What the Heck is Time Anyway?

It never fails to get a little philosophical when I’m hanging out with my kids, man. The things they're learning make me see or seek so much more vividly. Today is a Monday. The first day back to school after the Thanksgiving holiday. Jakob sighs to me, “Sometimes it feels like every day is a century.”

Yeah. Sometimes it does feel that way. I promised I’d try to help him get to the bottom of that.

Maybe it's not any big mystery at all.  Jake is 7 and I definitely hear a lot of “I’m bored” from the guy. It’s especially tough when there’s no one else playing outside, he’s been reading for hours and he’s not allotted anymore screen time for the day. It may really be just as simple as good old fashioned boredom. Sometimes, my days blend together in such a predictable pattern that the thrill… well. I really got to go get it. Sometimes, the thrill is as easy as find as writing a song. Some days, it's pretty darn elusive.

Yesterday, Jake and I were listening to a series of songs about the seasons. We talked a little about how each day is a lot like a year. Morning breaks like spring, fresh and full of promise. Noon is summer, hot and heavy. Evening is fall and the nighttime is winter, when life takes a rest. That could have something to do with it, too. The days are colder and shorter now and it feels like we're rowing our boats down a river of frozen molasses.

Time is a strange concept, Jake. Maybe the best we can do is to breathe deeply often and try to our fill our time with people and experiences we find lovely. At least that way, whether it's flying or crawling by, it always feels well-spent.

You got any other thoughts?

 

 

 

Grateful (A Thanksgiving Love Song)

Um... Thought I'd published this on Thanksgiving. Guess not :)

So, I was planning to record Mary Chapin Carpenter's fabulous Thanksgiving Song and decided, maybe I ought to write my own. After half a dozen false starts, here's what shook down. Let me know what you think.

When I'm hungry
You fill me up
When I'm thirsty
You take my cup
And you bring me
The holiest of holy water

When I'm drowning
You take my hand
When I'm burning
you understand
Oh, you sing with me
Til all my worries are forgotten

Love's not a treasure you could pay for
But it's a pleasure that I'll gladly stay for

You are the turkey
In my four course Dinner
You're my Hot fudge sundae too
Every day's my birthday
I'm a sweepstakes Winner
Grateful grateful
It's great to be
Loved by you

When I doubt it
You keep the faith
And without it
I'd lose my way
Just what would I be
God only knows about it

And maybe I could never earn this kind of love
I only pray you feel that I return your love

I’m born anew
Just like a clean beginner
I want to learn something true
Sweet hallelujah
You redeem this sinner
I'm grateful grateful

What did I do
To deserve you
What did I do
To deserve you

Grateful grateful

Too Much Fun?

My favorite movie of 1995 was Strange Days. Ralph Fiennes is addicted to Virtual Reality recordings of his past. Angela Bassett helps him expose a murder conspiracy. They live happily ever after starting on New Years Eve. Seen it?

I can’t promise that it holds up after 20 years. But the concept is relevant, especially as Samsung is releasing this new VR tech that I’m definitely curious to check out ... Especially as we stream whole seasons of TV shows and movies ... Especially when most of the people you pass on the street avoid eye contact in lieu of whatever's on the phone. (Never me, of course ;)

Had a conversation with a young woman that reminded me, again, to be more aware of how (and why and how much) I’m entertaining myself. Specifically, she talked about the next presidency and how important it will be to remain vigilant,  to hold our government accountable, to keep each other safe. She talked, too, about how very tempting it might become to retreat into all this great entertainment instead of dealing with our (at times challenging) reality.

When I mentioned that to Laela (16), she pointed to another movie, WALL-E, in which humanity is literally unable to walk, never communicates face to face, even when physically together. Everything is instant, easy, fun and people are practically helpless against impending doom of our own making.

The idea is so poignant because it’s so plausible. Nothing is inevitable, though. Society is made up of individuals. We'll become what we allow or steer ourselves to become.

The irony of getting these warnings from movies is not lost on me. I love movies for so many reasons. I have, and probably will again, binge watch TV shows that move me. It's amazing to be able to instantly access music from around the world. Entertainment is part of what makes us human. It's valuable as a way to unwind, recharge, communicate (sometimes subversively).

Just thought I'd share since, I took that conversation as a reminder to watch - myself.

 

 

Wrote a song about it...

When I was 16, I used to sit on the front porch of my parents' house in the woods in Silver Spring, MD with my guitar. I'd sing for the trees and in my mind, it was a festival. They were all moving in the wind, totally into what I was doing. Sometimes, we'd even sing together.

When this character, Calhoun Tobbs, came on the comedy show, In Living Color, man I had to laugh my head off. His mantra is the story of my life.

It hasn't quite been 75 years or 12,000 songs. Sometimes, when I sit on the front steps, singing to the trees and the birds and the passing cars, I have to laugh about it. Still dreaming, 'picking and grinning' (as my dad used to say) and writing songs about it all.

I'm sure glad when you like to hear them. I reckon I'd be singing them either way.

How often do you get a chance to stop and laugh at yourself?

Lessons from Luci: A Way to Start the Day

Hello Everything. I love you.

Hello Everything. I love you.

Lucia, our almost 9 month old, is becoming more expressive and frankly more like a human than a puppy, every day. If you’ve ever watched an infant grow up, you know what I mean. She crawls around under foot, tries to chew on everything. It’s entirely adorable seeing her literally evolve.

This morning, after she shook off her waking up grumpiness, she put on a huge, toothless grin and waved out of the window, as if to say “Good morning, everything. I love you.”

Sure, I put the words in her mouth, but they were words I needed to say. Words I needed to repeat a few times and that I want to keep saying to myself regardless of the circumstances around me.

Hello, everything. I love you. Even though some of you terrify me. Some of the people, some weather patterns, some changes and some of the things that don’t seem to ever change frighten and sadden me. I love you all and although I don’t understand or agree with all of you, I’m going to keep working on making my choices start with I love you.

Love Always Wins

So, now, we face an election result that was not desired by at least half of the United States. It's easy to feel disappointed and frankly afraid of what comes next.

This song was written in community on Facebook. Special thanks to everyone who contributed an idea. The question was: what will we say to ourselves on the day after... I feel like this song is the start to an answer that can serve us all. (Lyrics & Credits Below)

Love Always Wins

CHORUS
As a new light dawns
Looking in the mirror
One night ends, a new day begins
As I commit to love,
I am letting go of fear
In time, we'll find, love always wins

VERSE 1
There is darkness
and it runs deep within us
Dark is night
Crows wings in flight
Darkness holds us
In its Warm cocoon,
What may I yet become
what is not possible

CHORUS
As a new light dawns
Looking in the mirror
One night ends, a new day begins
As I commit to love,
I am letting go of fear
In time, we'll find, love always wins

Love Always Wins
Love Always Wins

VERSE 2
Each day greets us
It comes singing to us
With all that perfect light
Let its beauty guide our sight
I know who you are
I know why you came
It's calls you out by name
Be yourself in full

CHORUS
As a new light dawns
Looking in the mirror
One night ends, a new day begins
As I commit to love,
I am letting go of fear
In time, we'll find, love always wins

Love Always Wins
Love Always Wins

(Written by Amanda Poppei, Raymont Anderson, Cheryl Lederle, David Ensign, Tom Nichols, Anthony McCann, Laura Cooper, Graham Drew, Doug Alan Wilcox, Sahffi Lynne, Bob Sima, Mahala Connally & Lea Morris)

What a World!

I had the honor of singing at a memorial service today. It's always so special to be allowed into a family's private, precious moments this way. From baby birthdays through last goodbyes, graduations, weddings, retirements... it's mesmerizing to have seen so many strangers' humanity so intimately. Thanks to living in this fabulously diverse part of this country, I've celebrated with folks from a fascinating array of cultures and ethnicities.

I love what I do! and on days like this, I leave the gig feeling more human and more awake than I was before.

Something the minister said stuck with me. I'm paraphrasing. Before the dearly departed left for good, she woke from an unresponsive sleep to discover that everything had changed. The nurse was more beautiful, sunshine through the windows was warmer and brighter, the tears in her children's eyes were scintillating, not sad.

It makes me ask myself - what do I have to do to see the world that way before I near death? As in today. Now.

The last song I sang was What A Wonderful World. Music like that helps me get there. Meditation. Seeing my kids be their awesome selves when they don't know anyone is watching.

What does it for you? What reminds you of how amazing life is?

 

 

The American Heir

Take the time and read this article.

It's a few days before this election. I, intentionally,i haven't weighed in on it, because I don't really think it's my business to try to influence other people's points of view. (This from a person who was once a deeply devout, evangelical Christian).

It seems important to me, though, to say that in the last few days, my 7 year old has circled a picture of Trump in a newspaper and reported "If he's elected, I'm moving to Canada." To be fair, he likely heard some similar sentiment from his (European born) father. I ask the boy what he knows about the man. You got to be able to back up your convictions, not just talk trash.

Looks like Billy the Kid to me

Looks like Billy the Kid to me

It makes me downright sad to watch my bi-racial, 16 year old daughter consistently demonstrate the need to decide between the ‘sides' of herself. That usually comes down to disowning the white side because of past, present and anticipated future oppression of the black side. (as she sees it) When she has pointed out "what they’ve done to us", I’ve had to remind her that in her case, it was Us doing to Us.
 
The reason this article feels important to me is that it points out two important things. Firstly, Donald Trump does not just represent a departure from business as usual in DC. He represents, to far too many people, the ugliest side of American history. The idea that so many people are openly choosing his ideology is beyond my comprehension. I can only be grateful that he is so open about his beliefs. Because we need to face this part of our American heritage head on.

On the other hand, this article offers the good news that I will live by until the day I die. "Darkness cannot drive away darkness. Only light can do that." Derek Black wasgiven the opportunity to reconsider the racist ideology he was taught as child by when he was welcomed in by one brave, open, loving orthodox Jew.

Let us all, please, regard our Trump supporting brothers and sisters with nothing but pure love. Meanwhile, get out and VOTE in the direction we know our country must go: forward towards a better future for ALL OF US.

Man of Wood

I'm not entirely sure I wrote this song. It feels more honest to say that I was a conduit for it.

A couple of years ago, I was on assignment for Kid Pan Alley (writing songs with elementary school kids) at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. The Man of Wood is one of the pieces we considered writing about. The writers (ages 8-12) recognized it as a special expression, but couldn't quite relate to it. We read the information about the anonymous artist and they decided to pick something else. Before we walked away, though, one of them turned to me and asked why the manwho carved the piece committed suicide.

Needless to say, I couldn't speak for the man who carved the statue. But, on the drive home that afternoon, this song came spilling out. It felt like the answer that kid was looking for and coming from someplace other than my frame of reference.

Get the LYRICS here.

IAM ...

I AM one with everything.

AM.png

We are, all of us, here to experience a relationship with the rest of Life. By knowing others, we come to know ourselves. That is regardless of whether we easily love these so-called others, misunderstand them, eat them or visit briefly with them on our daily walks.

One of my favorite scriptures is when Moses is told to take off his shoes, because he's on sacred ground. (Acts 7:33) Not that I walk around everywhere without my shoes on, but when I do, I remember. I feel the coolness of the grass or the stone or the heat of the sand. And I know myself through that connection.

The foot feels the foot feels the foot when it touches the ground - attributed to the Buddha.

And I reckon the same thing goes for fingers touching trees and hands shaking hands and minds meeting. I am here to experience a relationship with the rest of life. By knowing others, I come to know myself.

 

 

 

 

Wake Up In America

While W. was president, friends in Europe warned me to say I was Canadian. Even before that, I used to take it as a compliment when foreigners here would say that I didn’t seem American. In retrospect, I think we were thinking about that “ugly Americans” concept.

But that’s not who we are. At least it’s not the whole story.

It's pretty rare that a kid's song brings tears to my eyes. This is one such occasion. Listen & Buy here.

To me, to be American is to be human: fallible, while committed to the loftiest of ideals. “Liberty and Justice for All.” We recite those words, literally, every day as kids. I would love to say that a life in America guarantees freedom and fairness to everyone, but America is an idea. The country is a lot like I am: a work in progress.

America is a place of Progress. Inching forward towards Liberty and Justice for all. But, then again, I reckon that’s what all humans want, no matter where they are.

Do you know this poem by Langston Hughes? Let America Be America Again.

 

Innie or Outie? - *High Notes for CSL-DC

So, it's not the question you think I'm asking, although you can answer that, if you feel compelled ;)

Yesterday in her talk, Alex shared about Belonging and Becoming. She asked whether each of us considered ourselves introverted or extroverted, by nature. As she pointed out, there are elements of both in all of us. One part is always reaching within to become more. Better. The other part reaches outward to share and learn from the rest of life.

Me? I LOVE to be alone. I could spend hours - weeks, in the woods just thinking and yes, talking out loud to myself. Letting songs come through... But also LOVE to be around people. I especially love performing, songsharing and deep conversations. It makes such perfect sense how the two feed one another, it's hard for me to tell which dominates in my personality.

COMMENT: Are you an innie or outie? (Introvert or Extrovert) Do you ever surprise yourself when the opposite side shows up?

 

*About High Notes: CSL-DC is a New Thought spiritual center where I often share music. The leader, Rev. Alex Escudero has invited me to be a guest blogger on their site, so this will be a weekly segment. These posts will feature an uplifting song or sound, as well as, a brief discussion. Since my blog, is meant to be a place to muse on the spirituality and psychology of my songwriting (and the music I love), this ought to be a perfect fit.

 

Be My Neighbor

I wind up singing this song to Luci almost every day when we take a walk through our quaint, little Alexandria, VA neighborhood. As it happens, to our right lives a devout Egyptian Muslim family and the neighbors to our left are politically active Tea Party folks. Their views of the world could not be more different from mine. I consider myself fortunate to be in a place and time that makes it possible to break bread and live peacefully with these good folks. 

There's a scripture in the Book that says to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:31) New Thought Aramaic scholar, Dale Allen Hoffman suggests that the colloquial, non-literal meaning of the word "neighbor," as JC would have spoken it, referred to every person, place or thing upon which we focus our attention. The idea behind that interpretation is to love this whole world (universe) and everything in it, the way we (ideally) love ourselves. It's a worthwhile challenge I don't always remember. But this song is definitely one of many internal reset buttons on doing so. 

Do you live in a diverse neighborhood? Or in a place that reminds you of the rich beauty of the world? How often do you get the chance to interact with people who see things differently than you do? What do you think of this (admittedly radical) idea of loving everything and everybody? Seriously! What do you think? Comment and let me know.

Eye on the Sparrow

For the last 7 months, I’ve been at home with Lucia. Both she and Jakob (7yo) were born at home. Both times we were attended by the loving and medically thorough midwives of MAMAS . For Luci’s arrival, we had the pleasure of meeting the gentle and efficient Story Jones of Fairfax Homebirth. What we did not know at the time is that Story was cooking up her own bundle of goodness.  

                     Lucia in March 2016

                     Lucia in March 2016

Sparrow Ann Jones was born in August of this year. When I heard, I felt inspired to send a recording of this hymn I learned and used to love as a little girl. Incidentally, our big girl, Laela’s (16yo) middle name is Sequoia which means Sparrow in Cherokee. I used to sing that song to her as a baby even more than Clapton’s Layla.

Story’s photographer, Caren Louise,  made this beautiful (and not at all graphic :) video. She used “His Eye is on the Sparrow” as the background music. This is precisely the kind of elevating celebration of Life that I always want my art to be. It is such an honor to be able to share this with you.

as well as a few words my experiences with birthing at home:

The OB/GYN at Kaiser asked why I would choose to give birth at home. The first reason is because I see pregnancy and birth as a natural process. I trust that process and my body. The second reason was for the autonomy and intimacy that we were able to experience. The midwives asked for and respected my birth plan as their guide for how to treat me. 

My association with hospitals is sickness, medical interventions and turning over results to the physicians and nurses. While I totally respect the choice of each mother and family to decide how to bring their baby in the world, I am so grateful to have been in the comfort of my own bedroom (living room in a tub with Jake), allowing the process to happen at its own pace.

Laela is sitting next to me as I type this and asked (with a little disappointment) why she wasn’t born at home. I told her, it’s because she was in such a rush to get here. At the time, my plan had been to deliver her at the birthing center. She was born at 34 weeks in the hospital. Perfectly healthy baby without any fat under her skin :). I’m actually grateful to have had that experience, too. If my baby girl or I had needed help, it was available. At the same time, the attending obstetrician wore a welder’s mask. Bedside manner, not so much. The nurses were shouting at me to push. I was strapped to a monitor and kept on my back. Suffice it to say, when I planned my own births, none of those elements were present. 

I had full confidence that no intervention would be necessary, because my body knew what she was doing. Tobi had full confidence that if any assistance was needed, the midwives have the training, expertise and wisdom to support. I truly believe that having that internal and external peace and patience facilitated nature’s way and helped make my birthing experiences as beautiful as they could be. 

Let me know if you have any questions about my home births. It’s a topic I never get enough of!

Love, Lea

LINKS

Welcome Sparrow Video: https://vimeo.com/185688186?ref=fb-share&1

www.CarenLouisePhotographs.com

NOVA: FairfaxHomeBirth - Story Jones 

Takoma Park, MD: MAMAs www.http://mamasmidwives.com

 

Sweet Summer days!

So, tomorrow, officially, my rising first grader gets a sweet taste of summertime. It's been a couple of months now that he has been arbitrarily begging to stay home. The weather is beautiful. Why should I sit around in a building all day, at a desk, bored out of my mind, listening to this lady? He hasn't asked that precisely, but that's the tone of voice. 
I almost hopes he asks me on Monday if he can stay home from school, so I can raise my arms to the sky and sing, "YES! Yes, my boy, you can."

Then, the question becomes, "So, what are we going to do?"

I can only be grateful for the flexibility of my schedule. There is some work this summer, but much more time with him (and his big sister who is 15 and far less interested in hanging out with me). I've started registering him for very cool events at the library and planning a fun campout with a friend's family. You know, we got to keep it fun.

But today, I heard something so beautiful that it puts a new (sun)light on everything we do this summer. An artist in residence at a school shouted to the parents in the audience, "Remember. Your child's imagination is in your care."

That reminded me that the foundation on which every activity and each quiet moment is built is preserving and celebrating his (and my own) innate joy and creativity. We're going to listen to ourselves this summer and see what kind of awesomeness we can cook up. I really like the sound of that.

Here's a song for all of my students and teachers and people for whom summer means a chance to just be.

Working Out

No. Not me. Not today.

To be clear, I actually love working out and usually do a little something every day. But this weekend, the body sent me a nice clear message that the only thing it wanted to do was chill out. So, until I get an equally clear message to get back out there, I'm following instructions.

What's working out, is things. Ah. It is an incredibly gratifying feeling when things just work out. For example, the recent trip to Germany could not have been more awesome. I saw some old friends, heard some incredible music, got to share what I do and am getting the very real feeling of moving forward in my intention to play more often there.

This coming weekend, I'll be performing for this conference called Building the New World. That definitely sounds right up my alley, but I never gave a lot of thought to it. A friend just pointed out that the keynote speaker, Barbara Marx Hubbard, is a pretty big deal in another world where I intend to share my music more: the New Thought realm. The fun thing about this opportunity is that I just kind of happened to be at another gathering right next to a woman who was talking about having a dream that Tracy Chapman would come perform at her conference. My friend Tamara said, "Well, if you can't get her, Lea's just as good."

I honestly would not compare myself to Tracy Chapman if no one else did. I don't think our music is all that similar at all, but there are definitely times when it us of benefit. Turns out, the lady didn't get Tracy Chapman. She invited me.

It will be interesting to see what the next steps forward are. Today, I'm just dreaming up the set list for the performance. But the whole thing, it doesn't feel like coincidence. It feels like things working out.

Hold On

Yes yes folks. I am taking my own advice.

Last year, I got the announcement that one of my favorite singer/songwriters had thrown in the towel and gotten her realtors license. I'm sure she's serving people well in that arena, but her talent as a musician is so astounding that it hurt me. I literally cried. I mean, watch this. This woman is... everything. Brooke Miller Video

And it made me think, hell, if she doesn't feel like she can "make it", what am I doing?

It is my good fortune that I am learning, day by day, what I'm doing. I'm holding on. Inch by by inch. Day by day. Keeping my eyes on the prize. And getting more clear about what the prize is to me. Starting here and now, I am so utterly grateful for every opportunity I get to sing with and for the young, the old and every one in between. It helps me to know that each step on my path is getting me where I'm going.

Lea performs her inspirational song "Hold On" at the Franklin Park Arts Center on March 20, 2010. This version of the video includes the full animation from the Goose Creek Live television show.

Song of the Month - April 2015

"All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles

I open at least half of my shows with this song. If you've heard me play, chances are you've heard me sing it. Part of the reason is that people know it, they like it and we can sing it together. It's mellow and it gets me in the mood, you might say :)

But what I love most about the song is the message. I am a believer. I believe that love is the answer to any question or challenge facing an individual or the lot of us. Ask Mandela, King, Ghandi. Try it on anything.

For me, these days, the biggest love I'm learning is for my own body. My best and closest friend, who I've been treating kind of like shit for more than 20 years.  Everybody knows I don't smoke or drink anything harder than tea. But I have starved, insulted, hated and abused this body in ways I would never do anyone else. What I am learning to do differently is to make my choices for what I eat, how I move, dress and just AM in this body from a place of LOVE LOVE LOVE.

I'd be willing to bet that for a lot of people, just looking in the mirror and saying, "Hey gorgeous. I love you." (the way I tell my pre-schoolers to do) would be the most difficult thing in the world. But if we could do it, every day and mean it, what or who could possibly stand against us?


CLICK HERE to hear me singing "All You Need Is Love."

Love Lea

PS: And now, to go finish my taxes.