Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Tales: Fireflies



Dusk passed into night. The trees blocked out the sky, so there were no stars, no moon, no light.

No light save for the sparks from my jar. The light started and stopped, flashes of illumination that threw shadows in the woods.  Shadows that made you see apparitions that may or may not be there. They fed the fears that lay in your heart.

I really couldn't walk any further. It was to the point now that I was just dragging my feet along with me, stumbling through my need to rest. Just for one minute.

Not one step more could I go.  I set the jar down in the middle of the path and laid down beside it, my head cradled in my arms as I stared into the jar's depths. The lights spun around the inside, mesmerizing in the darkness.

I counted the fireflies. One. Two. Three. Six. Ten. Ten fireflies. Ten wishes. I closed my eyes and thought of the things I might wish for on this dark night.

Some said it was foolish to make wishes, dreams with no firmer foundation than a bit of superstition.

But, when you've lost everything, sometimes wishes and superstitions are the only things you have left. The only hope you have left.

And so I wished with all my heart.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

You Aren't The Words

Words.

There are a lot of words thrown around at us, and around us, and about us.  We hear those words and we let them become a part of us. We listen to them and we think we are them.

And that would be okay, were it not for the words not always being true. They come out of jealousies and disgruntlements.  They come out of selfishness and misunderstanding. They come out of snap judgments and a lack of love.

You are too fat, too thin. Too sarcastic, too trusting. Too abrasive, too grumpy. Too, too, too, too.

But, these things are not you.  They are not who you are.

You are wonderfully made. You are precious and you are amazing. And maybe you aren't perfect. But, you are you. And you is a pretty wonderful thing to be.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday Tales: Letter from Fate



The fog clung to the ocean, like two lovers unwilling to part. The cold seeped through the holes in my sweater and I pulled it tighter against me.

"Sammy!" My golden retriever had bounded into the cold water to chase off the waves.  "Come on, boy! Time to go home!"  He ignored me, but hunkered down in the sand just past the water's reach, something in his paws to gnaw on. As I approached him, a tiny bit of sunlight broke through the clouds and glinted off whatever Sammy had.  "What is that?"

I bent down to wrestle it from him.  Not the driftwood I'd expected, but a bottle.  A bottle with a letter inside.  Really? Does that really happen? Settling into the sand beside Sandy, I popped the cork out of the bottle and let the paper slide into my hands.

To Whomever Finds This Bottle:

First, if you're a guy, could you recork it and throw it back?

Second, if you're a girl, please keep reading.

I guess you could call me shy. I'm not very good at meeting people. It seems harder to meet people nowadays. I can't really stomach the bar scene, and meeting someone through the personals just seems so... impersonal. So, while this doesn't make a lot of sense, I figure that maybe Fate will bring the right two people together, so I'm trusting Fate to put this letter in the hands of the right woman.

I'd like to tell you that I'm a handsome male model with a Ferrari, two houses, and enjoy long walks on the beach in the moonlight.  But, it's probably more honest to say I'm not a BAD-looking guy with an economy car that runs most of the time, an apartment, and will partake in a long walk on the beach in the moonlight if there's promise of a goodnight kiss later, but would be just as happy watching movies on my couch.

I like coffee and reading, will run if chased, and have an uncanny ability to work quotes from Lord of the Rings into any conversation.  This has proven to be both a great party trick and terribly annoying. I apologize in advance.

If any of this hasn't turned you off completely, and you think that maybe Fate could be right...  I'd welcome a note back? I've included a PO box at the bottom.  

Till we meet,
Robert

"What a sweet guy," I murmured aloud.  Of course it was silly.  But I slipped the letter back into the bottle, and slipped the bottle into my pocket. Fate hadn't really been much of a friend to me in the past, but maybe she could be given one last chance.

Lord of the Rings was a pretty good set of movies.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Out of the Mud

I like to organize.  My books, my clothes, my shoes, my thoughts. Even just this blog is full of days where I have turned thoughts over and over, examined events and relationships and beliefs, stuck somewhere between wanting to move on and not wanting to let go.  And as long as I was figuring it all out, it gave me permission to not do anything. I convinced myself that I shouldn't act until I knew, that it was okay to stay mired in the mud as long as I was still studying it.

I'm done studying it.

I don't have it figured out yet.  There are still things I'd like to know, conversations I'd like to have, confusion I'd like settled, and questions I'd like answered. I still want to know the why's and the how's and the when's. But, you don't have to know the chemical makeup of mud to know that it's... muddy and wet and uncomfortable. You don't have to know when the mud developed to spray yourself off with a hose.

You can just... get out of the mud.  Simple.  Maybe not easy.  But simple.

You can choose not be muddy. You can choose to wash off. You can choose to let go and move on, even if you don't know everything. Even if you don't have it worked out. What does working it out do for you?  Does understanding it really make it easier on your heart?

It's okay not to understand it. But it's not okay to go on forever letting it cover and strangle you.

Get out of the mud... wash off.  Be clean.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ryan Kelly & Neil Byrne Acoustic by Candlelight Tour

Ryan Kelly Neil Byrne

"To stand up on stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism. Bordering on insanity."

In this case, a double dose.

Acoustic by CandlelightIrishmen Ryan Kelly and Neil Byrne, both of Celtic Thunder fame, kicked off the Winter 2012 edition of their popular Acoustic by Candlelight duo tour with a show at Kell's Irish Pub in Seattle last night.  Both seasoned musicians, the two took to the stage with guitars in hand to perform the first song of the night, "Wagon Wheel," featuring a great guitar solo from Neil.

Watching Neil play guitar might possibly be worth the price of admission alone. It is mesmerizing to watch his fingers fly along the strings, such amazing talent.  Not to be outdone, Ryan takes a "the more, the better" approach with a constant changing of instruments: guitar, tambourine, whistle. Both performers have beautiful voices on their own, very fitting for the acoustic stage.  But, their vocal blend is particularly pleasing, harmonies tumbling over one other in succession.


Acoustic by CandlelightNeil's performance of "California Dreamin'" is soft and thoughtful with a really nice groove to it. His popular "Brown-Eyed Girl" had the crowd smiling, clapping, and singing along. Ryan sang "Broken Things" from his debut solo album, In Time. With simple acoustic accompaniment and heart-stirring vocals, this song was perfect. To round out the first act, he performed a soft version of his "Black is the Colour," a gentler and more romantic treatment from what Celtic Thunder fans might be used to hearing from him.


Between the individual solo songs, the crowd was treated to a number of duo numbers, most often taking the form of alternated solo verses and intimately harmonized choruses. Stockton Wing's "Beautiful Affair" was very pretty with a light tough, while "Don't Go" had a real Simon and Garfunkel feel to it.  Good stuff! Celtic Thunder fans were more than appeased with a veritable medley of "Whiskey in the Jar," "Raggle Taggle Gypsy," and "500 Miles," followed later by the funny "Seven Drunken Nights."  Much laughter filled the room as Ryan and Neil took up parts that would normally belong to the other Celtic Thunder cast and kicked up the humor factor to maximum volume.

Ryan Kelly In TimeOne of the most beautiful sets of the night came when Ryan began with Green Fields of France, a song that had been recorded for Celtic Thunder but never performed live. His treatment of the song was poignant and beautiful.  It segued seamlessly into Neil's "Rose of Allendale," which was equally amazing and featured harmonies that could literally your breath away.

As a special treat, former Celtic Thunder member Damian McGinty stopped by for the evening and performed a lovely "Home." It was heartwarming to see him grace the stage!

By the time the evening ended, nearly three hours of music, laughter, story, and song had passed. Surely an enjoyable experience for all in attendance!


Friday, December 7, 2012

You Mean Something

You mean something to me, and I want you to know that.

To mean something, it feels important. It means we have a reason for being. A reason for getting up every day.

It means being seen. Not just being a face in the crowd, an anonymous someone that would never be missed if they left.

You mean something to me.

I hurt when you hurt. I cry when you cry.
I am happy when you are happy. I rejoice when you are joyful.

You mean something to me.

Don't go through this life thinking that you have no impact. Don't go through it, believing you're unimportant.

You're important to me.

And maybe that isn't Nobel Prize winning. Maybe that isn't Oscars and Grammys and Pultizer prizes.  But you're important to me.

I would miss you if you were gone. I miss you today.

So don't forget... you mean something to me.  And maybe that isn't much, but it's big to me, and I hope it's at least something to you.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Tales: The Escape




Lissa struggled to breathe as the hand clenched tightly around her waist.  He always did squeeze too tight. The door opened, his grip loosened, and she tumbled into her cell. Jessie followed in after her. Lissa drew a deep breath, filling her lungs with air again, only turning when she'd heard the key click in the lock.

"Goodnight, my fairies," came the commanding voice.

Lissa and Jessie both curtsied, their wings fluttering lightly. "Goodnight sir," they chirped obediently.  And then the lights went out.

Jessie straightened her tunic as the door closed behind him. "Ugh," she exclaimed in disgust. "I swear, Lissa. His fingers get more and more intrusive every week. These girls aren't for the likes of him!" She patted her bosom protectively.

Lissa laughed softly. "Oh Jessie, he does not. Come on, we could have ended up with a lot worse owners than Mr Rastin. You've heard the horror stories of other fairies.  He's pretty nice to us, captivity aside."

"I guess. But, it's still captivity. Do you remember what it was like to fly anywhere we wanted?" Jessie wandered to the edge of the cage and looked longingly toward the small window in the room.

"Only a little.  It's been a long time."

Jessie was silent, but the sound of the cage's wire twisting around and around in its slot filled the room. "Lissa." She finally spoke. "Lissa, come here."

"What is it?"

"Lissa, this bar... it's loose. Really loose." Her eyes shone with excitement. "We could get out." With that, the bar popped out of its slot, leaving an opening just big enough for a petite fairy to squeeze through. Jessie tested its size, treading air just outside.  "Come on, Lissa... we can fly out that window right now and be free."

Lissa hesitated. "Jessie, we don't know what's out there. There could be werewolves or vampires or dragons.  And what if we starve? We don't even know how to find food, and Mr Rastin feeds us really well every day. And he provides us with clothes and beds and books and--"

"And a cage!" Jessie glared. "He keeps us in a cage!"

Lissa couldn't meet her gaze. "I'm sorry. I just... I can't."

Jessie turned toward the window. "Well, I'm going. I just can't stay locked up here anymore. I'm going."  She turned and looked back at her companion of so long. "Please come, Lissa. Please."

A tear rolled down Lissa's cheek. "I can't. I'm... I'm afraid."

"Suit yourself, I guess. I'll miss you."  She flew to the window, pushed it open, and was gone.

-------------

It had been 40 years since that night. Lissa sat on the couch of her fairy cage and looked out toward the window. She'd always wondered how her life would have been different if she'd gone with Jessie.

She'd always wondered what her life would have been like if she hadn't been afraid to fly.



.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What I've Learned From Loss and Failure

This is not the end.  Failure hurts, but it is not the end. It is not the end of my life. It is not the end of happiness. It is not the end of success.  It is not the end. The story goes on...

Love and support are crucial to healing, but so is accountability.  It feels really nice to be supported and encouraged and pet on the head. But a good friend knows that there is a time for petting and there is a time for kicking in the butt.  When yours kick you, don't leave them.  Loving you enough to take the risk of you fighting back is more love than you will ever have from anyone else.

Taking stock is important. You need to know why you fell down. What did you do? What did something do to you? How can you change it for next time?  If you don't take stock, it's just one more falling down.  But if you look around first, if you think about what happened, if you think about it how you can change that for the future, then your fall has stopped being a failure and has begun to be a lesson. Learn from it.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Celtic Thunder Fall 2012 "Best Of" Tour

The boys are finally back in town!


After a year's wait, Celtic Thunder returned to the Seattle area this week for their Fall 2012 Voyage Tour. The past summer found the group recording a brand-new DVD (to be released Spring 2013) to usher in a new era of Celtic Thunder.  But, before that hits shelves and airwaves everywhere, they decided to perform this year's tour as a bit of a "Best of Celtic Thunder... so far" greatest hits tour.

It's billed as containing some of their most popular songs, voted on via a poll that Celtic Thunder conducted on their website earlier in the year. Audiences are told that the setlist is shaken up a bit each night to make it a new show for each performance.  And while the list of possible songs is definitely extensive, there was only one song change over the course of the two nights I attended... so take that with a grain of salt.

That aside, the show was truly fantastic. There was hardly a song in the show that I didn't love... or at least like a whole lot.

Some of the highlights of the evening were found in the show's signature ensemble numbers which showcase vocal power, exciting and beautiful harmonies, and in some cases, a whole lot of hamming it up. Heartland and Dulaman started the first and second acts and are classic powerful songs in Celtic Thunder's repertoire. They exude a fierce masculinity that is thrilling to watch and listen to. While Ireland's Call has begun to be Celtic Thunder's expected show-ending song over the past few years, it was Caledonia that was the original final song back in 2008.  They've brought it back for this tour, and oh, it was a welcome sound!

It's not all pomp and sobriety with this show, though.  At all. Fun ensembles also filled the stage in Galway Girl, Place in the Choir and Seven Drunken Nights. The antics these boys bring on stage, whether whistling at the violinist or line dancing (of sorts) across the stage, are hugely entertaining. One of the definite highlights of the night comes in the hilarious Seven Drunken Nights. This was introduced during last year's tour, but it gets funnier every time they perform it. Definite kudos to every member of the show for their part in hamming it up.

George Donaldson brings back a poignant ballad from the first tour in The Old Man. His warm vocals and personal connection to the song give it a special feeling.  He goes on to perform Harry Chapin's Cats in the Cradle and really gets the crowd to their feet in his version of 500 Miles. Everyone loves that song and you just can't keep people from standing up and clapping along.


Ryan Kelly takes the stage again and regales the crowd with some of his old favorites as well.  The popular Heartbreaker, which gave him the Dark Destroyer moniker in the first place, saw him breaking hearts right and left while his Ride On elicited screams of delight from the crowd. If nothing else, he is certainly an energetic performer! He also performs an audience-pleasing "Friends in Low Places."





Keith Harkin brings his guitar out in full force for his solos.  He performs All Day Long and Don't Forget About Me, both songs written by him personally.  The former is a fast-paced energetic song that was introduced on Celtic Thunder's tour last year, while the latter is a single off of his debut album. Over the course of the two nights I attended, he also performed numbers from earlier Celtic Thunder albums in Homes of Donegal and the very pretty Mountains of Mourne.  Keith has great guitar talent and it's fantastic to see him playing for each of these songs, as well as on the very popular Whiskey in the Jar, a duet he performs with fellow member, Neil.

Neil Byrne begins his repertoire by crooning out Billy Joel's Always a Woman with sweet tenderness. He takes the lead in Hallelujah, later joined by Ryan and Emmet to bring the song to a harmonically beautiful height. But, it's his version of Brown-Eyed Girl, brand-new to the show, that really lets him shine. This is a fun number that finds him dancing around the stage a little bit. It really plays to his particular talents and I really enjoyed it a lot.


Emmet Cahill is a young tenor who has just the most amazing voice. He begins the evening with a tender Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears, which is pretty... but just wait until you hear his emotional and powerful version of This is the Moment. His voice is gorgeous on this song. It is a great range for him, and I honestly could just sit there and listen to him sing it all day.  Running in direct counterpoint to the seriousness of both those, he also performs a very fun My Irish Molly-O. If you haven't fallen in love with him before this song, you will by the time he is through. He is truly adorable.

But, giving Emmet a run for his money in that department is the equally adorable Colm Keegan, the show's newest member. He sings a few of Damian McGinty's old numbers in Come by the Hills and Home, on which he plays piano accompaniment himself. He is really really sweet. I am delighted with his addition to the show and can't wait to see what they've prepared for him in the new show in the spring. He rounds out his solo repertoire with a lively and cheeky performance of the Black Velvet Band that is also a whole lot of fun. I would keep him if I could!



This "Best of" tour was definitely an enjoyable one! I loved it all, and nearly every song they sang had me thinking to myself, "This... THIS is why I love this show so much."

It was like... Well, it was like coming home.





Sunday, November 25, 2012

Celtic Thunder "Christmas" CD Review

In response to many fan requests for a Christmas album, Celtic Thunder finally recorded and released their first one in the fall of 2010 with Celtic Thunder Christmas. This CD includes a number of classic Christmas tunes, of both the traditional and popular variety, and is peppered with both solo and ensemble numbers.

This honestly is not my favorite CD of this group. In fact, until recently, I would have definitely put it dead last in my list of favorites. This may be a problem with popular Christmas music in general, but it seems to lean too much toward the "easy listening" category with songs that have very little depth to them. This makes them easy enough to listen to, but not very memorable.  That said, there are some tracks included that are worth a listen.

The Great


Damian McGinty is a real standout on this CD. His solos are absolutely the best on the album. He has a great warmth and growing maturity in his voice that make him really nice to listen to. Winter Wonderland is light, playful, and a real joy. Our First Christmas Together, a sweet song written for him by Phil Coulter, is really adorable. It's snappy, cute, and is sure to make you smile.

Silent Night is easily the strongest and most beautiful ensemble piece on the album. It's handled with appropriate seriousness and sung with great reverence. The harmonies are truly beautiful. It begins in Gaelic with the melody being passed from soloist to soloist, all the while with a harmonic chanting playing in the background. Eventually, the verses turn from solo lines to the entire ensemble singing together.  Really breathtaking.

All I Want For Christmas, a solo by Keith Harkin, is a really fun one. It's peppy and catchy, one of those songs that you'll find yourself dancing around the room, and then hoping that no one's watching you make a fool out of yourself. Keith's voice is really strong and enjoyable. It's one that you'll definitely want to listen to.

George Donaldson really shines on I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. It's a great, upbeat song that George performs with the same energetic gusto that you'll find on his signature 500 Miles or Life With You. If you've liked him in those songs, you'll love him in this one.  A lot of fun!



The Good


Paul Byrom performs a lovely version of Ave Maria. This isn't really my favorite song ever (just in general), but it's a great song for a tenor and Paul does it great justice.

The Brat Pack comes to town in both of Ryan Kelly's solos. Let It Snow is a nice jazzy song, and Ryan channels a bit of Sinatra for it. Sometimes the range feels a bit low and butts up against Ryan's usual ability to emote well. But, it's smooth and sexy overall. Baby It's Cold Outside is another jazzy piece, this time a duet with Charley Bird, a return guest artist after singing on the previous Storm and It's Entertainment. The mere fact of the duet has its pros and cons. Charley is a really nice vocalist, but time taken away from fans' precious Celtic Thunder main soloists doesn't always go over well (if ever). It may be a problem with mixing, but Charley's voice often stands out more than Ryan's does.  However, the song is flirty and seductive and is fun to sing along to.

Keith's Last Christmas isn't really my favorite of his solos. It's very reminiscent of those 80s ballads that I gripe about every album.  It doesn't seem to have a lot of depth. But it has a habit of getting into my head, and I find myself singing it all the time!

The Skippable


Neil Byrne's It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas is sweet, but it feels like fluff. It's sung so lightly, too lightly, with musical accompaniment that often seems to overpower Neil's voice.

Celtic Thunder rounds off the album with a Christmas Medley, comprised of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." I'll be honest with you. It's pretty cheesy. When you listen to it, your mind's eye can't help but imagine a choir of choreographed swaying along to the music in a Charlie Brown-esque parody. It does have some bright moments of honestly nice harmonies tucked into the cheese, so it might be worth a listen anyway.  But, don't say I didn't warn you about the cheese.


If You Can Only Afford Three Tracks

  1. Our First Christmas Together (Damian McGinty Solo)
  2. Silent Night (Ensemble)
  3. All I Want for Christmas is You (Keith Harkin Solo)







Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Picking Up When You've Lost

You lost the promotion to a co-worker.
You lost the boy to another girl.
You crashed the car. 
You bet on the wrong horse.
You lost the friend.

And here you are... broken and beaten. Hopeless and helpless. Without purpose. Just... making it from day to day. Hour to hour. Minute to minute.

You need time.  Time to heal, and even time to hurt. Rushing through it only covers and hides the need for healing, never addresses it.  So, take some time.  Hurt. Feel it.  But, deal with it, don't just sweep it under the rug thinking it will go away.  It won't.  Not even time can heal things that you refuse to look at honestly.  They will come back.

But, eventually, when time has done its job, when you've felt the hurt as much as it can stand to be felt...  eventually, the choice lies before you and you have to choose.

Do you continue to wallow in it? Or do you choose to let it go, turn your face to the sun and your back to the pain, and take a step forward?

That choice can require some brutal honesty with yourself. It requires you to face the hurt head-on. It requires you to face your own faults head-on, your own mistakes, your own blame. Sometimes that hurts more than the original failure did. But, not all pain is bad.

Sometimes a little honesty is all you need to see the whole thing clearly.  To know where you messed up. To know where you didn't.

And to know where to go from here.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Love Isn't About Competition

The message today is simple.

You are enough.
Just as you.

If you're finding yourself in a situation where you are constantly competing for someone's time and attention (and losing), it might be time to consider that relationship and whether it's worth your energy to continue pursuing it? I've heard it said that if someone wants you in their life, they'll make time for you. So, if someone is consistently not making time for you in their life, what is there left to pursue?

This doesn't have to be some grand drama-heavy thing. I think that there can be many reasons why some relationships end up not working out. Maybe you find yourselves in different phases of life or no longer interested in the same topics. Maybe your normal growing and maturing has led you into different directions that don't match up anymore. Maybe you hurt them and they're just holding you at arms' length, afraid to trust. Sometimes it's you. Sometimes it's them. Sometimes it's a bit of both. Sometimes it's just life, time, and change.

But, in the end, you get to choose what you put your time into. You get to choose what you put your energy into. Your love, your emotions. And if what you're choosing leaves you empty-handed, you might need to ask yourself why you're willing to sacrifice so much for so little.

Maybe your answer changes nothing.

But maybe...  maybe it changes everything.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Time to Get Un-Manipulated?

If you had asked me five years ago if I was easily manipulated, I would have flat out told you "No." I would've been wrong, but I definitely would have denied it.  But honestly, I didn't know. I didn't realize it.

I can remember having a conversation with a friend once.  It was private, and I had no intention of sharing it with anyone. A mutual friend of ours later asked me what the person had said.  I really didn't want to share that.  But when they fixed me with a series of hurt "I'm just trying to be interested in my friends' lives" and "Nothing interesting ever happens to me," I caved.  I felt really guilty. I always regretted that.  And this sort of thing happened again and again.

It took me awhile to see it. It took me a long time to be able to see over the friendship to the manipulation that was so prevalent in it.  But once I saw it, I couldn't un-see it.  Not only that, it opened my eyes to the other areas and relationships in my life where I allowed myself to be manipulated, where I succumbed to the guilt trips.  Until then, I simply didn't know that I was so simply controlled.

But once I began to be aware of it, I didn't like it. I really didn't like it. The thought that I was so easily swayed bothered me, and I began a slow process of changing that.

Who?


First, I had to learn who the manipulators were in my life.  I needed to understand my friendships better. I needed to understand which of my relationships existed because we actually liked each other, and which merely existed for the services I provided. That took some time and some honesty. The honesty was probably the hardest part of this. It's hurtful to admit that people that you thought loved you were willing to do that to you.

But once I figured out who they were, I had some decisions to make. I had to decide essentially how to curtail my exposure to them. Were they friends that were fringe-y enough that I could just fade out of relationship with them and no one would really notice that much?  Or were they people that I had to figure out how to deal with?

What?


Second, I had to learn what acts of manipulation worked on me. They aren't the same for everyone and you can't recognize it when it happens to you if you don't know what to look for.  These are the things that are really difficult to un-see once you've seen them.  As I went through this, there were so many "I can't believe I let this go on" moments for me. I couldn't believe that I had never seen these things before, and I felt ashamed and really mad at myself.

Some common methods people use:

  • Projecting their own superiority on a matter, minimizing your ability to contribute anything useful
  • Making you feel that you are unworthy, unable, or stupid
  • The "After everything I've done for you, you can't just do one thing" approach.
  • "You have so much and I have so little."
  • Using your weaknesses against you
  • Using their weaknesses as leveraging tools
Do any of those feel familiar to you?

How?


Finally, I had to set some boundaries with those people and stick to them. This was definitely the hardest part of the whole deal.  When you start to resist the manipulation that has always worked on you before, they won't be happy.  After all, it used to be so easy to get you to do what they wanted.  Of course they won't be happy.  The trouble is, they'll work harder and use every trick they know to get you to go back to the status quo. They will treat you like you are the wrong one, the unkind one, the disrespectful one.   You are the one being unfair. 

You will have to stand your ground and be strong.

Be Strong


Friends, you deserve to be respected. I'm not saying that you or I deserve OUR own way all the time either. But, it's not unreasonable to expect to be respected. It's fair to expect to not be used by those in our lives. You are not wrong for standing up and asking for that respect.

Don't lie back down in front of them. You can do this. Seek out those friends who care for you just for being you. Ask for their support and encouragement.  You're probably going to need it as you learn to not give in.

But, when you come out the other side... and I pray that you will... You'll be stronger and more amazing.  

And I can't wait to see that.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday Tales: Waiting for a Boy




Rachel dropped the brush back into the bottle and blew on her nails. He would be here any minute.  Applying a layer of lipstick, she made a kissing face at her reflection in the mirror. Did she look okay? Something always seemed to go wrong.

She checked the window, but the street was still empty.  The clock said he would be here in five minutes or less. Five minutes or less.

Rachel eyed her reflection one more time.  Her hair was perfect. Her make-up was perfect. Her outfit was perfect. Everything was perfect this time. Nothing could go wrong this time.  She heard a motor and ran to the window.

His car stood in her driveway.  He climbed out and glanced up at her window. He was so handsome. Tall. Dark. And very Handsome. Rachel was so transfixed that she jumped when the doorbell rang.

She ran down the stairs and pulled open the door. "Hi Jacob," she greeted breathlessly, leaning against the door in what she hoped was an inviting pose.

Jacob nodded.  "Hi Rachel.  Good to see you... again."  He unbuttoned the bag in his arms and pulled out a box. "You guys having a party or something? You're sure ordering a lot of pizzas."

Rachel blinked. "What? Umm... yes.  Yes, a party. That's it." She smiled up at him. "Do you want to come in?"

Jacob shook his head. "Sorry, I have to work.  Pizza delivery, you know.  But I'll see you around, okay?"

Rachel gave him the money for the pizza and waved goodbye as he walked down the path to his car.  Closing the door behind her, she wandered into the kitchen and tossed the pizza onto the stack already delivered.  He said he'd see her around.

Picking up the phone, she pressed a few buttons and waited.

"Hi, Pizza Hut?  I'd like to order another pizza..."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Both Happy and Sad: How Can That Be?


Everything isn't simple.

I am both happy with and frustrated by the events of my life.
I am sad for the losses of friendship but grateful for the lessons they taught me.
I am hurt by the betrayals but glad for the situations they helped me avoid.
I am delighted with the experiences I've had and jealous for the ones I missed.
The same events bring me joy and envy, grief and solace.

And I don't always know how these things can be, but they are equally true.

To hurt so much for things with one part of me, but also to be so grateful for the same things.
To know that the losses were right, but to grieve for them as well.
To be happy for growing but to grieve the roads I took to get there.

Life is full of contradictions, and it is okay and real and true for them all to exist at the same time.

Everything isn't simple.
In fact... few things are.

But, perhaps it's their very complexity that make life interesting and fascinating and worth getting up for.

So, perhaps today I will be happy and sad.
I will be anxious and calm.
I will be broken and whole.

And that will be my life, which I will embrace wholeheartedly.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Afraid to Trust You

You hurt me.

Or maybe I hurt you, too.  I don't know anymore.

I forgave you for that. I know I tried. I hope you forgave me too.

But when it came to trying again, when it came to putting myself at your mercy...

I held back. I couldn't give you that power.

I'd been hurt once.

That's not even all the way true.  I'd been hurt a lot of times.

I'm not sure you even cared.

I was afraid to trust you. I was afraid to be hurt.

Because, you see, the words you spoke and the things you did, they didn't match up.

I didn't know how to separate the truth from the lies anymore, and I wearied of trying.

I am not a very discerning person. I am often fooled, often hurt.

Some people call that gullible. Some people ridicule that and make me feel that believing people is a shortcoming.

Maybe it is. Maybe it's naivete to hope for and believe in the possibility of the good.

All I know is not being discerning means I'm wrong a lot.

Not being discerning means I hurt a lot.

And I was afraid of hurting again.

So I decided not to trust you.

That remains a decision filled with pain and doubt and sometimes regret.

The past can be loud.

And misleading. We don't always remember the truth, often just a twisted version of it.

But I decided.

And forward is the only direction left to go. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Celtic Thunder "Storm" DVD Review

Filmed in 2009, Celtic Thunder finally released their DVD of "Storm" in 2011. Storm is different from anything else Celtic Thunder has done. Instead of the normal concert format associated with the show, they experimented with a production heavy in musical theater. The story revolves around an Ireland of earlier times and showcases the conflict between the Irish villagers and the Gypsies.

The show is a real plus for musical theater lovers, full of enjoyable songs and entertaining dancers. Yes, Celtic Thunder actually dances. Although they did hire some actual dancers to make it look more polished. The characters played by Ryan Kelly, Keith Harkin, and Damian McGinty are well-developed and engage you into the story right away. Ryan, Keith, and Paul Byrom are all surprisingly good actors, while Damian is adorable enough that you overlook that he isn't quite. Caroline Torti is the dancer cast as the Gypsy King's sister and is a real asset to the production of the show. There is a lot going on.

However, "a lot going on" is also the show's main shortcoming. There are some big holes in writing, which seem to stem from trying to do too much in too little time. There is an effort to make the importance and effect of each principal equal to all the others, and it just doesn't work for everyone. The show is only an hour in length and that is quite simply not enough time to develop the characters of all the principals equally and adequately. In particular, the characters played by Paul and George Donaldson are written somewhat weakly. They perform their songs well, but their characters aren't associated closely enough with the central conflict to make you care about them. It also can't be quite ignored that the plot is left hanging at the end. It's almost like the actors left at intermission and forgot to come back to wrap up their storylines.

All that said, the show is very enjoyable to watch and still figures into my top three favorite productions. If you are a fan of musical theater at all, I'd recommend giving it a try.

The Great


Basically all of Ryan, Keith, and Damian's solos.


Damian
Storm is a great vehicle for Ryan, who has a strong background in and a fantastic talent for theater. Essentially, this is his signature Dark Destroyer dressed up as a sexy Gypsy. It's Win/Win, ladies. His songs, Outside Looking In and Midnight Well, are up-tempo, growly and raspy. Definitely in his element.

When You Are 18 is a really cute song for Damian. He is adorable and engaging. I'm  not entirely sure why he's dressed like Bam-Bam from the Flintstones, but it's a sweet number.

Stand and Deliver is also a fun song. Keith is vivid, energetic, and really surprised me with his acting ability here. Nicely done. The silent movie that plays in the background is meant to explain and move the story forward.  But, it's sometimes a little confusing, so pay attention as you'll need the information in it to understand some of the remaining plot.

Look At Me is a highly entertaining duet in which Keith and Damian face off. Damian is an absolute crack-up trying to win Keith over, and you just can't help but smile.

Shadows Dancing is not something I expected to love. The vocals are sung by Charley Bird (also heard on CT's Christmas DVD/CD) but lipsynced by dancer Caroline Torti. None of the CT principals sing in it at all, but I really love the song. The tune is catchy, the dancing is gorgeous to watch, and Keith's participation in the choreography is positively smouldering.

The Good


Life in the Old Dog Yet is a smiley song from George that explains the background for his character. Warm, engaging and pleasant to the ear.

Hail the Hero
Harmonically, Lagan Love is probably the prettiest song in the show. Sung by Neil Byrne, Paul, Damian, and George, the harmonies are beautiful. But, it lacks a solid place in the story's narrative. (The same goes for Deidre Shannon's "Harry's Game," appearing later in the show.)

Tender is the Night is a lovely duet between Paul and Deidre. Paul is actually a really solid actor, and I find myself wishing his storyline was a little stronger so I'd care about him more.

Hail the Hero is the final song in the show. It's a nice end with strong vocals and a great cadence. Worth a watch for the mandancing alone.  You'll see what I mean.

The Skippable


New Day Dawning is the opening song and the first exposure to the setting.  It's not really bad, just not delightfully memorable. Not the One is a pretty Paul ballad, but maybe a bit too light?  George's This Was My Life is sweet; it just lacks relevant story.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday Tales: My Pirate Story




It happened about three years ago.

I was first mate on a merchant vessel, and we were cargoing fine linen from Italy to London.  Well, that isn't 100% honest.  We were shipping fine linen. But the real money was in the Italian wines we had stowed away in the belly of the ship to smuggle into England. Liquor taxes took the profit of sea travel right out of the equation!

It was my eighth run.

There was always a danger, once we got into English waters, of getting held up by the Customs officials. But, we'd all gotten pretty good at being convincing in our story. I could lie with the straightest of faces, and the Captain's young wife could make a man quickly forget whatever it was he was there to do with a toss of her head and a slipped button.  And she did, too.

The bigger danger, though, was Pirates.  Customs had to follow protocol.  Pirates could do whatever they damn well pleased.  A few slit throats meant nothing to them, and if you had cargo they wanted, they'd board you, slice you to pieces, and take off with your entire ship. Although, I suppose you wouldn't care all that much about the thievery if you were lying there dead.

So, it was with a bit of panic and dread that I woke up that night to hearing Billy, who was on lookout, cry out, "PIRATE SHIP!!" I shoved my legs into a pair of breeches and ran out of my cabin, still tugging on my boots.  I nearly knocked the captain down in my rush to get to the deck.

"Sorry, Captain," I said to him.

But, he just nodded at me.  He was a man of not many words.

We reached the side of the ship and looked behind us into the mist.  Sure enough, Billy was dead on right.  A dark ship slid behind us in the water, black flag at its mast.  I glanced up at our own sails and then behind us again, judging the speeds of the two vessels.

"We can't outrun that, Captain," I said.  But again, he only nodded. We watched as the pirate ship came alongside us, our swords drawn.  Just waiting.

Someone on the pirate ship threw an anchor over the side of their vessel, anchoring the two boats together.

"ARGH, Matey!" came a growl from across the way. "You have been caught by the dreaded Pirate Greenbeard!"

I raised an eyebrow and muttered to the captain, "Greenbeard? You ever hear of a Pirate Greenbeard?"

The captain shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.

The pirate's announcement continued. "We are the scourge of the Mediterranean! We've captured dozens, nay, HUNDREDS, of ships! Burned them to pieces!  Took their women! But we are in a fair mood on this night...  Simply pass over your cargo and we will let you pass!"

I looked to the captain. It was his ship. Finally, he spoke. "Nay! Come over and get it if you want it so badly!"

"Captain, is that wise?" I said under my breath. "They're pirates."

His eyes never left the pirate ship. "If I'm going to lose my life savings, and even my life, I'd like to look the man responsible in the eyes while he's doing it." the captain said quietly.

There was a long pause.

"If you don't comply, we will take your ship for ourselves!"

The captain called back. "Try it."

A crack sounded and we were suddenly overrun by Pirate Greenbeard and his... crew.

Not that I'd seen a lot of pirates, mind you, but these were the shortest pirates I'd ever seen.  I'm talking, four feet tall here.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarves tall.  I admit it.  I started to laugh. The thought that I'd been so scared of these pirates?  Hysterical.

The captain tried to hide it, but he was chuckling under his beard, too.  He bowed with a flourish, mirth still in his eyes. "Ah, welcome to my ship, Pirate Greenbeard. Please forgive me if I don't hand over my cargo at your say-so.  I was prepared to fight a real pirate to the death to protect my livelihood and the lives of my crew and wife.  But, somehow I don't think that's going to be necessary."  He gestured to a cabinboy. "But, I would be happy to have you all escorted back to your ship, with a bottle of wine for your trouble.  A gift of thanks to you for providing me with a much-needed laugh tonight."

Pirate Greenbeard frowned. "I'm afraid that won't be necessary."  He nodded to his first mate. "Gentlemen?"

I'm frankly embarrassed to tell you what happened next.  We were grown men. Sea-weathered. TALL grown men... with swords and daggers and cutlasses. They were... dwarves. Comically short. I don't know how it happened.  One second we were drawing our swords, the next they were stabbing at our legs. I'd never fought anyone who attacked that way.  Grown men can't reach that far down, I suppose. But it was amazingly effective.  Soon, we were all bloody from the thighs down... and...

Tied to the mast.

We watched helplessly as the pirates ran up and down from the deck into the hull, taking every bottle of our precious Italian wine. And as the pirate ship left us (alive, at least), they sang, "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me!"

A lone voice, maybe Pirate Greenbeard himself, started the cheer, and as the ship disappeared into the mist, I heard them all.

"Short people can do anything!!!"





Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Apologizing When You're Not Wrong

"I'm sorry."

Two little words that honestly can make such a big difference.  Perhaps they're not enough by themselves.  I've instructed my children to apologize often enough with sullen acquiescence to know that just saying the words isn't enough.  But, I've also been in relationships enough to know that the absence of the words can be equally hurtful and damaging.

When we're in conflict with each other, it's right to apologize. Maybe they're just words, but they're also words that communicate a desire to be right with each other.

But what if you don't feel wrong?

It's easy to say you're sorry when you feel like you made a mistake somewhere along the way. You have something to apologize for, then.  (Hard on the ego, maybe. But, still doable.) But, what about when you don't feel wrong? What about when, in fact, you're pretty darn sure that you are/were in the right? Why on earth should you be the one to apologize?

The Whys


--What is more important -- The relationship or your rightness? Sometimes we just have to decide that the health of the relationship, the existence of the relationship, is more important than us being right. It's more important to still be friends and care about each other than it is for us to win. Being right simply isn't worth the price. Sometimes you have to choose the high road.

--When a relationship is in conflict, it's shaken up. Trust gets violated. Belief in each other gets shaken. Doubts creep in. An apology gives your relationship a chance to heal.  It isn't an instant-fix.  Any apology needs to be backed up with actions later on in the course of things.  But an admission of regret over what happened gives the conflict enough of a reprieve that the relationship can begin to heal. Trust can be slowly sewn back together. Doubts can be assuaged. Belief can be strengthened.

-- You could be wrong.  Oh, I know that you're pretty sure you're right.  In fact, you're completely sure that you're right.  But, could you be wrong? I think that, for most of us and in most situations, there's a chance.  And oftentimes, when time has passed and we're able to look back with clearer hindsight, we can see that we weren't quite as right as we thought we were.

The Hows - Simple


--Don't lie. People know when we're lying, and we don't want to damage the relationship further with lies and untruths. Sincerity is important.

-- Apologize honestly for what you can.  If you're sure that you were right in your actions, is there a part of it that you can be honestly regretful over?  Maybe you're sorry that what you did or said hurt them. Maybe you regret not taking the time to consider how your words or actions would affect them. Maybe you wish you had consulted them before acting.  Somewhere, you can surely find something that you can be honest about, something you can convey sorrow and regret for.  Apologize for those things and mean them.

Because the relationship is worth it. Because your care for each other is worth it. Because being part of each other's lives is worth it.

Be willing to apologize... even if you're sure you're not wrong.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Respect Yourself Enough


Respect yourself.

Do you find yourself always sacrificing because you think you have to?  There's a difference between being kind to others and letting them walk all over you, and it's really important for us to find where that line is. I think we often confuse humility with self-degradation.

Respect yourself enough.

Do you ever find someone using you for a doormat simply because they always know that they can? If you let them, they will keep on doing it... forever.  Why would they stop?  You're there, you're easy, you'll let them. You'll do whatever they ask you to do.  They won't stop unless you stop lying down in front of them.

Respect yourself enough.

Do you find yourself in situations where those in your life refuse to take responsibility for their actions because they know you will take care of it? You don't have to fix everyone. Help?  Sure, maybe. But, others' choices aren't your responsibility. Your choices are your responsibility. Their choices are... their responsibility.  And if you continue to take on the consequences for their choices, everyone loses. Even them! We're meant to take our own, learn our own lessons, grow and mature. If you take away the opportunities, they can never grow.  And you end up paying their prices and never getting around to your own lessons.

Respect yourself enough.


Do you allow those close to you to guilt trip you into getting their own way because they know you will cave? Don't let them lay that on you. Be strong enough to do what you know is right. People who guilt trip are manipulators. Don't... do not... let people like that dictate what you do, what you say, what you like, how you feel. Don't give in.  Every time you do, you give them a little bit more power over you. And that is not the kind of person you want having influence over your life.  They don't care about you at all. Why do we let those kinds of relationships into our lives?

Respect yourself enough.


You are strong, so much stronger than you think you are. And you are amazing.  I guess that's the thing.  You don't think you're amazing. You see all the places that you think you lack, and those places seem so big.  They dwarf, for you, the places in which you shine. They make you think that you're lesser and that you aren't good enough. They make you think that you don't deserve respect from anyone, least of all yourself.

But I think you're wrong. You do. And you're better than all that. You don't need to let people walk all over you. You don't need to let people use you. You don't need to let people make you think that you aren't okay if you don't drop everything to give them their way.

You're better than that. You're stronger than that.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Shaped by Our Pasts

I refuse the idea that we are defined by our pasts. Stubbornly. I reject the notion that who I am today is nothing more than a predetermined result of the experiences I've had, the trials that have been put upon me. I am not a victim. We are not victims.

At the same time, those experiences do help to shape who we are. I suppose this is a good thing. After all, it's in the way we push through and survive our trials that we are able to grow and become stronger people. Our experiences and hardships are a part of who we are.

I think my resistance to the whole thing lies in the idea that our pasts have a dictatorial say in who we become. I have a friend who recently wrote about how her parents' divorce made her anxious and instilled a need in her to exert extreme control on her life. I have another who spends so much time bitterly blaming her past that she can hardly see the blessings in her life to move forward. For myself, the crash and burn of some of my recent friendships has made it really hard for me to trust anyone, and very easy for me to cocoon myself in social isolation.

All these things are true. Our lives are definitely influenced by our pasts, Who we are is shaped by our pasts. But I can't leave it there. I just can't.

We still get to choose how we respond to those pasts. We can choose to let go of the control we've convinced ourselves we need to have. We can choose to stop blaming our pasts for every little thing that's wrong in our lives. We can choose to trust, even if we've been hurt before. We get to choose how we respond.

I'm reminded of an experience I had in college. It was an early education class and we were discussing our own childhood experiences. The girl next to me recounted how her parents had divorced and she'd become a second mother to her younger siblings. She was very bitter and angry about this.

It struck me because I had the same experience. My parents divorced when I was 9 years old; my sisters were 6 and 2. Being positive that my dad had no idea how to take care of children and with my mom going back to college, I also took on a 2nd Mom sort of role with my sisters -- only bitterness was the last thing I felt over it. I was glad for the close relationships with my sisters that resulted from the situation. I was grateful for the skills and qualities that had been bred in me through the experience.

Same past. Different choices in how we responded.

We all have that choice. Our pasts do shape us-- but we still get to choose our responses to those pasts.

We get to choose.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday Tales: The Fairy Wishes Management Meeting



DONG.

The bell sounded and the employees shuffled in.  The rustle of taffeta and tulle, silk and satin filled the air as the morning's staff settled into their chairs around the conference table for the morning meeting.

Also, the flurry of wings.

Percy Pixiebottom, an unfortunate name for such a distinguished fairy, stood at the front of the room, adjusted his tie and cleared his throat. "Good morning, folks!"

The group mumbled a return greeting, sleepily.

Percy tried again. "I said 'Good morning.'"

"Good morning, sir!" Jenny answered cheerily. Some of the others rolled their eyes. Jenny was always so perky.  Even for a fairy.

Percy clapped his hands together. "Alright, let's get started. Jack, an update on the children's division?"

"Mr Pixiebottom, things are going well." Jack, manager of the Children's Division, stood and adjusted his glasses. "Wishes have been coming in at a normal pace, our call completion rate is at an all-time high, and morale is up. We've had a somewhat higher-than-normal request surge for puppies and candy, so we're going to need to find somewhere in the budget to allow for that. Other than that, we've had the usual request list of video games and cell phones. But, so far, we're on target to hit all of our quotas."

"Thanks, Jack.  Good work as always."

"Video games and cell phones?" A creaky voice came from the back of the room.  Someone groaned.  This speech came every week. Charles Dustinem struggled to his feet, his wings struggling to help him up in his old age. "Back in my day, children didn't wish for video games and cell phones. Back in my day, we stocked swords and shields and arrows. Back in my day--"

Percy interrupted. "Thank you, Mr Dustinem. Of course, we all miss those days. But, unfortunately, even the Fairy Wishes Division must advance with the times. And if the children of the world are wishing for Xboxes and iPhones, well, we must go along with it." He scanned the room for the next update. "Jenny? How are things in the Mother Division?"

Jenny smiled brightly. "Oh, things are wonderful, sir! Wishes are coming in faster than you can beat your wings! Of course, our wishes aren't as easy to grant as puppies and candy."

Jack mimicked her behind her back. Jenny never did give the Children's Division enough credit.

She continued, "We have just brokered a deal with Starbucks to make sure that all harried mothers get a little extra syrup and caffeine in their lattes at no additional charge, and we're very excited about that.  We've perfected a spell to lull children to sleep at naptime, and we're working on a collaboration with the Teenager Division to trade a dip in adolescent surliness for unpunished curfew violations."

Percy nodded. "Excellent.  Dads Division update, Pete?"

Suddenly, the door opened, and a young fairy boy came hurtling into the meeting. "Mr Pixiebottom! Mr Pixie bottom!"

Percy frowned. "Michael, is it? You realize you are interrupting the Managers' meeting? Can't this wait?"

Michael wrung his hands. "I know, sir. I'm very sorry. But I needed to tell you that... well...  You see, I was flying a load of dandelion seeds to the factory. You know the ones that people can blow and get wishes?  They were to be distributed according to plan to meadows around Europe next month. But..."

"But?"

"I dropped it."

A communal intake of breath sounded throughout the room. Percy spoke carefully. "You dropped it.  Where did you drop it?"

Michael winced. "Along Sycamore Street in Allanstown." He kicked his feet. "Half a block from the new elementary school."

A groan filled the room and Jack hustled to the door. "I'm on it, Mr Pixiebottom.  Although I don't know where I'm going to find the extra fairy staff at this time of year." He stopped to fix young Michael with a look of disgust. "Nice going, Michael. Do you know how much work you just made for my team??"

As the fairies all shuffled out to help take up the slack, Jenny paused at the door to pat Michael on the shoulder.

He looked up miserably. "I'm sorry, Mom. I'm never going to make it as a fairy."

"It's alright, dear. Some of the best fairies were the worst apprentices. You should have seen the messes Jack made when he was your age. Once, he got puppies and elephants mixed up.  You should have seen the look on the mother's face when her son won an elephant at the circus. Keep trying, darling. Look on the bright side.  You can only get better."




Sunday, October 28, 2012

Celtic Thunder Take Me Home CD Review

In the summer of 2009, Celtic Thunder followed the success of their premiere products (The Show, Act II) with a spring and summer tour of Take Me Home. This tour took took many of the favorites from the original Celtic Thunder tour and added to them with various new songs. The Take Me Home CD is an audio accompaniment representing those additions, containing tracks that were heard on the tour as well as a few additional songs that have never been performed live.
Take Me Home is definitely a quality addition to your Celtic Thunder library, showcasing predominantly upbeat solos, harmony-rich ensemble tunes, and a bonus two instrumentals from the talented Celtic Thunder Band.

The Great

Of particular note is the ensemble's Green Fields of France. This is a gorgeous track with delicately beautiful harmonies. Celtic Thunder has never performed this track live, which is a terrible shame. Their tender performance will leave you breathless, I promise.
500 Miles has become one of George Donaldson's signature solo songs, having been performed in virtually every Celtic Thunder tour since its initial inclusion. This is probably the first time that fans were really exposed to how fun and energetic George can be when given the right music.  Upbeat and delightful!
Ryan Kelly scores on Take Me Home with two fantastic solo pieces. First, Every Breath You Take is a great cover and a wonderful addition to the Ryan/Zara/Paul love triangle song set. It doesn't vary much in style from The Police's original version, but it's an excellent fit for Ryan's vocal strengths. Second, Midnight Well makes its initial audio appearance.  Later showcased in Celtic Thunder's musical theater-esque Storm, Midnight Well is a great vehicle for Ryan to rake his way through. Sexy and provocative!
You Raise Me Up, possibly Paul Byrom's strongest vocal performance with Celtic Thunder, will knock you back into your seat. It is a lovely rendition, combining heartfelt tenderness with amazing vocal power that is sure to leave you in awe.

The Good

Steal Away is a repeat ensemble song from the first Celtic Thunder release, but this is a new version with both Damian and George taking the lead in turn.  Instead of a predominantly acappella version, this one is also accompanied by George on guitar. It lacks the depth of harmony that was present in the first version, but with Damian's voice warming from boy to man, it's quite nice in its own way, too.
Homes of Donegal is a nice Irish ballad performed by Keith Harkin. It showcases strong accompaniment with Uilleann pipes and even Keith himself on guitar.
Both of Damian's solos on Take Me Home settle around the "delightful and sweet." Halfway between The Show's "boy" and not quite to the manly voice he eventually settles into, Damian plays it safe with two pop-ish Neil Sedaka songs. Breaking Up is Hard to Do is probably the stronger of the two and perfect for the lovesick teenaged girl to swoon over.

The Skippable

Paul Byrom's Because We Believe is just one that I tend to skip.  It's simply not a track that I enjoy, hovering around feeling slightly pretentious and maybe just tries too hard.

Wichita Lineman, performed by Keith Harkin, is another one that I just can't get through. Fans of the song love the romanticism of the chorus, but I simply can't stomach the stylistic runs that go on ad nauseum through the last minute of the track.

If You Can Only Afford Three Tracks

  1. Green Fields of France
  2. You Raise Me Up
  3. 500 Miles

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Tales: My Darling Michael, I Miss You



"My darling Michael,

I miss you. It's been 48 days since I last laid eyes on you, and I miss you so much."

The pen scratched across the paper as she wrote at the desk in the morning light.

"They still haven't told me why I'm here.  I don't know what I did. What law have I broken that they keep me locked up? Oh, they're very nice about it. Sickeningly nice, always asking if I'm comfortable, always asking if I need anything.  But, they never understand that there are only two things I really need.  I need to know why they're keeping me a prisoner here.  And I need to see you.  They never let me see you. They won't even tell me where you are, how you are.

Always lies. Always excuses.

I know it's been 48 days.  I count every tick on the wall before I sit up in the morning.

Do you remember the night we snuck out and watched the stars come out above town?  It was so beautiful. I can still feel how big your hand felt around mine, the strength of your arms around me as we took in the millions of tiny lights in the sky.  My mother nearly killed me when you finally took me back home and she was waiting up.  But, it was worth every moment of consequence, Michael.  Every moment.  I knew that night I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.  I knew.  Did you know too?

I just didn't know it would be so short.  Did I tell you that I miss you?

How I wish you would come and get me out of here. The security here is insane.  I've tried every way I can think of to escape, but they always find me. They always bring me back. I don't even know if you know where I am. Do you get these letters?

I get through every day by thinking of you, hoping you're alright, hoping you'll take me out of here.  I love you, darling.

Ever Yours,
Beth"

She folded the letter and slid it into an already-addressed envelope, licking it shut. Carefully tiptoeing to the door, she cracked it just an inch and peeked out. A man was sitting on a bench outside.

"Psst.  Psst!" she hissed.

He looked up and smiled. "Good afternoon, madam."

"Shhh," she whispered, glancing nervously at the security desk down the hall. "They'll hear you. Sir, could I trouble you once more to slide this into a mailbox on your way home? It's very important. Please don't let them know."

He put his hand on hers and looked seriously into her eyes. "Of course.  It will be our secret."

Relief flooded through her. "Thank you, you're so very kind.  I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you.  Maybe someday when I get out of here...." she trailed off.

His smile faded a little, but he nodded. "Maybe someday."

Beth smiled and shut the door, retreating to a windowseat in her room and a book.  Occasionally, she stopped reading to glance out the window.  She watched the man walk to his car, turning to wave up at her, before getting in and driving away from the compound.

----------

He passed a mailbox on his way back to work, but he didn't stop to drop off the letter.  Instead, he pushed open the door of his building and made his way up to his office on the seventh floor.  He nodded to his secretary, grabbing his messages on the way.

Dropping into his office chair, he pulled the letter from his pocket and broke the seal.  The paper was violet and smelled of roses.

"My darling Michael," he read. "I miss you..."

The phone rang, interrupting the letter.  Reaching for the TALK button, he answered, "This is Michael. How can I help you?"

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