When I started doing concerts and moved to the stage, it was difficult because my pretty black dresses weren't what I call "stage-worthy." My music editor at the time had a theatre background and knew of an older gentleman who was a local costume designer named Jack Edwards, and she thought he might be a good fit for me. Jack had a huge resume, had previously designed in New York under Bob Mackie and had been a costume designer at The Guthrie Theatre for about 18 years. He was semi-retired, working seasonally as the costume designer for Dayton's annual 8th floor auditorium Christmas show. So I called him, introduced myself, and he gave me directions to his house so we could meet. When he came to "turn left on Wildhurst Trail" I laughed. I had followed him in my mind the whole way. I said, "well, if you turn right on Wildhurst Trail, that's where I live. We're neighbors."
Who would have thought. It was the beginning of a magical 16-year relationship.
Yes, Jack lived around the corner from me on the lake. At that first meeting when I walked into his home, I gasped. Here was this 63-year old man who looked like a king (or maybe Santa during the holidays) standing at the door. "Hello, darling," he said with his long, drawn-out sophisticated and slightly forced European-sounding voice (I later heard he was originally from Pennsylvania). His house was like nothing I'd ever seen before. It could have been out of a storybook. First, the knots in the white pine beadboard ceiling had all been cut out and replaced with tiny mirrors so that "my candlelight will reflect off the ceiling." He had perfectly polished silver and mercury glass EVERYWHERE, a huge mirror over the fireplace made out of white sea shells, a real brown bear skin rug (complete with head and open mouth) on the floor, rich dark blue velvet chairs, and day beds (instead of couches) that faced his floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake. His blue and white china in the kitchen sat on open shelves and the dishes were slightly unorganized, just "off" enough to be interesting. He had a collection of personal black and white photos in silver frames of all his friends (I would one day join the ranks). They sat on top of an old out-of-tune closed up grand piano, and above that was a very authentic self-portrait. King Jack.
Around the corner and through the kitchen there was an open shower that was a transition area to Jack's bedroom. (Openly gay, he joked that anyone was welcome to use the shower at any time.) His private quarters were all-white with a hand-painted pine floor. Hundreds of books were scattered in every possible space in the room. French doors opened to an outside paver deck that had a fountain and a small pond full of colorful koi fish. No one lived quite like Jack. Well, not that I had ever met.
He agreed to design a costume for me. We would try it. I knew I was in for a very fun ride.
Jack was super talented. Actually, he was more than that . . . he was gifted. (And you know from reading my blogs that I love to hang with that kind of a person.) He could put textures and colors together better than anyone or anything I'd ever seen before. It was always unpredictable, but it worked. He was patient and detailed, and he could ornament a garment with jewels and stones that could compete with a top New York designer. He was fun. He loved to laugh. He loved pretty things (oh boy, my weakness). He loved nice champagne, and could tell joke after joke that would make him the life of every dinner party. He fit in with anyone and everyone, and was always included at my home for holidays and special events. He loved my kids and was actively a part of their lives (we spent many Christmases together and some of my prettiest gifts came from Jack). We traveled several times to New York City to just shop for the most exquisite fabric we could find in the textile district. In the spring we'd go to Hawaii for a couple of weeks to vacation with friends. Over the years Jack changed my common look to be more glamorous, and I couldn't have done that without his input. I learned a lot from Jack.
But Jack was stubborn. Holy cow. He spent way too much money. Holy cow. And he did not take care of himself. Holy cow. He was what I would describe as an unorganized diabetic (continually forgot his insulin) and in the end, Jack sadly lived almost like a homeless person. His health deteriorated so badly he could barely walk. He could not manage day-to-day tasks. After several car accidents, everyone insisted that he stop driving. During those days I'd pick him up once a week to run errands, go grocery shopping and see the doctor. Our last trip ended with him falling at the grocery store. I was just too small to hold him up or steady him. At that point, I knew he was not long for this earth. There would be no more New York shopping trips or vacations in Hawaii.
Our last project together was memorable. I knew Jack needed both the income and something to do, so I pitched a scene for my upcoming holiday show. We designed cute cowboy outfits with all different colored cowboy boots and hats for the Fab 5 (and me) and rhinestoned everything with coordinating colors. It was so much fun. One was orange, one green, one blue, one pink and one purple. Every time I visited Jack during those days, he was quietly at his kitchen table listening to classical music, glueing stones on the costumes, hats and boots. Being he couldn't walk, he was content to just sit and glue for hours.
Jack died shortly after the project was completed. I visited him the day before he passed away in the hospital. He had just had several toes amputated and was joking that he wouldn't be able to paint his toenails silver anymore . . . or maybe they'd now give him a discount at the nail shop. Half price. When they moved him into his (shared) private room, he had a heart attack. Those of us who knew Jack well said he probably didn't want to have a roommate and decided to call it quits right then and there.
I miss him as a friend, my costume designer, the "Uncle" to my kids . . . and my sweet neighbor who lived around the corner, "left on Wildhurst."
Cheers to Jack Edwards. (1934-2013)
The above photo was taken seven years ago, March 29, 2009. This was our last vacation trip together to Hawaii. Funny enough, the earrings I am wearing in the photo were a Christmas gift from Jack that year and the black top I am wearing was one of the classic designer pieces I purchased at Dayton's. I found this photo after I finished writing this blog. Pretty crazy.
Over our 16-year working relationship, Jack literally designed hundreds of costumes for me, The Pop Chamber Orchestra and The Fab 5. To this day, I still have most of them and may own one of the largest privately-owned costume shops in the country.
Thanks to Jack's training, I am now in the second year of designing my own costumes for my shows and I have two fabulous fabricators who collaborate with me.
Jack requested that his ashes be taken to France.
Photo by Heidi Hrbek
Liberace was the first person I ever saw who could string together a few tunes into a medley. I saw him on TV when I was a kid and was mesmerized. He wasn't just "trained." He had an ear too and although his performance was pretty much memorized note for note, he could really make the piano sing. His medley was fairly short, probably three songs . . . maybe because it was on TV and they had to go to a commercial. His repertoire was fairly standard, but he was good, oh, so good. The best.
Fast forward. It was the mid-80's and I was in college, getting my degree in piano performance at the University of Nevada, Reno. I wanted to play the piano professionally so badly, but there were very few opportunities. I met up with a guy named Tom, who was the keyboard player for Harrah's, specifically the lounge act or what we called the "review" in those days. It was the place to play because it was a stable job. They performed six nights a week. I asked if he would be interested in letting me sub for him if he ever needed a day off as I was working my way through college. I needed both the experience and the money. I actually think I humored him . . . so much so that he taught me the show, and I became his "go-to" when he needed a vacation or a break.
So I became a sub keyboard player for the Brent Zane Orchestra. Sounds really big, doesn't it? But we were merely a five-man "wrecking crew" who played nightly for the lounge act. I was the first "girl" to join in the fun with this band. It was also the very first time I played to track and we sounded huge. Although I had played for a lot of competitions and recitals, this was the most exciting thing I'd ever done musically. The music was hip, current, edgy, super fun, almost naughty. We were positioned up above the audience where no one could really see us fully, so whenever the Master of Ceremonies looked up and acknowledged us, Brent would stand up off his drum set, look over the edge and wave. You could only see his face. Thank goodness because he was shirtless, almost naked because it was so hot in this very small space. He was a hard-core rocker with long wild hair and darker pilot glasses. (Now that I think about it, in writing this I realize he was probably high most shows . . . but I didn't know what that looked like back then.) I guess the whole thing was in fact naughty. The review was topless. It was another world.
One night I heard there was an American pianist in town named Vince Cardell. He was Liberace's only claimed protege and was appearing over in the lounge at The MGM Grand, so I popped over to watch him. Like Liberace, he too did "the medley." I hadn't seen this in years!! He had a five-piece band that played along with him, so it felt a little rehearsed and predictable because they all did it seamlessly together. Again, it was probably only five pieces, but it was terrific. I was inspired.
When I was 15, my mom got really sick. We all knew it was something serious when she actually went to the doctor. It wasn't merely the flu. She came home and closed the curtains, crawled into bed and shut the door. She had shingles. I'd never seen her like this. She didn't get up. With five kids to care for, being the oldest girl I did my best to put food on the table. Now that I think about it, it was probably my first time alone in the kitchen. Some nights my dad brought home fast food, and that was a real treat for our big family. Other nights we went to the Gold & Silver, a local diner that served great burgers and milk shakes.
I know there are a lot of teenage girls who get irritated with their moms. I never felt that way. When she had time for me, I would hang onto her every word. I decided to buy her a present to make her feel better. Of course I didn't have any money, but I had been saving S & H green stamps for quite some time (remember those?). I had collected a small pile and looked in their catalog to see what I could afford to buy. Nothing, really. Well, no one cared that much about S & H green stamps, so I started asking everyone if they would be willing to give their stamps to me. My stamp collection started to grow. There was a guy at church that I had a crush on . . . he was poor and basically homeless (long story . . . another blog). Well, of course he had piles of green stamps. Lucky me. He also had an old rickety Beetle Volkswagon (no back seats, he lived there), so together we went down to the local S & H green stamp store to shop.
And there it was. The perfect gift. So shiny and beautiful. And, hallelujah, I had enough stamps. I cashed them in and walked out with a set of silverware in a wooden box that was lined in red velvet. We had nothing like this in our family. It was fancy and would be perfect for Sunday suppers after church. I came home and at my mother's bedside I presented to her the pretty wooden box. To this day, I remember the expression on her face when she opened it. She loved it.
One morning, about two weeks later, I woke up and there she was standing in the kitchen, cooking all of us breakfast once again. Life returned to normal.
Anyway, I started thinking about that silverware. I had never seen anything like it before, and loved it so much that I began to save my green stamps again. I wrote my grandmother. And my aunt. Before long, I had enough stamps to go back to the S & H green stamp store again. But this time I was going shopping for me. They didn't have the exact set of silverware that I had purchased for my mother anymore, but one very similar, and I bought it. What in the world would a 15-year-old do with this? I tucked it away underneath my bed with dreams of opening it some day in my own happy home.
This was the very first beautiful thing I ever bought.
Trust me, I know life isn't about "stuff," but I've always loved pretty things. I admit it. It is in my DNA. When I was 20, I bought my first set of china. Back then, I didn't use it much, I just wanted to look at it. As I matured, I started collecting more sophisticated things. Crystal ink wells with sterling silver tops, antique magnifying glasses, sterling silver boxes, antique cutlery with horn handles, and the most beautiful of all, small Baccarat crystal boxes with keys. For 26 years, every time I stopped in a city while touring (and had a moment to shop), I was on the hunt, hoping to add pieces to my collections.
About 20 years ago, Tim and I decided to build our dream home, the "prettiest" project of all. After a long process, we selected a builder who took one look at us and said, "I have the perfect architect for you." In walked Blake Bichanich who would be our life-long friend. He was my age (I'm two years older than Tim, don't tell anyone), and because Blake and I were both the creative types (and loved pretty things),we hit it off instantly. After we found our property, together Blake and I sat and drew the conceptual layout of the entire house, top to bottom, just the two of us. In five hours . . on a yellow pad of paper. The design and construction of our home was the project of a lifetime, and one year later Blake completed the detailed blueprints of what we had drawn, and we started construction. Eighteen months later, the house was done. When I say done, I mean installed window treatments, all specially painted walls, chandeliers hung, custom bedding waiting to go on the beds, hand-made iron railing, rhinestone cabinetry nobs, special cabinetry furniture pieces installed, and all-new furniture waiting in the wings. Done. It was the most exciting time of our life.
While the house was in it's final stages, we were out on the holiday tour. We came home and moved in Christmas Eve, 1996, after a show (and a huge snow storm) in Sioux Falls. We arrived at the house at 5:00 pm (it was dark) with only our tour suitcases, set them aside and collapsed on mattresses on the floor. (A moving company put our furniture in the house in all the wrong places). But in the morning, it was Christmas day and we woke up to the sun pouring into our home, a place where we've lived now for 20 years. I gasped. It was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. And it still is.
After Blake designed our house, it was published in quite a few national magazines. People commissioned him from all over the country to design for them. We remained friends and celebrated his success. After many single years, he re-married, and they moved into an old church outside of Eau Claire that he had turned into their "home." He's eccentric, and that's what I have always loved about him, and most recently we talked about designing and building a modern and clean, two-bedroom, one-level house for the semi-retired, empty-nester. Us. Something on our bucket list.
A couple of weeks ago, we got a call late in the evening from his wife. I don't keep the phone by my bed, so I knew something was wrong when I woke in the morning and saw Jennifer had called. I immediately called her back, and through her tears she told me their home (church) had caught on fire the previous day, and that Blake did not make it out. Tragically, he died in the fire.
Life is so fragile.
The thing of it is this. Everything around me, every day . . . is a memory of our dear friend. I am surrounded by (and will always love) all the pretty things that he designed. As long as I've lived here, I still notice something new almost every day. A detail. Blake was gifted, one-in-a-million. I am so saddened by this loss and will miss him dearly. May he rest in peace.
By the way, about a month ago I hosted a dinner for some of our very close friends. Like Tim and me, they are "foodies" and hard-working entrepreneurs who own their own businesses. One couple in particular has been very successful (the Louvre in Paris borrows pieces and paintings from their home. Now that's a whole different level of "pretty"). You'd think I'd be intimidated, but crazy me, I actually cooked that night. And guess what I pulled out?
The S & H silverware in the wooden box. All these years. It is still just as beautiful as the day when I brought it home. One day, it will get passed along to someone special.
And the story will live on.
Lorie's mom turned 78 a couple of days ago. A few years ago she got a shingles vaccination.
The above photo is the original S & H green stamp silverware and the china mentioned in this blog. They are now "antiques."
Three years ago, when I was out on the holiday tour, we came to a city where I had family members attending that night. We were in the middle of a recession, and everyone knew that it had been a rough year for people in the music business. We were all sitting around a table in my dressing room, which was actually a teacher's conference room. While we were talking, an extended family member turned to me and said, "well Lorie, are you planning your farewell tour?" My head started spinning. All I could picture was Cher and The Judds. Rather than answer the question, I asked him if HE was planning to retire at his job in the near future. (He is older than me.) Well, heavens no. Times were tough, but I was not going to just lay down and die. I realized he was just trying to be nice, create conversation. But a farewell tour was the last thing I was thinking about that night.
When Tim was a teenager, he used to mow Mr. Miller's yard. They lived across the street from the Lines in a cute farmhouse in a modest neighborhood. Mr. Miller was young (probably early 20's), handsome (still is), full of life . . . ambitious. Over the years he became very, very successful. They enjoyed watching him become semi-famous. When he was in his late 40's or early 50's, he sold his business and retired. Cashed in handsomely I figure. We have been friends for years and every time I see him he says, "Lorie, don't retire. You become insignificant."
So a farewell tour? I don't think so. Not now anyway because I get the whole "insignificant" thing. I like getting up every day having to look at my calendar. I like new projects, planning my year, multi-tasking and almost being what I call "insanely crazy busy." I also love my lifestyle and that would all change if I decided to sit at home.
I am not going to sit at home.
Recently I have been making a few appearances playing all by myself, just solo piano. Like the Dayton's days, but more of a show. I guess the one comment I hear a lot is "I just want to hear YOU, Lorie." Last week I got an email from a fan that said, "pack up your piano and come and see us. Just you."
So, that is exactly what I am going to do early next year. A solo piano tour. My FIRST solo piano tour in my career. February and March.
This is kind of fun to think about. I am going to 30 cities, just Tim and me, and we will travel city-to-city, back-to-back. We are going to rent a tour bus (a star coach) and hire a professional driver so we can travel by night (like we always do on the holiday tour). Typically we share a bus with 10 kids and Tim and I have bunks with everyone else, but not for this tour. Like most businesses, managing people is the most challenging thing we do, so it is quite exciting to think we will have the bus all to ourselves. A real bedroom in the back (no bunks), a living room, kitchen, and a bathroom with a shower. We'll bring our own cappuccino machine and I'll stock the frig with our own beautiful food. I can't imagine this, but I will be able to hang my clothes in a closet (instead of dragging out a suitcase from underneath the bus in the snow). And instead of cooking nightly for 12, I will be just cooking for two. It will feel like a vacation! (I told my son about all of this today and he said, "oh Mom, you are going to LOVE this.")
We are traveling to towns where we know we have fans but can't get to them on the holiday tour. So . . . Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado . . . here we come. If it is successful, we will continue on and go east in March. Oh, I almost forgot to mention this. We are going to hitch a trailer on the back of the bus and pull my piano, wardrobe case and our sound board. All self-contained. I know you are probably laughing, but there's more. Tim is going to set up our two state-of-the-art microphones that we carry for the piano, he'll hook up the sound and turn it on. And then he is going to get up in the rafters and focus the lights. And just turn them on. Simple, but beautiful. Meanwhile, I will decorate the stage, steam my clothes, prepare meals and set up the merchandise on the sales table in the lobby. And of course . . . bring a fluffy cappuccino to Tim from the bus.
Whaaaaaaaalaaaa. Show time.
We have already started booking this tour and tickets will go on sale Monday, November 2nd. I will be sure to keep in touch with all of you regarding cities and dates. All of the venues will be VERY SMALL. 200 seats. (If you have any suggestions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.) We are going for a living room setting. Oh, speaking of a living room setting, in June I am continuing THE 2016 SOLO PIANO TOUR and will host a private concert six nights in my home on Lake Minnetonka. Seating will be for 40 people each night. We will serve champagne, wine (or sparkling water), beautiful cheeses from all over the world, dessert (made by Lorie) and fluffy cappucinos (made by Tim). More on that later, but if you've always wanted to come and visit Minnesota, and specifically Lake Minnetonka, June is the prettiest time of the year. And we'll fit in a personal garden tour.
Before I sign off, I wanted to thank all of you for your nice comments about last month's blog PRAYER. I received more letters and emails on this blog than any other blog I've written. I thought all of you would like to know how it went having Zeus over for coffee. A senior pastor read the blog and called Zeus to inform him about the story. Last Sunday he stopped and thanked me for all the kind words I said about him. It was cute. He wanted to follow-up about that coffee date, so I invited him for lunch AND coffee. It was a cooler day so I made homemade chili with corn casserole, and a rhubarb and blueberry crisp for dessert. His story and where he comes from was so inspiring. He is amazing. And delightful.
Of course Tim said the prayer.
All my best, and farewell. For now.
Lorie and Zeus having lunch.
For about a year now, every day we have been driving by a new church under construction on our way to the Post Office. We couldn't help but notice and talk about it, as it is on a very special property. It's fairly small, but well-constructed, with a few architectural elements that are really pretty. (I love the charcoal gray paint color they selected.) We wondered what type of church it might be. We'd never heard of it.
One day, before it officially opened, no one was around and Tim popped in to see the new interiors. There was an enthusiastic young man named Zeus in the front lobby (you can't possibly forget that name). He greeted Tim at the door and showed him around. He took him to the worship area which was a 300-seat dark room (no windows) with a step-up stage. Tim noticed the state-of-the-art sound system (we're in the "biz") and the over-the-top lighting rig, and then the well-appointed interiors in the well-lit lobby area . . . complete with a coffee bar, a living room and a children's wing. He came home from the daily Post Office run that day and said, "it's pretty neat. Maybe we should try it."
After it opened, because it is literally three miles from our house, we decided to attend a service. It was "buzzing." I'd never seen so many teenagers, young families and babies. The music was nothing like we'd ever heard. (I didn't know one song, actually.) All of the musicians on the stage were under the age of 25, and it didn't seem like they were just "hired" for the typical Sunday morning professional fee. Sure, maybe they were paid, but you could tell they were all Christians. They were all in. Rockin' out.
In the audience, there were people of all ages, young and old, singing and raising their hands, lifting and opening them in praise, all with different gestures, styles and personalities. There were so many people who were not afraid to show their love and conviction to Jesus. Everyone was almost dancing while standing and singing. The energy was over-the-top.
Here's the deal. I was so uncomfortable. Standing there in my pretty dress and high heels, it was just too much for me. I couldn't do it. I didn't fit in. I was raised in a very stoic conservative church. And as you know, Tim grew up Lutheran. (Ha! Need I say more?) We'd never seen people showing their emotions THAT MUCH. Raising hands? Looking up? Clapping? Moving to the music? Where I came from it was all very controlled emotions. Hands folded. Head bowed. Lots of silence. Maybe a few tears (of guilt) here and there, but no way did I ever in my life see anyone raise their hands to Jesus. And although I confess it was "too much" for me, I did find myself holding back tears and choking down a huge lump in my throat.
We went back to our regular (comfortable) church, but something started nagging in us to pop into that little church about once a month. We blamed it on convenience. Each time we attended, we got a little more comfortable. And when our son would visit us from college on the weekends, we took him there (more kids his age) and he loved it. In fact, he went back to college and found a similar church where he now attends regularly.
A few months later, I felt brave. Just from experiencing what these people were doing, I told Tim that I wanted to start praying together, every single night, no matter what, at dinnertime. OUT LOUD. Even if we were in a restaurant (my grandparents did this when I was a kid, and I was so embarrassed). Well, Tim is used to me and these things. Holy smokes. "OK," he says.
If you've read my blogs, you know that Tim can really say a beautiful prayer, but out loud, EVERY SINGLE NIGHT? I chimed in that I would help, that I would say the prayer every three days, and if he was stuck, I would add to it. Mind you, I did not grow up with women having any role or presence in the worship service, none whatsoever, so for me to utter a prayer, it was scary (especially because Tim is so eloquent).
I could not remember the last time I said a prayer out loud. Maybe when I was two years old at my grandparents table? But, recently I have been moved, and as I expressed to my beloved husband, "the world is upside down. Times are different, like we've never seen before. I want to know what you are thinking, what is important to you, what is on your mind. Please share it with me."
So, this year we did another brand new thing in our 30-year relationship. We began the journey of praying together every day. At first, it was so awkward. After all these years of being married, I will admit I was almost embarrassed. We stumbled, we rambled, we had extra long pauses, we said the same thing twice. And then, with a little practice, we started getting really comfortable, less self-conscious and good at expressing our thoughts. Too good. So good that one night, after a stressful day, we both found ourselves in tears. It was humbling. "I need thee, oh I need thee, every hour I need thee."
A few months later, on one miraculous day, before the salutation "Dear God" was uttered, Tim and I looked at each other and instead of holding hands, we bravely turned them up and opened them to receive His blessing. It was so hard, yet so easy. In all my years, I had never done that. I sobbed. It felt as though I had missed out on 57 years of adoration.
Today we pray for our country, our President, our future President (whomever that might be), we pray for the chaos in the middle east, the thousands of victims who are persecuted and executed because of their faith. On a personal level we pray for creativity, excellence, wisdom, energy, we pray for our children, our marriage, our business, you . . . our fans. There is so much to be said.
Last night we sat down and almost forgot about our new daily activity. I said, "oh . . . our prayer . . . " It was silent for about 30 seconds. I looked up and said "is it my turn?" Tim whispered, "no, I'm just praying to say a good prayer tonight." I confess. I may have lovingly giggled. That one sentence totally describes Tim. Never have I met anyone so excellent.
So . . . maybe one day I will be comfortable enough to raise my hands in a church service. Maybe not. In the meantime, I do love our three-minute daily ritual. And there was a surprise for me in all of this. I love good conversation. Prayer might just be the highest level of intimate daily conversation you can have with your partner.
And what woman doesn't just love that?
Tim and Lorie Line visit River Valley Church at least once a month, in Minnetrista, MN. The staff hasn't quite yet figured out who they are ("you're a piano player?"), but the friendly greeter, Zeus, was most recently promoted to the campus pastor. Last Sunday, on their way out he handed them his card and asked if he could get to know them better. The Lines are going to invite him over to their home for coffee soon. Won't that be a fun day.
About this time last year, I was getting a little bored. Not that I don't have enough to do, it just all felt the same to me. We're a "machine" at Lorie Line Music (we've been doing it for so long). And we've always had a full-time assistant to take care of the details. Honestly, it just felt like I was a little bit on cruise control. I didn't really know what to do to fix it, spice up my life. But it was definitely on my mind.
Six months later, in January, we went to brunch with another couple after church. She's always been a stay-home mom, but her kids are like mine, grown and gone. I asked her in a very serious tone, "what do you do all day with your time?" She's into golf and tennis. They travel quite a bit. Head down to Florida. Well . . . wow, I could never do that. I don't like sports and I travel enough (in a tour bus). I like being home when I'm not working.
A week later, we were hit with a surprise. Our assistant gave her two-week notice, said she was going into corporate America. I get it. Working in our home for four years is enough. It probably felt the "same" to her too. Well, typically when someone leaves, we get a month's notice, we find someone and train them in, but we didn't have time. So guess who learned the job?
In 25 years, I had never turned on our accounting and order entry system, had never processed an order, had no idea how to manage our web site, or blast emails to all of you. I didn't even do my own Facebook posts. Sure, I wrote everything, but always handed it over. So I sat down, and "started from the very beginning" as the song says.
At first, I was so nervous I was shaking. Believe me, nothing felt the same. It was all new. But almost overnight I found myself excited to jump out of bed in the morning, get at that computer to look at the orders. It felt like Christmas morning many days in a row. It was so good for me, as I connected more with our business, got to see what all of you were saying, what was popular, what you were ordering. I saw areas that needed to be changed, improved upon. I had more to talk to Tim about at the end of the day.
Two months blew by and April arrived. My new album, Heritage Seven, was scheduled to be recorded, so I got up extra early, processed the orders and had my headphones on and was sitting at the piano by 10:00 AM. I was full of emotion (which is perfect when you are recording). Good emotion. Happy. Not bored. My mind was full. No more cruise control.
Heritage Seven released, and I (lovingly) processed and packaged every single order. And then came my birthday sale. It was a huge hit this month. With the new album and the sale, I packed thousands of orders all by myself.
Adding onto all of this, on our list of "things to do" was the warehouse sale. Tim and I had planned it for a year. Just down the road, we have a 3000-square foot warehouse that stores all of our touring items - costumes, set pieces, sound gear, lighting, confetti canons, bubble machines . . . you name it. We've had it for 20 years. It was full. Both Tim and I knew if we didn't have the sale this year, we'd never do it (talk about physical energy!). So last week we sorted, sold and threw out everything we didn't need to run our business for the next 10 years. Whatever was left after the sale, we donated to a shelter organization. The charity truck that left our dock that night was full. And now our warehouse is empty.
Last, but not least, there was one more thing I learned this year. I learned how to drive a tractor. This was the first year our son didn't come home from college for the summer. It was taking Tim six hours to do all the mowing. Who more could he trust to do a good job but me? So one day I asked Tim if he would teach me to drive our John Deere. He patiently taught me how to operate a zero turn tractor. While I'm mowing, he stays by my side and does all the detailed hand-mowing, edging, hedging, and weed-wacking. Always a team.
So, another year has passed, and as I reflect, boy did it ever change. I am no longer "a little bored."
Life is good. God is great. Happy Birthday to me.
I can't believe that June is here. Half the year is already gone. And the welcome of summer actually means the beginnings of Christmas for me. You see, in June I start creating the upcoming holiday show. June is one of the most important months of the year as this is when I do all the research and development and the creative work for the upcoming extravaganza. I'll spend hours and hours reading and writing the show, selecting the songs and working on the actual song order. I'll also outline costume concepts, design the collector bell and conceptualize the set. We'll procure and contract all the musicians and crew members. Then, in July I will write all the music and record and publish everything in a new book. I'll spend the entire month in my recording studio, concentrating and listening intently to every note . . . all the while watching summer fly by (I have a beautiful view). It's an amazing time of year for me.
When the tour comes around in November and I hit the stage, I'm a realist. I know that hardly anyone in the audience will sit and reflect on the summer months I spent at the piano. They probably won't even wonder what I'm going to play that night. Not one person will be curious as to what the opening song will be. Nope.
They just want to know what I'm going to wear. Right?
After last month's blog, FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD, I had a lot of fans who were curious about my diet. How in the world do I stay so thin loving food and loving to cook so much? Before I share with you my "secrets," let me first say that I have a very unusual and extraordinary life. I absolutely love it. But it is not for the faint of heart. Part of my "job" is not only to compose, arrange and perform well, but . . . to look good. (I can't imagine being a news anchor!) I had no idea when I started out playing the piano professionally that there would be so much pressure to stay fit and be in tip-top shape . . . pretty much ALL THE TIME. Honestly, if I didn't have this career, most likely I would be 10 pounds heavier. But, like playing the piano, my diet is a lifestyle, something I do every day. I also want to express that I am not a nutritionist, or a dietician. I am not an "expert" in the field of food. What I am sharing with you are my own personal eating habits that work for me.
So, if you have been challenged or lack motivation to shed a few pounds, I hope this blog will be inspirational to you.
Here are the secrets to my diet.
1. EAT REAL FOOD. This is the #1 secret to my diet. I do not eat anything with chemicals in it, nothing processed or out of a package. The basic rule is to not eat anything with a bar code on it. I eat vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, cheese, nuts. Everything is fresh and real.
2. EAT THREE MEALS A DAY. I eat breakfast at 8:30 a.m., lunch at noon, and dinner at 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. I never snack in between meals. If I am absolutely starving, I will grab a handful of almonds to get me through to the next meal. Most of my friends who struggle with their weight eat one meal a day. A late dinner. They go all day without eating and I think this really interupts your metabolism. Three solid meals is best for your body and maintaining weight.
3. NEVER NIBBLE WHEN YOU COOK. When I'm cooking, the first time I have a first bite is when I sit down with everyone else to eat at the table. I find that if I nibble, I don't like the food as much, and you can eat an entire meal (before eating another entire meal) if you nibble in the kitchen when you cook.
4. DRINK HOT WATER WITH LEMON ALL DAY. I have not had a soft drink, coke, pop (whatever you want to call it) in over 30 years. I drink hot water with fresh lemon wedges all day. It keeps me warm and full. Satisfied.
5. MAKE ENOUGH FOR LEFTOVERS. I make too much food for dinner. On purpose. I love leftovers for lunch, and typically that means I will get a nice piece of protein and a vegetable for lunch the next day.
6. ALWAYS HAVE A FULLY STOCKED REFRIGERATOR. I always have a lot of options for food. It is ALL healthy. I can eat anything that catches my eye when I open that stainless door.
7. BE ORGANIZED. I think watching what you eat involves a lot of lists, grocery shopping and meal planning. And energy! I keep a cookbook in the car just in case I have a little extra time to stop at the grocery store and I want to make something new. I'll need a list of ingredients.
8. GET 8 HOURS OF SLEEP. I am up early every day, about 6:00 a.m., and I go to bed around 9:00 p.m. every night. (This is the hardest thing about touring . . . turning my schedule around.) But, I think sleep is hugely important to maintaining your weight. If you stay up late you are going to watch TV and eat another meal. Go to bed.
9. EVERY BITE COUNTS. It's portion control that keeps your weight down, not working out. Working out will just make you look good, toned. When I'm serious about losing weight, I eat HALF what I normally would eat. When I go out to dinner, before I start eating I tell the wait person to bring me a "to go" box. I divide the meal and put half of it away for the next day. It takes about five days for your body to know that you are on this "new" program, but then it gets it and I promise, you will lose weight. By the way, dieting is more in your mind than your stomach.
10. PASS ON THE APPETIZERS AND THE DESSERT. Substitute your dessert craving for one beautiful chocolate truffle. That's all you need. You'll be amazed.
11. EAT EVERYTHING. I don't understand when someone says, "I don't eat blue cheese." Or, "I don't eat dates." How in the world can you pass on such lovely things? If it is prepared properly, I will eat it. Don't be picky. Learn to love everything. Your body needs it and you will be more satisfied eating everything.
12. BUT WATCH THE CARBS. I eat mostly protein, very few carbohydrates. Many people think because I'm thin, I'm a vegetarian. Are you kidding me? I love filet, pulled pork, hamburgers. I love meat. I think eating protein is a huge part of the success of a diet. (Of course fish and chicken are the best.) Always take off the bun and eat with a fork and knife.
13. NO SMOOTHIES OR ORANGE JUICE IN THE MORNING. Eat the fruit and pass on all the other ingredients. You don't need them.
14. NO CHEMICAL SUBSTITUTES. I don't eat any sugar substitutes. I eat real sugar. Real butter when I splurge. No margarine.
15. PASS ON THE BREAD BASKET AND THE BUTTER. Don't even let a wait person bring it to the table. Unless it is soda or French bread and it is worth the calories. (Tim always tests the bread for me. Most of the time he says, "oh, honey, it's not worth it.") I'll eat butter if it is an excellent French butter with Fleur de Sel on the top. Then, it's worth it! Bring it on.
16. PARTNER UP. If I have to watch what I eat, Tim does it with me. Have your partner (or a friend) join the club. It's easier.
17. NO FAST FOOD. This is an obvious one.
18. WEIGH YOURSELF EVERY DAY, IN THE MORNING, FIRST THING. I weight myself every morning at 7:00 a.m. The scale is the only thing that will keep you honest. The scale dictates your "food mood" and what you will eat for the day. So many young women tell me they go by "how their clothes fit." Really? I can wear the same clothes and be 12 pounds heavier.
19. THE FIVE-POUND LEEWAY. I'm 5'7" and my optimal weight is 112 pounds. I know that sounds crazy, but I have small bones, and the older I get, the thinner I have to be to really show that I even have these old muscles. Ha! (Arms are the hardest after age 50.) But I know this is my best possible weight. So, if I see 117 on the scale, I have to hit it. Once you reach your optimal weight, you get a five-pound leeway. Then it's time to cut back. It's so much easier to have a structured program. It never gets out of control. By the way, your optimal weight changes with age. Mine used to be 114. Ugh.
20. MAKE IT A LIFESTYLE. Watching what I eat is the one thing I do love (and hate) about being on stage and in the public eye. It forces me to be disciplined. Neither Tim nor I take any vitamins or food supplements. And unlike many people in their mid-fifties, neither of us have to take any medication to maintain our cholesterol levels. We don't need it. I seriously think it's because of our diet. If I had a more traditional life, I guess I would suggest planning a lot of special events, things to look forward to, so you are inspired to be disciplined to eat healthy each and every day of your life.
And, now . . . there's exercise.
Seriously, I'd rather starve.
This morning I got up at 7:00 a.m. and made pasta. Sweet Italian Sausage with Fennel. It's a red sauce and I've been working on this recipe for a few years. It's Tim's favorite and his 55th birthday is tomorrow (April 16th). I'll let the sauce simmer all day while I record in our new home studio and Tim works on booking the holiday tour. I'm upstairs, he's down, but we will both enjoy the aroma all day. At the end of our work day, we'll hit the gardens outside until we get super hungry. I'll come in and boil up noodles, stir the red sauce one last time, and serve it in a shallow bowl with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil. Tim will pick the wine. It will be a fabulous and memorable meal. I can't wait. I'll be thinking about this all day.
I love to cook. I love great food. When Tim and I go on vacation, rather than walking the beaches and touring the museums, we opt to find the best restaurants in the town. Sure, they might be ON the beach, or NEXT to a museum, but it's the food that will draw us there. We spend a lot of time researching and reading reviews, and have so much fun planning our day around our three square meals. Our dream job when we retire would be to travel the world and be food critics. We'd be good at it.
I didn't really discover food until I was around 30 years old. (Kind of like hymns in church.) The first time I knew food was really special was when I was recording over at Studio M at Minnesota Public Radio. I had to bring in food for the musicians, and Peter Ostroushko and Dean Magraw suggested their favorite Thai restaurant. Well, I had never had Thai food before, so what a treat when I experienced curry, coconut milk and lemon grass for the first time. Tim was there, and we were off and running with the discovery of new flavors and spices we'd never had before.
We started traveling more, which introduced us to new food cultures. We went to London and had Indian food for the first time. A few years later, we wanted to try French food, so we went to Paris. When our kids got a little older, we took them to Africa on a safari and visited three countries. (I had never had a filet with hot chili chocolate sauce on the top.)
Because we were discovering marvelous food, I wanted to come up with some solid dishes on my own. I got my confidence up and started inviting important guests to dinner. They expected a chef or a caterer that night, but most times it was just me. The first important guest I cooked for was for Governor Jesse Ventura (and his wife Terry). I don't remember what I prepared, but I do remember that they dined with us until almost midnight.
Growing up, both Tim and I have very vivid memories of our families in the kitchen. My mom cooked a beautiful hot breakfast for us every morning before school, and dinner every night pomptly at 6:00 p.m. It seems we were always at the kitchen table. She was good at soul food and did the best she could to make everyone happy. The only seasoning I ever remember my mom putting on our food was salt (my dad was not fond of any spices, not even pepper or garlic). Neither Tim nor I ever experienced natural herbs from a garden, or even a fresh cut of fish. Can you imagine . . . no Minnesota walleye! It was all meat and potatoes. We never had ethnic food. Chinese food was Chow Mein out of a can with the hard noodles (remember that?). We had one cook book, Betty Crocker's Cookbook, and a collection of note cards from my grandmother of great pot luck recipes from church, and that was pretty much it. There was no Whole Foods, no Trader Joe's, Byerly's or Lunds. No Costco. I think our grocery store was Safeway. Still, both our moms did the best they could with what they had and our best childhood memories to this day remain around the kitchen table.
Honestly, the best part of cooking is not the food. It is the fellowship . . . the laughing, the good conversation, and if you are at our home, the prayer that Tim will lead before the meal. He is quite known (and lovingly teased) for his thoughtful words, praise and thanks to God. I have never heard anyone pray like Tim.
So, thank you God for this wonderful food. Food, glorious food.
LORIE LINE'S SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE WITH FENNEL PASTA
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp good olive oil
one sweet yellow onion chopped
one fennel bulb chopped (with 1 Tbsp of the top fronds)
3 garlic cloves minced
one package (of 5) PREMIO sweet Italian sausage (remove casings)
one pound ground beef
2 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
one 15 oz can diced tomatoes
two 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cups of frozen peas
On the stove, saute the onion and fennel in a large saute pan on medium heat with the butter and olive oil. When they are translucent and slightly brown, add the garlic at the very end for just one minute (so it doesn't burn). Remove the onions, fennel and garlic from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Don't wash the pan.
In the same pan, saute the sausage and beef together. Add the salt and pepper. When the meat is cooked through, strain the liquid. Put back into the sauce pan and add the onion and fennel mix to it.
Add your tomatoes and tomato sauce and simmer on low. Add the Parmesan cheese and basil. Cook on low heat for about an hour, or just let it sit and barely simmer off and on all day. Add the frozen peas at the very end, right before you are ready to serve the dish. Season to taste.
Boil up your favorite pasta noodles and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil on the top.
SING THE WONDROUS LOVE OF JESUS
Last year I played for National Communion Day at a beautiful church here in Minneapolis. It was just wonderful and the congregation was so touched. Many of the members were in tears because they hadn't heard music like that in years (you know, the traditional hymns that we all used to sing . . . and still love). I hope to be invited again, as it was such an inspirational day.
Playing all by myself in a church setting may be my favorite thing to do. I always pray that the Holy Spirit will put the notes (and phrasing) in my hands to help me connect with the people. I typically write down a list of my favorite hymns (those that take you back in time and make you remember EXACTLY where you were and where you sat in the church pew, and with whom) and I play them one right after the other. I connect them in a medley, and just when you think I've played your favorite, I hope to play another one. I think my "best" musical talent is arranging and playing hymns. It is a gift God personally gave to me.
Which makes my story quite interesting.
When the pastor introduced me, he said he was thrilled to have Lorie Line performing that day, and that I grew up in the church playing these beautiful hymns all my life.
OK. I am Lorie Line, and I was performing that day, I grew up in a Christian home, but never did I ever play the piano at church.
I grew up in an a cappella church. Those of you who may not know what this is, it is a voices only congregation. Four-part harmony. Singing only. No instruments in the worship service. No piano, no organ. The church I grew up in is called the Church of Christ and they interpret the scripture literally which says to "sing with thankfulness in your hearts . . . " (Colossians 3:16). They believe that because there is no mention of instruments, that God intended voices only. Now I don't want to get too technical, but the Old Testament refers to instruments and worship, but the New Testament (the new law, which they follow) doesn't. So, this particular church has a cappella singing only.
You might think I suffered terribly, being a young pianist and only able to sit and sing at church. But I didn't. You see, members of the Church of Christ start singing and learning music when they are babies, when you can barely utter a word or needless to say, carry a melody. You start learning how to sing other parts (alto, tenor, bass) by the time you are seven. Because the congregations are typically small, EVERYONE sings, and let me tell you, you have never heard 80 people sound like 500 people ever before if you've never heard this type of congregational singing. It is glorious.
So, growing up in the Church of Christ, you don't know anything else. It's like growing up Catholic, or Mormon. You come to only know that church. And a cappella music was all I knew.
Until I met a good Lutheran boy. Tim.
I was 28-years old, and Tim took me to Las Vegas to meet his folks. We were engaged. We flew there for the weekend, and upon arrival, his mom inquired about my piano playing and if I would play for their church service that Sunday. Janet was excited. I gasped, and sheepishly told her I had never played in church. Honestly, I was slightly embarrassed. (How do you explain that one to the brand new mother-in-law in one short sentence?) I had never played hymns before. And here I was, almost 30 years old.
Until then, no one had ever asked me to play in church. But I thought I could do it. Tim encouraged me, and I said "yes." (Would it be sinful? Is it self-righteous? Oh, I was nervous.) It was the very first time I wrote down a list of my favorite hymns, just like I do today, and that weekend I played for a bunch of very nice Lutherans at Christ Lutheran Church, Las Vegas, Nevada. It was 1986.
After that Sunday afternoon, I made a very big decision in my life. I was going to head in a new direction. I was going to play the piano for God. I was going to "sing the wondrous love of Jesus." On the piano.
A few months later, after we got married and arrived in Minneapolis, we lived in a cute little apartment in Eden Prairie while we built a small house. Down the road was a congregation called Edina Colonial Church and one Sunday we went to hear Dr. Arthur Rouner speak. He was supposed to be "famous" and we were intrigued. Well, to my surprise they had a full orchestra that day. When the music started, I started to tremble. I could not control myself. I shook all over and sobbed. I was afraid I was going to fall on the floor I was so full of emotion. A woman sitting next to me patted me on the knee. "There, there." She must have thought I was the greatest sinner of all.
No one knew but me. No one knew where I'd come from. I had attended church three times a week my whole life, but had never heard instrumental music played like this ever before. I was sitting at the gates of heaven.
A couple of weekends later, we walked across the street from our apartment to Wooddale Church. I met the music pastor, David Bullock, who played the violin, and asked him what it took to play at church every once in a while. He agreed to audition me. And the rest is history. I started to play and share my gift on a regular basis right across the street from our home, at Wooddale Church. (Funny enough, Dave eventually became an original member of the Pop Chamber Orchestra and ended up touring and working for me for years.)
After that, I auditioned and got the job at Dayton's. And if you've read my previous blogs, you know that story. God had His hands on my steering wheel. And now I was going 100 mph.
Today, I still visit the Church of Christ as a guest. I love the singing and do miss the music. But God had a different calling for me. He gave me this awesome gift and now I am thrilled to share it with others.
I always wonder why He puts us on a certain road. For me, I think all those years, as a child growing up and singing a cappella music, I was just learning and developing a good ear. Perfect pitch actually. God was teaching me how to arrange four parts of harmony. He was arranging it all in my head. And I was listening.
Like the pastor, I think there are a lot of fans who just assume I grew up playing the piano in church my whole life.
Now you know the true story.
Ms. Line has recorded and published hundreds of arrangements of hymns and is publishing her seventh album and music book, Heritage Seven, coming this spring. She has played hymns in church now for half her life, 28 years. To this day she remains friends with David Bullock and Dr. Arthur Rouner.
You cannot believe how many social gatherings Tim and I attend (right in our own backyard) where people have no idea what we do. We spend the entire evening answering questions, explaining how we make a living in the entertainment business. I'm the introvert, so Tim takes the lead. "Lorie plays the piano. She has about 40 CDs and has published 40 books of music. She has a pretty famous Christmas show and we tour the United States, but we're mostly known right here in the midwest."
After people get it that I play the piano, it is pretty much the same run-down. They look back to Tim. Buckle up . . . here we go. "And what do you do?" It's always funny listening to Tim downplay his role in our lives. He tells the intrigued person how he handles everything from "light bulbs to legal." Tim is modest. (People who know us well know he does EVERYTHING in our business.) "So you manage Lorie?" Tim has his candid response. "She's unmanageable." They laugh. The next follow-up question is always the same. "Oh, so do you go on tour with Lorie?" And this is where I butt in and say, "no, I go on tour with him. He's in charge." Back to Tim. "Do you play an instrument?" He doesn't. Now Tim and I look at each other with the same non-verbal message . . . time to move on. I don't want to sound like I'm full of myself or "too good" to deal with all of this, but we have been at this for a very long time and this is a typical exchange in almost every public setting. As we walk away, Tim always mutters under his breath, "people need to get out more. They must live under a rock."
Because we are in the public eye, this puts all of my family in the public eye. The most common comment said to my parents is, "you must be so proud of your daughter." My dad has always had a good sense of humor and his response is always the same. "She's the best investment I ever made."
When I first started piano lessons with Mrs. Day, they cost $24 a month ($6 a lesson). When I went to Mrs. Jack, the price increased to $28 a month. Then, at age 10 I moved to Alleta Gray, the best in town, and my parents forked out $32 a month, or $8 a lesson. It was certainly an investment for my parents and I remember them tearing out that check in the checkbook every month and handing it to me. To this day, I so appreciate it. I think about that a lot. I did the math and figure my parents probably spent a total of about $3800 for my lessons.
When I was 15 years old, my dad went into his own business. Times went from lean . . . to really lean. I remember funny things. We'd mix Carnation instant powder with real milk to make it go further. My mom would buy a bag of pinto beans for $1 and we'd feed seven peple an entire dinner of just beans and cornbread. (It was one of my favorite meals and to this day, I love having a pot of beans on the stove.) Sunday afternoons after church we'd dine on one baked chicken, corn we had frozen from my aunt's farm that previous summer, and English muffins from the day old discount bread store.
My dad was a paralegal and in these days my mom worked at home for him as his secretary. In the evenings, at the top of the stairs she would sit at an old oak desk and type all of his dictation and legal reports. (Clack, clack, clack, clack. Return.) I remember these years well as they went without for a very long time. My mom sewed for all of us, but not herself. My dad had two sports coats and a few pair of slacks to mix and match. When his two pairs of shoes (black and brown) got a hole in them, he had them resoled. He'd do this twice before splurging and buying a new pair.
While all of this was going on, I was a sophomore and gave my first public piano recital. It was held at my high school theater. I had studied with Alleta Gray for five years and she really pushed me. That year I tackled and performed seven huge pieces. The two that were most memorable and challenging were Chopin's Revolutionary Etude and Dohnanyi's Rhapsody in C major. I really didn't like these compositions, but forced myself to learn them. And Alleta didn't give me options. To this day, I still have these two pieces somewhat in my hands.
After that big year, Alleta sensed our family needed the extra $32 a month, so she made a big announcement at the end of one of my lessons when I brought her my monthly check. "This is the last time you have to pay me. I'm putting you on scholarship." I think she just wanted to make sure that finances wouldn't get in the way and I'd have to quit. She shared my dream and hoped I'd get to go to college. So, my final two years of studying with her were free.
My dad retired at the early age of 55. Ten years later, Tim and I employed him. When we toured, he and his wife Anne would come to Minneapolis from Florida and stay for two months. They packed orders, watched our kids, and some years even hopped on the bus and helped us sell CDs in the lobby at the shows. At the end of the run, we'd have a festive and elaborate Christmas and they'd go back home the next day. It was so much fun.
My dad went on his last tour two years ago at the age of 80. He is now officially retired.
Lorie Line Music, Inc. employed him for 15 years.
So, yes, now that I think about it, my dad's joke might be totally true. I just might have been "the best investment he ever made."
PHOTOGRAPHY: Lorie with Alleta Gray at her sophomore recital. Also, Lorie's concert program, Valentine's Day, February 14, 1974.
The red dress was made by Lorie's mom.
Click below to read past blogs!
MY CHILDHOOD HOME
THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
PRESENTING MISS LORIE PORTER IN RECITAL
HELLO ALLETA GRAY
THE ELKS CLUB
AND THE WINNER IS . . .
HOW I MET TIM
MY FIRST PIANO TEACHER
THE TOP 10 CHEAP BEAUTY PRODUCTS I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT
THE TOP 5 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN MY LIFE