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Taking the plunge?

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I have been grappling with the idea of “success” lately. It’s a funny thing with me. In some ways I want it and yet, as look back over time I have clearly thwarted it. I don’t think I realized it when I was doing it but I know now that I have kept it at arms distance. I think, especially when it comes to music, that “success” can be seen as the enemy. Many songs have been written about it in specific. To the “artist” and often their fans as well, it can be seen as selling out. I know growing up, the people (my brothers) whose musical tastes I looked up to, often gave me the impression that this was in fact true. Some of this, I’m sure, was born out of our secret competition, to try and wow each other with our new musical finds. If we found them first, because they weren’t “too popular” to be unavoidable, we win! Mind you, in, my case, the “win” was never acknowledged. Often times, months later they would play something for me……”hey, I played that for you months ago” I would say. No recognition…. and I was left frustrated. Still happens from time to time but it has gotten better. Perhaps they are getting soft….at least one of them….but I digress..

I have really been grappling with this idea of being successful these last few weeks. I want so much to bring this project to light. That, in one way, would be successful. I myself want to be impressed by the quality of the recording and production, yet another level of success. I want to be able to sell it when it is finished and be able to have some financial success which is a multi layered beast in itself. It would be lovely to break even and dare I think I could see it as a new source of income? Am I really allowed to make money off my heart and soul? Does that somehow lessen the integrity of the songs? Then of course there is the fear that arises in thinking about what lengths I would have to of to sell it on that level. How much to I need to think about image? If I don’t “look” hip or beautiful will people who don’t know me want to support me.

This brings me to some specific fears. I am a slightly overweight, gray haired mother of four. For years I have dyed my hair but have recently begun thinking that perhaps it is my constant fighting against that which is natural, that keeps me in turmoil. I have a very overly critical voice in my head and I am trying to silence it but letting my hair go gray? Will that do the trick? Will people listen to an old lady like me? Will the crowd who is still going to shows and buying CD’s even give me the time of day? More importantly, will my brothers think any of it is any good and will they still like it? Let’s face it, that’s where this all started anyway.

In the end, as all things usually end, I know the truth. The truth is, that if I feel good about myself and tell the truth, it will resonate with people. I believe it is that truth that allows us to listen to so many types of music and relate to it all. We human creatures respond to that which arrives wrapped in authenticity. If, as artists, we speak our truth, people can find themselves in what ever we create, whether it is music, poetry, film etc. I love to hear actors and actresses who have to portray despicable characters, talk about having to find something in that character that they can relate to in order to play someone and make it “believable”. It is so in all art, it must be believable and relateable.

It brings me back to this question…..am I really fooling anyone by dyeing my hair? Does it come across as someone struggling to hold onto something or be something they are not? Does it really matter? At this point I think it is about letting go of the fear of judgement at a time when I am really putting myself out there, in some sense, to be judged. As you can see, I am like the child at the edge of the pool thinking about diving in for the first time….head first. You have probably watched this before. Somewhere in the back of their minds they know it will be so liberating but the what ifs keep them stuck there on the side. I will keep you posted on whether or not they actually take the plunge!

I Write the Songs That Make the Whole World Sing (it’s just a title not a belief)

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So I am sitting here this morning working on a new song. It wasn’t my intention to do so but most of the time that is how it happens. I started out trying to work on an existing song and trying to decide if it should go on the three song demo I am working on and then this new song sort of pushed it’s way through into my consciousness.

It started with a subtle two chord vamp and then boom…..the first line came out in it’s entirety, and then the second and third. Basically, this song was writing itself. Then there was a really strange chord change and an almost crazy melody that came with it. Listening back as I am singing it, it doesn’t sound so strange but at the time, it was certainly out of left field for me. Thus far, there isn’t really a chorus so to speak, but a definite hook and theme running through out. The second verse followed much the same. There was a tiny bit of crafting going on, a bit of phrasing and a little melody bending, but all in all….two verses done. This is a very common thing for me and then there is the perverbial wall. What now? The universe can be a cruel place. It gives me only enough to get me excited and then shuts the door and says…”do the work”. O man!

Let me tell you that I started this process around 8:30 this morning and just looked up at the clock to realize that is after noon. There were a few distractions I’ll admit, but the time just flew while I was in the process. For me, that is an incredible amount of focus and now it is going to get hard??? That must be why most songs of mine are only three verses.

Well now it’s time for lunch and maybe a shower (did I mention I’m still in my pajamas) and then back at it I guess. I did have to record what I have done so I wouldn’t forget. I used to let that part go figuring it wasn’t any good if I could forget it. I don’t think that way any more because, let’s face it, I am old and don’t remember much. Writing things down is nothing to be ashamed of.

I hope someday you get to meet this little song of mine…I think you might be good friends.

She Works Hard For The Money

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Yesterday was a big day and yet it went by with very little fanfare, just a little “here here” in my head. I spent a few hours, all that I could afford in both time and money, in the studio. We began the journey into what will eventually be my CD. I think the significance of those two hours, will only truly be realized upon completion of this project.

Let me give you a little picture of what it’s like. I arrive at Marks house ( he is the producer,technician etc.) remove my shoes, pet the dog (Cora) chat a little with Mark and his wife while they lovingly make me a cup of tea (super yummy) . The tea is significant because before my arrival I have developed a troublesome tickle in my throat…..I am not giving into it. With tea and guitar in hand, I head up the narrow wooden stair case ( the one I fell down in my earlier post) up to the ” studio”.

Mark has graciously done a lot of work before I even arrive and is basically ready to rock. We set up a tempo. I explain to him how I am “click track” challenged. A click track is just an electronic metronome that you here in the headphones when you are working on the first guitar track so that it keeps all subsequent tracks in time. Well if you know me at all timing and tempo are not my strong suit. The electronic metronome is exact and there isn’t much about me that is that precise. Mark is lovely and assures me that I am not the only one and after a short technical discussion solves my problem by creating an electronic shaker of sorts that give me the beats in between the down beats….problem solved. All this time that I have spent in the studio with this pesky little problem and he solves it in a matter of minutes. At this moment I’m thinking “where have you been all my life” and “thank you for not making me feel ridiculous”. Which is how I often felt before.

Four guitar takes later, we actually used the second one, and three vocal takes complete,( not sure which one we used) I have a “working” CD. This is the one that I will sing to in my car while working on a vocal arrangement for harmonies. I will sing it over and over again in my car where I feel free to belt out anything that comes into my head without offending anyone’s delicate musical ears.

So drivers beware. Should you pull along side me on some L.A. street, or driving south perhaps, on the 110 freeway, don’t stare or become concerned, I am only working to bring you the best music I can. I do it for love.

Nobody’s Perfect

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Well phase one is under way. I have been up loading a few videos to test the waters. So far it’s been a good response. Of course it is family and friends and I’m not sure they would say anything remotely bad. What I did find promising was that they were’nt shy about sharing it with their friends. Again, it isn’t too astonishing because they are family but it will be interesting to see if their friends have anything to say.

Something odd has come up however and I am writing it down. Mostly I want to chronicle everything that happens in this process, but also because writing of any kind usually serves as a tool just to sort things out. It is a concrete way for me to self examine, self analyze and hopefully come to some sort of understanding about the crazy thoughts that roll around in my brain. I think, right now, I am missing some criticism. I am really really self critical but what I really want is criticisms from outside soures. Let me explain….

If all you hear are positive statements don’t you start to become skeptical? Is that just me. I want to grow and be better so give me something to work on or challenge my position. Really, I guess I don’t “want” it but I think I need it. Sometimes it makes me reaffirm my own choices. I hate (and I mean it makes me physically ill) confrontation of any kind. If you critisize a choice I’ve made, I am likely to change it. I do have rare moments where I stand up for myself and my choices and then I feel certain of what I’ve chosen. It sometimes takes the challenge for me to be sure it is right for me. Sometimes things don’t end up the way I thought they would but, in those instances, I walk away feeling very satisfied and self assured. Does that make any sense? Well I’m not telling you to nit pick but just be honest and give me something to think about. I know I’m not perfect.

One Small Step for Man…you know the rest

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Today I made a phone call. That, in itself isn’t such a big deal, unless of course you factor in that I hate talking on the phone. It was the nature of the phone call that is important here. It took me some time to muster up the courage to make it but I made an appointment in my head. I wasn’t going to put it off. 10:00am….make phone call. Well, at 10:06 I actually dialed the number.

The phone call was to a lovely gentleman who has agreed to produce my CD. Or at least the first three songs just to see if we will work well together. We don’t really know each other very well. I met him through a very dear friend and musical kindred spirit. He and I have hung out a few times, getting to know each other. I have played some songs for him, fell down his stairs….a stellar moment even for me, and we did some rough recordings so he would have a reference point while we took a little break for the holidays. He is very nice and I think he gets me and while sometimes it is still hard for me to believe….he says he likes my music.

So the phone call. Well I was supposed to make it yesterday and I did not. After dealing with some health issues, both mine and my sons, I was emotionaly fragile and let my fear get the better of me. Went to bed around 4:00 and slept through dinner. Today, while my fear was ever present, I mustered up some courage and made the call. I think perhaps, a sense of propriety won out over my irrational fear as well but let’s just call it courage o.k.?

What was I so afraid of you might be asking yourself and the truth is I don’t really know. Perhaps it is the constant ” who am I kidding” question or perhaps the fear of not being able to finance it which leads me back to the ” who am I kidding” question. It’s scary here in my head most of the time. So scary I don’t even want to be there but alas. I am taking a moment to acknowledge that I took one small step on the surface but a huge friggin leap in my head.

I am giving the floating dollar signs a rest for tonight and allowing the true glory of this moment to sing. Next Tuesday the journey of a thousand steps begins with the first recording session. I am nervous and excited and putting a lot of trust in God that this is why I am here and He will take care of it.

Here’s To You

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For the third time in my six year olds life, I had to walk away and leave his well being in the hands of a stranger. While they may be highly trained and lisenced by the state, they still hold his little life in their hands.

The first time this happened was when he was born (and really makes it four times but who’s counting). Within minutes of his birth they whisked him away to the NICU while I was wheeled to recovery room. I really think it solidified in me a lifetime of wanting to keep him close by me. The second time was only a week later when I had to leave him there and go home empty handed. It isn’t natural or fair for a mother to not take her baby home with her, not for the father either but I think ( at least in my case) they are trying so hard to hold the mother together they don’t really have the chance to feel their own feelings. So…..here’s to the parents that have to go home without their little ones in their arms. The ones who go back and forth to the hospital daily (sometimes more than once a day) to check in and maybe not even get to hold them but sit patiently by that tiny body and wait patiently and cry a little.

When he was four he swallowed a lollipop stick…..it does happen and in our case less than a minute after you say ” sit up you’re going to choke on that”. We went through an emergency room visit and then sent home only to receive an urgent sounding phone call to get him back right away and don’t feed him anything or let him drink anything. When we brought him in we waited through six IV attempts and tons of meds to finally get him to sleep. We had to walk away again only this time, we passed by the glass walled rooms of parents and children who looked as if they lived there. As I was leaving my child I saw the exhausted faces of parents who were dealing with far more than a lollipop stick. The reality hit me that they are worrying about the same thing I was worried about but i had the strangers assurance that we would be fine and going home in the next 24 hours or so. We returned to his room 45 minutes later to see him, yet again, with a tube down his throat watching the machines that were helping him breathe. We sat up all night and waited…he came home the next morning. So….here’s to the parents who wait up all night for many nights in a row. Who, even if they close their eyes for a few moments, have to grapple with worry and fear and never really rest. Here’s to the ones who know all the nurses by name and what shifts they are working because they have been there for weeks…and here’s to the nurses too.

Today I walked away one more time with my six year old life in the hands of the anesthstigiologist. I was a ” simple” “routine” “procedure” “he is only having his tonsils and adenoids out” I kept telling myself. But then the blue hatted strangers come in and start to use the word “surgery” and “risk factors” and your heart sinks a little. They give a little cup of something to drink and wait for him to feel a little “drunk” and then tell you to say goodbye…..my heart stops. I keep a brave face and only when I know he is out of hearing distance, a let out an uncontrollable gasp…the tears follow and once again my hero swoops in with that amazingly strong arm to scoop me up and reassure me. So….here’s to the dads who put their own fears aside because moms just aren’t always as good at that. Here’s to the moms and dads who put on brave faces and encourage and comfort a scared child when their own fears feel like they are swallowing them whole.

Here’s to the parents who deal with the life and death decisions on a daily basis and wonder if they are doing the right thing. Here’s to the parents who have kids with mental and emotional challenges who have to withstand the judgemental stares of other parents who think it’s a “parenting” problem. Here’s to the parents who are raising square pegs and victims of society who are always being told they aren’t “normal”. Here’s to you if you question your parenting skills daily but love your kids so much it hurts. You get up day after day and do your best and make mistakes and keep so much inside for the sake of others. I have had but a taste of what so many parents go through and ultimately realize that our kids are on their own journey and we can only walk beside them as long as they allow and even when they don’t stay far enough behind to catch them if they fall.

If you are a parent today who has to face these or any other challenges, know that you are loved and cared for by an amazing God and that He is walking along side of you and always close enough to catch you when you fall. He also has your children in His loving hands. Please be good to yourselves. Stand in the truth that you are not perfect but that you love your kids and in the end love always wins out. If you aren’t facing any of these challenges…hug your children and be grateful, and be kind to others because you never know what they are going through.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

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As I sit in my kitchen listening to Chistmass music wafting across the room, I feel like I have been here before. The difference being that when I was here last, I was a child, and in this moment I am a mom. Oddly, I don’t feel like myself at all. That isn’t exactly true. I feel like myself inside of my mom’s body, seeing this Christmas through what I believe, to be her eyes. As I sit in my bathrobe, drinking my coffee, listening to my kids conversations on their first morning off of school, I am perplexed by my own emotions.

There is that ever present joy. That’s the emotion beneath it all. It is unshakeable. It is the constant that keeps me on board when the daily waves of life try to sink my ship. It is sometimes hard to be in touch with because life is…..well….life. Far more tangible in these moments are worry and fear. Trying so hard, with very limited funds, to get just the right things under the tree. Perhaps the reason for Santa’s rotund belly is the cortisol building up from all the stress of wanting to keep the magic alive even if #3 wants a skateboarding remote control dog that is way too big for your tiny house not to mention the hefty price tag. It goes against everything that my practacle brain can muster. Santa generally gets it wrong with number three and her struggle to believe is palpable this year. Is it worth $60 to keep her believing for one more year. Did my mom/ Santa ever make a decision to throw caution to the wind. Did she struggle counting gifts, to make sure that no one looked like Santa’s favorite. I think I was in someways, my mom’s #3. I must tell you, on her behalf, that #3 made a beautiful ornament, all on her own, that she hung on the tree with a simple note that says, “Santa please take”. She also begrudgingly sat on Santa’s lap ( she is still a little scared) smiled for the picture and asked for one thing…..you got it …a remote control skateboarding dog. She has no idea how much it costs.

This is only one of the Christmas thoughts I am grappling with. I have three more kids. My mom had eight more. I know that there must have been Christmases that were harder than others and that like me, she must have had to rely on the generosity of others. It weighs heavy on my heart, the gratitude that runs so deep and the yearning to, just once, be the kind stranger, who is able to save someone’s christmas. I want so much for my kids to get that it isn’t about the stuff but not at their expense. I will do my best the rest of the year and then leave it to God.

This years Christmas carries with it a very heavy weight that I’m not sure my mom ever dealt with. It violently snaps me back into my own body. As I have a bubbly six year old boy who has thrown himself headlong into the joy and anticipation of Santa’s arrival. I can’t shake the image of wrapped gifts sitting in closets waiting to be put under the tree but never to be opened. Other six year old boys and girls who will not be there on Christmas this year. My heart literally aches in my chest. I now believe that it is possible to die of a broken heart. Never have I been so aware of every word I say to my own children, or what they say to each other. I want to breathe peace that reaches beyond all borders. I want to breathe comfort that has no limitations of time and space. Let peace begin with me. That’s what I want for Christmas.

Number three is currently reading “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” aloud. My heart is so full it aches……wish you were here.