Unpronounceable Names

My maiden name is Hermsdorfer. If your eyes skipped over that one without bothering to try and pronounce it, you’re not alone. There literally gazillions of alternative (read: wrong) pronunciations of Hermsdorfer. And it’s actually a pretty easy pronunciation, as unpronounceable names go.

So when my friend and colleague Jeff Sychterz won an original song by yours truly in a raffle, I was delighted when he reported back that his family had decided they wanted a song about their last name.

My dream is that he requires all of his students to watch this video before they are allowed to take his class.



It began as a joke.

Folks who know me know I am addicted to dogs. I love them so much. They’re good dogs, Brent. My friends Lorien and Steve got a new dog this past summer, Chloe, who I just adore. She’s a giant floof. A goof. A cuddly fur-monster.

And I do mean giant. They block off the kitchen so she can’t eat things off the counter… but she has discovered she can leap over the counter and blockade and eat all the meat defrosting in the sink. Sucks for them, Lorien and Steve, but I get to come by periodically and pet Chloe and hug Chloe and tell Chloe she’s a good dog. I don’t have to clean up her messes or train her.

Chloe is part Great Pyrenees and early on Lorien and Steve learned that they have to “put her to bed” or else she’ll stay up all night protecting the house, i.e., barking at everything all night long. Like a good dog. They found a story talking about how one couple had even started singing a lullaby to their Pyr to help him settle down for the night and indicate to him “you don’t have to work now.”

Lorien joked, We should have a lullaby for Chloe.

Steve was not amused.

Lorien joked, Kati would totally write one for us.

Steve was still not amused, but Kati totally was! And moreover, I declared it would be a duet so that they’d both have a chance to sing to Chloe.

Somehow, Steve was still not amused.

But I did it anyway.

Yo estoy caminando

It’s always been about the journey. I suppose that’s all we have in life. Every new accomplishment, every destination, leads us looking to the next. And deeper than our winding path through life is a fundamental and oftentimes tumultuous journey of the soul — not even in a religious sense of the word. We are searching for who we are, searching for happiness, searching for meaning.

I wrote this song when I was living in Chicago, working with an amazing group of teenagers who continue to inspire me to this day. At the time, we started a community theater group for the teens. They named themselves Amigos del Barrio. They still live up to the name. I have never known a group of people more dedicated to being good to their community, and for their community, for no other reason than that’s what you ought to do. These kids — now adults, leaders — are everything I’ve ever wanted to be in life.

I recorded this song while recovering from a severe asthma attack that left my chest hurting for days. I needed to sing, needed to heal from stress with the power of music, and I have long since needed to record this song, so I did. I thought about going back and shooting for a clearer sound, better pitch, but… part of my life journey is to let go the siren song of perfectionism, and instead place my heart where their is meaning.

The photos attached are images I’ve taken over the past decade in my life’s winding path… Chicago, Hawai’i, Fiji, Sāmoa, and Tuvalu. These rare captured moments of the rawness of our world, the splendor and the smallness of our place in it. I hope you enjoy.


In New Book, Social Science Professor tells Teens: “I’m Rooting For You.”

I have two book signings scheduled in September, on the UMA Bangor and Augusta campuses. They are open to UMA students, faculty, staff, and to the community at large. I’ll read a few of my favorite selections and talk about the fear as well as the catharsis of reflecting back on these troubling times in my young life. The book talks will be co-sponsored by the UMA libraries, the Research and Pedagogy (RaP) series, and Women in Curriculum Creating Diversity (WICCD).


Tuesday, Sept 20th, 12:00-1:00

University of Maine at Augusta, Bangor Campus

Nottage Library in Belfast Hall


Thursday, Sept 22nd, 12:00-1:00

University of Maine at Augusta, Augusta Campus

Katz Library, main floor

The University of Maine at Augusta Social Science program has posted an announcement about my book and the book signings on our two main campuses. Come out and join us — there will be refreshments and good conversation. You can’t beat that.



GISHWHES is the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. One part Supernatural fan event, one part arty weirdness, and one part pitch for kindness, GISHWHES is an event I’ve joined into with some friends for three years now. I’ve made angel sculptures out of tampons, created favorite music playlists for people with dementia, and here below, wrote a theme song for this year’s event. The challenge was to create a 10-second song. I opted to go acapella, using each year’s chimera mascot to create the backdrop of music (elopus – elephant/octopus; fograt – fog falcon/rat; wooster – wolf/rooster; dinomite – dinosaur/mite; and slangaroo – seal/kangaroo). And of course, since Misha Collins the actor/organizer of the event has a thing for Queen Elizabeth II, she had to make an appearance. I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Good Beer by Tomboy Waits

Kati’s dreams are the best dreams — wild, epic, multi-sensory experiences with character development and full plots. And sometimes, I get music.

I dreamed this song one night. I was driving a convertible down the road in Arizona, and this Tom Waits song came on the radio. I listened to the whole thing, woke up, wrote it up, and sang it in my best Tom Waits voice.