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.
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