Sunday, June 30, 2013

On My Own, But With Mifi

Last weekend, on our way back from a gospel show, we received some sad news that Michael's father had passed away. Jim was always such a great supporter of our crazy bus-adventure and will be greatly missed. I only wish the kids had had more opportunity to get to know him.

Since we received the news it has been a bit of a whirlwind of activity while we tried to figure out how we were going to get Michael out to Colorado to visit his family and attend any memorial that may be planned. Having us all go was almost immediately ruled out. Even if we could afford it, the logistics of where to park the bus so the instruments are secure, and where to put the cat, just made it impossible. So, a solo trip was planned. We have some very challenging shows coming up and we headed into our "week out" for the Thousand Trails parks, meaning we had to move the bus. I am a rather big wimp over driving the bus. I will now do it on the highway, but driving through cities or tight county roads makes me squeamish, so we had to figure around that as well.

Michael decided to give me extra practice in hopes that I could move to the next RV on Wednesday, without him. I probably could do it, but the added stress was something I really hoped to avoid. Thankfully, my parents fly free and have many points available for hotels, so they offered to come out so my dad could drive the bus and help us get moved. I'll pick them up Wednesday morning, they will spend the day with us, including the park change, and then I'll drive them back tot he airport Thursday. I will pick Michael up on Friday afternoon, then we'll rush back to play a 3 hour show, get to bed, move the bus to the next park, and play another show the following evening, and the next afternoon. After that we'll get a very well needed mini-break! We just have to get through this week.

 Despite the intensity of this last week, we did get a small moment to catch our breath at a lovely park in Wilmington, OH. I just love the Ohio area. Well, except for the bugs. We have some kids sporting spider bites and way too many mosquito bites. That's one of the main areas where Colorado will forever be superior. Fewer BUGS!

This lovely bridge was on a nature trail at the park. We always made Michael walk across it first to clear off all of the webs that would form across it daily. Ew, ew, ew. Every pretty, once it is spider web free.
 After the last month of trying to conduct business without wifi we finally had it. I had many things I wished to accomplish, including that book I still swear I want to write someday, articles for my new website that hasn't been updated in over 2 months, communication with venues, searching for booking opportunities, web site updates and more. The last few months it has been nearly impossible to get sufficient work complete because you can only sit at McDonalds for so  long, and the park wifi was almost unusable, it was so slow. We finally gave in and realized something had to be done, even if it technically wasn't in the budget. ("Technically?" No. Totally not in the budget, but we're going to jam it in there!) In order to try to counter some of the cost for a personal Mifi, we set to the streets of Cincinnati to busk! They have a great farmer's market downtown that hosts open entertainment. You just sign up for a spot and agree to play there for no more than 90 minutes, moving to another spot at that point.

We made most of our start-up goal for the mifi, despite almost having to throw in the towel early. Alex was feeling quite sick, likely from the 90+ degree heat in the heavy humidity, and busking locations that were only available in the direct sun.We found her a chair, played everything that didn't require much from the guitarist, and still managed to fill the jar enough to justify the order. Now to just get enough to pay the monthly charge. We need a sign and a new motto. Will Busk for Mifi. Or, Will Busk in Reasonable Weather and In the Shade. That's probably a better plan.

So, here I now sit, with Mifi, but no Michael. It's probably the best park at which one could hope to get stranded with children. Despite afternoon storms, the weather has been lovely so the kids have enjoyed the many playgrounds and the swim beach. Tomorrow we'll get them a paddle car to ride around in the park, a thank-you gift from the activity director for their hard work at the show last night, and Mary gets to do a painting activity from their Busy Barn this week too. I love this park!

Mary is feeling better, so I'm sleeping better, but I have her off of so many harder to digest, possible allergen related foods, that I do feel like I'm trying to spice air sometimes. In between learning to do that and playing single parent, (thankfully one with teenagers), I am going to start working to justify purchasing that mifi. We have a new song with a new "style" we're working on and we love, love, love it! (Oh, how I hope we do find a way to fund the next CD. I sure want to show it to everyone!) I'm anxious to create more, and I have many articles I want to write if I can find a quiet moment. That may have to wait until next week, but it is nice that the difficulties of the last month have somehow managed to inspire instead of leaving us feeling defeated. Perhaps we've been given an extra dose of Grace this last month. We sure could use it this next week and always appreciate the prayers from others that keep us going.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Did I really use the word "Slower"?

 My last post was just silly. I think I posted something about a groove or something? Must have been diesel fumes. We're without wifi at the bus and the wifi at the park is slooooow and requires a drive to the other end, so posts are fewer here and on facebook, so I'm going to go ahead and break a blog rule and make it long instead of breaking it into smaller posts.

So, after that last post Mary got sick again, like she was last year when we first hunted down a gluten issue, but mistakenly did not take serious other possible food intolerance issues, such as egg, which was likely a mistake. She was in such bad shape on our day driving through Indiana that we stopped off at a truck stop outside of Indianapolis so I could run up to the local health center and try to get her an appointment. The very attentive doctor put her on a get-better medication regiment, but as I have found to be the case with most doctors, even good doctors like this one, is that she shrugged her shoulders over the idea of trying to solve the issues. The standard thing is to treat symptoms when the kid is falling over in pain, it would seem, or treat them before they fall over all the way anyway, but to treat it after the fact. I don't work that way, which is why I sent out for allergy testing last year.

After a week of juggling digestive issues, we lost any groove. Blew it to smithereens. We didn't sleep well for a few days until she was on the mend, and during the day we played Wii, watched movies, and basically distracted her. After that we had to deal with weening her off the excessive mind-junk so she could entertain herself again, and that created it's own bit of bus drama, which I'm sure most moms know what I am talking about.

She's fully on the mend now, thank the Lord, and is back to her bright, bouncy self with a stricter diet. Yesterday we went shopping and she bought herself the outfit she's wearing in the picture above, she's sleeping well, and I have my cute-stuff back.

No more eggs, no corn, closer look at all products with additives that may be gluten related, and minimal cheese with some high-fat yogurt only. We may tweak this as I read more about digestive health and children. I'm of the mind that you find out WHY, not that you simply chase it down when it gets bad enough to shut down life for a few days and rush to the doctor's office. Crazy me.

With a healthy Miss Mary and a beautiful new state and RV park, we headed off to the Caesar Creek Pioneer Village for a little gospel festival, north of Cincinnati. The kids loved the beautiful area and the old buildings, most built around the early 1800s. They have people that occasionally live there, just like the pioneers did, and they will sit and tell you a bit about life during that era.

There we met a man who used to be a professional photographer for many big names, but who is now a minister, working with "the least of these", and is fully sold-out for Jesus. He has offered to give us a quality photo shoot this week, and we are planning to take him up on it. Hopefully we can make that happen because we could really use some updated pictures for promotion, but it was fairly low on the "things we have to pay for" list. God has hopefully decided we need this more than we think and is providing it anyway.

Perhaps it's the lovely weather, but everyone seems energized once again. The kids have decided that we want to work towards a couple of major purchases and changes in the band. I mentioned earlier that the twins really want to move to an overall folk music style, which is the style where our sound started, but our influences moved us more to bluegrass. We do love bluegrass, but we have always had a greater love for the tonalities you hear in a lot of historical music, prior to the more commercialized sound that came about as the genres became solidified into "bluegrass", "country", or even "blues" and "jazz". We love the mish-mash you hear when you look at music from the colonial and pioneer era, when different cultures collided. The twins particularly love some of the sounds from Celtic and Irish influences, but we've found some gems in old Appalachian music and other areas.

So, we have a plan to get started on that and see where it takes us. It's already sparked some neat ideas. One song at a time, keeping all of our old best songs, and simply occasionally changing one out, depending on the audience.

We're hopefully going to get wifi too. This one is actually huge. We assumed we couldn't afford it but then realized how much we probably lose in productivity per month when we cannot research booking locations, make email contacts, as well as the money we spend driving around, trying to find a free hotspot.

So, the plan this weekend is to find a place to busk to earn the start-up money we need for the equipment we'll need for the plan we've chosen.

The kids are also dreaming big dreams about a new rig. They sat around today planning how they will decorate it and who gets what area. First, the ground rules are that the twins MUST somehow have their own room. They want to enter the world of adults and they have business ideas they cannot manage in a bunk bed. (My rule is that Mom and Dad get one first, then they get one!) Second, Benny stays. No idea where Benny will stay, but the bus is not to be sold to make way for a new rig. That is a big rule and the twins are downright firm on that one.

Of course, we are far, far, far from being able to afford a new rig. I estimated that we'd need to bring in up to $1000 more per month - minimum, before we could even justify trying to finance or whatever. That didn't discourage anyone.

Katie is making plans to do a NAWRIMO rebel challenge and get her cartoons started, with the idea of increasing business and eventually selling cartoon books. (Hey, she's a banjo player. She doesn't quite fit into the box on "how to make money" plans. Ha!)

Someone put a been into Alex's bonnet this week (see above where I mentioned a certain photographer), and she is trying to figure out where we'd store a t-shirt press and some t-shirts she can sell with her own custom designs. She figures it's a good way to make some money with her budding graphic artist skills because she can design t-shirts to go with the region or target audiences and print inventory as she needs it.

Sean and Mary will increase attendance at our shows by handing out flyers and talking to people more. Michael is working harder for more shows that pay better, and I am supposed to write a book and design a web site on family music... someday. First I have to arrange the new music and get us going on that with the wild hope that God will land a recording studio in our lap like He did a photographer.

Time to dream big, but be ready for the various detours we sometimes make every time we dare thing we have some "groove" back. Let's face it, this family doesn't "groove". We sort of stumble around the country and get little bursts of movement between long moments of distractions. We just have to make the little bursts count. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Slower Life

In the last week I have revised our meal plans, stocked the refrigerator, reorganized the shelves and the kitchen, supervised a good floor cleaning and rug beating, and at the moment there is pulled pork and baked potatoes cooking in the crock pot, ready for a lazy evening. Alex and Katie are putting themselves through a series of drawing exercises, Alex is studying typography, and Katie has been learning to ink her cartoons, after completing the final designs on most of her cartoon characters for the strip she's developing. Sean is coming off the joys of catching an untold number of fish and flying his new helicopter he got for his birthday, Mary is drawing her own cartoons and playing fashion queen with hair styles. What blessings!

Oh, Michael is doing his own thing too, such as catching the biggest catfish I  have ever seen in my life. Yes, if you are wondering, it was delicious! Additionally, he has a computer and occasional things show up on our booking calendar so that's good too, right? So, one would assume that staring at a computer can productive and will go a long way towards keeping us fed, something we do very much appreciate.

I think we almost have our groove back, however temporary, and it feels wonderful. We had a real relaxing visit with our good friends Kevin and Anita, along with their beautiful children and the amazing Kansas property, with a pond full of fish. Some people just know how to refresh your spirit every time you go for a visit. By the time we left we finally felt a bit of calm after the spring storms and stress.

While in Kansas we played at some wonderful churches and met so many great people, plus had a few funny life moments, such as finally, after all of our travels, getting the experience of leaving a child behind. Ok, that shouldn't be funny, but when you notice within 10 feet or so because said child's brother noticed his favorite life sparring partner was not next to him, and your friend, ready to drive off herself, waves you down when she and her cousin-in-law see a certain little girl playing behind the church, only to find out her little girl was actually with yours, whom she didn't know missing either, after her husband drives off with what was apparently not all of their kids... It really wasn't dramatic and the girls both thought it was hilarious. They were playing behind the little church while people were being slow to leave and chatting too long. Sitting the car waiting is just soooo boring. Can you blame them? We take a bit more time to count noses before driving off now.

Sean caught about a dozen fish while we were at their property too. Far more than anyone else, though none as exciting as the giant catfish, which he claims partial credit for, since it was caught with his new fishing pole. I am impressed at his fishing abilities. I didn't think the pathetic bait his little kit came with would catch anything, but it brought in a few bass and several crappies. I am beginning to think that kid could throw a leaf into a pond and pull out a fish.

After leaving we stopped at a nice park in Missouri for just 2 nights, then we headed to Indiana, the first stop in our long journey east. The park is full of families right now, the pool is open, and the weather is about perfect. We'll be here until Tuesday, head to the other end of Indiana the rest of the week, then off to Ohio for a few weeks. The parks where we'll stay are largely ones we've been to before and they're quite nice, with plenty of opportunities for more summertime fun, with perhaps a side of school and practice, something we could all use about now, but thankfully in a more relaxed environment for a change.

And someday I do hope to start my book... Well, one thing at a time, I suppose!