Thursday, August 31, 2006
the only thing to fear is..failure, rejection, self-loathing disappointment, change...and oh, yeah, fear
Like every singer/songwriter venue in rural Nebraska (okay, so there are three: The Listening Room, The Beiroc & The Balcony--which is the house concert series), The Balcony is not minting money. I know from working with the Listening Room that it is a labor of love to scrape together funds for a venue, lights, sound and artist’s fees. Then you hope enough people come to recoup and leave a little extra for down payment on your next show. None of them can afford to pay an opener. Tim from The Balcony explained that rather apologetically, but I’m not surprised or shocked or offended. I’ve yet to be paid for a show. He did say that I could certainly bring cds to sell.
I don’t have a cd.
There is absolutely no reason I don’t have a cd, except my own fear.
My unbelievably kind, generous and supportive friends bought me a gift certificate for some studio time over a year ago. I didn’t use it. I just kind of froze up. I didn’t know how best to use it. I could go in, just me and my guitar, and get some clear, simple recordings down. I could chalk it up to education and be pleased if I got a nice demo out of it. Or I could get an ensemble together, rehearse and go in and try to make a full recording of one or two songs. I feel bad asking people to invest their time in that---which makes no sense because I’d be thrilled if one of my musician friends asked me to do it for them! And everyone is always so willing and eager to play--it has everything to do with my fear and nothing really to do with my pals. Which songs to record? What if I got in the studio and wasn't feelin' it? What if the engineer and I didn't hit it off and s/he didn't understand what I wanted to do? What if I made a fool out of myself because there is so much stuff I should know but don't?
My friend Tom, who often plays & sings with me--he‘s my wingman, has a cousin who is a sound engineer in LA. He told Tom, and me when I met him last year, that if I email him digital tracks he’ll mix them for me….unbelievably cool and generous. But I’ve got nothing.
What I need is a mentor. A producer. Someone I trust to take me by the hand and say, “Here is the first step….[enter whatever the first step is]. Here is what instruments I think would sound best on this song.. Here is where you should record it. This is the engineer we should use. Here is where we’ll send it off to be mixed and mastered.”
So, yes, I am afraid of the unknown wilds inside a recording studio. I need a guide.
I’m also afraid of the unknown wilds of life with a cd to promote.
Because making any sort of cd. Having any sort of budget is going to be an investment and a risk. If I shell out money ($100 or $5,000) I am going to want to earn that back and then some. That’s kind of the point, right? And that stirs up a myriad more fears.
I don’t think I’m afraid that people won’t buy it. I know that, although all entries to contests or showcases have born no fruit, in general, my music is liked. People come to my shows. People ask me to play more shows. People ask when I’m going to have a cd for sale.
It's that recording a cd is a commitment. It’s a commitment to pursuing the singer/songwriter thing as more than just a hobby. Once money enters the equation it becomes a business. One can’t really fail at a hobby, but one can fail at business. It’s a commitment to the songs I record. If I want to entice listeners to buy a cd, I have to play the songs that are on the cd. I’m already developing a complicated relationship with my greatest hit, Boone’s Farm Wine. I’m proud of that song. Everyone loves that song. But I sometimes I feel like that’s all people think I am: Boone’s Farm Wine. I usually close with it, but the last time I did the opener for the Listening Room (for Darrell Scott!) I played it first, which was freeing. I thought, “this is not my best song anymore!” But it is still the one that everyone wants to hear. Once I record I am going to be committed to those 10 songs.
It’s also a commitment that means change. It’s taking the next big step. It means I might have to start pursuing more gigs--outside the places I know. I might have to drive more than 2 hours to a gig. I might have to stay overnight. I might have to set up my own sound, which would mean having to learn something about sound engineering or actually purchase a mixer or something. I might have to figure out how to juggle my schedule and my kids‘ schedule and Paul‘s schedule. I might have to learn how the finances of booking and royalties and all that other stuff that I know nothing about and don’t know enough to name work.
It’s taking a leap. And it scares me. But maybe now is the time. Maybe next year is the time. Maybe I should stay a hobbyist with half-decent basement recordings. Maybe some music business angel will swoop down and whisk me smoothly into the world of recording and playing paying gigs….or maybe I should get off my ass and start learning some of this stuff and making my dreams and my life happen for me. We’ll see.
thanks to jill for teaching me how to do these links and please pardon my overuse of them...it's fun.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
It is with great joy that I present the reason of the day:
In November comes the new Christopher Guest film "For Your Consideration."
Godspeed & goodluck to us all as we wait.
I just discovered the giant heaping layer of icing on this cake! Besides the regular crew (Chris Guest, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Ballaban, Harry Shearer, Michael McKeen), For Your Consideration also stars RICKY GERVAIS ( Creator of the BBC's The Office, who also stars in that show as David Brent, the most hilarious character ever.) UNBELIEVABLE!
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Yesterday we took Paul's "new" vehicle out for a spin in the country (1982 Jeep Wagoneer with wood paneling). Paul got out some map with crazy details (crucial in birdwatching, I guess) to find minimum maintenence roads so we could put'er in four wheel drive. Minimum maintence roads (for you city slickers) are basically sandy tracks through the prairie with grass growing up the middle. We found some great ones--it's actually hilly in very northwest corner of Adams county. We parked the jeep and filled our pockets (and mouths) with wild plums the kids picked out of the thicket. I cut all manner of wildflowers to take home. We strolled up the road (no cars or houses around for miles) and caught grasshoppers and toads.
At one point a foot path (for cattle maybe?) veered off the road and up into a field. Phoebe and I took it, as we were the only two in long pants. It climbed up about six or eight feet so we could just see over the little blue stem and down on the boys in the road on our right. On our left was open prairie. We could see soy bean fields on all sides, be we were walking through a patch of native--gorgeous--prairie.
We walked and talked and sucked on plums, spitting the pits out on the ground. I said, "You know what? This makes me feel like Laura Ingalls."
"WHY?" Phoebe asked a little indignantly, which I thought was wierd. Wasn't it obvious?
I said, "Well, we're walking out here on the prairie and they lived on the prairie. We're eating wild plums, and that seems like the sort of thing she would do --they lived on Plum Creek after all. And I bet she walked paths just like this between their house and their neighbors house and..." I could have gone on and on.
But Phoebe said, "No, I don't get why you feel like Laura and not Ma."
Thirty two years caught up with me in a rush. BANG. I'm old. Phoebe is Laura and I am Ma.
But I was always Laura in my mind. Spunky younger sister to smart, pretty older sister...? I always wished I was more of a tomboy and got in a little more trouble to really seal my identity as Half Pint. I also always wished I had an arch nemisis like Nelly Olsen, but what can you do? Reading the books and watching the show growing up I...WAS...LAURA. And now Phoebe thinks she's Laura. Truth be told, she's more of a Mary, if you ask me, but maybe that's just bitterness talking.
I can't believe how much this shocked me. I can't believe that I'm seriously having to readjust my self-image. I am Ma. Of course, Phoebe sees me as Ma. I'm the MOM. I have three kids, just like Caroline (before Grace & Albert came along, we haven't gotten to them in the series yet). I cook the meals. I discipline the children (though that was really more Pa's job). I manage the household. I am Ma. I guess it's time to pass the torch...painful as it is, and accept that I'm a grownup.
But, even Laura grew up. She met Almonzo (oooooo...Manly!) and got married and moved out of Ma and Pa's house and had a child of her own.
Maybe I'll just think of myself as the grown up Laura--hair upswept instead of in braids, freckles faded, buck teeth mysteriously corrected--but still mischevious half-pint at heart. Then Phoebe and I can both be Laura--her in Little House in the Big Woods,the first couple books and season 1-5 of the show and me in These Happy Golden Years, The First Four Years and seasons 6-9 plus the subsequent tv movies. Seems like a good compromise.
Yes, I'm totally geeked out on LHOTP. You go ahead and geek out on your Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or D&D....or whatever. I'm sticking with the Ingalls gang...and Narnia...and...
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Ray LaMontagne was on NPR this morning. His new CD comes out Tuesday. I hope it's a rainy dreary day. That's the best way to soak his music in. OOOh-- imagine this: a rainy day with a new Ray LaMontagne cd and a Patty Griffin chaser. I already feel like crying.
Here the NPR interview and in-studio music here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5704463
And you can catch him on Conan Tuesday night.
Can any of you bloggers or anyone with a little html knowledge tell me how to make the above so that the word "here" is the link with the actually web address invisible. It must be something simple but I can't figure it out. Thanks.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Today I took the kids to the skate park on our bikes. It’s right next to the pool and we always stop to watch for a minute. They’ve wanted to check it out for some time. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, on the penultimate day of summer vacation, the park was packed full of fourteen-year-olds on boards and BMX’s. It was not conducive for a five- and seven-year old to try to ride the ramps for the first time, but they got a few runs in. Mo wiped two or three times--didn’t turn fast enough going up a six-foot quarter pipe and dropped about 18 inches, right off the edge. A couple of times Phoebe started to go up a ramp but ran out of momentum and went down backwards, just the way she came.
More than anything we were just in the way. Phoebe and Mo just don’t have the reflexes or cognitive skills to watch the other skater/riders, anticipate where they are going and steer themselves clear all the while operating their own bikes. While kids who hang out at the skate park aren’t known for their manners, these guys were very generous and gave the kids a wide berth, but I knew we would soon outstay our welcome.
Of course Mo wigged out when it was time to go. We didn’t stay as long as he wanted. I promised we would come back again--soon--when it was less crowded. He did not believe me. He screamed and cried the whole ride home and for the following half hour--happy birthday to me.
You would think it would be easy to convince them that we really would be back, but they don’t know me as a person….a person with my childhood not so far behind me…they think I’m just their mom. And they are little--it means nothing to them that right now I’m wearing checkerboard Vans and a Beastie Boys t-shirt.
How could they know that when they hit junior high and high school if I got to choose between suffering through afternoons of wrestling matches and Friday night football games OR going to the skate park….!? If PHOEBE someday picks working on the half-pipe over volleyball or soccer….!? Good land, would I be a happy mom.
I know I spent high school on the pompon squad and singing and dancing and doing all sorts of straight squeaky clean school sanctioned activities. But deep down I always wanted to be a skater chick. I idolized Stephanie King and Marcy Spanogle -- the coolest skater girls to ever walk the halls of Kirkwood High. I watched the Bones Brigade videos a bazillion times (The Search for Animal Chin? “We’ll travel round the world, we’ll go the to equator just to find this incredible skater. But if we don’t find him that’s okay because we had a rad time anyway.”) One summer there was a skate park set up at the Kirkwood Ice Rink--Thrasher magazine or somebody sponsored it --and there were exhibitions and a skate camp. That was the coolest thing ever--hanging out there, seeing Steve Caballero and Lance Mountain! I still have my Dead Milkmen & Red Hot Chili Peppers cassette tapes and I mean OLD Chili Peppers--can you say Uplift Mofo Party Plan?
I’ll probably end up being just as bad as any Husker-fan parent who pushes their kids into football for the slim, slim chance that they might someday go to UNL and play ball. Just as bad as any Harvard grad dressing their kids in little blazers, yammering about GPA’s and pushing the ivy league. Only I’ll be saying, “Seriously, Moses, a Mohawk would be a good look for you.” And “You’ll never make the X-Games with a backside air as sloppy as that!” Or “If you want a Powell Peralta sponsorship someday you better get your butt on down to the skate park--you won’t get one sitting here making student council campaign posters, that’s for sure!” And “We named you Ollie for a reason! Now get out there and show me whatchoo got!”
We’re all doomed.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
But life has managed to knock some of that toughness (or self-perceived toughness--maybe you always thought I was a girly wimp) out of me, mainly by knocking me out. The summer after my freshman year of college I slammed by thumb in the door while walking out of an office. By the time I got to my car (red Tercel--remember that?) my nail was turning blue and I was not feeling well. Cut to me waking up in a pool of my own blood after having passed out cold on the sidewalk splitting my head open (and sitting up and then passing out again, and then sitting up and....you get the picture).
Ten years later I'm walking down the basement stairs of our previous home. I slip. I fall all the way to the landing with my butt hitting every single step on the way down. Paul asks if I'm okay and I laughingly say with as much drama and sarcasm as I can manage "I'll never walk again!" just as the pain hits me and I pass out. Nice parting words, eh? I finally sit up and assure Paul I will be okay while he calls 911 and promptly pass out again.
Last December Darth Vadar and Luke Skywalker were battling in our house. Skywalker (Momo) was making his escape with Vadar (Phoebe) close on his heels. He ran into his room and slammed the door behind him which caught Darth Vadar right between the eyes. Phoebe is screaming bloody murder but, surprisingly, does not have a bloody forehead. I sit her down in the bathroom to get a good look-- right into to the deep cut--big mistake--and feel a very familiar woozy feeling. I make a run for my soft, comfy bed where I (say it with me now) pass out. Paul takes us both to the ER where she gets three stitches and I get my pride handed to me fresh off the floor.
But the tide seems to be turning.
This spring when Moses busted his head wide open in a freak kite-flying accident (I couldn't make this stuff up) I held myself together. I told the school nurse and the ER nurses that under no circumstances was I to see what was under his bandage. I got his half conscious little self to the hospital. I held his hand, but turned away while the examined and repacked the gash. Thankfully, Paul arrived by the time the put in the seventeen stitches so I could wait outside. Perhaps I'm no tougher than I used to be. Maybe I just learned how to manange my little problem (by not looking at gaping wounds). Or maybe I knew I was the only parent in charge and I had to remain composed and conscious until the cavalry arrived.
And now we get to last night when I , once again, proved I could hold myself upright in the face of injury.
I was upstairs, the kids were down. I heard screaming and crying--so far a normal evening. Then Phoebe comes tearing upstairs screaming that Moses lost his tooth. Now, Mo is about the right age to start loosing teeth, but I knew he did not have a loose tooth. I run downstairs to bloody pandamonium. Mo is shrieking and bleeding and clearly missing one of his front upper teeth. I carry him upstairs and sit him in the kitchen. I wet a washcloth and fill it with ice and put it in his mouth. I bring him water to swish and spit. While I hold him on my lap and try to calm him down I ask Phoebe (who is also bawling) what happened.
Finally the story came out. Oliver had "the cape" (part of Mo and Ollie's Halloween costumes from a couple years ago when they both went as our own made up super hero: Captain Hotwheels) and Mo wanted it. They started playing tug of war. Phoebe joined Ollie's side. Moses decided to use his teeth instead of his hands. Phoebe and Ollie gave one great pull and--BANG.
My head did feel a little swimmy at this point. How gross is that? Maybe if I knew I had backup I would have been overcome. But Paul was at a meeting and I had no choice but to suck it up and act like the tough mama I fancy myself to be.
Phoebe crawled around until she found Mo's giant tooth (roots intact) on the carpet. After the bleeding subsided we all ate icecream and watched High School Musical. The Tooth Fairy came and brought a Sacagawea dollar. I think Moses is going to have a gap for a very long time--that tooth was SO not ready to come out. And hopefully, there will be no further tests to my ability to retain consciousness in the face of pain and gore. So I can go on imagining how tough I am.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The inspiration came from a pirate hat my sister sent Oliver two Christmases ago.
I traced it with white chalk on black felt to maket the pattern.
Then, I sewed it together & stenciled a skull and crossbones on the front. I'm still a novice stenciler and quickly abandoned the skull eyes and mouth which would have required using a technique involving "bridges & islands" that I don't quite understand (yet). So the skull is mouth- and eye-less. Sorry Calvin. Later I sewed the band on--$1/yard cotton jersey.
I also stenciled a black sparkly skull on a red t-shirt. Again, being a novice stenciler, the skull has a little knot on his head and no eyes and mouth, but what can you do? By the way, I made the stencils by finding an image online ( http://www.freewebs.com/stencilry/ ) and printed it out on cardstock. Then, I cut the image with an exacto knife. Theoretically, I should have been able to use them again, but I ripped the smaller one's jaw off when removing the tape from the hat.
Here's Ollie modeling the hat:
Here's the finished product. It's fairly close the original. It turned out pretty cool and took, all told, about an hour & fifteen--as long as it would have taken me to shop for something :)
For some reason I can't upload the last image of the shirt & hat. I know you will die from waiting and anticipation if you don't see it soon. I'll work on it this afternoon, but right now two boys are desperate to play a Mr. Potato Head cd-rom.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I was not totally prepared to take care of myself when the time came. I had never really done my own laundry before I left for college. In a pinch I could get my pompon uniform washed the night before a game if I forgot to put it down the laundry shoot earlier in the week. But I had never consistently taken care of my dirty clothes.
I can remember exactly two times I cooked a meal (for more than just myself) before I turned twenty. Once in grade school I asked if I could cook dinner and my mom walked me through shake-n-bake chicken. Once in high school I prepared a birthday dinner for my boyfriend Sean. Both times I was terrified I’d screw it up and no one would want to eat it. I was nervous and therefore grumpy and did not enjoy the process at all.
My parents took care of my finances. I didn’t have a steady job until I started a real job after college graduation. I lived in the dorms all through college so I never really made grocery lists, or controlled a thermostat, or worried about a pilot light.
And this is not complaining. This is certainly not blaming. I had a magnificent childhood. I’ve turned out very well, thankyouverymuch. But I did have to scramble. I did have to think fast when I was left to my own devices. Many times I felt lost and dependant, like I couldn’t survive in an apartment on my own even at the age of 21.
And when I learn new things I feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment. The first time I used a stud finder and laser level to hang a series of pictures on the wall so they were straight, evenly spaced and looked right (finally), I was so pumped. When I bought myself a drill with my birthday money and figured out how to hang curtain rods, put new hardware on cabinets, hang a porch swing, etc., I was thrilled. All of this is so incredibly recent, I’m a little embarrassed. I’m a pretty good cook now, and I love it. I love that I can throw a dinner party for eight and with the right planning and preparation have only a few things to do once my guests arrive so I can sit and have a glass of wine and wait for the buzzer to tell me dinner is ready. If I want new curtains or a Halloween costume or a shirt with a short-billed dowitcher on it, I can just make it. I feel so good about that.
I wish I had learned a lot of this stuff earlier. And without burdening my children with unnecessary responsibility I want them to learn it, too. The thing is, they LOVE it. Learn how to run the washing machine?! Totally fun. Set the table? So proud of being able to get plates out of the high cabinets and make the table look nice. AND get to tell everybody where to sit? Can you say “power trip”? Feed and water a duck everyday? They can confidently say “that is MY duck.” They want jobs to do. They want to practice these jobs and learn more and more and more.
And here is where my problem lies. And here is why my parents probably didn’t and ALL parents don’t let their kids do more. It requires the transfer of control.
Phoebe loves to clean the windows and the mirrors with Windex and paper towels. She will literally jump for joy if you ask her to do it. Every parents dream, right? Well, I end up with streaked mirrors with only the bottom 2/3 wiped because that’s how high she can reach. They fight over who is going to make lunch. I should be thrilled to sit at the table drinking coffee and fielding the odd request for advice while the kids prepare a meal! But then it’s peanut butter and jelly everyday, with the peanut butter only in the very middle of the bread, not spread evenly across. And sometimes we have two main dishes and no side--let's put half a sandwich and a piece of left over pizza on a plate and call it a lunch!
This might sound totally petty, because it is in a way. I may sound like a control freak, but comparatively speaking, I’m a laid back mama (have you seen the way my kids dress themselves?!?!). I don’t know why this is so hard. I don’t know why it requires me to daily remind myself that it is worth it to have streaky windows, because Phoebe is learning an important skill; it is okay to have an unbalanced, unevenly spread lunch because Moses is enjoying making his own lunch, serving his family and learning about the food groups; it’s fine to have wrinkly clothes because at least Oliver knows which drawer his shirts go in and doesn’t believe the clothes magically appear in his dresser each week; it’s not going to throw our whole schedule off to have the kids run the vacuum, even if it takes them twice as long as it would take me.
As I write, I realize it’s not just practice for them. It’s practice for me too. We’re all learning this transfer of control on little, inconsequential things. They are learning to do for themselves at home. I am learning to take a deep breath, un-hunch my tight shoulder muscles and let them do it, trusting that I’ve taught them well enough to have a go at it. I need to learn this now with laundry and sweeping up because before I know it, it’s going to be deciding how fast to drive, how many beers to have, who to sleep with or (please, God) not, what major to study, who to marry, which city or state or country to live in. It’s just as much about them learning to be capable as me learning to let them.
So, I will now take a deep cleansing yogic breath and go eat cinnamon toast, yogurt and cereal for lunch, forcing myself to believe that they will make beter decisions, be better adults and feel/be confident and capable because of it.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
It is a testament to God's grace that a foolish girl of 21 married the right man. It is a testament to God's grace and generosity that he wanted to marry me.
Even though we were only together in the same place for about five weeks out of the eight months we dated prior to our engagement. Even after my father mistook him for a telemarketer when he called to ask for my hand. Even after I chattered incessantly and joked innappropriately completely oblivous to the fact that he was reaching into his pocket to produce the ring and pop the question. Even after I failed to answer for a VERY long time, my mouth hung open in shock. ("So....will you?!") Even though during our engagement we only saw each other four weekends in eight months. Even though when I walked down the aisle it was the first time I'd seen him in a month. ("Hi, how have you been? Nice to see you. You're hair has grown. Shall we get married now?") Despite the madness of it all, it has worked out beautifully.
So now here we are ten years, three kids, two countries, three states, six homes, five cars, seven jobs and three ducks later. I feel simultaneously like nothing and everything has changed.
It's a happy, happy anniversary.