29 DEC 2012 – New York City

Liesl Whitaker

I’m sitting in a small, one bedroom apartment on the West Side of Manhattan.  Snow is blowing by the window, giving the room an even cozier vibe.  I’m under blankets, in my jeans, truly just hanging out.  I just finished drying my hair after venturing through the weather in the name of nourishment.  I found a small Irish pub owned by an elderly Irish couple.  I was the first and only customer, as I’m sure this weather has bound many people to their living rooms.  I made a little small talk with the owners, sipped a pint of draught, and dined on her homemade chicken and vegetable soup, all in the glow of a dark room, lit only by the black and white movie coming from the TV behind the bar.  It was a truly cozy hour spent in the company of a lovely couple and Jimmy Stewart.  A real…

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I’m Certain of Nothing…

One of the perks of my jobs is being able to travel around the country, often coming into contact with my extended family along the way. This happened this past week in Mason City, Iowa.

My Mother, Barbara, was the fourth of nine children born to a poor farmer and his wife in Southern Illinois in the 1940s. As one can imagine, attention from the parents would be hard to come by with so many mouths in the house to feed, and young bodies to clothe constantly. I never met my maternal grandfather as he died suddenly when my mother was still a teenager. Coping with the stresses of the day, I’ve learned, was not a forte of my maternal grandmother. But she did so in her way, and all the children grew into responsible, healthy adults. Continue reading

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Loss, Love and Learning…

I have taken a hiatus from writing over the past 6 months, mainly because I have been absorbed in the observation of life.  As a person, I am always amazed at the things that I can observe if my eyes are open.  Now, as I tour with the Jazz Ambassadors, I have decided to put some thoughts down again.  They are a little scattered, perhaps, but they are what’s swirling currently through my mind.  I, like many people, try to find meaning in the events and accounts that take place in and around my life, to try to find the lesson in them – there is always something to learn if you just look for it – always.

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Now Do It!

Writing again on a Tuesday in Georgia from the bus.  Just a short excerpt to start a process, whatever that may be.  We are traveling to the next town where we will attempt to bring joy to the hearts of those who make the effort to be entertained.  It’s a job, and I am glad to have it.  I’m one of the few by percentage who can say I am getting paid to do what I love.  But today it is hard.  I am missing my family and home tremendously.  Life on the road has its challenges as well as its fulfillment.  Yet, I continue to repeat my mantra:  “I am lucky”, trying desperately to believe in it in every moment.  Grasping hard, even though the rope is slippery today. Continue reading

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Precious Gifts…

I’m sitting at the bedside of my four-year-old daughter as she slips off to sleep. The monotonous clicks of my keyboard hypnotize her, and she stares at my screen as I type, unable to read the words, yet fixed on the glow as it slowly lulls her eyes closed in her toddler exhaustion. Bedtime stories have been read, Barbie shoes are aligned neatly on her nightstand, and she’s fighting the last daily battle with wakefulness. It has been a busy day for her, a Thursday, just like the other days before this one and the ones to follow. She’s got things to do and see, and once her feet hit the ground, she’s on a mission of discovery and wonder. I can’t help but think of how lost I will feel on the day when she no longer reaches over and strokes my hair with her tiny hands; when she’s too grown up to play mommy to this mommy, when she’s learned to braid hair for real after experimenting endlessly on mine, and when she understands that the grey hairs that are beginning to show themselves in my mane were not my choice or creation. If only we could always protect them, allow them to hold on to that innocence forever, keep those wolves always on the other side of the door. Continue reading

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The Human Soul…

Standing out amongst other living things is something we humans do rather well.  We are at the top of the food chain, after all, our brains so far advanced that our technology actually blows the mind!  Just take a look at the title character in the famous 80s television show “MacGyver”.  Now he had some mad skills:  Give the man a quarter, a jar of peanut butter and a fence post, and he could make a hover craft, for crying out loud!  Yes, the limits of the human mind and imagination are endless.  Through our study and technology, we are able to understand so much about our world and about ourselves.  Yet, we still maintain individuality amongst our millions, no two people being exactly alike – anywhere!  That’s pretty impressive! Continue reading

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A Choice…

Returning to writing finally, now that I have some quiet time…away from home, on a bus and on the move.  Out here, watching the world pass by my 5-foot tinted screen, thoughts come and go with the change of the scenery.  It can be difficult to latch on to one long enough to ponder for more than a few moments.  But perhaps that’s a sign that the brain is healthy and young – still.  I can hope… Continue reading

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A Youthful Lesson…

On a lazy Tuesday morning in December, I sit with my children, watching the snow accumulate outside of our rented townhouse in the Maryland suburbs.  Schools are closed today, so my son is taking his turn with the TV, while my daughter patiently entertains herself by removing and replacing ornaments from the freshly decorated Christmas tree.  These are wonderful moments, disturbed only by the snoring of Fred, our beloved bassett hound, who has refused to relinquish his spot on the sofa.  A truly wonderful wintry day! Continue reading

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The Child Behind

I have no idea where my brain is today. Perhaps I left it at the local establishment last night, after a last minute text from my best buddy invited me out to a local meetup group. The trail of the evening is still presenting itself to me this afternoon as I sip my French press in an effort to piece together the last 12 hours. Yup, it’s possible that I over did it…and I’m not proud.
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Oh, Iowa…

One of the many residential stops my family made when I was young was to a hard-working Catholic community in the Southeastern corner of Iowa. We rented a small farmhouse on a few acres surrounded by cornfields just outside of Donnelson, a small farming town in Lee County.  My brothers went to high school in West Point, and middle school in St. Paul, while I went to elementary school in Houghton.  My sister was just a youngster, but eventually started kindergarten in the area.  In fact, I remember that she won a coloring contest as a 5-year-old, and that I was so proud of her!  We often saw our friends 6 days a week when you added in the weekly Sunday mass to the 5-day school week.  My father was the community’s country veterinarian, and was known by first name to everyone within a 50-mile radius.  It was quite a time for a young family of eight, making memories and just trying to get through each day, the goal being to retire every 24 hours with everyone healthy and in tact, under the same roof.

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