New Clothes

Yesterday Luci wanted to put on different clothes. At 3, she’s our household fashionista, so no problem. Except that she wanted to keep on her old clothes as well, and it’s summer in DC. As this became a bigger problem, I got a nudge that it might hold spiritual significance for me. Are there places in my life where I’m trying to put on “new clothes”, ideas, actions, perspectives, but refusing to give up the old ones?


In telling my friend, Gina, about my aversion to actively pursuing bookings she pointed out how I used the word “begging” to characterize the task

She pointed out that that attitude (my old clothes) was a bulky and unseemly judgment, beneath my shiny sequined intention. So, I’m reframing. Booking is me offering to share my gifts with anyone who is in the right place to receive.

There’s a biblical scripture about this new replacing old: Matthew 9:14–17, Mark 2:21–22, and Luke 5:33–39: ... 

“And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.”


(Ultimately, I let Lucia wear what she wanted and we were both content. Maybe that’s a lesson, too.)

Are there areas of your life where you’re ready for change, but need to slough an old layer first?

New Year - New

Maybe I knew this before, but it feels like the first time I've ever acknowledged that the projects I've  assigned myself for the new year are about cultivating my inner upgrade. So, as an example, the fitness and food choices will result in greater fitness, but come from my growing discipline. It's so obvious to me now that it's not about weight loss or even self-image, but a desire to be my best self from the inside-out. As above, so below.


And the natural metamorphosis images abound: seeds coming up, butterflies coming out, snakes slipping free, hermit crabs relocating - all because the urge to become the next great thing is stronger than the fear of change.


Welcome Home

My family spent the last three weeks in Germany. The first time I was there was 20 years ago. Like then, the folks were curious about our choice in president.

Also while there, I met a writer from Kenya where last week they had a vote which resulted in the "election" of the incumbent. (the quotes are hers)

But I don't want to talk politics, exactly. Just tell you where my head is and listen if you care to share your thoughts.

In the airport on the way back, we watched some CNN coverage on recent events right here at home - in Charlotteville, VA and specifically the presidential response to those events.  

I can't control anyone other than myself, so I choose to become escalate the love I express, for absolutely everyone I encounter - without exception. As soon as I stated that intention out loud, I was sent a cosmic challenge.

We traveled with three kids. The 1-year-old was whimpering, the eight-year-old crouched in a corner threatening vomit, and the teen had vanished into the bathroom all the way up to and through the last call to board. 

Was I feeling all the love in the world? Umm, no. And I gave that teenager heck. Y'all know her. You can ask. 
I am, after all, only human. 

As irony would have it, when we get home and opened our three weeks worth of mail, at the top of the pile were my teenager's very first license plates. She special ordered a set with the caption "peace begins at home."

Duly noted, Universe. Duly noted.

Bernard Ebb Awards and Beyond

It was a pleasure to be in the line-up of finalists in the Bernard Ebb Songwriting Contest last night. At the end of the evening, I stood between powerhouses, Peter Garza and Matthew Hemmer, shared a brief hug with the fabulous, Ruut DeMeo and was stunned for just a moment when I heard Cathy Bernard's son call my name. Also recognized were Calista Garcia, Luke Brindley, Be Steadwell, Eli Pafumi and last year's winner, Justin Jones.

"What's next?" It seems to be a popular question after an event like this. My mind is bubbling over with ideas. Most of them have been imagination seeds for the last few years. In a lot of ways, they've been poking up green in opportunities like Kid Pan Alley's elementary school workshops and Carpe Diem and Strathmore's invitations to share concerts in elder care facilities.

More making music in the community is next!! I expect this event will help launch even more SongVersations* which is what I'm all about. I am looking forward to singing, writing, sharing and continuing to grow and shine with you!

(*for the record, the word occurred to me before India.Arie produced an amazing album by the same title. Just goes to show about great minds...)

Sweet Summer Days - takes the gold! :)

I get the opportunity to do a lot of cool projects. Recording/interpreting the songs of the children's songs of ethical/humanist community was one of the most interesting assignments I've had in a while.  The CD is called Just The World in Motion. Stop by CDBaby and have a listen.


Many thanks to Peter Bishop, who sired this project and figured I'd be a good artist to bring these songs that he co-wrote with fellow philosophers*  to teach the children in their group about their world view. Many, though not all, of the perspectives resonated directly with mine. (*with 3 exceptions)

The only thing that was missing in the collection was a song in celebration of summer. So, I figured I'd write one and toss it in the mix. In 2016, I entered it into the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and it was awarded the Gold in the Children and Family division. So, here it is. Winning this award is a great way to kick off the year and a little, sweet slice of summer to help get us through the chilly days.

Drive Your Life

I awoke this morning, abruptly, as if from nightmare. This one phrase plagued my mind:  "Like a passenger.”

None of the other details from the dream are clear. Only the idea that I was living like a passenger. It felt like I was getting a call from myself to drive my life. Rather than just accept the default. Rather than putting the thing in autopilot, riding shotgun and falling asleep.

It made me think of a song I used to sing with the Jones Family Gospel Singers. Christian Automobile.” One line in the song goes, ”Prayer is your driver’s license and faith is your steering wheel.”

I tend to think that prayer (or intentional thought) is fuel and that faith is the gas pedal - it’s what makes you get up and go. So, yes, Self. I accept the invitation to drive my life. I reckon the first step is to figure out where I want to go. 

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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.