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
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