Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 In Review

onion cutting
I'll be honest.  When I first started thinking of my year in 2011, I thought of a good deal of hurt.  Under the surface, I'm not sure this was the easiest year I've ever had.  There were lots of different "me"s fighting with each other over what was and what should be and what was to come.  A lot of onion-peeling, if you will.  So, when I first started thinking about the year, this is where my mind went... to that hurt. But do you really want to remember a year that way?

So I dug deeper.  And when I did, I found that there was so much more in my year than I initially remembered, and it's made 2011 a year to be proud of living.

I got a dog who has become a much-loved and completely-spoiled part of our family.
I read a bunch of good books.
I learned to linedance.
I took a lot of trips with my best friend and never once saw the sunset. (Here's to 2012!!!)
I saw more concerts (and more varied!) than I've ever seen in one year.
I celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary.
I started writing again.
I watched a LOT of college football.
I discovered a new guilty pleasure in Once Upon A Time (marathon January 1st at 4pm on ABC!!)

I saw my family often, enjoying quality time with my folks, and my two sisters.
I rediscovered old music that I still love but hadn't listened to for a long time.
I made a lot of good memories with my kids.
I lost my grandpa.

I dealt with hurt and disappointment, both new and old.
I was convicted of things I was allowing myself to do
I listened to the people who loved me enough to say No
I found my self-respect
I grew in strength and wisdom

That's more than just hurt...  that's a year full of goodness.

May I be able to say the same of 2012...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Let it go...

Last week, I took a trip to Wenatchee to pick some things up from my step-grandmother, Pat.  My girls sat in the house watching iCarly and not breaking anything, while I went out to the garage/office/thing to gather the things I'd come to pick up. 

Maybe she's just old and lonely, I don't know.  But as we rifled through things, she was talking about things that happened in the past.  Years and years ago, there had been some sort of legal/money trouble related to some dealings they'd had with my mom's cousin...  20 years ago, maybe?

As I offered the listening ear and the "smile and nod," I just thought about how sad that all was.  It was clearly something that she, and perhaps my grandfather when he was still alive, was still upset over, still went over and over in their heads, drumming up new anguish and indignation over.  I don't know enough about the situation to know who's right and who's wrong, but in the end... I'm not sure it really mattered 20 years later.

In fact... I'm sure it didn't, and it just seemed so unfortunate that it was still something that needed venting so long after it happened.

But don't a lot of us do the same thing? Someone wrongs us, someone's mean to us, someone does something that is so heinous that we don't think we can forgive it... and we don't ever let it go.  Every time the pain or the anger of it starts to fade, we do something, think something, say something that stirs it all back up again.  That kind of thing can eat away at your soul... eat away who you are, erode the good parts of you until you're just left with a shell of bitterness where a person with a good heart used to reside.

Sometimes we just have to let things go.  Otherwise, they will strangle and drown us.

Friday, December 23, 2011


I don't remember what the action was, but I remember what was said afterward.  Casey had done something which required stepping outside of her comfort zone.

I took her aside and told her, "I want you to know that I'm really proud of you for what you did.  It was very brave, and that's a big deal."

conquering the dragon
"Mom, I wasn't brave at all," she protested. "I was really scared to do it."

"Baby, being brave isn't about not being afraid. Being brave is about being afraid but doing what you're afraid of, anyway.  The fact that you were scared doesn't make you not-brave.  But the fact that you did it EVEN THOUGH you were afraid?  That makes you brave."

It takes strength of mind and heart and a core of faith to step over what we are afraid of to get to the other side.  It's a lot easier to play over on this side of the fear... fear of the unknown, fear of reaction, fear of the dragon waiting for us.  It's safer.  We know what's over here and it requires nothing from us.

But facing the fear and doing what we fear anyway, despite what COULD happen, that takes bravery and strength.  Even if we cower on the inside while we're doing it, taking the action makes us brave.  It makes us conquerors.

Is it possible that doing the things we fear can come back to bite us?  Yes.  Can they make us hurt?  Yes.  But it's also possible to climb over the fear, to do what we thought would be impossible, and to look back and say "You had no power over me."

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Thoughts on CT: Christmas

I once read an article, geared toward musicians, that said superfans could be an incredible asset-- they will fervently support you, promote you, fight for you, show up at any event you ask them to attend, buy every overpriced piece of merchandise you provide for sale-- but that they are also the fans that expect the most from you.  I can see how that's true.

I had the opportunity this past weekend to see Celtic Thunder's Christmas show in Texas. I'd never been to one of their Christmas shows before-- partly because they usually aren't scheduled for the West Coast due to difficult logistics, but also because I really haven't cared to. Out of all the products Celtic Thunder has released, the Christmas DVD is my least favorite by far. This is perhaps slightly unfair as I think my dislike centers around my reactions to just two songs.

Celtic Thunder on QVC
The first time I heard anything from the Christmas album was when the guys were on QVC hawking the CD's release (I know... "living the dream, Danny!"). They sang "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Musically, it was fine. But... I love these guys. I may joke around about them and tease about them being an Irish boyband. But, in truth, I like them a lot, I respect their talent, and I want to see them shine. So when the delivery of said song was just about the cheesiest thing I'd ever seen, I was ticked. Really really angry. Even now, I'm not entirely sure why. The strength of my own reaction surprised me and caught me off-guard. But, the feeling never really faded.

The second song that contributed to my "Christmas" bias was "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Again, musically, there isn't anything wrong with it.  Sung by Ryan and Charley Bird (who I like quite a lot), the duet is flirty and sometimes-smouldering-- basically what we've come to expect out of Ryan. But, when it is staged, it's sung by Ryan and mimed by whatever girl from the band is playing his love interest. I've been an involved fan for a long time, and I'm well aware of the sometimes-quiet, sometimes-not suspicions of lip-syncing that have followed Celtic Thunder since their debut. And, to be honest, I wasn't too happy that we now had a song that fanned the flame of those suspicions. To top it off, Ryan was my favorite-- so for the song that made me so irritated to be one of his solos just made me grumpy.

So there you have the basis for my "Christmas show" prejudice. Unreasonable to let a mere two songs turn me off from an entire production? Well, that's probably true.  If you said that Celtic Thunder was performing a  Christmas show in your area and asked if I thought you should go, I would have exuberantly (and honestly) told you, "YES!!"  And the show I saw would have been the one you enjoyed (more or less... they've changed the setlist this year more often than I change underwear).

The show was split into two acts-- the Christmas section pre-intermission and then a funky mix of songs from their Heritage and soon-to-be-released Voyage CDs.

So the Christmas section--
Christmas 1915-- I have always loved this song. I was listening to their "original version" the other day and was reminded of what a beautiful vocal arrangement it was. This was the first time I'd heard it done since Paul and Damian were replaced with Emmet and Neil. It was just as beautiful and haunting.  Gorgeous.

Keith Harkin Christmas DVD
Last Christmas and All I Want for Christmas is You-- Both Keith solos, and I really liked both of them. I feel like Keith somehow seemed to take on more of an engaged role this year.  He seems more connected, more on fire, more invested.  He's really grown a lot and shines with a new energy that is so encouraging. He's become VERY fun to watch perform.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day-- I have probably said this before, but George is just the bomb. I love to watch him on fun, energetic songs like this.  He is so engaging on stage, and it makes me grin from ear to ear. He makes me happy!

Let It Snow-- This used to be Ryan's song, now performed by Emmet.  Oh, I'll be honest, I really would have rather had Ryan sing this than "Baby, It's Cold Outside."  I like his understated-sexy style on it.  But, I also really like Emmet and am very happy with his addition to the cast.  His version was different from what I was accustomed to, but he did a really great job with it.  He's adorableness personified.

Most Wonderful Time-- Ok, I will say that it was less cheesy than when I saw it on QVC before, I'll give them that.  But still cheesy, and I don't like it when my classy boys are cheesy.

Baby, It's Cold Outside-- Still makes me grumpy. I'm sorry, Ryan, I tried. I know you're singing-- it just makes me grumpy and annoyed. Even those flirty smiles can't overcome it.

When You Wish Upon a Star-- I love Neil.  I think he is so sweet-- but this song always seems to go on FOREVER. We launch into another verse and I always thinks, "How many verses can this song possibly HAVE???"

Heritage/Voyage Section
Dulaman-- I love this song more every time I hear it. It's edge-of-my-seat "This is the Celtic Thunder that first stole my heart" awesomeness. Quick rhythms and enunciations, tight harmonies, Heartland-style determinedly intense and serious facial expressions (I adore you, George.  It tickles me the way you can't let yourself look at anyone during the song lest you crack a smile.) I honestly can't wait to have a recording of this one.

7... 5 Drunken Nights-- This gets longer and funnier as the tour goes on. Very funny and well-executed, the interplay gets more involved every time I see it, and it's definitely a highlight of the night.  Love it.

Friends in Low Places Ryan Kelly
Friends in Low Places (lol in which I try to make up for hating Baby It's Cold Outside)-- I liked this the first time I saw it.  But it grows on me more and more each time. Ryan's really fun and fantastic with it.  Actually, I think I like it because he's just a bit less the "grr, I'm so sexy I'm going to bite your face off" guy and just more an awesome entertainer.  For this show, I was sitting near the rock he starts out leaning against... The view was good.  I have not historically been the biggest fan of the whole black T-shirt ensemble, I tend to like Ryan better when he's all classed-up.  But... whatever you're doing at the gym, Mr Kelly, you just keep right on doing that.  *thumbs up*

Noreen- This song is one I've come to really like. I didn't necessarily expect it to become one of my favorites, but I think it has. It's very sweet and poignant, and plays to Neil's strengths really well.

Honestly?  Nothing. All the songs sung in this half were ones I liked.  The only complaint I could make was that there were a few songs I was expecting to hear, based on past reports, that had been cut that night.  My Irish Molly and Ride On, in particular.  But, I'll live.

Despite my Christmas grumpiness, it was a great show and I was happy I made the trip.  :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I want to count.

"I just want to do something that counts."

It was a sentiment I heard often when I was a teenager in high school, when the most important thing we ever did was study for today's history test.  Then, it was something I heard when I was in my 20s, and we were all caught up in the quest to fall in love and change the world.  Then, it was something I heard when I was in my 30s and we were all just a bit lost in mothering and wife-ing, and we forgot who we were.  And it won't surprise me much if it's a sentiment I hear from around me as I enter into my 40s...  those many, many, many, many years down the road. *cough*

We want to matter.  We desire to count.  We don't want to get to the end of our lives, or even the end of each phase of our life, just to find out that we just spent the last 10, 20, 50 years not-mattering.

But, I think that somewhere along the way, we get a funny idea of what that means.  We start to buy into the idea that only the big things matter, that the only way to matter is to be the best at whatever you're good at.  The most successful writer, the best actor, the most successful singing career.  The Teacher of the Year, the cover of Forbes magazine, the one that everyone around says "I want to be like her."

We miss something when we go there.

It's an oft-told story of the man throwing back the starfish.  There he is, on a beach full of hundreds and hundreds of starfish, and he walks along the beach throwing them back into the ocean, one by one. Another man comes along and says, "Why are you throwing the starfish back into the ocean?  The tide is coming in and there's no way you'll be able to save them all.  You can't possibly make that much of a difference."  The first man bends down and picks up another starfish.  He looks at it thoughtfully and then throws it into the ocean.  "It made a difference to that one."

Our culture tells us that being the biggest and best is the way to achieve success, the way to matter, the way to count.

My heart tells me that starting small, and touching who I can with what I have matters more... whether that's the harrowed mom at Target, or the little old lady who needs help putting her groceries in her car, or the young husband looking befuddled at the 12 different kinds of flour and which one he's supposed to bring to his wife.

Every one of those counts.  When you live a life where you look to count in the small ways, I think you'll end up counting more than you ever could have if you had only gone for the big ones.

So when your heart cries out that it just wants to do something that counts, look around you and find a starfish.

Photo Credit: Cielo de la Paz

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Barn For Lease


In the practically-middle-of-nowhere, halfway between Duvall and Carnation, WA (6500 and 1700 population, respectively), there is a Chevron station.  Sharing the parking lot of said Chevron station, there sits a large red barn with this sign atop its roof.

Not THE barn.
I want it.

The barn.

I want the barn.

I don't know why.

I have no need for a barn.

My largest livestock is a beagle who prefers sleeping under the covers of my bed.

I think, "That would be a cute place for an antique store... or a restaurant... or a hick dance club."

I'm sure it's a completely viable location for a thriving business, sitting there in the middle of nowhere. *cough*

But I want it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A tug-o-war of thoughts

Something I've been thinking on with absolutely no conclusions...   Today is not a 'complete thought' sort of day, but you can come along while I think.

Sometimes I feel pulled between two seemingly-conflicting mindsets:

1.  "It's not the people that stand by your side when you're at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you're at your worse that are your true friends."

2.  "Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they'll make room for you. You shouldn't have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth... The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special, too."

I believe both of these.  I believe in the kind of love where you stand by your friends and loved ones, even when they're stupid and kinda don't deserve it.  I want to be that kind of friend, and I have friends who are that person to me.  When you have that kind of people in your life, you want to be that kind of people, too.  Though I often fall short of who I want to be and the kind of friend I want to be, I keep trying.

But... I find the flipside, too, to be something to be believed in.  There comes a point in your relationships where you have to take an honest look and accept that the people you love don't also love you.  When you get there, you have to take the hard step and leave it behind.  It hurts to do that.  For so long, you live in a place of "things could be different if only..."  But, you can't live in if-only's, and there is always a place where you have to have more respect for yourself than you've been giving. You have to be able to get to a place where you can assert, "I'm worth more than this" and act on it.

The tug-o-war between these two ties me in knots sometimes.  I suppose the biggest question mark is just knowing when "standing by in love" becomes "being a doormat."  I want the former. I don't want the latter.  But sometimes my desires to be a good friend and my beliefs in respecting yourself just leave me feeling conflicted and confused.

Photo Credit: Bev Sykes

Friday, December 9, 2011

2-Minute Freewrite: Used

It's a hard thing to feel used.  That moment when you take honest stock of the situation and realize you've been stupid and gullible?  Not a happy one.  Mostly, I think you just feel embarrassed at first.  In retrospect, it seems so clear...

For awhile, the natural response, after the embarrassment fades, is one of anger.  How could they do that to you?  How dare they treat you that way, have so little respect for you and your thoughts and your feelings, so little care for what you were?  You stay there for awhile...  There is a bit of satisfaction and vindication in the anger and the revenge and the retaliation, even if those things never get past the imagination stage.

But, there comes a point where you have to stop allowing yourself to play the part of the victim... because it's not quite honest.  Eventually, the goal will become healing and growth and wisdom learned and moving on.  When that's your goal, the anger cannot be where you stay, and you have to get up and look in the mirror.  You have to take a good hard look at, not just the situation, but yourself.  And you have to admit that you had a choice.  Were things done to you?  Yes... and they weren't right.  But, somewhere along the way, you had a choice and you chose to devalue yourself enough that using you was a possibility.

You have to own that choice.

Photo Credit: Petr Mika

Monday, November 28, 2011

7 Quotes I Like Today

1.  "When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly." --Edward Teller

2. "Heroes know that things must happen when it is time for them to happen. A quest may not simply be abandoned; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever; a happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story." --Peter S Beagle

3. "Responsibility is the price of greatness." --Winston Churchill

4. "This thing that we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down." --Mary Pickford

5. "Do not forget that you are who you decided to be. Stay in control of your life." --Stephanie Cook

6. "The higher you build the walls around your heart, the harder you fall when someone tears them down."

7. "If you judge me by my past, don't be surprised when you become part of it."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Celtic Thunder Meets Football

I'm a Celtic Thunder fan.  We know this, right?  Celtic Thunder concerts can require a little creative balancing.  On the one hand, the people at concerts come from a lot of different background and come with varying expectations.  Those from what we often call "the PBS crowd" expect a more sedate audience-feel, as if you're at the opera or some similar theatrical experience.... where you sit politely in your seat through each song, and golf-clap at the end of each.  On the other end of the spectrum is where you're going to find a lot of mega-fans who have bought into the idea that it is the audience's responsibility to produce a good show (don't even get me going).  And then you'll get lots of audience at various points along the spectrum.

Most of us try to find some sort of balance between the two, somewhere between respecting those around us and having a really good time.

One area that I do not compromise is Ireland's Call.  It's an anthem that's sort of become Celtic Thunder's signature razzle dazzle "lets twirl our skirts... sorry, kilts" song.  I stand for Ireland's Call.  Not only do I stand for Ireland's Call, but I stand for Ireland's Call as soon as the music is clear enough for me to go "OH!  It's Ireland's Call!"  I do not care if the person behind me gets pissed off, and I will not budge.  Ireland's Call deserves standing. If you can't see, you're just going to have to stand up, too. I don't apologize... it's IRELAND'S CALL.

I've been yelled at for it, cussed at... I've heard of fans who have been more physically persuaded to sit down.  You learn to be hard-nosed.  Did I mention it's Ireland's Call, for pete's sake??

So, that brings us to football.

Tonight was a big game in Eugene...  my beloved Oregon Ducks played USC, and it was a big game.  USC is always a big game, and tonight's had some pretty good stakes to play for.  About 5 or so minutes into the game, our defense forced a 3-and-out and we settled into our offense being back on the field.

"Alright," said the slighty-older people behind us.  "You can sit down now."

My cousin and his friend, who are somewhere around 19 and more easily kicked around, dutifully sat down, even though they didn't want to.  My husband, who is not one to rock the boat, did, too.  Umm... I didn't want to.  BECAUSE OUR OFFENSE WAS ON THE FIELD!!!  So I didn't.

"Miss," came the voice that accompanied the tap on my shoulder.  "You have to sit down now."

"Umm, no... actually I don't.  You ARE aware this is Autzen, right??"  Autzen Stadium.  Home of the Oregon Ducks.  By claim and sometimes measurable proof, the loudest stadium in college football.  WE ARE PROUD OF THIS.  We consider ourselves personally responsible for 85% of the false starts committed in our stadium.  We cheer loud.  We jump up and down.  We yell "O!!!!!!!!!" for about 4 straight hours.  And if we wanted to sit down with a glass of wine and watch sedately, we'd freakin' do it from home!

"But I can't see when you're standing up," said the guy behind me... who was totally my age and should know better.

"Come on," I said.  "We're at Autzen!  There is no way I'm going to sit down this whole game."  and mentally added "Buddy, I'm a Celtic Thunder fan... no way you're going to be successful at kicking me around on this one. I've faced a lot worse than you."  Mentally, mind you.  Not sure the statement of my fandom of an Irish manband would have really garnered me a lot of points in the Tough department.

I turned back around and my husband asked, "You sure you want to take this on?"  I raised an eyebrow at him, and I'm pretty sure the thought "Do not tangle with the wife when she's PMSing and her dander is up" went through his mind.

Ok, so the rest of the game, I did make an effort to not stand up more than was necessary.  I certainly sat down a lot more than I wanted to!!

But, I stood up a lot, too.

Who knew the two groups of fans had so much in common?  :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

After The Storm - Chapter 4

Chapter 3

I stepped inside the cafe, letting my eyes adjust to the change in light from the day's sunshine. It was much like you'd expect any eatery in a town that time forgot to look like.  There was the long counter across from the kitchen, spinny stools at the ready.  Booths lined the walls, covered in shiny pink vinyl, though perhaps less shiny now. Countrified knickknacks and plaques lined the windowsills and walls, like a flea market had heaved its guts all over the place before picking up and leaving town.

"Can I help you, darling?" The voice came from a plump woman standing behind the counter.

I walked to the front counter and took a seat on one of the stools.  I always loved twirling around on these as a child. "Hi...  could I just get some coffee, please?  I'm waiting for the guy next door to order some parts for my car."

"Oh!! You must be Kyle's damsel in distress!!  I'm Julia..."  The woman's red hair bounced as she turned to grab the coffeepot off the backcounter.

I laughed, "Well, I don't know about damsel in distress.  You make me sound like a fairytale character, but I suppose it's close enough.  I'm hoping he can get me fixed up quickly, so I can get back home."  I felt like I'd seen this woman somewhere before, or maybe she just reminded me of someone, but I couldn't think of where or who.

"I'm so sorry that car troubles interfered with your day.  Where were you headed, anyway?  Not many people find their way out here," Julia asked.

I sighed.  "I just needed to get away from home for a bit, ma'am."

"Momma, leave the girl be. She doesn't want to tell you her life story." A tall young man got up from his place at one of the back tables and came forward, his book tucked under his arm.  His blue eyes sparkled as he extended his hand with a smile.  "I'm Lucas," he introduced.  Did all the men in Terrance come with such large hands?

"I'm Melissa... it's nice to meet you, Lucas.  And you, Julia," I added, taking a sip of coffee.  "It's okay, I don't mind.  What are you reading there?" I gestured to the book.

Lucas sat down on the stool next to me and set the book on the counter.  "Life of Pi, by Yann Martel? It's about a boy whose ship capsizes and he's left--"

I nodded at him, "I've read it, it's good.  How are you liking it?"

"Nervewracking!" We sat and talked about his book for a bit, as I ordered a bowl of soup.  I realized I hadn't eaten since I'd left the house that morning and I was starving.  We were animatedly discussing rabid tigers when the bell over the door rang and Kyle ducked under the doorframe.  The place seemed to dwarf a little, once he was inside it.

"Lucas," he nodded.  "You work fast."

My new companion grinned at Kyle, "Can't have you taking ALL the new blood, now, can we?"

Kyle made a face and I couldn't help but laugh.  I imagined that he had made the same face when they were 5 years old and stealing each other's Tonka trucks from the park.  "Ok, Kyle...  how about you tell me how we're doing with my car?"

He sat down on my other side, and turned the coffee cup over with a mindless gesture to Julia. "Well, most of the parts are being driven up right now and I can have them installed fairly quickly.  But that flux capacitor is proving a little more difficult, and it's going to be, probably, three days..." he said, apologetically.

"Three days?!" I exclaimed.

Lucas choked on the coffee he had just drank. "A flu--?" Kyle cut him off with a shake of his head. "Of all the...." his muttering took him along the counter to find some pie.

"I'm really sorry, Melissa...  but it looks like you might be stuck here for a couple of days."

My mind started turning.  This clear-my-head drive was turning out to be more headache than it was worth.  I had three books, a swimsuit, an extra pair of jeans, and a car that wouldn't move.  I was stuck in a town that I didn't even know EXISTED with two goodlooking men-- Well, okay, that part wasn't so bad.  I guess there were worse things?  I resigned myself to my fate.  "I guess I'm going to need someplace to stay."

"I can help you with that, dear," came a refined voice from Lucas's table in the back of the cafe. I expected it come along with a delicate teacup, pinky out. I looked up to see a teeny little woman make her way up to our group at the counter.  She was diminutive in stature, barely coming up to Kyle's elbow, but carried herself in such a way that I had no doubt she could be quite a formidable force should it be needed.  Her silver hair was coiled prettily into a loose knot at the nape of her neck.

"Mama, are you sure that's a good idea? Since you were sick..." Kyle seemed perturbed. Mama?

"Nonsense, young man. Go get her things."  I smiled to see the big cowboy put in his place. The little woman ran things around here, you could just tell. "Emily Terrance, Miss Melissa.  I run the inn across the street and you'll be staying in my best room."

"Oh, that's not necessary, ma'am." I began. "I can stay in whatever's easiest--"

"Nonsense to you, too. Not a lot of tourists come through here, and I don't get to play at innkeeper often. "

I met Kyle's glance over his mother's head and he winked at me.  I didn't think his mother was used to not getting her way, and I didn't think I was going to be the one to change that.  "Alright, but I'm going to need to make a phone call first and let my family know I've not been kidnapped by aliens."

Emily hurried across the street to ready the room I was apparently going to be renting while Kyle walked with me back to his car shop to use his telephone.  I dialed my mom.

"Mom?  It's 'Lissa.  Look, I went for a drive this morning while you were at Megan's, and I ran into some car trouble...  No, no, everything's okay.  It just needs to be repaired before I can come home, but apparently it needs some part that's really hard to find and I'm going to stay in this inn here in town till it's ready. ...  I don't know, a few days is what the car guy told me. The vacation is probably good for me, anyway....  No, it's okay.  I just need you to keep an eye on Daniel for a few days....  Thanks, Mom.  I'll call you soon... Bye."

I hung up the phone and we walked across the highway to the grand Inn.  "Daniel?" Kyle asked. "Is that like a pet goldfish or something?"

"No," I said quietly.  "Not like that at all."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

After The Storm - Chapter 3

Chapter 2

I grabbed my duffel bag from the back of my car while Kyle the Handsome Cowboy set his truck up for towing.  I really hoped it wasn't going to cost too much money.  Or time.  Surely I had things to do... like... okay, maybe I didn't have anything to do but cry and eat my mom's chocolate chip cookies.

I watched from the side of the road as Kyle worked on attaching the chains, and then we jumped into the cab of his truck.  I didn't really know where we were going... I wasn't even positive where I was.  I'd taken so many twisty turns in my driving, I was fairly lost.  I leaned my seat back a little and just watched the scenery go by in silence.

After a few minutes, I sighed to myself, "It's so beautiful here..."

Kyle looked up from the road briefly, "Hmm?"

I spoke a little louder. "I said that it's beautiful here...  Where ARE we, anyway?  I was just driving to drive, and...  well, truth is that I guess I'm lost."

"Well, miss...  you are on your way to the booming metropolis of Terrance."

I smiled over at him. "Please, call me Melissa.  Terrance.." I turned the word over in my head.  "Sorry, I don't think I've ever heard of it."

He laughed a little.  "Don't worry... no one ever has.  Blink and you'll miss us." He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel to an imaginary beat in his head.  "In my experience, Melissa, no one goes for long drives, not paying attention to where they're going, unless they've got something on their mind they're running away from."

Cheeky and meddling.  "I'm really not sure that's any of your business," I responded icily.

Kyle grinned and held up one hand in defense.  "Fair enough...  sometimes it helps to talk."

I guess that wasn't totally fair of me, so I said quietly, "Sorry...  okay, yes.  Man trouble...  I broke up with the man I was dating." That hurt inside... that sounded so much less intimate than what it had really been.

"Ah.  What happened?"

I looked out the window at the trees floating by.  "I don't know."  My voice broke on the last word as I tried to keep the emotion out of it... ineffectually.

"Aw, come on now, Melissa," Kyle protested.  "You're not going to cry on me, are you?  I'm fresh out of Kleenex from the last time a girl fell apart in here."

He was making me mad again.  "Well, if you're going to ask!!"  I sniffled a little and turned to stare pointedly at whatever was not in his direction.

He reached behind him to the back of his truck cab and placed a small box of tissues on my lap.  "I thought you were out," I commented as I pulled one out to wipe my eyes.

I could hear the good humor in his voice.  "I might keep an extra box for the pretty girls."  A town rolled into our view.  "Welcome to Terrance, chica....  don't blink."

Terrance wasn't a huge town.  But, to be fair, you might have to blink at least twice to get through it.  It ran the length of the highway for a few blocks before the road picked back up into the great unknown ahead.  Along one side, I could see what must be Kyle's auto repair shop, with one gas pump sitting outside.  Next to it sat a pretty little restaurant with daffodils lining the walkway... "Julia's Place."  On the other side of the auto shop, there was a little teensy grocery store with Pepsi signs plastered all over the outside.  On the opposite side of the highway, an old house stood next a neighborhood park, restored to an antique perfection.  "Terrance Bed and Breakfast" was painted on the archway that stood over the house's walkway.

I searched the road for the one thing I needed.  "No Starbucks, then?"

Kyle laughed, "Ah, no.  No Starbucks... Funny, their corporate headquarters didn't seem to think we could support one.  Julia makes a mean pot of coffee, though..."

"That's a pretty home that your town bed and breakfast is in," I offered, honestly.  I didn't REALLY want to offend the guy... who knew how much he'd charge me?  "Do you get a lot of tourism here?"

"No, not really, just lost girls with broken cars" he answered.  "A whim of an old woman, really.  But the owners are good people."

We pulled into the bay of his auto shop, full of car parts I didn't understand.  He bade me to wait a moment, and he came around to help me down out of the truck.  Kyle ushered me into what must have been his office.  "It's a little messy in here," he offered with an apology as he moved magazines from the one waiting chair.  "Why don't you wait a few minutes, and I'll take a better look at your car."

I tossed my bag into a corner, and sat obediently where I was told, not that there was much of anywhere else TO sit, while he backed out of the office to do car stuff.  My eyes perused the magazines he'd dropped on the floor, looking for something to entertain myself.  Car and Driver. Hot Rod. Motor Trend.  Not a single girl magazine in the stack. Getting up, I took a little tour around the little room, studying the pictures on the wall.

There was a shot of Kyle with three friends about high school age, all young and smiley in football uniforms. One of him kneeling with one arm slung around a black lab, sweet.  A certificate from the state auto mechanic license board, awarded to Kyle... Terrance.  That was interesting. A photo of him looking close with a beautiful brunette... girlfriend?

His voice came ringing out from the shop and I jumped back to my chair, grabbing a magazine off the floor and tried to look occupied.  "Melissa, we're going to need--" he entered the office and grinned at me with the magazine in my lap. "Good magazine?" he asked.

"Oh sure," I replied with attempted authority. "I've always been interested in carburetors."

"Well sure, who hasn't?  I'm afraid your car's going to need a little bit of work before you can get back on the road.  Why don't you run on over to Julia's Place while I see about getting some replacement parts sent out here?  Tell her I sent you and she'll get you all fixed up."

"Is it going to be a lot?"

"Well... not oil-change cheap, but I'll do the best I can for you.  You need a timing belt, like I said...  and a new alternator.  Plus, that... you were definitely right about the flux capacitor.  I'm going to need to track one of those down, too. I'll come over when I get that straightened out."

"Okay..." I picked my purse up and wandered out of the shop to the daffodil-lined sidewalk of the cafe.  I pushed open the door and the bell over the door announced my arrival.  All heads turned... and by all, I mean "all four."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Evening Out with Paul Byrom

Tonight took me, along with my youngest daughter Alicia, into Seattle for a concert at The Triple Door. Paul Byrom, recently of Celtic Thunder, has just begun his first solo tour of America (erm, and Canada... barely) and his second stop was in Seattle.  Thanks to one of my best friends helping me out when tickets went on sale, we managed to score seats right along the stage for an excellent vantage point (also, a spectacular view of Paul's very shiny shoes... come on, it's Paul.  Would they NOT be shiny??).

Don't go to Paul's concert with the expectation that this will be just one guy from Celtic Thunder, doing Celtic Thunder II.  This isn't Celtic Thunder II.  This is Paul Byrom as himself, and I was really interested to see what Paul's performance schtick would be on his own terms.

Longtime Celtic Thunder fans may be familiar with what happens on TV promos when they let Paul have the microphone in interviews.  You're just not ever sure where it's going to go... and if the interviewer is going to be able to get it back.  I'm reminded of the time he told a Denver reporter upon introducing himself, "I'm Paul Byrom... and I'm an alcoholic.  Wait, wrong meeting..."  Or... well, really, any time the unsuspecting PBS interviewer lets Paul talk.

You're going to get a lot of that in Paul's concert, and I mean that in a good way!  Paul exudes a natural sense of humor and ease of storytelling that plays well in the concert setting. Paul said himself in a few instances, "Man, I talk a lot!"... and sure, he does.  But, it's enjoyable talk, and time not wasted.

For those unfamiliar, Paul is a talented young..ish tenor from Dublin, recently transplanted to New York City.  Alternately tender and powerful, Paul consistently delivers performances that are rich in beauty and emotion.

Paul began the show with Jekyll and Hyde's "This is the Moment," the title track from his latest album and a fitting start. Leaving the comfort of the familiar and diving into the next stage of his career is no small leap, and it seemed more than appropriate that this song should start out the night.  Powerful and emotional, Paul delivered a stunning performance.  Paul continued on through a little Broadway/West End with "Music of the Night" and "Bring Him Home," both moving and haunting.

The jacket came off, to a fair number of catcalls, as Paul slid into a run of songs from his "This is the Moment" album.  A very fun number started out the section in "Rio Serenade," allowing the audience to experience a healthy dose of Paul's ability to play and have fun with a song.  I particularly loved Paul's renditions of "From a Distance" and "Lullabye."  Equally touching were the stories that went along with them for what moved Paul to include them on his album.

Before closing out the first act, Paul sang a couple songs from his tenure in Celtic Thunder, "She" and "Remember Me (Recuerdame)."  I'll be honest.  I cried when he started to sing "She."  Okay fine, I cried through the whole thing. It wasn't just that the cast has been shaken up... it wasn't just that I've missed Paul in Celtic Thunder, though perhaps it is those things too.  I suppose it's mostly just that he touched on some thoughts that struck my heart, and I knew to be true...  and in my heart, I miss the things he spoke of.

Act II found Paul returning to the stage in Outfit #2... a stunning black suit, shiny shiny shoes, and an undone tie.  My notes might possibly say "DANG! Hot sexy man in black!!" I confess I missed most of the first song due to getting Alicia resituated after the intermission... I'm pretty sure it was in another language, and I have no idea what it was... but it was pretty!

After a particularly hysterical diatribe on current popular church music, Paul sang a beautiful "Ave Maria" before a very fun "They All Laughed" from his previously released "Velvet" album. "Carrickfergus" and the obligatory "Danny Boy" filled out the Irish section of the setlist before the Goodnights.

Paul returned to the stage for an encore of his "You Raise Me Up."  I will never forget the first time I heard him do this song with Celtic Thunder in... 2009?  He melted my heart with unbelievable tenderness before slamming me back into my seat with pure raw power, and tonight was no different. Breathtaking.

Alicia and I both had a fantastic time...  I really enjoyed seeing Paul again, and Alicia was tickled to get so much attention from him during the show.  (Thanks Paul!)  If you enjoy good music and slightly irreverent humor, I'd highly recommend that you take in a Paul Byrom show if you can.

A great night to wrap up my October of concerts and fun!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Trust is Like a Vase

Loss of trust sucks.

It is tremendously hard to take personal responsibility that you are the one to blame for someone else losing trust in you.  But, I'm coming to realize that it is sometimes just as hard and heartbreaking to be the one who has lost trust in someone else.

It's not just something you can fix with a simple solution.  You can't patch it with tape or glue. It's just there, undermining everything.  I'm reminded of the lyrics of a song I like:

"Well, a month or so has passed and now you're back again with me
But the cracks remain unmended in our once so-perfect team.
We seem to spend all our time just trying to make things right
But there cannot be a winner in this neverending fight."

It's like that.

You can try to fix everything else... but the loss of trust just sort of hangs out in there, picking at the tape, melting the glue. Just always there...  and that's true whether you're the one that broke the trust or the one who lost theirs.

It's just sad... that's all.  It's just sad to know there is no trust where there once was much.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My thoughts on the Celtic Thunder 2011 Voyage Tour...

What a fun weekend!  :)  I got to go with my best friend to the Celtic Thunder show in Canada on Saturday night... and because I'm one of "those" fans, I quickly drove back down to Seattle the next day to take my kids to see it again on Sunday night.  Better seats on Saturday... it's hard to complain about front row, dead center.  I had a really good time... REALLY good time. Maybe it was the show, maybe it was the company, maybe it was a few other things, but I had more fun at this CT show than I've had at one in a long time.

Thanks, boys.

Hard to review something that has so many songs and so many different components...

Group Songs:

They had some really great dynamic ensemble numbers this tour.

Dulaman was AWESOME.  I really liked it a ton...  I remember sitting there thinking with delight, as the solo jumped from guy to guy, and the harmonies reverberated through the arena... "The boys are back."  Good stuff.
Seven Drunken Nights,...erm, or five, was a crack-up.  More of this, please.
Galway Girl was great... it really was.  But my tour companion had whispered "Why are they all pretending to play instruments?" in my ear at the beginning of the song and I could not stop laughing every time the song launched into another instrumental section.
Danny Boy....  I don't know.  It was very different, I assume to accommodate the different vocal mixings.  I'm not sure how to say what I'm thinking.  I didn't NOT like it. I didn't really watch, mostly I sat with my eyes closed, listening to the harmonies... but there were enough parts that made my eye twitch just for a second, unresolved chords maybe?, that leave me just saying "I don't know."  Trying to be honest... which I've not always been when it comes to this.

George Donaldson Songs:

I have no complaints about George. George is awesome.  In fact, I come to concerts because of George.  Oh yes, you thought it was for someone else, didn't you?  Nope.  I pay a bazillion dollars to get the closest seats possible purely so I can flirt with George for two hours.  Cause it's fun. And rewarding. And I adore him. I enjoyed every song he sang...  Actually, every MOMENT he was on stage.  Cause he's awesome. Thank you for making me laugh all night, George.
Red Rose Cafe was fun and I love it when he's all goofy.... that's not meant in a bad way goofy.  He's just funny, and I enjoy him.
500 Miles is always lots of fun... when I saw it on the tourlist, I kinda momentarily thought "What, again? Really?" But... I always end up loving it when he does it.
And I really liked Cats in the Cradle.  I've always liked that song anyway, but I really enjoyed hearing his rendition of it.  Besides, it's fun to watch the guys play guitar...

Also, he remembered most of the words.

Ryan Kelly Songs:

Friends in Low Places?  Awesome.  I really liked it...  I wasn't sure if I was going to.  I really like country music, but Garth Brooks isn't my favorite, and this really isn't even one of my favorite Garth Brooks songs...  but I was curious how it would go.  I thought it was great!  It was fantastic to see Ryan out with his guitar for once (been dreaming of THAT one for awhile), he seemed to have a lot of fun with the song, and I enjoyed it a lot.  Made me smiley, so thumbs up.
Black is the Colour was also great...  I like that song, Ryan gets to be all snarly and throw his head around with great abandon, and it makes me laugh when my kids go "Mom... how does he DO that with the colors?"  He's magic, baby.
Ok, Desperado.  Really, this isn't anything to do with Ryan's performance itself... and I get the logistical reasons for Desperado, yadda.  But we've been doing this forever.  It's not personal, I'd feel the same way if Keith started singing "I Wanna Know What Love Is" for the 40 bazillionth time.  But I guess, for this reason, I just didn't care. Ryan sings it great, he performs it great. And I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been following CT for the past 3 years and had seen him do Desperado already a gazillion times and could do all the exact same facial expressions at the same time without even looking. But I checked out.  and I never thought I'd say that about a Ryan Kelly song.  Like... ever.  I think Ryan is really talented... maybe I just was thirsting for more than one new song.

Keith Harkin Songs:

By the way, I was expecting his pants to be WAY TIGHTER after all the hype...  not sure what all the fuss was over, he looked fine. Although the short vesty thing made me giggle a little...  Thank you, "Ice cream cone" lady.
All Day Long was great!  Fun and energetic, and Keith looked happy playing it. I like Keith so much more than I did in the beginning... lol  that sounds terrible. Keith sorta won me over when they filmed "Storm," and I've come to like him more and more ever since.
All Out of Love...  *deep sigh*  Ok, Keith, we need to talk.  I am open for bargaining here...  what is it you want?  I will provide it.  A million dollars?  An endless supply of pawnshop guitars?  A warehouse to house them all?  I'm your girl.  Just please.  Please please please stop singing 80s love ballads.  You're making me crazy.  Why does there have to be one in every freaking show?  My only consolation is it isn't Foreigner again. I have tried so hard to like them because you're Keith Harkin! And I think you're really good and sweet and I like you... but I come up empty every time. (Please note. I do not actually have the ability to provide you any of those things I offered.  unless you can fit all your guitars into the shed in my backyard. I'm just really desperate!!!)

Neil Byrne Songs:

I really like Neil... I think he seems like a really sweet guy, and I'm delighted for him to see him up front more.
I didn't really know what that Past the Point of Rescue song was... though I probably would have recognized it if I'd looked it up.  I don't know what I was expecting, in my head, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard.  About halfway in, I remember thinking "I really like this song..." possibly followed by "Neil is so cute."  Truth.
I liked She's Always a Woman, too and thought that Billy Joel was a really nice match for Neil's voice.

Emmet Cahill Songs:

OH MY GOSH.  We ARE keeping Emmet, right?  Because he's adorable and I loved him and I really think we should keep him.  Like, forever.
My Irish Molly was delightful.  I have to be honest, I was a little worried about Emmet a couple months ago.  Well, not worried exactly... I figured he'd loosen up. I'd seen YouTube videos of the PBS promos and QVC (admittedly, he was new and all), and he was just a little stiff.  But no more!  What a delight. This song was so fun! I want to see it a whole bunch more times!
And This is the Moment was wonderful, too!  I didn't breathe... I almost wanted to cry (but in a good way)...  Well done and beautiful and did I mention he's adorable?

The notes I wrote for Emmet's solos actually say:

We need to keep him.
We ARE keeping him, yes?
Did I mention we need to keep him?

Daniel Furlong Songs:

I thought You've Got a Friend in Me with Keith was really sweet... nicely played.
I don't know... what do you want me to say?  I'm a grownup, and I think he probably needs a couple years for his voice to mature a little before he blends well with the rest of the guys...  my daughter thinks he's really cute... "but not 'little kid' cute, Mom.  The OTHER kind of cute."  So she's got someone to crush on... Good enough for me.

I didn't miss anyone, did I?

All in all, great show... I loved it, had a fantastic time.  Thanks to all the guys making eyes at us in the front row. You make it worth stripping my grocery budget ever year to pay for those seats. See you all again soon!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Celtic Thunder Weekend

On the offchance you're just meeting me and/or have been living under a rock for the past four years, Celtic Thunder is a favorite group of mine. The cast has been shaken up a bit, but last night was the first show of this tour that I'll be attending.

I'll be back on Monday or Tuesday with a review of sorts-- I have lots that I think I want to say-- but, in the meantime, a few of my CT favorites (of the ones that are currently online, anyway)

1.  Heartland.  For the first several tours, this has been their signature opening number.  The first time I saw Celtic Thunder on TV, Joel and I were watching TV.  Well, Joel was watching TV in signature man-fashion, and I was sitting next to him while we sampled 7.4 seconds of every channel on our television.  It flipped across PBS, a channel we honestly usually skip through quickly, and beautiful harmonies wrapped in smokin' black trenchcoats flipped across my screen.  "Wait, wait, go back..."  I actually thought they were a group I'd seen the week before and had wanted to get another look at them... It wasn't that group, but I was happy enough with what was on the screen. (It's better with the trenchcoats.)

2. That's a Woman.  Heartland caught my attention, but it was That's a Woman that caught my heart.  I just loved the theatricality of it.  The swooniness of Paul's character, the forbidden lure of Ryan's.  The girl leading them both around by the nose, in the middle of it.  This clip is from the Take Me Home DVD.  I LOVED the song line-up for the Paul/Ryan storyline in this show... and they'd also gotten a lot better at ramping some things up, so it's a lot of fun to watch. 

3. Ride On.  One of Ryan's signature songs from the first DVD.  Lawl, this song used to make me laugh.  The crouchy things got better, and amazingly, more frequent.  But they were a kick to watch. I always enjoyed observing how Ryan could amp up the crowd. Sorry, I wish the sound on these videos was better... doesn't do the boys justice at all. But I'll get sent to Celtic Thunder jail if I upload my own!

4. The Dutchman.  I've not always been much of a Keith girl.  For my own reasons, he made me a little crazy in the beginning, though I really liked Mountains of Mourne.  But, after I saw the filming for the Storm DVD, back in 2009, I began to have a much stronger appreciation for his talent and abilities.  He impressed me.  Since then, I've become more and more of a Keith-ish girl.  I always love it when he plays his guitar and sounds all lilt-y.

5. Home. This is one of Damian's... and it's probably the one I find myself singing over and over along with him the most.  He does a great job of infusing it with sweetness and poignancy.

6.  Finally, Caledonia.  I MISS this song.  It was the final song of the original show, one of my very favorites... and I really miss it.  I know everyone loves Ireland's Call and it's become CT's signature song.  But I would gladly trade Ireland's Call if it meant we could have Caledonia back.  In a heartbeat.

Friday, October 28, 2011

English Passengers... and Perspective

I've just finished the book, English Passengers, which I know I've spoken of a few times already-- so please forgive me if I speak of it once more. Sometimes this is just what happens when I spend several days reading a book. I've been fairly busy lately, so the reading of this one took a lot longer than the books I'd read just previously. Also, this copy had really small print! I remember commenting to myself, upon opening the book initially, on how small said print was.  But, my eyes must have adjusted over the two weeks it was in my hands. I just opened my next book tonight, with less teensy print, and the font looked huge!!


The story was pretty interesting. It began with a Manx brandy-smuggling sea captain who had to take on charter passengers to avoid getting caught by the British customs agents-- passengers who were apparently intent on travelling to Tasmania to find the Garden of Eden (don't ask). At the same time, the story backtracks 30 years and, through the story of one half-caste boy, chronicles the history of the Tasmanian aborigines following the British occupation of the area.

The writing style of the book was different, rarely staying with one character for more than about eight pages. It took a little bit of getting used to, this constant change of first person narrative. But, eventually, I came to really enjoy it. Most especially, I liked the full picture that emerged when you melded all the perspectives together.

You would start with an understanding of a certain character.  Then, the narrator would switch and, as you saw that character through another's eyes, your understanding of the character would change. By combining them all, you got a fuller understanding of character, events, and story. But, it was clear that each narrator viewed the story from his own flawed and biased perspective.

Personal Thoughts

I have always (well, if not always, then "attempt at quite often") approached personal conflict with the belief that there are few relational conflicts which can be blamed solely on one party. We like to paint ourselves as victims when we feel put-upon. But, I find that, most of the time, responsibility falls, perhaps to varying degrees, on the shoulders of each member involved. I'm sure exceptions exist, as they usually do-- but in general, this is my belief. I suppose it keeps me honest- in both directions. I can neither excuse my own blame nor take it all on myself, as is often my instinct. It takes two to make a relationship, but it often takes two to break it as well.

Reading the varying perspectives of English Passengers refocused my thoughts on this idea. No one ever had an accurate picture of how things really were-- they only had their own flawed viewpoint, based on their experiences, their feelings and, most especially, their assumptions. I suppose it just made me newly aware to be careful in my own analysis of what truth is. I need to be cognizant of the idea that we are biased, and that those biases and assumptions color how we see things, and that often what I take for truth is little more than merely my own flawed perspective.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Unpacking: Slow Down!

To 18yo Me

14. Enjoy it. Stop and take in your surroundings once in a while. This isn't a race.

And we're finally to the last one of this series... Next time I take it into my head to expound on every single point in a post, please remind me to do it with one with less points!  :)

I spent the better part of my 20s waiting for the next phase.  I was a young mom with three daughters, with just 17 months between the whole lot.  Every phase was in stereo.  Add to that premature and developmental issues, and I was just... tired.  And so I waited for them to get out of colic.  And then I waited for them to get out of diapers. And I waited for them to get out of the terrible twos. And I waited for them to get out of the "we can't talk yet and this is really frustrating" phase.  I spent so much of that time waiting for things to get easier that I never stopped to enjoy the things that WERE.

I look back now and think of maybe how much I missed because I was just hanging on until things were easier.  Maybe that was a survival thing... coupled with depression, there were some time periods in there that were REALLY rough, and for some of those, hanging on was the best I could do.

But, there was so much motherhood had to offer, and sometimes I feel like I missed some of that, trying to be the perfect mom... when I probably could have been a much better mom, and a much happier mom, if I'd just strove for "a pretty good mom" and enjoyed the ride a little more.

So much of the American life is rushed.... "the rat race"... it's about getting to the end first.  With the most prizes and conquests.  We forget to stop and enjoy the life we're given in our rush to have the best life there is.

Surely we're missing something there...

Photo Credit: Vijay Sonar

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Changing When You Can't, Part 4 (of 4)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I need to back up to yesterday again.  Writing tip: If you bother to outline things you want to say, it would be an awesome idea to actually refer to said outline when sitting down to write.  I got off on the tangent of that whole analogy with the walls and owning that sometimes the walls we butt up against are walls that people have erected against us because of things we've done in the past, and I did want to touch on that idea of personal responsibility and not being all "oh poor me" all the time about those walls.

However, I also wanted to point out (and this is the part that I forgot) that when we're the "them" for someone else... when we've erected our walls, and we're hiding behind them with our archers and our knights...  could it be that we're the wall that someone else is butting up against as they try to change, too?  Are we the ones that are discouraging someone else, making their road to a better "them" that much harder?

I don't really know the answer to this. I'm not promoting not protecting yourself.  Relationships are hard.  People are flawed.  Some people are mean on purpose, some people by accident.  But, sometimes intent doesn't matter, and all mean hurts.  I can't blame anyone for wanting to shield themselves from that hurt. I certainly do it myself. But I've come to know how frustrating it is to be working so hard to change your heart, change your thoughts, change your actions... and to butt up against those walls of being judged, not on who I am right now, but who I was last year or last month or four years ago or what-have-you.  It makes me really think about the times I've been a wall to someone else, and how I can somehow better balance the two ends of the spectrum.

All of this said, jumping back over to the first side of the coin...  Where does that leave us when we're trying to make those changes?  When people look at what or who we've been and decide that we will always be "that," can we still make the changes we desire to make?

I have to believe the answer is a resounding "yes."  I have to.  Maybe, it's the optimist in me... maybe it's the hopeful in me.  But I can't believe that the obstacles in our roads are insurmountable.  Maybe we just butt up against that wall with a battering ram until we've run through the stone.  Maybe we trick the policeman and sneak our way through a backroad to get to where we want to be, and once there, we can say "See?  I told you I just needed to get right here!"

Or maybe we just have to step back a moment and examine why we're making the changes we are.  Who are they for, really?  Do we really need "them" to validate the changes our hearts tell us to make? Maybe it's just a matter of realizing what is important, understanding that sometimes we can't change what others do, and that maybe what people think of us isn't nearly as important as what we are.

If you're successful in the heart changes you want to make, maybe someday they'll see that...  and maybe they won't.  Either way, you'll know in your heart who you are, where you've come from, and what obstacles you had to climb to get there.

And maybe that's the most important thing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Changing When You Can't, Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

I'd like to jump over to the other side of the coin for a moment.  I feel like this is getting to sound just a little more victim-central than I want it to, that it's solely "them" that are holding me or you or whoever back from becoming something better.  Maybe, in some cases, that's true.  But, as I've reflected on this topic, I've also realized that sometimes I'm someone else's "them."

Where do you fall on the spectrum when it comes to faith and trust in others?  In general, I feel like I fall (and truthfully, this is where I'd LIKE to fall, so maybe that colors where I see myself) on the end where I am a trusting person.  You start out with a clean slate with me, I don't need you to prove yourself.  I will trust you. I will confide in you.  But, if you break that trust?  Well, now we're talking something different.

There's that saying which goes "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."  In practice, it's more like 3 or 4 times with me.  But once you pass that line, I find that I put up a heavy brick nothing's-getting-through-this-sucker wall between us.  It's protection.  It's self-protection.  It's not necessarily that I believe you can't change or be different.  It's just that I don't believe that you want the change honestly enough to risk you stabbing me through the heart one more time.

On the one hand, this seems wise, doesn't it?  Someone hurts you repeatedly, why on earth would you let it continue to happen?  I've thought a lot about forgiveness over the last month or so, and what it means.  I saw a quote I liked that said something to the effect of "Forgiving you doesn't mean that what you did to me was okay.  It means that I'm not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever."  I liked that.  If you realize someone is using you for a doormat, you can forgive them for using you as one without going back and lying down in front of their door.

But, I think for me that, often, my method of "not being used again" (or whatever the offense was) is to put up a giant wall around my heart that they cannot penetrate again.  Once the wall is up, I find that I'm very hard-nosed and stubborn about it... I won't let you over the wall. I won't let you through the wall, under the wall, nothing.

Why go on and on about this?

Simple.  Because sometimes, when I or you are trying to make changes in our lives, we need to realize the wall we're butting up against from others...  the officer that keeps turning us back...  They're there because someone has erected a wall against us... because we did something to them that hurt enough for them to need it.

You have to own that.  Personal responsibility is IMPORTANT, and you have to own your part in your road's obstacles.


Photo Credit: Ari Helminen

Part 4

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Changing When You Can't, Part 2

Part 1

I am a strong believer in the value of striving to become better.  Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that I don't like who I am now.  But, everybody has faults, and I don't believe it to be a bad thing to want to make those faults... lesser.

Sometimes, though, I find that it's very hard to change in the face of other people's expectations of me.  Those that know us, they do create expectations of our behavior.  I think it's important to to understand and own that, much of the time, they create expectations based on our previous behavior.  We acted a certain way last week, or last year, or last decade...  We made choices, good or bad, and those all combine to create people's expectation of us...  they're natural consequences, folks.  They aren't applied with cruelty, but they ARE consequences to the choices we've made in the past.

But, sometimes when we're making efforts to change those behaviors, the expectations become a wall that we butt up against time and time again.  Expectations can be a powerful tool to keep us STUCK.  It's a bit like marching down the road toward a goal, when just as you are about to reach it, a police officer steps into your path, blows his whistle, and tells you to stop and go back.

"What?" you say.  "But where I need to go is RIGHT THERE," pointing to a spot just beyond the officer.

"I'm sorry," he says, "but that won't be possible.  Last year, you were here and we had to have the whole SWAT team out to clean up your mess."

"But, you don't understand," you implore.  "I'm different now.  I've been changing.  You are absolutely right that last year was awful, but things are different now.  Can't you see that?"

But, he is immovable.  "Sorry. Go back."

So, you do...  Sometimes the frustration is too much, and you DO go back.  Why try if they're just going to foil you at every turn?  Sometimes, you backpedal and try a different path to get to where you want to be, but they just show up again.  Again and again and again, shutting down every attempt.  And you want to scream "Can't you let me do this? I know I made this pit, but I'm trying to climb out of it, so stop throwing dirt on me!"

Photo Credit: Kenneth Ristau

Part 3
Part 4

Monday, October 17, 2011

Changing When You Can't, Part 1

Last week, a song that I've always thought was pretty came on the radio.  Maybe it was just that it was one of those moments where you really listen to the lyrics hard, and they match right up with your introspections...

As I listened to the lyrics, these words stood out to me over and over:
"I've lived in this place and I know all the faces,
Each one is different but they're always the same.
They mean me no harm, but it's time that I face it,
They'll never allow me to change."
They got me thinking about growth and change, trying to become a better person, and how sometimes it isn't us that's so hard to change... but the expectations of us.

Everyone believes something of us.  Sometimes that's based on things we've said and done, sometimes that's based on things they've heard that we've said or done.  But, good or bad, people believe something about me, they believe something about you.

What if we wanted to change that?  What if we wanted to do something different, be something different?

Could we do it?


Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Retiring to Montana

On the way to Oregon yesterday, somehow the topic of retiring to Montana came up.  I don't know WHY Joel has this thing about retiring to Montana.  I'm not sure he's really even set on retiring there, I think he just likes bugging me about it.  :)  To be fair, after visiting Glacier this summer, I'm not as against Montana as a destination... I just don't like cold, so you can see my problem.

I finally admitted, "Ok... we can SUMMER in Montana. Would that make you happy?"

"Well... happy-ER.  What's wrong with Montana?"

"I don't like the cold."

"You don't like the cold HERE."

"But I have my fireplace, so I'm happy."

"We'll get you a fireplace in Montana."

"And I won't be able to leave my house!"

"I'm pretty sure they don't ground you in Montana."

"But it snows.  And I don't like to drive in the snow..."

"Why not?"

"Because I'll crash into things!"

"What?  You crash into things here!  I hardly see the difference."


Cheeky boy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

After the Storm - Chapter 2

Chapter 1

The days passed as I went about my life.  The storm, both of them, had left a good deal of damage and debris behind.  The yard needed picking up, the barn needed boards nailed back into place, the house needed patching.  The work was good and kept me busy during the day, and that was needed.  It kept me from thinking too much about the work that needed to be done inside my heart and hurt.

The evenings weren't too bad.  I spent a lot of time avoiding my mother, but a good bit of time over a bottle of wine (or two or four) with Megan.  A lot of talk, a lot of laughter.  A lot of jabbing at Zach's little flaws which, I guess, is supposed to make you feel better when someone leaves you.  But, it didn't much. I didn't hate him, I didn't even dislike him. It was never that he was so much the jerk, or that I was impossible to live with.  It was just us.  "Us" just couldn't find a way to work out.

But, I missed "us," if I was honest.  So the nights were hard. I missed someone to whisper with in the dark of night. I missed someone to poke fun at me when I dropped eggshells in the pancake batter yet again. I missed the feel of his skin before he'd shaved, and the smell of his neck after he had. I missed his breath on my cheek, his hand at my back, and the way he held me when we danced.

I missed my smile, and I missed him.  The work and the wine were little match for that.

But, tomorrow was a new day, and tomorrow, I was determined to find my smile.  If only for a moment.


The morning light trickled through the curtains onto my pillow, slowly pulling me from the dream filling my subconscious.  Something about elves, probably just as well that it was morning.  I stretched lazily under the blankets and opened my eyes to peer at the clock.

9:00.  Way past time to be up.  I picked my cell up off the bedside table and checked for my email.  There was a text from Megan. Mom's here for breakfast. Help.

I grinned at the karma there.  Sorry, going for a drive. Try some wine. Will call later.  Course now that I said I was going for a drive, I guess I'd have to actually do it.  I pulled myself out of bed and went to get ready.  I showered and threw my hair into a ponytail.  Jeans, comfy T-shirt, boots.  On a whim, I threw a change of clothes, a swimsuit, and my favorite book into a bag to throw in the back of the car.  You never knew when a river would beckon for some swimming.

I threw the bag in the back of the car, checked my phone one more time (not enough wine in the world) and turned to the open road.  I wasn't really sure where I was going.  I don't think it even mattered.  I just needed time to think, to be by myself without anyone trying to cheer me up. I needed to figure out what to do next, how to move on, how to heal.  I wasn't even sure I could find the answers... but avoiding them with a hammer and nails wasn't doing me any good.

So, I cranked up the radio and I drove.  Far from the city, far from town, far from everything I knew.  If I came across a road I'd never been on before, I channeled my dad and thought "Well, let's see where this goes."  Actually, those were fond memories from childhood.  "Let's see where this goes," Daddy would always say, and we would find out.  Sometimes they went nowhere. Sometimes they happened upon fields of daises, abandoned swatches of riverbank, ghost towns that had been long forgotten.  Sometimes we'd end up in towns I'd never heard of and sampled their diner food.  I thought I'd like to remember him today.

I went up this mountain, down that hill.  I drove through farmland and across rivers.  I didn't have a clue where I was, but it was beautiful.  My radio was cranked, and I found myself singing along to "Landslide."  Beautiful song, but oh it made me cry.

Then, it happened.

BANG!  And then... smoke.  Crap.  That couldn't be good.

I pulled over to the side of the road, and ran out to pop the hood.  Smoke billowed everywhere.  It wasn't on fire at least, I was pretty sure that was a good sign?  My phone had one bar on it... maybe I could get signal.  As it turned out, it was just enough to call AAA and have them send a tow truck to Hwy 238 "somewhere east of Caster City."  I kicked back in the car with my book waiting for them to show.  Two hours can get you through quite a lot of book.

Finally, a tow truck did arrive.  It came at me from the other direction, passed by, then turned around to park in front of my car.  I jumped out of my car as the driver hopped down from his cab, his cowboy hat shielding his face from the sun.

I smiled my winningest smile as I walked forward with my hand out to shake his.  "I'm so glad you're finally here!"  At this, he looked up to answer back and I stopped in my tracks, smile frozen to my lips.

Good lord, he was handsome.  I hated handsome men.

Don't get me wrong. Sure, I liked gazing at them... from a few tables away. Who didn't? I was more than happy to admire a good-looking guy from across the room over a nice glass of wine. But talking to them outright? Ugh, I hated it. I can never understand why the right cheekbones and a couple biceps can reduce me to such a stammering mess. I'm perfectly capable of carrying on a coherent conversation with normal people. But around a handsome man? I always feel like Baby in Dirty Dancing-- "I carried a watermelon." What, really??

Worse, this one was a car guy. There's nothing more patronizing than the look auto mechanics give you when you try to explain what's wrong with your car. "It's making this cluck-cluck-cluck sound when you turn the wheel--" and then, of course, it never does when THEY try it. So basically, I was screwed. A hot car guy. In a cowboy hat. And boots. And beautiful eyes.  Zach what?

Perhaps I stared a little too long. Mr Cowboy Man tipped his hat in greeting, and raised one eyebrow questioningly, a smile just tweaking his lips. "Miss? Is there something wrong?"

"Umm, no... I have a car." I winced inwardly. At least it wasn't a watermelon?

His eyes crinkled up at the corners. Deep brown gorgeous eyes. "Well, I did happen to notice that. I have a truck."

Melissa, what is wrong with you? I thought to myself. Get it together! He thinks you're an idiot. I shook myself and straightened up. "So you do," I smiled back at him. "I bet yours actually moves, though. Mine appears to be a bit dead."

"Let's take a look at it, then." He stopped and extended his hand to shake the one I had dropped. "I'm Kyle, by the way."

"I put mine in his much larger palm and tried to shake it firmly. "Melissa.  It's nice to meet you, Kyle." And please stop smiling at me.

"So what appears to be wrong with it, Melissa? Any ideas?"

Did I look like I knew anything about cars?  No way I was saying "cluck-cluck" to this pretty cowboy. "I was just driving along, and there was a big bang and smoke and--  I did look under the hood.  I think it might be--" I searched for a car-sounding word... "--the flux capacitor."  That sounded good.

Slowly, he repeated, "The flux..."

"Capacitor, right," I confirmed.

He looked at me strangely for a few seconds and suddenly turned to my car. "Right, well that's certainly... possible," he finally finished.  Kyle poked around under the hood a bit, looking closely at what I thought was the engine... or the carburetor... or... something.

"Anything?" I asked, hoping it would be cheap.

He removed his hat to wipe an arm across his brow.  "Well, Melissa... I'm going to need to tow you into town. I think you're might need a new timing belt.  And I'm probably going to want to take a look at your... flux capacitor." There was something about the way he said that which gave me pause, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

I guess we were going to town-- wherever that was.

Chapter 3
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