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All That I Want

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

It’s been awhile, but I’ve written a new song.

I love this description of the creative process, especially because it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who experiences #3 and #4. Actually, I tend to get stuck there – which is probably why I finish so few creative endeavors these days.

But I pushed myself to finish this one, and even though I want to apologize for its imperfections, I’m making myself share it. Even if it’s just a work tape and even if my guitar skills are bad and even if I’m not sure about certain parts SEE I NEED TO STOP APOLOGIZING AND JUST PUT IT OUT THERE.

Because you guys are safe, right? Thanks for listening.

Duluth

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

This past summer, I helped run a singer-songwriter contest at work. This was one of the entries.

Is that guy Minnesota or what?

Gabriel Douglas wound up being one of the winners of the contest, and I met him in San Diego when he opened for Gregory Alan Isakov. His personality is bigger than life (as is his beard); he’s like a caricature of himself. He’s out of control. And since he makes me laugh A LOT, we became fast friends.

When we met, one of the first things he said to me was, “Duluth is the greatest city in the world.” Duluth. Duluth, Minnesota. The song above is about Duluth, Minnesota. And geographical chauvinist that I am, I knew that this could not possibly be true – Gabe Douglas must be very sheltered. Minnesotans must never get out.

Those humble Midwesterners – they’re so precious.

But when a work trip took me to Minneapolis last week, I decided to make the jaunt north on Friday night to hear one of Gabe’s bands play in – you guessed it – Duluth.

And I loved it.

Duluth is nestled on the shore of Lake Superior, built right up on a hillside. When I-35 dropped down toward the city, the lights were sparkling on the water and the stars were bright as flashbulbs. I used all of my hotel points for a room on the waterfront, and then walked up the hill to the little downtown strip.

We spent most of the evening at Tycoons, a bar/restaurant that used to be the City Hall, with a speakeasy in the basement that used to be the town jail, all “Not in Nottingham” style. Since Gabe was my only friend and he was busy being the Most Popular Man in Duluth, I made friends with the locals. By the time the show was over, I’d social butterflied my way around town, crashing into bed at 3am because Duluth makes you wild and crazy.

The next morning involved a stroll along the water, coffee at a bakery called Amazing Grace, and – once again – the confirmation that my assumptions aren’t always right. Of all places, I can’t wait to go back to Duluth, Minnesota. It charmed me.

[And speaking of charming, listen to this song Gabe wrote for his niece on her 3rd birthday. It's magic. You’ll be happy the rest of the day.]

Like family

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Okay. I’m back. I’ve begrudgingly re-entered Real Life after being whisked away for a week in Never-Neverland – that is, a week in California with Gregory Alan Isakov and a related cast of characters.

You know the situation – LÄRABAR held a singer-songwriter contest and three artists won a chance to open for Greg – and since this project was my baby, I flew west to manage the shows. We started in San Diego, then moved up to LA, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco. We wound up the PCH, and I visited San Francisco for the first (but surely not the last) time. I got some much-needed quality time with my sister-in-law, Ashley. And all week long, I fell more and more head-over-heels for my new friends – the contest winners, the Kris Orlowski guys, and of course, Sir GAI and his band.

There is something about getting away from the day-to-day routine that snaps you out of bad habits and ruts. It opens up the horizon and awakens possibility. It reveals fears and insecurities and the places where you grasp for control. And as one of these dear new friends reminded me one night, the thing that you’re clinging most tightly to is probably the thing you most need to let go of.

He’s right, you know. The only way to receive anything is to open your hands.

I’m back in Denver now, and opening up Outlook crumpled my soul like a piece of paper. Email is a hazard of any job, I know – it just feels particularly cruel after such a rejuvenating time AWAY from it.

I’m so sad that this project is over. But last week slapped my heart awake, and I’m just really thankful that it happened at all. I can’t pretend to know how or why it made me feel this way, but here it is: I trust that there is so much good ahead.

In the meantime, check out the pictures from the shows, captured by the one and only Ashley Parsons:
San Diego
Santa Barbara
San Francisco

On Friday night when the goodbyes were happening and I was dreading walking away, Greg hugged me and said, “This feels like family.” And it did.

The best kind of busy

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

I don’t write a ton about my day-to-day goings on at work, but trust me when I say they are many, and they are crazy. My to-do list never ends, and my schedule never stops. I know I’m not alone when I say this, but still: I am busy all the time.

Luckily, I like a lot of my projects, and none more so than THIS.

LARABAR Simple Singer-Songwriter Contest

[It’s okay, I’ll wait. Check out the link and then come back.]

Okay. Is this right in my wheelhouse or what?

First of all, if you don’t know who Gregory Alan Isakov is, you need to change that right now. He’s an amazing talent, and a great guy, to boot. He has a new record out called “The Weatherman,” and it’s all I see people talking about in my Facebook newsfeed this week. It’s really, really good – and I’m lucky enough to be joining him for 3 tour dates in August when the LÄRABAR contest winners perform during his shows.

Do you want in on this? Here are a few ways you can be involved:

1)      If you’re a singer-songwriter (and I know a lot of you are!), enter the contest. We want to hear your songs – and if you win, you’ll be hanging out with me in California next month (the real prize, let’s be honest).

2)      If you’re not a singer-songwriter, pass the contest along to anyone you know who is.

3)      If you live in California, get tickets to GAI’s San Diego, Santa Barbara, or San Francisco show – and let me know you’ll be there, because I’d like to hug you. I’ll probably be at the Los Angeles show, too.

4)      If you live anywhere else in the US or Canada, go see GAI. He’s touring all over this summer, and you’ll love him.

I’m busy. But this project is the best kind of busy. In the midst of the stress and the chaos, I feel really lucky to have the chance to work on something fun, something that makes me happy.

Ins-and-outs

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Lately, I’ve been using this space for a lot of personal processing, and just realized that I’ve neglected to update you on some of my actual goings-on. Yes, I am just that pompous to believe that the world is desperate to know about the ins-and-outs of my everyday life – so without further ado…

1) I cut off my hair: 10+ inches on the salon floor, leaving me feeling like a sassmuffin. My hair hasn’t been this short since 2008, and I’m ready to go even shorter next time.

2) It’s hard to tell what’s been the worst expenditure of the past week: head gasket repair, new clutch, 4 new tires, bill from the ER, or dental work. When it rains, it pours. And I cry.

3) If you want to believe in magic, watch “Searching for Sugar Man.” I haven’t been so captivated by a documentary in ages.

4) Today, I’m wearing a grandma shirt. No really, it used to be my grandma’s. It’s a red and black silk houndstooth print with a high neck and puffed long sleeves that cinch at the wrists. It’s the most old lady thing in the world, and I kind of love it.

5) Lissie’s cover of “You Can Go Your Own Way” is haunting and beautiful and completely transformative of the original. And I know what you’re thinking: you wonder if this means that I saw the movie “Safe Haven.” And the answer is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

6) The things I am currently most looking forward to: eating here in March, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity next weekend, and Greta’s arrival tomorrow night. Praise be.

Wherever you are, I hope that it’s warmer than it is right now in Denver. Someone put me on a beach so fast.

Joy to the World Wide Web

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Thanks to our office Christmas lunch yesterday afternoon, I had the chance to spring out of work early and take myself on my standard 9-mile walk.

Wearing my new Patagonia Nano Puff jacket (which is the perfect weight and warmth for winter in Denver), I booked it from Sunnyside down through LoHi, across the Highlands to Sloan’s Lake. I looped the lake just in time to look back and see this sunset.

Given that the only daylight I see anymore is on my drive to work in the morning, witnessing this was a rare gift.

As I turned toward home and the light faded from the sky, I had the thought that an amazing(ly horrible) holiday album would be “Jolly Old St. Nickelback.” And as is the case with ALL of my genius ideas (trust me, there are plenty), I posted that very thought on Facebook this morning.

Little did I know that my friends would take it to a whole new level.

With a little help from my friends, I present to you:

Holiday Albums That Should (Never) Happen
What Destiny’s Child Is This?
We Three Kings of Leon
Mary J. Blige, Did You Know?
Santa Babyface
O Come All Ye Faith Hill
The Friendly Beastie Boys
The First No-LMFAO
It Came Upon a Midnight Everclear
Deck the Hall and Oats
Little Drummer Boyz II Men
O Come O Come EmmanuElton John

Joy to the World Wide Web, y’all. And joy to your Wednesday.

Tuesday love

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

BOOK
I just finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  I can’t tell you what this book did to my heart.  I can tell you that wherever life takes me next, I’m going on a major backpacking trip first.  If you know me at all, you’ve already heard me talk about it.

SONG
Say what you will about Taylor Swift’s latest album, but I can tell you this: “All Too Well” is classic Taylor, and it hits me in the gut.

QUOTE
“How we spend our minutes is how we spend our lives.”  I don’t know who’s credited with coining that phrase, but it’s hitting home for me these days.  I want to spend my minutes well – which means, ugh, maybe I need to stop watching “Dawson’s Creek” on Netflix.

PLAN
I recently volunteered to be bumped from a flight in exchange for a travel voucher.  I’ve decided that I want to use it on a solo vacation somewhere peaceful in early 2013.  Requirements: a beach, a kitchen, and plenty of quiet.  Any ideas for where I should go?

May I know whose hand I’m in

Monday, October 1st, 2012

On September 18th, we lost my grandma to pancreatic cancer.  She was diagnosed back in July, and even though we knew that death was coming, it still felt very sudden.

This past Saturday, we laid her to rest in Richland, WA, and then celebrated her life during a 2-hour service at the church she had attended nearly her entire life.  My grandma was widely loved, and the hundreds of people in attendance were confirmation of her gigantic sphere of influence.  She lived her life so well.

This weekend, I was reminded of what it means to be part of a family – the complicated parts and the beautiful parts, the uncertainties, the joys.  To belong to a family means you’re going to laugh and you’re going to cry and you’re going to roll your eyes – and sometimes, you’re going to do all three at once.  Especially when you’re all sharing the 15-passenger church van.

Anyone who knows me (or has visited this site for any length of time) knows that these days, my family looks different than I ever anticipated.  Maybe you feel the same way about your family.  Maybe things have not turned out the way that you planned.  Maybe you assumed one thing with such certainty that your new, unexpected reality causes nothing less than an internal shriek.

Family members were missing.  We are broken and incomplete.  This weekend held moments that were so potent with reminders of the way that things used to be, and will never be again.

People are quick to glibly label those feelings “nostalgia” – but that’s absurd.  These feelings are more important than that.  The lament and longing that come from the loss of a former life that molded you into who you are today are no small matter.

When I was dropped off at the airport yesterday, I told my mom and our friend Sharon, “Going back to Denver feels really lonely.”  And it did – it does.  I left my family members and the town in which I was born, and flew back to Colorado alone.  When I landed, I took the shuttle to the long-term lot where I’d left my Subaru, and headed back toward the city.

As I drove, I remembered that I was missing a show that I had initially planned on attending.  Peter Bradley Adams is one of my favorite songwriters – maybe even my soul mate.  Probably.  Is he married?  Let’s look into this.

PBA writes some of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and I was crushed to be missing his show in Denver.  So I turned on his music, and listened to a song about the loss of place and of belonging – the loss of what was, what might have been, what can never be again.

And yet, his words have a hopeful, trustful bent: “If I wander ‘til I die, may I know whose hand I’m in.”

Of all of the ways I would like to be like her, this is the greatest: all the way to her death, my grandma knew whose hand she was in.  And prone to wander as I am, I hope to continue this legacy.

What I’m loving

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Everybody loves things. These are the things that I’m loving right now.

To kick us off to a boring start, I’ll tell you that I love a water bottle. But listen, this isn’t just ANY water bottle – it’s the Nathan Quickdraw Plus. It has a hand strap so I can take it on my 9-mile walks, and a pouch big enough for an iPhone and a set of keys. In short, it’s a life-saver – probably literally, since without water, I would surely die.

A few weeks ago, we cracked open a bottle of Isabela Malbec, and it ushered the kingdom of heaven right there into our living room. If you see this wine out in the wild, buy it. Spend the $12.99 and feel like a champion. I found it at Fairfax Wine & Spirits on Colfax (attached to Marczyk Fine Foods).

Last weekend, I bought the “Embroidered Eyelet Blouse” (its given, Christian name) at Anthropologie on sale for $39.99, and good grief, I love this shirt.

The Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” is my current favorite song. The first time I heard it on the radio, I cranked it loud – because even if I had never heard it before, the song just feels so good. Then I listened to the words, and felt my heart grow three sizes bigger. The video is a little cheesy, but sorry, that’s country music for you. At least they have a scene where they’re rocking in an alley with sparks flying behind them – a personal dream of mine (can someone arrange this?).

And while we’re on the subject of country music, Jason Aldean‘s “Fly Over States” is killer. Never have I so badly wanted to be blue collar. We all know that in a parallel universe, I’m a truck driver.

And finally, anyone who makes me laugh – you are my favorite.

“Loved Louisiana”

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Ugh, don’t you love songs about regret? It’s the worst kind of feeling, and the best kind of song – the twist of the knife, the sailed ship, the too little too late.

Right now, I’m in a season in which I’m thinking about the big picture – the whole of a life – the decisions we make today that could change the course of everything else. It’s a lot of pressure and weight – and I don’t like it, because I don’t trust myself to not royally screw everything up.

Ultimately, it pushes me to realize that I’m not in control (and thank God).

But my subconscious is still ruminating on the truth that our decisions have consequences – for better or for worse. And my creative endeavors – the elements of my personal life woven into sometimes fictional stories – are somewhat reflecting this.

Back in September, I was driving from Seattle to Denver. Somewhere near Bozeman, driving 80mph, I just kind of ran over this song. A chorus tumbled out quickly, and the rest of the drive was spent singing words and phrases and piecing them together like a jigsaw puzzle.

When I arrived in Denver, “Loved Louisiana” was finished.

As always, it feels scary to share. But I hope you like it.

[I've taken the track down for now. Maybe you'll hear it again someday.]

Recorded with Calvin Locklear in Palmer Lake, Colorado.