When I was in third grade, the Young Author’s Faire awarded me with the blue ribbon for my book, The Dragon’s Dentist, in which the title character flosses his giant, sharp teeth with rope (the dragon, not the dentist. Or maybe the dentist flossed the dragon’s teeth. I can’t remember). I hadn’t been aware that my teacher had entered my work.
I’m sure every career path is hard. I have no idea what it’s like to go through years of medical school, residency and work 12+ hours shifts on my feet tending to patients whose lives you hold in your hands. I do have an idea what it’s like to be a teacher, as I’ve meddled in it, but I’ve experienced nowhere near the level of will it takes to power through school year after exhausting school year, influencing 30 impressionable minds at a time.
This life, as any musician knows, is beautiful, and it is hard. The grind isn’t kind. And there’s never a guarantee that it will pay off. Sometimes it pays monetarily, and a lot of times it does not. Sometimes it leads to future opportunity, and many times the said opportunity doesn’t show its face until months or years later. We can only cling to the moments of connection with our bandmates and audience, onstage and off. Those magical moments are the real reason we overcommit and overexert. I could never completely give it up. I do wonder how much longer my physical being will continue to carry me as I try, as ever, to push forward.
One night, back when I was daylighting as a barista, as I was packing up my gear after a (paid) gig, a guy who had previously seen me working at the coffee shop came up to me and asked if I was “trying to be a professional musician.” I paused sightly, then said, “well, I am a professional musician. I get paid to play music.” But because I also had a non-music related job, he didn’t see me as such.
“Resolutions…baby, they come and go.” - Jamie Cullum, Next Year, Baby
I’m as guilty as the next person for not keeping resolutions. Every year for nearly a decade I’ve “resolved” to start and maintain a regular workout schedule. Not one year did I stick to a routine for its entirety. And I’m pretty sure my resolve will always be this way. There have been others that keep making the list every January and suffer the same fate.
I do have a couple new ones for this year.
Read one book per month for a total of 12 by year’s end. I read maybe half that much this past year without having set a resolution to do so, so this one may actually be achievable.
My husband and I made an unofficial resolution to leave one weekend per month open for...whatever. We’re notorious for over-scheduling ourselves with gigs, sessions and other such obligations that we’re left feeling overextended month after month. We would like to leave time for the leisure activities we enjoy, and maybe even a short getaway every once in a while.
I see goals differently than I see resolutions. My goals have hardly changed in several years. This is where it gets embarrassing. I have had a goal to release a full-length album since 2014. I started recording said album near the beginning of 2016. This is a blog post for another day, as many factors have prevented this project from being completed over the last three years. I am not deflecting fault; of course the fault is largely mine, and perhaps soon I will go into more detail regarding some of these reasons. For now, I will say, as with 2016, 2017 and 2018, it is still my goal to release this monster in 2019.
What will make this year different from the rest? It may come down to my own state of mind. 2018 was challenging in many ways, as I’m sure it was for many people. I, of course, continue to internalize gratitude for all that is wonderful in my life: my marriage, my dog, my home, my family, my friends, my career, my abilities and my health. Despite all that, I had a lot of anxiety throughout the year about not being able to finish projects, doubting my abilities and often times, just the banal struggle of getting from day to day. I’m sure most have experienced this struggle to some degree. But I haven’t forgotten all that I have, and I am determined to stop struggling and start thriving. I know that if I can do this, I will be in a stronger position to achieve the goals and resolutions I have set for myself. I have chosen three words to help me:
I am about 50 pages into Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I guess this can be my January book, though I admittedly started reading it before that. Side note: my husband purchased this book and I stole it out from under him before he got a chance to start reading it. Sorry, husband. So far, I understand it to illustrate an idea I’ve been simmering over for a long while: If I give up, then I have zero chance of achieving my goals. By simply sticking with it, my chances of achieving them are significantly higher. This seems almost mind-numbingly simple, though it’s a difficult concept to keep at heart while running a seemingly never-ending marathon. Duckworth starts off by saying that grit is a better indicator than talent in predicting whether one will achieve great things, because talent alone does not guarantee that one will go the distance. I have to believe that I have a considerable amount of grit, as I haven’t given up on my album yet, as painful as the process has been. I need to better use it to my advantage - to not let myself buckle when things get difficult, and to apply that passion to keep improving my art and craft. Grit will help me to keep moving forward.
This one is a little harder to describe. Of course I intend to have grit, and I intend to achieve my goals and keep my resolutions, but what does intention mean within itself? I want to be more deliberate in everything I do: in managing my time, in investing in my relationships, in devoting time to my art. Intention really ties into everything. Intention turns struggling into thriving. Intention helps me remember to show acts of thoughtfulness to my spouse. Intention helps me spend more time with friends, and spend less money while doing it. Intention helps me plan ahead for my week to make meal planning and getting ready for work easier. Intention helps me choose reading over TV in my spare time. Intention helps me follow through with writing that thank you card instead of just thinking about it and forgetting. Intention makes me think about how I present myself in marketing and social media. Intention helps my branding. Intention helps my practice sessions become more valuable. Intention helps me designate more time to writing. Intention just helps me be better. Intention helps me enjoy life.
This is really a branch of intention, but important enough to warrant its own topic. I’m no good for anything or anybody if I’ve run myself ragged. Even just taking a few minutes for myself everyday would do wonders for my state of being. Self-care is exactly what you think it is. It’s making time for an exercise routine (this takes care of the incessant resolution). It’s taking time to read (another resolution!). It’s allowing time off to relax, whether during a weekend getaway (seeing a pattern here?) or even an evening watching a favorite movie. It’s investing in quality skin care products and sticking to a routine. It’s indulging in a little something extra every week or so - a face mask, foot scrub or even a massage. It’s nourishing my body with healthy food and plenty of water. You get the point. It all circles back into INTENTION, with a focus on the self. Showing myself this level of care will hopefully recharge me to the point that I can keep progressing with my newfound GRIT.
Maybe you can call it simplification. These three words work so well together, cover the bases of all my resolutions, and prepare me to work towards my goals. Only time will tell if this outlook is a more successful strategy than a laundry list of resolutions, but I have hope - and intention - that this will be a great year.
Disclaimer: this is not a concert review. It’s an admittedly long-winded depiction of my first experience seeing my now-favorite band play. A review of your first time seeing your favorite band would probably be a bad, biased review, right? If you don’t want to slough through several paragraphs of gushing, I give you full permission to bail now. Totally. I won’t be offended.
One of the things I love most about Dallas is its distinctive neighborhoods and rich communities. When Zach and I first moved to this city in 2013, we lived in an apartment in Deep Ellum. We so enjoyed living there that first year. We could walk to excellent local businesses, such as restaurants, bars and donut shops. We explored the neighborhoods of East Dallas by car, and particularly took a liking to the neighboring Lakewood and Junius Heights. Both neighborhoods featured beautiful, historic houses that we absolutely loved to drive around and gawk at.
When I was in college, I fell in love, hard. It wasn’t sudden. My love for jazz had been building for a few years by then.
It started in seventh grade choir, learning songs like “Hey There” from The Pajama Game and “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady. I would spend nearly all of my high school years obsessing over original Broadway musical soundtracks. I learned during that time that songs from musicals were the popular music of that time. Singers like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole and even Judy Garland all recorded nearly every song written by great composers like Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern. These were the songs that got radio play and sold records! And my teenage discovery of an AM radio station dedicated to these old standards unearthed a goldmine of musical knowledge.
For nearly a decade now I've been pursuing my career as a performing songwriter. In my past life, I was an elementary music teacher by day and a professional singer by night. I spent the last half of my college years studying the great American music style known as jazz. It's something that's near and dear to my heart and I want it to always be a part of me. Thus, my new jazz project. Eventually, I'd like to perform regularly in local jazz venues with a combo, but for now, I present my inaugural show at Opening Bell Coffee, which I will play solo. There will be selections from the Great American Songbook as well as a few popular classics, and perhaps an original composition or two. I'll also share some stories about my personal journey with the genre, as I think it reveals a lot about who I am as a person. I look forward to sharing this intimate evening with you.
It's been awhile. A while since what, I'm not exactly sure. A few short years ago I was so active online, keeping my website fresh, posting daily on social media, playing regular shows and basically doing everything I could to make sure people wouldn't forget about me. It's tough to put a finger on what happened to change all that. I've just been living life. Sometimes, I feel like I'm watching other people's lives go along while I'm sitting still.