Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Words I Needed

I used to think that affirmations were sort of silly.  The whole standing in front of the mirror, repeating positive "You can do it!" sort of messages to yourself.

I mean, I grew up on the mockery of Stuart Smalley.

But maybe I was wrong.

The other night, my mind just wouldn't shut up. You've had those nights, haven't you? I'd read something online that had made me feel criticized for a super hard and personal decision I'd come to, and my mind immediately jumped into hyper-defensive overdrive.

Of course I'd read it approximately 90 seconds before heading to bed, which meant that I was lying there, trying to go to sleep, my heart racing and my head composing everything I "needed" to say. Every defense, every reason, every everything -- all the while, interjecting every so often, "OMG, stop thinking. You have to go to sleep!!" which didn't stop the overthinking at all, just added to the cacophony of noise in my mind.

I have so many people in my head sometimes. Stern but Sensible Me suddenly spoke up with authority. "Listen. You do not have to choose for anyone but you."


"No, you're not hearing me. No defending is needed. No excuses are needed. No one has to agree. This is for you. You do not have to choose for anyone but you."

And as that sunk in with all the other voices in my head, I could physically feel the anxiety leave my body. My mind quieted.  Not all it once... it took a few more repeatings as the stubborn ones tried to pick up the fight again. But over a few minutes, it worked.  I slept in peace.

So, maybe a few affirmations in your back pocket aren't the dumbest thing ever.

Friday, August 17, 2018

A Writer's Return (I hope)

I miss writing.

I miss doing it. I miss closing my eyes, setting my fingers to the keyboard or the pen to the page, and letting whatever come out of it come out.  Even when it isn't anything like what I planned and surprises me that it was sitting there in my head at all.

I miss the art of cultivating words into thoughts. I miss how I feel when it's done and the thoughts are out on paper. I miss the relief that comes when they're not just swimming inside my mind, making me crazy.

I've been having a hard time settling my thoughts enough to even begin. Perhaps it's just that I haven't done it in earnest for so long that I'm afraid to begin out of a fear of ineptitude.

I spent the day making myself a little cheat... a jar filled with hundreds of prompts that I've pinned and forgotten about over the last several months.

So you may be hearing from me more... or at least I may just be writing more.  You don't have to read it. Maybe I'm scared that you will. That I'll say something that will make someone mad or that won't be understood or that someone feels they need to argue with.  And that no one will understand that that isn't the point.

But I'ma do it anyway.  Because I need to.  Because I am better when I do.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

It was a bad plan, anyway.

So I had a plan.

Wait 6 months. Get a little space and distance. But then - I could be honest. Honest about what, but more importantly, honest about why. I could let go of the secrets.

And maybe for awhile, I needed that to be the plan. I needed there to be a time where I could release - because underneath it all, I was really angry. And I needed that plan to give the anger time to burn itself out.

But I realized and admitted to myself this week that I'm never going to do that. Mostly because it just isn't who I am. Because anger and hurt and even resignation do not take the place of love. Because "I'm mad and wounded" is not actually a valid excuse for betrayal. And because acting in anger would only beget more anger.

And that just isn't how I want to remember things.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Tired Heart

My heart is tired this week.  Really tired.

My life hasn't been perfect... but it's good and I'm very lucky to have the life that I do. My family, my home, my relative safety and security.  I am blessed to live where I do.  And I've always believed that it is the responsibility of those who have been given much to, in turn, give much to others.

I can't stop thinking about the women who have made it here just to have the most cherished parts of their lives taken away.... just to put myself in their shoes.

The trip from where they started to get here is so unbelievably heinous... it's hard to wrap my head around how completely awful the starting place has to be in order to make that trip seem better than where they started.  And to go through all of that... to endure that hardship... to face those horrors...

And to finally make it through all of that... to actually get to where the good guys are supposed to be... -- and to have the good guys take your children with no guarantee or plan or intention of giving them back to you.

This hurts my heart in a way that I can't really explain. Part of that is empathy... part of that, I think, is disappointment in us. I feel like I've confronted a lot of that lately.

And so my heart is merely tired, and I am disappointed and angry and sad and all of the things.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Walking Through My Imagination

I probably make my neighborhood walks more stressful than they have to be.

We have great walking trails which I love.  I would 1000 times rather walk on trails than I would on paved road.  It's more interesting, feels more nature-y, and I don't have to say Hi to people (which isn't awful, but I walk with music in my ears, and I forget what level I'm supposed to speak at).


at various times in the 10+ years we've lived here, there have been a handful of bear sightings in the vicinity of these trails.  So... like... two.

But two is more than zero, so sometimes I look around and realize how forest-y it looks, and think, "Oh my god.  What would happen if I came across a bear right now?... I am going to die and get eaten on this trail."  The adrenaline alone kicks my heartrate up to full-speed.

The potential for bears, though, isn't enough.  Oh no.

See... I make up stories in my head all the time.  Not just ones about bears.  There's this house along the end of one of the trails, and they have these crates in the back of their yard.  Like the kind you'd house a dog in.  There's a lot of them and they're not in great condition.

Well... one day, I was walking by this house, and I made up a story in my head that this house was really a witch's house.  And the crates in the backyard were not for animals, but for the children she kidnaps and imprisons until she decides to cook and eat them.

Now, I know this is a story -- sort of
... but... I'm genuinely a little frightened when I walk by her house.  Because.. what if it's NOT just a story??

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Weight of Limbo

It is possible to stand at the fork in the road for too long.

Maybe you don't know which road to take. Maybe you do and you just don't want to. Maybe both choices seem equally good... or equally awful. Maybe you just want someone else to choose for you.

Maybe you've spent far too long peering down each road, imagining every turn that each could take. Maybe you've just spent way too much time thinking about it, exerted way too much energy and emotion on the what-ifs and the buts.

Maybe the more time you give it, the weightier it feels.

Which is why it feels at least relieving to finally choose.

The road may bring a weight of a different kind... but at least you can release the one that being in limbo holds.

Journal Prompts

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Getting My Shit Together

In my perfect world, I'm one of those people.

I am always current on my reading list. I'm a tender, supportive - but funny and sexy -- wife. I'm an amazing patient mom who always does the right thing. I successfully maintain a diverse network of friends, making time for social interaction and in-depth support. I exercise regularly, I meal-plan and create a range of deliciously healthy food for my family to enjoy. I always call my parents and know everything going on with my sisters. I have it all down. I'm one of those people.

In my perfect world.

In my real world....

This week, my daughter peered with resignation into the refrigerator, stocked with milk, coffee creamer, and weeks-old apples that no one is going to eat, and sighed.

"Mom... I don't want this to sound mean. But, it kind of seems like you've been trying to get your life together since February."

"I know... I'm sorry."

"You know it's June, right?"

The truth is I'm never ever going to be one of those people. It's not that I can't do those things. I absolutely can. At times, I've been successful at every one.

I just can't do them all at once.

But maybe I can do... two.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Decision Made

Something happened at the retreat and it changed things.  Changed me, I guess.

I feel like I've been grappling with variations of the same question for a long time... even when I sat on the beach journaling in the early morning, I scribbled "What do I want to do?" across the top of one of the pages.  Because I just never know which is the right path to take.

And then the something happened.  I don't really know if it was that it was a big thing... or if it was a little thing on top of a pile of a whole bunch of other little things and it just tipped the scales.

But it changed things. I don't think that it makes the decision any easier to carry out... It's still disappointing and sad to me. But it feels like it made the decision easier to make. It made it clearer which path lay along the lines of my values.

And so, there it is.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

2018 Byrne and Kelly Retreat, Days 3 and 4

Day 3 Tuesday -- I have lots of stories today!

Today, we had quite a bit of downtime, which was nice.  It's half groupie-ville, half vacation.  I liked that.

I woke up early this morning, made myself a cup of coffee, and snuck out of the room with my writing bag. I jumped off the dock and found a little log to sit on.  I wanted to actually get some thoughts down without interruption, so I went on the side that no one ever goes on.  I think that's because it was on the side of the guys' cabin but it was freak o'clock in the morning and I'm pretty sure that I was far enough away not to bother anyone.  (Well, until I started singing, anyway.)

It was super peaceful out there, and I got a lot of writing done as I listened to music on my headphones, watched the fog slowly roll back, and smiled at the birds flitting around.  As the morning wore on, I kind of got into my music a bit and started singing and dancing along. I didn't care, it was fun. :)

I eventually got hungry, packed myself into the main building for breakfast and ran into Neil and Peter on the way. We talked for a couple minutes about the show the night before, and we both went on our ways... me thinking, "Neil smells good!"  Like... not normal Celtic Thunder guy "I bathed in cologne today" good, but lightly scented.  That makes him sound like a laundry detergent.  Shut up, it was happy and I bounced my way to breakfast.

I have practically ignored Neil at M&Gs for years. But, he's so funny and sweet and I adore him and please don't destroy my illusion. Neil is the only one I have left!

After breakfast, Perri and I went for a hike on the nature trails.  Now... she will tell you that this was a 25 mile hike.  It was three. I do feel bad that it was mostly just trails through the forest with no amazing vistas because Perri was a totally good sport. Kinda.  When we got to the trail, we realized Ryan was JUST ahead of us...  which we knew because my first conversation with a passing hiker went like this:

Me: Good morning! How was your hike?
Hiker: Amazing! I just ran into Ryan! He smells so good!

I think I caught a glance of his shoes.  I have a feeling he had to stop and talk to every person he passed because when we (as walkers) reached the other side of the mountain for the descent back to the resort, we heard him laughing all the way up the mountain.

I'm not sure that Perri is a great fan of Washington trail running -- largely due to the death-inducing drop-offs.

Perri: How could he run on these these trails??
Me: Well, he's an idiot.

At one point, we passed this sweet lady... we'd met her a few times on the retreat and she was really nice. I imagine that she's a regular attender of renaissance fairs.  She was telling us all about the different fauna that ancient women used to collect...  something, something, something, and chickweed. We went on our way and Perri mused... "Chickweed... I wonder what that looks like."

I told her, "I don't know... but I think it's what the ladies smoke."  And then I laughed for five minutes. Because I think I'm hilarious.

Upon our return to the resort, Perri complained to John the Doorman that we had been on this superlong hike and there were no views!!  He told her, "Oh, there are!..... They're on the short hike."
So she's not speaking to me anymore.

I sent Ryan a joke about people thinking he smells good -- which is a bit of a longstanding joke -- and then recalled that I spent the morning thinking the same thing about Neil. So basically, I fail.

Lunch and Quick Fire
After our hike and a little break, we went down for an outdoor Mexican lunch.  This made me laugh like heck. So we ended up at the table next to the B&K people.  At our table, there is a family.. Dad, Mom, teenage/young adult daughter.  I feel like maybe Dad is not the Celtic Thunder/Byrne and Kelly fan.  Mom is trying to be nonchalant sitting within spitting distance of the guys.  Dad is whispering..."Stalker..."  And Mom is freaking PISSED.  Like I would NOT want to be that guy for the next six months.

After lunch, the guys did a "Quick Fire" session... Where they answer questions like "Sweet or salty? Shorts or trousers?" etc, etc.  This was honestly not my favorite thing. It's cute on YouTube but I could have skipped it.  I did have Perri and Louisiana Girl with me, so mostly I just sat in the back and muttered slightly snarky things the whole time -- so that was okay.

It was a super nice day, so we sat out in the sun for a little bit... and then escaped to inside for a nap before I became a tomato.

Drinks with Chuck
Chuck took this photo
We wandered down to dinner... but it turned out that we were a little early.  So we stopped at the hotel lounge for a drink. Chuck was the bartender, and we really liked Chuck.  He was a lot of fun!!  We also met Angie's friend, Jill, here.  I actually really enjoyed this little refuge. We mostly talked about family and kids, not much centered on the guys or the retreat, and it felt like a nice little break from the craziness.  We promised Chuck we'd return and went off to dinner.

So... at dinner... I don't know, we were just in fine form.  Perri is a great storyteller (especially when she's had a rum and coke). If I have a captive laughing audience, I'm not awful either.  So between the two of us, we got on a roll.  She started with a VERY EMBELLISHED story about our hike... and then it turned into her wondering what the frick kind of bird we were eating for dinner (SEAGULL).  There were these two ladies at our table, and I was a little unsure that they could take us. Like they might be entirely disapproving and complain to management about the insane ladies at dinner.  But they started laughing at the antics... so we were good.

From there, it sort of morphed into this GREAT IDEA I had to replace a meal with a Dessert Buffet with a different dessert at every table... two of which would be anatomically correct chocolate figurines of the principals... which would require a variety of different Quick Fire questions for accuracy... which turned into a regaling of my Great Ryan Kelly Button Quest.

You guys... we made those ladies LAUGH SO MUCH.  I felt like I'd done my good deed for the day. YOU'RE WELCOME.

Then, we went back to the bar for another drink with Chuck. Who loved us. We also met a couple at the bar not-from-the-retreat, and we invited them out to the upcoming lawn show when they were done with their dinner.  Oh, then we got a drink to-go.  God, no wonder Perri was so drunk. Chuck sent her off with a rum and coke that rum and a TEENSY bit of coke.

Show and Drinks with Chuck
So, then the boys had their last show.

I'm going to be honest. I did not love this show. I don't know if I didn't like the songs as much. Maybe I was just tired and worn out. But it was my least favorite.  (But New Hampshire couple was there... and they taught us how to have... New Hampshire smores?  Which only have one graham cracker. Actually not bad.)

Maybe it was the intros. Jesus and a half.  Like the LONGEST SONG INTROS KNOWN TO MAN FOR SO MANY SONGS. Perri's drunk and her filter is completely gone, so I'm shushing her from complaining too loudly.  The people we met at the bar showed up... but they showed up during a song that the guys love but I don't really think is that great, and then they WOULD NOT SHUT UP TALKING.  I couldn't get them to stay any longer and they left.

After the show, we went back to the bar (I know!).  This time, we took along a couple friends and I hung behind a bit with Louisiana Girl.  Finally, I was like... "Ok, this is embarrassing. We've been hanging out off and on for three days... I like you... but I forgot your name on the first day and I've been too embarrassed to ask, and have just been calling you Louisiana Girl all the time."  She goes, "ME TOO!"  So now she has a name in my head.  We actually talked for a long time, and I had a really good time.

Eventually, Perri disappeared.... so I had to go find her... and then she magically showed up in our room. Actually, I think she was delivered.

We had a real heart-to-heart about her drinking problem and then...  No, I'm kidding. Actually we had a real heart-to-heart talk because I'm completely messed up.  And then we went to sleep.  Which was good. But I'm sure Chuck missed us.

Day 4

So....  getting up was hard today.

We slowly got dressed and made it downstairs for the lightest breakfast we could find. I think I had four pieces of pineapple and that's about all I could stand.  I chatted with a few people that I had made friends with, and then the guys came in for the final Q&A event.

I enjoyed this a lot more than the Quick Fire session.  I think it was just more interesting... Even though I've been around long enough to guess at answers pretty accurately, it was still interesting to listen to.  And Neil is freaking funny.

After that, we went outside for a group photo and lots of people hung around for a final hug with the guys.  I was tempted to skip this part...  but Perri made me -- and I'm glad that she did.

And then we packed up and went home -- with a little stop at the beach so Perri could touch the ocean. :)

2018 Byrne and Kelly Retreat, Day Two

So let's keep going...

Day Two: Monday

Perri and I were up early this morning. She's on Omaha time, I'm used to getting up at 5:30 every morning. So we fired up our room Keurig machine and enjoyed a couple cups of coffee, spiced with a bit of Baileys until it was time for breakfast to be served.

Breakfast generally consisted of fresh fruit, the kind of pastries you get passed out down the bus on high school road trips, eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage.  It was mostly good... but I kind of found myself gravitating toward wanting something that was in between heavy and light, and there wasn't much in that category.

I think that, after that, we kind of just hung out by the pretend fire pit for a little while. We met some new people... and possibly soberly introduced ourselves to people we had less-soberly met the night before? Totally possible.

We went back to our room and had another cup of coffee while waiting for the time to head out to the boat for the first Meet and Mingle Cruise.  They did these with half the group at a time...  So it would be about 75 guests, plus the B&K people.  The sign on the boat said, '71 passengers max,' so I'm not going to say there was a ton of room.  We went up to the top level, where there would at least be air.

The way this was supposed to work is that they were going to do a M&G type line down below... and when everyone had a chance to get their photos/autographs, the guys would spend the rest of the time mingling among the guests. Get it? Meet. And. Mingle.  Forget it.

They did the downstairs first, and then Angie or Jill (Angie's friend who came along to help-- totally liked her!!  More later) would come up and get the upstairs people in small groups.  For once, I actually kind of liked our M&G picture! Perri showed off her sketchbook and got autographs in it... and apologized to Neil for laughing at him in the show the night before. :)  I gave Ryan... a button.  Well, you know.  He says I'm never going to be successful, but not for lack of trying.

Then we went back upstairs...  now...  before we left, Perri and I were sitting on the coffee table.  There was a couch.  But two fans were sitting on it, with their packages spread out between them. lol I'm not lying.  But they'd gone downstairs for the Meet so when we came back up, they were gone.  I sat on the end corner of the couch because it was way more comfortable than the coffee table! Then, they came back and ordered me to move.

This was about when I ALMOST broke my "stay slightly buzzed to be nicer" rule.  I mean, come on.  Your bags need a spot on the couch, crazypants?  lol  But it wasn't worth it.  Perri and I moved across the deck to the railing and chatted for awhile before Ryan came up to mingle.

Okay.  Let me pause to speak candidly as a longtime oldtimer fan.

I've had a lot of opportunities to meet the guys over the years. I know that when they have meet events, they are working and shmoozing and that's the job. I don't get upset when the schmoozing doesn't have time to include me, because I know that I have other avenues, and that time often gets away from them. And I try to never be pushy, I don't lie in wait. I think the problem there is that they know they don't have to schmooze me to get me in their pocket. They know those of us who are still around have been firmly supportive and they don't have to grease us. But because they know that, they let us get missed and that becomes a little disappointing.

I was once put on the list for a Meet with Ryan and Neil... and I did the same thing.  Time got away, and our interchange was a rushed one as they got pushed out the door by whoever their handler was.  Sharon asked me later if I'd had a good chat, and when I explained, she sort of swore at me, "You matter, too!" 

So I'm just going to leave that there... and move on.

We eventually gave up on waiting on Ryan's harem and went downstairs to say Hi to Neil, and chat with Nicole. I could listen to her talk for a long time.

Back at the dock, we left the boat... and I think that's when Perri and I drove into town to get Mexican and margaritas.  But only one margarita because we had to drive back and Brendan the Cute Guy warned us that they get stronger, the more you order. I've been informed that blended margaritas aren't real margaritas, but what do Canadians know?

When we came back, I think Perri took a nap and I took my writing stuff out to the REAL fire pit by the water. I didn't really get much writing done. At all.  But I listened to some music, chatted with some people.  I think this is when New Hampshire guy saved us.  Let's just say we weren't great at keeping the fire going. New Hampshire Guy is not a boy scout, but he was a boy scout leader and he made us a pretty fire.

At some point in here, the 2nd Meet and Mingle cruise came back, and I watched them do stage set-up and soundcheck from my firepit spot.  Which sort of made me laugh. Lots of people videoing them going "Check, one, two, one, two, one two, check check..." over and over. Whatever makes you happy, kids.

Dinner tonight, we sat at the same table with some of the same people... We added one lady who... umm...  was annoying. Like she would not stop talking. I glanced up and caught the eye of Louisiana Girl, who was clearly having the same thoughts I was.  We justkept making/breaking eye contact the whole meal until I got finished eating and decided to go down and join her and her friend at their end of the table.  Which was fun. I've always collected young people, ever since I was in college and was a youth leader. I just do.

2nd concert was next!

This concert was performed on one of the outdoor lawns, and our balcony happened to look out over it.  So instead of sitting down in the seats, we decided to get in our pajamas, open a bottle of champagne, and watch it from the comfort of our balcony.  This was honestly the best thing we did all week.

We saw them come out to start the show, but missed the fact that they were hiding behind the bushes. So we start cheering...  Ryan's all "SHHHHHH!!!"  Oops.

This was my favorite show.  They played an acoustic set list...  which they opened by saying a lot of it was songs they'd never done on the B&K stage.  But that was a trick.  Because half of them were from CT X, and that's kind of not the same thing.  Even so, I liked it a lot.  And also, when they had long intros (which was a lot.... and worse the more whiskey they had -- I sort of lost it and started laughing when Ryan intro'd some serious song with "So this is just a song..."... long pause... looong pause...  I'm like, "Really? That's what we're going with?"), the bathroom was VERY CLOSE.

After the show, some friends dropped by our room for awhile and we cracked open the mango salsa -- which was good!

And then I kicked them out because I'm old and needed to sleep.

2018 Byrne and Kelly Retreat, Day One

Hello...  So I've just returned from the 2nd Annual (but my first) Byrne and Kelly retreat, and I wanted to share what my experience was.  Sort of like when I went on the first Celtic Thunder cruise. I am a very longtime fan -- and a slightly jaded one -- so sometimes my glasses are a little bit of a different color.

I went into this trip, much like the CT cruise, with a little bit of trepidation. Initially, when the retreat's location was announced, I thought "Well, it's 2 hours from my house. How can I not go and at least try it out?" So I invited Perri, one of my dearest friends, to come out from Nebraska and go with me -- but then the "what did I just sign myself up for?" doubts started. I got in an argument with someone in the band. Fawning really irritates me and I wasn't looking forward to that for four days. I'd heard that last year's retreat featured a good amount of various cliques monopolizing the boys' attention, and that was likely to put my eyes in permanent roll mode.  If I wasn't looking forward to spending the time with my friend, I might very well have cancelled.

But I didn't... and my general plan for the four days was to enjoy the time with Perri. And maybe stay just slightly buzzed for four days so I would be nicer.

So this is how my experiences turned out -- the good and the eh. Fair warning, I'm long winded.

Day One: Sunday

This is Perri's first time to Seattle and I've been listening to the things she was looking forward to doing.  So, we got up on Sunday, stopped at Target for a little alcohol (for the retreat, not for the drive), and took the long way/scenic route --  because it included my favorite ferry ride.

I've never seen someone so excited to be on a ferry. It was kind of like Australia Kate and the squirrels.

Once on the other side of the Sound, Perri was pretty sure I didn't know where I was going.  Which is fair.  My GPS kept going out, and I was like, 'Oh... we're probably good.  Don't worry!!" I don't think I was convincing.  But we got there, okay?!

The retreat was at a lovely resort in Western Washington, right on Hood Canal-- Alderbrook Resort in the bustling town of Union. I'd never been to this particular part of the state -- but it was beautiful, and blessedly, we had great weather the whole time.  So now 150 people think this is what Washington looks like all the time. Sorry when they move here.

We pulled into the resort and there were a gazillion fancypants cars in the parking lot.  I pulled up in my minivan. At this point, I was pretty sure I was going to be out of my league. We went inside to check in... While standing in line, I turned around and noticed John the Doorman (who was about my favorite person by the end) getting all of our stuff out of the van.  ALL of our stuff.  Including the copious amounts of alcohol we were planning on sneaking in later. Oops.  So we got checked in, I grilled the desk lady on the likelihood of being eaten by bears on the hiking trails, and John took us up to our room. Gave us the grand tour, etc...  Laughed at our alcohol supply, treated us to his best Scottish impressions. We were good.

Perri and I settled in... took a little tour of the resort to get our bearings.  But it was hours yet until anything was supposed to happen at the retreat. We'd seen a friend in the lobby when we were checking and decided that maybe we'd go down to town to get ourselves some of the ice cream she'd come in with.  We asked Cute Lobby Guy -- we'll call him Brendan because I don't remember his actual name-- how to get to there.  He told us how to get to the closest shop, but he'd have to drive us to the actual town for ice cream because it was a mile down the road.

We're like... a mile? We could probably walk a mile.  Off we went...  Well, it was two miles.  Along the highway. And there was very little shoulder. So we almost died a lot. Ironically, this is also how Joel and I almost died when we visited the Moy. But we eventually made it to the country store, got our ice cream (which was quite good, by the way. Olympic brand ice cream. Super yum), and ate it on the porch of the store.  I sort of felt like we were old people smoking a pipe watching the buggies go by.

Perri and I are friendly people. We'll talk to anyone.  So... we're talking to anyone who comes in and out of the general store, and this guy stops and asks, "Hey, do you ladies like salsa?"
"Well... yeah. Who doesn't like salsa?"
"Do you like fruit? How hot do you like your salsa?"
"Yes, and...medium?"
"Hang on," he says - and heads off to his car.
I'm thinking "Aw man, this guy is going to try to sell us salsa out of the back of his trunk."

But no!  He comes over with two FULL SIZE jars of mango salsa, and he's just like, "Here," and he drives away.  So we had to buy chips. Union is a great town, y'all.  Well, then we were tired, and we had giant jars of salsa to carry, so we just called the resort and asked them to come pick us up.  We were expecting Brendan but got another guy...  so we chatted up Voice Over Driver Guy instead.

At this point, we probably went back to our room and opened up the rum. Our balcony looked right out onto the waterfront, so we sat out on it and sipped a couple rum and cokes. It's a hard life, kids... I think we brought #3 to Dinner.

We were a touch late, so we found a couple seats at a table along the back wall, ate dinner, and made friends with the other people at the table. They're big tables, so I won't remember everyone was there.  But lots of nice people...  I met my favorite people this night. We're just going to them the New Hampshire people -- largely because that's what I called them the whole time. "Oh look, it's the New Hampshire people! I love them!" Seriously nice, both the husband and wife, really funny.  I honestly liked them. Louisiana and Ohio Girls across the table -- young and edgily snarky. But amusing.  There are more. Perri has sketches.  Oh wait, I think we talked to Ryan and Neil too... but I kinda don't remember.

After dinner, we went back to our room for one more drink and then went to the first concert of the trip. Someone else is going to have set lists, but I just don't.  It was a good show... I definitely enjoyed it. Fun and lighthearted...  Ryan sang Brothers in Arms, which is the only song I ever seriously campaign for, so I was happy.  (Ryan, you caught me off-guard when you asked if it was okay...  but yes, it was fine. I cried -- so either it was really good or really bad.) Perri completely lost it while Neil was trying to intro "Step It Out Mary" and couldn't stop laughing. It was a good time. We'd had four rum and cokes, so it would be hard not to.

I'm pretty sure we were exhausted after that and just went to bed!!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

When what you love is what they hate...

I was party to a conversation yesterday where...  Basically, Person #1 ended up belittling what I knew was a deep musical love of Person #2 ...  and I just thought, "Yeah, this probably isn't going to end well."

I ended up thinking about that a lot last night. I think it's true that the things we love... the things we really love... become a part of our identity, they are part of who we are. I definitely think that's true about a lot of different kinds of art. When I look back over my life, there are books that have become a part of me. There are movies that are a part of me. There is definitely music that is a part of me.

But, when someone belittles one of those things... even when doing so, to them, really isn't anything about me, it feels like it's about me. It feels like they are saying, "This thing that you love... this thing that is a part of you... it's not an acceptable thing. This part of you is not an acceptable thing.  And therefore -- YOU-- are not an acceptable thing."

I know I've certainly had that experience with my Celtic Thunder fandom...  there have been times that people I've loved have really ridiculed that. Deep in my heart, I knew that those people loved me, and didn't mean hurt.  But sometimes it hurt anyway.

In a lot of ways, it's similar to how I felt, in my younger mom days, when I felt someone was passing judgment on the things I had chosen to do as a parent.  And, I think, for very much the same reason. Being a mother had become an integral part of my identity. It was who I was... and when someone came along who deeply criticized that or criticized how I did that, it really stung.

And yet... with hindsight... there's not a ton of things that I would do differently. I might choose little things to mother differently. I might choose different expressions of how to share the things I had chosen to love. But I don't regret loving them, and I don't regret letting them become a part of me.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Third Time's the Charm

The first time we went through this phase, I didn't really know what was going on. So, because I didn't understand what was happening, I assumed that it was me. I must have done something or been something or --

This probably says more about me than anything else.

The second time we went through this phase, I thought two things incorrectly. One, I didn't really know it was a phase and didn't think to connect it to the first one. Two, I attributed it to the desires of a new person in our lives. Not unkindly - that's just where I thought it came from. But also, I assumed it was me.  Okay, three things incorrectly.

Both times, I thought it was really me. Both times, I tried to be the one to fix it. Both times, I twisted myself into a pretzel to do so. Both times, I was wrong.

I don't know what's different in the third time. Maybe it's just that it's the third time and I can see it better. Maybe it's more understanding. Maybe it's more confirmation. But, it is the third time and I see now that it's a phase. For the first time, I understand that it isn't me -- and while it affects me, it isn't really about me.

And I don't really have to fix it.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Murky Retrospect on Fandom: So I got Kicked out of the CT Fanclub.

So I got kicked out of the Celtic Thunder Fanclub.

And if you were to ask me, "Jo... what on earth? Why? How did you get kicked out of the CT Fanclub?"

I would tell you two reasons.

1. Officially... because they have a weird rule that all opinions have to be wrapped in unicorn glitter, and as you can imagine, I'm not great at that. I have always been a bit irreverent -- and honest.. but with pure and loving intent. It's why I get asked for my opinion. (Okay, I also got kicked out because I told them off when I realized that kicking me out was the endgoal. Full disclosure.)

2. In actuality... I got kicked out because I'm an elitist old-school fan who refused to follow rules that Sharon would never have asked or expected me to follow and the admins of the fanclub didn't much like that I challenged/ignored their authority.

My reactions to this have amused and interested me.

In part, there was indignation. "But it's me.  You can't kick me out. It's me."  lol I was one of the original 30 members on Celtic Thunder's website. It was my idea to develop the fan forum - which I did myself. I had Sharon's admin password until the ISP people were like, 'Umm, lady... that's not a great idea..." and she just gave me admin rights on my own account instead. I have been invited to more things that I could ever tell anyone about. And, whether it's true and earned or not, I feel a great deal of ownership of the CT fan community.  "I built this place and these whippersnappers think they own it?"

You can laugh. It's okay. I didn't say my reactions were necessarily reasonable. Reactions usually aren't.

I vented a bit. I vented a bit to my friends. I vented a bit to Twitter. I vented a bit to Facebook. I vented a bit to the producer and castmember I have always counted as my confidantes.

Probably the response to my ejection that cut through my indignation the most was "...and that's a bad thing because...?"

And they were right. That fanclub was not a healthy place for me to be and it was taking up far too much of my headspace. I'm just not the kind of fan who can exist in a worship echo chamber anymore, and that's the only kind of fan that had a place.

But, also, lying there at the bottom is this... There is a part of me that is sad that the me that I am --  enthusiastic, irreverent, loving and supportive, but also snarky and obnoxious and impatient-with-stupid -- was not okay enough to be there.  That a Twisted-Up-Into-a-Lie-Me would have been okay... but the real me just would not suffice.

And that the place that I built myself no longer wanted me.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Murky Retrospect on Fandom and ...? : Magic and the Underneath

There is a young adult fantasy series I once read that comes to my mind. It is set in current-day New York, etc -- but has vampires and witches and angels and the like -- all happening around us. Like in Harry Potter, muggles are largely oblivious. All the odd characters, all the amazing places are cloaked by spells that I think are called "glamours." What is really a witch appears to us as a beggar woman. What is really an amazing gothic cathedral looks just like another condemned building crumbling into ruins.

Nothing is quite as it seems.

But here is the thing about the glamours. Once you learned how to see past them to what truly lay underneath, it was really hard to un-see it. Even if you tried, you sort of always knew the truth it covered.

Sometimes I feel like my road as a fan has been a bit like that. I got intimately involved early on -- and that put me in a place over the years to learn a lot of truth. I've seen a lot that lies underneath the spell and the magic, and it's hard to believe in the magic when you know what it conceals.

I have always held space for those things -- but sometimes that space has been heavy.  I would give some of it back.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Thoughts on Celtic Thunder's "X" - a little review, a little diary

I sent that email to my mother-in-law in March of 2008 after watching Celtic Thunder on PBS for the first time... and I've been a fan of the show ever since. But like...a FAN, and then some. 

And it's been lovely.  Strange and consuming and dramatic, but honestly lovely. I have developed friendships and met lots of people, and enjoyed an ever-growing catalog of beautiful music between CT and its various offshoots of solo acts. It's been a source of joy for me for 10 years.

I loved their last DVD, "Mythology."  I still love it, and though it's been five years since its release, I still watch it once a month. Full of good music, powerful music. It's been a long time since its release, and I had sort of made peace with the idea that it would be the last one -- until recently when I heard they were filming a new one.

I was excited about that -- a new DVD to commemorate their 10th anniversary, and I looked forward to its release -- until I saw the preview reel they put out a few weeks back. I became a little bit unsure. It didn't really seem like my Celtic Thunder. I was left a little horror-struck by the cheese. Celtic Thunder is sometimes a little campy, but... this seemed extreme.

But... it was just the preview reel. I'd wait.

And now I've seen the whole thing - a few times though-- and I need to talk about it.

So, there are things I like...

I really feel like Damian is a bright spot in this show. He's engaging and endearing -- though I'll concede that my nostalgia is talking a little there. I've always liked Damian. His cover of Ed Sheeran's "Galway Girl" is actually really good. I've seen him do a few Sheeran songs in solo shows before, so I suspect he's a fan and that shows.  I also really liked his "L-O-V-E." That's not necessarily my favorite song in the world, but I think he does a good job with it.

I liked Neil's "The Streets of London" and the duet "From the Ground Up" that he does with Michael. I really like Neil when he is simple. He's really talented, and that shines best for me when it's not too dressed up.  And in a show that felt a bit frivolous, these numbers felt like a balm to my angst.

I liked Emmet's "Phil the Fluter's Ball." It's an empty song, a bit of fluff. But I do find it in my head when I'm at the grocery store, so I'm calling it a win.  I think it's supposed to be in the vein of The Spanish Lady, which I've always really enjoyed. I just don't like this one quite as much. I normally really adore Emmet, so I'm a bit bummed that I didn't love more.

I really liked Ryan's cover of Garth Brooks' "Much Too Young." I historically love his more "thoughtful" songs the best anyway, and this one fit the bill for that.  And it was something a little different from him, which always interests me. Really, I like all of Ryan's songs well enough. He has long been my favorite, and later became my friend - so I tend to like his solos in general. 

Michael, I am struggling a little bit with... which I'll talk about more in a bit.  But I think I like his "The Voice."

And then, for ensembles, I love "May the Road Rise to Meet You" and "Rise Again."  These are songs that are more serious in nature, have beautiful layered harmonies, and simple staging that lets the voices shine. I WISH THERE WERE MORE OF THESE SONGS IN THE SHOW. A billion times.  I also enjoy "Toora Loora Lay" and "Right All Right," with that upbeat Irish folksy feel to them. There are actually four of those in the first half, including Ryan and Company's "I Useta Lover," but I like those two the best.

There are things I'm ambivalent about...

I don't think these are awful or anything.. I'm just not in love with them for one reason or another, and don't expect them to show up on a list of favorites anytime soon.

Emmet's "On the Street Where You Live" and "The Crow on the Cradle." I suspect there will be a lot of people who rather like "On the Street," it's just not much my thing.

Neil's "Finnegan Wake." Man, I should like this more.  It's cute, it's simple. Neil is naturally comedic. But he does it in this odd voice/accent that irritates me.  I'd really really like to hear him sing it straight.  I'll concede my error if I'm wrong!

Michael.... ok, here's the thing. I am struggling with Michael, but I think it's a presentation thing, not a singing thing. I like him more on the CD than I do on the DVD.  I remember Sharon once telling me a long time ago about how they were trying to figure out how to make a new guy emote more, and I legitimately think this is where my disconnect with Michael comes in. I feel crappy about it... I have nothing against him and I want to like him more - but I need a little more passion to help me care.

Ensemble of "Seasons in the Sun." I feel like I should like this more... it's simple, it's the kind of song I would normally like. But I'm just sort of ho-hum with it.

There are things I would like to strangle, draw and quarter, and spear through the heart...

Please do not make my Celtic Thunder a cheesefest.  Don't do it. I hate it. I legitimately hate it.

That stuff in the preview reel that made me cringe?  Yeah.  Still cringe-y in full form.

Celebration. (Yes, that one.)
I'm a Believer.
Bye Bye Baby.

I'm looking at all of you.

I'm not going to say that the vocals on these are bad -- they're legitimately not.  But the utter cheeseball presentation of these numbers, from costume to choreography, bothered me so much that, for the first few days, I let them completely color how I felt about the whole entire show. My initial reactions that I sent to Ryan on these songs is just an endless ranting of me going "Why?  omg... Why?  What the crap??" These talented guys are worth more.


Not liking something my beloved Celtic Thunder has done sits uneasily with me. It makes me earnestly sad. I wanted to love this. And in the sea of reactions from fans who have little discernment anyway, it feels lonely. Like my dislike must mean that there's something wrong with me.

I've heard from enough people under-the-radar to know it's not just me...  but still. It's a little lonely to see people falling over themselves when I just feel a bit grieved. And perhaps more than anything, I feel like maybe I just don't belong here anymore and I'm not sure what to do with myself now.

I did eventually give myself an attitude adjustment and took in a little perspective. The songs I hate number 3. There are 28 in the show. We always tell our girls that they have a choice, in the attitude they decide to bring with them, in how much enjoyment they're going to get out of an event.  And that, if you go in with a good attitude, you might have a good time. But, if you go with a bad attitude, you'll definitely have a bad time.

I can take my own advice. I can enjoy the live show later this year.

I just might go back to watching Mythology again.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

RE-building Trust, Revisited

I was reading this old post of mine this morning (it showed up in my Timehop):

How Do You Build Trust?

I wrote then about building trust...  but really, it was about RE-building trust. At the time, I was really struggling with whether to rekindle a broken friendship. We had both done things that had destroyed each other's trust in the other, but had an opportunity to maybe start over.

I was conflicted. There was a lot of hurt there, and I wasn't sure if starting over was possible - if healing was possible. How DO you rebuild trust again? What if I got hurt? What if I got hurt worse?

In the end, I decided to take those baby steps.

I read back to that time in my messages the other day. You see, those baby steps worked, and eventually trust was rebuilt, and it's been five years since then. Reading back to those messages was hard.  In fact, the first time I tried, the hurt that emanated from the words was so acute, it was uncomfortable just to read it. I had to close it and come back for a second try. Rebuilding trust wasn't easy.

But I'm glad that I risked it. Because I wasn't wrong... I could have gotten really hurt.  And truthfully, sometimes I was really hurt.

But persevering led to a really comfortable friendship, and perhaps more appreciated because of the risk it took to get there.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


It's a weird and lonely three days.

For the past few years, a new "fun" thing has joined my hormonal cycle. My sensible voice just takes a really long nap.

You know how you have that voice in your head that tells you all the crap things about yourself?

"You're terrible at everything. No one likes you. Everything you think is wrong."

Normally I have another voice who acts as the voice of reason.

"Let's not be ridiculous, you know that none of those things is true," and goes on to make its case for why, and pulls me out of irrationality.

But, for three days out of every month, that Voice of Reason mysteriously goes away and I'm left with three days of endless negative talk. It's not just that it's negative... but that it pushes me to destroy everything. It's hard to explain... but my panic instinct is to annihilate all of my relationships in self-protection.

I've taken to just having to recognize it... acknowledge with a big mental announcement that this is the Crazy Three Days.  To completely ban myself from making any sort of relationship decisions - be it marital, parental, or friend.

They're rarely healthy... and when I get done being crazy, they're not what I want.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Goals: Velveteen Rabbit

I am rusty at this, but we're going to give it a go.

I want to be more authentic this year. More real. I feel like I have closed myself off a lot over the last year. I don't know if it's walls I've built exactly, I've just taken more of myself away. I feel very guarded and I don't like the effect that's had on my friendships. 

So I really want to be more deliberate about opening myself up again.  Being honest.

Wrapped up in that is bravery. Bravery to be myself. Bravery to risk rejection. Bravery to not mold myself to fit in. Bravery to be embarrassed and uncomfortable. Bravery to not be right. Bravery to persevere when I want to hide.

Today is a start.
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