Tag Archives: Music

The Most Interesting Man I Know (Besides My Dad)

You never know who you might be sitting next to in an English class in High School.

I have a friend who tells stories. That’s not all he does, but his story telling is what has him on my mind this month. As you know, I have been writing and talking a LOT about telling the truth. Not just telling the truth about who left the apartment building door ajar, but telling YOUR truth. Your stories. Your experiences.

Matt Holdaway has always marched to the beat of his own drum. I can still see him loping down the halls of our high school in Rexburg, Idaho, dressed in black. He wore black before black was cool. He was a “New Waver” in a town of cowboys. He was cheerful in a school full of overly serious teens. His easy laugh, which borders on a giggle, was infectious.

Fast forward 20 years and it is Matt Holdaway who makes the greatest effort to keep all us misfit toys from Rexburg together. He flies through Salt Lake on his way to visit his dad and makes sure we all get together. I know he does the same once he reaches that Idaho burg of frozen windswept wasteland.

Matt holds a special place in my teenage heart. He took a picture of me playing the flute in Temple Square, 1990, which, to this day, I believe is the prettiest photo ever taken of me. It captures exactly who I was and how I felt — innocent and sad. He is also one of the few friends I have who ever got to meet my Grandmother Bates. I love her so much, for some reason its comforting he met her.

After high school, most of us misfits from Idaho relocated to the “big city,” AKA, Salt Lake City. Matt started a magazine. It was really more of a booklet of photocopies stapled together. He would print stories, artwork, songs and more that his friends had created. He printed a couple of my songs. The rags were called, “A Multitude of Voices.” As far as I know, he still produces them.

He would also organize huge events he called “A Night of Voices.” The lineup for the evenings would include everything from pantomime to poetry. Looking back, it was a hell of thing to pull off for a kid from Rexburg, newly transplanted in Salt Lake. He was my artistic conscience a lot of the time. I know I was more aware of being truthful in my songwriting when I knew he’d be listening.

Eventually Matt moved to the Bay Area. We haven’t been the kind of friends who check in on each other weekly, monthly or even yearly, but we are true friends. And here is why he is the Most Interesting Man I Know:

  1. Matt tells stories. He doesn’t simply relate an anecdote. He spins a good yarn. When Matt tells a story, everyone within earshot is caught up in it. He is HILARIOUS.
  2. Matt loves people. He loves to find interesting people and introduce them to each other. He has found the ultimate vehicle for this with his weekly radio show, “Radio Voices” which is broadcasted at 104.1 fm on Sundays from 2pm to 4pm in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. You can also tune in via the web.
  3. Matt lives and works in a digital world, but his brain is analog. To that end, his life is indexed and annotated manually. He has the most elaborate, yet simple, method of keeping track of his wild machinations. I fear revealing the specifics of his secret will leave him vulnerable to attack, though, so I will refrain.
  4. Matt is a super hero. (Hence my reticence to divulge his method of organization) He is Storm Shadow of the California Cobras. Watch closely, or you’ll miss him. That’s how ninja-like he is:
  5. Matt does all this AND holds down a real-life, actual, career-type, job-job.
  6. Matt has invented his own genre of music. It’s called “Story Rock.” And it rules. His band is called, Matt Holdaway’s Army. You can download some of his stuff through iTunes. You can find him on Rhapsody. And on ReverbNation. And seriously, how much does Matt kick ass?:

So, yeah, Matt’s pretty f***ing cool. But what do I REALLY love about Matt? What is the thing that makes him the Most Interesting Man I Know? He tells the truth. Always. To everyone. He’s not afraid of what the truth will do to anyone. And he does it with a pure heart. Maybe mischievous. Sometimes salacious. but never malicious.

I have been preoccupied, as of late, with what to do next. This 101 day project is coming to a close, for better or for worse, in just 13 days. (Look for big updates!) With all I’ve been ruminating on truth, excess, healthy habits and letting go, I’ve been at a loss as to which of my interests will bare the closest scrutiny. What “voice” of mine is the loudest?  As of today, I have finally decided.

At the end of this 101 day project I will close this site and leave it as a standalone reminder of a journey I took to remember who I really was. The blog I will begin, on the first day of spring, will be about The Truth. I will tell my truth. I will ask others to tell theirs. I will talk about what “truth” means. I hope to discuss with everyone the truth about control, habits, possessions and love. I hope this can be done largely through stories. I’m going to need help, but I’m excited.

So THANK YOU, Matt Holdaway, for being such a good friend, for always telling the truth and for helping me find the next step on my path. You rule. Gooooooooooooo, Bobcats!

Still want more? Subscribe to Matt’s YouTube Channel.

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Rage and the Open Mic (and thanks for the music lessons, Mom!)

James and Me at 5 Monkeys

James and Me at 5 Monkeys Open Mic Last Sunday

I thought I knew what rage was. I have felt it before, or so I thought.

But I was wrong.

It started at the grocery store on Sunday. I noticed it as I struggled with the cart. It was pulling to one side as I rounded a corner and I jerked it back so hard I knocked 6 or 8 cans of whatever off the shelf next to me. I continued to shop.

I am aware that I have a lot of unresolved anger. When I started this 101 day project, I honestly thought I didn’t anymore. But this great effort has brought a lot of stuff to the surface I had pushed away. Anger about a life that led me, instead of I it. Anger over missed opportunities. Anger at years of needless torment. Anger at how many times I’ve lost everything. Anger at my lack of control. Anger about my daughter having to feel any pain. Anger for my hopeful heart that time and again I share, only to have it ripped from my chest.

I went for the apples and three fell on the ground. I was suddenly almost blind. The darkness crept in around the edges of my vision. I could not see anymore. I left the cart there. I left my coat in the cart. I marched outside and into the cold Salt Lake day. I listened for the reassuring sounds of the cathedral bells — nothing. I tried to ground myself — nada. I was freezing.

I just kept walking and walking. Faster and faster. Still, I didn’t know what was going on. Eventually, my vision cleared. Like a robot, I managed to find my way home. I thought I had worked out whatever it was that was bugging me.

I hadn’t.

I sat down to write a master list of every single thing I needed and/or wanted to do. Usually, that helps me to focus. This time it didn’t.

I did some dishes. My vision started to blur again. And then I found out that she wanted to stay at her dad’s for awhile longer. I understand her reasons for it, I don’t take anything she does personally and I don’t need her around to make my life whole, but she is my daughter. I love her. I want to help her. I have no control.

I thought I was going to cry. Instead, I stood still as what i realized were waves of rage crashed over me. It was so much more than anger and a lot heavier than sorrow. I was awash in it. It flooded every capillary, vein and soft spot of my body. I could feel it like a red cloud around me. I knew I had to do something.

Music is the one thing I know will calm me down, no matter what. In the past, it has been a tool to vent my personal heartbreaks and/or exorcise my many demons. Normally, I would sit at the piano until my mind was empty of all but the notes. Or I would lock myself in my room and write and sing with my guitar.  This time, though, I knew I had to get out of the house and play.

I knew that this time, it wouldn’t be enough to play and sing in my apartment. It wouldn’t be enough to down a couple of beers and watch someone else play, either. I had to play. And it had to be out.

I facebooked my friend, Theron, to see if he knew of any open mics. He didn’t respond immediately, so I just posted a status update asking if anyone knew of any open mics that night. Thank God for my friend, James. He had no idea what he was in for. Just 20 minutes after posting the message, I burst out the front door. He greeted me with a very James-like bear hug. I needed it.

I vented for a solid hour before we started to play. It was good to talk. But, it wasn’t until I my left hand wrapped around the neck of his guitar that I finally felt the pressure valve on my rage release. I started out with my most tried and true song. We traded songs. I played another and another. The handful of people in the bar responded with enthusiasm.

I wish I could express what it feels like to be that raw and then perform a song that you wrote for people who owe you nothing and then to accept their positive feedback. My friend, Donna, recently used the phrase, “It was a balm to my soul.” And maybe that’s the best way to describe what that open mic did for me on Sunday night.

I have no desire to be a famous singer/songwriter. I don’t even have a burning desire to become a better singer/songwriter. I know I am not a good guitar player. I know I am not the best singer. What I desire, though, doesn’t require I be or become any of that. What I desire I have already achieved. I am good enough that I can saunter in to any ole open mic, or songwriting circle, and share a part of my authentic self in positive way. I am familiar enough with the tools of music that I can use them to calm my rage, comfort me when I am despairing and even inspire me when I am uninspired.

Thanks for the music lessons, Mom.

Now you will listen to this: Laura Marling, “All My Rage”

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I want to live on a boat…

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Could Aunt Anna's Piano fit and survive on a boat?

I have always wanted to live on a boat.

As I move further into simplification mode, the more my desire to live on a boat, or in an RV grows. Really, apart from money, my biggest obstacle to mobile living quarters is the lack of enough room for my Great Aunt Anna’s piano.

My simplicity has its boundaries. I love my piano. It’s the piano I learned to play on. The action on the keys is very light — too light, actually — but I LOVE it. It’s small and cute and a dark yellow color.

I have a short list of must-haves. They include my piano; my guitar; an ipad and iphone; a super-soft feather pillow; my Aunt Zelma’s quilts; my Dad’s original company jacket; my Mother’s poetry; and my daughter’s photography.

I suppose my interest in aquatic accommodations has been growing in parallel to the likelihood of pulling it off. I wonder if Hannah will be opposed to trading in a two-bedroom apartment for a two-bunk bed boat?

Cool blogs and stuff on the subject:

Living On A Boat – One Woman’s Transition To Living Onboard A Boat.

Amazon.com: The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat.

Living on a Boat.

Liveaboard Life: Minimalism in a Tiny Home at Sea – Sailing, Simplicity, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

We Live On A Boat.

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My Top 3 Hobbies

I had a boss tell me once that I needed to find a hobby. I was speechless. Apparently he had not been paying attention. I am a hobby hoarder. I embrace and ignore hobbies every five seconds. Case in point, this plinky site. It’s a hobby tonight, but I’m not sure it’ll stick.

I play the piano about as well as I did in the 5th grade. I was a country singer in Dallas for awhile. I’ve written some decent songs and play an okay rhythm guitar. I was a skydiver. I was a gymnast. Sometimes I’ll still dig out my flute and play a little jig. At times I’ve been devoted to journaling. I used to ride a dirt bike every day.

I’ve been in a roller derby league. I’ve gotten grants to build houses in countries like Indonesia and Southern Sudan. I tried to become a painter. I have literally taken up candlestick making. I spent two months this year refinishing old furniture. I love musicals. I was a small town Parks and Recs director. I took up Muay Thai boxing for about 8 months.

I have tried in earnest to be a better-than-humiliating golfer to no avail. I’ve climbed some pretty tall mountains. I’ve built dozens of websites. I can spend days playing Word With Friends. I love to read about time (what the hell is it?) and dark matter (what the f*&# is it?).

Honestly, I still furrow my brow in confusion over that piece of advice from an old boss and I certainly can’t pick my top three.

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How I got Here …

Ahhh, the glory days. There was a time in my life when I was debt-free, sitting on my front porch drinking PBR and having weekly yard sales just to lure hippies into the yard. My friends and I would sell extra stuff and even throw some items into the big oak with a sign that said, “If you can get it, you can have it.” Hannah would play in a wading pool nearby and I lived off of $650/mo. We spent many years like this, or in a similar way in Texas, just living day-to-day. It was glorious.

The only problem with all that leisurely living was that I didn’t spend a minute thinking about the future. You see, I have not exactly led my life, so much as I’ve been led by my life. Most of the significant decisions I’ve made have been reactions to events and/or changes in circumstance.

Back before Hannah was born, when I was 18 and living with 20 or so of my best friends in a one-room basement apartment in Idaho Falls, Idaho, I was date raped by a person whom I thought was my friend. I was a virgin at the time and he knew it. I suppose that was some of the draw. He casually got up afterward, lit a cigarette, and said, “Don’t you just crave a smoke after?” Then he let himself out the way he’d come in.

Being the complete idiot that I was, I thought no one would believe me. Instead of telling anyone, I climbed in a bathtub of scalding water and bleach, licked my wounds, got dressed and went straight to the Grand Teton Mall to work my shift at the Benetton. Not telling my girlfriend about it is one of the biggest regrets I have in my life, as she might’ve been spared some hardship of her own.

A few weeks after that went down, I met a super tall, strong and sweet boy. He wasn’t pushy with me, ever, and by Christmas, we were dating. We got engaged in February (this was Mormon Idaho, after all). We were married in August 1992.

The first six months were super tricky, and somewhere in there I quit eating, but by summer 1993, we’d moved to Texas, near my folks, and life was good (besides the anorexia and my ongoing battle with bulimia, but I digress.). We both had full-time minimum wage jobs, an orange VW bus and we just lived. I found out I was pregnant on my 21st birthday. I started eating again and we had Hannah on February 2, 1995. All was well in the world.

But my husband got a better job in Salt Lake City and we were tired of Texas so we moved in August 1995. By April 1996 we were separated and later divorced. That’s how I ended up in Salt Lake, as a single mom, at 23.

I stayed and worked from home until Hannah was 18 mo. old and I just couldn’t make ends meet, so I got a regular job. I went through quite a few “careers” in the next years. They never paid very well, but she and I had a great time.

I was involved in a couple of very stormy relationships that eventually drove me out of Salt Lake. So in the winter of 2001, Hannah and I headed back to Texas. While in Texas I got to work with my older brother, Dave, every day and it was awesome. Hijinks ensued. Hannah was happy and her dad would come visit and stay with us all the time. He and I have remained the best of friends.

We were debt free and surrounded by family, I was doing the rounds as a singer/songwriter as well as trying my hand at skydiving and learning the art of a southern good time. Truly some of my favorite times were had during this period.

Trouble was, I was still fixated on an ex I left in Salt Lake. So, when he came back around (four years later) I jumped at the chance to get married and move back to Salt Lake.

The next four years were a roller coaster. I founded a nonprofit “spinoff” of my Dad’s company that had immediate, amazing success. We had a beautiful house in the suburbs with a little stream in the backyard. My husband was hardworking, hilarious and fun. We really felt like a family a lot of the time.

But there were always undercurrents of discord with he and I. I think we both expected too much from the other. I desperately loved him and pushed down truths about myself like how much I hate the suburbs and conventional family roles. Also, I am a difficult woman. I come from a long line of difficult women. We don’t try to be. We RESIST it, but all of us are prone to melancholia and disenchantment.

And there was the drinking. Many a night I’d watch from the living room as he’d drink beer after beer and dance to the same 15 songs over and over, and all by himself. I had expected to be happy. Instead, I felt lonely and deeply confused.

I do not blame him for my misery. I fully take responsibility for getting myself into that situation. The only proactive decision I’d ever intentionally made was to start the charity. After being married for four years we got divorced. His new wife moved in before I’d even unpacked my apartment. They are a much better fit.

For a year I stayed in Salt Lake pursuing leads for more grants, and successfully raising enough funds to keep the foundation humming. I got some commitments for big grant money, but then the bottom fell out of the market and I lost all funding.

Once again, I packed up my now 14-year-old and headed to Texas to regroup. I thought Dad and I were going to create a hybrid company, combining his for-profit business with my non-profit business, but the six months we lived there ended up being like a re-enactment of the Clash of the Titans. My entire identity, and the rest of my dignity, got smashed up and thrown out.

Hannah and I got in the car and drove. We drove for about two months. We didn’t know where we’d land or what we’d do next. I spent the two months examining my choices and beliefs that got us there, and in truth, I carried a spirit of repentance with me. I asked myself and others for forgiveness for the things I had done wrong and for my hubris.

I also looked for jobs in my field. But it soon became clear that because I had no degree, and the recession was in full swing, I was not going to get a job in international aid. So what did I do? Did I spend weeks thinking about a life I wanted to create? No. I took the first job I could get.

In January 2010 I passed the insurance licensing exams and joined as an apprentice insurance agent for a nationwide firm with lots of local offices in Salt Lake City. It took me two weeks to study for and pass the series 6 and 63 financial exams. To date, taking that job was the single most idiotic thing I have ever done. Even though I hit all the highest benchmarks, it was costing me a fortune. I eventually had to mortgage my Mercedes, take out loans, live on credit cards, beg and borrow. I was literally at work from 8:30 to 8:30 almost every day. I hardly saw Hannah.

I had been there almost a year and could see that if I continued to hit all the benchmarks then in another year I would be able to start paying off debt, and in five years I’d be bringing in big bucks. I had convinced myself that I was sacrificing now so that I would be able to pay for the best art school in the country for Hannah when she decided to go to college.

So. F***ing. Stupid.

I quit in November upon learning that my sweet daughter was in crisis. With me at work all the time and her dad distracted by his work and other kids, she lost herself. She went from being a cheerful and creative little girl, to a confused, wronged and very depressed young woman.

Her childhood ended while I was at work.

Shame on me. My journey to forgiving myself for that is far from over.

Once again we got in the car and drove. We drove until she had told me everything. We cried and talked and laughed and drove.

We returned to Salt Lake City with no plan. Now I had no job AND we had a mountain of debt. The reality was it would be impossible to work any job because I could not leave her alone, for even an hour, for months.

So, I got rid of the Mercedes. We moved to a cheaper apartment with gorgeous views, but a few, um, quirks. (no dishwasher, no washer/dryer, rusty tub that doesn’t drain, kitchen sink doesn’t drain, power outages galore, etc. etc. etc. ) I quit paying all but the essential bills. I got us both enrolled at the local community college and got grants and loans. Much to my dismay, I had to suck it up and ask my Dad help us out. 2011 has been an excruciatingly humbling year.

But back to 2010. I neglected more than Hannah while playing insurance and securities agent. I neglected myself, too. And then I let the worry about Hannah get to me. By the time we started school in the spring of 2011, I was chubby, addicted to diet soda and had started smoking again.

Instead of addressing all that, I spent the year being laser-focused on school and trying to help Hannah remember who she truly is, thinking I would get myself sorted out later. It turned out to be an alternately awesome and stressful year. We both made breakthroughs, and I love school. But I took on too many things and too many classes leaving me even fatter and frazzled. I never opened a single collection letter.

In the meantime, Hannah and I have slowly been accumulating more and more stuff. I used to be able to easily fit all of our belongings in an 800 square foot house. I now have a 1,000 square foot apartment that is about to burst at the seams and a storage unit equally filled. It’s a dark struggle to keep up with the cleaning and care of all the crap.

This brings us to November, 2011. A few unfortunate events occurred that plummeted Hannah briefly back into the black hole she’d tenuously crawled out of. We made strides through conventional means, but I felt a big part was missing. I had recently had the epiphany that 2011 was the first year I had ever put thought into, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and was discovering the power that comes with envisioning a future and putting plans in place to achieve your long term dreams. I had never even had long term dreams. I’ve had vague wishes, but never allowed myself to formulate a picture of a life I wanted to have, nevermind going so far as to believe I could actually have it.

The true internalizing of the fact that we CAN create our future was such a huge thing for me that I had started wishing I could find a mentor or something for her who could help inspire her to see those things for herself.

Enter my new friend, Doug. We were in the trenches working on the worst group assignment of all time in the worst English class I’ve ever taken. It would have been impossible to complete if it hadn’t been for Doug and our other new friend, Jen. One night at the library I expressed my desire to find Hannah a mentor. He then told me he was the chief facilitator for a company called Outlook Development and expressed his great love for the work and invited us to attend a “Power of Choice” seminar the following weekend. It was a friggin’ miracle!

It was also the last weekend to study for finals, but it was totally worth the unsatisfactory marks I received. Not only did we wrap up the weekend with Hannah’s light re-lit but after just one day there, I quit smoking. Hannah has decided she wants to become a mentor for the program and help other people, too.

To that end, we signed up for the “Power-90” program. The program is built around the idea that wild goals can be achieved and giant emotional obstacles can be overcome if you simply apply the right tools. They include a diabolical plan that completely traps you into following through on the commitments you make. It involves 2hrs of face-to-face classes per week, weekly calls from coaches, daily calls from program “buddies” and more. So far we have been coached into creating a clear and specific vision of what we want our results to smell, look and feel like.

Some people are on a path to acceptance. Some want to feel empowered and capable. Some want to finally get in shape. I want to be who I truly am. I want to “put to rout that which is not life” or which is not me. I am on a journey to let go of the fat, junk, financial mess and leftover emotional baggage once and for all. Only then will I truly be living my most authentic life. A simple life, in the pursuit of knowledge, unfettered by the material and free to “move about the country.”

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