Living in Nashville can be tough.  As a musician here, it’s easy to feel like a cliche.  Because, well, you are.  I live on both sides of the street, as both a cliche, and a judge of other cliches.  When I get rental applications for some properties that I help with, at least half of them are groups of kids moving here with no money, no connections, and a guitar.  (Its all I can do not to warn them,  “musicians don’t move to Nashville without a dime and suddenly find them in their guitar case…”)

Anyway, we’ve begun to find our footing in this boom-town, mostly around our little neighborhood in east Nashville and our little 1 year old that dances incessantly and speaks in full paragraphs but has yet to learn English.  And it seems we’ve, finally, figured out how to work real jobs/ responsibilities, AND complete some creative endeavors on the side.  Mostly that means cooking and canning for me, but occasionally, like right now, we have some music to share.  This song is a preview of a four song EP that Jaron is producing for me, Katherine.  Which means Jaron is doing most of the work, but I get to put it out under my name.  🙂  I wrote this after reading a book by Kathleen Norris on the ancient bad thought, “Acedia” that resonated deeply with me. So, here is my first solo recording.

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It’s been an epic year for our little Kamin family.  Baby girl has grown by leaps and bounds. We switched to one income. Almost a year ago my father was diagnosed with kidney cancer and underwent two incredibly invasive surgeries, all while unsure if the c-word would win the battle anyway.  The circumstances and ensuing emotions, both new ones and those from stowaway baggage, have been exhausting.  I don’t have a lot to say about it yet, but a nap sounds wonderful.  🙂

Here are a few of the gifts in our lives that keep us afloat:

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Seriously.  These macaroons are quite the picker-upper.

Seriously. These macaroons are quite the picker-upper.

We are so grateful for the sustaining fellowship we’ve experienced through our faith, family, and community this past year.  It gives us great hope for the future.

My little Isla,
This is my first attempt at writing anything since you were born. It will be sketchy and clumsy. But that’s not because of you. You’ve been a welcome distraction from the fact that I was already seriously struggling to write. I think I posted six times last year total, and most of them were with a lot of stress and hesitation. But your dad kicked me out of the house this morning with my lap top and a free latte card, so here I am. It’s not that there’s nothing to write about. On the contrary, your birth is probably the biggest event in my life. That and marrying your dad, but birth is far more dramatic than a wedding (assuming everyone crucial shows up).

There are several babies here and so I’m distracted and missing you already. Maybe especially because you were still sleeping when I left. There’s also a table of older men and that makes me weepy right off the bat. Old friendships. Vulnerability. Babies. Seriously beautiful stuff at the coffee shop this morning. Also some pretty impressive beards – so while I’m happy to be here, part of me wishes you and your dad were here to share it. 🙂

I haven’t told you this yet, but I spent many years being scared to death of motherhood. Personal issues, fears of screwing the whole thing up, awareness of my own selfishness all made me hesitant. (Not to mention actually giving birth!) And I’ve come to believe American culture contributes to those things by obsessing about the value of autonomy for adults and also of a perfect childhood for kids. But here’s the thing: I was so, so wrong. I love you and I don’t have to try. I want to take care of you and I don’t have to force myself. You are beautiful and interesting and I don’t have to talk myself into seeing it. I hope you experience it someday – knowing that love can be so powerful and one-sided is a great boon to my understanding of the love from God. And of the love he hopes to see in all his people for each other.

When I fell in love with your dad, it happened very quickly, and then more slowly, and over again. Choosing to love someone comes with starts and stops and decisions and fears, but not so with parenthood. There are no hesitations or issues of requiting. You are my family and I love you. Just like that. Blown out diapers don’t change that. Trouble sleeping, refusing to eat when you desperately need it, the stuff of babyhood – none of it closes my heart to you. If anything it opens it more and pulls at its strings as I wish I could fix it all. And I know that will continue as you grow and change. I am no longer afraid of anything compromising my desire to give of myself for your sake, and I will always be grateful for that discovery.

I love you, sweet Isla Jane. May you grow in the knowledge of that, and that it is only an inkling of the love that awaits you in your relationship with the Lord.

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Last month I heard a British comedian complaining about the manipulative emotional aspect of the Olympics. He felt the same way about all the commotion surrounding the most recent royal wedding and actually expressed relief at being away from it all in America. (If I were a British comedian, I’d move to America, too. Jokes only have to be half as funny when you have that accent.) When questioned about his lack of patriotism, he said he felt that pride in where you’re born is inherently foolish since it’s completely out of your control. The same in essence as declaring that you are proud to be “Caesarean”. And it was funny. And I think it was also true.

Since Jaron and I learned we have a baby girl joining our household this fall, I’ve had surges of homesickness that are different and more intense than ever before. The idea of raising a daughter in a land I didn’t experience as a child is a bit intimidating. What will be special to her about this place? How can we pass on some of what it meant to be children to us when we grew up in California? Is it possible to be as fond of rolling hills and lakes as we were of mountains and waves? And how in the world can we ask our child to grow up without regular access to Peterson’s Donut Corner??

I’ve lived in several states, traveled a bit, and I like to think I’ve been somewhat enlightened by the experiences. But when I think of where I come from and of the roots my child will establish, I get extremely specific and foolish ideas of what they should be. As if life in the Shadowlands is the number one priority and that it must involve swimming pools and beaches and breakfast burritos or I will have failed my child. As if roots in those things would help her be who she is made to be, when ultimately she is not made for this world at all.

I feel like I’ve been gone a long time.  Not from writing, but from Nashville.  It’s only been eight days.  It was supposed to be five, but early Sunday morning, while we were both asleep, my grandfather passed away.  A surreal twenty-four hours; my mom and sister had thrown a shower to celebrate the little girl Jaron and I are preparing to welcome this fall.  Women from my past and present came and gave gifts and kind words and prayers.  Every one of them is a mother, proving, I guess, that I’ve taken my sweet time with the whole progeny thing.  🙂

After the festivities I went with my parents to visit Papa.  He hasn’t been doing well for some time, and honestly, I haven’t always visited him when I’m in town, shying away from the awkwardness of telling him who I am.  But this time Jaron and I went along to see him and whether he was settling in to his new nursing house, where he’d been for just one day.  He looked good and I told him his great-granddaughter was excited to meet him next time we come to town.  He was confused, but seemed to know I was being friendly.  He asked us what we thought of the weather.  I shook his hand when we left, afraid that our customary kiss on the cheek would confuse him further.

Still, while his mind has rebelled against him, his health has always been good, so it was a shock to arrive at my parents’ the next morning to the news.  It amazes me how you can walk in on a scene that looks completely normal, but immediately know that something has gone very wrong.

Mom and I spent one morning going through his things, noting how temporal the “treasures” we hold onto really are, finding dust and decay everywhere, and feeling relief for Papa, that his worries and loads have finally been lifted for good.

Papa had a taste for experiences, both fancy and fun.  His homes were professionally decorated, restaurant meals had multiple courses, often with seafood from his native New England, and he traveled the world before it was common to do so.  But he also had a jar of jelly beans near him at all times and loved to find surprises at stores or around the house to give to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  He was an actor at the Old Globe and loved whimsy and fanfare.

As he had outlived his friendships and extended family, we had a small ceremony with family and tried our best to do justice to his favorite food.   The lobster, not the jelly beans.

Our baby girl has lost her last two great-grandparents while in the womb, one a spiritual leader and the other a creative leader.  We hope and pray that she takes after them both.

Every once and again on a holiday or weekend, Jaron and I will declare a “cabin day”.  It’s a time to shun personal electronics and try to retrain our brains for a slower, more present way of living.  We make meals that take time, listen to music without lyrics, make sure Banjo gets a long walk, read, and most of all, look around.  It’s a time when, as Jaron said, “the cardinal regains its rightful place” as the most enthralling thing to vie for our attention over coffee.  Sometimes I get my way (read: on my birthday) and we even camp out in the living room with our dog the night before.

It used to be that I looked forward to these times with a little trepidation.  I’m pretty sure Portlandia got their idea for the technology loop skit by watching me.  My mind isn’t very good at being idle, and when it is I realize how idle my body and spirit have been, too, and to be honest, I’m just too lazy to let that happen very often.

This year we are invoking cabin days for all of the lenten season, and while I know it’s a long time and there will be moments of frustration, I really can’t wait to start.  I love being exposed to different pieces of writing and music online, seeing what my peers are working on, and hearing from people I don’t get to see in my day-to-day life.  But much of the time my mind receives sharing as an entry in a competition for whose work is most worthwhile.  Or whose haircut.

Last week Andrew Peterson shared a Huffington Post link – a short article with Nick Cave’s response to his nomination for the MTV Music Awards several years ago.  I was shocked and relieved to read it.  Finally, a reminder that competition in art, whether for money or attention, is a mutation of its purpose, a cheapening of the source of beauty.

The sense of my hands in the dough, or the sound of their interaction with the strings, of honesty in a song that is too difficult to communicate any other way, of enjoying a long laugh with my spouse and refraining from diluting it along the information waves.  It sounds like the good life.  Like indulging in freedom.  I’m looking forward to this time, even just the feeling of it coming on.

It is a temptation.  It is a submission.  For me, fear is even an addiction.  It is a place I know how to inhabit, where I believe I gain control of what happens to me.  If I fear it before it happens, I can see it coming and prevent it.  I’ve experienced it before with other failures of my mind.  Like judgment.  Like pride.

It once took me several months to decide to forgive someone that I love.  And another two years to really get it done.  Book after book, talk after talk, wall after wall, learning how to forgive a fully repentant person.

It wasn’t just about deciding to forgive, it was about breaking the cycle of unforgiveness.  A cycle in which my mind longed to recall the ways that I had been wronged, a cycle that made me feel less vulnerable by keeping me in the place of victim at all times.  Never would I be surprised again.  A cycle that poisoned my heart and mind and relationships.

Any time we want to eschew a habit, we have to say “no” to it once.  And then we have to say “no” again the next hour, the next day, and every day after.  For me, one of the most helpful things is to replace my previous thought pattern with a new mantra.  One that is easy to remember and available to repeat at the first sign of danger.  My mentor wrote one for me once and since then I have found my own.

My forgiveness mantra is pretty simple now that so much time has passed.  Every few months now I may find a flash of paranoia, and I can say in response – I have forgiven that person and I am loved by that person.

My fear mantra will probably change over time, too, but here’s what I’m starting with:

It is an act of obedience and worship to create.  I will seek and indulge creative promptings, and I will present my work to my loving Creator with open hands.

I may crochet it on a pillow.  Except that I am afraid of needles