Thursday, December 18, 2014

When "Thanks" Doesn't Come

I've been a bit quiet here lately, I know.  But I guess this is the place where you write out the things on your mind, isn't it?  Even if they aren't settled out into pretty-sounding lessons yet?  And even if it doesn't make a lot of sense?

Yes, I guess so.

I've filled a role with an organization for the past several years. It has always been a volunteer sort of position, though not one that came without compensation -- just not of a monetary kind.  There were life lessons and growth, relationships, treasured experiences, and a whole lot of heart things...  All things that I wouldn't give up in exchange for cash. I've never wanted to be paid... and it's not about that at all.

I was even offered more involvement awhile back... which I turned down for a number of reasons. I would have enjoyed part of it... but the parts that I wouldn't enjoy would have overshadowed the things I liked. and it just wasn't worth it to me. So I said no -- and that's not something that I regret.

My role has more or less come to an end. I said that I would do it until I wasn't needed anymore... and I'm not. So I just stopped doing it. There was no fanfare... I just stopped.  And for the most part, that's been fine. I've had to hold back a few times from jumping in and helping... but have reminded myself that it really isn't my job anymore and that I can let someone else do it.

But I find that what knocks at my heart just a little bit is that there was no one to say Thank you.  Thanks for staying... Thanks for putting up with it all... Thanks for taking the blows and saying the hard things and for understanding that people just needed someone to be mad at. Thanks for being a sounding board and a liaison and someone who tried to see both sides, even when you didn't agree.

Part of me knows that this is maybe a little unreasonable. I didn't even tell anyone that I was done. I signed up of my own accord, and no one really owes me anything. I was here because I loved what I was supporting.

So maybe all that I need is my own acknowledgement of those feelings... fair or not.  Feelings don't always run by sense, do they?  And it's okay that they do not. But even if they do not, it is also okay to feel them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

After I Mouthed Off

I mouthed off the other day. I know, you're shocked. Me? Act impetuously? Surely no!

It's hard to believe, but true. Someone stomped on my hot button pet peeve of ignoring personal responsibility for their own actions and I snapped.

In retrospect, I think I would stand by my reason for responding - but not the way in which I did it. I could have been gentler. I could have been kinder. I'd like to use the excuse that it was Twitter and that 140 characters don't give me a lot of room to pad my thoughts in cotton candy. But... the truth is that I could have been kinder to the person than I was. And I should have been.

But, the aftermath has been interesting..  Of course, the person was upset.  As well, her friends were upset in her honor - as they should be. When someone hurts your friend, you rally.

But... I've also received a bevy of friend requests via Twitter or Facebook in the last couple days from people who, I think, assume that we hate the same people.  Now, that's not accurate... I don't hate this person. But I feel like that's the reason. I wasn't desired as a "friend" when I was just me... but now that they think we have common enemies? Well, now I'm okay.

Guys, that's not how I pick my friends. In fact, I think it's a really really bad way to pick friends. Common interests are a wonderful thing... but you can't base the potential of possible friendship on venting about the same people. In no way can that become something of beauty -- which is what friendship should be.

Now, if you like me for me... please stay. I'd like to take the time to get to know you... but you have to know that the person I was the other day? She isn't who I want to be.

And, if you're looking for someone to hate with you? I'm not your girl.

As the classic Meghan Trainor song says, "If that's what you're into, then go ahead and move along."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Competition Gets Me Into Trouble

Competition is a funny thing, sometimes a good thing -- but a dangerous thing.

I'm a big football fan, and so I can appreciate the value of healthy competition. But, I also think that it's important to dig through what that means in my daily life.

Competition, when it means beating other people, gets me into trouble.  And that happens in a lot of ways.

In running, it means tackling new distances and speeds before my body is really ready. I get impatient to be good enough to beat someone else, and I ask my body to do things that it isn't ready for yet.  And then I get injured.

In writing, it means being very aware of what I'm not doing as a writer. It means seeing the success that other people encounter and discrediting my own value because it isn't the same. It means changing my voice, changing my purpose...  all to win that competition.

In relationships, it means becoming discontent with the relationships I have and the love I enjoy and running after something that someone else has.

When your competition is with others, it can really get you into trouble. And yes, it can make you quite bitter -- because there's always going to be someone who is better than you. There is always going to be someone who has something that you don't. A skill, a talent, a relationship, an "in."

But competition changes when your competition becomes with yourself. When your goal is not to be better than someone else, but to simply be better than you were yesterday...  that's something that grows you. When your goal is to run faster than yesterday, when your goal is to write better than yesterday, when your goal is to be closer to someone than you were yesterday..  those you can attain with peace and without trying to knock someone else down, without trying to change who you are, without trying to do more than you can do.

That kind of competition grows you. It makes you better. And it keeps you honest for why you wanted to compete in the first place.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Romantic Expectations

I've been wanting to talk about this for awhile.

I read this graphic on Pinterest awhile back, and I pinned it to come back to -- just so I could write this blog. (Go read it.)

Because the first time I read it, I had two thoughts.

1. Wow. That's a lot to live up to.

And...

2.  No... maybe that was the only thought I had.

That's a lot to live up to and, perhaps, written with not a lot of experience with men -- and that's possibly the problem.

Sometimes we are broken. We feel empty, lonely, sad... whatever it is.  And we look for the things that are missing... and sometimes, what is missing is romantic love.  Now, romantic love gets built up in our culture so much -- every book, every story, every movie, every song -- that, when we don't have it, we come to believe that the romantic love we're missing is the key. If we had that, then our brokenness would be healed. What is empty inside of us would be filled.

And so, as women... we hold up those phantom men as our saviors.

But not only do we hold them as saviors, but we build up this image of what a real man is, with expectations that no living man could begin to touch. No person at all could be everything that we expect this guy to be.  So... when he isn't perfect, and he doesn't fix everything that's wrong in our hearts, we're unhappy.

I am married to a guy who I think is one of the best men on the entire planet. He is funny and kind and selfless and humble and thinks he's a ninja. I literally could not have a better husband (unless it was one who is actually a ninja). But I don't expect him to fix me. He loves me and he supports me and he is there for me. But he can't fix me. People aren't really meant to. But if I expected him to fix me, if I expected him to be the guy in that description up there... I would be waiting a long time. I'm not sure that the guy in that description wouldn't be kind of a pain to actually be involved with.

"Shut up already, I know I'm awesome."

I guess what I'm saying is this...  Single girls.... or even married unhappy ones... a guy isn't going to fill all the broken parts of you. He can make your life pretty darned wonderful. He can love you. He can make you laugh. He can hold you when you cry. He can be your partner. But he isn't a magic solution for what is missing in yourself. That goes so much deeper.

And it's kind of unfair to expect a real guy to be a storybook character, and to live up to expectations that are...  strange, at best.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Callous People

The internet has made us a callous people.

We let ourselves be convinced, if we hide behind our screens and our keyboards when we say cruel things, that it doesn't matter.  If we can't see the pain we cause, then it's like we didn't do it. Is it really our fault if someone reads what we said and assumes it's about them?  Even if it is... we didn't say it to them. We just... sort of... said it somewhere that they might be likely to read it.

Sometimes we're not really brave enough to come right out and say the things. Oh no... someone we respect might know what we really think and that our hearts are really eaten up with ugly inside.  So we hide behind veiled comments and fakely nice responses. Or we post in ways that make people wonder what we're talking about... and infer and assume...  but we're off the hook because we didn't just come right out and say it.  A friend of mine calls that vaguebooking.

The internet has made us a callous people.

Only that's not quite true, is it? What is the internet but a web of technical connections?

We have made us a callous people. We have forgotten that there are people on the other side. We have forgotten the pain that our words can cause, the destruction that our faceless cruelty can wreak -- even if we can't see the outcome, even if we can't see the hurt that we made.

I don't want us to be a callous people. I don't want to be a callous person. I want to be aware of what my words do... and I want to be the kind of person that uses them for good.

I'm not always that person. I can admit that, even if it's with disappointment in myself. Sometimes...  sometimes I am the callous one.

But, moment by moment, I'm trying to be different. I'm trying to be the one that speaks more with kindness and less with cruelty.

Faceless doesn't mean you have to be callous. It just might mean that we have to be more aware. More deliberate.

More kind.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A White Rose for George

I'd placed the order with a company downtown, a mere four blocks from our hotel in Des Moines.  But, they called before I left home to tell me I needed to pick it up from a different location, as the downtown one was closed on Saturdays.

So... on a brisk morning, my morning run took me, not along the pretty river path that I'd planned on running, but 40 blocks through and past downtown, to the florist. (Don't tell my mother.)

White roses have become synonymous with remembrance of our dearly missed George, and I wanted to honor him somehow during the show I attended. I wanted him with me. And so I ran the 40 blocks back to the hotel. Gently. With a cardboard box in one hand -- inside, a white rose wrist corsage.

During intermission, I slipped it off my wrist. I entwined a note I had written to him into the bracelet of the corsage and rose from my seat.  Delicately making my way to the stage, I closed my eyes, kissed the petals of the rose, whispered my heart, and laid it on the stage -- a gesture I borrowed from a dear friend with her permission.

I was careful with it... I was sure to put it far enough forward that it couldn't possibly be a safety hazard to any of the men on stage.

I stood along the stage, further down, during intermission chatting with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time.  But I frowned when an usher walked by me along the front of the stage, picking up the corsage on the way. There may have been stamping of my feet.

After a few minutes, he came back my way, flowers still in-hand, and, outside of my own character, I stopped him. "Please," I entreated. "I wouldn't normally ask this, but is there any way you can put that back? It's for a singer in the show who passed away this year... and it would just mean a lot to me."

He was kind but told me he'd been instructed to pick any of them up and to take them backstage.

I wanted to argue...  I didn't want it backstage. There were terribly emotional reasons I wanted the gesture to be part of the stage. It's where he belonged...  I have my doubts it made it that far anyway - a story you give to fans to appease.  But arguing with him would have been pointless -- like complaining to the Starbucks barista that your latte is $6.  What can she do? She doesn't make the rules; she just carries them out. It wasn't his fault.

And honestly, I didn't know that I wanted that note read by anyone in the show...  It's not that there was anything bad in it, it just...  wasn't to them.  Yeah, I know. I should have thought of that before putting it on a stage where someone was going to pick it up and possibly read it at some point anyway.

I am impetuous. Not well thought-out.

Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe it was the action and the heart and the whispers and the heartache and the missing that matters, and not that a flower didn't sit on a stage for 12 songs.

Maybe none of it matters... but it kind of did.

To me.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Burned Bridges and the Colors of Your Endings

I am a girl who, at least in relationships, likes Black and White.

I want to know where we stand. I want to know if we're okay or if we're not.

If we're not, I want to lay all our chips on the table and fight out the things that are broken until they're not broken anymore.

Or if they can't be fixed, I want to know that too. I don't want to go on wondering if things can ever be okay again or not. I want to know.

I want to know why.

And if we decide that things can't be okay, I want to shut the door. I want to end the chapter and our story... I want to know that it's okay to start a new one.

I guess they call that closure.

But sometimes I guess that I need to learn that it's not a bad thing if doors don't close all the way. It's okay to leave them open a little just in case it's a story that isn't really ended yet. It's okay to not know what happened, and it's okay to simply let the ending be.

It's okay to be hurt and it's okay to be mad and it's okay to be upset about the things that don't feel fair. You aren't wrong to feel those things, and don't let people tell you that you are.

But just because all those things are true... it doesn't mean that you have to burn your bridges.  Just let it be...  maybe you cross that bridge again some day. Maybe you don't.  But... this way, at least you can if you decide that you want to.

Not every ending has to be Black and White...  sometimes they can be a little Grey.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thoughts on the Celtic Thunder Christmas Symphony Tour

It's been a year since I've seen a Celtic Thunder show. It's been a year since I've seen the Celtic Thunder players in any performance of any kind.  And it's been a bit of a hard year.

We lost one of my most beloved singers, George, of course. And, over the year, I've walked a path of frustration.  I've felt jaded... incredibly jaded... and that's upset me a lot. I haven't wanted to feel that way, but I haven't seemed to be able to shake it either. And as the year has gone on, I've felt myself grow unhappier and unhappier with a show that I have always loved so much.

Last night, I attended Celtic Thunder's Holiday symphony show that they are currently touring across the eastern half of the country. And, as I walked into the theater, I honestly hoped that seeing them would be the antidote I needed to fall in love again.

I loved the show. I truly did. Simply put, it made me very happy. I had forgotten how much I love them, and last night reminded me. In last year's tour, Ryan Kelly sung the song House of the Rising Sun. It ends with this killer finish, and I can remember last year leaning further and further forward in my seat as the song went on, knowing that that ending was coming... literally on the edge of my seat with anticipation.  I spent pretty much the entire night like that last night.

The night was a lovely collection of fun and somber...  sometimes so funny and simply fun, sometimes poignantly serious and beautifully arranged.  It was a perfect combination.. one second taking your breath away, the next making you laugh and ramping up the energy of the room.

I kind of fell a little bit in love with Neil Byrne last night. Truth and more on that later...  Ever since the latest Christmas CD was released last year, I've really liked his version of Mary, Did You Know? I've just really enjoyed it, and watching him perform it last night was a delight. He gets better dramatically every time I see him, and I love seeing that so much.

Of course the talk of the fall has been newcomer Emmett O'Hanlon, and deservedly so. He really has a beautiful rich voice and brings a bit of sweetness and twinkle with him into the mix. His delivery of O Holy Night seems to garner him a standing ovation every night - which he still takes in with a touch of the overwhelmed. I look forward to seeing more of him. I really do.

His duet of Winter Wonderland with Colm Keegan was very funny, and was the first good dash of humor to the evening.  It was really cute and the over-the-top hamming made me laugh a lot.  You can't help but love it.

But where the night shone the most for me was the sometimes-beautiful, sometimes-plain-fun ensemble songs. Oh, what a joy and what a beauty some of those arrangements were. Dave Munro, your work is gorgeous.

Fairytale of New York, the Christmas medley, and Most Wonderful Time of the Year were all songs that had me laughing, clapping along, and just plain enjoying myself. These were fun and really just brought me such joy. But, oh... Silent Night and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  I have always loved CT's Silent Night -- it's beautiful and does not disappoint in any way. But it's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas that I really love the most.  I am just so in love with this arrangement, and these wonderful singers perform it seamlessly and with such beauty. The way the melody floats so easily from soloist to soloist....  It is perfect. It is just perfect.

But Ireland's Call...  Boys, just cause it's Christmas and holy doesn't mean you can't twirl.  What the what?

If you have the chance, go see it. Please go see it.  They are wonderful and I left that theater very happy that I flew three hours on Thanksgiving weekend to take them in.

Now... I need to go back to Neil...

Neil...  years ago, when you weren't a principal singer yet and you played guitar in the band, you used to bring delight to my heart. Do you remember when we used to sometimes bring signs to the show?  We couldn't always count on the guy they were intended for to even notice them.  But we could always count on you. I can remember always looking at you and you would smile that sweet smile of yours and nod so encouragingly. It was a simple thing that meant a lot.

Last night, I needed your smile. I needed to remember so many things about why I love coming. You smiled and nodded so much at me last night that my heart was filled clear up to the top with delight, I walked into that theater last night, needing to remember why I fell in love with Celtic Thunder.  And really, it was a lot in thanks to you that I was able to remember. It's a simple thing that didn't really cost you anything...

But it meant much to me.  So thank you. You gave me a gift last night.  Thank you.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Love is Messy

Loving people is messy.

And probably that's because we're all a little messy. We're a little broken and a little selfish and a little confused and all doing our best to navigate a world we don't have a map for.

You invite people to be a part of your life and it's good! It's all flowers and sunshine and honeymoon-y. And then maybe it isn't.

Maybe that means conflict. Maybe that means disappointment. Maybe it means a lot of things.

And then it's harder. Loving people is harder.

But sometimes loving people is. It's easy to love when it's sunshine. It's hard to love when there are storms...  but that's when it's most important to love. That's when it's most important to show up and to keep showing up.  That's when it's most important to do the things that those you love really need you to do.

Loving people is messy. And so is love. And so are we.

Messy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

After the Bus

"Have a good day, girls!" I waved to my children as they walked off to the bus.

"Bye Mom! Have fun with the laundry!"

I smiled as I wandered back to the house in the morning cold. What they didn't know...

The grey fog turned to a lighter sky as I showered and primped. I checked my mascara before slipping my feet into the red high heels.

I suppose I understood. A day of laundry, dishes, and sweeping probably didn't seem like much compared to their dreams of grandeur.

I threw the leather jacket over my arm.

but they didn't know about my other life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Byrne and Kelly, "Live in Australia": An Irritated Review

This isn't really what I want to be writing. I love Neil and I love Ryan... I have followed them for years now and I love them truly. But I also promised myself, when I started writing about Celtic Thunder and related, that I would do it honestly. That I wouldn't sugarcoat and that I would be honest about what I thought.


So here I am, knee deep in irritation, pouring my thoughts out on paper - consequences be damned.


I don't keep myself as deeply into "the know" as I used to a few years ago. But I was pleased when I began to hear rumblings over the summer that there was talk of a new Byrne and Kelly album on the horizon. I really loved Acoustically Irish, and I was happy that another one would be coming soon. I really wasn't sure when they would have had time to record one, but sign me up.

Then it came out that it was a live album of their show that they had done in Australia.  I was less excited by that, but thought maybe there would have been enough changes in it since the last one I saw to make it worthwhile to me.

Then when the tracklist was finally released... I was the total opposite of excited.  Out of ten tracks, there were a grand total of two that I didn't already have on previous albums, and only one extra that I'd really be willing to pay for to have that version specifically.

Can we talk about that for a minute?

I am sure there are fans... and maybe lots of them... that are so thrilled with a live album of songs they already have that they can hardly help themselves.  I'm just really not one of them. To me, it's a cheater album. Celtic Thunder occasionally puts out new CD compilations that are all old tracks, with ONE new track thrown in. So if you want that one track, you have to shell out for the whole thing all over again.  It feels kind of like that.

I am SO HAPPY to buy new music from these guys. They bleed talent. They are wonderful singers. They blend beautifully. Their harmony is gorgeous. I am almost as happy to watch/listen to Neil play the guitar as I am about Brad Paisley. And if you know me at all, you know that's a LOT. But seriously, don't make me buy a filler album just because you've run out of beer money. It doesn't make me happy. It makes me feel used and taken advantage of.

*sigh*  Okay, let me talk about the things in the music that I actually like first.

Fields of Athenry. 
Beautiful Affair. 
On Raglan Road.  

All three of these tracks are beautiful. Lovely harmonies, touching and haunting deliveries. The guitar on Beautiful Affair is so pretty, I could listen to it for days. On Raglan Road is gorgeous, and the addition of Nicole Hudson's violin is perfect. And I like Fields of Athenry more and more, every time I hear it.

Course, I also already own them. So.

I'm glad to have Wagon Wheel in audio form finally, and Land Down Under is a really fun tune (more on that one in a second, maybe).

Ride On... oh Ride On.  This is the track on the album that I both love the most and hate the most. Let me explain.

The first time I saw Ryan and Neil in an Acoustic by Candlelight show, it was just the two of them making music. There was a strong reliance on Neil's stellar guitaring prowess to power up the musicality of the instrumentals.  I loved this. Neil is SO GOOD and I am delighted any time there is chance to watch him show off. When the guys started adding more instruments to their arrangements, I understood why and it sounded good too -- but I also missed some of the prominence of Neil's awesomeness.

That's the first part of why I love Ride On. The arrangement highlighting Neil's skills is so lovely. Ryan's vocal delivery is haunting, thoughtful, and beautiful. This will ever be a song I associate with Ryan, but ever since I first heard him do it, I have loved this version where he isn't so much Mr Sexpot but conveys something much different and far deeper.  And oh I have wanted this version in my hands for a long time.

But then there's the part that I hate. To anyone who's never been to one of Ryan and Neil's show, at the end of this song, the audience is invited to sing the chorus. And I hate it. Like... really hate it.  For some reason, Ryan thinks I have a plague that is communicable by eye contact, so he wouldn't know this.  But every time he invites the audience to join in, I glare eye daggers and throw imaginary darts at his head.  Sometimes they aren't imaginary.

So... to have it forever immortalized is awesome. (Note.... to the uninitiated, that's a little sarcasm.)

To the rest....  eh, I'm ambivalent.  There are things I don't like, but are generally small enough that it would just be nitpicky to bring them up.  Above all, it's the crowd noise that gets to me. To me, it is so distracting. So so so so distracting that I just stop enjoying the music and start swearing at the album instead..

I know. I know. It's a live album. Clearly, it's just not my shtick. I am so grumpy over it.

Look, I'll be back for the next real one, and hopefully with a less irritated attitude.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why do I have to be the one to forgive??

It was a hurt that I kept coming back to - those words that had been said, the thoughtlessness that had been acted on. I knew I should let it go... but it just wouldn't let go of me.  And so I kept going back to it. Over and over.

I knew what needed to be done. I just didn't want to do it, you understand. But I knew.

That little voice in my heart cried out, "Why? Why do I have to be the one to forgive when I'm not the one who did anything wrong?"

And that was a good question... why do we?

We forgive to allow relationships to heal. Sometimes, without it, they can't.  In fact, most of the time probably, they can't without a little forgiveness on both sides. I once had a chance to mend a rift with a friend. We both had hurts, and we talked about some of them. But some we didn't... and those ones were mine. I really struggled with that. Wasn't it okay for me to need healing too? But in the end, I decided my choices were to hang on to that hurt and walk away, or forgive and rebuild.  It was my choice to make. But without that forgiveness, there was no chance at all. With it?  There was a bit of hope.

We forgive to give space for new relationships to grow. Hurts we can't forgive grow in our hearts. With every pass, they get bigger and take up more space. We focus on them more and more. We begin to give them size and precedence that they don't deserve. And they get in the way of other people's attempts to reach us. We begin to think that the hurt someone else caused is something that is going to happen with someone else, and so we lock up our trust. But when we can forgive what happened before, we allow other people the chance to show up in our lives and show us the good people that they are. We can give them our trust, instead of our doubt.

We forgive to set ourselves free. The answer to why you have to be the one to forgive is because you are the one that is hurting. Forgiving isn't saying that what they did is excusable. It's saying that you aren't going to let it own you anymore. Those things you keep going back to are the things you can't let go. But those things you keep going back to? They aren't hurting the person who said them. They're hurting you.  Forgiveness isn't always a gift that you give to them. It's a gift that you give to yourself. It's allowing yourself to not let their words or their actions define you, become you, own you. Forgiveness allows you to let things go and to embrace who you really are... to live your life again.

We forgive because we have been too. Don't tell me you're perfect and have never hurt anyone. I know that's not true, and so do you. Someone else has had to forgive us... and probably many times. And so sometimes the answer to why you have to forgive when you didn't do anything... is because you have in the past.  And the only way you can expect to be given forgiveness when you are the one who has done the hurting is to be the person who does the forgiving when someone else has doled out the pain.

And so we forgive. And we heal... sometimes together, sometimes not.  And we move on stronger.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When Stories Are Over

Some doors are just ready to be closed. Some chapters are ready to be over.

It isn't a bad thing, though sometimes I think that we see it that way. Like we only close books when the stories have hurt us and we need to move on from them. But that's not always true.

Sometimes... the stories are just over. And we've had the experiences that we're going to have from them. We've cherished the memories. We've enjoyed the relationships. And sometimes when that's all done, it's simply time to move on. Not because we're hurt, but just because what was for us in those stories just isn't there anymore.

Closing the door, closing the chapter... it isn't so much marking the end of a story as it is making room for new ones.

It's like if you keep running back to what was... if you keep looking out the window, hoping that what used to be there is back... if you spend all of your time running backwards, you lose the opportunity to run forward.

What's coming up that is also for you....  well, if you're always looking back, you'll miss it.

Sometimes we allow stories to be over so that we can open up room on our shelves for new stories to unfold. And that's exciting.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Celtic Thunder, Catty Chaos, Comas, and Confidence

When I became a fan of Celtic Thunder, it was very much something that I just stumbled into. I didn't set out to become one, or to get so embroiled in the fan community.  It was just something that unfolded, and so I really didn't have a plan going into it.

One of the things that took me the most aback, in retrospect, is that I simply was unprepared for the Dog Eat Dog experience. It was like someone had taken One Direction, dropped them into the middle of a junior high girls school, and locked up all the teachers.  It was catty crazy chaos.

But I have to be honest. I was a part of it.

It was easy to get swept up into it. After all, everyone else was. It was easy to buy into the competition. It was easy to set the favor of your favorite artist as the prize to be won. It began to seem normal to be constantly eyeing other fans, being sure that they weren't prized more than you. It wasn't enough to be appreciated. You wanted to be favored, above all others. Jealousy ran the show. Envy ruled.

I got swept up in that. I did.

It took a brush with death (and not my own) to get shaken out of it. My favorite singer ended up in a coma.  Funny... those things tend to bring life into focus, and this did. I realized that it didn't matter how my relationships compared to anyone else's. What mattered is that they existed at all.

All of a sudden, all that power play lost its importance. It stopped mattering to me what other people's relationships were. They didn't have anything to do with me. And when they stopped mattering, jealousy and envy became something of the past. It became a lot easier to love people, even if I didn't like them that much.  They didn't have anything that I thought I needed, so how could I hate them for it anymore?

And in the end, I was simply a lot happier.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Coming Apart to Come Together

Sometimes the answer to a broken relationship isn't so much "No" as it is "Not yet."

Or even "Not as you are."

It hurts when a relationship breaks up, doesn't it? You wanted so much for it to work out, and then it doesn't. And you're left with heartache, broken hopes and dreams, new fears, and a wondering of what it was about you that wasn't okay.

But sometimes it isn't that you weren't meant to be friends or lovers... but you just needed to grow up a little first. You needed to grow. They needed to grow.  And then you could start again.

My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We began dating in the spring of our sophomore year, wee babes of 15. We made googly eyes. We passed notes. We spent every waking moment together. By Day 3, we were saying "I love you."

And by the middle of that summer, we'd broken up.  There were lots of little reasons for that... 20 years later, we probably still disagree on what those reasons are.  But, the honest truth of it was that we just needed to mature the tiniest bit.  We needed to approach our relationship differently.  And a few months as "just friends" allowed us to do that...

It wasn't really even that long before we tried again, but with different perspectives...  and we have nearly 20 years of marriage to show for that.

But it isn't just romantic relationships... friendships, too.  Sometimes things don't work out the first time. But the second time? The second time can be much better. It can be more honest, more intelligent. You learn things by coming apart that you need when you come back together. And learning those things makes you a stronger person, and can make the relationship stronger as well...

Sometimes it isn't the relationship that needs healing. It's the people that need growth.  And it's okay to come apart for awhile in order to do that.

If you're meant to be connected, you'll find each other again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your Jar of Pickles

My mom lives by herself.  Like many of us, she's one of those people who buys food with really good intentions of eating it... and then, because there's only one of her, just doesn't end up consuming it before the expiration date.  Only... she never cleans those things out.

One of the first things I do when we visit is go through her fridge and toss all the things that are expired.

So that we don't die.

Usually, this is milk... yogurt... strange things in tupperware boxes.

But then there was the year of the pickles.

This might have been the first year that I did a major clean-up of my mom's food supply. Like usual, there was the usual yogurt. Salad dressings that were past their prime.  And the pickles.

Friends, this was in 2006.  The pickles?  Oh, those had expired in 1996!! She'd had the same pickles in her fridge for 12 years!  Now, I counted back.. and as I sat there in front of the fridge surrounded by my 6-year-old twins, I realized that these were probably pickles that she bought for my high school graduation open house!  These were some old pickles.  Cucumbers from the harvest of 1962. She moved HOUSES with them.

I guess we all have our own pickles, don't we? Things that we should get rid of, things that just aren't for us anymore. Its not that they're bad things... they're just a jar of pickles that we've had in the fridge for too long.

But somehow, it's hard to get rid of those things. They don't bring us the joy that they once did... but once... they did. And getting rid of them feels like saying those memories and those past joys are invalid. But the truth is that those pickles just don't taste the way they did when they were fresh.  And every time you try one, you become just a little more unhappy with pickles in general.

Maybe you have something that you need to let go. Maybe you need to just be okay with throwing out the jar of pickles.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday Tales: Bad Blood



I scanned the lunchroom and my heart sank.  One seat in the whole place... and it was across from her. The girl who had somehow become something like an arch-nemesis.

I didn't hate her... there was just bad blood. Old bickerings, old insults.  They still hung in my mind, and maybe they still hung in hers. But it was either there or in the pouring rain outside. What choice did I have?

Practically tiptoeing up to the chair, I slid into it quietly -- like if I didn't make a sound, she wouldn't notice that I was there. I kept my eyes downcast... but the sigh of disgust that blew my way let me know that my ruse was up. Our eyes met and I mumbled, "Sorry."

We sat there in uncomfortable silence as I carefully laid out my lunch...  Avoided looking at each other, avoided speaking to each other.

Finally, I blurted out, "Look, can we start over? This is silly..."

She looked at me a long time, and then shrugged, "Yeah, sure, whatever."

Talk was stilted... but at least polite.  But when her friends walked up and she got up to join them, their words floated back to me.

"Why are you sitting with her?" they asked.
"Ugh... she just sat down. She's so awful."

Tears stung the back of my eyes...  of course they did. But I made a choice in that moment.

Maybe there would always be bad blood...  it just wasn't going to be mine.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

When Integrity is Elusive

Integrity isn't always easy. Doing the right thing isn't always the thing that we want to do.

Sometimes that's because it requires an extra step, an extra bit of effort. Sometimes it's because doing the right thing will make it impossible to do the things that we secretly want, and it can be hard to climb over that selfishness.

Sometimes doing the right thing is lonely. You're the only one -- and that's hard for a couple reasons.  To begin with, you're alone. Hard things are always easier when you have someone to share it with. So to do something alone... it's heart-challenging.

But, too, when you're the only one doing the right thing... it sends a message to everyone else. And perhaps it isn't one that you intend.  Perhaps the message you intend is more like "This is what's right for me, so this is what I'm going to do."  But often the message that gets heard is "This is what's right... and you're Satan's spawn for not doing it."

The truth is that all of us do things that are wrong...  Much of the time, we even know that it's wrong and that we should be choosing something different. So when we're already dealing with an inner conscience who we are purposely ignoring, it's doubly uncomfortable to get a message from outside that reinforces the message of the one that we're getting on the inside.

Because... we know.  We already know.  But, the more voices that tell us we're wrong, the harder it is to ignore and, truly I think, the more guilty that we feel.

We don't like feeling that way.

But changing what we're doing...  well, we don't want to do that either.  So the other choice for making the feeling go away?  Oh that choice is to attack the outside voice. If we can make that voice disappear, it's so much easier to keep on going, doing what we were doing.

So, when you're the outside voice...  it can be awfully lonely doing the right thing.

But I think that integrity is important -- and so you still have to go after it. You still have to keep trying to do what's right -- because, at the end of the day, I would rather be the one person holding out a hand than to be part of the crowd throwing stones.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mistakes and Beating Yourself Up

We had a small crisis the other day in my house.

After writing on an English assignment for 17 pages, my daughter realized she had misunderstood the directions, had been writing the wrong thing, and was going to need to start over. Understandably, she was upset. But as I tucked her in bed that night, she wasn't as upset that she was going to need to start over but that she had messed up again.

"Why am I always screwing up??" Her frustration and self-incrimination were palpable.

So we talked a bit about mistakes and how everyone makes them.  But that they're just mistakes -- that you own them, you do what you have to do to fix them, you learn from them, and then you move on.

I was always a perfectionist dieter-- which is not a great thing to be if you're the kind of person who occasionally caves in to her cookie cravings.  When I inevitably succumbed, I would do the same thing that my daughter was doing. I'd beat myself up for the mistake and tell myself that I was never going to be able to do it.  And who can succeed with such negative self-talk?

But what made the difference for me was that when I returned to losing weight last year, I promised myself that I wasn't going to do that.  Not that I wasn't ever going to cave to cravings, but that I wasn't going to beat myself up. I wasn't going to put myself down. I was going to forgive myself. I was going to extend grace to myself.  And if you ask me what my real secret to success has been?  That's it.

Forgive yourself.

I got to put that into practice last night. It was my first day filling a role at work that I've never filled before -- and I messed up.  It wasn't an end of the world thing. It was fixable... but required 20 extra minutes plus the help of two other employees.  And honestly, I really didn't want to mess up on my first day!!

But you own what you did.
And you do what you need to do to fix it.
You learn from it so you don't do it again next time.

And you forgive yourself.

Friday, October 10, 2014

When what we think we deserve changes

We accept the love that we think we deserve.  Have you ever heard that? I can identify with that.

There was a time that I accepted and soaked up the first adult female friendship that came my way because I thought that was the best that I could expect. But the truth is that it wasn't a very healthy friendship -- fraught with jealousy, painful manipulation, and one-up-man-ship, one that required constantly walking on eggshells so as to not upset the delicate balance that kept us all upright.

But that wasn't the best that I could expect.  There was so much more that could be friendship, but I accepted less because I truly didn't think that I could hope for more. I hardly deserved more, did I? I was so broken. I didn't deserve more --  and I believed that.

Until I didn't.

Until I realized that, yes, there was far more that one could expect from friendship and that, yes, I absolutely deserved more. Not that I was somehow specialler than anyone else, but I wasn't broken-er than anyone else either. I deserved goodness and commitment and caring and trust.

The funny thing about beginning to recognize your own worth is that it becomes a lot harder to stay around people who don't. It's hard to stay around people who don't respect you enough to treat you like someone worthy of respect. And why should you?

That doesn't mean you act in cruelty. You stay kind... you stay caring. But perhaps it means that you don't continue to put yourself into their path. You don't give them the option anymore of treating you as less-than.  That doesn't make you wrong. It makes you someone who respects themselves.

There's strength in that.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fixing Yourself by Breaking Someone Else

Have you ever tried to fix yourself by breaking someone else? It doesn't work very well, does it? Sometimes it's person-specific... maybe they hurt you, and you want them to hurt back. Sometimes it's a lot more general... you're having a crappy day, and gosh darn it, if the world isn't going to have a crappy day too!!

The thing about breaking other people to fix yourself is that it's a lot like emotional eating. It gives you a bit of satisfaction for that moment that you're engaged in it... but when that moment is over, you're left with guilt and regret ---  and have done absolutely nothing to fix the problem that you were trying to solve in the first place.

Breaking someone else to make yourself feel better is a little like that. It fills an ugly little hole in your heart for a moment... but it's an even uglier fix to a problem that you still haven't solved -- only created new ones on top of your brokenness.

So what can we do?

First, I think that we have to recognize that we're even doing it. You can't stop something if you don't know what it looks like.  Just become aware of it... even if that's after you've done it.  But at least become aware.

We have to think of ways that we can create the same emotional response other than making them feel bad too.  Then, before we open our mouths, we can stop, acknowledge that we're looking for that response, and choose a different mode of getting it -- preferably one that doesn't hurt someone else.

And when we stop creating more problems for ourselves all the time, we can actually go about the business of healing the wounds that needed the emotional salve in the first place.

We can fix ourselves without breaking others... in fact, maybe it's the only that we can.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When No One Understands

It's okay if no one understands.

I don't know what it might be for you. Perhaps it's a dream you have, an ambition that burns in your heart. Perhaps it's a crisis of self... a changing of thinking. Maybe it's a relationship that no one understands why you engage in.

It can be hard when no one understands. You get to feeling a bit alone.

But I think it's important to understand yourself that there might be a difference between "alone" and "wrong." We get trained into conformity. We're rewarded for it, aren't we? When we're like everyone else, we get the prize of being accepted. And sometimes when we're not like everyone else, we get the shame of being excluded... and that teaches us not to be different. It teaches that "alone" is "wrong."

History is full of people who were "wrong."  Yet not actually wrong... just different. They believed something else. They dreamed something else. They loved something else. And I can imagine that sometimes they felt pretty alone too.

But I like to think that maybe they understood that alone was okay...  Maybe they came to a place where they embraced that being different, that believing different, that dreaming different... even if there was no one else who understood them...

Maybe they came to a place where they understood that different was okay.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Trusting Again

"How do you trust someone when 
they have given you a reason not to trust them?"

That was the question posted on Twitter a few days ago (not by me), and it's been floating in my thoughts ever since.

So, what do you think? How do you? Or do you at all?

As a general rule, I guess I'm the kind of person who does. Even if you've given me a reason not to trust you, I'll try again.  But the result is unpredictable. Sometimes it turns out great, sometimes it's a disaster.

I once had a friend who'd hurt me pretty deeply. And then we had a chance to start again... but I thought about it for a long time first. Could I trust them with my heart? Was I going to be hurt again? In the end, I went with a weird sort of trust -- I'm not sure if you can even call it that. I made the choice to move forward. I made the choice to give them the power to hurt me twice...  but I did so, almost expecting it to happen.

Maybe that's why trusting again is so hard... You can choose to trust, but you always hold a little of yourself back, just in case -- an extra measure of self-protection. But hopefully, little by little, you can build trust back between you again... and over time, you can even let go of those bits that you hold onto for dear life.

So, to answer the question... How do you trust someone when they have given you a reason not to trust them?

I guess you have to choose whether the risk is worth it. What are you potentially losing by walking away? What could you gain by giving of yourself one more time? And can you heal again if the result is your broken heart?

I can't answer those for you... but I hope you find the answers you need.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bitches, Bemusement and Blossoming

So... apparently I was called a bitch last night.

There was a time that I would have let this really get to me. I'd chew on it, I'd be bothered by it. I'd lose sleep over it... I'd take it out weeks down the road and work over it again and again. But I'm not going to do that this time.

I've learned some things about people and about myself over the last few years...  some things that are easy to remember, and some things that I have to remind myself.

Not everyone is going to like you...  even the most perfect among us is going to find people who will pick them apart. So you can't let the people who abhor you define who you believe that you are. They see you through black-tinted glasses, and they're going to see what they want to see. They're going to interpret your words and actions in the way that supports what they think about you... and I'm not sure that there's really a lot that you can do about that.  The only person you can control is you.

But the part you can control is not letting their opinion about you matter. If they hate you that much, I'd be willing to bet that they aren't someone that you like a lot either. So why are you letting them matter? Why are you allowing yourself to lose sleep over someone whose opinion you needn't care about that much anyway?

Do you know whose opinion does matter?  Yours. Your friends. Your family.  The people who love you and who you love... the people who are important in your life.  Their opinions of you matter... but the people who hate you?  They honestly don't.  And if you're letting yourself get worked up over the opinions of people who don't figure into the value of your life at all...  you have to ask yourself Why? Why do they get to matter?

I once was trying to explain to my husband about a situation that had me upset, trying to communicate why I was bothered.  After I got done speaking, he said to me something that has stuck with me for a long time.  And what he said was this:

"I can understand why you're upset...  
but what I don't understand is why you would let the opinion of 
bitter unhappy people change the person that you are."

And he was right...

So what I want to say today is this...

To the person who hates me...  I'm honestly sorry that you do, and I hope that what you said last night made you feel better. I don't hate you, and I can afford to be forgiving. I just think that we have very different value systems and perhaps those don't mesh well together.

To the person hurt by someone who hates them... I'm so sorry for your hurt. Something I have learned is that oftentimes the way someone treats you is far more about who they are than who you are. Wrap yourself in the love of the people who love you and know that you have much to offer the world. Don't hide your candle because of an ill wind. The world needs your light. Please don't let them change who you are.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Your Life is a Reflection of Your Choices

"Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made."

Oh, we don't like that, do we?

It's much harder to be victims when we accept that we made choices that got us places -- and I think we rather like being able to be a victim. Isn't it easier that way?  If we're victims, then it isn't our fault. And we don't have to take responsibility for things that aren't our fault. We don't have to accept our own part. We can just go on in our self-pity and our self woe, and keep blaming outside of us.

I'm not saying that things that have happened to us, been said to us, been done to us are necessarily our fault. Sometimes other people do make mean choices. They use us. They abuse us. They throw us away...  and those things are on them. But sometimes our choices do get mixed up in that, and we have to accept our part. Perhaps we put ourselves in situations where we would be vulnerable. We chose selfishly. We let what they said matter.

Those choices were ours.

I have to think that we're bigger than that. If we want different outcomes, we have the power to make different choices.

And so today, I'm thinking about what different choices I could make...

Not that I could have made. Those choices are over... but going forward.  What different choices can I make?

What different choices will you make?


Saturday, September 20, 2014

CT Heritage: Testing the Crying Waters

I haven't watched a Celtic Thunder DVD since George died. I have avoided it, dreaded it. I was afraid to cry over one... but I think, just as much, I was afraid that I wouldn't. That somewhere in my private grieving, I would have put myself in a place where I couldn't grieve at all.


I finally decided on watching Heritage yesterday. I wanted to watch something... if nothing else, just to expose myself to it. I have a concert to go to in November. I don't want to fall apart in a live show. I really don't.

It's not like I watch the videos all the time anymore... In the beginning, I watched them a lot, of course. I was practically obsessed with Brothers in Arms and Caledonia! But my fervor has cooled over the years (and that's a healthy thing)... But I'll still put one on if I'm doing something where I am going to be stuck in one place for awhile -- matching socks or something. 


But once the spring happened... I just didn't.

I like Heritage though... it's a very sweet show and I love the duet component. 

And I was okay watching it... I choked up a little, but manageable. Until we got to Gold and Silver Days... and I was still okay! Teary, but okay. Until the end when Ryan claps George on the shoulder, and then I cried. I kept crying all through Neil's Noreen.

I managed to pull myself together for the rest of the show... and then Place in the Choir came on, and this got me worked up all over again-- but in a different way. I know... Who the heck cries over Place in the Choir??

Gold and Silver Days was grief... this was something different. This was the last show where everyone was together -- the original group. And this song, more than anything, looked like so much fun. Like the guys were having so much fun.

I don't know how much of that was real -- how much was a show for the crowd, and how much of it was authentic. How could I know that? But it LOOKED real. Like there was a camaraderie and a sense of family there. And more than anything, that left me feeling so nostalgic, and wistful for something that slips away.

And I stopped and cried for that loss.

A Belated Response to Shame and Weight Loss Success

I was asked to speak at my Weight Watchers meeting this morning.  This isn't one I was leading, just my "normal" meeting that I attend as a member.  But it was a day focused on success stories, and so my leader asked me to be one of the people sharing.

I did... and I shared some tangible things as well...  a Before and After picture of myself, plus I brought in a blouse that I had worn to a Celtic Thunder taping several years ago.  At the time, despite its pleats, it still gaped open across my chest.  But now... now I swim in it.  I don't keep "fat girl clothes" because I feel like keeping them gives me permission to backslide - and I'm not giving myself permission to do that.  But I keep this blouse in the back of my closet and occasionally slip into it just to prove to myself how far I've come.

After we spoke, our leader asked for responses from the group... what had we said that sparked a response in them?

One lady, a pretty new member, shared that seeing the "Before" items that we brought in made her feel embarrassed because they were the size that she wore now -- and that it made her feel ashamed. I felt badly about that... because making someone else feel embarrassed for where they are was the last thing that I wanted.

I thought about that on the way home...  and what I want to say is this:

It isn't the Before item that matters.  We bring them and we share them because we're proud of what we're accomplished. They represent the work and the self-control, and every time we made a choice that we didn't regret later.

The Before item doesn't say "This is what I wore when I sucked... so if you wear this too, then you suck." The Before item says, "This is what I wore when I didn't like myself and when I was unhappy with the image I presented. This is what I wore before I began this journey to both better physical health and healthier self-image..  I wasn't a bad person when I wore this, but I was unhappy.

You want to know a secret?  Despite all the success I've had thus far, sometimes I look at other people's After pictures -- and I know that I'm not that slender. So I minimize my success...  "Yeah, you made it this far.  But you could have done better."

The thing is... you can't be in this room and say that you suck -- even if you can wear the shirt that I now swim in.  You can't. Because just by being here, you've done something to win.  It's 9:30am on a Saturday morning -- and you're in this room.  You're not at home. You're not lying in bed. You got up and you got dressed and you went out the door... to show up in a room of people all supporting each other on a journey to better health, better self-image, better self-love and acceptance.  

We could all be sleeping.

And even if this is your first day -- perhaps especially if this is your first day -- you've already won. Walking in that door is one of the hardest things there is because it means admitting that you want to change. It means admitting that you can't do it on your own. 

But it is also one of the bravest things - and you did that today.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Caught Between

It seemed hopeless.

Caught somewhere between who she was and who she wanted to be... It always seemed like who she wanted to be was always hovering, just out of reach.  But looking back and mocking at how far she yet had to go.

How could she ever get there?  There was so much to change, so much to grow through, so many mountains to climb.

She would make it halfway up one... and then stumble... tumbling back to the bottom.  And the peak would tower over her, just as high as it was before.

And then the discouragement would come. The hopelessness. The wanting to just stop trying.

But she never did.

Who she was wasn't where she wanted to stay... but sometimes, in the quiet, she understood that who she wanted to be wasn't necessarily the point. The point was the journey. The point was the trying. The point was the lessons she learned along the way.

Perhaps who she wanted to be... perhaps that wasn't who she was destined to be. Perhaps she was simply The Girl in Progress.

and that was a pretty okay girl to be.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Beating the Dead Horse

Have you ever tried beating a dead horse?

Not a real dead horse. I HOPE not a real dead horse!

But I mean, just a situation where you butt up against a dead end... the proverbial dead horse... and you just keep ramming into it, hoping that if you ram enough times, then the dead end will change. The horse will get up and be undead.

But the thing about dead ends and horses is that... beating on them doesn't change anything. It just wears us out and makes us look a little crazy.

Sometimes you have to accept that your horse is gone and your road is ended. You have to accept that someone is like they are and you can't change them, or that the situation is unfixable. Accepting those things doesn't mean that you've lost. It means that you're finally being honest.

And when you accept that there are things you can't change, you have a couple of choices. You can accept that it is so, and you can decide that it doesn't have to affect who you are, and you can move on along the same path. Or you can also decide that what can't be changed isn't worthy of you, and that you need to find a whole different road to walk down.. and you move on.

But both ways?  They both begin with you having the courage to accept that there are things that you can't change... and they end with you moving on.

The horse has been beaten enough.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Can Remember Everything

If I want, I can remember everything.

I can remember the rain on the window, and the song that was playing on the radio.
I can remember the clothes I was wearing, and the smell in the air.
I can remember your words, the look in your eyes.

But there are days that I don't want to remember. Those things all crowd in like an unwelcome guest. And I want anything but to open the door to them.

And so I keep busy. There are always things to do... and if I just do enough of them, then I don't have the time to remember. I keep my To-Do list full so I don't think of you. And so I don't think of that day.

Because if I want... 

I can remember everything.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Letter to My Fashion Conscious Daughter

Dear Daughter With the Fashion Sense--

I feel like you didn't like my pants yesterday.

I don't know what it was... the grimace... the sigh... the "OMG Mom, no! You look like you're in a circus!!!"

Something.

So, here's the thing...

I'm experimenting. I have so many more clothes choices now than I did before.  Before, it was all boot cut jeans and black black black and the obligatory Hawaiian prints and anything that camouflaged what I was embarrassed about.

But... I'm not bound by that now. And there are so many choices and it's been so long since I've had them that I'm really not sure what I like yet.  And so I'm experimenting... I'm wearing things that I've never worn before. I'm trying trends that I might like and I might not. It's like I'm in my 20s and trying to find my style... except that I'm almost 40, with teenagers who are embarrassed by my mere existence.

Before... nothing fit that made me happy, and so I made due with what I could buy.

Now... everything fits, and I actually get to choose.

So... you're just going to have to put up with it... even if you think I look like I belong in the circus.

On the bright side... how much worse could it get? I already have blue hair!!

Love
Mom

Friday, August 29, 2014

When You Stop Knocking

Sometimes you just stop knocking.

Maybe they're doors to opportunities you thought would be yours. Maybe they're doors to people that you thought would be your friends.

And so you knocked, hoping to be let in.

Maybe the door cracked open the first time you knocked... and so you came back later and you knocked again. Surely it would crack open again... perhaps even further. And eventually... eventually, the door would be open and you could walk through and enjoy what was on the other side.

But the door didn't crack open this time. It stayed shut.

And so you went away, and you came back. and you tried again.

And you tried again.
And you tried again.

You tried a lot. Often.

And then, you just stopped trying. You stopped knocking. You stopped even approaching the door.

Because eventually you realized that doors that don't ever open just aren't worth the time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thoughts on Celtic Thunder's Fanclub Plans

A brief hiatus from my Celtic Thunder fast to talk about new developments...

So, if you were getting a little lazy over the summer and thinking there was no new drama to titillate your indignation, Celtic Thunder is here to supply.  They've stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest with the introduction of their new upcoming fanclub. Some fans are supportive, some are quite ticked.  And I imagine that there is a big group of silent ones thinking, "I'll wait and see how this plays out."

I've thought a little about what I really think about it all... and thought I'd try to lay my thoughts out on paper, varied as they are. These are purely my own... I haven't even spoken to anyone in CT about this since the news hit.

What I Think The Fanclub Really Is


I don't think the fanclub is merely a fanclub... not in the sense that we're used to hearing it, or used to participating in through other artists. The more I re-read what CT's is probably going to look like, the more I see it as a form of crowd-funding.

Now, crowd-funding is relatively new... and I think it's something that has been met with varying levels of acceptance and disdain, depending on how resistant to change you are.  We're used to the Field of Dreams model of funding.

"If you build it, they will come."  That idea that the creator provides the capital to produce an item, then produces it, and only then does the consumer come along and join the system.  And we all hope that the demand for the product exceeds the cost of producing it and that the system can start all over again.

Crowdfunding is totally different... and if all you've known is the Field of Dreams model, it can be hard to embrace. Crowdfunding changes everything around... the capital comes, in part, from the community of people demanding the product be produced.  It takes a little of the guesswork out of merely hoping that the cost of production will be covered by the revenue.

Honestly, some of my favorite projects have come about through crowdfunding, so I'm a proponent of the idea of it...  but it's still a new thing, a new idea, a new philosophy.  And so, even for me, it can sometimes be hard to wrap my head around, hard to accept.  But, the truth is that more and more projects are being funded this way, and I have to think that maybe this is the direction that creative projects are going to go in the future.

What I Don't Think the Fanclub Is


Mere money-mongering.

I don't. And probably, I'm not an impartial judge as Sharon has always been my friend. But I see this far more as a response to a changing business environment than it is to simply lining someone's pockets.

The thing is... Celtic Thunder, though I have always loved it, is not a necessity. Food, shelter, clothing... these are necessities. Front row concert tickets?  Not so much, but we all get to decide what things are worth to us.

Being a Celtic Thunder fan is an expensive endeavor. You want to see concerts... and in the best seats that you can. In addition, you want to support the careers of the singers... Ryan, Neil, Ryan and Neil, Keith, Colm, Emmet, Damian, Paul, and of course until recently, George. It's not cheap... and eventually, you have to start making choices.

What Will I Do?


Truthfully, I don't know yet. I think there are some questions that need to be answered before I can make that decision.  I think the question of how the Platinum tickets will line up with PBS tickets is a valid one that should be addressed at some point. And I would want to see a specific list of benefits for each fanclub level before making a decision. I need to know if the benefits are worth the price to me...

And right now, I'm not sure. Am I still the kind of fan that needs to invest so heavily? I don't know.

Maybe I will decide to invest. Maybe I will decide to take that money and take in some extra concerts elsewhere.

But, either way I decide...  I'm not upset. No one is hurting me if I decide that it isn't worth it to me.  It's just a decision I've made based on what's important to me and what's not.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Honest Letter

To You Who Shall Remain Nameless...

I have a thing I need to say... and I should say it to you. But I don't want to fight or get the run around... and so I cowardly say it here, where I don't think you read. 

I'm mad at you.

I'm mad at you... but probably, hurt. We're supposed to be friends. You can't just disappear for days, weeks, months from the people you say that you care about. And yet, you do. You disappear... and you're unreachable. You ignore everything I say to you like it doesn't matter. Every confiding, every question into how you are.

And then suddenly you jump back, and you're here again and you seem like you want my friendship. I know that you're busy. I know this because you tell me every time you jump back, and though it may not seem like it, I can understand that.  But I also understand that we make time for the things and the people that are important to us. So how can I make any conclusion other than that I'm not?

I used to think it was me when you would disappear. I used to think I had done something... said something that bothered you, did something that made you mad... somehow made myself someone that you didn't think was worth your friendship and your caring.  And I would beat myself up... blame myself, criticize myself.

Eventually, I realized it wasn't me. I hadn't done anything wrong. I hadn't said anything wrong. This was just how you were... popping in and out of my life like your absence didn't matter. The thing you've never understood is that it did. And it does.

I'm mad at you, and I'm hurt that you've disappeared again. But the thing is... I don't want to not be friends. But I want to be friends in a way that's respectful to us both. When you are here, I enjoy us. I enjoy talking to you, and knowing what you think, and knowing you're interested in what I think. But, I never know when that's going to disappear. Can you understand why being friends on slippery ground is tough?

You won't read this and we won't fight about it. You won't give me excuses that don't really mean anything. And I won't tell you that it's okay.

But maybe I feel a little better, just for having said it outloud.

Me

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Not the Same Hobbit I Once Was

"I am not the same Hobbit I once was."

As I look at myself in the mirror, the eyes that look back at me are not the same. I've changed. And some of those changes have come slowly...  some of them are even new.  So new that I'm not quite used to them yet. They still fit like a brand new pair of sneakers that haven't been broken.

Some of the changes, you don't even believe yet.

Some are so wonderful that I still can't believe they're mine. I still can't quite believe that they're a part of me. Some of them are bittersweet. They're not bad, but living them means leaving a part of myself behind. And there is a bittersweet tinge to that, leaving bits of yourself behind you. You want both.  You want to go down new roads, but you want to keep you in one piece.

Some are changes that I resent...  because I know they came about through pain and manipulation and betrayal. Pain that still lingers... that leaves marks from burning fingertips through my heart. There are moments that I want those changes back.

and yet...

It all works together.

I am not the same Hobbit that I once was... but the Hobbit I am now has seen beauty and love, joy and struggle, pain and tears. And perhaps the Hobbit I am now is a Hobbit pretty worth being.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

At My Gate

You've been at the gate to my wall for a long time.  And I've kept you there...

Talking over the wall, talking through it, talking over it.

For a long time.

I've thought about opening the gate...  letting you come in. But, it's safe with you out there and me in here. It's safe.  You can't do anything when you're out there...  a little graffiti on the wall, maybe, but that's it. I can clean that up.

But... in here?  Oh, in here, you could do a lot of damage. You could break things that are precious to me, break them into a million pieces that I could never put back together again. You could break me.

Not that you necessarily would.  Maybe you wouldn't.  But... I don't know what might happen... maybe you would.

I've been thinking about that gate a lot, thinking about opening it, thinking about letting you in.

If I do...  just please don't break anything.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Man Among Men

To the Girls Out There--

I'm celebrating my 18th wedding anniversary today.

He is my high school sweetheart, a love story that's gone on since (if you believe my mother) our first day of 6th grade when I came home exclaiming over the cute boy in my math class. The official story starts a few years later, but this part makes for an adorable prequel.

I've been thinking what to tell you. 18 years is a long time...

I always feel like I cheated Luck a little bit. Like I ended up with a man that I don't quite deserve. He isn't like most men - I've learned that as a grown-up, though sometimes I forget it. He's been mature since he was 16, which I make up for by being perpetually childish.

I guess that what I want to tell you is this:

Selflessness.

That is the quality I am most humbled by that I get to experience, that I least deserve - but yet that I think you must look for. It is the thing that sets him apart from most men, the thing that raises him above the rest, and the decision that means everything. I never test whether I am most important in my husband's life -- because I don't need to.

Wait for the one that can love you selflessly. The good ones are worth waiting for -- or for snatching up early before anyone else figures out what's sitting in front of them... in the 6th grade, if necessary.


P.S. to my daughters: I'm kidding. 6th grade is a terrible time to look for a husband.  As is 7th, 8th, 9th...  actually, let's just hold off on this till you're about 40.  Love, Mom


Thursday, August 7, 2014

All of a Sudden, Things are Different

And, all of a sudden, things are different.

All of a sudden, what you knew has changed. Who you understood yourself to be... has changed. 

You can't do what you did anymore. You can't say what you said... because things are different. You changed them.

and it's strange because they're different.

But, you know that it's right.. at least for now... because it feels so comfortable. And maybe you're not quite sure where you are supposed to be right now, what you are supposed to be doing.  Maybe it's not clear to you yet. 

But, you know it's not what you left. 

You'll find your way. People like us, we always do. And when your way opens up, you'll find who you are again. You'll find what you're meant to do, who you're meant to be.

I've a feeling that you might already know.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Courage to Tell Your Story

I once read that the original definition of Courage is to tell the true story of who you are with your whole heart.

I liked that.

We spend so much time covering up who we are. We think that people won't like the real us, or they'll judge  us for the truth that lies within. They will mark us as unworthy if they knew who we really were.

For we know we really are... and we know that sometimes we aren't pretty. Sometimes what happens to us isn't pretty, and we don't want people to know.  Sometimes what we do isn't pretty, and we definitely don't want people to know.

But I have found that, even though it's scary, I have made my deepest connections when I have let the unpretty parts be seen. I have found that when I've admitted to the darkest parts of me, it is then that I've heard a whispered and grateful "Oh, me too... I thought I was the only one."

And I have found that, though perhaps it's backwards, shining a light on the dark corners has illuminated the parts of me that I do want to shine.

So, Courage, my friends...  Have courage.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Unliking Celtic Thunder: When a Fan Girl Reaches Her Limit

Today is Day 4.

Four days ago, I "unliked" Celtic Thunder. I unliked their Facebook page, and those of all the 47 castmembers -- yes, even my favorites.  I took all my CT-related lists out of my Tweetdeck.

Initially, this wasn't a big deal. It's not completely out of character for me to unlike a page when one of the guys is getting on my nerves. I always figure it's best to "unlike" for a few hours while my temper cools. It saves them from feeling the brunt of my sometimes caustic tongue, and saves myself the need to apologize a few hours later. But... after a few hours, I cool off... and I relike... and no one's the worse for wear.

But, this was different. I wasn't upset with anyone, really.  I was fed up with a lot of things, sure. But it really wasn't done in a fit of temper.  This wasn't one person irritating me... it was completely unilateral. I calmly and methodically cut everyone out.  And when my frustration was less at the end of the night... when I normally would have quickly added everyone back before going to bed...  I chose not to.

And so far... I've still chosen not to.

Why?

I guess there are a lot of things.  Some things that just feel strange to me...  some things are missing that I wish weren't. The hyperdrive of solo careers and tours and merchandising and and number-crunching and constant pumping has left me feeling both starved and suffocated at the same time during this off-season, and I've gotten so that I just don't want to hear about it anymore. And heaped on top, there are things that are just too personal to talk about here.

I'm not sure what it all means, this "unliking" that I've done. It's a strange world we live in that "unliking" something is even a thing that could mean something. Does it mean I'm done? I can't quite imagine walking away...  but then not long ago, I couldn't imagine cutting myself off in this way either. Should I be more bothered by it?

It's different.  My social media is quieter. My Tweetdeck twitters at me less. I don't know anything that's going on in Celtic Thunder Land, not a clue what's going on with people... but I'm blissfully unaware, too, of any gossip or drama that might have rubbed me wrong.  It's different, but not altogether bad.

I don't know if this is permanent or temporary. I don't know yet if this is all there is, if it's a passing phase that I'll walk out of, or if it's something I won't return from.

And I guess that mostly I just don't know what it means. I've loved them for seven years... Seven years is a long time.
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