MC Baby DJ

My daughter loves music. She jubilantly shouts requests at me from the backseat of the car, or the tub, or her crib –

– “Jumpin’!” = See How I’m Jumping Jumping Jumping (A fave from her music class)

– “Come!” = She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain

– “Be Back!” = Bring Back My Bonny to Me

She’s literally never once asked me what I feel like listening to. Unbelievable.

BabyMusicImage from http://www.3rtherapies.co.uk/music.htm

It brings me an incredible amount of joy to hear her sing, see her smile and bop…but guys, I’m living in a black hole of kid’s music. I didn’t fully realize this until this past week. I found an artist that I love. Someone I hadn’t listened to before, and whose songs are not familiar to me. His lyrics are dark and hopeful and human and twisty. Songs about sex and religion and longing and sweetness and desperation. They took root in my soul and inspired me.

It was kind of a revelation: “Oh my god, I love music.”

I realized that most of what I read, watch, and listen to right now all speaks to the “Mom” piece of my identity. I LOVE that piece of my identity. It’s awesome and bright and strong – but it’s not the whole thing. I actually lived a bunch of years before having a kid and those years were filled with really compelling music and poetry and books and movies.

It got me thinking about making space for the other stuff, and how I should go about doing that. It’s important for me to be as whole a person as I can be, and I think feeding the creative soul is a piece of that.

Lately I’ve been reading a few articles about people who are at war with the term “Mommy”. I agree that it’s jarring to be so completely categorized all the time – but on the other hand, being a mom is a huge deal that’s awesome and takes over your life. I don’t mind it at all. I’m such a mom. All that, in my opinion, is great as long as you nurture the whole person – it’s not an either or as far as I can tell.

I’m going to try (try is all I can do) to make the time to put on headphones and read books that feature story elements other than the alphabet and puppies – at least sometimes.

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Faves 2013

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and also BOOOOKS!

Here are some of my favorite things I enjoyed in 2013.

Music:

Volcano Choir, Repave: I was filled with sad when I listened to Volcano Choir’s first album last year because I kind of hated it. I really want to love any project that Justin Vernon is involved with. My expectations for their second release, Repave, were low. But, VOILA! Vernon is back in business with sweeping, gorgeous, heart-wrenching soundscapes. It’s cinematic. It’s enveloping. Listen.

Sarah Jarosz, Build Me Up from Bones: When someone born in the 90’s is this talented and accomplished it is a little obnoxious. But that aside, if you enjoy singer/songwriterly brilliance with a relaxed, bluegrass inspired feeling – pick her up.

Books:

Ocean at the End of the Lane I listened to the audiobook read by Gaiman and it hogged a huge amount of space in my mind for weeks after. I asked for the hardcover for Christmas so I can re-read it over and over again. This sometimes terrifying story uses magic to uncover the most truthful depiction of childhood emotion and memory I’ve ever read. I was dumbstruck.

The Expeditioners: – Pubbed in 2012, this book is middle grade adventure done really well. Beautiful art. Exciting world. Yeah!

Movies:

Catching Fire: Catching Fire was not my favorite of the three books by Suzanne Collins, but holy guac, it’s my favorite movie so far. This particular piece of Katniss’ journey was really enhanced by the movie treatment. I think because it happens less in her mind than the first part of the trilogy – so I didn’t miss the first person intimacy the way I did in the first movie. It was big and flashy, but really well acted and adapted. I can’t even wait for Mockingjay.

A Place Beyond the Pines: What a weird movie! I loved it. One of my friends called this film “Shakespearean” and I kind of get that. I love that it followed a non-linear path and maintained all its humanity. It was also the first movie date that my husband and I had after baby was born, full disclosure.
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug: Obviously.

Miscellany:

The Hobbit, Special Features (on the extended edition blu-ray. Yeah, we bought the extended edition even though the movie was seven hours long. That’s the kind of household we are.):

The-Hobbit-image-the-hobbit-36116872-1024-576

PETER JACKSON IS A GENIUS AND ALL THOSE KIWIS SOUND SO COOL AND OMG. Seriously though, the creative process that went into the creation of this film is a fascinating study. Artists would routinely spend days creating a costume, or an animation, and then it would be used just for inspiration, or thrown out all together. But they didn’t care, because the only thing that mattered was making the best possible movie. It made me think about the precious, silly way I can be about my words and paragraphs. Going to try to take lessons from the amazing folks at WETA in 2014.

But this year, one release exceeded all expectations. At once gorgeous, hilarious, brilliant, and SQUISHY – the best of the best of 2013 is:

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.38.54 PM

Emmeline the incredible! Honestly, I’m so grateful for this little bean. She made 2013 a year I will never ever ever forget.

Happy New Year!!

The Ledge of Despair and Exultation: I love YA

In 1999 I was a senior in high school and MTV published Stephen Chbosky’s YA novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I just loved it. Like, loved it till I hurt. Last year I went to see the movie adaptation and despite my ridiculously high expectations, I left happily heartsick. That’s why on my commute yesterday morning I found myself getting emotionally invested in a song that came on the radio. It was “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons – the same song that played over almost all the previews for the film. Weird, right? But let me break it down.

When you’re in high school, there’s are a bunch of things in play, but here are the major two that come to mind:

  1. Heart health. If you’re getting your heart broken, it’s probably the first time. Know what’s terrifying about that? When it’s the first time you get your heart broken, you have no frame of reference. You have no real life experience that let’s you know that it gets better. The second time, the third time, you can reference back and know that healing happens, but that first time, holy crap.
  1. The pressure of limitlessness. If your family has cleared a bit of a path for you, now it’s up to you. This is not a time in life in which you settle out of fear. You reach or you run. When you are knocked down a peg, you feel like you are falling off of a mountain. When you are validated, you feel like maybe, just maybe you can do anything in the world.

So, back to the song. There’s something there that crystallized a realization about YA for me. It’s the chorus. The way the lyrics kind of rush over each other like a current, like the singer can almost not keep up with the ideas. Like he’s straining and  running to convey this kind of abstract sentiment.

It’s time to begin, isn’t it?
I get a little bit bigger, but then I’ll admit
I’m just the same as I was
Now don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am

It’s proud and kind of dumb, and sincere and urgent. This is why I’m drawn to these stories and driven to create them. When else in life is drama so naturally ingrained into life? And it’s not bull – those feelings are legitimate.

Being a teenager is, if you’ll pardon the timely parallel, filled with all kinds of green lights across the water. Just like Gatsby idealization of his love, and keeping her right out of his reach, teenagers idealize a future filled with possibilities. Close enough to throw a rock at, but impossible because it’s not here yet.

When I was in high school and imagined a life in New York, I filled in the concrete blanks with delicious abstractions. I filled in the spaces with gorgeous, gritty, daring things I mentally pasted together from movies or books or TV. It was and wasn’t reality.  In my twenties, when I moved there, there was a reckoning to be had. I’d stand in the same spot that I’d envisioned, and be uncomfortably cold because I wore the wrong coat. And I was pissed off at myself because I blew eight dollars on a drink, and I didn’t have that kind of money. And the people I was with weren’t auto-bffs fighting the good fight with me, they were just other lonely people. The cigarettes on the sidewalk didn’t look like art, they looked gross. I missed my parents.

But that stuff is for the twenties. Given a take it or leave it option, I will leave those twenties. No thank you.

Your teenage years are for green lights, and life-or-death-in-love situations. For me, that’s really the good stuff. It’s emotionally pure and unfettered by rent or a disappointing job hunt that leaves you feeling desperate and …well, disappointed. I just love those stories.

Something that is perfect

On NPR this morning they aired a short piece about Grammy nominees and mentioned that Bon Iver is nominated this year for Best New Artist.

More like Best We Already KNEW About this Artist, You Jerks – AMIRIGHT? No? Ok. I thought I was right. No big deal, I’ll be ok.

Anyway.

They played the tiniest snippet of Holocene during the piece and, as it always does, it hit me like an emotional boulder. Sometimes it’s hard to identify why a particular sound, color, set of words effects you the way it does. That song runs me through a unique gamut of emotions and it always takes me off guard. And it’s not the song’s story. Half the time I can’t even make out what Justin Vernon is saying and if I can, it’s all in the abstract.

There’s a highway, there is ice, there are narrow hallways. That’s lyrically literally there. But it evokes a lot more. Feelings of loss, isolation, freedom, the impossibility of forever.

The video for Holocene is exquisite. It makes me cry every single time and I kind of know why, but more than that, I have no idea why.

So, happy Friday to you. I hope this weekend you see beautiful things.