Cultivating Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Category: Music

Music: The Friend That Never Left But Feels Like She’s Here Anew

Music has always been a part of my life. My earliest memories of music bring me back to family room dance parties to songs like Paperback Writer (The Beatles) and Fun, Fun, Fun (The Beach Boys) with my dad and brother in Neenah, WI. I took piano lessons. I learned the saxophone, which I played up into the jazz band at the University of Minnesota. I even dazzled audiences with one year of show choir in high school. 

But after the stint of jazz band in college, my relationship to music shifted from playing music to simply enjoying music. I am often the one who puts music on around the house. I’ve curated many playlists for many occasions: beach volleyball games, exercise, writing, making brunch, karaoke songs for baritones, and I even made one specifically for my 20-year high school reunion. I join and occasionally instigate dance parties. I often am tapping out percussive beats with my fingers in idle moments. Every time I’m around live music I can feel my soul come alive. 

But in the last three weeks, music feels like it’s found me in a new way. 

Nineteen days ago I drove an hour and a half to the city of Liberia, where, in the parking lot of Pequeno Mundo (think Costa Rican K-Mart), with my five year old at my side, I purchased a used alto saxophone from a guy I found on Facebook Marketplace. Why? A combination of curiosity and peer pressure. 

Since then, the last nineteen days have been a bit of a musical whirlwind. 



When I was getting ready to move to Costa Rica last year, I intended to take some time away from the business world, to take a break from the hustle and bustle. I had a roughly defined mental list of new priorities for this mid-life mini-retirement; I would be trading the capitalist productivity grind to spend more time on things like relationship strengthening, physical and mental self care, and creative expression. 

My basic plan for what I’d be diving into creatively can be expressed in two words: writing and music. Most of the writing I’d done in the last 20 years came in the form of composing emails to prospective advertising clients, and while I believe I have some skill in that department, my intention for Costa Rica was that I’d allow myself the time and spaciousness to write more creatively, writing whatever I’d want to put on my blog, documenting our adventure, and attempting to compose the occasional song. 

In fact, I envisioned spending countless hours in front of my keyboard and computer screen, headphones on, tinkering away at the alluring and intimidating venture of songwriting. The idea was that if I gave myself the permission to do as little as possible other than to create, to temporarily remove the burden of needing to trade my labor for currency, to allow myself to dive into the deep end of a creative endeavor with no expectation of a “quality” outcome, no commercial goal, then maybe, just maybe, as I racked up those hours of practice I’d get good enough at it to create an entire song (or three) I’m truly proud of. I was so excited about this plan that I couldn’t wait to get started; I had a rudimentary setup in our basement in Minnesota for a few months before we moved where I made a few basic instrumental tracks (and recorded a birthday song for Kristyn with the help of our kids) before dismantling the gear and packing it up in our shipping pod.

As part of the move to Costa Rica, we got rid of many of our possessions, including my tenor saxophone I’d held onto since college. I was in the head space of, “if it’s not essential, it ain’t coming with us.” I don’t regret selling it; I had no idea what life was going to be like down here, and I was embracing that not-knowing and living out my value of minimalism by getting rid of everything that felt non-essential. I’d probably only opened the thing 5-10 times in the last 20 years, so it felt like it was time to say goodbye. 

Once we arrived in Costa Rica, due to the construction timeline of our guest bedroom (which is where the simple keyboard recording setup was planned to be) and our inviting another family of four to live with us for the last two months (future blog post forthcoming), the recording gear has yet to be unboxed, but it is still very much the intention to get this going soon. 

So while songwriting and at-home musical recording has always been in the plan, what was definitely not part of my creative vision with this international-move-life-reset was musical performance. You see, I’m not a great piano player. The last time I was consistently practicing piano I was probably 10 or 12 years old. If I tried to perform a live show as a singer/pianist, Elton John-style, it would be the most horrendous crash and burn the musical world has ever seen. Play piano and sing at the same time?! Who do I look like, Stevie Wonder?

But there’s this beautiful thing today called technology, and technology allows less-than-mediocre keyboardists like myself to make above average music. By recording one track at a time, and giving myself as many dozen takes as I need, I can eventually plunk out a dance-worthy four note bass line. Then I can loop the bass line, and build from there. Infinite takes and the ability to loop–the magical musical concoction that unlocks songmaking for mere mortals like me.

But perform music? Play with other musicians? This wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t feel like I had the chops in any instrument I brought with me (keyboard, guitar, harmonica, pan flute) to be able to pull that off. Actually it was even less on my radar than that; it was not in my consideration set of activities I’d do in Costa Rica whatsoever. 



That all changed in one conversation between me and another guy, after one of our meetings for the La Paz School Gymnasium Fundraising Committee. He was barely an acquaintance. Somehow we got on the topic of music and he mentioned he plays bass and has been playing some with other musicians in the area. I shared that, while I’m very into music and was planning on creating some music at home, my strongest instrument is saxophone, which I don’t have anymore. His intrigue at this point of information was palpable. “You can play sax?! You really oughta get one. Oh man I’ve always wanted to have a sax player in the band so we can play some…” he continued naming a few artists, albums, and songs, but I had lost full attention of his words, because I noticed a flicker  of a flame being ignited within me. Just a flicker. I thought, “Maybe I could play sax down here? But nah, I sold it. It’s fun to dream, but it’s been so long since I actually played, it would take ages to be able to be good enough that anyone would want me to play with them.” 

Over the next few weeks, this fellow parent of children at La Paz School kept sending me links to used saxophones on Facebook Marketplace. Out of curiosity, I messaged a few of the owners, asking them details about their instruments and to send me a video of them playing it so I could hear that all the notes work. I didn’t have a master plan, and I wasn’t fully intending on buying one; I was simply tugging at a thread of curiosity. The first two videos I received back didn’t wow me, so even though the instruments may have been diamonds in the rough, since their owners weren’t able to make them sound great, I kindly passed. Then one day I get another lead from my incessant friend, and the owner of this sax sends me a video that I rewatch three times–he sounded that good! I get a huge wave of excitement. The price is reasonable. It looks to be in good shape. And it sounds great. The flicker of the flame sparks into a roaring fire, and in a moment I know I have to buy this saxophone. A few days later, I met the owner at the halfway point between here and his home (4 hours away), and in the parking lot of Costa Rican K-Mart, I became reunited with the instrument from my teenage years. 

That was nineteen days ago. 

Twelve days ago I played on stage with a rock band in front of 200 Costa Rican motorcycle riders. 



The day after I bought the sax I sent a selfie of me holding the horn to that persistent friend of mine, Tom. Within twenty minutes he was sending me songs to learn. He plays in a band called The Liquors, and they had an upcoming gig at Perlas, a local bar with a small stage in the corner. He suggested that if I could learn 3-4 songs from their set list that I could join them at their show coming up in six days. While it was a kind and generous offer, I was confident I wouldn’t be ready in time; I needed to build my embouchure back and figure out how to make the instrument make decent sound, let alone learning songs to perform. The first two days I couldn’t even get the lowest three notes on the instrument to play! Over the next three days, though, it started sounding a little better, and I wanted something other than scales to practice, so I figured I might as well start with a few of their cover songs. Tom informed me that the band plays all their songs tuned down a half-step (so the vocals are more in range for the singer), so I should make sure to practice them that way. 

On guitar, changing the tune of the instrument is easy; you just adjust the knobs for each string and boom, all the notes are lower. None of the fingerings or chord shapes change. But on the saxophone, there is no way to change the tune of the instrument. So, playing in a different key means playing an entirely different set of notes. It’s not a huge deal, as long as you know what key to be playing in. Luckily I found this Google Chrome extension called Transpose which allows you to listen to a song on YouTube and adjust the pitch of the song up or down. So I had my three songs: Hungry Heart by Bruce Springsteen, Midnight Rider by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Hard to Handle by the Black Crowes. Tom tells me that for Midnight Rider, actually I shouldn’t play that one a half-step down because they’re already playing it a half-step down in the recording. If that all sounds a bit confusing to you, it should, because it was confusing to me. But I double-checked everything with him and I understood that I was supposed to practice Midnight Rider as-is and transpose the other two songs down a half step. OK, simple enough. 

A few more days tick by. They invited me to a rehearsal, but I was unable to make it. Now it’s Saturday morning, the morning of the show. I did a practice session at home around 9am and by 10am, I did a run-through of all three songs as if I was performing them (one take, show must go on), and they weren’t terrible, so I messaged Tom saying, “OK I’m not saying 100% yes i’m in yet but Hungry Heart, Midnight Rider, and Hard To Handle are feeling pretty good. What time do you guys go on? 7:30?” Tom reads this as, “He’s in.” He invited me to come by for sound check in the afternoon, which I did. 

When I arrived at the bar’s parking lot, my eyes widened like saucers. This whole time I was expecting the show was going to be on the little stage inside the corner of the bar. Nope. The parking lot was lined with vendor tents. There were a few groups of motorcycle riders mingling. And at the far end of the parking lot was the stage. Well, a Costa Rican stage, meaning it’s actually just the back of an Isuzu construction truck, the type where the walls of the bed of the truck can flip down so it’s just an open, flat surface on the back. And attached to the front of the truck was a giant banner that read CHOROTEGA BIKER FEST. This was no ordinary gig; this was an event!

So that was the stage, and there was Tom and the rest of the band setting up their gear. I hopped up on the truck, we attached a short side mic to one of the regular microphone stands to point into the bell of the saxophone, but we didn’t bother to actually test the sound; the guys weren’t ready for that yet. No biggie, they tell me, now that we have it in the right spot, when I come up on stage they’ll just plug it in and crank it. Sounds like a rock ‘n roll plan to me. Before I leave, they tell me their first set is at 8 and their second set will be at 9, and I’m in the second set. 

When I got back home and told Kristyn and my two other roommates that it was now confirmed that I’d definitely be playing in this show tonight, they asked me how I felt about it. Was I nervous, excited…? I replied, “I’m mostly really excited. It’s going to be a pretty big audience! The only thing I’m nervous about is that I didn’t rehearse with them, so I hope I’ve practiced everything in the right key. I might squeak a few notes, or I might lose my place for a few bars, but as long as I practiced in the right key, everything should be fine.” 

I went back to the venue for the start of the first set, and I watched as 200 leather-clad Harley riders hung out and enjoyed the tunes. As the second set started, I ducked behind the truck, er, I mean stage, to start warming up. Three songs later I heard the lead singer say, “… and now we’d like to welcome our friend Kevin to the stage.” I climbed up the rickety step ladder and tiptoed my way across the crowded truck bed to my spot. The side mic we were going to use for my sax was gone. 

“Your mic didn’t work,” Tom informs me. “We’ll have you use my mic, and I’ll just share with the other guy.” Not wanting to touch his equipment for fear of feedback or making things worse, I let him lower his mic down to sax height, and then he scooches over to the other mic stand, and without any further delay, they count it off and we launch into Hungry Heart

On the first note I can tell— I’ve practiced the song in the wrong key. Literally every note I’m playing is off. Panic and adrenaline explode inside my body. I sound terrible. I’m making the show worse. After just a few notes I stopped playing. What do I do? I can’t play as I’ve practiced, that’ll just make things worse. Do I just sit up here and not play for the whole song? Awkward! I turned the bell of the horn away from the mic and listened to the band as I quietly plunked around the notes, trying to find the right key. I discover they are playing it an additional half step down from what I was told. With this discovery, I was able to play along a few basic notes without making the band sound worse, but I definitely couldn’t play any of the licks or solo I’d practiced. It was about as rocky of a start as I could have imagined. 

I’m not a very religious person, but I know there must be a God, because eventually that song did end. And when it was over, nearly every fiber in my being wanted to get off that stage. Not because I was embarrassed or ashamed or hating my life, but because I was quite confident that the next two songs I was about to play were also going to be in the wrong key. Why would I subject myself and the audience to that trauma? 

The next song, however, was going to be Midnight Rider, and this was the one that Tom had told me to practice just like the recording. So, I thought, there’s a chance I’ve practiced this one correctly. Before we started, I had the idea to turn my horn to the side and play the first lick of the tune so that the other band members could hear. The lead guitarist looked right at me and said, “That’s it!” With that tiny confidence boost, I barreled through my internal flight response and played Midnight Rider

Everything was going great, for the first twenty seconds or so. Remember how the “stage” was actually the back of a construction vehicle? One thing vehicles have that actual stages do not is a suspension. Shocks. A little bit of intentional bounce. As we were rocking out on stage, the “floor” was moving around, and because we had adjusted the mic stand quickly to be at sax height, it wasn’t tightened down all the way. So every twenty seconds or so, my microphone boom would start to swivel away from me. I’d have to take a short break from playing to swivel it back into position. It effectively meant the audience (and the band) couldn’t hear me for most of the song. It also meant that I was so distracted that when the time came for my solo break in the song, I was totally lost. I didn’t solo. I just humdrum played along like it was the chorus. It wasn’t nails on a chalkboard, but it most certainly wasn’t spectacular nor was it how the song was supposed to go.

0 for 2. I’m sweating. I’m imagining the guys in the band are all thinking, “Why did we invite this chump to play with us?” I know I’m tanking this opportunity. Again, the impulse to flee spikes. Who’s to say that this song is going to be in the key I practiced in? But again, I do my trick of swinging to the side and playing the first few notes of Hard to Handle so only the band can hear, and once again, the guitarist validates that yes, I do have the right notes. A glimmer of hope. With that fragment of relief, I have the presence of mind to tighten the mic stand to keep my mic in position. I do this with some trepidation, as I know that messing with live equipment can cause feedback, shit can fall, break… all sorts of badness can happen when you try to tinker with stuff during a performance. But I went for it, and it seemed to cinch down nicely. 

The third and last song I played that night absolutely crushed. At least that’s how it felt to me. I hit all the right notes. My mic stayed in place. I looked out into the audience at my roommate, Nate, who had been giving me fairly neutral body language during the first two songs (the fact that he wasn’t grimacing felt generous). But when I made eyes with him 15 seconds into this song, he pumped both fists over his head and gave a huge “HELL YEAH!” which gave me a giant confidence surge that this, finally, was how I was supposed to sound. When it came time for the sax solo, I went for it and it felt incredible. I ended the song with a squealing high note and a flourishing cadenza. 

I started the show feeling like a nervous child. I ended the performance feeling like a rock star. 

Despite the suboptimal performance, I walked away from the experience with not only the thrill of being on stage, but I also got a bonus gift; once we were done playing, other musicians approached me. “Hey, you were the sax guy, right?” A pair of these were Costa Rican musicians who got my number to set up a time to play together. It felt like such a gift to make a new connection in this way–based on my musical performance and a joint interest in playing more music. 

Playing on the back of a truck at the Chorotega Biker Fest



A few days later, I got a message from Ely, a Costa Rican singer and guitar player. She wanted me to come play music at her house with her boyfriend and fellow musician, Pedro. I was delighted to accept the invitation. 

Now, this wasn’t technically my first musical encounter with a Costa Rican, because I’d hopped on to the cajon at a house party alongside a Tico marimba player a few months ago. One week after that, I swooped in on the cajon again with a band playing at Potrero Brewing. Here is what I wrote about those experiences. 


Cajon at a House Party

The party was mostly what I expected, except for the addition of a huge contingency of Ticos that live in a nearby town! The party hosts have done a commendable job of expanding their social network beyond the expat community. It was such a delight to have a diverse mix of people at a shindig.

As the afternoon shifted to evening, a few of the locals set up a few instruments: a guitar, a box drum, an indented metal cylinder (a guiro?), and a marimba! Two guys started playing a song on the marimba and guitar. Then a kid picked up the guiro and started banging it around.

I happened to be standing next to the box drum, which was just sitting there, begging for someone to play it. It’s one of those moments in life where you feel like you’re at a crossroads, a decision point, a moment of palpable choice. Blue pill or red pill? Do I just sit back and enjoy the music as it is? Surely that path was the safe one. Or, do I act on my intuition, the inner pull of the musician in me that could already hear the box drum beat no one was playing? But what if I’m viewed as trying to steal their show? What will people think? What if I screw up the beat?! I can feel my heart rate increase now as I type these words and relive the feeling of that moment.

The thought that arose and pushed me over the edge was, “This is why you’re here.” I was the one standing there. I was the one with the set of life conditions that allowed me to know what to do with drum. I felt the pull for a reason. The only thing stopping the pull was fear.

It turned out great and the drum added a nice bassy kick to round out the sound. Even though my Spanish is still regrettably poor, I was able to connect with these guys through the language of music. Perhaps others at that gathering felt a little closer to each other, too. I love the uniting force that music can be, if we can only find the courage to play with others.

Hopping on the cajon at a house party (my swimsuit was wet so I sat next to it :D)

Cajon with Lucidus at Potrero Brewing

I was back at it on the box drum last night at Potrero Brewing. 

The gents of Lucidus had a nice acoustic setup at the brewery, playing a mix of covers in English and in Spanish. They played one song where both guys were playing guitar, so no one was on percussion. After it ended, I mentioned that if they had any other songs in their set where they were both playing guitar, I’d be happy to hop in on drum. The singer, also Kevin, showed me his set list and I told him which of those songs I knew. As soon as I said “Paint It, Black,” they both looked at each other and said, “That’s the one!”

Grateful for their openness to have a guest musician hop in and contribute to the vibe.

Cajon with Lucidus at Potrero Brewing

But this felt different. I wasn’t pushing myself into an opportunity. I was being invited

We had a great time playing a combination of Latin music and “gringo” music. I learned how much better group practice sessions are if I’m familiar with the songs. Not necessarily even having the chance to practice them ahead of time, but just to be familiar with the song: where the verses start and end, what the bridge sounds like, if there are any rests, and so on. They had sent me a few songs ahead of time, which I had listened to and practiced. When we played those together, they instantly sounded great. Fist bumps all around. 

It was also super fun to play with them because their whole living room is set up as a permanent music station, with a drum set, a keyboard, and several guitars and amps. One of my favorite bands is Walk Off The Earth, and part of why I love them is that the musicians in that group play several instruments, sometimes even during the same song. Jamming at Ely’s made me feel a little like I got to live out my Walk Off The Earth-style fantasy of playing multiple instruments in one band; I played drums while we played Zombie by The Cranberries, and I played keyboard on a few Latin tunes I wasn’t familiar with. 

Above all, I just felt honored to have the rich experience of making some music with people I’d just met, with people who’ve lived in this country their whole lives. 



Then, just two days ago, I get texts from three different people telling me about an Open Mic Night that’s getting reignited at another local bar and restaurant called The Shack. “I should come,” these people said. I was excited to go check it out, and my plan was, although I’d bring my sax just in case, I would just come to watch, to learn how the whole open mic thing works. I know at karaoke, you put your name and your song on the list, and then when it’s your turn, you go up and sing. But how does an open mic night work? 

I arrived and saw another new friend, Zach Harvey, playing a couple songs with a band. The venue was packed; it’s basically a backyard-style setup, a fenced-in area with a bunch of picnic tables, a firepit, and one corner of the space is the stage. All the tables were full (except for the one closest to the band which only had three older women sitting at it), and there were tons of people standing. I found my friend Tom, who told me his group had already played earlier in the night. 

We were shooting the breeze until Zach started playing his last song, which was Hard to Handle–the same song I’d ended with at the Biker Fest! Tom and I immediately looked at each other and he goes, “Did you bring your sax? (Yes.) You should run to your truck right now and go walk up to that extra mic like a boss and just start playing!” Once again, with Tom’s encouragement, I go get my sax. Where to set it up? I knew I wasn’t going to actually hop in with these guys mid-song, especially since the song would be mostly over by the time my sax was put together, but with the nudge from Tom I was spirited enough to get set up and eventually get up on the mic. I scanned the packed backyard, and I only saw one viable spot to set up my sax–the front-and-center picnic table with the three older ladies at it. 

I could feel my heart rate increase as I approached the table with my instrument case, asking the ladies if I could join them. As I opened the case and started assembling the saxophone (Hard to Handle still being performed), even though I was facing the band and my back was facing the audience, I could feel hundreds of eyeballs shift from the band to me, watching me piece together the sax with trembling, shaky hands. 

Zach finished the song, and as he left the stage, I saw the all-powerful clipboard that dictated who would be coming on stage next. With the prodding of the women at my table, I went up and put my name and a couple of songs at the bottom of the list. I was in no hurry to get up there. In fact, one prominent thought I was having was, “I’d be totally fine if we run out of time before they get to me.” So I sat at that picnic table with my sax assembled, resting on top of my case, while I enjoyed the music and got to know the ladies at my table. 

Over the next few songs, something unexpected happened. One guy came up to me and said, “You gotta get up there!” Then, in between songs, one of the guys from the house band approached and said, “You know you can come up whenever you want.” I replied telling him I’d never been here before, so I didn’t know the protocol, and also that I’m a beginner and didn’t want to make them sound worse (ha). I told him that if they were playing a song that I knew, I’d join them (which was a perfect ruse because I don’t really know how to play any songs!). But then, after the next musician was done, one guy from the audience yells out so that everyone can hear, “Does anyone here have a saxophone? Do you know anyone that has a sax?” Several others chime in with cheers like “We want the sax guy!” My palms start sweating. I’m laughing a laugh that’s both genuine and anxious.

The leader of the house band observes the audience’s demands, comes over to me, and goes, “Let’s get you up here. What songs did you write on the list?” “Low Rider,” I reply, which I specifically said first because it’s an easy song that I was most comfortable with. “We’ve already played it,” he answers. Damnit. The one other song I’ve practiced a decent amount is Smooth by Santana. “How about Smooth?” I say. I see intrigue move across his face. “Let’s do it,” he says as he walks back up to the stage. 

As we’re getting set up, which includes me firmly securing my mic stand in front of me, I ask the band, “Who’s going to sing this one?” and they all confirmed that none of them were going to sing it. The main singer’s voice was starting to give out. OK, so somehow we’ll just play an instrumental version. Cool. So we start out, and we’re playing the main riff, and they look over at me like I’m supposed to solo. So I give it a little something, but… then what? The song wasn’t going anywhere. We weren’t progressing through the changes in the song. Someone needed to sing. I was starting to panic. Here I am at my first open mic and we’re doing the song that I picked and it’s not going well. There goes my chances of ever playing music in Costa Rica again. I’m doomed. 

Just then, like a rock and roll angel swooping down from Heaven, the singer from the band Tom is in, The Liquors, comes up to the stage and asks, “Do you guys want me to sing this?” to which I immediately remove the sax from my mouth to reply “Hell f***ing yes we do!” With the vocalist on stage, we start over. The song shreds. People are dancing. Everyone in the band nails the groove. Total success. 

Grooving to “Smooth”

What happens next, I’m wondering. Do I get to pick the next 1-2 songs as well? Seemed like that’s what others were doing. Nope. Kevin, the singer, looks over at me and goes, “Hey do you know ____?” I can’t tell you what song he said, because it was a song I didn’t know. I replied, “No sir!” And he goes, “Well let’s just play it anyway.” And within 15 seconds the band fires up a song that, in listening to it, I did have a vague familiarity with, but I still can’t tell you the title or the artist.

Panic, my new friend, arrives again. Here I am in front of 100 people with a band playing a song I don’t know. I don’t even have a tablet with one of those handy little tablet holders all the musicians have so I can pull up the song and the chords and play along that way. I just have to listen and feel it out. Thankfully, the song had one main bass line that runs through most of the song, so I was able to play along with that and add the flavor of sax to the overall sound. It brought me back to my days of high school jazz band where I first learned to improvise. I’m confident that without that early training I would’ve crashed and burned at this moment. 

And just like that, it was 10pm. Time to shut down Open Mic Night. But wait. All of a sudden an older guy from the corner of the backyard, the guy that had yelled out, “Does anyone know someone who plays sax?” goes, “Wait just a minute. We’ve got a sax guy here. We can’t have a sax guy and not play Stand By Me.” Then he looks over to me and goes, “Do you know Stand By Me?” to which I reply, “Well I kinda know the song, but no, I’ve never played it on sax.” And he smiles, looks right in my eyes, puts his hand on my shoulder, and goes, “You’ll do great.” 

Before the song starts, I took a quick look at my phone to find the main chords, and I turned my back to the audience to plunk out a few notes to get my bearings. We start playing and it goes swimmingly. I played a wrong note here and there, but I was able to hold it together and even muster a solo. 

Solo during “Stand By Me”

Courage is an interesting thing. Without courage, I wouldn’t be able to perform music right now. I strongly feel like I’m not “good enough” to be performing yet. And while some of my courage I believe comes from within me, I know that it was only through the encouragement of others that I was able to burst through my insecurity and fear in order to just get up there and do the damn thing. 



The music is even manifesting in my kids. Last night as I was putting my kids down for nighttime, the three of us were sitting in the bed with me in the middle, and each kid had their notebook and pen in their lap. They weren’t doodling. We weren’t playing Tic Tac Toe. They each were writing out quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes (aka “mar-ee-pos-ah’s” as learned in a Spanish music classroom), and rests on their notebook paper, and then asking me to sing what they had written. This activity came at zero prompting from me whatsoever. At least, no prompting in the direct sense, but it does make me wonder how much of my around-the-house musicality does get ingested and metabolized by them in some way. 

Music has always been around in our home, and I can feel it growing. One of my kids loves singing along to Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, without missing a word or a note, in our at-home karaoke sessions. The other can hardly ever be seen walking because they mostly dance from room to room. Just tonight one of them was choosing ukulele strumming over television. It’s a next-level kind of joy I feel when I see music coursing through the beings of my children, especially we share in a sing-along or a dance or an instrumental groove or a spontaneously improvised goofy ditty; it’s like an electric, magical resonance that lights up my spirit that’s only accessible by tapping into the vibration of sharing music with my children. 

And now, earlier this week, our bedtime routine has brought us back to music. The kids have been tending to do their bedtime with Kristyn lately, and her protocol includes ending the time by sending the kids to their “Dreamplace.” She essentially guides them in a short meditation until they’re so relaxed they’re either basically asleep or all the way there. But there were a couple nights where Kristyn wasn’t available for bedtime, so it was my turn to put them down. I decided I’d let Dreamplace be Kristyn’s thing, rather than try to recreate her speciality, a fool’s errand. But since the kids have grown accustomed to receiving this unique, relaxing meditation before sleep, I had to think of something I could to provide a similar effect. As I laid in beds with the kids after some quiet playing, I suggested, “how about I sing a few songs?” They agreed. It’s been such a joy to go back to the way we’d do bedtime when they were babies and I would sing them to sleep in my arms. It makes me wonder how much their bodies remember being soothed when they hear the melodies of You Are My Sunshine and Home On The Range, but judging by how quickly they relax when I start, I’m guessing it’s at least some.  



And after all that, earlier today I wrote and recorded a song. From the time I sat down to pen the first lyric until the time I finished recording the song, a mere 25 minutes passed by. For perhaps the first time in my life, I felt what it feels like to be in a songwriting flow state.

Earlier in the day, I’d attended my weekly men’s group on Zoom. In the meeting preamble, I mentioned how music was front and center in my life right now. Later, one of the guys told the story of the stressful time he was having while visiting his family of origin, how there’s always so much obligation and pressure in that situation, and that on top of all of that both his father and his dog’s health were not doing so well. When he was done sharing, one of the other guys joked, “Man, that sounds like a sad country song, what with the sick dog and all. Hey, Kevin, you’re a music guy, you should write that song!” We all had a brief chuckle. What the guys didn’t know, though, was that I quickly wrote down all the bullet points of his story that I could remember. Something in me wondered what it would be like to actually try to write that song, and how funny it would be if I actually went through with it. 

When the Zoom call was over, I opened up a fresh document, and the lyrics just flowed out of me. Granted, I wasn’t trying to win a Grammy. The song was meant to be a lighthearted joke. But still, I could feel the phrases come with ease. I had an intention, a theme for the song, a source of inspiration. I also knew that I wanted to write and record it all in one sitting; if I kicked the can down the road, if I let the project wait, I’d likely not finish it. It had to be right then. I knew I was going to record it on my iPhone, and I was going to do it all in one take; I didn’t care how bad the recording sounded, how imperfect it would be, how many little mistakes I’d make. The point wasn’t to make a beautiful song. The point was to make an entire song and get it done. 

In reflection, I believe it was those three ingredients that allowed this song to flow out of me so freely: clear intention/theme, acceptance of imperfection, and a deadline. It feels like such an important download for my future songwriting self to have absorbed, and it all came because I decided to do the hard thing, the unexpected thing, and turn the group’s joke into something real. 

(And in case you’re wondering, the guy in my group received the song very well. He said it, “cracked him up and made me smile so big.”)



I have a shred of regret for discontinuing playing saxophone after college. I told myself the story that I didn’t have time for it, that it wasn’t important, that it wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I allowed myself to believe that certain types of actions are better than others, that starting a successful business or performing well in a lucrative job was what I was supposed to be doing with my life. 

What I see now is that I created a false dichotomy. It actually would have been possible to have a job and play music at the same time. Sure, I might not have been able to play 2-3 gigs per week, but I still could’ve been playing. And it would have brought me a lot of joy. And the music playing may never have materialized into a money-making endeavor, but what I didn’t understand back then was that I don’t have to make a career out of artistic expression in order to enjoy artistic expression. I can do it as time allows. I can do it on my terms. 

And that can be enough. 

On Sabbatical – Week 26: Where I’m At After Half a Year of Uncovering Me

This week marks a half year. It has been a half of a year since I quit my job, left the workforce, entered a state of sabbatical, and started a new chapter in my life. Now that I’m six months in, it feels like more than a new chapter; it feels like a new book. Huge swaths of my days are filled with practices and activities I was not doing at all a year ago. My relationship with my partner is at an all-time high; our communication has leveled up, several levels. As I write these words, I’m listening to a 5-layered house music track that I recorded just earlier this morning. Neither writing nor music-making were in my list of weekly to do’s a year ago, save writing emails to clients or crunching out the occasional scrap of advertising copy.

When I initially started sabbatical, I told myself it was going to be roughly a two year period: one year in Minnesota, and one year in Costa Rica. That was and has been the tentative plan. I told myself, “once we move, once we complete this transition and get settled in to our neighborhood, a new school, a new community, a new way of life… that’s when I can start actually letting myself think practically, letting myself worry about the future.”

I am just now, in this moment, checking in with myself to reflect on the time so far. It’s not a question of what I’ve done, what activities I’ve done, what items I’ve checked off my bucket list. The question is – Where am I now? How do I feel now? What brand of Kevin am I now? How do I feel about the fact that I’m 25% of the way through this ‘plan’? And what path am I headed on? What is my trajectory? And what is my relationship to my current state and to my trajectory? 

I feel… comfortable with it. This time has had its challenges, mostly of the existential variety, but for the most part the common thread throughout the last six months has been joy. It has been a gift to untether from my old self, from my previous conditioning, from my past decisions that I have now grown away from. It has been a joy to spend more time with my kids and to act more childlike myself. Digging in to who I really am and who I want to be has its uncomfortable moments, but on the whole it has been a treat to afford the time to fully detach and to put maximum effort into starting anew. 

I like the person I am now compared to Old Kevin. I have asked myself what I value, and I’ve sat with that question until I’ve come up with some answers. I have more clarity about what I value, what I want my life to be about, what I want my time to be spent doing. It’s family, it’s outdoors, it’s the environment, and it’s being generous and giving to others, others now and others in the future. I love that I’ve been able to prioritize myself and doing what I want to do, being how I want to be. If I want to go outside, I go. If I want to listen to music, I listen. If I want to make music, I make. If I want to do nothing, I sit. If I want to let a blog post take four hours to make because I’m trying to perfect it or get it “just so,” then so be it! That’s what I wanted to do. I let myself do it. I’m not letting any external influences or thoughts or preconceived notions or conditionings get in my way. 

I know that I’m a better communicator. I’m more mindful of how I am, of what I say and how I say it. I’m more in tune with others. Friends have told me, observed this about Kristyn and I, that we have an ability to be tuned in to how others are feeling.

I know that this is making me a better father, not always having some place to go or some place to be or some project to work on, when my kids just want to play with me in that special time between end of school and bed. 

Life is not meant to be rushed through. I’ve really enjoyed slowing down and trying to actually live each day, not just move through each day. 

And yeah, there are days that are hard, days where I feel lost, days where I’ve told Kristyn, “I’m lost. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t like this feeling. I feel like I don’t know what I’m supposed to do today. But I want to know what I’m supposed to do.” There are a lot of “could’s”: I could write, I could exercise, I could cook, I could brainstorm a teen fiction series, I could make a new beat, I could go for a walk, I could meditate. Which one should I start with? Should. Should based on… what, exactly? Should does not exist. Should is a facade. There is no should. So yeah, I have days like this, days where I feel aimless, but that’s a small price to pay for the tradeoff of the joys of slowness and simplicity. In fact, the discomfort of that aimlessness is what I want to be experiencing, because that is where growth comes from. No pain, no gain. 

I’m still working on this, but as I reflect on the last six months, one of the underlying themes has been my effort to let go of yearning, of wishing, of wanting things I don’t have, experiences I haven’t had. I’ve been really trying to mindfully think into what is within my power to make today feel like a “dream day,” a day where I lived as close to being in choice that I could be. What can I do today to make it feel like a “million dollar day”? And I have to say, I’ve been having a lot of days that feel that way. It’s hard to put a price on that. 

I hold my privilege front and center in my mind as often as I can remember to do so. I hope that by unlearning many of the assumptions I had been operating under, by focusing on becoming the truest version of myself, and by generously radiating compassion toward those around me, I am putting my privilege to the best possible use for the betterment of my family and humanity. 

So… what now? What are my goals for the next six months? Knowing what I know now about these last six months, what does that make me think about next semester? What do I want to do differently? How do I want to be different? What do I want to continue? 

I know I want to continue many of my recent practices: morning meditations, exercise routine rotating strength, cardio, and yoga, writing on this blog, building up the Naturally Better idea, and plunking away at the keyboard to make fun little tunes for myself. 

One big difference for the next quartile of sabbatical? The move to Costa Rica. In the past six months, I have done very little to prepare for this transition relative to how much I’m going to need to do in the half year ahead. In this situation I think using some labels will be helpful for me to give some structure to my time.

Labels that feel right for what the first quarter of sabbatical was like are: Unplug, Reset, Rebirth, Childhood, and Unlearn.

The labels I intend to uphold for the next half year are: Practice, Adolescence, Authenticity, Minimize, and Transition. 

Practice: having the discipline and devotion to practices that align with my values, and not allowing disruption of these practices by things I value less than the practice.

Adolescence: when I was a teenager, I went through phases where I practiced stuff relentlessly. There was a semester in high school where I played saxophone five days a week. I would play volleyball every chance I got. I did these things not because someone was making me; I did them because I loved doing them. I want to embody that passionate spirit again, of not worrying about the practicality of an activity or hobby and letting myself get absorbed by something for the sheer joy of it and for the satisfying feeling of improvement. 

Authenticity: as I learn about new concepts (such as meditation or barefoot running), can I actually walk the walk? If I learn that beef is the most harmful food for the environment, can I actually stop eating it? If I discover that spending more time barefoot can unlock huge health benefits, do I have the courage to actually kick my shoes off around the neighborhood? 

Minimize: it’s time to get rid of my crap. I have no choice but to do so; the house we’ll move to in Costa Rica is much smaller than our current house. Less stuff.  More space. 

Transition: while the last half year was a time of detaching and jumping off a moving train, the time ahead will start to feel like movement toward a new direction, a transition in to something new. 

That’s a wrap on reflecting about my sabbatical so far. Onward to reviewing the experiences of the past week! 



I kicked off this week with something I haven’t done in half a year – a professional networking Zoom meeting. I should put “professional” in quotes; I had a conversation with one person I knew from my most recent job as a TV advertising sales rep. She had worked on the Marketing team at one of my best clients, had seen my post on LinkedIn where I shared my departure from the workforce and my intention for the time ahead, and had reached out to me to set up a time to chat. 

When we hopped on the Zoom, I learned she had also since left her position and was pursuing self-employment as a freelance marketer. As she explained her situation, what she was working on, what she was feeling stuck with, I noticed myself going into a sort of “counselor mode.” I listened intently. I gently probed for her to expand on her hesitations. I did my best to help her see her own answers were already there. At one point she even joked, “I can’t believe we’re talking about this; this is starting to feel like a therapy session!” Even though our conversation carried on without missing a beat, when she said that, I strangely felt a rush of pride. The idea of someone talking to me feeling like therapy for them… I liked that idea. It was a tiny hint, an iota of a clue that, perhaps, I’m on the right track, that everything I’m doing, every choice I’m making, every book I’m reading, every uncomfortable conversation I’m having with Kristyn, every word I’m typing is what I’m supposed to be doing. Validation feels incredible. 

After this conversation I also learned that I want to practice framing up “what I’ve been up to” more succinctly. Most of the time, when I tell people I’m on sabbatical, they ask, “So what do you do all day?” or “What have you been up to, then?”

I wasn’t adequately prepared for this question in the context of a more professional, career-oriented conversation, of being more mindful of my conduct, of my words, of how I carry myself. I wrote these notes down after the call as I brainstormed how to give a tighter elevator pitch to people of what my sabbatical has been about thus far:

  • Doing less and being more.
  • Reading lots. Writing some. 
  • Focusing on mindful living.
    • Being present with my kids.
    • Being present with my partner.
    • Being present with myself.
  • Cooking (almost) all my food. 
  • Moving my body when it wants to move. Letting it rest when it needs to. 

After that last bullet point, I was struck with an idea. Maybe it would be helpful for a large number of people if I could put together ways to detach from the nine to five and reinvent your life. Creating a roadmap for this. I know I could’ve used one! As soon as I had that idea, I realized there must be thousands of books and courses designed with this exact idea in mind. In fact, I know there is at least one, because I’ve read Tim Ferriss’ 4-hour Workweek and even reference that book on the Resources page of this website. A quick Google search and indeed, this is not a novel concept. Still, what would make my idea unique is that it would be mine. It would be of my thoughts, of my experience, and of my learnings. And it wouldn’t be too hard to create, because in a way, all I’d have to do is document exactly what I’m doing. I’m fling this one away in the “ideas” folder, for now. 


I’ve really gone headfirst into the podcast Ten Percent Happier. I can’t seem to recall how I first came across this gem of a resource, but now that it has made its way to my awareness, there’s no turning back! I started at the beginning and have been downright plowing through the episodes. I’m loving the guests Dan Harris has on this show to talk about their various experiences and expertise within the world of meditation, from well-known veteran teachers like Sharon Salzberg, to Buddhist figures like Thupten Jinpa (the Dalai Lama’s English-language interpreter), to Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo. I love how its exposing me to many people I instantly admire and want to emulate and learn from in various ways. This week I enjoyed the incredible stories and outlook of author and Buddhist meditation teacher Mingyur Rinpoche and the candor and communication prowess of author and mindful communication teacher Oren Jay Sofer

I’m getting a lot of value from this podcast. Listening to it is giving me ideas for my own giveaway, my own creation, my own collection of conversations that will include the topic of meditation and also many natural living topics. The Naturally Better podcast is in development, folks! 


Part of my journey is learning, and one of the main ways I learn is by reading. If the book is good and I’m getting value from it, I enjoy the process of reading a book, taking down notes and excerpts that jump out to me, and, when I’m done with the book, compiling these notes into a blog post and add it to my growing collection of blog posts about books. This week I’ve been realizing that oddly I can read an entire book faster than I can write up a summary with my takeaways from it. Hopefully getting caught up with this sabbatical blog will help! 

Right now I’m reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which is a book about habits and how to harness the power of habit to improve your life. There are a lot of useful nuggets in the book, but one thing I really love is the open of the book, where Rubin takes a moment to talk about the process of writing the book: of an immense amount of reading at the beginning stage of the project, and about capturing those “eureka moments” that happen along the way as she reads, examines her own life, and starts having conversations with others about the world of habits. 

It got me to thinking about my own habits, especially around reading. For most of my adult life after college, I didn’t read much. I’d read the occasional business book or biography if it came highly recommended by someone I trust. Once I quit my job, I’ve upped my reading substantially, but it’s been a bit all over the place. I haven’t had any real “system” to it; I have just been adding books I learn about to a reading list and have been plowing through the list with no real rhyme or reason, other than to say that I read only one book at a time. (I don’t understand how people can read multiple books at once.)

As my thoughts about Naturally Better continue to coalesce, one of the challenges I face is – where do I start? There are so many things one can focus on in the world of self-improvement, and there are too many that I personally want to focus on to do them all at once, but I also don’t like the idea of limiting myself to one avenue or niche like habits or meditation or nutrition. I understand the conventional wisdom with creating a book or a podcast or a brand or a business is to be very specific, hyper-specific, so that you are speaking to a very narrowly defined niche, and in that way, your product will have much higher value to that group of people. The thing is, I’m not on this journey for other people; first and foremost, I’m in this journey for myself. I’ve always identified as a sort of “generalist.” I’ve said many times that “I’m the kind of person who’s pretty good at a lot of things, but I’m not an expert at any one thing.” I enjoy the variety that life has to offer.

In pondering this dilemma, I came up with the idea to treat my reading a little like a batting order in baseball (which is a bit ironic, because, while I having enjoyed playing and watching many sports in my life, I’ve grown to loathe baseball. So slow and boring!). In baseball, the hitting team has a batting order, with the player whose turn it is to hit “at bat,” the next player “on deck,” and the next player “in the hole.” I’m going to try taking this approach to the development of Naturally Better, where I have an “at bat” topic that is my primary focus and taking up, say 70% of my time dedicated to this project, but to avoid the feeling of limitation, I’ll have a second topic “on deck” that I’m starting to dabble with, and a third topic “in the hole” that I’ll allow my brain to casually wander into every once in a while. The rest of the areas I want to explore will just have to wait their turn. 

From this point, I felt compelled to start listing and mapping out the topics I really want to dive into and learn more about. My kids have countless sheets of barely used paper in their playroom (with a touch of marker here or there, which means, in their minds, it’s no longer suitable for them to use in future days), so I picked up the closest piece and eight of their markers. I started jotting down topics about nature and aspects of humanness, grouping them by theme. In the picture below, I started with the word “Food” and what sub-topics might be grouped under it. Then came “Body” and “Mind” and also “Resources,” with their associated sub-concepts. Next was “Community/Social,” because humans are the most social beings on the planet. Once I had written down a few thoughts under “Community/Social,” though, I got stuck. I was uncertain where to go next, but I knew my map didn’t feel quite complete. I had written down “spirit,” “heart,” and “compassion” on the side of the paper… all these words were important and needed a home. And all of a sudden, a Gretchen-Rubin-style eureka moment hit me like a lightning bolt – LOVE! The next marker color I had up in the rotation happened to be pink. It’s the focal point of every song in the history of music (almost). And my kid had already written the words “I LOVE YOU” on this very piece of scratch paper. Eureka! 

I have no idea where this map is headed, but I’m going to follow it and see where it leads me. 

All good business ideas start with gently used scratch paper and children’s markers


On Saturday of this week we had four friends over to our house; two married couples who are dear friends of ours. There were two standout memories of this gathering that I want to document. Both are related to music. 

Earlier in the day, my partytime preparation included compiling a playlist of songs, custom-made for this group. I really enjoy having music as a part of social settings, and I love how the music can both set the mood and also be a reflection of the mood, depending on the flow of the environment. I made sure to add at least three or four songs that each of the six people in the group would really enjoy, would feel like the song was on the playlist “for them.” Of course, if one of my favorite songs happened to be Got To Give It Up by Marvin Gaye (which it is), it may very well also be a special song for one of my friends, and so we might both feel like this song was on the playlist “for us.” 

As I pulled up this playlist to play over our basement speakers, I announced that I was putting on music, that anyone was free to suggest adding a song to the rotation at any time, and that I had personally curated this specific playlist with my guests in mind.  

As the evening proceeded and new songs came up, we all enjoyed the game of guessing who the song must be for, which combination of us I must’ve had in mind when selecting the song for inclusion. If three of us felt like the song was “for us,” then it was a trifecta of song awesomeness! Four? A four-fecta of head-bobbing, hip-shaking sonic bliss! It was a fun way of stringing moments of connection together throughout the evening, and it’s a practice I’m going to continue for future get togethers. 

The other immensely satisfying memory I have of this evening is when the men retreated to our guest room, which is now doubling as our “home recording studio” (emphasis on the quotation marks). I had one friend in there already, and I was playing him a song, really just the early seedling of a song, that I had created, over the studio speakers at a medium volume (so as to not disturb the vibe in the other room). As the third guy strolled into our room, as my music made its way through his ears to his brain, I grinned as his body hopped into the groove: toes tapping, hips swaying, head approvingly nodding. I asked him, “What do you think of this tune?” To which he replied, as he kept his gentle body groove going, “Yeah, it’s good. I can dig it.” Sensing that he might not know, I then commented, “I made this song.”

As much as it made me feel good that I had made a collection of sounds and rhythms that made a person move, it was an even lovelier experience to behold the fleeting expression on his face as he processed what I had just said. He hadn’t known I made it. The flash of surprise followed by approval on his face… it’s hard to express how gratifying that felt. I created an artistic thing that someone liked! They didn’t like it because I made it, because they know me and want to be supportive of me; they just flat out enjoyed it. And not just anyone, a close friend! This experience acts as fuel for my creative fire. I don’t sit in my basement and tinker around with making music for other people; all I do is make what sounds good to me. But that taste of validation from someone else, that they too can share in the joy of these sounds that I birthed into existence… man that is a juicy feeling for me. As scary as it can be to share stuff that I’ve created, this night makes me more inclined to share in the future. Thanks to you, friend.


The next day I took my kids to the neighbor kid’s birthday party. Afterward, we went over to their house under the guise of “watching the Vikings game.” I haven’t been paying attention to the NFL or any professional sports this year (other than a little bit of AVP, of course); no fantasy teams, no gameday watching, and definitely no following of players, trades, injuries, and current events in the league. It has just seemed so unimportant to me. It’s an entertainment source that has lost its entertainment value. I remember past years where I’d be in three fantasy football leagues, and the hour of 11am-noon on Sunday wasn’t fun, it was stressful – checking all the last minute injury notices and waiver wire pickups. Meanwhile, I had a ton of leftover snack foods that didn’t get gobbled down the night before, so I loaded up our wagon with fixings for a fairly substantial spread to share. In the course of this neighborly Sunday afternoon get together, I realized that while Old Kevin would have been in his element watching football and tracking his fantasy team’s stats, New Kevin can’t really hold a conversation about the NFL anymore, but he can talk about food, recipes, and what cheese would perfectly pair with mango habanero jelly all day long!

(And when you think about it, which is really more important to you: watching large sweaty men give themselves concussions or discussing fun and delicious ways to fuel your body?)


I’m so close to being caught up to realtime with the weekly blogging about my sabbatical. It feels exhilarating to know that time is also here. I’ve been feeling buried under the weight of getting caught up. It’s starting to feel like I can actually write these weekly sabbatical posts the way I want to, the way I want to feel like I have the freedom to, not just by cataloging the events and documenting the actions, but also by giving myself the space and the permission to expand, to open up, and to share freely my thoughts, feelings, and reflections of the week’s transpirings. Plus, I’m holding on to this notion that once I’m caught up to realtime, I’ll be unburdened by the “catching up” and will have more time and energy to commit to other writing projects. I don’t know how much of a crutch that thought is right now, but I do know it’s been enough of a motivator to keep me going the last couple of weeks, so… if it ain’t broke…! 

On Sabbatical – Week 24: Improving Communication With My Partner and With Myself


Monday of this week was Halloween. Due to my bushy, unkempt sabbatical beard, I slapped together a last-minute costume and attended our neighborhood Halloween driveway get together as the cross-country-running version of Forrest Gump. I still hadn’t done anything with the beard in the days after Halloween, which you can see proof of in this week’s featured image. 

Ever since enrolling our children in Spanish immersion childcare, pre-school, and public school, and being more exposed to aspects of Latin culture, we have grown an admiration of the traditions around Día de Muertos. We have made it a tradition to create our own ofrenda (home altar) in the entryway of our house around this time of year, to remember loved ones who are not with us any more, particularly Kristyn’s dad. She wrote a great piece about this on, which I encourage you to check out. 

The Carlow Moravetz Ofrenda, 2022

(I realize I’m a white American man that’s now talking about a tradition that is not exactly of my own lineage, and of the trickiness that brings, but at the end of the day, I know how I feel, I know my intentions, and I know that the way we acknowledge the spirit of it in our house feels right to us and is done in an honorable way, so for me, that’s what counts.)

It was also quite adorable this year to observe how my children, while Trick-or-Treating around the neighborhood, cared much more about petting the animals of the homes we visited than about snatching up their candy. They would’ve stayed and pet the 9-week-old kitten all night if we’d let them. 


On Tuesday I had a lengthy conversation with my partner about food. In many aspects of our relationship, we find a balance that works for us. With any given task, though, a “balance that works” does not always mean we split the task 50/50. We each have our own strengths and our own chores that annoy us less than other chores. She doesn’t hate folding clothes, I don’t hate cleaning out the fridge. Over the last ten years or so, we’ve been tweaking and refining how we tackle all of the responsibilities of home ownership, adulthood, and life so that, on the whole, things feel balanced to both of us. 

Food is one of those unavoidable aspects of life. We need it to survive. But when it comes to food, there’s more to it than just cooking the food. Someone has to plan what food is going to be acquired. Someone has to get the food. Someone has to organize how the food is stored. Someone has to prepare and cook the food. Someone has to clean the dishes used to prepare and to eat the food. And, if you care about food waste (we do), someone has to monitor the aging of all the ingredients and factor in how and when the leftovers will be eaten and/or incorporated into future meal plans. It’s a job with a bunch of sub-jobs underneath it. 

On the whole, I get less stressed about food than Kristyn does. I like cooking, and I like being intentional with the ingredients used to nourish the bodies of myself and my family. I don’t want to speak too much on Kristyn’s behalf, but the short version is – years ago one of my roommates had said that he wished he could just take a pill and it would satisfy his hunger and his nutritional needs so that he didn’t need to think about food at all, and upon hearing this, my reaction was, “Oh that sounds so bland and boring, and think about all the flavors and connection to your fuel you’d miss out on,” while Kristyn’s reaction was, “YES absolutely me too.” So, the balance that works for us is that I am the primary food person in our house. 

Before I go on and get myself into a heap of trouble, I want to be clear – she does make food and does get groceries and does do many dishes. It’s just that we’ve come to an understanding that I am the primary food person. And, like with any big job that has one person shouldering a larger share of the job, it can get to be a lot. There are times where I feel “kitchened out.” In those times, a break from the kitchen would feel great. The problem is, I feel resistance to ask for help. I’m terrible at asking for help in general. When I worry that the favor I need or the assistance that would really make my day is in direct contrast to my partner’s wiring and preferences? Forget it! I know that meal planning and prep can be more stressful for her, so I tell myself this story that I’m putting an “extra burden” on her by asking her to take over making dinner for a night. 

What I learned through the course of this conversation, though, is that by not asking for help and trudging through another slog in the kitchen, I’m not actually helping the situation. I’m not resourcing myself. I’m operating from an imbalanced place. This has downstream effects, and those effects aren’t positive. 

What is especially great about not only this specific conversation but also the general state of our relationship is that we are having these conversations, we aren’t leaving things unsaid, and we are having them in a calm, constructive way which leaves both people feeling better than when we start. I’m really grateful to have Kristyn in my life to teach me and to practice with me communication and attunement to others. 


From 2:30pm-5pm Monday-Friday, we have our eldest child at home with us (before the younger gets picked up from Spanish pre-school). We try to mix up how this time is spent, with some togetherness as well as some independent work and play. 

On Wednesday of this week, she and I headed down to our ramshackle “music studio” in the basement to mess around with the funny sounds we can make on the microphone. She immediately requested the “robot voice” (a sound setting in Garageband). As soon as she started talking in that voice, we got the idea to make a song about a robot. Over the next fifteen minutes we created a super simple track with two verses and a bridge. We didn’t write the verses, though; she improvised them on the spot as a basic musical accompaniment played in the background! It was such a cool experience to watch as my kid’s brain came up with clever things a robot would say and sing them on key and to a beat. 

“I Am A Robot” is not quite ready for release yet, but when it does make its way to the web… you’ll know. 


On Thursday, I once again fed myself a prompt in my journal. The day’s prompt: What is my dream? When I give myself journal prompts like this, I try to write with a brainstorm mentality, to free the mind and the pen to write without filter or direction. Anything goes. Any thought counts. If the though enters my brain, write it down, no matter how ridiculous or (seemingly) off-topic it might be. This particular day, even with the brainstorm mindset, I was stuck. Like, majorly stuck. I couldn’t quite picture anything concrete. Then I started judging myself for not having a solid dream. “How ridiculous is that?! I don’t know what I want? What I yearn for? Even kids know what they dream of. Why are you having such a hard time with this? You don’t even have a job right now. This is all you’ve been thinking about for months and you can’t even write down one stinking dream?”

It was time for a hike (see featured image). Not only did I have exhilarating encounters with two different sets of deer partners (buck and doe) mere feet off my trail, but I unlocked an insight while thinking on the prompt “What is my dream?” and talking out loud into my Voice Memo app as I walked. This insight came after 20-30 minutes of fruitless pondering. My mind was easily distracted. It was looking for any excuse, any thought to pull me away from the discomfort of sitting answerless to this question. Every time I noticed my mind following another train of thought, I re-centered on the prompt “What is my dream?”. 

Eventually, when I finally was able to just linger in that question, really embody it, I realized that, for me, in this moment, the question was too big. It needed a time constraint. What if I broke the question into small time increments? What if I changed the prompt to “What is my dream for today?” and then expanded from there? This approach was game-changing. 

In breaking this big question down into tiny chunks, I was able to figure out the following (these are the notes as I wrote them on that day):

  • My dream for today is to simply be doing what I was already doing – hiking outside. Eating delicious food for supper with my family. Spending quality time with my family where we are making each other laugh and enjoying each other’s company. Have an easeful time putting my kids to bed where I am in lock step with their desires of what they need to have an easeful bedtime. And then connect with my partner, have some mutually incredible sex, and close the day with an effortless meditation. That is what would make today a “dream day,” and I’m already on the path of living it. 
  • So, then, how is my dream for any other longer stretch of time any different than stringing a bunch of those exact days together in a row? Wouldn’t I just repeat this day again tomorrow? And the next? In a way, yes! But also, life has certain requirements; not all minutes of all days can be play, unless you happen to have access to unlimited resources. Ok, so let’s zoom out a little.
  • I then inquired “What is my dream for the month of November?” … My mind immediately gravitated toward Thanksgiving, a holiday landmark in the month of November. I dreamt of preparing delicious, crowd-pleasing dishes and of delighting in the joy they bring to my family. And I then felt compelled to think of a prayer to offer before the meal. I went on a twenty-minute tangent writing out a Thanksgiving prayer that flowed effortlessly out of me. 
  • And finally when I returned again to my question about my dream for November, and I finally stopped the many distracting thoughts my mind was taking me in, in the split second that I finally cleared my mind and just left space for that question, the feeling rushed in that I want to be making more progress toward our move to Costa Rica next summer. It is starting to feel like time to be tackling that project more enthusiastically and prioritizing it at the tippy top of the list. This is broken into three parts: learning Spanish, completing the project of building out our property, and getting rid of our unneeded possessions. 
  • I quit the exercise here. This seemed like far enough for now. Let’s make November my dream November. And that starts right now. 

If I can live out my dream day, and my dream week, and my dream month, all I have to do is start stringing those together and I will be living my dream life. 

On Sabbatical – Week 18: Climbing Aboard the Creative Process Struggle Bus

I’m growing an awareness of how much I covet the morning hours of the day, the time immediately after either a) I’ve dropped the kids off at school, or b) I’ve successfully gotten them out the door for my partner to take them. That first hour of spaciousness in the day feels especially juicy, important, critical. I know it’s when I’m at my freshest, my energy tank at its fullest, that special time of day where I can crank out maximum productivity, creativity, or whatever is calling that day. It is a gift to gain clarity about my body and mind, how it works, its natural rhythm and tendencies. The first hour of space in the day is, usually, when my brain operates at maximum capacity. I’m beginning the practice of planning out my highest priority “thinking tasks” for this time each day, and I cherish the opportunity that I have to delight in this spaciousness. 

One would think that with the freedom of time that comes with removing oneself from the workforce, there would be ample time to pursue several hobbies, tackle all those pesky around-the-house projects, even learn a new language, but as embarrassed as I am about admitting it… it doesn’t feel that way. I don’t feel free. I feel conflicted. Being on a quest of self rediscovery is not a simple, straightforward path. Over the last few months, I have been removing my old behaviors and thought patterns, and giving myself space, space enough to see what surfaces from within. The problem is not that I can’t think of what I want to do; the problem is I have an abundance of ideas. In theory, I have an extra six hours of “free time” without kids every day, but I’ve also essentially stopped buying restaurant food, which means more meal planning, more cooking, and more dishes, which all take time. Plus we have an international move to plan. And there is a decent-sized list of creative projects I’d like to tackle. There is not enough time to master all of these things overnight. Part of the challenge is there is no roadmap I am following; I am a voyager sailing the seas of my inner self with only my concentrated listening to guide me. When you have a job, your weekly structure is more or less dictated for you. While it can feel constricting to not be in absolute control of your time, it is also a challenge to navigate the nebulous abyss of free time. It’s easy to feel like I’m wasting time or that I’m not making the best use of a particular hour because I’m stumbling my way through learning how to use Plug-ins in Garageband, or staring at a blinking cursor in WordPress for ten minutes because I’m hitting a writer’s block. Self doubt creeps in. “Why are you even bothering to write now? Where is this going to get you anyway? Is this really the absolute best thing you could be doing right now to get closer to your vision? What even is your vision?” I’m getting the sense that it will be helpful if I create some sort of weekly structure to prioritize my actions and to align them with my values and vision. And probably figure out that whole vision thing…

As I attempt to learn how to be a creator, I find it particularly challenging to have little structure. No “right way” to go about it. How much structure is a creative person supposed to have? Do I make appointments with myself so that I stay on track with practicing all the things I want to practice? Or do I let it flow and just follow the energy of whatever excites me in that moment? Is there value in “pushing through” a writer’s block (or a songwriter’s block), or do you acknowledge you’ve hit a creative dead end for the time being, get up, and do something else? I think I’d like to have some conversations with my creative friends about this and read more about the creative process (as I go and add Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way to my library queue). 

In other news this week, I did create what some might call my first “song” with my new home studio setup. It’s barely a song, but it has sound, rhythm, and a tiny bit of shape, and you can listen to it on the internet, so I think that clears for my definition of song. You can listen to it here: It was a real treat playing it for my kids. As I loaded it up on our speaker in the family room on an early weekday morning, I watched with delight as my children and partner reacted with genuine, positive interest by shaking their hips and bobbing their heads. The kids wanted to hear it again in the car on the way to school. When the climax of the song hit, when all of the tracks in the early part of the song are layered together and converge (all three of them), my child, with a keen ear for instrumentation and harmony, exclaimed, “Wow Dad, you must’ve been playing some of those instruments with your feet!” How long can I get away with my kids believing I can play drums, bass, and keyboard at the same time before showing them how the sausage gets made? 

On Sabbatical – Week 17: A New Season Begins

Fall is here, and it feels like a big deal for a few reasons, all of which revolve around the school year. Having my children back at school has never felt like a more important landmark for me. After quitting my job, I decided early in summer that summer was going to be the season of play, of being a kid, of abandoning as many responsibilities as possible and doing my best to see life through my children’s eyes. Now, though, that time is over. There is a concrete change to the structure of our week – from 8am-2pm every day, the kids are away. As fun as this summer was, I am ready for this change. I am looking forward to having this block of six hours every day to move into this next season of sabbatical. I’m feeling very clear and comfortable with this change; I’m not sitting here wishing we had just a few more weeks of summer (like I have in many other years). We did a lot. We lived a full season. If summer was the season of “being a 4 and 6 year old kid,” then my intention for fall is that it will be the season of, say, high school. That age where you start to get a sense of what in the world is interesting to you and what things bore you. The time where you pick a sport or an instrument and you practice it, lots, mostly because you just really enjoy it. That’s the energy I want to tap into this season. I want to allow myself to pick a few activities or hobbies that I enjoy, regardless of their practicality and regardless of my skill level, dedicate myself to the practice of them, and see where it leads. That is the energy I hope to carry through the fall. 


After I dropped my kids off for the first day of school, I came home, changed my clothes, and immediately went for a run. The night prior, when I wrote down a list of things I wanted to do with my week, “going for a run” was the very first thing I wrote down. I have found in life that firsts are extremely important and telling. Whenever a question is asked, whether I’m asking myself the question, someone is asking me a question, or I am asking a question of someone else, the very first thing that is said is almost always the most potent, the most important takeaway, regardless of whatever comes after that first thought.

For example, I might ask my foodie friend for a recommendation of a new restaurant I could try out. They might reply, “I really love Bar La Grassa, and also Martina. Ooh, and Spoon and Stable is quite nice.” There’s a reason they said Bar La Grassa first. I don’t care exactly what the reason is (although it’s probably because of their Charred Red Onion with Goat Cheese Bruschetta), I just know there is a reason that one was top of mind, and that’s good enough for me to know that recommendation is the most potent, most juicy, and everything else after that was just filler. Of course, there are exceptions to this principle, when deeper thought on a question does reveal a keener insight that may not have been uncovered at first glance, but for the most part, when I notice myself or others mentioning a list of things, I always pay special attention to the first thing on the list. 


One day this week I helped my neighbor with a project. He is building a treehouse at the back of his property where the yard meets the woods, which is quite clearly a job more easily done by two than by one. I was happy to help him out as a friendly neighborly gesture without any expectation of a return favor. As we started getting set up for the work, he mentioned to me that he had read my latest blog post. Not only had he read it, but there was something specific in it that he could relate to in his own experience as a parent. (It was in this post where I contemplated about what my child is really trying to say at certain moments, but they don’t always have the mastery of the language or the emotional skills to voice what they really mean.) His mentioning this to me cost him nothing, but I received it as a huge gift. Not only did it feel good that some other human actually was interested in enough in the hodgepodge of words I’d put together to take time out of their day to read what I’d written, but also that something I wrote actually resonated with someone else. Dare I say made even the slightest positive difference in his life? What a great feeling that was!

It made me consider two things:

1) How much does this feeling get amplified for professional authors, teachers, podcasters, or talk givers, when their messages and insights improve the lives of thousands or even millions of people?!

2) Noticing how good this made me feel, I want to carry forward the practice of voicing my admiration, my noticing, my appreciation of others’ thoughts, words, and actions. It costs me very little and the reward for the other is great! 


When I was younger, I was really into playing music. First piano, then saxophone. I was pretty good. Jazz improvisation came naturally to me. I chose to spend hours in the practice room with a friend, a guitar player, and we would accompany each other (me on tenor sax and him on guitar) playing through jazz standards, fake books, whatever was around the music room in high school. We’d have jam sessions in our other friend’s basement; he was the drummer, of course. After high school, I chose to pursue a practical degree in business, but even still as a Marketing and Entrepreneurship double major, I played in the jazz band at the University of Minnesota my Freshman year. After that, though, I quit. I quit playing music. I was wrapped up in navigating the puzzle of college, of how I could cruise through four years of university with two business degrees as efficiently as possible. Jazz band was a lot of time and only earned me one credit. So I put it aside in pursuit of business. (And parties.)

As my life continued, the distance from the time I’d last played music widened. I still enjoyed listening to music (this was the age when P2P servers like Napster and LimeWire were in their prime!), and I loved going to see live shows (one of my college roommates was the drummer in the band Quietdrive). But I never played. I watched with admiration as my friend, the drummer who hosted our high school jam sessions, continued his pursuit of music, moved to L.A., formed bands, created his own music studio, engineered incredible tracks, and crafted a sustainable life in the music industry. (Shoutout to Sam Brawner, Raquel Rodriguez, and Blue Dream Studios. Watch and listen to them perform one of my favorite songs live in their studio: Mile High.) I sometimes wondered, fantasized what my life would have been like had I, at the crossroads of deciding what to pursue in college, chosen music over business. But as happens with so many of us that practice some art when we’re young, the ideas of practicality, of finances, of the “real world” creep in and overtake the artistic side.

It has been a long-standing idea of mine to record my own music. Not to become the next Jon Batiste, not to go on world tours, just to have a setup at my house where I could mess around with music. A musical playground, if you will. I never made the time to make this happen while I was in the working world.

This week, the time finally came. I transformed idea into reality; I set up the ability to record audio in my house. The configuration is beyond basic, but I at least now have the ability to record a microphone, a keyboard, and a guitar into a computer and start playing around with music and sound. As I fired up GarageBand and started tinkering with my first sounds, I felt so giddy I was cackling to myself, having uncontrollable belly laughs, by myself, in my basement. The “music” I was making was complete unskilled trash, but that didn’t matter. The product didn’t matter. I had built a playground for myself, and it felt so damn good to play. 

The most basic music studio in the history of music studios


On the weekend, my family went over to my friend’s house for his daughter’s fifth birthday. While the kids were busy zooming around their backyard and basement, I took a moment to step into their front yard, free from kids, with another friend of mine. While we know each other pretty well, we are both better friends with the host of the party. In other words, we are friends through the host. He and I got to chatting about the state of the world and of our lives, and I quickly realized he and I share a lot of the same values and views. We got to talking about hiking and camping, and boom! I was hit with a wave of inspiration to see if we could squeak in a camping trip before the temperatures got too cold. But rather than let this idea slip by, like so many ideas of fun activities can do (because they take a certain amount of planning, organization, and effort), I did not leave that birthday party until we had picked a tentative date that appeared to work on each of our calendars. I don’t know if this plan will hold, but I’m excited at the prospect, and I’m sure glad I took a minute to sneak away from the bounce-house to have an actual adult conversation at this otherwise sugar-induced crazy-fest! 


As I woke up my youngest on the first day of school, a full two hours earlier than her body had grown accustomed to waking up in the summer on its own clock, she started to rise and sleepily, and somewhat grouchily, told me, “Daddy, I didn’t want to have any mornings this year.” 


Oh! And my kids made their own bruschetta with basil and tomatoes from our garden, as well as strawberries, balsamic vinegar, mozzarella cheese, and sourdough bread, hence the featured image on this week’s post. I absolutely love giving them very small portions of chopped up ingredients and then just sitting back and watching as they create their own meals. 

My Sabbatical – Week 4 – Prioritizing Pursuits And Accepting The Truth Of My Actions

A sabbatical is glorious in many ways, and it also has its challenges. With the stripping away of a more rigid daily and weekly structure, with a reduction of commitments and obligations, which grants me additional free time to allocate as I choose, comes a challenge. A challenge of variety, of options, of opportunities, of… open-endedness. There are many endeavors I wish to pursue, and all of them require minutes of the day (although some, such as living more mindfully, can be practiced throughout the day). How to prioritize? I have many goals I want to tackle all at once. I want everything to happen now. I want to be fluent in Spanish. I want to have five songs written and produced. I want five boxes to fill themselves of the stuff we don’t need and donate themselves to places and people that will use them. I want this blog to write itself. There are ten different website updates I want to make to this very site, not to mention the three other websites I want to be building, but each little change takes me ages since everything is a first, and firsts have a steep learning curve. And I know this kind of sounds impossible and “woe is me,” but even though I don’t have a day job right now, even with all those extra hours in the week, it’s still hard to make time for all of these things. Or even half of them! What things make the cut and which get left for later? This is the mental battle of my early sabbatical. 

I’ve noticed, though, that I am making time for certain things. I am preparing (and happily eating) home-cooked food daily. I’ve set up an exercise space in the basement and am getting out on the sand volleyball courts regularly. I am saying “yes” to my kids almost whenever they ask to play with me. Perhaps it turns out that the actions I’m making time for are my top priorities. We are what we do. 

Impromptu scooter ride midday on a weekday, because on sabbatical, Dad says, “Yes!”

One of the goals or tasks I keep writing down on my various lists is the project of purging. I’ve been wanting to purge, purge, purge. Strip things down. Declutter our house. Declutter my mind. But with planning for international travel coming up next week and trying to live slowly and not be too “busy,” I haven’t been making room for big purge projects. However, one thing I have been doing is playing with my kids and being present with them. Maybe that’s a fair trade-off? Maybe that’s what this week of sabbatical is supposed to be about. If I had been on a decluttering spree and grinding away at my laundry list of hobbies, I would have missed the following interaction with my kid.

With a delightfully tactful and simply-stating-an-observation tone, I had commented, loud enough for my kid to hear, on how hard it is to see any portion of the actual wood floor in our playroom. Any parent can relate. The kid stopped, eyed the playroom up and down, and turned their head to me and replied, “Daddy, I think we have too many toys.” Oh, I agree, young one. I agree. And so, without any further prodding or encouragement needed, we purged. Now, it was not the poetic, total toyroom overhaul that it could have been, but together, we picked up stuff and agreed whether it should be shelved or binned. 

And so, by letting go of the perceived need to be self-improving and making progress doing my long list of goals, and simply being a present father with my child, I not only got some decluttering done, but I also had a positive, bonding moment with my child. 

Letting go is getting me where I want to go. 


TANGENTIAL PARENTING HACK: If your 4-7 year old kid doesn’t enjoy “picking up” the play room or bedroom, suggest “neating” instead. Our kids all out sprint the other way when we mention picking up a room, but if we neat it, carefully replacing items to their homes ever so delicately and neatly like a member of the royal family might, oh, neating is so much fun! 



Sunday, June 12, 2022

I messed up earlier today. I intervened when I should have done nothing. Or rather, I spoke instead of silence. Silence is tragically underrated. Silence is where magic happens. A silent lake at night divulges a loon’s call from miles away. Silent, tantric stares with your partner can unlock an unknown depth of intimacy. Silence is where you learn. 

My co-parent and our kids were having a calm, strategic bedtime negotiation around the remaining screen time of the night, and since it was a “Mommy Night” (we trade bedtime nights), I was doing my job, which at that point was to stare out the window and do nothing. Be a fly on the wall. Let what happens, happen. And then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t doing my job. During a pause in the mildly tense but perfectly under control negotiation, I commented that, “this conversation is sure taking a long time,” attempting and failing to imply the logic of, “think of all the minutes of screen time we could have gotten by now had we simply agreed on something and started watching.” I just couldn’t help myself from intervening and trying to help the situation. The thing is, the intent of offering assistance doesn’t make all actions right. And the discomfort I felt in that moment is a me problem. 

Upon conversation with my partner and further reflection, many of my missteps in life stem from an underlying tendency toward perfectionism. A sense of editing and revision to live every moment with maximum efficiency, maximum rightness. Why is that instinct there, to always be improving, always be optimizing, maximizing, even if it doesn’t matter? I have a few ideas, and I’m also jotting it down as a future journal prompt for further unpacking. 

Ultimately, I need to trust my partner to live their own parenting journey. And I need to trust my children to have their own journey. From every stumble, at least I can always learn. 



Sunday, June 12, 2022 continued…

I had been on such a high to come out in the gazebo tonight and write. I got what felt like a huge breakthrough earlier tonight by taking “one teaspoon more” as I embarked on nighttime cleanup duty, which started out with picking up the front yard while it was still light out. 

When it’s a Mommy Night for bedtime, it’s a Daddy Night for cleanup. I ventured out to pick up the day’s toys, chairs, and miscellanea. I left the camping hammock suspended between our two Eastern White Pines for last. It was a gorgeous Minnesota summer night, and the sun was just about to set over the neighbor’s house to the west. But I had cleanup chores to do and a long list of personal hobbies to pursue after that, so I briskly unclipped the hammock from its straps and had it half packed into its stuff-sack when I froze. I looked up and the pink and orange setting sun and thought to myself, “What the heck are you doing right now? You love sunsets and this weather is lush.” And so rather than charge ahead on my task list, I slowed down, reattached the hammock, and sank in to a reflective meditation by sunset. And laying there, ever so gently rocking back and forth, gazing up at the canopy overhead and the drifting clouds above, I had the following epiphany. 

You can sum up one of my truest pleasures in life in two words: being outdoors.

These are phrases transcribed from the 4:22 Voice Memo I captured on my phone while in that hammock meditation: 

  • “I find myself realizing that being outdoors does bring me joy. It’s as simple as those two words. Being outdoors. … Every time. Every time I’m connecting with nature, it brings this overwhelming sense of peace, where I feel like I can actually… touch my soul, feel my soul.”
  • “It feels… indulgent. Like I’m somehow not deserving of just sitting outside and enjoying the sunset, like I should be doing other, more productive, things. For my family. For myself. But… this is nourishing myself. Just, chillin’ horizontally, on a hammock, with my weight suspended, with a gorgeous sunset, underneath a forest canopy, is… one of the best things there is in life! And I just need to remember that in my day to day. When I’m outdoors, my bucket is getting full.”
  •  (Tangential commentary on the benefits of hammocks): “There’s something about the way a hammock works on your body… because you’re horizontal, because your hips are relieved of any pressure, the opposite of when you’re sitting… because you have this anti-gravity posture, it feels like you’re… cheating, like you’ve found the loophole of physics to allow your body to relax. It’s like the same tranquility of floating in water, but without all the work of paddling and holding your breath, not to mention the needing-to-find-a-spot-to-swim bit.”

I can’t get over how cool it is to be experiencing the recurring theme that slowing down and doing less results in more clarity, more joy, and, paradoxically, more progress



Sunday, June 12, 2022 concluded…

Eventually, the sun did set, and duty called. It was time to put away the dishes away, so I headed inside and popped in my AirPods. I’m washing, listening to this “Wondewall” remix on SoundCloud, and I’m dancing, quite well I might say, and it’s hitting me, that dancing may be a “tier two” passion of mine. If I’m being honest, I’m no Michael Jackson, but I do have rhythm. I started playing piano at 6 and played until middle/high school, where I transitioned to saxophone. I also played drums in the church youth band. I played a few small-town gigs in a jazz combo. I went on to play in Jazz Band at the University of Minnesota. I’m constantly tapping out percussive beats and improvising goofy song lyrics with my kids. And yeah, when it’s dishes time, I drop in the AirPods and get my dance on. Is there any better way to get the dishes done than to dance with them?

It’s good to acknowledge your strengths. I believe there is huge benefit to leaning into one’s strengths. And as vulnerable as I feel writing this, that I will come across as arrogant, I believe that it’s OK to be proud of my skills and that there is power in naming things, and so I will name that I have a skill of shared rhythm with my kids. Shared rhythm is one of the many concepts I’ve learned from Kristyn, and I believe that it’s an area that I often excel in, and I’m connecting just now that it may be in part because I’m a naturally rhythmic person. Shared rhythm is not necessarily percussive, of course; having a back and forth conversation or going for a walk together are also shared rhythm. But in the literal sense, I can feel things click with the young ones. For example, when my kids ask me to do “Run-Unders” with them, they are referring to me dribbling an extra large yoga ball, in our basement, as high as I can without ricocheting back off the ceiling, in a consistent, steady beat, so they can time out a sprint underneath without getting tagged by the ball. It’s wicked fun, and in the game we share the rhythm of the bouncing ball. (Of course, the huge yoga ball does eventually crash into them, but only when they choose the rhythm of silliness and stopping mid-sprint to let it crash into them, at which point I let go of the old game and pivot to align with the rhythm of silliness.) 

Then it was time to do the dishes for real, not just dance to a remix of Oasis’ crowd-pleasing masterpiece from the 90’s, and I switched over to Spotify. Spotify is one of the few apps I happily pay for every month. It’s a rare subscription bill I look at and am 100% at peace with paying. I absolutely love having the world’s music at my fingertips. Of its many delightful features, Spotify’s algorithm customizes a set of six “Daily Mix” playlists tailored to your listening habits and grouped by an overall “feel,” with “Daily Mix 1” typically being more of your frequently played, go-to songs, with Daily Mix 6 being the collection of the 10 random songs of that one obscure genre you secretly like and rarely, but every so often, listen to. I hadn’t used this feature in a while, and today, Spotify curated the most serendipitously customized “Daily Mix 1” to not only my specific, eclectic taste in music, but did so in a series of 8 or 9 songs in a row that perfectly fit the mold of the mood I wanted to be in. First with a couple blood pumping, foot-stomping jams like “LIGHT” by Parcels and Jungle’s “Smile,” then into a more relaxed, but still toe-tappin bass line of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up – Pt. 1”, and then slower still with a brand new release from Jacob Collier featuring Lizzy McAlpine and John Mayer, “Never Gonna Be Alone”… and as I’m writing this about music, it is really hitting me that music, rhythm, dance… these also are things that make my soul shine through.

Being outdoors, music, good food, family… what more does a man need?

And yet, even as I’m dancing away, synchronizing my dish scrubs and rinses with the beat of some of my favorite tunes by my favorite artists, allowing the rhythms and melodies to take over my body, in my own house… I’m noticing that it’s hard to truly, truly let go, to truly be the wacky, shirtless dish dancer that my soul wants to be. I think up more outrageous dance moves than I actually allow my body to do, even when no one is watching. It’s like there is this deeply rooted fear of judgment of others, fear of doing things someone might judge me for doing, fear of doing something other than what society expects me to do. 

Above all else, I need to allow me to be myself.



Writing is hard. I’ve had different pieces of this post written for a while. Procrastination gets the best of me. Steven Pressfield’s “Resistance” is real. It’s easy to find excuses to do anything but simply opening up a blank page and starting to write. Self-judgment. Perfectionism. Resistance takes many forms, and they all get in the way of doing the work. I suppose I am grateful to have made the first step, which is acknowledging their presence and typing this paragraph anyway.

OK, enough yammering, onward to Week 5 – a week in Costa Rica!



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