Showing posts with label let that songbird go. Show all posts
Showing posts with label let that songbird go. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Little Things


I've got a lot to do right now. That's it, really. And at this moment in time it's particularly tricky because “right now” does not mean right this minute, nor does it even mean today, or tomorrow. “Right now” means sometime in the next several to 6 months, or a year....or as long as it takes if I'm not done by then.

I'm at the final stages of recording a new album that I'm terribly excited about, and working on my strategy for promoting that to the best of my ability. I've got another musical side project on its way to making an awesomely magical debut very soon, and am working to update my internet presence so that I am representing myself and my art in a manner that is pleasing to me. I'm beginning to write more, about things, like this, for you (and me). I'm working on fulfilling Kickstarter rewards for the incredible backers that have made SO much possible for me, and booking a North East tour for October. I'll be back home in Washington soon for two weeks playing shows and doing photo shoots, and am working on the finishing touches of a music video that I shot and edited all by myself. I have a new desktop computer, and a laptop and hard drive that are still a complete organizational nightmare. I'm rather desperate not to let that spill over, which is exactly what it will do if I don't get the system into place NOW that I haven't been able to come up with for the last 4 years. I'm maintaining a photography business and expanding my experience and presence as a photographer, one requisite of which is learning a daunting new editing program for the PC, and dealing with the thousands of neglected photos piling up from musical performances and the like. I have no less than 11 creative sites that need to be fed with content in some sort of regular and inspired fashion, and am in two weekly songwriting groups that each demand something musical and at least 2 minutes long every 7 days. I also have a growing list of songs that have (alarmingly) never been recorded (dating back to Forever), and need to be before I lose them. Right now the number is somewhere in the 60's. That doesn't count any of the projects we're working on around the house, or my song book, or my renewed motivation to make more things from scratch in the kitchen, eliminating more cans, bottles, and plastic packaging. The list does, indeed, go on.

None of that has to be done Right Now, and I kind of wish it did. I can work miracles with a deadline; I can barely work, period, without one.

The Motto:

LITTLE THINGS ADD UP (and make a big difference).

That's how you get statistics like “Each year, Americans throw away 138 billion straws and stirrers” (The Green Book, Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigan), which is truly unfathomable (as are most of the statistics in that book). So many tasks feel like scaling the side of a cliff rather than climbing the steps of the Eiffel Tower. I find myself skirting frantically around the base, looking for any step at all that will get me just a little bit higher, and being discouraged when I can't find one. The hardest part of doing anything for me is breaking it down into things I can actually DO, boxes I can actually check off of a list. “Organize your f%*king computer” just doesn't cut it, and won't, no matter how many times I write it down. Recording 60 songs is a tremendously daunting task, but recording one song sounds lovely. I can even break that down into __ choose song (check), __ practice song (check), __ record song (check!). It's that thing you hear about people not going to school because it will take too long to get a degree: the time will pass anyway. The next two months will pass anyway, and if I can record a song a day (hello new iphone!) from that list then, by jove, come September 16th I will be done (and insanely proud of myself).

The Other Motto:

DO IT SCARED (and badly, if you have to).

If you're afraid of something now, you're likely going to be scared of it until you do it. Sometimes that sucks, but I really think it's just the way it is. I don't know how many times I've finally brought myself to do something just to find out that there were a whole lot of other surprise prerequisites that I could have been working on in the meantime, had I known. I'll admit, I'm scared of pretty much everything in some way or another, but really most of it comes down to the unknown, and the unknown comes down to trust. There's never a promise of how things will turn out. We can only do our best to decrease the margin of error between what we want to happen and what happens. It's a beautiful chaos, the paths we all carve from the fabric of earth and space and time, and the manner with which we choose to traverse them. Sometimes I'm exhausted and asleep in the ditch, or somewhere near it, and other times I'm dancing like a wild woman, kicking up heels and dirt into the sky.

I can't be so afraid of making mistakes. It's paralyzing. We all mess up, but we still have to venture bravely forth. That's why I'm going to post this in a minute and not hide it away in a folder on my desktop.

Here's to the little things, the small victories. May they always add up. 

*The magical work of art above was painted by Brittany Beug, and is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Underneath It All

Untouched raw photo by FireMakeupArtistry by Jessi Pagel
...And then I got my hair and make up professionally done and had a really good photographer take pictures of me. Only the second time in my life THAT'S ever happened, the first being when I was eleven years old. I've had a whole 21 years since then to solidify and further complicate the relationship between who I actually am and who my self image thinks I am. I think for most of us there's a world of difference.

I wanted to write about the experience because it really seemed to have an impact on people seeing me like this, and I was somewhat overwhelmed by how many of you expressed a preference for me as I usually look—i.e. without make up, and I was really touched by it. I understand what you mean. Yes, I look really, really “sexy”—in one shot I think I look a lot like Julia Roberts, in another Natalie Portman, but only in the ones I didn't consider necessarily attractive did I look at all like Me.

We love people for their quirks, for the familiarity of the lines on their face, their smiles, the comfort and confidence we feel in who they are. Many of you didn't recognize me at all in this picture, including my own mother. Some face paint, lighting, a lens and some talent and we can be anyone we want to be—which I think can be really good for us, in moderation (like all good things in life).

I think it's important for us to play, to take on roles, to make ourselves the creative canvas sometimes. It reminds me that people only “see” what's on the outside, and guess what? If people see me like I am in this picture they're guaranteed to have a different impression of me than if they saw the “normal” me. That's neither good or bad; is just is. It's a tool, to be used for creativity, for strength, for fun, for growth, as long as it doesn't take you over, as long as you can come back down and remember who you are underneath it all.

A lot of us learned, through some means or another, that wanting and enjoying the spotlight makes us selfish or full of ourselves. I'm not sure what it will take for me to get over this one, but having a really amazing photo shoot done felt like a really healthy and positive step in the right direction. I mean, let's face it: I'm building a career that revolves around being, quite literally, in the spotlight, and the more I can learn to be comfortable and truly enjoy it the better an experience it will be for the people supporting me.

I'll admit, even looking totally not like myself I still felt wholly vulnerable in front of the camera.  I asked Sanjay to please not take any shots of my knees from the side, and looking over the photos find myself cringing at many a wrinkles, hairs, teeth and, yes, my knees. It's exhausting isn't it? The curse that each of us carries to scrutinize every tiny part of our incredibly magical and amazing bodies? There has to come a point of surrender, that I'm still working hard towards. I've learned enough to know that no one—like, NO one—is paying any attention to my knees, unless, of course, they hate theirs too. They'll be looking then, but unless they hate theirs in the very same way I hate mine, they aren't going to see what I see. No. One. Cares.  But me. What's the point?

I'm very familiar with the wide spectrum of feelings I have inhabiting this body, going about my business in the world with it, looking in the mirror at it. A lot of people think I'm really beautiful, and a good person, and I do my best to see myself that way, just as I want the beautiful people in my life to see themselves as I do. I catch glimpses here and there, and I'm grateful to all of you for that, yet there is no one in the world that sees us the way we each do on our darkest days. Perhaps we're not really as terrible as we think we are......? It's a noble idea.

I was relieved when I washed my face at the end of that day to find both that mine was still there—wrinkles, freckles and all—and that I was happy to see it. I know many of you were too.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Today is the Only Day

The prompt for my photo group today is a word to live by.  This is for them.  I’ve also been reading about Christine Kane’s idea of going into the new year with focus on a single word that resonates with you and will keep you focused and grounded.  Thinking about that, there are a few that come to mind.  Here are those thoughts.

Kindness?  That covers a lot of it.  The world needs more.  Very few of us are truly kind to ourselves, even if we’re very kind to others.  And who hasn’t experienced a random act of kindness in your day that brings tears to your eyes and reminds you of the inherent goodness of peoplekind.  And the best part?  There is no gesture too small.  Kindness covers a lot.

What about Intention?  How much of the world goes around just because that’s the way it is and very few people feel they can do anything about it?  Sometimes we get lucky, sometimes we get broken.  We do things out of obligation, we do things out of reaction.  We do things because we’re too afraid to try something else.  We say and do things we don’t mean.  Intention means pointing yourself in the right direction.  Isn’t that huge?  What if we truly set our intentions, and then acted in their best interest?  Miracles, that’s what.

Speaking of Miracles.....that could certainly be my word.  How is it not a miracle that seeds grow, that music in made, that people fall in love?  Magic is all around us all the time, in such vast totality that we lose sight of it.  What if we never forgot?  What if we always remembered that magic is the very life that flows through us?

Action?  All of us dream, at least if we let ourselves, but so many dreams lie dormant and un-nurtured due to all sorts of unhealthy things.  I think all the time about what I need to be doing to move my career forward, or get to that next step, or for God’s sake beat the odds.  I also think all the time about those emails I need to write, that friend I need to call, or that Thank You card I need to send.  I spend a lot of energy on positive affirmations and imagining what the successes I want will feel like, but all that doesn’t do a lot of good unless I act on them.  Nothing is going to fall into my lap.  Things aren’t going to do themselves, and things undone weigh on me, bringing all sorts of yuckiness with them.  

I’m afraid of my wasted time.  I’m afraid of waking up without fear because only then can I truly regret all the days I let it rule me.  If I never wake up then I don’t know it’s a dream.  

Whatever word I choose, whatever word you choose--today is the day to live by it.  Today is the only day.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 5

Well, it’s Day 5.  I lost count of how many times people were surprised when my sweetie would tell them he was heading out on a seven week long adventure--without me.  They were not necessarily surprised that he would do it, but surprised that I would “let him.”  Not only would I let him--not that it’s at all my place to allow, or not allow, him to do things anyway--but I pushed for it.  Sure I miss him like hell already, but who’s to say that we can’t enjoy that?  Who’s to say that the missing isn’t beautiful?  I let him take this trip, because my most important job as a loving partner and friend is to notice what makes his heart light up, and encourage whatever that might be.  

And yes, I chose to stay home.  I chose the 100 degree heat, the 8 foot tall weeds, the fire ants and the empty house, because along with that I also chose chickens, a Nana cat, and a big blank canvas with very few distractions on which to focus a driven and tremendous desire to get “caught up,” and to create.  

Creation isn’t just about making art; it’s about learning to see art in the everyday things that you do.  When I wrestle the 8 Foot Jungle in the backyard, I’m creating; when I do dishes and fold laundry and put together Goodwill boxes, I’m creating; when I organize my studio, I’m creating--even if it’s just space; space is good.  And of course there’s photography, preparation for the record I’ll be making in December, and about 300 other creative ideas that were gleaned from a giant hand-me-down stack of Country Living and Martha Stewart magazines.  My boy is allowed to be a tiny bit terrified by that (but he’ll also be happy that I used “gleaned” in a sentence for the very first time :)

I just feel like I’m constantly daydreaming about having it all....all the TIME, that is.  All that precious time that nobody quite feels they have enough of.  And right now?  I have a bunch, and by jove I’m not wasting a drop of it.  (Ok, maybe a few drops.)  In fact, I’ve taken the daily To-Do List to a whole new level by creating a system in which every task is assigned a point value.  Even the daily things like watering the garden and cleaning the kitty litter get points, so that even if all I do in a day is take good care of the living parts of our household, well, that’s worth something.  (So far today has nothing on yesterday’s whopper: I clocked in--or out--at 1:15am with 51 :)

I know it’s easy when we’re in long term loving relationships to begin forgetting, or even fearing, who we are without the other person, but I think it’s important to remember, and to embrace it.  The better for us to grow; the better for us to be able to truly support one another, without being afraid of growing apart.  There’s always risk in growth, but I believe wholeheartedly that to really be alive we must take it.  

So here’s to friendship, love, life and adventure; may we know when it’s best to “allow” them.  I must go now to feed the Nana cat and give ice and treats to little chickens.  And yes, I get points for that.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Best Day of My Life

I had a memorable cashier at Whole Foods on Sunday, the day before my 31st birthday.  She had a huge smile and was very personable and something about the way she told me to have the best day of my life the following day, like the idea had just struck her and she thought it was the greatest thing, was unforgettable.  It WAS the greatest thing; it IS the greatest thing, that each day we wake up into is where all the action happens.  It’s where all creations are made, where all seeds are sown, where all dreams are dreamed, where all hearts are broken and where all hearts mend.  Every kiss, every laugh, every song, every hug, every cup of coffee and glass of wine, every great conversation, every small thing that matters, all happen Today.

No day is inherently more extraordinary than any other.  Some we can’t wait to get here, some we can’t wait to get gone, and some, well, just seem to go a little unnoticed.  But one thing remains true, the days are exactly what we make them, no more and no less.  We are all creating, all the time.  We are all artists in that way.  Life is a canvas with which to paint our dreams.

I had a really, really wonderful birthday, full of love and gratitude for all of the amazing people (and freakin' sweet new Goodwill dress :) that helped make it so.  I have yet to answer the question, but the first time someone asks me how old I am and the answer is 31...well, it’s gonna be a little weird.  You gotta understand that the baby of five older brothers never gets to be THIRTY-ONE....yet somehow, here I am.  
I’m planning to make this a really big year, full of many of those “someday” dreams that I’m just going to make happen.  Because I want to.  And because, for the first time in my life, I really feel able.  Growing can be scary because we don’t want to look at and admit to all the things we don’t know, and there is so much I don’t know.  But the great news is that I’m surrounded by extraordinary people who have learned the things I want to learn,  who are doing the things I want to do, and who are so generous in their willingness to help me.  

So here continues the journey....that I cherish oh so much.

And today?....

Today is the best day of my life.  For it is the one that I am living.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Life is Precious

This is Nana.  She showed up on a Saturday just before a storm.  We know the neighborhood cats and this wasn’t one of them.  She was relentlessly affectionate and squeaked when she meowed.  There was no collar.  We put out a box and a blanket for her under our covered doorway and went to bed.

In the coming days she rarely left that box.  We would come home after being gone for hours and she was there with her little head peaking up over the edge waiting for us.  We put out food for her while we kept watch for fliers in the neighborhood and continued to check Craigslist for any potential matches.

I started to dread taking her to the vet to check for a microchip.  I took her in; she had one.  I waited tearily on the floor with her while outside the door they discussed the situation (and how sweet a kitty she was) and called the number.  Such an interesting thing, to create such a bond with another little being and then worry that the bond might be permanently broken because they belong to someone else.  Aren’t many broken hearts just like that...

I took her home while they waited to hear back.  I got a call a few hours later saying they had gotten ahold of the people, and then he said a long trail of other words that I wasn’t really paying attention to because I inevitably thought they were leading up to me having to give her back to someone who loved her as I had grown to do.  The string of words instead had to do with many owners since them, an ex-boyfriend who used to live here, Pennsylvania....and ended instead with, “So, she’s your cat.”  He was very happy to give me this news, given my state earlier that morning!

My mom’s dog just showed up one day.  And I can no longer imagine her not having Leti.  They’re best friends, they’re family, and they’re freaking perfect together.  We weren’t in the market for a cat, as much as I’ve been missing my Annabelle back home in Washington.  We’re slow to acquire responsibility, especially when it comes to lives dependent on us.....four little golden dependents have been a good number so far, but this little creature came to us and she’s perfect.  I cried after two days when she was gone for a while and I thought she wasn’t coming back.  

Life is precious.  Living things are precious.  Kindness and the bonds it can make are precious.  The sweet and humble appreciation of the box we put out for Nana in the beginning has changed my life.  We showed her kindness, and when we’re gone that box still remains a symbol of it.  It’s special; it's just for her.  Such an interesting life, going from house to house, owner to owner.  She found us and she found home.  So did we.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Once, when I was feeling down on myself about my accomplishments in life, or lack thereof at the time, I remembered someone who’s life I had profoundly changed.  And it was a new friend, a very recent experience that I was still in the thick of, and it was a huge shift for me.  

There are marks to be made on this world, absolutely, but they don’t always involve winning awards, or getting a certain number of likes on your Facebook page or selling X amount of copies of your new record, or, heaven forbid, winning a Grammy.  These things are great, and we shouldn’t stop working towards what we want, but in the end it’s all about the people whom we have walked beside, maybe for a mile, maybe for a day, maybe just long enough for a story and a smile, maybe ‘til the very end of that long, long road.

I have saved peoples’ lives, I know this.  And some I couldn’t save, I know that too.  But if I’m going to measure myself by accomplishments (a bad habit, but I know we all do it) I’m damn well going to go by the lives I have changed for the better.  We’ve all made profound impacts on people throughout our lives, and what an incredibly beautiful thing about being human.  

Please take a moment to realize all the times you have made someone’s life better, whether it was a shoulder to cry on, good conversation, a giggle fest that just wouldn’t quit, saying “I love you,” “Thank you,” or simply calling them a friend and really meaning it.  These things matter, and much, much more than a lot of things we let get us down.  

If I am at all wise, it’s all my mother’s fault.  I dedicate this to her.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Long and Precious Road

Good things take time, a lot of them.  Not every good-thing-in-the-making gives us a feeling of instant and uplifting gratification.  The darkest hour is right before the dawn... there are a lot of words arranged to convey these kinds of sentiments.

I had a “what if” thought the other night.  What if I’m already doing all the right things?  What if I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing?  I haven’t quite figured out yet how to keep my sights on how far I’ve come, rather than only on how far there is left.  “How far I’ve come” somehow gets smooshed up into a tiny little space when I look back, while “how far I have left to go” stretches out forever, ominous and intimidating, far beyond the horizons I can see.  

When you’ve written down directions to get somewhere, but you’ve forgotten, or didn’t think it was important, to write down the distances between turns, how far do you go sometimes before turning around because you assume you’re going the wrong way?  

It’s always been hard for me to plan.  It’s been hard for me to invest in things that will take 6 months, or a year, or several years.  Up until my early 20’s (and somewhat onwards from there...) I was the queen of the 3 month relationship.  I’m not sure exactly what happened at that point, but the life force of The New exhaled its last breath and I needed the next fix.  

Maybe “fickle female” got to my head.  It was like I didn’t have enough trust in myself to make good decisions about what to invest my time and energy in.  Like the Big Bad Wolf (or Bratty Little Sister....what names do you have for That Part of You?) would have long jumped ship by the time we got there and resent the heck out of me for locking us up in that decision for so long (and I do NOT want to deal with that wrath!).   Like there were two of me: one to make promises and the other one sure to break them sooner or later.  

We are constantly heading in one direction or another and there is no possible promise of security, or success, or happiness, or anything else for that matter, despite how much we do to achieve it.  Do your best to point yourself somewhere good.  Do it every day.  

Then for God’s sake let off the brakes and enjoy the journey.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Answer is Always Right Here

It was in a noisy, crowded bar in Vancouver, BC after playing a show with the political punk band I was in at the time when I heard, and understood for the first time, those words.  

We had taken separate cars up and half the band had gotten times messed up, resulting in a rather frantic and immediate entry to the stage once everyone had arrived.  No sound check.  We just plugged in and went.  Sometimes that’s what you have to do.  

We stayed after to see the other bands, though noisy bars have never been my thing.  I don’t have the ears, or the voice, for it.  I don’t want anyone shouting in my ear, and I don’t want to shout in anyone else’s ear.  It just makes me cough, anyway.

My mind wandered, as it often does in proper pendulum fashion....a wide and graceful slow motion swoop back and forth between past and future.  (Isn’t it inevitable that it has to pass through the present each time?)  

If the grass is always greener on the other side (in the other tense?), then our Selves are always better over there, too.  If we can remove ourselves enough with a projection onto the future then maybe we won’t be burdened by us when the time comes.  If time heals everything then eventually it will just take the parts of us we don’t like away.....right?  Instead of removing the Big Bad Wolf of our ego and judgement, we would rather wait for time to take away everything that provokes it.  Typical ;)

Whatever answers we may seek, we can only find them right here.  This moment.  Even if the journey is 1,000 miles long there becomes here eventually.  Nothing can be discovered outside of now.  In fact....nothing can be said, felt, seen, experienced, feared, sung, drunk, heard, touched, celebrated, broken, destroyed, or even noticed outside of now.  

Once discovered, NOW is a vast and infinite canvas...yet we spend so much of our time trying to create our Life's Masterpiece safely hidden on the edges that don’t really exist.  You have all the room you need to create your incredible and unique work of art.  Don’t worry about taking up someone else’s space.  There is room in the moment for everyone and if we all could get together there, well, I dare say magic might happen.  (And I dare say it does.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Prettiest Girl in the Room

Everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room.”  ~32 Flavors, Ani DiFranco

I think about that line a lot.  Sometimes it’s in the literal sense of how people compare their bodies to others and sometimes it’s more in how we get down on ourselves because of others’ accomplishments and attention.  It all ties together.

It’s true that I have been thin all my life.  And I have pretty much been 5’10” since the 4th grade.  I was the textbook definition of awkwardly scrawny, and still have a knobby knee complex that is truly ridiculous.  Because I tried to eat at least a little bit healthy in school, skipping the unidentifiable parts of high school lunches and going for salads instead, people assumed I was on diets and accused me (light-heartedly?  playfully?) of being anorexic.  (The still-clinging habits I adopted to try and prove people wrong are a whole other story!)

It’s taken me a long time to realize the fact that most of my life people have demonstrated that it’s ok to say things to each other like, “I hate you; you’re so skinny.”  And it’s “ok,” because people think it’s a compliment.  People think that phrases like that actually make someone feel good about themselves.  People think in that sense that if they put themselves down it will boost others up.

It’s completely inappropriate to talk to someone in that manner if they’re overweight, so why on earth is it ok to accuse someone of being under weight?  (And furthermore, when the heck did it become a compliment to tell someone you hate them??)

What’s the message learned from that?  “Shine too bright and you’ll make others around you feel bad about themselves.”  Ouch.  No one wants to do that.  Most people would rather hold themselves back than risk hurting other people and somehow the guilt is lessened if we diminish our light and keep ourselves down.

We need to fix this, in a big way.  We need a new model (take that as you will!).  As best I can figure it out we are all here to be as happy as we possibly can, and you know what?  Joy is beauty!  When we shine our brightest, when we do our best, when we follow our dreams, when we take care of ourselves, when we tell, and show, the world that we are in love with who we are, we help teach others how to do the same.  That’s what the world needs.  That’s a remarkable gift we can give each other. 

You are here to shine, with a light that is yours and only yours.  The world would not be the same without it. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Do Nothing

There are turnaround moments in our lives, some monumental and some mundane.  Sometimes we know without a doubt when we experience one, some take days or months or weeks to catch up to us as such.

Last week I had a quiet night at home with my sweetie.  Neither of us had any plans on the evening, and ended up just doing our own thing, with him in his office and me downstairs.  I’ve been trying hard lately to separate my “work” hours from my “off work” hours (mostly to make sure that I actually have some off work hours!) and that evening I was trying to figure out what to do with the ones I had.

Innocently enough I started looking around the house for little chores I could get done or fun projects I could do, and it began to strike me that everywhere I looked were items or areas taunting me with obligational guilt, i.e. I was completely surrounded by “I should’s.”  It escalated, rather quickly, to the point where I was frantically pacing around the house feeling like I was in one of those horror movie scenes where everywhere the character turns there’s another scary thing in a quick zoom lens knocking them in the face ‘til either they go insane or the camera blacks out.

Seemingly small things had added up to make an overwhelming weight for me, and I was paralyzed to do anything at all about any of them.  I called my mom to try and calm down, and she asked me for an example of the “small things” I was referring to.  I went to a random surface in the bedroom and began naming off everything I saw there and why it was something else that “I should be doing.”  Then she asked me another good question.

What advice would you suggest to your readers if they were to find themselves in a situation like this?  What would you advise them to do?

After a second of contemplating this shiny new thought I practically yelled, “Chill out!  I would tell them to do nothing!”  

That was precisely what I needed to do.  That state of complete overwhelm and panic is a terrible place to do anything from, sometimes even impossible.  Once I surrendered to that notion, I tried relaxing on the couch playing my favorite game on Will’s phone.  Couldn’t do it.  Then I tried reading, but the second I opened the book I couldn’t do that either.  Nothing, Shawnee.  Just sit there, and be still.  Do...nothing.  Not as easy as it sounds, though I had NO idea it would be that difficult!  ...And I will confess that I never actually succeeded.  Thank God for midnight and a comfy bed ;)  

I know many of us can get so driven that it’s hard to get off the productivity train, even when it’s stalled out and stopped dead on the tracks.  It’s hard not to feel like every minute that goes by without something else getting done is five minutes wasted.  

My only flash of solace during this experience was, at my mom’s suggestion, to go around and make a list of every thing, big or small, that was the source of a “should” in my surroundings.  Hence began my daily fun of the Super Duper Ultimate To-Do List!  :)  It’s on a spread sheet on my computer, and I mark off the day something gets done, so I can organize it by day, with all the things I’ve already done at the top.  Sure, my list is well over 100 items long, including tasks, household or otherwise, of varying size (“make a new record” is right there next to vacuum the stairs), BUT in just a few days over 30 of those things got done!  I decided not to care how small something was.  As long as I determined it was taking up brain space, it qualified.  

Even if a list is long, at least then it’s quantifiable.  I much prefer to have it all written down where I can see it, rather than just feel the ominous presence of an unidentified shadow.

Ok then, I’m off to cross out “Write Thursday’s blog” now ;)

I wish you a beautiful day.  (And a little bit of nothing.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Feel Good

“When I do good, I feel good.
  When I do bad, I feel bad.
  That’s my religion.”

  ~Abraham Lincoln

I love this quote, and I think it works the other way too.  When I feel good, I do goodWhen I feel bad, I do bad.

I’m not far enough along yet to claim that I truly understand the law of attraction....but I definitely believe in whatever degree I am capable of in the midst of whatever it is that's going on.  I only know what I have experienced and I know that when I feel super down I can’t very well do much of anything.  It's harder to be productive.  It’s harder to be kind, harder to reach out.  It’s harder to take good care of myself.  It’s harder to leave the house (I’ve heard this is important to do ;)

I’ve been realizing lately that there are so many little ways I can take better care of myself and I just don’t.  I know what makes me feel good and I know what makes me feel bad, so why do I do so much of (the wrong) one and so little of the other?  I can feel bad about my skin, but do I actually take the time to properly wash (and love!) my face before bed?  I can feel bad about all the sugar I eat, but do I actually not eat it?  (What in God’s name do I think will happen if don’t eat the entire bag of chocolate covered strawberries I got in my stocking in one sitting?)  

Feeling good is magical, straight up.  Feeling good means everything.  It means having an open heart so that you may receive.  It means being in alignment with this incredible and indescribably beautiful universe.  It means that you’re less focused on you and more focused on the amazing life force that runs through you.  It means knowing that you are a beautiful human being and you deserve good things.  It means having the confidence to acknowledge your dreams, the confidence to see opportunities to get closer to them, and then the confidence to try.  

Of course you’re not ever going to feel good all the time, but getting back there should always be priority.  Buy that $6 sweater from Goodwill, take the time to make that delicious salad for lunch (instead of just snacking on those chocolate covered strawberries), spend that extra $1 for the fancy coffee you really want, wash your sheets, hug your chickens.  Do whatever you need to do to feel good.  The world will be a better place for it.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Showing Up

Well, we hopped on a plane and jet setted off to NYC for the weekend to see a performance of my sweetie’s favorite record, Paris 1919 by John Cale.  Sure, why not?  I’m getting a bit better about traveling, about not stressing so much about leaving home.  Home is safe; home is secure.  I may just be a healthy shut in (there is such a thing, right??) or I may be afraid of the sheer vulnerability of venturing out into the world.  I’m pretty sure it’s a little of both.

I wonder how many adventures, big and small, that I miss out on ‘cause I’m scared, whether it be something as big as Folk Alliance or something as small as a potluck.  What if?  What if I feel uncomfortable?  What if I don’t know what to say?  What if I make a bad impression on someone?  What if I’m just so stuck in my brain that I’m not present and then beat myself up over it later?  Silly, isn’t it?  But I know that so many of us do that to ourselves.  We’re afraid of the unknown, and therefore we opt to stay away.  Just in case.  

Adventures mean change.  Adventures mean growth.  Adventures mean taking chances and accepting that no matter what happens, at least you know you showed up.  Sure, home is safe and secure (for most of us), but most of us also long to be out in the world as well, to imprint and be imprinted upon.  

Showing up is the hardest part, and yet it’s the part we can plan and rely upon most.  Chances are real good you’ll be glad that you did.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stop and Go

Sometimes I feel like my life is one big game of stop and go.  Maybe that's healthy to point, but what happens when there's too much stopping and not enough going?  At the risk of repeating an analogy that makes a lot of sense to me, too much stopping is like pausing a song after every line to reflect on it, without allowing yourself the experience of hearing the song in its entirety.

It's important to have a balance, between adventure and reflection.  If you're going, going, going all the time it's easy to miss the meaning of your experiences and what you've learned from them, because the next thing is already there.  But, if you never allow for adventure you'll inevitably be stuck reflecting on a past that well over by now.

I find myself spending so much time hesitating....just hesitating: second-guessing, rethinking, worrying about the potential worst outcomes of things I put out into the world (and often jumping ship when I find a strong dislike of the worst worst one!).  Some things should be well thought out, absolutely, and others (like that funny post you're making on facebook)....well, just don't need to take up that much time and energy.

We all want to have an effect on the world, but in general we want it to be positive.  With exceptions, of course, no one wants to say or do anything that leaves a negative impression, and we definitely want to leave a good first one.  Some of us are far more cautious than others when it comes to that, and the fear can leave some people paralyzed, never actually gaining the confidence to make any impression at all.

Life is ever flowing, and it's a much more pleasant experience if we let ourselves flow with it.  It's good to take time to rest and reflect, but usually we can get away with coasting for a bit when we need to, rather than slamming on the brakes and shutting the whole thing down 'til we know exactly what we're doing again.

I don't know about you, but I rarely know exactly what I'm doing.....though usually there's some kind of light on the horizon, towards which my heart knows to aim my feet.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Beautiful Start to a Beautiful Year

Well well well, what have we here?
A beautiful start to a beautiful year.
I do believe with all my heart that there is only one direction life can go, and that the nature of the universe is to be better and better all the time.  There is no limit to how happy we can be.  No need to hold back for fear that we're going to use all of it up, or hit the peak of the hill just to roll down the other side to our bored and unhappy demise.  
Sometimes I worry that I'm running out.  Sometimes I worry that the world is running out.  Of what?  Of resources, of creativity, of new ideas, of general Good Things.  For every good song that is written that's one less good song in the pot.  For every creative endeavor that's one less thing that can be discovered.  Isn't it?  
I spent much of last year working my way out of that mindset.  And thank God, 'cause it sure was a heavy thing to carry.  I began to feel a bit ashamed that I would ever accuse the Universe of being anything less than infinite.  I began to feel tremendously excited and humbled to think of how many things people think of to create and then never do.  What if?  What if everybody created everything they ever dreamed of creating?  That is what joyfully calls me into this year. 
I vow this year to be kinder to myself.  
I vow to judge less and give more.
I vow to do more of what I love and less of what I don't. 
I vow to let go of everything, and know I cannot keep something that was never meant to stay.
I vow to breathe. 
I vow to look in the mirror often and say, "Shawnee, you can do it.  And Shawnee, I love you."
I vow to live more and hesitate less.
I vow to be happier than I've ever been.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Today's Small Steps

i’ve been thinking a lot lately about time, about phrases like “my time” and “wasted time” and “making time.”  truth is we can’t make time.  truth is we only have right now.  truth is i rarely feel that i’m making the most of the time i am given.

i recently started to break down my daily routine and chart how much time i was spending on what.  i wanted to know why day after day after day i was never getting as much work done as i thought i should be, and needed to be.  turns out what i was calling “a whole day to work” in my head was really just the few hours between taking care of other things.  

i have a house and i like to keep it clean.  i have chickens and i like them to be tended to.  i have gardens that need care.  i have a kitchen that i like to use.  and i’m finding that i put way too much pressure on myself to get a million career moves done in a day.  every day i’m disappointed in myself, which then puts more pressure on the next day.  no good.

i waver back and forth about being in a huge hurry to achieve my life goals right now, and being relaxed enough to let myself have any amount of down time that isn’t productivity driven, or guilt infused.  down time is not wasted time.  in fact no time needs to be wasted time, as long as we are centered and present.  i completely zenned out during rush hour the other day and was completely at peace with my life.  how about that for productivity??

am i afraid to get caught up for fear that i will really, truly have nothing left to do and feel devoid of my life’s purpose?  it seems impossible that i will ever have anything less than too much on my plate, though i need to be taking even baby steps in the right direction or it just plain weighs on my soul.  

today is what i made of it, nothing more and nothing less.  just as tomorrow will be what i make of it.  you can’t just take a running leap and get to your dreams (if you can you’re not dreaming big enough! ;)  you have to build the path one step at a time.  

here’s to today’s small steps, even if it’s just one.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Chickens and a Hard Drive

i’ve definitely thought about it before, i bet most of us have....if your house was going to burn down and you could only grab the essentials, what would you take?  

my house didn’t burn down last night, but it was a very real possibility that it might.  and at 3:00am, with police yelling at us to evacuate and Will instructing me to grab only the essentials, all i remember saying in my stumbling daze was “what does that even mean??...”  my chickens were in the backyard and i couldn't much think of anything else.  i had soaked the area around their coop, for lack of anything more helpful to do, and left the water running to make use of the leak in the connecting joint.  then we had to go. 

i got my laptop, forgot my external hard drive, and stumbled upstairs in pursuit of “irreplaceables” with will’s calm but assertive guidance.  i should know where my birth certificate is, but at the moment i don’t.  passport?  social security card?  purse and phone seemed like good ideas.  it was cold outside; i packed a scarf.  and i was unbelievably thirsty so i filled my water bottle.  the rest?.....?

the threat of losing “everything” came down to a hard drive and my chickens.  Will and i were together and safe, and because of that knew that whatever else happened we would get through it and be ok.

60 firefighters kept our neighborhood from burning down.  the wind was tremendous and they managed to keep even the houses on either side from being completely destroyed.  three of the people made it out of the house; the fourth did not.  

we got to come back home.  and never have i ever been so grateful to walk through my front door.  sleep wasn’t about to happen so we made tea and folded clean clothes.  i washed some dishes.  we curled up on the sofa and watched arrested development, as it seemed the only logical thing we could think of to do.  around 5:30am we finally crawled back in bed, and attempted sleep that wouldn’t come. 

we don’t need all this stuff.  it’s people that matter, and we’ve been humbly inspired to start spending more time with our friends and loved ones.  we’ve been reminded how quickly things can be taken away.  

we’ve also been reminded that we’re not special, that tragedies are happening all the time, all over the world, and that no matter what happens to us we are still incredibly fortunate to be who we are and to live where we live.  as scary as it can be i appreciate real glimpses of what people go through, so that i may feel real empathy, beyond just the textbook version of “i can’t even imagine....”  we don’t want to imagine (and can’t!), because if we could we might explode from comprehending the suffering of the world, the bad things that happen to good people as well as the bad things that happen to "bad" people.      

be kind to strangers.  be mindful of what you don’t know.  be grateful for blessings that surround you every day.

and if you have chickens, for god sakes go and hug them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Crooked Crow

standing at the foot of the precipice
both our faces worn
our hearts were rough at the edges
just the passing of a storm

i am no more simple 
than the stars that shine for me
i am just a girl this time
but that’s my poetry

life was born in this valley
with sunlight looking back
over shoulders bare in a big, big sky
the poets taught her that

i am no more simple
than the stars that shine for me
i am just a girl this time
but that’s my poetry

i am only the silence
i am only the space between the words
i am only a story that you’ve heard

‘cause we’re all some kind of creature
with grass under our feet
when life first came it was stars and rain
what chance the two should meet

i am no more simple 
than the stars that shine for me
and i am just a girl this time
but that’s my poetry

i am just a girl in time
but that’s still poetry


i spent a long weekend this month in the west texas desert with a whole gaggle of talented songwriters and amazing people.  no phone, no internet, no room to go hide in when i got shy.  it was fantastic.  we cut up old romance novels and sci fi books, we translated poems from languages we didn’t know, we ate delicious food, cheered each other on and talked about what it means to us to be a songwriter.  

we really have to let ourselves go to find ourselves, and our true art.  one thing about art is that we always think we get the idea, rather than the idea getting us.  it just shows up, doesn’t it?  we need to take credit for taking note and persisting until we bring the idea to light, but we also need to be humble enough to know that it came through us from the big, bold, beautiful and mysterious magical energy we’ve come to know as life.  

i was asked to be on a panel about lifestyles and songwriting and what ways we have best learned to mix the two, and really what it came down to for me was that i know my muse.  i know the place where my best songs tend to come from, and that’s both a blessing and a curse.  it’s a blessing in that i know how to keep it alive and tap into it when i need to without letting it take away from or damage the life i’m so madly in love with, but a curse in that anything not coming from that place somehow doesn’t feel genuine or “true.”  it’s very hard for me to write anything that isn’t a direct translation of emotion into song.  

the song above came from a poem translated in terrible fashion from italian into a tale of a snake and the god of disease and all sorts of weird religious stuff.  i was instructed to take my silly poem and go make a song from it.  naturally, the first thing i did was slash out all of the parts that didn’t mean anything to me (i.e. snakes and gods of sickness and weird religious stuff) and suddenly a sweet song, that actually means a great deal to me, wrote itself in precisely the amount of time it took to get the words down on paper.  

i can’t believe i’d never done any of this crazy cut-up shit before.  get out of the way, there’s a whole lot more that’s trying to come through ;)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Make A Wish

Make a wish.  it used to be the most magical thing in the world.  do you remember?  it was the best thing ever.  i mean really, what was better than making a wish that all of your wishes would come true?  Or just making a wish that your heart believed in more than anything else that had ever come before?

for as long as i can remember, when it was 11:11 or finding a dandelion or blowing out birthday candles, i have wished the same thing.  i’m sure there was a time when i wished for a toy (or another toy...), and then for my skin troubles to go away, and then for a certain boy to fall madly in love with me.....the list goes on, but that magic of making a wish and believing in that magic (in one form or another) to make it come true seems not to have followed.  i’m trying to get that back.

i started pretty early on to wish for what seemed like the only logical thing left after those other distractions were laid aside.  i wished to not let fear hold me back from doing the things i wanted to do.  it was that simple.  i’m not one to let myself regret, but if i did it would be just as they say: regretting the things i didn’t do.  i catch glimpses of what i’m truly capable of, firework flashes of what it would feel like.  i’ve lived a long, long time, but still feel like i’m just getting started.  fear will never “go away,” but it is no longer welcome to hold me in my tracks.

our lives are in our hands.  i know it’s hard to believe in magic.  i know it’s hard to believe in a lot of things, but if we stop making wishes then it’s all over.  you don’t need an excuse, though 11:11, dandelions and shooting stars are all rather good ones.

let the universe show you that you’re a part of everything.  let her show you that she’s listening.  let her show you that she can help.

make a wish!

make a wish!

make a wish!