Author Archive for Sara Ramsay


It’s OK To Feel Angry. (I’m just not very good at it.)

It’s OK to feel angry.

I just don’t know how to process it.

So the fact that I’m feeling a little angry about all these fucking hurdles is leaving me…in no man’s land. Intellectually I know that it’s OK, and in fact it can be quite healthy, to feel angry and work through it. But not having the tools to do so just makes me shy away from anger most of the time. Except sometimes I can’t. Then I’m screwed. And so we meet.

Three-ish years ago, when I was working and had saved up some money, I bought myself an MBox so that I could record demos of my writing at home. We have a studio, yes. But honestly, I have no idea how to run that board, and every time I have tried to go in and do something, I would spend 5 hours just trying to get the sounds out of the board before leaving frustrated. Plus, as time has gone on, it has been getting more and more difficult to schedule time in the studio, because although it started out as a family studio, it has become a working studio with a professional life. And that’s cool. I have no issues with any of that. Thus, I purchased an MBox, figuring I could run that myself, and it was all I really needed anyway.

Josh had been using my Dad’s MBox for working at home, but it bit the dust. He had some stuff he really needed to be able to do, so I happily offered to lend him mine. I knew it would take a little while for me to get around to installing it anyway. But, as has a way of happening, it was about 3 years before I got it back from him. Shit happens. That I’m not upset about.

But that’s where things get a little murky. Unfortunately, in that three years I moved. I knew exactly where the ProTools install disk was in my old house. I have turned my (new) house upside down looking for said disk, and…nothing. It’s possible that it mistakenly got thrown away when we were moving. I have no idea. It might still be packed in some box, although I think I’ve gone through every possible box three times now. You see, there was no point in installing the program, because it won’t run without the hardware plugged into the computer. So until I had the MBox back from Josh, there was no point going any further.

Now that I have the MBox back, I have at least gotten it running with GarageBand. (I won’t do my album on GarageBand, however. I am so much more comfortable using ProTools, and it’s just a much more comprehensive program, with way better editing capabilities.) So I can throw down a quick writing demo. You’d think.

Except that tonight, when I was trying to do just that, everything was all good for the first hour or two. Then, out of nowhere, the MBox started making this hideous feedback-y, awfully loud, buzzing noise. Nothing I did would stop it. Well, that’s not true. Some buttons pushed did stop it, but unfortunately when I pushed them again to set things where they actually needed to be, the noise was still going strong. My only option left was to take my mic out of Input 1 and plug it into Input 2 instead.

Ahh, problem solved.

For another hour or two.

Then, wham! Same bullshit started happening again. Of course, I tried reverting to Input 1, but it was still reacting the same way there too. So now two of two channels were fucked. My only possible brainchild of a solution was to try a different mic cord. So I did.

Ahh, problem solved.


Except that now it sounded like ass. Instead of a lovely, present sound, my guitar or vocal tracks recorded with the new cord sounded like I was halfway down a tunnel. Far away. Strangely echo-y, although there were no effects on the track.

Oh, that’s about when I got angry.

And maybe I’m having a little pity party.

I’m a single mum, unable to work, on disability, with barely enough income to pay the rent. Literally. Scary, paycheque to paycheque kind of existence. (I know I am absolutely not the first, nor will I be the last to go through this. But anyone who’s ever been in this position can attest to the awful fear that it holds hanging over your head on a constant basis when you are responsible for three other little beings as well as yourself.) I did what I was supposed to do: I saved up the money to set up a creative outlet for myself. And now it’s not working. And I can’t afford to replace it with something new that does work. And this is too old and out of warranty and probably not worth fixing. And now that I’m finally, after 20 years of NOT getting off my ass, doing the one thing I’ve wanted to do since I was 5 years old, I feel like there are hurdles where there shouldn’t be. And I’m pissed. I kind of want to have a tantrum all over the floor like a toddler.

And I’m not saying I won’t either.

Will I figure out a solution? You bet your fucking ass I will. Will I let myself have a little pity party and feel angry about where I’m at right now, and the hurdles that I have to jump…again (it’s a recurring fucking theme in my life)…yup, probably. What would be the most constructive? To figure out how to feel angry without sliding into a pity party. Because anger and self-pity are not the same thing. But it sure is easy to intertwine them.

In the past, this is when I would self-medicate with food or cigarettes or booze or a few other things…anything to stuff down those angry feelings and Not. Feel. Anything. Anger was too scary. That may have had a little something to do with getting to be 100 lbs overweight. (Yeah, haven’t ever really said it out loud in quite those terms before. That’s probably a whole other post on it’s own. But for now, just realize that those were big words for me to say out loud. Or type out loud. Or, well, I think you get the idea.) Sure I have had some health issues that more than contributed to my weight. But an awful lot of it has had to do with stuffing my feelings – lots of different feelings, but surprisingly often it comes down to anger – down my pie hole.

Tonight I made a salad for dinner, a very specific one that I was honestly craving, and had been all day. I did not eat the box of Oreos in the cupboard for dinner. Or toast and butter. Or any of the things that would not have been listening to my body and honouring what it was asking for. Tonight I did not pour a drink. (This one hasn’t been an issue for a lot of years, and really, really isn’t much of an issue these days because my medication doesn’t combine well with alcohol. It just makes me feel ill after one or two drinks. So I’m a lightweight in this arena these days.) Tonight I did not light a cigarette. (I quit in September of 2009.) You know what I did?

I sat down and I wrote this post.

I stayed with my feelings, even though they were uncomfortable as hell, and they really…um…sucked.

I observed the vibrating, gnawing, slightly nauseous ache in my belly. The one that is somehow attached to the pull and tightness through my shoulders. The one that gives me slightly painful heart palpitations. And the same one that is all pulled together by the pain in my head, the throbbing in my temples.

And I waited. I waited to see how it would process. I waited to see how I could or could not let go of feeling angry. I waited, but I did not try to change anything. I just waited and observed.

Now, to be fair (and realistic), I should be honest with you. I’m still waiting. And I’m still observing. And nothing’s changing yet. (Maybe I’m just not that evolved. A distinct possibility.) But I’ve also made up my mind not to “do” anything about it. It’s been about 2 -3 hours. And I’m just simply trying to get more “conscious” of the process of observing and not trying to change. It’s a weird and uncomfortable things to observe yourself feeling angry and not try to change it.

Anger is so uncomfortable, and our society has made it so unacceptable, that we try to skip out on that place as quickly as possible. Get. The. Fuck. Out. But maybe this is how you successfully process it? By just allowing yourself to be there, no judgements, no actions. (On the other hand, it is entirely possible that I’m talking out of my ass. Just keep that one in mind.)

Time will tell, I guess.

How do you process anger? What are some of the healthy and unhealthy ways you’ve worked through, or gotten stuck, in anger?


It’s about fucking time for this labour of love

I’ve wanted to record an album for as long as I can remember. Literally, not figuratively.

The time has come.

Ash Ambirge and her Intoxicate 2012 project lit a fire under my ass. If not now, when? So, now then.

Whittling down a lifetime of songwriting into 12, maybe 15, songs is heartbreaking. Being brutally honest with yourself and assessing whether, after all that writing, you have 12-15 songs that are strong enough to compose an album is…humbling. And that’s only the beginning.

Then there’s recording. Or what I like to refer to, so far, as “The ProTools Debacle.” It’s a long, long story (about 3 years long) that started with me lending my MBox, new out of the box, to my brother, and ends with me getting it back from him (it’s been sitting in a corner at his house, unused, for quite some time now), only for us to find out that it isn’t really working all that well. It works OK for about an hour, and then starts to make the most hideous noise I’ve ever heard. Which is delightful. And in the interim, I lost my ProTools install disk. Maybe it was because I moved. Maybe it wasn’t. Who’s to say. But I am now at a point where my recording vehicle only sort of works and I’m fucked for the software, even though I paid for it. So I will be turning my house upside down…again…looking for it, so that hopefully I can get rid of this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.


My homework now is listening. Listening, listening, listening. Because I have to figure out how I want these tracks to sound. What instruments, what effects. What drum beats for god sakes, because the reality is that I have to program drums, and I am soooo not a drummer. I have to know everything that I want, because I’ll be producing myself. So I have to listen like mad. And I have to listen to an enormous width of music too, not just the same few albums I tend to rotate, and at a closer level. I have to listen to a vast variety of music from both a production standpoint AND a writing standpoint, because there exists every possibility that I will be writing more tunes as part of this process.

So I asked y’all for listening suggestions, and you sure did come through! Here are some of the suggestions you guys have given me for listening. Haven’t heard most of these yet, but I know what I’ll be looking into. And please add more suggestions in the comments!

  • Rupert Blackman
  • City And Colour
  • Ally Rhodes
  • Ron Pope
  • Passenger
  • new Train album
  • Cady Groves
  • Lights
  • The Icarus Account
  • The Pretty Reckless
  • He Is We
  • M.T.L Band
  • Brighter Brightest
  • Young the Giant
  • Meg & Dia
  • The Cab
  • Safetysuit
  • OneRepublic
  • We The Kings
  • Parachute
  • Stay – by Mayday Parade
  • All Time low
  • Therapy
  • Courage My Love – Anchors Make Good Shoes (If You Have Issues) (@couragemylove)
  • The Beatles
  • Lydia
  • Lost in Paradise – Evanescence
  • Good Enough- Evanescence
  • @hollywoodkills
  • @Halestorm
  • Nicki Minaj
  • The Pretty Reckless
  • Hot Chelle Rae
  • @kerlimusic
  • Marianas trench (OK, a LOT of you suggested this. Who are these assholes anyway?)
  • a few of you suggested me. While I totally appreciate it, I think for this exercise, me listening to me is rather circular…YOU listening to me, on the other hand, is purely delightful!
  • Artist vs Poet
  • Nightwish
  • A Day to Remember
  • Chiodos
  • The Color Morale
  • Paramore
  • This Wild Life
  • Acres of Lions
  • Emarosa
  • Silverstein
  • The Deadhands
  • Escape the Fate
  • There for Tomorrow
  • A Change of Pace
  • Amanda Clemens
  • Of Monsters and Men
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Fun.
  • Stabilo
  • Two Door Cinema Club
  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • Bedouin Soundclash

I’m not content to shoot for the middle. I recognize that I will be making this record under circumstances that are less than my ideal. What would I like? A full band, a producer, and a studio full of wicked gear, and an engineer. What do I have at my disposal? My MBox, ProTools (hopefully), my Mac, a Shure 57, an old Roland synth, a couple of guitars, and me, myself, and I. I have a bass player friend who will probably play bass tracks for me. My brother will give me some technical help where he can. But really, it’s mostly down to me.

This project is about removing my own obstacles so I can do it anyway instead of seeing only roadblocks. So it’s not an ideal set of circumstances. It’s still better than not doing it. Which is exactly what I’ve done for the last 20 years. And that’s been lame. There’s really no other word for it.

So, given my parameters, I have to shoot for the moon. My own personal moon. This has to be the absolute best I can make it. It won’t be finished tomorrow. I have an extra hiccup in that my health challenges make my work love schedule on this project entirely unpredictable. I’ve had a lot I questions about release dates, and to be fair, I have no freaking idea at this point. Not one clue. I don’t have a team working for me, a machine turning the cogs behind the scenes.

You guys are my team, my machine.

Which is to say that your patience, and your support through each step of the process is unimaginably valuable to me. My promise to you is this: I will stay in conversation with you, keeping you updated on the whole process as I navigate it. And we’ll enjoy the finished product together. You’ll hear about the challenges (there have been some, as I told you, but the process is also bringing up some emotional ick that I have to wade through, and I’ll let you in on that too) as well as the successes. It’ll be a journey, a process. But I think that’s kinda cool that you’ll all be with me along the way.


So here we go, jumping in with both feet. Break Until I Bend will get made if it kills me. Which it just might.

Apt album title for me, wouldn’t you say?


Allowing vs. Attracting.

So I’ve been doing a whole lotta introspectin’ lately. Gettin’ clear and saddling up for the ride that’s gonna take me on.

Over the last few, I’ve heard mentioned by some pretty ballin’ chicks, the concept of Allowing.

  • Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth mentioned the concept of allowing and it’s unfortunate glossing over in the whole Law of Attraction business, in her interview with Satya Colombo for his Freedom Business Summit. I have listened to this interview over and over again, because it’s just so durn inspirin’! (You may have come to realize this, or you may be taking a ride on the slow bus, but yes, Danielle LaPorte is one of my business / spiritual / crystal-totin’ / word-slingin’ crushes. There you have it. I heart you, Danielle. *sigh* But seriously? Super-duper inspirational lady to whom I feel very drawn. An added bonus that she’s got some mad skills and likes to share her knowledge.)
  • Lissa Rankin of Owning Pink tweeted on January 5 of last year,#MojoTip Allow yourself to receive abundance & financial freedom this year. You deserve it.” (And by the way, this lady rocks. She’s all about talking about the vag. Seriously. Who doesn’t like a lady like that? Plus, she’s got balls. Vag and balls. An OB/GYN who spends an hour with each patient at each appointment? Hello, revamping healthcare (finally!) And then goes on to shut down her medical practice because she feels called to coach other folks to find their own sump’n sump’n. A brave, inspirational lady.)

I know there have been more stirrings of this. At least, I sincerely hope there have. Because it’s something that has been grossly under-discussed, I believe. So for those interested, I’m gonna throw my two cents in the ring…

Here’s the thing. You can attract all you want, but unless you accompany that with allowing, you won’t be any further ahead than you started. In fact, when you don’t allow what you attract, you run the serious risk of sliding backwards, because the attraction will be accompanied by the plaguing question, “why can’t I make it work in my life when it is all around me?”

Let me say it once more, as it bears repeating. Attracting and allowing must flow together, like two streams that converge, resulting in the great vastness of a river.

Both of these things take work. The Law of Attraction has been pretty well fleshed out in The Secret, among other programs and texts. Seeing as I have not yet mastered this one, I’m going to let that speak for itself and move along.

And if you thought I had trouble in that arena, let’s look at the concept of allowing. For some, it comes naturally and easily. I am not one of those people. Any progress I have made in this area has come at great personal expense…primarily payed to my amazing therapist for all the time spent in her office taking a good, hard look at where my blockages are. And blockages there are a-plenty.

Because allowing is not simply an intellectual concept. True, I can examine my life and any traumas that may have contributed to my blockages. I can see them clearly for what they are, and even understand in my head what I need to do to move through them to get to this illusive place of allowing. But knowing it in my head and feeling it in my body are two different things.

How do you go from the therapist’s chair to walking the walk and talking the talk? Please, tell me if you know. Because I’m still working on a trial by fire basis. So far, lots of fires, and they’ve been very trying. Ba dum bum.

I have gleaned a few nuggets which look promising from this vantage point, however.

  1. Consciousness is the key. (Staying aware and staying present are pretty much the precursors to any personal growth, as far as I can tell, btw. Dammit. There goes my pralines ‘n cream date later.) You have to notice your body’s reactions to the blockages as they arise, which actually requires an enormous amount of consciousness and willingness on your part. Only if you are aware can you make choices – yes, choices – about how to proceed.
  2. Respond, don’t react. If you are truly aware, and take some time to sit with it and stay present, you have the ability to make decisions about what comes next. Choices. Decisions. Not knee-jerk reactions that just replay the old scripts over and over again.
  3. Take some time, regularly, to be open on purpose, with purpose. In other words, hold the issue in your mind, and create a feeling of space around it. For me, it’s a very physical feeling. It’s like softly holding a sealed box while standing in the middle of a vast field, grasses swaying in the wind. Inside that box is Possibility…and Possibility holds inherent in it two (or often many more) outcomes. This is where conscious choice and allowing comes in. But first you have to give yourself, heart, mind, and soul, some space around it in order to get there. (Of note: many people talk about taking regular meditation time. I think this is admirable. I don’t manage it very well – perhaps I’d take less Ativan if I did, but there we are now. If you have the time, freedom, and ability to stay awake while cross-legged on a pile of pillows with oils burning and Gregorian Chant in the background, kudos to you I say. And I do mean that. Let’s meet for a beer when you’re done. I am a big proponent of taking nuggets of learning and applying them in my real life. For instance: as you walk down the street to the Post Office, take that 2 minute opportunity to visualize and resonate with that feeling of space while holding the issue in your mind. Do it again on the way home. When you stand under a hot shower after the gym (something else I don’t do, the gym that is. I do shower. Most days. OK, some days.)…or even better, sex (this one on the other hand…) or whatever, again with the space and the visualizing. I would love to have the time and focus to devote to mediating an hour a day, but right now I don’t. So I make it work in my life, for me…because that’s the only person I have to make it work for. And same goes for you, sailor. Find a way to make it work for you, and you only.)
  4. Breathe. Yes, breathe. Why? Because breathing helps you make space, gets O2 to your brain so it has a fighting chance, and it helps slow you down and relax you. Plus, every self-help, good-for-you, find-your-centre practice there is out there talks about breathing. “Yes Sara, but if they all talked about jumping off a bridge to achieve enlightenment, would you do it too?” Hee-ell no. So really, that’s not the motivating factor for me. But you know what? My mamma, Corlynn Hanney, is an extraordinary voice teacher, and she taught me that the concept of space, support and breath are all wrapped up in one when it comes to singing. And so I figure if I’m looking for space, trying to support conscious allowing, then breathing (the hat-trick) can’t hurt, right? Yeah, I’m going with it.

To be clear, all of these things are fantastic theories. Some days, in my life, they even make good practices. But nowhere, ever, will you hear me say, “Yup, got that one nailed.” Because I so don’t. I do step 3 for a while. And then I forget. Sometimes for months at a time. 1 & 2 come and go, somewhat of their own volition, apparently. 4 is reasonably constant, but that’s only because I now have a super sexy sleep apnea machine (Darth Vadar mask) that keeps me breathing at night. When my body forgets to do it by itself. No, I’m really not kidding. Super duper sexy.

Because even those processes that should intrinsically automatic sometimes…aren’t. We unlearn them. We fuck them up. We throw our own weird -isms and -obias into the pot and then we stop breathing in the middle of the night when shit is just supposed to work by itself. So it’s back to basics. Learn to breathe. Again. Consciously. Feel it in your body. Direct the breath where you want it to be – your toes, your elbow…hell, your lady bits. But all of a sudden you’re back at step 1. Funny how that happens, huh?

Without all of these bits and bobs – and I’m sure other people have loads more to throw into this mix – we are not present enough to allow. We are distracted and focused on other things. We have blockages we don’t even realize are there. We go so unconscious that we might as well be housed inside a mountain for all the cell reception we get from the Universe. Attracting is only half the equation, building the building. Allowing is phase two, moving in. If attracting is buying more stuff, allowing is clearing out your closets and donating to the Salvation Army to make room for all the new lovliness coming your way.

I don’t do so well with the allowing. That’s my mountain to climb. Until I start allowing, no amount of attracting will do me any good. I don’t know if it’s not feeling worthy enough? Why else would we not allow ourselves to open up to the things we want most, the things we feel most passionate about? I’m pretty sure that’s where my roadblock crops up. Not feeling good enough to deserve the things we hunger for, the things we strive after, the things we want nothing more than to attract. If we don’t feel deserving of them, the road stops there. There is no going any further. There’s no attracting, because there is no allowing. We aren’t good enough, we don’t matter enough, we don’t deserve that much bounty and abundance in our lives.

Fuck that shit.

I have lived with that underlying belief for thirty-cough-something-cough years now. But the more years I add to that thirty, the more I realize that I deserve everything I want. Wanting is not a bad thing. My wanting does not cause somebody else lack. Andrea Beaudoin at Align Your Energy tweeted, “By the way,the world doesn’t need fixing. Neither do you. And dreaming for more doesn’t mean you can’t be happy today~Notes from The Universe” And I have done enough work on my core beliefs – another blog post unto itself – that I feel like I’m finally starting to get somewhere with the whole issue of self-worth. Lord knows I’m not the only person to struggle with this albatross, and if it’s taken me this long, this much therapy, this many bad decisions lessons, and this many self-help books, it’s unlikely to be an overnight fix for anyone else either. (But isn’t it better to start working on it now than never?)

So once I untangle the whole bloody equation, I think it looks roughly like this:

Self-worth => Allowing => Attracting => Johnny Depp BLISS (aka anything’s doable)

Got it?


Soooo Plugged In

What’s new in cyberspace?

Well, since I’ve crawled out of my social media hole – the hole I created for myself this winter while everything was so dark, both inside and out – I have developed what I can only say is an incredibly rewarding relationship with my Twitter followers. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart, truly, genuinely.

But let’s look at an overall history of social media with Sara Ramsay…

To start with, I had MySpace. I’m not sure I even remember my password for that site anymore. It became so slow and cumbersome to navigate that I lost patience with it. And that was right about the time that Facebook came along. That being said, MySpace was always a “professional” site for me. In other words, it was about making connections with people I didn’t know, about my music. Thus, I did lose something replacing that with Facebook. Plus, somewhere on MySpace is a Ramsay Family Singers site that I haven’t updated or checked in years. Huh. One more password I don’t remember…

Facebook came along and it became the social media du jour. I made the choice to keep my profile private – just people I actually knew in real life. I still do, to this day. I did have a “Band Page” for my music. But that has change format so many times within Facebook that I haven’t kept up. First it was a group, then it was a page, then it was an event, then it was a page again, then…what is it now? Consequently, the musician side of me doesn’t have much of a presence of FB. I know this is something I should remedy. And I have great plans. Such great plans to do so. One day…

Twitter arrived. I wasn’t sure about it at first. Really? 140 characters was the sum total of the communication you’d have with other people? As time went on, I started using Twitter more and more, and FB less and less. That’s evened back out now, because I use them so differently, but I love me my Twitter. At first I didn’t have a lot in the way of followers. Then some people started figuring out I‘m my brother’s sister. I think he mentioned me in a tweet one time. And my followers jumped exponentially. And I still get daily questions about his middle name or his age or his…you name it. But I do my best to give the guy his privacy. We’re family, I’m not his PR person. So I try to keep my references to him to a minimum. Which hopefully translates into my followers being my followers, not Josh-followers-by-proxy. Those kind can unfollow with all my love, because you won’t get what you’re looking for from me. My Twitter feed contains a lot of inspirational RT’s, chatting with my followers, and funny/inane things from my day. Works for some. For others, there are lots of other people out there to follow. xo

Google+. Yeah, not sure what to say about that. I have it. I haven’t really figured it out yet. (I can’t even figure out how to link to my Google+ profile – which I actually do have.) Clearly I am not a Social Media Mogul.

SoundCloud is my new favourite, although it works quite differently. It’s not really so interactive on an ongoing basis. But it does give me a place where I can post music, now that MySpace is not my jam, and people can hear it and comment on it. I haven’t really fully explored the ins and outs of this one, but it’s definitely got potential. Plus, I have a bunch of musician friends with stuff up on SoundCloud, and I’ve been able to hear their tracks. Awesome.

YouTube. See Google+. Almost as foreign as Google+ is setting up a YouTube channel. When I posted stuff on SoundCloud, I had people asking me if Ii had any YouTube videos. This was an entirely foreign concept to me. I should say here that there are certain areas of technology I am quite adept with. This clearly was not one of them. But, I figured there’s an upside to having a good relationship with your Twitter family. So I threw it out there and just asked, “Anyone want to make a YouTube video or two for me?” I got a response and the work is in progress. We’ll keep you posted. I always say, when in doubt, ask for help!

And then along came Pinterest. Oh my fucknut. I can spend hours pinning things that I like. Planning my dream home. Amassing recipes I will never make. That being said, I have actually tried some projects I have found on there too, so it has not been a total waste of time. It’s good for inspiring creativity. And for getting my hoarding on (digital hoarding) so that I don’t do it physically. I still throw shit out around the house…I just hoard pins on all of my pinboards.

And then there are the blogs…

As you may have noticed, I love to write. I love to write songs. But I also love to write. I love playing with the language. When blogging first came out, I went nowhere near it. It took me a long time to get on that train. But eventually I took a test run. I tried both the Blogger and the WordPress platforms. But all the businessy and webby folks I read kept mentioning WordPress plugins for websites, so off I went to Worpress land.

You’re reading the product of that journey. Break The Surface became my blog. And although I did take a long break from it, my love for writing never changed. My ability to climb out of a hole was the thing that changed.

Recently my Twitter family (we’re working on a name for said family – all suggestions considered) and I were talking about reading and books, and I threw out the suggestion of a book club. And voila, Sara’s Book Club was born. We’re just reading the first book right now, A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Discussion day is May 13 and will take place via Twitter and the blog. I’m working out the logistics as we speak. Why? Because #ReadingIsSexy.

This took me to a non-blogging site, which I kind of love. GoodReads is awesome. Catalogue all your books. Review them. Recommend them. Keep track of shit. (I am slightly OCD.) And this feeds right into the book club premise, so I have started to go to town over yonder…

And then there is the ritual our family adopted from dear family friends. The full story is here. But I started sharing the ritual nightly with my Twitter family with the hashtag #MyFavouriteThingToday. Soon after, I turned it into a blog at Your Favourite Thing Today, and invite readers to share their favourite thing that happened that day too. Simple but amazing ritual. Join us – it’s pretty darn cool. I post on Twitter with #FavouriteThings each evening.

And I think that about sums it up. Do I have enough of a presence? Am I real now?


Long Time Coming

With really only one notable exception, I haven’t posted here in almost a year and a half. That’s a long time, no matter how you slice it. Sit back and hold on – I know this one will shock you – in that time, my life has once more fallen apart and I am trying my damndest to fit the pieces back together, like a Lego tower a toddler builds, destroys, and rebuilds, time and time again.

Does that make me the toddler?

Because I really seem to have a propensity for destroying any semblance of routine or security that I trick myself into believing I have cultivated, only to have to rebuild something in its place.

A quick overview…other than my random Ash Ambirge post (I still love her madly, and have a lot to thank her for, but we’ll get to that later), we last left off in January of 2010. I went back to work in April 2010, and realized how much I loved my job. I got sick again in September 2010 and have been off work since. Joint pain and swelling, nerve pain and weakness/numbness, cognitive dysfunction, memory and speech impairment, extreme fatigue, balance trouble / vertigo, migraines, sleep apnea, some funky heart stuff, and most recently, about 80% hearing loss in my left ear. Those are the big things. Oh, and there are a bunch of lesions on my brain. Sweet. And to top it off, this past winter was perhaps the most debilitating depression I have ever had to contend with. I climbed into a giant hole and took a break from everything, including social media, for several months. There are plenty of other little things I won’t bore you with…I think that’s enough whining.

I now spend my life at doctor’s offices. For a long while, the prevailing theory was that I had MS. But three neurologist, two MS specialists, and 3 MRI’s later, it would seem that is not the diagnosis. And there but for the grace of God…

So, at least for now, that has brought us back to a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. I guess I’m still having trouble accepting that a diagnosis of FM explains all the stuff I deal with. It doesn’t seem like a big enough diagnosis to explain the fact that sometimes I can’t remember my kids names. (Yup, it’s horrifyingly true.) Or that I can’t get out of bed for days at a time or make myself sound like I’m not drunk when I’m speaking.

It seems to me that we are striking diagnoses off the list one by one. Which is, of course, exactly what has to happen. But each diagnosis requires tests and specialists and time and energy. And energy is one area where I am sadly lacking. So it is a bit of a double-edged sword: getting a diagnosis for an illness, one of whose primary symptoms is fatigue, requires energy. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Throughout the Fall of 2011, I completed a Chronic Pain Management Course at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. There was a lot of info I already knew, but it was great having it all tied up in one place. There were a few tidbits of information that I found immensely useful however:

  1. One of the most useful things you can do for yourself is DO THINGS YOU ENJOY. Sounds simple, right? There are so many things that I “need” to get done, and not enough energy to do them, plus I have spent so much time being afraid that insurance companies or work or people in my life who don’t really believe that I’m sick will see me doing something enjoyable and jump to, “well, if you can do that, then you should be able to do this” that I avoid one in order to avoid the other. Turns out, that’s dumb. (Not the first time I’ve made a dumb assumption; undoubtedly it won’t be the last.) In fact, chemically speaking, doing something that you enjoy does all sorts of good juju in your brain, releasing yummy ephrines and opamines and whatnots into the system which help you to feel better. Translation: doing something that you enjoy helps you feel better. Both mentally and physically. Say what? Life can’t just be full of musts and shoulds?
  2. It’s all about pacing. I can’t do all the things I used to. It sucks. Yup. Get over it. I’ve had to. I now have to plan my days and my weeks in such a way that I space activities out. Not too much in one day. Not too many days of tiring activity in a row. Rest time in between. I still feel like an idiot sometimes, but I literally have to plan to sit on the couch and watch TV, read/listen to a book, or nap.
  3. When I am going through a time of depression (October to March, roughly), I have to schedule seeing people and doing things into my calendar so I don’t hole myself up in my house and continue to spiral downwards. Period.
  4. For those of us living with chronic pain, pain is not necessarily a good indicator of injury. In other words, when we get to a point in activity where we hit the pain reaction, that is not indicative of an impending injury. It’s simply our hyper-reactive nervous systems hitting the “flare” point, and we need to learn to push beyond that point – gently, and over time – to become more active. Inactivity and chronic pain dance a frightening dance and one begets the other, and somewhere we have to break into that cycle.

Somewhere in and amongst all of this, my kids and I moved out of our house and into a townhouse. I think it was June of 2010. I had been so terrified of that move for so many reasons, but it turns out that it was the most positive thing that could have happened. Like most things we are staunchly afraid of, the reality surprised the hell out of me, and I couldn’t have been happier. I now have a dear friend who lives across the street. She deals with some of the same emotional issues that I do and is also an artistic soul, and we have been invaluable to each other in making it through the winter. There has been communal parenting when there needed to be. Our kids go to school together, and play out in the townhouse complex and park area constantly. Having a sense of neighbourhood and community was something that was always lacking at my old house, and that in and of itself has made this move worth it.

I think that about brings us up to speed. Now that’s over with, I can get back to posting about more interesting things…


Thank you Ash. Just…thank you.

Dear Ash –

I’m really glad you sent the email version of your blog post to me (and probably a few others) twice today. Funny, because it was probably in error – slightly ironic given the subject matter, don’t you think? But the fact of the matter is, I didn’t read it the first time around.
I’m having a really hard time these days for a lot of reasons beyond my control (yeah, I create my own fucking reality and all that…and yet i’m sicker than shit and have been for months and keep getting worse and ending up in hospital…pretty sure I’m not doing it on purpose…and yes I know that I could still be creating it because it serves me in some way and all that shit. I’m really very enlightened. Fuck.)
But I digress. Point being, I’m in huge avoidance mode. I avoid answering the phone. I avoid opening any emails that are anything less than emergent. Sometimes I avoid making dinner and settle for chocolate and ice cream. I avoid doing pretty much anything that doesn’t relate directly to making sure my children are fed and well, and keeping my symptoms as low-key as possible. Sometimes I even avoid those things. Pretty sad-ass, if I do say so myself.
And so when your first email arrived, I did not open it, just like I have not opened any of yours for the last couple of months (sorry, just being honest.) I also have not opened any of Danielle LaPorte‘s, Satya Colombo‘s, Karol Gajda‘s, Chris Guillebeau‘s, or any of the other people I find inspiring. I just figure I’ll get around to them when I get around to them, or I’ll pick up from a new starting point when I’m ready.
But yours arrived twice.
And I recently watched Oprah talk about life whispering to you, each time a little louder, until it’s screaming and knocking you over the head. So how about learning to listen to the whispers? I decided that receiving your email twice was a whisper.
And your post was exactly what I needed to hear. Don’t think I even need to explain that further, do I?
Sometimes we need to just give ourselves permission to be where we are. Thanks for giving me the permission to give myself permission. (Um, yeah, I know that’s ridiculous.) I’m putting your post up on my fridge.

If Music Be the Food of Life…And It Is. Really.

For a musician, you’d think I would listen to more music.

The sad but true fact is that I have had to ~ lately ~ make a point of having music on in my house, seeking out new music, and filling my ears with all sorts of inspiration.  Part of the shift has been a willingness to newfound joy in paying for music.  Again, sounds counterintuitive for a musician, I know.  But hear me out.

I have always struggled with money.  And I was guilty of downloading pirated music, mostly because I never had the money to pay for it properly.  Then I started downloading stuff, giving it a listen, and if I knew it was something I’d listen to again, I would purchase it off of iTunes.  Sara Bareilles, case in point.  Downloaded some of her stuff off Limewire.  FELL. IN. LOVE.  (She is my full on music crush, for those who were not previously aware.  She is the bomb.  In every way a singer/songwriter could be.)  So I went back and paid for everything I’d downloaded and then everything else I could find, off of iTunes.

Digression – I have long been guilty of downloading songs I have to learn for gigs.  And truthfully, I have no issues with that.  I’ll probably keep doing that.  Because I know that if I had a song on the charts (or even if I didn’t), and there was a band who wanted to learn it and cover it live (which the bars pay mechanical royalties to, so the writer gets paid), I wouldn’t give a shit whether they paid the $1.29 to download that one song.  Instead, I’d be happy that they were getting my tune out to more ears. – Aaaand, scene.

But here’s the thing.  (Back to regular music consumption by normal people. Not those bloody musician types.)  If we don’t make a point of paying for things, the money to do so will never show up in our lives. If we keep trying to figure out an end run around to scam it for free, the Universe will likely acquiesce by making sure we don’t have the dollas.  So I’ve been paying for it, and downloading things off iTunes like crazy.  I hear a song on a TV show that I like, I search it out.  I hear music at a friend’s that I like, I start downloading it on my iPad, right then and there.  I take my kid to a dance convention and watch ShoTyme choreograph some pretty cool shit to music that totally grooves…I seek that same shit out and put it on in my house.  For my ears.  For my soul.  For my inspiration, my groove.

Aside of this burgeoning joy for spending money on music, and the satisfaction of knowing that I am finally doing my part to support the industry that I both love and hate, I am loving grooving to music again.  I have also started going back through all my CD’s (after having lost an entire iTunes library after a helpful someone emptied the trash on my computer, and somehow the whole library had gotten moved there…it’s OK, I went to therapy…several times…)  Right.  So.  Where was I?  I am importing all my CD’s with the intent of (after BACKING iTUNES THE FUCK UP!) getting rid of all my CD’s.  Happy little by-product?  I have (or will soon have) all my music at the tip of my fingers at all times.  I know, most people were on this train about 5 years ago…I’m getting there.  Simmer down.

I’m learning that I love happy, poppy, funky, up-beat stuff when I’m cleaning (granted, this doesn’t happen often.)  I love instrumental jazz and classical (no lyrics to pull focus) when I’m writing.  I love jazz again period, after a brief hiatus the last few years.  I still love my old faves, but I’m incredibly happy to be discovering some new ones too.  And, I am so grateful for the joy I feel at the sound of music in the house again.  It’s been quiet here too long.

One of the things that I think is the most positive about music and the digital age, assuming you’re taking the high road and paying for your downloads, is the ability to instantly access new music. In addition, it makes it killer easy to pluck single songs that rock your soul, without having to take the whole album. Which means that my iTunes library is more diverse than my music collection has been, ever.

NEW DISCOVERIES & RE-DISCOVERIES – well, new discoveries for me. Or things I used to love and have just newly rediscovered. Things that will stay on my playlist for a good long time. Some are albums, some are songs, some are artists.

  • Florence + The Machine – Between Two Lungs
  • Shawn Desmond – Shiver
  • Brad Turner – everything. Fucking genius this guy.
  • Metalwood – see Brad Turner
  • Sharon Minemoto – my college roommate. And a stellar musician.
  • James Taylor – At Christmas, along with everything else.
  • Laila Biali – Tracing Light; From Sea to Sky
  • Singers Unlimited – every-freakin-thing
  • Aaron Copeland – Appalachian Spring; Fanfare for the Common Man
  • Take 6 – He Is Christmas
  • Ella Fitzgerald – there is no one like Ella. ‘Nuff said.
  • Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation
  • Tegan & Sara – a big catalogue to work through!
  • Jellyfish – Bellybutton; Spilt Milk (both are so good!)
  • Colbie Caillat
  • Huey Lewis & the News
  • Tower of Power

OLD FAVES – in no particular order (and yes, I’m aware that some of these are very old favourites!)

  • Marianas Trench – Fix Me; Masterpiece Theatre (this was a no-brainer. Hello?!? Welcome to my family!)
  • Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
  • Silverchair – Diorama
  • The Eagles – all of it
  • James Taylor – everything. Every. Thing.
  • Steely Dan – Greatest Hits
  • Sheryl Crow – all of it
  • Brand New Heavies – Brother, Sister
  • George Michael – Faith
  • Shawn Colvin – A Few Small Repairs
  • Sara Bareilles – ALL. OF. IT. ❤ sigh ❤
  • Paula Cole – Harbinger; This Fire
  • James Taylor – all of it (oh wait, did I already say this?)
  • Paul Simon – Graceland; Rhythm of the Saints
  • Michael Jackson – Thriller, lots and lots more
  • Adam Woodall – Silver Ring (I melt at Adam’s voice)
  • Stevie Wonder – must I give particulars?
  • Billy Joel – uh, yeah, just about everything.
  • Bonnie Raitt – I love this woman. So much soul. So, yeah…everything.
  • Carol King – greatest hits

You can link here to my playlists: Positivity Jam, Groove Jam, and Chill Jam.

I will probably come back and amend this list as I continue through my CD catalogue, and as I discover new things on iTunes. What about you? What are your new faves or your go-to, always there when you need it, know every word bands or albums? Maybe I’ll find some new favourites in your list!

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