Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Banner - Part Deux

Gerald and I had an awesome start to the day doing something we haven't done for ages: we had voice lessons! Our wonderful teacher, Sue, just refuses to follow us to Nashville, so it's always great to meet up with her while we're here for a 'tune-up'. We've both been singing a lot, so it was good to hear that things are all in the right place. Sue was also able to give us those little tweaks to make things smoother, easier, and more beautiful. Every day should start with a voice lesson!

And then, it was mad NQC planning all day! I found a warehouse that sells display racks, and I was able to purchase a CD rack for my product table for half the price I found online. Score!

I returned home to find a beautiful proof for my banner in my inbox. One small tweak later, and it was ready to approve and send to the manufacturer. Being a freelancer, I'm rarely aware of holidays and their affect on business - meaning, of course, that I forgot we'd be losing a day next week to Monday's holiday. That meant that everything for the banner had to be done, finalized, and put in the manufacturer's hands today. There were many phone calls back and forth from Toronto to Nashville (yay, free long distance), but just as my father-in-law was taking the ribs off the BBQ, the last thread was tied in place. Right now, the design is done and in the right hands. What a relief! There's been a lot of stress this week - trying to get the banner done while also balancing the thousand other things that seem to have popped up - and it's a great weight off my shoulders to have this in place.

I've been studying 'branding' this year, so the designer is now taking the banner design and turning it into a business card for me. Over the weekend, I need to confirm my hotel booking, do some shopping for the Single Release Party, and put together some press kits. Oh, the glamour of it all!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Saga of the Banner

So last week, in the midst of singing and visiting and trying to find some quiet time, I started to kick into NQC planning mode. It's been so busy lately that I've had very little time to think about it, so I'm now forced to do lots of last minute preparation. Not my favourite way to work, but one of the gifts of working in theatre and film is learning to be creative, open, and organized with very little time or resources.

I know my booth number (448 - come visit me!), but not my showcase time (reminder to self: email for that info). Tara and I are sharing a booth, so that eases some of the planning, but I still need to find a hotel room.

I'm planning a Single Release Party for the Thursday of NQC, and that's going to be a big deal. We have a lot of the details narrowed down, but we're still trying to find a time that won't conflict with any of the other radio events happening that day.

And I'm getting a banner! Originally, I didn't think we'd be able to afford one right now, but God had a different plan, and now we're getting a banner. And I don't mind saying: This whole process has stressed me out!

When we were doing the packaging for Real Big Fan, I knew exactly what I wanted things to look like. I knew what photos I wanted and where I wanted each photo placed. Unfortunately, I'm lacking this clarity of vision for my banner!

(Let's remember that a banner isn't cheap, so I want to choose my photo well!)

On the weekend, I visited and revisited all my Real Big Fan photos, and finally narrowed it down to five. I then sent the photos to a few trusted friends to get their opinions. They all came back with different favourites.

Then I narrowed it down to three. Tara (bless her heart!) has been my liaison in Nashville, so she sent the three to the graphics designer to do some rough mock-ups of the banner design. Meanwhile, I sent the three photos back around to the trusted friends. Again, no consistent answer! Dad took each of the photos and loaded them into a projector so we could blow them up to banner size and view them on the wall. That helped, but still no absolute clarity.

Last night, I received the three mock-ups, and sent them around again. And yes, everyone still has a different favourite. Dad took the mock-ups and projected them onto the wall again. I can't recommend this technique enough! Photos look so different when you see them this size, and it really helped all of us envision the banner in a church or convention or whatever.

Well, this is where things got all messed around. Mom and Dad and Gerald had all chosen photo number 3, but after seeing the photos on the wall, they all changed to photo number 1! (the numbers are arbitrary, but you get my point) Even I started to fall in love with photo 1 again. We were all surprised by our responses, which lead to a bit of a debate as to why we were reacting this way.

I've finally decided to sleep on it, and pray that I wake up with a clear answer. As it stands now, it's probably going to be photo 1, but you never know what's going to happen with this. I'm pretty sure I've aged through this whole process. Good thing I'll have a good looking photo for my booth!

(hahaha - seriously people, just kidding!) (I clearly need some sleep...)

Monday, August 25, 2008

St. John's West and all the rest...

What a weekend! Yes, I am oodles behind in my blog. When I was in Newfoundland a few weeks ago, I had zero internet access, so I started writing off-line. Unfortunately, it's taken me a while to get all that writing back online. Just one more thing for this week's "To Do" list...

This morning, we returned to St. John's West to lead the music. St. John's West is always a challenge in that we are usually responsible for all preludes, hymns, psalms, communion music, special music, postludes, and liturgical music. Today we had a visiting priest leading the service, so that cut out the psalm and the liturgical music. It was a wonderful service though! Great preaching and, as always, a great spirit.

We spent the afternoon relaxing in High Park with Mom and Dad. Next month, Mom and Dad will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary (Yay, M+D!). Since we won't be here to join in the celebrations, we had the party yesterday. For the better part of the afternoon and evening, 30 people gathered in the garden for food, song, and lots of laughter. Gerald and I pulled off a great little moment when we surprised Mom and Dad with an Elvis recording of "She Wears My Ring", the song from their first dance. I got this great photo of all the couples at the party dancing with their loved one in the garden. It was a wonderful day, and a great celebration of their first 40 years of a love well lived.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Hymn-Singing Kind of Day...

I think today was our best seniors residence gig yet! The chapel was literally overflowing with people - standing room only and staff listening from the hallway. The audience started to sing along on the first song, and they didn't stop. They even sang along on our originals! When Gerald hit the final chorus of "A Church Song Broke Me Down", there were people in the audience who were singing along. Awesome! We also had a lot of church choir singers in the audience. You can always tell them - they sing harmony, and they always know verses 2, 3, and 4.

The chaplain for this residence booked us for another place last week, and she's very interested in having us back for their Christmas services. Yay! Already booking December!

We spent the afternoon in the Annex, enjoying patios and bookstores, and then joined our friend Deanna for a night of food and music in her new apartment. After an awesome meal and lots of tea, we pulled out our guitars and played til midnight. My favourite moment was playing "Wedding at Cana". I played and sang, Gerald played lead guitar, and Deanna strummed and sang harmony. Awesome! So good just to sit and play and enjoy...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

St. John's York Mills "Homecoming"

Since coming back from Newfoundland on Monday, it's been non-stop gigging. We've hooked up with an agent who's booking us in the chapels of seniors' homes. We bring our guitars and do an hour of old hymns. Awesome!

Tonight was a real 'homecoming' for us. For the first time in almost two years, we did a concert in our former home church of St. John's York Mills. I've been trying to get back there for a while, but after a great email from their new rector this spring, we booked a full concert for tonight.

I will completely admit that I was a bit nervous going in. I think we always are when we return home. It's like a high school reunion. Don't we all want to return home richer, skinnier, taller, cooler? But my fears were quickly put at ease by a warm and generous welcome.

Gerald and I did a 90 minute show with a few classic songs, but mostly originals. We really wanted to show people what we do in Nashville, so the middle of the show consisted of two 20-minute solo sets. First, Gerald did 20 minutes of what he would do at a Nashville songwriter night, complete with sitting on a stool and sharing song stories. Next, I did 20 minutes of songs from Real Big Fan, using tracks and testimony. It was great to sing "Movin' Up To Gloryland" and tell everyone that I first learned that song within the walls of that very sanctuary.

It was just great to sing there and see people and hug and be hugged. Can't wait to do it again!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Best Place on Earth.

“Bittersweet” was made for days like this.

I woke up to the news that an offer had been made and, assuming all the paperwork falls into place, the cabin has been sold. We couldn’t ask for better buyers - they’re nice people who are looking for a place that will be around for their children and their grandchildren. The wife graduated from the same nursing school as Mom, and they go to St. Thomas’, our home church in Newfoundland. But still, it’s hard to believe that this is our last day here, as “our” place.

Before coming this weekend, I prayed we would all find the closure we needed. I know for Mom and Dad, that had a lot to do with finding the right buyer and getting a price that satisfied their needs.

For me, closure was all about finding peace.

With all the selling out of the way, the day was left for us to enjoy.

We took a drive up to the visit the couple who bought our boat, and then drove out to Whitbourne for a fantastic meal of fresh cod followed by partridge berry cake with brown sugar sauce. (You never come to Newfoundland for the weather, but you can always count on the food!)

I’ve spent more than a few hours down by the pond with a line in the water, so this afternoon I decided that needed to be part of my closure. Even though the fish were jumping and biting, there was no getting them on the hook. After an early supper, the wind dropped and I decided to try again while the pond was calm. I’ve known my whole life that fishing is not always about catching fish. As I stood by the pond, watching my bobber with great anticipation, I was flooded with memories of quiet hours spent on that same spot, dreaming of my future, working out problems, or just listening to the sounds of the pond. I felt peace. The weather was good, so I decided I’d stay out 'til dark, fish or not. With that, the bobber when under, and I pulled in a small trout. Normally, I would have thrown that size back in, but I knew this was a gift from the pond - my last fish in Ocean Pond. Mom and Dad came down, we took a picture, and recognized the significance of the moment. I decided to stay out and keep the line wet a while longer. Soon, I had my second fish. I suddenly felt like I was on a mission to get a fish for each of us. It started to get dark and the flies got thicker. I couldn’t see my bobber on the water anymore. I thought, “After this worm, I’ll pack it in.”. No sooner was the thought out than the bobber went under one more time. Three pan-sized trout - one for each of us as our final meal in Ocean Pond.

I can’t think of a more perfect way to end an era.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the last day or two trying to grab little keepsakes - a favourite plate, a rock from the shore, a stool from the living room. But in reality, I know that all these things will pale compared to the memories we have in Ocean Pond.

A few of my favourites, that will rise above the rest:

- The year I had a fishing contest with Bruce Evans. We kept a running total all summer long of who caught the most fish. In September, I won the five dollar prize.

- Shingling the roof with Dad.

- In Grade 10, I did a school exchange with Winnipeg, and we brought the two girls staying with us out to Ocean Pond on our one free day. After supper, we took them fishing and pulled in over twenty fish in less than an hour. (All the other visiting students went to the mall on their free day.)

- The time we went for a boat ride and left our dog, Rebel, on the shore. Rebel was so upset about not being invited that he jumped in the water and swam out to meet us. We then had to pull a sopping wet dog into the boat.

- Learning how to drive the boat.

- Picking pitcher plants in the bog and trying to feed them flies - with no success, of course.

- Building forts, lean-to’s, secret hideaways, and other such treasures.

- Countless meals of toutons, steaks, capelin and, of course, fresh trout from the pond, all best shared by the closest of friends.

- The year we brought four teenage friends up (that would be eight people in a two bedroom cabin) for a May 24th weekend and great silliness ensued.

- The thousands of times I did any of the following: built something, learned something, drew something, caught something, drove something, flew something, tasted something, smelled something, and best of all, loved something.

Ocean Pond has been, and will always be, the greatest place on Earth. I praise God for the time we’ve had here, and I pray that the Carters will have as many wonderful memories as we’ve had ... if not more.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Newfoundland goodness...

Newfoundland is so good for me. It’s so deep in my soul, and I can feel parts of myself being stirred that haven’t been touched in years. It’s been far too long since my last visit. Gerald and I are talking about doing a tour here next year, and being here has really put the taste of that in my mouth.

Newfoundland highlights thus far:

- Divine fish and chips in St. Philip's! We sat out on their wrap-around balcony overlooking the water. Amazing food with a view of Bell Island, boats coming in for the night, and whales spraying in the distance.

- Seeing friends, family, cousins ...

- Brian and Serena had this week’s one afternoon of sunshine, just in time to have their wedding ceremony outdoors! I was a surprise guest, and they were both thrilled to see me. The wedding was perfect, and I got to catch up with a lot of people I haven’t see for years. I’ve known Brian for a lifetime and a half, so it just meant the world to me to be there for this awesome day.

- Awesome meal of cod tongues at Classic Cafe. (Yes, cod tongues. Trust me - they're much better than they sound!)

- Driving up Signal Hill (the best view of the city) both in the day and in the night. Truly gorgeous!

- Visiting Belbin’s grocery store - an old family business and Mom’s favourite grocery store in the world. When we were growing up the store had two aisles. They’ve now expanded to three. If I lived in St. John’s, I would absolutely shop there.

- Dropping into Black Creek Pottery, the studio and store of my Grade 6 teacher, Mrs. Harvey! She was huge influence on me, so I got to tell her about Nashville and thank her for always including creativity and art in her teaching. We did a 'cultural exchange' of a CD for pottery. Lovely!

We first drove to Ocean Pond Thursday afternoon to put up For Sale signs. (The buyer who made an offer backed out on things, so we’re back to square one.) The weather was sunny and gorgeous, and everything was breathtaking. The air even smelled sweet and beautiful. The idea of selling the place seemed utterly ridiculous. After all, it’s not that long a commute from Nashville to Newfoundland, is it? We came back again this morning, and it’s been non-stop with people coming down to check out the place. Mom joked that we should just put up a For Sale sign once a year and meet our neighbours. Uncle Ron, long-time family friend and Ocean Pond buddy, dropped by a for a visit. It was surreal - old memories and new realities came crashing together.

I’m glad Mom and Dad have a lot of interest in the place, but I hope things aren’t this busy tomorrow. This isn’t the quiet, peaceful weekend I had envisioned.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

On my way home!

It’s 7:56 am and I’ve just finished breakfast in Pearson International Airport.
Gerald is staying with his parents for the next five days while I take a journey home to Newfoundland. I can’t remember the exact last time I went there. I think it was summer 2003? Or maybe that Christmas? I was still experiencing some of the effects of grief then, so memories are fluid and deceptive.

The next five days hold two adventures for me. On one of our trips home, Gerald and I persuaded a reluctant Brian to join us on a night out in downtown St. John’s. That night, he saw the beautiful Serena across a crowded room. Brian was shy that night, and I was the one who actually crossed the room to ask Serena and her friends to join us at our table. That night was the start of something wonderful, and tomorrow afternoon, they will start a new life together as husband and wife. This trip was a last minute decision, so when I spoke to Brian a month ago, Gerald and I expressed our regrets for not being able to attend. Apparently, no one has told him I’m coming. I’m a wedding surprise.

The other part of the journey is not so joyous. We’re saying good-bye to Ocean Pond. Our cabin in Ocean Pond is very small, but packed with 35 years of family memories. It’s reached a point where it’s just not practical for us to own a summer place halfway across the country, and a caring party is very interested in purchasing it. Perfect timing, I guess. I told Mom and Dad I really wanted to have one more visit before we said good-bye to the place. They’ve already been there for a week, so I’ll join on this last leg of their trip, and we'll walk the last part of the journey together.

I haven’t flown anywhere since our honeymoon. Funny to be back in an airport. You forget the intricacies of airport culture. Sterile air. Cool modern sculptures. (Toronto’s Terminal 1 is all new and sparkly.) The teams of pilots and airline attendants in matching outfits and luggage. The overpriced bottles of water. The over-tempting bookstores. And of course, the fabulous people watching!

I’m about to line up for a ginormous iced coffee thing. Waking up at 6 am will never be my thing...

Monday, August 04, 2008

SoGospel Fan Fest Videos

The good folks at SoGospel News have posted videos of all the performances from last week's Fan Fest.

Just visit and you'll see the videos on the right-hand side of the screen. I'm near the bottom, since I was on the Saturday night, so scroll down and you'll find my performance of "Shepherd of the Hills".

While you're there, check out my buddies Tara Jackson, Sunday Edition, and Johnny Minick and Friends (Johnny, Aaron Minick, Mike Allen, and Allison Durham Speer).

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Recovering from Stamps-Baxter - Prepping for Canada

I have been sick since last Sunday. I woke up Sunday morning with a sore throat and a headache. I attributed it to Stamps-Baxter fatigue (I worked over 165 hours during the 2 weeks of school!), but as the week wore on, I realized that things weren't getting any better. Long-messy-story-short, it's been a week of zinc lozenges, chicken noodle soup, and afternoon naps. We're leaving for the 12-hour drive to Canada on Tuesday, so my main concern right now is having the energy for that. More soup... more naps...

As a result of all that mess, very little has happened this week. I've been working on bookings for Ontario in August. I think right now we're up to seven, and I'm aiming for at least twelve. I haven't been able to stay online long enough to blog yet, so I'll be updating all my Stamps-Baxter blogs as tonight goes on.

I'm finally reading "The Shack" by William P. Young, and I'm really enjoying it. I tried not to read any reviews, etc, before reading it, which meant I had no expectations going it (except for Tara's constant pressure - "Read it!!!"). I think I thought it would be darker than it is. I can see how it would invite repeat readings and book clubs - lots to process!

My SGM Radio interview with Mike Allen has been posted and you can check it out here.

Finally, now that I'm free of Stamps-Baxter pressure, I'm starting to wrap my head around NQC. Tara Jackson and I are sharing a booth, which I think will be win-win for both of us. Our booth number is 448, which is near the middle of the hall. We're trying to think of creative ways to use our space and our time, and I'm just crazy excited about the whole thing!

But for tonight: blogging ... packing ... possible nap ...