I used to be terrified that I was MISSING OUT.

That wherever I happened to be was not where the cool shit was happening. Because of the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I would stay up late every night, go to every party to which I had an invite, drink copious amounts of whiskey, and be in a state of frenzy most of the time. Especially during something like SXSW… which is going down like the Titanic in the ever-growing town in which I live. Last year, while 3 months pregnant with our second son, I played 15-ish shows during SXSW. In the car on the way to the final show of the week, I burst into tears from exhaustion. Yes, I’m aware I was playing music and not working in the fields, but it was a ton of energy output nonetheless. I went to other people’s shows and could barely hold the weight of my own body, let alone a growing fetus and an electric guitar. I had the FOMO really badly. I was a pinball. I didn’t really have any fun. It was like a FOMO vaccine. No matter how cool the party, if you feel like a piece of garbage a train ran over, the party sucks.

This year, I turned down every gig offered to me. It felt great. The words “No thank you” tasted like the sweetest chocolate cake. This morning I went to the park with my kiddos. We went to the grocery store. The best part is, I am not worried about what I am missing. I have enough on my plate that there isn’t room for the FOMO. After a day of parenting, I am not hungry for anyone’s drama. I don’t need to catch an Uber, go down to the heart of beast, see 10 mediocre bands in 10 shitty bars, and have a Los Angelean socialite throw up on me. I can get thrown up on at home, without a platinum badge, thank you very much.

Maybe it’s because I’m 3 years into my thirties. Maybe it’s because my clothes still don’t fit my post partum body. Maybe it’s because the baby is still exclusively breast-fed and the shows are LOUD. Maybe it’s because I’m finally happy with who I am, where I am.

Whatever the reason, I dub this year NO MO FOMO.

You Can Have It All, Just Not All At The Same Time

I am walking home from my dear friend’s house at 10pm with my sleeping second son strapped to my chest. It is February 2nd, the eve of my 33rd birthday. I am returning from a song salon, a gathering where songwriters help other songwriters songwrite.

I feel like a waning moon, half lit up and half dark. When we had our first boy I put a lot of energy into preserving my career. I played shows with my baby on my back, I leaned over the car seat to nurse my baby at 60 mph, we all co-slept in strange motel beds. It was a romantic adventure for a while. A few months after Emmett turned one, he was walking and talking and opining. Just try to strap him down for a 5 hour drive and then be a civilized human at a house concert…. just try and strap him down! We would go out on the road as a family, I would end up playing the show solo and still we would all become weary. I had to set down the idea that I could Have It All exactly the way I wanted it and pick up motherhood. I am lit up by my sons as a mother and unlit as a performing songwriter. Just because that side of me is dark at the moment, doesn’t mean it has ceased to exist. It’s just as present, but isn’t illuminated by the sun.

My days fly by without having much to show, just two little people, hopefully sleeping, and gratefully still alive. I was terrified of putting down my career because I always assumed that once you put something down, you walk on, unable to pick it back up again thanks to the ineffable forward march of time. Now I can see my songwriting career as a beautiful boulder i used to push up a hill. I stopped pushing it, and now I can sit in it’s shade, having a picnic with my family.

A very wise woman once told me “You can have it all, just not all at the same time”. I find this statement to be a deep breath. It gives me allowance to stand exactly where I am without the pressure to add more on my shoulders. I don’t have to be a full moon all the time! What would the tides look like that way?

I turn 33 on February 3rd under a full moon in a town that I love, married to a man who supports me no matter what crazy scheme I have hatched, with two healthy and darling boys. What an incredible blessing. Sometimes, I even get to sit down with songwriters and songwrite.

Historical Tellings from The Road #2; How I Met John Elliott

I left Portland in early January 2006, It was now late June the same year and I had yet to return. We made a crude circuitous route that included Arkansas and Boston, Montana, Colorado, California to Texas and back through Colorado to Lake Tahoe (i’ll make a map someday). The personnel had shifted a few times and now I was traveling alone. I had dropped off a few friends at the Rainbow Gathering and was now planning a 3 day solo camping adventure in Tahoe before playing the High Sierra Music Festival for the first time. It was a big gig for me. My young self had visions of grandeur, still not unspoilt from 6 sticky months on the long road playing fried chicken joints, unpopulated coffee shops, and dive bars.

I drove twice around the otherworldly blue of Lake Tahoe. There wasn’t a single campground less than $35 a night. A king’s ransom. When not fed by the venue I was playing, I was subsisting mostly on canned tuna with avocado and spinach, apples and Clif bars. $35 was a bit less than a week’s worth of food. I asked a park ranger if there were any free campgrounds. She told me about Blackwood Canyon. It was unmarked, 3 miles down a dirt road. I miraculously found the road and after a minute I was being closely followed by a green Honda civic.

I found a lovely spot amidst ponderosa and lodgepole pine. I stepped out of my van just as the guy in the civic stepped out. He sauntered over, smiled and quickly it came out that we were both songwriters. “Shit” i thought “the last thing i want right now is to be around another songwriter! I just wanted some solo time.” I found out later that he was thinking the same thing.

He had just started his first tour as I was just finishing mine. We avoided each other for the first night but on the second night we shared a fire and a meal. We laughed and talked easily. I guessed his sign incorrectly. He sang a song. I loved it. I sang a song. He seemed to like it. We stayed up late in the night and talked by the fire with the familiarity of childhood friends.

The next evening we decided to go to a Casino on the Nevada side of the lake. I had never been to one before. I spent $5 and hated it. John won enough playing blackjack to buy us both dinner. We went to a Mexican restaurant and while we were there, it poured torrential rain. Neither of us had showered in days.

We traded albums and I listened to his constantly. I wore a tube top at one my sets at the High Sierra Music Festival that week and my boob popped out. I’ve never sold so many CDs at one show before or since. (Little did i know that my future husband was attending the very same festival and we wouldn’t meet till 2009!) I went to John’s show in Portland the following week. He was fantastic, full of sparks and thunder. A veritable bonfire of a performer. We decided to go on tour together the next year. I should’ve known he was a leo.

9ish years later and i still listen to that album all the time. We’ve made records together, toured the country, cried on one another’s shoulders, slept in the same bed but never kissed, and shared secrets even though I’m so bad at keeping them. John even served as one of the two officiants at my wedding.

The road gave me the brother i always wanted.

PS-most of this blog post was typed one handed while I breastfed Benny!

From the Water Canyon in Joshua Tree, CA in 2007?


surprise domestic bliss

I’ve never been patient. Or particularly motivated to do things that don’t seem fun or immediately gratifying. I will admit to being, on occasion, lazy. However, I love to multi-task. I get a thrill out of seeing if I can get four things done at once in order to maximize my time with which to do absolutely nothing. I used to love the sunny and unending freedom of a long road with only songs to sing at the end. The simplicity of living in a car and sleeping on a stranger’s couch. Here I am in this one-level house built in 1972, with meals to be cooked, dishes to be washed, babies to bathe, lunches to pack, piles of laundry to fold…

Parenting has not changed me in those regards, so much as exercised my weakest muscles. Like lifting dead weights, my ability to be patient has slowly increased with the needs of those around me. Do you know how long it takes a 3 year old to choose a t-shirt? or pull up his pants? or eat breakfast? You may indeed know. Normal tasks cannot be done quickly around the Rose-Press Ranch, or any house with littles, I assume. When they finally fall to sleep at night, the millennial laziness sets in and it’s time to play solitaire and melt into netflix.

On the last evening of 2014, I vow to make 2015 the year I work on building my all muscles. The physical ones sure, running after two boys is going to take a lot of energy, but mostly these; The Patience. The Motivation. The Kindness. The Focus. I am going to get my tasks done one at a time and do them well as opposed to juggling so many balls that i end up dropping every one. I am going to delete the solitaire app from my phone (maybe). I am going to look my domestic bliss in the eyes and say thank you. Thank you for all this, the creeping slow meditation of motherhood.

family mosaic

On spotify, Taylor Swift and making a living as an independent musician in the digital age

I recently opened a royalty statement from BMI that flew into my email inbox. These emails are typically fun to open, even if the payment is only double digits. This time, the number $507.37 popped up and I shouted to my husband “Babe! We got $500 in royalties this quarter!” Obviously this is not a lottery win, but notably more than usual. I read the statement closely: $7.33 for one track with 71,911 spins on Pandora. Wow. That’s a lot of spins for an instrumental track from my first record that I wrote in 2002 while watching a Simpson’s episode. I was 20 and living in Portland renting the house my best friend grew up in. The song is called Evergreen House, Second Floor, named after a sign we found and placed on the front porch. I scrolled further down. The most-played track on Spotify had 493 plays, which garnered me a whopping $0.30. And then I found it: $446.18 for ONE song played on BBC radio. Thanks United Kingdom!  A figurative ocean could fit between those numbers. Why such a discrepancy?

The 20th century was the only time in the history of music where some musicians got very well paid for their work. Those days are over. I am not an economist. One might say a folksinger is opposite of an economist, but I have a reasonable grasp on supply & demand economics. Recorded music’s supply is far greater than the demand. Maybe this decline in payout is an easier pill to swallow for a musician of my generation who never had the opportunity to be paid well for their intellectual property?

Taylor Swift has pulled her entire catalog from Spotify, explaining that “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.” I agree with her sentiment that music has great value. In fact, music defines our lives. It is with us in our most dark and most euphoric moments. However, amazing recorded music is far from rare. As the only artist in 2014 to reach platinum, the lovely Ms. Swift has very little to lose from the lack of exposure that Spotify offers to someone like me. You can die from exposure. I wonder if iTunes offered her some sort bonus for this act of streaming treason? I doubt that this move by Taylor and her people has a lot to do with altruism or championing the struggling artist.

I would stand to lose quite a few new ears if I were to remove my songs from streaming services, and sharing music is my mission. There are new types of streaming services out there, like the Standing O Project who are offering a subscription streaming service where artists get 50% of the small monthly fee. Patreon offers fans the ability to subscribe to one particular artist and receive exclusive content. Another factor in all this mess is the amount of free content on the internet vying for our brainspace. Youtube has way more musical content than Spotify or Pandora, and I don’t hear anyone challenging them to pay up to the Performing Rights Organizations.

Yes, I very deeply wish that 71,991 plays on Pandora would pay my mortgage, as opposed to pay for 2 cups of coffee with a modest tip. However, my hope is that somebody heard that song and it defined the fuzzy borders of their life for just a moment, and made it more beautiful. That’s a pretty good consolation prize, just one that makes it clear that my husband and I need to look for jobs if we intend to keep our house and our two kiddos well fed. I most certainly wonder if I am devaluing music as a whole by keeping my songs on free streaming services, but at this point in the arc of music history I don’t feel like I have a choice. Rumi says “Why do you stay in jail when the door is wide open?” At this point the door is blocked by an avalanche of easily sharable mp3s. Until I can figure out how to get more songs on BBC radio, I am stuck here, broke and choosing every day anew to do the coolest job in the world, even when the pay sucks.

How we found Hopi Ophelia

I used to own a white 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan named Brenda Jo Stevens. Brenda had a plywood bed built in the back of her with locking compartments for gear, thanks to my daddy. I put about 150k miles on her before i sent her off with two Mexican dudes, who planned to fix her up and give her a new life south of the border.

I slept many incredibly cozy nights with Brenda Jo in Wallmart and Wafflehouse parking lots, as well as campgrounds and neighborhood streets. The sketchiest place we ever temporarily called home was in Yuma, AZ. I slept for about 5 hours before moving on. Yuma is not a city i would care to sleep in again.  I wish i had more photos of Brenda Jo and her entire set up, but my computer died after downloading a year’s worth of tour photos once. Such is life.

In 2007, i went on one particular tour with John Elliott and Howard on support, from Texas through the Southwest, up through California, to Portland and back to Austin. It was April, or May if i do recall clearly. We played in Taos for $150 and a couple of green chili & turkey burritos (oh, green chili, how i love thee) and then left right after the gig because Howard had read about ancient ruins outside of Phoenix, Arizona, which was where our gig was the following evening. He offered to drive through the night, he wanted to visit them that badly. John and i slept in the back, bumped about by the New Mexican roads, in bad need of repair. Brenda Jo arrived at 6am. I awoke to Howard “Hey Raina, i found a dog”. I shot straight out of bed and said “THAT’S MY DOG”. The dreamiest pink and orange sunrise on the horizon of dusty Arizona mountains, saguaro cactus flowers all in bloom.

A few months prior to this, i had begged a puppy off a homeless dude at the old BouldiN Creek Cafe in Austin. The guy was pretty messed up and that puppy was precious. I grew up with dogs, and i desperately wanted a four-legged tour buddy. My Chinese astrology sign is the Dog. I am a dog person, deep down and through. I named the puppy Motown and carried him around for a few weeks in a makeshift baby carrier. Later, i ran into the homeless guy again at the Kerrville Family Tuesday night hang, the open mic at Trophy’s; a truly shitty dive bar that no longer exists. He had been bereft without the pup and needed the him back. I acquiesced. Years later, i was to find out that the puppy was hit by a car and killed mere weeks after i gave him back.

Hopi was tied to a tree behind the cultural center near the ruins, where one acquires a parking pass to visit the ancient city. She was covered in ticks, thirsty and starving. She was so much more than happy to see us. We gave her water and some granola, which was all we had in the van at that moment. We spent about 2 hours pulling ticks off of her, they were in her ears, all over her back and even between the pads on her paws. After her makeshift grooming session, we put her in the van and her life as a FolkHound began. In Phoenix, i took her to the Vet who gave her a few shots and a clean bill of health and then barely charged me after i promised to take care of her. How could i not make such an easy promise? This dog was my soul mate, my familiar, my new best friend.

Hopi Ophelia Desert Rose has seen more states than most people, she has enough self control as to refrain from eating a burrito sitting unwrapped in the cup holder of a van, she is the more patient than any of us with her new little brothers, she is kind with everyone except squirrels.  The best road find ever.

epic hopi in arches

Fam at home

I am attempting to write my first blog post in almost a year with a sleeping 4 week old Benny in my lap, and a 3 year old Emmett on the couch nearby, sick and watching Dumbo. I have spent almost all of this year gestating our second son, writing very little, singing occasionally, and mostly contemplating the idea of going on the road with two little people.

I found touring with one dude under 12 months old sublimely easy and fun. In his first year, Emmett was the perfect road buddy, and then once opinions, mobility and toddlerhood became our reality, the road seemed impossible. And unfair. I couldn’t ask him to sit in his car seat for 5 hours a day and then arrive at a strange location anymore. So, i figured it was time to have another baby! As the younger child i feel siblings are crucial, if my parents had thought otherwise, i may not have been born. When i first knew i was pregnant in January, Andrew (the lucky one) was at the Grammy’s… I was so much more annoyed than i had the right to be, i knew something was off. So i did a few shows this year, announcing i was pregnant on the early side so that people didn’t think i had just been eating too many burritos…

Benny was born on October 8th into the bathtub of our 1972 suburban ranch house in South Austin. He is a little dreamboat, looks like his brother, nurses like a champ, and has cemented my inability to go on the road for a while. I am fine with that, in fact i knew it was the reality of the choices i have made. It is sad that one has to choose between babies and career, and like many women before me, babies have won out at this point. It’s not like there’s a folk office in town i can go to when the baby is old enough, THE ROAD is  like white people dreads; they’re not for everyone and your parents shouldn’t force them on you.

So for a while, to appease my nostalgia, i am going to post a weekly memory from my 9 years as a traveling folk saleswoman. I am fully aware that my attempts to deliver songs to the masses, one person and one coffeehouse at a time, were not in vain, and shall continue to be a worthwhile pursuit. I believe in Songs and i always will. However, raising these two sweet boys to be kind and conscientious young men is the pursuit that has won out.

At least, until they have the mental prowess to choose THE ROAD. Then, watch out.



Holiday Blessings

May you be blessed with exactly the kind of chocolate you like.

May you be blessed with a not-so-vicious fight with your sibling that reminds you of your childhood and how much you appreciate who they are and who you’ve become; how deep your love is.

May you be blessed with just enough health that you can achieve all the things you desire this holiday season and have a great excuse to get out of the activities you do not wish to attend.

May you be blessed with one gift that makes you wonder, even if for just a split second, if Santa might possibly exist.

May you be blessed with a profound, show-stopping gratitude for the true abundance in which you live. May you be blessed with someone with whom to share this abundance, or if not, the bravery to share it with strangers.

May you be blessed with a magical parking spot, a bit of blue sky through the clouds, a nip of Jack Daniels for your coffee, a sack of your favorite roasted nuts, your favorite movie on netflix, and the perfect piece of pie, be it vegan, gluten-free, or neither of those things.

May your children be blessed with the holiday spirit so that they experience no melt-downs, no squabbling fits, no food throwing and joy sparkling from their eyes like snowflakes glinting off your neighbor’s garish light display.

May you be blessed with a beautiful holiday that feeds the fire in your heart.



First days without baby

I am sitting in a parking lot in Ayer, MA. Maple, elderberry, nettle, and more are putting on their splendid autumn show. I love the leaves in the northeast. Emmett is with papa in California, this is the longest and farthest I have ever been from my baby. It is day 3 and there will be 12 days in all. It is quiet. I am sleeping well. I miss my little cyclone but I am very much enjoying this blessed stillness. The best part is, I don’t even feel guilty about enjoying this respite. Yes, I will admit to watching videos of Emmett for about a half hour last night, but I think this is good for everybody involved.

Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Strangers (-OR- Mamas, Tell Your Stories)

When i was a little girl, my Mama would tell my big sister and me stories about her childhood to help us go to sleep. They ranged from funny to slightly macabre. That time when she was gifted 2 new barrettes for her hair and her maid said to her “If you lose those, don’t bother to come home”. She promptly lost her shiny hair clips and stood in the bushes in their front yard for hours until her father came home around dinner time. Once at a family picnic, my Mother who was youngest of all the cousins, was trapped in an attic with hundreds of dead birds after a game of hide-and-seek gone awry. She pounded on the lone window and watched the picnic below unfold in mime until her mother realized she was gone. My Mother had a ticket to Woodstock and became violently ill the hour before her ride came, and was absolutely fine an hour after he left. I would listen, enraptured, and dream of her as a child, living through these moments. I always pictured her with her most beautiful grownup face on a little girl’s body. I thought i would never have such interesting and fantastic things to tell my children.

I could not be more grateful to my Mama for sharing these things with us. She does so now, in poem form and these books are like bibles to me. They are the chronicles of my most important female figure, the story of her life. I’m not sure she knew that these stories would imbue both her daughters with a love of words, but they did. More importantly, they showed us that our Mother was more than just a cooker of healthy dinners, a double-knotter of shoe laces, an editor of sloppy school work, and a keeper of house; she was a living breathing human being just like us. Not the annoying parental super hero figure, but a person with all the messy heartbreak and confusion that goes along with that incarnation. Upon the future time of her leaving us (which i hope is not any day soon), i revel in the fact i will have truly known my Mother.

In my work as a songwriter, I feel i am allowed to express myself in a way that is necessary to my health and wholly unusual in this climate of the self congratulatory 40 character long facade. I am writing broken cosmic letters in rhyme and melody that spew out my sadness/joy like dandelion florets. It doesn’t matter where they land. It doesn’t matter if they find purchase in some dark soil and germinate. It only matters that they are let go and fly away. My Father writes wonderful songs and he gave me the tools and the know-how, but my Mother gave me permission to tell my stories.

I am now a Mother to a cyclone of a boy. He is beautiful, runs faster than water falls, he is oak-strong and often kind. It has struck me how important it is to refer to myself as “I”. To say “It hurts me when you hit”, “I don’t like it when you scream”, “I love you” instead of in the third person, like “Mama” is some sort of character outside of our equation. Take away the humanity and “Mama” is just an invincible care-taking robot. “I” am a woman, a mother, a mistake-maker, a tired person who bruises when you throw choo-choos at her face. “I” have stories to tell you, young man. They may shock you and confuse you and awaken you to the fact that your Mother had a very complicated life before you came through her and made it even more so. Little boy, i want you to know who i am. I want you to see a woman with a strong sense of self and vocation. I want you to see all women as intricate novels, wrought out of lessons hard-won, triumphs and disappointments. I want you to see me and know me. I will never hide from this or shirk the responsibility of giving you my stories. In turn, i hope you listen.

Bug&mom by schmidt

photo by Danny Schmidt