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.

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