It Wasn’t A Good Time 

It wasn’t a good time to take a vacation. 

We have too much debt. The restaurant isn’t running very smoothly. The kids have been needy lately. The house is a mess. My dog is getting older. I’m behind on paperwork... 

In other words, it was a perfect time. 

I rented myself an old one-room cabin in Estes Park this past weekend. I had no screens with me. Cell service was patchy. My closest neighbors were pine trees & a herd of elk. 

In the mornings, I took long hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Then I would head back to the cabin & write songs until I fell asleep, exhausted, but the happiest I’ve been in years.

I even saw a moose.

Reader, there’s never a good time. We’re never ready. But man, we all need breaks. A person isn’t meant to work for a hundred straight days before they get to rest. 

I would know.  

This rejuvenated writer is off to catch up w/ her family. I’ll see you next Monday. -Em

True Love 

I--Emily Hurd--am going on vacation. 

Having just worked every day since Thanksgiving, this is a wee bit overdue.

A week from tonight, I'll be flying home from a tiny cabin that I rented in Estes Park.  It's right on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park. I'll be doing some hiking, songwriting, and bonding w/ a moose or two.  

It's my dream vacation.  And I'm living the damn dream.

The funniest part of this vacation?  I'm taking it alone.  Even funnier? My husband bought me the plane ticket. He knows how much I've been craving solitude and space.  So for my birthday a few weeks ago, he got me the ultimate space.

And that, dear Reader, is true love.

In the wake of Valentine's Day, I've been thinking about what love is.  I used to think it was a feeling of irrepressible desire for somebody, to want them, to want them to want you, to feel lit up by their presence forever and ever until your guts exploded in a puddle of love-steeped goo.

Today, I can say that for me, love is just good old fashioned listening.  It's caring for a person's heart, even when it isn't in alignment with your desires or what lights you up.  It's breezy. True love doesn't have wants or feel a sense of ownership.  It is selfless.  It's respectful, playful, and simple.

And it's what I've got.  How much more could a girl ask for?

(Besides a cabin and a moose).  

I'm off to read books to the kids. Wishing you playful and kind love this week. I'll see you back here next Monday, hopefully with back country moose stories. -Em

P.S.  This pic by Owen Slater is the image that I'm trying to hike to see.  Wish me luck.

When Logic Fails 

I like to think things through.  

 A LOT.   

Because there's a feeling of security when thought goes into something. The more we think, the more we think we understand. If we put our minds to it, we feel a bit of certainty, maybe even a sense of rightness.  

The trouble is, our thoughts--as thoughtful as they are--sometimes are just not right.  In fact, sometimes, you can't trust them at all.  They're sneaky buggers.

For a few weeks now, my thoughts have been lying to me. 

Lately, I've been noticing my staff has been really stand-offish at my restaurant.  It's been taking me down, mentally and emotionally. I'd even call myself depressed.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my team has lost respect for me, that they feel I'm not working hard enough, and that they just don't like me at all. 

Until they threw me a giant surprise party last night.   

So much for my damn logic. 

Reader, in the words of my dear friend Mike Werckle: we need to stop believing our thoughts. Just because we think them doesn't make them "right."  Bad thoughts can make us spin out of control, spiraling downward over something that may not even be true.  And that's because thoughts tend to intermingle with our fears and insecurities, making us draw faulty conclusions that feel very real. 

With that, this over-thinker is off to spend a little more time observing what's happening and a little less time trying to think about everything all the time.  I leave you with a picture of me on my FORTIETH birthday this week.  No make-up, no filter, no glamour, but I've got a good life, and I'm looking forward to the next 40.  See you next Monday. -Em

Birthday Eve 

No blog tonight; I'm celebrating the eve of my birthday w/ family.  

Keep on fighting the good fight this week. See you next Monday. -Em

New versions 

When I was a kid, I knew--unequivocally--that my very favorite food was bread & butter, my favorite movie was The Great Muppet Caper, and I wanted to be just like Whitney Houston when I grew up. These were cold hard facts, and they were set in stone.

Until I got a bit older. 

At which point, my favorite food was vindaloo curry, my favorite movie was Cool Hand Luke, and I wanted to be just like Jane Goodall when I grew up.  I was an adult, and I knew myself well.

Until I changed again.  And again and again.  Today, my favorite food is a raw oyster, my favorite movie is probably a bunch of This Old House episodes (played back-to-back), and as I age, I just want to be a bit more like my mom. She's more patient than me.

It's funny to me to think how much one person can change.  If you would have told me 10 years ago what I'd be into, who I'd love, and what I'd be doing with my life, I never would have believed it.  

And that's pretty great.

Reader, I find it tremendously liberating to know we are constantly shifting.  We are as inconsistent, as wavering, as unpredictable as the weather. We ebb and flow, ever evolving, ever returning.  There's no need to make decisions based on who we think we are, because we are mutable.  New information, new people, new circumstances: all of it can (and will) change us.

Lately, I've been at odds with myself, wondering if I've compromised who I "really" am.  I spend less time outdoors and more time with my kids and at my restaurant.  The songs I'm writing have gotten more sultry, and the clothes I'm wearing have gotten more conservative.  My tastes have changes completely. At my restaurant, I opt for salmon with a poached egg yolk on it over a grilled cheese.  Who am I any more?!

I'm me.  Version 156.0. 

With that, this mutable but strong woman is off to play a little piano.  Go easy on yourself this week if you find yourself at odds.  You may just have changed when you least expected it.  See you next Monday. -Em

Expression 

This week, I miss singing.  

I miss it on a visceral level. I miss the feeling of a long exhale with a tone and a word on top of it.  I miss the sound of a piano reverberating in my ears  I miss the air inflating my lungs and giving me permission to let forth a huge belt or a little whisper.

Mostly, I just miss expression.

One of the few things they don't tell you about running a business and a household is how much you have to hold back.  Your temper, your true feelings, your needs, your judgements, EVERYTHING must be kept in check and under control.  In order for everybody around you to flourish and feel at peace, you must squelch everything about yourself that might make them feel uncomfortable.

It's enough to make a woman scream...if she could.

Music has always been an outlet for me, a chance to be honest without the scrutiny of others.  Lately, it's fallen to the wayside.  My restaurant and family have required too much of my attention.  But I've noticed only recently that music isn't just a hobby for me.  

It might be the only thing that has kept me sane through the years.

Reader, it dawns on me that a soul simply cannot hold it all in.  We have to express ourselves, through art, through conversation, through exercise, through anything. I have to believe that we are meant to do more on earth than to simply 'hold it together' and die.

I leave you with a picture of my daughter in a state of unbridled joy.  It shouldn't just be the children, our coworkers, and the ones we love who get to feel this way.  All of us should be allowed to express ourselves at our utmost.  We aren't meant to be tamed at all times.  This songwriter is looking forward to a little more time set aside for belting it out with reckless abandon.  I'll see you back here next Monday. -Em

The Pay-Off 

Yesterday, I felt the pay-off.

(Sadly, it wasn't monetary).

Nonetheless, I got paid. The past month at work has been wrought with stress for me.  I thought my restaurant might die a death by a thousand cuts.  So many small problems were hurting staff morale, customer support, and overall operations.  I've been working what feels like around-the-clock hours to try to put out fires and create better systems or organization and communication.  

And I've never used so many file folders in my life.

After all the scurrying, all the sleepless nights, all the meetings I took with staff, we finally had a smooth day yesterday. I couldn't believe it. Our team morale improved.  Customers got good service.  The systems I put in place worked. And I exhaled deeply for the first since Christmas day.

Earlier this week, a picture of my Dad working in the woods fell out of an old book that I happened to find.  And I felt so proud to be a part of a line of hard workers.  There's no better way to control a problem than to simply get to work. My dad must have discovered that truth, too.

Reader, some days we can feel like we're knocking our heads against a wall, working our fingers to the bone, and nothing is changing.  But things are changing.  Every bit of work we do adds up.  It may not add up quickly. It may not add up to money.  But work pays off in some way, in the end.

And I'm off to keep at it.  See you next Monday. -Em

Time Warps 

Lately, I've been waking up in the middle of the night, wondering where I am. It's been a bit alarming.

On Wednesday night, I woke up thinking I was in my old Chicago apartment, where I haven't lived in 6 six years.  On Friday night, I woke up from nightmares that I hadn't prepared lessons for my music students, students I haven't taught in 8 years. And just last night, I woke up to lights outside the window, and I thought I was in my college dorm room, which I lived in 2 decades ago.

(Read: this may be the week I start losing my mind.)

It's incredible to me how time puts us so squarely in one place, yet how keenly our bodies can remember being in another.  And as scary as it is to lose touch with present reality, it's not only fascinating, but also comforting to me that older realities never really leave us. Time may move forward, but our experiences remain a part of our make-up forever. 

My dad passed away on January 4th, 7 years ago.  This week, I felt the anniversary more heavily than past years. It's as though the cells of my body were recounting his heart attack all over again. But this morning, I forced my body to remember farther back, back to when he was healthy.  Times of hiking, playing cribbage, building bar tops, sharing scotch. Those memories came flooding back just as vividly, and I've had a nice time letting myself swim around in those times today.

Not many weeks have morals, but this one apparently does.  And here it is:

Be present. Live so fully in the moment that it becomes a part of you, that it steeps into your soul and leaves an indelible mark, that you can bring it back to life by closing your eyes.  Time passes, but it does not steal.  We get to keep it all, everything we've ever seen, everybody we've ever known.  Watching my babies sleep is a memory that will never fade for me (thanks not only to living in the present, but also smart phones).  I hope you're enjoying every minute of your life, Reader.  See you next Monday. -Em

 

Beginnings 

I hate when chapters end.  Even bad ones.  

I remember as a kid in high school, watching the inseparable bonds I'd formed w/ elementary school friends separate.  I was a wreck.  And of course I'd make new friends.  And of course it was all ok.  But in the moment, knowing a chapter was closing forever would devastate me.

At the end of 2019 and the brink of 2020, I only have one firm resolution:

Be less devastated by uncertainty. Look around. Move forward. Repeat.

Reader, I'm often filled with doubt and fear.  The voices in my head are loud. Will I be able to afford the healthcare our kids need? Will I earn enough money to record an album this year? Will my restaurant survive?  And I don't know the answers. I can already feel that some chapters are about to close.

But I do know that the clouds will pass, and the horizon goes on forever. What feels murky now will become clear later.  And I'm putting my faith in that beautiful phenomenon.  Wishing you the happiest New Year.  See you in 2020. -Em

Fueling the Fire  

Merry Christmas Eve, Reader.  I've had a week full of ups and downs, mostly ups.  Last night, I hosted my restaurant staff at the house.  We laughed, we ate, and we ended up in a sauna. My team works so hard for me, and it felt good to work hard for them. 

Tonight is Christmas Eve, and I'll be creating the magic of Santa for my kids.  We'll be leaving out the carrots for the reindeer, and my husband will leave ashy boot-prints from the fireplace to the chimney. They believe in it all so much, and I find myself excited to feed their enthusiasm.

Tomorrow for Christmas, I'll be cooking again for my restaurant guests.  I'm serving holiday deviled eggs and chestnut tiramisu, amongst other things. As much as I'm tired, I'm looking forward to spending time feeding our neighborhood.

Cliché as it is, giving to others from a place of gratitude doesn't tap my energy supply at all.  I'm fueled by it. As we get closer to the end of the year, I look forward to using this energy in every way I can.  I've never felt so simultaneously tired and energized in my life.  Giving begets giving.  I wish you this same feeling this week.  Merry Christmas to you and yours. -Em