Part One: A Little Context

by Megan M. on September 8, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

Okay, now look.

It’s very hard to write stuff like this down. It’s like trying to write down a dream you had three days ago. Once it’s over, you’re in a different dimension—a different mindset, a completely different universe with different physics and laws of nature and so on and so forth. So don’t let the fact that I never wrote a recap for my Orlando win get you down. I’m getting to this one. I’m just… a little bit off kilter. Just, ah, bear with me.

Let’s try to come at this from the beginning.

A Little Context

In 2005, I competed at the North American Festival of Wales in the semi-professional division for their David G. Morris memorial award (no relation). This was in Orlando. I won first place. They handed me a trophy and a check for $3500, and I started filling out forms for the 2006 National Eisteddfod in Swansea, Wales (the competition for which the award money was mandated). That was awesome. I know it’s horrible that I never wrote a recap. Believe me, I am kicking myself now, when I’m trying to gain perspective on this whole thing. You can give me a whack later.

In 2006, I packed my absolute minimum of personal and office stuff into Marty’s Buick (filled the car, completely, to brimming) and we moved to Austin. I think we had $200 to our names. One of the windshield wipers broke. There were monsoons. Angel let us move in with her for eight months. Angel is a DOLL.

In Austin, I found a pianist, filed my applications for entry, and started doing a lot of singing. That fall I hauled something like eighty-seven pieces of luggage across the country, over the Atlantic ocean, through the Dublin airport, into a taxi, onto a ferry, I think there was another plane or three, and a bus, there was a bus, and a train aaaaaaaallll the way down to Swansea, do not critique my recollection of travel options through Britain, it was a solid 36 hours of not being allowed to sleep and it was the most bizarre and wonderful pain I have ever endured in the name of musical-cultural expression. It’s okay that I don’t remember it clearly. End of story.

I checked into the Dragon Hotel (how I finally got there, I’ll never remember) and slept like the dead for about a week. I nursed my travel-inspired sinus infection, and managed to get myself back in working order before the National Eisteddfod got underway. (Point of interest: The Dragon Hotel also did not have working wireless in the rooms, so I spent an alarming amount of time sitting on a couch in the lobby—in my pajamas, because I’m shameless like that—with a laptop. The hotel employees got to recognize me pretty quickly!)

I navigated the amazing and terrifying landscape of the Welsh National Eisteddfod, sang like a loon (well, not exactly like a loon), made it through the preliminaries into the main stage event, talked to people from newspapers and radio shows and television shows, sang on an enormous stage in an enormous pink pavilion, and won second place in the Over 25 Mezzo-Soprano division. Stride la vampa in Welsh, can you imagine that!? (To this day, Marty can sing the first two lines of “Gwridog y fflamau” on cue.) Another competitor was kind enough to translate for me when they announced my name and shook my hand in front of all those people. I grinned and said Thank You and floated home in a haze of shock and delight.

Then I did other things for a few years.

Marty and I moved into an apartment. I blackmailed him into quitting his job. (I KID, I kid.) We continued to build our individual empires from the ground up, learning and relearning just how challenging (and rewarding!) it is to make a living when you don’t have some larger institution promising to take care of you. I launched That Idea Blueprint Girl, and started to get seriously intense about where I was going and what I was doing. We did a lot of stuff. It was interminably cool.

And then…

And then… there was this. The North American Festival of Wales, 2009, in Pittsburgh.

To be continued. (Please don’t hurt me.)



by Megan M. on September 4, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

I am completely high off this morning’s rehearsal.

I met with Alan Thomas, who is the wonderful competition accompanist, and we worked out the bits and pieces and tempos and so forth for my two pieces. I’m competing in the David G. Morris competition (lots of Morrises running around these Welsh festivals!), which happens (I believe!) at 2:30pm ET tomorrow afternoon. I knew it would be a great rehearsal—I remember singing with Alan four years ago, at the same festival in Orlando—but wow, once we had the tempos right, those songs were like crack. I could have sung another hour or two. It was absolutely, stunningly glorious.

At a late breakfast with David Williams I gushed about how enjoyable it was to sing in that room, o-ho, I can’t wait for tomorrow. There’s a more poignant point here though, I think, and it has something to do with how easy it is to forget how happy this makes me. I don’t get a lot of singing in these days—mostly because singing takes money. It costs money to study, to compete, to perform. Money for clothes, music, etc. Money to ensure downtime before a competition or performance, certainly. Since the money I make from various business pursuits, right now, goes to paying the usual sorts of bills, I haven’t been doing much more than studying and preparing for the occasional competition. (For a little perspective, consider that this statement includes this competition, the same festival four years ago, and the National Eisteddfod in Swansea, 2006!)

But I love this. Nothing is so wonderful as being at the end, knowing the music, knowing I can do it, standing in front of the room and filling it with sound (and even better, the exchange of energy when I have an actual audience)—but that’s worth so much. Maybe it’s worth every pain in the ass I’ve endured to get here. Maybe it always will be.

What does that mean for my life, as it is right now? Well, it probably means that any doubts I’ve had about the validity of finding a musical source of income are unfounded. It means that there is a significant part of myself that’s going ignored a large portion of the time. Being thrilled by and good at multiple things is confusing and frustrating, sometimes, because the world (mostly) just wants you to pick one.

But I won’t.

I don’t want to!

You can’t make me.

I’ve been saying all of this since high school, so why am I letting music slip bit by bit out of my life? Because it’s expensive? Because it presents a more intense challenge, on top of everything I’m already doing?


When the hell was the last time I backed down from a challenge!?

GEEZE. Now there’s some perspective!


Unreliable internet makes even the poshest hotel a nightmare—you know what I’m talking about.

The Pittsburgh Hilton has gorgeous accommodations. The Executive Lounge is nice and quiet with a freaktacular view of the river. (Hell—the view from my window is amazing. The view from the fourth floor gym is amazing!) The beds are comfy. The bathroom is shiny and spiffy. The flat screen on the wall makes me wish I’d brought my A/V cables with me.

And the desk! The desk is wonderful. Solid. Stable. Clean, smooth, nice and big. Right next to the big window in my room, with an incredibly comfortable swivel chair. That is some kind of nice chair, people.

Of course, I haven’t used the desk since I got here.

You know why?

You do, don’t you. I can tell already.

The internet doesn’t reach the desk.

Not only is there no wireless signal at the desk, but the wired connection they have there—all set up and easy to use—doesn’t work either. Ethernet cable an instant solution to wireless woes, you say? Nope.

The word is that they’ve been trying to fix it all for the last few days, but I’m skeptical. I’m skeptical because universities have free wireless on campuses all over the country. I’m skeptical because a nice woman in the lobby (a nice, very frustrated woman in the lobby) told me that Pittsburgh has wifi all over. And they can’t get it in this one hotel? Interesting. Very interesting!

Of course, I don’t know anything about wireless; I don’t know what construction materials in the building might make it very complicated. I don’t know what might even keep them from having working ethernet connections in the rooms. But when clueless hotel employees pass me from one extension to another—over and over—and tell me to change locations multiple times, repeatedly, with no actual knowledge of whether it will work and no real concern for the fact that they’re wrong 90% of the time—I start to think that somebody isn’t in the right loop. I start to think that somebody isn’t trying very hard to get people involved that really know how this works.

I start to think, in fact, that reliable internet connections aren’t high priority in high quality hotels.

But, that’s crazy. That couldn’t possibly be it.

Could it?

In the meantime, I can post this entry because if I crouch near the door to my room, I get the network signal back. If I carry my laptop carefully to the closest edge of the closest bed, I can sit right on the edge of the bed and use the wireless connection. Sometimes it flakes off and goes away, and so I sit outside my door, on the floor in the corridor. The wireless sometimes works in the lobby (where it is often loud with people and music), and pretty much never works in the executive lounge, no matter how much anyone insists to me that it should be working up there. (I have met at least one very disgruntled internet-less businessman in my numerous visits to the executive lounge. I’m sure twelve hours of forsaken productivity to him means far more lost income than it does for me, but I did feel that we were kindred spirits, in that moment.) Because the lobby is somewhat far away to risk when you consider that I have to pack up my office to be productive down there, the floor outside my room and the very outermost edge of the bed nearest to the door are my best bets to get anything done.

Or I could schlep back to Starbucks.

Or McDonald’s.

Or, I could stay here and suffer, and write about it on my blog. Fascinating choice, don’t you think?


Battle Cries and Critical Thinking

by Megan M. on September 3, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

I meant to post this earlier in the week, before discovering the very disconcerting flaky internet situation at the Pittsburgh Hilton. I seem to be connected right now (thank goodness) so there’s no time like the present…!

Sonia Simone has a glorious post up at Remarkable Communication about when to be a badass—and when to regroup.

We overlook this one all the time. She’s right; we all yell about being brave, howling our battle cries and charging forth into the great unknown. But anyone who’s gotten anywhere also has an oft-neglected advantage that doesn’t get talked about nearly as often: The kind of critical thinking that tells you when to charge, and when to back off. Sometimes the best thing you can do is give yourself space to succeed.

I forget this easily, and I think a lot of us do. Being brave is hard. Doing the brave thing is a lifelong challenge for most of us, something we have to remind ourselves of, something we have to dredge up courage to engage in. Remembering that our critical decision-making rules the game, that’s a little more subtle. It’s also not as obvious. And, come to think of it, it probably takes a little more skill and a whole different kind of courage.

I’m talking about the kind of courage it takes to stay strong and respect your own decision when you decide it’s time to take on a few more hours at that crappy day job. The kind of courage it takes to keep building your own business when you’re hacking away at projects you don’t care about (the ones currently paying your bills). The kind of courage it takes to continue to believe in yourself and work towards progress even when you have to take a few tiny steps backwards. Giving ground to a tussle, now and then, but staying determined to win the war.

Our battle cry gets us out into the open where the scary things live, but it’s so important to be able to engage in critical thinking about the best course of action right now, no matter what that turns out to be. Sometimes it’s disappointing, or scary in a completely different way. Having the wherewithal (and the balls) to make that decision is what makes you YOURS. It’s what means you can take care of yourself. Don’t fly blind. See, be aware, and know that you’ll come out on top in the end.

Remarkable Communication: How to Quit Being a Badass.


Age of Connection

by Megan M. on August 29, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |


I’m posting this from an American Airlines flight—in the air.

Yeah, whoa. Makes my brain hurt too.



What Do You Need?

by Megan M. on August 20, 2009 · Comments (Blog) |

I asked this question on Triiibes and at Social Work prn. Bob and I talked about it, too. I even asked on Vloggerheads. Now I’m going to ask it here.

What do you need?


I got a bit muddled this afternoon and went out on the porch with my markers to sort it out. I dribbled my brain out onto the paper for awhile, finger painting, listening to the wind and the rustling of branches and the sound of quiet Austin heat (104 degrees, to be precise). What I finally came up with was the sort of complete divine inspiration that makes you groan and complain about all the hard work before you smarten up and say “Thank you, Universe, for being so generous with your sublime wisdom…”

And then you sit with your head between your knees waiting for the dizziness to subside.


The only part I can share with you now—the only part that lends itself to words, though I’ve got the rest down in rainbow marker doodles in my notebook—is this: “Stop selling. Start helping.”

The thing is, I think selling is fine. There’s nothing wrong with making a living—there’s a lot right about making a living. Being able to support yourself doing what you love is essential for those of us who intend positive changes in the world around us. Hell, it often makes the difference between being able to make those changes and just dreaming about them! But making good things happen can be a weird, winding path. And sometimes the way isn’t clear. Sometimes you just have to listen to your impulses.

Sometimes your gut says crazy things, and sometimes it says things that make perfect sense. In this case, I can’t ignore it. I don’t completely understand the options here, but I seem to know which way to walk.

It’s just that it’s scary, and I know you know all about it. I’ve been rolling without a safety net for almost a year now and there’s a (rather large) part of me that just wants all the money to show up already. You know what that feels like. It’s difficult to do anything but follow the cash; it’s difficult to pull yourself away down the path you’re meant to take when the path with the little baby money plants with the sprouting dollar bills just looks so easy. Oooh, there’s my rent payment, you’re thinking. There’s the electric bill. Ooh! There’s next week’s groceries! That’s the path I need! Right? Right? That’s it, isn’t it?

It’s not.

Your gut is telling you it’s not.

The money plants don’t stand the test of time, and their path doesn’t have heart. They don’t bear fruit for long. They won’t make you happy—no matter how good they look now. So you have to decide—I have to decide—what I really want. What is meaningful to me. What brings me joy. What makes an impact. What takes me forward in the direction I really want to go, deep down in the soul of me, what draws me forward with more than just the urge to pay my bills. With the urge to…

Well, I think you know the rest. It’s that really important thing. The light. The Point.


We are so overdue for the next Idea Free-For-All.

What do you say, guys? Monday?

What do you need help with?