No blog tonight. I'm spending some much needed time with friends and family. Wishing you a wonderful week ahead, and I'll see you next Monday. -Em
Nature Doesn't Judge
The kids and I planted a garden this week. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, brussels sprouts, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and herbs are underway. Connecting our family to the land has been the unplanned theme of 2023. I’m loving every minute. When time feels like it’s going too quickly, heading outdoors has a way of slowing it back down.
There’s a lot to love about being outside, but at the top of my list this week is that nature doesn’t judge. Come as you are. Broken, giddy, somber, silly, rich, poor, dirty, clean, you are welcome. It’s very freeing to feel without scrutiny. It’s the best I’ve felt in weeks.
Reader, it dawned on me this week that one of the best gifts we can give ourselves and our families and strangers and the planet is not to scrutinize harshly. This is a damn hard feat for me: I was raised in a Christian church where shame and guilt came with the territory. But those emotions aren’t useful to me anymore.
This week, I’m hoping to take a note from Mother Nature and try to accept and love people and things as they are. I’ve been trying it for a few days, and I haven’t missed guilt or shame even once. If you need a break from them too, try casting them aside. Life’s too short. Enjoy yourself this week, and I’ll see you next Monday. -Em
I think too much. The mind is a bastard.
I even think too much about thinking too much. The chatter in my head has been louder than usual these days. On Friday morning, it was deafening. I could barely focus on my work because I was distracted by thinking about my work.
For me, there’s only one way to stop my mind from spinning (that doesn’t involve good drugs and alcohol), and that’s taking deep breaths and listening to my gut. Bizarre as it sounds, everything in my gut was saying “get me outta this house.”
I spontaneously rented a cabin for the night in Spring Green, Wisconsin. I packed up my kids and my mom and we hit the road. Once we got there, we rolled in prairies. We made bonfires. We slept in hammocks. We put together jigsaw puzzles.
And my thoughts were almost inaudible.
Reader, I sometimes think the mind is the wrong team captain. It’s too loud, too stubborn, and too selfish to make the calls for the rest of the body. Lately, my mind has been pushing my body beyond its limits. And I’m ready to give it a leave-of-absence and let my heart steer this ship for a little while. As backward as this may seem, our mental health sometimes can’t be fixed by our minds.
If you’re lost in your mind this week, consider that you’re wise in more ways than you think. I’ll see you next Monday. -Em
Calm In Storms
Unpopular opinion: calamity provides focus. At least for me.
I thought I was having bad week. We're having problems at the restaurant, and I've been anxious. Then late last night, I got a call from a friend: the daycare center up the street from my place just lost a lot of their staff, and 60 underprivileged kids have no way of eating until they can hire a new cook.
My spinning mind suddenly had a laser focus. Everything else got quiet except for one voice.
Feed the kids.
Today, I put everything on hold, and went to help. For the few hours I was there, I was calm. My mind was present. I could breathe. We worked out a plan for their week. And I felt really good.
Reader, I wish it didn't take dire straits to bring about peace of mind. But that's what happened this week. It was good to be reminded that there are a lot bigger issues out there than the ones I'm facing,
I leave you with a picture of our woods tonight. Storms and calm are two sides of the same coin, just like everything else. Leave it to the woods to drive that point home. See you next Monday. -Em
Change of Scenery
Most Sunday mornings, my little family gets up and drinks coffee, listens to the records, and plans out our day in the kitchen. This Sunday morning was just about the same, except we did all of it in an unfinished attic.
Something about the change of scenery made Sunday morning coffee feel more special. The rest of our day felt magical, like anything was possible. We kept that vibe rolling and took the kids to the Shedd Aquarium. We walked around Chicago in the rain. We ate whole loaves of bread for lunch. We ended the night around the fire playing old board games.
And I can't say any of that would have happened if we would have started our Sunday on the couch.
Reader, this week, I was reminded that while routine is nice, we sometimes need to change our scenery in order to really appreciate what we have, to see all the possibilities around us. Shaking up our environment has a way of shaking us out of our comfort zone. Something as simple as sitting in an attic for coffee led to one of the best days I've had in months.
If you too find yourself stuck lately, change your scenery, and see if anything new pans out. Wishing you courage and magic this week, and I'll see you next Monday. -Em
To The Bat Cave
For the past several weeks, I've been on a mission to clear out the attic space above our garage. Most of the stuff up there hasn't moved in 30 years. I poured through memorabilia of great grandparents, grandparents, parents, and my younger self. I set aside the pictures and books, then I plan to donate and burn the rest: we had a bat infestation for a few years, and most items I rummaged through were covered in dead bats and guano.
What can I say...I've always been a glamour girl.
Anyway, as a person who already has a full dance card, it felt counterintuitive to add on another big job. But I'm playing the long game. Ever since I got married, the majority of my efforts have necessarily gone into the people around me. And I don't mind it. But I don't have many spare minutes for personal wellness. And even if it did, I wouldn't have a place to get the kind of wellness I crave.
So that's why I'm creating myself a room. Just for me. Right now, it only has lumber in it. But in a year or two, it will have a piano and a couple chairs and a place for me to toil and write as much as I want. It feels selfish, but only because I've never done it before.
Reader: I'm building myself a bat cave.
If you're a fellow person who spends most of their days on others, let me tell you: even having a little project to work on that's just for me has done wonders for my mental health. Clearing out the last box in the attic, I felt instantly lighter and hopeful. As we go through our week, let's not forget to make room for ourselves and our thoughts. I'll see you next Monday. -Em
When Life Gives You Walnut...
Man, did I ever need last night’s show in Chicago. What a great crowd of listeners. It was an honor to play with Emily White and Jared Rabin and to see so many familiar faces. After the week I had, the friendship felt even more special.
A lot of bizarre and frustrating things happened this week, culminating with a huge walnut tree falling down across our driveway. My husband was out of town. I couldn’t move it, and I still don’t know how to use a chainsaw. I panicked. My brain went to a dark spot. Why does this bad stuff always happen?
Then I took a few deep breaths. I started chuckling. Earlier in the week, I had been wishing for some lumber for a project I’m working on at home.
And the universe provided it. Albeit in an inconvenient-for-me way, but I got exactly what I needed.
Reader, the longer I live, the more I realize that the universe has a sense of humor, and I should too. The “bad stuff that always happens” is sometimes the good stuff in disguise. Relationships that don’t work, jobs that fall through, plans that change, problems that arise: they all have a way of getting us where we need to be.
Wishing you a week of humor and finding good in the bad. See you next Monday. -Em
Show This Sunday
No blog tonight: I'm practicing for a show at Golden Dagger. If you're free and in Chicago on Sunday night, I'll be opening the album release show for my friend Emily White, and I'd love to see you. Tickets are available at the link below. See you next Monday! -Em
I just bought a few books from a used book store, and I've been tearing through them. I usually read with a pen in my teeth, so I can underline the parts I like. I also like to write in the margins when I make a mental connection. My high school English teacher used to call it "active reading." A few nights ago, my son caught me active reading, and he screamed at me.
"Mom! You can't do that!"
"Do what?" I said.
I laughed, then asked him to scribble all over in the margins, just to force him out of whatever preconceived rule he thought he was breaking. As he flipped through the rest of the book, he was surprised to see that other people had underlined parts ,too. The whole exercise blew his mind and cracked me up.
Reader, it's odd that even at 7 years-old, we're afraid to touch something for fear that we'll mess it up. What else are we alive for if not to leave our mark here, maybe make a few mental connections with our fellow humans? As we go through our week, let's not forget to leave thoughtful marks in every way we can. Life is way too short to be afraid of messing it up.
I leave you with this picture of the snowdrop flowers in our woods. Just because spring is so lacey and beautiful. See you next Monday. -Em
Seeing the Northern Lights has been at the top of my bucket list for the majority of my life. And since I turned 40, I've been feeling extra pressure to see them. So in January, my husband and I traveled to the top of the Arctic Circle. It was an inconvenient (and expensive) trip, but we made it happen, and the lights were beautiful.
Fast forward three months. I've been buried at work. In keeping with my decision to escape to nature when I'm overwhelmed by work stress, I drove to the Upper Peninsula. It was an average Thursday night. But on my way there, I saw something in the sky near Wausau.
THE LIGHTS. And the further north I drove, the more vibrant they became. By the time I hit Bessemer, Michigan, the whole sky was a breathtaking mix of green and purple. The display was 10 times more beautiful than what we saw in Norway.
It was effortless on my part. And all it cost was a tank of gas.
Reader, seeing the aurora in Wisconsin on a Thursday may have been nothing but a coincidence, but it feels symbolic. The moral of my week is: maybe we need a little more faith that the things we want most will find us in time. I suppose that's an impractical and almost lazy mindset, but I see no harm in it, and so I'm giving it a whirl. Maybe we don't have to work so hard.
Wishing you a wonderful week of deciding what you want, and then practicing patience. See you next Monday. -Em