The Bluegrass Project

Tuesday, September 10

He had barely climbed out of the van last Wednesday morning when Tommy Taylor said to me, “I brought some pictures of your grandpa.” And only moments later I found myself flipping through a little photo book of places my grandpa had played music in his later years, upright bass in hand. It was the perfect start to the day.

Earlier this year, my cousin Teresa passed away after battling cancer for the past two decades. It meant a trip down to Grundy where my grandpa (my dad’s dad), grew up in a 2 bedroom house with his 7 brothers and sisters. Teresa was a beautiful and gentle soul and also about 50% of the reason we would visit Southwest Virginia every year or so. I grieved her passing, but also the loss of yet one more connection to the family history. I drove down twice last spring, once for the funeral and then to go back with my dad a few weeks later (he was on a cruise when the funeral was held). That second trip, as we sat on my Great Uncle Bob’s porch, I looked next door to the original family house and thought, “I have to capture this somehow.” And the spark of a dream began to record music from my great grandmother’s front porch, with the guys that used to play bluegrass with my grandpa.

And so we did!!!!! After a few months of planning and coordinating, last week, four “well-seasoned” bluegrass players drove down to Dry Fork Rd to join me for a day of playing music and making memories. It was a combination of my original songs, a cover of the Bluegrass song Jesse James, and several hymns thrown into the mix. We had Quay White on the upright bass (which was my grandpa’s!), Mike Hankins on dobro, Billy Brewster on banjo, and Tommy Taylor on harmonica. My heart is all pitter patter for the alliteration on those last two names alone!

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This project, which came together so beautifully, also kept me on my worrisome toes. I didn’t even FIND MY OUTFITS to wear until I was driving toward Grundy….stopping at every Old Navy and Target I could find. At the last Target I went to, I found a sleeveless denim dress (in the clearance section) AND at the last Old Navy, I found a mustard dress with a tiny print of white flowers….whew! I had also bought plenty of other dresses that were all returned on the drive home. Grundy is the kind of place that if you don’t show up with it….and you can’t buy it at walmart…..well, you just won’t have it. I erred on the side of caution and took way more than I needed.

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I hired a local photographer….eek! It’s the first time I’ve really worked with someone without previously having known them in some capacity. Emily Rogers ended up being such a delight to work with…. she and her husband run the youth group at their church, she has a cut flower business alongside her photography…. we talked and laughed a lot during our couple of hours together.

My good friend, Brian Rose (of Movoly Productions), drove down to video and capture the audio for us. We rented a little field recorder with 8 inputs and Brian brought his camera equipment and microphones. He also brought his drone and having just peeked at some of the footage, I am so very excited at what we will be sharing soon!

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There were a few moments throughout the day that I took a deep breath and thought about where we were. On the porch where my grandpa and his siblings learned to play music. Where my great grandma could throw a rock and hit a dog or kid on the other side of the road. Where stories were told and retold and songs were sung in the evening air. Where my stubborn family lived off the land through the great depression, where young men were sent off to war and somehow made it back home. It’s all held there, the memories, the untold stories, the dreams and heart ache. The loss of babies, the ruins of marriages, the celebration of new babies. In the latter years, the reunions of grandbabies and great grandbabies. And I stood there, for one afternoon, with men I hardly know but feel instantly at home with…. and made new music. I wonder the last time music shook those floorboards and echoed across the holler could have been. I mean, I know now.

Cause we did it. :)

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Details about release and all that stuff is COMING SOON….now the real work begins.

I'm On Patreon!

Wednesday, April 10th 2019

I have a bit of an announcement to share. 

I have started a patreon page. 

Gulp.

Patreon is an online platform that allows creators to continue to create with the help of their fans/friends/family who make monthly pledges. These awesome people are called “patrons”. The creators then in turn, offer up perks and rewards to their patrons to shower them in love and gratitude.

If I'm really honest, this feels a little scary to throw out into the universe. But if I have learned anything over the last seven years of learning to create and write, it’s that I can trust this community that has formed around the music and story. Every house concert leaves me in awe that a host would open up their home and invite their friends over and allow me the opportunity to share in their lives….

SO HERE WE GO! My first house concert happened because I was trying to find a way to play my songs for friends to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Now my dear friends, you all live spread across the country and I can’t gather you all in one space. Which gives us the magic of the internet!

This is the place. I’m sharing the stuff I’m writing, the stories that come my way, and everything in between. I’ve got some BIG dreams to include a new album, more touring, and maybe even start writing some of these stories down….could we write a book?? The sky is our limit!

Lessons in Whole 30

December 30, 2016

Over the last couple of years, I have struggled with migraines and vertigo. So fun. It seemed to worsen when I was traveling- a combination of stress, eating junk, and adapting to a constant ebb and flow of change. I remember sitting in the doctors office with the options to either go on a daily medication or just live with these symptoms. Neither one felt right. Having heard from a few friends about the Whole 30 diet, I decided to use it as an elimination diet. A set of rules that cut out all processed junk, sugar, bread, grains….

Basically you eat meat, veggies, nuts and some fruit.

Here’s what I learned..

1. The crockpot is your best friend…. although the day I cooked my first chicken and I held it in my hands and the full weight of that little dead and plucked body rested on me, I almost became a vegetarian. Then I thanked the chicken for its sacrifice and threw it in the crockpot. Chicken in the crockpot is pretty much the only thing I make for company these days.

2. Melon is not spaghetti squash and therefore should not be cooked in the microwave. Yep, I did that. Mostly because it was a yellow squash shape and was not labelled in English (got it from one of those delivered CSAs) and so I made an assumption and ten minutes later had very hot, mushy melon. I did not eat it.

3. If you don’t set a timer, you won’t remember the carrots and they will roast for 2 hours and be little charred carrots.

4. Hidden gem of a roasted veggie: radishes. Didn’t even know it was a thing until I ended up with a bag of radishes and had to find something to do with them. Chopped in half and roasted they are amazing!

I learned a lot through doing Whole30….mostly that the build up of processed food almost always leads me to migraine trouble. I have learned to avoid foods that have dextrose and maltodextrin listed. Whether it is those specific foods or an ingredient that goes along with those…. WHO CAN REALLY KNOW? I do know that Whole30 even done for a week or so provides a reset. And with all that food prep, I had a great time watching all seasons of Mad Men and White Collar over the last month. :)

Johnson Space Center

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Let's just say for the record that I hope I never have to leave planet Earth. Ever. I don't even really like getting in planes that somehow magically leave the ground and hurtle us through the air. And don't even get me started on elevators.... But I am fascinated by all things space travel. And I can remember watching Apollo 13 for the first time, as Tom Hanks and whoever the other two actors were, fought to get back to Earth with limited resources and things going wrong around every corner. The famous line, "Houston, we have a problem." is ingrained in the ethos of my movie trivia memory.

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So when we drove through Houston, we stopped by the Johnson Space Center. We caught one of the last trams of the day (and ended up in row 13!!!) that takes you all over the grounds, walks you into several buildings (like where the astronauts train on replica space equipment and they are building robots....isn't this how those sci fi robot takeover movies start?), and gives a ton of information on NASA's past and what the future of space travel holds... Mars by 2035????

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I was most excited to see the original mission control center from the 1960's. When mission control was eventually moved downstairs, all the original equipment was found and placed back within the room, preserving a unique perspective on time and technology. There are few times where life offers us a chance to "time travel" and staring into those 1960's monitors.....whew. They didn't have computers or even the use of electronic calculators and we launched people off of our safe, gravity sourced for a reason planet into space!!

 

The tour lasted about an hour and a half leaving us a brief 20 minutes to look around the rest of the museum. There were a ton of kid friendly activities including an Angry Birds Outer Space area, but we made sure to tour the replica plane and space shuttle located outside. Mad props to the pilots confident enough to fly this thing!!

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And of course, we made time to touch a piece of the moon. Very, very smooth. Since ya know, thousands of other people have touched it before us. We picked up postcards just as the museum was closing and made our way out of town to sleep in San Antonio and make a fresh start at the Alamo!!

A Tucson Welcome

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"If you hear something on the roof, it's most likely the bobcat that lives next door," Dottie said during a conversation explaining the various wildlife that lived around the house, "It's pretty wild out here." When the neighbors let me into the house on Saturday afternoon, they advised me to use the back entrance due to the javelina (rodents that look like pigs) that often roam the front yard.

And so I find myself in a little desert sanctuary in the form of my friend Dottie's house, with incredible views of the mountains and large front windows that frame 12 ft tall cactus plants and wandering quail, birds, rabbits, and the occasional chipmunk. We're still in the town of Tucson, but conveniently tucked up on a hill next to a riverbed that has kept this neighborhood on the wild side. I adore it.

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My last trip to Tucson happened so incredibly fast, five days of jam packed exposure to border issues. We sat in courtroomsa medical examiner's office,and met with the sheriff's department. We met Francisco and Rosa who were living in Sanctuary in different churches, and drove down to Nogales to see the border. We watched documentaries and took a trip with Humane Borders to refill water stations in the desert. And we shared music with Pastors, joined in worship with St Francis in the Foothills UMC, and met Pablo, a local singer-songwriter...we were fully immersed.

 

But this trip is different. There's more time to pause, be still and fully see the beauty of the desert. As I jumped in the pool last night and watched the sun set over the distant mountains, I felt a peace about the schedule of this week, being a bit slower and focused on reconnecting with the relationships made two years ago.

I'm not sure how blogging this week will go, there's still adventures to share from last week's road trip across the country, and upcoming posts may come a bit out of order. Today is all about prepping to spend the day tomorrow out in the desert with the Samaritans. Still need to get a hat! Tomorrow's trip will be focused on placing crosses out where people have died. I'm hoping to get some footage to use with Desert Bones (main goal of this week!). Wednesday afternoon I'll head down to Nogales to spend the night with Maritza and her family and to cross the border into Nogales Sonora. And then Friday night I'll be playing a concert with St Francis in the Foothills UMC... a beautiful chance to combine everything God has been doing these past couple of years!

Then mom flies in on Saturday and we head for the Grand Canyon on our way to Colorado Springs to play a house concert before heading back to my sweet friends in Indiana for a few days.... Tucson or Bust continues on!!!

Debauchery in New Orleans

New Orleans. The place where debauchery comes out to play. Or at least that's the adjective three people used within a 24 hour period of time when I mentioned we were headed there. But let's face it, it's a fun word to say. Unlike the word moist...no one likes moist. This trip is two parts get me to Arizona and one part check off Dad's bucket list. Today's item: take a picture on Bourbon Street. So from Alabama we drove down through Mississippi and into Louisiana. My friend Joe recommended that we stop by the Cafe du Monde for a beignet and a coffee which despite not knowing what a beignet is, sounded amazing and cultured and all things I long to be.

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And come to find out a beignet is: FUNNEL CAKE DISGUISED AS A DOUGHNUT!!!! It's a fried doughnut covered in a thick layer of powered sugar. And that my friends is a life changer. Throw in some cafe au lait, or as my dad ordered "coffee with cream" (#facepalm #dadgoals), and you have a recipe of delicious. Add in the New Orleans humidity and the crazy hodgepodge of people....and there are no more words.

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So coffee was the first stop, then we headed to explore Bourbon Street and made sure to take Dad's picture by the street sign:

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Then we wandered between shops, art galleries, and taking in the eclectic and overstimulating sights and sounds of New Orleans. In every direction was a new character, a bar with live music...it was stimulation overload and we were only there in the late afternoon!! At one point, I heard a clunk behind me and looked down to find a strand of purple beads on the ground. I considered it my gift from New Orleans and slipped them on...no debauchery necessary this trip!

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We spent some time walking along the riverfront watching the various boats, people, streetcars, and trains pass by. We found the Monument to the Immigrant in honor of all those who came through New Orleans. Turns out, my Great Aunt Marion's family came through New Orleans. It was a reminder that each of us has an immigrant story....and there is so much more to mine than I even know.

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We headed out of town as the sun set beautifully over the buildings...on to Houston for some space and time travel…

When My Dad Wore His House Slippers On the Road

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The hardest part of any long cross country trip I take on is the physical act of leaving.... packing everything in the car, finishing up last minute to dos, calming a super anxious cat who this time literally threw up on the clean sheets as I was changing them.....it all becomes a bit much. But then we're on the road and hurtling ourselves into the journey and slowly I breathe and relax and settle in for the drive.... I love it ever so much.

Our first goal was to get out of Virginia....we made it within 10 miles of the Tennessee state line. :o) And about 45 minutes before we stopped for the night, Dad was gassing up the car when the automatic shut off valve on the pump failed and gas came spilling out of the car and all. over. his. shoes. The guy a pump over saw it happen and yelled in support as Dad yanked the nozzle out to shut the gas off. The smell was overpowering as we drove off and we tried various combinations of open windows as we drove to help alleviate the fumes.

The next morning: to allow his shoes more time to air out, Dad slipped into his alternate footwear: his house slippers. And that my friends is when he made the brilliant discovery that his slippers were indeed very comfy to travel in.... even commenting that he may make it a regular habit to drive in them. #dadgoals

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Monday as we drove through Tennessee, Dad requested that we take a quick detour to see just how much Gatlinburg has built up since his honeymoon 40 years ago. Six hours later we were back on the road. :o) We forgot to factor in Columbus Day traffic, but the slow movement allowed us to really take in and appreciate the scenery of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. There is literally half a titanic by the side of the road. Ridiculous, but my heart will go on.....

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We made it down to Birmingham to crash for the night already scheming for a New Orleans adventure the next day.....where I only got one string of beads....

Here We Go Again!

Back in May, I found myself in Portland, OR in the middle of my Portland or Bust House Concert Tour. I ran into my old friend Dottie (by "ran into" she sat in the seat directly in front of me in a large conference hall of thousands), and a dream began to take root that I could go back to Arizona, release "Desert Bones" into the great wilds of the desert, and wander across the country once more. Then I came home, caught up on sleep, jumped back into Restoration and....yeah. A couple of weeks ago at the Global Leadership Summit, T.D. Jakes said, "Your dreams should be bigger than what you yourself can do."..... His words resonated deeply, more deeply than I care to admit, because the truth is I am often overwhelmed with what God might call me into that requires more than what I myself can do. So much of what comes next is going to take other people....PEOPLE I HAVEN'T EVEN MET YET to come alongside and be part of the story. It makes me feel nervous, slightly nauseous, at moments terrified, and absolutely excited that I might be part of something bigger than I can imagine.

 

So this post is a bit of a declaration. Just like two years ago when I wrote this blog post When You Have More Questions Than Answers. I'm not sure what's coming next or how it is going to look. Which feels amazingly similar to that previous trip across the country...But I do know this: I am going to record Desert Bones, I am going to shoot video in the desert, I am going to reconnect with friends I met two years ago and make new ones, and I am going to leave myself open to where the Spirit is leading. We'll give this trip some new epic name, write it on the back of the car, and screen print snazzy new t-shirts. I'll load up my car to drive several thousand miles and my dad and I will take on the entire. state. of Texas (driving that is). And hopefully I'll find some living rooms to play in along the way.

I'm looking at leaving VA somewhere around Oct 9/10 and driving down through Tennessee, hitting Arkansas and Oklahoma before we drive across Texas. I'd like to see a bit of El Paso, expand my border experience beyond just Arizona and San Diego....Then hit Arizona for a week or so from Oct 16th-23rd and then begin the drive home up through Colorado, across Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, stopping in Indiana (can't skip you all!) and then finally getting back to VA around Halloween. If you are somewhere along the route or know someone who might be interested in hosting a house concert or have a guest room that a couple of weary travelers could crash in, let's talk.

Thanks for being along for the ride friends. Hope to see you on the road!