• Be Still!

    As a hyperactive kid, I was often told to be still. I was extra-fidgety and energetic then…And loud, what with the hearing issues. Stillness and quiet were not exactly what I loved. Somehow, I read voraciously and still managed to be non-stop. The worst was “quiet time,” which was what replaced nap time when we got old enough that naps didn’t really happen. My poor mum surely needed the peace…And, even though I was, as noted, a serious reader my whole life, the enforced quiet meant I was dying to go-go-go!

    These days, whilst no longer that hyperactive kid, I still tend to be go-go-going. There’s always something I should be doing, and then the list of leisure/social things that I “should” do if not doing one of the “serious” things. (Mind you, I believe that there’s power and good in leisure and in social connections. But that’s not the topic here.) At this particular moment, I am going through one of those extra-busy times. Even if I gave up sleep, it would be hard to take care of all I have committed to (not so much a case of mindlessly over-committing so much as a lot of timelines shifting in an insane way) and all I should do.

    But this weekend has found me (and will do so for one more day), not doing any of those things. Doing a lot of sitting where I can’t do the loads of things on my computer, can’t really do any of the non-computer things. And the friend who’s the reason even gave me the option of backing out. But I didn’t.


    I had actually gotten through a draft of another entry for this blog (about lessons I learned when I took up a challenge from one of my brothers to try running), and I wasn’t thrilled with it but I was going to post it anyway because it would take the least time to do in this crazy little life of mine…

    So, I’ve got this friend who’s a cool artist. Months ago, she asked if I could help her with her booth at a neighbourhood fair. I love to help my friends, and she’s one of those locally I consider family, so of course I was game. That I hate to break commitments, especially to family, would have been reason enough to follow through. But as I sat in the chair, in the quiet of waiting for the next customer, I realised that this was a rare truly still moment for me.

    There are other times where I’m still, kind of. But I’m always doing something, aimed toward a goal. I know that I’ll be done with whatever task is at the root of that still-ish moment and moving on in a fairly short time. Or my mind is specifically focused in that time instead of free to wander…It’s still, but it’s not quite the sort of magical still I’ve come to appreciate.

    Why do I see stillness as magical?

    First, I really do believe that a stillness where you are free (if even for minutes) of other obligations, where your mind can just go wherever and your body is either also pretty still or involved in some sort of truly mindless task, opens you to hear. You can call it whatever you like, but I’ll think of it as hearing my heart or hearing God or hearing the Universe or just hearing (seeing) myself more clearly. Giving my intuition or whatever it may be a more open place to be heard has often led to more clearly seeing a situation or a path I should take, or even just to a more substantial sense of my capability to make it through, of the goodness in my life or the world, or of my own worth.

    Second, and equally important, I keep reading essays about the need for stillness or boredom time in order to access your own creativity (whether that’s artistic creativity or your mind’s ability to untangle a problem). As a geek, I always agreed with Buckaroo Banzai that the best insights tend to come in the bed, in the bath, or on the bus. Those times when we are probably as close to still and not actively doing as most of us get.

    My cat, sleeping
    (My cat should be a prophet and the next Pablo Picasso)

    My problem is that, because there’s so much I need to sort out lately, my brain is constantly processing in a very specific way. I’m beating my head against the same lines of argument or reasoning over and over, because that’s the path I see. It’s so ingrained now that even my non-fantastical dreams appear to have fallen into step. And I never just sit long enough for my brain to just stop with that…

    So, I found myself sitting in a chair. All I had was a phone with a low battery, a notebook (the paper kind; not a computer), and bits of conversation with my friend (who was also painting and helping customers). There really was no way I was going to accomplish any of my pending tasks. And it clearly wouldn’t even do any good to stress over that or prep myself to do them, cos I had hours ahead of me. I didn’t get bored (I don’t tend to get bored, really), but my brain suddenly found itself in this very open situation…And I realised that this was finally stillness. Finally that “boredom” time the essays had advocated.

    I’d like to say I solved all my problems, wrote our next album, and cured cancer in that time. Really, I’d even be happy to say that I solved just one of my problems and wrote a verse. I didn’t. And, you know, that’s okay.

    It was enough for me to have a very pointed and conscious realisation of this thing I already knew, now that I’m no longer a hyperactive kid. Being still is useful and invigorating and crucial for me. (Plus I got a few general ideas for band flyers…Which seems to be one of those things that I is less easy for me than a lot of the rest of the band things I do. So, I’m pretty pleased.)

    That was day one. Day two, in spite of the fact that the clock is ticking and running out swiftly on a handful of huge things, I found myself just feeling calm, peaceful. It wasn’t until we were closing the booth that I even started to think of all that I needed to accomplish tonight before I was allowed to sleep. And, let me tell you, my dears, that is odd. Seriously, it’s a struggle not to spend any of my usual “still” time just going over what my task list for the rest the day is.

    Maybe tomorrow, day three, I’ll solve my problems, write an album, and cure cancer before we close the booth. Or maybe my brain will just enjoy the stillness. It has plenty of sights and sounds and smells that it doesn’t run into daily to sort of poke it and keep it awake, but it doesn’t have to do or solve or accomplish anything. And maybe, as happens with many things in our lives or our bodies, taking this break will let it do better in the few ridiculous weeks that are ahead of it. And, you know, that’s enough for me.

    Be still, lovelies.


  • What a girl wants…

    I once had a conversation with a good friend where she asked, in regards to my musical aspirations, whether I wanted to be rich and famous or whether I wanted to make good music that touches people. My immediate reaction was, “Why can’t I choose both?”

    The topic of making money off of making art is one that I suspect will be popular and controversial as long as there are artists, and I doubt anything I have to say would add new points to the conversation. But what I did want to add to my conversation with you is a little about my motivations.

    Or, rather, what it is I want beyond making good music that means something to you, and why I want that.

    I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t suspect I’d enjoy being rich. And if I could do that doing something I love and not having to give up my integrity (personal or artistic), that would be pretty cool.

    But what I really want is this:

    • I want to pay for my rather modest bills and “lifestyle” without wondering whether or not I can make it month-to-month.
    • I want to have a little extra to give to good causes, buy gifts for loved ones, and support other artists by buying their stuff or attending their shows.
    • I want to have enough fans to warrant/fund a tour so I can see my friends scattered around the world when I play in their cities.
    • I want to afford to record and release new songs into the wild regularly, because there are fans scattered all over and I don’t want people to feel like you have to be in my city to enjoy my music.

    That’s it.
    No gold-lined swimming pools or expensive cars.
    No bling or mansions.
    I don’t even, as I said, have plans to change from my current lifestyle (which, in rough times, can be paid for with an unemployment check).

    Here I am showing off my sufficient wealth. I was just swimming around it in earlier.  🙂
    Amber and some ones

    I want to make good music.
    I want to connect with you and, hopefully, make your life a little bit of a better place. (I know music has done that for me personally.)
    I want to have the time and energy to give the music (and, through that, you) the best I can, to give it what it deserves. (I make that time now, and push through when the energy isn’t there…I’m not complaining…It’s part of what I do and what it means to do this…)
    And, like most people, I think it would be awesome if I could be one of those people whom you point out when telling people “Do what you love and the money will follow.”

    So, I’m going to keep making music I believe in.
    I’m going to keep putting myself out here (online, at shows) to connect with you.
    And I’m going to do that regardless of whether or not I am rich and famous.
    But now you know, when you pay cover at a show or buy something from us, what the money is for.
    Sorry, not hookers and cocaine. More like practice spaces and recording. Or cat food and rent.
    Maybe not as sexy, but you can always write some fanfic and pretend otherwise if that’s important to you. Haha!

    Now, time for me to go show support to another local artist. Cos I’m a fan of that 😉

  • Doing Time…

    Without any ill feelings, I note that I do “everything” for the band. I mean, I’m not the guitarist, drummer, or bassist, but I’m all the other stuff. And that certainly includes all the non-music stuff like booking, promoting, web design, online communications, blogs and vlogs and all the other cogs. I’m not saying I do as stellar a job as a paid pro would do, but I work my little bum off.

    And it definitely takes time. On a “slow” week, all the things I’m doing for the band and music easily take at least 20 hours. On an insane week (like the weeks I’m working on redesigning our web site or updating all our online stuff), it easily turns into 80 hours a week. Yeah, seriously.

    As you might guess, this impacts other areas of my life. My friends get used to rushed, infrequent Facebook status updates (often something like, “Almost done! I swear I’ll be back soon!”) and my little household probably just feels amazed that everyone gets fed every day.

    Crazy, right?

    Probably. But I’m sincere when I say there are no ill feelings. Whereas a day job usually feels at least a little torturous every moment, even if it’s working on my favourite type of project with my favourite people. Which means that people who are baffled at the time I put in often become further baffled. All that work on music and the band, “work” being the key word, and I don’t resent it? Hard to believe, some say…

    But here’s why:

    First, I was raised to know that where we spend our time shows our priorities. I find that, now that I’ve accepted the reality of my priorities and just let myself give the time I need, there’s deep satisfaction and no guilt.

    Second, as noted, there is deep satisfaction from putting the time into this thing I love passionately. I might produce something killer for a day job, but it will never impact me on the same level or mean as much to me as what I accomplish musically. When I give this time, I receive all sorts of good stuff in my head and hearts. (Haha! I accidentally pluralised that last word…Maybe I’ve been watching too much Doctor Who lately, if that’s even possible.)

    Third, cos I do like threes, Danielle LaPorte noted in her recent book The Fire Starter Sessions that work/life balance is kind of a ridiculous concept that actually has the potential to cause harm. Fortunately for you, she also posted about that online.

    So, the question for you to ponder is this: What truly feeds your soul?

    And the followup question is this: How can you give more time to that without neglecting your responsibilities? (Sometimes, by the way, the answer is to wrap some things up and decrease your responsibilities. On the other hand, I’d also assert that the answer is probably not to give up responsibilities entirely…I think you’ll have a more fulfilling life if you are striving to take care of yourself instead of just letting others handle that or neglecting yourself.)

    Now, I’m going to go spend some time with the man who helped me develop some of my ideas about priorities and responsibility. Cos the people I love most are the “thing” most wont to get me to take a break from happily working on music 🙂

    (And, just so you can share in the irony, the reason I chose this topic today instead of a couple others that are as loud in my brain, is that it wouldn’t take as much time to write cos I need to prioritise some other things over the band stuff today. Ha!)

  • Beyond Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

    Yeah, you read that right. I’m going to talk about bacon cinnamon rolls. But what’s really going on is beyond that.

    Before we go on, however, a quick note. From things some of you have said, there are at least a handful of folks reading all the words on here, getting all caught up on what I’ve been saying. If you’re one of those and you’ve already scoured the whole site, you might want to know that I’ve updated Where I Stand after an impactful conversation. (The old text is there, but with a strikethrough, so it’s easy to find if you’re so inclined.)

    Alrighty, bacon cinnamon rolls. Or, as noted, beyond bacon cinnamon rolls.

    Whilst I can be a tenacious girly (and I do doggedly pursue the things I love and desire), there’s this old pattern that plagued me in previous years. I’d enjoy something or want something, and then I’d have a nasty, demoralising experience, and I’d convince myself quite thoroughly that I’d never wanted to do or have it. I suspect a lot of this was tied in with the same ugly voices in my head that had me deep in self-hatred when I was 15.

    For instance, I used to quite like to bake and cook. And then I shared a kitchen with someone who was really quite good with the whole cooking thing. That alone wasn’t a problem for me. Hey, I got fed some tasty food and, initially, assumed I’d pick up some tricks. Instead, it was made clear that my skills were laughable and I wasn’t to be trusted in the kitchen. Ouch. (And, so we’re clear, it’s not that I made anything that didn’t taste good…I just didn’t make fancy things or chop vegetables with ease.)

    Fast forward, and there I was, content in knowing that I really didn’t care for the kitchen. I’d somehow forgotten the hours spent making all manner of goodness. And I’d have stayed there, except that I have the coolest best friend…Someone who just let me do what I did without criticising and who reminded me of the joy of cooking, as it were. Someone who gave me opportunities to experiment. Oh…that was probably the…what’s the opposite of straws breaking camels’ backs? The splint that mended the camel’s back? Heh.

    In the last handful of years, I’ve had the opportunity to discover, confront, and overcome a number of things like that. I love to break through, to reclaim, to blast ahead as a me who is…more a whole me. And, man, how can I not love the best friend and other good people in my life who allow me to be me? Seriously, we should all be surrounding ourselves with good people like that.

    Okay, bacon cinnamon rolls, since some of you actually came here to read about that. (Though I fear all you’ll learn is that I am not a seasoned food blogger…)

    See, last Sunday, out of the blue, I kept thinking “bacon cinnamon rolls.” I hadn’t read about anyone doing that at that point. It was just suddenly knew it must be a good thing. And, though I planned to do a quick look online to see what I could learn from others, I was going to make tastiness one way or the other. I’d already sorted out the cinnamon rolls. (Another story, but first I sorted out my mum’s cinnamon rolls, and then I sorted how to modify them to be made with sourdough…I’m an experimental girl!) I knew I could make bacon on the stove or in the oven. Yeah, I could do this.

    And I did. And I took pictures. Because I’m jealous of all the polished and fabulous food blogs. I won’t give a recipe here, cos it would vary based on your sourdough starter. And cos I did what my mum used to do and made some things up as I went. But I tried three different ways, and maybe it will inspire the bakers among you. Or at least inspire you to sort out what thing you used to want that you let yourself be pulled off track from and you’ll go for it again. Or at least make sure that the people you keep close now are the sort who lift you and let you be you instead of stealing joys.


    Mostly pictures from here, with some text and some reviews of the finished products. I reckon you could just use one of the methods below with your preferred cinnamon roll recipe (even if your “recipe” starts with buying tubes of pre-made cinnamon rolls you’ll bake yourself).

    sourdough starter
    It all starts with this goo in a jar.

    basic ingredients
    And then you mix in some basic ingredients…

    Bacon for variant #1.

    baking bacon
    Bacon for variant #2 and #3 getting crispier.
    (Yeah, I oven bake. With good reason. Please save arguments against that method for when I’m so famous that I’m bored with regular interview topics…haha)

    filling ingredients
    These would be the normal filling ingredients…

    bacon crumbles
    And these would be the hand-crumbled bacon bits to take these beyond normal!

    variant 1
    Variant #1, which was what I found online, just involves laying less crispy bacon on the filling and rolling it up so each roll has a piece of bacon. I was dubious…

    variant #2
    Forgot to snap variant #2 until I was rolling…You don’t unroll once you get going! This variant involved sprinkling a ridiculous quantity of bacon crumbles on after I sprinkled on the normal filling and before I rolled.

    variant #3
    This is the version I don’t think got a fair chance. So I’ll have to make bacon cinnamon rolls again just to try a different method for incorporating the bacon into the dough. Oh, the tragedy…(Variant #3 involved me mashing bacon crumbles into the dough itself before I put on the normal filling and rolled it.)

    Note: The bacon cinnamon roll version of “licking the bowl” is “eating unused bacon crumbles.” Yah!

    ready to rise
    And here they are, my various attempts, ready to rise before baking. (I made a few plain rolls as a “control” group. Because that makes it sound like science!)

    glaze ingredients
    Good thing I took a picture of frosting ingredients….

    finished glaze
    And of the finished frosting, because it makes up for the photos that should come next (at least in terms of quantity of photos…)

    There should be a picture of the pan coming out of the oven.
    And then there should be a picture of the pan, frosted but undefiled.
    And possibly a single shot of a yummy cinnamon roll fresh from that hot pan.

    But by the time they were done baking, the smell alone had removed all thought of what “should be.”
    The camera sat idly by as we frosted and consumed…And I came to my senses at this point. (Okay, the awesome conversation didn’t hurt in distracting me either.)

    the carnage
    Yeah, so there were only 6 of 16 rolls left at this point…Oops…

    And how did they do? (I mean, aside from clearly being so yummy that the pictures were neglected…)

    Fresh from the pan, here’s where people landed (at least those who thought to comment beyond grabbing another roll):

    Of the one with the crumbles rolled in with the cinnamon sugar (variant #2), Taster 1 said, “It tastes like Christmas morning.” In short, magically delicious (but not Lucky Charms, which would be what my Christmas mornings often tasted like…).

    Taster 2 had a bit more to say…Absolute winner for Taster 2 was the one with the crumbles in the dough. The other two were about equal. And we reckon the only way to have crispy bacon would be to add crumbles on top after baking. (Taster 2 was really hoping for crispy bacon…but did love these enough to consume multiple in one sitting and take some for later.)

    I liked them all, but agree with Taster 2 that the best flavour came from the one with the crumbles in the dough (funny, since you may recall it was the one I didn’t feel got a fair shake due to technique). Though I’d only done the version with the single slice rolled in because the other blogs all loved it and I thought it would be the worst, I think it was my second favourite. As with the others, it all had to do with flavour balance. Least favourite was crumbles in the filling. Still tasty, but found the bacon taste was inconsistent for some reason.

    Now, to tuck the leftovers away and see what one more mouth thinks of them in the morning!

    (I did try one of variant #1 when it wasn’t piping hot. Still tasty, but not as tasty. I suspect variant #3, the winning variant, would fare better, but I had already promised it to someone else so I can’t tell you. For now, I can simply recommend devouring them whilst warm…)

    Feedback from one last mouth. At this point, we’re dealing with reheated rolls. Taster 3 enjoyed them all, but found variant #2 the tastiest. So, the votes for best (from those who voted instead of just eating with gusto) are split between variant #2 and variant #3, but no one would turn down variant #1 if offered (and that’s the one that is easiest and found on multiple other blogs).

    You know what that means? Aside from the fact it means you’re probably good to make whichever variant you want, it also means you might need to make and try them all. You know, just to be sure…

    Someone who heard me drooling over the idea of bacon cinnamon rolls last Sunday suggested rendering the bacon grease and using it in place of butter in the rolls. I didn’t have time to play with that idea this time. I guess that means I “have” to make more bacon cinnamon rolls. Local friends, perhaps you will be subjected to the next batch of science. Nom nom nom!

  • Authentically Not Yours


    (Welcome back, lovelies. Here’s something I started on even before I had committed to a return to blogging. I’ve got a list of other topics, but feel free to ask if there’s something you want me to write about. And do visit the Varnish site for more band-centric news. Cheers!)

    I was talking recently with another artist who was hesitant to release her newest song. She knew that people would assume it was about a particular person, and that assumption could lead to significant repercussions. I empathised as we talked about her options for response.

    Option One: Deny all allegations. Personally, I’ve written some things that even those closest to me got wrong when they guessed the topic. (The subject of authorial/artistic intent is a chunky one, worthy of its own post, mind you. In this case, I’m talking about something more specific, involving an “audience” with inside information who still get it wrong.) It happens to the best of us, and I’m happy when I can deny allegations without having to lie. Honesty is ridiculously important to me, so getting to keep my integrity and avoid drama is awesome.

    Which led me to suggest to her (without asking whether or not the song actually was about the person in question), that there was another option to consider if the song was about them and she didn’t want to lie.

    Option Two: Explain an emotional dilemma of the artist. And, yes, I’m going to tell you what I mean, because I’ve been thinking about it loads since the conversation. (And, yes, I’m generalising. I know there are some artists who never have this dilemma. But I also know plenty who do. This is for us…)

    Imagine, in a moment of extreme emotion, you got a tattoo of a partner’s name…And then you sobered up or broke up, and there it was, still emblazoned on your flesh…

    I had a friend who said, “Men feel, women Feel, and artists FEEL.” Fortunately, I don’t FEEL non-stop. But when I create, it’s likely motivated by a FEELING beyond my usual sort of pleasant neutral state. And maybe it lasts for seconds or maybe for hours (or some long hurts stretch over days or more), but it doesn’t last forever. However, the lyrics that FEELING pushed out of me? Yeah, those last. And they get made into songs. And those songs get sung and recorded and played live with as much emotional authenticity as I can muster. A tattoo of that FEELING on display years after it’s over.

    Me, with Varnish in my mouth
    Oh, man, what are the FEELINGS pushing out of my mouth *this* time?

    Those FEELINGS, whilst very real in the moment (whether it was seconds or years), don’t likely represent where I am right now. Maybe the only time I think about the person or events that caused them is when I’m singing them. Maybe the songs have gained a more general emotional sense to me. To complicate it more, whether due to the intensity of the FEELING in that moment or the sense of poetic rightness using certain words, the lyrics might be hyperbolic when compared with reality. (Once, in the middle of a rotten relationship, a tuna can was left on the counter and stunk up the kitchen. Just a lousy tuna can, but the really awful “poem” I wrote about it in a heated moment would have made you think that said can was singlehandedly murdering kittens and crushing all my dreams.)

    Cat and tuna tin
    I shall avenge my brothers, and it shall be tasty!

    So whilst I sit here, not bearing any grudges or nursing any hurts…Whilst some situation I wrote about only felt like non-stop Hell in the moment I was writing (and, if that’s what I wrote, I promise the emotions you’re hearing are authentic)…You’re just now hearing it. You’re thinking you recognise the subject. You’re upset or concerned. You wonder if it was really such a horrible thing that happened to me or between us. You’re wondering if I really want to tie you to a chair and hurt you…And knowing you’ll think that might cause me, like this girl I was talking with, to hesitate. Do I dare risk it? And that, my lovelies, is a typical emotional dilemma for an artist.

    Fortunately for me, I know that it’s worth the risk. I know that I can keep my general integrity (if you do correctly guess the specific topic of a song) when I tell you there’s no need to be upset or worried. I know that I can both claim emotional integrity in my writing and tell you that I’m good now, that you and I (or whoever and I) are no longer an issue in my head and heart. I’m optimistic, grudge-free, doing okay. And that lets me put aside the fear and make (and perform) the song.

    I didn’t keep in touch, but I like to hope that the girl I was talking to released fear so she could release her song. Live on love, not fear, my pretties. And be gentle with people’s feelings, Feelings, and FEELINGS. Heh.


  • Clearing the Pipes


    And, I’m back! Here’s a quick catch up so that I can get to my longer, ponder-y post that’s the official “every second Saturday of the month” post in a couple days. (And, yes, that means at least a monthly post, but there might be others….like this one!) Mainly, this is to get you up-to-date on topics that have been mentioned here before, just in case you haven’t also been following things on Varnish pages and sites.

    • We released Each to Each (a sort of maxi-EP, if you will) 1 December, 2011. It’s got the 5 studio tracks, plus 3 live tracks (of lesser production quality) that I threw on. It’s only available as a digital download at this time. Much love and thanks to all involved in making it happen.
    • In order to put all his musical energy into Post Adolescence, Johnny stepped down as bassist. Yes, in fact, I am gutted. But we’re all still friends, so that’s a happy thing. Don’t want to think what life would be like without my best friend.
    • Mentioned in one of the first posts that my mum didn’t like our music. Somewhere about midway between that post and when she passed away, she told me (out of the blue) that she did, in fact, really like a couple of our songs. That was a seriously happy thing for me to hear.
    • I’m going to shift things here a bit so that the focus on this blog is more to do with me, including Varnish things specific to me. Not that I was posting loads of band business here, but I’ve got so many updates on the Varnish main site, the Facebook, and Twitter that you’ve got plenty of sources for Varnish information. And I hope you’ll join us one or more of those places, cos your support and love are huge to us.
    • I am still a big hippie, believing in love and light and the great worth of all people. Plus, organic food and treating animals well and taking care of the environment. And so forth. I’d apologise for not being rock ‘n’ roll enough, but I feel pretty good about it. Heh.

    And now, back to work. Cos taking care of my band is a full-time job!

    ps Here is a picture of my cat. Doesn’t his cuteness make you forget (or at least forgive me for) how long it’s been since I posted here?

    Does this NY Met bag make me look cultured?

  • about time i updated, non?

    well, looks like the best intentions i had got eaten by life. lots going on in my personal life and music, and suddenly i look and find this blog has been neglected. i am going to try to hold myself to at least a monthly post the last half the year. and you feel free to poke at me as it gets near the end of a month if i haven’t. (plus, i was reading some old entries one day whilst out and on someone else’s computer, and i must go back and fix my errors. put on my editor hat and clean things up. yeesh.)

    so, what have you missed?

    * we’ve played some shows, of course. because that’s what we do. our last was with five alarm fire, the new band of john maurer from social distortion. oh my stars. what a great night. and i feel very lucky that john and i clicked and spent most the night talking. he’s quite cool, and i urge you to check them out if five alarm fire play near you.

    * our johhny’s main band, post adolescence, had their cd release! i’m linking you to their myspace, urging you to buy a copy. if you buy it digitally, please consider using digstation, because the boys get 100% of that money. seriously, seriously proud of my best friend & bassist, and of the other boys in the band (also my friends). plus, it was produced by mark clem, whose name you might have seen mentioned as producing the varnish ep (also a friend of mine).

    * ah, the varnish ep…the silver lining of the fact that the cover art has proven ridiculously hard to make happen is that there’s still money in my savings (because it would, otherwise, have been spent to press the cd). and that’s good because it looks like my day job is about to cut my hours (maybe my job?) in the next week.

    * but that last part is only not awesome because i have bills. it *is* awesome because i have also started working on some side project stuff about which i’m very excited. it’s different from varnish, so it lets me stretch and explore. and it’s with two people i consider family (always a bonus…one thing i love about working with johnny in varnish is that he *is* my family). plus, i’m working hard to promote varnish more and really get moving. i’m going to add us to more sites. and i’ll be sincerely, deeply grateful for any efforts people make to help spread the word about us.

    * not yet sure how i’ll handle selling them if you don’t live near (probably paypal), but we got these cool, limited edition (made only 50, 4 of which go to the band) varnish dog tags. this is the mockup, not a photo of the actual thing, but it’s pretty close:

    varnish dog tag

    * there are also stickers now. if you head over to our facebook page and look at the pics from 2010-06-19, there’s a picture in there. i suspect those will make their way happily around…

    * lots in my life and in my head. and varnish are working on new material. just moving ahead as much as i can in all areas. blessed to be surrounded by good people, to have a stellar bff like johnny (and his cat), and to see myself at least clearly enough to like myself. something i wish i could help all of you do….see clearly that you are of worth….i truly believe we’d all get further in life and would treat ourselves and each other better if we knew we were of great worth. so i’m going to keep telling you that until you believe me. because i never lie….

    i appreciate the many lovely compliments that people have sent my way after shows and online. i feel truly blessed to be able to make music, and super flattered that you see my goodness. so far, i must confess, my favourite has been the following:

    “Ultra Goddess to the highest power. You know you wanna learn all you can about the divine feminine that *IS* Varnish’s Lead vocalist. You KNOW you wanna.”

    i hope you all get a chance to truly see the divine that’s in *you*
    i mean that.
    and i mean it about everyone. literally. even if you’re someone i don’t get on with or who doesn’t care for me. it doesn’t change the fact that you have that in you.

    be good to yourself.
    don’t settle.
    find beauty.
    be courageous.
    and poke me if i don’t update. because, like ms. o’connor once sang, i’m full of good intentions…


  • just so you know it’s still alive

    oh my stars. it’s been two and a half months since i posted, hasn’t it?
    unless all the registered users are desperate spam-bots, there are actually some of you out there already hoping for posts.
    so here’s a quick one, full of little random bullet points (close friends are not surprised at that) to let you know this is still a living blog. it just needs a little cpr. heh.

    * cd progress: as you know, the songs are done and have been ready and mastered for months. have now had the requisite conversation with the cd pressing folks. am all ready…except for the cd art. still. but i have decided to find a way to get cd art i’m happy with (i already know what it looks like, but just need to have it created) asap. in spite of the unchanged status of the obstacles in the way. and i’m a determined girly. yah!

    * my new motto (which i came up with on my very own — go me! — and hope the band will also take as a motto) is “make music, not excuses.” feel free to use it. just remember where it came from and buy the t-shirts when i make them. hehehe

    * why is my most spammed post on here the one called “best friend (lyrics hint)”? seriously. i get a few huge spam “comments” on it daily. and only infrequently on a few others…and this is why i don’t talk about what lyrics mean. it must be a sign. haha!

    * speaking of best friend….in this case, my actual best friend (who is not the topic of that song, in case you missed the post), who is also my bassist…i’m just pleased as punch that his main band (post adolescence) have finished recording their album and will be releasing it in the next couple months. and it’s amazing stuff (thanks to the fact they started with hot material, and then used the same killer producer we used). you know i’ll be saying more here when it’s out and ready for you to consume.

    * as far as playing live goes…we’ve managed one a month for february and march, will have two this month (one tomorrow, in case you’re in the area, at the blue moon), and have one lined up for may. already working on june and months beyond. a number of factors (local “blackout” periods where venues don’t want you to play within 2 weeks of playing for them, other bands our folks are in, and so forth) make it unlikely we’ll regularly do more than one a month for a while. but you better believe we’ll fit in as much as we can.

    * we’re now at a point where art for gig posters and pictures of the band are a good thing. if you’ve got something you want to share or have us consider, drop me a line. we’re a bit tight on the money just now, but we’d at least want to hang on to things for a future where we can set you up. (that said, i’m really excited for the poster my friend nathan made that we’ll be using for our may show. it’s hot!)

    * have started a song that has the word “varnish” in it a few times. i write like mad, and i clearly like “varnish,” so it’s odd that this is the first time i can recall it coming up. suddenly, i’m wondering if it comes off as silly to use that word multiple times in a song given that it’s the band name. not my deepest pondering yet. heh. just one more reason to have another project someday, so i can use all the lyrics i write, whether or not i think they are right for varnish.

    okay, that ought to make you feel more confident in the lifespan of this little blog. i promise i have a list of topics to address. and i continue to be open to your suggestions. i just have to scrape out a little more time now that life has gotten a bit more on the full side. maybe next time i’ll talk about chilblains, seasonal allergies, and my new motto. (now i’ve put that in my mind, increasing the chances of posting again soon. see how that works?)

    stay safe. keep believing. as bjork would say, “all is full of love.”


  • pondering: view from the outside


    pondering: view from the outside

    i’ve been thinking a lot lately (and have had a few conversations) about perspective, specifically focused on ways in which we are blind to things and on how others see us. because the latter of those topics occasionally turns to talking about what it will be like when i achieve my rockstar dreams, because i’m hoping to post here a couple times a month instead of sporadically, and because this is a more interesting topic in my head right now than the post i was considering on playlists….welcome to post two of january 2010.

    ah, our own blindness. the fact is, none of us see anything with complete clarity. our perspectives are influenced by what we want to see, by what we don’t want to see, by what has happened in our past, by what others say about a thing (either because we want to accept their words or because we are reacting against those words), and so forth. and that’s in addition to things like being unable to actually be in another person’s head or heart, unable to feel what their own history and circumstances are doing to change their perspective. we are all blind in spots. as you might imagine, because i am a big fan of truth and clarity, i hate that. i really do work to see clearly. and even when i don’t like what i see, i’m grateful for things that help that.

    admittedly, i am also wildly frustrated by those who opt for blindness. i understand why people do it. i really do. it can be easier, it can make life more exciting (for instance, when you let yourself get caught up in the drama of a thing instead of looking at the calmer truth or the “run away” truth), it can let you not take actions you dread, it can allow you to fit in more easily with others, and so forth. so i’m not without compassion. but, wow, my love of truth and my desire to see are so great that i cannot understand on more than a basic, intellectual level. a conversation about this prompted me to post on my twitter the query: “do you want to see? are you willing to see, even if it’s not all pleasant? and, if not, why not?” because i really wonder…

    my aversion to blindness also makes me really appreciate the good people in my life. i try to surround myself with people who won’t let me get away with things or stay blind. i have an amazing best friend who calls me on it if he perceives i’m out of line or not seeing correctly. i have great kith who will tell me if i’ve said something stupid. i have kin who will question my perspective if they think i’m off. i have friends who will laughingly tell me when they think i’m not seeing clearly. i’ve figured out who the “yes men” are, who the people are that are just trying not to cause waves or who are trying to curry favour by just being complimentary. i understand why people do that, even if it goes against my nature, so i can care for them…but it doesn’t mean i want them close or i trust them for gaining perspective. (of course, part of the magic of the good people in my life is they manage to be assertive without coming across as hurtful or jerks. i scored!)

    the other side of this whole pondering is how others see us. people who’ve known us a long time have their perspectives of us influenced by that history. this can be good or bad. i know one bump in the road as i’ve tried to become a better person is running up against someone’s perspective that’s based on a less “refined” version of me. they expect of me and treat me as that old version. on the other hand, sometimes those people are the ones who can clearly see how far i’ve come and really celebrate it with me. good and bad. my personal “action item” here is to try to be more mindful of how people have changed, rather than focused on whom they were.

    there are also those whose perspectives are influenced by the fact that they know or focus on only one area of your life. they read all they see of you through that little slice. that always makes me feel like i’m being smashed down from a multi-faceted person into one little fragment. i think it also leads to misunderstanding and hurt that need not happen. action item? remember that, for most every life, i don’t see all the facets. i’ve been doing better at this, which has helped me not take many things personally and helped me have more compassion.

    there are those whose perspectives are influenced by not liking you. it’s a psychological fact that, when you don’t like someone, your brain actually constantly looks for proof that they’re bad. it’s your brain’s way of trying to make you feel okay about not liking them. crazy, non? so, they don’t like you. which means everything is seen through a sort of twisted view and with a desire to see what’s wrong with you. ouch. action item? accept that not everyone will like me and don’t build my perspective of self on the perspectives of people who don’t like me. trust that those i love will both give me more credit than those dislikers when they hear the negative side of stories about me and give me honest input if i am out of line. otherwise, let it go. i’ve become a fan of letting things go. and, of course, try to be aware of areas in which my perspective is influenced by dislike so i can fight that.

    (side note: one thing that makes me sad, in my life and others’ lives, about perspectives based on not liking is that you miss goodness. for instance, i have had people i disliked whose acts of kindness were cast in negative light by my own warped perspective until years later. i have watched my own kind actions treated that way by those who didn’t like me. ouch. so i’ve been consciously trying to learn the fine line between knowing when something is a genuine act of kindness and when there are ulterior motives. plus, there’s the nasty inclination to disregard the potential and good in those we dislike. i don’t have to love those who aren’t good to me, but i feel like we do an injustice when we relegate them to a realm of worthlessness, lack of talent, etc just because of that.)

    when this conversation turns to “plus, someday when you’re famous…” aspects, a few more things pop up. like the fact that many people seem to have a sort of delight in watching those with any fame get torn down. my action item? never claim i’m perfect or try to come off as perfect. because, you know, nobody is perfect. and not claiming perfection ought to make it easier to laugh it off when someone hops on a fan forum and trumpets my flaws.

    or the fact that nobody is 100% photogenic. even the people i know who do modelling or photography will tell you it takes loads of shots to get a good one. and there is always going to be some picture of you eating or mid-movement with your eyes half closed and your mouth looking stupid or of you slouching or something. even without fame, facebook now means there are pictures of you out there right now that your friends took and tagged. you look like a dork, no matter how hot you are, and everyone authorised to view your photos can see it. and i’ve seen enough to know that those who want to see you in an unattractive light will do it even if the picture is good, whilst those who want to see you as attractive will be charmed by your imperfect pictures. action item? accept and let go. which i’m sure i’ll have to chant over and over when the enquirer has the picture of me slouching and looking tired with runny makeup after a show. hehehe.

    in the end, my approach is to try to be mindful of what’s affecting my perspective and how i might be blind, to try to react first with compassion so that maybe i can see others more clearly, and to just be my best self as much as i can so that people seeing me from outside are at least building their perspectives on that instead of a lesser me. also, if i try to live with truth and positivity, i honestly believe that can help others see clearly. plus, lots of just letting go. some people will never like me, and that’s okay. some people will never see me clearly, and that’s okay. there are some things i won’t see clearly until i’m dead and outside it all, and that’s frustrating but okay.

    ending with a current favourite quote on truth (thanks, nicole!) and hopes that you’ll see more clearly, that you’ll have the courage to act when that sight shows you ways to make life better, that you’ll surround yourself with those who can help you with this.

    “truth is like the sun. you can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.” ~elvis presley


  • what was, what will be

    i may be reading amanda palmer’s blog too much, as i’m feeling like sharing a lot. i think this is a naturally thoughtful time of year for many people. we look back on what was, we contemplate what we hope will be. and that’s where i am right now.

    what a year. good and bad. i think i learned a lot. i think i changed a lot in positive ways. though i look at that change as having brought out facets of me that were always there, that i always wanted to have be my main facets. i made good music. i learned to have love and compassion for even those who are doing me the most hurt. i had priceless moments with my best friend, my family (chosen and biological), and my friends. i saw miracles. i healed relationships i didn’t know were in need. i ate great food. i grieved with loved ones in their hard times, and celebrated in their good times. i slept enough. i got a better grasp on my own needs. i did better at keeping hours that take advantage of my peak creative energy times. i played games (on the computer and on boards, never with heads or hearts). i wrote. i worried. some friends moved far away, and that had some good and some bad. others moved closer, which has been all good so far. it was a full year, not wasted.

    over the last 3 years, i averaged writing lyrics for 3.5 songs per month.

    to go along with the last note on 2009, i am pleased to see that jason has started the year with more music falling out of his fingers. this is good, as i need my lyric writing to cease to so ridiculously outpace the instrumentals.

    when it comes to looking ahead, i don’t believe in new year’s resolution. i do believe in setting goals. somewhere in the switch between those two concepts lies action. admittedly, the last many years, my goals were all swiftly made impossible or unnecessary by life throwing me changes in the first few months of the year. if that’s what’s in store for this year, i’m keeping my mind full of ways that that could happen and be positive.

    i’m not really done pondering goals yet. because a goal isn’t really set, for me, until i have also laid out a tenable course of action for achieving it. i do know that i am going to work toward monthly shows, getting our cd pressed and into “the right hands,” and making sure that the necessities of bills don’t overwhelm my efforts to move ahead with music. like i said, still pondering. i’m sure there are more things to be added, and not all about music. though they will all be things that go toward the tiny list i just wrote in a notebook of what matters, really, in my life.

    however, there is one thing i am clear on. and i’m saying it here because i feel like it’s important enough that i need to make it a matter of public record. as clear as if i heard the voice of God say, “hey, amber, do this.” and who am i to argue with that?

    over the last while, i have become, i think, a better person. and now it’s time for me to be mindfully engaged in moving ahead with some of that. i talked in a previous post about hope. and i hope those who have read this blog and my other blog have seen that i’m more positively-focused. so, this year, i have an official approach, theme, intent with which i am attacking the road ahead.

    the fact is that i am a person full of hope. and, it appears, a positive person. i have been blessed to go beyond believing certain things to truly knowing them. so i need to act on all that. what do i know?

    i know that the things i want most in life can be mine.

    i know that everyone is of equal worth. it doesn’t mean i like everyone. it doesn’t mean we all have the same abilities, talents, or opportunities. but we are all of equal worth. and the amount of that worth is great. it is. and we all have great potential.

    i know that even the hardest moments can deliver silver linings, hope, reasons to keep pushing ahead. that life can truly be good for anyone, just not in the same ways necessarily as they are for others.

    i know that even small actions have the potential to do great good or ill, and that we deny ourselves happiness and we deny our own potential when we choose actions that we know are hurtful, manipulative, or untrue.

    i know that truth really can set people free. even if it’s hard.

    i know that not every easy, fun, or nice thing is right for us. and that sometimes the hardest steps or the steps we least expected we would take are the ones that lead us to better futures.

    so, this year, without becoming someone who writes crap lyrics and forgets how to rock, i have a new approach to life. or, rather, i am mindfully participating in it.

    it is my intent to help others, including you (yes, you), see their worth. their potential. and not settle for less than they deserve. it is my intent to bring hope and positivity to everyone, even those who hurt me most or stand in the way of what i most want. it doesn’t mean i’ll give up on what i want, but i will continue (because, fortunately, this has already been my intent) to want and, where possible, strive for what i want, without wishing harm on others. without acting with intent to harm. it is my intent to act in ways that are honest, straight-forward, and for good. (again, that’s always been my intent, but i’m recommitting to that and doing so with more of an understanding of how little things can do so much good or so much harm.)

    a tall order, to be sure.
    but i am sincere. i am determined.

    in fact, as i heard this call strongly and deeply today, it included specifically a desire to bring hope to those doing me the most hurt. i have no idea how to do that, but it’s a desire that is truly burning in me.

    it doesn’t mean i’m going to be everyone’s friend. (though i’m happy to say that i stopped hating years ago and that i never act with intent to be an enemy.)
    it doesn’t mean i’m going to be a fool and forget to be careful, or let anyone get away with hurting my loved ones or be okay with you hurting each other.
    it doesn’t mean i won’t write songs that let me get out the inevitable hurts, disappointment, and such that life brings.
    it doesn’t mean i’ll succeed every moment.

    but there it is.

    a number of people called me “star” as a teenager.
    and some folks have taken that up again the last few years.
    and, bless my cheesy little heart, but i really do hope i can be a light in the dark.
    to shine through the hurt, the lies you tell yourself, the lies others tell you, the manipulations, the doubts, the many things that cloud your sight.
    that cause you to settle.
    that cause you to allow others to treat you in ways other than you deserve.
    the fears that hold you back from letting go, from pursuing, from holding on.

    i wish i could blame this entry on drink, as i fear i’ve exposed quite a lot of myself. and maybe ruined my hardcase rockstar image. but i’m sober as can be. and now, we see if i can manage to live up to my intentions this year.

    either way, i hope you know i truly mean it.
    you, specifically you, are valuable.
    full of potential and worth.
    and i truly hope you can make the choices that let you access your best self and have your best possible life.

    happy new year, lovelies.

    love to you via my web cam in the last minutes of the first day of 2010