Tag Archives: Rosanne Cash

Old Dog, New Tricks

5 Oct

I write often in this spot about professional development, the importance of continuing to expand the skills we need to remain relevant in our work, and how curiosity plays the biggest role, in my opinion, in keeping one ever-growing and ever-learning. I thought about the topic more last night as I was driving home from an absolutely fantastic evening at the Brown University Arts Initiative. The show was a songwriting master class and performance led by Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal. (Any regular reader of this blog knows of my admiration and “awestruckness” of Rosanne, thus I won’t repeat it here.) This was the inaugural program in this new series that features accomplished musicians and songwriters to the campus to both perform and offer critique of students taking part in Brown’s Songwriting Master Class. Four incredibly talented young people played one song each, followed by thoughts and comments and suggestions from Cash and Leventhal. It was such a rich time, being able to hear individuals so proficient in something talk about their processes, offer tips that work for them, provide insights into how they chose this over that, etc. I’m grateful to Brown for starting this new program and look forward to attending future events. If you’re in the neighborhood, I encourage you to do the same.

My 45-minute drive home had me thinking about youth – and how I am far from that time in life now. I thought about those young people and some of the comments that they received from Rosanne and John. I thought about how they have a lifetime ahead of them to hone a craft, if they so choose. It started to become depressing, given that I just started writing songs about a year ago (not counting silly songs about science that borrow familiar tunes others penned). How can I ever become good at it?

But before I spent too long at my pity party, I began thinking this … 

I decided to learn to play the drums when I was in my early 30s. I loved it. Still do. When we moved to an apartment that put a cramp on my pursuits in percussion, I picked up a mandolin, found some classes, found a teacher, and got to it. I was in my 40s then. I was knocking on the door of 50 when I performed for the first time ever at an open mic. I was 50 when I joined some friends in a band. And just last year, at the ripe young age of 53, I went to my first songwriting camp and began to write my first “for real” songs. At 54, I started hosting a radio show on my local community radio station and I’m about to launch a new podcast. At 55 … well, I’m not quite there yet, so we’ll just wait and see what comes next. 


Reviewing this timeline in my head, I realized a few things. One, I’m a late bloomer when it comes to music. While I have always – ALWAYS – been a fan and collector and a reader of the art, I came to be a participant later in life. True, I took piano lessons for years as a kid, but it was really to justify my mom buying a piano for the house. She loved to play and had done so her whole life. Me, I was the tomboy who was happier playing ball with my older brother and his friends. But I did walk down the street to Mr. Cornett’s house each week, faithfully, for a number of years. Until I was paroled. Looking back, I needed to find music. It wasn’t going to find me.

Second, it is my nature to meander. I have now been in the same profession working at the same place longer, by far, than anything I ever did or any place I ever worked previously. It is one of my favorite professional development activities to lead, having people write down all of the jobs that they’ve ever had in life and all of the things that they subsequently know how to do because of those experiences. My lists are long. I’ve done many things, I have many interests, and I have the student loans to back it up. And I’ve come to appreciate this characteristic of myself over time. I like that I like a lot of things. I enjoy dabbling in all sorts of stuff. I used to believe that the drawback to this quality is that I’d never become very good at anything – “Jack of all trades, master of none” kind of thinking. There’s some truth to it, but it’s a choice we have to make in life. Some people choose to live all over the world while others, like my grandmother, live 94 years within the same city limits. Neither is better than the other. They are both valuable.

Which brings me to the third thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as it pertains lifetime learning, professional growth, and the continuing work we do to find our place – whether professionally or personally. We can think of life in the singular or the plural. We can believe that we live one life or we can relish in living many. It’s a state of mind, I believe. I’ve surely lived more of my years already that I’ve left to live, but I’m drawn more lately to wondering about what to do with the different lives that I’ve yet to live and I like to believe that I’ve got maybe one or two left. 

What will I do with them? Maybe I’ll develop and lead more professional workshops around these things, encouraging other librarians to tap into and nurture their creative sides in their work. Maybe I’ll seek out something in the music industry that takes advantage of my skill set. Maybe radio. Maybe I’ll continue doodling data visualizations and writing reports about the cool things that happen via the UMCCTS. Who knows?

There are obstacles to thinking and living this way. We do live in a society that focuses much more on nurturing young people, those with years ahead to give to something, rather than older adults who may cost more and not give the ROI an entity seeks. It’s hard to find fellowships or internships or opportunities that allow one to learn a new profession later in life, but that said, it’s not impossible. (ProFellow is one helpful resource here.)

For me, I believe the most important thing is to remember that we don’t need to be young to either learn – or become good at – something new. It’s all in the mindset we choose to adopt. Let’s all keep growing together!

I think I’ll write a song during lunch. 


What does success look like?

15 Mar

In her memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, author, columnist, and occasional panelist on NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!,” Amy Dickinson, writes, “I am surrounded by people who are unimpressed with me.” It’s perhaps my favorite line in a book that I really liked. The self-deprecating humor of famous folks. It’s funny. As I was walking from the parking lot to the library this morning, I couldn’t help but think that it’s been a bit of a surreal week for me as I’ve had encounters with some incredibly successful people. To paraphrase Ms. Dickinson, “I am surrounded by impressive people… and I remain impressed by them.”

It’s a testament to the world we live in, the social media aspect of it in particular, that I had the week that I had…

Friday, March 8 - Brattleboro, VT

Friday, March 8 – Brattleboro, VT

Rosanne Cash

Last Friday, my spouse and I traveled to Vermont to see Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal in concert. This was not the first time I got to meet Rosanne. We became acquainted via Twitter about a year and a half ago. I followed her. We tweeted back and forth to one another a few times. She started following me. In November of 2011, I got tickets to see her perform in Fall River, MA and asked if she’d be so kind as to let me say hi to her after the show. Ever gracious, she did. The same happened last Friday. Kind and funny and smart and one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our time, she gave me a hug, joked about our mutual love of ironing (remembering this from our previous meeting), talked about librarians… it’s one of those moments I’ll cherish. And then, perhaps even more unreal, the next morning as Lynn and I were walking down Main Street, we heard from behind us, “Hello, ladies!” Turned around and there was Rosanne. We chatted for a minute on the sidewalk in Brattleboro, VT like some kind of old friends. Pinch me.

Sherry Pagoto

Bright research star here on our campus, #Plankaday Nation co-founder, author of the #1 health blog of 2011 (FUdiet), and one of my biggest advocates for the new work I’m doing on campus, Sherry Pagoto and I hung out in her office on Tuesday to work on the details of a proposal that will allow me to work on her President’s Award grant. She took me on a few years ago as an exercise physiologist for one of her studies and today is a fantastic champion of me as an informationist. We  have a Nobel Laureate on campus, a few Howard Hughes investigators, and some really outstanding leaders in biomedical and health sciences research. How I got lucky enough to have one of them in my corner… well, pretty lucky!

Facebook chatting with Amy, Wednesday, March 13.

Facebook chatting with Amy, Wednesday, March 13.

Amy Dickinson

As mentioned earlier, I’m also a fan of Amy Dickinson, the Amy of the syndicated advice column, “Ask Amy.” We also “met” through Twitter and I take part in the discussions she tosses out on her Facebook page. She’s promised to take part in my “Jam 51” birthday party, if she can. Maybe the folks in Freeville are unimpressed, but not me. I’m counting on the face-to-face meeting in the future. In the meantime, I’m working up some turmoil in my life so that I can call into her Thursday noontime webcast from the Chicago Tribune. And look! She’s hoping for the same. 🙂

Suzy Becker

I had lunch yesterday with my uber talented and brilliant friend, Suzy Becker. Suzy is an author and a cartoonist and a teacher and one of those people you’d hate if she weren’t so darned nice. We talk over chicken shawarma sandwiches about girl’s high school basketball, her next book, her latest class at the Worcester Art Museum, her innate aptitude for Twitter, Lynn’s and my trip to Brattleboro, the PBS documentary “Makers,” why no women have sports talk shows, and the fact that she’s been on the Diane Rehm Show three times (3 times?!). She gives me a lucky horse shoe as a belated birthday present. I’m going to hang it in my new studio. She leaves to get her kid to the dentist on time and I walk home, still thinking about talking to Diane Rehm and helping someone with a Ford Foundation grant and knowing someone who’s putting together a new radio show and… lunch with me?

So “Lean In” on This

As I think about my week and how it intersected in different ways with 4 unbelievably successful women, I notice how not a single one of them fits the mold of “success” that Sheryl Sandberg espouses in her book, “Lean In,” that coincidentally also had a big week. Sandberg has been all over the air waves, sharing her thoughts on why women have not achieved success equal to men, despite now years of “equality.” We need to lean in, be more aggressive, change our priorities. Maybe. If you want to be the CEO of a gazillion dollar enterprise. Me, I’m glad for the successful people that I know (or at least have had the chance to briefly meet) in my life. And incidentally, not a one of them fits Sandberg’s definition of success.

Tip #1 in Daniel Coyle’s, “The Little Book of Talent” is “Stare at Who You Want to Become.” These are some of the people that I stare at. Despite their respective success – and a few of them are darned successful! – I’m not star struck. (Well, maybe a little.) No, just grateful to see and know and have people in my life to stare at, so that I can model the things that they do that bring them success.

How about you? How was your week? Did you find inspiration from anyone? Do you look to certain people to be your models of success?

(As an aside, just as I was finishing this post, my friend and colleague, Lisa Palmer, showed me pictures of her trip to Italy – when Pope John Paul II blessed her in 1983. I think it may have been some divine message for me to stay humble. I am surrounded by people who are unimpressed with me.)