The penny collector…..a year has passed

Good Morning, Dad….

It’s the one year mark today.  I can’t believe it’s been a year.  And I can’t believe I haven’t written in five months. I have so much to share with you.  But first, let me just tell you how much I miss you.  How not a day goes by that I don’t tell someone about you.  How I STILL pick up the phone to call you.  How much I miss your laugh.  How much I miss hearing about how many reps you did at the gym.  How much I miss having you as my cheerleader.  I miss all of those things.  Every Single Day.

And in the same breath as missing you (mainly because I don’t think I really take a breath without missing you), I think of all the things that have gone on in this past year, and I smile about so much.  Just as you would have wanted.

BUT FIRST, a story about the day after you died……

The day after you died, Danny and I were sorting through some of your things and found ourselves in the basement looking through boxes of paperwork (I’m not sure why you had check registers from 1979, btw,but you did).  As we moved all those boxes, we found more boxes behind them.  Inside of those hidden boxes were pennies.  We all knew you had a large penny collection.  But really, a large penny collection can mean so many things.  As it turns out, your collection was OUTRAGEOUS! You had 600,000 pennies, dad.  SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND. I mean, seriously.  That’s crazy. We knew those pennies couldn’t stick around any longer.  They had to go to the bank. Danny and I joked this was your last word about exercise to us. “Oh, here you go, kids……time to carry 3 TONS of pennies upstairs and to the car.  And then carry them again into the bank. Oh, and while you’re at it, you’ll have to unroll them all, because the bank doesn’t take rolled coins anymore.”  So Danny and I (mostly Danny) carried the pennies upstairs and to the car (we took four separate trips to many banks).  We didn’t realize the fact we had to unroll the pennies until we got to the bank.  So we stood at the change machine and set up shop.  We broke open the pennies into big containers and then dumped them into the machine.  Over and over and over again.  Until we broke the machine.  And then we went to a different bank.  Until we broke that machine.  And then we ended up at a bank in Alabama.  Where we broke that machine.  And then back to the original bank, because they fixed their machine.  And then we broke that one.  It was insane.  But all the while, YOU continued to connect with people.  Everyone was curious about our penny collection.  And so we told them about you.  And they walked away with the biggest smile on their faces.  And I gave little collections to kids that came in the bank.  When we broke the change machine at your home bank for the last time, I gave your favorite banker one of your lucky pennies to remember you by.  She loved you.  And me giving her that penny will come back around to more recent days (that’s foreshadowing, which Danny says I’m not very good at).  But really, the story of the penny I gave to the teller will become a story later in this letter to you.  Before I get to all that, let me just say that depositing 6K in pennies is a wild journey.  One of the best parts is that the change machine spit out the wheat back pennies, and those were always your favorites.  And mine, too.  So we’ve been able to share those wheat backs with your friends and family.  I even got a tattoo of one.  In your memory.  Every time I pick up my guitar to play, that penny is looking right at me, and I love it.  You’re with me.  Always.

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photo by Neilson Hubbard

Okay, back to present day……We’re having a baby

We’re pregnant, dad!  26 weeks and 1 day to be exact.  I want to tell you the story of all the fertility stuff in a letter one day, but it’s so long and involved, I can’t get into now.  I can’t believe this kid doesn’t get to meet you.  I can’t believe you don’t get to meet this kid.  I’ve been trying to wrap my head around that for months now.  There’s no wrapping my head around it though.  You’re going to be an amazing story to this child.  In the meantime, here’s a photo of all the medicine I took to have this baby.  OMG.

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Here’s all the medicine we injected into my little body to have this baby!

On making a new record….

I had anxiety about the one year anniversary of your dying.  I didn’t know what that day would look like.  So I decided to record a new album, and we’re smack dab in the middle of the recording process today.  I feel so close to you.  It’s a pretty confessional record.  In the vain of this blog, actually.  (you inspired me to do that, by the way).  I’ve never been so excited about a project.  You know why?  Because I have a producer that is rocking my world.  And I have musicians I’m meeting for the first time that are totally getting what this project means to me, and they’re playing their asses off.  And, most importantly, I have you with me.  Literally.  I have a little altar set up with your ashes and photos and a candle.  And I have this tattoo.  And the songs.  It’s not a hit record, by all means.  It’s beautiful though.  Raw.  I can’t wait to share it with you.  It’s for you, dad.  It’s for the rest of the world, too.  Because I think the rest of the world can connect with these songs in some way.  Thank you for inspiring me, dad. You’ve made me a more connected and thoughtful musician.

And isn’t it cool the way the life cycle is working?  I’m here making this new thing with a baby in the belly and you’re in this jar next to my work station.  The cycle of life.  It really is beautiful.

And so today I’m going to record with the amazing band I’m working with.  I’m probably going to laugh a lot.  And cry a bunch, too.

And back to the penny I gave your favorite banker……

Once your taxes and all that fun stuff were completed, it was time to distribute the money from your bank accounts as the final thing on your “to do” list.  So I wrote the checks from the account and distributed them to the family.  Although it wasn’t all that much money, it was still significant.  So I wrote the checks and everything was fine until I received notice of bouncing one of the checks.  I was STRESSED, because I had worked so hard to do everything correctly.  Lo and behold, the statement said we were one cent short in your account.  ONCE CENT.  ONE PENNY.  I laughed so hard.  So I called the bank and spoke with your favorite teller.  She remembered me giving her a lucky penny and immediately deposited it into your account.  And so it goes.  You continue to be helpful and make people laugh.

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Okay, it’s time to get to work in the studio.  Dad, I love you and miss you.  I can’t believe it’s been a year already.  I feel you with me now more than ever. I cannot thank you enough for being the brightest shining star….

I love you.

c.

Here’s some of the photos from your final days that still help me heal from all of this……

 

JOY

Good morning, dad!

I woke up this morning, and before opening my eyes all the way, opened a book of Mary Oliver’s poetry.  She reminds me of the miracle of all that is life.  Of all that is present in my world….whether it’s dead or alive.  And then I put the book down and look at the view from my bed and I see the mountains and tattered prayer flags and snow and sage brush.  I am myself for the first time in eight months.  I sleep again.  I’m in Taos. You know how much I love it here.

So I woke up and read Mary Oliver and had a spectacular view of the mountains and prayer flags, and got out of bed and put the kettle on for tea.  It’s early.  Lucy is with me, and she’s frolicking in the snow.  I think she feels like herself for the first time in eight months, too.  Daily walks into the hills across the street from where I’m staying.  And just being with me.  She’s happy. And there’s nothing like being with a happy dog.

I’m spending three weeks here.  It’s a solo writers retreat. I’m surrounded by beauty.  My best friend and her husband live in the main house and I have a little apartment just next door.  The light is beautiful.  And when the sun starts on it’s way down, the glow on the mountains makes my heart jump.  And then it’s night time.  And the stars are unbelievable.  There’s no light pollution here.  Just stars. And the howling of the animals of the night.  And I go to sleep early.

I spend my days writing.  Mostly working on songs, but the occasional journal entry, too.  I’ve spent very little time on business stuff. Keeping my brain clear for the writing I want to do.  For the longest time, I’ve felt bad for not having new material.  I mean, it’s been years.  But now, I just remember who I am.  I’m pretty slow when it comes to writing songs.  I’m not one of those people that can wake up in the middle of a tour and whip out a song.  I’m not inspired on the road.  I’m tired and disconnected on the road.  Except during the actual show, when I come alive for a few hours.  But then the anxiety creeps in.  And I have to face the people.  It is my choice to put myself out there to the world.  To be vulnerable.  It’s who I am.  But with that comes a lot of chatting after a show, and while I so rarely feel anything but love toward people at any particular moment, it’s the end of the night, after talking with 5o or more people, that I feel like there’s nothing left to give.  I have nothing left for myself.  So I sit up in bed, anxious and missing home. It’s just the way the road is.  I think a lot of musicians feel it.  I think a lot of musicians probably don’t.  I also think it’s important to pay attention to this stuff and make life decisions based on how we spend the majority of our time.  This brings me to my next point….

Dad, I’ve decided, after April, to take most of 2016 off from the road.  I want to create and connect with home.  I want to have a garden and I want to sew and make my own dresses and have time with Miss Lucy into her old age.  I want to be more relaxed about all our fertility stuff.  I want to have a home life with Danny. I want to have quality time with people.  Not panicked time.  I want to ease back into my relationships and not feel like I’m rushed to see everyone at a particular time while I’m home.  I just want to be home.  And I want my friends to know I’m home.  So I can be helpful in their lives. I want to volunteer at hospice.  I want to take care of my body and eat food that I make for myself.  And sometimes, I want to sit on the couch and watch romantic comedies all day long.  And I want to record a new album.  I’m so excited to release new work to the world come 2017.

My heart is so open right now and I am full of joy.   When I’m in Taos, I’m taken back to when I was 25.  SO FREE! (and so broke).   But reminded of how lucky I am to have experienced such a strangely beautiful place for a few years.  And now I come back and feel grounded and inspired.  My friends here have made beautiful lives for themselves.  I’m in awe of the quality of their existence.  They chose to push through here.  To be survivalists until they became settled.  And then they became home owners and found partners and many of them had children and those children are the most adventurous kids I’ve ever met.  They spend their lives on the river and on skis and in the woods hunting rattle snakes, and camping and hiking.  They spend their lives like their parents do.  With a true connection to this earth.  It’s just what Mary Oliver talks about in her poems.  It fills me with gratitude and makes me thankful for everything I have been given in this life.  I’m so glad you were my dad.  I believe you looked at the world through miracle glasses.  And while a day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss you so badly it hurts, there’s also not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for all the years we had together.

Tonight I will raise a glass of milk to you.  Because that’s what we do for you.  And it makes me smile so big it hurts.

I love you, dad. And I am healing.  Thank you for teaching me about joy.

A few photos from Taos:

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