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"Listen to your heart" or "One song to go and goals"

 This is not my workspace. I imagine it would be if I lived in Buenos Aires, perhaps, and me and Borges and Cortazar hung out in the afternoons and were best friends.

This is not my workspace. I imagine it would be if I lived in Buenos Aires, perhaps, and me and Borges and Cortazar hung out in the afternoons and were best friends.

I have one more song to write from the list of comissions I started back in June of 2017. When I first offered this kickstarter reward I believe I said your song would be ready by October of 2017….and fourteen short months after that FIRST deadline, this Sunday is my last deadline. And now I know.

So far we’ve got:

Iowa Wedding Song- based on the true story of a family brawl at a wedding and the subsequent banning of said family from a small town in Iowa forever.

That’s What Love Does- a love song about how love just makes things happen in a lovely, gentle, astonishing type of way

Still the Birds- a song about friendship rooted in music and Texas

My darling dear- An Irish-sounding love song about two lovers separated but to be united again in the future

How Beautiful the Tall Oak Tree- about steadiness and love and dreaming all at the same time

The Story of Us- College friends staying friends forever

You let the LIght in- How a friend can remind us of God’s love and assurance even when we can’t see it ourselves

Don’t Give up- about the dreams we have feeling far off, but that we don’t give up (also, the really big hill between the Hochschule and the S-Bahn stop in Oberursel and how it’s no fun to walk up at the end of the day)

Textbook- the twists and turns of life can bring us from reaching for the stars to changing diapers and raising babies

The house across the street- how we can help each other even in the midst fighting off our own darkness

So is my love for you- (Just completed yesterday) Love song in a minor key for a folk trio I know

***The Untitled Last One***- About my family and yet to be written.????????

The last song is dedicated to my mom, dad and brothers. It’s the hardest one to write. In desperation I’ve even gone to setting the timer and free writing. Heck, I got up early this morning to do morning pages (which actually yielded some stuff so that’s good) and starting forging a path through the confusion. Morning pages. Also, some friends and I are reading and working The Artist’s Way so, full disclosure, I’m supposed to be doing morning pages every day. OK, so day 1 of Morning Pages: DONE.

Now just write the song. Just write it. Just write a bad one, then another one, then don’t worry about it, write something else and then you’ll get it. You’ll get it if you stop thinking about it and start writing stuff down. Stop worrying about the outcome and start the journey.

Oh that sounds good. Stop worrying about the outcome and start the journey. Well, OK.

It’s hard not looking right and left and in front and behind you. It’s hard to remember your goals are different than other peoples goals. It’s good to remember that our purpose in life is ours and unique to us. The work we’ve been given will almost never match up to the work given our neighbors. As it should be. My goals these days are finishing these songs, hosting a house concert, and singing them online. No new record just yet, no crowdfunding, no slick new music video. Just me in my basement doing my thing.

Perhaps you are in your basement doing your own thing. I celebrate it. Keep it up. In the words of that Swedish pop band with that early 90s hit, “Listen to your heart.”

And finally, here at the Home Office, these 12 lucky souls got in at a bargain BASEMENT price (see what I did there?). I’ll start taking new comissions in January if you’re interested starting at $500.

Coming up: Stay tuned for my next blog which is probably gonna be about Cory Branan or Darrell Scott or both.

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Is it possible to overshare at the Assisted Living Christmas Party?


The answer is no. You cannot overshare at the Assisted Living Christmas Party.

I sang songs, had a nice cup of hot cider, chatted with Lois before the gig, and then basically told them about my recent road trip to Chicago and how I embarrassed myself forever and for always at a moment when I was supposed to try and act cool and professional.

It didn’t work that way.

I told the Assisted Living folks, along with their families and the head of nursing who was helping pour ciders and coffees and cranberry punch about how I was glad they asked me back again this year because I remember really botching Jingle Bells last year and hoped to redeem myself. You see, last year I was feeling confident and bold and thought I knew all the words to “Jingle Bells” no problem until, halfway through the second verse, I got a tad bit lost, looked to the audience for a lifeline, no one was totally sure either and that’s how I killed a Christmas classic in 2017.

THIS YEAR I nailed it. Thanks, Songbook! Me and my trusty songbook and prepared set list really made for a better gig. So did the Candyland-themed decorations and hot cider so, some time after “I saw Three Ships” and before “Silent NIght” I decided to tell them about my deep appreciation for a certain songwriter, my decision to drive to Chicago for the show because that’s as close as he ever comes to my neck of the woods, what I would call “appropriate” online admiration for his work and then the subsequent real life interaction that had me walking into the cold Chicago night air with a huge neon sign flashing over my head reading, “SHE IS A TOTAL LOSER.”

Yes, I told the residents about drinking a shot of whiskey and a PBR tallboy at the bar after the set. Yes, I told Bob and Bob’s grandddaughter (who was holding Bob’s tiny 5 week old great-granddaughter in her arms) about hoping to get out of the venue unseen and then how that didn’t happen and, instead, I told Lois and everyone else there about meeting this incredible songwriter, about not knowing what to say and having my previous internet admiration make me feel like a grade ‘A’ fool (for you guys I’d say “asshole”, but I’d never say that to them, my elders).

So there I was, standing with my guitar in the middle of the Lollipop Woods decorated Rec. room, trying to explain how I wanted to be cool but just wasn’t.

About how I drove home the next day shaking my head not knowing whether it was funny or humiliating or both when one of your heroes (who you’d hoped might be a colleague) remembers you commenting on internet stuff so much that he says, “Are you Hope?”. And then I sang “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” and we had a good laugh about the miraculous nature of Sunday School Christmas Eve programs.

It was actually a really good gig. I loved it. And at the end, Judy, the Social Coordinator who booked me, said they all agreed I was cool and that made me feel as warm and cozy and the well-heated room.

So dear friends, I’m a doughy semi-sad midwestern mother of three in a tea length skirt who sometimes wears makeup but mostly not. As much as I’d like to be that cool songwriter in a dark bar who doesn’t give a shit and where it’s SRO and everyone is wearing black, that’ll never match up with what I’ve been called up to do. I promise to not be an idiot on the internet (but no I don’t) anymore and if my best effort at punk rock is writing songs about it and oversharing at the Assisted Living Christmas party gig, then so be it.

Go be amazing. Screw up royally like me and tell your friends about it, write songs about it and then go do it again. I love you.

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Dolphins and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders or "the best year ever"

2018 may have been the best year ever. Heck, on New Year’s Day 2018 we were playing on the beach in Newport Beach and saw a pod of dolphins swim past! I played some great shows solo and with my band, Star Belle, went on tour with two of my closest friends Emily White and Katie Dahl, Emily Dunbar and I released our first Bluestem Psalter collection of Liturgical Americana, went on a roadtrip with my family through St. Louis, Nashville, Arkansas then Kerrville, played the New Folk contest, stayed for the song school, laughed and laughed with my fellow New Folkers, drove there and back to New York City, went to the Netherlands and Germany with my son, Sammy, and played some of the BEST SHOWS OF MY LIFE SO FAR, was invited to join Catalyst 19 to discover my Next Best Self, joined up with a Life Coaching class that has blown my mind, quit my job and committed to full-time music.

That’s not too shabby and I’m probably leaving some stuff out that I can’t remember.

That was a pretty kickass year. All the while betwixt and between that cool stuff, I was falling into potholes and forgetting how to climb out, sinking in worry and self-doubt and making life harder than it should be. I did amazing life-changing things then turned around and forgot all about them and felt sorry for myself that this thing called music just “wasn’t working.”

Because I HEART STRUGGLE.

Can I make it harder? Then I will. Can I turn fun into a bummer? You betcha. Can I worry my way into convincing myself I suck? Oh, I’m so good at that.

And knowing is half the battle, you guys. It totally is.

Turns out, 2019 is going to be the best year ever. No question. THE BEST YEAR EVER. But, Hope, you say, “You saw a pod of dolphins swimming in the ocean last year on Jan.1. You cannot possibly repeat that kind of nature-y fireworks in 2019.”

Maybe. I wonder who the dolphins told after they saw me playing catch on the beach last year. Did they tell the sea lions who told the fisherman who told the airline hostess who told the pilot who had a stopover in Lincoln who told the barkeep at The Zoo Bar, who told my friend, Mike who then told the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders to come to my house and surprise me on January 1, 2019? Maybe. May. Be.

All I know is that my mom would never buy that spray detangler stuff my other 2nd grade friends had their moms spray in their hair to make brushing endurable which is why, to this day, I rarely if ever brush my hair.

If there were an over-the-counter struggle detangler that, with a few spritzes helped release the death grip I have on struggle, then I’d totally buy all of it. Before that day comes when I find it hiding in plain sight in a CVS, I’m going to practice saying YES to myself more and taking the power away from struggle bit by bit.

Tomorrow I’m driving 8 hours to go see Cory Branan play a set in Chicago. Because he’s one my most favorite songwriters these days and, to me, he is fearless and strong and angry and humble and thoughtful and vulnerable all at the same time. It’s inspiring. It makes me want to write better and try to do what he does but from my point of view.

A roadtrip to a show is crazy, but it’s just what I need to let go of struggle and embrace the freedom of the right now and the joy that’s out there for the taking. Just like putting out the good china on a Tuesday, making homemade invitations for an upcoming house concert, applying makeup and earrings even when I’m working from home, creating a workspace I love because I’m worth it. All that shit. Goodbye struggle, in whatever form you take. I might stay home and never see a dolphin or a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader for the entire 2019, but that won’t take away from its greatness. I’m going to be taking care of myself and being kind to myself.

And that’s why it’ll be the best year ever. I hope you are gearing up for the same. Peace.

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Happy Thanksgiving from the home office

 This crazy filter really makes my last show look amazing. Or maybe it’s the stock image of a band that’s not me at all that makes me look like such a big deal.

This crazy filter really makes my last show look amazing. Or maybe it’s the stock image of a band that’s not me at all that makes me look like such a big deal.

The pies are in the oven to the tune of Patty Griffin’s 1000 Kisses. The timer is set and I’m at the kitchen table having that second cup of coffee still in my bathrobe and slippers (you know what I’m talking about).

I’ve moved on to Cory Branan’s “12 Songs” and listening for the first time only to discover he has a song called “Sweet Janine” and it makes me think everything’s coming up Dunbar.

And as I reduce the oven temp from 425 down to 350 for the last 45 minutes of baking time, I’m reminded of how many things I have that inspire me to thank our good good Father up in Heaven and thank you, the hands and feet and hearts doing the work of our creator here on earth.

Last weekend I sat in a house I’ve never been to before and ten people gathered around to listen to songs they had mostly never heard before. We laughed, we cried, we talked about country music and ate incredible snacks and we hugged goodbye and left as friends. It felt like magic, like healing, like respite, like we were exactly where we were supposed to be even though we didn’t know it until we got there.

And then you know what? I went to a wine bar the next night to another group of friends and it happened all over again. Right then, right there, when the roads were bad and the night was dark and our team had won and we laughed and cried and told stories and we found ourselves right where we were meant to be.

And so thank you. For all the magic I’ve found like Carol Burnett opening up gag peanut brittle so that poofy snakes leap out. For me it’s opening the can to find love and peace and joy and laughter with you guys. On the Facebook, Milwaukee, St. Louis. Kerrville, TX, Grand Rapids, Chicago, Madison, Denver, Hastings, Norton, KS, Kansas City, Lincoln, Omaha, Hastings, Door County, Seward, the O.C., Song School, Oberursel, Frankfurt, Hermannsburg, Verden, Nashville, and McCool Junction- and those are just the places I can think of off the top of my head.

It gets dark over here sometimes, like the light can’t shine through. But then it does and you show up and you let me sing you songs you’ve never heard before and you ask me about them and you tell me they helped you and you encourage me to keep going and so I do.

When I went in to record my last record I wrote a big long list of your names on a piece of notebook paper and I stuck it in my guitar case and it’s still in there a year and half later. I took you with me to the studio and then I’ve taken you with me to all those other places too. When it gets dark over here, sometimes I’ll see that folded up piece of paper with your name on it and it’s like one little birthday candle lit on a birthday cake. A little light in the dark. Then that one candle sparks another, then another and then I remember what I’m doing and the remembering feels real good.

This thing I’m writing? I wrote it for you. I write it, then I sing it, then I muse, “I can’t wait to sing it for him. I wonder what she’ll think. Gosh, I hope they like it.”

Happy Thanksgiving from the home office. All of us at Hope Dunbar Music (it’s just me, you guys) want to say thank you for all you’ve done. We (I) couldn’t do what We (I) do without you guys. Lots of love.

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Songwriting, a vision board and what I want life to look like


 My vision board: 1. Won’t be this big, and 2. Won’t consist of original art but you get the idea.

My vision board: 1. Won’t be this big, and 2. Won’t consist of original art but you get the idea.

Songwriting. Four songs. I’ve been writing and thinking and noodling and writing and thinking and noodling. In the past two days I think I’ve filled at least 8 pages with mostly crap, but I’m writing and thinking and noodling.

Last night I thought I had made a breakthrough. I found something that felt exciting, I found words that felt good to sing, I found a place that had some enegy. The question now is: how will it feel when I pick it back up this morning?

Four songs. I’ve got to finish writing four songs for two shows I already put on the calendar. You want to finish something? Set the date, make the move, feet to the fire, pen to paper and get to it.

A vision board. AKA Pinterest. According to my Pinterest I love A-Frame cabins, glamping, Bruce Springsteen, patios, the Ketogenic diet (no I don’t), Boho Living rooms and hanging plants. That’s mostly what my pinterest is. It used to have clothes and cute hairstyles, but anymore it’s rustic kitchens, funky wallpaper and dream tattoos. So now I’m going to try and translate that into a real collage type deal with glue and scissors and a poster board to help remind myself about the things I love, the things I think are beautiful and wish to have in my world. The last time I did that I was working a temp job in St. Louis and needed something to pass the time.

And finally, what do I want my life to look like?

What do you want your life to look like?

How many of us have been working from the place of, “That’s out of my control.” for years and years and years? But what if it’s not? What if you want more candles and hanging plants in your life because it reminds you of those Boho Living rooms on Pinterest? What if you want an outdoor rug and some tiki torches to make glamping feel like it’s right in your backyard? What if you want that funky wallpaper so you decide your next project is a tour of junk shops and antique stores to find it? What if you decided you were allowed to dedicate parts of every Saturday working on a vision board of beautiful things just because it feels light and fun and relaxing?

Because you know what is within your control? It is within your control to invite lightness and fun into your world no matter how small. Doodling before bed. Writing a quick note to hide in your kid’s lunch to make them smile, coloring, praying, breathing, moving- not for any other reason but that we’re craving it.

What are you craving? What might let the dam break? What is that little tiny fun, happy, peaceful move you make that shifts the foundation, that wakes you up just a bit to how gospel joy can take up bigger space in your world so you begin to see the next fun thing, the next little moment you can claim to say, “I’m here, I love this. This makes me happy. Turning my world into a beautiful thing is joyfully freeing “?

So today I’m writing and thinking and noodling. I’m dreaming of things I love. I’m looking around and openly declaring what I would love this place to feel like. I wonder if I let this place (my non-boho home and not so rustic kitchen without a patio or an A-Frame) turn into my dream home how that would make my work richer? How would that set me on fire? Everyone’s different, but for me? Oh it would open flood gates, I think.

For now, consider that one tiny light happy possibility you could let yourself enjoy. Then do it. Then dare yourself to try for the next one.



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The stories we tell ourselves

This picture makes dribbling a basketball timeless. This picture makes me think kids have been dribbling Dick’s Sporting Goods basketballs in the streets of Italy for centuries and it makes me smile to know how classic and timeless our YMCA winter intramural sports leagues really were. And then I remember how, after the Saturday afternoon game, all the families would set up tables and bring out their wicker picnic baskets full of tablecloths and real china and chianti and we’d all share a meal in the middle of the court- kinda like “Under the Tuscan Sun” meets “The Bad News Bears.” In sweatpants.

No. None of that is real.

Oh the stories we tell ourselves. Oh the stories we live over and over again. Oh the stories that are shackling us to some identity that isn’t fixed or real or tattooed on our bodies and yet we live as though it were. My story is half light and half dark just like everyone’s. My story is about a creative girl who wants to be a helper and be liked by people and do her best, to extend grace and tell jokes and have fun and go on adventures. And other light stuff too that doesn’t come to mind right now.

That’s the light part of my story.

The dark part of my story is that she tells herself that the raw material of her personality is careless, over-dramatic, unstable, selfish and impulsive so she has to check herself over and over again to remember how offensive and offending she can be when she tries to “just be herself.” She is addicted to stressful emotions and she’s addicted to sad emotions where she tells herself over and over again she’s only permitted to strive this much and any time she strives for more, something happens to remind her she overstepped and that she needs to back up and apologize.

But what if none of that were true either?

What if I remembered that thoughts and feelings aren’t really me? What if thoughts and feelings aren’t any of us? They’re just things hanging around that we got used to along the way and turned into habits because humans love habits?

I like the light parts of my story. I say the dark parts of my story are just the hand I’ve been dealt.

And that sounds like loser talk. For those of you in education, you might see how personality traits and emotional patterns can be easily defined within a “fixed mindset.” And we know that in 2018 it’s all about the growth mindset. We aren’t products coming down an assembly line and boom. That’s all you’ll ever be. No. We are working to shape and transform ourselves step by step, day by day with more knowledge, more compassion, more patience to become the people God has called us to be.

Nothing’s fixed. Especially not our addictions to freaking lame-o emotions. They’re not real. They’re just habits. Time to create some new ones. What do you want to feel? What do you want to do? What, besides your own brain, is keeping you from doing it? What’s the story you’d love to tell your kids? Remember: where the story starts doesn’t have to be where to story ends.

It reminds of that time, growing up in Tuscany, when my great grandmother sold her great grandmother’s broach passed down through the generations from the Medicis (her ancestors) just so she could ride her donkey all the way down to that corner shop. What was it called? Oh yes. Dick’s Sporting Goods just so me and my little brother could feel the faux leather goodness of an Italian basketball in our hands as the sun dipped in the late summer sky.

Pick up your pen. Write your story. Look in the mirror. See the possibilities more than the problems. That’s what I’m going to do over here. Ciao, bella!

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No need to apologize

If there’s one thing I’m pretty good at, it’s digging deep, looking in the mirror and finding a way to remember how badly I’ve messed up in big and small ways.

There has rarely been an occasion where I didn’t think I needed to apologize.

There have been times, however, when I do examine my heart and realize my conscience is clear and that I didn’t actually do anything wrong. That’s a thing too.

My initial impulse this morning was to set out a huge laundry list of apologies to try and cover all my bases. My initial impulse is like back when I was 15 and I got caught ditching class. Surprisingly, I was just fine with Saturday school and in-house detention. That was not a problem for me. Taking punishment feels pretty reasonable. And then it made ditching school much easier after that.

But no. I’m not going to follow my apologies addiction this time.

Why? Because we should all have lived long enough by now to know we’re all struggling with our short comings and sinfulness all the time. We should all know by now that there’s no truth in the instagram filters (my face looks old, you guys, my doughy figure is doughy, you guys because I eat bread).

We should all know that we are all just trying to get by. That our demons are all not the same, that they take many forms, that we look in the mirror and our eyes go to the places we wished were perfect and aren’t. The bills, the loss, the schedule, the meal planner, the steps logged, the phone calls answered and unanswered, the parents, the children, the silence, the unchecked words, the prayers and the lack thereof. It’s all there for all of us. And the holes. The big deep dark holes are there too just waiting to swallow us up.

But for some reason we think it’s just us. It’s just us who barely have our heads above water. It’s just us that feel so alone.

RUBISH. That’s actually a really old trick the devil loves to use. The minute we think it’s just and no one else who is having a hard time is the minue we become so alienated and far off that it gets hard to get helped back up. He hates us. He loves it when we think the world hates us.

So no apologies today. As though you might think I walk around here believing myself to be my own type of autonomous righteousness. I don’t think anything of the sort. I know you know how hard it feels. I know you know how the world can go from light to dark and back to light again in an instant. I know you know we take turns laughing and crying and fighting and resting and trying and healing and breaking. We’re all doing it all the time.

So instead of an apology for my failures and faults, I’m extending a hand of connection. It’s better than getting detention and having to stay in my corner until the timer goes off. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got lots of failings and weaknesses. That’s for sure. But also, I don’t want those failings to keep me from you, my friend. I would hate to think your’s are keeping you from me. Lots of love,

Hope

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I feel foolish when I think about what it looks like

The practice of working from a place of abundance is a rollercoaster of a journey. Some days are great and feel like everything’s coming up Dunbar, and some days not so much like walking on broken glass (now go listen to that Annie Lennox song- she’s so good!!! How could you have forgotten how good she is??!!!).

OK now that you’re back, walking on broken glass (HIT REPEAT) isn’t really what it’s like. It’s more like a rickety suspension bridge over a canyon like I’ve never actually seen in real life, but they’re really everywhere in adventure movies.

Since we last spoke, I’ve put in my notice at work. I’m doing it. Again. Quitting the cafe for music. This time with a much better idea of how it’s going to work and what I’m planning to do. However, the shaky days loom large where I get real scared even after listening to a podcast of testimonials by women entrepeneurs who went out on their own. There are women out there doing amazing things and inspiring so many with their bravery! Wow!

So I had to go back into my own journal to find the braver me to give me a pep talk. Here’s what I found:

“The choices I make might look different from the choices of those around me, but I know them to be the right choices for me and I like them”

Wow, Brave Hope, that is so great to remember! I get scared when I obsess over what it looks like from someone else’s point of view. I get real crazy wondering what everyone else is thinking. Why would you quit your job for nothing? Why wouldn’t you just keep working and do the music when you can?

BUT, then I remember I like these choices. They aren’t a punishment, they are actually things I’m craving and know for certain will make me feel fulfilled and fully me like the girl God wanted me to be this whole time, then I get energized and inspired and fearless. Hmmm, interesting.

Here are my new hold outs. Like, do these things and you’ll really stake a claim to this new thing you’re trying to create:

-The practice of clearing out a space in my house that will become my new creative space. But first, it means getting rid of the clutter that presently fills the space. It means practicing the nuts and bolts of newness by symbolically carving out a blank canvas in the midst of my present landscape. (I’m avoiding it. I know it will feel good. I know it feels like a bridge too far. I know I can do it. I should do it. I have all these thoughts at the same time.)

-Procrastination is not self-care. Oh dude. Let that sink in. Me watching “She’s out of my League” for the third time in one week is not helping me in any way. In fact, it’s hurting me. Putting off work and to do items, for me, raises my stress level, creates more unrest and distress. So why do I keep doing it? Like clearing out a space in my universe, this nook needs remodeled too. Oh brother.

-THis work is all over the place. How do I get it together and organized? If you’re doing everything, how do you prioritize anything? The music. I know it’s obvious, but it quickly becomes unclear. The music is the priority. The songwriting is king. Do that first, then do the other stuff. I need a work calendar or a time management tool or an egg timer or something.

Finally, I looked up the meaning of The Fool in Shakespeare plays. I found a blog that didn’t ask much of my intellect. I wrote down the things the fools did in a few different plays as encouragement for why the fool is the necessary:

he can see through characters//he is an observer of human nature and contributes a better understanding of the characters//the fool comments on events and points out the truth which is either missed or ignored//

And those things sounds like good things to me. So if I’m worried about being the fool maybe it’s because I haven’t been thinking about how the fool is needed in this world. Maybe instead of fighting the label, I just embrace it. OK, now what are the bridges too scary to cross for you? What are the risks that feel too risky, but your bravest self thinks that maybe just maybe you might be able to do it? Think on that. Peace.

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Stars and dot stickers

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This week I cried at an article about a cross country runner from a little neighboring town, McCool Junction. I shared it on Facebook and my friend and fellow songwriter, Ken Hall, suggested there was good vittles in there for a song. He was right and I was itching to write something anyway so I wrote the song based on the article. You can read it here:

https://www.nebraskaelitetc.org/single-post/2018/10/07/NoahLambrecht?fbclid=IwAR1Fo8KoDbBc_JkuC-_GYonUJDVLCLudpDsc-7U12VEU2T4g1rNAHwisrjY

And now it’s been viewed over 5,000 times- way more than my earlier biggest hit, “I Write.” Pretty cool. It goes to show that you never know what’s going to strike a chord or resonate with people. You never know what people’s hearts are craving and it reminded me to keep showing up, write what you feel called to write, be the biggest brightest version of yourself as you can be and God will put you where he needs you.

Then, another songwriting friend, Andrew Dunn, joined in and together we’re working on cleaning up the first draft and making the song even better. That feels like a surprise blessing and, to have a co-worker equally invested in the song to make it the best it can be, is energizing and super cool. I should find co-workers more often.

Then I drove to Omaha with some girlfriends, first through the drive thru and then to the valet parking we accidentally bought with our Jen Hatmaker event tickets and now I never want to park by myself like a sucker ever again.

It was an evening of laughter and reflection and beautiful music and unexpected love that I’m so thankful for.

God will show you beautiful things and loving people and generous hearts even while hurricanes and tsunamis destroy coastlines and legacies. Even while fighting and division declare whose with us and whose against us and more and more we’re tempted to believe it.

There’s this book by Max Lucado called, “You are Special” and it tells the story of the Wemmicks, wooden people carved by the maker and how they spend all their day sticking stars and black dots on each other. Stars and dots, stars and dots all day long like it’s their duty to stamp “good” or “bad” on everything they see as if the maker himself didn’t know one way or the other.

One particularly sad Wemmick covered in black dots meets a fellow wooden creature with nothing on her at all. She’s free of the good stars and the bad black dots. Asking her how she did it she answers the sad Wemmick by saying, “Once you get to know the maker the stars and dots don’t stick.”

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That story makes me cry every time. To the point that when I read it at bedtime, my boys always couldn’t understand why mama was crying at the end every time (Just like “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”).

You know why the cross country runner is so inspiring? Because the stars and dots don’t stick on him and it’s magical. Same for the writer of the article, Jay Slagle- he was just writing with his heart the story he wanted to tell. You know why I feel thankful for writing that song? Because I wrote it at a moment when the stars and dots were the furthest thing from my mind. That’s when the magic happens. When we look past the grading scale, the paycheck, and the appearances and we do it anyway like we’ve got the audacity to believe we can act in the freedom of a love poured out to us by a our maker who knows exactly what he’s doing.

That’s cool. Now go throw away those stars and dots and go be awesome.

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On a scale from one to Trump it was a 1.5

A close friend of mine got into a twitter fight yesterday. I’ve never known anyone to get into a twitter fight before (and on a scale from one to Trump this was like a 1.5 on the Twitter richter scale). I’ve watched them, but never had a horse in the race. Yesterday I was cheering on my friend arguing with a stranger. It’s a weird world we live in. Suffice it to say, things are tough everywhere and life is hard even if you do have a steady paycheck and thousands of twitter followers. They can’t follow you all the time, ya know?

On a scale from one to Trump, my yesterday started at a peaceful “green means go” type of level but then ramped up to the emotional equivalent of that time suburban college kids were camping in tents on government property to prove a point about the one percent (if my shoddy 6am Friday brain serves me right). Kind of serious, but still from a place of great privilege. Like a four, maybe. Because when you’re working through your outlook on money with your therapist, you know things are going pretty well overall.

The thing is that at the beginning of the day I was really in a good head space where I was practicing wholeness, I was allowing myself to give myself complements and remember that I don’t suck at everything, that I’m kind of OK maybe on some things and trying to rest in my imperfect but beloved personhood. This is new for me. Green and peaceful like Psalm 23. A new place of existing where I tell myself I don’t have to try so hard or worry so much. I can just walk through the world like I’m allowed to take up some space.

But then, oh then my own stupid brain starting freaking out like, “Hang on. We didn’t vote for this. We voted for power in the form of worthlessness as stated in our mental and emotional constitution! Get her out of here. Someone get her out of here.” And then the rest of my brain starts shouting, “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

So my whole self got a little scared yesterday. My whole, complete, resting self ran and hid and I was left with my “you should make yourself small and worry that no one loves you unless you keep your mouth shut” self who promptly took over and by the time it was lights out, I was confused and lost. Like a waitress getting a text alert from the federal government on her cell phone in the middle of the lunch rush.

I’m joking and telling the truth at the same time mostly.

So it’s a new day. Post twitter war, post Kavanaugh, post crisis of confidence and it’s Friday. I’m back to practicing my New Adam identity with lists of things I have completed and people who are cheering for me to help me stay focused and encouraged. On a scale of one to Trump I’m like at a Hope Dunbar- kinda crazy, bad at twitter, but resting in the grace of our God. HIgh five.

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It feels good to write a song just because it makes you happy


 Sam, Jesse and I went to see Dawes in Lincoln last Tuesday. It was awesome.

Sam, Jesse and I went to see Dawes in Lincoln last Tuesday. It was awesome.

It feels good to write a song just because it makes you happy. It’s funny to think about how creating something that serve no other purpose than to remember when you were fascinated by a movie poster of a movie you have no intention of seeing.

I reflected to my husband the other day that it feels good to be alive on the days when I feel like I don’t have to try so hard. Those days when you give yourself a break and not fret over what’s not getting done or what you’ve still got on your plate that needs your attention before the sun goes down. I’d love to find that place where I live somewhere in between the responsibility and the freedom of just being. I know it’s out there because there are days when I feel it. The problem is that is can feel so foreign on the days when I’m weighed down by all my shortcomings and imperfections.

So I wrote this dumb song about a dumb movie poster. And I recorded and posted it on Facebook because it’s part of my method. For me, it’s an act of raising my hand and saying, “Here!” I looked back on the video and I have bedhead and an ugly/tired looking face, but that’s part of it. I post it for roll call even when I think I look bad. That’s the point. It’s to say, “I’m allowed to be here even when I’m not presentable.” It’s an act of wholeness.

Wholeness. The idea that there’s nothing I can add to my worth or take away from my worth no matter what my days look like, no matter how I look at myself or how the world looks at me. Not goodness, but wholeness.

I wrestle with it all the time, but I want to lean into it more as I move forward. I want to lean into the freedom I have of realizing who I am completely without a grade from someone else, or a grade from myself. Just be me.

 Jesse turned 13. I think a “Let’s Party” hat would help center me in wholeness every day. I should borrow it from him.

Jesse turned 13. I think a “Let’s Party” hat would help center me in wholeness every day. I should borrow it from him.

I know people around me who are really good at it. I see them and admire them and wonder at their freedom. I’d like to try and practice it too.

So I wrote a dumb song and posted it on social media because I’m allowed to. I probably should’ve gone on a run, but instead, I dinked around on a guitar. Now what are you putting off and trading in favor of some chore you think is better or more worthy?

There’s a balance between responsibility and freedom. It’s somewhere out there. We can find it together and shine more brightly when we do. Have a great week!

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Banana Moon/ Where my girls at?

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I like this song even though it seems to be objectifying a loved one and threatening reliatory behavior against a suspected admirer of the protagonist’s boyfriend/husband. It’s probably her husband because it sounds like she really means it.

But it’s a good jam and I like the firebird dancers.

I closed my eyes earlier this week to practice checking in with myself. I’ve never done this before. In week two of my online coaching class, we’re focusing on the mental/emotional game and we might as well be playing Monopoly in the summer time with my older brother and I’m eight because I suck at this.

When I checked in I realized my head felt fuzzy, the area around my heart felt cagey and my right hand was tingling. Then, we were asked to close our eyes and find the feeling/circumstance you’re most afraid of, conjure it up, get riled up with the intent of putting your feelings under a microscope asking, “Why do I feel like this? Where does this come from? What’s really going on here?”

And you know what I discovered? I’m not afraid of rejection or humiliation or abandonment. Turns out I’m afraid of happiness, contentment and love.

What a loser.

Cuz here’s the thing: How can I realize a dream that makes me happy if I don’t believe in happy?

See, I believe in micro-happiness, just not macro-happiness. I love exact change, peanut butter sandwiches, hot tubs, coffee and flip flops. But if you asked me if I was happy. I’d get really non-committal with my answer. I believe in acts of love and kindness, just not across the board, for sure love no matter what kind of love.

This isn’t exactly news. It’s just zeroing in on an articulation of how I live better than I have before.

When you realize you have to rewrite your whole life’s script it can feel a little scary. When you realize that the only way to get to where you want to go means scooping out the bad stuff like the guts from a pumpkin, your initial response is to run back into your cave, throw up and hide under a blanket.

So where my girls at? I could use your help. I don’t want to get together to go beat up someone flirting with my husband. I’d just like to get together to encourage one another and help each other work through the hard stuff. This feels like hard stuff. Sometimes the to do list feels like the only thing there is, but then there comes a moment when you follow the problems with your to do list all the way back to your head and your heart and it turns out your fight isn’t against your mailing list at all. It’s against your own brain. Well, you’re not alone. And we can do it together, I hope. Now play the song, dance in your kitchen, and stay cool forever.

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Music Money

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FACT: I don’t have a great relationship with money. I never have.

FACT: Folk music is half feelings and half joking about how there’s no money anywhere for anyone and you might as well get used to it. Or quit. Just quit because money’s never going to be part of the deal.

FACT: This past week I’ve been doing a lot of internal work regarding purpose, dreams, self-talk and how I want to fashion plate out my next best self and it finally dawned on me that me and Money have some work to do.

Money and I have to call a truce. We have to start working together instead of distrusting one another. We have to walk over to Music and say, “Hey man, I think there’s a way we can all go into business together and not lose sight of the real goal.”

AND CUE ALL THE THINGS WE SAY ABOUT ART AND MONEY TO THROW US OFF COURSE:

“ Keeping a day job is how you free up the music to just be what it wants to be instead of adding the pressure of a paycheck on top of songwriting because songwriting has enough problems and pressures to begin with.”

“It can’t be about the money. Simply because there isn’t any. Get used to it. If you feel like a beggar then you know it’s working. Join the club, sweetheart.”

“Getting paid feels great. Every once in a while you’ll get that feeling. Most of the time, it’s catch as catch can.”

“The new model doesn’t value art. The 21st century isn’t interested in paying for your work. I don’t care how long it took you to write that song. People pay for coffee and netflix and sports. No one pays for art.”

BUT MY PINK FASHION PLATE GIRL DOESN’T WAIT TABLES ANYMORE

If all I ever do is resent my day job and wish like heck I could just be a musician, if my real dream is being a full time singer/songwriter, then step one feels like throwing the beggar out the window, and rethinking how I see money.

And that’s coming clear for the very first time. So clear and so great.

Why? Because it feels like something I can actually do. I can’t, of my own strength, get bigger artists to book me as their opener (if you know how to strongarm the cool kids into letting you sing while people get to their seats, let me know), but I can look at the numbers, see how they need to play out and start making a plan to do business just like if I were a hair dresser or a mechanic or a waitress.

We joke about the lack of money in music. Some of us even tell others of us to give up. There’s no such thing as “making it” in 2018.

But with a little bit here and a little bit there, some commissions here and commissions there, I think I can hobble together a living. It’s what I want. So I don’t think I have time for the jokes about being broke anymore. They served their purpose, but they’ve run out of steam and now I need a new idea.

Music and money. Tough stuff. In honor of the hard working musicians pouring their hearts out in between shifts so that someone somewhere can feel not so alone, here’s a song by musical warrior, Jana Pochop. She’s a friend of mine and all ‘round rockstar.

“Martyrs don’t walk through their own open doors.”



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Afraid much?

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My new life coaching class is giving me lots to think about. I bought a new notebook and I’m filling that notebook full of notes and questions and ideas to consider. In my free time I flip through the notebook and review the ideas and questions I wrote down hoping something cool will occur to me and then I’ll write that down too.

Afraid much? Oh yes.

My future self is being invited to respond to my current self predicaments and the two women don’t see the world the same way. That’s weird. One of these women I know very well and the other is new to the party wearing nice clothes and unapologetically declaring what she wants. That’s weird, right? My current self is wearing old clothes, has bad hair and feels bad that she’s walking around all 41 because it’s offensive to men who like women younger than that.

And yet my current self is calling that sassy future self the enemy. How is that possible? How is the self-confident one who knows what she wants a problem?

So I look through my little notebook to find the things that will topple my own brain’s argument.

Things like:

Dominant thought+dominant feeling+dominant action = RESULT.

That’s true. I need new thoughts, new feelings and new actions to create a new result.

Afraid much? Oh heck yes.

That’s what I’m doing over here. My present self is fighting with my future self and I’m trying to let my future self win. But it’s a slog, man. It’s a “redirect every thought and impulse” type of game. It’s a “refer to the notebook every five minutes” type of game. It’s a ”maybe if I had stronger meds this would be easier” type deal.

So here’s the question: What would life feel like if you were completely safe? If the notion of feeling certain feelings didn’t shake you, if you really were rooted in the unconditional love of the God who made you, if you were taken up to the high mountain and told to go for it? Then what?

We get glimpses of that freedom every once in a while. Now the mission is to act from that place on a regular basis. THat’s the mission. That’s the quest. Life coaching can really give you lots to think about. Good things to think about. It’s crazy to think that good things can feel like the enemy because we’re so accustomed to working in the world of the defeated and down-trodden. But not anymore, friends. That’s boring and tired and the world needs us for other stuff. Let’s go do it. Love, Hope

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To "Graduate from needing someone's stamp of approval"

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Still not writing songs for so many reasons. I'm afraid the songs won't be that good. I'm afraid they won't sound the way the previous songs sound. I'm afraid of writing new songs when I've got so many songs waiting in the wings from past projects.

1. I'm afraid the songs won't be that good. I'm always afraid of that before I write a song. These days I feel like I don't know where to start. Like my ears need something new and I need more time alone. Are those excuses? Yes and no. If I really wanted to, I could crank out something in 20 minutes and then make myself crank out something else in the meantime. But I'm not doing that either. Ok, fine. I'll crank something out. There's no shame in a bad, finished song if it leads to a better finished song.

2. I'm afraid they won't sound like the previous songs of mine. And that's very likely. Different days, different thoughts, different place in life all lend themselves to different work. But people liked the old work. What if they don't like it when I go "electric"? (That's just a turn of phrase. I'm not going electric.)

3. I can't write new songs because I've got this back log of old songs that need my attention. Now this one feels kinda true also. You guys, I have a HUGE back log of songs. Do I let them disappear? Do I pick my first string players and let the rest be working material never meant for public performance? If I let them sit around long enough then I've made my decision. They'll fade away and be gone. If I take a minute to go through the stacks and find the keepers and clean up the rough ones, I'll be saving some of them forever. But looking back feels like a cop out.

Which reminds me of the other breakthrough I had in my "Next Best Self" group a couple of weeks ago.

In an effort to try and articulate what my problem is, I finally said, "I need to graduate from needing someone else's stamp of approval." 

And it's totally true. Even when it comes to writing songs. 

Like a dog begging for scraps I sit right beside the table where the cool kids are all gathered and pray they might send something good my way. Song contests, showcases, elder statesmen, concert series, radio DJs, music publications, I am just sitting here desperately hoping someone will tell me I'm good enough. I've spent all those years patiently toiling and praying I get my card stamped with just the right thing to give me assurance that I'm permitted to continue. 

Dudes, that is a losing battle and the best thing I can think of is taking my toys and going home. Who isn't playing that game? Who isn't exhausted by trying to get validation from peers and friends and colleagues that will put an end to the bad thoughts, the negative self-talk, the doubts that creep in right after all those likes and shares and playlists start to fade away?

And the only person who can give me that diploma is me. The only person who can burn all the gold stars and temporary stamps of approval is me. That's what I'd like to do. I'd like to write whatever I want to write, say whatever I want to say, build this half-assed, hobbling, hopeful music career however I want and stop looking around for someone cooler or more connected to talk to in the lobby of Folk Alliance. 

So tomorrow I'm starting a life coaching course. I feel unworthy and unprepared, but I'm jumping in anyway. Today I'm going for a run and waiting tables and I'm going to pray on this idea of boldly doing what I feel called to do. If my next album comes out of Duluth, MN or Alliance, NE or wherever, it's gonna be cool because I know it to be. Not because it's wearing the right clothes or living in the right town or thanking the right people in the liner notes.

Fudge that sugar. You can't be a beggar and a badass at the same time. You just can't. Or at least I can't. So I will very imperfectly and poorly cobble together something cool. Like in "Pretty in Pink" when Molly Ringwald makes a stunner of a prom dress out of two old second hand prom dresses. Only it'll take longer and I can't sew. That's what I got, my friends. Be excellent to each other. Love, Hope

 

 

 

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The ideas are getting beat up like street punks

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I have lots of ideas. I sweep floors at work and daydream, I roll silverware and daydream, I fill up ice machines with scoop after scoop of ice and I daydream and I come up with lots of ideas.

Paint your kitchen! Rip out all the carpet in your basement since you hate it so much! Declutter your house a bag at a time! Scroll Pinterest for backyard landscaping ideas! Go on a retreat, go to Nashville, carve out an office space in your house where you can really get some good work done! Invite people over for dinner for no reason! Turn all those apples and pears into crisps and pies and sauces! Get the word out about your shows and ask your friends to come! Lose the weight why don'tcha?

So many ideas. So many things that I keep up there twirling around while I clean up and vacuum. So many things I wish I could do if I just had the time, the money, the motivation. There are books to read, albums to listen to, shows to go to, blogs to write, pictures to order, thank you notes to write and closets to clean. You'd think I'd be a machine. 

But I'm not. Because after rolling all that silverware and sweeping all those floors. After getting first verses written on runs down dirt roads, I walk back through my front door and the neon sign in my head starts flashing, "That's stupid. You're stupid. That's stupid."

The ideas are getting beat up like street punks and I'm the one kicking their asses. 

Why is that? Why can't my ideas just be cool and why can't I be cool with them instead of turn traitor and it comes to blows? 

That blows.

On my more rational days I say, "OK, Hopie. Not all of this can happen, but some of it can. Let's order your dreams from one to ten and have at it." 

But I've been trained pretty good in the "That's stupid/ you're stupid" method (Side note: That'll either be my next band name or the title of my autobiography) and for so long that even when I want to try a new approach, my brain is trained to respond to dreams accordingly.

In the sage words of Emily White, "Your brain is your body's worst enemy." And, in my case, it's totally true.

How do I save the ideas? How do I let them live or at least loiter in the corner without smothering them with a pillow? I'm like a CIA operative. I'm like the Jason Bourne of thinking. I just go after the enemy (in this case ideas of new things) with stealth precision and snuff out the threat somewhere along the Thames or under the Eiffel Tower while talking into an earpiece I didn't even know I was wearing until a British voice tells me to karate chop the hell out the suspect code name: Build window boxes to plant flowers in. 

Sometimes I turn to others. I ask for help or encouragement. But most of the time my brain says, "Everyone is dealing with this crap and no one has time for you to unload or ask for a pep talk." Keeping it to myself is a really important part of the "That's stupid/you're stupid" life plan.

And here's the thing. I'm currently doing a group project where I've been chosen as a "Change Maker." A change maker is someone in the community who is trying new things and doing stuff. The struggle is real. The flip side to beating up my ideas is that I have stuff that actually needs to get done and so the production line can't stop altogether. I know this. You know this. I think we understand one another.

So the best I can do is reach out to my enemy, help the ideas get back on their feet and use whatever strength I have left to get something done. One box of clutter, one song just to say I wrote something, one crappy workout and a piece of fruit and hpe tomorrow goes better.

Some might say I need to really grow outmy horribleness. Some might say I just have to figure out how to survive alongside all my bad habits. Some might say this CIA operative should hang up her ways, go to her high school reunion and discover her own humanity by rekindling a romance she left broken with the local indie radio DJ (no, wait, that's Grosse Pointe Blank).

I don't know, you guys. Seriously. I don't know. The message of hope I have learned through all of it is to not wait around for my brain to right itself before getting work. That's the good news. On the days when the "That's stupid/you're stupid" impulse isn't as strong then I'm gonna do what I can. And every time I drop a few coins into the ideas bucket or wave the white flag of surrender instead of ambushing them with fisticuffs, then it'll get easier the next time we meet in a dark alley. 

So your broken self still has some fight in it. Just stop kicking your own ass so much and turn your attention to stuff you wanna get done. That's what I'm over here praying to do. I love you guys. Peace.

 

 

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I should be like that girl

I had an amazing summer. St. Louis, Nashville, Arkansas, Kerrville, New York City, Chicago, Amsterdam and Germany. I sang my songs, people bought my record, I drove miles and miles with my boys in the passenger seat. We listened to everything in the FM dial and then we played our favorite songs and listened to podcasts to pass the hours. 

I knew I had it good. I knew I was having adventures way above my paygrade. A woman like me shouldn't get to have a summer like that. But I did.

 Kerrville Folk Festival 2018

Kerrville Folk Festival 2018

 New York City, Central Park July 2018

New York City, Central Park July 2018

 A Canal in Amsterdam July 2018

A Canal in Amsterdam July 2018

And so as not to get carried away or get too comfortable I gave myself a job. I told myself that all these days, all these places and experiences were to help me consider one big question:

"What does my next best self look like?"

I brought a journal. I wrote it in faithfully and reflected on the people I was meeting, the places I was seeing, the feelings I had and the discoveries I was making in hopes of discerning clues and footsteps that would get me where I need to go. That place just around the corner that I can't see yet.

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This is what my current self looks like. Not great, not terrible, just self.  She just got off work, she just went for groceries, she's thinking about what to cook for dinner. She washed the floors at work, her own house needs some attention. She's worried about how much screen time the kids are getting, how much housework there is to do, how many thank you notes she hasn't written, loads of laundry she hasn't done, how beauty standards are really messing with her head and is getting comfortable in your own aging, flabby skin a sign of power or a sign of weakness? I guess it depends on the day.

So I wrote about it all. I wrote about the gigs, the camping, the fun, the laughter, the service, the connections and the beauty of this terrible, wonderful world and I looked for signs and notions to help me along.

 Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

 Verden, Germany

Verden, Germany

 Verden concert July 30, 2018

Verden concert July 30, 2018

There must be a reason that a girl like me gets a summer like this and it must tell me something about the kind of work I need to do next.

But here I am. Afraid of all of it. Afraid to embrace what I was given, afraid to entertain the notion of something better, afraid to question whether it's OK to let four more years float by while waiting tables and washing clothes.

Seriously, you guys. My next best self is hiding under a blanket somewhere and my current self isn't doing a darn thing about it. 

But here's what I know. I've been in this state before. I'll get out of it again, for sure. I don't like being here where I feel powerless and fearful, but I do know there's this other side of me that can show up and do crazy, interesting, brave things. 

I think she's planning on making an appearance this evening somewhere near Elkhorn, NE. She looks more like my next best self than I do at the moment and maybe that's the clue I need to notice. There's a tug of war that goes on within us all between our better and weaker selves. Our sinners and our saints. We've just got to find out how to give more power to the new creation and less to the old Adam that died years and years ago, but who's ghost still thinks its got a shot at taking over for good.

That picture of that lady in this post? That's me. Best and worst and everything in between all at the same time. She clocks out smelling like french fries and then she writes about it like she's got a right to, then goes sings it in front of stranger. I should be like that girl.That girl hopes you see her doing crazy things and that you feel like you've got permission to become the next best you. Love, Hope

 

 

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Moving Forward is the name of the game

Pennsylvania goes on forever.  So does Illinois. There are tolls to pay so I kept a sandwich bag of change next to me and some crisp one dollars I got out from the bank before I left.

We had a bag full of snacks to get us from here to there.

And we came home and we left again and we came home and then we left and now we're back with backpacks on and our hair cut short and it's the first day of school.

Behind us are the weddings and the purple cone flowers and the camping by the lake. The long day drives and the overnight flights and the trips back and forth to the pool. It's time for setting the alarm clock and heading out the door, it's the schedule back again after a summer of everything. 

Kerrville New Folk, Boy Scout camp, New York City, Oklahoma, Kansas, The Netherlands and Germany, a quick stop at Oma's house in Indiana to swim in the lake and that one time the girls and I went kayaking just outside of Hastings. It was a very busy summer.

I've been home less than a week and we hit the ground running. I've been running. And I keep waking up with my left foot hurting. But then I walk it off.

The news is reporting on the first state execution in Nebraska since 1997. The high school boys are out in full football gear practicing in the afternoons and there are a few windows broken out in the library and 5th/6th grade classroom from last week's hail storm. 

And I'm over here half winning and half losing. On Monday I was useless, on Tuesday I kinda pulled myself together, and today I'm making cookies for school before 9am. (Because I didn't do it last night because I realized we had no eggs)

Last night the five of us went out to dinner. We bought our supplies last minute and filled our backpacks to be kinda ready or today. 

I've got a head full of stories I haven't told yet. I've got a list to do that's a mile long. I've got time to think about it and figure out what I want to say, but for now I'll say half winning and half losing isn't the ideal, but it still makes moving forward possible. 

And moving forward is the name of the game.

 

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The puddle who once was a person

 Cobblestone street with puddle and leaves by Armando Repetto

Cobblestone street with puddle and leaves by Armando Repetto

It's Saturday morning. Outside is foggy and still. The little boy's up and I can see Jon on the couch reading his notes on a sermon that's still just bones and nails and whisper. 

I slept hard last night night. I walked into my front door yesterday more like a puddle than a person because sometimes when you go off to slay the dragon you come back with nothing and the dragon's still breathing and the mountain you climbed is still standing and the score isn't even and you're tired. I'm tired.

It must have been all that driving. I listened to my jams and I cried. I went to see Mary Bragg in New York and watched her kick ass and own the room and pour our her art and her heart and her beauty for all of us mortals and I wondered if that could be me. I look in the mirror and the reality of forty one keeps laughing and pointing and tells me I'll disappear. When you're closer to a puddle than a person, the voices get louder, the doubts start taking over, the villagers with shovels and torches come closer and when the news comes that you lost the gig, that you're broke and that the soar on your foot's not getting better it all feels too big to battle. 

Back when I was a person, there was this moment in Corona, last week, when I felt like I shone. In a basement room with no air, in front of kids I don't know, singing songs that I wrote and we all sang together. We were sweating and smiling and playing and living and I knew what I was doing and I felt good about it. I smiled to myself. I said, "You're good at this." I tried locking it in my head to hold onto in case the world got darker and it got hard to see.

 

I'm going to Chicago on Monday with my oldest son. We're getting on a plane for Germany. I lived there for a year once. He was born there. 

Back when I was fifteen I left home to go live in Paraguay. In college it was Granada, Spain, then Madrid and then Germany. Never have I felt lighter than when I left American soil. Darrell Scott has a song that says, "Colorado, I need healing from this sorrow I've been feeling." My song would be something like, "Germany, I need fleeing from the life that I've been leading."

So today I should be working, but instead I'll be thinking. I should be re-packing, but instead I'll pick up my sad, broken guitar held together by duct tape (the hardware inside it starting falling out mid-music in that Corona basement one day) and write whatever. Whatever I want. I'm going to sing whatever feels true to me and I'll probably cry. And then maybe I'll write another one. It'll be whatever I want it to be, it'll be as true as I can make it and if I cry, so what?

And I'll turn the puddle back into person. I'll remember how great I can be in basements of churches singing songs that I wrote and letting go, closing my eyes and being bold enough to believe that even a disappearing woman who eats too many carbs and has no gym membership is allowed to climb up mountains to go slay dragons and, when she fails, she's allowed to cry all the way back down, before resting up and trying all over again.

 

 

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My next best self or "What I did yesterday"

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I think it's time to start journalling again. 

For my confirmation party in 1993, my cousin gifted me a simple journal. Itook it with me three months later to Paraguay and used it to capture every moment, every story, every thought and feeling for the next ten years, probably. All through high school and college I wrote almost daily, sometimes twice a day to capture everything no matter how small.

When I got married, I brought all those journals with me and kept it up pretty well until the birth of my first son. The writing wasn't habitual anymore, the journal sat, abandoned on my bedside table for days.

I remember living in Olathe, KS and feeling particularly low one day. I remember seeing the stack of journals on the up high shelf in my closet and thinking that girl was stupid and needed to be erased from the present so I took a black garbage bag and filled it with all those journals capturing all those days and years and moments and I gathered them up and threw them in a dumpster and that was that. No more journalling.

That was 14 years ago and it still hurts to think about how much I lost on the day I threw it all out.

But now I think I need to start again. 

Yesterday, I sat in a room with a group of women all being asked the same questions, "What does your best self look like?"

Together, we're on an eighteen month journey as a group to create Individual Development Plans that are instrinsically motivated, we're given a stipend to go learn, go do, go explore in a manner that energizes us, renews our commitment to creativity and innovation and helps us become our next best self. We'll meet six times together as a group to talk about the journey, encourage one another, create space to ponder and discern where we go from here and I can't wait.

When I left the house yesterday morning to drive to the meeting, my mind wasn't in a place of possibility and potential. It was in a place of fear and worry.

Within the first hour of our meeting together, I realized I had been weighted down by lots of "shoulds." I was full of should without considering the options. To advance my career, I should do this or that. To get better at music I should take a course on this or find an expert in that. Until, like a lightning bolt, my brain said, "But if you don't want to do that stuff, maybe you'll become your best self by bowing out and finding something you really want instead."

AND THE SCENE TURNED TO COLOR AND MY HEART DID AN ABOUT FACE AND LIFE IS AWESOME.

Don't get me wrong, I still have to go to work, clean the house, do the things. But I don't have to do all the things. And  I said earlier, it's time to start journalling, I'll also say, it's time to start re-evaluating where my time goes and what I give up in exchange for stuff I don't really want to do.

So there it is. Eighteen months of pondering the question, "Where do you want to go and how do you want to get there?" Not, "Where must you be seen and by whom?" nor "What do people want you to do?" NOPE. Not that either.

So consider. The world is wide open. Ya know that wood working project you always dream of, but never get to do? You know that backpacking trip into Yosemite that's too indulgent? You know that dance class you secretly wish you could take but are afraid people will find out? Well, my friend. The world is wide open and the invitation has been extended. Get a journal and keep a record. That's what I'll be doing.

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