Monday, November 25, 2019


I've been playing the piano! I used to play hours a day. Looking back I recognize that I was an above-average child pianist. I could play Mozart upside down with crossed arms when I was 8. (I'm too old to be a prodigy now, but I can still play Mozart upside down.) I also have realized just how much the don't-say-nice-things-about-yourself mentality has affected my life and career, and, while I recognize that bragging isn't cool, I also see that it's okay to, like, not hide your skills from the world just because middle schoolers are terribly mean. And because boys-in-bands can be big jerks.

With children came less time for me, and with dying parents came even less. I have played loads of music, but only professionally and typically only on the gigs -- gotta pay the bills. Practice, even just at-home playing (playing is different from practicing), has suffered tremendously.

Sometimes it's hard to practice piano.
I'm being good to myself and not feeling guilty if I only play one page of Mozart at day. Three minutes of practice is better than zero minutes. I'm also forgiving during my travels when I'm not able to find an instrument.

I started a 100 Days of Practice Challenge on my Instagram 54 days ago. I have missed at least 10-20 days, and my progress on Mozart Sonata 2 is very weak, considering 10 years ago I could have sight-read the whole thing in a concert hall without issue. I can feel that my brain doesn't work the way it used to (which makes me partly just assume there is a tumor up there; isn't living with anxiety fun!!), but I can also feel my fingers loosening up. The cold affects my joints, so when my furnace broke 2 days ago my playing time suffered.

Anyway: anyone out there want to join me in a 100 Days of Practice Challenge? Be kind to yourself? Know that in 100 Days, you will have accomplished a feat? Anyone out there have epic graphic design skills and want to offer up some sort of printable for an adult 100 Days of Practice? Or maybe you, as an adult, can encourage your child who is taking music lessons to join you and you'll join them and everyone will have fun and grow as a person?

Again: 30 seconds of practice is better than nothing. It's the habit that is useful.

I'm going to start making more time for this, so that I can memorize the second Mozart sonata and perform it for anyone who cares to hear. Actually maybe I'll host a special live concert of country musicians performing classical pieces. Or maybe I'll just do a live-stream video that's only for my Patreon people!! (For y'all who like namedropping, I posted some backstage photos from the Elvis Costello concert and tour bus and stage and stuff, but you can only see them if you're a Patreon because I'm trying to figure out a new business plan and how to just chillax and make art in a world where albums no longer pays the bills! Can you believe i once bought two houses without family help just based on stated income of being a musician?!? Ahhhhh the turn of the century sure was fun.)

Random question for my sweet 7-year-old: will you just click on this website? I'm doing an algorithm experiment with his IMDb page.

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Friday, November 22, 2019

Dominican dreams and deaths and dads. And John Prine.

I've had a crazy year, so here I am backtracking slowly, trying to catch you up on my adventures:

Less than two weeks after my mom's funeral, and while recovering from his own cancer surgery, my dad bought tickets to John Prine's All the Best Fest. The festival was still 14 months away, and Dad had a Stage 4 diagnosis.

"That's rather optimistic, Dad, don't you think?" I said.

"Should I buy three tickets or four?" was his response.

"Are you planning on bringing a date?!" was mine.

We bought three tickets.

He died eight months later.

For a long time I wasn't sure what to do with the festival tickets. I knew that my parents would have wanted us to take the trip -- for ash-scattering purposes and dream vacation reasons. 

John Prine was their favorite. They never missed a Louisville show, dating back far into the early 1970s back when he would play small clubs in the Highlands. The first real concert I ever attended was John Prine & Arlo Guthrie at Memorial Gardens (the one where I got an orange Tic Tac stuck up my nose) In their retirement, my parents traveled to see Prine at the Ryman and the Cayamo cruise. We always had a drink with kind Jason Wilber (JP's guitarist) after the Louisville show, and some of those drinks were particularly special. The day of my mom's diagnosis, November 17, 2016, we saw Prine in Louisville. Eighteen months later we were at another John Prine concert in Louisville when we learned Mickey Clark had entered hospice -- and Mom had decided to make the first contact with Hospice for herself. 

I didn't really want to go, but last week David and I made the emotional trek to the Dominican Republic for a 4-day music festival. The lineup, in addition to John Prine, included Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Brandi Carlisle, Todd Snider, Steve Earle, Ruby Amanfu, Lori McKenna, and so many more great performers. Here's where people start to roll their eyes and say you poor thing, sarcastically. Believe me, I appreciated the free vacation, but wow, was it emotional.

The hardest part for me wasn't actually scattering and toasting my parents. It was detaching from work. Music festivals are not relaxing for me because I am self-employed and should have been networking the hell out of that festival. I actually ended up staying away from most of the performances because I couldn't relax during them. Fortunately, aside from coordinating childcare most days, as we'd left the kids at home with a variety of overnight babysitters, I was able to at least force myself to lie down near water -- be it the warm Carribbean or the warm pool water -- and think, write, tweet, be not completely detached, but be, at least, mindful of the present a bit.

All-inclusive beach vacations are not my first-choice, but I accepted and loved it while I was there, despite missing my kids and missing my parents and sobbing everytime he played "Hello In There" (I mean, is there A SADDER SONG OUT THERE???). 

The festival team did a great job with organizing it, and I'm so glad I went on the trip. Even if David got cut by my musical saw at customs when the immigration official was highly suspicious of the saw being an instrument and forced me to play it for him in the airport before letting us in the country. The lengths I go to for my parents and for John Prine! :)

- the buffets!! So many vegan/veggie options.
- having a "private island" at the pool, which meant we got champagne and a place to lounge with private pool access all day long! I skipped all the shows so i could read a romance novel by the pool.
- getting totally caught up and swirled around by the fierce turquoise waves. The exhilaration of being flipped around in that water was totally worth the fact that I'm still picking sand out of my hair.
- John Prine playing his first record all the way through ... with an encore of "Souvenirs," my mom's favorite song and the one she requested that I sing at her funeral (I SOBBED)
- unlimited virgin piƱa coladas (unlimited alcoholic ones too, but i wasn't really in the mood to drink)
- abundant shade for this redhead! It was 86 and not a cloud in the sky, but I wore a swim shirt and sunscreen and umbrella-d it up!
- Meeting nice new friends from South Dakota while having hibachi one night!
- being upgraded on the flight at the last minute, even though that meant that I was no longer sitting right next to Emmylou Harris (shoutout to Emmylou for flying coach with her band!)
- Watermelon juice!!

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Inspiration and Joy from the most unlikely of places!

Me! Happy!! And
off to a gig last night.
In 2009 I challenged myself to blog everyday. My page views soared to thousands per day, and many more people knew me as a blogger than a musician. I refused to pre-write and schedule, which was ultimately the source of my failure. I mean, sometimes you are just swamped ... and I didn't even have kids then.

I won't put such strict DAILY rules on my blog re-discovery, but I am already feeling energized to write more. That is 100% because of SIX Patreon patrons who have pledged in the past week. 

I only know two of them personally, and I'm not related to any of them. I've seen the page-view stats on my blog before, so I obviously know that people in Australia read it. But having full-on Patrons pledge a few dollars a month to ME is giving me such a sense of validation, renewal, and desire to CREATE. I had NO idea the effect it would have on me, and I wish I'd done it years ago when I first claimed a Patreon page. I've already shared some exclusive content with my six patrons (behind-the-scenes photos of me filming a cooking show with Chef Damaris Phillips!), and I can't wait to create more.

It's a lot more encouraging than the $1.85 I got from Spotify for last quarter.

Now: what comes next?? I'm terrified of winter. These are my first holidays without my parents. We will be doing a neighbor Thanksgiving, which I'm pretty excited about ... the community I'm working on creating over there is blossoming, thanks to several other neighbors who've experienced loss and fear recently.

I'm hoping this blog and new songs and new essays and new books and new photographs and such will be a mental health savior.

I'm working on editing a few photographs (I'll share them with my patrons first!) and then I'm going to write some great blogs on my travels for the past year. All travels have been for work or for funeral, but they have all been fulfulling in their own way. So look for photos from: Scotland, Switzerland, France, the Dominican Republic and Ohio. #oneofthesethingsisnotliketheother


Thank you for the support -- you have no idea just how much it has inspired me.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Welcome to my midlife crisis!

FRIENDS! I'm here. I'm caffeinated. I'm having a midlife crisis.

A friend of mine whom I don't see very often gave me some great advice last weekend. His initials are E.C. and his name rhymes with pelvis poshdello. Despite being a massively famous rock star, he somehow takes time to talk and listen and, like, therapize me. I caught up with him this weekend, introduced him to Graham, and he shared some good advice. This man is incredibly smart, which pleases me to no end and also explains his thousand endeavours and brilliant art.

Anyway, enough namedropping.

The weekend was good enough to make me want to hit reset and meet this midlife crisis full-on, eyes-on-the-road, full-focus, intentional life, etc.

I'm sort of wrestling with the whole I'm 41 with terrible genes, and there's not time to do all the things I want to do. I've got a TON of songs left in me, several romance novels, maybe one literary novel, and thousands of blogs. I also have a family to feed and support and love and snuggle and electricity bills to play, so my self-employment requires a re-boot.

I'm going to buckle down and focus on the Patreon template of art and hope that enough people out there find my music/blogs/photography/videos compelling enough to pledge $1 a month (or $5 a month?) which is basically like buying me two lattes a year.

My first album came out almost 15 years ago. I sold almost 4000 copies from stage and record stores. That income stream is just no longer available because of Spotify, etc, and that is okay with me. I acutally LOVE technology, and I LOVE the accessibility of music to all. I mean, how many kids now know about the Federalist Papers because Hamilton was readily available to the world? It's great. Music on demand is INCREDIBLE. Technology is AMAZING. I'm here for it.

I challenge anyone who has the means -- or anyone who used to, like, buy CDs on occasion, even if that was from Columbia House paste-a-penny-to-the-advert-and-mail-it-in -- to choose a few musicians on Patreon and pledge $1/month to them. Feel good about it. You are directly supporting ART.

To my own Patrons on PATREON, I'm going to be putting out some special info about various things that I'm not putting in my own blog (i mean, i have to have some incentive, right? even if it's just juicy gossip?!). And THANK YOU to the two wonderful people who jumped right on to offer support. It made me all weepy, like, legit tears and stuff, to know that there are two people out there who believe in supporting artists. It also makes me realize that if I have some sort of steady income, then I can finish these novels and these songs and also pay bills while I try to make the world a better place.

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Favorite meals from around the world!

I unapologetically take food photos while I'm traveling. I also unapologetically have an iPhone and Alexas in several rooms of my house. I love being able to walk inside and announce to my thermostat to make it warm, and I love being able to look back through my iCloud for a geotagged photo to remember JUST what that pizza place was called in Florence where our Couchsurfing host Antonio took us for a late-night bite after we watched that amazing trio, The Three Harmonicas, with that delightful American fiddler we'd met on the streets. Don't talk to me about privacy. I'm smart. I know the risks. I just don't care about that anymore because my parents died this year, and I don't care about anything. The GeoTag function is AMAZING for recalling restaurants and villages.

My food photos remind me of the amazing adventures I've had, whether it was that miso restaurant where I had breakfast on the top of Mount Fuji after watching the sun rise from above the clouds or that Earl Grey gelato I had at some back alley shop in Italy.

Today, I'm bringing you photos of some of my favorite treats from around the world. Unfortunately the Japan trip was pre-iPhone, so it may as well never have happened.

Spam me with your food photos!!

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Chocolate waffle: Amsterdam 
Curry chips: Glasgow, Scotland

Full Scottish Breakfast: Isle of Skye

Spiced cider: Christmas market in Stockholm

Italian restaurant: Gamla Stan, Sweden

World's best pizza: Campo del Fiori, Rome, Italy

Also the world's best pizza: GustoPizza, Florence, Italy

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

New career choices and dirty romance novels and Mozart

Anyone out there doing NaNoWriMo?? I'm not officially because I know better than to limit my writing to November. I tried to do it in 2011, failed because I was overcome with pregnancy depression, and then I guess I just thought I couldn't do it anymore. Now I know that November 30 is not a hard deadline, and I'm gonna schedule in writing time.

I've also decided not to try to overachieve and attempt a brilliant, literary novel. I've decided that since I'm obsessed with reading light, mindless novels, then I need to write some like that instead. Also, since I unintentionally read all of that erotica trilogy a few weeks ago, then maybe I should try my hand at writing dirty romance novels. Because my parents are dead, so what have I to be embarrassed about?

(Hi, kids!! Love you! Don't be embarrassed by your mother! Maybe I'll publish a series of erotica books and you'll be able pay for college.)

Scheduling, in general, is helping me have a little bit of control over a life that I'm quite certain (finally) is completely out of my hands. It's nice to have a coffee date or a novel-writing-hour on my calendar, between gigs and emails and recording sessions.

I'm truly hoping to be productive this winter rather than just re-reading Wuthering Heights in yet another fit of seasonal depression.

So tell me ... are you writing? WHAT are you writing? Are you making other art? Tell me about it!

Oh yeah, I just deposited a whopping $1.85 from Spotify, so I'm not going to be afraid to post a do you enjoy my writing and would you perhaps feel happier today if you gave some actual, obvious, dollar-signed support to an artist link to my page. I've had a Patreon in draft (edited to add: omg i just hit publish so now it's not in draft anymore!!!) for years (literally YEARS) so tell me if you're super hip to the Patreon and perhaps that will nudge me to finally get my admin crap together and plan an entire Patreon mission. It's just so much admin when all I really want to do is provide delightful art, in the form of blogs and songs and live shows and PDFs of my music and #100daysofMozart (have you been following that on my Instagram??) and such. Turns out that a lot of you didn't know that I actually play the piano REALLY FREAKING WELL. #fooledya


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