A Song for My Winged Friends

So, I think I may be starting a band? Or… maybe I already have?

I’ve started recording music and songs I write and calling myself A Serious Artist, to poke fun at the idea…

However, I’m really liking the idea!!

Last night a song came to me and I recorded it. It’s possibly still in the demo phase, but I was itching to share it and hear feedback, so I uploaded it and am sharing it now!!

 

Lyrics (work in progress):

dragonfly, where ya goin’
is it some place far away?

i can see you are sad
by the light of the day

don’t be sad just spread your wings and fly
isn’t that what wings are for?

dragonfly don’t be scared there is nothing to fear
i believe in your capabilities, is that all you need to hear?

look up high and rise past those fears
you won’t die, you will overcome

(chorus)
take a breath prepare for lift off
the wind is there to help you overcome
just trust in yourself and you will be rewarded
and soon one day you will reach your home
butterfly you are so pretty but what’s going on inside?
I can tell you’re unsure and you feel like ya gotta hide

But you can’t cuz your always on view
that’s ok, cuz there’s something great, that’s in store for you

Let them laugh, they don’t know you, they’re just a waste of your time
Let them point, they just judge you cuz they know you’re one of a kind

it’s got nothin’ to do with you
fly above and carryyyyyyy on throughhhhhhhh

(chorus)
take a breath prepare for lift off
the wind is there to help you overcome
just trust in yourself and you will be rewarded
and soon one day you will reach your home
buzzin’ bee what’s the rush? where do you have to be? (hah, get it?)
i just heard that you’re the one to beat, and it’s pretty clear to see

don’t you wish you could let go of the anxiety
you don’t have to constantly move around

do you fear the calm and what your mind may think and say to you
are you afraid you’ll fall behind and that there’s someone better than you?

slow it down, smell the roses and have some fun
if you don’t you may miss a ton

It’s Always About the Process

Ya know, I record music in my spare time. I like to write my own songs, and make new arrangements of old favorites. This one here? That I’m sharing? One of the first ukulele songs I learned and still a favorite of mine. I tend to nerd it up, play ridiculously for my own entertainment, and this is me exposing that.

I know I had mentioned in a previous post (this one) that I grew up surrounded by music and musicians. Everyone in my fam-damly played at least 3+ instruments and sang. Boom. We’re magical like that. I tended toward voice, because my arms often feel like noodly-bits and my fingers spastic. But hey! Learning Ukulele on my own has been very rewarding. Am I mad-awesome? Not really, but I enjoy it, and as you can see in the video it brings me great joy and makes me feel like a kid again. So, I share this to let you guys see it’s OK to not be the best, and OK to be OK not being the best.

Who’s imperfect? WE ARE!

When I posted my first uber-self-conscious-ukulele video (note: here), I was hella’ nervous. Comparing this new video to that, I see the growth I’ve gone through- both in my ukulele playing ability and my confidence level. It’s cool to be able to look back on who you were and how far you’ve come.

Doorways and Windows

Should I? Or shouldn't I? Can I peek first?

Should I? Or shouldn’t I? Can I peek first?

No one said life was easy

Actually, I’m pretty sure the majority of those you ask say it’s pretty. Damn. Difficult. We are bombarded with decisions to make. Some are tiny, fleeting; one’s you don’t even really feel like you need to waste time distinguishing from subconscious motions. Others are pounding you in the skull, demanding every last ounce of your concentration and effort.

I use my art as a way to work through these problems. Recently, a big, life-altering choice came my way. Should I stay, or should I (metaphorically) go?

A job offer! A job offer? Right as I begin my journey as a small-business owner?

Do I see this opportunity, acknowledge it and then proceed with the way I was already heading in my life? Or do I jump on this, throw myself into a new journey?

I mean, it’s all the same journey: Mine. How will I write my story?

For now I don’t know. But I do know one thing:

I gotta create. I need to self-reflect, possibly a pros and cons list, definitely some emotional action painting, and perhaps a song on the ole’ uke.

And yes- windows.

If I can take a peek, glimpse through the stain-glass, perhaps I can get a better idea of what’s beyond that door without flinging it wide open, walking through, and having it shut behind me. I mean, what if it locks on the close? What if I can never go back?

What if.

And when does questioning your next move become too analytical? At what moment do you lose the bigger picture, nit-picking the fine details of an opportunity?

Yeah,

No one said it was easy.

And hey,

This might not be an “end” with a “new beginning.”

This may just be a sliding door. Maybe I leave it slightly open, big enough for the cat to get in and out? Maybe I can do both. Maybe this opportunity is just another step to lead me to being a better business owner? Maybe I learn the ins and outs of a successful business, build my financial independence, and meanwhile meet more amazing people along the way?

Maybe

Probably

I guess we’ll see

Share Your Spark

My newest Ukelele addition

My newest Ukelele addition

Honestly, I love making music. I found it has become my greatest, most therapeutic outlet. I taught myself to pick up Luis, the newest addition to my Strings family (Fender, Eugene, and Luis) whenever I’m feeling the desire. The key was teaching myself to pick up the strings whenever I’m stressed out or bummed. Whenever I feel lost, alone, or overwhelmed, I’ve ingrained it within me to pick up the strings, give it a strum of the chord and see where it leads. Often, it helps me refocus my attention away from whatever was bogging down my mind onto calming, freeing chords.

I’ve been approached a few times to play the ukulele in front of others but I am highly self-conscious and scared. I play for my own benefit, for my own wellbeing, safely away in my own apartment. I’m not nearly good enough to share with others! I’ll be judged! I’ll be criticized! There are others who are so much more advanced.

Every morning, I sit by my computer and work on a drawing. I usually have random TED Talks playing on YouTube, talking in my ear as I work. Recently, the video “The First 20 hours, how to learn Anything” by Josh Kaufman popped up automatically. Josh Kaufman’s voice educated and entertained me, but it wasn’t until he said “And so, I decided to pick up the Ukelele” that my head turned toward the screen.

And no, he was not a professional. And no! He wasn’t super-skilled or super-confident about his skills. But what I marveled most about him was his ability to share where he was, in the learning process, at that moment. He didn’t apologize for not being the best. He encouraged it. If we see steps, if we see the progress or hear of the progress someone went through when developing a new skill, it can inspire us in our own lives to go out and get’ er’ done!

Carla Fleming is a woman I am helping to organize her business and home (I’ve mentioned her before). She is a Certified High Performance Coach and music teacher. We got to talking recently and she learned that I play the ukelele. She asked if I’d like to play in front of others for an upcoming event. (Cue this internal reaction) Shy and nervous at the prospect, I declined, knowing– no assuming– I’m not good enough to be seen yet. But ya know what? I won’t be comfortable in my skills until I take that step. Playing by myself is wonderful, but sharing something that makes me incredibly happy regardless of how “good” I am at it would help everybody around. I’m doing something I love that helps me feel connected to myself and to the ground. If others can see that connection, perhaps I can inspire them to do the same. I am my worst critic, and it prevents me from even taking that step. Seriously. It’s just a step.

Earlier today, an old friend of mine from High School posted a video of herself singing to the camera. She put herself out there because she was doing something she loved and wanted to share. I see a lot of my friends from high school, doing the same thing. All of us were in choir and in theatre together (Yes, I’m a huge Theatre Nerd!) It’s all for fun. I’m sure they worry about how people will view their videos, or judge their voice, but they’re doing it! They’re pushing past those insecurities and building that confidence. Exposure therapy.

Take their advice, Susie.

So Here I am.

I decided to leave this video unedited. It shows me, nervously approaching that intimidating stool! Second-guessing myself, thinking about how my long necklaces are hitting into the ukulele while I play, wondering how I look, overthinking whether or not I should be looking directly into the camera or off into the distance. But damn it, Here I Am.

I manage to find my groove, punctuated by wrong notes and a phlemy throat. But Damn it, Here I Am! I survived, I shared.

And I feel relieved.

Because I’ve accepted it’s not perfect, and I’ve decided it feels better to laugh about it and continue to grow, than to smack myself in the head and ignore the progress I have made.

*Phew! It’s not so bad, right?

So what do you love? What would you LOVE to share with others? What are you excited to talk about and connect with people about? I bet you someone out there wants to know.

I mean, I’m here, and I want to know!

So go on, tell me a story!

Portrait of a Sister as a Soon-to-be-Mother

The soon-to-be-mother of twins!

The soon-to-be-mother of twins!

As I sit here, visiting my sister, Sarah, in her rural house, she plays on the piano while her husband sits next to her on the couch, running cake-decorating ideas past her. They work as a team, preparing the cake to celebrate her Baby Shower, happening tomorrow. Her belly is large, full of multiple heartbeats. Twins! Boys? Girls? They aren’t sure yet, deciding to wait until the birth to consider the amazing opportunities that await them.

I don’t often get a chance to see family, and when I do it’s usually always to celebrate a large family event. The excitement and anxiety in the air based around a huge life change is contagious! Getting to photograph my sister amidst this change is about capturing that energy. I watch my sister observe, calmly direct, and connect with her nephew in law and I see that crease between her eyes that our own mom used to get when we were growing up. I always called this phenomenon “worried eyebrows” and would physically push that look of concern away from my mother’s face with my fingers, making my mom laugh. My sister is perfect mom material. Sometimes she’s so “mommy”, I have point it out to her. “You sound just like mom!” It’s definitely a compliment.

In my own journey with kids, I am a beginner. Playing with John, Sarah’s 3 year old nephew in law, threw me into a learning experience for sure!

“I have to go bathroom.”

Oh no! Does he know how to go himself? Am I supposed to do something? I heard his mom and my sister laughing in the other room, knowing of my 0 to no experience with children that age. After determining he just had to pee, I was relieved of any overwhelming duties. Phew! All I had to do was keep him company.

“This looks so scary, doesn’t it?” Sarah stops me as I write, showing me the piece she plays, a Beethoven Sonata of some number. There are black marks as dense as a forest all over the sheet of music. To my eyes, it looked like this.

“Is it?” I ask.

But she knows it, having studied music throughout her life and growing up in the musical family we did. Some parts she plays slowly to get right. At every wrong note she pauses, laughs and makes a ridiculous silly noise. Her humor has always put me at ease, making me snort embarrassingly; but it’s just my sister, so snorting is perfectly acceptable.

Sitting here, listening to her play is like a blast from the past though, throwing me into our childhood where we grew up in a family that believed music was life. Everyone in the family played an instrument and sang. My dad was a music professor (a student termed him a “cute old guy” on ratemyprofessor.com) at Lock Haven University, jazz director, and played trombone in a Dixieland band. My mother was a music therapist, organist, and accompanist for Lock Haven University’s choir. All their kids (us) played multiple instruments throughout their (our) lives. Sarah, my older sister, plays trombone, piano, organ and studied music education in college. Sophie, our younger sister, can pick up any instrument and make beautiful music. I like to call her a music prodigy, but in reality she put a ton of work into developing her mad guitar skills! She plays guitar, violin, any string instrument really, and at one point an accordion and saxophone. Zack, my younger brother, plays trumpet, viola, and sings. Because he’s older now, his voice has matured and he sounds like a mini-version of my dad’s strong, baritone voice. Now, the mini doesn’t mean height wise! The dude is 6’4 at the moment, and I bet he’s still working his way up there.

I tend to tell people I am the “least musical” of the family. I tried my hand at piano, violin, and percussion instruments but stuck with singing for years and years. I sing in the Erie Philharmonic Chorus and was at one time the Development Director on their Board. These days I play the ukulele for fun and therapy, and own a guitar, which has a lot of dust on it at the moment. Music is my pulse though. I recognize it calms me, enlivens me, and is a necessary tool for staying centered in my daily life. This seems true for my siblings too.

And check this out! Sarah and her husband, Alex, are creating their own little musical family, similar to the families they grew up in.

Sarah and Alex

My sister met Alex at their college, IUP, where they both studied music education. He comes from a very musical family himself, with 3 sisters who were all drum-majors in high school. He plays countless instruments that I’m probably going to forget some when listing! He loves the accordion– celebrating his Polish heritage– and plays wind instruments. Together Sarah and Alex are continuing the musical legacy. I remember the days, waking up early in the morning to the sound of our mom, playing a tune on the piano, yelling out “Sugar-boogies!” at every other wrong note, and the other times making small little exasperated screams and laughs at her mistakes. Yep, my sister certainly takes after her!

Saying it’s comforting listening to the process of learning a musical piece is an understatement in a way. It feels necessary to be surrounded by that creative process, any creative process. I may not be as musical or instrumentally blessed as my siblings, but that same kind of creative energy that fuels my art fuels their music. I can relate, I can appreciate, and I can be motivated to go out and create as well.

Sarah finishes what she is playing, running her hands messily over the keys of the piano, a stark contrast to the original melody. Always the comedian, she remarks, “He didn’t write that, I added that.”

Creating beautiful music is one thing, but my sister is an incubator at the moment, creating one– no, TWO of the best creations there are to create.

Babies!

Feti! (As I lovingly call them)!

Twins!

Sarah's baby-bump!

It’s just like her to, on her first go, create a quartet of a family. I can’t wait to capture the other large life events that my sister will go through. I often look to her to prepare for my own future. I’m grateful to have her as a role model and learn from her journey. Today, it’s a big belly-bump, but in a few months I will have two new subjects (Nephews? Nieces?) to photograph and spoil! So this blog post goes out to you, Sister. Congratulations on your new family!