Sunday, May 30, 2021

A Closet Podcaster Outed

It’s been a little over a year since starting a weekly podcast.It was just me, my laptop and a cheap microphone holed up in a back room of the house where no one would know what I was doing. I thought I’d take a little time and look back on the past year, because for me it has been pretty amazing.

About the time I was ready to retire, I started thinking of stuff I would now be able to do with my time. I wanted to do something fun and maybe even a little challenging. Afterall, I’d be no longer employed and I’d have ample time on my hands. I’d be able to do all the stuff that occupied my brain between triaging patients at work and listening to their concerns and issues.

Things like kayaking and fishing more, camping in the minivan,having a better garden and growing more tomatoes and less weeds. And probably the one thing I was looking forward to the most was getting a chance to sit and play my guitar and get better at it. Just being able to sit down uninterrupted and play music sounded so good. I was looking forward to it. But becoming a podcaster and having a weekly podcast was never ever in the plan. I didn’t even listen to podcasts. I had tried several times and about 30 minutes into a podcast, I would turn it off with brain fatigue. As an old wise friend of mine, Bill, once said, “The brain can only tolerate what the butt can absorb”. I have about a 15 minute attention limit when it comes to listening to people speak. After that my brain wanders to fishing, kayaking and camping. The poor priests and pastors who have wasted their sermons with me in the pews.

Well, I retired in the month of October, just as we were going into late Fall/ early Winter here in the North country. Kayaking, fishing and camping were put on the back burner. Gardening was just a dream 6 months away. That left me and my guitar together for a much needed chance to get reacquainted. 

Out of the grandkids desire to learn to play guitar, Monday Morning Music sessions were born. A few wanted to learn guitar and a few wanted to learn ukulele. I bought myself a ukulele and learned right along with the uke players. And the others learned guitar. There was no music theory, no reading notes, and no rules that forced anyone to come on Monday mornings. The only rules were, come with your instrument tuned and have fun. We printed up music with the chords for different songs and they learned to strum and sing along. Within a few weeks they were sounding pretty good. It’s been a fun time for all of us and many of the kids have started playing other instruments like the banjo, piano, accordion, violin, dulcimer, and mandolin. Several people have been generous and given the kids guitars and percussion things and even a dulcimer. It’s been fun to add new instruments to our Monday mornings. I tend to get a little emotional when I see all the grandkids together playing and singing. Playing music is a passion of mine that is getting passed down through the generations. I am so grateful for their love of playing  music.

Shortly after retiring, Covid hit and the pandemic was underway. Life outside the home pretty much was non-existent for the past year. I was at home and pretty much not going anywhere. Boredom was setting in and I was spending time on my laptop just looking up different stuff that was interesting. You know, recipes, best lures for catching walleye, how to build a chicken coop. While I was online, I came across how to start your own internet radio station. It kind of intrigued me and I started looking at how to do it. I soon realized that doing that was costly and while I don’t have a terrible voice, I am not DJ material. My older Minnesota local woman’s voice is probably not great listening material. And I don’t even like to speak to an audience. So the thought of a radio station was a pretty fleeting moment.

But one day as I was texting my niece, Katie, as I had gotten in the habit of doing since retiring, I mentioned my crazy thoughts of starting an internet radio station. But I went on to explain all the reasons to not do it. And then we started talking about podcasts. They were free and set up anyway you wanted to do it. She encouraged me to try it, just for the heck of it. Afterall, what did I have to lose…? The more we chatted about it, the more I thought about it and finally looked into it. I downloaded a podcast app to try. It was so much easier looking than radio stations. I sat there at the computer and hit record and pretty much stuttering came out of my mouth. What the heck was I supposed to record? I finally jotted down a few things and sat down and recorded old Minnesota local woman’s voice. I texted my niece, Katie, and told her what I had done and made her promise not to tell a soul. I had just taken the first step in becoming a podcaster. A closet podcaster with an audience of one...just me. I decided it would just be Monday Morning Music with the grandkids and maybe every so often a story here and there. But I told no one. Not even my Best Half.

A few months went by and I found myself telling more stories than music. It was hard to get all the kids together and all tuned up and then record their music. I have referred to that as about as easy as herding a roomful of cats. So stories happened more frequently. 

There is a statistical report with the podcast that will tell you how many people are listening, from what states and countries. After about two weeks it was getting quite interesting. Texting my niece one day I said, “Not trying to sound prideful, but the stats are really amazing to me.”. There were over 200 listeners from several states and also Canada and England. I never realized that people would actually find and listen to the podcast. I was amazed as I still remained a closet podcaster. It was one thing with strangers listening in, but way too scary to have family and friends listen in. Katie was the only one who knew of the podcast and the stats coming in. She was sworn to secrecy.

A few months went by and I did a podcast about my life-long friend titled “The Tootsie Sisters”. I decided I wanted to share it with just her as it was a story about our friendship and crazy things we did as kids. She was so excited to listen to it and before I could say keep it private, she shared it with her sisters and several friends. And they began listening to the podcast. I was a little freaked out that the podcast closet door was cracked open a bit. 

And then it happened. I received a text from one of my cousins, asking how long I had been doing a podcast? I froze for a few seconds. How did she find out and how much time did I have before she told the whole family and they all knew about it? I do believe being a closet drunk is way easier than being a closet podcaster in this family. It had turned out my other cousin had heard from my friend’s sister and she outed me to the family.

Well the decision had been made for me I guess. I had become an outed podcaster in a matter of a few minutes. I received texts from family members. All had started listening...aunts, cousins, siblings, nieces, nephews, and even some of my own kids. There was no turning back now. Before word got to him, I went over to the kitchen table and sat down across from my Best Half and told him what I had done. And as always, he is my biggest cheerleader and tells EVERYONE he meets up with about the podcast. Yeah, I have been thoroughly outed and now it is official, I am a podcaster.

Who knows where this will lead as time goes on. It has gotten bigger than I ever imagined would happen. The podcast is now out on many platforms and has been listened to in 26 countries and 45 states and close to 2000 listeners. For whatever reason, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Delaware and Rhode Island remain the only states that aren’t represented with listeners. It has been fun to watch the stats, but honestly I can say never did I think it would grow like it has been. Not in my wildest dreams...not from this closet podcaster. Thank you everyone who has listened and subscribed and is following, you’ve been supportive sharing the Solid Rock Minnesota podcast. Since you have outed me, it is growing each day. 

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