Even Woke Boys Need Some Shaking Now and Then

Mark (that’s my husband) wakes up happily at like 5:30 ON PURPOSE.  He is up being responsible and annoyingly healthy every day on the dot.  My son, however, left to his own devices will sleep until 11:00 every day and consider it morning whenever/if ever he wakes up.  He’s annoyed that like 20 things have happened that he didn’t know anything about. I wake up like a NORMAL person.  I set my alarm for a reasonable 7:30 and drink coffee and get on with it like a NORMAL human.

I don’t like to wake Evan up.  It goes against a mother’s instinct to wake up a creature that will proceed to need you once it’s awake.  But sometimes you have to.  Sometimes you can’t just leave them to be blissfully and wantonly unaware of this world, no matter how much you want to or they want you to.

I grew up with Captain Kangaroo.  With Sesame Street and The Electric Company.  I had saddle shoes and polyester dresses and a wore yarn in my pig tails for my school picture.  I sometimes didn’t wear a seat belt and sat in the middle of the back seat, leaning up to talk to my mom while she drove her baby blue Camaro. Mr. Green Jeans and my first grade teacher Mrs. Montgomery and my mom all told me I could “be anything I wanted to be.”  It was the beginning of that idea.  That girls really could grow up to be anything.  And I believed it.

Mostly, it’s true.  Mostly, you CAN be anything you want.  You deal with a lot.  But you slog through and get somewhere close to fair, stronger and smarter and harder than the boys who didn’t have to slog (lots of boys have to slog more than girls of course and for harsher reasons).  There are still the monsters among men who demean women for pleasure and are not ostracized sufficiently.  There are still the leaders among men who delight in elevating women WITHIN traditional roles to the point that we are flattered and patronized into submissive ignorance.  But for the purpose of this entry, let’s not think about them today.  Let’s focus on the woke boys.

Woke boys can wear pink t-shirts and hold up signs and recognize injustice and identify as feminists and STILL carry your boxes to the car.  And STILL reach the pasta press that’s on the highest shelf in the highest cabinet that you use once a year.  And STILL take out the recycling and put the leaf in the table.  Woke boys can let their little cousin paint their nails and not care when it’s still on, red and peeling, 3 weeks later.  Woke boys are awesome.

But even woke boys need some shaking every now and then.

When I was 6 and leaning up in the backseat with my elbows on the black vinyl console, and we were singing Sara Smile and my mom asked me, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”  I imagine she thought my answer would be…..a teacher, a mom, a writer, a singer.  Maybe she knew…maybe she hoped, that I would grow up to be ALL those things.

I AM all those things and a few more.  And, important point here,  I happen to love doing all the things that I do.  Somehow I lucked out and have found several jobs which can coincide and coexist and bring me joy.  I TOTALLY lucked out because somehow I found occupations which allow me to (mostly) set my own schedule, be creative, work with people, earn a little money, and still homeschool my kids. (I could never have done this when they were little.  I have gradually accumulated these jobs as the kids have gotten older.)  So, my schedule is random and full and sometimes unmanageable.  And it always seems like there’s more to do than I can do.  And it always seems like I’m not doing anything quite the way I would like to.  And it always seems like I’m letting someone down.

That last one is what brings me back around.  This year has been a growing one for my career in music, lots of changes and big steps forward.  Lots of focus outward to the world and what I will do next. And the two woke boys in my life, the one that is awake at 5:30 and the one that’s snoozing, both have had a really hard time accepting that.

Why is it okay for me to spend 17 hours on the laptop prepping for teaching grammar and writing, but I’m in debt if I spend those hours in the studio?  Why is it okay for dad to be gone every day, all day but not for me to be gone some days?  Why is okay if I didn’t get something done because I had to help Mallory study for a test, but not okay if I didn’t get something done because I was rehearsing for a gig?

I don’t want you to think the worst.  There is no out loud complaining or disrespect going on, because I told you, these are woke boys.  They want to want me to succeed.  They want to want to support me.  They just also want me home.

So what to do now but to shake them.  And it hurts when I shake them because they are so good and so loving.  Because they get it right so often and always forgive me when I get it wrong and so it’s brutal to point out when they are wrong. And it’s hard to shake them because they feel sharply how very low even that faint echo of sexism points.  And it’s hard to shake them because many of my own choices have led us to this impasse.

But shake them I will when their expectations are unfair.  When their comments conjure guilt.  When their teasing is meant to alter my choices in their favor.  When their support is withheld in the hopes that it will slow me.  When their greeting is different at the guitar than at the sink.

Even woke boys need some shaking now and then.

P.S.  Funny little aside:  While typing this blog I texted my mom about the Camaro.



Amber, fruit sexter, friend and now commander in chief of my career, has suggested that I talk about this.  THIS being the subject that is on my mind maybe 70% of the time. And when it’s not I am writing, dancing, watching Netflix or sleeping and dreaming of polar bears jumping through windows.  No joke.  It was enormous.

THIS is that…. I am afraid to tell you…I am supposed to be ALL THAT and I am fearing that you don’t know that I may not be ALL THAT.

ALL THAT: confident, talented, energetic, organized, prepared, creative, funny, cool, sophisticated, sparkling, attentive, thoughtful, unique, youthful, hip, smart, kind, accepting.  Can kick ass in the microphone and even follow an amazing talent on stage without freaking out.  Can ask people to buy her stuff and not demure.  Can accept disinterest or condescension, take a deep breath, and try again. 

If you don’t know me in real life, then you don’t know that I am perhaps the most open person ever to exist on the planet.  I can’t prove this; you’ll have to trust me.  I can make friends with a doorknob.  After about 10 seconds of talking to me that doorknob will be telling me all his doorknob stories, and I will forever carry that doorknob’s stories around with me in my heart.  And I will be confiding in that doorknob like he has opened the little door of my heart.

So, that paragraph was to say that, the reason for my hesitancy in broaching this topic is not that I am private about it, but more that I don’t want to force you to dwell on me when I haven’t even asked you how you are or what you dreamed about last night.  It seems rather self-centered.

Self-centered is something I REALLY do not want to be.  I am often in the spotlight, so to speak, and I don’t want to BECOME self-centered either.  Okay, okay, okay, enough with the disclaimer.  On with the blog.


Choosing to write music, climb up on a stage to perform it, put my mouth up to a microphone and tell the world that the something I have to say is the something that they should hear is simultaneously the most wonderful and most soul-crushing thing I have ever done.  When I get an idea in my head for a song, and I construct it, and see it sitting there on the paper, it feels AMAZING.  Something exists that didn’t exist before, and could not have possibly existed without me.  And in those moments, truly I believe it.  Somehow I have achieved the ALL THAT.  I write MUSIC and it’s good enough to be considered MUSIC by people who love MUSIC.  In that moment someone could ask me if I would write a speech for Obama or lead a flash mob on live TV or sing at the Grand Old Opry, a list of things the other me would be terrified to do, and some part of me would be completely confident in answering that I could do anything.

And there are those rare moments, when I’m singing and somehow, someway, the sound that is escaping my mouth matches the sound in my brain.  And the muscles in my throat don’t let me down.  And the risks I take with the melody–pay off–my ear brings me joy because what it heard was true and right.  Full of wonder and I’m  ALL THAT.

But the soul-crushing is coming.  It’s coming because I can do ALL THAT and reveal to the world the way my brain works and all the thoughts I have and ask it to listen to me and it might shrug its shoulders.  It might look the other way.  It might say “She’s okay.”  The world is not responsible for keeping my self-esteem in working order.  Those mistakes I made suddenly come into hyper focus and maybe my lyrics aren’t as intelligent as I thought.  Maybe my melodies cannot compensate for my lack of great guitar skill.  Maybe I was wrong when I was soaring.  Maybe those nice comments were people just being nice because they are MY MOM.

That’s real.  And there’s no way to make light of it with some cute quip.  It hurts.  Not because I’m a wimp, but because I care deeply about what I’m doing and what I’m doing is essentially for other people.  And if they don’t care to take it in, then I have no success to dwell on.  I have spent all day making a meal and no one is there to eat it.

So, I worry about this a lot.  I tend to go in phases where I’m holding myself together pretty well and can keep those doubts at arm’s length; I’m writing all the time, and having fun and connecting with people and what I do seems to do some good.  Then, for no apparent reason,  I start to think it’s over and was all just a silly idea.

I’m in the middle of the beginning  of “real” now.  A record label, unbelievable musicians playing on my album, a gifted producer who believes in me, my artist brother working on the album art and getting me gigs, Amber making me to do lists of things I didn’t even know I was supposed to be doing, my family believing in me despite the ridiculousness of this whole crazy thing. I’m just going with it.  Pretending I’m ALL THAT.  Trying to be ALL THAT.

Fruit Emojis and Fast Friends

I met Amber a few years ago when Mark and I went to see Tony play at Jazz Up Front.  Tony introduced  us to her while he was on a break, and we switched tables to sit together.  Once the band started back up it was impossible to continue out conversation BECAUSE THEY WERE SO LOUD so we started texting.  Having just met, we didn’t have a ton to discuss over text.  To fill in the blanks–Amber is hilarious–she sent me random emojis.  A dancing bear, an outlet, an eggplant.

This went on for a few weeks.  Out of the blue I’d get a clown face, or an eyeball, an umbrella, or a cat.  It was a little love note.  “I’m thinking of you!”  I would do my best to out random her, but that is tough.  She is creatively random.

So a little while later I was driving, my son in the passenger seat, and I get a text.  Since I’m driving, I can’t pick up the phone so I ask Evan to check my phone.  He does and starts to type his reply.  This is what he VERY loudly shouts to me in the car.

“MOM!  Have you been SEXTING Dad?”

My answer (obviously) was WHAT?  And, wait, should I laugh or be appalled?  And WHAT?


Okay, so have you put it all together?  Amber and I were SEXTING, and we didn’t even KNOW it.  How awesome of a way to become friends.

So, fast forward, I get to TELL her this story.  And I KNOW she is going to LOVE this story so I tell it just right, and I get to the end and she says, “Oh my God.  I’m a sexter.”

Yes, this is my best story.  Completely unrelated to anything that has to do with music or albums, but somehow connected in my mind since Tony and Amber just left, and we are happy friends forever.


Taking Me Back: My New Album

Last April on a visit to the recording studio I played a few of my newly written songs for Tony.  He said, “We should make a 70s album.”  My eyes glazed over, and I was gone.

So, that’s what we did. I spent a few months re-listening to Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones and Fleetwood Mac.  Hall and Oates, James Taylor (even though I know every syllable) Dan Folgelberg, Jackson Browne, and the Eagles.  I took a detour through folk music and a little day trip through disco and 70s Top 40. Continue reading Taking Me Back: My New Album