Control yourself, take only what you need from it

 

In an insane circumstance, I ended up going to my 6th show in 8 days.  It’s not that my initial goal was to go out so many nights, it just sort of happened that all the bands or artists I wanted to see were clumped together that way.  I knew ahead of time that this would be difficult.  I would need to sneak in some extra naps while the kids were at school, find some babysitters, coordinate all the usual stuff like rides and friend meet-ups.  But even little things like housecleaning and meal prepping (both usually my “jobs”) suffered.  I pre-made some freezer meals and did a lot of microwaving on paper plates and we all survived.  But I did have some “mommy guilt” from missing out on so many bedtimes in a row.

The last show, to cap off my run, was Hippocampus, a brilliant band of young men who kind of-recently graduated from St. Paul Conservatory.  Unfortunately some factors made this the worst day to go see another show.  First, it was the end of Daylight Savings Time, so I got an hour less sleep.  Then, I had a baby shower to go to that afternoon.  It’s not that I minded seeing some dear friends and celebrating the new mom and baby, but I was really dragging by that time.  During the shower, at my friend’s house in St. Paul, the snowstorm hit.  I spent 45 minutes in very slow-moving traffic on 35W, trying to keep my calm which is hard when you don’t know what’s up ahead (a nine-car accident, it turns out).

Anyway, fast forward a couple hours and I was back out on the streets, headed downtown with the same friend who had hosted the shower.  It was an early show, and it was still light out, due to the time change, so everything had a weird Twilight Zone filter on it already.  Then we walked in the door to First Ave and didn’t get carded.

What? All-ages show.  That’s what.  How had I failed to see this information before? First Ave was packed, but not in the way it usually is, with people spread out moderately between the stage and the bar.  Everyone here was on the floor mashed up as close as possible to the person in front of them, and there was plenty of room by the bar, which I assume was only serving water.  It took us a minute to get our bearings and realize that upstairs is where we really wanted to be.  Yes, we got carded on the stairs, and yes, the few people milling around there were drinking the grown-up drinks.  This was where we belonged.  We settled in behind the control booth, where I have never, ever stood for a concert before.  The glass actually blocks enough of the sound to be able to have a conversation with the person next to you.  We could pretty much see the stage, through some obstacles, and I had a strange sense of comfort, looking down at the melee below and knowing I didn’t have to be in it.

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Of course I should’ve known that Hippocampus’ fans were going to be teenagers, and more specifically, teenaged girls.  They are amazing to me as musicians, but they are also attractive, charming, and cool.  I marveled at how high-pitched the crowd’s roar (screech?) was between songs.

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Standing there, I was torn between trying to enjoy a live show that clearly appealed to a different demographic than mine, and counting down the minutes until it was over so I could go to bed.  I knew, as I had probably known for the last couple days, that I had overdone it.

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On our way out, we hopped over to Prince’s star for a picture, which is something I do about 80% of the time I go to First Ave.  In hindsight, I think it would have been a fun goal to take a selfie with his star EVERY time I visit First Ave, but now that I’ve missed a few times I feel like there’s no point in starting.  I got home at a decent time that night and went straight to bed, feeling old and tired.  Maybe 41 year-old moms aren’t supposed to go out to every show.  But maybe not all 41 year-old moms are having as much fun as I am.

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I wear my heart upon my sleeve, like a big deal

I think I first became aware of the Jayhawks around 1994 and I was instantly smitten.  When I went to college, my friend across the hall was also a fan, and we bonded over our shared love of music (along with chunky shoes, the Delia’s catalog, and Jared Leto).  Over the years, the Jayhawks performed locally many times and I never saw them.  Either I didn’t have any money, or didn’t have anyone to go with, or  I was working.   So when I heard they were headlining the second night of the the opening of the Palace Theatre, and the Cactus Blossoms would be there as well, I made up my mind not to miss them again.  I bought tickets, informed my husband we were going, got my parents to babysit, and it was a done deal.

We got to the Palace, and eased on down to the front of the stage.  I have this very Minnesotan thing I do where I desperately want to be in the front, but don’t want to look like I’m a jerk that just goes right up there.  There were already people leaning up against the barricade, so we casually moved in, leaving over an arm’s length of space between us.  As the crowd filled in around us, we took baby steps forward, just enough so that no one else would get in front of us.  I had a clear view of the stage, right between the shoulders of the people in front of me, and suddenly a feeling of awe came over me.  I wasn’t just going to see the Jayhawks, I was going to be as close as possible to them.

The Cloak Ox opened.  I admit, I didn’t really know who they were except that Jeremy Ylvisaker was supposed to be playing guitar (he couldn’t be there, though) and Martin Dosh was on drums.  They were OK.  As OK as a band can be when you are completely unfamiliar with their music and really just want them to hurry up and get done.  I feel a little bad for saying that, but I want to be honest.

Then the Cactus Blossoms came out.  At this point, someone in front of me just turned around and left.  There was this space there by the barricade for a minute and I was still feeling shy about just hopping in there for myself.  I had to remind myself that if someone else, especially someone taller stepped in, I’d be nuisanced by it and mad at myself for being passive aggressive.  So I went forward, staked my claim in the very front, and got over feeling weird about it.

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It was worth it to be in front.  What can I say?  Jack was looking my way pretty much the whole time and I felt like every song was being sung directly to me.  I got some amazing pictures, just a little video, and spent the rest of the time dreamily taking it all in, probably with a big dopey grin on my face.

I could have gone home happy right then, but we still hadn’t seen the Jayhawks.  I was at the point I reach during most shows when my body starts coming up with reasons to leave.  My feet were sore.  I was too hot.  I had been nursing a bottle of water the entire time, but wanted to guzzle it because I was so thirsty.  The reason I wasn’t drinking more was that I already had to pee, but there was no way I was risking giving up my spot now.  I started calculating how long I could play the waiting game with my bladder and realized this was uncharted territory after having two babies.  This is mind over bladder, I told myself, not really convinced that sheer willpower had any clout in the situation.

Mayor Chris Coleman came out and joked that if Atmosphere had been the music of his son’s wasted youth, then the Jayhawks were the music of his.  Then on came the Jayhawks and I was overjoyed to see and hear them in person, finally.  Sidebar: Gary Louris sat at the next table at French Meadow when my mom friends and I were fresh out of a parent/baby swim class at the Midtown Y.  So technically I have seen him in person.

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This was like having a personal concert in my own living room.  I don’t know if the sound was actually better than the night before, or if my location made it so warm and clear.  My physical complaints took a backseat as I just watched and listened and felt like the luckiest person in the world for a short time.

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Chris Coleman was invited back out on stage to play guitar with the band, which was  pretty cool of them.  He looked chilled out, like he was taking it all in stride.

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About halfway through the set, the Jayhawks played “Waiting for the Sun,” a song that has always moved me for some reason.  Maybe I just think it’s really beautifully sung and well-written; I don’t know.  But all of a sudden, big hot tears were rolling down my face.  I felt somewhat self-conscious and quickly took a tally of all the people who might glance over and see me weeping: the people on either side of me, the security guard (who I recognized as First Avenue staff) standing in front of the stage, and, of course, the entire band.  You know, there’s nothing wrong with feeling emotional from music, it’s just something I don’t usually display in public.  It’s another part of my Minnesotan upbringing, I suppose, to look stoic no matter if our hearts are being shredded up inside.

My tears subsided at last and I enjoyed the rest of the show, until I could finally weave my way through the dispersing crowd toward the restrooms.  Of course, I ran into someone I knew on the way there, another mom from my kids’ school, and I stopped to chitchat.  Both my bladder and my luck held out, though, and I did get where I needed to go eventually.  Everything about that night was a success and one of the more memorable shows I’ve been to in a long time.

 

I’m kind of over gettin’ told to put my hands up in the air

Fans of music in these parts have been waiting for the opening of the Palace Theatre in St. Paul, and it was only appropriate that Minnesota’s favorite hip-hop group, Atmosphere, would head opening night.  It was a no-brainer for me to get tickets because I actually do like some rap music (as long as it’s catchy and actually about something I can relate to) and I see Slug around regularly so it’s fun to get to watch him on stage as well.  I am aware that there is a pretty big canyon between the typical Atmosphere fan and me.  For one, I’m at least a decade older.  For another, I don’t smoke weed.  And when instructed to “make some noise!”  or “put your hands up!” I generally decline.

The Palace Theatre was not where I expected it to be.  My group had Lyfted to Barrio Lowertown for dinner, then walked to the Palace, so I was all turned around.  It was so cold that night, and we were dismayed when we turned the corner and realized we had to stand in line.  I remember trying to take pictures and I couldn’t feel my fingertips.

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So here’s what I can say about the Palace Theatre.  The building is really cool.  Parts of it make it seem like you’re walking through ruins, except that there are nice modern bars and restrooms.  I had two balcony tickets, because I had been careless in the pre-sale and didn’t realize there was a choice between balcony and main floor.  I didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing though.  Having not been in this theater before, I wondered if I would hate the balcony or be relieved to have a place to sit.  My answer, in hindsight, is both.  Sometimes it is nice to chill out way in the back, especially when the people in the crowd are a little more inebriated than you have the patience for.  But then you are also watching everything happen from a distance and not really “in” the music.

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The show was made up of Lady Midnight, who I didn’t take pictures of, Dem Atlas, Sims, and Atmosphere.  It was my second time seeing Lady Midnight and I’m still not sure if I like her or not.  There’s no denying she has a great voice, though.  Dem Atlas, who I’ve seen once before was as insane as ever.  The energetic way he leaps around on stage is almost not human, but I enjoy his music and I respect his professionalism given that he’s really young.  I don’t know what to say about Sims…I am not familiar with his solo music so his set was just meh for me.  Comedian Hannibal Buress made a surprise appearance, and came out to introduce Atmosphere.

There were a couple things that almost ruined the evening for me.  First, the sound system seemed horrible that night.  Either the volume was way louder than it needed to be, or something wasn’t set up right for the cavernous, echoing space of the theater.  During Sims’ set, my ears felt like they were being jabbed with something sharp, and that’s even with my new, fancy earplugs in.  There was no “warmness” to the sound.  It was just hard and painful.  Second, we were in the front row of the 2nd balcony and, as the night went on, more and more people began to stand in the walkway in front of us, completely blocking our view, even when we were standing up.  These people were a little younger (one girl very loudly proclaimed she was born in ’92, bless her heart), and most definitely drunker.  They were also giants.  It became quite funny to watch them try to keep their balance while they waved their arms to the music.  Plus, the one girl was having some sort of unseen wardrobe malfunction, as she kept bending over to do something with her shoes, then hiking and straightening her pants, completely oblivious that the five rows directly behind her could see nothing but her backside.  We could have tried to ask them to move, or we could have moved, but I don’t know that we cared that much.

After the show, we were standing around in the lobby, and I saw Dem Atlas greeting fans.  Suddenly I felt brave enough to approach him.  I had seen him a few months earlier hanging out at the Turf Club, watching his friend, Dizzy Fae perform.  In “real life” he seemed sweet and friendly, the complete opposite of his wild, intimidating stage character.  We went up to him, told him how much fun his show was, and got some genuine hugs, like the kind of hugs you give people you know.  He seems completely humble and unaffected by having the opportunity to tour the world with Atmosphere at such a young age.  He’s definitely won me over as a fan.

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As we waited for our Lyft ride home, I looked back and saw the almost-full moon rising above the theater sign.  It was a beautiful sight to punctuate the first of many shows I’d be seeing at the Palace.

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Played until my fingers bled

Last month I scored free tickets to the Roe Family Singers taping a performance for The Lowertown Line at the TPT station in St. Paul, so I was 100% on top of getting tickets when I saw them offered up for Jeremy Messersmith’s in-studio show.  I found a friend to go with me at the last minute and worked it out with a co-worker to come in a bit late that night.  One thing that struck me as kind of funny is that I’ve never actually seen Messersmith perform live before, even though he’s one of those local musicians who’s always showing up.  I’ve seen him eating in a restaurant, and I have a couple friends who have had amusing interactions with him.  I’ve been listening to him for years, especially to his charming Light Rail song on the Choo-Choo Bob DVD my kids used to watch nonstop. But I’ve never seen him on stage so I didn’t really know what to expect.

I’m sure someone knows their way around St. Paul, but I sure don’t.  I can get to the Science Museum, Mickey’s Diner, The Children’s Museum, The Fitzgerald, and the Xcel.  They are all in one clump, and you can take the same exit off 94 to get to all of them.  How far St.Paul goes on after that, I’m not really sure, but the TPT station is in that vague area past all the things that I know.  Fortunately, there seems to be no traffic in that end of town, so we easily parked and found a convenient skyway into the building.  We stood in line, waiting to get into the studio, and looking at men’s shoes.  Something good is happening with footwear right now, like men are suddenly figuring out there is an entire category that combines hipster style with comfort and work-appropriateness.  These shoes seem to say, “I make decent money as a creative professional, and in my spare time I chop wood and mix up batches of beard pomade.”  I almost took a few sneaky pictures to text to Jeremy (husband, not Messersmith) but decided not to use up my phone memory.  I have about a million podcasts I need to go through and delete because my phone lets me know I’m out of memory about once a week.

We were finally ushered into the studio where the concert would be filmed, and shortly after that, the band came out on stage. I was thrilled to see that the ensemble included a horn player and a string quartet. Jeremy Messersmith came out sporting a beard and longer hair than I’ve ever seen on him, not unlike the Caucasian Christ I grew up seeing in my Sunday School story handouts. He had the word “Resist” taped on his guitar and stood under gold letter balloons that spelled out “LATE STAGE CAPITALISM.”

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As much as I enjoy J. Mez, I am not as familiar as I’d like to be with his music, so most of his songs were only vaguely familiar. But he is a gifted songwriter, and his lyrics are delightful and interesting. I’m saying you would not have to be a fan to walk blindly into one of his shows and end up loving the experience.

After each song, Messersmith reached down into his supply of cheap party poppers and shot one over the crowd. The poppers were a disappointment every single time, either not popping at all, or only shooting confetti over one or two people in the front row. One even gashed his finger.  The show halted for a moment while he first stuck his finger in his mouth, then examined it.  “I think it’s going to be alright?” He mused aloud.  “Maybe I need a Band-Aid?” A Band-Aid was supplied by an audience member and fastened in place by a guitar player and the show continued.   It became an ongoing joke throughout the evening, with what always looked like sincere expectation and then the reality of the poppers being as anti-party as you could get.

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Anyway, the set of songs was lovely and the evening ended just in time for me to get into work at the time I had promised.  I’m now interested in Laurels String Quartet, who apparently play frequently with Messersmith, and I found them on Facebook so I can maybe see them again.  There’s also a small chance I’ll be able to see myself on TV when this episode of Lowertown Line airs, but I suspect only the front row and a few of the taller dudes will be seen.  I wore a sparkly top, which I’m sure could have been eye-catching in a flattering or disastrous way, so I can’t wait to find out.

 

 

I fell in love with you before the second show

Jeremy is a huge fan of Har Mar Superstar.  So much so, that a couple months ago when we had tickets to his First Ave show and couldn’t find a sitter, I sucked it up and stayed home for the night while he went out.  Then I found out that Har Mar was doing a benefit show for a friend at a tiny venue, the Hook and Ladder Theater, so it was another chance for me to see him.  I excited told Jeremy I had tickets and planned to find a friend to go with me and he looked shocked and said, “heeeeyyy…”  It hadn’t occurred to me that he’d want to go again so soon.  Maybe it was because I haven’t seen Har Mar for a few years and I forgot how much fun his shows are.

The Hook and Ladder Theater is near the intersection of Lake and Minnehaha in Minneapolis, next to the police station.  I honestly had not heard of it before.  Upon entering I felt immediately at ease.  The bouncers and bartenders were smiling and friendly, the dimly lit room felt warm and cozy.  Other early-comers were sitting around the sides of the room on chairs or benches, chatting with each other.  It was 9:00 on a Wednesday night, the worst possible time for working parents of two school-aged kids to go out to a show.  It’s not just that we were dreading being tired the next morning.  We already were tired.

Then the opening bands came on; In Corridors and Ripper.  They weren’t bad.  In fact, the feeling of the music energized me and got me on my feet, nodding to the beat.  The rest of the growing crowd, still not large by any means, also seemed to become more excited.  I looked around at kids in their 20s, people with gray hair, and everyone in between, most holding drinks, all smiling.

The band got on stage, in matching satin jackets and matching facial hair.  These guys were committed to bring the funk.  Then Har Mar came out in typical Har Mar garb, which I can only characterize as grotesque and brilliant.  His confidence was contagious, and suddenly we weren’t Mom and Dad out on a date night.  We were as young and fun as anyone else there, getting down to the music.

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I don’t know how I could describe a Har Mar Superstar show to someone who has never been to one.  At first glance he may not appear as groomed or svelte as one might expect for a lead singer.  Then he starts his schtick, and he pulls the audience into the music, and you realize that if he was well-dressed and handsome, there would be too much pretty to handle.  His songs are a throw-back; smooth melodies over a danceable beat.  And he dances and gestures like a retro soul singer.  But there’s also something raw and surprising happening.

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It feels good to be in a crowd of happy people and soak up the joy vibe.  I felt like I was in a friend’s cozy basement, instead of an unfamiliar place, with strangers.  Har Mar pulled all his signature moves including walking out into the audience, dragging the long mic cord behind him.  He moved from one side of the room to the other and we politely hopped over the cord as it stretched out near our ankles.

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We left after the show feeling like we could see another.  It may be months before we go to another show on a school night, but if they all paid off like this one did, we’d do it more often.  I came away with two thoughts. 1)Do not hesitate to see Har Mar Superstar again, no matter the venue.  It’s guaranteed to be a good time.  2)Be on the lookout for more events at the fantastic Hook and Ladder Theater.

And this woman was singing my song

Yesterday  I dragged my child down memory lane with me and went to see Lisa Loeb’s pop-up show as part of The Current’s Rock the Cradle events.  I’m not sure why it’s called a pop-up, by the way.  It wasn’t like “Surprise!  Lisa Loeb just decided to show up!”  It was more like tickets went on sale a couple months ago,  I happened to be looking at Facebook or Twitter the moment the sale was announced, and I got four in the front row.  So I’ve had plenty of time to prepare for sitting mere feet away from a major 90s music and fashion icon.

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Sigh.  Lisa Loeb.  49 years old next week, and she hasn’t aged since we first saw her on MTV with her cat-eyed glasses.  She has put out a few children’s albums recently, something quite a few parents of young kids are aware of, and her songs are as sweet and adorably witty as she is.  Camp songs, nursery rhyme songs, folk songs; many requiring hand motions that were easy for the audience of kids and parents to learn and imitate.  My own six year-old bounced and wiggled in her plush theater seat the entire time, causing me occasionally to reach over and calm her flailing legs.  I mean, I know it was billed as a childrens’ show, but we were at the hallowed, historic Fitzgerald Theater.  Have some reverence, kiddo!

Lisa told stories throughout her set. She talked about her kids a lot, and about the time she invited Steve Martin to play banjo on one of her songs.  She also said she had stayed overnight at the St. Paul Hotel and spent the evening taking a long walk up to Cathedral Hill and looking at the beautiful houses.  On the way back, she had gone down to Cossetta’s and ended up sampling four kinds of gelato.  This story got cheers and applause from the appreciative audience.  I noticed the bottle of water the Fitzgerald had provided for her on a stool next to her microphone went untouched the entire time she was on stage.  Instead she sipped from from the disposable, lidded coffee cup she carried on with her.  Maybe this wasn’t so strange.  The show was at 11:00am.  But it made me like her even more.

For me, and perhaps the rest of the parents, seeing Lisa was a pleasant whiff of nostalgia.  I wasn’t really hearing about colors and ABC’s and pancakes.  I was letting myself relive the Reality Bites era, when Lelaina Pierce and Vickie Miner were the two coolest girls on the planet, with their vintage clothes, choppy haircuts, killer taste in music, and search for meaningful employment.  I was remembering trying to figure out the chords to “Stay” on my dad’s guitar and thinking I could someday play and sing and write songs as well as Lisa Loeb.  Mostly I remember the hopeless feeling I had as I faced the post-college years.  Did Reality really Bite?  Was it really about sad corporate jobs and disappointing relationships?  Fortunately, that time of my life was brief, and I found I could love the clothes and music of my teen angst while embracing a happier view of the world.

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We got to meet Lisa after the show, when we plunked down $20 for her “Camp Lisa” CD so we’d have something for her to sign.  She spoke mostly to my daughter, admiring her homemade skirt with Siamese cats printed all over it.  She said she collects cat clothes and she’s always looking for something new with cats on it.  It wasn’t until we left that I realized that would’ve been my opportunity to offer to make another one and send it to her.  I think I still have enough of the fabric left over.  Argggh!  Instead, I only said “Hi,” when it was our turn to meet her, and “Thank you!” after getting our picture taken.  This is pretty much my mode of operation any time I meet anyone I admire, even if I’ve known for months that I’m going to see them in person, and might, potentially, get to talk to them.

And yes, she did play “Stay” near the end of the set.  I may have even gotten chills and teared up a little as the audience of 90s girls, now moms, sang along.

 

Mother’s tired, she needs a rest

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Hello,

I’ve been trying to write my first post for months and couldn’t come up with a good way to start.  I’m certain that if I keep going, I’ll have some really interesting things to say at some point.  But I had to decide I’d be okay if this was the “first pancake” of blog posts: burnt on the outside, oozing batter in the middle, altogether kind of chewy and not easy to swallow.

This isn’t actually my first blog.  My old blog, Little House on 44th, is still available to view.  I didn’t want to lose everything I worked on, yet I really wanted to start fresh in a new place.  Blogging really helped me work through some of my feelings about my kids’ food allergies, and who knows, someone else going through the same thing might get something out of it.  So it’s there if you want to check it out.

I had a awkward interaction with a few people in a local blogging group I tried to join last spring.  Without even seeing my blog, someone called what I was doing “mommy blogging” and pretty much dismissed me as not having anything relevant to say.  I’m well aware that “mommy”-anything is a loaded term, implying that you are some passive-agressive, skirt-wearing zombie who is covered in graham cracker crumbs most of the time.  I hadn’t realized my blog was a mommy blog and I didn’t feel good about that accusation.   I did give birth to two humans so maybe a certain amount of judgement is fair, but I’m not comfortable with everything I do from now on being viewed through that lens.  So if I can write less of a “mommy blog” going forward, I will try.

Here’s how I’d like to shift away from my old blog: slightly better pictures, less kids, more cats, less crafts, more fashion, more music, more local people and places, more real life, more honesty, less caring what people think.  I promise not to post a tutorial of how to make a faux weathered sign that says “Live, Laugh, Love.” I promise not to post a picture of my perfectly manicured hands holding out a hot cup of cocoa with a heart formed in the froth.  I promise not to advertise for mail-order essential oil companies.  And I super-duper promise that I will never use #blessed unless I am using it ironically.  Actually, now that I think about it, I could be convinced to do all of the above ironically, so we’ll see.

Why “Shyness Is Nice?” Because this is the opening line to my favorite Smith’s song.  Also, as an introvert, I feel like people may see me as shy, quiet, low-energy, anxious, timid, boring, and self-involved.  I can be all those things, but there’s a lot more to me that can be better expressed in writing, pictures, and music than in conversation.  And, it turns out, I have a lot to say.

Thanks for reading this far,

Suze