Pennies in a Jar
In a million years I never imagined putting out a CD of songs I'd written. This was not even an aspiration of my long-ago youth, still smoldering behind midlife's responsibilities. As far as I knew, I didn't have a creative bone in my body and I'd made my peace with it. Then ten years ago my partner, who has an uncanny intuition and a generous spirit, walked in the door with a Martin guitar for my 51st birthday. Trying to be gracious, I suppressed the thought, 'What the %#@& am I supposed to do with that?' At the time I was seeing perhaps 50 patients a week (I am a psychologist), out of both love for the work and the necessity to support our two expensive teenagers. And I'd written a book in 1993, The Lesbian and Gay Parenting Handbook, which got enough attention to keep me pretty busy with writing and speaking engagements. So my heart actually sank at the sight of this extravagant gift and the implicit burden of playing it when I barely had time to breathe. And then, in the next moment, a wild excitement rose up in me. I flashed back to the hit parade songs my father and I would sing when I was a child. It was the 1950's, and for 5 cents the candy store sold a printed sheet containing the lyrics of the latest tunes, like 'Secret Love' or 'How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?' I remembered how the Everly Brothers tugged on my early adolescent awakenings. And there I was in high school in1965, trying to pick Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Buffy St. Marie songs on my hippie folk guitar. I recalled the Cream and the Beatles, the Eagles and Carole King, and so many others who'd been my companions through life's transitions. I thought at that moment that there is nothing in the whole world like a song that makes you feel something in your body and heart and mind all at once, and stays with you through the years like a dear friend. I greedily asked my partner, 'Does this gift of a guitar come with lessons?' Some people have been creative since they were born, always making art of one kind or another, expressing what was in their minds and souls. Not me. I was a girl who liked following rules. I practiced penmanship. I was a good speller. I memorized the capitals of all the states. In fact, nothing struck fear in my heart worse than the words, 'Make up a story' or 'Create a diorama' because I had no idea where to get...well...an idea. So a year after falling hopelessly, time-consumingly in love with my new guitar, no one was more surprised than I to find myself standing at a creative well I'd never visited before, lowering my bucket in search of a rhyme. It turns out that well wasn't just for the creative kids. It turns out to be a public well, free of charge, that anyone can use. And it was always standing exactly where I found it, although it took me more than 50 years to stumble upon it, and to learn what the creative kids probably always knew: that there are few things in this life as joyful as pulling up a brimming shimmering thirst quencher. I've called this album 'Pennies in a Jar' because that image captures something about who I want to be. To put pennies in a jar is to be optimistic about a future and yet to be rooted in the present. It reflects a faith that our small quotidian actions do in fact amount to something important. It measures achievement in the little, unremarkable ways we live and love. It is a spiritual act of quiet, gentle wisdom, like a daily meditation. Not that these songs are quietly meditative. They are playful, passionate, sad, and even bawdy. But this collection of songs is my pennies in a jar - small offerings which come from my spirit and hopefully, taken together, amount to something.