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,


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.