7 Moments: What's Been Keeping Me Busy

7 Moments: What's Been Keeping Me Busy

A photo essay of what's been filling up my blog silence.

Local Artist Spotlight: The Honey Cowboy and Midnight Lights

Local Artist Spotlight: The Honey Cowboy and Midnight Lights

Reviews of albums by local Peace Country artists "The Honey Cowboy" and "Midnight Lights".

Inconveniences I Would Rather Have

Inconveniences I Would Rather Have

On Wednesday, I found I was grieving all the things that Levi will not get to do that I wanted him to be able to do. I find that writing songs helps me deal with very stressful and emotional topics, so I wrote "Things I'll Never Do". Here is a quick scratch recording on a video for this song.

My First Music Video

It's been on my list for a while--start creating music videos to go with my songs, so I can get my "babies" on YouTube.

Well, this weekend being Easter, and with me seriously needing something "new and creative" to do, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to learn one of the software options I have (the easier to learn, by far - Cyberlink PowerDirector 10) and put together a video for "The Nails (I Did This For You)", the message of which is very appropriate for Easter.

It took a little longer than I thought (and my weekend ended up with a few more adventures than I planned. Hint: there was an emergency trip to town for a new refrigerator), but I got 'er done. Easter Sunday wasn't quite over when I got it posted to YouTube and sent out to various social media platforms, so Yay! And most importantly? This was a lot of fun.

I hope you enjoy it, too!

Remember, you can access the recording for this song here on my website (for listening only), or you can download it from iTunes, Google Play, or Loudr.

Happy Easter, friends!

I Heart Peter and Evynne!

Sometime within the last year, I stumbled onto the work of Peter Hollens and Evynne Hollens on YouTube, a husband and wife who have built independent careers (although they do sometimes work together) by creating high-quality a capella covers of great music, usually "geeky" or musical theatre stuff, and they often collaborate with other artists who are building their careers the same way.

Seeing the way that they have utilized the power of YouTube, networking, and social media in conjunction with their considerable talent to make a career doing something they love to do has been incredibly inspiring to me.

Here is a beautiful cover of "The Last Goodbye" from "The Hobbit" that Peter recently released.

And another of my favourites: "Baba Yetu" (The Civilization IV theme, of all things!) featuring Malukah. Just love this whole piece of music, and the arrangement is great. (Okay, this is the only arrangement of it I have heard. But I love it.)

I'll be sharing more of my favourite Peter and Evynne videos in the future.

Who is your favourite "YouTube artist"?

Happy Friday, friends!

Reality Check

It was an innocent enough comment, I thought.

I "followed" successful New York Musical Theatre composer and lyricist Timothy Huang on Twitter. When he "followed" me back, I sent the thank you message I send to everyone, with the added comment "I dream of writing Broadway musicals."

And he called my bluff. He wrote me back. And he said, "May I ask what steps you are taking towards realizing your dream?"


I don't know why he asked that... With further exploration of his web presence, I found out he seems to be a bit of a coach at heart. Maybe even a teacher. And he might have heard a hopeful dreamer whispering in the dark, and wanted to see just how serious she was.

Maybe not. But as soon as I read it, I knew it for what it was--a question that required an honest answer. A question that I had been avoiding the answer to for myself. The spotlight was suddenly on my excuses, and I couldn't hide them from myself any more.

I got angry with myself. Because Candace and I have been working on Queen of Persia for FOURTEEN YEARS--but not really. We worked on it for short, concentrated bursts over a span of fourteen years. And had those bursts been "concentrated" not only in effort, but in time elapsed from each other, we could possibly have not only one published play, but several by now.

Thus rang the thoughts of self-condemnation in my head. Followed quickly by the well-practised excuses. "... The kids were too young... I've been too busy... I was home schooling... I've been learning how to write music/tell stories/write musicals better.. I've been too busy investing time into my 'investment capital' business, which leaves no time for the creative stuff..." And on and on.

But "what steps am I taking towards realizing my dream?"

Not enough. That's all I could come up with.

Several years ago, when I had gotten tired of constantly being frustrated at the slow pace I was advancing in each of my various activities and projects, but knowing that I really couldn't give up much more than I already had at the time, I had an epiphany:

A sweater gets knit one stitch at a time. As long as you keep making stitches, the sweater will eventually be finished. Dresses get sewn one step at a time. And novels get written one page at a time. Or one sentence. Or word.

Progress may be slow. But as long as progress is being made, things will eventually be accomplished.

But have I been making steps towards getting Queen of Persia onto a stage? Not really. Not for about four years, now. If that sweater only got one stitch every four years, or even a few rows in that time, it would take a lifetime to complete.

And getting a musical finished and produced takes a lot more effort than knitting a sweater.

"What steps am I taking towards realizing my dream?"

It's funny, because for the last week or so, a voice has been niggling in my brain that it is time to finish. It's time to move forward with this dream, to really begin the career that I have dreamed of since I was in college. Yesterday, I emailed Candace and asked her about a possible next step, and told her a couple things I was thinking of doing, just kind of testing the waters. Testing, because I'm still a little afraid--not of the work, but of my own lack of resolve. Will this be the time that I will follow it to the end? We are SO. CLOSE. Kind of. Not really. Where do we even go from here?

This morning, with that simple question asked by a complete stranger, the lid was blown off the container of my fears. I sat down and composed an email to Mr. Huang that actually did outline the steps that I have known to do but have been avoiding for four years. When I was done, the anger at myself was gone.

In its place is resolve. It IS time. If my pastor and church elders could give me their blessing to sacrifice an entire winter of going to church in 2010 so that I could compose from morning to night that day (at the time, the ONLY niche I could carve out of my schedule to do so), holed up in my freezing cold bedroom (which is where the piano was then), then I owe it to them to finish it. If my husband was willing to sacrifice his Sundays with me, taking over sole responsibility for child care so I could compose undisturbed for one day a week for six months, then I know (for this reason and so many others) that he is behind me 100% on this project. I owe it to him to finish it. If my co-writer can keep reminding me and encouraging me and being passionate about this project, after fourteen years and eight kids between us and moves and misunderstandings and remaining friends through it all, I owe it to her to finish it.

And if, after fourteen years, I still want this so badly that when I allow myself to think about it, to dream it, to feel that flame in my heart that I try to ignore most of the time because the heat would burn and bring me to tears (like right now), then I owe it to myself to finish it.

There is no other dream I have (with the exception of seeing a world where the poor and orphans are cared for properly) that brings me to tears. I don't lose sleep over what knitting patterns I will write in the next year. I don't burn with frustration that my next novel isn't progressing as quickly as I would like. The only dream I have yet to accomplish that leaves my gut twisted with unrequited desire for it is to write music for a living. And specifically, to get Queen of Persia to the stage.

What steps am I taking towards realizing my dream?

Starting tonight, I will be working on the revision Candace and I started in 2012. And continuing on my list of steps from there.

With one step at a time, the journey will finally reach completion. I can't see the end of the road right now, but at least I'm finally walking on it again.

Thank you, Mr. Huang. It was an innocent enough question. But it was exactly what I needed.

Sing, Sing, Sing!

"I joined the choir today," said Noah. Jason and I looked at each other in surprise. Noah isn't the type to volunteer for much, but last fall, when he started attending school, he started playing intramural sports at lunch hour--that is, on the days when it didn't interfere with lunch hour choir practice.

We were thrilled to find that he really enjoys it. For their first performance, he was one of only two or three boys--now that number has increased to a handful out of forty kids. But that's okay--when he's singing, he has the biggest grin on his face, and you can tell he really enjoys it.

This spring, the school choir entered our local Music Festival, which took place about a month ago. They did so well, they were recommended to the Provincial Music Festival in Edmonton, which took place last Friday. In between, they also went to the Grande Prairie Music Festival, and did pretty well there, too. I was fortunate enough to be at all three performances--and actually part of the last one, as their high-school-student percussionists couldn't make the trip to Edmonton. So, I got to play the djembe! (Don't laugh, fellow music alumni--I know I sucked at keeping time in college, but I've come a long way since then. Plus, it was only 2 measures repeating for the whole song.)

Here is the original Festival performance, for which they received the highest award given in our local festival:

In G.P. they got fairly high, as well. I don't know what they got for a mark last weekend, but the experience itself was a reward, as was just having made it that far. That is the first time these kids, this choir (which the director only started three years ago), or the director/music teacher (who has been teaching locally for about 20 years, I think she said) have ever made it to Provincials, so just being included in our province's best school choirs was an honour. And the other four choirs we were privileged to listen to on Friday morning were amazing, and such a joy to listen to!

(The drum on stage was the one I got to play. I had to stop taking pictures after this to go hold it and pose.)

 Jason took two days off work to stay with Levi so I could be a parent supervisor for the trip. It is about five and a half hours of driving between here and Edmonton, so it was no quick "go-and-come-back-today" type of deal--we got to stay in a hotel downtown, and they also included a trip to the Telus World of Science on Thursday afternoon for us.

Plus, it was basically two days that I just got to hang out with Noah. So awesome.

Before heading home, there was lunch and about 45 minutes of shopping at the Kingsway Mall. One of the kids bought "Frozen" at the mall, which was the movie selection of choice for the ride home. (Surprise.) The coolest was listening to a bus full of choir kids belting out the songs from "Frozen" along with the movie at the top of their lungs on the way home--and doing a great job of it! (Maybe my favourite part of the trip.)

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Buddy, Don't You Backtalk Me!

I can picture the scene now: Little Buddy pelts out through the porch, the screen-door slamming behind him on rusty hinges. Suddenly he hears his mother's shrill voice pierce the air:

"Buddy, did you practice your harmonica? You know you can't go play with your friends until you've practiced!"

"Aw, Ma, do I have to? None of my friends have to practice the harmonica. And Billy says that the mouth harp is only for old fogies."

She comes and peers at him through the screen door with piercing eyes.

"Don't you backtalk me, boy! You know you'll never get to play Carnegie Hall if you don't practice. Now, git!" as she swats his backside with her wooden spoon on the way by.

Well, chances are, it didn't go down like that.

But I bet you never thought you'd see a harmonica player bringing down the house at Carnegie Hall, either.

Beatboxin' Sesame

Watched "Stranger Than Fiction" tonight. Cool movie. Good point.

But this is still the coolest thing I saw today. Enjoy!