Behind the Iron Gate

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

The song can speak for itself, because it is biographical, down the tragic deaths on the river. (There are several lengthy newspaper articles about that. My great-grandfather was only 4 when he lost his father and brothers, but chose the river as his daily commute and worked at the steel mill until well into his 8o’s.

The cemetery, the airport, the riverbank, and the steel mill on the other side -are all very real places, each within walking distance. The cemetery is scattered in every “block” with my ancestors. It is so peaceful.

It is a place where I can ‘come to the garden alone,” and yet not feel alone, or sad. I have gone there for all the reasons is the song, and the song says it best…so go have a listen, or a watch, as there is a simple video set to the song now on my you tube channel:

The stories, sunshine, and gathering are things I would wish for every family to have. I always leave with a little more resolve to live—and love and serve as well as I can. That too is in the song…more artfully than I can express in spoken words.

Those who care for this place have created a haven of beauty and solace. If you feel led please feel free to make a donation. I have decided to use this song to bring them good, as they have brought so much good to me.

Here is a link: https://www.mtolivetcemetery.org/

I LOVE making music and songs for my local community. I do hope to put out a “Locals EP” soon. I was down to the very last song for that project and got a bit sick, and now have to switch hats, because ready or not, here comes my day job…but no worries, it will be a great vehicle for interviewing open mics, and collaborations with other independent singer-songwriters like me–who are also crazy about making for their local community!

Selah…

Two Infectious Days

I’m too infected for my head too infected for my head too infected for my head…

The last time that I posted was about a year ago. When I discovered that I could do an amazing thing I can type up my blog on voice to text and then I can go ahead and read it aloud and put it up out as a podcast which is good practice because I do hope to eventually do some “real” podcasting (or hire someone to make it really good.) I’m never doing just one thing at a time, so allow me to describe 2 Days in my life.

Let me preface my story, Last month the dentist had to crown one of my molars or I going to lose it. My mouth was on fire with inflammation for a week until I finally had the courage to wear a night guard from years ago. My jaw seemed to settle down, but around the same time I was observing that I was also having headaches each evening. This went on a bit too long, and  I knew I was going to be doing a recording session, so I went to a massage therapist and a chiropractor to try to work out this headache thing thinking they must have struck a nerve. Everything helped, but not enough. Apparently, I developed a sinus infection as a result of the dental work, and apparently that is a”thing.”

Sandwiched on the day between seeing a massage therapist and chiropractor, and then seeing a medical doctor who diagnosed it,  I had a job interview. What resulted will impact so much of what I do moving forward as an artist and a person in the world, because I got the job!  This time two years ago, I was in a similar position. I was all packed and ready to go—then everything shut down. Well, here we go again! I am on track to finish something I started over 35 years ago! Yep, I said it! Maybe I’ll finally live up to my IG tagline “I am a bird I sing / I fly.” That was the flying…Now for the singing…

A few days later, I was in a recording session. I have so little time to finish half an album before I leave to be trained, and then gain mastery over my day job, through the end of the year. I had originally planned to make a whole album in different local studios over the coming summer. But opportunity knocked, and it was not wise to gamble and wait for it to knock later.  I woke up the morning of my session finally believing that I actually DID have a sinus infection because whatever was up in there had begun oozing down past my throat. The body is an amazing thing! Bad timing in this case, but amazing nonetheless! I really didn’t want my body to be doing that just then, but I was not about to cancel!

On the 45-minute drive, I worked through my usual warm-up routine, which is to sing through the soundtrack of The Phantom of the Opera. If I can sing the high notes just before Christine faints in the lair of the Phantom, then I know I can do anything.  I can’t quite say that I made it to my goal because it seems like when I would get close to that note nothing but air came through, but it was close enough, and I didn’t really think I was going to be hitting that note in the session, so I was not going to be deterred. Side Note: my voice seems to have dropped over the past two years. I thought that it was just me, but I’ve heard from other singers that they’re struggling with the same thing.  If you don’t use it you lose it!) 

 It was the first time I worked at this studio and was probably only a one-time-only deal because this guy makes a living with his OWN music, but a long time ago he said that he would help me to get comfortable with the recording process WAY back when we were in a songwriter group together and I admitted that I was intimidated by the process.  Now I actually love the beautiful process! But on this particular project, I wanted to work with this particular producer, because of a mutual friend who had worked on it previously but had passed. I will explain more about the song itself in a bit.

When I arrived I was surrounded by so much beauty! The producer’s wife is a visual artist. I was enraptured in all the art, and had to resist wanting to stop the session and interview both of them!I also had to fight through the way a singer feels when the voice may not be at its best, but ya gotta deliver.  I think that my adaptability and delivery have developed from working in different studio environments and with different producers. Like there was a vocal producer voice in my head, as I recalled and applied some of the good tips lavished upon me by what has become quite a village.  Work ethic trumped the fear and it was enough to get the job done, until very literally the last two notes. I was putting in one last vocalization of a two-toned Oooo… and it just crapped out on me, complete with a dry coughing spell. But, there were enough good passes to be able to call it a day. It was good.

Then, suddenly I was really very tired. I’d become accustomed to studio sessions running from about 11AM to 2PM sessions, never later then 4pm, and it was 6PM. I went home feeling both wired and tired. I was wired from the fairy dust of yet another project getting so beautifully done, in such an artful beautiful setting, and also deeply tired from having an unseen war raging inside my body.  

So, all that so say, I should have a new song soon and I’m going to go ahead and tell you the story behind the song. It’s going to be called, “My imagination.” It is a combination of two songs that already exist in the public domain, but for which I created the melodic lyrical vocals. The small album was created by multiple people who would each add a layer of an instrument or vocal track atop what was already there—like making a song “Telephone Game” Style. I did get to see one of the participants, the man who was running it because he had to capture a recording of my vocals. It was a rough cut but its out there on ReverbNation and in a little disc that I have in my library of things I’ve created or been part of creating. I’m breathing new life into it, because the message of the song seems to have been a bit prophetic and very pertinent to the social media culture. Also am going to learn the legalities of putting a song out a song registered previously under the public domain. I think there are potential royalties for the performance but not for writing – I don’t know, but f you’re going to be a singer-songwriter you have to learn about these things or else write such great songs that somebody else does all that FOR you, so I guess I better learn about these things.  😛

I’m hoping to put out an EP of songs that I have made locally and mostly over the pandemic. Well, at least one of them was made before the pandemic when my spells of inactivity were more due to seasonal depression and grief over sidemen lost to injury or worse–back when shutdown inside my own head, seasonally, rather than a worldwide pandemic. So I guess you could say that I’ve always been “too infected for my head…too infected for my head too… infected for my head…”  But I am making a rather good go at it…So fasten your seatbelts!!!

Getting an “F” in School and in Life

I consider myself a lover of words. I like to listen to the words of others, and I like to write. I think I have had a pretty broad vocabulary all my life, and I like to make good grades too. You would never know this as you discover a minefield of typos in all my posts on all out platforms. I flunked typing class…yes, an all out F indicating a failing grade. A black mark in my academic record. If I were offered the opportunity to retake that class and expunge my academic record, I wouldn’t. For me it would be worse than a waste, and for anyone attempting to help me overcome the appearance of illiteracy, I would not waste their time.

As an aside, if I could touch type, I could also learn to skillfully play and instrument. If I could play an instrument, I would be out sharing my songs CONSTANTLY with anyone who might benefit from hearing. I am here to say that there is some kind of disconnect between my brain and my hands. I could not change it if I tried, and I have really tried.

About a year ago, I applied for a job. it was a part time job, that after a few months it became just a few hours short of full time. I nearly walked out of the interview because I sensed typing -Data Entry was required! But they hired me anyway, as the rest of my skills seemed to be worth trying to navigate the admitted/confessed risks regarding typing. I’m not sure that was a good choice, but somehow, I am retained…but I will tell you, my body and brains are in pain and agony! I am hanging in. I like the way at the end of the daily adrenal exhaustion, there is usually a neatly arranged stack of completed closeout paperwork, and I got to complete it within yards of planes, and all sorts of fantastic aircraft, and people…and I am humbled…so very humbled. Why they want to keep me I will never know…

It is not an easy thing to make a choice to show up, even though you are certain there will be a degree of failure everyday. The typing thing, among a few other glitches in my artsy fartsy non math-seeking brain [ “Look at the bird!”] have proven to keep me at a level of under performance that is driving my nuts, and taking a toll on my body. I stare helplessly, but loyally and committedly into a screen, when there are faces-Faces I cannot look at , and conversations I can NOT afford to have…I am a square peg and a round hole, and an absolute sucker for acceptance…and planes, yes the planes, my office has a wall of windows on the runway side, if I were not maniacally busy I would likely pine that I am not ON them.

I’ve I stayed many months at an almost full time amount of hours, but wanted warned and begged to be cut back to part-time. I knew I was heading for burnout or worse. Recently there has been additional help, and also my hours were reduced one some days, and eventually I will be back to a manageable amount of failure fraught hours. (Its not ALL frustration, I love my co-workers and the customers, and planes, and after many months I know HOW to do all the many tasks. I am tired but sticking with it. This should ease up once back to my original hours. I do so much miss interacting with my organization clients, interacting with people at a more graceful pace, and waking up with the sun.

My plan was to pass flight attendant training, and lay low through the probationary period, to earn the free form jazz of commuting to base,navigating mass transit in a major US city in order to get form my crahspad to the airport, and how to bid trips. BUT that came to naught when my class date was postponed for nearly a year, then revoked, due to the pandemic.

Musically speaking, I was rehearsing a “farewell concert when everything stopped, and changed for what seems like forever. I was going to take a year to fully concentrate on my new job. Well, everyone did that, and I got a essential worker land based job. But, my plan was to shoulder my new load, then take my music and another venture on the road. I was going to build a network of peers in each city, and try to rehearse a 3 song set in order to be ready for any open mic I might be able to find and participate in on layovers. The plan was also for me to create a podcast of interviews with home grown artist like me, on a specific aspect of how we function withing their own spheres of influence.

The best laid plans…Now, I am knocking on different doors, to see if I can get some much needed face to face interactions before my evening shift, whether earning the difference between almost full time to half that, or volunteering. If I do it well, in the future, I might still be able to earn my wings and still remain deeply connected and invested locally. I will keep you posted, and no longer be as secretive about my day job (s.)Yes, most flight attendants have a second job, so its not far fetched. I guess when I was an unpaid parent doing volunteering, I became accustomed to juggling multiple occupations.

For 2 weekends, one in June and one in July, I stepped back into my home organizer for hire role, helping a family to de-clutter and prepare a property for the market.I loved the more relational ad conversational type of interactions with my clients It was utterly brutal to work full time hours over a weekend book-ended by regular near full time work weeks, but it was certainly definitive, and for reasons too complicated to explain in the post, I should be making another album this coming year, if we do not have a repeat of last year.

My empty nest clock began ticking December of 2019. It got off to an amazing start when I put in my application to a major US airline on New Years day at midnight, was interviewed on February 5th, and immediately and extended and Conditional Job Offer, and was scheduled for training in the beginning of April, and then everything changed…

I may have gotten an F in typing, and my posts are chock full of typos, but I was a straight A student in high school, while moonlighting as a corporate flight attendant intern- what an after school job THAT was! I volunteered like crazy and was very engaged socially…then I stopped for several decades to be committed to providing good for 4 other human beings to find thier callings.

If you read this far, thanks for letting me get more personal, now my posts can be a little less ambiguous. Music is just one aspect of the whole. My tag line on Instagram is “I am a bird -I sing, I fly” Sometimes I can figure out how to post there. If my social media platforms ever start looking good, I’m either paying someone else to create content or living a lie. Typos may be my unique seal of authenticity!!!

If you want to hear this, with additional author notes I have been dabbling in turning my posts into podcasts with Anchor on Spotify and you can access that here:

Funeral Singer

I took a break off of social media, for the most part, because there were some life passages I had to go through, and I did not think I could go through them publicly. The death of a parent is nothing you can casually comment about.

I do not believe I will list it as a public performance, but I sang at my own father’s funeral. I only could do it because I felt it was a service to my family and the those who came out in droves to attend. By way of video clip, even more powerful, was my father speaking at his own funeral, about that which was most important to him for others to know.

I selected two hymns, for sing along. The first was to bolster up our family for the coming hours, weeks, months and years. The closing was with my niece, who is a professional singer and actress. We choked our way through.

My mother requested that I sing an original song, and suggested “While My Father,” but while planning the service, that song felt like it would be a performance, and did not feel appropriate, even though the story part of the lyric is compilation of childhood memories with my father. Instead I chose to sing ‘Waiting for Heaven, because the last week of my D ads life, we lived into the story behind that song as wee surrounded him, keeping a 5 day vigil.

This post is a 2 for 1 deal- 2 Stories behind the songs, in one post.

“While My Father…” Do you remember falling asleep in the car, and getting carried into the house and tucked into bed, “as is?” Your parent left you in your clothes because you were out like a light, but alos somehow you recall it. Did you ever wake up when the car stopped in front of your house, but fake being asleep, just the be carried into the house, just because it felt like love? That vignette is in my lyrics. Another childhood scenario surrounding the moon appears-what person, child or adult is not captivated by looking at the moon. I recalled cozy nighttime car ride thought- questioning if the moon is moving, as if following the car. As usual, my mind is never satisfied to think one thought at a time, I recalled a more specific memory or series of memories in which my father was my knight in shining armor…

Cats…they like me, because I try to avoid them as much as they would like to ignore and avoid me. Sensing my kindred avoidance, they then begone to pursue me, and then the trouble begins…the sneezing and wheezing, runny eyes…I am allergic to cats. My Grandmother lived in a trailer and had two of them. Each Christmas, and after waking up early to open presents before my Dad went to work, we would leave our little pile of presents and my mother would take us to our Grandmother’s, where their would be Aunts, Uncles, and cousins, and well as great Aunts Uncles and 2nd cousins. It was sardine packed, and not only was it hot and catty, the cigarette smoke was a thick as a cloud. I faced that long afternoon and evening with unspoken dread. I looked forward to my Dad’s arrival after his workdays was through. Dad was also allergic to cats, so when he arrived, my own exit was secured. After he made up a plate form the compilation of yummy leftovers, he stayed just long enough in order not to be rude, and we would be out. I’d have been sneezing for hours, and he would kindly open the window if it were not bitterly cold, so the fresh brisk air could cool my face and burning nose. One such trip I recalled looking at the stars in a clear sky, and singing contemplatively about the moon, and asking if it as following,…I really WAS always singing and making up songs.

All those childhood scenes made it into that song as well as the feeling of being loved, taken care of, and taken home…it gets existential, and I convey that I anticipate that my ultimate home-going will be equally or more so attended with such love and care. As the song is about MY hoemgoing, and my memeores, ablet my best memeies of my Dad, it was too mch !st person.

I selected another song about home-going called “Waiting for Heaven.” For the reason stated already above, it acknowledged the long journey our family had just been through, while also pouring out so much hope!

“Waiting on Heaven” was a song inspired as I watched a mother lovingly tend to a grown son, who had gotten very ill in his infancy, leaving him in a state of infancy for the rest of his life. I wondered what it was like for the young man. I marveled at his loving mothers, and I witnessed first hand times where his blind eyes looked toward, and his open syllables expounded some sort of joy and longing when he was at church…it was sacred. What must it be like for souls stifled inside such physical brokenness. Hos mother was one of the most joyous and resourceful people I have ever known, genuinely encouraging others, and I believe genuinely content. I sat and wondered what was going on…The song begins with a toneless but deliberately heart beat speed of a cajon…the climax of the songs is a series of two-word questions, and two word answers, “Wasting away? {NO!} Wasting NOTHING!!!” “Going Away??? {Nope! } Coming HOME!!! Followed by a small piano riff that to me sounds like a royal pronouncement—Hear Ye! Here ye! So and so has just arrived!!!

Children and Grandchildren came to catch a few of my fathers last moments, and at the appointed time, some of us were there in that when my Dad’s soul, trapped for days in unconscious not so restful sleep departed his earthy failing body. We watched for another pitifully labored rise and fall cycle of his chest, there was none, and in the silenced it was we who gasped, in awe that we had witnessed the very moment his soul also began to experience ultimate aliveness! That song kindly walked through the labor, the questions, and hope.

What more can be said….

Just Above This Curtain April 2020

Well good morning. the sky is blue, birds are singing, and spring is finally obviously springing. but the world has changed in ways few of us could have imagined. the amount of suffering, sorrow, and distress in the world is almost inconceivable, we listen, but the front-lines know.

 

I am finding that I am not writing songs in the midst of additional hours and days. My mind is busy.  I’m finding that my lyrics fail. When I think about posting a song, I don’t. Even though most of my songs are about courage and hanging in. There’s always something lacking. 

 

This morning I woke up in my own bed, but as of 3 weeks ago I was scheduled to be waking up in a different city, and experiencing my first day of a month-long training for a new job A  “day job” well actually probably an all-night job too. I waited for this day for more years than I should probably say in public, but I am not sad. I am right where I am meant to be. 

 

I want to give this hurting world something. I have always felt that way probably all my life. All I have to offer are some shabby songs. I ask myself this morning which songs should I tell the stories behind today? The only one that came to mind was “Just Above this Curtain.”

 

 As I sit here any type plane on short-final approach flies over my house and think about the people on board. Who are they? They are landing nearby, but ultimately, where are they going? Right now the people who are moving from place to place with gravity, duty, or perhaps fear.  

 

“I  would like to be home by tonight but it’s not in my hands on this flight…”In this song, I refer to a “bumpy ride” – aka turbulence.  I refer to not knowing what is coming next. I refer to a fight, which could be interpreted as everyday daily battles, or something bigger. 

 

The bottom line is a message of  assurance, even if neither I nor others appear to know the scoop, or seem to be in a whiteout, and not sure where we are going 

 

I trust who I will see when I am just above the thin veil which separates the life I know now, full of challenges and the life which is to come for those who’s faith and trust is well-placed.

 

From the book I read from first thing every morning, come familiar words and phrases, ‘fire in the night…cloud’  a navigational system supernaturally and mercifully placed to guide a people coming out of terrible times, and into a Promised Land. 

 

 Because I make music across a wide range of platforms,  among many people, I try to be very careful, not to use language which would be hard to understand. I hope that when people meet me they can sense the sincere love and concern that I have for each one. 

 

Without that love and concern. Nothing that I do from preparing meals, washing dishes, laundry, cleaning, writing songs, sharing songs, or working a day job of hurling through the sky at 35000 feet, at several hundred miles per hour…No, none of it would have any meaning, without Love.

 

“I’d rather Cry by a fire in the night, enveloped in Cloud and no one can see where I am going. oh yeah it’s been a bumpy ride, yeah, I’m still hurting, but one thing is for certain, that I will see you with my own eyes just above this curtain.

 

Clouds in my eyes – Can’t trust my own sight, Guide me through blindness like a fire in the night.  Tracing my tears, shaping my song…No time for fear – keep pressing on…

 

The lyrics are played by my band with a happy hopeful upbeat island sound. I do that, I wrote gut-level angsty lyrics, and can wrap them in a hopeful sound. I wonder if I were skilled at playing my own instruments If I could or would create a different pace and feel? 

 

I have been quiet for quite some time on the songwriter front. I did give fair warning that I was shifting gears, but I really wasn’t specific about that. my days had been filled with studying three-digit city codes, identifying flashcards with pictures required equipment,  and a whole new set of terms and definitions which were to become a new language for me.

 

I had laid aside my songwriting, with the exception of having had assembled and been rehearsing a coffee house event which was to be a sort of a farewell, and though there still may be a farewell oh, I’m not sure if there will be an event like that. So much has changed.

 

I have to figure out a way to work within the walls of tasks and also feelings.  These are some of the hardest times I’ve ever known in my lifetime, but not for me at least not yet for others. and for that, my songs are not enough…we must all love our neighbors and do our very best. 

 

So much Love,

Rebecca

 

PS

 

I have been writing books based upon canine characters, and for now, the names have not been changed as they are Loosely based upon our pets. the purpose of these books is to illustrate some of the ways in which children who have experienced trauma might respond in a home and family setting afterward and while learning how to do life and family again. 

 

My hopes are that the books will foster both empathy and discussion with other children surrounding little ones who have suffered trauma about some of the stress and misunderstandings. The books are turning out to have a comforting cadence, and tackle some odd subjects, with so much love, that there is assurance and security.