Friday, January 17, 2020

Winter On The High Plains

Trying To Get Home From Work

It's no secret that I hate winter. What's to like? Ooh, the snow is so fun to play in! said no one. First of all, I don't play, unless one counts donning three layers of clothing, bundling up my dog and stealing down the icy front steps to do what it takes her all of five seconds to do as "play".

So why do I live in Minnesota? Why does anyone live anywhere? I don't have the means to take me wherever whimsy leads me; and I have a job. I grew up on the high plains (happily not in Minnesota), so I should be, and am, used to winter. I still haven't grown fond of it.

I surely don't want to move to tornado alley or hurricane-central, so everyone has their burdens to bear. It's just that winter is approximately six months long. When I was a kid I divided the twelve months of the year into four seasons. Kids are gullible. The truth is, spring and fall comprise one month each, summer is three months, tops. That leaves...yikes, actually seven months that are in actuality winter. So when October rolls around, I start watching the weather forecast, for all the good that does me, and laying out my winter wardrobe. It's always a smorgasbord of possibilities ~ snow, minus twenty-degree wind chills, ice, blustery gale-force winds; and generally a combination of one or two or three.

A typical work conversation goes like this:

"Has anyone seen an updated forecast?"

"I heard four to six inches."

"Really? Online, I saw six to ten!"

"I should ask for tomorrow off."

"I don't know. It should be okay driving in. I'm just worried about the drive home."

"You never know. It depends on what time it starts."

"I really should ask for tomorrow off."

I've had this exact same conversation approximately ten thousand two hundred and fifty-nine times.

If I have the luxury of requesting the day off, I take it. But that's not always possible. Sometimes I have actual responsibilities, believe it or not. A few years ago my husband drove me (or slid us) to work on ice-slickened roads because I had a training class of two people and what would they do if I didn't show up? Turns out both of my trainees called in due to weather, and we had risked death for no Godly reason.

And I submit that "weather forecasting" is a racket. Nobody wants to commit, because loathe as they are to admit it, they're just guessing. I did ask for today off, because my workplace is not in crisis mode, and the forecast calls for six to ten inches of snow. That means we'll maybe get three.

For an area that experiences multitudes of these events every winter, our TV weather people are oddly disinterested. Maybe they've been worn down by constantly being wrong; maybe "weather person" is the dregs of local news. Try to catch the latest forecast and one is greeted with what yesterday's temps and winds were. I'd respect them more if they simply shrugged and said, "Your guess is as good as mine."

The upside of a snowstorm is if one is able to anticipate it and gird for it, it can be relatively stress-free, snug, and excuse-ready (I can't do that. Don't you know there's a storm out there?) What one needs is plenty of comfort food, enough beverages of choice, a cozy blanket, cable or Netflix, a strong internet connection, a craft project or a good book. One must plan ahead. Just don't rely on your local meteorologist to forewarn you. They're too busy being hazed in the back office by the sports guy.

In the pantheon of songwriting, few songs have been penned about winter. The ones we're familiar with are mostly clinically depressing or are about cold graves. Winter is gloomy enough; I don't need to hear about someone gazing in the mirror as mascara-stained tears streak down their cheeks.

Leave it to Paul Simon, however, Here's one I actually like:

When I awake tomorrow morning, the snow will obscure my door stop. I'll pull on my snow boots, hat, down coat and gloves, velcro Josie's pink plaid coat around her tummy and head on out. When we return, I'll pour myself a cup of fresh-brewed Joe and anticipate a waffle-and-bacon breakfast; then pull the comforter around me and bless the fact that I'm warm and cozy inside, and that it's only Saturday. I have no place to be.

All in all, though, I'd trade a Minnesota winter for whatever you've got to offer.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Starting Anew In 2020

Like with most things, I'm a little off-kilter. Resolutions are supposed to start on January first -- everyone knows that, silly. I commenced my 2020 resolutions somewhere around mid-2019, but they still count. One might assume that as a person ages, they let it all hang out; give up, give in. I certainly thought that.

Alas, I spent a good number of years going where the winds took me. Life was a series of circumstances; little effort was required. What was gonna happen was gonna happen. It's not as if I was a passive observer. I could definitely step up when it counted ~ I raised my two boys to be upstanding, flourishing individuals (it worked). I had my professional career phase, in which I had the opportunity to apply everything common sense tells one is the means to uplifting people (it worked).

Now I'm kind of all about me.

Around May of 2019, I realized that being "obese", as doctors like to code their claims, was doing me nothing but harm. I no longer cared about how I looked, but how I felt. Climbing stairs caused my knees to creak. I slept like crap. I finally understood that losing weight wasn't a "diet", but a lifestyle. I love, love junk food. Give me a donut and you'll gain a new best friend. Unfortunately, enough finally became enough.

To date, I've lost thirty pounds, and I look pretty good, if I do say so. It's not easy. After eight months of deprivation, resentment surreptitiously comes a'knockin'. I took a diet vacation in the two weeks between Christmas and New Year's, and now I feel like a novice, fighting hunger pangs and battling to re-assume the program.

It's also interesting how eager people are to feed you when you are tussling with the devil on your shoulder. My cubicle neighbor is attending culinary school and likes to bring in delights to share with select persons. It's a fine line between assuaging someone's feelings and guarding one's hard-fought victories. I've settled upon taking two bites. It's a compromise.

My husband, who is a man and thus self-absorbed, enjoys picking up delicacies at the deli as a treat for me. I eat them, naturally, all the while mentally calculating how I'll need to make up for it the rest of the week.


I started doing counted cross-stitch in the eighties. I no longer remember if I came up with the idea on my own or if peer pressure caused my obsession. I was working at the hospital, and all the nurses (well, maybe not all, but most) were working on projects. This was what we did on the second shift. It's not that nothing happened during the evening hours, but the air was quieter.

I completed dozens of projects from 1980 to 1988, framing them all, giving some as gifts. I became a crafting master. Then I stopped. I don't remember why. I think life just got busier and I was no longer working odd shifts. Now some thirty years later, I've taken it up again, and it relaxes me just as it did back then. It's a strange phenomenon ~ it's really not the finished product that hooks one, but the "doing". Repetition? I can't explain it, but it works. It really works. I will keep on.

My first project back (in progress):

I want to finish a third April Tompkins novel; at least I think I do. Writing can be fun and it can be complete tedium. I've written so much of this follow-up novel that it would be sacrilege to not finish it. It could turn out to be a novella ~ time and imagination will tell. The good thing about writing is that one falls in love with her characters, even if no one else does. Discipline is an issue, though. A real writer would have completed the damn thing in a month. I've had this current project in progress for about a year. Obstinance will force me to finish it ~ I know me.

I'm still here ~ still kickin'. When I was a kid and I thought about the year 2020, I assumed I'd be a crotchety old lady digging her own grave. Turns out, like most things I assumed back then, that's not exactly right.

Here's to keepin' on.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Getting It Together

Humans are funny. They have an innate need for order, yet if they are like me they subjugate it until things get completely out of hand or a new year begins; whichever comes first.

As the world's ultimate procrastinator, my trigger is irritation. "Where the *#!! is that ____? I know I have it...somewhere. This is *@*#! ridiculous!" Then, "I need to get organized."

As 2019 drew to a close I began re-ordering my life. Now I'm on a mission. Beware: Once you start, you are incapable of stopping. Not only have I undertaken an overall tidying of my home, but it has extended to my little office cubicle. December at my workplace is so ridiculously busy that papers and notes scribbled on yellow legal pads get tossed into a pile, and I can barely concentrate on the current email question without mentally scanning the other fifty unread missives in my in-box. Actual cognitive thought is relegated to auto-pilot with double fingers crossed. Now that it's January and things have cooled, I've begun sifting through all my scribbles and categorizing them or jettisoning them, whichever seems appropriate at the time. Additionally, Clorox Wipes are awesome. Today I cleaned, rearranged, shredded, and categorized three months worth of detritus. Look at me now!

I want to preserve it for posterity! I wish I had "before" pictures.

For the remainder of the day, I was gleefully productive. Many things cause endorphins to be released -- exercise, alcohol (truly), chocolate, music (duh), even lavender. But I submit that organizing is a gigantic endorphin generator. I'm almost looking forward to returning to work on Monday simply to gaze at my handiwork.

Granted, it won't last, but I have seven months, tops, to maintain a semblance of neatness. After that, welcome to my cube, replacement!

The pending end of my work life is rather bittersweet. My first thought is, good luck; nobody will do my job better than me. My second thought is, do you appreciate me now? Funnily, I'll miss it, though. I'm feeling wistful. I'll get over it, no doubt.

Finally, getting it together is a wondrous feeling.

Monday, January 6, 2020

I Need A Job

I'm a good writer ~ ask anybody. If you want a bulleted list, I can whip one up. Everyone loves bullet points.

Don't let the fact that no one subscribes to my blog deter you from hiring me. Blogs are hard to find and a niche product. I can't only write about music ~ give me a topic and I'll vomit out five hundred words, easy. Good words.

The thing is, I'm soon going to have a lot of time on my hands and I could use the extra income. I'm not looking to commute and I own a computer, so I'm your gal! I'm attuned to politics and mass entertainment; and if you're looking for a take on everyday life, trust me, I'm living it now.

I could do a Google search for free-lance opportunities, and I will; but if you happen to be reading this and are looking for someone who'll work cheap, check out my samples. I have very few demands ~ a nice hot cup of dark roast in the morning; maybe a sugared doughnut every week or so.

I do tend to ramble on my blog, but that's because I'm working for free. I really can be disciplined ~ just ask my boss. And it's not that a music video is de riguer, but this is a music blog after all.

My most recent post shows me off at my best and most engaged.

One of my past rants.

Oh, and I'm easy to work with. I'm not needy. I'm, in fact, your dream employee.

That's my hard sell. Ring me up (or, I guess, just leave a comment, because I'm not dumb enough to include my phone number here.)

Thank you for reading. I await your call (comment).

Saturday, January 4, 2020

I Did An Interview!

(Not exactly like this, however)

A newly-created online magazine, or, more appropriately, "e-zine", Ambience Magazine, found Red River's on, of all places, ReverbNation, and contacted me via email for an interview! After almost twenty years of existence, Red River is hot! Over the years I've posted our music on various and sundry sites, from (is it still in existence?) SoundClick to numerous promotion sites that one pays to submit songs to like Taxi (don't do it), online radio stations, Music Xray that said Rick Rubin was looking for songs (and he's not a nice man, by the way), music licensing sites that seem to have disappeared, to the usual banal sites like Facebook. I've used Spotify and (sadly) Pandora.  I gave up because nobody gave a damn.

It seems that once I surrendered and moved on, interest peaked.

Ambience is dedicated to featuring independent artists, and I hope they are successful. There are scores of independent artists who, like Red River, distribute their own music (record labels are so passe).

February 2020's inaugural issue will feature, of all artists, us! We are profiled in the non-touring section. Writer JosaLynn Riley was kind enough to email me with an interview request. With Ambience's permission, I am posting the Q and A.

This month we talk to Michelle Anderson, one of the members of the indie band Red River.
Red River's music is what I would label eclectic. Your band's style varies widely. Was that deliberate?

No, not at all.  It is more a bonding of different life experiences and musical influences. My husband and our band's producer, David, has been writing and recording his own songs since the seventies. I, on the other hand, didn't even try to write a song until sometime around 2001. I cut my teeth on country music, while David is a rocker through and through. Somehow, some way, the meld actually works. 

Each of you obviously has your own influences. Can you expand on that?

I'm hesitant to speak for my husband since music is so personal, but I know David was heavily influenced by The Beatles, naturally; plus the Stones and The Doors. He is his own man, however. His music is completely original. It can't be pigeonholed. 

My background is simpler. Give me a Merle Haggard song and I'm in heaven. I cut my teeth on sixties country and "three chords and the truth". The first song I ever wrote followed that pattern, although I like to think I've expanded my horizons since then.

Describe a typical session, from the germ of an idea to finished product. Red River is largely self-contained, correct?
Completely self-contained. We are a two-person operation. 

Well, we've never actually tried to write together -- we're very independent people, so David has his writing room and I have mine. He's much quicker than me to develop an idea. Often I discard song snippets as quickly as I come up with them; thus I'm a laggard in regard to writing anything decent. If I do chance upon something that seems promising, I will tweak it constantly. My song Ice Storms was actually conceived during an ice storm when we were stuck inside the house. I spent the whole day refining it, particularly the lyrics. If I know I've latched onto something promising, I'm single-minded in seeing it to its rightful conclusion. 

David just plows forward and will write, record and engineer a new song in a day. And I'm like, where did that come from?

If I have a song I'm happy with, I'll either record or just sing an acoustic version for David. This provides him with a feel for the song and starts his creative juices flowing. He'll record the entire backing track before he calls on me to record the vocal. He records the lead guitar, rhythm guitar, keyboards, drums and anything else in his arsenal he chooses to employ. Then he tweaks it endlessly; he's a hard taskmaster when it comes to his creative output.

If it's your song, do you insist upon certain parameters?

I view my job as writing the song and singing it. What happens from there is a perpetual surprise. David takes the song to a place it never would have gone in different hands.

So you're a singer and writer and David does everything under the sun. Do you personally assume any other roles?

I create and manage our online presence. I've developed our website and coordinated the creation of Life Is A Dream's album artwork. I am, I guess, the band's publicist. I make sure we are visible to people searching for good independent music. I also chose the tracks and track order for Life Is A Dream.

Tell me about Ghost Town.

I love Roy Orbison, so I set out to write a soaring song in his style. Desolation is a constant theme in my songs, and what fits better than a ghost town? The song has no personal meaning other than the loneliness that all of us feel at some point in our lives.

Remember Me (The Moon) is my current favorite song. I keep clicking on it and listening over and over. Can you provide some insights on it?

David is a mystic. I don't always understand the meaning of his words, but I do understand the feel of the song. It's one of my favorites, too. I may be biased, but I think my husband is a musical genius.

The Best I Can starts out your CD. Why was it chosen and was the retro sound deliberate?

Nothing Red River does is deliberate. We're a "feel" band. As the group's marketer, I felt that The Best I Can was the strongest, most impactful track to introduce people to our music.

Life Is A Dream is a bit deceptive. One thinks it will be a positive song, but it has dark undertones. 

The song was conceived at a difficult time. It's bittersweet. Some of the best songs arise out of pain. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Which of Red River's songs receive the most feedback?

It's so strange ~ the tracks that people like the best are not ones I would guess. On our current release it seems that Remember Me (The Moon), Life Is A Dream, Ghost Town, and Prayed For It To Rain garner the most positive responses.

 Do you have a personal favorite of the songs you've written?

Heartview. It doesn't get a lot of plays, I'm assuming due to its title, which means absolutely nothing to anyone but me (and my family). Heartview was the name of the rehab facility where my dad finally accepted sobriety. I wrote that song, unlike most of my others, really quickly. I don't necessarily buy into the notion of a muse, but this one came from a magical place. And the recording is awesome! People should give it a spin.

What song does David consider his best?

He has a few songs that have gone through various incarnations and titles. One he is particularly proud of is "When They Go Down"/"Can God Be Touched". It's rather an epic tale and beautiful.

If people want to hear your music, where should they go?

Our website is Folks can sample tracks there, buy an individual track or two, or the entire album if they choose.

Life Is A Dream is also available on CDBaby, which is the site for all things indie. Through CDBaby we've gotten our music distributed to Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, and YouTube (just to name a few!) 

Red River is a band formed from the bonding of two people clearly devoted to music and to one another. Tell me a bit about your non-musical life.

We have five children between us and four grandchildren (all boys, by the way). We're also the harried parents of Bob and Josie, our Ragdoll and Bichon Frise. We like movies and exploring Netflix. I still work full-time, with the goal (in sight) of retiring to spend more time writing music and ideally a novel or two.
What is Red River's ultimate goal, artistically?

Music licensing would be the ultimate dream -- to hear one of our songs in a TV show or movie. We're not a performing band and we're realistic in our expectations. Regardless, we love what we do and we hope others do, too.



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