write. play. repeat.

from joy to joy to joy

A Good Old-Fashioned Barn Raising: 2016 Word In Review

I should know better by now. I should know that this exercise is not one to take lightly or brush off. If I ignore it, I quickly learn that it has a sense of humor.

My word for 2016 was Build.

As I’ve mentioned before, I try not to overthink what my word of the year “means” when it comes to me. Every time I’ve tried to force it, I end up with something that doesn’t resonate and inevitably change it. So, “build” showed up and I just accepted it. So how’d it go?

At the end of 2015, I had just found out I’d be moving back to North Carolina, a state I love (despite its current political climate) and where I had spent a few years in my early twenties. Other than knowing I’d be heading to the Triangle area, I had very few preconceptions or plans about what my NC shift would bring.

For the first half of the year, I felt, frankly, lost. Living in temporary housing while working on selling the house in Atlanta, spending hours and hours in the car going back and forth between Raleigh and ATL, having most of my belongings in storage, spending more hours traveling to shows…Oh, and my beloved guitar and all my sound equipment getting stolen the morning a tour was starting. I was adrift and didn’t have any touchstones to ground me during that time. My only recourse was staying present (thank you, meditation and hiking trails) and accepting things as they came. For someone who loves to be in control of the plans, I was being taught a firm lesson about “rolling with it.”

my hiking buddy, Pavlov.

In April, we bought a house in Durham NC. We ended up with a fixer-upper ranch on 2.5 acres and a couple of out buildings. Because the housing market moves so quickly around here, I actually “saw” the house over a video chat and told M. to put an offer on it while I drove up from Atlanta. We’d been burned by a previous offer falling through because we couldn’t get to it in time, and thought it was worth the risk. I hopped in the car for a 6-hour trip, worried I would hate it when I got there.

Luckily, I knew we were in the right spot as soon as I set foot on the land. It needed (needs) a LOT of work, but I love to get my hands dirty and, after all, I totally asked for it.

We spent a month doing the most major updates before moving in to the place in May. We took out two walls, repainted kitchen cabinets, tore out shower doors, installed a massive support beam, repaired plumbing, gutted the “garage apartment” (seemingly designed by someone who woke up one day and decided to build a house with no regard to code, safety, or logic), build two garden beds, and hauled more than 4,000 lbs of junk to the dump. Here’s a snapshot of that process:

Oh, you wanted to Build you say?


In addition to the actual “building” I did, I also had some goals around community building and settling into a new area. I wanted to meet members of the creative community here and get involved. To that end, I became a Patreon supporter of a local theater, played a few local shows, auditioned and was cast in a community theater production of a musical to knock some dust off of my theatrical skills, and participated in a Christmas show with a 22-piece band to raise money for a great organization called Arts for Life.  I’ve been slowly but steadily meeting people and trying to foster friendships, which is awkward and a little odd as an adult, but I’m committed to making it happen.

The second half of this year, things finally started to feel like they were settling in to a groove and a sense of normalcy and stability peeked its head out of the rubble. The year was chaotic but wonderful, difficult but rewarding. 2017 approaches, full of possibility.

photo by Hartman Outdoor Photography

Oh, and this happened, too. 😉


Did you have a word or theme for this year? How did it go?


Friday Poetry – The Concert by Edna St. Vincent Millay

photo by @chuttersnap

I still remember the first time I read this poem, and the way the last line struck me. I needed to be lost in the work. I needed to fully buy in to the consensual reality of the situation, the suspension of disbelief — and having company who wanted to chat or otherwise socialize during a performance took me out of it. I still love to go alone sometimes. 

The Concert

No, I will go alone.
I will come back when it’s over.
Yes, of course I love you.
No, it will not be long.
Why may you not come with me?—
You are too much my lover.
You would put yourself
Between me and song.

If I go alone,
Quiet and suavely clothed,
My body will die in its chair,
And over my head a flame,
A mind that is twice my own,
Will mark with icy mirth
The wise advance and retreat
Of armies without a country,
Storming a nameless gate,
Hurling terrible javelins down
From the shouting walls of a singing town

Where no women wait!
Armies clean of love and hate,
Marching lines of pitiless sound
Climbing hills to the sun and hurling
Golden spears to the ground!
Up the lines a silver runner
Bearing a banner whereon is scored
The milk and steel of a bloodless wound
Healed at length by the sword!

You and I have nothing to do with music.
We may not make of music a filigree frame,
Within which you and I,
Tenderly glad we came,
Sit smiling, hand in hand.

Come now, be content.
I will come back to you, I swear I will;
And you will know me still.
I shall be only a little taller
Than when I went.

Friday Poetry – Be Nobody’s Darling by Alice Walker


A photo by Lacey Raper. unsplash.com/photos/ey1Obz7I2fw


Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

But be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

Friday Poetry – I Got Kin by Hafiz

I’m really digging this one today. I hope you will too. 








So that your own heart
Will grow.

So God will think,

I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and

Because this is a food
Our starving world

Because that is the purest

Word of the Year 2016: Build

Build A Fire, woodtype print by HarryCanary on etsy.
Build A Fire, woodtype print by HarryCanary on etsy.


It seems appropriate that today is the day I finally sit down to write this post, a few days overdue. My word for the year came to me several days ago but, as usual, I waited to see how it sat, to see if it was the right word after all. Now I’m sure of it.

David Bowie died last night after fighting cancer for a year and a half. He spent the last year of his life creating two incredible farewell letters to us, in the form of an off-Broadway show (Lazarus) and his album, Blackstar, released just two days ago on his 69th birthday.

While I, along with countless others, mourn the loss of our great weird hero, the long reach of his life is what stays with me. His absolute dedication to his work, his constant evolution and striving, his willingness to be absolutely himself (and to change that self), and the transformation even of his death into art.

A death like this reminds us all of our own mortality. I’ve never been someone frightened of aging. In fact, I’ve always looked forward to being wiser, more experienced, more evolved. That said, today it occurred to me that, at 33, I am just under half of Bowie’s age, and I haven’t gotten going on the Big Stuff that I feel is my greater mission in life…the stuff that will be my contribution when I go. This realization was what solidified my word for 2016.



  • I want to build up my creative community, through new work and new partnerships. I want to expand beyond the safe, small world I have worked within.
  • I want to make more things with my hands, tangible creations to make me feel accomplished and rooted.
  • I want to build lasting personal relationships in my new home in North Carolina and beyond.
  • I want to work toward my Big Damn Dream of running an artist retreat to foster and feed those who feed us with their work.
  • There may even be some literal building in my future as I move to a new state and a new home! I love the idea of a homestead, of a more lasting sense of place.

“I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture I was living in.” – David Bowie

Up to this point in my life, I have felt like I was waiting… for what I’m not sure. Perhaps waiting for a feeling of “readiness”, completion, for the risk to seem smaller, for someone else to take the lead? There is no more time to waste or wait. Let’s get to work.

Going for a Drive: 2015 Word in Review


If nothing else, my tradition of choosing a Word for the Year instead of making resolutions has brought me some serious growth.

I don’t always know at the start where the word is going to take me. I don’t have a map or clarity around it, and I never reverse engineer it by coming up with my goals first and then picking a word that matches it. I just meditate on it, let something come to me, and see how it feels. Each time this has brought something unexpected but ultimately good into my life.

In January, when the word DRIVE landed on me, I wasn’t necessarily anticipating the literal nature of its course through my year. But, oh boy, have I driven.

For example: I put 10,000 miles on my car in July alone. I went on a national tour in my trusty CR-V, Boomer. We saw the country together. It had been a long time since I spent so much time alone, exploring. I felt like a child who has discovered the wild of a wooded backyard for the first time.



While my touring schedule was tight, I did make sure I scheduled in a few hours here and there to enjoy some of this massive country: I saw the High Desert in Arizona and New Mexico; passed through the seemingly endless dunes of the Mojave; wrote my name in the sand at the Pacific; took myself out to lunch in the Castro; spent a whole day communing with Muir Woods; got a tattoo in Seattle and wrote pages in Puget Sound; marveled at Montana and learned what Big Sky means…  I drove.

Though I traveled by myself, I was certainly not alone. I visited so many friends I never get to see in person, made so many new friends, and had help at every stop. Something that I feared would increase my sense of isolation actually made me feel so much more connected to my people. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose around my relationships.

Aside from the physical act of driving, I also experienced more drive where my business life is concerned. I made better money, was able to hire a manager to help me with booking and scheduling so that I wasn’t stressed all the time (thank you Kat!), started a second band, explored performance opportunities outside of music, and got to focus more on where I’d like to head in the future.

2015 was definitely the year of DRIVE.

For the next few days, I’ll be contemplating what word will guide me through 2016.  Once it finds me, I’ll let you know.


Autumn Thoughts

Lines written in the days of growing darkness
by Mary Oliver

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.


photo credit: petalouda62


This is where we sit.

Chest up, heart out, door open to whatever comes.

We don’t wait, exactly.

We allow.

If nothing comes, fine.

If tears come, also fine.

A singing bird alights on the branch of our awareness – laugh.

There is no wrong way to do it.  Why feel guilty for joy, and satisfied with suffering?

Holding on to how hard it is doesn’t make us better or stronger. Let it be easy.

Let it fill us up until we can’t hold any more.

Then, pour this light from our hearts and spill it over everyone we meet.

First, we sit.


Tiny Annoyances

Something just happened that I wanted to sit down to write about, because I know I’m not the only one who has dealt with this.

There are these things in my life that I call “tiny annoyances”. Something that doesn’t bother me enough that it needs to be immediately addressed, but bugs me every time I confront it.

I’m sure you’ve got these, too. Things like:

  • That one light fixture in the house that buzzes
  • The way the cards in your wallet are (dis)organized.
  • The email lists you keep meaning to unsubscribe from.
  • The bottom shelf in the kitchen, where seldom used pans go to die.

Today I was putting away my Winter clothes and organizing my stage clothes. I reached up, on my tiptoes, to try to get a dress down.  Because I had to reach awkwardly, I grabbed the dress by one strap and yanked it from the bar, and several hangers came raining down on my head.  (Y’all, I am nothing if not graceful.)

I finally became fed up at the “tiny annoyance” of the way the modular closet was designed and decided to fix it.  Hammer in my hand, fueled by the rage of inconvenience, I dismantled the shelves and rods and re-positioned them in a way that made more sense for my wardrobe. Then, I rehung my clothes and finished filling a Goodwill box and continued the project of swapping the Winter for Summer.

It only took ten minutes.

Ten minutes! When I think of all the times I got up up up on my toes and stretched to reach something….all the times I huffed at the way my dresses were bunched up because of the height of the shelves….I wonder how much future frustration those ten minutes has saved me.

Is there a tiny annoyance in your life that can be dealt with in ten minutes or less?  I recommend picking one (just one!) and doing it today. Maybe even now.


Word of the Year, 2015: Drive


I have done the Word of the Year thing for several years now, instead of resolutions. I’ve really benefitted from it. As much as I try not to be too “woo-woo” about it, I often feel as though the word chooses me and not the other way ’round. This time, I especially feel that way, because I didn’t enjoy the feeling that came over me when this word popped up.

I resisted this. I’m still resisting it. A part of me is tugging the blanket over my head and saying, “La, la, la, I can’t hear you” to this word.

But then I sit and wonder what that’s about. Why would I push back? Talking with a friend of mine over coffee yesterday morning, I realized what was making me nervous about it:
Drive feels like a “business” term.
I’ve heard so much corporate lingo and self-improvement stuff talk about having “drive & initiative” that my hackles went up at this word. I instantly picture some dude in a suit in front of a PowerPoint presentation when I hear it. I don’t think of myself in that way at all, and can’t imagine fitting in to that kind of environment, so I wonder if my mind is making fun of me by choosing this.

Drive implies travel, velocity.

I have this fear of being swept up in something and taken away from a life I find quite pleasant. This word evokes a feeling in me of losing control — which is interesting, because wouldn’t I be the one doing the driving? I worry about moving too fast, things going further than I am ready for.

Drive is an aggressive word.

Every other word I’ve had in the five years I’ve been doing this has been sweet, in a way. Nourish, Bare, Tend, etc… these are words that feel kind and calm, these are words that will gently usher in a new stage of life. Drive is active, it is powerful, it is telling me to DO something. It is telling me that not only is change coming, but that I will be the instigator and creator of it. That shit is scary, y’all.
I think this year will be a time for me to re-frame how I feel about certain concepts. The word “drive” is something I would like to own as a part of my identity, embracing its positive connotations rather than leaning on the familiar negative ones. How can I reconcile these initial gut reactions and make it work for me?

  • Drive comes from passion. I have that in spades. Acting from a place of passion means that I am excited about things I do, and can lead and create with energy.
  • Drive gets things from one place to another – that inner impulse will help me to follow through and finish projects.
  • Someone who is driven doesn’t stop when they fail. I will use my failures to learn and grow and keep moving.

This word is fiery. It’s exciting, it’s catching, it creates positive change. All things I’m on board with.
So, even though I’m scared, and even though I still feel some resistance, I am getting in this car.

Let’s Drive.
Do you have a Word of the Year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!