FIVE-TIME GRAMMY NOMINEE AND NASHVILLE RECORDING ARTIST LYNNMARIE RECEIVES INDUCTION INTO THE POLKA HALL OF FAME.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (September 20, 2018) — Nashville recording artist LynnMarie has received the Lifetime Achievement Award and induction into the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame, the organizations’ highest honor. The announcement was made tonight at the Annual Thanksgiving Preview Party in Cleveland, Ohio. LynnMarie is the fourth female in history to receive this honor.
On hearing the news, LynnMarie said, “I am so grateful and excited! Thank you to members of the Hall of Fame for recognizing my talents and to the fans all over the world who are a part of the polka community. Polka music runs deep in my blood and I have enjoyed every minute and every note!”
LynnMarie was born and raised in the Slovenian community of Maple Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Wanting to follow in her father’s footsteps as an entertainer, she started playing the diatonic button accordion at the age of eleven. She has released thirteen recordings and performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 2011 she wrote and starred in a one-woman play off-Broadway and in Los Angeles, and in 2016 she released her memoir Wrap Your Heart Around It. She has collaborated and recorded with such musical greats as Dobie Gray, Ray Benson, Riders in the Sky and Vince Gill. LynnMarie is the first and only female in history to be recognized by The Grammys (NARAS) five times for “Best Polka Album”.
LynnMarie tours across the country and in Europe with her band LynnMarie & The Nashville Polka Guys and as the duo LynnMarie & E3, with her fiancé Eddie Rodick. She also shares her inspiring story of acceptance – as a motivational entertainer, public speaker and blogger – chronicling her life with her son James, who was born with special needs.
When she is not performing on stage in front of the cameras, LynnMarie is working behind the scenes as a television script supervisor, associate director and producer. Currently she is working for the nationally syndicated talk show, Pickler & Ben, produced by Grammy Award-winning superstar Faith Hill and co-founder of Happy Street Entertainment Lisa Erspamer.
The Polka Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place Saturday, November 24th, at the Marriot Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, as part of the five-decade long Thanksgiving Polka weekend celebration.
I’m was sitting in line at the in emissions testing with the car turned off… because I was hoping and praying it would pass. I’m not sure if shutting off the car while I sit in 90° heat with no air conditioning will help at all, but I’m willing to sweat if there’s the slightest chance. I NEED this car to pass. I have a 2003 Honda Pilot with 285,000 on it. So, I sit. And I sweat. And I pray, “Please pass, please pass” over and over. After forty-five minutes in line, I was able to clean out the glove compartment and my purse.
All of a sudden, I hear a loud bang and hard push forward. “What the hell?” The woman in line behind me hit me. Augh.
I get out and I realize that her car, old and maroon (don’t ask me what make or year, I don’t care or know) but what I do see is part of her front end is being held together with duct tape.
She gets out. She’s shaking. She was an African-American woman probably in her sixties. As she wipes her tears, she just keeps saying over and over, “Oh, dear Jesus, oh dear Jesus, oh dear Jesus.” I notice that she prays short prayers too. I put my hand gently on her shoulder and I say, “It’s going to be OK. It looks like it’s just a small scratch and a crack” Her response to me was,
I ask her if she has insurance. She does not. She continues to say, “Oh dear Jesus,” over and over. I ask her for her name and number. Her name is June. I tell her that I’m going to call my insurance company and I retreat back to my car. I know in my logical brain that the car is fine. It’s just a scratch and honestly, I ran into a concrete pole a few months back and I’m sure MOST of the scratches were from that. But I’m angry. And I’m sad.
I called Eddie. He wants to be angry about a lot of things as well right now, so we’re no help to each other. I call my brother Lenny, hoping he might let me be angry at June. My brother reminds me of how well this old Honda Pilot has served me and how many scrapes I put on it myself. He reminds me to breathe.
A few deep breaths later, and I decide to let it go. As the sweat drips down my nose and I move another car length closer to the testing, I decide to try to extend grace. Grace. Because grace is what I would want. Forgiveness over anger always wins.
I walk over to her car. She still crying. I grab her hand and say, “It’s OK, I’m not going to report it. Just be careful out there.” She cries even harder and looks at me and says,
As I walk back to my car I feel a wave of relief. Relief! Relief that I don’t have to hold on to one more ounce of anger about anything. I didn’t want to be mad at her anyway. Misplaced anger benefits no one. I’m trusting that the words she said to me, that ‘small things can lead to big things someday’ will work in my favor in the future.
Back in my car it’s finally my turn. For a brief moment I think, “If I’ve waited in this car for ninety-minutes for nothing, in the freakin’ heat with no chocolate and I don’t pass this emissions test and June does, I’m going to be so pissed.”
They run the test.
I didn’t pass.
I had to use the plunger this morning. I know, not the thing someone would normally put on Facebook. Usually, posts are about beautiful beach vacations or fabulous dinners or selfies with friends. Most of us (i.e. me) like to use social media to present our wonderful gorgeous looking lives, where we are posed perfectly to look thin, and with a face filter to soften the widening wrinkles.
Truth is situations in life that make us (i.e. me) feel stuck, a mess, stinky, and needing a major push from God to get moving. (But knowing that truth is hard to swallow sometimes, I’m using a edited photo of Eddie and I on the beach for this post! Hehe)
People have asked me, “Why don’t you write anymore”, and my answer has been, “Because I write about my life
in the moment, and lately a lot of the moments (besides of course the presence of an amazing fiancé) have been pretty crappy. Plus, if I write about what I’m really going through, I run the risk of hurting people, and that’s the last thing I want to do.”
So, my morning prayer to God when I first opened my eyes was that somehow, I would find the inspiration to write again. The next thing I know, I’m holding the damn plunger. Okay, I get it. Maybe I can write about my life, without people being dead?
So, thanks to a lot shit… I share my truth and hope it will inspire you somehow or at least make you chuckle.
Barbara Brown Taylor, another really great successful writer, says, “People encounter God under shady oak trees, on riverbanks, at the tops of mountains, and in long stretches of barren wilderness.” And I will add…while holding a plunger.
What would you do if you knew that your friend was going to pass away an hour after you were just holding his hand? Would you say more? Do more? These were the questions running through my mind, when I got the call that my friend Bill had crossed over.
Bill had been in ICU you for over a week. I kept trying and trying to go see him, and between him having a bad day and me having a bad day, (the later nowhere near comparable to the first) the schedule just didn’t line up.
But yesterday morning when I woke I felt the pull or the push.
I felt the push. Today’s the day to go see Bill.
We weren’t the best of friends, but we worked together for as long as I’ve been in Nashville and most recently on the Pickler and Ben show. I saw him almost every day. We sometimes sat next to each other in the morning production meeting. And we often stood together at the craft service table, always joking about the unlimited supply of sugar, as he encouraged me not to indulge.
Bill was a television icon in Nashville, and one of the best Stage Managers in the business. I can’t remember who, but someone said once, “Bill Turner is such a great stage manager that not only will he be able to tell you when the wheels are about to fall off the train, he can tell you when that train leaves the station.” He was always ten steps ahead of everyone and had an eye for spotting and fixing the problems. But mostly he took care of people. He’s stood by and guided more “A” list celebrities than you can count, keeping them calm and relaxed and informed before the red light went on. And when the said wheels did in fact fall off, (as they often do in TV) everyone could and would be rattled, except for Bill. Hands down, Bill was always the most solid person on the set.
I knew I wanted to take him something when I went to visit, but what? A balloon? A card? Chocolate? These were all things that I of course would want if I was in the hospital, especially the chocolate, but what would Bill want? I walked through the store searching, thinking about the countless hours we spent hanging out in the wings, Bill sometimes holding a paper cup filled with coffee.
The bottom half was rough, with a raw pottery finish, and the top half was smooth and soft gray in color. It had a strong thick handle with a special divot carved out for your thumb.
When I arrived at his room, holding a black and white gift bag overflowing with purple tissue paper, his sister met me at the door. “He’s not doing well. He took a turn last night, and he’s probably going to die today.” Wait. What? Die? Today? I just read on Facebook that physical therapy had him up and walking yesterday.
She continued, “You can go in and talk with him, but he probably won’t respond.”
As I entered his room I thought, “I am not prepared for this moment.” I have had the privilege of being with a couple people when the veil between this life and the next gets thin, and I am always humbled and scared shitless and not prepared. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Surely sitting with someone at such a precious time requires a full belly and someone more spiritual than me with tons of faith. But the writer Anne Lamott says,
I placed the gift bag next to a stack of cards. A bright yellow smiley face balloon waved in the air above. Monitors beeped and blinked. I held his hand. In the silence, I relived our many conversations through the years, Bill out on the stage and me in a control room or TV truck, “Hey Lynn, you in there?” “Yep, I’m here, what do you need?” He’d continue, “Hey listen, I’m thinking that…” which meant, you or someone in the control room should listen carefully to what I’m about to say, because the wheels are about to fall off. I held his hand a little tighter. His breathing was deep and loud, but I could tell that he was at peace. I tried to get him to respond, and when he didn’t, I started rambling. I told him how many people were praying for him and believing in his return to the studio for season two of Pickler & Ben. I told him that his friend Mike was really missing him and that he needed to get back to work to keep us all in line.
I talked about all the cards in his room – and the obvious lack of chocolate – but I promised to fix that the next time I came to visit. And before I knew it, faith and peace filled both me and the room.
An hour later I got the call. I was with a friend I hadn’t see in a while when the news came, and I loved her more deeply in that moment.
On my way to pick up my son James (who has special needs) from school, I cried. I will miss Bill. I will miss his presence on the set for the rest of my life. This is the sucky part about death.
James is way more aware and in tune than I could ever hope to be, so my sadness wasn’t lost on him. I wanted to sit in silence as we drove and mourn my loss.
James wanted to have a polka dance party in the car, and so we did. For Bill.
I’m am so grateful that I got to see my friend one more time before he left. And I’m grateful for the potter who hand-crafted the coffee mug. I don’t know where it will end up – maybe his sister or one of his beautiful daughters will use it and know that his work community of friends loved him beyond words.
And as Bill said too many times to count in his career…
When James was eight-years-old, I sat on the bathroom floor with three highly trained ABA therapists. Clad in trash bags that read, “Team James”, and surrounded by colorful gadgets and M&M’s and anything that might motivate him, I watched and cried as they worked to get James Potty-trained.
And thankfully – it worked! But that weekend wasn’t free nor cheap. It cost us about $1,500. But, gratefully, it was covered by a grant from the financial assistance arm of The Grammy’s – MusiCares. (MusiCares also provided resources for James to receive speech therapy as well as dental sedation in order to get his teeth cleaned. And, a donation from another foundation, The Fiona Rose Murphy Charitable Trust, provided James with the now “infamous” IPad within days of his breaking.)
Which is why, Because of James, A Foundation Providing Support for Special Needs Families, now exists. And this Saturday night is our very first event to raise awareness and funds!
The Old School Farm, just ten minutes outside of Nashville, as offered to have all the proceeds from their Fall Festival benefit The Because of James Foundation. If you haven’t heard about this place yet, it’s awesome. It’s a farm to table restaurant and music venue and they employ special needs adults to work on the farm. How cool is that?
I hope you will join us on Saturday. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day in Tennessee. From 5-7pm there will be lots of activities for the kids, pumpkin carvings etc., and then LynnMarie & The Nashville Polka Guys play from 7-10pm! (The 5-7pm festivities are free, but the suggested donation for the music part of the evening is $10, but not mandatory.) Your presence will be the most important part.
And because of their example, I hope James and I can change the lives of many more.
Come celebrate with us!
Over the weekend I was listening to one of my favorite audio books, “What to Remember When Waking, The Disciplines of an everyday Life” by David Whyte. He tells this great story about a time he held his daughter in his arms. And in the moonlight, he watched her little palm open and close, as sometimes children’s palms do when they are falling asleep, and he noticed the lines in her hand.
And that as well as he knew her in that moment, people in her future world might know her better than he ever did.
I feel the same way about James. I know as much as I can possibly know about him right now. What he likes to eat, how he sleeps, and what brings him joy. But the reality is, I will not be in his life forever. And I have to trust that the people who are with him when I’m gone, the friends he will have when he is forty or fifty, may know him better than I do.
And I am aware that I am not alone in this fear, and that all parents with children probably feel the same way. But because James will likely not be able to care for himself completely, these future unknown life-helpers are on my mind and heart all the time.
We swam at a friend’s pool on Sunday. And watching James jump in the water never gets old. And that is the only way I stay away from the darkness. By knowing that in his future there will be a pool. And the ability to jump. Resulting in joy. This keeps me present and mostly away from sugar.
After I took this video, we snuggled on the patio furniture. He ate his pretzels and I stared at his palm. I ran my finger up and down his Palmar Crease.
And I prayed that they will always take him to the pool, make sure he has Rold Gold (not Snyder’s) pretzels to eat, and mostly, to remind him how very much I loved him.
Last week was THAT week. The one where you don’t get enough sleep, you eat Ruffles for dinner and
But I made it through. Sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and run, and believe that you will eventually, get out of the storm. Which I did
James is adapting to the new crazy schedule as well, much to the love and support from The Village. Shout out to Catherine and Will & Colleen Mandell who have stepped up and become care-takers to both James and myself. (Oh, and house cleaners and grocery shoppers!) You are loved and appreciated. . , Thanks to the prayer warriors (Sara George & Sandy Ivey), I have felt every single one! And to my office mates Shaunna and Julie – I love life with you in our little 9×12.
It’s Tuesday. And already things better and more doable than last week.
Enjoy the moments.
James fell asleep like this, in the middle of the afternoon. Chin resting on the car door. Snoring away.
New school. New teachers. New routine. James needs time adjusting to “new”.
And it turns out, so might I.
Whether it’s a new house, new job, new government, new relationship – there’s an adjustment time. A period of a few days, or weeks or maybe even months where you feel slightly out of sorts and possibly crunchy.
For example; I was in Publix the other day and the woman in my aisle couldn’t figure out if she wanted to be on the left side or the right side and kept swerving like she was drunk and every time I went left to pass her, she went left and so on and so on and all I wanted to do was ram my cart into her backside! (And yes, I am well aware that my current menopausal situation may be contributing to this hostel state of mind.)
What to do in those times? The only thing that I’ve found that works is to fall back on the things that make you feel good and grounded –
(Maybe not exactly in that order.) And of course – naps! James apparently understands the importance of naps.
All week we’ve been saying to James, “This is the new routine.” On the drive to school we ask, “James, where we are going?” He responds, “New School!”. And because he has a tendency to want to resist and sit in the parking lot, we then ask, “What do we do when we get there?” And he responds, “Walk.” “Yes James. New school. Walk.”
It will be natural to want to resist and sit. But keep walking. And before you know it, new becomes normal and you might just like people again. Or at least not want to run them over with a grocery cart.