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.





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