amber rubarth house concert in seattle

When I wrote a letter on this blog to Amber Rubarth back in May, I didn’t expect that she would ever read it. I hoped my words might somehow reach her – I wanted her to know how much her music meant to me – but, even if she never read my letter, I still felt writing it meant something. Even if the words were just for myself, I wanted to reflect on how I had carried her songs within me for years, how they had impacted my life and had been my companions and helped me grow into someone braver and stronger and more assured in myself, more rooted in my being. It was a small gesture, but it felt hugely good.

me and amber rubarth 2

Even though I wrote that letter for myself, when I published it here on the blog, something amazing happened.

The positive response was overwhelming. People shared with me their own thoughts about how music has made a difference in their lives. The post was shared widely throughout the Facebook and Twitter communities. And, within a few days, my words made their way to Amber herself.

I got goosebumps when I logged onto Facebook one afternoon to find a notification that I had been tagged in a post by Amber Rubarth:

Ah my heart!!! Just read this beautiful post from Dallas Woodburn who came to my show last week in San Francisco. My heart is fluttering with gratitude. Thank you Dallas for your beautiful words and gorgeous soul. Wow. So moving. You are a beautiful writer.

It was the opposite of that frustrated feeling I experienced after our brief interaction post-concert, the one that spurred me to write the post in the first place. Now I felt buoyant and peaceful and more connected to the community around me. I had been able to express what had previously felt inexpressible. I had let someone know that their work was important to me. I was happy and grateful that my words had rippled outward and found their recipient. It seemed like a small miracle.

But the ripples did not end there. I received messages from both of Amber’s parents, letting me know how much my words meant to them. Amber and I became email pals, and she even tweeted congratulations on my wedding day!

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And I received an email from a man named Bill.

Hi Dallas,

Long-story-short… My wife and I have been hosting a house concert series in the living room of our house here in Seattle for the past eleven years. Amber Rubarth played our series back in 2013. She’s eager to return and we recently talked about this coming October. Before contacting Amber I did some poking around online to see what Amber was up to and came across your blog post. Wow! It had me and several  friends I shared it with in tears. This type of feedback provides the fuel for touring musicians to continue doing what they do. So here’s the deal… If Amber plays here, I’d like to invite you and a guest to come to the show. And I’d pay for the airline tickets for you both to fly to Seattle. I know, this sounds like a scam. Believe me, it isn’t. As soon as I read your blog I knew what I wanted to do. My brain and stomach (intuition) were aligned with each other and agreed this was the right thing to do. Hope to hear back from you and get your thoughts.

I was absolutely blown away when I read this email. To receive such warm and thoughtful generosity from a complete stranger! Immediately, I replied to Bill with an enthusiastic: Absolutely, I would love to come!!

We hammered out the details over the next few months, and then suddenly it was the end of October, and our trip up to Seattle had arrived! Allyn wasn’t able to attend because he had a previously scheduled commitment for that weekend, but my dad was kind enough to fly up from L.A. to join me for the trip. It was my first time seeing him post-wedding it was SO great to get some time just to ourselves, to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. We lucked out with beautiful sunny weather in Seattle and spent the day exploring Pike’s Place Market, walking around downtown, and eating delicious seafood. My favorite was the clam chowder we ate overlooking the water!

 me and dad chowder seattle

We also visited the amazing Chihuly Museum, which I dubbed “Dr. Seuss books come to life”… the delicate, vibrant, larger-than-life blown-glass sculptures were extraordinary to behold! Tickets were a liiiittle pricey, but worth it. We were both really happy we went there.

chihuly museum

Walking back to our hotel, we stopped at a Starbucks {because, when in Seattle, right?} to escape the brief drizzle and enjoy our hot drinks. And then it was time for the concert! After stopping at a neat local brewery for dinner, we took an Uber to the quaint historical Captiol Hill neighborhood where Bill and his wife Micki live.

It was a funny situation because, although Bill and I had emailed back and forth quite a bit, I had no idea what he looked like. When Dad and I stepped inside the beautiful house filled with people {who mostly all knew each other from previous house concerts there} I was unsure what to do! A white-haired man came up to us in the entryway and I asked, “Bill?” He laughed and said, “No, I’m Jim — but Bill’s making cider in the kitchen. C’mon!” And he led the way back through the house.

Bill knew what I looked like from this blog, and as soon as he saw me, he beamed. He and Micki were both so friendly and welcoming to me and my dad. We enjoyed chatting with them in the kitchen before the concert began, and Bill introduced me to some of his friends who had read my piece here on the blog. It was so special to meet them in person!

As soon as Amber came out “on stage” my heart leapt — I was so excited that my dad would get to hear her music live! I knew he would fall in love with her beautiful songs, and he did. I had never before attended a house concert, and I was captivated by the intimate vibe of the night. It was a mix of a casual concert and a Q&A, with the audience jumping in with questions and song requests.

amber rubarth house concert

Partway through the concert, Amber asked, “Is Dallas here?” I waved my hands so she could spot me in the crowd. Amber then sweetly told everyone about my blog post and the story of how I ended up being at the concert that night. Then she wished me and Allyn congratulations on our recent wedding day and played her “Song to Thank The Stars” for us — out of all her songs, it is my favorite and the one that reminds me the most of Allyn.

I was nearly in tears, it was such a special moment.

After the concert, which flew by way too fast, we got to visit with Amber in the kitchen. It was wonderful to get some time to chat with her about her music, the creative process, my wedding, her upcoming tour and new album, and our families. She is one of the most genuinely kind, warm and authentic people I have ever met. Oh! And she recently starred in a new movie that will be released in 2017! It is called “September 12th” and also stars musician Joe Purdy. I can’t wait to see it!

me and amber 2

{A little blurry, but the best photo of the bunch!}

The trip to Seattle was one of the coolest experiences of my life! What a testament to the generosity and connection of people — former strangers, now friends — and the beauty and love present in our world. I feel so very grateful for this experience! Thank you Bill and Micki from the bottom of my heart. And thank you, of course, to my new friend Amber Rubarth!

You can pre-order Amber’s gorgeous new album, Wildflowers in the Graveyard, at her website: http://www.amberrubarth.com/

fabulous friday #19

Happy Friday, everyone! This week seemed to go by simultaneously slow AND fast to me — does that ever happen to you? Whatever your plans are for today and this weekend, I hope they are filled with love!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Tonight I’m going to see Les Mis with my grandparents! I’ve only seen the movie version of this musical, so I’m really excited to see it on the stage. It is one of my Grandpap’s favorite musicals, and he’s been singing the songs all week around the house.

2. Speaking of singing… I love rocking out in the car as I’m driving. I am not gifted with a great singing voice, but I don’t care — when I’m by myself driving, I sing with zero self-consciousness! If one of my favorite songs comes on the radio {currently: Pompeii, I Choose You, Girls Chase Boys, Dark Horse, Rewind, or pretty much any T.Swift song} I feel like I’ve won a prize. Yesterday I drove down to San Jose and back for a dinner-and-a-show date with Allyn, and the drive flew by thanks to my solo karaoke session. {And also maybe because I was a tad excited to see him.} 🙂

3. My nightly routine of climbing into bed with a book, sipping on a mug of this huckleberry tea I got in Seattle, and reading until I feel sleepy. Such a peaceful and relaxing way to end the day.

huckleberry tea

4. Easter! This time of rebirth and renewal always makes me feel hopeful and rejuvenated. I’ll be spending Easter Sunday serving meals at a church in San Francisco, and then in the evening my family is getting together for dinner. My grandma is even making her famous-in-our-family eggplant parmesan.

5. This quote from the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

marquez quote

RIP Marquez, who passed away yesterday at 87. As my friend Corey wrote on Facebook: “Thank you for it all.” He was one of the best.

Questions for the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for Easter weekend?

 

goals for the week of 3/2

Hi, friends! I’m back from my trip to Seattle! Such a whirlwind, jam-packed, inspiring, informative, amazing time. Lots of late nights + early mornings because I didn’t want to miss a thing. It felt so good to collapse into my own bed last night — I slept like a rock! Woke up late this morning and have spent the day nourishing my body with green smoothies + green tea, unpacking my suitcase, doing laundry, and trying to staunch the craziness that is my overflowing email inbox.

But … backtrack to last week. Janet and I enjoyed a gorgeous sunny day exploring San Francisco! I love walking down by the water. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I actually live in this postcard-perfect place.

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We met up for dinner with some of Janet’s grad-school friends who happen to live in SF now — small world! They were so friendly, fun and welcoming. On Monday, Janet came with me to San Jose because I was speaking to an undergraduate creative writing class. The students were thoughtful and attentive and asked lots of questions. They made my miss my former students at Purdue. I love teaching! That night Janet and I met up for vegan cuisine with an old friend from USC who now lives in San Jose, and it was wonderful to catch up. And on Tuesday we got together with Allyn, Michelle and Dana! I love when friends visit and get to meet other friends, when it feels like the different facets of your life are briefly able to coalesce.

That, in fact, was my favorite part of going to the AWP conference … it was a reunion of writers! I got to see friends from my undergrad days at USC, my grad school days at Purdue, and a conference I went to in Key West last year. Each night the final item on the conference agenda was a dance party, and it was such a unique brand of happiness of be able to spend a couple hours dancing my little heart out, surrounded by people I love who have inspired me at all different points of my writing journey. The hardest part was saying goodbye on Sunday! Even writing this, my eyes are misting a little bit. But as Dr. Seuss would say, “Don’t cry because it’s over — smile because it happened.” It’s a blessing and a privilege to miss people because it means I have so many amazing people in my life to miss!

The conference was so busy with lectures, seminars and events that I didn’t have too much time to explore the city, but I did make it to Seattle’s famous market — and the original Starbucks across the street! Yummm, soy chai.

seattle market

My friend Tera had a book-signing for the launch of her beautiful collection of poetry, Reading the Ground. I am bursting with pride for her!

tera booksigning

me and tera

I’ll be posting more conference recap and nuts-and-bolts writing thoughts on my other blog over these next couple weeks. Now it’s time for a goals recap!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
have an amazing time with Janet! go into the city, see a movie, take her to my favorite spots around town, and talk our faces off
– write 5 pages
prepare for my new tutoring client
– go to one yoga class {sign of a super-busy week: I couldn’t make it to my Tuesday yoga class before I left for Seattle!}
read fifty pages of The Empty House by Nathan Oates
have a blast at the AWP conference! {and I guess be sorta productive and learn something too}

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write 10 pages
– send AWP thank-you notes
– go to two yoga classes
– read & comment on story for fellows workshop next week
– finish reading The Empty House by Nathan Oates
– connect with three friends

Questions of the morning:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What have been your highlights of this weekend?
  • What was the last trip you took?

review of “blackberry winter” by sarah jio

Happy Friday, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I am *so* excited for the weekend! I’m getting together with some friends for dinner Saturday, and Sunday afternoon a group of us are going to see Circus Oz  at Purdue. I’m also just looking forward to sleeping in and getting some rest. We’ve been having a long string of gray, gloomy days and it’s been a little more of an effort to keep myself cheerful this week — I think the winter blahs are trying to settle in! But I am resisting … perhaps I’ll make some more peanut-butter cup brownies or chocolate-chip cookies this weekend to build up my defenses! 🙂

One highlight of my week was reading this month’s PB Fingers Book Club pick, Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio.

sarah jio

Here’s a brief synopsis: the book alternates between two storylines that gradually merge as the book progresses. The first takes place in Seattle in the midst of the Great Depression, when single mother Vera Ray is forced to leave her treasured 3-year-old son Daniel home alone one night while she goes to work. In the morning, she leaves work to a city blanketed by a freak May snow, termed a “Blackberry Winter.” When she arrives home, her small apartment is empty. Her son has disappeared.

The second storyline takes place during another Blackberry Winter in Seattle in 2010; it centers around reporter Claire Aldridge who is assigned to write a story about the phenomenon. She recently suffered a loss of her own and in the face of her devastating grief, she is growing further and further apart from her husband. Claire becomes obsessed with the story of Daniel’s long-ago disappearance and trying to find out what happened that long-ago Blackberry Winter. Cue the dramatic music!

I was completely swept into the mystery of this story and snuck in bits of reading time whenever I could this week. I just finished it last night and the ending was so sweet and satisfying.

Sarah Jio’s writing style is lyrical and lovely. I have only been to Seattle once, more than a decade ago on a family vacation, so my memory of the city is not too clear. But Sarah describes the city so vividly — both in the present and back in the 1930s — that I felt like I returned there every time I opened this book. It was neat to “go back in time” in Vera’s storyline, and I thought the themes of wealth vs. poverty and greed vs. generosity rang very true to the world today. {Yet another book that confirmed my passion for my #yearofkindness challenge!}

A main theme of this book is motherhood, and I thought of Mr. Jude a LOT while reading. I treasure him beyond words and I can’t imagine not being able to see him, cuddle him, and watch him grow. Mike and I miss him so much between visits, but I am grateful we at least get to see him every month. It was viscerally painful reading about Vera losing her son Daniel in Blackberry Winter — Sarah Jio writes very vivid, real, compelling characters who seem like real people, and my heart just broke for Vera. Her pain is so real. In the book, both Vera and Claire’s lives change in an instant. This book will make you grateful for not just the children you love, but all the loved ones in your life — it will make you want to hold them close, just a little longer and tighter than usual. And of course always, always tell them you love them!

This is a moving and wonderful read that will warm your heart even on the coldest winter day. 🙂

Happy weekend!