Monday, December 23, 2013

Beautiful Mistakes

They were mistakes, no doubt.

But, they were beautiful mistakes. Not so much because it was good to have made them, but because it was good to have learned from them.  When she looked back, she could see the turns she had taken that maybe weren't the wisest choices.  But, when she looked back, she could also see how those turns had taught her something.  Lots of somethings.  And lots of somethings that were important to learn.

They hadn't been easy lessons. Some of them had hurt deeply in the learning.  Sometimes they had hurt her.  Sometimes they had hurt other people. They weren't lessons that had come without a price.  Some prices, she was happy to pay.  Some prices, and mostly the ones for which she wasn't the one who had to pay, she wished she had somehow made other choices. But yet, in the end, they were prices that had been paid, choices that had been made, and there was no going back and choosing other things. There was no going back and paying other prices.

So she looked back and she simply found herself grateful for the lessons. She was grateful for the wisdom. She was grateful for the opportunities to grow and change and become something else.

And yes, she was grateful for the mistakes.  Hard mistakes, but beautiful mistakes.

For they made it possible to be who she was today.  And who she was...  well, that was beautiful, too.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013 Theme: Choose Who You Want to Be

Choose who you want to be, 
despite what anyone else does, says, or thinks.

In the end, I suppose this was my theme for 2013. It's something I stumbled across early in the year, and I really liked its idea.  But, I kept returning to it over and over as the year wore on.

I suppose that I am (and perhaps we all are?) a pretty responsive person. I don't act so much as I respond. I change what I do and think and am, based on what other people do, think, and say about me.  And perhaps that isn't un-understandable.  It's difficult to not let those things affect us.  But, I came to a decision early on this year that I was responsible for who I was. I was responsible for what I did and thought and said. And it wasn't okay for me to blame other people for those things.

Because, at the end of the day, I got to choose who I was.

And who I was... it wasn't dependent on other people's choices and thoughts and words.  Those were their things to choose.  I couldn't control those things, and neither should I try.  But what could I control?

I could control me. I had power over me. I could choose the person I wanted to be and I could make choices based on that person.

I'd love to say that I was a rousing success.  But, it probably wouldn't be true. I often had to be very strict with myself and reprimand, "No! You get to choose. Don't change who you are, the person you want to be, the kind of friend/parent/etc you want to be, based on someone else's actions. Let them be responsible for them. You be responsible for you."  Sometimes I listened.  Sometimes I didn't.

But I think I'm ending the year content in those choices. Part of me wishes that I'd chosen deliberate action more often, and responsive action less. But, I think I'm ending the year content in the choices I made, content in the times that I went right along being who I wanted to be, no matter if anyone else was on the train with me or not.

Be the person you want to be, Jo. It doesn't matter what anyone else does.

I think I'll take that into 2014 with me, too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

It's been a really rough six weeks.  Really rough.

It wasn't supposed to be!  November started with a CRUISE with my absolute favoritest group of vocalists, and I was really excited about it.  The first time in a really long time that I'd been able to go on a vacation that was just for me.  But, on the plane ride home from Miami, I was inundated with emails from my youngest...

Mommy, when are you coming home?  I am so sick...

And.... she was. A misdiagnosis of strep throat had passed over the pneumonia in her body, which took a repeat visit to the doctor to find.  She's been sick ever since.  We're still struggling with breathing difficulties, trying to figure out the right medical road to walk.  And while we do that, school marches on without us. I'm ever aware of the amount of school she is missing, while she struggles with being panic-attack-level afraid of returning.

On top of that, another one of our kids got sick a week ago and she's been home too!

Can we just say I'm a little worn out of playing nurse... and I'm struggling to see the light at the tunnel.

And sometimes life is like this.  Sometimes life is a struggle and you walk roads that seem dark and that have no end.  It's on roads like this that you have to be deliberate about looking around you. You have to pay attention to the good things around you, even if they are little.  Sometimes the littlest smile can make the biggest difference in a week of hard.  And you are going to have weeks that are hard.

And so you need to enjoy that cup of coffee without guilt.  Make time for the run that fills you with endorphins and makes you feel strong. Sit in front of the fireplace and stare into its flames.  Play that new CD you bought and stop apologizing that it's the 19th time you've played it in the last four days.

Do what you need to get to the end of the tunnel...  cause it's there. Just keep walking, keep looking, keep smiling.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Before I Fall

Before I fall, could you look a little closer?
I want you to see who I am really.
I need you to see.
I need someone to see.

Before I fall, could you move a little closer?
I just need to be in a space that isn't so open, so empty.
That won't hurt so much when I crash.
As if the mere presence of others makes the ground softer.

Before I fall, could you speak a little softer?
Just a kind word or two, a thought of understanding.
It makes such a difference just to know that we're not alone here
That someone cares.

Before I fall, could you hold me a little longer?
Hold my hand another minute before letting go...
Because I know that the fall is coming
And if you're here, someone might catch me when I finally let go

And fall.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holding On and Letting Go

Sometimes I think that one of my deepest struggles is knowing when it's time to hold on and when it's time to let go. I don't always trust myself and and I don't always trust if my feelings reflect what is true, and so I often look outside of myself for someone to tell me which road I should walk, which path I should take.

But, I think that you know.  I think that, when you're struggling with it, deep in your heart, you know if it's time to do one or if it's time to do the other.  Fear complicates that knowing.  Are you letting go too soon and losing the chance to heal what's broken? Or are you hanging on for too long and robbing yourself of the chance to find where you're meant to be?  And that fear, on either side, keeps you immobile, keeps you from moving down either path.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe my deepest struggle isn't knowing which path to take. Perhaps it's just being able to trust myself and to believe that what I know in my heart is right.

Because I think you know.  Deep down, under all the "what if'"s and indecision and "but what about"s, you know.  And you have to trust that knowing. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hard Words to Say

These are hard words to say and sometimes I just don't know how to say them. Or sometimes, I'm worried that, if I say them, you won't hear them right or you'll hear the wrong tone and you won't understand what I'm trying to say in the first place.

So I say different words. And we talk about different things. Because the things I really want to say are too hard, too fraught with danger, too untrustworthy.

But, the hard words are still there. They haven't gone anywhere and there are parts of me that still need to say them. That still need to be heard. So I bury those parts and I bury those words and we don't talk about the things.

Because they are hard to say.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Safe in the Harbour: Following Your Own Dreams

When I got involved with being a Celtic Thunder supporter, I was a passionately exuberant fan. There were a lot of reasons for that - some of them personal, some of them less so. But, one thing that drew me was that there was something quite inspiring and rewarding about watching someone achieve their dreams. Real life Cinderella stories played out in people I'd actually spoken with.  Perhaps, it's something of what draws us to watching shows like American Idol and the like, too. Very simply, it was a fun thing to be involved in.

And involved, I was. I threw myself headfirst into participating, supporting, and promoting in any and every way that I could. I was delighted if those things contributed in any way to the success of the artists I admired. And even if they didn't, I was thrilled just to see those people succeed, anyway. In many ways, there was nothing wrong with that delight. Wanting to see others achieve their dreams is a good thing.

One of the members released his first solo album a couple years ago, and on it, he covered a song called "Safe in the Harbour" that began to really speak to me.

"Some men are sailors, but most are just dreamers
Held fast by the anchors they forge in their minds.
In their hearts they'll know they'll never sail over deep water
To search for a treasure they're afraid they won't find.
"So, in sheltered harbours, they cling to their anchors
Bank down their boilers and shut down the steam
And they wait for the sailors to return with their treasures
That will fan the dull embers and fire up their dreams."

Every time I heard it, it nagged at my heart. And I ignored it - because listening meant change. But, when I could ignore it no longer, I began to understand what it meant for me. You se, that well-intentioned desire to see people I barely knew attain success had become my personal top priority. It was what I worked for. Their success had become mine - only it wasn't true.

For as fun and rewarding as it was to see their dreams come true (and it was), the truth was that their dreams weren't mine. I had my own artist's heart burning within my chest. But, by throwing my all into fanning the embers of someone else's fire, I was pouring buckets of water onto my own. There was simply nothing left for me.

There is great value in supporting each other's dreams. We should all be doing that for each other. Supporting, encouraging, sharing each other sensibly when we can and helping each other up when we fall. But, we each are given a burning purpose in our hearts and souls, and they are each weighted with value. When we douse our own flames to make someone else's more valuable, we insult the impact that we were meant to have.

It's not a bad thing to support someone else, and I don't mean to communicate that there is. There is good in that and likely none of us would see much success if we didn't share that support. But, I was wrong in how far down that road I allowed myself to go. I dishonoured my own passions and talents. I disrespected my own dreams and value. And those were wrong things.

Balance is a good thing. Support each other, but follow your own dreams, too. Not just someone else's.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Thought I Would Be Different

I thought I would be different...  when I got through it all.
And I was. I was different.
I saw things different. I said things different. I felt things different.

But I was the same, too. I had the same past and the same face and the same pain and the same happy.
and I wasn't really sure how to be both.  To be both the same and different.
Perhaps I'm still not sure.

I'm still the same. And I'm still different.
But I don't always know which I want to be.

And I guess that's okay. It's okay to have changed.  And it's okay to have not changed.
And it's okay to be both. and it's okay to not be sure which I am at a given moment.

It's even okay that I see things in me that maybe others haven't seen yet.
It's okay that I'm not always who people think I am.

This "becoming" business isn't always pretty. There are stops and starts and they don't always make sense.
It's a twisty topsy-turny road...  but honestly, I wouldn't want to be on another.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Great Thief

Where you've been isn't necessarily where you're going.

Are you one to focus too much on what's happened in the past?  I definitely am, and so I am probably the single worst person in the world to preach on this.  I have walked through this lesson more times than I can count, and most likely, I will walk through it again a countless more before I really internalize it.

But, what I learn over and over is that focusing on the past only robs us from being able to focus on the present, and in doing so, we miss our future. That's too much to miss.

Sometimes what has come before is so haunting. There is pain and regret, what-could-have-been's and choices you wish you had made. There are words that were spoken, some by you, some by them - and sometimes those words just hang about in the air, a whisper in your ear of what things you can't seem to walk away from.  And so I understand when the past seems too heavy to escape.

But, if you can walk out from underneath its weight, and if we can do that together...  there is much waiting for us here. There is beauty and sunshine and... just life to be lived! People to meet, experiences to be had, relationships to enjoy.

Don't let your past steal your future.  Let it go... and embrace what is here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Tales: The Clock Tower

I looked out the window and I watched the hands move on the clock across the courtyard.  Minute by minute, they ticked away.

I'd always knew this day was come. When I got involved, I knew what could happen. But somehow, I never thought it would happen to me. Like I was immune from the risks inherent in the situation. Sure, I knew others who had fallen. But me?  Never. I don't think it really ever entered my mind that I would somehow ever be here in this room, facing what I'm facing today.

I thought I was superhuman.  But, as it turns out, I'm just normal-human.

The hands ticked again.  Up to 12.  There was a pause, as if the clock itself was inhaling sharply, unwilling to toll its bell and signal the beginning.  I waited, and eventually it could stall no longer.

The bell rang out.
The door to my room opened.
And suddenly it was all dark.

Today was Execution Day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Back to the Start

"Let's go back to the start," we said. "Where it all began and let's start over..."

and so we tried. But, it never quite worked.

I think that's where we messed up -- by trying to go back to the start.  Because you can't do that, not really. You change, they change, we change. And going back to the start is trying to go back to fixing something with people who don't even exist anymore. You can't build a relationship on ghosts.

What you can do is start again, but where you are. But, it's not going back to the beginning. You have to deal with what's come between the start and the now.  You can agree to forgive each other, and that can be a part of the dealing and the healing. But, you can't go back and pretend that those things didn't happen, and you can't pretend that those things didn't mean something.

Because they did... if they didn't, you wouldn't need to start over and you would have no reason to even want to go back to the beginning.  They meant something.  And because they meant something, they matter and you can't just ignore them and hope they'll go away. They mattered and we need to respect that.

But, just because you can't go back to the beginning doesn't mean that you can't still have something beautiful. It might be work for a little bit...  but beauty is not easily achieved.  But, when you get there, it is sweet and it is beautiful and it is worth it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Experiences on the 2013 Celtic Thunder Cruise

I have just returned from Miami where I disembarked from the Carnival Victory cruise ship after five days with the first ever Celtic Thunder cruise. What follows is my account of my trip, followed by some general thoughts written after reading comments from fellow cruisers.

Day 1 Highlights

The first time the guys came into view was the moment I started to get really worried.  The lobby of the cruise port was full of fans, waiting for them to let us start loading, when the guys came out and walked across this 2nd story walkway.  The entire place erupted into CRAZY boyband screams.  And I thought, "If the whole week is like this, I am going to throw myself over the side of the ship."

I had paid for Faster to the Fun through Carnival, so I got to get on the ship right away and drop my things off in my already-prepared cabin.  I walked around a bit, trying to get my bearings (I needn't have bothered... I spent five days on that ship and was still lost most of the time), and ate some lunch before wandering back to my cabin to unpack and make my cabin like home.

Then, it was out to the Sail Away Party where the drinks were flowing!  It was quite crowded out here, as EVERYONE showed up to this first pool party.  But, it was great to find my friends, grab a drink, and wander around the deck.  There was a slideshow of pictures with fans going on the big screen, and eventually Sharon and the guys came out to welcome everyone to the cruise.

The first event for me was the Picture Taking Session.  I'm going to say this was weird.  After standing in a long line, you walk into a room where the guys are all sitting in chairs on a ledge behind you, and you stand in front of them to pose for the camera. Just a few minutes before I got in the room, they had told us that they needed to speed things along and basically to stop talking to them.  So I ended up feeling guilty even saying "Hi" to them as I approached.  A few things-- 1, Having all six in one spot, in a fairly rushed moment, is overwhelming.  There are just too many people to focus on at once!  I couldn't even tell you if they were all there, though I'm sure they were. Also... the ledge.  See, they're wearing kilts, and sitting down, with their laps at relative eye-level. You see what I'm saying.  and while this may sound like a complaint over the rushed-ness of it, and perhaps it is, I'm not sure how to fix it.  As it was, the guys were there taking pictures for five hours.

The big show for us that evening was Michael Londra's show, which was quite good.  I'm not a big Irish tenor fan, so it's probably not something I'd go to normally...  But he was very funny and his dancers were amazing.  Most people had reserved seats, but because I booked late, I didn't... Going into the cruise, I was a little worried about this. Would I be stuck in the back row? But, it actually turned out nicely.  The balcony actually had some spectacular seats. The large theater only seats 1000, so unless you're behind a pole, the balcony seats all had really good views and I ended up preferring them to the seats on the floor. 

I found an upper deck that didn't have much traffic late at night and developed a nightly ritual of retreating to it each late evening with a drink to do a little writing, and that was a peaceful part of my cruise that I loved.

Day 2 Highlights

Today was a day at sea, and I started with watching the Celtic Thunder channel on the TV (not kidding!) while getting ready to join a friend for a cup of coffee with Baileys on the pool deck before starting my run. (Though I'm not sure that Baileys before a run is really the BEST idea ever!) Ryan was running around the upper deck, but I didn't feel right about joining him so I waited for him to be done and gone before doing my own and returning to my cabin to get ready for the day.

They had a pool party on the deck (kind of a daily thing!) and I enjoyed some people-watching over lunch before heading off to Colm's pub quiz.  Oh Colm Keegan, how I adore thee...  let me count the ways.  He is such a cutie...  like a puppy! He was delightful and funny, and I had a great time listening to him talk.  I think he and Neil have the best accents to listen to.  He’s a natural flirt, and it was fun to watch his interplay with the audience. I had to leave early to get changed for my next event, but later found out that my team won and we got a Cruise CD.  I think I have most of the songs on it already, but it does have Colm's Harry's Game on it, which I've not heard - so I'm happy.

Next, I went to the high tea in the dining room.  This was a very nice to-do.  We sat at the big tables in the main dining room, with one empty chair at each table.  When we started, a number of CT staff and the like (Seamus, Mark, Sharon, her mom and aunt, etc, etc) all dispersed among the tables and they would sit and chat for awhile before moving on to another table.  It was pretty nice... We had Seamus for awhile and we chatted about some logistical CT things, and then later we had Sharon's aunt and we talked a lot about what tea is like in Ireland.  The food was very good and I felt like it was a $15 well-spent.

The big show for us on Sunday was Celtic thunder Family Feud.  Truthfully, I expected this to be a little lame... but I ended up really enjoying it. VERY VERY funny...  Though perhaps a little out of hand at the end with questions like "If your underwear could talk, what would it say?" and "What do you put in your mouth but don't swallow?"  Not kidding (but funny!).  The guys were a lot of fun, and the fan team was... interesting. I was mildly amused to watch one older lady definitely take advantage of her promixity to touch the guys as much as humanly possible.

I had a few friends on the cruise that I’ve known since the early days of the CT Pub, and we had requested to be seated together at dinner.  What this ended up meaning was that we were seated together, and at the same table with the same waitstaff, every night. This ended up being delightful and I highly recommend it for anyone going next year. It was lovely to get to know our waiter and his crew, and they made dinner great fun and didn’t blink an eye every time I requested peanut butter for my chocolate melting cake!
Good gravy, I'm not even near done with the night yet.

(C) Perri Becvar
Ok, so AFTER dinner...  I went to the first ABC show.  Ryan and Neil were very good, of course.  Basically a typical ABC show, if you've seen one before. Tunes from the Acoustically Irish CD, a few not on the CD that have been in ABC shows in the past, and Ryan premiered his American Dreams song from his upcoming album and it seemed to go over well. Beautiful harmonies, fantastic music, purty talking. :) Neil is a good friend.  Ryan gets so flustered when people yell out to marry him or whatever, and Neil's a great savior.

(You're going to hear, as people coming home, complaining about lining up for shows.  But, because front row seats weren't important to me, I never stood in line longer than about 10 minutes and was always happy with the sound and my view.... so do take complaining with a grain of salt.  They chose the five hour wait.)

After the show, I had a pass to the private party so I headed down to the lounge I had been told it was in.  This kind of worked like a lowkey M&G.  There were 20 of us, split into two circles of 10.  Everyone sat down and was provided with a drink of their choice from the bar.  When the boys came in, Neil sat in one circle and Ryan went to the other. Then it was kind of a Q&A chat...  eventually, they switched places so everyone had time with each guy in their circle.  It was nice until the end when it was sort of rush, rush to get it done and the boys out.  (Of note... and I kinda tuned out for this part and didn't tune back in till halfway through the conversation so I'm not promising accuracy, but I THINK Ryan said that we're looking at 2-3 months till his album comes out? I'm just saying you might want to pick different Christmas presents.)

A late night drink on my deck and then it was off to bed!

Day 3 Highlights

The moral of today is pretty much just "DO NOT DRINK THE RUM."

So today was our first port stop.  We were scheduled to be in Ocho Rios, Jamaica around 10am, so I got up early and had my morning run, showered, and had just enough time to eat breakfast before I needed to be off the ship for the excursion I had planned.

It seemed that everyone was doing something to do with the Dunn River Falls, and I really didn't want to go somewhere very crowded.  So instead, I had picked the River Tubing Safari.  This ended up being SUPER FUN.  They ushered us into a large van and we took a 30-45 minutes drive through the area up into the mountain, narrated by a lovely girl.  It was pretty interesting, driving through actual communities where people live. Coming from a very white collar area of Seattle, it's always very humbling to me to realize how much we have.

The excursion itself was delightful.  I'm not exactly the biggest daredevil in the world, so a part of me worried it would be too rapid-y and I would die, but it was great.  We all had single-person intertubes and floated down the White River for about three hours.  There were parts that had rapids but they were fairly tame and we were all watched carefully by our guides.  Our guides were AMAZING.  Four young men, all delightful, funny, and sweet...  and HUGE flirts.  Now.. yes.  I know that they were just wanting good tips... but man, I left that place feeling pretty darned good about myself!!  I would SO SO SO recommend the excursion to anyone going back... it was tons of fun, the stories and song from the guides were fantastic, and I loved it. I also met a lady that I really liked a lot, and it's so fun when you make friends that you just genuinely like.

Now, the rum.  Back at the visitor center for the excursion, they had a bar and a place you could order jerk chicken.  I'm not the biggest drinker, really, so when I do drink, it hits me pretty hard.  Rum Punch sounded like it would taste good.  And it didn't look like much either...  Mostly punch, and just a wee bit of rum.  In fact, I was thinking as I was watching the guy make the drink, "There's hardly any alcohol in that at all. This is going to the weakest drink ever."

Oh, Jo... Looks can be deceiving.  I drank the drink.... tipped the guides... and got back on the bus.  The ride seemed so much more... woozy... on the way down than it had seemed on the way up.  I began to realize that maybe there was more alcohol in that drink than I had originally anticipated.  By the time we got back to the ship, I was definitely not in the most soberest of conditions.  But, chatting with friends on the pool deck seemed like a good idea while the effects wore off.  Until Emmet and Colm walked by.  Guys, don't drink the rum!  There was much cheering.  Just from me.

Just. From. Me.

Long story short....  Or... embarrassing story not told... I ended up with the hug from Colm that I hadn't gotten when my team won the pub quiz the day before.  And a promise to myself to never ever ever drink Jamaican rum again. Sorry, Colm!

That evening's show was a shortened version of Mythology.  The big shows on the boat were about an hour and a half, so they were slightly shorter than a tour version.  I'm sure there are people somewhere who kept setlists and would do a better job of telling you what people sang... but I didn't and there was SO MUCH MUSIC throughout the week that I'm sure I would do a bad job of conveying it all.  Most of the guys had two solos each, and if there's something you want to know specifically, feel free to ask me and I'll try to answer but I can't promise I'm right.

The rest of the evening was mostly just relaxing.  Dinner... drinks with a friend... and then I spent a good portion of the rest of the night out on the deck, listening to Goitse play.  They were out many times throughout the week, both on the pool deck and in their own shows inside at a couple of the lounges.  They were definitely a lot of fun to listen to and I enjoyed them immensely.  Eventually, it was off to bed for Grand Cayman in the morning!

Day 4 Highlights

Today was another shore day, this time in the Cayman Islands.  I loved today!!

I got up and ran, took a shower, and then it was off with Perri and Meagan to the tender boats. We had a lowkey adventure planned.  We set out to the find the buses to go up to 7 Mile Beach... and got slightly lost.  I mean, not LOST. I knew where I was. I just didn't know how to find the bus.  I stopped to ask this guy.... who, of course, ended up being King of the Taxi Drivers.  But he ended up finding us a taxi and it all worked beautifully.

Our taximan took us to Royal Palms, a small beachclub up the road a bit, and it was a perfect few hours.  Beautiful day, sunshine, a light wind, warm water, and great sand.  It was just a day of pure relaxation. A few hours later, our taximan came back for us and drove us back to the cruise ship. Perfect and easy.   Before getting back on the boat, we did a little shopping and found a local to take pictures with.

After taking my stuff back to the cabin, I picked up some lunch and sat out on the deck for awhile, listening to the band play.  (This was an activity I tended to engage in a lot!  Mommas don't ever get to do nothing... I enjoyed doing nothing!)  After a bit, I wandered down to the lounge and sat on the floor to wait for Ryan's Pub Quiz to start. Mostly, I just wanted to see how he compared with young Mr Keegan.  I don't know his name, but the guy who warmed up the crowd here was HILARIOUS.  I'd seen him a few times before during the cruise and he was always funny... his giggle alone was worth hanging around for.

Ryan's quiz seemed to go great... charming as expected.  I left his quiz halfway through too so I don't know if he actually got through them all, but he said he had 50 questions to go through.  So, when I was there at least, he was moving pretty quickly through the list.

After a quick shower, I headed out to the pool deck for the first of three shows I planned to attend that night. George was doing an impromptu show outside, and as I hadn't seen him yet, that was my first stop.  He was wonderful, charming and delightful, as you would expect.  For this show, he was performing on the upper deck under the cover, while the rest of us sat out in the open.  During the last song, it started to rain so everyone got up and made for the covered areas... only George couldn't see that it was raining, just that everyone was leaving in mass exodus right in the middle of his song.  Poor guy!!  He stopped for a hug and a wee chat before heading off to get ready for the second night of Family Feud.

 I went back to my cabin and changed clothes into my formal dress for dinner, where we had a lovely evening playing dress-up.  My original plan for after-dinner had been to take in Colm/Emmet/Rebecca in the main theater.  But I had enjoyed George SO much on the pool deck that I decided I needed to see him again.  So I ended up not seeing the younger boys in exchange for George twice.  I was sorry to miss them, but George is wonderful and I honestly was glad to see him again.  Sorry boys!

 After George's show, I headed back to the other end of the ship and slipped into the main theater for the end of Ryan and Neil's 2nd ABC show.  I have tickets to both of their Seattle shows next month, so it occurred to me that this might be overkill.  But I had nothing better to do! 

 And the rest of the evening was just a lot of chatting!  I ended up sitting with a couple friends on the Promenade and we talked until nearly 5am!! A late night, but good times spent with good people.

Day 5 Highlights

This was very much a lazy day.  There really wasn't much going on until later in the evening.  On the one hand, this could have been a good time to schedule some music appearances.  But, on the other, I think the whole boat was worn out, cast and fans alike, and we all needed a rest!

I headed up to the very tippy top of the ship with Perri and Meagan, and our good friend Vedat (the water slide attendant boy) stole some of the super comfy chairs from the Cast Only area for us.  It was a great place to sit and look out over the ship and ocean.  This was one of my very favorite things we did all cruise! 

They had some sort of deck party that afternoon where the dancers from Gaelic Rhythm were teaching people how to dance.  This got pretty funny when Colm and Ryan were coerced into going on the stage to help demonstrate. Such good sports!! I was a little concerned when the boys came OFF the stage... quite a bit of swarming.  But they seem to have survived.

Really, I just sat up there for a really long time that day...  Vedat is the man.  I know it doesn't sound like much, activity-wise, but I needed the relaxation.

The big event on this, our last night, was the Best Of show.  I REALLY enjoyed this show, you guys. (Well, except for the tone-deaf girl sitting next to me who insisted on singing along to everything.) The lads were in perfect form -- so talented, funny, and playful. Keith threw Colm's shoe into the audience. They had the worst time staying upright (thanks to some rocky seas) and it was all fantastic.  Well done, boys.

And the rest of the night, after dinner, was really just play time.  I had a few last drinks with folks.  I saw Goitse in the Irish Pub. Emmet and Neil both came out for a long time to do autographs and pictures, and it was really nice to get to chat with them.  I'm getting better... I actually wasn't shaking when I told Emmet I loved him singing This Is The Moment this time!  You'd think after six years!!

One more daiquiri with Perri at the bar and then we couldn't put off going to bed any longer... Goodnight Cruise!  Thanks for everything!

Some Final Thoughts


I would not say that this was a "Become Best Friends with the Guys" kind of trip, and if that's the reason you went, you might have been disappointed.  But if you went to be completely immersed in the opportunities to see the boys perform, I think you would be happy. 

George, Emmet, and Colm seemed to be out and visible quite often, and I have to give them props for that. It can't have been easy to be them and GET anywhere on the ship publicly, but they seemed to make a frequent effort, and that was pretty cool for the people who got to see them. I didn't see Keith much myself, but I heard of lots of people seeing him around Rebecca's frequent shows. I only saw Neil that one night, but he could have been out more that I didn't see.

I thought Ryan and Colm were both really classy by going throughout the hallways on our last day and signing the papers on anyone's door that they could.  It was a nice surprise for people to come "home" to.  Had I known they were going to do so, I might have taken my poem about Ryan's leather pants off my door... but at least it's signed now! :) 

The Lines

I cannot stress this enough.  In large part, standing in line was unnecessary. I have seen the complaints about this, and in part, they are valid.  The lines for the smaller shows did exist.  The first few days, it made it look like getting into the smaller shows would be impossible. In fact, I passed by Emmet and Colm’s first show because, by the time I was finished with dinner (more on that in a minute), the line seemed oppressively long and I figured I’d just try again on another day. (As a note, this got better as the cruise progressed.  They moved to a ticket system that seemed to help with this, and I commend the Powers that Be for experimenting with possible solutions.)

But, for the shows in the main lounge?  No, no, and no. I just do not understand why people DID it. There was plenty of room! The thing is, I went into this cruise wanting to see the shows. But, it wasn’t important to me to be in the front row.  Instead, I went into this cruise wanting to see as many of the offered shows as I could fit in.  Because of that, I chose to sacrifice the front row of a show for more viewings. I’m so pleased with that.

As an example… I know of someone who stood in line for literally hours for the second ABC show – and they probably had a seat up in front.  But, during the time they were waiting in line, I saw George perform on the Lido deck, I spent two hours at dinner with my friends, I saw George AGAIN in the smaller lounge, and then I went to the same ABC show they were standing in line in to sit in a balcony seat with a FANTASTIC view.

So what I want to say is…  the people who stood in line for five hours chose that wait.  It was to get something they wanted – up close seats – but, FOR ME, standing in line for hours and hours was completely unnecessary.  And it wasn’t something that people had to do in order to see shows.

I have also seen people complain that it was unfair that the Blue Seating people had time to queue in line when the Red Seating people were still in their main show.  I can’t really speak to that…  I was in the Blue Seating… but honestly, I spent so long at dinner every night that we were usually one of the last tables out of the dining room and the Red Seating people were long out of their shows by then and queuing in line ahead of me. 

The Swag

This has been the most baffling of all complaints to me.  Almost every night, we came home to our turned down beds, our towel animals, our chocolates… and a CT present.  One night, we got a signed CT Cruise poster – which was way bigger than I had expected! We got a picture frame to put our group shot into, and on the last night we received a Cruise coffee mug.  I love my mug and, as it was totally unexpected for me to get anything but the poster, I was delighted!

I have been totally baffled by the COMPLAINTS that we got presents. Apparently, not everyone who attended the cruise were big enough fans to actually want the gifts.  The complaints honestly have made me giggle.  If you don’t want Celtic Thunder swag, a Celtic Thunder cruise might not be your best choice for a vacation!

What I Would Do Differently

I’d have tried to get into Colm and Emmet’s show earlier in the cruise. I’d have probably ditched Ryan’s pub quiz to go to Keith’s solo show. I had to choose which of those two to go to, and picked Ryan (unsurprisingly).  But because I had gone to Ryan and Neil’s afterparty during Keith’s first show, I ended up missing both of his solo shows by attending the pub quiz… and while it’s always nice to see the boys talk, I was really there to listen to the music – and I’m sorry that I missed that.

I would have had Baileys in my coffee more than the first morning.

I would have spent a little longer on the beach at Grand Cayman.

I would have let fewer little things bother me.

I’d have had a decadent breakfast on one day instead of eating healthy every day.

I wouldn’t have drank that free blue margarita!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm Going on Vacation

A friend of mine returned from vacation awhile back and we were catching up over email. After telling me about her trip, she asked how my summer had been. I told her that I was really glad that she had taken her vacation and that it was so important to take a break from it all from time to time, and then launched into everything that had been going on over the summer in our family.

When she wrote back, she told me, "You make me laugh!  First, you tell me how important it is to take a break, and I bet you didn't even realize that every single thing you told me about you was about the kids."

And she was right. As we talked, I realized I couldn't even really remember the last thing I had done that was just for me.  We mothers can be downright martyr-ish sometimes.

So... I'm going on vacation.  I wasn't going to go. The day after I asked my husband if I could, while he was thinking it over, I almost told him "Never mind, I don't need to go" several times. It was selfish, wasn't it? It would be an inconvenience of money and time. We would have to juggle the kids. It was definitely selfish. And I almost backed out of it.  I almost backed out of it over and over.

But every time, I stopped myself.  I stopped myself because this is what I do. I always convince myself that doing something for me is unreasonable.  And if it was any other woman, I would tell her that she was wrong, and that doing something for her is actually quite important.  But I can never quite find it in me to give myself the same lecture.  To me, I say that I'm not being a good wife or a good mom. And if it isn't advice I'd give to someone else, it probably isn't actually good advice or expectation to give to myself either.

So, against all habit and reasonableness, I'm going to Jamaica. On Friday. And I hope that I have a really good time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Just Called To Say...

I suppose you're wondering why I called.

I don't know really. I don't have anything I need to tell you, nothing I need to say. No dates to arrange, nothing to apologize for.  I guess I just wanted to hear your voice.

And I wanted you to hear mine. Maybe I just wanted to be sure you were still there. I hope it's okay that I called with no reason to call, and you don't mind me being here on your phone line, with nothing real to say.

Nothing but Hi.  Nothing but how are you? Nothing but I love you.

Because... I guess that's why I called. Just to say hi. Just to make sure you're okay. And just to tell you I care.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

YES!!! I lost a kid!

January 5th, 2013.  This year.

A start of a new year and I'd lost patience with myself. It was Saturday and I was going back to Weight Watchers.  It had been awhile.. I'd gained back weight and I felt embarrassed to return. But the whole "I'll go back after I lose 10 lbs" thing really wasn't working for me.  So, I was biting the bullet and I was going back.

Before getting into the shower that morning, I stepped on the scale and sighed at the "217" that stared back at me.

I have worked hard this year. Despite a few glitches where I gave in to entire bags of licorice, I have mainly "stuck to plan." I cook often (and it's good stuff! Not just baked chicken all the time!) and limit eating out (though that's limit... I still eat out smartly!) I have slowly added in more activity. I started running.  I mean, not marathon running or anything. A real runner would scoff at what I'm proud of being able to do.  But, I'm running 3-5 days a week.

And today...   9 1/2 months after that day... I stepped on the scale this morning before getting in the shower.  And "167" looked back at me.

50 pounds.  I've lost 50 pounds in just under 10 months.

I'm not done yet, though I'm very close to the point where my mom starts freaking out and going "Joey... Joey... I really think you've lost enough now.  You should stay there..."  I've got at least 15 more to go, but BOY do those 15 feel attainable right now.

They so do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Vulnerable Girl

Vulnerability is not a weakness.

We treat it like it is... like it's something to be run away from. Like it means we don't have strength in our hearts or that we haven't conquered enough to get over being vulnerable. We prize those who have become hard and triumphant and who have beaten those around them.

But, we don't reward vulnerability. We don't reward kindness. We don't reward being afraid, but being willing to trust anyway. We don't reward opening up our insides or even letting our real emotions be felt or shown. Those are all things that we teach should be kept hidden for they show the world that we are not strong.  Because we think vulnerability is a weakness.

And so I sit here this morning and I just simply disagree.

It takes perseverance to win. And it takes determination to be the last one standing.

But it takes great courage to face those who have the power to hurt you, and to reach out your hand anyway. It takes incredible bravery to know that walking forward means that you are probably going to get hurt but to walk forward anyway.

And, my darling, I hope you know that your vulnerable heart does not make you weak.  But, it makes you incredibly strong. And someday, you will look in the mirror and you will see that and you will know how truly amazing you are.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Celtic Thunder's "Christmas Voices" CD Review

Is it Christmas music season already? My beloved Celtic Thunder recently released Christmas Voices, their second Christmas album, and this one is a beauty. I was never the biggest fan of CT's first Christmas album, always finding it a bit too heavy on fluff for me. But, this one is much more to my liking.

Christmas Voices is quite a bit more serious in nature, trading the safer winter wonderland songs for music that centers around the worshipful side of Christmas. The music is beautiful, but as fair warning, if you are someone who prefers to approach the season of Christmas outside of its religious framework, this might not be the album for you. Coming from a much less liturgical background, I found a few songs on the album that I was completely unfamiliar with -- which I found quite nice to be exposed to beautiful hymns that I didn't know.

Designed to be performed next year on a symphonic Christmas tour, the star vocalists are backed by a full orchestra which takes a more prominent role in the past than the Celtic Thunder Band sometimes has. At times, this becomes almost overpowering.  But, overall, it's a beautiful backdrop for gorgeously performed pieces.

The ensembles, of which there are several, are particularly beautiful to listen to.  Credit should go to Musical Director David Munro for this one. The ensemble arrangements just took my breath away. My absolute favorite is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  This has never historically been my favorite Christmas song, but this arrangement (and the performance of it) is amazing. The lead moves absolutely seamlessly from soloist to soloist, and is gorgeous. Gabriel's Message and Gaudete are both lovely carols with pristine harmonic arranging. The symphony can get to be a little much in spots on these, but overall is quite nice. The Pogues' Fairytale of New York is a popular tune whose appeal as a Christmas song I just don't quite get.  That said, it's well-delivered and kind of fun to listen to.

In addition to the ensemble tracks, each of the six vocalists has his own solo as well. George Donaldson's Mary's Boy Child is a perfect choice for him.  The calypso rhythm fits his style like a glove and is performed wonderfully. Neil Byrne's Mary Did You Know? is also a really good fit. The symphony balances well with Neil's voice, and he emotes the meaning of the song very nicely. Ryan Kelly has a lovely performance in the older hymn, In the Bleak Mid-Winter. It's tender, heartfelt, and backed with pleasing vocal strength. As a big fan of Emmet Cahill's voice, I was really looking forward to his performance of O Holy Night.  But, after listening to it, I just found myself a little disappointed and hopeful for something more.

In the end, this is a really wonderful album. It approaches the season of Christmas with great respect, holds some breathtakingly beautiful music, and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Quiet Girl

You laughed.
You laughed today like you laugh every day.
And I said nothing...  Nothing because I am the quiet girl.

But I went home and I cried.
And when I was done crying, I planned.
And you never knew.

And you never saw it coming.
Because I am the quiet girl.
And you didn't know what I was capable of.

But now you do.
And you won't make that mistake again, will you?
Because now you know....
You don't mess with the quiet girl.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Letting Go of Who I've Been

I've changed.

I'm not who I was a few years ago.  I've grown. I've matured. I've altered the things that are important to me, and I've tweaked my focus. I care about different things than I did. I've learned a lot about trust, about friendship, about people -- about me. I've been hurt, and I've been healed, and I've learned to let go and move on and embrace new things.

But sometimes I still want to hold on to the girl I was then. I want to be new, but I want to be familiar, too.  I want to keep things that I lost, even as I'm embracing the things I've gained.

I've learned to let go of a lot of things --  and I'm learning that it's okay to let go of who I was, too. I'm learning that it's okay to change and it's okay to be different.  It's okay if I don't always recognize the girl in the mirror and it's okay to take awhile to get to know her.

I'm learning that I like the person I'm becoming, and it's okay to be her.  And it's okay to say goodbye to the girl who lived in my skin before.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

You Have to Protect Your Sisters

I have three daughters.

One of the things I've tried to teach them and get them to understand is that I know it's hard sometimes to have sisters. They get in your way. They steal your stuff. They leave their stuff around your stuff and your stuff gets sister cooties. They tease you sometimes and they hurt your feelings and they're just plain annoying.  I get that.  I'm the eldest of three girls myself.

But, the second you step out the door, you put those things away. Because your sisters are your family.  And you protect them and you take care of them, and your very sisterhood is the wall that attackers have to face to get to you.  And that is some wall.  Because you can do what you want to me... but if you even think about attacking my sisters, I will take you down.

I had the opportunity this morning to see that some of that has actually sunk in.  I can't tell you the circumstances out of respect for my teenage children -- but I started on my run this morning, with tears running/freezing down my cheeks and the thought, "DAMN but I have great kids."

The thing is.. it's not just about being blood sisters. This always goes in waves, especially on the internet, but I feel like I've seen a lot of "stuff" in my social media feeds lately where we're just attacking each other all the time. Attacking each other's bodies, our hopes, our fears. Fighting over politics and religion and history. Insulting each other's likes and loves and desires. Arguing over food choices and music and whatever!

Ladies...  we've got to have each other's backs. What do we get out of fighting over all these things? What do we get out of tearing each other down?

Nothing.  We get nothing.

And I'm not talking about some grand feminist burn-all-the-bras sisterhood thing...  I'm just saying --  We have to have each other's backs. We have to be there for each other. We have to be kind to each other and supportive and encouraging.

Monday, October 14, 2013

You Are Not Forgotten

In the moments of darkness, in the moments of loneliness....  
You are not forgotten.
When it seems you can't be seen and when no one knows you...  
You are not forgotten.

You aren't invisible, as much as you may feel like you are.
You are not unknown, as much as it seems no one sees the real you.
You are important when you feel small.
And you are special when you feel like nothing.

I see you.  and I love you.
And I never forget you.

Open your eyes the next time you feel forgotten.  And you will find me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Downplaying the Things that Matter

Have you ever been interested in something but then felt you had to downplay it to others, so people wouldn't think you were odd?  Or maybe it was something that you were upset about, but you knew it was something that wasn't the end of the world in the grand scheme of things and shouldn't be upsetting you so much... so you pretended that it wasn't bothering you because you didn't think anyone would understand?

I think sometimes that we spend a lot of time convincing ourselves that the things that are important to us are inconsequential...  That the things that grab our hearts aren't important.  And so we spend a lot of time being a little ashamed or embarrassed about the things we like, and even about the things that grip our soul and leave us so unsettled.

You know what?  They all matter.  If it's something that matters to you, then it matters. The end. It's okay that it isn't something that might change the world.  It's something that is or has the potential to change your world....  and simply by that definition, it's something that matters.

And it matters because you matter. The things you love matter. The things that are bothering you matter. The things that you can't stop thinking about... they all matter.

They matter because you do. Because you are important and you are worth something. We all are.

So maybe it's time that we stop making excuses for the things that we think about and for the things that we love and for the things that capture and occupy our heart.  I don't care what anyone says... they matter.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Acoustically Irish" Album Review, Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly

"Acoustically Irish," the new album from Celtic Thunder's Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly, is here and you're going to want to pick it up.  Neil and Ryan have spent much of their free time over the past few years touring America with their popular "Acoustic by Candlelight" show, a pleasant evening of acoustically performed music and artfully delivered story. A natural outpouring out of those shows, the new album is an enjoyable representation of music previously performed and yet to come. Spanning a number of genres, "Acoustically Irish" would be a welcome addition to any acoustic, Irish or folk collection.

By far, the strongest draw of "Acoustically Irish" is the pristine blend of Neil and Ryan's voices.  Individually, they are both strong soloists, but they are singers who are extremely talented at blending.  Their harmonies are beautiful, the best part of the album, and my favorite part of any song that they're featured in.

At both ends of the album and right smack in the middle, you'll find three up-tempo tracks that you'll love. Replete with fun harmonies, all three are a joy to listen to. Don't Go has a cool banjo-y feel to the chorus, Saints and Sinners has the best cadence, and Brown-Eyed Girl is peppy and fun with guaranteed snapability. It won't be long until you find yourself bouncing along. These all got a huge thumbs-up from my 12-year-old daughter, as well!

Back Home in Derry is a great solo track for Ryan. Sung with powerful voice, it showcases the strength he can bring to a song. Coming on its heels is Neil's The Water is Wide. It's a lovely sad song, backed with a pretty piano accompaniment. Neil has a tender voice that grows in strength as the tune progresses, and is worth a listen.

But, my favorites on the album are some of the ballads. All of these are made so very beautiful by the harmonies infused into the choruses. I'm not just putting you on; they are achingly lovely. Beautiful Affair, such a sweet song, is my favorite on the entire CD, but Rose of Allendale comes close on its heels. The Fields of Athenry also showcases some lovely harmonies, but seems like it takes a really long time to get through.

In the end, if you like good music, if you like male gorgeously-blended voices, if you like acoustic-y goodness, Irish tunes, or anything with a slightly folksy feel, this is the album for you. Enjoy and come back to tell me how right I am!

"Acoustically Irish" can be purchased at Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When Expectations Aren't Reality

Sometimes things aren't what we expect them to be. That doesn't mean that it's the end of the world, necessarily.  But, things just don't quite pan out to what you thought they were going to be.

I guess that's where I am today. Expectations (and maybe unrealistic ones) clashing with reality, and it's all leaving me feeling a little... off. I know that none of it is worth getting unbearably upset over, and so I can't justify wallowing in the upset.  And yet, I can't help a little bit of disappointment from settling in my heart, either.

And maybe that's okay for today. Maybe it's okay that, for a little while, I allow myself the disappointment. And maybe it's okay that, for a little while, I allow myself to not chase after the silver lining immediately.

It's okay that the expectations don't always meet reality.  And it's okay to be sad about that.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Things To Tell Yourself Every Day

"You've got this." -- Whatever it is...  whatever you're facing, whatever's on your plate, whatever you're going to face today...  you've got this. You are capable and accomplished, and you've got this.

"You can't control everything, but you can control you." -- So you can't control everything that happens today.  You don't have that kind of power.  But, what you do have power over and control of is you. You get to control what comes out of your mouth, what doesn't, the actions you take, the way you react to things.  Everything you do is a choice, and you're the one who makes it... so make them choices that you can be proud of.

"You don't have to be perfect." -- This isn't a contest, it's just life. It doesn't really matter who gets to the end with the most money, the coolest cars, the most followers on Twitter. What matters most is the love you make and the people you are in relationship with.  But, it's okay if you mess up. And it's okay if you fall down.  You don't have to be perfect... there aren't extra ribbons for that.

"You have a lot to offer... but if you keep it hidden, no one will know who you really are... and who you really are is actually kind of cool." -- It's okay to be you.  Not some perfect version of you... but just really you. And you don't have to apologize for that person or twist them into someone they really aren't.  Just be you.  "You" is pretty cool, and if you just let "you" out a little bit more, other people would see that too.

Monday, September 30, 2013

No One is Against You

It's easy to feel like the world is out to get us. This is our story, and as its hero, we're supposed to win.  And so, when we don't, well surely it must mean that the antagonist of our story is winning and that we are losing.

The thing is... everyone else is their own hero too, writing their own story, trying to win their own battles.  It's really not that other people are against us.  It's just that they're for themselves, and not necessarily for us.  In fact, it doesn't have much to do with us at all.

Overwhelmingly, we are selfish creatures and, more than anything, we are concerned with ourselves. That's not to say that anyone is bad.  They're not. We just naturally think of ourselves first... our own comfort, our own battles, our own needs, our own wants, our own struggles.  And we're happy to assist others in their battles.... as long as doing so doesn't interfere with accomplishing our own ends.

That's something that we have to address in ourselves individually. Stepping over own needs to help others is something we should do, and it requires conscious choices to do so. I know very few people who can do that selflessly, and it's a quality that I admire a great deal.

But, I think it's important to understand, too, that people aren't against us. They're just for themselves. So, we need to stop thinking that it's us against the world. There's just a bunch of "us"'s all trying to make it, all struggling to do so, all looking out for ourselves, and all forgetting to reach out a hand and help those next to us.

It's just us.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Slacker PTA Mom

I'm sorry, Ladies.  I'm that mom. The one you always have to track down.

When my children were born, I really didn't think I'd be that mom.  I thought I would an upstanding member of the my neighborhood school's PTA, ready to help at everything... fighting to volunteer in my kids' classrooms... cutting out hearts and whatever.

But then, we started school.

Please understand we live in a fairly affluent neighborhood.  And when your school doesn't have real problems, the PTA makes them up.  I knew I was going to be a "bad fit" while sitting with the other mothers at a softball game one spring.  The other moms were flipping through a catalog of games you could rent for the school carnival.  They were the kind of games that took a kid a minute or so to play, and then they'd get some kind of candy or trinket at the end as a prize.

"Oh, the kids really like that game... we definitely need to get that one!"....
"Oh, this one is good, too...."

As the conversation went on, all I could think was "No, they don't. All they care about is a bounce house and a cake walk.  The End. This is dumb."  I mean, I didn't speak those words.  But I thought them.

I thought them and I knew that I wasn't a very good fit for a Stepford Wife-ish atmosphere... so I kind of checked out.  Forever.

So, I'm sorry you always have to track me down to do the stuff I'm supposed to do.  I'm not really a terrible mother... I just think most of this stuff is lame.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stand Out!

I'm going to stand out today.

I'm not going to worry about if people will look at me. I'm not going to worry about what they might say. I'm not going to worry about what they might think.

I'm just going to do it.

I'm going to say what I think. I'm going to feel what I feel. And I'm not going to apologize for any of those things. I'm just going to be -- unapologetically.

Today is not a day for living quietly and under the radar. Today is a day for living expectantly and deliberately.

So I'm going out and I'm going to wear bright colors and wear red lipstick and wear stiletto heels. And I'm going to laugh and maybe I'm going to cry and maybe I will say things. And not under the cover of whispers, but with pride and confidence.

Because today... today, I am consciously going to stand out.

Full Disclosure: I am probably not going to wear stiletto heels. Falling down is not the kind of "standing out" I have in mind.

Monday, September 23, 2013

On My Mind

I found you on my mind today.

I thought about picking up the phone and telling you.
but I didn't have anything else to say -- 
and I thought you'd think I was dumb.
so I never dialed your number

I thought about opening an email and telling you
but written words are things you can't get back, stamped there in print for eternity
and I wasn't sure if I wanted you to know you were on my mind if I wasn't on yours.
so I never sent the message

I thought about stopping by your house and bringing you coffee
Like maybe a peace offering of caffeine would somehow alleviate the tension that once was
but I don't even know if you like coffee anymore and I was afraid of what you would do if you saw my face there on your doorstep
So I never came over

but you were still on my mind.

and so I'm telling you here... in this place you probably never read
so that somewhere, it's there. and if you're interested to know... 

You were on my mind today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Forgiven, but not Forgotten

I've been thinking about the idea of forgiveness again. I struggle with it -- maybe not so much with the idea of forgiveness itself, but with the line that lies between forgiveness and wisdom. I've often walked the side where I have been very open with forgiveness and have let repeat offenders cross line after line. I got burned by that, deeply. And then I cowered back to the other side of the line where I was afraid to let anyone who had hurt me before have the chance to do it again.

It seems that there should be some middle ground there and I'm trying to find it.

I want to be the kind of person who can have the courage to extend grace to those who have been hurtful. But, I also want to be wise and not invite in disaster.  It's like if someone came into your house, totally trashed it, and then left -- without a second thought or a care for what they left you with.  It is a good thing, I think, to be able to forgive them for their actions and their thoughtlessness.  But, would you let them back in to do it a second, third, fourth time?

I guess that's the rub. -- But it's also what I think about on both sides of the coin.  I haven't always been faultless either. I've made choices that I wish I hadn't, said things that I wished I'd kept silent on.  So, when I'm faced with someone else's mistrust, I have to understand that and not be angry over it. I have to understand that maybe they're struggling with forgiveness and the ability to trust, too.

That we're all trying to find that middle ground.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Feel the Rain

Feel the rain.

Don't ignore it. Don't pretend it isn't there.
Walk out in it. Let it seep to your bones.

Don't cover it. Don't hide from it.
Let it be a part of you. Acknowledge it.

Not every day.  Maybe every day doesn't have to be a storm.
But some days? some days, it's okay to feel the rain.

Some days, it's okay to be sad and not sunny.
It's okay to be the rain.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Celtic Thunder Mythology Tour Review

The Boys are Back in Town, and are they ever! Celtic Thunder kicked off their Fall 2013 Mythology tour in British Columbia this weekend, and I was delighted to be there for Opening Night. For those just showing up, Celtic Thunder is an Irish import musical show performed by six accomplished Irish and Scottish vocalists (George Donaldson, Neil Byrne, Ryan Kelly, Keith Harkin, Colm Keegan, and Emmet Cahill). It is filled with both ensemble and solo numbers, and backed by the fantastic Celtic Thunder Band.  They are talented, amazing, handsome, and put on a truly enjoyable show.

The ensemble numbers are fantastic this year. Rocky Road to Dublin, usually my favorite group song, kicked off the second half of the evening with amazing energy. It's fast paced, there's lots of movement, and it's just plain exciting to watch and listen to. The Boys Are Back in Town, performed by Ryan, Keith, Neil and Emmet, was really a lot of fun. The live concert experience gave it a great kick and I enjoyed it tremendously.

Brought in from a previous tour, A Song for the Mira was beautiful.  It had been performed previously with the addition of youngster Daniel Furlong, but this all-grown-up version was amazing. Perfect harmonies, gorgeous phrasing.  It was really well-done and possibly my other favorite of the night. Star of the County Down is one of my favorites to watch (they can all be my favorite, right?). Neil has the best comedic timing and never fails to make me laugh. Rounding out the foursome is George, Emmet, and Colm, and they all do a really great job of making this song cute and fun.

The newest member to the group, Colm Keegan (my crushy favorite), is truly adorable. Quick to smile with a lovely voice, he's a wonderful addition to the cast. My favorite of his solos was Katie, which he plays piano to. It's just the sweetest song and it's beautiful to listen to. Later, his duet with Keith on Sound of Silence is fantastic. They sound so great together on a song that I have loved for years.  Full disclosure... I spent a lot of time "making eyes" at Colm during this song, and possibly less time actually listening to it. (I told you he was adorable!) His sometimes partner-in-crime, Emmet Cahill, has a different but truly gorgeous voice.  Classically trained, his baritone is filled with amazing warmth that is wonderful to listen to. His Isle of Innisfree is a beautiful ballad and the silkiness of his voice just envelops you.  Wonderful.  He performs a lively Spanish Lady which is really a lot of fun to watch. He's energetic and adorably engaging.

Ryan Kelly(my actual favorite)'s Carrickfergus was a lovely poignant song. I loved seeing him sing a song with a gentler emotion. His performance of Hunter's Moon (a song written specifically for him) was passionate, mysterious and powerful, a great one to display his acting prowess. But, his House of the Rising Sun was a-maz-ing. It built steadily into an incredible jaw-dropping finish that I loved and wanted to immediately see again. Neil Byrne is probably the sweetest performer I've ever seen.  Carolina Rua and Perfect are both really peppy fun songs. My favorite of the two is probably Carolina Rua, and Neil sings it with energetic styling. What I really missed from the setlist for this show was Ryan's Dearg Doom and Neil's Summer in Dublin, which he performs with great believability and that I just love. I would have given anything to have those!

Keith Harkin performs a beautiful Tears of Hercules, from his solo album, and it's a lovely song. He sings with great tenderness and is a personal favorite of mine. But, one of the highlights of the night was his Man of Constant Sorrow. This was wonderful! It was so much fun and I tapped my foot so much and so hard that I think I may have worn a hole in the floor!  Don't miss this! George Donaldson was really good. He was so strong on Grand Affaire, both in vocals and in stage presence. He seems like he's really grown a lot as a performer in the last year and I was very happy with his performances all night. Life With You is an older song that fans are familiar with, but George gives it so much fun and energy that I was happy to see and hear it again.

When the rest of the company came out at the end of Emmet's Always There, dressed in the wardrobe that I knew went with the last song, my heart sank. How could a two-hour show be over so quickly?  And yet it was. Two hours spent with my favorite musical group, performances that still make me tremendously happy... even after six years of attending their concerts.  I can't wait to catch the closing show in Seattle at the end of the tour!

For tickets, see Celtic Thunder's website and don't miss a wonderful show!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Not Your Door

Quit it.

That door you're banging on so fervently? That door you keep trying and trying to get through?  Honey, it doesn't have your name on it. It isn't meant for you. That's why it doesn't open. That's why it doesn't budge, no matter how hard you try to squeeze it open.

I won't argue that what lies behind it isn't great.  It is.  It would be a great thing, and it will be a great thing for the person whose name is on it.  But, the door beside it?  The door with your name on it?  Oh, if you could only take a moment to see what things lie behind it.

You think this door you're trying to pry open would be great?  It's nothing compared to what lies behind the door with your name on it. THAT is truly magnificent. Not just because it is wonderful, but because it's specifically meant for you. Designed for you. Planned for you. Blessed for you.

But you can't see it, not yet. All you can see is this door. This door that won't open because it isn't yours.

Sometimes, darling, that's why doors won't open.  Because we are meant for greater ones, different ones, doors that don't belong to others but just to us.

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