Don't Wait To Be Happy 

I've started a new kind of writing project with a friend of mine. We spent the weekend brainstorming (and also drinking a new concoction we invented: gin, ginger beer, and carrot juice.  I highly recommend it).  Writing with her was the most alive I've felt in a long time.  That "lightning in your veins" feeling is special.  It makes you feel unstoppable.  

 
Unless you stop to think about it.  And if your brain tells you that you're not good enough to do it, then "I'm so happy" becomes "I'm no good" almost instantly.
 
I nearly let myself go dark about the project.  Imposter syndrome started kicking in something fierce.  But then I stopped to think about what my daughter would do.  She's been taking skating lessons recently. She often says that she's not "good" yet, but she's not waiting around until she's good to be happy.  She falls on the ice and gets back up again and delights in the whole clumsy experience.  
 
As usual, I find myself learning from my kids.
 
Reader, we don't have to wait to enjoy our endeavors until we're good at them.  We can enjoy being beginners. We can enjoy being mediocre.  We can enjoy every awkward step along the way.  This week, let's remember life is for joy, at every stage in the game.  Leap with glee in the direction of your passion. Wishing you happiness at whatever place you're at in your journey this week.  See you next Monday. -Em

Guilt Begone 

It’s taken the majority of my life, but I’ve come to the revelation that nothing good in life comes from being hard on ourselves.  Literally nothing. 

This week, I failed at everything I tried to accomplish when I was putting emotional pressure on myself.   For example, I’m in an on-line music recording class, and it frankly isn’t going well.  Not because of the class, but because of me.  I’ve been mentally flogging myself through the whole experience.  So it’s no wonder I’m not “progressing.”

In contrast, when I try to accomplish a task by seeking joy, it’s almost always successful.  At my restaurant, we had another amazing wine dinner. And it’s because the entire event was put forth by trying to feel and create joy for my team and our guests.

I think I tend to have more success at the restaurant than I do in my music career lately because my relationship with my restaurant is to lift it up, whereas my relationship with myself is to put down.  That can’t be good. Time for a new inner dialogue.

Reader, if you’re also the kind of person with an inner voice that makes you feel bad, let’s try to quiet it down, ok?  We’re not here for that.  This week, let's seek the same joy for ourselves that we do for others, and see what magic comes from it.  I’ll see you next Monday. -Em

The Dining Room of Life 

I was up early on Wednesday morning.  I had a lot to do to get ready for my birthday open mic at the restaurant, including baking myself a cake.  As I was walking through the dining room with a bowl of chocolate frosting, a kind-faced woman asked me if I was the owner.  I said yes, and I got to chatting with her and her father. Her name is Linda. I could tell that these people were kindred spirits. We talked about the open mic and Norway and Rockford. After 10 minutes of what felt like catching up with old friends, she mentioned that her wife—Melissa—would love the place.

And her wife is Melissa Etheridge. Shockwaves ran through my body.  

Even more unbelievable: Linda came back for the open mic.  It was already a magical night of music and poetry and community.  But then Linda not only got on stage to contribute to the night, but she also called her wife, and I got to talk to Melissa Etheridge on the phone.  I honestly don’t remember much of what was said.  But she talked briefly about the law of attraction, and now I’m even more of a fan, if that’s possible. Best birthday ever.

Even if I hadn’t talked to Melissa, it always restores my faith in the universe when I meet someone that feels like I’ve known forever, and Linda is just that. I ended up spending another night with Linda and our friends and family, and it’s like I reconnected with a long-lost cousin. 

Reader, the moral of my week is this: keep your head up when you’re walking through the dining room of life. You never know when you might meet a kindred spirit.  I’ll see you next Monday. -Em

Repurpose Yourself 

Yesterday was my birthday, and it also happened to be the Grammys. I pulled out my high school prom dress and called a few girlfriends (who also pulled out their prom dresses), and we got together in my basement and made an insane, cornball night of it. 

It’s funny to think that the initial purpose of that dress was for me to feel confident at an awkward dance with my boyfriend when I was 17.  And yesterday, its purpose was to squeeze around my old body while I drank champagne and danced around with women. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose and how important it is to let the purpose—of ourselves, our creations, and truly everything—change. My hands that once played concerts every week in Chicago are spending the bulk of their time raising kids and a restaurant in Rockford, Illinois.  But as long as my hands can still serve a purpose, they should.  Our meaning and the meaning of the world around us is forever moving.  No one is here to serve just one purpose, and there’s no need to fear when our purpose morphs.

Last night, Tracy Chapman’s song “Fast Car”—which she wrote decades ago to express herself—was repurposed by Luke Combs.  Her quiet creation from years ago is once again an anthem.  I loved watching it take on a different life.  Reader, as we go through our week, let’s not forget the power of changing purpose. There’s freedom in allowing ourselves and our things to take on new meaning. I’ll see you next Monday. -Em

Use The Good Plates & Shake Your Knockers 

This week, we have a lot of birthdays in my family, including my Grandma Ruth’s. She lived to be 96, and she had an incredible sense of humor.  I learned a lot from her. She was classy and refined; we always ate on her good plates. And she also got a kick out of shaking her knockers at the kitchen table on Saturday mornings while drinking Cherry Kijafa out of a coffee cup.

Because that’s the beauty of life: you get to be everything—elegant and bawdy—all at once. 

This has been a challenging week for me.  I’m more stressed than I’ve been in a bit. And it’s only tonight that I realize the problem: I’m limiting myself to one feeling.  I need to channel my Grandma Ruth.

Yes, I’m sad about so much in the world, and I’m still mourning the loss of a friend. But I’m also happy with my little family.  I miss playing concerts, but I’m also fulfilled by watching my restaurant team flourish. I’m cruel and kind and breezy and rigid and heartless and a great big softy, all at once.

Reader, it can feel like dissonance to have a lot of these wildly different feelings at the same time.  But we don’t have to be just one thing or have just one feeling.  This week, I’m going to let myself have a little more freedom to be all over the place. And I invite you to do the same. You can be an upbeat person who’s feeling down. You can be a serious person who needs to be a goof ball.  You can be a health nut who likes to binge on corn nuts (she types as she crunches on corn nuts). Let's just do what we need to do this week and embrace our spectrums.  I’ll see you next Monday. -Em 

The Ingrid Effect 

For the first time in my life, I’m throwing myself a birthday party.  Because life is short.

And you’re invited to it. It’s happening at my restaurant—The Norwegian—on February 7th from 6 pm to 9 pm.  It’ll take place during our Open Mic, and the cost of admission is an unopened hygiene item (shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc) to donate to local charities that need those supplies. The bar will be open and bar snacks will be free. 

I’m also going to bake myself a cake.  Because life is short.

Reader, I lost a dear friend last week, and I’m still trying to find words.  Her name was Ingrid Graudins.  She happened to be a very gifted songwriter and singer, but I just knew her as my pal who did everything with depth.  She listened with depth.  She spoke with depth.  She cared with depth.  And so I guess it makes sense that I’m missing her deeply.   

But I’m channeling my grief and my love for Ingrid into action.  I’m taking every chance I can to love and celebrate and work for others, and also for myself. I invite you to do the same. Whatever you do this week, may you do it with love, and with the depth of Ingrid.

Because—as her death has painfully reminded me—life is short.

See you next Monday. -Em

Give Yourself Space From Your Creations 

Tonight, there’s a -35 wind chill in Rockford, Illinois.  If you live in this region, I hope you’re safe and warm. 

I played my first show of 2024 yesterday at Anderson Gardens.  It was -9 outside, and I wasn’t looking forward to loading up in the cold. But the venue was full of kind people, and I was playing in the sunshine, and by the end of the show, I was almost sweating.  And I was happier than I’ve been in a long time.

Because it was a three-hour gig, I dusted off some of my older songs to fill out the set. I don’t usually play the old tunes; they historically make me cringe.  But yesterday, they did the opposite.  I loved them again.  They didn’t sound bad to me at all.  And I had a revelation: they were always good tunes…I just needed to give myself some space from them to see them in a good light again.

Reader, if there’s something you’ve made or are working on that’s making you feel the blehs, don’t forget the power of walking away from it for a while.  Sometimes we need to see our creations at a different time and in a different place (and apparently at a much colder temperature) to appreciate them again. 

Wishing you a week of warmth.  Be kind to your mind.  See you next Monday. -Em

Train Rides 

Our family got back Sunday from a train trip to Glenwood Springs.  Taking the Amtrak was a breathtaking way to see the Rockies, and as nice as it was to get to where we were heading, my favorite part of the trip was the ride

It was a nice metaphor to start 2024.

Reader, in life, we spend a lot of time setting goals about what we want to do and where we want to end up. I just made my list for 2024, and I plan on sticking to it.  But this train trip was a solid reminder that we don’t need to wait to enjoy life until we get where we’re going.  I know it’s been said a million times in a million different ways, but it really is true: the journey is the thing. 

Enjoy the ride this week. See you next Monday. -Em

Raise Your Hand 

Happy New Year, Reader! It was a bumpy finish, but I made it through 2023.  If you’re reading this, then you made it through, too.  Cheers to all of us for persisting and living to see another year begin.

Two days ago, we took the kids to see the Harlem Globetrotters.  My son is a basketball freak, and we got seats close to the court.  Before the game started, the players called out to the crowd, asking who was the biggest superfan.  My son raised his hand and started jumping up and down.  They saw him, called him onto the court, gave him a signed jersey, let him try to make a free throw shot, then they all hit the griddy at half court.  It was a big, magical day for him.

And all because he raised his hand.

Reader, my son inspired me. As we head into 2024, I’m leaving behind everything in my life that has kept me from raising my hand, and I invite you to do the same.  Life is too short not to jump up and down at every opportunity that comes our way. 

I’m happily typing on a plane bound to Denver where my little family and I are taking a train to Glenwood Springs. I’ve got a notebook to finish up some songs.  The kids are reading Berenstain Bears, and my husband and mother are snoring away.  It’s a peaceful start to 2024.  I’ll tell you all about it next Monday.  Wishing you a courageous start to a new year. -Em

 

War And Peace 

My restaurant’s Snømarket is OVER.  It was our hardest one yet.  I spent all weekend buying, skinning, and curing salmon. After a late night breaking down a hundred pounds of it, I woke up on Saturday with fish scales in my ears.

Not glamorous. Not easy. But worth every fishy minute.

Reader, when I started a restaurant 5 years ago, I never thought I would fight so hard for it in so many bizarre ways.  But here I am, fighting for my team, my community, my way of life, and I have such a sense of purpose.  I’ve never slept more peacefully.  It feels amazing to believe in something that isn’t me and want to work for it.  War and peace feel like they go hand in hand tonight.

I won’t be writing next week because it’s Christmas.  But please know that I’m wishing you a peaceful holiday, and also something to fight for.   Merry Christmas! -Em