Thursday, March 05, 2015

This Blog is Moving!

After over ten years of being a grateful Blogger blogger, I am moving to WordPress. Please click here to find all future posts. This site remains as an archive. Thanks, friends, for reading!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Radio Play

The Nields - XVII
WRSI Springfield MA
WXRV Haverhill MA
WUMB Boston MA
WERS Boston MA
WMBR Cambridge MA
WMVY Martha's Vineyard MA
WRIU Kingston RI
WMWV Conway NH
WCLZ Portland ME
WERU Bangor ME
MPR Bangor ME
WMUD Burlington VT
WNCS Montpelier VT
WKZE Sharon CT
WWUH W. Hartford CT
WCNI New London CT
WFDU Teaneck NJ
WNTI Hackettstown NJ
WBJB Lincroft NJ
WFUV New York NY
WXPK White Plains NY.
WEHM East Hampton NY
WDST Woodstock NY
WYEP Pittsburgh PA
WQBR McElhattan PA.
WDIY Bethlehem PA
WAMU Washington DC.
World Café Syndicated
WXPN Philadelphia PA
WLVR Bethlehem PA.
Sirius Satellite
XM Satellite
WRNR Annapolis MD
WTMD Towson MD
WOCM Ocean City MD
WTYD Norfolk VA
WHRV Norfolk VA
WNRN Charlottesville VA
WCNR Charlottesville VA
WVMP Roanoke VA
WRRW Williamsburg VA
WHEE Martinsville VA
RadioFreeAmericana Internet VA
WOXL Asheville NC
WVOD Manteo NC
WNCW Spindale NC
WGWG Boiling Springs NC
WSGE Dallas/Charlotte NC
WUIN Wilmington NC
WCOO Charleston SC
WWNU Columbia SC
FolkAlley/WKSU Kent OH
WMLB Atlanta GA
WUSM Hattiesburg MS Internet
WZNN Birmingham AL
WZEW Mobile AL
WMS Internet AL.
WIKX Charlotte Harbor FL
WFIT Melbourne FL AAA Internet Amer.
WRLT Nashville TN Comm
Billy Block Nashville TN Amer.
WSM Nashville TN Amer.
WUTC Chattanooga TN Noncomm
WETS Johnson City TN Amer.
WFIV Knoxville TN Comm
WDVX Knoxville TN Amer.
WEVL Memphis TN Noncomm
WFPK Louisville KY Noncomm
WMKY Morehead KY Noncomm
WUKY Lexington KY Noncomm
WNKU Highland Hts. KY Noncomm
WHAY Whitley City KY Comm
WMMT Whitesburg KY Amer.
WJCU Cleveland OH Noncomm
WCBE Columbus OH Noncomm
WYSO Yellow Springs OH Noncomm
WOUB Athens OH Noncomm A
WTTS Indianapolis IN Comm
WFHB Bloomington IN Noncomm
WGCS Goshen IN Amer.
ACOUSTIC CAFE Syndicated Noncomm
CIDR Detroit MI Comm. AAA
WDBM E. Lansing MI Amer.
WYCE Grand Rapids MI Noncomm
KUNI Cedar Falls IA Noncomm
KFMG Des Moines IA AAA
WBSD Milwaukee WI Noncomm
WYMS Milwaukee WI Noncomm
WMMM Madison WI Comm
WORT Madison WI Noncomm
WJMQ Clintonville WI Amer.
KCMP Minneapolis MN Noncomm
KTCZ Minneapolis MN Comm
KAXE Grand Rapids MN Noncomm
KMMS Bozeman MT Comm
KDTR Missoula MT Comm
KRVO Kalispell MT AAA
WXRT Chicago IL Comm
WLCE Springfield IL Comm
KOPN Columbia MO Amer. A
KCKC Kansas City MO Comm
KDHX St. Louis MO Amer.
KCLC St. Louis MO Noncomm
KTBG Warrensburg MO Noncomm
KROK DeRidder LA Comm
KSLU Hammond LA Noncomm
KDRP Dripping Springs TX Amer.
KPFT Houston TX AAA/Am
KTRU Houston TX Amer
KHYI Dallas TX Comm
KKXT Dallas TX Noncomm
KNBT New Braunfels TX Comm
KUT-FM Austin TX Noncomm
KGSR Austin TX Comm
KSYM San Antonio TX Noncomm
KCCT Corpus Christi TX Amer.
KBCO Denver CO Comm
KGNU Boulder CO Noncomm
KFMU Steamboat Spgs. CO Comm
KSPN Aspen CO Comm
KSMT Breckenridge CO AAA
KYSL Frisco CO Comm
KUNC Greeley CO Noncomm
KRCC Colorado Spgs. CO Noncomm
KRFC Ft. Collins CO AAA
KSUT Ignacio CO Noncomm
KVNF Paonia CO Noncomm
KDNK Carbondale CO Noncomm
INDIE 1015 Internet
KUWR Laramie WY Noncomm
KMTN Jackson WY Comm
KPND Sandpoint ID Comm
KSKI Hailey ID Comm.
KRCL Salt Lake City UT Noncomm
KXCI Tucson AZ Noncomm
KBAC Santa Fe NM
KTAO Taos NM Comm
KTHX Reno NV Comm
DMX Noncomm
DMX AAA National Noncomm
KCRW Los Angeles CA Noncomm
Folkscene Los Angeles CA
KCSN Northridge CA Amer.
KFOG San Francisco CA Comm
KZSU Stanford CA Amer.
KRCB Rohnert Park CA Noncomm
KWMR Point Reyes CA Noncomm
KPRI San Diego CA Comm
KPIG Monterey CA Comm
KFJC San Jose CA Amer.
KRSH Santa Rosa CA Comm
KOZT Ft. Bragg CA Comm
KHUM Humboldt CA Comm
KVMR Nevada City CA Noncomm
KKCR Hanalei HI Noncomm
KPUR Forest Grove OR Noncomm
KINK Portland OR AAA
KRVM Eugene OR Noncomm
KLCC Eugene OR Noncomm
KSMF Ashland OR Noncomm A
KLRR Bend OR Comm
KBCS Bellevue WA Amer.
KOHO Leavenworth WA Comm
KEXP Seattle WA Noncomm
KNBA Anchorage AK Noncomm
WVGN St. Thomas VI

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My Treadmill Studio: Yes, I Know I Am Ridiculous

The snow, oh, the snow. One must have a mind of winter, to paraphrase Wallace Stevens (as a certain folk-rock band once did), not to think of the inherent misery of the extreme cold, the extreme inhospitableness, the extreme annoyance of snow. But I am pretty sure Mr. Stevens was not a working parent who had to stay home with stir crazy, and often ill, children who have tasted of the fruits of Good and Evil (AKA ipads and other screens), and who have been given a deathtrap (AKA a mini tramp) by their foolish parents, and who are screaming for blood, (AKA more Harry Potter movies, especially those way above their Screens Guild Suggested Rating).

As I type this, my 6 year old just got up from his fever-induced nap. My 8 year old daughter is bringing me her 5-6 sheets of "homework" I discovered this morning in her knapsack. She watched Harry Potter 5 this morning while my son slept. Now she wants to watch HP7-A, but I insisted she do her homework first. And I? I am trying to write, even just a little fluff post on my treadmill. I am trying to care for my dear ones, while at the same time working an album release schedule replete with radio interviews, press set ups, and gigs. I have a retreat in Florida next week THANK GOD!, and I need to send out an email to the participants to see how many are vegetarians and how many are cave people, or whatever you call those paleo-types. (I am one of those, which is why I can hurl slurs around like this.)(Speaking of cave people, my kids turned me on to the movie The Croods, which I love! It's by John Cleese, Monty Python alum, but I digress...)

My big insurrection against the winter was the vision and eventual purchase of a treadmill so that I could create a treadmill desk situation. My friend Gayle Huntress came over a few weeks ago and gave me a major organization consultation for my small office space. As we poked around my ridiculous amounts of stuff, I mentioned, almost off-hand, that my dream was to set up a treadmill with a desk so I could shuffle my feet and be standing for more of the day. Though I am a regular runner (AKA "plodder") and visit the gym three times a week for weight training, plus do my daily sun salutation, I am extremely sedentary otherwise. I work from home, so I don't even have a walk from the parking lot to my office. The most exercise I get outside of my 20 minute a day workout is when I go to the co-op for groceries. Since the weather's been so horrible, I haven't even gone out for my run. Instead, I've been trotting up and down my stairs for 20 minutes, usually while talking on the phone or texting to people, but also listening to audiobooks on my iphone (I am re-listening to Cheryl Strayed's wonderful "Tiny Beautiful Things" right now. Highly recommended.)I should also say that for the past 6 years, I have bundled up and run in every kind of weather, doing my 20 minute plod no matter what. This year I began to wonder if this behavior had any correlation to my tendency to get sick and stay stick for six weeks each time I caught a cold. I am happy to report that, with the new stay-inside-and-climb-stairs regime, so far I have had only one cold, and it has only lasted for 10 days.

Gayle looked alarmed as I told her all this, mostly out of concern that in my stair-climbing workout I would take a tumble while texting. "Go on Craigslist," she said. "You can get a great treadmill there." And together we made an algorithm of the steps I would need to take to get from where I was (a hugely cluttered office with two desks, two desk chairs and a closet full of clothes I never wear) to the office of my dreams, with treadmill and treadmill desk.

I searched craigslist for a few weeks. My eye caught on an affordable NordicTrack c900 that seemed the right balance of serious and...well, affordable. I consulted with my sister Abigail, expert on both treadmills and buying stuff in general. My husband warned me that, while he supported the purchase and general concept of a treadmill/desk set up, he would under no circumstances participate in getting the behemoth into our house and up the stairs to my office. Fair enough; his back is as valuable to me as it is to him. So I re-checked the Nordic post and saw that the poster promised "may be able to help with transport." So I called him. Long story short, the treadmill of my dreams was...right next door. My neighbors have recently moved out of state, and they left all their stuff in their house for this guy I was on the phone with to sell. Top of his list was this gigantic treadmill.

All that was left was writing a check and trying to figure out how to get it up the stairs. My poster immediately rescinded his offer to help, citing a hernia, and I called Smooth Movers. After about three days of moving the treadmill incrementally closer to my office, it's finally here. And today, I found a loose board in the attic that fits perfectly into the odd armholes.

A few words about treadmills, that I should have voiced before I let my kids on it. Treadmills are NOT for kids! This caused a lot of tears and consternation. Both kids had been huge cheerleaders of the treadmill as it rose on our horizon. But on day one, Jay shot backwards right into the door jamb and got whacked in the buttocks. An inch or so to the right and he would have jammed his spine. This is unfortunate. The kids really do need exercise, and I wish there were a safer way to get them moving when it's so cold out.

A few weeks ago, they started a snow shoveling business. Maybe I should hire them again. When they get well. Anyway, Abigail tells me that treadmills' belts go, and they will need to be repaired. I will keep you posted on my progress. Do you have a treadmill? Do you use yours? Since it took three entire days to get the thing up the stairs, I fully intend on ponying up and making this thing work––before the snow melts. Next up: I am going to buy a keyboard and practice piano as I plod!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SNOMG! And Our Traumatic Ecstatic Day

I discovered yesterday that Patty, our longtime manager, doesn’t believe in indoor heating. I figure this has something to do with her obsession with women's basketball and subsequent wardrobe of extremely thick Connecticut Sun sweatsuits. Or maybe it's because she drinks so much hot coffee that she is inured to the cold. This was the only explanation I could come up with yesterday, as I sat on her living room floor with my fingerless gloves and my polar fleece balaklava and my filthy yellow parka, addressing envelopes, stamping envelopes with Katryna’s super cool woodblock stamp that says “XVII”, signing copies of the new CD in one of the mirrors of the mirror barn that lays out on the booklet as one opens it.

I put a CD into an envelope, sealed it, and looked at the address. Fans from Missouri. Fans from Texas. Fans from Florida. Several from Seattle. One from Wisconsin. Many from CT, NY, MD, VA. Too many to count from MA. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for these fans, some whose names I knew well; some whose names I’d never heard, though perhaps if I saw their faces I would recognize them. I saw names of friends, and names of cousins I rarely see. All four of my aunts pledged, and to see each of their names on our packages warmed me to the point where I almost felt like I could take off my balaklava. And in that cold living room, with Patty’s daughter and granddaughter (one helping, one charming) and Katryna, my kids (also helping, charming) I felt a solid completion, even though we didn’t get every label onto every envelope, and there are still boxes of CDs, a few books and bags scattered around.
It had already been A Day. Jay’s first cavity filling that morning had gone from bad to worse. He has a gag reflex, and is not such a fan of dentist in the best of times, but having been assured by Elle and me that fillings were no big deal, he was not prepared for the horror he encountered. “They are actually DWILLING MY TOOTH!” he wailed, putting his hand up to stop them, to take the horrible beige laughing gas mask off his sweet little tear-stained face. “Don’t cry!” the dental assistant kept saying. “The gas can’t work if you get all stuffed up and breathe through your mouth instead of your nose!”

I wanted to hit her. Instead, I held his two hands and kept murmuring, “Mama’s here. Mama loves you,” as he became incrementally traumatized. Having read Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger, I suggested he shake himself off like a dog when he finally got up, trembling, from the dentist’s chair, but all he wanted to do was be held. So I held him.

When we arrived at Patty’s, I was starving, having had to take my kids to both Berkshire Yogurt (closed) AND GoBerri, because of the dentist (naturally, if one has cavities, and then fillings, one needs more sugar to get over the affront). But just as I heated up my meal and was sitting down to eat it, both Katryna and Patty’s daughter Ashley took one look at Jay and shouted, “He’s having an allergic reaction to novocaine! Go get him some Benedryl!” I hesitated, fork halfway to mouth. But these two Supermoms had no mercy. “NOW! Get him Benedryl NOW!” So, I gave one more reluctant glance at my warm food and made Jay put his coat back on (well, actually, given Patty’s no heat rule, he’d never taken it off) and we set back out to the van.

Couldn't there just be one less thing to worry about? Here we are in the midst of Blizzageddon, trying both to get our Pledge packages out AND prepare for possible power outages. We have no fireplace, wood stove or any other way to stay warm should we lose power. I was planning to get my van filled up with gas and make it to Radio Shack in between the PO and Elle’s violin lesson, plus the requisite trip to the grocery store for extra bananas. So in the van, out of sight of the Supermoms, I decided to call the dentist before driving to the Rite Aid.

“Is it just on one side of his mouth, “the receptionist asked immediately. “Take a picture and email it to me.” I did so, while still on the phone with her.
AH! The joys of a smart phone!

“No worries. He’s bitten his lip because he’s numb. Tell him to stop.” She said, and I brought my traumatized son back into Patty's cold house.

Even with all of us signing, stamping, stuffing, we had to dash to fill Patty’s Prius with the boxes of envelopes to make it to Patty's appointment with the Easthampton PO for 3-5pm. As we were loading up her car with boxes full of stuffed envelopes, she discovered that her Prius's latch was broken, so she called AAA. Finally, latched fixed, Elle and Jay and I helped Patty get the boxes into the small car. We got to the PO at five of, only to find that they were closing because of Snowcapolyse. The four of us stood there with huge boxes of stuffed envelopes in our arms, Jay holding the “special” ones as Patty had instructed him to do. The employees were all refusing to make eye contact with Patty, who was fuming. But we prevailed. I'm sure the kids' cuteness didn't hurt. Who can resist a couple of kids in snow parkas being helpers? So finally, the Postmaster General of Easthampton had no choice but to accept our many (like 500) packages. They might sit there until Snowgas Khan has retreated, but at least they are out of Patty’s Prius.

Snowgas Khan, or SNOMG! turned out to be a bust. Just as well. I am going to close this almost pointless post with a couple of observations.
#1.Patty totally rocks, and we won the jackpot in tricking her to be our manager lo these 20 odd years ago.
#2.My dear friend Anne emailed me this picture to prove that we were smart in our choice of album cover. Cool People, a piano, a tree. Nuff said.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

New Year's Fire Pit and The Basement Tapes

Last night, we lit a fire in our backyard fire pit and huddled around it, jostling each other to find the back end of the breeze. It was a crisp 19 degrees with a waxing moon, clear and solemn in the star speckled sky. We don't have a fireplace or a wood stove, but this backyard pit has its advantages (though one can't hang stockings around it.) Jay and Elle found sticks and persuaded us to haul out the marshmallows. So on January first, we inaugurated a new tradition: the New Year's Fire Pit Intentions Ceremony.

Sitting in the cold, taking much solace in the warmth from the flames, I couldn't help but think of how these evening fires created our civilization. "Mom, who invented fire?" Jay asked. "Or, who discovered it," Tom wondered. "Prometheus," I offered, and told them the story of the demi-god sacrificing his liver (daily) in recompense for sharing this element with humankind. "Gross," said Elle. "Yes,"I agreed. And then I commenced to stare into the fire. How exactly has the TV improved on this practice of gathering in the evening and spacing out, transfixed, on this vision of flames dancing, receding, expanding to frightening levels that threaten to lash out of their container, and then finally diminishing again into brilliant red edges along blackened bits of wood? This is where story telling began: around a fire. Same with songs, I am sure. (Probably the first stories were songs, and/or vice versa). How did the expanding and contracting of the flames influence the storyteller as she spun her tale to her fire-bound audience? Did the leaping flames have an effect on the character's actions? Did dying embers offer an alternate plot twist?

Perhaps my favorite Christmas present this year was a copy of the revised Bob Dylan/The Band Basement Tapes (the "raw" version which is substantially shorter than the deluxe version.) Huge Dylan fan that I am, and Band fan too*, I never cared for the Basement Tapes, at least not the version that came out in 1975. It struck me as a bunch of pot-influenced drunken music. I am embarrassed now by that assessment, as I am completely obsessed with the tenor of this new release. It's like being in the living room with these guys as they surround us with the sounds of carnival. (How I love Richard Manuel's piano! And voice!) I can't stop listening to this record. I feel as though I have discovered gold. How could I not have known all of these songs before? Well, many I did, and many I sang ("You Ain't Going Nowhere," "I Shall Be Released,") but others I am just discovering ("Open the Door, Homer," "900 Miles from Home," "Apple Suckling Tree.") They seem already like old friends, and I am looking forward to delving into the layers of lyric Dylan always provides.

A couple of days ago, someone flamed me on Facebook. I won't get into why; suffice it to say that it was unexpected and strange, and while I took in the criticism and tried to see my part in it and how I could make amends to this person, I also just felt burned. When it happened, I sat, powerbook on my lap, and felt the heat infuse my body. This is what shame feels like to me: hot, consuming, total. Because of years of therapy, I was able to do this: to just feel the feelings apart from the story of who said what. I concentrated on the raw feeling. As Thich Naht Hahn says, "When your house is burning down, put the fire out. Don't go looking for who lit it." After a few minutes, I noticed the heat abating in my body. I pictured the person who flamed me; fortunately I had known her when she was a young girl, so I pictured her sweet adolescent face. I thought about the pain she must be in today to do something like what she did. I lifted a prayer to her. Then I got up and told my husband about it. "Why do you even go online?" he asked. "People are insane."

Maybe. But they're also wonderful.

Back at the intentions ceremony, Elle announced that hers was to help her cousin William get a dog. Tom's was to accept more the daily things he has to do. Jay's was a long speech about how he hoped people would be less greedy and recycle more. Also that they would be "mostly happy." Mine was about commencing to outgrow fear. I know I will never be successful, but I'm digging in my heels this year and trying a little harder. I am tired of being afraid of what others think of me. I am tired of my greedy little inner bean-counter who thinks perpetually she's getting the raw end of the deal. I am tired of that cold metallic pinchy feeling I get when I sense I am losing control of my kids. (Which happens hourly.) I am going to experiment with faith. I am going to play with trusting and relying on a much more generous spirit than the one I possess on my own, cut off from the rest of you. I'm going to embrace my age--47 at this moment--and try to act like a wise, confident grown up, and also let loose more often and play like a kid. Or my dog. I want to channel some of that joyous non-sensical spirit of those Basement Tapes and make some fun music with my friends. I am going to practice my piano, and use that growth mindset everyone's talking about to stick with it when it gets hard.

*We opened for the Band in 1995 at Mass MoCA. Though we did not get an encore and we sold a pathetic 1 (one) CD that night, more folks than I can count have come up to us since and told us they discovered us at that show. "The Weight" was one of the first songs we covered as a band.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Gospel of John, Lennon: Darkness and Light

Can it really be thirty-five years ago that John Lennon was murdered? He was 40 at his death; soon he will be 40 years gone. I keep checking my math, and it's undeniable. I was in eighth grade in 1980, finally shedding some of my insecurity, and just beginning to express myself as a singer and songwriter. John's death had a dramatic effect on me; I responded by immersing myself in his biography, learning everything I could about him and Yoko. Something in his outlaw identity matched my own adolescent mood, perhaps. At any rate, in reading about him and his courage in the late 60s when he took an idiosyncratic stand for peace (think bed-ins, think "Christ, you know it ain't easy"), it occurred to me that I didn't need to spend all my energy, as I had been, worrying about what everyone thought of me. I began the slow process of understanding that I was an artist, and therefore had a mission for the world. I wore black to school (instead of the requisite blue uniform), spoke out for peace, and came home to close myself in my bedroom with my Beatles and Lennon LPs. After months of this, I emerged a different person: braver, more ridiculous, perhaps, but definitely braver.

Of course, Lennon's death meant something to millions of people. And certainly thousands if not millions of 13 year olds. I could have told this story very differently. I could have said that during this same time my grandfather was dying of cancer, and that my deep grief for the former Beatle was simply a mask for my sadness over losing my grandfather. I could have interpreted my reaction as plain old adolescent drama, but the fact that I claimed it as a positive personal myth shaped the way I have grown into a person. I am glad I saw things the way I saw them.

My Underground Seminary has been reading Richard Rohr's meditations for Advent this December, and today's reading was on darkness and light. The Gospel of John says "The light shines on inside the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it." (1:5). Rohr goes on to say that "We must all hope, and work to eliminate darkness...but at a certain point, we have to surrender to the fact that the darkness has always been here, and the only real question is how to receive the light and spread the light...What we need to do is recognize what is, in fact, darkness, and then learn how to live in creative and courageous relationship to it. In other words, don't name darkness light. Don't name darkness good."

This is a challenge to me and my theology. I want there to be a silver lining in all darkness, and I want to go farther than that. I want the silver lining to actually redeem the darkness, make the darkness worth it. But how dare I say that Lennon's death was worth it because I got inspired? Or that the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner might lead to a national re-thinking of racial profiling? The people who love them might want that too, but I bet they want their son or brother or friend back more. I wanted to think that something would change after Columbine, after Sandy Hook. But nothing changed that I could see (though my optimistic self wants to cry, "But the story isn't over yet!").

How do we tell the story? A baby was born in a manger, born into the generosity of the barnyard animals; born in the cold shrug of the innkeeper who wouldn't give a room to a pregnant woman in labor. A prophet healed the sick and cured the lame and made the blind to see, and preached liberation theology and encouraged the believers to question the authorities and pluck grains on the Sabbath, and was executed by the Roman government in a hideous, slow, public way. And then his words got twisted for millennia and millions were murdered in his name. And along the way, many people derived great consolation from his teachings and the example of his life. Many found enlightenment through following him.

My son has had a difficult fall, in some ways. For the first three months of school, he dragged his feet every morning, clinging to his Legos, our legs, refusing to get dressed some days, even weeping as he trudged up the stairs and through the school doors every morning. We held him, we comforted him, we gave him consequences. We talked it over with his teacher, a wonderful women whom our older daughter had had, and whom we loved. Maybe she was the wrong fit for our son. We considered asking the school to switch him to a different class room. I fantasized about home schooling him (for about three seconds.) Finally, I consulted my parenting Bible, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. The next time he threw himself on the carpet during morning violin practice and yelled, "School is stupid! I hate school! Teachers are stupid!" I took a page from the book, and instead of trying to reason with him, as I usually did, ("Well, you might not like school, but it actually is the opposite of stupid," and "it's not very nice to use that word about anyone!"), I gave him a piece of paper and said, "I am so interested in how you are feeling! Could you show me so I could understand? Why don't you draw a picture of that!" So he did. He drew a stick figure of himself, and then a bigger stick figure of his teacher. Then he drew a line from his hand to her head. He paused and said, "How do you spell 'lightning?'" I paused too. Anger was one thing. Homicide another. But as I looked at my boy, I thought, he needs to know his anger is okay, and this is exactly the way I want him to express himself. So I gave him the correct spelling, and when he took his marker and scribbled out the teacher's face with it (because, of course, the lightning had blown her head up!), I said, "Wow, you are so mad at her!" and nodded. He looked up at me, a satisfied look coming into his little face. This was right before Thanksgiving vacation. I didn't hear any more complaints after that, and in fact noticed that he was a lot lighter and easier going. Last Friday as I was kneeling in front of him to zip up his winter coat, he said, "I love school, mama. I don't hate it any more. I can't wait to go to school!"

"Really," I said mildly. "What changed?"

He shrugged. "I just grew into it."

Yet as I write this, I know that, for myriad reasons, some mothers don't have the freedom to trust their son's (or daughter's) darkness. I don't claim to have the solutions to how we eradicate racism or violence. I just know that the frame that the story comes in is extremely important. And I would add to Rohr's admonition to call the darkness darkness and light light, that some of that discernment is in the eye of the beholder. And that, as we all have darkness, we need to stop being so afraid of it. I think it helped my son immensely to have me come into his darkness and witness it and not tell him that he needed to be afraid. Maybe by saying, "Wow, you are really mad!" I was simply naming the darkness, and affirming that "mad" was an overlay. "You" are full of light, and this is just a dark spot on your essentially light background.

I have been lucky enough to outlive my own fears of the dark––of my own dark, anyway. Over the weekend, Katryna and I played a show in Virginia and got to hang out with my parents who are two of my favorite people who ever lived. Long gone are my adolescent conflicts, my petty criticisms of what I once called their bourgeois lifestyle. All that's left is sweet, gentle, tender love, and more gratitude for them and to them than I can ever communicate. When I went through my own series of crises in my late twenties and early thirties, I was taught how to shine a light in my own darkness and untangle the stories, see them as just stories, frame them appropriately and make my amends; move on. Once I did that, forgiveness ceased being a choice; it became as obvious and necessary as breathing. Forgiveness seems to me a river at the base of it all, underground, like the river Styx, perhaps, and that when I get baptized in that river, I come out clean, and able to endure the beams of love, which were there all along. We all shine on, as John Lennon said. Shine, baby, shine.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

First Fundraiser of the Week for our PledgeMusic Campaign: MotherWoman!

Back in 2011, Beth Spong, then-executive director of MotherWoman, asked us to write a song for Mother's Day, and MotherWoman made a beautiful video of it (see below), using photos by our friend and photographer Sarah Prall. But today we are calling your attention to this wonderful organization which supports mothers in myriad ways, by making them our first Fundraiser of the Week for our Pledge Campaign. This means that if we raise 10% of our total between November 10-17, we will donate a concert in which all proceeds will go to their organization.

MotherWoman supports mothers on every level, creates support groups designed to be inclusive of women of all backgrounds, makes a space for women to speak ALL of their truth in a supportive environment. They are also dedicated to building community safety nets, and impacting family policy at the national, state and local levels. We have been deeply moved by their principles; their "Universal Realities of Motherhood". To support the MotherWoman Performance, all you have to do is pledge between Nov. 10-17.

Universal Realities of Motherhood:

* Parenting impacts every aspect of our lives; physical, emotional, interpersonal, and spiritual
* Parenting creates stress and difficulty in many areas; relationships with partners, parents, friends, concerns about money, work, physical needs for sleep, food, exercise, leisure time, etc.
* Becoming a mother brings up issues from a woman's past such as how she was parented, past trauma, mental health history, relationships with her own mother, grief, losses, etc
* Parenting can make us see ourselves more clearly- the good, bad and the ugly.
* Becoming a mother can motivate us to make necessary changes in our lives.
* Motherhood can motivate and encourage a woman to become her best self.
* Becoming a mother can overwhelm us with joy and challenges.
* Parenting is an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows.
* Parenting can make us feel very insecure. Mothers are typically very hard on themselves.
* We go into parenting totally unprepared and yet are expected to be "experts."
* Self care is essential in mothering and, for many reasons, seems impossible.

I like the Reality that "Parenting can make us see ourselves more clearly--the good, bad and the ugly." I always joke that before I became a mother I was *this close* to enlightenment. That's because, before I became a mother, I wouldn't let anyone get *this close* to me, not even my husband. Well, OK, my husband. But, you see, my husband is a really nice, polite, well-bred guy with excellent boundaries and infinite patience. When I annoy him, he takes three deep breaths and asks God for help, or something. My kids, not so much. when I annoy my kids, which I do on an hourly basis, they yell at me, roll their eyes, or ignore me, depending on the extent of my annoyingness. Lately, both kids are practicing their teen-ager 'tude. They have learned what sarcasm is and are going to town practicing sarcasms many applications. I do not like this and tell them sarcasm is very unattractive. Somehow that doesn't convince them to stop.

The problem seems to be that I want them to do stuff they don't really care to do--everything from taking a bath to eating something other than chips-and-bread for dinner, to cleaning up the fifty bazillion lego pieces off the floor. But that's all par for the course; every mother knows she will struggle with that. Where it gets really wiggy and unenlightened is when I sit down with them to witness their violin practice.

We do the Suzuki Method, and I explain why in great detail on my other blog, Singing in the Kitchen, which is all about our adventures in family music-making. If you don't know the Suzuki method, I'll just say it involves the kid taking lessons, which the parent goes to (and does not get to play on her iPhone while she is there.) Then the kid practices for a half hour to an hour a day, and the parent not only makes sure s/he practices, but actually kind of coaches the kid. So if, for example, the teacher tells the kid to play eight pieces and a scale and do some sight reading, all the while focusing on keeping her wrist straight, it's understood that the parent is supposed to watch the whole practice, and intone "wrist, wrist" when the wrist (inevitably) goes floppy.

A few weeks ago. after we'd come home from New York, we had one of those famous terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, which you can read about here. On Monday, my son Jay refused to practice violin. In fact, he quit. I was so cooked, I actually let him quit, even though it's long been my feeling that kids don't get to quit math, so why should they quit music? But I was done with the tantrums and the forced practices, the bribes, the legos (which were the bribe, usually). For ten days, he was in official Quit mode, which for us meant he still had to practice every day, because his wise teacher Emily had encouraged him to work toward a finale: a One-Half Book One Recital in which he would perform all 16 of his pieces, then take a final bow around mid-December and give back his tiny violin to Stamell's String Shop for good. But something strange happened during those ten days. I felt really sad and mad at myself for quitting, and for letting him quit. What ever happened to my commitment to raise gritty kids? There were so many pros to sticking with violin. 1. He is actually really good. 2. It's helped his fine motor skills tremendously. 3. The local Suzuki community is fantastic, supportive and fun. 4. Some of his best friends are doing Suzuki.

I felt as though a dark cloud had settled over his whole future, and it was all my fault. All my own issues of musical perfectionism come to the surface in that half hour to an hour of practice. That was me with the little fiddle and the floppy wrist. And somehow, when I'm sitting on the witness couch, all my own critical voices come swooping down, so afraid of being anything less than musically perfect. But why couldn't I just let him play the little fiddle and dance around the room with it the way he wants to? Isn't that where I ended up as a musician? Dancing around the stage with my guitar making a big, imperfect sound? I looked carefully at the way I'd been sitting with him as he played, my eyes glued to his bow hold, ready to pounce as soon as I saw it slip. "Bow hold!" I'd shout, as if I were going to be in trouble if I missed it. Not for the first time, a voice in my head said, "It might be better to be a B minus student than to not be in the class at all." (And I'm not talking about Jay being the B minus student. I'm talking about his Suzuki Mom somehow not being the shining star). Why couldn't I let him progress at his own rate? What if he stayed in Book One for 4 years? Would that be so bad?

On the tenth day of Quitting, I sat with my older daughter as she practiced. She'd gotten into trying to pick out the theme from the Harry Potter movie ("Hedwig's Theme"), so I'd printed it out for her, and her teacher had told her to read it for sight-reading practice. She picked out the notes, hung up her violin, and I called Jay over for his practice. He got out his tiny violin and brought his bow to the strings. Incredibly, he too picked out the melody for "Hedwig's Theme," which, you may know, is not easy.

My eyes filled with tears. He looked up at me, over the neck of his violin, with big shy eyes, a pleased smile on his lips. And though I knew I shouldn't say things like this, I couldn't help it: "Oh, Jay, I wish you wouldn't quit. I am going to miss you playing violin."

"Ok," he said. "I won't quit. I don't want to quit!"

"You don't?" I practically shouted. "You don't? That's great! Let's tell Emily!"

He took my iPhone and stared at Emily's picture. "Hi Emily," he said into the phone. "If it's OK, I'm going to keep playing violin. I'm becoming a better violin player. It's inside of me."

Being a Suzuki parent is like the MotherWoman Reality exponentially. I see the good, bad and ugly every time I sit down with the kids to practice. We see each other's good, bad and ugly. And we grow. And at the end of the day, there's music.