Opening a new blog -- Claudia Snowden

Fried Okra Productions is going dark. I've begun a new blog called simply Claudia Snowden on WordPress. It was time. Not very active yet, I'm battling a pinched nerve between my shoulder blades that hurts when I sneeze, cough, type, brush/wash my hair...move my right arm towards the left...pretty much any time.

Trying a new medication--Lyrica--to block the pain. Some unsettling side effects, such as also blocking other sensations, leading to more clumsiness than usual. If you have information or advice regarding Lyrica, I'd sure like to know. I don't trust meds that discombobulate.

I won't delete FOP. Too much content, good or bad, to throw away. And, I can refer back to posts that are relevant in my new blog.

Come visit and let me know what you think!


Blues Traveler to benefit Kids in a New Groove Gala Benefit Nov. 18 at OWT

2011 Music for the Soul Gala with Blues Traveler to benefit Kids In a New Groove
Exclusive concert will feature catered dinner, cocktails...and one incredible cause.
WHO:                Kids in a New Groove—private music lessons for youth in foster care
WHAT:              2011 Music For The Soul Gala featuring Blues Traveler
WHERE:           One World Theatre, 7701 Bee Caves Rd., Austin, TX (512) 330-9500
WHEN:             Friday, November 18 from 6:30 – 11 p.m.
WEB:                http:/www.kidsinanewgroove.org/MusicForTheSoul
TIX:                  $250 individual, sponsorships start at $1,500
MEDIA:            Photos, details, or interviews david@wyattbrand.com, (512) 450-4395
As a musician and compassionate human being, I need to share something with you I think is profoundly important. I unequivocally believe that music can help heal most anything. Last April, Will Taylor and Strings Attached turned me on to Kids in a New Groove (KING), a non-profit organization that gives real hope to Texas youth in foster care through free private music lessons. I’ve come to realize that these children need all the healing they can get--more than any other kids in any state foster care system.

Why do I think this?  
Shanti Grossman from KING contacted me with an update on the program. She shared a few heart-breaking statistics about the Texas foster care system.

  •        Texas ranks 50th of 50 in funding for foster care.
  •        Texas also ranks dead last in education.
  •        Texas ranks first in deaths due to child abuse.
  •        Some children in the Texas system are in up to 20 single-family foster homes.
  •        Many children are in residential treatment centers/group homes until age 16.
  •        70% of the U.S. prison population has been in foster care.
  •         Many kids in foster care age out and end up pregnant or on welfare.  
There's more...
Reports indicate that less than two percent of foster youth will graduate from college and up to 50% will end up homeless within two years of emancipation. (From the KING Gala press release)
Whether these facts are related or not, I can only venture an observation that the system is freaking broken and these kids need every shred of hope they can get. I can't think of a better way to make a positive difference on every aspect of these youngsters' lives than to get involved with this program. 

Now for the Fun Part!

Blues Traveler is giving a gala dinner and concert to benefit KING on November 18 at One World Theatre! This will be a very cool event, for a very cool organization. If you can help in any way, please contact me ASAP.

Shanti also had some cracking great stories to share. She told me about a 15 year-old girl who found a reason to live through the healing power of music. The youngster had been in around 20 foster homes and 5-6 group homes. She became deeply depressed (who wouldn't?), neglecting her health and personal hygiene—essentially, she gave up. After two voice lessons in the program, she began showering again, and after a few more lessons, asked for permission to leave campus for a short run to get back in shape. 
This young woman’s sense of self-worth and confidence revived when music entered her life on a consistent basis through the KING program. During the nearly two years this young lady participated in KING, she was bounced through several more foster arrangements, always maintaining contact with her teacher, regardless of what else was going on. It was her lifeline. This speaks to the understanding and compassion of the KING instructors as well as their artistry.

The proof is in the pudding.
And then there’s Antawaine. This is Antawaine in a "Sunday's Child" interview on YouTube. What we can’t know from the video is that Antawaine came from an abusive home, as many foster kids do, and was placed in the system by child protective services from a very early age. He developed anger and other behavioral problems, to no one's surprise. Antawaine had been in the KING program for a good while prior to the interview. In the interview, he says “Guitar is the spirit of my heart.” KING has made a radical difference in this young man's life. That’s how powerful this program is.

Want more awesome Proof is in the Pudding goodness?
Here's what KING music instructor Genevieve Borden (MT-BC, Neurologic Music Therapist) has to say about her young pupil:

Joshua is a fantastic young man. When I first met him, he was a little shy and was not extremely confident about his musical abilities in piano and voice. In the last year, I have seen him grow not only in his music career, but also in his schoolwork. He is improving greatly in both piano and voice and has learned to play the violin proficiently! He has pulled his grades up significantly as well.This year, so far, he has all A and B grades!! He is driven in his music and is looking forward to studying music in college. I am very proud of him!!

This is the "Ways You Can Help" part
  •     Attend the 2011 Music For the Soul Gala concert with Blues Traveler!
  •     Donate $$, time, blog posts, instruments, musical instruction, in-kind services…
  •     Let all your friends know
  •     Think of ways you can partner for concerts, etc.
  •     Comp tickets for the KING kids for your concerts, shows, etc.
  •     Collaborate with other kids' groups
  •      Include info in newsletters
  •     Spread the word about KING
Will Taylor's brilliant benefit concert and violin burning for the group met with great success. To celebrate, Will and friends hosted a BBQ for the KING kids in his backyard. They continue to support KING by setting up a project info table at every gig. How cool is that? Pretty damn good modeling, I’d say. Thanks to Will, AT&T, and many other dedicated folks and sponsors, KING is beginning to catch fire, and deservedly so.
My small contribution is this very tardy blog post. I really want you to see for yourself how necessary music is to heal the souls and hearts of these forgotten children.

The Really Awesome Bottom Line...
KING is making a difference. And you can help.
Alternately, Kids in a New Groove offers a decidedly more promising path by providing private music lessons to youth in foster care. All of their most recent high school graduates went on to college this fall, demonstrating that they are truly making a difference. The November fundraiser will allow them to sustain and extend their programs throughout the state.
Kids in a New Groove’s unique music mentoring programs have a proven track record of helping these youth improve grades, behavior, and overall life skills. Lessons become a lifeline as teachers move with foster youth between placements, giving these youth a chance to trust and develop lasting relationships. (From the Gala press release)
  All photos courtesy Kids in a New Groove


R.I.P Steve Jobs and Aunt Ginger

October 10, 2011
Canada Thanksgiving Day


“(for) those things that aren't pleasant at the time, but turn out to be blessings in disguise.” Karen Coverett

The cycle of life. 

As Steve Jobs put it (paraphrasing) thank God that there is death. It clears away the old, the decrepit, the dead wood to make room for the new. New ideas, techniques, ways of perceiving and tweaking the world to make it a better place for not just ourselves, but those who come after.

Birth—I have attended six births in 36 years, beginning with my own daughter at home, naturally, in Northern California. My greatest accomplishment. Forty-eight hours of labor to produce a healthy, aware, human being. Three of the next 5 births were natural, no drugs. The remaining two were assisted by a c-section, but labor was without drugs.

Death—my sister and I undertook a labor of love to attend the funeral of a favorite aunt. In the inexorably trudge through life, it seems odd to write about death with gratitude.  It’s a mystery. And I’ve come to feel curious about it rather than afraid. Yes, I am afraid still. There is so much to learn and in this instance, I gained valuable information that I can share with younger relatives.

While on a sundown walk last Friday, my nephew began asking me questions about our family history. Sadly, I don’t have much information about my paternal relatives. He wanted to know things like “how did Papaw and Grams ever get together? They were such opposite personalities.” I actually knew the answer to that, because my mom had told me many years ago. She married my dad because he was the first man to ever say “no” to her. Silly reason, I know. It made sense, though. She was a spoiled princess who bewitched every man who laid eyes on her. My dad was a challenge. A curiosity to her. The marriage finally dissolved, but their lives were entwined even after they divorced.

My parents were civil rights leaders in the deep south and in Texas back in the ‘40’s and ‘50s. That’s saying a lot. My nephew wanted to know more about my dad’s family origins to understand how they thought about major social issues, especially racism. What happened, what thinking was involved that resulted in including black people into the family bloodline? Especially in the Texas of that time?

I only had assumptions and misty impressions from childhood. By the time I was aware of my paternal grandparents, she was blind, and my grandfather was taciturn. I don’t remember hearing him utter more than a dozen words during the short time I knew him. By that time, he was worn out from a life of hard-scrabble farming, failure, and pain. He more than likely was already suffering the onset of the leukemia that finally killed him. I remember him as a dour rock of a man. Not scary; rather monolithic. Not cold—enduring.

My sister and I drove to a small town just southwest of Ft. Worth. North Texas has enjoyed considerably more rain than central Texas, and it was like driving into the land of Oz. Rain, which we haven’t seen in over 9 months. We were bedazzled.

Met up with an older cousin, my closest connection to our grandparents. She has  some awesomely cool stories about our grandmother, but had never talked about granddaddy.  

She totally reversed lifelong assumptions I’d had about my grandfather. I expected to hear that ghe was the stereotypical Texas racist and misogynist.  Instead, she glowingly painted a portrait of a man who loved and respected his wife and daughters, and that a day didn’t go by when he didn’t say that getting an education was the most important thing for them to do. Pretty cool feminist thinking in the 1930's.

He farmed cotton until ol’ Boll Weevil knocked Texas farmers flat in the 50’s and 60’s. He not only paid fair wages, he respected his neighbors, no matter their color. Besides, during the Great Depression, everyone was equal. It made good sense and good commerce to develop good relationships for the community to survive.

Grandaddy died when I was seven, and since we lived out of state, we didn't have much opportunity to get to know him. He was always sweet to us, but just too exhausted to relate much. We had lots of cousins and aunts and uncles to keep us busy. Chinaberry fights, hunting rattlesnakes in the arroyos that formed in the last big drought in the 50’s, gathering eggs, feeding chickens, fishing for crawdads...we always had great fun when we did get to visit.

This story makes me so happy and grateful, especially for our children. They need to know that their great-great-grandad was a decent, hard-working, compassionate, wise, loving man; and to know that these values are present in their DNA, and that they can choose to improve as human beings. That’s an awesome gift. That’s what’s going to save the planet.


And may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest...

Oh. Wow. Steve Jobs.
He is stardust. He changed the world. And right now, everyone is thinking about how he changed their life. I certainly am.

More than that, I'm sure I'm not the only one who got that lightning jolt reminder of our own mortality. How am I grokking life through the gifts this man gave us? Am I making this world a better place for anyone?

Jobs gave me 21st century tools to help me explore my dreams. I have the capacity to create anything. That is freaking awesome.

Personally, I think he should get the Nobel Peace Prize for hooking us all up.

This man put a phenomenal tool in the hands of my 18 month old grand niece. She gets it. She's learning crazy amounts of stuff on it. It's no big deal to her. She's busy living a creative little life way beyond mere gadgets. (Disclaimer: both parents work for Apple and wisely supervise her use.) At the other end of the scale, it's more and more common to see folks much older than I wailing away on iDevices. Communication tools. That can be used for the common good.

I have a modest history with Apple. I was around in the mid-80's when Apple installed the first computer lab on campus at UT. My first office Mac was a sweet little '88 model with which I administered Princeton Pro Musica while in Jersey. I finally got my very own Mac in '94 Australia. Poured the paradoxical two-year long death throes of a marriage while living in paradise into that tiny box.

Periodically updated Macs were with me through my last, lengthy university career. Tons of writing, editing, photography, Web and information design, learning, teaching. A happy discovery--Apple's education folks are super cool, supportive, and quite generous to educators. Many thanks to those good people.

At long last, I have my dream Macbook Pro, thanks to a righteous parting gift from my (Much Better) Ex, along with the university employee discount. Steve Jobs made it possible for me to have crazy fun banging away at turning decades of dreams into something good for the planet, I hope...while there's still time.

Bon voyage, Steve.


Retirement: Doing the Media Mash - 9/1/10-9/1/11

Whoa. What a year. The I Ching told me it furthers one to find helpers, and I did. More important, I was on a steep learning curve to convert skills from university to private business. Too bad I couldn't have stayed on a little longer to maximize my financial needs, but themz the breaks, yo. I need all the energy I can muster to get something together that will make everyone's life better.

In spite of the near stroke last year, I am confident that this morning's annual physical results will be better than last year. Poor me back then. Healthier me right now. For openers, diastolic was down 20 pts. Cool, huh? Body is shaking down, but in decent shape, when it ever does cool down and the smoke isn't too bad, I'll get back to walking.

Politics. It's a shambles. I do know a bully when I see one. I do know when someone does not have my best interests at heart. I know lies. I cannot abide bullies. I may even volunteer for someone or something, haven't decided yet. I did get through this record heat without cutting my hair, so I'm still on track for Locks of Love.

Life's work. Courtesy of Johnny B. Truant and the awesome Natalie, whose sharp eyes caught what would have been a tragi/comic error of epic proportions, I now have a Web site. Not ready for public consumption, of course, but it's my newest, biggest, greatest, shiniest sandbox! It's like finally having a bicycle after riding a tricycle for-ever.

After a summer of wildfires and no rain in Texas, earthquakes, floods, tornados, slow, wet hurricanes, and ice melt, I can confidently welcome you to the Wacky World of Unsettled Climate Change. Seeing that bare system sit on top of us for the last six months is a portrait in despair for those living in it, and defiance for those who deny it. Folks, I've lived long enough to be able to say that this may have happened time and time again in the history of the universe, but do not doubt that it is happening right now. The face of America is changing as grotesquely as a botched Hollywood cosmetic surgery. We will have to learn how to live in it. It won't be the same.

For one thing, education is paramount in a healthy civilization. Wars, not so much. Not at all. If we don't educate our children, we will regress as a species. We have too many tricky-ass problems to face and we need everyone thinking about solutions rather than aggression. I am so ashamed for the state I live in that we are ranked #49. That's out of 50. How can we let this happen?

Which brings me to call a spade a spade. Rick Perry is a huge danger to women, children, and the infirm. Can't go there right now. No sense courting a stroke. On the other hand, I am not 100% Obama at the moment. What I would most love is to see a strong, savvy, compassionate, intelligent person no matter what party who could wake everybody up. In a good, peaceful way. Not abandon them in time of need. I deeply resent the MSM for misleading us, slanting "news" to a political agenda.

Which brings me to social media. Once I finally got my goals straight, I next had to decide how much time I would dedicate to which platform(s). FaceBook was a good fit for me for a lot of reasons. The latest change, however, has gravely damaged my daily flow of information. It is making it harder to access one of my more enjoyable and useful networks, especially since I have an old phone and difficulty texting.

Tiny buttons, tiny type, tiny anything online is the Kiss of Death. Yeah, I have an iPod that I can rock out on a little bit, but it hurts my eyes if I use it too long. I can't afford an iPad, although most every dang member of my family DOES have one, so I'm more than loving on an iPad. I use it a lot while babysitting my grandniece. Who is right over there<--. Just sayin', everyone I know who can afford iPads allow their kids supervised play with them. When a 16 month old child can repeat the opening four bars of a toy playing "Ode to Joy," at exactly the same pitch and tempo, I can't wait to see how this plays out. 

I am working with some wonderful writerly women. I had an idea to interview each of them over the next six months to talk about their individual and group writing journeys. Stay tuned.


WriteGirl is my new favorite word. So is wonderbubble.


My friend Colleen Wainwright, the indomitable Communicatrix, will soon be fifty years of age. Colleen has mounted a wonderbubbly righteous birthday celebration that will change many lives for the better. 

 Colleen Wainwright with two of the L.A. WriteGirls

Colleen thought it would be just wonderbubble to raise $50,000 (that's right, a grand for each decade) to benefit WriteGirl:

WriteGirl is a nonprofit organization for high school girls centered on the craft of creative writing and empowerment through self-expression. Through one-on-one mentoring and monthly workshops, girls are given techniques, insights and hot tips for great writing in all genres from professional women writers. 

Here's an awesome video of the woman herself to tell you all about it.

If she successfully raises $50,000, Colleen will publicly shave her head on her birthday, September 13. And it seems that a good many folks in L.A. and on the internets are more than happy to pony up to witness and/or participate in the shearing. It promises to be her most outstanding performance to date.

Colleen has committed to writing 50 blog posts, tweeting, e-mailing, interviewing stellar writers, burning up the telephone lines...oh, wait...I'm showing my own age—to achieve her goal. She’s creating prodigious amounts of associated penwomanship--videos, writing tips, impromptu performances, and talks. A gob-stopping donation of time and energy. In addition, she's gathered a suite of goodies and services from insanely creative friends. Check out "The Writer's Motto," rendered into an x-rated Sisyphus-evoking cross-stitch by Bee Franck. Did I mention she is one of the above-mentioned professional women writers who volunteers to work with the girls f2f?

Colleen is a most wonderbubbliciously generous person. And all her wonderbubble people are responding to her generosity with love and coin--as of a few minutes ago, she's a little over half way to ringing the bell. 

There are only 28 days to help her raise the other half. Wouldn't it be a total gas to gift Colleen with MORE than $50,000 for the girls? Can you imagine the sheer awesomeness of creating the next generation of wonderbubble women writers?

The WriteGirl IndieGoGo site will tell you all about the Party of the Half Century and how you can help. Go take a look. It will warm your heart and give you hope. Colleen says even tiny donations make a huge difference. It’s all about getting the word out. While you're at it, subscribe to Communicatrix to find her awesome stuff in your inbox. If you're a Facebooker (thanks, Michael Cooper!), like the "50 for 50" page.

Most wonderbubble of all is the courageous, caring, gifted/giving, formidable Colleen Wainwright herself.

Happy Birthday, Colleen. Thank you for making the world a better place--especially for the girls. Can't wait to see what you come up with for your 60th! It will be wonderbubble, for sure.