Covid Clarity 

Most of the week was a blur. On Tuesday, I slept for 20 hours straight.  I remember the staff from my restaurant brought me soup and coffee.  I remember listening to some new music releases, and I remember Facetiming my kids. 

And that's pretty much it.   

I've heard friends say Covid is like a light cold.  The cookie crumbled a bit differently for me. I still feel like there's a heavy weight on my chest.   If you're one of those folks--like me 9 days ago--who thought Covid might not be so bad for you: please take this virus seriously.  If it weren't for an inhaler, I'd be having a hard time breathing tonight. 

It was rare for me to be so isolated for a week.  Even an introvert like me starts to feel lonely. But I was grateful for all the time to be an observer, to notice my own thoughts and feelings. 

One of the things I noticed most was my self-esteem plummeting. I realized in my fever-fog that way too much of my self-worth comes from doing/giving to others.  Without working for other people, I felt worse about myself. It was a scary revelation, one that I didn't like.   

One that I plan on righting. 

Reader, if you too get a little too much satisfaction from pleasing others, I invite you to join me in spending the whole damn summer learning how to make yourself happy.  I started today by planting a whole garden of strawberries in my backyard.  Because I like strawberries, damnit. I don't care that my kids prefer tomatoes and pumpkins.  Time to work harder for ole Number One. 

With that, I'm off to play a little music before bed.  Take good care of yourselves, and I'll see you next Monday. -Em

Double Release Show! 

Happy belated Mother's Day to you all.  I spent the day working at my restaurant and then having dinner with my mom.  My husband got me a badass garden rake, and my kids made me cards.  I picked wild violets to make violet syrup.  It was a nice day. 

Then today, I got an extra surprise when my new record arrived in the mail.  I plan to play a release show for it--and the album I released but couldn't perform in 2020--on June 5th at 6 pm at the Belvidere Bandshell. 

I'm nervous. 

Writing music keeps coming naturally to me.  But putting it out there has become increasingly awkward. Which feels backwards.  Shouldn't I feel more confident the older I get? 

The thing is: my relationship with music is more personal than ever.  The piano knows some pretty dark stuff about me at this point.  I tell it everything. It's like a guidance counselor (the fun counselor that tells you to scream and pound things).  And the better I get at talking to it, the more vulnerable I realize I am. 

And being vulnerable in front of a crowd doesn't sound as fun as it used to when my only worries were break-ups. 

But then I remember the power of vulnerability.  Reader, with it being Mother's Day, I've been thinking about the kind of mom I want to be.  And it's fair to say that I want my kids to have a role model that's good at being human.  Not the kind of person that hides her humanity while putting on a good face. 

And so for myself--and my kids--I'll be playing the deep, dark secrets of my heart for the world again this summer.  Stop out and see me if you're in Northern Illinois! 

Have a great week, and I'll see you next Monday. -Em

When In Doubt, Fill The Woodshed 

When it rains, it pours. 

This was not my favorite week.  At my restaurant, we lost major appliances.  Beer coolers leaked. Ice machines flooded. Dish machines broke, and so did my heart.

(There's a terrible country song in there somewhere.)

And I wasn't sure how to handle it all. I felt out of control, leaning on plumbers and repair people to save the day.  Since I wasn't able to fix anything on my own, I stayed home and worked.  My husband and I had planned to split logs all weekend to get the firewood drying for the season.  So that's just what we did. 

Today I'm sore...feels like I've been in a fight and lost.  I pulled a deer tick out of my abdomen, and I'm still getting the oak dust out of my hair.

But I'm happy and feel back in control.

Reader, sometimes all we can do is fill the woodshed, metaphorically (and in my case, in reality). The problems will always be there; no sense running away from them.  This week, I learned to just keep doing honest work and be prepared for what comes next.

Wishing you a really great week ahead.  See you next Monday. -Em


Perception 

Last night I played a show in the suburbs.  After it was over, a nice woman came up to me.  She said she envied me singing songs and running a restaurant for a living: how nice it must be to get to eat nice meals and then go home and write music. 

I didn't have the heart to tell her that I usually get up at 3 am to write songs, and most of my meals consist of squeezing peanut butter into my mouth in the car. 

Reader, I'm keeping it short tonight because I've got a cut on my thumb that's making it hard to type.  The moral of my week is that nothing is as it seems.  What we see is not the truth.  What we see is a perception.  So there's really no point in believing what we think--particularly the stuff that makes us upset or hurt or jealous--because it's most likely not that accurate anyway.   

With that, I'll get back to my road peanut butter.  Let's give people the benefit of the doubt this week, and I'll see you next Monday. -Em

All In Good Time 

Inspiration rarely strikes me at convenient times, and last Saturday was no exception. 

I woke up at 5 am that day because I wanted to get in a little time at the piano before I had to go cook a bonfire brunch with my restaurant team at a forest preserve.  (Like we do). 

At 6:30 am, a song started pouring out of me. I only had 15 minutes to get it done. I grabbed a pen and paper and started trying to write it all down.   

Before I got a chance to finish, I had to leave to go to work.  As I pulled down the driveway, I felt resentful.  

Work always gets in the way.  There's never any time for me to do what I want to do.  WHEN'S MY TIME?!? 

By the time I got to the forest preserve, I forced myself to stop thinking about the song, and I got to work.  No sense being a sad sack. So I hauled all the food over to the bonfire pits.  I set up my station--soft-boiled eggs--and listened to Spotify while I boiled the water and waited for our customers to arrive.   

While hovering over my dutch oven, a song came on that I hadn't heard before.  It was a minor waltz. It shook me to my core.  The song I had written earlier that morning was a major waltz, and the bonfire tune got me thinking about how much better it would sound if my half-written morning song was minor. 

After cooking all morning, I went home, ready to tackle the tune I had started in a whole different way.  The completed song was great, way better than it would have been if I had finished it the way it began.  

Feeling lucky that I didn't have time to get my way. 

Reader, if any of this sounds familiar to you, let's just put it out here: just because things aren't going as planned, doesn't mean anything's wrong.  Who knows? Maybe things are rolling out the way they're supposed to.  

I'll always be grateful for the soft-boiled egg lesson this week.  See you next Monday. -Em

Guiltless Pleasures 

Last night was the annual Grammy Awards.  I watched them from beginning to end and didn't miss a second. 

As an indie artist, I've been told by my peers that I'm "not supposed to like" the Grammys. The logic is that the music industry is a money-driven hit machine that promotes only certain musicians' songs and leaves the rest of us behind. 

(Which I think is to say: they're jealous). 

For the longest time, I felt guilty about how much I enjoyed the whole night.  But I can't help but love it. The performances, the different genres and forms of expression, and the overall recognition artists get for their hard work and sacrifices: I love it more every year. 

It dawns on me this morning that I'm very tired of having "guilty pleasures." In fact, I think I've had it with that term. What's the point of enjoying something if I'm also supposed to feel guilty about it?  Besides, having been raised in a Christian church, I already suffer from an overabundance of guilt.  No sense tacking on more of it, just because I like to tune in to a televised award show. 

Reader, we don't make the world a better place by feeling bad about ourselves.  We make the world--and ourselves--better by knowing who we are fully and owning what we love. If there's anything holding you back this week, I invite you to join me in letting go of any fear that it's "wrong."  There's just no point to denying ourselves. 

With that, I'm off to listen to more of the Grammy nominees and winners while I make dinner for my kids.  See you next Monday. -Em

Mrs. Finish Line 

For me, one of the more difficult parts of being an artist is knowing when to call something “done.” 

When it comes to songwriting, I could edit til the cows come home.  My chord choices could always be more interesting.  I change melodies over and over again. I modify lyrics right up until the day I’m recording. 

(And sometimes even while I’m recording; it’s damn hard to let go.) 

The same thing goes for album artwork. I’ve been sitting on a finished collection of tunes for months now.  I had a few pictures that I was going to use for the album cover.  But then I decided I could do better, so I took some more pictures.  And then more.  Then I started wondering what to do with font and album design, and—by the end of last week—I got lightheaded from anxiety and I felt panicked about how I would ever complete this record. 

So I stopped. I took some deep breaths, sat down on Friday night, put font on a picture, and decided I was finished.  I sent it off to be pressed on vinyl and to be released on Spotify.  Dunzo. 

Reader, we choose when we sign off on our endeavors. It would sure be easy if our paintings would scream from the page, “Stop right there! Not another brush stroke!”  But in the end, the only definitive finish line is the one we decide upon.  The lesson of my week was: if what you’re making is causing anxiety, it might be time to have the confidence to move forward. 

With a new album as complete as it’ll ever be, I’m back to songwriting for the next album.  ONWARD.  See you next Monday. -Em

It Isn't All About You 

Last week, one of my coworkers seemed off.  She wasn't as care-free as usual.  She was short with me, and her tone was subdued. 

So me being me, I figured she was mad at me. 

Later in the week, I got a chance to talk to her.  Turns out, she's having a hard time at home. Her mood had nothing to do with me.  Or work.  Or anything in my control at all. 

And here I went and wasted hours immersed in self-centered worry. 

I say it a lot: I'm a control freak.  Just when I think I'm getting better, it's apparent that I have a long way to go.  I still believe that every damn problem is mine to own, worry about, and fix, even when it's not my place. 

Reader, my anxiety is through the roof lately.  I'm having a hard time going about my days, knowing other countries are at war. Feeling helpless about it makes the control freak in me extra-active.  I think subconsciously, I'm trying to make things "better" every way that I can. 

The irony here is that I couldn't even make things better for my coworker, because when she needed a friend, I made her problem all about me. 

As I sit here looking out my window at the naked trees of our forest, I'm making a little oath to myself.  Maybe it'll help you too.  I'm promising to give others the benefit of the doubt.  That no matter their outward appearance or the conditions, they could use love.  That their feelings about me are irrelevant in me showing them love. 

And that I need to chill out on making myself the center of everyone's universe. 

With that, I'm off to bed.  Wishing you a wonderful week.  I'll see you next Monday. -Em

Central Parked 

No blog tonight.  Just got back from New York City where my husband and I walked for miles and caught a Broadway show.  I'm beat.  Lots to say, but it'll wait until next week.  See you then. -Em