The United State of Women Summit

I’ve been invited to attend the United State of Women summit hosted by The White House in Washington DC on June 14th!

The event will celebrate all that has been done for gender equality, and discuss the work that still needs to be done around the issue. The summit will focus on the following topics:

  1. Economic Empowerment
  2. Violence Against Women
  3. Health and Wellness
  4. Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  5. Educational Opportunity
  6. Leadership & Civic Engagement

It’s an honor to be invited to participate and I’m so grateful the White House is leading on these important conversations. The event will be live streamed and I’ll share more details as they come! Use the hashtag #stateofwomen to track the event.



New Poetry – READ THE GRAY

READ THE GRAY

I want to post about something useful,
But there is far too much to say.
I want to talk about progress,
And all of the phonies in our way.
I want to speak about movements,
And discuss all of the needed reform.
But picking the place to start
Is like looking for dust in a windstorm.

Should we talk about the refugees?
Or the need for equal pay?
Should we discuss our fears around gun control?
Or the endless wars happening today?
What’s up with this election?
And how the media has let us down?
Are you keeping up with the privatized prisons?
Or the secret Big Pharmacy takedowns?

There is nothing black and white
Happening in our lives today.
But somehow our culture’s attention span
Makes it impossible to read the gray.
And when it’s hard for families to drink clean water,
Or when implicit bias closes another door,
It can be unclear how to successfully fight
Against the injustice, corruption and war.

The emotions become more contagious,
But the ability to fight becomes hard.
When you’re worried about food and rent,
Being Goliath’s David is a daunting charge.
And so many of the rest of us
Who are able to pay our bills
Are stuck on our phones and social media
Addicted to endorphin thrills.

It’s no wonder apathy is still so present
And deaf, hateful anger is high;
We’ve become so hasty in our conclusions
And the well of deep thinking looks dry.
I can’t stand this distracted attention span;
Scientists compare us to goldfish now.
And we’ve hazily lost our dialogue skills,
And extreme stances are popular somehow.

I read recently that patience is a shield,
That it protects each step of your way.
It reveals your opponents’ motivations
And shows truth in the intentions of the play.
And curiosity reveals the human spirit,
Invoking wonder, awe and foresight.
If you want to escape the depths of a shadow,
Count on curiosity to bring you daylight.

I want us to be better.
I want us to work on our focus and thought.
Critical thinking is a skill that really matters,
It’s the skill that will help aim your shot.
And I want us to fall in love with tolerance
And stop seeing difference as a threat.
New perspectives unlock this world,
And intolerance seeds disrespect.

It’s not that I think people are lame or weak.
I believe we’re quite magical too.
It’s that I’m certain we can do better,
And I want to hold us to this truth.
Our current issues are daunting,
And the systems are beyond corrupt.
Yet so many of you are working hard
Finding the best way to disrupt.

Propagating hateful “leaders” is not the answer,
No matter the ratings and money it makes.
Acting out of fear never brings empowerment,
It leads to heartache, flakes and mistakes.
Intelligent courage is a grounded spirit.
It doesn’t need their loss to win.
It’s strategic and honest and looks at all sides
And trusts itself deep within.

Find this courage within you,
To not only fight the mighty fight,
As you hustle, be patient and curious,
And don’t hold on to the need to be right.
Find value in your experiences,
The dark and shameful ones too.
Remember, everything you ever went through
Has taught you how to be You.

Please don’t let this poem be overwhelming,
See it as a personal prayer.
But just in case this poem got you down,
I have something good to share.
If you’re ever feeling kinda blue,
And need to put a smile on your cute face,
Get yourself this magical mug,
Of a unicorn flying through space.



Five Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Dad

It is with a heavy heart that I must postpone my Los Angeles concert that is scheduled for Friday, February 19th, due to my dad’s need to have a triple-bypass surgery just two days before the concert.

I’ve always wanted to share my Dad with the world, and not just have him to my family and myself. He has a wisdom, strength and kindness about him that I’ve been aware of from a very young age.

The desire to share him with the world started in junior high, when I saw that some of my friends did not have good relationship with their dads, or maybe didn’t even have a dad around at all. They couldn’t go home to tell him everything that happened and all that they were trying to understand about the world like I did every day. Or if they could, their dads didn’t listen attentively and love unconditionally.

I wanted every girl to have the kind of relationship I had with my dad because I knew so clearly the benefits of having a steady rock like him in my life, and how it influenced my self-confidence, social skills and my relationships to others, particularly with boys as a child and with men as an adult.

My parents in the 70s.

(My parents in the 70’s just after they got married)

I’m inspired to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from my dad now because my family and I are in a moment where we see how fragile life can be as we age, and how valuable it is to be present with each other and appreciate our finest qualities. And so before my dad has his surgery next Wednesday, I want to write to tell you about a few things I’ve learned from one of the most honorable and magnanimous souls I have ever known, who happens to be my father.

FIVE LIFE LESSONS I’VE LEARNED FROM MY DAD:

1. Listening is an art. People are often waiting for their turn to talk, for their turn to share their own knowledge. We have a desire to be heard and seen, and to belong. My dad taught me that one of the most generous actions in this life is be a good listener and observer. Listening and observing well not only will make you wiser in the end, it is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

(My pensive father during his seminary days.)

2. A person’s character is not defined by the problems they get into, but how they choose to resolve those problems. He told me this as a teenager, when I was bewildered by some of the behaviors of my peers and crushes between boys and girls were becoming quite real. I’ll never forget it and I swear by this nugget of wisdom, because it has helped me be both compassionate and realistic when it comes to vetting the character of people who have come in and out of my life.

“We all have problems,” he told me. “Life is imperfect and sometimes we can’t control the problems that land on our laps. But we can control how we react to those problems. If you truly want to know who a person is in their heart, watch them resolve and unravel a problem. Don’t just watch how they treat others in the situation, watch how they treat themselves… it will tell you everything you need to know about their character.”

3. There is a difference between “liking” and “loving,” and liking your children can have great power. I was 15-years-old when my dad said to me, “You know I love you unconditionally. I know you feel this. But you know what? I really like you too. I think you are such a cool person and I’m honored to have you be my daughter.”

Oh Lordy did this mean the world to me. From that moment on, I quietly thought to myself: My dad doesn’t just love me, he LIKES me and he thinks I’m cool. It was an incredible moment for my self-esteem. Tell your kids how rad you think they are, it might change their life too.

(Me and dad when I was a tiny toddler)

 4. Follow your passions fully; there is a reason you are here. My entire childhood, I was devoted to music as a classical musician. As college came I knew I loved music but I didn’t want to be in the traditional orchestra scene and I wanted to diversify my skills and education. So I studied film, storytelling and media and got a degree in Communications and Literature. After college, while I was working for John Cusack in Hollywood, I picked up my viola and started playing publicly again with DJs and bands in contemporary settings. It felt really good to be back on stage. I loved music so much, and deep inside I wanted to pivot my professional work and return to music. It was a scary moment. I called my dad to tell him this and to get his guidance. I was nervous to pursue such an unorthodox, high-risk career and wanted his perspective.

In our conversation, my dad said to me, “We are all put on this earth for a reason. Your whole life it’s been clear to your mom and me that you have a special gift with music. And sometimes we want or need to do things that don’t make sense to anyone but our selves. When I was in the seminary and my lottery number was picked to be drafted into the Vietnam War, I had only two choices: become a priest or go to the Vietnam War. And deep inside, I knew I was supposed to go to the war. I didn’t know why and it didn’t make sense to anyone who cared about me, but I was certain I was supposed to go to that war. Now we know it was so I could meet your mom (my mother is Vietnamese), marry her and create you! Now it all makes sense. Trust me dear, follow your heart. If you want to go create music, do it. Because God has a plan for you, and if its meant to be music, then you should honor that plan.”

And then he said to me, “By the way, the entire time you’ve talked about returning to music, your voice was shaking. I’ve never heard your voice shake like this. I think you have to return to music, there is something destined for you there.”

My dad was a lead singer!

(My dad was a lead singer in a band!)

5. Be the Princess that you were born to be. This one goes way beyond the material or the cliché…

My dad is old school. He opens building doors and car doors for my mother and me at all moments. When we walk on the sidewalk he insists on walking on the outside, closer to the moving traffic. He listens to us and respects us to the highest degree. He encourages me with attentive ears, strong morals and an open and curious heart. On all of these things, he not only instilled some expectations inside of me, but he explicitly told me to expect this from any man that I open my heart to and especially the man that I decide to spend my life with. (And for the record, my fiancé does all of these old-school chivalrous actions and loves to do them too.)

But my father’s point on this one goes way beyond chivalry. He also told me to care for others, especially those less fortunate, those in need, and those without a voice. Be giving, be there for others, be strong. Respect yourself and carry yourself with integrity at all times. Remember what your ancestors and your mother went through for you to have all of the gifts, beauty and love that you have in your life. Carry yourself like the Princess that you are, and the world will feel your love and gifts more than you can understand.

(My parents when they fell in love in during the Vietnam War)

My father told me all these things and more. So much more. Today I’m sharing just a few of the gems in hopes that his wisdom can enrich your lives, your children’s lives and anyone around you.

Fathers, if I may – never underestimate the influence you have over your daughters. The bond that you two have may just make or brake her spirit. I believe this with my whole heart, and there is plenty of evidence in the psychology/sociology realms to back me up on this. If every dad took the time and shared the love that I received from my dad, I feel like this world would be an even more stable and loving place.

Please send your love, prayers and good thoughts to my dad and our family as we enter this critical moment next week with his health and well being. My dad is having his surgery with the top heart surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, who happens to be the same surgeon that did my mom’s triple bypass just 7 months ago. (Can you believe our family is having to deal with this twice in such a short amount of time?) So I feel my dad is in great hands.

And please, hug your children and your parents and remind them that you love them. Maybe even tell them that you not only love them, but like them too.

As for my postponed Los Angeles concert, we will be notifying when the new date is soon when we have more details. Thank you for your understanding and support!



Post-Hope America Opens Pandora’s Box

 

I’m pleased to announce that I’m a blogger on The Huffington Post, and my first essay “Post-Hope America Opens Pandora’s Box” introduces the concept around my new album Elpis, and features the first single release from the album, PROLOGUE. In this think piece “Post-Hope America Opens Pandora’s Box,” I discuss the dark side of Hope and introduce the character Elpis from Greek mythology, who is the main character that my album is about.

Please take a look and listen, this project has been a long time coming and I’m so proud to share this with you today, I believe this is one of the most crucial topics for our culture to look at as we head into 2016 and a new presidential election.



Featured Top Creative in ORIGIN MAGAZINE

I’m featured in the current issue of Origin Magazine! The magazine asked creatives, WHAT INSPIRES YOU? My answer:

“Context. Stories. Unicorns, rainbows and darkness. Challenging dualism. The mysterious nature of creating art. Closing my eyes when I perform so I can see the music better. Concept albums. Laughing fits. Courageous women. Overdue confrontations. Defying expectations and creating new pathways. The wormhole of martial arts. GOOOOAALS!!! during the World Cup. Snakes and honeybees. Losing all sense of time. Our misunderstanding of Hope. Curiosity. Vulnerability. It all inspires me.”

I knew my answers would be in this issue, but I didn’t know they were going to use me for the cover of the entire Top Creatives section! Thank you so much to Origin Magazine and Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) for including me in this issue.

Top Creatives p4 - ORIGIN 26

The magazine is on news stands now, and on Side 1 is Mark Ruffalo on the cover and Side 2 has good ol’ Bernie Sanders. There are interviews w/ Ruffalo, Sanders, Richard Branson, Simon Lebon of Duran Duran, documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos (‘The Cove’ and ‘Racing to Extinction’), and so many other fascinating people. Definitely grab an issue while you can, it’s full of amazing content!

Photos of yours truly by Joshua Rubin
Styling by Cassidy Black, Jillian Ann of Ritual
Hair and Make-up by Marie Anthony






christen@itsnotaviolin.com

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