Spending Time In Your Element 

My husband loves wood boats. He’s been fascinated with them since we’ve been in high school.  He’s restored and sold 9 wood boats. As a Father’s Day present, our family headed to the North Woods in Wisconsin for the Antique Wood Boat Show in Minocqua so he could geek out for a few days. 

I love to see him in his element.

The kids and I spent a little time at the show before we stopped by a restaurant to play bags (their element…for now), and then we drove to the shores of Lake Superior by the fields of lupine blossoms. That’s my element: lost in nature.

Father’s Day has been hard for me since my dad died, but seeing the light in the eyes of the people I love really helps to give perspective.  Reader, we’re here on earth for a short time.  In that time, we’re meant to find our own elements, to make time for those places and circumstances that resonate so hard that we beam.  I loved getting a little time in mine, and I hope this week you’re able to spend time in yours. I’ll see you next Monday. -Em

Writing Naked 

I was a dramatic teenage dork that walked around with a beat-up collection of Emerson poems in my backpack.  Not because I loved the subject matter, but because I loved his meter and rhyme.  His poetry has a pulse and a groove and I used to love the way his words felt flying off my tongue when I said them out loud.  They were seductive and anticipatory. When I started writing my first songs, I wanted them to feel like Emerson.

Fast forward 30 years.  My songs are built entirely around rhyme.  I love writing this way, and I always will. The only downside is that I often let the rhyme overshadow the emotion and story within the tune. It's a compromise I've been willing to make.
 
Up until now.
 
This week--for the first time ever--I wrote a few songs that were raw.  They were about my daughter. I wrote them with exposed feelings, not hidden behind slick patterns.  It was a vulnerable feeling.  The songs may not sound as clever, but they feel a lot braver.  
 
Reader, the moral of my week is: sometimes it's nice to step outside our comfort zone and be brave for bravery sake.   Taking rhyme out of songwriting took away layers of protection I had placed around my songs. Being that open felt empowering, and I look forward to this kind of naked writing in the weeks ahead.  
 
I leave you with this picture of my daughter and I at a concert this weekend. I'll forever be grateful that I have a handful of people in my life that make me want to cut to the quick and get to the heart of my feelings faster.  And I'm grateful to you for being on the other end of this screen as I reflect on these wild weeks we live. See you next Monday. -Em

Joy Seeking 

I played outside at a festival in downtown Rockford yesterday with my old friends Gerald Dowd, Gregg Ostrom, and John Abbey.  We had brunch at my restaurant before the gig. Today, my heart is full, and my head is murky. (I tried my first cannabis cocktails yesterday; man...they pack a punch).

I love playing outside. It feels like I'm a part of it all, singing under the sky. At the concert, someone was blowing bubbles. and then some kids were dancing, and then some birds were chirping, and then I got to make some noise too. It was really nice.  As I reflect on it, I realize why it was so wonderful:
 
I was joy-seeking.
 
Reader, I spend the majority of my waking life doing what I should.  I get up when I should. Make the kids breakfast when I should. Go to work and complete lists like I should. I'm good at should.  And I don't often put "enjoy the present" on my to-do list, despite my best-laid intentions.  But at yesterday's show, I felt well-rehearsed and was able to just bask in how great it felt to play.  And when the show was over, I was so energized that I didn't want to stop.
 
This week, I vow to resist my tendency to work feverishly; I plan to enjoy the present more often, and I sure hope you can, too.  Let's revel in it this week. I'll see you next Monday. -Em

Wedding Night! No Blog. 

No blog tonight.  I'm cooking the wedding dinner for our executive chef at my restaurant tonight.  Proud to work with the best damn kitchen team in town.  I'll see you next Monday. -Em

Scotch Breaks 

I've had a melody stuck in my head for weeks.  It's been killing me. I've been getting up between 3 am and 4 am every day to try to find the lyrics.  By Friday morning, I'd rewritten the song too many times to count.  I've collectively spent about 24 hours hitting creative walls for one bloody song.

It's comical to think I do this by choice.
 
Anyway, on Friday night, my husband asked me to go out for a drink.  I told him no: I needed to continue to work.  But after a couple hours of coming up dry, I decided to wet my whistle with my guy. 
 
Two rob roys later, I was feeling no pain.  When we got home, I passed out on the couch with our new baby chicks on my belly.  I don't remember how I got to bed that night.
 
But when I sat down at the piano the next morning, the song found me immediately.  I captured it as quickly as I could, and I thanked my lucky scotchy stars.
 
Reader, the moral of my week is: a step away from our work to clear (or lose) our head is sometimes just as important as the hard work itself.  Creative magic doesn't come from stress: it comes from joy and love.  If what you love is causing you stress, it might be time to step away until you're lighter and ready for it to give you joy again.
 
Work hard, and take breaks this week, and I'll do the same.  See you next Monday. -Em

Imprinting 

I'm a bird mom!  This year for Mother's Day, my family got me 10 silkie chicks to keep in the backyard for eggs and for snuggling.  Until they get older (and until I get off my rear and build the coop), they're living in a deep box in our dining room.  We're all pretty enamored.
 
And they are too.
 
In learning about chicks, I've been learning about imprinting: it's apparently a rapid learning process that takes place early in the life of a social animal that establishes their identity and behavior patterns.  If an animal imprints on a human, they feel connected to humans for life. Even though we've only had the chicks for a few days, I can already feel them bonding with our family. They're happy to waddle over and snuggle with us on the sofa.  I'm very grateful for this experience.
 
And even though I'm not a bird, it makes me very grateful for my own parents. I clearly imprinted on them. I've been songwriting more than usual lately, and what's coming out feels like it's deep in my psyche.  I know the hippie records my parents played and the songs they used to sing sunk in and became a part of me. Maybe it's not technically imprinting, but I was certainly impacted in a very deep way.
 
Reader, if you celebrated Mother's Day, I hope it was a good one.  As we go through the week, let's not forget how much we're all shaping each other.  Use the kind words, listen to the good music, and love big.  See you next Monday. -Em

THE BOATHOUSE MUSES 

I just worked for two weeks straight at my restaurant.  I was beat and decided to take two days to write music in a small boat house in Wisconsin.  (It's the midwesterner in me that feels the need to disclaim how hard I worked in order to deserve a break; it's what we do.).  

I went to the boathouse not only because it's idyllic in every way, but also because it's a great place to focus.  There's not much to see besides water and loons, and there's not much to do except the work that you brought with you.  I brought a keyboard, a notepad, and a pen.  So that's what I did for 12 hours each day: played the keys, and wrote. 
 
The first 47 hours and 55 minutes I was there, I felt like I was beating my head against glass.  I wouldn't call it "relaxing." I wrote and rewrote the same song dozens of times. But then--in the last 5 minutes I was there-- I had the "aha" moment that writers work for, and I wrote the song I loved.
 
Because the song muses love watching you work for it.
 
Reader, I'm a believer in science.  But I'm also a believer in muses: those invisibile, intangible magical feelings that hover above an artist's head, choosing whether or not to drop a song in there, if the writer is worthy. Though there is no scientific proof of them, I believe in them.  I know, because when a song finally comes after days and weeks of work, I throw my head back and exclaim "THANK YOU!"
 

I write all of this to say: if you feel like you're beating yourself into the ground with your creations, fear not.  It's all part of paying your dues.  The art you want to create is coming. You just need to keep working for it.

I'll see you next Monday. -Em


 

 

Mystical Peacock Forcefields 

It was another bizarre week. Last Tuesday, there was a peacock in my backyard.  Feral peacocks aren't a thing. And none of my neighbors own a peacock. So I decided this was a fairly magical event.  Peacocks can symbolize rebirth, beauty, and wealth, and I chose to believe that.

I then proceeded to have a week of calamities. At one point, I was on the roof of my restaurant scraping fryer grease with my bare hands. At another, I was sanding wooden tables in the middle of a thunderstorm.  But unlike other calamitous weeks, I wasn't emotionally taken down by anything, because all the while, I was believing in the beauty, richness, and the potential for rejuvenation in our lives.
 
There was a mystical peacock forcefield around my mind, and I'll be damned if it didn't work.
 
Reader, this week my moral is this: it doesn't hurt to believe that good things will come.  Because even if they don't, the bad times are far more sufferable.  Wishing you a similar positive forcefield in the week ahead.  See you next Monday. -Em

That Seuss Life 

The sky broke out in pink clouds on Thursday morning.  I’ve been told that red skies in the morning are a sign of impending bad storms.  But the sky looked so much like a drawing from a Dr. Seuss book that I decided it was an omen to lighten up and embrace that Seuss life.

It’s been a heavy couple of weeks.  The world feels upside down. And my personal life does, too. And when that happens, it’s easy to get serious and lean into anger.   But we can also get creative and laugh about it.  This week, I chose the latter, and while it didn’t change reality, it did take the edge off.

Today, my 7-year-old daughter brought her hand-made slime into the car and proceeded to get it stuck in everything from the seat belt to her shoelaces.  We had to pull over on the side of the road for 15 minutes to deslime everything.  And all I could do was laugh.  I laughed til I cried.  I like to think Dr. Seuss was laughing down at me from his pink clouds under a Truffula tree in a Bar-ba-loot suit.

Reader, reality is what it is, but our outlook is whatever we make it.  Wishing you a week of light and hilarity, and I’m wishing myself the same.  It never hurts to find joy. I’ll see you next Monday. -Em

Take To The Oars 

I went into Chicago today to record a few songs with my friends Gregg, Gerald, and John.  I was hungry and thought the guys might be hungry too, so I stopped at a store this morning to get some food.

That’s where my wallet—including all the cash I had saved for recording—was stolen.

After the worst week I’ve ever had at restaurant, today was a real kick in the pants.  I had hoped for a breezy day, and instead it was the reverse.  Which is uncanny, because one of the songs we recorded today is called “The Reverse.” And when we launched into that tune, I just started laughing.  I’ll be damned if the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor. 

Reader, here’s something I know for sure: bad shit is going to happen to us.  Sometimes, the world feels like it’s more bad than good. But today was a reminder that the world around us may deal a rotten hand, but we get to choose how we respond to it.

I read a Latin proverb this week that says, “If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.”  I loved it.  This week—when the world takes the wind from our sails—let’s row our own damn boat. I’ll see you next Monday. -Em