for people who break into song in real life

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 7)

What My Three-Year-Old Does a Lot Better Than I Do

Noah just turned 3. Wha?

Like every human who experiences time, I’m a mix of where-did-the-minutes-go? and dang-this-day-is-longer-than-a-slow-tempo-Les-Miz.

I get to watch him figure stuff out, hear him say, “Daddy, the ceiling fan is like a propeller!” and notice how every sleeping emotion giant inside me gets jabbed awake by his sweet being.

He’s my soul mirror. He sparks deep-buried memories– “I was captivated by Cinderella when I was 3.” or “Oh I remember, that fascination with volcanoes.” 

He also inherited my intense emos. When he hurts over anything–from a snatched toy to a skinned knee–I can feel his cry in the middle of my stomach. 

And it makes me effing anxious.

These are sensations I muffle in the bottom of the clothes hamper while saying things like, “Suck it up. No time to hurt.”

And now these raw feels stampede through Noah’s prefrontal cortex like a herd of auditioners who just found out the sign-in table got moved, and I get to say hello to their hungry, eager faces again.

When I hold Noah mid-wail, my guts swarm like a poked hornets’ nest. I feel his tears and snot seep through my shirt, and the wise part of me knows he just needs a hug. 

Can you imagine if I spoke to him the way I spoke to me?

You might rightfully roll your eyes when your well-meaning pal says in her best breathy therapist voice, “Would you speak that way to your best friend?” 

Of course I wouldn’t. I’m not a b to my bestie. If you’re like me, you struggle to turn this love and care toward yourself, too.

You prolly absorbed a message somewheres that says, “The only way to grow is through brutal ass kickery. Humans are jacked up souls in need of Thomas Hobbesian constraint.”

I still hit rewind and play on that Fisher Price tape recorder.

Sometimes, though, I find the wisdom to press pause and question the message. 

You might remember the tale of the benevolent music director that showed me you could go from A to B with laughs and joy. Ego Dan is still giving that leadership style the side-eye.

What A to B are you wishing you could take the first-class Acela train to? 

If you could plug anything into Google Maps and ask Gracie (our name for GPS–Grace Patricia Smith) to cue you, where would you go?

I would love to know. Email me or share a comment, and tell me about it!

How-to vocal, what-the life stuff, or you just wanna know how I make irresistible salad dressing.

Whyyyyy, Dan? Why todaaaaay? (audition cut in my 20s)

Because I want to know what you need.

And I want to fa-lap-ball-change some tasty, nourishing morsels up in this blog space that’ll make you all Super Mario after that shroom. 

When you contact me me to say, “This helped!” I’m Luigi with the fire flower–I’m throwing fuego-balls at all those doom turtles coming at you, and I’m getting you to the next level.

Now I’m belting this: 

There’s only one yoooooooo, and folks need to hear the story only yoooooo can sing. (And I can help you with that [u] vowel.)

It’s scientifically true. 👆One you, and yes, I will help you sing [u] in multiple styles.

Remember to give my life a purpose, and click here to email me with your Acela train dream destination.

Or ask me “What is a train? I’ve been watching Facebook Live theatre for over a year.” I wanna help.

And if you’re still wondering, “Dan, how exactly DO I talk to myself and be kind to me without feeling like I’m carrying a dog-eared copy of The Secret in my messenger bag, I made you a video for that, and and I’ll post that on Thursday, so come back and see me then.

You’re Trucking Along a Perfect Trajectory, and 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.

Winner

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.

Late Processor

I learned before my mind could name feelings
To tuck unmanageable sensation away
In unlabeled boxes assigned to the Healings
Of the Miraculous Variety Department. One day,
These will be processed in an orderly fashion free
Of messiness or confusion or surprises —
The unnamed documents would simply be
Remanded to the file labeled “guises”–
An infinite folder holding all manner of unsayable
Observances and temporarily renaming
Events until the things that seem unprayable
Explode from the cabinet in a paper storm of blaming.
So far, it’s been a workable system, I’d say.
This sheet’s labeled “later.” File under “A?”

Let’s eat and get some rest

These times are tougher than that thing you never
predicted you would get through. Look, though. Here
you are. You made it! Knowing that whatever
may come, looking back on times -- when fear
seemed like the strongest voice and you were sure
there wasn't any road to lead you out --
can help you see there was a path of pure
connection guiding you through why and doubt
and how and ow! And look! You're here. It may
well suck, this current course (required), and you
will learn the thing and share it on the way
with someone else like you in search of clue.
I don't know why the shitty times teach best.
So while we're taught, let's eat and get some rest.  

The day I chose to help the world be kind

The day I chose to help the world be kind
and gentle to itself turned out to be
the same cold day I lost my shit and mind
while hauling my two toddlers furiously
away from slides and swings where I decided
to take them stoller-free and lacking snack.
"You do not screw with schedule," Wisdom chided,
as I wrangled noncompliant wrigglers back 
toward the distant car in need of fre-
quent stops to pull my Wranglers up. The scene
was dignified to say the least, and me,
the model of a modern major mean(ie).
Oh yes, the day I chose to share the ways of kindness--
Some days you wish life had some more rewind-ness.

The musical I wrote about forgiveness

I’ve been cooking up this musical since 2012, and this Myers Briggs ENFP knows it’s finally time to start sharing some songs.

In 2012 I had a significant list of amends to make, and there were those whom I held inside the imaginary cage of my own contempt.

I’m still learning what forgiveness means. And since I’ve needed a lot of it since 2012, I’ve noticed that it is alive and moving, welcoming us to collaborate.

It’s like breathing and singing. We can’t hold a note, we can only watch as the breath moves through us and we open to receive the next one.

This is “The Treasures We Owned” from ACROSS.

A lil story background:

In 1985, Lynn Steeple is a retired opera singer who teaches at Armstrong College in her hometown of Mt. Airy, North Carolina.

When she learns that her ex-husband will be the college’s artist in residence, she finds her life hurtling down an emotional mountain road in a truck with tired breaks.

This song happens in Act 2 as Lynn weighs the years she’s spent rehearsing the deeds of those who’ve trespassed against her.

A Prayer for George Floyd on My Brother’s Forty-Sixth Birthday

Jesus, I pictured you gathering your child
George Floyd
under your wings as he left his body
on rough grey asphalt.

The report said he was forty-six,
and I thought of my brother,
towering tall like George,
whose forty-sixth birthday is today.

I imagined a place where a big white man
with wavy brown hair like he
would be police-pinned bare-chest-down
eye-level with oil stains and cigarette butts,
his temple gravel-indented.

I have to imagine my gentle giant big brother
suffering a bony knee to his throat
and a hands-in-pockets “relax”
when he pleads for breath.

What’s make-believe for me
is you-better-believe for my human brothers
whose melanin riches make them poor
according to the story we’ve spun
based on our ability to see
.0035 percent of the light spectrum.

This tale gags
a hundreds-years nightmare scream
in the deaf presence of stopped ears.

Does your brown, scarred brow, Lord,
knit at our bleached, ignored grief
as you feel our refusal
to let through the howl for the things done
and those left undone?

Where do the pierced hands
that made spit-mud for the blind man
guide us?

Today I ask for blessings for my brother’s
forty-sixth year,
and I think of how my prayers depart
from the black mother
who pleads for anyone to guard her son
from those who obey inhuman agents
that insinuate that we are
separate.

May you smear the deep brown clay on our eyes,
the mud we’re all made from,
to see the moment when
George
met his mother when he called her
and, cradled beneath your wing
by your spear-stabbed side,
walked upright together into the place where
you hear their voice
and you will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Why did you stop drawing?

I won’t bury the lead. I stopped drawing because my brothers were good at it.

I loved to draw, paint, color, all the things.

I didn’t win coloring contests. Ms. Tina chided me in nursery school for coloring an ostrich purple. (I think it was a solid choice.) I would look at my brothers’ sketches of trees and X-men and envy their superior technique and think, “I’m not that good.”

So, when I figured out I could sing, I had my thing.

Bye bye, visual arts, I will make my way on the staaaaage. Or with a poli sci degree. I didn’t know.

During these quarantine-y times, there’s been play-doh and paint time at the kitchen table with our two-year-old, and I’ve gotten out the watercolors.

What’s so interesting to me is that painting a cup or a vase of flowers or someone else’s painting of a house puts me into a story–I immerse the way I do when I craft a song or write a scene.

And I notice how a fragile child’s ego decision shaped the creative and career path I took.

Are you there? In you own experience when someone said or did something they don’t even remember, and it shaped the whole trajectory of your creative and life choices from that point?

I’m remembering pee-wee basketball.

The one time when our ringer Roy, 9-year-old layup master that he was, didn’t grab a rebound. Somehow the ball ricocheted into my eager eight-year-old hands, and I did what I knew I must:

I double-dribbled to the other side of the half-court and attempted my best underhand granny from around the free throw line.

I soon discovered that I had unsuccessfully attempted to score for the other team.

A bizarro version of the good-game-hand-slap line formed; the other team passed me single-file pointing and laughing in twangy tones. We had a lot of bright color going on in our vocal production back in 1986 Mt. Airy.

Basketball carried a face-flushing, hand-tingling story for me ever since. I would dread pickup or P.E. games. I would try to show up strong on defense or pass to someone I knew could shoot.

I missed the memo that my innocent attempt to play a game one winter Saturday in 1986 was over and that what happens at Reeve’s Community Center stays at Reeves Community Center.

What are the possibilities you tossed out because of a painful story?

Maybe it’s a good time to see if a little eight-year-old back there is raising their hand asking for you to listen and understand, and maybe for a hug.

Here’s an index cards I painted this week. It’s a detail of a Jim Shore sculpture my mom gave us for our anniversary. Great to let the kid come out and enjoy some time in an imaginary watercolor world.

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