Meet Emily Arrow + a Giveaway!

I love introducing readers to new books for kids, and today, I’m excited to introduce you to someone whose own love of children’s books inspires her music.  Meet Emily Arrow! 

Emily Arrow is a music educator, singer, and songwriter who has carved out her own musical niche she calls kidlit tunes.  You already know how I feel about children’s books, and many of you have seen the plentiful ukuleles that adorn the walls of our home.  So, when I first heard this talented, ukulele-strumming artist singing a song about Be a Friend, I became an immediate fan.  

Ukuleles + Kid Lit = YES!



I had a chance to catch up with Emily and ask her a few questions about her music.  She had some great things to share about her sources of inspiration, favorite books, and more.

What inspired you to write music based on children’s books?  It’s certainly a unique niche!
As a classroom music teacher, I began using my favorite picture books in the classroom in conjunction with my music units. For example, for Earth Day, I read The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. Then I wanted to infuse music into each lesson that involved literature. After scouring the internet for resources and finding virtually nothing, I decided to create my own songs to go with books! I then began offering storytimes at local bookstores and developed my style, and ultimately genre, of kidlit tunes.

What artists/singers/songwriters influence your music? 

The most influential children’s musician I’m influenced by is Raffi. I was raised on his music, specifically his album pioneering a movement to respect the Earth and its resources. His message-driven music gives me inspiration to create music that’s simple and meaningful to all ages.

Music is a huge part of our family’s life.  I started singing to my kids before they were born, and this blog is named after the Bob Dylan song that was our morning anthem all through their preschool years (though we usually sang the Elizabeth Mitchell version).  Now our home is filled with instruments and music of all kinds.  How do you encourage families to incorporate music into their daily lives?  What about parents who don’t feel particularly musically-inclined themselves – any tips for sneaking more music into the day?  

I love to hear how musical your home is!! YAAAAY! There are lots of fun ways to include music in the home, starting with accessibility. An instrument should be just as accessible as an iPhone in the home. Percussion instruments like drums, egg shakers, and tambourines encourage rhythm and musical participation. I also recommend creating playlists together –  “coloring” playlist, “getting ready for school” playlist, “packing for a trip” playlist. This gives young listeners a sense of ownership over their music choices and builds a lovely relationship between experiences and music.

How about books?  What are your favorite tips for sneaking in a little extra reading time with the family?
 Not having a family of my own, I can imaging reading time is hard to come by. But I have a cool project that I recommend to parents of young readers: Video record yourself reading the story the night before during bedtime (or whenever your preferred reading time is). Then during the chaos of the day, why not sneak an extra read in by letting your kiddo watch? Parents tell me their kids get a kick out of this and it’s fantastic modeling for them to watch a read aloud-even if it’s their own parent!


What was your favorite book or books growing up?  What are some of your favorites now (that aren’t featured in music on this album)?

So many! Growing up, I loved Corduroy by Don Freeman, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, and when I began reading on my own, I was obsessed with The Boxcar Children series. 

My favorites in 2016 (in addition to the album books of course) include Be a Friend by Salina Yoon,  I Love You Already by Jory John & Benji Davies, the newly released Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube, and the upcoming Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson.

What’s your favorite part of performing for children?

Audience participation. We make kazoo sounds, we yodel, we draw in the air, we basically do everything fun you ever wanted to do at a show but couldn’t because you’re an… adult. 

I love Emily’s creative ideas for integrating music and reading into our homes.  I think I need a “putting away laundry” playlist!  

Emily’s debut album, Storytime Singalong, features songs based on some truly delightful picture books including Louise Loves Art, The Curious Garden and The Dot as well as several original pieces.  The sweet and memorable songs are a great way to extend the pages of picture books for your youngest readers.  
 

I’m giving away a copy of Emily Arrow’s award-winning Storytime Singalong to one lucky reader!  If you’d like a chance to win the album, do any of the following for an entry in the random drawing:
1.  Comment on this blog (or on the social media outlet you read this post) and share one way your family incorporates music or reading into your daily life. 
2.  Check out Emily’s YouTube Channel, then come back and let us know your favorite song!
3.  Share this blog post.

Make sure to tag in me in any of the above options so I see it and add your name to the drawing!
 
If you’re not the lucky winner, you’re still a lucky reader because you can purchase your own copy of Emily’s album right here.   The deadline for entries is March 31st at midnight CST.  I’ll announce a winner on April 1st – no fooling.  😉   Good luck!

Three Things the Presidential Candidates Can Learn From Children’s Books

It’s voting day in Missouri.  In a couple of hours, I’ll head up to the polls to cast a vote in the presidential primary, after what felt like the longest campaign on record.  And it’s not over yet.  The behavior of the some of the candidates on the campaign trail has most of us ready for the finish line.  I can’t open Facebook without seeing a parent bemoan the behavior of the current presidential candidates, and with fair reason.  The content and conduct at the debates has been embarrassingly less than presidential, and the rhetoric off stage far worse.  I’ve seen teachers say that their kindergartners have better manners and parents compare the tantrums of one candidate in particular to those of their toddlers.

So, of course, this made me think of children’s books.  Wait, stay with me for a minute.  Think about it.  Our children learn so much through the books they read.   As Kathleen Kelly so famously said in You’ve Got Mail, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”  I believe this is true, and it also makes me wonder what kind of books a few of our candidates read as children.

Maybe they need to go back to the basics and pick up a picture book.  They might learn a few valuable lessons they missed the first time around. Here are a few that come to mind:

“It’s okay to change and grow.”

The classic narrative arc of a picture book features a character who changes or grows over the course of the story.  Maybe they change a previously held belief, or grow to unearth something they had within them the whole time.   

In Where the Wild Things Are, Max escapes to the land of the wild things when he feels confined by the rules, only to discover that while making wild rumpus is every bit as much fun as he expected, he misses the comfort and belonging of home and family. 



In Julius, the Baby of the World, Lilly is unimpressed with her new baby brother Julius, but when another family member makes fun of him, she finds a fierce sisterly loyalty exists within her. 

Without these character changes, we’d end with Max living with the wild things forever (and possibly being eaten up) or Lilly perpetually spiteful to a new sibling.  It’s the characters’ capacity for change and discovery that makes them memorable and relatable. 

Yet, in current American politics, to admit to a change of heart or policy in the face of new information or experiences  is considered a weakness.  We end up with a candidate doubling down on racist speech rather than owning mistakes.  We end up with candidates refusing to confront their own past rather than admit to being a normal human being, capable of new ideas and discoveries. 

Be like Max.  Be like Lilly.  Embrace change and growth.


“Show, don’t tell.”

Sometimes, our candidates do express a change of opinion, but it still rings untrue to voters.  This is because they told us, but they didn’t show us.

The best children’s books let the readers come along for the ride of discovery.  Rather than page after page of past tense narrative, they offer readers a chance to see the growth and change in the characters through their actions rather than their words.


In Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Mr. Tiger is tired of the way things have always been.  He’s ready to leave behind convention and get a little….wild.  The readers get to travel with Mr. Tiger as he sheds some of his formal self and heads into the wilderness on a path towards discovery.  He doesn’t just say, “I’m tired of the way things are.  I’m ready for them to change.”  He changes himself, and in turn, the town is inspired to get in touch with their wild side too.

When candidates say they stand for something, but nothing in their records or personal history or even present behavior demonstrates what they say, it reads false.  And we don’t believe them.

Be like Mr. Tiger.  Show, don’t tell.

“Give the reader a reason to turn the page.”

Voters are looking for a leader who casts a compelling vision for the future and invites us to join in that course of action.  Anyone can stand at a podium and talk about what they believe, but it is harder to cast a vision that is both inspiring and achievable.  

In One Word From Sophia, Sophia wants a pet giraffe more than anything, and she has a plan to get one.  She casts her vision to every member of her family, using the stories and language she knows will resonate with each of them.  It’s a lofty goal, yet we keep turning the page and rooting for Sophia the whole time.  She makes the readers believe in her vision by telling us exactly how she can achieve it, even if it seems a little too big to accomplish.

Our candidates could learn something from Sophia.  Tell us what you want.  Tell us how you plan to accomplish it.  Spend less time explaining how someone else won’t be able to accomplish his or her vision and instead invite to us to come with you while you get the job done.

Be like Sophia.  Cast a vision that keeps readers turning the pages.

There’s still six more months until the general election.  Plenty of time for the candidates to pick up a few children’s books and learn something.  Because President Squid, though a wonderfully funny read for our bookshelves, does not belong in the White House.


“I’m great at doing all the talking.  I’m doing all the talking
right now.” – President Squid



Eleven Books for Eleven-Year-Olds (Recommended by an Eleven-Year-Old)

Some of you may remember when my oldest son Ronan became my first guest-blogger last year with his Ten Books for Ten-Year-Olds (Recommended by a Ten-Year-Old).  I’m excited to welcome this voracious reader back again to share eleven books for eleven-year-olds, now that he’s a year older and hundreds of books deeper in his reading repertoire.   Ronan recently started his own (private) blog in which he writes about cats, books, D&D, video games, and as he puts it, “all things geek.”  I’m excited to have him here today!

Also, keep an eye out next week for my youngest son Liam’s first guest post – you guessed it – Nine Books for Nine-Year-Olds! 



Hi, I’m Ronan and I’m here with a post that introduces eleven books I recommend for eleven-year-olds, or anyone of any age willing to expand their literary palates.  Here they are, in no particular order. 





The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak 
by Brian Katcher

When an academic girl meets a fun-loving, nerdy boy at a comic con on a quest to find her lost brother, a series of strange events follows.  A great book that references a lot of geek culture, including Star Wars, RPGs, trading card games and other geek stuff. 



Eragon
by Christopher Paolini

If you do not read this book you are missing out on a good portion of life.  I named my cat after this book.  Also, here is my cat:





The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles is about a girl who faces the side effects of a world-wide catastrophe that effects the entire population.  An awesome, if sometimes confusing book that is a must read for anyone that watches Doctor Who.


See You at Harry’s
by Jo Knowles

A very sad book about a girl named Fern who feels alone in a busy family managing a struggling ice cream business.  When a family tragedy happens, Fern wonders if her family will ever find happiness again.  Don’t forget your tissues!


Magisterium Series
by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

There are only two books so far in this series and I’m waiting for the next book.  These are amazing books about a boy with an injured leg who is accepted into a school of magic.  But it’s NOT Harry Potter!  (Harry Potter is also awesome though).  The books have a powerful plot and a surprising twist.



Thing Explainer
by Randall Munroe

A hilarious book in which web comic author Randall Munroe explains complicated stuff in simple words, like cells (“tiny bags of water”) or ISS (“shared space house”). 


The Amazing Spider Man (the new version)
by Dan Slott (writer) and Humberto Ramos (illustrator)

Following an already dramatic story line, the Amazing Spider-Man learns new things about the spider that gave him his powers and the future of all of the Spider-Men in the world. 


Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

A beautiful book where a girl genius named Willow faces emotional struggles when her parents die.  Again, with the tissues.


The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

A dystopian novel about an evil future in which the president has split the population into twelve districts.  Every year, two children from each district must face each other in a fight to the death as a punishment for an earlier rebellion against the wealthy Capitol.  When the main character Katniss learns that her sister has been chosen for the games, she volunteers to go in her place, setting off an unexpected series of events. 


The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

This book has an amazing author and story in which a boy raised by ghosts tries to understand the world outside of  the graveyard that is his home.


The Chronicles of Narnia
by C.S. Lewis

When a group of children find a wardrobe in a mansion where they are staying during the London Blitz, they are surprised that it leads to another world filled with magic and mystery.  The children become unlikely heroes aided by a mystical talking lion who travel to stop villains from corrupting the magical land of Narnia.

Mid-Life is Not a Crisis

“And then my doctor told me that this is just one of those things that happens to you when you are middle-aged,” my friend said, staring wide-eyed at me and our other friend,  “Middle aged!”   

We all took a big drink of the wine we were holding.  I don’t think the fact that we were out celebrating our 37th birthdays was lost on any of us.  And while I certainly don’t think or feel that 37 is old, it’s also fair to describe it as nearing middle-aged.  It’s nearing half of the US life expectancy.  Mid-life.  

And boy, does our culture have some things to say about mid-life.  Mainly, that mid-life results in crisis.

“Did you hear that Jerry just sold all of his belongings to go travel the country in an RV for year?  He’s clearly having a mid-life crisis.” 

“Nancy quit her job and became a teacher.  A teacher!  She just walked away from a fifteen year career for a fifty percent pay cut to hang out with five-year olds.  Total mid-life crisis.”

“All Greg does when he gets home from work is paint things.  These like, giant paintings of, I don’t even know what they are.  He probably needs a therapist, not a paint brush.”

“Mike joined an a cappella men’s chorus.  Seriously.  He wears suspenders and goes to concerts on the weekend to sing for other people.  For free.  I mean, if he were really talented and getting paid, that would be totally different.  He’s obviously having some sort of mid-life crisis.”

You’ve probably heard the whispers.  Or maybe in your family or circle of friends, they aren’t even whispers, but loud and shameless proclamations.  Either way, it seems that some of us stand ready to label the less than conventional choices of any human being between the ages of 30 and 60 a crisis. 

I think it’s time for a little rebranding.

The problem with the word crisis is that we’ve long misused it in our culture.  Crisis meansa stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.”  However, we tend to only focus on the negative aspects of a crisis, and use it more along the lines of this Merriam Webster definition: “a difficult or dangerous situation that needs serious attention.” 

When we gossip about someone’s so-called mid-life crisis we are usually considering the new choice to be the situation that needs serious attention.  

The truth is, most of these choices do in fact stem from a situation that needs serious attention, namely the state of the person’s life or heart or soul before they make the decision that is being labeled the crisis.

The situation that needs serious attention is that so many of us are buried under the daily requirements of adult life – the job, the bills, the parenting and the planning.  It happens slowly, like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, until one day we wake up and realize that we may have just reached the halfway point, and there are still some things we’d like to to do. To make.  To see. Or that we’d simply like to live the rest of our lives more awake.

There’s this beautiful line in Joe Versus the Volcano (Wait… keep reading!  Don’t leave just because I love Joe Versus the Volcano!) in which one of the characters says, “My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”

Seriously, give Joe Versus the Volcano another chance.  It’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and there’s a volcano and a ukulele.  What’s not to love?

I think that’s true.  I think few of us manage to hold onto wonder throughout our lives.  I think we wake to glimpses of it, and some can grab onto those glimpses and stretch them into seasons.  Some even turn seasons into years.  But to live awake is a laudable goal, one we should applaud, not condemn.  When our friends and family members make choices that allow them to shed some parts of their former selves, or societal expectations, or even self-imposed ones, in order to live a life that is more fully aligned with their gifts, their joy, their wonder, that is something to celebrate.

Now, I realize that some mid-life crises are in fact true crises, particularly when they result in the emotional ruin of another human.  I’m not talking about celebrating someone’s mid-life affair or mid-life gambling addiction.  But I am suggesting that we pipe down a bit about choices that look different than our own, choices that result in someone living a little differently than we live, or choosing to make less money than we make, or spending free time differently than we’d spend it.  Before labeling these things a crisis, maybe we should take a moment to reflect on what that person might be waking up to, and what we’re sleeping through in our own lives.

To the couple who sold their belongings and spent the last year working from the road in an RV – you are not in crisis.  You are awakening to your sense of adventure. 

To the man who left his job to work for a start-up non-profit bringing water to those in need – you are not in crisis.  You are awakening to the need of the world, and your own capacity to meet it. 

To the mama who joined the roller derby team – you are not in crisis.  You are awakening to a need for novelty and friendship, empowerment and strength.  Also you’re a badass.

I think we need new name here.  I’m not much of a marketing strategist, but crisis just doesn’t do it for me.  Mid-life awakening?  Mid-life adventure?  Mid-life reboot?  Help me out here readers. What have you got?  

In the meantime, I’m eagerly awaiting my mid-life “crisis.”

I welcome it with big, wide, open arms.  

As long as it doesn’t involve running marathons.  Or jumping in volcanoes.  And I wouldn’t complain if it involved living at the beach.

Rules of Play

 

Playing games with Ronan while many months pregnant with Liam.   Also, see that Blues Clues notebook?  I cannot count how many hours of my life were spent hiding blue paw prints around my house.

“Mama, I’m a little sick,” moaned Ronan as he bent over the toilet, pantomiming vomit. It was his best attempt at empathy, and just shy of two years old, a pretty good one. He had, after all, spent the last month of his toddler life following me to the bathroom as morning sickness dictated my every move. I briefly worried that I was damaging him for life, constantly vomiting in front of him, then worried that my worry was damaging the baby growing inside of me and decided to shelve all the worrying for the time being.

Please continue reading this piece over at 28 Days of Play

Misadventures in Gardening

Once upon a time, there was a mama and a glass of wine and a simmering pan of roasted garlic. It was witching hour, that crazy hour of the day when the children are hungry but it’s too early for dinner and Dad is not home but it’s time to start cooking anyway and there aren’t enough snacks in the world to stop the whining.

I’m thrilled to be published at Mamalode today, please continue reading on their site








Every Step You Take

Dear Fitbit,

We need to talk. 

I know it’s totally cliché to start a letter that way.  And unfair really, given that you can’t even talk back.  But I have a few things I need to get off my chest.

When you came into my life a few short weeks ago, I had no idea you would turn my world around the way you did.  I’ve never fallen so hard, so fast.  I mean, I slept with you the first night we met.  My dog hasn’t even slept in my bed yet, and I’ve lived with him for three years.  But you, you promised so much.  You promised the moon and I believed you.

We were inseparable in those early days.  You were literally attached to me every second of the day.  I could hear you singing in my head, “Every breath you take, every move you make…” and I knew it was borderline creepy and I didn’t care.  I couldn’t take a single step without you.  I needed you to count them all.  “Every step you take, I’ll be watching you….”

Oh, and the way you made me feel when I hit that 10,000 step goal.  The vibrating, flashing party on my wrist never lasted long enough.  I’d stay up late, stealing away from my loved ones to sneak in extra steps with you.  Anything to make you happy.  “Every game you play, every night you stay….”

But when I didn’t make the goal I worried.  I wondered if you knew about the other women on my leader board, the ones walking 14,000 steps a day.  14,000 steps a day!  And in Canada no less, where it’s freezing outside?  Did you look at their numbers and wish you were on their wrists instead of mine?  Was I becoming a disappointment?  “Every vow you break, I’ll be watching you….”

And then one morning, I forgot to put you on after my shower.  And when I saw you sitting on my counter three hours later, I panicked.  Did you think I had left you?  All of those wasted steps, steps you didn’t know I was taking.  I took them for you!  I affixed you to my wrist tighter than before, desperate to prove my affection.  “Oh can’t you see, you belong to me…”

But since that morning, it hasn’t been the same.  I remembered those unencumbered hours, hours I spent free from the counting.  And I have a confession to make.  I’ve been looking at other wrists, bare wrists.  I’ve been imagining my wrist without you.   “How my poor heart aches, with every step you take….”

I don’t want to end this thing, but I can’t go on this way anymore.  I see now that what we had was a lusty infatuation, and not the kind of relationship that can last.   We can still see each other, but not every day.  Not every step I take.  Not every move I make.

I’m willing to try again if you are. 

Here’s to a fresh start,

Jess

The Measure of a Year


I have thousands of photos sitting on my computer and a decade old abandoned promise to myself of making digital photo books out of them.  I have this pipe dream of sitting down in front of my computer and choosing a handful of favorites to represent each year, tossing them onto a pre-made template and hitting the order button.  Nothing fancy, no text, not letting perfect be the enemy of good enough, just simply done.  It has yet to happen.

I just sat down and started scanning through the photos of this past year, thinking maybe I’d start now and work my way backwards.  As I scrolled through them, I couldn’t believe everything that transpired in 2015.  It feels like the year just started, yet I have tangible proof that a very full year has indeed passed.  I also have tangible proof that I take way too many pictures of my cats.

But without these pictures, my own introspective year in review would be left to the whim of my ever-changing emotions.  Catch me on a good day, and I could tell you it’s been a banner year.  I could rattle off the things accomplished, the lessons learned, the trips taken, the babies born, the lives joined in marriage, the highlight reel.  Or, following a week of rain and dreary skies, my vitamin D deficient self might tell you that it’s been a hard year.  A year of difficult parenting moments, challenging medical diagnoses for many that I love, a year of loss, a year of global struggle, a year that brought me to my knees on more than one occasion. 

But my pictures tell the whole story.  I can look at any random picture from this year and remember how the moments almost always held multiple emotions. 

Like this one, when I hit the road with my two boys in January and drove to Texas, excited for an adventure. How we got derailed nine hours in by a migraine, trying to recover at a booth at a Braum’s in Oklahoma.  Trudged the last two hours to Dallas, feeling relief and triumph upon arrival.  I look at this picture and think, oh Jess, you don’t know what’s about to hit you.  Maybe don’t call Jason from Joplin and brag about what great time you’re making so you don’t have to eat your words later, over ice cream and Imitrex.

Or this one, at my aunt’s bed & breakfast in Texas, helping my granddad settle in for a winter’s stay, his first winter without his wife of 64 years by his side.  We were so grateful to be with him, yet we all missed her so much behind our smiling faces.

This could have been any mid-winter’s day, escaping the house for a change of pace.  We had so many good days in our first year of homeschooling, but this one probably wasn’t one of them.  This one was probably a hard day, a second cup of coffee day, an “I need a break day.”  

This picture, of my basement after I got rid of over 40 bags of stuff in 40 days.  That was a process, and it was a highlight of my year.  I loved hearing from all of you about your own journeys with your stuff. However, my basement doesn’t look like this now, and I’m still processing that.  Which means you’re probably going to hear about it later.  😉

The boys on our family farm in Indiana.  My first visit back in many years, to celebrate the life of my grandmother Gigi.  A realization that our family gatherings are likely to continue to be marked by loss for years to come, that the co-mingling of joy and grief is an ever-present thread in life. 

My happiest place is always by the water, but this picture was taken on a day that we received bad news about a family member.  Liam is joyful in this shot, and I am heartbroken.  He jumps off the dock again and again, and there they are, joy and grief, holding hands.

It rained incessantly this summer in St. Louis and this was my favorite of those days.  I laughed so hard that I cried as we started kicking puddles at each other, riding our scooters in the gutters, watching cars drive by, passengers staring at us like we were crazy.  Maybe we were.  But this day felt like healing.

A failed attempt at a photo shoot in crazy wind during a beautiful week away at the beach.  Strike that.  Not a failed attempt.  This looks about right for my family. 

Our sweet new kitten Eragon (left) with our Ginger cat (right), who we lost this year after 14 years together.  Joy and grief, grief and joy.

When Jason comes home from work and we are accidentally wearing matching clothes.  And I look up at his smiling eyes, with the lines around them that remind me how damned lucky we are to have had so many years together, and how our house becomes home again every day when he’s here.  

The pictures tell the whole truth, if we let them.  We get to choose which pictures we keep and curate and catalogue, much in the way we choose the way we view our memories.  We get to choose the way we measure a year.  And since I often find my truth in the lyrics of musical theater, I’m going with Jonathon Larson on this one.  All of it can be measured in love, if we let it.  There is no grief without love, no loss without love.  No moments of loneliness or frustration without love.  The joy stems from love, the laughter and the tears.  And when I look at my pictures from 2015, that’s what I’m going to remember.  I’m going to remember a year that I fiercely loved. 

“In daylights,

in sunsets,

in midnights,

in cups of coffee…

  
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.”

Paris, Art and Holy Ground

Last night, I went to the theater with two of my oldest and dearest friends and two of our children.  We arrived at the restaurant we had agreed upon for a pre-show dinner, Paris unspoken (as the children present varied in age and need/appropriateness of information that could be shared) but heavy on our hearts.  A phone was discreetly lifted, revealing a rising body count.  We swallowed our sorrow, but I know we all we carried it into the theater with us later.

The musical we attended provided moments of transcendence, moments where I forgot what was happening outside the walls of our shared space, as good theater often does.  We laughed riotously with the audience at times, sat somber in other moments, and at intermission, the cell phones powered back on, were brought back to the jarring reality that is the co-mingling of grief and also joy in the present moment.

Half a world away another audience had gathered in another theater to share in the collective experience of live art at a concert.  As I drove home, safe in the comfort of my car with my son lost in his book in the backside, I finally let the tears fall, thinking of the more than hundred vibrant lives that wouldn’t make it home from that other theater halfway around the world. 

It felt like an attack on holy ground.  There is something otherworldly about a concert, a play, a symphony, something extra that happens when a small group of humans gather together to collectively experience the transformative magic of creativity expressed.  Out loud.  Live.  There is a palpable energy in a concert, a moment when voices are raised together and you swear that maybe your heartbeats are in sync with your tapping feet.  There is a moment at the symphony where the instruments swells and you think your heart might burst from swelling alongside it.  There is a moment when a performer is storytelling the truth onstage in such a vulnerable way that you remember that we are all connected.  That we are sharing this human experience.  That we belong to each other. 

So I’m not surprised that those who wish to terrorize and destroy life would deliberately choose to attack those committed to living creatively.  Living collectively.  Embracing the tenacious and vulnerable and diverse expressions of humanity.  I’m not surprised they would choose a place where humans are gathered to celebrate the beautiful source of creativity within us, no matter how we choose to define that source.  It’s perhaps the closest thing we have to a church that embraces all of humanity.

 But I am devastated and a part of me is worried.  Worried that we will continue to slowly pull back from collective human experiences.  That we will continue to retreat into ourselves, our private spaces, our safe homes in order to protect ourselves.   That we will continue to qualify and categorize humans into groups, easily identifiable good guys and bad guys, so we can have answers now.   I am fearful that the easy answers, the ones that come wrapped up in pretty paper with a bow on top, the ones that promise swift and thorough solutions to the world’s most ancient and complex problems will win out over the hard answers.  The complicated answers.   The answers that require much more than the course of one lifetime. 

There was a moment last night when my friend commented that he just wanted to get on a plane to Paris.  I knew the feeling well.  When we are confronted by unspeakable tragedy, we want to help.  We want to do something, even if we have no clue what that something is.  I see the collective prayers, love, light and energy being sent out to the city of Paris from around the world and I have to believe that is something.  I see the lines of people in the streets of Paris waiting to give blood and am reminded that there are tangible action pieces we can take. 

But it’s more than that, more than the desire to help.  I think we also desire to be there to simply mourn alongside those who are suffering.   To remind us that they are our own brothers and sisters.

So we will do just, mourn alongside Paris.  But I think there is one more thing we can do, all of us.  We can keep creating.  Keep sharing creative space with other humans.  We can keep making our art and playing our music and writing our books.  We can go to a play and laugh generously.  We can attend a concert and sing way too loudly.  Dance with abandon.  Look at the people standing next to us, look them in the eye and see ourselves reflected in them and them reflected in us.  We can renew our commitment to participating in this thing that helps define us as humans, our desire to make something with the lives we have been given. 

 I am hopeful that we will do just that.  In the immediate hours following the breaking of this news, this illustration began to circulate on social media, and it was followed quickly by many others.   Thank you Jean Jullien for your work, for reminding us to respond to violence with creation, to despair with hope. 

12243032-10156185695635693-8962473270057554752-n.jpg


It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still love it.”  – Oscar Wilde

Let’s be courageous together.  For Paris.