cantor, choir and pianist were so amazing that it was like being at a musical theater Broadway show, if the show consisted mostly of prayers.
  10. Flew  back to Colorado, and, while riding the light rail from the airport, fell and sustained an injury to my ribs. I am still recovering from that at the same time as a lung infection that flared up 2 day later.
  11. Had a great Halloween make-your-own-costume party at my house anyway.
  12. Went to TWO fantastic concerts in one week: The Script and Imagine Dragons.
  13. Started teaching a class called Judaism 101 at Abiding Hope (Lutheran) Church, situated a  5 minute drive away from where I live in Littleton, CO.

That’s a bakers dozen of reasons why I’ve been preoccupied and not writing. So, it’s time to catch up. I considered writing 12 posts, but that’s ridiculous so I’m just going to carry on as if there was no break.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Viva Las Vegas

THURSDAY: What the heck happened in Las Vegas and what can we do about it? Normally upbeat people are feeling overwhelmed, angry, scared, etc. after the awful shooting spree the other night. Would you like to join me for a service project in Las Vegas?

I got a clear inner message this morning to go to Las Vegas and meet up with others there. The purpose: to “shoot” a mini-documentary using smart phones, editing the footage, and posting it on YouTube.

The intent is to remember that we are not alone and we can heal each other in community.

I am flying to Las Vegas on Friday on United flight #301, leaving Denver at 11:39 am and arriving at 12:33 pm and returning on Saturday afternoon. If this resonates with you and you can get away for a day, PM me and we will work out the logistics.

FRIDAY UPDATE: So far, one friend is joining me and I am funding this project on a credit card. I am asking my friends for $20 donations. (20 people would cover our expenses of about $400 so far.) You can send money to my PayPal account at lynng@indra.com.

Happy New Year!

“The Holy Land is Everywhere” —  Black Elk, beloved Native American medicine man (circa 1863 to 1950).

I’ve just emerged from the Jewish High Holidays, an exalted time of year! Full of joy and renewal to take on the next set of projects embodying the concept of “Tikkun Olam” – repair of the world. I hope you are well and thriving. If you’re not laughing enough, go some place beautiful in nature, play with children, blow bubbles . . . whatever it takes. We have hard work to do AND joy is our birthright.

Art and “Mental Health”

 

Created in collaboration with Mike Misgen, MA, LPC

Based on a talk given to the Denver Area Co-Counseling Artist Support Group September 24, 2017

[Note: The first paragraph makes fun of some cultural attitudes.]

Thanks for buying our new how-to guide. Now you too can collect mental health system labels, especially ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). It’s quite simple, actually, to add “ADD” to your portfolio of identities. Here’s how: when you see something new and relate it to things you already know, just get VERY excited about your discovery and relay it to a slower reacting person very QUICKLY, LOUDLY and with lots of ENERGY. If you get scared, change your focus with no warning and almost immediately to something else that’s exciting. (Squirrel!)

But seriously: If you take a moment to integrate that new perception, you may create new art and new, interesting stuff to think and talk about.

Artists sometimes get accused of having various mental illnesses and conditions because we often see the associations between things faster than other people do, we get excited like young children do, and we try to tell people about it just like we did when we were very young. They misinterpret us and say that we’re “over-excited” or “frenetic” or “manic”. If we get upset or despondent because nobody understood what we said, they say we’re “depressed” or “manic-depressive” or “bi-polar” or whatever other labels are fashionable for scaring people into acting like tiny versions of their real selves.

In contrast, I would like to tell you something I just noticed and show you how my mind works as an artist (aka human being) as I process and integrate this information.

A few minutes ago, I was feeling too hot and I took off my jacket. Then I noticed the dress I’m wearing, which is a dress I love; it’s purple and very long and flowing. And a memory is attached to it.

A while ago, when I lived in Boulder, I was part of a household that included an amazing dancer. As with many artists, he took classes and performed at night and had a day job to pay the bills. One day, we were having a house meeting in our large, shared living room. On the way to the meeting, he looked into my room and saw my dress laid out on my bed. He put it on, unbeknownst to me, and came DANCING through the living room in the style of the modern dance pioneer, Isadora Duncan. He could do that, he was that good, and in this dress, he could leap and sail through the air like that with the dress flowing behind him.

It was so thrilling to see how he saw my dress and immediately made art. My roommates and I all laughed and laughed, because he was also so beautiful – men are not usually allowed to dance that way. And we loved it.

By the way, he was a heterosexual man, joyfully doing something that would get him labeled “gay” which happens to artists a lot, whatever their actual sexual orientation is. Many of us cannot be boxed into a simple gender role, which, of course, has its pro’s and con’s, its enlightened aspects mixed in with its distresses.

So . . . when I looked at my dress, I connected with that memory. I got very excited when I remembered what my roommate had done with my dress, when he saw it and used it in the moment to make art.

As I wear this dress today, I have a relationship to my roommate, to that brilliant dance he did, and to the excitement I have about it.

With Mike Misgen’s help, I am intentionally telling you my story in a way that includes you. Because I know that you, as an artist, sometimes notice things and get excited. And sometimes people try to shut you down, try to squelch your excitement. They have forgotten how to really be enthusiastic so you look weird to them. Of course, anything that’s weird is socially unacceptable . . . and THAT is mental health oppression.

Artists experience it all the time. How many artists have committed suicide? Or thought about it? How many artists are alcoholics? How many artists have died from heroin overdoses? It’s partly because of what I just described – that we notice things that trigger great excitement in us as we behold a new way of looking at the world and putting things together in new ways.

We are considered “crazy” if we try to express our wonderment or excitement to someone else in anything other than a socially acceptable, cool, calm, collected, “adult” manner.

Mike: Because we are pushing right up against where they got shut down.

Lynn: Exactly. And people try to slow us down; people try to shut us up. Sometimes we get locked up in mental institutions.

Now, part of why this is on my mind is because you, Mike Misgen, asked me to give this talk in a way that would consciously try to include you, the other person who showed up for the support group, as much as possible.

So – I had an insight, I started to get excited, and then I took your direction to include you in my excitement. That is something that any artist has to think about – how we communicate, how we are received, how we get support for those times when we don’t get the reception we deserve.

This includes every child because every child starts out as an artist. Every child is always looking at the world, figuring it out, putting things together in new ways, sometimes getting VERY excited about it, running to tell somebody who’s distracted because they’re overworked, or they’re tired, they’re making dinner, or they already heard 700 things that little child got excited about today, and they just don’t have even a tiny bit of attention left.

What happens then? The child gets slapped, literally or figuratively. They are told things like, “You’re bad. You’re driving Mommy crazy. Go be quiet somewhere. Go be by yourself.”

Mike: Don’t be a bother!

Lynn: Right. Instead, what the child deserves is someone to warmly receive them and their brilliant ideas, be delighted with what they’re noticing, celebrate them, hold them, and most important, be connected to them.

But a lot of times, that’s not what happens so we get isolated. We become isolated artists. And everybody in our culture has the disease of isolation after they’re very young because of those things that happen to us. We don’t deserve it. And we’re not wrong. Some of us, including me, have gone through dark periods of our lives, years of deep depression, because of not being able to see around that OR find enough people that have attention for us so we can work through it in an easy, fun way. It ends up being painful.

During those dark times, you might be pressured into taking psychiatric drugs. (That’ll “take care” of all those messy emotions you keep insisting on showing.) Sometimes you are also sent to your room, i.e. the mental institution, until you act the way you’re supposed to act.

Here’s the miracle. Over and over again, even though we get slapped, threatened or shut down in any way, we come back out and create more art because the creative impulse in us is so strong.

 Coda*

That talk I just gave was satisfying because I was able to take Mike’s direction of noticing my excitement but using inclusive language so that other people would feel like, “Oh yes. I know what THAT is. I know how that applies to me.” Everybody starts telling their own story internally when that kind of language is used.

If you’re performing or teaching, you can increase your students and audience’s engagement by using inclusive language that speaks to them and activates their own stories.

Mike: Yeah!

Lynn: So Mike, you and I were both successful. You gave me a great direction. I was able to take it, and whenever you felt like adding something, as you tracked with me, you did. We made the story interactive and conversational. Thank you!

* Coda is a musical term which refers to the concluding passage of a piece, typically forming an addition to the basic structure. In dance, it means the finale of a ballet in which the dancers parade before the audience. In written or spoken language, it is also a concluding remark.

 Note to whoever reads this and wants to share it:

Please DO, and please give credit so others who want to continue this conversation can find me.

Lynn Grasberg

www.hotstepgranny.com                         https://www.facebook.com/lynn.grasberg

“The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter and the spirit heals with joy!”