Lights, Camera, Action, Part 1 ~ Making Music in Spain

Those three simple words, “lights, camera, action” are universally associated with filmmaking. Until last summer, my only role remotely associated with the theater was a bit part I was required to play in the annual musical back in junior high school.

For Pedro, the young Spanish man whose music career I help manage, those words have been part of his vocabulary and part of his dreams since he was very young.  Now, at 20 years of age, he is living his dreams.

Pedro González Arbona, professional musician and composer (Madrid, July 2013)

Pedro González Arbona, professional musician and composer (Madrid, July 2013)

Pedro’s First Short Film

When I headed to Madrid nearly six months ago, Pedro was up to his ears putting the finishing touches on the soundtrack for his first professional short film, Sed de Amor (Thirst for Love).  The premiere was held two weeks after my arrival.  Unfortunately, Pedro’s family and I were vacationing in southern Spain and couldn’t attend.  (The soundtrack is at the bottom of this post.)

Sandwiched in between sightseeing excursions and writing, my time in Madrid was spent collaborating with Pedro on his music and promotional projects to prepare for the premiere and beyond.  Together we launched his website (pgarbona.com), developed a site for his music sales, had publicity photo shoots, and worked on a Facebook marketing campaign to build interest in the film and his music.

Launching Pedro's new website.

Launching Pedro’s new website.

The Premiere

Since Pedro couldn’t attend the Thirst for Love premiere, the director, Chani Bas, asked him to create a video to introduce himself and explain his composing and music synchronization process for the film.  “Take 1.  Take 2.  Take 3,” I said as we made light of the multiple takes he had to do to get a flawless video.

Then since I couldn’t attend the premiere, Pedro gave me my own private showing of Thirst for Love.  Knowing the story, but not understanding the actors’ Spanish dialogue made it difficult to get the full movie viewer’s experience.  That didn’t stop the tears from flowing at the end of the movie though.  My tears were perfectly timed with the closing song “The Last Tear.”   Pedro’s parents joined us for the final minutes of the film, making my joy, and my tears complete.

Celebrating the Thirst for Love premiere while on vacation in Seville.

Celebrating the Thirst for Love premiere while on vacation in Seville.

More Music Collaboration

After our return from vacation, there was still much more music work to do.  Chani had enlisted Pedro to score the soundtrack for his next short film, Always Together.  Those songs filled the family home throughout my remaining days in Madrid as Pedro composed every free moment he got.  We also worked on reviewing and cataloguing Pedro’s ever growing list of compositions—about 120 at the time.

On one of our last days in Madrid, I met Chani, Pedro’s director, face to face at a local Starbucks.  It was a great opportunity to learn a bit more about the film industry, hear firsthand about the Thirst for Love premiere, and get to know each other.  Chani was already preparing for the next film project as well.  (Always Together premiered a few days ago.)

Chani Bas, Ardis A. Nelson and Pedro Gonzalez Arbona

Chani Bas, Ardis A. Nelson and Pedro Gonzalez Arbona

First American Film Project

The biggest music news of the summer though was the contract Pedro negotiated with the KevStel Group, an American production company, for his first full-feature film, Tempting Fate.  Days before we headed off to the island of Mallorca, international calls and email negotiations were flying through cyberspace.  We were rushed to complete it because once we arrived on Mallorca, internet access was extremely limited.

On Mallorca we settled into vacation mode for the remaining 2 ½ weeks of my trip surrounded by Pedro’s family and friends.  But one day while in siesta mode, I sat poolside and read the script of Tempting Fate.  I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read through lines that had a spiritual message of unconditional love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption.

I believe it was not a coincidence that this production company or this script landed in Pedro’s lap.  Like the prayer that moved mountains and connected Rosa and I, my prayers for Pedro’s music were again answered in heavenly ways.

Projected release date, July 2014

Projected release date, July 2014

Two Years in the Making

At this season of my life, I am often in awe of all the perfectly timed coincidences that have fallen into place between my Spanish family and me: the timing of the passing of Rosa’s and my mothers, how my trip to Spain came to fruition and its timing, and now, most assuredly, the recognition of Pedro’s musical talent beyond our friends and families.

It was two years ago this week that Pedro’s CD of original compositions, Introducing Pedro González Arbona, first went online at CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon.  What started on a whim and a nudge from God launched Pedro into a professional music and film career, and stepped him into his dreams.  It’s hard to watch these music milestones from 5,300 miles across the globe, but I am very blessed to know that God has done more than I could ever have imagined (Ephesians 3:20).

~ To read about the exciting premiere of ‘Always Together’ recently held in Madrid, check out Part 2 of this series..  To experience his music for yourself, click any of the links below to hear an original composition from the ‘Thirst for Love’ soundtrack, ©2013 Pedro González Arbona, or check out Pedro’s video page of this site.

If this is your first time hearing about the music of Pedro González Arbona, check out his website at pgarbona.com, or “The Music” page on my site for more information about how his music was discovered.  You can support his music career by liking his Facebook page, Pedro Gonzalez Arbona, Composer.

Updated 2/12/2015: The Tempting Fate soundtrack with Pedro’s music released today and is available on Amazon and iTunes. The movie will be released across Nigeria on July 17, 2015.

España Update 1 ~ The Longest Day

I knew that dealing with a 9-hour time difference and jet lag would be a difficult process.  I had watched Pedro do it twice before when he visited our home.  Both times he was a real trooper, immediately attending welcome parties and staying up late on his first night in America to do a gift exchange with our family.

During the first few days of my stay in Spain, several times Pedro said to me, “Now you know what it felt like for me.  It was horrible.”  And now I agree.

The Longest Day

Actually I think I did quite well, all things considered.  I managed to get 30 minutes of sleep, basically a cat nap, the night before I left.  When my alarm clock went off at 3:15 in the morning, I felt ready for the day.  I had dreamed of this day and meeting Rosa many times in the months, weeks and days preceding my trip.  I hoped for lots of sleep on the plane and knew my adrenaline rush would get me through the day.

Approaching Madrid from the air.

Approaching Madrid from the air.

The flight and my first days in Spain are a complete blur in my memory.  What I can clearly recall is that it felt like the longest day of my life—and it was.  By the time my head hit the pillow for my first night’s sleep in Spain, 40 hours had physically passed.

Touchdown Madrid

The anticipation grew as I negotiated the Spanish airport signs, long corridors and what seemed like an eternity waiting for my baggage to slide down the carousel.  I expected long lines to get through Customs as well, but the agent barely gave me or my passport a second look.

I was so excited to communicate my first Spanish words to someone—even just a passing “Hola” or “Buenas dias” would’ve been enough to confirm I was on Spanish soil.  But no, he was just pushing paper and not at all interested in the journey I had physically, emotionally and spiritually traveled to get to this time and place.

Navigating Barajas International Airport in Madrid

Navigating Barajas International Airport in Madrid

With Customs cleared and baggage dragging behind me, I knew my next stop, per se, was connecting with Pedro’s family.  More importantly, it was meeting Rosa face to face for the first time.  My camera was ready in hand and somewhere in Madrid’s Barajas International Airport, Rafa, Pedro’s father, was waiting with his camera perched to capture this moment for me.  The only problem was I had no idea around what corner we would meet.  And then it happened.

Meeting at the airport

Meeting at the airport

Meeting Rosa

A large set of opaque sliding glass doors opened wide to reveal a group of people standing behind a gated area.  I heard cheers and saw smiling faces.  I think I even heard my name; and then I made visual contact with Pedro and his family.

Rosa was definitely excited.  She was shouting my name in her thick Spanish accent and didn’t let the metal barricade keep her from rushing up to greet me.  I reciprocated with the standard European hug, a cheek kiss on both sides of the face.  All of our initial words and greetings are now gone from my memory, but the excitement of those first moments are still lingering.

First Hours in Spain

When I got to their home, all I wanted to do was eat and go to sleep, but travelers are recommended to get on the new time zone by forgetting the time difference and embracing the current hour of the day.  My body knew it was after midnight back home, but at my new home the day was just starting.  Ay, (Spanish for ‘oh my gosh’)! I dreaded the thought of getting through this day without sleep.

Pedro and family outside his former school.

Pedro and family outside his former school.

My host family did allow me to take my first siesta later though.  It was sandwiched between two walks in the neighborhood.  On our first walk I was delighted as we toured the Catholic school Pedro attended from 1st-12th grade.  The halls were lined with the framed first communion photos from previous year’s classes.  What a treat to see Pedro’s young face and proud moment plastered on the school wall along with some of his friends, who at this point I only knew by name.

Our second walk was to Retiro Park, similar to Central Park in New York City.  I found my first geocache here—one I remembered Pedro telling me about two years prior.  Now it was my turn to “log a smilie”.  That’s geocaching lingo for finding a cache.  My camera, and my feet, got a real workout on both of my outings.

My first geocache in Spain, Retiro Park, Madrid.

My first geocache in Spain, Retiro Park, Madrid.

Priceless Memories

The real highlights of this longest day were the heart connections that confirmed my love for this family and why I traveled around the world to be here.  My first was watching Pedro play the piano minutes after my arrival to their home.  No words could describe the pride and joy that filled me in this moment—three years in the making.  And then when Rosa joined us, well, the tears naturally came too.

Later in the day when I awoke from my siesta, Pedro’s music was filling the flat again, and my senses.  Rosa and I had some quiet time together with his music playing in the background.  It was all so surreal to me, like a movie soundtrack was playing in the background.  It was priceless.

Pedro at the piano

Pedro at the piano

After 12 days in Spain, I have adjusted to a new way of living and my beloved Spanish family. What I haven’t adjusted to though is how and when to write.  I originally thought I’d be writing during the traditional siesta time, but I have fallen in love with my siesta.  Today I have foregone it to finish this post that was started days ago.

There is so much happening, so many sights, and so much emotion.  I am pushing myself hard to keep up with all we are doing.  What my mind and fingers don’t have time to capture on the computer, my camera is capturing ‘on film’.  That is enough to keep me writing and blogging back home for the months to come.

I am sending much love to my family and friends back home and beyond who made this trip possible.  It is a dream come true.  It is especially for them that I am writing today.  Tomorrow I will siesta again.

Until we meet again, que tenga un buen dia. (Have a good day.)

Rosa & me beaming over Pedro's music and the delight of finally meeting.

Rosa & me beaming over Pedro’s music and the delight of finally meeting.

The Road to Spain, Update 6 ~ The Music

The last time I physically saw Pedro González Arbona we were waving each other goodbye at the security checkpoint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport two years ago.  He arrived that summer as an aspiring composer.  He left America that day with 50 professionally recorded CDs of his original compositions, eager to share his music with friends and family in Spain.

Managing Pedro’s Music

Our relationship changed that summer, not intentionally, but it went from one of family connection (as a result of a short term exchange program, Education First) to a music partnership.  When I offered to take Pedro into the recording studio in July 2011, he started to affectionately and jokingly call me his manager.  As I caught his dream of composing movie scores, I came to take that responsibility more seriously, as did he.

Since that time, his music found a home with CD Baby, an independent music distributor, giving him an online presence on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other retail music sites, and giving him worldwide exposure.  As fantastic as this may sound, online access doesn’t automatically equate to fame and fortune—although I was naturally concerned it might.

Introducing Pedro at his debut American performance, June 2011

Introducing Pedro at his debut American performance, June 2011

Carrying on our relationship across 5,300 miles has not been easy.  But like the online translator has helped bridge the distance between his mother Rosa and me, Pedro’s music has helped to connect us as well.  When Pedro left in July 2011, he had a repertoire of 18 songs; 13 of them were recorded on his CD, Introducing Pedro González Arbona.

Since then he has become quite prolific with his music, growing from simple piano melodies to fully orchestrated pieces.  Last month, he reached a major milestone by composing his 100th piece, sending each song to me via email along the way.

And Then it Happened . . .

One day out of the blue several months ago, Pedro emailed me an incredibly beautiful composition that seemed to stretch his music to a new level.  I made a mental note on that day of this shift, prayed about it, released it to God, and even wrote in my journal how it felt like his music was truly ready for the big screen.  The very next day, I received an email from Pedro that he got noticed by a Spanish film production company who was interested in hiring him to compose for a full feature film.  This was incredible news!

Pedro informed the company that I was his manager and the international communications began with the producer.  Things progressed very rapidly after that.  Pedro was offered the chance to compose for a short film to test his talent—which he passed with flying colors.  He was then offered the job to compose for the full feature film next year.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of musical commitments for Pedro and a steep learning curve for me.  I have been blown away by his beautifully orchestrated compositions for the short film.  Throughout the production process, he has demonstrated his maturity and creative genius in working with the producer and the director.  It has all paid off well for him as the trailer for the short film, “Sed de Amor” (Thirst for Love), below, was released last week.  (By the way, the song I mentioned above was the basis for the song featured in this trailer.  It really was meant for the big screen and answered prayer!)

It’s a Small World

What is so interesting to me in all of this is how the connections for this film came to fruition.  It wasn’t because the film company stumbled upon Pedro’s music.  It was through a high school friend, Chani Bas, who is the director and screenwriter for the short film.  He heard of Pedro’s musical pursuits and shared Pedro’s music site with the producers.  Pedro’s music spoke for itself.

Putting Pedro’s music online was never rooted in financial motives.  It was all about sharing Pedro’s music and getting him exposure.  We just had to be patient for the right circumstances to materialize and God’s timing.

6 DaysReunion on Spanish Soil

When I arrive in Spain in one week, I will be reunited with Pedro—no longer an aspiring composer, but a professional one, with the score of his first professional film under his belt.  The timing couldn’t be better, as we will be able to partner for his music promotion, the release of the soundtrack on July 1, and the premiere of the movie.  I’m also anxious to watch him perform the dozens of songs he sent me over the past two years.

I couldn’t be happier for Pedro.  His dreams are becoming a reality.  I fertilized the seed that was planted in my home when we met three years ago (when he first played the piano for us).  The hard work has paid off.  Now it’s time to enjoy the fruit of our labor, and thank God for the abundant blessings He has bestowed on us.

Update 12/18/2013:  To read about my music related adventures in Spain, check out “Lights, Camera, Action, Part 1.”

Dad & Mom ~ Birthday Reflections

When I logged on to my computer Wednesday morning my Outlook calendar reminded me that it was my father’s birthday—his first since he passed away last summer.  He would’ve been 95.  I gave his eulogy and wrote a series of posts about his passing while in the midst of my grief and processing.   In those posts I recounted how beautiful his passing was and about the family healing that resulted.

Nine months have passed and we have all returned to our busy lives in various parts of the country.  My stepmother has meticulously cleaned out the house and my father’s belongings.  She invested in some long overdue major house repairs.  Earlier this month her son permanently moved into their home.  It is her time to be cared for and rest easy after several years of being my father’s primary caregiver.

Remembering Dad

In years past, I would call my father on his birthday or sometimes send him a card.  He wasn’t a sentimental person so that didn’t matter to him.  In a strange sort of way though, I felt closer to my father this week than on prior birthdays.

My father's rosary

My father’s rosary

My father’s birthday fell on a Wednesday, the day that I regularly attend a church service and devote a large block of time in prayer.  Although not Catholic, I keep his rosary with me during these times.  Yesterday as I clutched it and prayed, I sensed his presence and his peace.

When the family went through my father’s personal belongings, I was surprised to find the rosary.  He turned away from his Catholic roots many, many years ago.  Dad was a born again Christian, yet he still had his rosary—although he probably forgot about it long ago.  It was broken and not much to look at—black with small wooden beads.

All of my siblings and family are now Protestant (we were raised Catholic) so I knew no one would want it.  Since the Catholic Church played such a significant role in my mother’s peaceful passing and my healing, I knew I couldn’t let it be discarded.

Remembering Mom

Much like Wednesday’s remembrance of my father, I mark my mother’s birthday with pleasant memories of her.  I don’t have either of the rosaries I bought her on my trips back home.  Both were lost.  The only mementos I received after she died was a bracelet I bought her for Mother’s Day—the last time I saw her alive—and a remnant of the chain from the first communion cross pendant I gave her on my 50th birthday.

My mother's chain & bracelet

My mother’s chain & bracelet

Mom’s first posthumous birthday also fell on a Wednesday, soon after I had started my personal weekly prayer vigils two years ago.  Her birthday was only a few weeks after she died.

I vividly remember that day because after my prayer time, I had a beautiful song waiting for me on my phone (via email) from Pedro.  It was “Rome”, the second song I knew he composed.  He sent it out of the blue, not knowing it was my mother’s birthday.  It immediately brought tears to my eyes due to its sheer beauty and the perfect timing of its receipt.  That song was a precious gift, which for me, is forever linked to my healing and my mother’s passing.

Still Grieving?

I think I can comfortably say that my grieving for my father is done.  When the time is right and I return to the house he called home for the last 35+ years, I suspect a new wave of sadness will hit me.  Then when I step on Spanish soil in two months, and meet Rosa face to face, more tears will be shed over the passing of our mothers and how God has beautifully connected us.

Two deaths.  Two eulogies.  In two years.  And now two posthumous birthdays that I privately celebrate with gratitude to God for the perfect way He orchestrated my parent’s passings and the healing in my life.  I think that’s worth some quiet time of reflection, don’t you?

The Call to Speak, Part 2 – Breaking the Ice

I’m sharing my first Toastmasters speech, the icebreaker, on my blog (it’s more like an author reading at this point) as a way to introduce others to my story and hone in on my message.  It is a work in process.  Part 1 of this series is about how the speaking part of my journey started in the first place.

I know in time I will have multiple venues open up to share my story in spiritual and secular settings over the months and years to come.  The objective of this particular speech is to gain interest in my story and start building my audience as I prepare for my pilgrimage to Spain this summer and the next season of my writing.

As you read the speech, envision if you will, Pedro’s music (the young Spanish man in my story) playing in the background and synchronized with the speech.  When you have finished reading it, I’d love it if you would share your personal evaluations of it in the comments below (like my fellow Toastmasters did at the meeting).

First Meeting

Welcoming Pedro into the family, July 2010.

My First Toastmasters Speech

“My name is Ardis Nelson.  I am a wife, a mother, a writer, a blogger, and a follower of Jesus, whose life was radically transformed a few years ago after opening our home to a Spanish young man named Pedro, as part of a short term exchange program.  With Pedro’s engaging personality and eagerness to immerse himself in American culture and history, he quickly became like family.  Our final goodbyes that summer were very painful to me as we had no idea when we would ever see each other again, but we knew the door of his home was always open to my family.

Since that teary goodbye two and a half years ago, many amazing things have happened between our families.  I am finally traveling to Spain this summer to continue my writing and to speak.  I’d like to share a bit of this story with you in hopes of gaining your continued interest of its unfolding.

Shortly after Pedro returned home to Madrid in August 2010, he found out that his grandmother had brain cancer and only had a few months to live.  My mother was also terminally ill, after having suffered a major stroke, and so I started to connect with Rosa, Pedro’s mother, to offer prayer and encouragement as we both prepared for the passing of our mothers.  There was one minor problem though—neither one of us spoke the other’s native language.  But we didn’t let that stop us as we used online translators to communicate via email and bridge the 5,300 mile gap between us.

In January 2011, six months after Pedro’s departure, he unexpectedly sent our family the song “Seattle”, a piece he composed and dedicated to us.  Although he played the piano in our home that previous summer, we had no idea he composed music until we received this song.  Then within days of the receipt of this song, Pedro’s grandmother died. 

Since Pedro’s family was Catholic, I went to a local parish, lit a candle and prayed for their family.  I also prayed for my own mother who had already suffered over a year since her stroke and was living day to day with the aid of a feeding tube.  I surrendered the outcome of the timing of her death and she passed away two weeks later.

Cemetary

Laid to rest, February 2011.

As I worked on my mother’s eulogy, I started to see how I was beautifully made in my mother’s image.  Since she was mentally ill all my life and we were estranged for many years, I had never connected the dots before.  I was afraid that I would someday be labeled mentally ill like my mother and so I cut her out of my life.  I stuffed my emotions and did everything I could to disassociate myself with her.  The ramifications of these revelations were transformational for me.

On the day of my mother’s funeral, on the flight home to Seattle, I started writing about the story that connected our families.  One year later, my story “Walking My Mother Home” was accepted by a publisher and subsequently released in the compilation, Journeys to Mother Love in August 2012.

Meanwhile, Pedro started to send more of his compositions to me and we were planning for his return to Seattle that next summer.  But little did he know I started to play with the idea of taking him into the recording studio for his 18th birthday.  A few weeks before his return, when I offered him the gift of a recorded CD, he divulged a big secret.  Some of the music he performed the previous summer in our home was actually his original music—including my favorite song titled “Portman”.

Pedro’s CD, “Introducing Pedro Gonzalez Arbona”, is now available on itunes, Amazon, Spotify and other online music sites.  Surprisingly, I also now manage the music career of this young international artist.  One of his biggest dreams, to compose movie scores, became a reality last month as he was hired by a professional production company in Spain.  He has completed scoring the music to a short film and has high hopes of continuing with this company on other bigger projects.

I like to think that all of this started because God nudged me to go outside of my comfort zone and open our home to this young man.  When I did that step of obedience, God continued to open up new opportunities for us to connect and invest in each other.  I invested in Rosa at her time of need and she did in me as well.  In return, I invested in her son and his desires to share his music to a broader audience.

On June 24th, I will step on Spanish soil and meet Rosa face to face.  It is a friendship born in sorrow, nurtured in prayer and sealed in love.  As I mentioned earlier, my writing started the day of my mother’s funeral. I know it won’t be complete until I meet Rosa face to face, hear her side of the story and how her faith and family got her through it. Rosa has been learning English to facilitate our communication. I’ve been working on my next book in preparation for our meeting.  It is our gift to each other and a way to honor our mothers.

I’m looking forward to having you journey along with me as I prepare for my trip to Spain and share my story.  Thank you for the opportunity to share my story with you tonight.”

Speech EvaluationTime to Evaluate

My speech hit right on target for the 5-7 minute speech range.  I  finished by distributing business cards and a few handouts related to my blog and story.  Each Toastmaster wrote a short evaluation of each speaker’s speech.  Later on in the meeting, evaluators assigned to each speaker provided even more feedback.

So now it’s your turn.  You can’t really evaluate how well I spoke, but you can provide your feedback on the content in the comments below.  If you don’t already follow my blog, the best evaluation or feedback you could provide on this is to subscribe to email updates of my blog posts and join me on my journey to Spain and beyond.

A Tribute to Mom, Part 3 – The Music & the Musician

My mother, JoAnn, loved music and gave me a love for it as well.  Neither one of us could read music or play an instrument, but we both had large phonographic record collections (ouch, that dates me).  We also love to dance and sing, although I reserve those times for Sunday morning worship (when I can bury my voice in the crowd) or in the privacy of my own home.

When Pedro, the Spanish young man mentioned in “Walking My Mother Home”,  started playing the piano in our home, it awakened in me my buried love of the same kinds of music that my mother loved, soundtracks from films such as “The Sound of Music” and “The Sting”, to name a few.  Unbeknownst to me, Pedro was interspersing some of his own original piano compositions as well.

Phonograph record & turntable

Phonograph record & turntable

In January 2011, one month before my mother died, Pedro surprised my family by sending us a video of “Seattle”, a song he wrote and dedicated to us.  That was the first I knew of his composing.  This led to my taking Pedro into a recording studio for his 18th birthday to produce his first CD, “Introducing Pedro González Arbona“.

Pedro has become quite an accomplished and prolific composer over the past two years.  He has composed dozens of songs and his music is now available online.  (If you regularly follow my blog, this is not news to you.)  What is news though is that Pedro’s music was recently noticed by a Spanish film production company who has hired him to compose a score for a short film.

“Walking My Mother Home” Soundtrack

Since Pedro’s desire is to compose movie scores, it is only natural that he would compose music that goes along with the story between our families.  He has composed two beautiful songs, “JoAnn’s Song” and “Ardis’s Song”, which I have made into short videos.  The videos (click the links below) compliment my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, published in Journeys to Mother Love.

  • JoAnn’s Song:  The story of the three trips back home to St. Louis to see my mother.
  • Ardis’s Song:  The story of my mother’s funeral ending with my revelations and identity breakthrough.
Pedro rests at the 9-foot Steinway, The Piano Studio, Seattle, July 2011.

Pedro rests at the 9-foot Steinway, The Piano Studio, Seattle, July 2011.

Pedro’s music has become an integral part of my life since my mother died two years ago.  Not only has he written songs for me and my mother, he has also written tributes to my recently deceased father (Van’s Requiem-click link to listen) and Carmen, his grandmother (Bubu-click link to listen), who passed away a few weeks before my mother.

The Fruit of My Labor

It a tremendous gift to watch this young man’s musical talent bloom and grow.  It was fertilized in my home over two years ago.  Like investing in Rosa, Pedro’s mother, as we prepared for the passing of our mothers, I also invested in Pedro.  Both of these people investments have born great fruit.  They have transformed my heart.  And now JoAnn and Carmen are dancing to a new beat together in heaven.

Someday Pedro’s music will be on the big screen.  I’ll be there to applaud his debut with eyes beaming and tears streaming.  Until then, I’m learning to be content in receiving electronic music files of his compositions and partnering with him on his music dreams from 5,300 miles across the world.

If you enjoyed Pedro’s music, please help this aspiring young international artist build an audience and get noticed by clicking the link to like his Facebook page, “Pedro González Arbona”, or share a comment below about his music or the videos.

Name That Tune

Ever since we welcomed Pedro into our home two summers ago, his music has become a part of my life.  For the first summer, I watched and listened to him play movie soundtracks on our old upright piano.  Before that summer, the piano was reserved solely for my oldest son, Evan, who for years only played classical pieces from great composers like Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and Tchaikovsky.  Both of these young men were classically trained, yet their music was strikingly different and influenced by the environment in which they grew up.

A Tale of Two Musicians

Pedro at the Nelson family piano, July 2010

Pedro at the Nelson family piano, July 2010

From an early age Pedro fell in love with the cinema, going to movies with his parents and grandparents.  For his first communion he received books from his grandparents about American and European cinema.  He was drawn to the chapters about the composers and started paying attention to how music influenced movies.  When Pedro was eight, his parents discovered he had an ear for music and he was enrolled in a conservatory in Spain.

Across the globe in Seattle, Evan’s interest in music was being fostered by his parents and trips to the symphony with his father.  Evan was enrolled in private piano lessons when he was six years old. With his aptitude for math and complex equations, he was stretched by his teachers to remarkable levels in mastering works like “Polichinelle” by Rachmaninoff.  At the pinnacle of his musical career, we produced two CDs of Evan’s music and he held a fundraiser concert where he performed eight classical pieces.

Evan's final year of music, 2010

Evan’s final year of music, 2010

Evan’s days of playing the piano were winding down when Pedro and his music entered our lives.  It wasn’t until months after Pedro left that we even found out some of the pieces he performed were his own compositions.  All of this led to producing Pedro’s debut CD, Introducing Pedro Gonzalez Arbona, the following summer. (Pedro’s music is available on itunes, Amazon, Spotify, CD Baby and other online music sites.)

The Soundtrack of My Life

Ever since the receipt of “Seattle”, a song Pedro composed and dedicated to our family, Pedro has been sending me his songs—over 30 received to date.  What is most unique about this relationship is how it often feels like I have a soundtrack that goes along with my life—at least this season of it.

Last year for my birthday, Pedro composed a song for me, “Ardis’s Song”.  It was one of the best gifts I’d ever received.  When my father passed away this summer, Pedro composed “Van’s Requiem” which we played at the memorial service. Then when “Journeys to Mother Love” was released, he surprised me with a song for the Open House (The story really does have a soundtrack that goes with it.  I send that to anyone who buys “Journeys to Mother Love” through me or my site.)

Name That Tune

When my birthday arrived last month, I tried not to expect another song, yet Pedro did manage to surprise me again! Unlike last year’s song, Pedro gave me the privilege to name this one.  I’ve been pondering a name for a few weeks.  With my birthday falling on Thanksgiving, I wanted this song and this birthday to stand out from my other birthdays.

Name That TuneSo my new song, “Day of Thanks”, was born from a friendship that transcends the 5,300 miles across the world.  It is testament to how grateful I am for my Spanish connection and so many other blessings in my life.  As a simple reminder of this gift, the ringtone on my cell phone now plays the opening notes to my new favorite song.

Music has a way of touching us at the heart level and lifting our spirits when we are down.  It sets a tone in our movies, in our homes or wherever we listen to it.  With the gift of Pedro’s music in my life, I am never far from my Spanish son or the memories of the good times we have shared.

I have already named my song, but I want to hear what you think.  I encourage you to listen to “Day of Thanks” (click song title) and tell me what you would name this song if you received it.  What feelings or scenes does it evoke in you?  Enjoy this lovely composition and like the American game show from the 1950’s, “Name That Tune” in the comments below. (Please return back to this page to post your comment.)

Celebrating Our Milestones

My definition of family has expanded greatly over the last few years and now includes Pedro’s family, the young man we hosted from Spain in the summer of 2010.  My whole world has expanded as a result of participating in the Education First international exchange program.  Mostly thanks to Pedro and his mother, Rosa, I’ve learned much about Spain—its culture, food, economy, music, and more.

On top of that, are the simple pleasures in celebrating life’s milestones together—the good and the bad.  Since meeting Pedro, we have mourned the loss of both families’ maternal grandmothers and the passing of my father this past summer.  We celebrated his high school graduation, the recording and creation of his CD of original piano compositions, and his acceptance at a Spanish university where he studies law and business administration.

When Pedro turned 18 last year, we heard about some of his “coming-of-age” milestones, like legally being able to drink and to vote.  He proudly sent a photo displaying his voter certificate as proof that he voted in the Spanish presidential elections last fall.

Pedro’s new car

Last week, Pedro marked another rite of passage—passing his driving exam and getting his driver’s license.  This was quite an achievement for him since he took the exam multiple times—a common occurrence in Spain due to the extreme level of difficulty.  Pedro sent videos of him and his family picking up his new car at the dealership and driving home.  It was an unexpected surprise and a delight to witness this first in his life.

As with so many of Pedro’s milestones, he wrote a song to commemorate it.  A year ago he wrote “Drive” (click link to hear the song), in anticipation of his learning to drive.  Now that goal is a reality. (“Drive” © 2011 Pedro González Arbona)

Celebrating our milestones via video, photos, music and Skype has certainly connected us, although we are 5,300 miles apart.  It is the next best thing to being there.

I enjoy celebrating life’s milestones with my extended family and others who have journeyed this road to wholeness with me.  Watching the videos of Pedro’s milestone reminded me of the many blessings I have had in my life since his arrival in our home.  Last fall, when I had a significant birthday celebration, Rosa and Pedro joined in via Skype.  I wrote about this celebration on the “Journeys to Mother Love” blog.

The physical expansion of my family has expanded my whole world perspective.  It has taken me beyond my local sphere of influence to a global sphere of influence—one that will include a monumental trip to Europe next summer.  In the meantime, I am continuing to celebrate life’s milestones along the way.

I encourage you to celebrate and commemorate the milestones in your life—no matter how big or small.  We can cling to these milestones, along with God’s Word, when times are rough.

“Journeys to Mother Love” Book Launch

The last month has been a whirlwind of activities, culminating with the launch of Journeys to Mother Love, Cladach Publishing, at my Open House last weekend.  The emotions and the stress have been pretty intense.

Also during this month my son transitioned to a new high school, I began a new treatment plan for my ADHD, covered staff vacancies at my husband’s office, and bid farewell to the ministry leader I’ve served with for the last year.  No wonder my body is tired and my mind seems a bit mushy.  So it shouldn’t be a surprise that my writing, including this blog, has been on hold.

The Open House and Book Signing was truly magical for me.  As odd as it may sound, it reminded me of my father’s memorial service a few months ago.  I gave the eulogy and felt wholly unequipped to do so.  But somehow God showed up and anointed my words.  And that is exactly what happened last weekend too.

I spent hours creating the publicity documents, personally inviting friends and creating audio/visual segments for the program.  But when my head hit the pillow in the early morning hours on the day of the event, I didn’t know what I was going to say.  I do work well under a deadline, but that was really cutting it short.  I prayed and trusted that God was going to make it all work out, and He did!

When I awoke, I felt surprisingly alert, fresh and ready to write the program.  My prayers were answered that morning as God seemed to piece it all together in my mind.  There was no time to type it up or to practice.  I jotted some notes down on paper and made a B-line for the event.

I felt calm and at ease as I shared with everyone the key pieces of this story—interwoven with videos accompanied by Pedro’s original piano compositions.  (Pedro González Arbona is my Spanish son who is a key character in the published story.)  The response to the event was extremely positive.  I felt blessed and affirmed to start on this next season of writing and speaking.  I know that these things wouldn’t be possible without the love and encouragement I have received from friends and family along the way.  I am very grateful to them.

My mother has been physically gone for almost two years, but as I wrote in “Walking My Mother Home”, I lost her emotionally over forty years ago.  I still have a few moments when I get caught up in the loss of never really knowing my mother as a person—like when I see or hear about my friends connecting with their daughters—but the journey I’ve been on to wholeness these past two years has led to such amazing peace and joy in my own identity.  And it was with that sense of awe and wonder at how God can turn our healing into hope that I celebrated the launch of Journeys to Mother Love last week.

Since many of you couldn’t attend the Open House, I’m including the video below I created from the event.  I think you’ll agree that it was joyful.  In time I will share the other videos and soundtrack to the story.  Pedro surprised me with the song, “The Launch,” a few days before the event.  I hope you enjoy this lovely composition used with the video.  Thanks for following me on this journey to wholeness.

Where has God turned your healing into hope?  Where has God redeemed your pain and made you whole?  I’d love to hear your story or comments on the video.

Van’s Requiem

It’s been a year and half since I found out that Pedro, the Spanish young man whom we hosted as an exchange student in our home was a composer.  Since that time, his music has become an integral part of my life, including the culmination of recording his music and putting it online.

A few days after my father died, I received an email from Pedro with “Van’s Requiem” attached.  The email merely said, “You know what I can do right now from Spain, is composing.”  I let the tears flow.

A requiem is a musical composition associated with death and mourning.  When I played “Van’s Requiem” for my step-mother, she told me I couldn’t keep this song to myself and requested that I play it  at the memorial service.  She also said my father would’ve liked it.  And I agree.

My father enjoyed music.  His musical interest started in grade school when he was taught to play the violin by a nun.  He didn’t like the lessons much or her instruction, but he did love music.  He soon took to learning other instruments on his own.  He could play the string bass, clarinet, saxophone, accordion and the organ.  He also had his own band, Bud & His Buddies, for a few years in the late 1930’s to earn some extra money after high school.

Dad passed that love of music down to his family.  My older brother played Dad’s saxophone in school as well as some of Van’s grandchildren, including both of my sons.  For my sons anyway, the saxophone was their secondary instrument.  It was a small way that they got to connect with their grandfather.

I took a few piano lessons in college, but by that time, it was just too difficult for me.  I turned my love for music into an easier way to enjoy it—by working at the college radio station as a disc jockey and eventually becoming the Music Director.  It was a far cry from reading sheet music or performing in recitals, but fun nonetheless.

When Dad met Pedro last summer, they had an impromptu music gathering at the piano and organ.  Pedro played some of his own compositions and attempted to play whatever sheet music my father put in front of him.   It was entertaining to watch and even more precious to me when I watched the videos after my father recently passed away.

The day after Dad passed away, I sent an email to Pedro to tell him the sad news.  I was shocked to notice that they met exactly one year ago—July 10, 2011.  It was hard to watch those videos.  My father’s health deteriorated a great deal since then, but it didn’t seem as noticeable until I watched those videos.

Dad & Pedro doing a sound-check on the family organ, 7/10/11.

I am incredibly glad I recorded that time between Pedro and my father.  One of the songs Dad asked Pedro to play was “The Old Rugged Cross”.  Unfortunately Pedro didn’t know that song.  One year later, I found out that song was Dad’s favorite hymn.  We closed his memorial service with it.

The service was opened with “Van’s Requiem.” I know that on that day one year ago when this relationship was developed, the basis for “Van’s Requiem” was also being developed.  The ripple effect of that encounter had eternal consequences.  I’m sure my father was tapping his toes to his own personal song.

“Van’s Requiem” © 2012 Pedro González Arbona

Indeed music is an integral part of my life.  It has created memories that are priceless to me.  And along the way, it has grown my faith too.

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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