Panic Pony 

The universe continues to amaze me, even while I shake my fist at it. 

Financial pressure builds at my restaurant.  My first instinct is still to run away from it all, but I've been staying true to my decision to show up each day and find joy in the face of discomfort. 

This week, joy was going to come easy.  We were supposed to host a 16-piece big band outside on our patio. 

Then the storms rolled in...an hour before the show. 

My mind raced. There's no room in our tiny space to seat a 16-piece band.  Where will they sit?  Where will the customers sit? I started to panic. Desperation set in. I felt my hands sweating. I shoved them in my pockets, and I paced. 

And then I stopped.  Took some deep breaths.  And I waited for another instinct. 

Bob and weave. 

My staff and I started shifting tables.  The band just barely fit in our little parlour.  As for the customers, we moved them into every cranny we could find.  Some people even ate in our kids' section.   And even though the night might've been better if we were outside, we still got it done. 

Reader, I think I too often believe that my first instinct is all I've got.  That I'm just a one-trick panic pony. And to be honest, my first instinct truly is lousy: it's usually either to run away or to get defensive. But the moral of my week is that--just because my first instinct isn't so hot--doesn't mean there's not another, better one right behind it.  I think there's a bit of magic that comes from waiting out the initial storm. 

Wishing you patience and fortitude this week.  See you next Monday. -Em

No Power 

We lost power in last night's storms, and I'm going to write lyrics by candlelight instead of trying to type a blog on my phone.  It's nice when Mother Nature reminds us who's boss and forces us out of routines.  See you next Monday. -Em

The Big Chill 

Nothing changed this week; life is still harder than it's ever been. 

But I changed my attitude. And I tried to find joyful moments in the midst of it all.  My kitchen staff and I got our butts kicked this week due to continued staff shortages and high volumes of customers. 

But we sang and danced and laughed.  We even dragged the stock tank out from storage and filled it with ice water, then sat in it after a particularly hot day. 

It was one of the most memorable experiences I've had in a long, long time. 

Reader, I'm keeping it short tonight because I'm beat.  Struggle is awful, but I'll be damned if it doesn't make the sweet bits of life all the sweeter.  If you're in the midst of hard times, I hope you find moments of happiness. They're out there, waiting for us to make them happen. I'm headed to bed with a little gratitude in my old heart that I had a few this week. 

See you next Monday. -Em

Firefighters 

I admire firefighters.  Anyone who can run towards an inferno while everything in their body is telling them to run away is an inspiration. 

This week, I tried to channel my inner firefighter. 

It was a bad week at my restaurant. There's no other way to say it. Long story short: if I can't come up with a large sum of money to pay the State of Illinois this week, we are going to be faced with making some very hard decisions. 

Everything in my body told me to run away this week.  But I didn't.   

And I didn't exactly solve any problems either.  But at least I didn't run.  I went to my job, and I worked in the face of pain and discomfort.  It's not where I wanted to be, but it's where I needed to be, and for that, I can get to sleep at night. 

Reader, I don't know if I believe firmly in right or wrong moves anymore.  But I do feel firmly that when there's trouble and you're involved in it, the best place to be is right in the thick of it.  This week, if you've got trouble in your life, I wish you the courage to go right into that fire and do your best to put it out.  

I played a show last night, and that helped too.  I'm so grateful to have music as an outlet on days like these.  I'll see you next Monday. -Em

Giving Practicality A Rest 

The more I find out about the world, the more cynical I become.  It's hard for me to relish in things the way I used to.  Don't get me wrong...I want to.  It's just hard for me as a practical person to fully enjoy most things.  These days, my kids are used to me being a Debbie Downer.  

Kids: Mom can we have candy?  
Me: If you want to eat colors made with petroleum. 

Kids: Mom can we try to win this stuffed animal out of the machine? 
Me: If you want to get addicted to gambling at an early age. 

Kids: Mom can we buy this t-shirt at the fair? 
Me: If you want to support sweatshops. 

People love being around me. I'm a real fun time.   

Anyway, my son is about to turn 7, and this weekend, we decided to throw him a party.   All he wanted was a blow-up bouncy slide and a blue Mario cake covered in all his favorite characters. My principles started kicking in.  I wanted so badly to tell him that those bouncy slides are a waste of electricity and water.  I wanted to tell him that blue food coloring is bad for his stomach. I wanted to tell him that those Mario characters are a bad use of his money. 

But instead, we had a bouncy slide and the bluest Mario cake I could muster.  Because for just one day, I can let go of my principles in the interest of letting my kid be a kid. 

Reader, no matter how hard we try, it's impossible to get it all just right. We're going to make an impact on this planet, sometimes not a good one.  So maybe it's ok every once in a blue moon to let go of our rigid thinking and enjoy a trip down a damn water slide.   

May you be good to your inner child this week, and I'll see you next Monday. -Em

ENJOY WORK 

After my concert on Saturday night, a woman in the audience walked over and said, "This is the first live music I've heard since Covid hit.  I didn't realize what an empty space it left in my heart until you filled it up again tonight.  Thank you." 

Such a softy. I got instantly teary-eyed. 

Something about that quick conversation with her shook me.  I felt the same way: playing live music on Saturday filled up a space I didn't know was empty.  I felt free, in-the-moment, and more content than I've been in a long time. 

On the drive home, I tried to think about what made Saturday night's show so magical. And I figured it out right as I pulled into my driveway.  It was magical because I was enjoying myself.  I wasn't being critical of missed notes.  I wasn't bummed out because the crowd wasn't uproariously cheering between songs.  I wasn't wishing the whole experience could be anything except what it was. 

And that's the hole that was in my heart that was filled on Saturday night. 

I think there's a real problem these days with how much we expect to get from work, and then there's a lot of let down when the work doesn't meet our expectations.  I got to wondering what would happen if we went into it choosing to enjoy the experience for what it is.  I'd imagine we could find true happiness in almost anything we're doing for work. 

(Minus changing the waste water port at my restaurant...that job will be miserable forever. Gotta keep it real). 

I'll always be grateful that one of my jobs is being a songwriter.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the job that I forget to let myself actually relish in it.  Reader, whatever you do for work, consider joining me in trying to lose your expectations of it and try to embrace it for what it is.  Maybe there's joy in there.

I leave you with this picture of Gregg and I walking through the woods at the venue like a couple of kids.  Wishing you a week of lightheartedness.  See you next Monday. -Em

Head Clearing 

Well. I'm barely hanging on this week.  No blog tonight. I'm off to take a walk into the sunset and try to clear my head.  See you next Monday.  -Em

Start Small 

It was a heavy week to be a woman last week.  It was even harder being the mother of a daughter with a rare syndrome. If my kid has a child one day, that child has a 25% chance of having a single lobe of the brain and could die shortly after being born.  My daughter could die, too. 

So the news of Roe being reversed without considering the life of the mother put our little family on its heels.  Helplessness kicked in. I wallowed in it for a night.  Then I woke up and decided to pour all of my frustration into helping my daughter become a badass. 

(Not that she needs much help.) 

I took my kids to the paint store this weekend.  I let them pick out fresh colors—any colors they wanted—to paint their bedroom walls.  They did it all by themselves, and it was hard not to step in. But in the end, I wanted them to feel empowered and confident, so I sat on my hands and watched. 

I’m writing to you tonight in a pink, purple, orange, and blue funhouse-of-a-home with kids that are pretty damn happy and proud of themselves. 

Reader, I say it a lot: we can’t fight everything all at once.  The problems on this planet are too many and too big.  But if we all start small, we can at least get ourselves in a good headspace to be able to tackle more tomorrow.  

Let’s keep our chins up and heads down, and I’ll see you next Monday. -Em

Tell It Like It Is 

I was recently asked to give a speech to local high school students.  The kids are apparently in summer school, taking a business course.  I was supposed to talk to them about the challenges of being an entrepreneur. So I prepared an eloquent lecture in my mind, one where I’d talk about my life as a musician and restaurant owner, including how to write a business plan, get a good architect, and find a loan.  Surely it would inspire them. 

So today was the day of the speech.  As the kids filed into my restaurant, I was thrown off. They looking bored before I even started. A few yawned.  Their eyes glazed over when I began speaking. 

And about 10 seconds into my eloquent presentation, I threw the whole damn speech out the window and shot from the hip. 

I told them about my nights as a traveling songwriter, sleeping on couches and under trees, eating bar olives for dinner.  I told them about the early days of buying my building, cleaning up dead pigeons and human piss, scraping off tar and bird shit from the floors while I was pregnant...twice.  I told them about how I faced discrimination from local government and fought with media outlets.  I told them about learning how to fix my building after kids spray paint it.  I didn’t hide anything. 

And after I got their attention, I told them to write a business plan and find a good architect. 

Reader, I learned a lesson by accident today: there’s a time to say things “right,” and then there’s a time to say things just like they are.  Those kids didn’t want me to be well-spoken.  They wanted me to be vulnerable.  As easy as it is to forget, sometimes the ugly truth is more relevant and relatable than anything else. 

On a complete aside: I saw a sandhill crane on the side of the road this week.  I’ve never seen one before, and it made my week.  I was just in awe of it.  Wishing you a week of beautiful surprises and ugly truth-telling. See you next Monday. -Em

No One's Coming 

For me, one of the hardest parts of growing up was realizing that no one is coming to help you anymore.  Your dirty bathroom? Your job. Your broken windshield wiper? Your job?  Your broken heart? Your job.  Yelling for Mom in the night doesn't work anymore. 

This was a hard week, and I thought a lot about how much I missed the old days.  At home, the kids got sick, and it was my job to be there. On the music front, I threw out my back lugging a bunch of gear, and it was still my job to move it.  At the restaurant, we had no product for the local farmer's market, and it was my job to make it. 

(In my mind, I heard David Allen Coe singing "Take This Job & Shove It" more than once). 

And I don't say this to complain. Ultimately, I'm grateful to have things to work for, but I still felt lonely this week; it's frankly isolating to face your challenges alone.  But today I had a bit of a breakthrough: 

The reason no one comes to help me is because I didn't ask them to. 

Reader, it dawned on me that--if I wanted help moving gear--I could've asked for it.  If I needed help making food for the market, I could've asked for it.  And when my heart breaks, I could be calling a friend instead of assuming I have to tackle it on my own.  Just because we can't call for our parents anymore doesn't mean we can't call for someone. 

The moral of my week? Even strong badass adults need to get the help they need. After I spent the whole day preparing food for the market, a few friends pitched in to help me get my tent set up, and it was such a relief.  Imagine how much more relief is in my future if I could unlearn the adult mindset of taking on the world alone. 

Lean lean lean this week, and I'll see you next Monday. -Em