Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Letting people be

For a long time, I felt unhappy.

People weren't being who I wanted them to be. They refused to fit in the boxes that I had created for them. They didn't choose what I wanted. They didn't say what I had planned.

I was unhappy and I felt frustrated. That all sounds very silly... but I was.

I had reasons that sounded really noble for why I wanted them to mold themselves into the people I'd designed. It was for their own good, wasn't it? If they could just change in the way that I wanted them to change... or choose the things that I thought was best for them to choose, they'd be happier. They'd be wiser. They'd be...

... who I wanted.

If I was honest, I wasn't noble. My intentions were far more selfish than they were loving.

And so, I stopped.

I stopped demanding that they be the people I wanted them to be. I stopped pushing and pulling them into my molds.  I stopped giving them lines and then being upset when they didn't say them.

Sometimes that meant that we walked away. We realized that who they really were and who I really was didn't quite work -- and so we quietly said goodbye.  Sometimes that meant we grew closer -- that putting away my demands allowed them to give more freely.

Sometimes it changed nothing, and merely allowed me to accept people for how they are... for who they are... and made me realize that if I wanted people to accept me for myself, strengths and flaws and all...  I needed to be willing to do the same for them.

Without judgment.  But with love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When the Coffeemaker Dies

My coffee maker broke last week. If you know me, you know that's a tragedy and crisis all rolled into one.

My Plan: Go to Target. Buy a new one.

On Saturday morning, my husband approached me while I was doing my hair. "So... I was looking online," he said, "and it looks like we actually have a few choices on coffee makers."

I immediately put down my straightener, narrowed my eyes at him, and accused, "Are you in Research Mode???"

My husband is a Researcher. It's genetic.

When our children were in the 4th grade, I picked them up from school, and on our walk home, they excitedly confided that "Dad said we're getting a new TV!"  I had to gently explain to them that when he says "I think we should get a new TV," what that actually means is "I am thinking about getting a new TV... but I need to look into what the best TV is first. For months."

Two years later, there was a new TV on the wall.

A Researcher Husband is not a bad thing. We probably have the best TV, balancing money and value and bells and whistles and reliability.

My van, which took months to "research," has all the features that I wanted.

But Researcher Husband and "IMMEDIATE COFFEE NEED" do not always get along.

I tapped him on the chest, and said, "Two days. You have two days."

And to his credit (and my amazement - and probably his mom's!), he had one ordered by that afternoon.

Coffee is coming, my friends. It is coming.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Where has all the writing gone?

I guess that I thought it would have come back by now...  the writing, the inspiration. I regularly look back on things I've written in the past and think, "Hey, that was kind of brilliant!" --  and I'd like to write like that again -- but it's like I'm a little empty.

I don't say that with self-pity or even a belief that it will be always this way.

I believe that it won't. I know that it won't. It always comes back... I just thought it would have returned by now.

Part of it is me... and that isn't a bad thing.

There was a relationship that I felt the need to write about and write about and write about - ad nauseum, really. But now... it's fine. And even when it isn't, I don't really feel like I need to explore it anymore.  I believe that's a good thing... it's just a writing-less thing.

I sit down and the things that I used to spark my imagination or my writing bug... they just don't quite seem to work. I could write... I could make it sound good. I can be good at faking it. But, it wouldn't be real... so I just never do.

Part of it is my stage of life.

I have three teenage girls, and the things that I really need to talk about... are them.  Or... probably more accurately, my feelings that I am complete ill-equipped to navigate raising a teenager in today's world. But, they're teenage girls - and I can't. It wouldn't be fair to them. I've worked hard to create a relationship of trust between us. It gives them the safety that allows them to confide the hard things - and me, the knowledge of where they are, and where I can help guide them. If I were to dump that out here, I would violate that... and destroy the trust that I believe is sacred and necessary and healthy.

The things that I need to talk about... can't be.

So, I haven't written - not much. But I miss it.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Byrne and Kelly's "Echoes" -- A Longtime Fan's Meanderings

You guys, I have good news. I have lots of good news.

First, my longtime favorite musical duo Byrne and Kelly have released their latest album, Echoes. Growing from their previous standby of adapting favorite tunes, Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly have dived into the pool of their own songwriting, along with bandmembers Nicole Hudson and Peter Sheridan, to release an album of nine original songs with the added gift of one fan-favorite Irish tune. Their blend is getting stronger and they're beginning to really feel out, explore, and test the unique gifts and strengths that they each bring to the table.

Second, I am way less grumpy than the last time I wrote about an album, so yay!

You can't listen to Echoes without knowing where Byrne and Kelly come from, with several tracks that reflect on Ireland as homeland and give tribute to the places that mean something to them. Home from Home is the last track on the album, but was originally released as a single some months ago. It's a great song with a driving beat, catchy tune, and well-blended harmonies. Belfast opens the album with just about the most beautiful guitar solo you'll hear. Along with Nicole's violin later in the song, the instrumentals are lovely. The track as a whole is pleasing to listen to... but that's almost its downfall. You almost wish there was the teensiest bit more meat to it.

Land of a Thousand Dreams is one my favorites on the album. It begins with Ryan's haunting opening and builds in intensity. Neil's harmony in the second verse gives the song a surprising darkness. Varying cadences keep the song interesting, but the driving acapella bridge is by far my favorite part of the track. I'd happily listen to it over and over. Meeting of the Waters is the song that I have really tried to like... but can't get into. It's pretty and I like the Gaelic in the background, but I just can't seem to connect with it.

Tales of love and tragedy fill out the album in tunes that are both achingly lovely and incredibly fun. Come Away has to be my #1 favorite song. A moving story of regret, Ryan sings lead evocatively and leaves you so very sad. The combination of instrumentation is perfect in its tenderness and the harmony that pours forth in the second verse is beautiful. The Old Tweed Coat is an achingly sweet song of lifetime love that is a perfect match for Neil's smooth voice.  Seamus Brett's piano is truly lovely and lends to the beauty of the song. It's taken a little bit to grow on me, but I think it is.

Putting some fire into the album, Step It Out Mary is the one song on the album that isn't a Byrne and Kelly original, but has met with much fan enthusiasm when performed at B&K shows in the past. It's a fun upbeat piece that highlights both Neil and Ryan's strong voices. I especially love the increasing layers to the chorus as the song progresses. The Rag Man is truly awesome.  The music is intense and fun. You just have to hear it - there is so much to it! The driving beat is stellar, the story is great, and it's a perfect vehicle for Ryan's strengths.

The Garden is a powerful and poignant piece, headlined by Neil, reflecting on our childhood pasts. It has great harmony in the chorus and sets your feet tapping. Finally, Keep It Movin' is a light clappy song that's a lot of fun. Fans will no doubt enjoy listening for the tour stops that they might have been at!

It's a good album! It's always a little nerve-racking when your favorite artists do something new - will you still like it? Will you still like them? But, I think that, while perhaps a little different, it's a good direction for Byrne and Kelly and one I'm looking forward to walking with them!

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