Saturday, June 9, 2012

Some lessons take a lifetime to learn…

Some lessons take a lifetime to learn…

This particular lesson took 57 years.

I have always had difficulty asking for help. It goes way back to when I was very young. In the midst of a large family, I always felt that I was alone. I didn’t feel anyone was there for me. I developed an attitude of “I don’t need you anyway” and “I can do it myself.”

Recently I discovered that I do sometimes need help and that I could not do it myself.

It was humbling.

I was hurt, broken.

I had difficulty doing the simplest tasks: pulling a T-shirt over my head after first pulling the sleeve over the arm I could not raise, washing my hair with just one hand, cutting my meat, putting on socks and shoes. Eventually I could, but not the first few days.

Today I was at Applebee’s for dinner. I wanted chocolate cake because it is my birthday. I had asked the waitress for a box for my entrĂ©e so I would have room for the cake. When she brought the box she asked if I needed help.  With my right arm is in a sling, it was apparent that I did. She had already cut my chicken before she served it. But, I said no.  Then as she was walking away, I changed my mind and asked her to help me. I admitted that I had trouble asking for help. She just smiled and said, “Like you were really going to try to do that with one hand?”

It was silly of me.

At the age of 57, I have finally learned to ask for help. And it is not a bad thing. We all need help sometimes.

I guess I could look at that piece of knowledge as a gift.

Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

There are times when you just want to call your mom

My mom has been on my mind a lot this past week, but it had nothing to do with Mother's Day. A week ago today I fell down a flight of steps at work. I landed hard directly on my shoulder, dislocating it. I spent several hours at the local ER with a coworker who brought me there. She said that while I was still under anesthesia I expressed a desire to do water aerobics. I do not have a clue where that one came from. Before they put my shoulder back in place, I felt the greatest physical pain I have ever felt in my life. When it was done I woke with my right arm and hand immobilized in a brace. The right is my dominant arm. I would be forced to be a lefty until I healed. The doctor’s orders were to not use or raise my right arm.

My sister, Cheryl, came to get me and took me out to her farm in WI.  Together we figured out how I could do things one-handed. Dressing was difficult the first time. Have you ever considered how hard it would be trying to put a bra on with one hand? Fortunately, I was wearing a front clasp sports bra. It is doable. Cheryl expressed the fact that she felt a little helpless watching me. I could see her frustration in wanting to assist me. But, I would not let her help me. I needed to know that I could do it myself and I did, mostly. In retrospect I realize that this is nothing new. I seldom let anyone help me. In the end, the only things I needed help with were shoes and socks.

I had many hours last week to think and memories of my mom kept creeping in. In my struggle to adapt to using one arm, I was reminded how she adapted her life so that she could function on her own with declining skills after my dad died. As good as she was, putting on socks was always difficult for her too. At odd moments when I was alone in the house, while my sister and her husband were out doing chores, I found myself wanting to call my mom. But, she is gone now.

Surprisingly, with everything that happened last week, I had totally forgotten that tomorrow was Mother’s Day. It is the first without her. I realized it while I was checking in on Twitter this morning. There were numerous posts for Mother’s Day. It hit me hard. I had not shed many tears from the intense physical pain from my broken body, but tears flowed from the emotional pain of grief and loss.

In the past I had been told by several of my mother’s friends that I remind me of her. This past week reminded me of the struggles she faced as I myself struggled with this injury. But, right now, I just wish she were still here to talk to. No matter what your age is, when you are hurting you just want your mom.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

This Poem

This poem will not be written today.

It just will not come to life.

It lingers just beyond my comprehension.

teasing me, pulling at my emotions.

I can feel it.

Waiting to be revealed in words,

by me,


just not today.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Music: What I am listening to right now

I have eclectic tastes and I love finding new music. But, lately the music I am listening to most is a CD of old music made new again, covered by current singers. Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International is a compilation album featuring many contemporary artists. The proceeds of the CD will go to the human rights organization Amnesty International.

It was refreshing to hear songs that I have loved for years revived. I was surprised as well as there were a couple singers I did not expect to like. I underestimated Miley Cyrus singing "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"  and it quickly became one of my favorites. While looking for the clip on YouTube I also found a mini-documentary where Cyrus talks about doing the song and what it meant to her. I came away with huge respect for this young artist.

But, what was very special for me was the timeless nature of the songs written by Dylan. They are as relevant today as when he first wrote them. The most haunting beautiful for me was “God on Our Side” sung by K'naan. Also of note was Joe Perry’s version of “Man of Peace" and Flogging Molly singing "The Times They Are A-Changing.”

My absolute favorite of all of the songs was the very first song on the CD, “All Along the Watchtower” by the Dave Matthews Band. I have to apologize as I could not find a video for this live performance, but did find the audio for it. I actually bought the CD on the strength of this one song without hearing any of the others on the CD. As good as Bob Dylan was, he did not have the voice to do justice to this song in the way that Dave Matthews does. He starts out quite restrained and then unleashes with power and emotion. No song after that could really top it for me, but they are still very good.

For those of you who love the words and music of Bob Dylan, I feel this is a “must buy! “I have always respected Dylan more as a poet than as a singer. His words come to life even more for me now that they have been re-interpreted by others.

* Also posted at my column on Newsvine.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kickstarter: A new way to pay it forward!

A little over a year ago a good friend of mine generously assisted me at a time I was very broke. She would not hear of letting me pay her back and even asked that I not bring up the subject again. Since then my financial situation has improved some and as I could not pay it back, I decided to pay it forward.

I had heard of Kickstarter when it first launched in 2008 and I considered it more as a means to launch a project of my own, but never did. Then in late 2010 I read about a project for a short film called “The Waltz” that was put forward by Dillon Wall who was the son of my friend “J” (@jclementwall) on Twitter. It was exciting because Dillon was using a short story that J had written as the basis for the film. It was a twofer! In supporting Dillon, I was also supporting my friend J. It also occurred to me then that I could also pay forward the kind gift I had been given and help many others.

Sadly, that first project by Dillon Wall did not raise enough funds in the allotted time so it was not funded. But, Dillon came back with a new pared down budget and was funded the second time to cover the cost of filming and a third time to cover the post production costs.

In total I have donated money to 6 projects. All but the first have been funded. In addition to Dillon Wall, I have helped on a project that would bring artists and writers together for Call + Response annual art show in Washington DC. The next project I funded was “Sirenstories” for Mimi Cross, who had written a children’s book and needed money to hire an editor to polish it so she could attract an editor and eventually a publisher. The most recent project I helped to fund was the The BellyFULL project from the HopeFULL Company.

Each time I pay it forward through Kickstarter to help to fund a project, I think of the wonderful gift that was given to me and the generous friend who came to my assistance when I was in need.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Joyful Noise

For a brief moment yesterday I was joyful. A musician I follow on Twitter, @WeeLaura, had recommended the group Alabama Shakes. As I am always looking for new music and am particularly fond of independent musicians, I checked them out. I listened and was happily transported. The music took me out of my body, out of my mood to a different place. I was smiling as I chair-danced to the bluesy voice of the lead singer, Brittany Howard. I felt truly joyful. That it had that effect does not surprise me. In many ways, music saved me.

Music might not seem like a big deal to some, but it is to me. I have recently come through an intense, dark period of grief. Very little could lift my spirits during that time. I had lost my mom in July and all joy left my life. Well not just joy, but all emotion seemed to be gone. I shut myself down inside and would not allow myself to feel anything. If I did, a flood of grief would overwhelm me and shut me down so hard that it was difficult to function. And that could not happen. Life goes on and I had to be able to live in it. I had responsibilities to myself and to others. For those many months last year, the only way I could allow myself to feel was through music. I was particularly drawn to singers, like Brittany Howard, who could evoke strong emotion with the power of their voice. I think I learned to feel again through them. If I had known of her music then, I know I would have been playing it.

I have come back slowly. It does not hurt so much. I can talk about it and even write about it now. And I am having more moments like yesterday where I can spontaneously smile again. When you listen, it is not just about the music, sometimes it is much deeper.

In closing I would like to leave you with Brittany Howard and Alabama Shakes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interview with Indie Singer/Songwriter Jennifer Haase

I met Jennifer Haase on Twitter shortly before she releasedher second CD “No More Invitations”in July of 2011. We became friends even before I became a fan of her songs. Atthe time I was a little broke and couldn’t afford to buy it. When I finally heardthe CD, it was instant love! I reviewed it here on “Other Things” back in November. But, I was curious about herlife as an indie musician and asked if I could do an interview with her as well.I was very pleased when she graciously said, yes!

I know a little bitabout your journey and how you moved to New York from Nebraska. To take thesteps that you did requires a strong belief in yourself and your talent. Whendid the dream begin? When did you know that this was what you wanted to do?

There was always music in my house, growing up. My parents are musicians. My mother is a songwriter who was out playingher own local gigs when I was a teen. Iknow my songwriter and entertainer genes came directly from Mom, who definitelyinfluenced my desire to be a singer/songwriter, too.

I started writing songs when I took guitar lessons in my early20s. That's when Ye Ole Muse really cameto life for me. I remember asking myfirst guitar teacher in Lincoln (Nebraska), "How do you know if you'rewriting good songs?" Song structure was a mystery to me, but I wassuddenly writing a lot and it felt so natural. Songwriting made sense to me and excited me in a way that no otherwriting yet had.

I think I will justthrow the question back to you that you asked your first guitar instructor. Howdo you know if you are writing good songs?

I still don't know how to answer that question, I honestly don't. It's all about feel and emotion to me. If the song truly moves me as a writer, nomatter the song structure, it's likely going to move a few other listeners,too. I just go by that gut instinct,though that said I'm not always right.

I get that. It is thesame for me as a writer. Sometimes the writing can be cathartic and I cannotrest until I get it out. Is that true for you too and have you ever written asong that was too personal to share?

Oh, yes. Songwriting is often arelease for me, too. And, yes, I'vewritten songs that were too personal to share. Or the timing wasn't right to share it yet, depending on therelationship or experiences the song is about. I think some songs were more aboutjust writing them than sharing them. Getting them out of my body, ya know?

What prompted themove from Nebraska to New York?

I took a songwriting workshop at The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NYthe summer of 1997, with Rosanne Cash (as leader) and 17 othersongwriters. It lasted five days and wastruly a life-changing experience. I loved the people I met, many of them NewYorkers. I went home and startedapplying for jobs in NYC. I landed amanager position at a new bookstore in the city. I put most of my belongings in storage andheaded east. That was February 1998.

As an Indiesinger/songwriter you are essentially doing this alone. How hard has it beenand what other things are you doing to supplement your income while pursuingyour dream?

It's been, and continues to be, the hardest thing I've ever done butwhen the rewards come they're worth every second of this wacky and oftenfrightening way of living. I'm afreelance writer, as well, depending on article writing and other projects tohelp pay the bills. My goals this yearare to expand my custom songwriting clientele and place some of my songs withTV, film and commercials. Expanding alllevels of my business as a songwriter is extremely important year after year.

Knowing what you knownow, would you do it again?

Yes! As hard as it gets to stay alive and smiling in this business,songwriting is still my deepest love and one of the ways I feel valuable, especiallywhen I'm writing songs for other people. That's still the most moving work forme.

Jennifer can be foundon Twitter as @JenniferHaase and on her websites: