Sunday, August 29, 2010

better days

I went and saw a healer on Thursday. Dr. Keith Jordan. I really don't have words for what happened, but what I can say is this: I feel as though I experienced something Divine...something beyond human understanding. Words won't do it justice, so I can't really offer any. But I heard this song again, and wanted to share the lyrics and the link. Because, in light of the struggles I have with my health, I feel more in line with the Universe than I ever have before.


Better Days
-Eddie Vedder

I feel part of the universe open up to meet me
My emotion so submerged, broken down to kneel in
Once listening, the voices they came
Had to somehow greet myself, read myself
Heard vibrations within my cells, in my cells
Singing, "Ah-la-ah-ah, ah-la-ah-ah"

My love is safe for the universe
See me now, I'm bursting
On one planet, so many turns
Different worlds
Singing, "Ah-la-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-ah, ah"

Fill my heart with discipline
Put there for the teaching
In my head see clouds of stairs
Help me as I'm reaching
The future's paved with better days

Not running from something
I'm running towards the day
Wide awake

A whisper once quiet
Now rising to a scream
Right in me

I'm falling, free falling
Words calling me
Up off my knees

I'm soaring and, darling,
You'll be the one that I can need
Still be free

Our future's paved with better days

Saturday, August 21, 2010


So I've been in the thick of what I thought was a flu for the past four-six weeks. Feeling fatigue, no appetite, and when food does go in, it goes out even faster. A perfect crash diet? Not so much. I've already lost 15 lbs in the last 6 months and don't really want to lose any more.

So I did the responsible thing and went in to see my PCP last week, thinking that maybe I can't shake this "flu bug" and mentioned that in addition to the above symptoms, my urine looks as bubbly as poorly poured beer. Bubbles and foam have always been present in my pee...but when I showed my mom/nurse on Sunday (after my show at the Beachland) she and I both concurred: "that's not good."

Oh yes, my show at the Beachland...let's talk about that first! Despite the fact that I was functioning on nothing but gatorade and a few peanuts (nothing remained in my stomach since 7 a.m. that morning) the show averaged in at about a 7 for me. I was weak. And it was honestly the most challenging show I've done--even worst than the shows where I felt like an emotional, vulnerable wreck. It's been over a year since I've forgotten song lyrics, but that night I was toe-tapping through one of my new songs and went completely blank. I will say that I pulled it off--it felt like a crisis, but I kept on charging through and completed that song with vigor. But from that point on (it was the beginning of the show when it occurred) I felt like I was walking a very thin line between collapsing or losing all my integrity as a performer and walking off the stage. I really admire Catherine Feeny tho and knew I had to stick it out. And I got through, knowing as a performer I didn't deliver my best. But I did deliver what I could, and this is what I've come to peace with. Dearest Lauren came and snuggled me up after my set and I realized from the love that poured from her that she was just as concerned about me as I was. I wasn't well, and she knew it. I knew it. And all that knowing meant I knew it was time to check in with the doctor.

So I checked in with him and he checked off a checklist of labs to determine what's going on, and then he connected with my Nephrologist, who also added to that checklist.

And now the news.

Turns out I've lost more kidney function. In fact, in the last two months, I've lost more function than I did in the year. And suddenly things that were never flagged abnormal in my blood are flagged. Creatine continues to escalate, which I'm used to. But now BUN is abnormal. And now my GFR is 24.


I had a moment on Saturday after I got the news, where I was washing my face and started to cry. I looked in the mirror and said, "this is going to happen. You have a chronic disease, and it's going to keep getting worse." And I tried to stop myself from crying, pushing down the knot in the back of my throat as hard as I could. Because this is to be expected-I've got to just accept that this is going to happen. Right? Sort of. It is going to happen, but to deny myself the emotions that go along with this happening is just plain silly. I am an emotional woman and I'm damn proud of the fact that I can feel as deeply as I do. I'm not about to not feel my way through this. So I went back to washing my face with soap and tears and said out loud, "girl, let it out. Own these tears."

And damn did I own that cry. It felt damn good.

After it felt damn good, I thought about a letter I literally received the night before. A friend sent me a letter and articulated her desire and commitment to be my kidney donor. Now I've had plenty of people say they'll give me a kidney, but I've never had someone take the time to express their love and support so beautifully as she did in her letter. I felt an array of so many emotions when I read this letter. Something dawned on me.

There is going to be a moment, perhaps sooner than later, where I will head into surgery and look over and see the person who has made a a life-changing sacrifice to save my life.

(That sentence is followed by a deep breath.)

And then I realized and continue to realize that I'm about to learn one of the biggest lessons in gratitude that is humanly possible. I really don't have words yet to describe what this feels like.

But I do have tears. And I'm owning every one of them. I know, months in advance, that I'm only feeling an inkling of the gratitude I'm going to feel come transplant day and beyond.

I am scared. But more so, I am grateful. I am learning lessons that are opening my spirit in ways that I never imagined.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oh Positive.

In this past week, I have stepped out of my comfy box of familiar territories in both music and health.

First, Music.

While on my little road trip, I received an email from a bass player in Cleveland. He expressed that he's collaborating with a drummer and they were interested in working with a singer-songwriter. Thanks to the wonderful ways of the internet, they came across me on YOUTUBE and myspace and were interested in collaborating with me on my music. This is the first time I have ever had musicians contact me. Usually it's the other way around--me reaching out, hoping someone will dig what I do and want to play with me. But this is a year of tables turning, and I welcomed the offer with open arms.

On Tuesday night I had my first rehearsal ever with a bass player and drummer. My, oh my, what a difference! Initially, it was not an easy difference to navigate. In many ways it reminds me of the early moments of a relationship when you are gently, politely figuring each other out. You have to carefully pay attention because this is when you realize whether the chemistry is right. Or not right. The bass player was definitely feeling it out, asking questions and figuring out subtle, supportive bass lines. The drummer, on the other hand, was going at it like we were in ACDC. I had to laugh at times because I didn't know what else to do. Did I mention that when he introduced me to his dog, his dog peed on my shoe? Yes. This was how it all night began. Welcome to rock & roll, Maura! I have concluded, from many observations, that drummers are a very different breed of people. I'm not sure if there's something a touch different in their DNA, but they go at life with a speed and intensity that not all musicians do. It's a foundation of energy for sure. Little me with my guitar and voice was like, "what the hell is going on?" But this was in the first hour. In the hour following the first, we started actually finding some chemistry. We started clicking. And if felt GOOD. I admit, it was still challenging for me because I'm not familiar with having to sing over a drum set. I found that my lyrical phrasing was being challenged by the tempo set by the drums. All these things are normal and communication is key in working through these challenges (just like in LOVE, baby). I think what got me most excited was playing the new songs I've written in the last few months. I admit, I feel a little more love and excitement for them because they are new and the feelings associated with them are at the tip of my emotional tongue & soul. But the reaction both the bassist and drummer had to my new songs made me even more pumped about them. I have a new song called "This Woman" and the drummer got it on the first time through. The bassist said to the drummer as I was setting it up, "think Johnny Cash, dude. " And my heart MELTED. We played it, over and over, until my fingers ached. I was amazed at the buzz in the room. And I knew, whether or not I choose to work with these two gentlemen, I fell in love with the magic of musicianship that took place in that moment. I tell you, to feel their excitement, as musicians, about my songs--it was a bloody good boost to my creative journey.

Today I'm meeting with a gentleman who wants me to be the front woman to his blues band, meshing my songs with his songs. Blues? I've never really done blues. But he, like the gentlemen above, found me online and believes I have "the voice to sing the blues." He's a pretty accomplished musician in the area and has the most delightful German accent and European flair, so I said, "why not?" Right now, I find myself open to life and all the possibilities that come my way. I look at the confines I put on myself in the past few years and never want to feel that trapped again. I believe I have some things to do while I'm on this earth, and the only way to do it is by stepping outside my comfort zones and trying new and different things.

Goodbye fear. Hello adventure.

Second. My health. Last week I was hanging out with my brother-in-law and nieces. He asked me about the donor process because he wants to head my "find-a-match" campaign and wants to be well informed when he reaches out to friends and family about being a potential donor. (This is kinda difficult to write. I have tears in my eyes at the moment, actually.) I can't really explain how vulnerable this disease makes me feel at times, but this is one of those moments. I have a hard time "needing" people. It makes me feel like I'm weak. But I know this is just bullshit I've constructed in my head and believed for too many years. When he reached out and matter-of-factly put his love and concern on the table for me, I felt like I could have burst into tears. I've had a lot of people that I love say they would be by my side for this "adventure" and a lot of those people are no longer by my side. So to be in the presence of someone who is saying this and meaning this with his whole heart, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It's funny that one of my biggest challenges in life is being vulnerable enough to "need" someone, because, in essence, my survival directly depends on needing someone to give up one of their organs for me. So there I was, facing one of my biggest challenges and stepping out of my comfort zone.

I called the donor center.

I'm O Positive. Oh, am I positive.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


"Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

My, oh my. I'm back from my road trip and have so very much to say. And yet, as a writer of songs, poems, blogs, etc., I'm struggling to find the words to describe the experiences and value of this trip in my life. Funny. Dear little words, where are you when I need you?

I'll start by saying that I experienced a number of moments while on the road that not only solidified my dream of being a singer-songwriter, but also solidified the woman I have become. The idea of getting in a car and traveling alone may seem easy as cake to some folks. For me, it was a test of courage. I have often depended on someone being beside me to do things in my life, be it a road trip, climbing a mountain, or buying a car. Although I may have argued that I like to share experiences with others, I think there was something deeper I was masking--a fear that I couldn't enjoy things or "do" things by myself. I'm not making the argument that people are weak if they can't do things by themselves--I know now more than ever, reaching out to others is a sign of strength and vital in life. What I am saying, for me, is that I needed to find a sense of comfort and strength in being alone. And I did. I came out having uncovered a new and much healthier relationship with myself than I have ever had. And that is, by far, the greatest gift I gained from my trip. Woman empowered? Indeed, yes.

So, there were moments. Many, many moments that will resonate within me for my lifetime. Last night, while at an open mic, my friend Mal asked me what was the best experience I had while on the road. It's funny, because I really struggled with this question. Narrowing it down to one thing almost minimizes the impact of this trip on my life. But I'll blog today about my response to this question. And my next blog will be a dip into my journal from the road, revealing in less depth the many awesome little moments that made up my trip.

Sitting next to Mal, at a picnic table with friends at the Barking Spider, on a warm, humid Tuesday night in Cleveland, I shared what was the best experience from my trip.

My favorite experience was saving a little bird. And it was. But I haven't really got the words to explain why this was it for me. So I'll share my other favorite moment. It occurred on the last night of my trip.

I did the open mic at Eddie's Attic on the Monday before I left. It was an intense evening, because I went in with the expectation that I had to be a finalist again (having already been one the summer before, it would have been a major let-down if I wasn't.) It's good to set some expectations for yourself, but when I realized I was sharing the night with some VERY talented people, I got myself worked up into a bit of a tizzy. And this kind of had me losing perspective throughout the night. Because it's not about winning, it's about the love of the game. Right? Sure. But, I'm a Capricorn, and winning is a damn important thing for me. And I knew after one band played that I wouldn't win for the night (cause they had it DOWN), but I still needed to play one more song. I just felt that need tugging in my gut. And that need meant I needed to be one of the three finalists. At the end of the evening, after Eddie tugged at my heart-strings a bit by calling the first two finalists, I felt myself resign. Despite the compelling urge to play my third song, I convinced myself that I made the most of the night and that was that. Then Eddie said, "and now, our last finalist, from Cleve"

(At this point, I exhaled and said, "holy shit.")

"land, Ohio, Ms. Maura Rogers. Come on up honey. And see that coffee mug at the end of the bar? It's mine. And it's got whiskey in it. Why don't you take a shot of that whiskey, honey."

And I did. I took a shot of Eddie's whiskey, grabbed my guitar and got up on stage to perform a third song. I sang "Damn Angels" and it felt damn amazing.

I knew I did what I was meant to do that night.

And one would think this was the moment. But it wasn't. This is simply what led up to the best moment of my trip.

After completing the song and selling CD's and giving out my info. and talking with Eddie about coming back to book a show, I was high on life and walking out to leave when a woman at the bar gently grabbed my arm.

"Excuse me, Mam. I need to talk to you for a moment. I wasn't here for your first two songs. But I was here for the finalists. And I just needed to tell you that after the day I had, the song you just sang was exactly what I needed."

Me, not really being at ease with compliments, said genuinely, "thank you. I'm glad you liked the song" and attempted to leave. But she held on to my arm gently.

"No, honey. I don't know if you know what you do. So I'm telling you. Thank you for doing what you do."

And this. This moment. This exchange with a complete stranger. This brief, but vital connection made possible only through sharing my music, is and will remain, my most favorite moment from my trip. This is why I'm doing this. Sure, I write music to entertain people. But really, I write because I want to move people. And this stranger reminded me that I am doing so.