Dan Callaway Studio

offensively easy singing

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🥑 Avocado Debacle — ” leap and the guac will appear” and other lies we tell ourselves

🥑 You know about shopping for avocados.

You find a pile of squishy fruits two days past their prime next to bright green candidates that could equip the Olympic shot put team. 

You don’t wanna deal with all the sketchy bits you’ll have to excavate from the mushy ones, so you scuttle your same-day guacamole dreams. 

You go ahead and buy the overpriced chartreuse orbs sourced from the Petrified Forest. They’ll be good with that turkey chili on Friday?

But the week happens.

You get busy and improvise with PB&J/Life Cereal combo meals.

And by Friday when you’re using that ground turkey for Bolognese, you spot your healthy-fat fruit friends languishing in the bowl under the Chiquita bananas.

They’re in the same state as the skwooshy ones you rejected at the market.



I mean, it’s not like you can buy them at various stages of ripeness. 

So when you DO remember you are indeed an avocado owner, your menu for Ripeness Zenith Day is a 14-Ways Top Chef Challenge. 

Breakfast: avocado toast 
Lunch: turkey, lettuce and tomato AND AVOCADO sammie
Dinner: aaalllll the aguacate con limon 🥑 with your taco salad on the side

Dios mio. So much life depends on timing.

And when you’re tryina make songs and stories part of your creative Chipotle bowl, (maybe even make money doing it), well, the guac can feel like a significant up-charge.

And like produce shopping, we wonder if we should front-load our grocery investment. Will we really make that ceviche in four days?

Should I really prep this role? Yeah, it’s a dream, but I can’t know if I’m going to be called back for it. Or even get in the room. That would hurt if I learned the entire score only to be told no. And what a waste of an avocado purchase. Right?

I dissent.

Here’s why.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing. 

And if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. 

And if it’s worth doing, you are worth doing it.

I’m grateful for every create-y thing I’ve let come through me. No matter how many folks did or didn’t see it.

We swim in polluted culture water that asks things like, “What are you gonna do with that degree?” “Why waste your time on that?”  “You think they’re gonna make it?” 

We push aside the song, story, or role we wanna work on.

Instead, we suction to a nearby screen.

Then we look up 45 minutes later wondering if we should learn that trending TikTok jig. (We never could pick up choreography that fast.) What’s wrong with us, anyway?

But read fiction? Play with watercolors? See what comes out of a simple chord progression? Nah. Waste of time.

May I make a suggestion?

Get out your Man of La Mancha LP, and start singing “The Impossible Dream.” 

But Dan, what would this 1960s chestnut have to offer my current situation?

I’ll tell you.

It’s time for you to dust off, grease up, and polish your dreamer.

And I hear you. When you’re just trying to knock out your bills, Jedi your family situation, or triage your friendship going off the skids, the last thing you wanna think about is your effing dreams.

So go ahead — roll your eyes real hard, scoff inside, and raise your right finger. Good. 

Now, please let the crazy silly dream buried under 37 feet of worry-geology begin to burble back up.

Grab a Crayola and write it down. 

And this is why

Turning your heart toward your dreams opens crazy surprises for you and can even influence the folks around you. You start to see yourself and them with eyes of love and possibility.

So, let’s get in the dreamy place and get okay with feeling shaky. 

If you’re shaking, you’re growing, letting stored up energy out and through. Yay!

And again: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing. 

So go ahead. Buy the avocados. 

And write down how you want to make the most delicious guacamole. 

And most most most of all remember this – There’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing 

love much,

dan

ps You can, indeed, freeze avocados.
 

pps I was an absent-minded professor in last week’s email about comparison and forgot to attribute Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart . Terrific book.

Why you thinking about Channing Tatum? — this thing they warn you not to do can help you after all

Moons ago, my friend Bryan and I wrote a screenplay together and even cooked up a reading at AFI. 

While the script found its way to the 



file, we learned a ton. 

And I look back now and I think, “Dang – crazy what happens when you show up every day and call a bunch of folks.”

On one of our meet-up, procrastinate, and keep microwaving the same cup of coffee seshes, Bryan got an urgent blip blip on his Blackberry.

A friend from his Yale MFA days was in SOS distress.

Bryan called him back, and a carpet-pacing, brow-furrowed intervention ensued.

I heard his friend’s voice rising and falling, saying things like, “But you don’t underSTAND!”

Bryan listened, offering “I hear you,” and “Focus on your lane,” and “What’s the next thing you can do? What can you control?”

Then there was an extended-cut, multi-pitch closing argument. 

My eavesdropping skills detected complaints about studio decisions, agent comments, and actors who got ALLL the opportunities.

Finally, a vein popped out over Bryan’s aforementioned brow. He stopped his classmate:

“Channing Tatum ain’t thinking about you! Why you thinking about Channing Tatum?!”

Bryan’s friend got trapped in the comparey dispairey thornbush. An invasive species, and once you get all up in it, you’re gonna need BandAids.

I’ve Neosporined many an encounter with this prickly customer. 

And before you’re like, “Oh, Dan, I know. I know. Don’t compare myself to other people blah blahhh. It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to… wait.

Nope. That’s not what I’m gon’ say. 

What I’m gon’ say is this:

Go ahead – think about Channing.

I said his name three times, so, like Beetlejuice, he appears. 

And just like there’s no way you’ll ever “just get out of your head,” your brain’s always gonna put things side by side and notice differences. 

🥑
This avocado is a lil softer than that one. Guacamole is tomorrow, so Avocado A.

🧻
This friend tells you you’ve got Charmin on your shoe, and that one regularly says, “I’m sorry you think I did something wrong.” Smart brain: spend more time with friend #1.

or

🛻
That Dodge truck driver in my rear view mirror is getting real close. They’re driving faster than anyone should on the Mass Pike. I’ll just proceed at equal speed to this person next to me in the right lane for a spell before I scoot over.

(I’m a New Englander now – the closer you tailgate, the slower I drive.)  

Your brain’s a compare specialist; it could pundit on PBS Newshour weighing oat milk prices in one segment with a tight segue to Rotten Tomatoes ratings of Channing’s oeuvre. 

But Dan, “Comparison is the THIEF of joy!” 

Can be, yes.

All depends on what exit you take off the Pike once you’ve thwarted Dodge’s speed agenda for an acceptable distance.

One exit we jerk the wheel toward is Envytown (cue “Funkytown” hook.) 

🎵 Gotta make a move to a town with spite for me.

This is the strip mall-hedged boulevard where your brain indeed heists your joy – you couldn’t resist this exit. No one could. 

There was a Sheetz AND a Wawa – you could grab a 1200 calorie Fluffer Nutter shake followed by your pick of TastyKakes. 

Envy is wanting what someone else has —

Their job, their fitness, their singing skill, their travel, their recognition, their success.

I’ve envied all of these.

Just the memory of my innumerable I-want-what-you-gots squeezes my under-ribs. Oof.

Not my favorite zone.

It’s the Sheetz Shake and the TastyKake diminishing returns binge, a sugar crash, and what-chemicals-did-I-just-ingest? film on your tongue.

Envy leaves you similarly empty-full and ill-nourished. 

The good news? Comparison has other roads you can take. See? You even need comparison to choose your route.

There’s the turn-off to Admiration-ham (I’m in Mass now. So many ‘hams.) 

That looks like, “Wow, Lin Manuel, you wrote “Dos Orugitas” AND all that music in Vivo? I can’t get that outa my head. And we don’t talk about Bruno no no no…. Ah! Stop!”

There’s also the road to Reverence-cester – (pronounced Roostah). 

When you revere something or someone, you show deep respect. 

That’s like this:

Mr. Sondheim.

And speaking of names of German origin, there’s the village of Freudenfreude. 

Joy-joy (as opposed to schadenfreude which we learned from Avenue Q means harm-joy, or what I’d feel if that Dodge got pulled over.)

Freudenfreude is when you find joy in other people’s good fortune. 

I’m remembering a jig I did in a voice lesson last year when our collaborative pianist got her doctoral tuition fully funded. 🎹 Go Katie! We miss you.

But wait. We’re not done thinking about Mr. Tatum just yet. 

What about the times when you in fact want the thing the other person has? Maybe even want them not to have it. We’re all humans here.

🗺️ Here’s a map to another town. 🧭

Ask yourself —

What will having this thing do for me?

and

Can I be sure that if I had their thing it’d yield the result I think?

See what answers bubble up for you.

You might see yourself possessing that shiny doo-dad and notice you’re looking ahead for a shinier one. Hmmmm.

Or,

you notice living your own version of the thing would be terrific and satisfying. Then you have some crucial information. 

You have an exciting thing you can work backward from, make a system, and start showing up. 

And it’s when you start showing up every day — singing the exercises, writing the story, getting melody ideas down, calling your friends for the thing – that’s when you can follow Bryan’s advice and start thinking about YOU. 

Because it’s then that you’ll be able to give the one and only you – and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

dan 

ps here’s another video from the BoCo vault — a vocal exercise framework that you can use for yourself. It’s set up so you can take the principles and make up your own stuff. 15 minutes. You can pair it with the silly and effective voice and body warmup I shared with you last week. 



If these are effective for you, go head and download for yourself in case the Google Drive does weird stuff or I change the videos.

pps I’ll keep you posted about how my fruitless Channing Tatum GIF searches affect my social and ads algorithms :). 

ppps and my friend Bryan (Terrell Clark) does great things. Check him out.

you surprised? 🎁 — threats of compulsory minimalism and soul gnawing envy on the Boston streets

I’m always making idle threats that I’m going to do a pre-parenthood Marie Kondo guerilla house sweep. The boys’ toy supply will have two wooden blocks, a panel of fabric, and a meditation chime.

Seismic rage rumbles in my guts when I try to knock some order into the pile of plastic wheely things crammed behind our sectional.

For some reason this doesn’t bother Melissa.

What? This is right next to our window. Janet across the way can see right in here. The producers of Hoarders will be ringing our doorbell any day. 

This is why when Melissa asks me if I need anything when a birthday approaches, I almost always say, “Just hugs.” 

We don’t need more stuff, y’all! 

But then the boys brought me a package before my birthday last December, and life changed.

Inside? A gray backpack.

But I already had a backpack. 

Okay, it didn’t fit all my stuff. It was hard to fish things out of. My lunch bag rarely fit. And I walked the Boston streets consumed with side-pocket envy because mine would slowly extract my coffee cup and expel it onto the sidewalk with a violent clang.

But then I unzipped the new arrival and saw — it was a pocket extravaganza. A compartment kaleidoscope. All manner of organizational coordinations appeared in my dreamscape.

Then I felt immediately overwhelmed. 

How would I keep up with all these pockets? Surely one day while searching for a hole-punch, I’d exhume an ossified tube of chapstick wasting away for decades beneath a desiccated turkey sandwich. 

But I took a deep breath and gave it a try. 

And now just call me Professor Poppins – ready to procure music stands, full-bound scores, and yoga balls out of my satchel on demand. 

This backpack made my life better. 

It’s something I didn’t know I wanted, and every time I slide my laptop into its cozy pouch, give it a zip, and sling its padded back panel against my scapulae, life smells like a new delux box of Crayolas.

You had any backpacks in your life? I hope so. 

The master’s students and I were talking in class last week — how you make a plan so the plan can change. You make a framework so there’s a structure that flexes with surprises. 

I notice a lot of folks on the YouTubes and the like saying, “Make a PLAN. Glue pictures to cardboard. Tape it beside your bathroom mirror. And then go make that shit happen! Go!”

Smash Your Comfort Zone! Level Up! Best Life!

And yes, I do believe that we humans need things to look forward to. Seems it’s a crucial battery for well-being.

But what’s more important is that while we’re smearing Elmer’s Glue on the back of that cut-out feature from Architectural Digest, life might have a nondescript gray backpack waiting in a box. 

In that master’s pedagogy class, I was crying (again) because I was sharing how life can nudge, prod, and pinball you exactly where you’re supposed to be.

💙 The job I have now? I didn’t even know it was a thing until my friend Val sent me the ad. (She should be running a head hunter side hustle while she music directs the national tour of SIX — go ahead, Val.)

🏡 The home we live in now? It wasn’t on the market when I scurried around Boston trying to find a two-bedroom without 47 death stairs to the front door or a “cozy charming study” that smelled like room temp bleu cheese.

Only after we lost the workable overpriced place did my friend Lydia rage-search the MLS and see this spot had just appeared 20 minutes before.

❤️‍🩹 And I definitely didn’t plan to be anything other than a solitary music monk for the rest of my life when ride-or-dies Kaye, Kim, and Ryan convalesced my pulverized self in their Valley Village guest room and Humpty Dumptied me back together again – I had zero coupling aspirations when I met Melissa in their backyard. 

🎁 The best things in my life came as surprises, and they came because of the people around me. 

So, for you today, a reminder and a question.

First the reminder: 🧠 You can trust life to carry you where you’re supposed to be. Be smart, grab something that floats, and hang on. 

And a question – 

🤲 And are you sharing surprises? If you’re loving the folks around you, the surprise sharing will prolly just happen.

So yeah,

✅ Okay with surprises? and

✅ Are you sharing them when you can? 

Two simple Qs that’ll help that backpack you’re carrying feel a little lighter — AND hold your coffee!

And always remember there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

dan

ps here’s a short warmup framework video I made for my BoCo kidz –

warmup is what we do to get our bodies ready to sing. You don’t need a piano. You just need you, some space, and the ability to make some noise. 

pps You know I’m writing a book? There might be videos too. We’ll see. It’s about singing. And life. And joy. And healing.

And it can also be about something you wish someone would put in a book about singing and life and joy and healing.

So why don’t you write me back and tell me, “You know, Dan I think you should really tell people about this in the book about singing. No one ever talks about this.”?

Maybe I’ll write you a chapter about it ✍️. Hit reply, and lemme know!

ppps I’m not gonna leave you hanging on the backpack. It’s a Matein.

Don’t look up there — free advice (solicited and un-), sidewalk hubris, and cake 

There’s a spot on Lansdowne Street right below Fenway Pahk’s Green Monstah. The pavement crack you avoid (for your mother’s spinal wellbeing) is covered in pigeon dookie.

I avoid this side of the street when I race-walk to the commuter rail station after convincing myself yet again that an 11-minute walk only takes 8. (and don’t wanna get kicked off the express for leaping on a moving train again.)

But yeah, the south side of Lansdowne —

It’s shady, so that means cold in winter. Uncheck.

It’s narrow, so awkward shoulder navigation with Sawx pilgrims. Uncheck.

And there’s the pigeon toilet problem. 

The first time I strolled that side, I noted white-grey splats Jackson Pollocking the pavement, and though I knew it was grave folly, I looked skyward. 

Just looked right on up — in case there was a fresh row of pigeons ready to evacuate on my Warby Parkers. 

Luckily, the fowl ball club was scavenging Sausage Guy roll leftovers. But still. Poop on the ground? Maybe keep walking and don’t look up.

I was a deft doodoo dodger that day. But there were other times when feces found me. 

One self-important pre-audition stroll in Central Park, I was saying my mantras and asking God to grant me superpowers when I felt a smatter-patter on my right backpack strap. When I noticed the dirty WhiteOut offering on my shoulder, I did have the good sense to laugh.

But yeah. We don’t walk near the doo, no no no no.

THEN — the other day I was giving my best Richard Simmons to the train (more time delusions) and saw a young woman navigating the path below the high northern stands. 

Sure enough, she noticed the Columba caca, and just like I did that day, she paused. And performed a thorough rafter check.

She survived her hubris unscathed, but yeah: When there’s birdy turdy at your feet, keep your eyes groundward — if you have to get #2’d on, you want it on the noggin and not in the nostril.

Sometimes I wish there were a universal manual with clear-cut directions like —

Avoid the the Green Monstah undahbelly. 

Straightforward, right?

Or when you learn to sing show tunes for folks. Things like —

Give your eyes a break every now and then from that spot on the wall they told you to pretend was a person. Looks stalkery.

or

Most times, you need less of what you’re calling breath support.

or

You’re gonna need some different vowels. Well-meaning folk told you to sing like you speak, but physics says nope.

You got something you wish somebody would just TELL you how to do? Hand you the secret dog-eared manual with the step-by-step?

While I can’t help you with dishwasher repair, I’ve 💩ed plenty a bed when it comes to all things song and story (and helped several others change their sheets.)

So, I know some things. 

And I’m a teachery sort, so I suffer from an incessant need to tell folks things I know.

My family loves it.

So, can you help me? 

Here’s how —

Email me your voice mystery.

Hit reply, and say, “Dear TeacherDan, The singery thing I’ve never gotten a satisfying answer to is ….”

And let me know.

Noise making, audition room consternation, what am I even doing? 🤯

Send it my way. 

I’ll write you back or make you a lil video that’ll scratch my unsatisfiable itch to share info.

This is for you if you’ve ever been like, “I wish I could just ASK a voicey person how to fix this and they’d answer my question without me plopping down a large slice of my rent.”

Seriously, get out your fingies and type your burning question

And if you don’t remember anything else from today’s letter, remember this:

There’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,
dan

ps Here are answers to questions you didn’t even ask me — all baking related.
The best chocolate cake recipe you’ll ever make. (It’s Ina Garten)
The best biscuit recipe you’ll ever bake. (not even from a Southerner 😲)
And more baking — a terrific last minute delicious cheaty bread recipe

pps You wanna hear some beautiful straight-from-the-heart sangin? Look what the YouTube algorithm delivered up to me this week: “She Used to Be Mine” sung by Sara Bareilles and Brandie Carlile

ppps And sirriously. Write and ask anything singy, auditiony, your relationship to music-y. I’m HERE for it. 

Choreplay 🔥 — dishwasher’s empty. laundry’s folded. Alexa, play Barry White.

Melissa and I can get all flirty birdy kicking around the house.

Ewwww, Dad. I know. 

But I’m lucky. When someone tells you they like how those jeans look, it’s nice.

These days, such flirt-portunities appear like fleeting comets. Most of the time we can’t hear each other talk.

Someone’s being a T-Rex, demolishing the other’s train, or belting “The Nutcracker March.”

I see Melissa’s lips move and hear sounds, but intelligible phonemes? No chance.

So– when there’s quiet —

When “Bluey”’s on, the boxed wine flows, the spaghetti burbles, and “A Case of You” twings through the Bose, we shnuggle by the stove and share spicy idears about what could happen after the boys go to bed.

Then we rendezvous at 8pm in our noiseless house… (except for our neighbors. What’s going ON over there?) …we rendezvous craving just one thing: induced coma.

Friends try to tell you how it is keeping young children alive, but just like the MLM pitch your friend assured you was an antioxidant juice party, you don’t know ’til you’re there.

So, I stoke the hottie home fires in other ways:

Step 1: I get up before the sun.

Step 2: get some breakfast in the crew

Step 3: may do a load of laund-a-ry.

Step 4: unload the dishes, put the flatware in the drawer

Step 5: Get dinner in that Instant Pot jive

Step by step gonna get to you girl. 🔥

Then my phone BLOWS UP allll day 😍 about how hawt that toasty load of laundry is while the house gets aroma(n)tic with my special slow-cooker turkey chili spice blend. 🌶

I’m good at doing stuff for other folks.

I’m crap at doing stuff for myself.

If it weren’t for Melissa, I’d rarely wash my face, and I’d sprout Christopher Lloyd professor-brows from my frontispiece like a possessed wire fox terrier.

You in this club, too?

Not the Doc Brow Crowd.

The Doing Good Things for Yourself Oh Wait I Forgot Society. The dehydrated, crusty-knuckled, still-gotta-pee brigade.

Oh, you’re the treasurer. And volunteered to take minutes. Yes, I see you.

Ahem. May I ask you to put down your Robert’s Rules of Order for a sec?

👍 Thanks — Now — can you think back to a far away time and tell me —


What’s the last good/nourishing thing you did for you? 

(I’m telling myself it’s the bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios I’m eating (I even added roasted almonds), but that’s not what I’m getting at.) 

What’s something you’ve done for you that’s investy? 

I’m asking you because we’re here by the coffee percolator at the Society meeting, and you might be saying things to yourself like —

❌ I don’t actually need that class at Jen Waldman’s studio my friend raved about.

🚫 I should figure that out on my own. I don’t need Mike Ruckles to tell me my breath’s jacked. I already got a BFA. And there’s YouTube.

👎 I can’t know this is worth my cash. I got inflated city rent to pay and $10 eggs to buy. Besides, my vocal coach took two phone calls MID-SESSION last time.

I understand. (That vocal coach bit really happened. More than once.)

But sirrously, remember the last time you did the investy thing?

Did you get surprised? You learn an unexpected oh-yeeeaah? Or did the path light up showing you a step you couldn’t see before?

Or maybe you felt that honey-buzz in your guts because you did something kind. For you.

Years ago, I plopped down money I was scared to spend to coach with LA Chutspa Menschela Barbara Deutsch when I needed to grow my studio biz. Like, exorbitant-interest-wolves-at-the-door need.

She told me two things that cleared the fog and helped me breathe again; and 14(?) years later I keep those tools top of the box.

Hey, I have an idea. 💡

In case you feel your heart tapping you on the shoulder saying:

❤️‍🩹: “I wanna feel freedom, release, express, get heard, enjoy, feel great, heal, and sing some tunes!

“Oh, and singing tickles our vagus nerve and helps us chill the eff out. It’s science!” 


You got choices:

🚿 hop in the shower and belt “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

☎️ call your in-network voice care provider and set up a consultation

or

⭐️💻⭐️ email me back.

While skewl has me spring semester zany, and the Feb Special-Special crew is full, there remain some rare, cozy corners of my calendar waiting for us to nestle in and make shameless sounds.

You can celebrate like my friend David who SOS’d me on Instagram last month.

All I did was send him a 5 minute video with some idears. He just took it from there. 

Or we can get in there all heart melty like I roll with the BoCo kids.



👆 This is why I’m the luckiest — I get to teach the best kids. 

And there are the endless opportunities for grinning and belting like Michael Tatlock and I do on a Thursday evening:

The party’s hot, so get in here with us. nnn-ts nnn-ts nnn-ts 🔊

Before you know it, you’ll be getting all manner of vocal chore hacks, and like Ina Garten pouring a scalding pot of cavatappi into a colander for Jeffrey, you’ll muse amid the rising steam, “How easy was that?”

Just tickle this link or hit reply.

I’ll write you back, ask you questions, and we’ll work it all out.

Can’t wait!

And whatever scintillating chore you’re fixing to do right now, always remember, there’s one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Now go do something nice — for you! 💙

love much,
dan

ps You know I wouldn’t leave you hanging about the vibrato-limp wrist connection. I also call it rubber chicken.

Here’s the video I sent to David.

pps The folks mentioned above are top notch.
Jen Waldman Studio — whole hearted acting/singing/artist training
Mike Ruckles Voice AND piano wowee zowee
and
Barbara Deutsch wise career coach and somebody you just wanna listen to 💙

ppps Wait! You were gonna email me about that 1-on-1 time? Just click here and press send. I already wrote the email for you. 

Hot tub time machine — vexing cellular memory and belly bubbles 

This was not what I expected when I got in the jacuzzi.

Last December in Florida, Melissa and I worked out a tag team system with Uncle Rob at the pool so that we could grab 10 minute soaks in the resorty hot tub.

A cover of “Last Christmas” piped through palm-concealed speakers, and I tingled with spa-ticipation as I cranked the timer to get the whirlpool whirling.

I dipped my toesies in and slid my back in front of the perfect jet. Sigh.

My expectations for soothing Zen blurble blurbles burst, though, when I noticed some other kinds of gurgles in my guts — and it was’t Uncle Rob’s famous Buffalo chicken dip.

No one warned me that the jacuzzi in Fort Myers, Florida, was actually the famed Hot Tub Time Machine.

It slurped me through a wormhole like a reverse waterslide, and I splashed down somewhere around 2011.

I was doing a show at Laguna Playhouse, and the actor housing was swank; by swank I mean in-unit laundry AND a pool.

I was burning myself out teaching seven days a week and fighting the 5 Freeway to get to rehearsals and call times.

My spouse at the time was living and working in New York, and we’d been doing three-times-zones long distance for a while.

One morning, I took a rare and brazen break and decided to relax in the complex’s hot tub.

She’d landed at Burbank Airport that day, and I assumed that top of the to-do list would be to toodle on down to Laguna’s sunny shores.

When I clickety clacked my BlackBerry asking when I should expect her, I learned she’d be remaining in LA for a few days.

I’d honed a deft practice of constructing an impenetrable excuse edifice for any questionable/shitty thing my partner did at that time.

In a mere four minutes of mental gymnastics, I’d perform an intricate uneven bars routine with a wobbly-yet-committed dismount that announced, “See? This red flag is in fact a party decoration!”

But my brain was an exhausted Mary Lou Retton that day.

My lil thumbs clicked off another query: why would one fly across the North American continent and not prioritize a visit with one’s spouse?

I don’t remember the answer, but I do recall leaning out of that hot tub in Laguna Beach staring at my phone feeling like Steve Martin’s Dentist from Little Shop was drilling inside my stomach.

zhoooop

Back in the today times — there I sat in the disappointing Fort Myers hot tub, and my gut cells decided to let some more of this memory on out.

My brain went to busy bee mode: 🤓🐝 analyze the situation, construct a reframe to mitigate all intense/unpleasant sensations. (There was no cereal on hand.)

But somehow in this moment I knew that I just needed to let it burble—boil boil toil and trouble up just like the chlorinated jacooze swirl.

It hurt.

My body got vacuumed into this movie where the person I wanted to put me somewhere near the top of the list just didn’t.

And then the truth emerged from the Floridian Hot Tub Time Machine like alligator side-eyes I was finally ready to see.

Back then, I was nowhere near the top of my own to-be-taken-care-of list.

Before I count the ways for you, lemme ask you a question–

❓You got times in your life when you look back with your more integrated eyeballs❓

You check the rear view, and you know exactly what you shoulda said and how you shoulda acted in that scenario.

But then, you review that scene and understand that expecting that version of you to advocate or hold a boundary would be the same as demanding a crash victim in a body cast to crank out ten push-ups.

That’s where I was.

It wasn’t until a year later when I went to therapy — by myself — to figure out how to save the marriage that I started to report what was happening to another human being.

As I said things out loud, I gained some distance from the hornets’ nest that I’d been poking.

I started to understand that I was the one. I was treating me like shit.

The hot tub scenario is one of the reasons that we half-ass our singing too.

If we take the 30 seconds to ask what this lyric means to us, it’ll pull up things that our genius psyches buried years ago.

To be an alive human singing, you have to open yourself to what might bubble up.

But instead, we plan and plot and stick to the script.

This is like avoiding a tricky conversation because you can’t control what the other person is going to say. 

The captivating and scary thing about life is that we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

We don’t know what our dear friend who misunderstood us is going to say.

We don’t know what the motorist in front of us is going to do.

And we don’t know what treats our subconscious is gonna serve up.

Could be Pop Tarts. Could be EPCOT. Could be that time you haven’t worked through the shame of it all and swore to never think about again.

But your courage to be surprised makes all the difference in the world when you sing —

— all the difference between an open, alive heart serving truth treats and a shielded, cold ego calculating each note with a self conscious grip on a control delusion.

You know the difference. You’ve seen it.

You’ve thought, “Hmmmm, their voice is nice, but I just can’t make myself care.

Or

They’re doing all the right things, and I forgot what just happened.

These is what makes us leave the theater upset that we parted with the price of a ticket and pissed that we didn’t just go get a cheeseburger at intermission.

But, when someone opens their heart and says yep to whatever may come up in front of theatre-full of folks fighting to keep a cast iron lid on their stuff, you leave satisfied and changed. You may even want to slide the lid off your own Le Creuset just a little.

The hot tub experience made me all wiggle waggle, and it hurt.

And I decided I would sit there, breathe, and let it bubble on through.

The great thing about feelings is that most of the time they start and then they stop. Most of the time, if you remember that sensations come and go, you can ride it out.

It’s also found that opening to these gut surprises makes life vibrant.

If you’re game to feel the brave feels, you’ll roll out the carpet for joy, gratitude, and other forms of effervescence.

Your welcome mat’s out for connection; and it’s a robust, risky, pink-cheeked way to live.

And it makes your singing deep and satisfying.

You can craft a song, understand where it fires in your body, and season every vowel with your own secret soul sauce — that’s a hearty stew to serve.

And someone in the audience will relish that.

You’ve felt that.

Who are the artists who’ve helped you feel alive and filled from the most delicious meal?

They’ve prepped the ingredients, said yes to burns, knife nicks, and boiled-over pots, and they’ve served up a perfectly imperfect meal with crusty bread and love.

So, what if you found something you can say to yourself that spurs you to open up and play?

Something like, “I can fire the hearth and get chopping, or I can microwave this Amy’s burrito. Let’s get cooking, see what happens.” 🔥 (no shade to Amy’s)

And like your kitchen garden where the carrots and arugula grow, you need sunshine and water.

When I let my tears fall, they’re great soil waterers. And there’s always a surprise seed or three some birdy dropped there that turns into a flower or a fruit tree.

Even the weeds can be great — you ever had dandelion greens?

Most of all, remember there’s only one hot tub soaking, garden pottering, love cooker you, and folks need to hear the stories that can only bubble, boil, braise and simmer from your heart(h) where you sing while you stir.

Love much and chew slow,
dan

ps I love Anne Lamott. Here’s a terrific interview with her and Tim Ferris that filled me with grace this week. 

Trapper Keeper confession — you can’t keep all your enoughness in those folders 🗂️

The older child in the Calla-fam is a sqireller of the first degree. 🐿 

Laundry comes out with all manner of plastic accoutrements spun out of trouser pockets.

On our way back to Massachusetts from NC, we headed into a Burger King when Noah grabbed my hand and said, “Daddy, I’m sorry I got this.” 

He extracted one of his Gram’s necklaces from his jeans like a sheepish pirate unsure of his calling. 🏴‍☠️

Gram thought it was a hoot, and the necklace accessorized his Burger King crown very well.

I told Noah I was grateful he told me. I want to make sure our boys know they can tell us anything. I’m working on it.

I recalled my own brief yet intense stent with childhood kleptomania after Matthew Royster told me the items in the Mayberry Mall Kmart lacking price tags were free. 

Even after I learned that this merchandise lesson was bogus, I still struggled with a penchant for purloining Dr. Pepper Bubble Yum.

I even lifted a Trapper Keeper in fifth grade, and to this day I still don’t know what drove me to such an unnecessary and obvious crime. I HAD a Trapper Keeper.

I think the victim of my crime even mentioned, “Hey, my Trapper Keeper looked just like that one.” 

“Oh, really?” 👀

I knew what I did was wrong, and I felt ashamed.

As a dad now, I ask — how can I model healthy and whole choices while opening my heart when the boys make decisions that don’t shout health and wholeness? Working on it.

🪴🪴🪴
Cut to a few days later — we were back home, and I planned a scintillating outing to Weston Nurseries and the Town Forest. It was gonna be plants kinda day.

We did our best to keep the boys’ hands off of the rare exotic species, smelled the nice greenhouse air, and admired a display of geodes in the middle of the ferns.

Jude had a learn-the-hard-way encounter with a cactus, and we picked up a couple of Crotons —

Google said they were fussy roomies, but their bright leaves lured us to take the risk. We’re suckas for colah.

See? They’re pretty. Pray for us.

🤞🤞🤞

We engaged the next phase of perfect dad-plan day, and we drove toward the Town Forest. And by Town Forest, I mean the KidSpot playground after a definitive vote by acclamation from the back seat.

We got to the parking lot, and before Noah grabbed my hand, he said, “Daddy, I’m sorry I took this rock.”

He produced a beautiful amethyst geode from his coat pocket.

I felt a knee-jerk impulse vomit itself up from my guts to act a little shocked and indignant, but I saw little Trapper Keeper keeping 11-year-old me, and thank God I took a split second.

“Oh buddy, that’s not something that we can take from the store. That belongs to them. We’re going to need to take that back.”

The boys played for half an hour, and then we toodled back down Highway 135. 

We said, “Noah, listen buddy. You didn’t understand. We’re just going to go in, and you can tell them you thought this was a rock that you could collect like you do in the woods.”

Even though we said this, he was still afraid to take the stone back in. He scrunched his little body down as if he were looking for a little cubbyhole to hide in.

It was humbling for me to see his sweet four-year-old heart trying to hide away like we all do.

I said, “Buddy, I’ll be with you the whole time, and everything will be all right, I promise. I’m grateful you told me.”

We walked back into the store, and the woman who’d rung us up, wrapped our fussy plants, and told us about her grandkids said, “Oh no, is anything wrong?”

I gave Noah a little rub on the back to let him know he could talk.

He held out the amethyst and said, “I’m sorry I took this purple rock.”

Before I could launch in with any codependent explanation, the woman said, “Oh, sweetie, where did you pick that up?”

Noah pointed to the greenhouse, and she replied, “You know what, I love how honest you were bringing that back to us. Is it OK if I just give it to you?”

Noah’s face lit up like a gem show, and he nodded his head.

It was a tender lesson that went better than I could’ve imagined, and Weston Nurseries has my business for life. 

And it made me think about things like guilt, shame, hiding, and Trapper Keepers.

How often does the knuckley shame claw grab you when you’ve made an honest mistake?

It’s deep.

And it suffocates our chance for breathing room and growing.

If you just look at singing, shame can

strangle our natural sound; it insists we need to add something,

berates our musicianship; reminds us how adept that cast mate was at everything,

points at the gap between our abilities and an artist’s we admire,

and concludes, “What’s the use?”

This is the thing that stops singers from taking the time to read, mark, and inwardly digest their rep.

Who am I to take this text and these melodies and invest the time to feel what’s real in my guts that would cause me to say these words and sing these notes?

I’ll just copy that real singer who already did it.

That’s the root of meh, forgettable, samey singing. 

We don’t give ourselves the space or possibility to know that our singular voice and point of view is irreplaceable, no matter what Beyoncé circa ’06 said. 

Shame says there’s a right answer, and yours is prolly wrong. You’re wrong. 

When I started college voice lessons, I hit myself when I made a mistake. I open-hand smacked my thigh, volcanic when I missed a note, cracked, or struggled in any way. 

Into my late 30s, I’d get the note, “Dan, lift your eyes, please, we’re losing you in the lights.” I spent a lot of time looking down at the stage. Wanting to share my heart while my body worked to keep hiding.

It was a painful way to live. 

So, what helped?

Here are three things:

Somehow, I got the download that I’m enough, and I believe it most of the time. 

I don’t have a step-by-step on this. I’ve just been super gifted to have beautiful folks in my life who tell me the truth, give me hugs, and call me out with love. I’ve been smart enough to listen.

I ask myself if things feel stressful.

From my heart’s eyes, I look at my thoughts and words.

How do I feel when I believe this? If the answer is “shitty,” I ask if there’s a reframe. Is there a more generous way to see this? Almost always, there is.

I’m grateful for guilt.  

I learned from Brené that shame and guilt are different.

Guilt says “What I did was shitty.” Shame says, “I’m shit.”

When I feel guilt, I call myself to an integrated standard. I cop to the Trapper Keeper and make amends. 

This gut-ouch is there to point me to the whole and healthy human I wanna be who shares love. At the grocery store, in the classroom, and on the stage — all three places a privilege to be. 

So, I invite you to notice when Shame-a-blame-a-ding-dong bonks you on the noggin. 

Reach out to someone you love and trust, and let them remind you who you are. 

Ask them to help you with a little reframe while they’re at it.

And if there’s something you’d like to make amends for, see what kind of steps you can take that are kind and restorative.

With your singing, let me assure you:

you’re more enough than you can even handle. That’s what’s so scary about letting our voice through.

Notice the thoughts that jib jab at you when you sing. Take a little time to see if they’re really true. (Answer Key: they’re not.) 

And make amends with you. The first thing you can try is, “I’m sorry for not letting you sing.” 

Then hum a tune you love.

And always remember — there’s only one you, and folks do need to hear the story only you can sing.

How can this be easier?

You know about Clifton StrengthsFinder? It’s an assessment tool that’s a locator of your easy things.

Every time I’ve shaken its Magic 8 Ball, one attribute always features first.

No, (blush), it’s not magnanimity, wisdom, or humility. Thank you, though. I’m humbled.

It’s Input. 🤖

When I was a kid, my version of “You’re not the boss of me” was, “You’re not the TEACHER!” 

Or [tɛɪi-tʃəɹɹɹɹɹ] for an International Phonetic Alphabet transcription of my Surry County tot-twang.

See? I even IPA my hills-n-hollers cradle dialect. Input.

I collect data like it’s my 4th grade rock menagerie, and I’m mystified when my exuberant educational evangelism yields glazed eyes and grocery list contemplation in the listener.

Lordt, I’m remembering one of the first academic classes I taught and the informational firehose I pumped out (via Power Point, of course).

No wonder one of the student reflections stated, “Lectures were boring.” Not to ME! I overworked HARD on those rabbit trails about the Princess Musicals and Dorothy Parker! 

And now we arrive at the jammed junction where Clifton Strength meets Callaway Cluster.

If I can make it harder, I will.

I own the bizarro version of the Staples Easy Button–

–a Rube Goldberg contraption of levers, gears, and pulleys, and when the little ball bearing lands in the cup at the end, a voice exclaims, “That was satisfyingly complex!”

I don’t mind taking one sock down to add to the laundry only to realize I left the songbook on the steps. No worries. I’ll just take that downstairs, too, while I leave the iPad on the kitchen table for a separate trip to the charger. 

Doesn’t frustrate me in the least. 

This week I tormented my soul trying to select an online scheduler that could accept credit cards, send automatic reminders, and julienne sweet potato fries; I knew the wrong software would lead to the imminent demise of everything.

So I toiled and brewed, becoming the person attacked by Tupperware on an infomercial before the low-larynx voiceover intones, “Introducing…💫” 

The irony is not lost: I subject myself to a morass of brain complexity and fantasy flow chart in search of a magical system that promises simplicity. “You just teach and let us do the rest.” 🤯

I knew what I needed to do.

(thanks to a Marie Forleo podcast one time about how to get your head to stop yelling at you.)

I got on the elliptical machine I was super resistant to us buying and has turned out to be a body and brain saver. Thanks, Melissa-Lee. 

After fifteen minutes, a lotta sweat drops, and answering questions from lil Jude about dinosaurs and what’s ewwiptical mean? in ragged two-word fragments, things started to clear up.

I didn’t need the software.

I needed paper and pen.

Complication was my way of getting in my way.

Do you have a thing like that?

A tricky moth-to-flame resistance activity that claims you’re making progress while you know you’re wheel-spinning and slinging mud on your windshield? 

Lemme tell you what my complexity movie montages backed by Avil Lavigne’s 2002 chart-topper do for me.

I bet your own clever machinations will become clearer to you, too.

It protects me from ease.

Why would you wanna be protected from ease? That’s crazy.

Yep. 

Making things hard upholds an early belief I crafted —  I get everything through hard work. (This includes love and acceptance.)

Even miraculously free and un-earnable things like breath (I know how to do it well because I’m a singer) or health (I eat this, and I exercise this way) become star charts. 

I’m a poor vacationer, board game player, and mid-day movie watcher. I’m working on it.

It keeps me out of action and away from the unknown.

When I was in the UK, I never even crossed the Channel.

You know why? I didn’t want to go anywhere I didn’t speak the language, and I woulda been lost in Spain, anyway.

My need to KNOW things and LOOK like I knew was consuming.

And who cared? Ding ding ding — moi. 

It shields me from rejection, being a beginner, and feeling inept.

Offering anything to anybody means they could say no. So, if you don’t offer, they can’t say no. Opening yourself to any kind of response from folks — same.

And when you try something new, even if it’s a new version of something you’ve done for years, you have the just-born fawn stumble going on for a while.

What if we cheered ourselves on like a grandparent claps for their 13-month-old grandbaby standing, stepping, stumbling, and standing again? We’d probably get moving with a lot less self-inflicted cortisol. 

I think I need to look fancy.

On our road trip back from NC, Noah took on a regal identity when he donned the Burger King crown he picked up in Staunton, Virginia. Together with one of Gram’s necklaces he couldn’t resist taking as a souvenir, he knew he was looking special.

When he climbed into the back seat after lunch, he asked, “Daddy, do you think all those people knew I was a king?”

“I’m sure they did, buddy.”

And how is keen sense of audience perception an inheritable trait? 🧬

I’ve added bells and whistles to my business that I don’t need because I think they look impressive. It’s the equivalent of financing a car you can’t afford so that you look like you have more money than you do. 

So, now I’m writing my active client and waiting list down on a super simple couple pages in my bullet journal, and it’s like a life changing magic of complexity release moment. Sparks all kinds of joy not to mention freedom, relief, and as intensely uncomfortable as it is, EASE.

I leave you with this.

If you can remember to ask yourself this question for life AND singing, things can go pretty well:

How can this be easier?

And if there’s no practical way to make something easier, how can you go easier? On you and everybody around you?

I think this is what we have to ask ourselves in 2023. Things aren’s getting easier on their own, so how can you walk through with love and tenderness toward you and the world you’re connected to?

Moving through like that, you’ll share more. And that’s good because I do believe with all my heart that there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,
dan

ps If you want to know more about Clifton StrenghtFinder (or their new rebrand as CliftonStrengths), it’s here.

pps If you ever have presentations to make or talks to give, I recommend any and all of Echo Rivera’s resources.  Her stuff saved me from creating more death by power point. Another terrific resource for teaching and talking is Dr. Patrick Wilson’s talk at MIT. Together we can end Power Point abuse. 

ppps Please do yourself a huge favor and watch this. 🎹💙 This feature from CBS Sunday Morning made my week. It’s just 2 and a half minutes, and your soul will say thank you. There is good and beauty in the world. 

Your trigger triggered my trigger — trigger warning: triggers (with a side of Hangrytown)

The Calla-clan went over the Delaware, Potomac and James rivers and through allll the woodses to Gram’s house in NC.

We piled into the house where the hardware’s still off the bathroom door my younger brother donkey-kicked when we were in fifth grade,

and where the cow pasture behind us used to be the tobacco field where we hurled red clay clumps at each other in our GI Joe simulations. (Many a noggin was knocked by a hidden hunk of quartz.)

The 2-day drive down was good, and our lil nuggets named themselves the Road Rangers.

They did miles better than I did on road trips as a kid — my patience petered by Lake Norman when we took summer trips to Carowinds. Even the promise of the Scooby Doo Roller Coaster couldn’t temper my impatience with my legs sticking to the blue vinyl back seat of the Ford Fairmont station wagon. 

One crucial operational duty you have to manage on road trips with a 3- and 4-year-old: snack management. 

Once glycemic indices fluctuate, you have a brief window to mitigate a detour onto Hangrytown Highway.

(We refer to the the passenger seat occupant on road trips as “The Snack Bitch.”)

We wended our way through the interminable Commonwealth of Virginia, witnessed the potentialities of human behavior when subject to just 2 lanes on the interstate, and the under-fives weren’t the only denizens of Hangrytown occupying the motor. 

I rode snack-gun while Melissa landed us at lunchtime.

Grace Patricia (GPS’s first and middle names) began to exhibit decision fatigue, so I asserted my navigational insight while the boys decided their Magna-Doodles would make great seat-back bludgeons.

An ambulance whizzed by, and motorists executed ill-considered left turns out of the nearby Sheetz.

“Turn right here, and that’ll get you back to the light you need,” I offered.

Melissa proceeded straight.

“Turn right here. Here!”

No turn.

“Now we missed it.”

Why was nobody LISTENING to me????

A knot cinched my growly stomach and slung a lasso up around the back of my tongue.

My guts stomped and silent-screamed — much like my four-year-old recurring nightmare of Darth Vader slinging me over his shoulder and carrying me out the door while my Mom and Dad smiled and waved, “Have a good time :).”

No one was listening to me!

Melissa telescoped her focus on the road, turned right on an actual road and then safely U-turned. It was later than the one I said she should make, and I barked as much.

The car climate shifted from frenetic to stormy.

Melissa’s face looked like I’d just thrown her chocolate peanut butter ice cream cone on the sidewalk. I’d hurt her feelings.

I saw this with my eyes and ascertained it with my brain, and in my four-year-old Darth Vader capture moment, I was incapable of meeting her there.

Empathy was as distant as everything on Interstate 81 — stuck between an 18-wheeler and the Buick Lacrosse with the Texas plates who needed to BACK OFF.

With tears behind her eyes, Melissa said to me, “You’d think after the weeks we’ve had–all the packing, planning, cleaning, wrapping, wrangling — the exhaustion I’m feeling right now — the OVERSTIMULATION. I literally couldn’t hear you with all that was happening.

“I just hoped you’d have a little more understanding with where I am.” 

Shit

I heard her. Her words made sense.

I was still 4, though, and no one freaking listens.

Lunch was a little shut down and sad, and the next several miles down the highway, too. 

I said a couple things about “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings…” and “If you just understood…”, and when I realized I sounded like the grade-A narcissist the YouTube Psychologist warned us about, I got quiet.

Melissa folded her arms and leaned toward the passenger side window. Get your own snacks, everybody.

Finally, I said, “Sweetie, I’m sorry. I hurt your feelings. My trigger triggered your trigger. I couldn’t pull myself out of my reactivity. I’m working on it.”

We’ve learned after nearly 10 years married that we need a little time to come through our respective feeling swamps. We held hands, closed our mouths for a while, and bought some time pumping the Encanto soundtrack. 

You ever been there?

Something happened, and before you knew it, the floor vanished, you didn’t know which end was up, and something akin to imminent soul death gripped you like monster vines?

It’s happened to me more times than I can count. 

In Melissa’s case, I didn’t SEE her when she needed to be seen, met, and understood. 

For me, I didn’t feel like anybody was listening. 

For both little Melissa and little Dan, very tender wounds got punched.

You got any places in your little-hood when you desperately needed someone just to see you? To listen when you tried to tell a big person something was terribly wrong? 

Makes a lot of sense that folks with deep longings to be seen and heard become singers, right?

Or teachers. 

As you can see from my road trip trigger-sode, I’m working on it.

And there are things that’ve helped me, too.

Here are a few:

Sometimes you’re going to be an asshole. Try as you might, there will be times when you get sucked down the wormhole to your wounded whatever-year-old self.

These moments are necessary.

They take you to the place that needs your compassion and understanding.

They also make you realize most of us are walking around with hurting five-year-old selves in need of a hug. (especially that Buick Lacrosse driver who I still hope gets pulled over and ticketed SOMEwhere. I need justice!)

The work you need to do feels a lot like rest, and it’s scary as hell. When painful reference points leap up and grab you, the first thing we want to do is smush, suppress, DE-press.

Por qué? Because you probably had a precious caregiver who had to smush and suppress, too, so they weren’t able to let you cry on through, scream on through, or experience a full emotional cycle.

You didn’t get to experience the fact that a big feeling comes, your body cries, shakes, or yells, and then it stops.

Most of us stick ourselves in the stage of suffocating the onset of emotion. Makes sense — if your big person couldn’t handle your feels, you learned how to dull them. No one likes feeling rejected or too-much.

Here’s where the rest part comes in. I’ve found that when the stuff comes up, it’s important to let it do it’s thing. Meet it and yourself with the willingness to understand, with the compassion you’d offer a dear friend.

You don’t need to understand. In fact, it may be best just to let your body make some sensations, breathe through them, and then make yourself some tea.

We get into trouble when we try to work it all out with our noggins. There are all kinds of things my brain understands; just because I understand how a bicycle works doesn’t mean I can ride one.

and last — 

Open up to the gift that’s there. The hurts I walk with tenderize me. They’ve worked compassion into my heart, and they’ve opened my ears and my soul. I wouldn’t be the husband, dad, or teacher I am without them. 

I’ve howled, cried, raged, screamed, pounded my fists, and asked plenty of whys, and I’ve had enough time and miracles to look back and see beauty in how the stained bandage threads cross each other and wove quite the picture. 

Learning how to feel things has helped me show my students that they can too. I often say, “It’s just crying.” Not to minimize the experience, but to remind us that crying starts and crying ends. Just like a song.

And I want you to remember that there is in fact only one you, and folks do need to hear the story that only you can sing. May need to cry and laugh through some things as you work on it; that’s just the love in the recipe. The most important ingredient.

love much,
dan

ps I’ve been listening to several interviews with Dr. Gabor Mate recently, and his latest book The Myth of Normal sounds like an essential read for all of us. He points out so many things about the water we’re swimming in, usually unaware that it’s been polluted. I’m wondering more and more what I can do about that. Go search on YouTube.

pps And two of my FAVORITE hearts and thinkers talked to EACH OTHER recently. Brené Brown interviewed Father Richard Rohr at the Center for Action and Contemplation. Here’s Episode One of the two-parter, “On Breathing Underwater, Falling Upward, and Unlearning Certainty.”

ppps You need a lesson? I got some time. Skewl doesn’t kick back in for a couple of weeks, so if you want to sing or work something out, email me back, and we’ll make a time. 🎵 Just hit reply 🙂 

Multipurpose Pepperoni — when Rhode Islanders, dinner plans, and cured meats collide

Happy Holidays! 🌴

We visited Nana and Pappy in Ft. Myers, Florida, this week. 

It’s been Christmas music at the pool, tinsel-clad golf carts, and this alligator sunning himself by a roadside lagoon.

Nope nope noooope. Give me the rogue wild turkey gang roaming the stone walled curves of Ashland, Mass, any day.

One feature of belonging to Melissa’s family — the Italian DNA is profondo. 

This means that as you’re washing down your cinnamon raisin English muffin with your last swigs of coffee, someone’s asking, “What’re we doing for dinner?”

One evening the choice was pizza. Or pizzer. They’re Rhode Islanders. (The [r] rules are complex.)

When the plan was set, Nana’s eyes widened atop big smile, and she skipped back to the pantry. She emerged with a substantial pepperoni sausage she held aloft like a drum major.

“We can use THIS!” she proclaimed. 

Despite the fanfare, homemade pizzer plans met a veto in favor of pickup and paper plates. But Nana had introduced the pepperoni as a symbolic fixture for this family visit.

Jude immediately recognized the cured meat’s bellicose/phallic implications and concocted a yet-to-be-introduced Marvel Universe identity wielding the deli item like a (Dr.) strange cylindrical flesh hammer.

He’d already been taunting his older brother about his toy fire truck’s ladder length. This stuff’s cellular, apparently. Boys, you both have nice fire trucks. 

Later in the week, we hung the piñata Aunty Krissy brought from Mexico in the front yard so the boys could get out some energy and dig for the strewn contents among the St. Augustine grass. 

We searched the garage for the best paper mache thwacking implement — a broom handle? the light bulb changer thingy? the grill brush? Someone please get the grill brush out of Jude’s hands. 

But who knew that the perfect safe and effective piñata demolition device would be a cross-cultural salumi? 

The peppeRONE. 

Loofas, Pez dispensers, and candy canes flew, and the meat log served a surprising purpose.

Then, on our last morning, the boys were bouncing around shenanigizing as usual. Noah slipped on Nana’s cushy carpet, and his lower lip met the corner of her stylish mosaic coffee table. 

There was blood and tears. 🙁

As I doctored Noah’s lip and patted his back, Jude barreled out of the pantry door once again wielding the titanic tube. “Here you go, Noah! This’ll feel you better!”

The two boys laughed and laughed, and it was the best moment — seeing your lil nuggets share a joke and see how one can help the other in his own way.

The pizza topper was soon weaponized again.

All this to say —

You never know when you’ve got a pepperoni just hanging out in your pantry that can 1. spark your imagination, 2. bust open a piñata, and 3. make your bestie laugh when their lip’s bleeding. 

Every tool we have can be used in tons of ways, so when you’re working your way through a hairy situation with your singing or otherwise, that thing you do for your breathing might help you with your belting, and that thing you do with your belting might just help you with your head voice vibrato action.

Try stuff. 

And if you just need a good laugh, take a look at Jude menacing you with a pepperoni in Joy jammies.

Most of all, though, remember, there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,
dan

ps speaking of warfare salami, do you know about Steven Pressfield? Author of The War of Art. Terrific book and helpful tools to recognize and transcend resistance. He did and interesting interview with Tim Ferris recently. I recommend. 

pps I’m sharing regularly on the social channels, so if you’re not already there, come to my party! IG is here. FB is here. Read. Listen. Comment. Send me messages.

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