Saturday, July 18, 2015

Coming Out of the Comfort Zone

I'm one of those people who likes to know what's expected of me and exactly what will happen in a given situation. While this personality quirk means that I'm always prepared and ready, it also means that it's difficult for me to drag myself out of my comfort zone.I have been faced with many out-of-the-box situations in the past year during my treatment for breast cancer.

I was reminded of the value of trying new and different things in life during a recent dinner date and concert with my husband.


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A Birthday Gift

For my birthday this year, my husband got us two tickets to see Todd Rundgren. Those of you who are a certain age will remember the lanky, long-haired mega-talent from '70s hits like "Hello, It's Me," "I Saw the Light," and "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference." 

Rundgren's seminal double-album, "Something/Anything?" was a hit just as I was beginning to appreciate and listen to popular music.The album's big single "Hello, It's Me" is a near-perfect love song.  

In addition to his solo career, Rundgren fronted several bands (The Nazz and Utopia) and was a highly sought-after producer and engineer. He was known for his meticulousness in the studio and his ability to experiment with different sounds. He was one of the first artists to recognize that video could enhance his message. His Utopia Studios was renowned as an early innovator of music videos, and videos produced there found their way into the early rotations of MTV.

Rundgren's fingerprints are on a lot of music that chugged its way through my college and young adult years. Among the artists he produced are Patti Smith, Hall and Oates, XTC, the New York Dolls, Grand Funk Railroad, the Tubes, and Meatloaf (he was the driving force behind "Bat Out of Hell."). 

Pre-concert selfie outside of Infinity Hall
A multi-instrumentalist, Rundgren plays most of the music on his albums, which often feature eccentric, but surprisingly meaningful sounds. His work paved the way for such artists as Prince and Beck.

His new album, "Global" is no different. This time, Rundgren experiments with electronica. I've often found this kind of music cold, but underneath the complex electronic sounds are the soulful Philly-style harmonies he's known for and the warmth of the themes of community and protecting the earth. I had not heard any of his new music before the night of the concert.

A Concert to Remember

My husband and I headed out to Infinity Hall, a small venue in northwestern Connecticut best known for its concerts on PBS. We had dinner in the bistro and took our seats about 15 minutes before the start of the show. 

The stage before the show started.
There was a single seat next to me in our row. It was soon filled. "Hi! I'm Jeff. Longtime Todd fan!" he said, extending his hand. He then regaled me with stories of other Rundgren concerts he'd attended, including one at the Bitter End in New York City that was recorded for the iconic "Back to the Bars" album in the late '70s.

Jeff said staffers at the hall had told him that the roadies had been setting up the stage since early morning. I told him I had seen an electrical generator parked out back. Clearly, something was going to need a lot of juice.

"This concert's going to be a little different," Jeff told me.

A Lasting Message

We soon found out what all the fuss was about. 

The lights dimmed and a guitar-toting Rundgren burst onto the stage to the tune of "Evrybody," which is reminiscent of "Bang the Drum All Day" from the '80s . The tall, black monoliths on the stage came alive with video, as two Afro-wigged singer-dancers backed up Rundgren. 

Rundgren was dressed simply in jeans, sleeveless t-shirt, and sneakers. His signature long hair is still there. Like all of us, he's gotten older. He's now 67 years old. But the sheer energy he exuded was nothing short of inspirational. 

There was little banter with the audience. The music spoke for itself. "Blind" and "This Island Earth" warn of climate change. He celebrated women (including Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai) in "Earth Mother." He sang about the joys of finding a grounding love in "Terra Firma." The ballad "Soothe" sounded like an older, wiser sequel to "Hello, It's Me."

He ran through most of the new album, sprinkling in music from Utopia and his older hits. By the time he did the song, "Rise" I didn't want the concert to end. As the music thudded, lights flashed, and the choreographed videos played, I felt bathed in a creative force.

When the encore  finished and the lights came up, my new friend Jeff was as ecstatic as I was. "Did you hear what he did with the classics?" he asked me. I was in awe that Rundgren could surprise a longtime Todd fan like Jeff with his concert innovations. It left me with several important messages about my own life.

  • Keep it fresh. I'm sure there have been a few disappointed concert-goers who expected An Evening With Todd Rundgren and older tunes. But I was amazed at the freshness of the sound.  
  • Keep an open mind. I didn't know what I was expecting from this concert. After the surprise of the opening number, I just went along with this thrilling ride.
  • Age makes no difference. The guy is 67 and up there still rockin' it out.His music - both new and classic - is very relevant.
This concert reminded me that I've been blessed with the ability to hit the curve balls life has thrown at me. I need to keep things fresh in my own life. And I can still be on my feet, clapping my hands, and dancing to the music like it's 1976.

Here's the song "Rise," off Todd Rundgren's "Global" CD.


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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The 3 Things I Learned From Blogging About Breast Cancer

Happy first birthday to The Middle of the Journey - and what a journey it's been.

I started this blog a year ago as a creative outlet. I had been looking for a way to write more, but hesitated about starting a blog. What did I know about setting up a website? It turns out, it's pretty easy to get started. So off I went with my new blog.

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My first posts last July were about parenting and other observations. I didn't worry about finding topics to write about. Inspiration is usually around the next corner. Then, I received a diagnosis of breast cancer. In the last year, I've undergone a double mastectomy and reconstruction and I'm on a course of Tamoxifen for the next five years.

The diagnosis abruptly changed my blog's mission. In those first few days after my doctor's phone call I scoured the internet for information. I came across the blogs of women who have gone before me. They bravely shared their pain, sorrow, and, yes, joys with their readers. I found them a tremendous comfort and from then on, I hoped my blog could "pay it forward" to others who find themselves in the same situation.

Here are three things blogging has done for me in the past year.

I learned to stay positive

Although I'm known for my sense of humor, I am by nature a bit melancholy. I can quickly assess the downside of any situation I'm in. But I didn't think anyone would want to read sad blog posts on an ongoing basis, and I certainly did not want to paint myself as a victim. In order to fulfill my new blog mission, I had to find the positives. I shared some painful moments, but my ultimate message to readers is "You will get through this." The blog helped me cultivate a positive attitude.

I learned there is power in sharing our stories

Breast cancer treatments are as individual as we are. No two are the same. But I learned from seeing how others got through their treatments and continued on with their lives. Those blogs also helped me in making decisions. By seeing how other women chose their course of treatment, I was better able to choose my own. 

I learned that blogging is a very social activity

At first blush, it would seem that blogging is a solitary activity. In some ways, it is. But writing my blog has put me in touch with a rich and varied community of other bloggers. Unfortunately, in a group centered on breast cancer, sometimes people die. I have mourned for those I never met in real life. I have also admired the courage and stamina of those who are battling the disease. I have also "met" bloggers from all over the world who write about a plethora of subjects - art, photography, parenting, education, religion, running. There are people out there who are willing to mentor new bloggers like me. They are all fascinating people. The blog brought me to them.

I'm still smiling!
If you are considering starting a blog of your own, I highly recommend it. You will find it more rewarding that you thought, and it will probably be more work than you thought. I started this blog with a feeling of trepidation - would it be good enough? Would anyone read it? Today my feeling is triumph!

If you'd like to read more posts about my experience with breast cancer, click on the topics in the sidebar. My journey started with a post titled Schrodinger's Cat. 


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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Blog Gets Some Sprucing Up

If you've visited my blog in the past, you may have noticed I've made changes in its appearance.

When I started The Middle of the Journey nearly a year ago, my goal was to make it easy for me to post. I used a standard Blogger template and graphics and concentrated on writing for it consistently.While I have been a writer for many years, my technical skills were pretty basic.

My new goal for the blog - and the reason I made the changes - is so that it will be easier for you, Dear Reader, to find what you'd like to read and, hopefully, share with others.

I've organized my posts according to a few categories. For example, if you'd like to read more about my experience with breast cancer, it's a simple click in the sidebar. I've also changed fonts, colors, and graphics so they reflect more of "me." I've removed a bit of clutter (including ads) that slowed the page down and made it more difficult to read.

Check out the colorful Blog Makeover Challenger badge in my sidebar. These blog changes are thanks to this challenge and to Daniela Uslan. She is what I would describe as a blogger's blogger. Her mission is to help writers like me clarify and improve their blogs.She has gathered bloggers from all over the world and given us advice, homework, and a community where we can exchange ideas. We're mid-way through the challenge, and it has been a wonderful learning experience for me so far! If you're a blogger - especially if you're new - check out her website for some great advice.

So, what's working and what isn't working for you? I'd love your feedback.


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