Seasonality 

I go to the local farmer's market every Wednesday.  My restaurant tries to cook with as much seasonal produce as possible, and I spend a lot of time hunting for it. It's a great job. I like feeling connected to the food, the farmers, the earth, the weather, all of it. It makes me think a lot about seasonality.  This week, cherries are in season.  For 2 or 3 weeks of the year, local cherries taste like candy, and I can't get enough.

 
The rest of the year, I don't eat them.  
 
That's because we're meant to eat fruits and vegetables when they're in season. That's when they're the best.  And as ridiculous as it sounds, eating fresh cherries in my car this week got me thinking a lot about my seasonality as a songwriter.
 
Reader, just like Northern Illinois isn't supposed to produce fruits all year long, neither are we made to bear fruits whenever we feel like it.  We need to be patient with ourselves until the season is right.  I've been hung up on a song for 2 weeks now, and I just can't seem to make it what it needs to be.  Tonight, I put it aside and decided to wait.  It will come into season when it's ready.  If you too have anything in your life that you wish was happening faster, let's be a little more patient this week: no sense rushing our creations until they're at their best.
 
See you next Monday.  Have a fruitful week. -Em
 

The Cuss Jar 

 

Our family keeps a swear jar. We have to put in $1 every time we cuss. We’ve been keeping it for years now, and the jar was full to the brim. So last week, we decided it was time to cash it in and take a vacation. My 7 year-old daughter pointed out: “the majority of this money is mom saying 's-h-i-t.'”
 
My crude mouth (along with some other savings) is sending my little family to California next week, and we’re so excited. It’s not often that we take big trips. We’re determined to spend less of our money on things and more of it on experiences. And jumping in the Pacific is an experience that we’re all looking forward to.
 
Reader, these summer days are flying by like they always do. Whenever I stress about time and money, it's nice to remember some of summer's best offerings--picking wild raspberries, watching fireflies and bats at twilight, and jumping in a lake--are all free.  And some of the added joys are just a small (and sometimes ridiculous) savings fund away.  I'm glad my cursing habit is paying off.
 
Wishing you a wonderful bullshit-free week. (The kids say I can cuss on my blog without paying up). See you next Monday. - Em

Up The Ante 

The kids and I catered a party this weekend.  They're 7 and 8.  When we came up with this idea, I honestly thought I'd be doing the brunt of it.  But I didn't. They both worked long hours prepping and cooking.  They made pesto.  They bought groceries. They made and assembled cheesecake. They even burned themselves flipping sandwiches on a flattop. And then they got paid a lot of money (for kids), and were proud of themselves.

And they surprised the hell out of me.

Reader, sometimes I forget how good it is for our souls to up the ante in life.  Extra challenges and risk can bring about extra joy.  The kids learned that lesson in spades this weekend, and it was inspiring for me too.  It made me want to work even harder.  

Wishing us all a great week ahead, full of challenges that will bring us deep feelings of pride and happiness when we meet them head on.  See you next Monday. -Em


 

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