Friday, December 12, 2014

Is it possible to S-I-M-P-L-I-F-Y CHRISTMAS?

I love family traditions.  You know, those things that just MAKE a celebration, that everybody counts on to signal a holiday.  My family had a few.  One involves a fruitcake alternative called Bishop's Bread.  I think my mom scored that recipe from a friend in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where our family lived for my first 6 years.  I've never met anyone who didn't like it!  Unbelievably good!

Another tradition involved trimming the Christmas tree. Each year, my family would add one new ornament for our tree.  Sometimes we bought it during our travels.  Sometimes my mom would make it.  After she died, I acquired a lot of her handmade ornaments, and they now adorn my own tree.  

My parents had their own tradition that started with their very first Christmas during the WWII years (due to lack of funds!).  It's a tradition that stayed with them, throughout their entire married life (53 years).  There was always a bounty of gifts for us kids.  But they were very consistent in giving each other a single present...beautifully wrapped...and quietly shared.  I think their last Christmas together, I was moved by their sharing the most.  They managed to have a quiet moment, just the two of them, in the living room, amidst opened presents and bows and 'thank yous' excitedly flying from person to person.  

Dad would buy mom a bottle of Chanel (or a teeny bottle of perfume, in their early years).  Mom would make dad a button-up shirt with a well-pressed collar (but in her last years, it was a store-bought shirt).  I love the way they made Christmas about being together, not about the material giving.  I wrote the song, Two Little Gifts, about this Christmas story, and I would be honored for you to view the video and hear the heartwarming story in more detail. 

We're having a simple Christmas over here.  I learned how to do that from the masters.  Wishing you all a beautiful upcoming holiday season.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays...

until next blog post, peace and love to you...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

HOME for the Holidays...

"She'd sped out of town without turning around
She had to get away.  
Twenty years later she'd find her way...Back home."
excerpt from Home by Dorothy C. LeBlanc

I suppose I was a typical teenager.  Midway through my senior year of high school, I seriously started the countdown of months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds...until I would move out of my parents' home and be an independent college student!  Had we lived on a gravel road, I dare say that our neighbors would still remember the cloud of dust that overtook the neighborhood as I pulled out of the driveway, into my future.  I thought I could handle anything that the world sent my way.  I had no idea.  Who does?

Life threw me a serious curve ball several years back, and it conflicted with my husband's plans.  (I won't say where he was planning to go, but it rhymes with 'wishing'.)  Before he left to go 'wishing', he dropped me off at my parents' house with my young son in tow...and said he'd pick us up when he got back.  Simple as that.  I was uprooted from my adult, self-made home, and handed back to my parents for 4 or 5 days.  

I had been 4 months pregnant, and the baby had died in utero.  I needed somewhere to recuperate from the D&C...and from the cruel loss.  As badly as I needed to be nurtured, I was worried that my young son and I wouldn't fit into the routine of my childhood home.  My parents lovingly took their adult daughter and her child into their home, and into their hearts. 

That weekend,  I learned how to appreciate my mom and dad from the perspective of a grown woman, not as a child.  They were there for me.  They fed me and helped me take care of my 2-year-old.  We laughed together, we cried together, they helped me heal.  Five days later, I cried as my son and I slowly backed out of the driveway to head home.   

I know that, for some of you, holidays often bring stressful family dynamics to light.   That said, I would love to be able to go "home for the holidays" and see my mom and dad again...but they're both deceased.  For me, going home for a few days at such a tough time, planted the seed for the new relationship I would have with both of them into their twilight years.  

I'd be honored if you'd watch my video of this special song I wrote about my story called  "Home".  

Until next blog post, peace and love to you...dorothy

Friday, October 3, 2014

Music Therapy at its finest...i.e., Willie Nelson's voice soothed my momma, when morphine failed her.

My mom's name was Luella Dugas Chambers.  She developed breast cancer in the late 1970s, back when a radical mastectomy and radiation were standard of care.  She had 13 cancer-free years before the cancer returned, with a vengeance.  Before all was said and done, she had cancer in her bones and lungs, and had withstood 6 years of pharmaceutical and intravenous chemotherapies...and spent many, many days in excruciating pain.  She died in 1996.  

My dad was her primary caregiver.  He did a magnificent job, preparing her meals and cleaning house and getting her to the doctor and just being there.  They were married for 53 years before she died.  

I would go to the house every day from 9:00am until noon to sit with my mom, and give my dad a much-needed break.  Sometimes he worked in his garden.  Sometimes he ran errands.  Sometimes he sat and played solitaire.  All the while, he allowed me a chance to spend quality time with my mom, my best friend and my hero.  

I never dreamt that I would find myself putting a drop of morphine on my momma's tongue at 9:00am and trying to entertain her until she could have more, in 3 hours.  That morphine did NOTHING for my momma.  It broke my heart!  By 9:10am, she would ask me if it was time for more medicine.  After the first couple of days, I was determined to find some way to alleviate some of the pain that accompanied her bone cancer!  Enter Willie Nelson (her favorite country singer) and two of his pop standards albums, Stardust and Moonlight Becomes You

I don't know what we would have done without Willie.  In truth, as soon as the music started, she smiled and sang and told me stories of: dances and moonlight walks; how she and my dad met; how during WWII she was appointed football coach at the high school where she taught, because the coach had been called to serve our country; and so many, many more!  The stories FLOWED as Willie sang those songs of her youth.

Those times I spent with my mom and Willie were nothing short of life-changing, for me and for my mom.  After my mom passed away, and I successfully waged my own war against breast cancer, I found myself working as a musician in the Baton Rouge, LA area. I  ultimately began working as a music therapy facilitator, for children with speech and learning delays, and for Alzheimer's patients.  What a beautiful gift to offer to people who are struggling...MUSIC! 

I wrote the song Momma 'n Willie 'n Me to commemorate the power of MUSIC THERAPY!  The morphine did not alleviate any of my mom's pain, but Willie did.  I would be honored to have you watch the video, listen to the lyrics, and spread the word about the magical power of music!

Thank you, as always, for reading and for listening, and for passing this on, if the information might benefit someone you know who is struggling.  

Until next blog post, peace and love to you.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Healing in an age of confusion: "Let the healing begin today..."

I'm completely befuddled by our world.  The internet, and radio and cable news broadcasts, 24/7, have made it possible to communicate with, understand, support and nurture humanity across the globe.   I am positive that a lot of good has come from these advancements.  I am also positive that not all that has resulted has been positive.

Ancient Greek fabulist, Aesop, is credited with the statement "familiarity breeds contempt".  I've always reluctantly agreed with that statement...I mean, we are human, and humans are imperfect.  We are jealous of the abilities and advantages that others possess.  We lie and steal, and often go to any means to improve our own standing, in our own and others' eyes.  And we live in a nation that was founded on Christian principles!   Yet, I'll say one more time, we are human and humans are imperfect.

I'm a big fan of the New Testament.  I truly believe in the inherent goodness in people.  I believe that goodness comes from showing kindness and understanding towards people who are from different cultures and nationalities, economic standings and belief systems.  Yes, I am a simpleton.  I am not a political person.  I am about love, and understanding, and acceptance in everything, towards everyone.  That's how I roll... 

A few years ago, I woke to read of a traveling musician friend who was playing a benefit in a nearby community.  Out of the goodness of her heart, she donated her talents for a wonderful cause.  As she's hauling her gear back to her vehicle, she found that her car had been vandalized during her performance.  Someone had stolen her catalytic converter.  I am not an auto mechanic, but I do understand that it cost her a lot of inconvenience and a lot of money...and my instant thought was THIS WORLD NEEDS A BIG TIME HEALING.  And this song was written within a matter of minutes.  

I performed my tune, 'Healing', at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, LA, in January 2012, when I opened for Adler and Hearne.  My friend Mike Whitney accompanied me on dobro.  On stage, I realized that the song was a sing-along song in the making, and I cannot tell you how amazing it felt to stand up there and lead the audience in the singing of the chorus, towards the end of the song.

This world needs a big-time healing
No more lying, no more cheating, no more stealing
Let love be the greatest feeling
Let the healing begin today.

Please watch the video, and sing along!

Today, September 11, 2014, I am reminded of the differences of all cultures in all of their beliefs and actions and I pray that the term "familiarity breeds contempt" might take a backseat to understanding and kindness.  What if, just for today, we tell ourselves that love will be the rule...and what if we told ourselves that every single day?  That would truly be a healing...

Until next blog, love and peace to you...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

So exactly what IS wrong with coloring outside the lines?

Admittedly, as a child I was the kid who would color exactly inside the lines.  Wanna know the secret to my success?  Simple...I learned to first trace the black lines with the crayon that I would eventually use to color the object.  In my view, those colored lines that I traced were a stop sign.  I would NOT color over that.  Period.  I wanted that gold star, and more importantly, I wanted to please the teacher!  But once you've mastered the art of coloring precisely and perfectly inside the lines, where do you go from there?

I've never had the confidence to pick up a paint brush.  I quilt, I create with crochet, I design clothing, but there has always been something holding me back when it came to traditional visual arts.   I did take a beginning drawing course several years ago, and I learned the basics of drawing portraits.  Very cut and dry...I followed certain mathematical principles and could usually come up with something that looked similar to the person whose facial features I was attempting to capture.  Because it was very precise and involved a lot of 'exacts',  I was in my comfort zone!  

Whenever I've dreamt of creating lovely paintings, I get this rush of creative energy, but my hands are afraid that I won't succeed.  I literally have no clue where to start!  There is just so much room for interpretation by the artist, and I've only been taught to color inside the lines.  Bring on the paint-by-number set on velvet!  I know I could do that!

As I child, I ADMIRED the kids who embellished the plain color sheets with their own inspirations or, better yet, turned the color sheet over and created something awesomely original, from their own imaginations!  I wanted to be one of those kids who didn't need the teacher's stamp of approval (the gold star), but who would proudly draw their OWN stars on their works of art!  These are the kids that I channeled when I wrote a song called "Outside the Lines" in response to a songwriter challenge to write something about Outer Space!  As you'll see, I never do approach a writing challenge quite in the way that others would...Here's the song, recorded by Lynn Anselmo at Chelsea's in Baton Rouge, LA.  The actual song starts about 01:50 in, with information about a songwriter circle I host, preceding it.

Every  time I watch this, I want to pick up a paint brush and see what will transpire!  I wonder if there are any Baton Rouge artists who would like to take me on as a personal challenge?  I promise to approach my first canvas with nothing but a positive attitude!  Any takers?

Until next blog, peace and love to you...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Judy Garland, Lenny Bruce, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morrison, Tim Hardin, Heath Ledger, Janis Joplin, John Belushi, Robin Williams...

Does the use of drugs and alcohol fuel depression, or does depression fuel drug and alcohol abuse?  In my view, trying to answer this is like trying to answer the age-old question:  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  I'm sure we could debate this until the end of time and not come up with an affirmative answer, or solution, to these tragic epidemics that have led to the senseless demise of so many people.  I've been reliving this very reality for the past week, since I learned of the suicide of Robin Williams.   

I am no stranger to clinical depression.  I hid it pretty well until I was 38, but depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder finally took me down, and I was forced to get some help.  Can I understand self-medicating, in lieu of getting help from a trained professional?  YES!  I remember how ashamed and terrified I was, sitting in a psychiatrist's waiting room, answering questions on a form that would help them mold my treatment plan... and trying to rationalize in my mind just how to skip out of there before my name was called to see the doctor.  I am still grateful that I wasn't quick enough to escape!

I totally understand why some people would rather not publicly acknowledge their depression, and instead, self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.  No forms to fill out in waiting rooms.  No embarrasment as people look at you over their magazines in said waiting rooms.  No acknowledgement of the pain and anxiety you feel, often 24/7, 12 months a year.  No getting to the root of the problem.  If that same person has an addictive personality, what seems like an easy fix (street drugs and alcohol) leads to a greater nightmare than depression alone.

We all know someone, I'm sure, who has waged this war.  I've watched people I love opt for self-medication over professional help for depression, and I've seen each of them sputter and fall.  Luckily, they are still inhaling and exhaling, and a part of my life.

I've also known people whose dependence on drugs and alcohol has disrupted their lives to the point where depression joins forces with their abusive behaviors.  I have not personally experienced this reality, but I have witnessed it.  And the pain extends to everyone who loves them.  It's a crisis that should be addressed and acknowledged...and it needs to stop!  Right now!

After the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I wrote the song "One Too Many Times".  My producer and videographer, Daniel Lee, worked with me to create a video to accompany my song, acknowledging so many people that we as Americans have loved and lost.  (Admittedly, there are so many, many more people who are not "celebrities" who have fallen victim to this epidemic, some that I knew personally.  I dedicate my video to ALL those who have succumbed, that with acknowledgment, there might one day be an end to these senseless deaths.)  

Last week, Daniel honored me by covering my song, and including Robin Williams in the video.  It continues to tug at my heart whenever I think of the pain that Robin must have felt.  Was it purely depression that led him to take his life?  Was it his battle with addiction that finally caused such futility that suicide was his only alternative?  Or might it have been a combination of the two?  I don't think the answer is important, but I do think that awareness is.  Please watch this and share with others who might have been touched by depression, addiction, or both.

RIP Robin...You will always be someone I look to when the world seems too cruel to bear and only laughter will lighten my load.

Until next blog, peace and love to you...dorothy

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The High Price of Perfection...and the Principle of Good'nuff

I spent the first 56 years of my life feeling like I wouldn't be loved if I were not perfect.  There, I said it.  This obsession with perfection led me down a path that ultimately defined me.  My basic formula (Formula #1): 

 Hard work + determination = success, excellence and possibly perfection.  

But excellence carries a heavy burden.  Once you've achieved it, it becomes your identity.  Let the perfection continue, or you will feel like you've failed, you will let people down, you will be considered a less-than.  Welcome to my world... 

By the time I hit my 20s, I had developed a careful plan of attack to avoid failure.  Here's an example.  I graduated from LSU in 1978, magna cum laude (almost perfect, right?).  So I've got my diploma in one hand, and a bar that I set way too high in the other!!  What happens if I interview and get a job in my field...and I fail?  Panic set it.  I put my diploma of excellence in my box of memories...and began work as a waitress at a sit-down fast food restaurant instead.  I knew I could do that, and do it well!  Here is my basic formula for avoiding failure (Formula #2):

When fear of failure + lack of confidence seem > my ability,

There have been times in my life that I might have set the bar way to low, by using this particular formula!   (That might explain why I'm a prolific songwriter...never run out  of stories to tell!  Yet I digress...).  

NOTE:  For those of you who know me personally, did you know I graduated from LSU magna cum laude?  Probably not, unless I told you.  No one knows.  No one cares.  But the need to achieve this level of excellence CONSUMED my every waking hour. To commemorate this honor, was I awarded a special sticker on the diploma that is hidden in my box of memories?  I don't remember, but I think I'll check.  Think of all the fun I missed out on, seeking perfection, for a little sticker that no one knows or cares about.  

I'm developing a formula for my new life plan of attack.  I'm deleting the "P" word from my vocabulary as of now.  (No, don't make me type it again.  Just look at the title if you're in doubt.)  I'm resetting the bar and coining a new moniker for myself!  Ready?  Good'nuff.  I took my new attitude out for a test drive last night, and I gotta say that I sure had more fun when I avoided trying to be p*#%(#t.  

I'm a musician by trade.  Guitar is my go-to instrument, but I also play mandolin, uke, dulcimer and keys when called upon.  I bought a cello 3 years ago, and spent hours at home, working through books and practicing, but when I took her out to play, I wasn't, well, you know the word.  According to Formula #1, I sucked.  I decided either I had to IMPROVE or I was gonna give her away...I couldn't have something in my house that reminded me of failure!  

Three months ago, I joined a wonderful group, The Adult Music Club of Baton Rouge.  The brainchild of the ever-talented and amazing musician Dave Hinson, our club brings together a group of adults wanting to learn how to play music, in a group, under Dave's tutelage!  Just last night, my band (The Blue Meteor) had a gig at Chelsea's, a top Baton Rouge music venue.  We played 8 Beatles songs and me and my cello were part of the action!!!  Did I nail every lick and play every single note in perfect tone?  No,  I'm a beginner.  Did I have a few moments where my playing was pretty spot-on?  Hell, yes!  Did I have the most fun I've ever had playing music out in the world?  YES!  I can't wait for our next gig...and all the others to follow.

You know, I joined the club to have a place to make peace with my cello and I am, in fact, learning the cello!  But it's working out that I'm learning so much more.  Last night, on stage at Chelsea's, I learned how much fun you can have when you live completely in the moment, doing something you love, with no expectation of the "p" word.  I think you could ask everyone there, and they'd agree, I was Good'nuff!

Until next blog post, peace and love to you...dorothy

Friday, August 1, 2014


The answer to the above question is a resounding YES.  In the 1960s and '70s, there were three glorious, hot summer months, filled with friends, summer camp, swimming lessons, crafting, visiting the bookmobile, playing basketball, and using our imaginations.  Oh, and not to forget the merit badges worked on and earned by my brother and his scout friends...and the Camp Fire Girl honor beads I earned with a vengence during free-flowing summer months.

First days of school each year were exciting (and terrifying) for me.  I can remember, even in the earliest grades, looking in the mirror and saying, "This is the year I'm going to be liked.  This is the year I'll fit in.  This is the year I'll be the person that people wanna hang out with...".  And every year, after the first day of school, I thought, "I bet next year will be my year."  That said, there was something even more pressing on my mind in kindergarten and first grade...

I was the baby in a family filled with love and kindness.  I do not remember my mother EVEN ONCE raising her voice at us.  I had never even heard a raised voice, until I went to school.  The nuns at my first elementary school in Stillwater, Oklahoma were loud-speaking, easily exasperated women.  At least my first grade teacher was.  My mother recalled that Sister whatever-her-name-was scheduled an appointment with her, complaining that I would shake like a leaf every time she came near me.  I constantly complained of a sore throat (brought on my tension and nerves) and the doctor finally gave me a placebo to take every day, that my mom had to bring to school at lunch, to get me to stay for the whole day.  WOW, RIGHT?  I was terrified of that nun, and the world outside of my home! 

But what if I had been a PRESCHOOLER?  Granted, not all children are as protected as I was in my little world as a child.  That said, I've worked as a preschool musician at Baton Rouge early learning centers for the better part of eleven years, and I can tell you that some kids just have a hard time letting go of mom and dad...and some moms and dads have an even harder time letting go of their little ones. 

I wrote this song, "Time to Play", about separation anxiety, from a different perspective.  Please watch this PRECIOUS video song, filmed, edited and produced by Daniel Lee of Boonelight Productions.  In case you're wondering, that is the producer himself on lead guitar and pizza box percussion!  Another special thank you to the children, teachers and parents of the Child Development Cooperative in Baton Rouge, LA, for starring in my lil video song.  Please pass this on to parents, grandparents, teachers...just pass it on to everybody, because it's really precious (I know I already said that) and it will make your day...Here's the link!

Wishing all of you a great rest-of-summer and an easy back-to-school transition for kids and parents alike!  Until next blog, peace and love to you...dorothy

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Tree of Soles in Ossun, LA...a place to lay your burdens down

I have these moments as a mother to grown sons that I'll always remember...first day of preschool, kindergarten graduation, first Scout summer camp, first time standing on the pitcher's mound, getting braces off, putting letter jackets on, graduating, getting that first job.  You get my drift.  A year ago, I think I topped them all, down a gravel road, at the base of a tree, in sleepy little Ossun, LA, in the heart of Louisiana's Cajun country.

I'm no stranger to depression, and the apple did not fall far from the tree.  While both sons battle depression, my youngest son has fallen victim to depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as an internal manifestation of Tourette's Syndrome.  Yes, he takes medicines that do help, and there are alternative therapies, but at some point, you  have to accept your reality and strive for the most effective way to live inside this body that you inhabit.  Reading is one of his escape routes, and a book in the clearance section of a favorite store led us both on a life-altering excursion!

Let me back-pedal a bit...I've raised my kids in the Christian tradition.  I taught them prayers that I was taught as a child, including one en Francais.  We attended church regularly, including religion classes that were age-appropriate.  That said, depression, anxiety and OCD tend to muddy the waters.  How do you give your burdens to a loving God when your mind is constantly whirling in a million directions, second-guessing, questioning?  My life-long struggle, passed on to both of my sons...

Now, back to the book my son was reading...a travel book featuring off-the-beaten-path destinations in Louisiana.  One day trip caught his eye and spoke loudly to him.  He asked me to accompany him to the Tree of Soles in Ossun, LA (right outside of Lafayette), to lay his burdens down.  In a poignant gesture of faith, you bring shoes you've worn during a particularly burdensome point in your life and lay them at the base of the tree, or hang them from the tree.  At that point, you're asked to pray for peace.  

I will always remember how I felt, driving down this gravel road, when I finally spotted the 3 trees from the book.  I've had many spiritual experiences in my 56 years, but this was special.  We stopped the car, and my son picked up his black shoes he'd been wearing during a difficult year in his life, opened his door and slowly and methodically walked toward the middle tree, reading the sign welcoming him to the Tree of Soles.   I had brought shoes as well and joined him.  A million thoughts came to mind as I spotted baby shoes, cowboy boots, lady's pumps, tennis shoes...each telling a painful tale of struggle and an accompanying need for peace.  

We spoke no words.  I tearfully pondered the moments in life that had brought us both there.  Time stood still.  Slowly, my son found the perfect spot near the base of the middle tree for his shoes.  I followed suit.  Eventually we walked back to the car.  Still no words.  Just a quiet knowledge that we had, in truth, physically laid our burdens down.  What a powerful experience to share with my grown son as we both tried to faithfully lighten our loads.

I knew at that point that I needed to spread the word about the Tree of Soles.  A couple of months later, I asked my producer and videographer Daniel Lee to go with me to the tree and shoot some video.  (I had another burden to lay down as well.)  Turns out that many songs have flown through me, all because of the sleepy Cajun town and those 3 trees at the end of a gravel road.  I'd be so honored for you to watch.  I hope it moves you like it still moves me, whenever I watch it.  Here's the link:  

My prayer for you would be that each of you find your "tree of soles"...and that your burdens would be lightened. 

As always, until next blog entry, peace and love to you. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sometimes only a trip to the beach will do...

My first memories of the beach (mid-to late-1960s) revolved around a prime fishing and crabbing destination in Louisiana, Grand Isle.  Rising early each morning, my dad couldn't wait for the sun to come up so he could grab his hand-held crab net and wade in the shallow water, coming up with those soon-to-be-boiled Louisiana delicacies.  My mom loved to crab, too, but as a native Louisiana Cajun, the pull of the Gulf meant so much more than merely crabbing.  She actually learned how to swim in Vermilion Bay as a child in the 1920s and early '30s, so wading in the the dark, salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico was wonderfully familiar to her, a return to her roots.  

As a child, I loved searching for treasures, thinking every shell (or remnant thereof) was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.  I also remember the feel of the sand on my (tennis-shoe-clad) feet.  My parents' rule:  No walking barefoot on the beach at Grand Isle.  Taking just a few steps on the sandy shore made their reasoning perfectly clear.  This was a destination for sportsmen, and the beach collected many a fisherman's bent hook, just waiting to work it's way into the barren sole of an unlucky passerby.  

My parents taught me to embrace the Gulf safely, to marvel in its majesty, to smell the air and feel the salty, healing water on my skin. What a feast for my senses, in contrast to chlorinated pools, the only places where I had swum before.   Swimming at Grand Isle meant riding the waves, feeling sea animals pinch my toes, dodging jellyfish, and being unable to see the bottom!  I will always remember our yearly excursions to Grand Isle, LA and my earliest fascination with the mysteries of the Gulf. 

As an adult, I make a yearly pilgrimage to Port Aransas, TX for a songwriter workshop led by Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines, called "Life's a Song".  In truth, they can and do hold these workshops at other non-beach locations, but I am drawn to Port A.  There is just something about the beach to awaken my senses, clear my mind, and give me peace.  I guess it's MY turn to return to my roots, of sorts, even though only for a couple of days.

Shortly after my return home from my 2012 Port Aransas weekend, totally re-energized, I decided to write a song that celebrated the 5 senses.  I'd love for you to take a look at the video of my song, entitled Seaside Symphony.  Pictures and live footage were taken in November 2013, during my yearly "Life's a Song" weekend.  The video was masterfully created by Daniel Lee of Boonelight Productions. 

Special thanks to Betsy Braud (on flute), Dave Hinson (on bass), and Daniel Lee (production and lead guitar) for helping bring my song to life.  I hope my video brings back fond beach memories for you as well!  

until my next blog, peace and love to you...dorothy

Saturday, June 28, 2014

LIFE AFTER ANOREXIA...I was one of the lucky ones.

Some of you may remember the story of Karen Carpenter and her eating disorder that originated in the 1970s and finally ended in 1983, very tragically.  Her disorder began in the throes of stardom, in reaction (among other things) to comments in the press that she was overweight, chunky.  What started as a 'diet' became the compulsive and unhealthy focus on food, calories, and starvation that would ultimately lead to her death.  Because of her high-profile status, her illness and attempts at rehabilitation shed light on something that I was living (unbeknownst to me) at the same time. 

I was a high school senior at an all-girls' school in the spring of 1975.  I remember it like it was yesterday!  I had a lunchtime ritual, which would keep me isolated and, more importantly, away from the school cafeteria. I did NOT want to draw attention to the handful of lettuce I would nibble on for 30 minutes.  (Total:  5 calories during the middle of the day.)  It was much easier to sit outside, under the flagpole, and work trig problems or read.  One day, I brought my new Seventeen Magazine to peruse.  I stumbled upon an article about anorexia nervosa.  I had never heard the terminology...but I understood that article because I WAS LIVING IT. 

The article sounded like it was about ME.  It spoke of a teenaged girl, a compliant perfectionist, not particularly attractive, valedictorian of her high school, excellent athlete, very active in extracurricular activities, a loving daughter...who was starving herself.  She felt like her life was spinning out of control, but there was one thing she could control!  No one could force her to eat.  She lived on little more than the 'high' she got as she watched and measured every ounce of normal, necessary body fat disappear.  I began at a normal 135 pounds, and 3-1/2 years in, I bottomed out at 94 pounds on a 5'5-1/2" falling out, kidneys failing (but thank God, heart still pumping.)  I shiver to think of my fate, had I not found that magazine article, and had I not had friends who rallied around me with encouragement and compassion.

I had a very small core group of friends who had known me for 10 years at that point.  I showed them the article.  They were shocked, as was I, to read my story in print.  They came up with a plan and, before I knew it, I was in self-help rehab!  We had a senior trip planned in a few months.  I needed to gain 10 pounds before then.  Each of them, in turn, wanted to lose a little weight.  They would gingerly walk me into the cafeteria each day at noon and proceed to trade their mashed potatoes for my salad, filling my plate with higher-calorie and healthy foods as they feasted on my low-cal favorites.  If I ate the appropriate portions, they rewarded me with a chocolate milk shake...and a lot of pride and praise from my friends, who were actually helping to save my life.  

There is so much more I could share.  I would love to personally thank the writer of that article.  I would love to hug each of my friends and acknowledge their bravery and dedication in starting my healing journey.  I opted for a more comfortable approach, to write a song that would:

  • explain the realities of anorexia to loved ones of sufferers; 
  • offer support and understanding to sufferers;
  • offer hope of recovery, that will probably span a lifetime!  One day at a time...
Please watch this song about my own struggle that I would later acknowledge as anorexia nervosa.  I recorded this myself (so the sound quality won't be that of my professionally done videos) and had my producer insert some pictures of me at different stages of my disorder and recovery.  I would love to know that my song brought attention to or simply explained the pain of this condition to people who are struggling, in some capacity, with the disease.   

Please please please forward this to anorexics and their loved ones, to fellow survivors, to guidance counselors, to teachers.  I want to do my part to enlighten, just like Seventeen Magazine did for me in spring of 1975.  

as always, until next blog, peace and love to you...dorothy

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Celebrating a life well-lived...Doyle Chambers (1918-2005)

He was born in 1918, the first-born child to a sharecropping family in rural Line, Arkansas.  By the time he could stand, he was picking cotton.  His family relocated to Bonita, Louisiana, because his father felt his children could receive a better education there.  He studied by kerosene lamp, and delivered his lessons in a one-room schoolhouse.  

He was by no means the perfect child!  If he got a whippin' at school, his little sister would run home to give Mom the news, and he was sent outside to 'prune the peach tree'. (He got a whippin' at home, too, with the very switch he picked.) 

He laughed as he recounted the one pair of shoes ordered from the Sears catalog yearly.  As his mom was placing the order, she would ask, "Doyle, how do your shoes feel?"  He was a kid and his response was, "Fine," and he would spend the coming year squeezing his growing feet into shoes that couldn't accommodate them.

He worked hard each day, and studied hard each night, by kerosene lamp.  He excelled in Latin, and his teacher decided that he was destined for an undergraduate degree at LSU.  Before his formal education was completed, he had received his Ph.D. in Animal Genetics from Oklahoma State University.  He would retire as Vice Chancellor for Reseach in the AgCenter at Louisiana State University.

He was an avid traveler throughout his life, crawling across Europe in the 1940s, and revisiting with his wife after his retirement in the mid-'80s.  He was a loyal and devoted  husband to my mom for 53 years (until her passing), and a consistent and loving dad to us kids.  He treasured marriage and family so much that he remarried after her passing and his family increased in size.

Grand-parenting was his specialty!  There was a gentleness about his approach to my children that warmed my heart, as he encouraged them in life with wisdoms like, "You can choose any profession.  The cream always rises to the top."  That was my dad.  His name was Doyle Chambers.  He died in September 2005. 

I wrote the tune 'So Far' after his passing.  He was very pragmatic and consistent...I am very exuberant and artsy-fartsy.  I understand now why, over the years, he would look at me and grin and shake his head at the way I looked at the world!  I always knew he loved me, though. 

If I could say one thing to my dad this very day, it would be this:  You taught me by your example how to 'stay headed in the right direction and keep it between the lines'.  I'd say that's the best gift a father can give a child.  Please take a look and listen at this slide-show video of my dad, alongside the rest of our family, over the years.  

Here's the link:

Special thanks to producer and videographer Daniel Lee, and to string player Dave Hinson for making this song come to life.

As always, thank you for reading, watching and listening...and a very Happy Father's Day to all the fathers and father-figures out there.  Until next blog, peace and love to you.  dorothy

Sunday, June 1, 2014

MODERN CONVENIENCES vs. OLD-SCHOOL METHODS...What does simplification mean in 2014?

MODERN CONVENIENCES VS. OLD-SCHOOL METHODS:   As someone who has lived through so many technological and societal changes in the past half century, I have been wrestling with a few questions:
  1. With all the time-and-energy-saving conveniences that have cropped up over the past century, why does it seem that there are never enough hours in a day? 
  2. Is it possible that we get more work done in less time with modern conveniences, yet the process and experience is less satisfying?  
  3. We all have more 'leisure time' since so many difficult, mundane chores have become much easier to accomplish (sometimes with the click of a mouse).  Is the satisfaction we get from our leisure time enough to feel whole?  
  4. How important is it to occasionally 'step back in time'  and rediscover the satisfaction of a job well done, the old-school way  (i.e., write a letter, a song (or yes, even a blog) by hand, or with a manual typewriter)?
Let me give you an example:  When I was in high school in 1975, I did a term paper on "Governor Huey P. Long and his effect on LSU".  I would say that research might be considered a mundane chore.  There was no internet at the time.  There were not many books on the topic, but I found the microfilm room in the basement of the LSU library and I plowed through HOURS AND HOURS of film of the 1920s-1930s LSU newspaper, The Reveille.  It was actually  more like DAYS AND DAYS of film of The Reveille, finding occasional references to Huey Long and his role in developing the university.  I took notes by hand, on note cards, noting date of article, aspect of Huey's involvement, etc.  After a couple of months, I compiled information I obtained from this and a few other sources, and created something I was really, really proud of.  Was it a quick, click-of-the-mouse process?  NO.  Was it a source of pride and satisfaction to do the paper without the modern conveniences?  YES!  I bet I could write the same paper today, with my computer in my lap, the weekend before it was due.  I would have missed out on so much.

No, I don't want to go back to sweeping my floor every day. I love my vacuum cleaner that does not spray the dust back into the air.  Yes, I am glad to have an oven and a stove in my home that will let me cook inside.  THAT SAID, I am glad to have had the experience of only having a broom when I was a young adult...and glad to have learned to cook on a campfire and even on the surface of a wood-burning stove in my youth.  There's something about the simplicity of the swoosh of the broom on the floor...and having to wait patiently as the food cooks a bit more slowly, without electricity.  Maybe it's the simplicity of doing things a more natural way that feeds my soul...that makes me feel complete...that satisfies my very being...that simplifies my life.

I would be honored for you to follow my link and give a listen to a song I wrote a few years ago, called Simplify.  It's about appreciating the simple things in life, the things of my youth...those very things that I often turn my back on to keep up with society.  Here's to slowing down and simplifying when the world is moving way too fast!  Like on a lazy Sunday, like today. Thank you, as always, for reading.  Here's the link:

Until next blog, peace and love to you...dorothy

Sunday, May 25, 2014

True or False: My momma never worked a day in her life! Correct answer below...

My mom was a proud homemaker.  She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics in 1941 from Louisiana State University.  Now, before you giggle and say, 'oh, she got her Mrs. degree at LSU'...I'm here to set you straight!  While in college, she became proficient in time management and family budgeting; studied health and nutrition; was schooled in food preparation with an emphasis on efficiency and perfection; became an EXCELLENT seamstress and tailor; learned the basics of child development; and to top it off, before she could graduate, she had to live one semester in the Home Demonstration House and be graded proficient (or not), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by the most feared and respected teacher around at that time, Iona Smith.  As a 1978 graduate from LSU's Home Economics program, I kind of wish I had had that experience.  Theirs was a brutal yet exceptional curriculum, at a time when the role of homemaker was respected and celebrated in society.  I'd like to introduce you to my mom...

Job Title:  homemaker
Hours:  24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Pay:  $ 0.00
Job Responsibilities:  cooked 3 balanced meals a day for a family of 5; made play, school and church clothes for 3 children; raised those three children;  tailored my fathers suits and constructed his around-the-house clothes as well; sewed all of her own clothes; ran errands and drove carpools; budgeted; cleaned house; did yard work; and did everything else that cropped up during the day that required her attention. 
How Long Position Held:  53 years

My dad and mom were a team.  He worked hard and rose in his career, with my mom's assistance.  He would say she was doing the IMPORTANT work.  She was caring for home and family.   He also had an amazing perception of my mom's role in our family, and I often recounted it when I became a homemaker in the 1980s.  He said that for every dollar my mother SAVED (by doing the work herself), that was $2.00 she actually MADE the family, because you are not taxed on the money you SAVE, only on the money you MAKE.  That's really crucial.  Let me give you that again:  For EVERY DOLLAR that my momma SAVED the family by sewing our clothes and cooking our meals, that was actually $2.00 that my momma MADE...because YOU DON'T PAY TAXES ON MONEY YOU SAVE, ONLY ON MONEY YOU MAKE.  In my father's eyes (and also in the eyes of her kids) my mom's role was CRUCIAL in our family dynamic.  

At the end of this blog, you will find a link to a protest song I wrote and performed at a songwriter event in Baton Rouge, LA, addressing the lack of respect that some people have for homemakers in our society.  BEWARE:  You will probably be shocked, overwhelmed, AND chagrined by the impact of the lyrics, as you (hopefully) tap your toes to my jazzy melody and bossa nova beat!  The tune is entitled Lady of Leisure (which is what my mom called herself, with a wink and a smile).  

My mom died on May 25, 1996, of breast cancer.  Her name was Luella Dugas Chambers.  Mom, this blog is dedicated to you.  Thank you for all you did.  I hope it will INFORM, INSPIRE, and ENCOURAGE families of today to realize that there ARE alternatives to 2-parents working and children in day care.  One parent (of either sex) can be at home SAVING money, doing what my dad (Doyle Chambers) called 'the IMPORTANT work'.  

I hope y'all will give a look and listen to the video of my momma's song.  Oh, and in case you need clarification, the answer to the question in the title is FALSE!  

until next blog, peace and love

Sunday, May 18, 2014

graduation and the art of letting go

It's mid-May, 2014.  I can wake up in the morning these days, and my little red Honda Fit is no longer covered with pollen.  The temperatures are warming up, and the rain seems to have died down. I've noticed another familiar mid-May occurrence.  Mixed in with the bills and sales fliers and general correspondence, we've begun to receive graduation invitations from high school and college seniors, wanting to share their accomplishment (and hoping to score a little cash in the process).  They look a lot like the invitations I sent out in 1975 when I graduated from high school. 39 years ago.  Unbelievable, yet I digress.

Seniors are excited, fearless, ready to take on the world.  I know I was.  I absolutely do remember my excitement on moving day, ready to make a college dorm my home.  Time to stand up on my own two feet, without my parents on the sideline to rescue me when I fell flat on my face.  I was SO ready!  I never once thought about my parents in this equation...How did it feel as they watched me drive off, knowing that I would not be at breakfast the next morning, or maybe ever again?  As a 56-year-old mom of 2 grown sons, I've gained an appreciation for my own parents...and for the art of letting go.

Okay, admittedly, I was reluctant to let go of my kids.  I didn't always show it, but I was a twisted-up mess inside.  Had I taught them all they needed to know to take on the world, without me?  Would they survive?  I had so many scenarios playing out in my mind...anticipating that I'd failed them, and that I needed them under my parental umbrella just a wee bit longer.  

NOTE TO PARENTS:  Not to sound unfeeling or uncaring, but here's what I found.  "Out of sight, out of mind" held a lot of credence for me.  At some point, you realize that they ARE handling their lives.  They no longer NEED you.  You've done your job...and now it's time for them to do theirs.  That was a hard one to swallow...they no longer NEEDED me.  But I survived and you will, too!  I became a songwriter and performing musician when my kids left the home.  Not bad, right?

NOTE TO STUDENTS:  Cut your parents some slack...If they hover a bit (or even a lot) it's because they love you.  They've been in your shoes and they know your road may be rocky...Be patient with them, okay?

As a songwriter, I love to reflect on moments like these.  I would be honored for you to follow the link to my song, Wander, and give it a listen.  It's about love and letting go, in any loving relationship, but I guess I felt it most strongly in May 2003 and May 2005.  

And one more thing:
NOTE TO MY PARENTS:  I wish I could tell you I'm sorry if I was insensitive as I struck out to find my own way.  You guys did an amazing job of letting me wander...

until next blog, peace and love

Saturday, May 10, 2014

friendship and the meaning of "less than 3"

Suffice it to say that the older I get (I'm 56 at the time of this writing), the more I realize all I didn't learn in kindergarten, or grade school, or junior high, or high school, or even college.  Scholastically and athletically I had always held my own, but facts and figures are so quickly forgotten after the tests are taken.  I never made the important honor roll, the social honor roll.  I kept to myself a whole lot, because I just didn't know how to navigate the interpersonal waters around me, secretly envying others who managed to tread bravely through all three terrains. FAST-FORWARD 40 years...

In hindsight, I'd say our paths were meant to converge.  Our friendship began as a lot of other adult friendships do, involving work.  I hired him to do some videography and recording for me, as I was embarking on my musical career.  It proved to be a wonderful working collaboration.  He truly believed in the work we were doing, as much, if not more, than I did!  But even more importantly, he believed in me.  In truth, I gotta say, that I didn't truly believe in myself at that point...

I haven't mentioned our age difference.  The year I graduated from college, he was taking his first steps.  That said, a time came when our digits were entered into each others' phones and we started regarding each other as more than merely co-workers.  We became friends.  Whenever I've struggled with my role as parent to my adult children, he's given me perspective.  As he's pondered his life direction following college and beyond, I've been there, sharing my own vantage point.  So THAT'S what this friendship thing is all about...having someone to listen and share and understand and care.  No matter what.  Unconditionally.  

I didn't learn to truly trust and celebrate friendship until I was in my 50s.  Maybe that's why it is so precious to me, and why I was empowered to commemorate its importance in song.  I wrote this song (entitled "less than 3" or "<3") in 2013 and debuted it at Life's a Song Workshop in Port Aransas, TX.  I'd be honored for you to click on the following link and give the song a look and listen.  I hope it touches your heart and strikes a chord.  And, of course, videography is by my friend...

Until next blog, peace and love...Dorothy C. LeBlanc