Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thursday Tales: The Dari Mart and Paris



"What do you want to do?"

I glanced up at Mikayla. "Um, finish my homework?"

She wrinkled her nose at me. "No, not today. I mean, what do you want to do? Your life! What do you want to be, where do you want to go? We have our whole lives ahead of us...  where do you think you're going to be in ten years?"

"What are you, my guidance counselor?" I shrugged. "It doesn't matter, anyway.  Getting through junior year is about as far ahead as I can think."

"Emmalynn, you have no imagination. Of course it matters! Don't you have any dreams? Places you want to go, things you want to do? Don't all those books you read tell you anything? Don't you want to be something bigger than... than this?"

I put my pencil down. "Mickey, we live in a small town.  I can't have big dreams because they aren't going to come true.  I'm going to finish high school and go to the community college.  Then I'm going to drop out and get a job at the Dari Mart.  And marry Butch the Guy at the Auto Shop.  We'll live in a house behind his parents, have two children, and a dog who won't pee outside. And if I have big dreams, I'll never be able to be pretend I'm happy with that." I picked my pencil back up and turned back to my homework.  "What'd you get for #6?"

"Fine, geez." Mikayla's eyebrows furrowed in hurt.  "Forget I asked."

---------

The clock blinked in the dark. 3am.  Rolling over, I punched some numbers into my phone and listened to the ring.

Mikayla mumbled sleepily into the other end. "Mmm, hello?  It's 3 o'clock in the morning, this had better be important."

I blinked into the dark of my room.

"Emmy?" she asked.  "Are you okay?"

"Paris. I want to go to Paris. And I want to stand on the top of the Eiffel Tower and kiss a Frenchman named Jacques-Pierre in the fire of a French sunset. I want to go to NYU. I want to take a ride in a hot air balloon. I want to write and scribble my name on the front page of my own book in an uncomfortable line of people at the Barnes and Noble. I want to ride on a gondola in Venice and I want to see the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel and I want to walk along the Great Wall of China.  Not the whole thing.  I want to go to a party and kiss some guy whose name I don't know just because he thinks I'm pretty. I want to have a closet with 50 pairs of shoes, one for every occasion... sometimes the same shoe in multiple colors.  And a Broadway show.  I want to dress up and see something I've always wanted to see right there off of Times Square."

Nothing but silence.

"Mickey, are you there?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm here. Can we start with Paris?"


------------
Photo Credit: Rian Castillo

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Girl in the Picture


Coffee in hand, I glanced through the attic window at the driving rain before settling among the boxes on the floor. A cloud of dust filled the room as I tugged the lid off of the first one and I sneezed.  Three times.  I could tell this was going to go well.

I could think of about 50 things I'd rather do with my day, but I'd been putting off going through the boxes in Mother's attic for weeks.   We needed to sell this house.

I pulled out a stack and started flipping through the old photographs.  They must have belonged to my grandmother? My great-grandmother?  So many people that I didn't have any idea who they were, staring blearily into the camera, waiting for it to immobilize their lives into still life for some unknown descendant to start at with indifference years down the road.  How was I connected to these people?  How was I like them? Did they worry about the same things I worry about? Did they have the same faults, the same strengths? Did they make the same mistakes?

Flip. Flip. Flip. One after the other, discarded at my feet.

Mid-flip, I stopped.  One picture caught me. It was different from the others.  A girl, I think.  It was so hazy.  She was reaching for the camera, the person behind the camera? I didn't know, but I felt like she was seeing me.  I knew that wasn't right, couldn't be right.

I flipped her.  But, beside me in her own stack.

Flip, flip, flip through more pictures while I tried to ignore her.

Listen to me. I could hear her. I could hear her trying to talk to me.

I picked up the picture again and stared into her eyes.  "What?" I said aloud and then flushed.  I was talking to a picture, that was ridiculous. I put it back on the floor.

Flip, flip flip.

Please listen to me. The voice in my head seemed to plead.

I sighed and picked her up again, searching her eyes.  Who was she?  Why was she here?  And while I stared, her expression changed.  Her eyes became sad, resigned. Her fingers closed.  Her lips moved. It's too late. He's here.

"Who?" I asked the girl in the picture. "Who's here?"

That's when I looked up and saw his face in the window.

Monday, September 17, 2012

When the Criticism Can Cripple

"Ding Dong, the witch is dead."  That was the tweet.

I'll spare you the situational details, but the witch was me.  And that one stung deeply. I guess it was meant to.

But, it also wasn't devastating.

It would have been.  Two years earlier, I would have cried. I would have retreated and tried to pull the blanket over my head. I would have been really hurt. I would have taken and absorbed every drop of blame, both the deserved and the undeserved. I would have been completely broken by the criticism.

But this wasn't two years earlier.  This was now. This was two years of learning who I was and who I wasn't.  This was two years spent living and making mistakes and learning from them. This was two years of friendship with a mentor who repeatedly taught me how to let things roll off my back (one of the hardest lessons I've ever learned).  This was two years of learning to listen to the people who cared about me and who mattered to me.

It used to be that everyone's opinions mattered to me. I wanted everyone to like me. I needed everyone to like me.  And so, everyone's opinions made up what I thought of myself.  I even changed myself to fit who I thought other people wanted me to be because I needed their opinions to be positive ones.  Even, I guess, if their opinions of me (while possibly favorable) weren't actually who I was.

But I've slowly come to understand that everyone liking me is never going to happen.  Positive opinions from everyone are never going to exist.  I had to come to a place where I understood that this was okay. And this was okay because there did exist people who loved me for who I was, who liked me for who I was and am.  I came to learn that it wasn't the criticisms of the world that mattered, but the criticisms of these people.  That if I was okay with these people, the people who were important to me, then it wasn't so important that I be okay with the whole world.

So, a year later from this "Ding Dong the witch is dead"?  It still stings a bit. And it still hurts. But I don't let the criticism cripple me because I know who I am and I know who's important.

I hope you won't let the criticism cripple you, either.  You're loved by someone, and it's them who matters.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Celtic Thunder: The Show DVD Review

Celtic Thunder, international phenomenon (as my husband likes to joke), exploded into my life March of 2008 with their first DVD/PBS Special, The Show.

But what was/is so great about it?

At it's basest... cute guys with fantastic voices and Irish/Scottish accents.  What's not to like?  But, it's more than that.

As they will be the quickest to insist, Celtic Thunder is not a boyband.  They are five soloists who auditioned to be a part of this show.  Each of them brings something very different to the table, which I've come to realize is part of the genius of the show.  Five very different soloists, both in age and style.  One is a melodic folk singer. Another is a classically trained Irish tenor.  Another is steeped in musical theater talent, another a gifted songwriter.  All topped off with an adorable young teenager with a voice too big to be coming out of such a young boy.  Here's the thing...  If you don't like the style of one?  There are four others there to tickle your ear.  When they aren't soloing, they're coming together in ensemble songs that are replete with intricate harmonies.

The Show was their first DVD, and while they have improved in many ways since their debut four years ago, it is still their debut DVD that I find to be the most fitting introduction to Celtic Thunder.  It is with this DVD that I always tell new fans... "This is what you should watch first."  Is it their best?  I don't know.  But, it is the one that most tugs at my heart, most says "you want to be a part of this," and most makes me stop all else so I can listen.

Group Songs

The ensemble songs are almost always my favorite.  It's the blend, folks.  The blend and the harmonies are amazing. Heartland is incredible.  It's haunting and a little menacing, and the black trenchcoat wardrobe lends an air of mystery.  But, it's the harmonies and the power behind them that made me wheedle my husband into handing over the remote on the first night I ever saw them. Caledonia is probably my favorite ensemble song they've ever done. Dressed in classy kilts, this song just puts my heart in my throat. Beautifully done.

Ireland's Call is a fun song that's become a big fan favorite. This performance in particular is full of smiles and fancy choreography.  Ok, I lied on the fancy choreography.  But they do have a routine of sorts. Of special note is Mull of Kintrye. The harmonies are not as complex on this one, but it's fun to watch George attempt to navigate his way down the stairs after the guy operating the fog machine apparently went to sleep.

George Donaldson


George is a longtime folk singer, the lone member from Scotland, and has a mellow voice that you want to wrap around you like butter.  If you like to wrap yourself in butter.  That's exactly the wrong metaphor.  This first DVD probably actually under-utilizes George's talents in a lot of beautiful ballads. You don't really get to see his flair with an upbeat song until later productions. My particular favorite is My Boy. It's not the happiest of songs, but he sings it really beautifully and always hits me right in my heart. The Old Man has always been a fan favorite with a really poignant ballad, and Yesterday's Men comes close to hinting of George's more vibrant persona.

Ryan Kelly


Ryan comes to Celtic Thunder from a village in Northern Ireland and showcases a flair for musical theater.  He always shines the most when he has a song that he can really act out and bring to life. Heartbreaker is one of the best examples of this, really giving Ryan the opportunity to shine as a singer/actor in this role as a "player" innocent only in his own mind. In a rare contrast to that, his performance of Brothers in Arms is one that has always been my particular favorite and nearly brings me to tears. It's beautifully sung and emoted.  Ryan also brings a sweet sadness to the well-known Eagles hit, Desperado.



Paul Byrom

Paul is a well-trained Irish tenor who consistently brings to life the epitome of the romantic male lead. He is handsome and tender and possesses the ability to sweep you off your feet with a rise of the eyebrow. Remember Me (Recuerdame) is possibly one of the most beautiful of his solo pieces, romantic and poignant. Paul brings a similar tenderness to She, making you want to curl up in his lap and pet his head after his heartbreak. He joins with Ryan in a powerful duet, That's a Woman, where Paul's romantic lead faces off against Ryan's rogue.  It's nearly impossible to not fall in love with Paul, and I've never been able to figure out how Ryan enunciates as quickly as he does in this song. If you like Broadway-style interaction, don't miss this one.

Keith Harkin

Keith comes to Celtic Thunder with incredible vocal talent, instrumental expertise, and the beginnings of strong songwriting skills. His voice is most entrancing in The Island, a sad but beautifully performed song, and The Mountains of Mourne. Anything where the lilt of his accent really shines through his singing is beautiful, and the latter tune does a great job of highlighting his skills with a guitar. Lauren and I is his first self-written piece to be performed in a Celtic Thunder show, and gives a hint of the talent yet to be developed.

Damian McGinty


Damian is so young. Just 14 years old when this DVD was filmed, the voice that comes out of him is amazing, especially given his young age.  The first time I saw him, I was convinced that he was lip syncing to some other person's voice for a few songs until I finally admitted, "No. That's really him. Incredible." He is sweet and engaging and adorable. Damian sings a simply beautiful rendition of Bird Without Wings, with George. He goes on to bring a smile to everyone's face when he sings and dances (kinda) his way through Puppy Love. Adorable.  Absolutely adorable.  Every girl under the age of 16 just falls in love with him.


Extras

A few extra things...  As with every Celtic Thunder DVD, this one includes an instrumental with Cal/Local Hero, which shows off the talent of a Mr Neil Byrne.  A couple years down the road, Neil will move up to the front and become a principle singer with Celtic Thunder. But, here, he simply performs on guitar.  Amazing talent that, I think, could only possibly be rivalled by Keith.  I'd love to see them both in a duet that allows them both to play intricately.

This DVD also includes a substantial bonus feature section with tons of interviews with the five main guys, both as a group and individually.  These are really interesting to watch, before any of them really had any taste of fame.  Just sweet excited young performers.  Good luck, too, with listening to Damian and George. This is before any of them spent much time in America and their accents are thick!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Tales: More of A Handsome Cowboy


Today's tale is a continuation of A Handsome Cowboy

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


The evening's fire crackled under his expert hands.

"So, how does this usually work, Adam?" We'd introduced ourselves on the afternoon's ride across the meadow.  "You swoop in on damsels in distressing cattle stampedes, swoop them off their feet, make them fall in love with you and live happily ever after?"

He looked at me with his blue eyes.  "Something like that. Except for the happily ever after part.  We usually part after the epilogue.  That's always a trial... all the crying and caterwauling."

"Well, what do you expect? You make them think you're in love with them and then -- BAM-- nothing. Do they even know that they're in a book?"

"Not usually.  Most of them think they're in a dream."

"Well, I think that's terrible," I lectured. "Getting a girl's hopes up about a handsome cowboy being in love with her and then breaking her heart. You should be ashamed of yourself."  The wind whipped across the plain and I moved closer to the fire, wrapping my arms around myself.

Adam shrugged. "It's just a job, Sara.  It was romance hero or pig farmer.  Here."  I looked up to see him holding his shirt out to me. "Put it on, you're cold."

I stared.  "And you're..." Beautiful. 

His eyes crinkled up at the corners. "Tall, handsome, broad shoulders, a torso that tapers down into slim hips, tan, six-packed, virile?"

"Well, I would have added 'enough chest hair to be salivatingly manly but not so much as to be gorilla-like,' but you're amazingly close.  How'd you do that?"

"It's in my character bio."  He laid himself on the ground and put his hands behind his head, gazing into the sky.  "Go to sleep, Sara. We have a long ride tomorrow if we're going to get you to Authors Village."

I did the same.  In the quiet of the meadow, underneath the millions of stars, it was easy to slowly slip into sleep. But before I did, I heard Adam murmur, "It isn't always stampedes.  Sometimes it's bandits."

I smiled and dreamed of bandits, pretty cowboys, and kisses.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Forgiving When It Just Hurts

I lost something that meant something to me yesterday.  In the quest to find it (which mostly consisted of cleaning out my desk drawers), I found a notebook in which I'd written my goals and plans for Fall of last year, possibly the year before?  It's not dated, so I'm not positive.


  • Send the kids back to school (Done)
  • Get organized before Christmas (Sort of done)
  • Find your inner cowgirl at the Brad Paisley concert (SO done)
  • Enjoy lots of football at Autzen (Done with finesse!)
  • Enjoy the Celtic Thunder season (Done. Hush your face, Amy!)
  • Be proud of of who and what you are (Done, I think...)
  • Start a blog (Oh done.)
  • A class for me (I THINK this is before I started linedancing, so done.)
  • Forgive what needs forgiving and move on...  (Crap.)
I don't have any magic words for you today, friends.  I still struggle with this.  Not the same way I did... It's not daily.  I have lots of days where I can find forgiveness and I can find kindness and I can find patience and I can find the strength to let hurts go.  On those days, I think "I am all better now. I can do this. This is NO PROBLEM."

But I also still have days where I can't. I have days where I deeply miss the friendships that have been lost. I wonder if they were even real. I have days where the hurt is still so acute, it was like it happened yesterday.  I have days where it's like someone walks up to me, goes "Huh... I wonder what this knife is doing here and what would happen if I gave it a big strong twist?"  Those days are crippling. Those days make me want to crumple in a heap and cry out, "I give! I give!" (And possibly punch the person who did the twisting in the face.)

I don't know what to tell you about those days.  I guess we just have to get through them.  On those days, I always tell myself, "Hang on, it will be better soon.  But, remember that if you do something out of pain today, you will have to deal with the repercussions tomorrow.  Think before you open your mouth."  Which is a little funny since I almost never think before opening my mouth!

If you're there, I'm sorry.  Deeply deeply sorry. I know it hurts and it's suffocating.  Just hang on.  

It'll be better tomorrow. Even if just for tomorrow.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thursday Tales: The Long Drive Home

Paul put his hands on the counter. "I need to buy a flight to Portland for tonight. It's a family emergency."

The airline employee's fingernails clicked away at her keyboard. "I'm sorry, sir," she said, barely even looking up. "I'm afraid the last flight is completely full, but I can get you on a flight in the morning."

He ran his hand through his hair. "No, I can't go in the morning.  I need to go tonight. It's an emergency. I-- I need to get there tonight."

"I'm sorry, we don't have any other flights, and this is the last flight out tonight from the whole airport.  The car rentals are downstairs?"

Driving was going to take all night.  He wasn't sure that he had all night.

"Dad, you need to come home."
"But I'm in the middle of a conference, kiddo."
"I know, Dad.  I wouldn't ask.  But, you need to be here tonight."

 Driving up the interstate, Paul pushed his little rental car to its limit.  He prayed that the cops were all at the doughnut shop... He wasn't stopping for anyone.  As the little towns slipped by, so did his memories.  Christmases, birthdays. First dates, a wedding. Babies, tears, joys, fights.  All of it.

"Why do you have to go again? What happened to our trip to Hawaii?"
"Honey, it's for work. I have to go."
"It's always for work."

He wished he hadn't gone.

Paul pulled into the driveway of the building, nearly running over the curb, and parked in the Handicapped spot by the door.  He'd probably get towed, but he didn't care.  It didn't matter anymore.  He pushed the button on the elevator frantically and cursed it for being so slow.

Running out before the door was even open, he nearly collided with his own daughter.  She looked at him reprovingly.  "I'm sorry, Lizzie.  I got here as quickly as I could... There were no flights, I had to drive all night.  How is she?"

Lizzie slipped a hand into her pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper, and waited while he unfolded it.

"My darling,I'll wait for you.Love Your Girl"

"I'm sorry, Dad."




Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Behind the Mask


You hurt me.  But, I put on the mask so you wouldn't know.
You confused me. But, I put on the mask so you wouldn't know.
I failed again. But, I put on a mask so you wouldn't know.
I have dreams that are bigger than I think I can accomplish.  But, I have masks so you won't know.
I'm afraid that you will kick me when I'm down. So, I put on the mask before you know you have an opening.

A thousand reasons, a thousand different masks.  And I wear them all.

For what?

So you won't know that I can feel pain?  So you won't know that I don't always understand?
So you won't know that I'm not perfect?  So you won't know my heart's desires?
So you won't know that I'm afraid of what you can do to me?

I do. All of these things, I do.

But, I'm afraid for you to know. 

I'm afraid of your rejection. I'm afraid of your indifference. I'm afraid of your words.
Sometimes I'm just afraid of your silence.

I wonder, on quiet nights like this one, who I could be if I wasn't afraid...  who I could be if I had no masks to wear and no one to fear.

I wonder who I would be and how I would be different.

If I was the person behind the masks.



Monday, September 3, 2012

Not an Artist

"Amanda and I had this great idea for Mom's Christmas present this year!!" It was early November and one of my sisters was on the phone.  "You know how Mom collects angels?"

"Mmmhmm..."

"Well, we thought that each of us could go to one of those 'Paint Your Own Ceramics' places, paint an angel on a tile, and then we could put them altogether in a frame for her."  She was very excited.

My heart sank. "Carey... I don't know.  Yours would be great, and Amanda's would be great.  But, you've seen my drawing skills.  Mine will be awful."

"Oh, it's not that hard.  Come on, PLEASE?  We really want to do it.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!!"

How could I say "No"?

"Alright," I sighed.  But I knew I was right.  Mine was going to be awful.

I'm not an artist.

I don't mean that I'm not Claude Monet.  I mean, I'm not an artist... AT ALL.  Every project I ever turned in during elementary school came back with an A- and the words "Illustrations need more work."  It's not that I didn't try.  I DID.  I tried so hard...  But it's like I was born without the thing that makes you able to turn the picture in your head into the picture in your hand.  I tried to fudge it with stencils, but I even managed to screw those up.

I didn't grow out of it either.  I was saved in junior high and high school by the ability to use clip art.  But I've always, my whole life, been a total failure at anything artsy.  Anything crafty, too.  I've always looked on my friends who are crafty with a certain amount of envy.  They create such cute homemade gifts, but I know I'm literally unable to make things look anything even approaching cute.  I'm not even being mean to myself.  I'm being honest!

But, my sisters really wanted to do this.  It would be embarrassing, but I was willing to take one for the team.

I practiced.  I drew angel after angel, tossing page after page as they all looked like...  I don't even know... mutant flies?  Finally, I settled on a person I thought I could maybe possibly paint and took myself to the painting store.  I was there for hours, painstakingly creating this angel...  and I was proud of myself!  It almost sort of kind of looked like an angel.

I gave it to the lady and then returned to pick it up a week later.  My artsy little angel.

"What... is that?" my husband asked that night, as he spied it sitting on the table.

"It's an angel!" I answered, a bit indignantly.

"Oh.  Why does it have slits in its dress?"

"Those are arms!"

"Right, sorry."  He stared at it for a long time.  "Is that a... mohawk?"

I sighed, dejectedly.  "No.  It's supposed to be a part in her hair."

He patted my hand with sympathy.  "Well. Good thing it's for your mom."

The tiles were put together and framed.  They were wrapped.  On Christmas morning, they were unwrapped and cried over.  Mom loved it.  I suppose it was worth it.

And to this day, there it sits on her living room wall.  Two beautiful angels... and, well...  the one that looks like it came from Reject Preschool.

I know you think I'm exaggerating.  But, I assure you...



I am not.




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