Dan Callaway Studio

for people who break into song in real life

You’re Getting it Right. This is How I know.

Can you believe Melissa and I are knocking on the door of our eighth anniversary? How was that eight years ago? Google Photo keeps reminding us of things that happened in 2013, and we’re both like, wow, look at all we didn’t know then. Right?

I didn’t know how brilliant I was being when I sat down on Melissa’s corner couch in Highland Park, showed her a picture of the Claddagh rings I’d bought on my iPhone, and said I thought getting married would be the best idea. Has this happened to you? You look back, and you’re like, I had no clue I was being that effing smart.

This year, I invite you to picture our lil home in Greensboro where we’ve locked arms in the pandemic toddler parenting trenches. We’re grateful that we’ve had jobs and enough sanity to keep the undies washed and the boys loved. Aaaand, here’s where I need to tell you what a bad-AHSS my wife is.

She listens. Like, seriously, she is interested in what’s going on in my mind and heart, and when I tell her about it, she meets me with understanding. We know this is a big deal.

She supports and trusts. Yesterday a friend sent me a job posting in a certain city very far from a beach, and I said, “You don’t wanna live there, do you?” And my ocean-loving wife said, “I want to live wherever we can be together.” I mean, come on, right?

We all had COVID in December, and we’re lucky that we came through. But Melissa’s been long hauling with tough symptoms. Her laser-like stubbornness has been this eff-you-COVID-I’m-gonna-take-care-of-my-boys engine. If I were feeling half as rough as she does, I’d be man-cold crying on the couch.

This year has been a time when old hurts have come up—you know, the ones you thought you checked off and are like, seriously, that again? And she’s been here in it with me.

So, she’s my official hero these days. See? Sometimes you don’t know how smart you are.

Which is the very reason why I’m humblebragging to you about my choice in life partner.

Because you are getting it right. If you think you are getting it wrong now, you are getting it right.

You know how I know? Because my choose-your-own-adventure blunders sent me careening into my dear friends’ back yard where I met Melissa. My choices were blind reactions to fear, pain, and wookin pa nub in ALL the wrong places.

You know I’m not suggesting you fling yourself onto life’s highway of dehydration and skinned knees in order to eventually find your true purpose—that interstate has a way of exiting you off at some interesting Shell stations already.

What I am saying is this: If lately the mean part of your brain has said, “I’m shitting the bed on this,” take it from a man who encounters toddler dookie on the daily–there’s soap and water for that.

Take a brisk walk sans-earbuds, listen to some birds doing whistle tones, and ask your in-your-heart-and-body self, “Am I doing the best I can do?”

If you hear a gentle yes, keep walking and go buy an ice cream.

If you get a nudge about a change that could bring satisfaction or relief, then go get that ice cream, and do a little something about that nudge.

A one-degree trajectory change makes the difference between your plane flying to London or Paris. Both are incredible cities, but you might not be feeling pain au chocolat this year.

Here’s the takeaway– God’s got it, and you’re going to come through.

I had no idea when I rolled up to hipster church in Pasadena in 2006 that I would meet ride-or-dies who’d save my life when it crumbled six years later and then introduce me to my wife and the mother of our scrumptious boys. You don’t know these things when you’re doot-da-dooing along.

If one of those nudges on your walk was to get your singular voice making sounds again, that’s what I (and Zoom) are here for!

Email me, and we’ll get you making free, joyful, genuine noises like a kid on the beach with a melt-down-your-wrist soft serve and your don’t-care belly out.

Because there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story that only you can share.


Grandmother grew tulips, and I learned
They were for outside admiring when I picked
A bouquet of them for her. When the days turned
Warmer, these red and yellow bells in strict
Rows played music inside my stomach. They looked
Like gelato on a stem, if I had known
What that was–like God had gleefully cooked
A pan of custard for a rainbow ice cream cone
Display. I still think they should be edible.
Have you ever felt that? Something so fully
Joy and carbonation that the only credible
Action was just to eat it? Just me?
“Look what I brung, Grandmother!” “Brought brought brought!”
It wasn’t just grammar, but springtime and pound cake you taught. 🌷

Carrot Ends and Parsley Stems = Stock Money

I keep a freezer bag where we put onion skins, garlic peels, the woody parts of asparagus, bell pepper cores, celery stubs, anything that might contribute to good stock.

When the bag fills, time to get out the Instant Pot or just the pot. Either works.

Here’s my bag. And here’s the end of a roast chicken.

Put that in an Instant Pot or a big ole pot of any kind. Add water, salt, bay leaf, and anything else you want your stock to taste like.

For the Instant Pot, High Pressure for an hour and a half. For your regular pot, bring to boil and simmer for a long time until it tastes like you want it to taste.

Pour it out, and you’ve got veggie/chicken/bone broth gold.

And you can use it for all kinds of things. This day, I used it for a rice and beans bowl riff. Using what you got. Another pro tip, broth makes you fuller, so you’ll feel all cozy and ready for your afternoon.

leftover rice, beans, crushed tomato, chicken stock, cumin and salt, roast chicken, cilantro, some sour cream, and avocado.

Add Beauty

We are theatre artists, and right now there is no theatre.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I watched a documentary called The Actor’s Apprenticeship about the repertory theatre companies in the UK and how they were a safe training ground for many master actors.

Near the end of the film, there was a shot inside a 3/4 thrust space, the seats empty, and I felt my stomach get all achy.

I felt longing, what every good breakup song is about–you don’t know what you had until it’s gone.

Like every theatre artist during this time, I asked myself what I could do in the absence of what I do.

Those days we went on drives.

We loaded up the boys, drove north toward the rolling pastures and hoped nobody pooped.

(Side note, we’d taught our older son to call the diaper genie Mordor. He’d say it in received pronunciation. Ready for the rep company, clearly.)

During one of these drives my brain was on the moon.

Melissa said, “You seem far away today.”

I agreed. I wanted to indicate my mental coordinates, but my mind was a pinball game amid a lot of arcade noise.

I’ve learned some good technologies to corral my brain and direct him in less stress-inducing directions, but this day my tewlz felt out of reach.

This day, as my older son said at the time: “need help.”

Sometimes we get stuck in there, and we need someone to throw us a rope.

Melissa encouraged me to start saying words attached to the images pinging through my headspace, and after much incoherence, I finally arrived at, “I want to add beauty to the world.”

There was a lot of noise surrounding this–ruckus related to achievement, perception, and shoulds. But that was a statement that felt like it came from a real and satisfying place in me.

Since then, it’s been a phrase I’ve returned to many times. What can I share with you that I think has some beauty about it?

And why beauty?

There’s so much dirt flying at us that I want to contribute something that feels like clear water on our faces.

Beauty tells me there’s purpose and design that’s smarter than I am.

And it sets off something vibratey in my guts that feels connected to you and bigger things.

When we look at something beautiful together, we can join in that.

That’s why the theatre is so special. A group of us gather in one space to share a story artfully told.

We witness a story in time together, and when that’s over, we all leave with our own imprint of what happened. There’s nothing like it. I can’t wait to do it again.

In the meantime, what’s beauty to you? Or what’s your equivalent? And how does it feel to share it?

Here’s a list of possibilities that come to mind:

  • asking the Target checkout ninja how they’re doing
  • giving someone full mask smize in public
  • making some box mac n cheese really well
  • washing dishes
  • planting a flower
  • looking at a leaf or grass blade for more than seven seconds and saying wow
  • telling someone you love them
  • taking someone a meal
  • writing a thank you card or a letter and putting a stamp on it
  • making your bed
  • laughing
  • writing a rude limerick

Here’s a flower by our front door. That color, right?

I’m inviting you to join me. Instant Artist: just add beauty.

Use-What-You-Got Picnic Salad

We had a family picnic last week, and I made this salad out of our end-of-week fridge:

For your own salad brain, these are things that dance well together: good dressing (many possibilities in the pantry), greens, some crunchy things, a protein (beans, meat, egg, etc), other textures (starches, soft things like avocado, sweet potato, goat cheese).

Here’s how this one worked out.


  • Dressing: lemon zest and juice, Dijon mustard, salt, maple syrup
  • kale
  • bell pepper
  • leftover chicken breast, brown rice, mushrooms
  • cherry tomatoes
  • sweet potato
  • Everything but the Bagel Seasoning

Start the dressing in the bottom of your bowl. You need an acid, an emulsifier, salt, and something sweet if you want that.

This is lemon zest, juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and a little maple syrup;

Then see what kind of greens you have. We had a big ole bag of untouched kale, so that’s what I grabbed. Put it in your dressing and squeeze those greens. Kale needs encouragement.

We had leftover chicken breast, brown rice, and shrooms, so I threw that on there. Leftover starches and proteins are great in sallets.

I added cherry tomato, an orange bell pepper, a leftover sweet potato, and Everything but the Bagel Seasoning from TJ’s.

And there you have picnic deliciousness. Don’t forget the forks.

Badass Prime Driver

You were kind to me when I was a frightened
Freshman gripping my backpack straps trying
To disappear into lockers. Your smile lightened
My textbook adolescent load. Lying
Ahead, you showed me, were possibilities such
As studying Mozart in places where other misfit
Toys could gather and make beauty–much
Aloneness relieved witnessing your musical grit.
Today, the Prime driver said, “Dan?”,
Removed his mask, and there was that smile
That made this scared kid feel like the man.
The symphony gig is on hold for a while.
In the meantime, you are being a badass
Making some bucks until you’re back with the brass.


Copenhagen made me want to buy
A pack of cigarettes, hold a cup
Of coffee and walk past palaces, flowers, and high-
Spired churches in a moody jacket sewn up
By smoke and caffeine vapor. I was a poor
Man’s Kierkegaard, existential
In museums and botanical gardens. Despite the lure
Of Duolingo’s proficiency promises, my credential
In Danish left me with the ability to say
“Sorry,” “thank you,” and “turtle.” Politely asking
My Nordic hosts, “Speak you English?” Would play
Out with perfunctory lingual multitasking.
It was beautiful, and people smiled when I tried.
And I reviewed the sensation of feeling outside.


I’m taking a songwriting class on the internet —
Ryan Tedder from One Republic teaches
You how to write and produce hits–no sweat,
Except there’re all these software knobs, and each is
More confounding than the other. Pro Tools,
It’s called, and the tools are clearly meant for pros.
Today I got my mic to follow the rules
And talk to the recording intelligence. God knows
When I will establish effective communication
With my keyboard. Typing “connecting midi
Piano mixer clueless aggravation”
Into google hasn’t helped. Pity.
This self-okay I feel being a beginner–
It’s new and nice, like I’m a fumbling winner.

This Bread Recipe Will Make You Feel Like a Competent Baker and Your House’ll Smell Great

This recipe is a riff on Alexandra’s Peasant Bread. Our friend Scotty Humphries brought us a fresh baked loaf of this stuff soon after our second son was born, and = life changed. She shared the recipe with me, and this is the way I like to do it.

Flour (4 cups) [I use 2 all purpose 2 whole wheat]
Salt (2 tsp) Go ahead and add a lil more if you want
Sugar (2 tsp)
Instant Yeast (2 1/4 tsp, pre-measured in the packet)
Lukewarm water (2 cups)

You don’t need a mixer for this. You can do it by hand in a bowl. I like using the mixer because it was my Grandma’s, and I like to let the dough hook do some kneading for this no-knead recipe.

Mix or sift the dry ingredients together then add your water and bring the dough together. Again here, I appreciate the work the dough hook does for me. I’ve done this in a bowl with a mixing spoon and bare hands as well.

Cover with a damp tea towel and set out in a warmish place for an hour and a half.

It’ll double in size.

Coat two pyrex bowls with butter, divide the dough in two, and place uncovered in the bowls. Preheat the oven to 425 and let them rise a little until the oven comes to temp.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temp to 375. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Turn them out and let them cool. And you have delicious homemade wheat bread.

White American Male

We wonder why White American men
Are split-off cardboard forts with our tin can
Transistor strings severed. Then again,
How could it be otherwise? “Be a man.”
What images does that command drag out?
Eyes like a mirror lake reflecting back
The image of one coming for a drink?
Ears like a wool blanket you can unpack
From the kitbag–scratchy but cozier than you’d think?
Those aren’t the pictures that emerge for me.
The man we mean is one who dams the lake
And stuffs the fleece down on the feel debris
Collected for years. March, and don’t bellyache.
No wonder we can’t hear you when you cry.
Tears might move that water. We’d drown. We’d die.

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