On Banana Bread

My grandma can only eat unripe bananas because of this special diet she’s on. So, when the bananas got too ripe for her to eat, I made banana bread. Yesterday was tough for me because, the night before, I had a PTSD-related panic attack. The next afternoon, I was still dealing with the residual effects of my nervous system getting completely overwhelmed. Baking is often the only thing that keeps my body regulated on days like these.

I used Ruth Reichl’s recipe for Devil’s Food Cake, and totally revamped it to create an incredible baked treat with no added sugar. The sweetness comes just from the milk, butter and bananas. The whole thing is almost gone – my grandma and I have devoured it over the past 24 hours. I will admit that this banana bread was pretty much what we ate for dinner last night.

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup milk
2 tbsp almond flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cloves
2-3 overripe bananas
½ cup butter (1 stick) – softened or at room temp
3 eggs
1 ¾ cup flour
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Optional: replace half of the butter with ½ cup apple sauce

Preheat oen to 350 F.

Heat milk in a small pan until bubbles begin to appear around the edges. Remove from heat.

Put almond flour and all three spices into a small bowl. Feel free to go overboard on the spices. I always do. Slowly beat in warm milk (I just used a fork). Let cool.

Partly mash the bananas with a fork. Then cream the butter into the banana mash mixture using the same fork. Beat in the eggs, almond extract, vanilla, and apple sauce if you’re using it (again, all you need is a fork). Add milk mixture.

Mix remaining dry ingredients together and gently blend into butter mixture. Do not overbeat.

Turn into a well-greased 8×8 square pan, and bake 20-30 minutes, depending on how gooey you want it. 25 minutes creates a perfect, moist bake, but you could underbake even more for more gooeyness.

Eat it with your grandma!

Also, yes, I understand the irony of my grandma not eating overripe bananas but then eating them in a banana bread. Who cares. YOLO.

On Shrek

We all watched Shrek and fell in love with the characters, humor, and revolutionary animation style. I saw it for the first time in the theater with my grandfather. I was entranced. It was the first time I’d seen such realistic animation, and I was completely enamored with the fart jokes, hilarious donkey, and tale of fairytale romance. Shrek even introduced me to one of my favorite songs: Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen.

I’ve rewatched Shrek many times since then. At first, it was just a nostalgic activity. But recently, it’s turned into an anthropological study for me. What cultural values was the movie pushing? What had I unknowingly absorbed as a kid watching Shrek?

The answer? Shrek was one of the many movies I watched as a kid that normalized, and made light of, abuse.

On the surface, the movie does seem to subvert the misogyny that exists in most classic Western fairytales. Fiona is a strong, badass woman who can take care of herself. She fights for herself, saves Shrek and Donkey from thieves on the road, and finds her own dwellings at night. That’s how I saw it at first too. But, the deeper messaging of Shrek does NOT support that surface-level story. Here are a few examples, taken from throughout the film, that proves the movie doesn’t actually subvert the original misogyny/patriarchal system at all, but supports it throughout.

1) In this scene, Fiona says “who could love a hideous, ugly beast” when speaking with Donkey towards the end of the movie. She truly believes that she is unloveable as an ogre (which is to say, she believes that she is unloveable as she is). It is not until the very end, when Shrek (a male character) tells her that she is beautiful, and that he wants her in whatever form she takes, that she seems to accept herself as she is, in her ogre form.

Fiona does not even have the confidence to assert herself in the conversation with Shrek following her secret discussion with Donkey about her being an ogre. Because of her true belief that she is unloveable and ugly, she assumes he’s talking about her when he repeats her words back to her: “who could love a hideous, ugly beast.” She doesn’t dig deeper into the issue. Shrek confirmed her greatest fear – that she won’t get what she wants (love) because she is not enough. She doesn’t deserve love. She doesn’t deserve desire. She doesn’t deserve a self.

Fiona was NOT, prior to the scene where Shrek interrupts the wedding and confesses his love, confident in herself. She hid this terrible secret, that she was UGLY, from all the other characters, every single night. The fact that she was ugly was shameful to her. The movie depicts a woman who does not have a strong sense of self, and cannot validate her own existence. She only validates herself when a man tells her that she is valid.

2) Fiona DOES have to be saved at the end of the film. When she perceives that Shrek has rejected her, she leaves to go marry Lord Farquad. Because that is what a man told her she has to do. The movie gives her two choices: be with one man who despises you (as she thinks Shrek does) or be with another man who you despise (Lord Farquad). There’s no third option, and it’s very important to realize that the movie does not depict her creating a third option for herself.

At the end, Shrek has to save her from being with Lord Farquad by interrupting the wedding. She made no decisions, except to accept Shrek’s offer. This is key: before Shrek assured her that he thought she was beautiful, she was unwilling to put herself out there to be with the one she loved. She was so insecure that she was resigned to be with a mean, ugly man, rather than get what she wanted: to be with Shrek. She needed a man’s validation to feel she deserved what she desired. In this way, Shrek did actually save her at the end. Fiona did not have agency in their romantic relationship. Shrek did.

3) Who were the other female characters in the movie? There are only three. Princess Fiona, the Dragon, and the Old Woman who sells the talking Donkey. Snow White and Cinderella are not characters in movie 1, since they’re just depicted on a screen for a couple seconds. Princess Fiona is not shown in a community of other women who are equally strong and able to take care of themselves. If she was, I would accept the claim that the movie depicts a badass woman, and therefore subverts the fairytale image of femaleness. However, Princess Fiona is an outlier. She’s shocking. Based on the movie’s depiction of female characters, she could be the only woman of her kind in the history of the universe, and the only woman of her kind in the foreseeable future.

None of the other female characters do anything besides display the regular tropes of weak, untrustworthy, and helpless femaleness. The Old Woman who sells Donkey is not taken seriously by the guards. They don’t believe her that Donkey talks. She is manhandled by the guards and never gets rewarded for the Donkey because he (the male character) saves himself. We never see this woman getting what she wants – money to support herself. She has no agency. Instead, we follow the male character, the Donkey, on his subsequent adventure.

The Dragon is a promising female character, because she can breath fire and goes right for what she wants: a romantic relationship with Donkey. However, she has no agency in her own world, either. She is extremely unhappy, forced to remain chained in the castle all on her own. She is incredibly lonely, and after Shrek, Donkey and Fiona escape her clutches, we don’t see an angry, aggressive female character. Instead, we see a sad one that longs for a life outside of her chains. She is a slave until Donkey comes to rescue her.

In contrast to the lack of female characters, there are MANY male characters, with a variety of personalities and storylines. “Maleness” is very fleshed out in this movie. There’s Shrek, Donkey, Lord Farquad, The Three Blind Mice… the list goes on and on and on.

There are literally no other female characters in the movie. So maybe on the surface, Fiona seems all badass and capable because she can fight and take care of herself, but that’s not the messaging we’re really receiving. The messaging we’re receiving is that she is an unusual case – not the norm. The movie doesn’t normalize her supposedly strong female nature.

4) Take a look at this scene from the movie, in which the Magic Mirror presents three eligible bachelorettes for Lord Farquad to marry. The Mirror makes a blatant joke about abuse, describing Cinderella as a “mentally-abused shut-in from a kingdom far, far away,” as if being mentally abused is not something to be concerned about. Then, we hear that Snow White lives with seven other men, but “she’s not easy.” The Mirror’s casual judgement of Snow White’s sexuality normalizes diminishing a women’s worth to her sexual tendencies and sexuality.

Diminishing women to sexual beings makes it much easier to abuse us.

But that’s not all. The Mirror continues, inviting Lord Farquad to “kiss her dead, frozen lips and find out what a live wire she is! Come on!” Then you hear a drum set go “ba dum smash,” which officially turns this image of treating a dead woman like a sex toy into a joke. This image should be disturbing, but the movie turns it into something funny. Once again, Shrek normalizes powerless women without agency: easy targets for abuse.

Disguised in jokes, it’s easy to miss how dangerous this normalization is. Boys and girls watching this absorb the following messages:
1) abused women are funny
2) women are just sexual playthings
3) a woman who cannot consent is fair game for sexual activities

5) In another scene, Donkey and Shrek finally arrive at the castle Fiona is trapped in. Donkey asks, “So where is this fire-breathing, pain-in-the-neck anyway?” Shrek responds, saying, “Inside, waiting for us to rescue her.” I know it’s been discussed a lot, but I have to talk about the problematic message this sends. Shrek’s response assumes that there is a helpless woman inside the castle waiting for a man to rescue her. It takes away agency from women in our culture, showing us that we are not capable of taking care of ourselves. This is dangerous because it gives men permission to control our lives – if women don’t have any agency, we don’t have any right to say no or argue with a man’s opinion/action in our lives. It might be “rescuing” one day, but it could be something much less desirable the next. And what if we don’t need to be saved?

Yes, “rescuing the princess” is a classic fairytale trope. I don’t care. it needs to change. Luckily, movies like Tangled and Brave have JUST STARTED to unravel this dangerous message.

Then, as if that’s not enough negative messaging, Donkey delivers the punchline. After he asks “where is this fire-breathing, pain-in-the-neck anyway?” and Shrek responds “waiting for us to rescue her,” Donkey retorts, “I was talking about the dragon, Shrek.” This joke, laughing at a woman’s needs and display of anger, is so overused and so damaging. It’s the Eve story. Eve gives in to temptation and eats the fruit she’s not supposed to eat. This woman’s desire is the downfall of man. Women are evil. Women are a “pain in the ass,” in the words of Shrek. It’s not difficult to make the leap to “we should hate women” and “we don’t need to take any woman’s needs seriously.” Again, Shrek writers manage to turn “stripping women of their power” into a joke, as if it’s suddenly okay because they’re joking about it.

Shrek paints a truly disturbing image of what a woman is in our society. She is powerless, hated, needs others to validate her experience, and doesn’t need to consent to be touched by you. She is, in other words, extremely susceptible to abuse. This is a MOVIE FOR KIDS. And it’s contributing to abuse culture by NORMALIZING WOMEN WITH NO AGENCY.

I am not, by any means, discounting Shrek as a movie. I don’t believe in cancel culture – I think things are always so much more nuanced than that. The movie really does bring me so much joy, even watching it this new perspective, even after the abuse I’ve experienced at the hands of multiple men.

But. I think it’s important to recognize this dangerous, deeper messaging. Why is it important? Because I know for a fact that it’s watching innocuous movies like this, that hide true misogyny behind a surface-level strong female character story arch, that led to me thinking it was OKAY TO BE ABUSED. Abuse culture is serious and needs to be examined from every angle. Even a movie we all know and love so much. I’ve been rewatching a lot of the movies I watched when I was a kid, and noticing similar messaging popping up in almost every movie. Abuse culture was very prevalent in the media I consumed as a kid, and there was nothing my parents or school could do to reverse that. It was just…there. I just absorbed it.

And I haven’t even started discussing the way “Blackness,” as well as the complete lack of female Blackness, is portrayed in this movie. That’s a whole other conversation and blog post.

On Limits

When I hit my limit, I often can’t believe how little I could handle. So the next time I push myself past my limit. And then my body puts me in my place and shuts down. Maybe eventually I’ll learn to trust my body every time.

On Love

This is my 22nd consecutive post! That means that after today, I have 8 more days of this daily writing challenge. Pretty proud of that. Today I want to write about something that has befuddled me for along time: “romantic” love.

Specifically, I have to admit that love isn’t what I thought it was! I have heard some ridiculously varied opinions over the past few years of what love should/could be. The one that really gets me, though, belongs to Lori Gottlieb.

Lori Gottlieb wrote this article in the Atlantic way back in 2008, then fleshed out the thesis into a full-fledged book: Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr. Good Enough. I read the book in 2018, and it shook me to the core. Not in a good way.

I was 23. I had been with my boyfriend for a little shy of a year. He was a drummer, and I was a songwriter, and we did wild things like trip on shrooms together and go jazz club hopping in New York. It was going well. We said “I love you” because we felt that way, and we were monogamous, but were we actually committed to each other? I didn’t even trust him to have a bandaid at his place if I accidentally cut myself, let alone trust him with my life. When faced with the decision to move back to Rochester and continue building our relationship, or stay in Boston and break up, he had to think it over for a couple of months. Meanwhile, I waited in agony for his decision, and almost broke up with him in the process. This was all very normal 23-year old stuff.

But then I read Lori Gottlieb. And I started freaking out. I was absolutely terrified by this idea that Lori casually called “settling.” In my mind, I was completely screwed. In my mind, I had to choose: do I want romantic, head-over-heels, obsession? Or do I want a partner who is basically a glorified business associate? And Lori’s opinion? Go with the glorified business partner.

Looking back, I’m not surprised that I felt scarred after reading Lori’s book. Here’s an excerpt from her original article in The Atlantic:

Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.

-Lori Gottlieb

So yeah. Doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? Choosing infrastructure over “true love”? I wasn’t obsessed with my boyfriend at the time. It was a calm relationship, not an exhilarating one. It gave me room to grow. But it was built on conscious decisions and choices, not on infatuation. Up until that point, I had been in MANY relationships in which I was completely infatuated. I thought that was where it was at. I would sacrifice all of myself to make the relationship run smoothly. I would stare at the person’s face while they slept and obsess about about having kids with them in ten years. My sense of self completely disappeared when I was with them. I felt I was destined to be with them, and felt a sense of connection so strong that everything else in the universe melted away when I looked into their eyes. I would match my breathing to theirs when we lay next to each other because the synchronicity felt so thrilling. Writing it now sounds creepy af and incredibly unhealthy, but that’s what love was to me at the time.

And because of all the movies, books, and culture I consumed growing up as a woman the US, I saw this obsessiveness as the pinnacle of romantic love. Wild passion and disintegration of self was true love…right?

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong. None of these relationships could ever become sustainable partnerships. There was the Swedish chef who didn’t reeaaaally want to move to the US, when I didn’t reaaaaally want to move to Sweden. There was the Nicaraguan jewelry maker who was only in town for the summer. There was the wannabe writer who wrote really bad prose about fighting in Iraq, which he had never experienced first-hand. There was the drunk dishwasher who took shots of Jack Daniels before every shift. There was the boy who sexually assaulted me when I was a minor. There was the obsessed-with-himself film score composer who may or may not have had a colossal crush on John Mayer. There was the tortured genius who consistently told me I was bad at everything. I was fascinated by these people, and totally into them, but the relationships were not only unhealthy and sometimes abusive, but also built on intense, ever-shifting emotions. They were volatile, and would never give me what I really wanted: a traditional partnership. And kids.

So yeah. I stayed with the drummer, who I wasn’t completely obsessed with and who didn’t have a first aid kit, because he was kind, super attractive, intelligent, and earned my respect every day. We had a lot of potential for a really solid partnership. I’m still with him, and we’ve built a strong relationship together over the last few years.

Is he perfect? No. Am I perfect? Hell. No. Is our relationship perfect? Nooo. Is our relationship what I need and desire? Yes. I don’t think I’m stuck in a binary choice like I thought when I first read Lori Gottlieb: business partner or infatuation. Now I think love is somewhere in between, a potent mixture of trust, decisions, desire, and learning to get your head out of your ass.

As you can see, I don’t have any definitive thoughts on this topic, because it honestly confuses the hell out of me. My sister told me a couple months ago that she believes that she can manifest a partner who is 100% compatible with her. I asked her incredulously if she really thinks there’s a perfect life partner out there for her. She said yes. She just has to meet him at the right moment. I am genuinely looking forward to seeing if she finds that person. I hope she does!

In my experience, though, nobody is truly compatible with me. INCLUDING ME. I am not even compatible with myself!! It’s taken years of work to even BEGIN to integrate all of the disparate parts of myself. So am I missing out on perfect, or is my sister holding out for something that doesn’t exist?

On Real Conversations

Tonight I actually forgot that I was supposed to write a post. I worked so hard today, doing way too many things with way too much vigor. I wrote a vision/outline for a new podcast I’m starting in January, sent the stems (raw audio files) for a live album I recorded at a festival in September to two different mixing engineers, started editing my new music video, and got my Pfizer Covid booster shot.

Now, with a headache and feeling woozy from the vaccine, I’m just going to quickly write about my ideas for this podcast. My friend Ben Albert, a fellow booking manager and creative business person in Rochester, NY, started this really awesome community called Rochester Groovecast. He wants to expand his idea into a Collective, including to a diverse bunch of artists, podcasts, articles, and creative showcases.

For my podcast, I imagine interviewing artists of all kinds: musicians, visual artists, craftspeople, designers, videographers, specialty food makers, dancers, actors, writers, etc etc etc. It’s an endless list. I want to have honest conversations with these people that reveal the strength, challenges, purpose, vulnerability and joy of making music/all other art forms. I want to disassemble romantic myths about the artist’s creative process.

I’ve already made a schedule for who I want to interview each month for all of 2022. Sometime this weekend I’ll start asking the artists if they’re down to do it! Nobody gets paid, including me, but I’m hoping I can provide something useful for these creators, even if its just a media/press link they can add to their portfolio. And, someday, I’d like to get sponsorship so I can pay myself for my time, and potentially provide each interviewee with a small stipend.

I want the podcast to be a place for people to go to feel less alone. I imagine building a community around art and creating art. I envision the podcast as a real space, uninhibited by social media algorithms or marketing guidelines, kind of like how I’m approaching this blog format. I want to be unafraid, or at least unabashed. I want to encourage my interviewees to be unabashed right along with me.

On Chicken Coops

About two days ago, my grandma and I started receiving irksome texts from my dad. Where’s the chicken coop? he kept asking, I’m sure it’s on the property. He wouldn’t give it up – he even sent us pictures he had taken last year of this mysterious chicken coop that was supposedly in my grandma’s Floridian yard. The problem was, there was no chicken coop to be found. There was an old red shed, filled with mismatched chairs and gardening tools. There was a big deck, and a round outdoor table. There were palm trees and aloe growing everywhere. But no chicken coop.

My grandma made sure to clear this up with my dad. She told him that “the whole thing is gone” and that the previous owner “probably cleared it away so (the) house would sell better.” And so, after many bemused texts had been sent back and forth between my grandma and my dad, the mystery of the missing chicken coop mystery was dropped (the only person who truly dropped it was my grandma – I’m sure my dad was still agonizing over it).

Today, in a rush of inspiration, I decided to go on a search for the chicken coop. What’s the worst that could happen? I turned on “We Can Do Hard Things” by Glennon Doyle, and walked out into the sunshine of a gorgeous Florida afternoon. I felt like a brave adventurer, out to discover whatever might happen along my path.

In truth, I vaguely remembered where the chicken coop was. I was actually there when my dad first discovered it, and I remembered seeing it with him, and being astonished by this rare treasure: a relatively large chicken coop in the backyard of a house in the Florida Keys. But, because everything is generally very cloudy in my brain, I thought maybe the chicken coop had been at a different house, or that I was mixing it up with a childhood memory of a chicken coop, or that I had simply fabricated the memory of a backyard chicken coop, and now it was parading around in my mind like a real memory, trying to trick me.

So when my dad first started sending chicken coop inquiries, something dim stirred in my brain. I ignored that dim response (because it was dim) and continued on with my life. But after a couple of days, the call of the chicken coop grew too strong to resist: I knew it was out there. All I had to do was go out and find it.

A minute later, I was standing in front of the chicken coop door. It was mostly obscured by vines. We had missed it because, until yesterday, there was a big tree covering it. We assumed the shed was a part of our neighbor’s property – we didn’t realize that we had access to a door. In that moment, I felt like Mary in The Secret Garden (I reread that book this past summer – there is some problematic racism in it, but I still connected, on a deep level, with the story of a girl growing healthy by spending so much time playing outside) finding the door for the first time.

I yanked it a couple of times, and it opened. Then, I snapped a few pics to send to the group text with my dad and my grandma. Proof. And then I went back inside and continued on with my day.

Moral of the story? What you’re looking for might just be right in front of you.

Just kidding. There’s no moral. It’s just really ridiculous that my grandma and I didn’t know there was a chicken coop in our backyard.

On Honesty

I’m gonna be honest, I’m looking forward to this daily writing challenge being over. I’m tired of prose. I miss poetry. I miss not making any sense, but making the most sense at the same time. I don’t wanna write coherent sentences anymore. But I must. I’m sticking to the challenge. I almost switched into poetry tonight, but then I stopped myself. Siena, I thought, you gotta finish what you started. There’s a reason you wanted to write prose every day, right? A reason, even if you can’t remember it right now. You can’t just give up.

Except the thought was much more like: you’re being lazy. Just write about how you don’t wanna write. You have to write anyway, so might as well be honest.

And that’s not even how it went. It was really more like: what the fuck am I doing here on earth. Why did I open my computer again? What is the meaning of all this bullshit?

Alright, it’s time for some truth-telling. There were reasons I started this challenge, and I do remember them, and here they are:
1) I was moving from Rochester, NY to live in Big Coppitt Key, Florida for the month. It seemed like a good opportunity to challenge myself, since I was placing myself in a new environment. It’s sometimes hard to start a new habit when you’re surrounded by the same stuff.

2) I wanted something I said on here to be true enough to enough people, that the post would go viral and I wouldn’t have to work anymore to have a platform for my voice. I wanted the chance to be completely myself without constantly trying to tell people why they should follow me, come to my shows, or give me money. I was tired of using my “Story” as a marketing tactic, like I feel forced to do in my music business.

3) I think I’m a really good writer, and I want to become a great one. And, I want other people to think I’m a great writer. This one pains me to write here. I don’t think anyone should be motivated by wanting other people to think they’re good, so I try to keep this as secret as possible.

4) I seem to be more into words than music. This is another difficult one for me to write down, because music is my “career,” whatever the hell that means in 2021. Music is what I center my identity on, at the moment. I guess that’s a more 2021 way to say it. So, saying that I connect more with words than I do with music is a bit sacrilege. It’s a bit squirmy. Do I need to choose between them? No. But do I need to parse out this balance between words and music, and understand the relationship between them better? Yes. And I started this challenge hoping that the true shape of my desire, for music and/or words, would start to emerge.

5) I’m going to publish a book. I don’t know when, and I don’t know what will be in it, but it’s out there. Well, it’s in here. It’s out there and in here simultaneously, and the book will get written at some point. I saw this as the practice round.

6) I love language. And I missed writing language that was public. I missed the thrill of knowing someone would read your words, that you were sharing something of yourself. Turns out I love performing even when it’s not musical.

7) I like the communal idea of a blog. I wanted to see people’s comments, to see their reactions to my stories. You get to converse with people without actually having to sit down with them and sip coffee for two hours.

8) I took the month off social media, and this seemed like a cleaner, more truthful (less influenced by the algorithm) way to share myself with the world. I still felt connected to other people, but didn’t have to pander to the unspoken rules of Instagram and Facebook.

9) I had a lot of questions. Not a lot of things made sense to me, including my own reactions to my home and my partner. I needed to figure some shit out, and this seemed like a chance for me to do that. Maybe once I was away from my familiar backdrop of domestic partnership, home, and performing grind, something would reveal itself. And if it did, I would catch it. I’d write it down.

So why didn’t I want to write tonight? I told you already, I’m tired of prose. I kind of got more into it once I started, and it was nice remembering all the reasons I decided to do this challenge in the first place, but I still feel this heavy sense of purposelessness. Also, I’m tired of myself. This whole month I’ve been writing about my own experiences, my thoughts, my inner world. It’s almost blasphemous how self-centered the blog format is. Ignoring the community. I thought I was writing for “the community” (whatever that is) but I might just be blowing hot air.

How do people spend 80 years doing this shit? Living with all the questions all the time? We’re all just wandering around trying to make something out of ourselves, trying to figure out what it is we really want, trying to figure out how to love and be loved. It’s all complete bullshit, but it’s so beautiful too. The heady realization that we can keep learning, every single day, makes me feel alive and a little less tired. I do think writing these posts every day has made me feel more alive. Maybe.

On Driftwood

This morning my grandma and I woke up in the darkness at 6am to shoot a music video.

We wouldn’t have done this, except we were walking along a remote beach last week, and came across this abandoned homestead made of driftwood. There once was a community of people living here, my grandma said: I used to see them when I walked my dog down here years ago. In place of the colorful tents and long-haired men that once nestled into the sand, only a driftwood castle remained. They built this massive, angular structure, the center of their village, the gathering place. They tied emblems to the ends of the bone-dry branches: old Nikes, beautiful glass bottles, buoys, and strips of colorful ribbon. They painted a few branches with vibrant blues, yellows, and pinks, penning all-seeing eyes and names of past lovers. They put up a plaque for someone named “Red” who died there in 2009. There were clear outlines of different rooms, like the Aztec ruins in New Mexico.

When we first came across the driftwood complex, I felt like I was in Peter Pan’s wonderland. The place had magic. I felt so inspired. I casually mentioned how great it would be to shoot a music video there, and my grandma said, why not? We should do it.

I don’t think many people can say that their grandma was the videographer for their music video. I’m feeling really blessed to be in this position. My grandma happens to be a really masterful photographer, so she’s accustomed to being behind the camera, and was really excited about collaborating on this project with me. And I’m accustomed to being in front of it – it’s part of my job as a professional musician. I especially love shooting music videos where I’m interacting with nature – I shot one on an iPhone camera last fall, and made one with Lilac Milk last winter.

So this morning we drove out to the beach for sunrise and shot the first footage for the new music video for my song Meteor. In the castle on the sand.

On Gratitude

Today, I drove 27 min to the library, so I could stop being so desperately bored. I’ve know boredom is supposed to be good for your creativity, because if your brain has room to wander, it is more likely to wander into something interesting. That’s true. I’ve had a lot of great ideas and breakthroughs in the last couple of weeks. But the less romantic truth is that, 84% of the time, a wandering brain just….wanders around aimlessly into absolutely nothing.

So I’m at the library, piling books into my arms like a fiend, getting so excited about all the different topics. Cupcake baking? Yes please. Bob Marley’s journey while recording Exodus? Yup, piling that on. Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert? Yes please. Memoir by Ruth Reichl? Mmmm yes. I even grabbed a synonym dictionary. I’m not even kidding. I saw this huge, old-fashioned book full of synonyms and thought I’d grab it for some light reading. I was PUMPED. Then, I picked up a couple books that my grandma asked me to get for her, and headed towards the check-out desk, stumbling a bit under the huge pile. I couldn’t wait to get home and read all of these books!

At that moment, the place went completely dark. I looked around, thinking stupidly “is it nap time?” Of course it wasn’t. Unfortunately. Then I got kicked out of the library.

It turned out that the power went out in the whole island of Key West. Before I got my library books!!! And now I was stranded out on the street, longing for all those books I was forced to abandon on a table inside. It was madness. Luckily, I had 5 dollars in cash and I was only a five minute walk from the key lime pie shop. So I went and got a slice (dipped in chocolate, on a stick). It was fucking delicious. It made me smile. I ate it as I walked back to my car to drive home.

Gratitude is like that. I was still PISSED AF that I had to go back empty handed, but then this little sliver of joy presented itself to me. Gratitude is noticing the unexpected gifts in ordinary life. I know gratitude isn’t always a piece of key lime pie. It’s not always that obvious. But the key lime pie is such a great example of how gratitude shows up in my life. It’s unexpected, hard-won, beautiful, tasty, and it gets me through. I’m not at the point yet where I can be grateful for hard things, but I can be grateful for the tiny moments that get me through the hard things.

I think boredom is on the docket for me again tomorrow. And I’m okay with that.

On Food

We sit by the ocean, sunglasses on, blessed down to our toes in sun. Hibiscus beer gives off a rosy glow from our glasses. The waitress places two metal trays in front of us, covered in salty, greasy fries and grilled fish sandwiches. There’s nowhere on earth as joyful as my body when I take the first bite. Flaky white flesh, tomato dripping with ruby juice, tiny green morsels of lettuce, covered with delicate layer of tartar sauce, and drizzled with juice from a bright yellow lemon slice. It seems impossible, but it’s really happening. I’m here, with you, and I’m in my body. I exist. I love.

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