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

After the Storm - Chapter 1

As dawn broke, the morning light filtered through the slats in the ceiling and I surveyed the night's damage.  The storm had blown through while the stars shone, leaving behind just the wreckage of broken boards, overturned furniture.  Holes where once there was strength.

We had gone up last night to watch the storm from the barn.  There was a board or two up there that needed fixing anyway, but they made the perfect makeshift skylight to take in nature's sights. Probably should've taken a blanket up there to lie on, too...  but there were some old chairs left from years ago that worked almost as well.

We watched the sky and listened to the winds as the tension mounted between us. "So are we going to talk about this or what?" he asked me quietly.

I clenched my fists and inhaled sharply.  "Now? No, we're not."

"Dammit, Lissa."  He stood up so quickly that his chair clattered behind him to the floor. "We can't keep pretending and playing this game!"

I struggled to keep my voice calm, but it wasn't much good.  He pushed, I hid.  I attacked back, he deflected.  Always this dance.  Always this way.  I might have thrown things.  Maybe it was him.

All I could really say this morning was that he was gone and there was a mess to clean up in the wake of his absence.

And I think I missed him.

I righted the chairs, picked up a few boards from the floor and leaned them against the wall.  My pocket buzzed, and I pulled the cell phone out of the pocket of my bathrobe.

You guys okay?  My little sister.

I quickly texted back House is fine. Zach left before sliding it back into my pocket.  I barely had a chance to sit down before she replied Went to store left or left left?

Left left. Isn't coming back left. Ever left.

Don't go anywhere.

A light laugh escaped my throat.  I hadn't even taken a shower yet, where was I going to go?

I finished putting scraps of debris into a pile before I climbed back down the barn's ladder and went back to the house to make some coffee. I had a feeling I was going to need a lot of it.

I was sitting at the kitchen counter when I heard Megan's car roll down the gravel driveway, and her door slam.  She banged her way through the kitchen's screen door and set her purse on the table.  "Alright, girl." She took one look at my face, and exclaimed, "Lord, you look a mess."

I stuck my tongue out at her.  "Thanks a lot. I don't suppose you know anyone who might be here to cheer me up?"

She grinned, "Nope." Spying the cup of coffee in my hands, she wrinkled her nose in distaste. "What do you drink that stuff for?" Megan asked.  "It's going to stunt your growth. I brought you something better," she said as she pulled out a bottle of wine.

"Geez, Meg. It's 10 o'clock in the morning, put that away.  Besides... I'm 31.  I think I've done all the growing I'm going to do."

Another car crunched up the driveway, and my eyes flew to Megan's.  Maybe Zach came back?  I tried to keep the hope out of my heart, I really did. I recognized the car, but it just wasn't the one I was hoping for.
I turned and looked accusingly at Megan. "Mom?  You called Mom?"

"What?" she protested.  "I thought I might need some backup."

I poured another cup of coffee.

The door opened and Mom poked her head around the doorframe.  "Yoo hoo....  is anyone here?"

"Hi Mom," I said with resignation.

"Oh," she began. "I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop in and see how you were after the storm--"

"No, you weren't.  Megan called you and you thought you'd unload the cookie jar on me." I nodded to the box in her arms.

A stubborn look came into her eyes. "Cookies fix everything. It's in the Mom Handbook.  Now...  what happened with Zach?"

I gave Megan a knowing look over Mom's shoulder.  I really wasn't ready to talk this out with my mother just yet.  Megan just grinned and pointed to the wine bottle.

"Mom, we..."  I stopped.  What DID happen? What, really, had been the problem? I'm not sure I knew... only that it had finally been too much for us, and we were done.  He wasn't coming back, I knew that.  But I hadn't quite gotten to why yet.  Maybe it was just that we couldn't agree on the laundry and the dishes.  Maybe it was the fact that I could only let him in so far, maybe it was that he pushed when I needed him to lay off. Maybe we wanted different things.  Maybe I just wasn't enough.  "Mom, he left five hours ago.  I'm just not quite ready to talk about it yet.  Okay?"


"OKAY?" I glared meaningfully at Megan.

"Oh alright, alright," she mumbled through a mouthful of chocolate chip cookie.  "I'm just here for the cookies, anyway."

"Now... if you two don't mind, I have a shower to take, a storm to clean up, and a life to figure out."  I smiled at my sister. "Maybe leave the wine."

Chapter 2

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unpacking: Change for you

13. Change. Grow. Create character. But do it for the right reasons. Don't let bitter unhappy people change who you are.
 I told you that remark from Joel made an impact on me.

I am a fan of character growth. I am a fan of striving to be a better you.  I am a fan of identifying where you lack and working to fill in the gaps in those areas.  I think these are good things.

But, as I look backwards at the things I have sometimes worked to change in myself, I realize that some of those things I've tried to change have not always been bad things. I haven't changed them even because I thought they needed to be changed...  but because there were others that did.  They weren't even always people I cared about that much.  But, I just felt that changing was what I needed to do to make them happy.

The more I explain this, the more idiotic it seems.  Why on earth would I do that?

Change is good.  Growth of character is good.  But, go after it because it's something you earnestly believe needs to be changed in the way you conduct yourself.  Don't chase change just because someone else would like you better if you did.  If that's their basis for being able to love you, then they don't love you really, and they aren't worth your efforts.

Photo Credit: Thomas Tolkien

Saturday, October 8, 2011

10 Day "You" Challenge - 8 Fears

8 Fears... oh my gosh, why can't the hard things be at the bottom of the list where I only have to come up with two?  I'd switch with books, movies, songs.. heck, pictures, easy!!

1.  Oh, let's just get this one right out there.  BEARS.  BEARS BEARS BEARS.  Really, I have an underlying fear of most wildlife, harboring a secret belief that they're all waiting to attack me.  But, the bear component is the strongest.  Partly, I imagine that's due to living in the Northwest where there... ARE... bears.  But, mostly, I blame this on a movie I saw on TV once where a homicidally-inclined bear was out hunting these guys through the forest.  I know, I know... bears don't eat people, blah blah blah.  Don't bother. Joel's been trying for years, and it doesn't work.  You CANNOT win an illogical argument with logic.  You would think Joel would have learned this by now.. but no.  Judging by the arguments he tries to have with our hormonally-charged, this is a lesson he has yet to learn.  So yes, #1.  Bears.

2.  I don't know about yours... but my kids didn't come with instruction manuals.  I don't know what I'm doing. Because my kids are so close together in age, I don't even have the luxury of screwing up the first kid and doing better on the last one.  It's just "sink or swim" in stereo, and I worry that I will get to the end, having completely screwed up all of them... I don't think you get awards for that.

3. I'm a very good chameleon. I am skilled at becoming who I think you want me to be. I will change who I am to make you happy...  and not even to be someone you will like better, but just to be who you EXPECT me to be.  Does that make sense?  But, the older I get, the more weary I become of all that, and my desire to chameleonize myself gets less and less by the year...  but I'm left with the concern that if I stop being the chameleon you have come to know, will you still love the person who hides inside?

4. I am afraid that the world's supply of food will be depleted and all that will be left is cheese.

5. Oh, ants.  I know, they're not exactly the scariest bugs in the world.  But, one time when I was in the 6th grade, I came home from school to find the bathroom walls COMPLETELY BLACK with ants crawling oall over the walls, and I've had "issues" with ants ever since.  *shudders*

6. Big Dogs. I LIKE dogs... if I know they're friendly.  But, I've always been a bit scared of big dogs.  My mom taught me a little mantra when I was a little girl "big dogs do not eat people big dogs do not eat people"... and when I'm out for a walk or run around the neighborhood, I still find myself muttering it to myself when I pass by houses where they have big dogs who aren't happy that I am in the near vicinity of their territories.

7. That I'm not enough.

8. that someday I will fall into an emotional hole that I can't pull myself out of.

Photo Credit: SteFou!, Samantha Henneke

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Unpacking: Pleasing everyone

12. You also can't please everyone. It can't be done with honesty. Look around... worry about your relationship with those you are in close relationship with. The rest... let it go.

Until getting involved with CT, I didn't really realize how deep was my desire to be liked... by everyone.  And so, this is a lesson I've had to learn and relearn, a little bit more each time.  It's been a little like carving a figure out of a large piece of wood.  You start by hacking away at it... and then your shavings become a little more refined.  A piece here, a thin slice there...  With each pass at it, you get a little closer to finding the image that lies inside the wood.  Does that analogy work?  Perhaps not.

Initially, I wanted to make everyone happy.... cast, creatives, fans.  I laugh now to look back and think of the fervor with which I threw myself into attempting such. But, no one is on the same side as anyone else, and you can't make everyone happy.  There is an inevitable backlash, and it caught me by surprise.  I remember confiding in someone about it, and they told me I had to learn to let those things roll off my back... that I would drown in it if I didn't. Let's just say I wasn't very good at that. But, it was the first pass at learning the lesson, and that's okay.

I took several more passes at the lesson over the ensuing three years...  each time, I learned a little bit more about understanding that I couldn't please everyone, and more importantly, that not everyone needed to be pleased.  I learned to identify friends, and to focus my energies and emotions on those relationships instead of trying to make everyone happy.

I will never forget something my husband once said to me.  I was worked up about something that now seems silly...  but I was trying to explain the situation, and the backstories, and why I was upset over it.  I so clearly remember him shaking his head at me and saying, "I guess I just don't understand.  Why would you let people who are clearly bitter and unhappy change who you are?" That has stuck with me ever since. It was the comment that helped the most to wash away everything that was unimportant, and has helped me to focus energies on things that are.  Because, truly.... why would I do that??

I know I've talked a lot about this in relation to the CT fan community, as indeed I've learned some really important lessons from being involved there.  Sometimes, I've thought to myself, "If I could just go back and NOT hit the 'up' arrow, I could have saved myself so much hurt..."  But, I don't think I'd do it.  I've learned REALLY good lessons that I may not have learned otherwise, and I don't think I'd give that up.  But the great thing about the lessons is that you may learn them in one place, but you can apply them in other places, too.  This is one of those.

I'm actually delighted to find that this topic was the next one on the list.  I was just thinking yesterday about the people who are my friends.  I was laughing with Stacey and feeling blessed and delighted in our friendship. I was chatting with Diana and Lisa, and feeling grateful and full of love. I was at Weight Watchers this morning, and sharing in comfortable camaraderie with the friends I've made there.

It is these friendships, plus a few others too, that I've come to realize are important to me.  It is these relationships that I want to devote energy to, that I want to see grow and mature and come alive.  But the rest?  The rest I can let go. The rest I can let roll off my back.  I couldn't do that before.  But, I can now.
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