Tag Archives: transitions

Words from Steve Jobs

This morning, CNN aired the whole of the commencement speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005. His words were (are) inspiring, to say the very least. Here is an excerpt:

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My particular “brick” was the hand injury of 2009 that eclipsed the mounting realization that I absolutely hated what I was doing for a living. I really had no choice but to make a change. And it’s scary. I wonder constantly if I am actually ever going to make a living doing this music thing. Yet, I have to believe that I am on the right path. I am finally doing what I love and I believe that I am doing great work. So, I am thankful for these inspiring words. We all need encouragement to keep going.


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Bring on the Wonder

Last evening, I played at the opening show of “Common Ground”. What is Common Ground? Well, to quote their website:

Common Ground Performances provide compelling ways of looking into life and faith by weaving together popular film, images, stories, and narration with live music. The typical program lasts 70-90 minutes, and all you need to do is sit back with friends and take it in. When the lights go down, a collage of popular art, music, and narration will transport you into a new world of possibilities.

One of the media pieces presented was a recording by Susan Enan entitled “Bring on the Wonder”. I had never heard this song before and it captivated me so much that I am featuring a YouTube clip on my blog today.

I could listen to this song over and over, letting it peel away at me layer by layer. Somehow it connects with my journey of rediscovery. It’s a somewhat sad song on the surface, but it’s not that way to me. Rather, it sparks a sense of possibility. Bring on the wonder, indeed.

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Blogging in 2010

Thank you all for 2010!

WordPress.com just sent me an email reviewing my blog stats for 2010, along with an option to post this information to my blog. I decided, “what the heck?”, so the information is shown below. Thank you all for being a part of my blog community. It is because of you that I have these numbers. I plan to be just as busy on my blog in 2011, if not more so.

Have a terrific 2011 and see you soon!!


WordPress Stats

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2010. That’s about 9 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 74 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 54 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

Featured imageThe busiest day of the year was October 7th with 194 views. The most popular post that day was A dark night… and then a ray of light.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, kellycarpentermusic.com, networkedblogs.com, kelsongs.com, and cyberprmastermind.ning.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for bandcamp vs reverbnation, kelly carpenter blog, reverbnation vs bandcamp, ulnar neuritis, and music success in nine weeks.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


A dark night… and then a ray of light October 2010


Optimize This! – Music Success in Nine Weeks, Week 3 July 2010


About My Music May 2010


About Me January 2010
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Music Success in Nine Weeks? July 2010

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Day after tomorrow we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States. The Canadians get a jump on us every year, of course, since their Thanksgiving holiday is on Columbus Day, which I recall being a school holiday when I was a kid. But that was a long long time ago, and I am so thankful that they have invented electricity since then. Speaking of electricity, ours is working today which we can’t take for granted since the Pacific Northwest was slammed with snow and wind yesterday. Merrilyn and I live in a town called Woodinville which is aptly named. We have no less than 13 tall evergreens in our backyard. Three or so years ago, the snow and wind combo brought down power lines all over our part of the county and we lost power for eight days. We fled to a classic hotel in Canada for a few days. All to say I am very grateful for power, light, heat, hot food.

Not initially intending to do so, I am quite enjoying writing long rambling paragraphs today without any urgency to get to the meat of my blog post. Speaking of meat, Merrilyn just let me know that the bacon is done, so I will take a break and have breakfast. Will be back in a few… Ah… bacon. I am definitely not a vegetarian. Have you ever tried Tofurky? Why do they bother? Perhaps I can convert to being vegetarianish: vegetarian with the occasional red meat? Probably not.

So, getting to the meat… the mind meat, if you will… Hey, “Mind Meat” would be a cool name for a band, don’t you think? Kind of a cross between Simple Minds and Meatloaf. Like an Irish Meatloaf, yet different. Is there such a thing as Irish Meatloaf? So back to the meating of the mind, as it were… I am VERY thankful for so many things.

Irish Meatloaf

Have you ever noticed that there are certain figures of speech that get tacked on to statements that mean absolutely nothing? Such as, “if you will”, “as it were”, “in a manner of speaking”, “in a word”, “as they say”. These are just conversational filler, yet, they make one sound more intellectual and literary, don’t you think? (There’s another one.) I love words and language. I especially love mangling the English language. I suppose if I were a female, I would love womangling the English language, if you don’t mind me saying.

But, I still haven’t “brought” the meat, as they say. What am I thankful for?

Well, first of all, I am so thankful that my dad is still with us. He almost died a few times this past year due to an unsuccessful surgery in March leading to septic shock and subsequent infections. And to top it all off, he just suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack, also known as a “mini-stroke”. He has mostly recovered and his mind is all there.

Then there is the issue of my hand problems. Last year at this time, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would need to undergo surgery for my hand condition (Ulnar Neuritus). I decided that the surgery was too risky, and in the past year, the symptoms have mostly abated, but not before I wound up losing my job in March. Yet I am deeply grateful because now I am doing what I truly love, music, and although this comes with a fair amount of financial anxiety, I know I am on the right track.

I continue to be thankful for my song “Draw Me Close” that I wrote 16 years ago. It was one of those songs that songwriters talk about that just “came out” almost fully formed. Even to this day, I still hear from people about how that song has touched them. And I am thankful for the royalties I still earn that has given us enough of a cushion for me to pursue a music career.

I am thankful for winning the Music Success in Nine Weeks blog challenge. Who wudda thunk it? That was a shocker, not because I didn’t feel I deserved to win–I worked hard for it, “running to get the prize”, if you will–but to be honest, I assumed that someone younger would get the nod. I am, after all, in my fifties, and in my so-called conventional wisdom, I figured that someone who had a lot more life in front of them… bla bla bla. Now that’s just silly thinking, isn’t it?

So many other things… I am thankful for my wife, Merrilyn, for her encouragement and support of my new career. I am thankful that on November 6th it has been 30 years since our first kiss. Wow! I am thankful that she got a new job–she now teaches in a “self-contained” autism program, and she loves it. I am thankful for my new great-niece, Rebekah, who is just as cute as a bug’s ear. (Now where did that expression come from?)

Wow. I have a good life. I am truly grateful!

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I woke up today at 4:30 AM. I’m not a morning person by nature, but lately, I have been waking up pretty darn early. “Why”, you may ask, “not-so-morning-person Kelly, are you waking up so dang early?” You may not have asked this particular question and/or are just blissfully non-curious. That’s okay. It helps me to think of this blogging thing as a two-way conversation, and since I have no idea what you are thinking, I’m just making stuff up, pretending that you are grossly interested in my life and have all sorts of questions for me. For instance, you may wonder “Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?” Probably not. But it makes me wonder what inspired Hal David to come up with that line. Perhaps he was hanging out on the back deck of one of his multi-million-dollar mansions and was sitting next to a bird feeder. Can you imagine how freakin’ rich Burt Bacharach and Hal David are? Boggles the imagination, it does.

So back to my grossly interesting story, I wake up at 4:30 AM this very morning with my mind racing due to anxiety. Anxiety as in “how the heck am I going to make a living doing this music thing?” (I mean, this is pretty freakin’ scary if I let the anxiety overtake me.) Yesterday, I was musing about all this out loud to my sweetheart, “Yeah, I have a lot of anxiety and this is going to take a LOT of work, and it’s scary, BUT I wouldn’t trade this for a second to be back on the 27th floor of an office tower, sitting behind a computer, suffering through meetings, and generally despairing of life.”

The byline of this blog is, after all, “A journal about life interrupted and a new coming of age.” Change is HARD. But change is also GOOD. I have been through a very intense few months of change and growth. The blog challenge is just what I needed and I see all the work that I put into it starting to bear fruit. I’ll go into more detail in a subsequent blog post.

I am challenging myself to be less of a perfectionist in my blog posts and try to keep the time I spend on them down to a half an hour. I’m almost there. By the way, I woke up at 4:30 AM to a house with NO COFFEE. So here I am at Starbucks in downtown Woodinville, enjoying a cup of their bold blend. I am so totally addicted to their ham “artisan sandwich”, so I have wolfed one of those down instead of having something healthy like oatmeal. Maybe I’ll have oatmeal for lunch when I’m back at home. (Probably not.)

I don’t know about other parts of the country, but here in the Northwest it’s amazing how many Starbucks you can find per square inch.


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When Play Is Work

Music is now my full-time job. Hard to believe this is finally happening.

Although this transition has been in the planning for the past two years, it has been interrupted many times in many ways.

First there was the economy tanking at the end of 2008. Not really a good time to start a new career.

Then I developed Ulnar Neuritus. That definitely put all plans on hold. Hard to use your hands for music when the fingers are numb and aching most of the time. My former employer had very good medical coverage, and there were the many visits to doctors and therapists that needed to be paid for.

I was finally let go in mid March because I still can’t work on a computer nine hours a day. This happened to coincide with another life-interrupting event: my Dad getting very sick and almost dying. All of March and early April has been taken up with taking care of family. I’m not complaining. My Dad is doing so much better now and will be coming home soon.

So now, finally, life is settling down into a new “normal”. I start my day out by playing and practicing piano for 30 to 60 minutes. Followed by some vocal exercises or whatever additional music skills I would like to develop. Followed by blogging or Facebook or LinkedIn or other web content development.

Most of this activity feels like playing. I feel sort of guilty. I have been conditioned all these years to think of playing music as a form of recreation that I do in my spare time with the occasional professional gig thrown in.

It’s weird to think of me staying at home, not working a “real job”, and instead playing music, songwriting, recording. I’m pinching myself.

But then I realize that although this is play, this is play for a purpose, for a set of objectives. This is actually work I’m doing. It just seems like play.

For example, I have been working on learning some jazz improvisation during my piano practice. This serves a few purposes: First, it improves my sight reading and technique, helpful for studio work. Second, it makes me more prepared for the occasional jazz gig and gigs in general. Finally, it inspires creativity for some of the music content projects I have planned this year.

Wow! I am finally doing what I love to do.


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This has been a crazy year so far. So many changes. I am incapable of believing that all is just random chaos. There has to be a Conductor, Someone who is orchestrating everything. How to reconcile the idea of God in control with the gift of free will is beyond me. Brilliant philosophic minds have been grappling with that one for eons, running the gamut from “there is no such thing as God” to “there is no such thing as free will”. Like most of us, I pick somewhere in the middle. And it’s a big mystery and I’m okay with that.

I could write quite a few blog posts about the crazy events of the past couple of years and reflect on how timing was such a crucial factor. If things didn’t happen when they happened, things would have gone differently. Of course, that’s true about everything. But I am intrigued about the timing of things that have happened to me lately.

Here’s one. Merrilyn and I have been involved with this church just north of Seattle called Vineyard Community Church for the last eight years. I must say that it is one of the coolest churches on the planet. Here is a church that actually puts their money where their mouth is when it comes to helping the poor, addressing injustice, etc. She and I have been involved with leadership to one extent or another for the past three years, primarily in worship leading, coordinating, pastoring.

Yet, by the beginning of this year, it became obvious that I was not the person to take our worship program into its next season. Our time was done. We felt it for many months, but because I don’t like to feel like I’ve let people down, I hung on much longer than I should have. It’s hard for me to let go of things.

Here is where timing comes in. My dad got very sick in March and is still in recovery. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to deal with that crisis and still be responsible for coordinating our worship program at church. I would have had to let it go anyway, but it would have been even more difficult to do so because of the stress I was under. I am relieved that my involvement was over. The timing was right.

I can also see how the timing of the loss of my job at Microsoft (and the end of my IT career) was not coincidental. I couldn’t continue in that line of work because of my hand injury. And obviously I needed to be free to deal with our family situation.

As things start to settle down, I find myself now out of two jobs. But I am now embarking on a new career doing what I truly love to do. It is exciting and scary all at the same time. But I am convinced that the time is now. Timing is everything.

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Vocal Training

I have always been underdeveloped as a singer. I have started using the term “underdeveloped” lately as it is more gracious to myself than other adjectives I have used over the years: “mediocre”, “sucky”, and other such self-deprecating terms.

Occasionally, someone would come up to me and say “I love your voice” and I would stagger backward as if I had been hit by a truck. It has been so hard to believe or accept. And it has been almost impossible to hear my voice recorded without focusing on every out of tune note, every weird tone or diction or whatever. It is generally an unpleasant experience.

Over the past several years, I have found myself grieving that my voice isn’t what it used to be. To be honest, I have wallowed in this grief, stuck in my insecurity.

I am not beating myself up without cause. Long ago (as in decades), there was a nine-year period in which I sang in choirs for seven of those years and sang in nightclubs for two years in the middle. In choir you learn how to sing “straight” with no inflections, no gimmicks. It is excellent vocal training. In the bars I emulated the singers of the songs we performed, so it was the opposite type of training.

Eventually I discovered contemporary worship music and started writing it. In worship, you write and sing at a skill level that  is accessible to the lowest common denominator. After all, this is about leading everyday people into song, most of whom never sing outside the shower or the pew.

For the past 20 years, I have been singing and writing worship music. This type of singing doesn’t take a lot of skill. So guess what? I’ve gotten lazy. My vocal ability has atrophied. I have forgotten how to sing well. I have forgotten how to sing with a pure, unaffected tone with proper breath support. All the things you learn in choir.

And I have also never had vocal coaching. Until recently.

I now have a vocal coach who is deprogramming at least 20 years of bad habits, stripping my singing down to the pure fundamentals, and challenging me to sing at a level I have never sung before. My wife Merrilyn is also participating in these coaching sessions, and it is fun and rewarding to do this together.

My coach, Tim Carson, currently has me working on a Josh Groban song. (Here you have permission to snicker.) Josh Groban? I never imagined listening much to Josh Groban, let alone sing his stuff. I say this not out of mockery, but with all due respect to someone who has a beautiful voice. Tim admits that Groban is not my style, but this song is really stretching me. This is a very good thing.

So I am excited! Another part of a whole new chapter of my life. Bring it on!

You can read Tim Carson’s bio here.

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Work and Life

I have been working my way through the book “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow”. This book, among others I have been reading lately, has been conscious-altering and life-changing for me.

I was reading a portion of the last chapter a few minutes ago while icing my shoulder. One sentence stood out to me: “My work is my life, and my life is my work.”

What a concept! For so much of my life, there has been a tension between life and work, simply because my occupation has been incongruent with who I am, or my “passion” so to speak. My work has primarily been about making a living instead of living according to my true vocation.

Not that there is anything wrong with making a living. That, of course, is living responsibly. I don’t for a minute advocate the idea of shirking responsibility for the sake of “art”.

But I am in a situation now where the only thing holding me back from pursuing my true vocation is fear. Yes, I still need to make a living, but my disability has forced me to renegotiate how I actually make a living. I can no longer work full time in my occupation.

In a strange way, my disability is a gift from God because I am now forced to change how I make a living. It means I need to abandon the security that has held me back from taking the leap of faith. It means I have to truly trust.

If this all works out, and I am able to do that which I truly love, then my work will be my life and my life will be my work.

We’ll see.

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Interrupted, part 2

Today I am not using dictation software, so I will need to type judiciously. I’m thinking of trying out DragonSpeak. It’s got to be better than what’s included in Windows.

So, more about being interrupted…

As mentioned, I make a living with my hands, whether it is from computer work or from music. For most of the past three decades, I have made my living primarily by doing computer-related work. It has been my job, I have done it well, but it has never been my passion.

My passion has always been music. It is my true vocation. It is what I want to do when I grow up. And it is what I want to now spend most of my time doing.

For many years, my music has been about me expressing myself and hoping people like it. For many years, I have been hopelessly addicted to people pleasing, endlessly aching for approval. I suppose I could number myself among the masses of artists out there who suffer from similar insecurities. “Here I am. Here is my art. Please accept me.”

Given that I have been such an approval junkie, it is probably a blessing that I haven’t been doing music full time. Having it be on the side (or back) burner while making a “normal” living has kept it from totally consuming me. It has kept things somewhat manageable while I have lived the responsible life. But marginalizing my true vocation has left me frustrated and discontented at times.

However, what music means to me has morphed over the last few years. It doesn’t seem to be so much about me expressing myself for my own sake, i.e. in order to make me feel good about myself. It is becoming more about me recognizing that I have a creative gift and I can use it to touch others. I am coming in touch with the concept that a “power greater than myself” (who I refer to as God) has released in me this wonderful creative energy and it is my pleasure and responsibility to touch and bless other’s lives with it. I am not saying this out of any grandiosity; I believe all people have been given gifts to share.

I have been sensing for the last year or so that I am in a season of transition…transitioning from a day “career” that I can barely tolerate to realizing my life passion…a new coming of age. I am excited about this. To spend most of my time doing what I love to do… wow, what a concept!

So it is with some consternation that I grapple with my current disability. It begs the question, “God what are you up to?”. To me, that is not a rhetorical question. God will be a recurring figure in my blog posts. There will probably be a “God part 1”, “God part 2”, etc. I have much to say about God, and mostly in the form of questions rather than answers.

But my fingers are complaining so I’ll stop for now. I have more to say about life interrupted, and what I have to say is not about me, but about others who have had their lives seriously interrupted.

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