Month: April 2013

$$$$$ to make the world go round

by Graham

As a musician, money is something that isn’t always part of the equation. Whether it’s by nature or happenstance that this occurs depends on the situation. There is no financial barrier to having a creative idea, and more and more artists are finding themselves in positions where once having had that free (as in speech and beer) idea there is little to no money available to actually create the concept in the physical world. This paradigm has led me to adopt, as a person, an attitude towards life which can best be summed up as “Money is no object”. Typically the fare of the wealthy, I use these words slightly differently. To understand how I use them, replace the word “money” with another word for something that doesn’t exist, say, a time machine for example. “A time machine is no object”. This makes sense, right? If I told you that to solve whatever problem you have (because that’s all creative work really is, self imposed problem solving) you just needed to use a time machine, how confident would you be of the successful resolution to the problem? It would most likely seem like a bad plan and any hope of successfully completing whatever task it was would appear to be lost. Not a great place to be emotionally.

It’s for this reason that when setting up my projects I do so in a manner which eliminates or minimizes exposure to financial expenses. Things seem more likely to succeed if there isn’t a financial cost to completion. Minimal finances is the reason I use solar-power and natural spaces as studios. It’s free. Mostly.

My latest project, however is a departure from this. When I sent in my proposal for fiscal sponsorship, it was because I figured I could use all the help I could get. That proposal came with a very rough estimate of a $25,000 project cost. Not exactly chump change, but not outlandish. It’s the cost of a modest automobile or boat, a home addition, small construction project or slightly more than half of the median US annual income. The last comparison is important here, because I don’t make the median income. Most musicians don’t, in fact. A recent survey found that the average income from music was around $32,000, not much more than the budget I dreamed up for this project. In reality though, this project is more than 5x my annual income. It remains to be seen if I was smart to push myself this hard/far, but so far I would call it working. I’ve travelled more miles than money I’ve spent and am doing most of the work myself. It’s come to a point, however, where I see a need for a bit of a cash outlay to continue in a timely manner. To make the American Heritage series a real success the respective World Heritage Sites need to be used as a studio as well as inspiration. To do so requires a permit from the respective National Park and that takes cash. Since I don’t have it just laying around I have to raise it somehow. In keeping with a previous post, I’m using the internet and the distributed patronage model, or as it’s come to be known, crowdfunding.

Here’s a short video describing the project.

I’m offering preorders of the music I record along with other delicious and delightful gifts for contributing to the project (just like PBS except no tote bags). My goal is $2,500 with 20 hours and 90% left to go. Erin contributed, can you?


April: Birth and Rebirth


This month has been a doozy.  April this year has felt like an entire year in microcosm.  But, I suppose that’s apropos for the first full month of Spring.  Grand transitions must be expected during the season of rebirth.  Ironically, April is also the month of my human birth (this life, anyway).  Birth and rebirth, beginnings and endings and new beginnings, are all living next door to each other.  It can be simultaneously profound and claustrophobically crowded. 


On the sweet side, Mama Earth has started stirring, her precious babies blooming and sprouting and blinking in the sun and drinking in the returning warmth in its wake.  This is my salvation.  Watching Nature’s recovery from the cold barrenness of winter gives me hope that I, too, will recover.  And after this too long Southern winter, I am more in need of this salvation than usual. 


On the challenging side, another birthday celebration always gives rise to yet another inventory of my personal successes and failures.  This year’s retrospective is peppered with both, but feels a little heavier on the latter.  This is not an implication of self-shame (as I wrote about in March), but, rather, a recognition of guilt for not making more of an effort.  I seem to have this realization of myself time and again:  I am kinda lazy.  I am lacking motivation.  I am lacking a sense of passion and purpose.  Or, if I find moments of passion, I fail to act on them accordingly.  Still, despite these cyclical recognitions, I inevitably make excuses to justify not pursuing those moments of passion to try to grow them into a lifetime of fulfilling living.  That’s just bad form on my part.  And this month, when I celebrate my birth and take stock of my life, I am once again holding that mirror to my Self and asking, ‘What are you going to do about it, lady?’


The answer is, I don’t really know yet, but I am hoping that a meditation on Nature’s rebirthing will help lead to my own.  Inspiration is all around.  It’s in the blooms bursting forth from their previously dormant stalks.  It’s in the stories of others who have made the decision to make their lives better through hard work and self-discipline.  (Jay, Lisa:  I’m talking about you!)  It’s in the faces of my friends, family, and students who support me with unwavering trust in my potential. All I need to do is pay attention to it.  Then, I need to stop making excuses.  And, as school comes to an end along with April, I will have fewer excuses to make anyway.  I will have more time available.  I am once again without a car, so I will be getting outside more often, and that is always a good thing. 


I am making myself a little list of resolutions for the month of May.  I will list them here (appropriately, no?) and will report on my progress next month.  I welcome you to follow along with me in these resolutions, or to make your own and report back here with your experiences.  After all, a great journey is only achieved with one little step at a time. 


Mini Resolutions for May:


1.  Meditate daily (minimum of 5 minutes)

2.  Yoga practice daily (minimum of 15 minutes)

3.  Eat clean.  (No emotional feeding.  Real planned meals.)

4.  Do something creative every week

5.  Drink 4 liters water daily


There.  Those don’t sound so bad, do they?  Most of these are things I enjoy doing, but don’t make time for often enough.  Strange how I need to force myself to do things I enjoy, but I give myself no arguments for things that feel like drudgery. 


So, will you join me?  What are your resolutions for May?  I’d love to hear them!  Good luck to us all!




Pen and Paper

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect (connection 6 of 12)
  • Get selfishly creative

“The word that is heard perishes, but the letter that is written remains.” – Anonymous


FACT #1: I look forward to getting the mail everyday.

FACT #2: More often than not, I am disappointed when I return from the mailbox. Typically, 90% of may handful goes into the recycling bin. The other 10% would be bills and account statements. So why do I still anxiously await the mailman’s arrival?

QUESTION #1: Is there such thing as mail Karma? If I sent more letters, would I receive more? From past experience, the answer is no.


In 2008, I started writing letters to my Grandmother once a month in an attempt to give her something to look forward to in her mailbox. I kept it up through grad school. Since the birth of Kid, I probably write four times a year. In 2009, I participated in a letter writing experiment during the month of April. The group goal was to write a letter or note everyday.  I wrote about half of what I intended. This month, I took time to reconnect through words. I didn’t take on anything as epic as committing to a once-a-month or daily note.  There were four people that needed to hear from me so they did…finally.  I wrote an overdue letter to my grandmother, a long thank you note, and two e-mails to old friends.


I was reminded how much effort it takes to write. The pressure is a little less present with e-mail as you can easily and instantaneously erase and edit. To hand write letters is a different beast. Thoughts have to be carefully crafted before you put them down. Spelling has to be in place, too, otherwise the recipient sees your error (or corrected error) in plain sight. It’s a tricky business, letter-writing. Maybe that is why my mailbox is still so boring.

I went searching through the internet to find out what others had to say about writing letters. Here are some of my finds:


When was the last time you wrote a letter?

When was the last time you received one?




Headed West

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect (connection 5 of 12)
  • Get selfishly creative

It has been about two years since I have seen my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins. It has been about ten years since I have visited them in their home state. With Spring Break underway and the prospect of five days of Kid and I together, I thought this was a great opportunity to attempt the trip.

The obvious reconnection here was with these extended family members. While we created many fresh memories together, the two biggest things I left with were some new knitting skills and a deeper understanding of how we all relate and connect to each other. I won’t be sharing intimate secrets, but it is funny how family can give you perspective into who you are.

The hidden connection was with Kid. Twelve hours of car travel will do that to you. I saw greater evidence that he loves books (though he can’t read) and I vowed to keep fostering that love. I also reaffirmed my belief that appropriate amounts of sleep make for happier kids. This one was solidified from somewhere in Illinois all the way home when a dropped water bottle snowballed into an hour long meltdown that also included the loss of a shoe and insistence that we were NOT close to home.

Car trips. They are good for connecting on the road and at your final destination.

Now go visit your grandmother.

Guided Creation

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative (project 3 of 12)

Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do. -Edgar Degas

wine and canvas

Note: the painting is upside down so that I could paint the bottom of the canvas. Daffodils do not grow naturally in such a direction.

My next venture into “selfish creativity” was more selfish than creative. I took a weekday night off from putting Kid down for bed and went to Wine and Canvas for some guided painting.

I used to draw a lot in high school and have dabbled in chalk, pastels, and watercolor. Actual painting kind of intimidated me. Color mixing and brushstrokes seemed foreign to me. That’s not to say that there wasn’t an interest. This year’s resolution seemed like a good excuse to try out this painting thing and Wine and Canvas was a cheap introduction – just an artist walking you through the process of recreating a painting.

I have to say, whether it was the artist’s instruction or the nature of the piece, once I got into the painting, it wasn’t that intimidating. Granted, I know this was not at all the same as art school but for someone looking to simply create and maybe decorate a wall, it would do. It gave me a sense of how overpowering certain colors can be when you mix them into others. It gave me some ideas of how to use brushes in different ways. It built some confidence.

As for creativity…despite many of us following the artist’s directions it is amazing how different each piece turned out. In most cases, I assume that was all happy accident rather than deliberate decision making. I attempted to deviate from the artist a bit: I made my background more green to match my house; I experimented with a really dry brush to make splotchy patches in my background; I used the wood end of a paintbrush to carve in some more background texture.  But as for the flower itself, it is exactly my interpretation of step-by-step instruction.

So am I a painter? No way. Do I feel like I could buy a canvas and paint something aesthetically pleasing? Maybe with more practice and a sense of experimentation without judgement. Perhaps later in the year I will try something on my own.

Have you ever done one of these “paint with a  group” sessions? What did you think? How did it go?

“Real” Junk Food

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe (theme 4 of 6)
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative

Over the past few years I have jumped on the “real food” bandwagon. I TRY to eat and feed my family foods that come from nature. I say “TRY” because sometimes in this busy world you need a pre-made ingredient to keep your sanity; sometimes in this American society those M&Ms beckon you and you give in; sometimes in a happy marriage you choose your battles and don’t say anything when the other one offers to do the grocery shopping and comes home with items that aren’t ideal.  I think the key to any lifestyle choice is to be flexible and do the best you can.

What do I worry about the most with this? Making my kid the “weird” kid at lunch time. You might have known someone like him. He’s the one with strawberries or homemade yogurt and granola instead of bright blue Go-gurt and fruit snacks. It was made clear to me that even at two-years-old, my child may the exception at daycare when for Christmas his teachers gifted this book to me. Actually, I was kind of excited when I opened it.

So over the past few months I have tried some recipes from the book. It has required some exploration into the world of non-traditional flours: spelt, millet, teff…yeah. I didn’t want to buy a whole package of _____ only to use 1/2 cup once and never again. So the bonus to this real junk food experiment was also learning new ways to bake. So how did it all turn out?

1. “Oreos”

Tastes like the original? After the cookies sit for a few days and get crunchy …pretty darn close to the original. Bonus: You can put in as much or as little filling as you want.

I won’t share the recipe I used…you’ll have to buy the book…but here is another version that may suit your needs if you want to try something like this for yourself.

photo cookies

2. “Pop Tarts”

I opted to not ice these so I could taste the basic recipe.  These were not at all like the original because they had so much more flavor. They really were like mini-pies. They were much more involved than pies, too.  Here is a quick version for you.

baking 3

baking 23. “Twinkies”

Had I not over-baked them, the cake would have been spot on. Had I actually managed to fill the cakes with the cream the right way, this would have been very close to the original. Instead these turned out to be dense, dry yellow cake loaves. It may worth another try.


Next up will probably be graham and goldfish crackers. But those seem a little daunting. It’s hard to imagine actually making crackers. We’ll see.

As for all that new flour I purchased… I am following the guidelines on the packages to substitute some of the new for when I would normally use whole wheat flour. I have made pancakes with a mix of whole wheat flour and spelt, which makes for much lighter pancakes. I tried millet in place of flour for my breakfast fruit bar recipe only to find that they didn’t hold together as well. That’s not surprising as further reading says millet may be better for fluffy things, like cake.  There are still half-full packages of these new flours that have yet to be consumed, but I am no longer afraid of them. I see more experimentation in my future.

P.S.  While there is so much out there about “real food”, here is one quick reference to look at just to give you an idea of what it is all about.

318: The Final Days

by Erin

  • Explore someplace new
  • Be inspired
  • Read a classic
  • Try a new recipe
  • (Re)connect
  • Get selfishly creative (project 2 of 12)

Reflections on this set of 3:18 activities…

1. There is quite a variety of activity going on in my life and my afternoons show it. There is a balance of time for myself, time with family, and time for work. Balance is good.

2. The end of the month was much more about preparing for baby’s arrival the earlier in the month. I have entered the “nesting and resting” phase.

3. More photos in this set featured less what I was actually seeing when the clock struck 3:18 and were more representations of what I was doing at the time.

March 21.

Curtain: because sometimes it takes you all day to make it into the shower


March 22.

Catch-up: e-mail marathon


March 23.

Happy Birthday!: How about some homemade “Twinkies”?


March 24.

Bleeding: my brackets are sore


March 25.

Too pretty to work: snow, puzzle, and mint tea


March 26.

Meal planning: time for groceries again


March 27.

To do list: paint bathroom

015 (2)

March 28.

Above the drum circle: client meeting


March 29.

Visualization: practicing for a calm birth

028 (3)

March 30.

Travel North: family celebration


March 31.

Recharge: rest the body

026 (2)

In case you missed it, here are the previous ten days.