Saturday, November 18, 2017

A happy dollar

Well I'm cranky.

How are you?


If this were the start of an AOL instant messenger conversation, well, first, we'd be living a while in the past, but also, you might be on your computer, hearing the incoming ping of my messages and respond with:


Then you'd jump around in your room in your cutesy poodle pajamas.


Um, sorry, I just turned this into a made-for-TV Disney movie.

I'm a little rusty, people. Forgive me. First blog post since August.

Yah. August.

And what an august return this is!

Ha. Crack myself up.

Also, do y'all feel like "august" should mean something really negative? I think it sounds like a synonym for "bereft."

So this blog post is off to a good start.

Where were we.

Oh yes.

I'm cranky.

How are you?

Let's briefly address the former: I've been sick for about 11 days now. I'm over it. The end.

Now I would say let's address the latter of my statements (er, question), but since this is not AOL instant messenger I can't really hear your response, so shoot me an email or a text, will ya?

For now? Let's talk some more about me.



Let's see, what have I not shared with the world via blog since my last post?

Well, I threw a bachelor party in Arizona. That was a blast.

Then my best friend got married in New Orleans. A beautiful, emotional affair in which I did not trip in front of many people.

And then I got sick.

The end.

Also, I cancelled Netflix. I met my 2017 Goodreads reading challenge (and yes, I counted books for small children in my tally). Helped co-lead a prayer retreat. Did some freelance copywriting for a website. Scheduled to have my picture taken for the church directory.

I went to the beach with Jillian, where I had the presence of mind to get each of us our own bag of Salsa Verde Doritos, because we obviously downed them all. My church held a jazz-style funeral on All Saints Day, complete with a brass quartet playing "Oh When the Saints." People cut in front of me in line a bunch -- seriously what is UP with that???


And now let's tell a happy story, that was an interruption to the stress and sickness of this past week.

One day this week -- we'll say Wednesday, because I don't remember which day exactly, and while I have the text message documentation to answer this question, well, I'm not going to do the research -- I forgot.

To bring.

A book.

To work.


I don't read on the clock (that'd be a dream, wouldn't it?) but I do read, on average, twice a day during my breaks, during lunch, and then before bed -- and any other time that Netflix seems too boring, Alex is busy, Max is tired of my snuggles (just kidding, that never happens), and reading just seems better than encountering life.

As such, I always grab a book -- or two, or three -- and tuck them in my tote bag before heading to the office.

Well, on Wednesday (or whatever day), I forgot.

Oftentimes I have a book on the passenger seat of my car, or in the trunk, but after rounding up a search party headed and conducted by me, I found nothing. Nada. No bound pages with black letters printed on them.


I couldn't stand for this.

Never mind that sometimes I get so caught up in my shiny phone during my breaks that I forget to read.

This was unacceptable.

Now. I may have some library fines that are unpaid. And these fines may have me blocked from checking out more books. And I might be waiting for pay day to pay these fines.

Also. I rarely, if ever, carry cash.

But for some odd reason, I've had a dollar in my wallet for weeks. Just one. I'm not a millionaire, people. We're talking one Washington.

I had previously purchased a memoir for one whole dollar (no tax) at my local library. Inside the front lobby, there is a humble used bookstore.

A ha! I thought. I will travel there. Because I can't survive one lunch hour without a book. No.

I arrived at the bookstore and found myself -- surprise! -- another memoir and handed the cheerful cashier my money.

"One sad, crumpled dollar," I said, as I forked it over.

"It's a happy dollar!" he chirped back at me. "Because it's going to support the library!"

Awesome! Any chance we can use this dollar as an advance on my next round of fines?

Then, something extra magical happened.

As my obvious new best friend took Mr. Washington from my hand, he then held it in front of his lips and said, "I'm a happy dollar!" before placing it in the cash register.

As if that wasn't enough, as I walked away, Mr. Obvious New Best Friend Cashier Person said,

"'ppreciate you."

No, Sir. I 'ppreciate you.

And that's the end of our happy story.

Wasn't that happy?

I told a coworker what had happened at the tiny bookstore and she was touched. "Only you," she said (though I happen to believe Mr. Obvious New Best Friend Cashier Person would have been just as nice and silly with anyone).

I'm happy to say, also, that I like the memoir I bought. I'm about halfway done already.

Hey friends, look at that!

I just wrote a blog post!

Ta dah!

Big bloggy hugs.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

7 things I learned from being a kid

Today's blog post is brought to you from a prompt I found here.
1. We're emotional even before the hormones kick in.
People act like it's the teenager in you who really starts to get intense, but for me at least, feelings have always been intense. I remember screaming at my brothers with crazy rage as a child. Sobbing and feeling truly misunderstood. Giggling hysterically, so that as soon as I stopped I would start up again. I had insomnia as early as fourth grade, because of thoughts I couldn't put to sleep. I think it's easy to view children as entitled brats, but from my experience as one I think we're all just trying to make it through the day no matter what age we are. Our expression of stress (and reckless joy) may not be articulate when we're young, but the sentiment is certainly there.
2. Ignorance is Confidence.
The older (and more self-conscious) I get, the more I realize that I was my most confident self when I was 12. Man oh man, nothing could get me down. Well that's not true, but I certainly was less afraid. Of airplanes, the dentist, submitting things to a contest. I feel like the general view in life is that as you find yourself, you become more confident, but for me I seem to be more self-doubtful as life presents more choices and becomes more complicated.
3. Even though forward is hard, backwards isn't the direction I'm interested in.
"I wish I were a kid again" is, really, I think, something I've only thought in passing over the years. To be really depressing, I feel like if I went back I'd just have to trudge through troubles again, and who wants to relive a fight with someone, a skinned knee, or all that homework you agonized over once already?
Not I, Friends. Not I.
And to be a little less depressing, I just don't think going back is desirable. I'm ever grateful for the happy, safe childhood I was blessed with, but if I were to go back, I'd lose vocabulary, friends I've made, survival skills. I'd lose my college years, and I loved those!
Sure, my childhood included and was not limited to my brothers smashing watermelons in the backyard, but trust me: they haven't become any less entertaining with time. I love holding our memories and being adult communicators together still.
4. That attention span, though. 
Seriously. I could do all kinds of things, for hours on end, without getting bored, anxious, tired, or depressed. It was amazing.
I know I've written about this before, but I think the absurdity of it makes it worth mentioning again: I used to spend nearly full days cutting pictures of cows (actual animals, porcelain figurines in the likeness of a bovine, Got Milk? ads, etc.) from magazines, catalogs, newspapers, and rubber cementing them onto colored construction paper.
I would hand number the pages (which rotated through the rainbow and back again), hole punch them, and assemble them in MORE THAN ONE! binder. I would then deem these my "cow scrapbooks."
Because it provided me with endless joy, and that's all the reason one needs to do something as a child. Now that reality is something I'd like to go back and recapture.
5. Monkey bars give you blisters.
They do, and they hurt. I've had a lifelong method in place to avoid getting more of them, and when I do get the occasional blister, I won't lie: it feels a little like failure.
6. "Terrible things" (AKA middle school) can be great, if you're open to it.
It's not a rumor, it's true: I (by and large) loved middle school.
I knew while I was walking through it that I "should" be hyper aware of who I was, that I "should" feel out of place, but I didn't.
I wore Christian t-shirts and sang VeggieTales songs openly with (or should I say to? I'm not sure they were always joining in) my public school classmates. I liked the teachers that other kids hated. I enjoyed working on projects, mastering an essay, doing math problems over and over. In fact, all the way through senior year of high school, I did my math homework first, because I liked it so much. Having my own locker was so exciting to middle school me. Going on field trips with the band was always a highlight in my year.
I was so very ME at that age -- and happy with who I was -- that it didn't matter to me that my surroundings were supposed to be awful. I'm happy to say that in many ways I think I've held onto this value: that just because a circumstance is traditionally uncomfortable doesn't mean I have to approach it in a way that makes it destined to be so.
7. I have extreme respect and love for teachers.
Just today some people in my life were saying that I would be a great teacher to small children. I considered this a huge compliment, but my reaction was immediately one of, "Oh I could never."
Teachers, for one, never stop working. They plan lessons, get to school at the crack of dawn, are basically on stage all day, and then grade assignments (or pick up blocks, depending) after the little ones leave. I have secretly always wanted to teach, but truth be told I'm not sure I could take the heat! At the very least, I would need to work with high school or college age students, because to both educate and maintain order in a roomful of tots? Yeah, right. Only saints can do that, in my opinion.
Also, teachers have influenced and encouraged me so very, very much. Over the years, they have encouraged my curiosity, my nerdiness, my interest in writing. Like my love for cats or obsession over music, I may never be able to fully express in words just how grateful I am to the people who watched hyper little me squawk walk into their classroom and instead of rolling their eyes at my energy, took it and molded it, and then sent me on to my next year, my next classroom, my next step.
When you think about it, teachers say "goodbye" to more people than most of us -- hundreds, thousands of students throughout their career. But the fact that they're willing to say "hello" to all the personalities that grace their presence, to give those minds and hearts a chance: to that I will always say, Wow. And, if any of them are reading this: Thanks.

Friday, July 21, 2017

32 ways to turn a situation around (the belated birthday blog post)

Birthdays can't always be great. Statistically speaking, there's bound to be a dud in there once in a while. You'll eat too much cake and make yourself sick, or you'll drop your cake on the floor and be forced to bring gumdrops to share with your classmates instead (sadly this has actually happened to me). Or you'll turn 32 and be having a really hard day on the actual anniversary of your birth, hard enough that you'll cancel happy hour drinks with your friends because you're just not feeling happy.
But you get some distance from it, and you can see it as a statistical error and move forward.
This weekend I attended a spoken word event that I enjoyed very much, and the essay that was read that made me tear up was one that involved a birthday. The woman who wrote it spoke about being grateful on her 56th birthday.
And as my image of her in the auditorium grew blurry I thought, Bailey Kathleen, you are going to do your best not to waste another chance to celebrate the fact that you've had another year of life's gifts because when you're still here you celebrate that.
I happened to be sitting next to the essayist's brother in the audience, so I squeezed his arm when his sister finished her performance and told him how good she was, and made a pact with myself that I'll do better.
Starting now.
As you may know, I usually write an annual birthday blog post, but this past May 23rd I skipped it. I just couldn't muster the finger strength to type something hopeful that day. That sucks, but that's the truth.
But here it is now. Belated, but here. I present to you, 32 ways to turn a situation around. Or, as Gloria would say, turn the beat around.
Consider these my gumdrops, since my cake got dropped this year.
1. Drink some water, and go for a walk.
 Age old advice, and I think I subconsciously stole this from Anne Lamott, my queen. Water gets your insides moving and walking gets your outsides moving, both of which seem to get your head moving, out of its detrimental ruts. So when you're feeling negative, try these simple, free actions just to get you started toward something else. Don't worry about what that something else will be. Just focus on the glass of water, the 10 minute walk, first.
2. Write a note to someone (or send flowers, if you're rich)
I recommend using a card or postcard, so you don't feel obligated to write a novel. Limit your canvas. You don't have to say anything grand; tell someone what you had for lunch, that you saw her new haircut on Facebook and you love it. People always appreciate mail and I can basically promise that you'll feel good after spending five minutes writing a quick note to someone you care about.
3. Write a gratitude list
 I'll be telling you to do this until I'm 95 years old. Write down 10 things that are good in your day. "They had 2% milk out at the condiment station at Starbucks this morning, which I prefer to half and half." "I Skyped with my nephew today." "I organized my closet by color and it looks fun." There is research proving that this lifts your mood, so if you don't want to listen to me, then listen to the facts. Try it, you'll like it.
4. Say you're sorry
This one's hard. Really hard for me. But if you feel like you owe someone an apology, go out on that frightening limb and do it. Embrace the fear and freedom, the inner adult and child, the loosening of a grip, opening up to let something else in. Make room.
5. Break the silence
There are a few ways to do this. If things are simply too quiet, turn on some tunes. If a relationship is strained, reach out. Or if you simply haven't seen someone in ages, schedule a coffee date. Easy peasy.
 6. Change your activity
 If you're like me, it's easy to get stuck in a mood, in a thought, in a place of mental muck. So, as this whole post is aimed at, change it up. Even if you're doing something you love, try not to do it for hours on end. Because eventually it will become tiresome, and you'll start to think you don't like it anymore, when in reality you just need to get a drink of water, go for a walk, sort the mail, turn on some Motown. If you're enjoying yourself, by all means live in the moment, but try to keep things fluid.  
7. Take a shower/Groom
 Push back your cuticles. Wash your face. Floss your teeth. Particularly when I need to get pumped for a social event, I find that a little bit of tending to the finer details helps revive me tenfold. And when I really need a jumpstart/to put my game face on, I go for the big guns: mascara and lipstick. Not because wearing makeup makes me a better version of myself, but because it makes it harder for me to lie back down in bed and spend the evening alone. When I'm in a uniform of blush and eyeliner, I feel more ready to communicate with people, and for me, that's life.  
8. Say something honest
 Whatever it is, say it (though do avoid being mean, please). Offer a compliment. Tell someone you're feeling blue, and that you don't know why exactly. Tell someone you're feeling extra confident today, even if it's for no good reason. Let your therapist know you're nervous about today's session. Say to your friends, "Actually, I don't really want the garlic fries, can we get the regular?" Being honest is always a good place to start, because holding truth under the surface feels crummy.
9. Read to someone, even if it's yourself
 Kids are an excellent audience, because they're quick to giggle, plus their books are usually funnier than the ones meant for us adults. But also ask a grown up friend if you can read to them. They might look at you sideways, but then they might acquiesce to your request. I think being read to is something we never outgrow. There's something so soothing, so powerful, in words meeting the air. I read aloud to myself yesterday, and it made the content of the book more emotional than it would have been if I were to instead be silent. Plus I didn't want my space to be completely quiet, so problem solved.  
10. Find live music
Why live? Because it gets you out of the house, for one. Gets you around people, for two. And for three, there's a very specific power in live music. A disc spinning in our car (yes, some of us still use CDs) can heal, absolutely, but in the way words being read aloud from a book can give them sudden, new might, such is the same when a voice pipes through a microphone and is born out of an amp -- mysterious changes happen in the people who hear it. Their bodies lean and sway with a ballad, dance with a jam, let go when a musician's heart breaks open on stage. There is tremendous community, peace, and happiness at a concert (and no, I don't use recreational drugs, if you're wondering) that I'll never quite be able to explain, something that I wish more people sought after because it has certainly helped make my life all the better and I know it could do the same for so many more out there.  
11. Use your voice
I recently read a memoir about a singer I love. Not only did it blow me out of the water, but I found myself getting jealous of musicians as I turned the pages. Don't get me wrong, by and large I love being a writer and feel called to sit in front of a computer screen and connect with the home row keys on a serious level. But I wanted to be able to go that step further and use my literal, actual voice to get a greater emotional release from my work and my art. So one day I decided to go ahead and do it. I wrote a poem and went to an open mic and read it out loud to a room of strangers and friends. I was in the midst of a tough season and I needed to remind myself that I had a voice. So, I did what I needed to do.

For you, this might look like going to karaoke night, or confessing a crush to your best friend, or maybe just admitting in your journal that you hate staying out past 10. Just don't forget that you have a voice. Please. It's important.

12. Visit a cashier

In other bossy words: Do. Not. Isolate!!!

I have a rule about getting out of the house every day, which goes along with my rule about changing up my activities every few hours -- so that I don't get stuck in a sour mood because I didn't let my brain air out to do its calisthenics. Even so, there are days where I just don't feel like doing a whole lot. But even on the days that I'm really bumming, if I go to the grocery store and buy a toothbrush, those 30 seconds of interacting with the clerk who scans my Ralphs rewards card helps; the simple kindness, a quiet smile. Yes, try and get out and walk around and see the roses, but try and interact with a human if you can. We were made for community. We just were, no way around it.

13. Add color

Color!!! I love color!!! I'm so drawn to it it's ridiculous. Buy the bright watermelon instead of the drab banana. Wear your neon green sports bra to the gym. Paint your toes with dollar store coral polish. Fluff regal, eggplant sheets over your bed and pretend your crown is being polished by the king. Don't settle for black and white; they make life's edges too sharp, and we all need a little cushion.

14. Tidy up

If you're not great at this, don't worry, I'm not scoldin', because I'm the worst about cleaning my space. But it's sooooooo helpful. Getting yourself moving, seeing your environment more at ease and open, and knowing that you had a part in it -- these are all great things for boosting your mood. And it feels so good to literally make your bed and then lie in it, and look around at the books all in line on the shelf, the piles on the desk less askew.

15. Show up

To work, to your lunch date, to church, to the baby shower. Just get there. After feeling gipped on my birthday this year, I was really nervous to go to another woman's birthday party the following month. I thought I might see her surrounded by so many friends and crumple with jealousy. So I turned on some good music, texted my honest feelings to friends who I feel safe with, wrote a kind note to the birthday girl, and got myself gussied up for the soiree. By the time I got in my Uber, I was genuinely jibber jabbering with my driver, excited to go celebrate the beautiful girl who deserved to have all the friends show up for her party. The idea of showing up can seem frightening, but I think staying home can more times than not ultimately make us feel worse.

16. Order a pizza

This life tactic has always worked wonders for me, even after I've begun to doubt its ability to be effective over time. Basically anything with a strong background in tomato and cheese, such as spaghetti with a heap of parmesan on top ("It's like you're seven," says Alex), really helps me, consistently. Find the flavor combo that best works for you, and go after it. In times of crisis, don't worry so much about getting your greens. Worry about balming your heart (and reviving it with a little salt).

17. Name your fear

You don't have to tackle it. Just get it out there. Tell a friend. A counselor. Your journal. You'll realize half your work is already done once you've spoken the Big Bad Words aloud to the universe.

18. Phone a friend

We've got friends for a reason, am I right or am I right? They love you, you love them, (please sing this to the tune of the Barney song), so pick up the phone and for crying out loud already dial your friendssssss! I know sometimes you don't want to be the mess calling with your sob story, but just do it. Seriously, your friends love you and they want you to call. They'd want you to answer if it were them in pain, and you'd want them to call you if they were unhappy, instead of holding back.

19. Find a voice that sounds like your own, and dance in the harmony

No, I'm not talking about a love connection. Although I am, sort of, just of the literary variety. Once you find your Anne Lamott, or Donald Miller, or Marisa de los Santos or whoever else speaks this human experience through a lens that seems like your exact prescription, down to the astigmatism and cat-eye frames you love from Warby Parker, then go ahead: unabashedly gobble up all their words, digest them and go back for seconds. It's such. a huge. huge. HUGE. gift in this world to find writers who speak directly to our hearts and our heads, so if you find solace in burying your nose in their entire repertoire, by all means go for it. Doctor's orders.

20. Engage your body

Like saying sorry (and forgiving), I'm not great at this. I've always been more of a thinker than a doer. But whether I'm bending down to pick up clothes off the floor, spritzing some Windex on the bathroom mirror, or (imagine!) participating in an athletic activity, I can't help but feel a teeny weeny bit -- or a lot -- better than when I started.

21. Call your parents
If you have no other motivation to do this, do it for them. They always want to hear from you. Plus I find that even when I think I have nothing to say to my parents, I usually find something to discuss. These people diapered me and paid for my college, not to mention love the heck out of me with all my quirks and moods, so when I need a boost in feeling loved and cared for, calling Mommy and Daddy is usually a great idea.

22. Put something on the calendar
Now, equally helpful in reducing stress can be to take something off the calendar, but when you're feeling down in the dumps, schedule something! A cheap concert, a movie date, spaghetti night with a couple from the synagogue. When the immediate future is just a vague blob, it feels like just that: a blob. Make things less blobby and give yourself something finite to look forward to.
23. Unplug
Like many of the items on this list, this one's first. And I will make the disclaimer that music is still allowed if you should decide to take a break from media. But I find it surprisingly refreshing -- and not that terrifying! -- to set a timer on my phone for an hour, text my boyfriend to tell him I'm going off the grid, and tuck it in my desk drawer. Then I clean, talk to the roomies, sort papers, smooch on Max, etc. Truly, by the time the timer goes off, I'm usually game for more time unplugged, rather than staring at the clock willing the hour to be over.
I highly recommend the Headspace and Calm apps for your smartphone, both of which have several free meditation sessions, or you can upgrade for a cost. You can listen to stories to help you fall asleep, or simply sit through a 10 minute guided talk that helps you focus on your breathing. It goes quickly, and it really helps filter out the rest of the world. Wildly helpful and worth a try.
25. Talk to the Big Guy
Surprisingly, with all my Jesus talk and whatnot, I don't do a lot of this. But when I'm feeling reeeeally tenuous, I call out. I usually don't say much. Something along the lines of, "You know what's up. Help. I'm not sure what to do. Send your angels to protect me. Bring peace to this impossible blender of a mind I have that seems to be stuck on frappe. Love, Me."
And that's it. Then I sigh, and go back to overthinking, but try my very bestest to think a little less hard. I pull into a gas station and get Cool Ranch Doritos and a Diet Coke and maybe a giant bottle of chilled water, too. I phone a friend, and I usually try to quit driving around and instead point the car home. I do some grooming, turn on familiar television that's sensitive to the dramatic among us, something like Felicity, something that's quiet but not too sad and that will make me laugh some, too.
And almost always, after an hour or so, I find that He's heard me.
26. ACCEPT! the FACT! that it's NEVER TOO LATE!
The fact that milk expiration dates are really more of a give-or-take suggestion is proof of this (otherwise why would we smell it?). My grandmother receiving her college diploma at the age of 80 is proof. This belated birthday blog post is proof. Grace is proof. Need more proof? Oh, I'll prove it.
27. Pet something soft
Always a good suggestion, especially if this something purrs. But we all know I'm horribly biased in this area of the animal kingdom. What? Isn't there research that if more of your senses are engaged (a mysterious rumbling emitting from an animal's core that you can feel and hear...?), then something is better for you? Hmmmmmm?
28. Talk to someone who's young
They have it more figured out than we think. Give them credit, and be open to how they might help and teach you.
29. Talk to someone who's old
Because Lord knows they've learned some things and have good things to say about hope and life and things moving on. So go knock on a door and invited yourself in. Make a fresh pot of coffee and have a listen.
30. Rustle your pom pons
Be a cheerleader! Fake it 'til you make it! Rah rah rah! Do this for yourself and do this for others. Even if you feel like you-know-what, look at it this way: it can't hurt to try and cheer yourself up. Moreover, when others are trying to cheer you up, recognize that they're making the effort, and that means they care about you and that means a lot. Count the blessing and wave those spirit fingers high!
31. Participate in retail therapy (the library counts as a store)
Try not to go nuts, because overspending makes us all feel worse, but it's really OK to up and go to Target once in a while. Really. Get yourself a Starbucks before you grab your red cart. Take your time. Stroll. Buying yourself a little something you don't need can go a long way on a hard day.
32. Shamelessly ask for love
You might be laughing, but I mean this with all my heart. A friend of mine did this the other day and I'm so proud of her and happy she did. She asked for words of encouragement when she needed them and I was more than happy to swoop in and supply some. This past Sunday, as Alex and I parked the car at a friend's apartment, we got out of the Corolla and I said, "Can I have a hug?" "Of course," he replied, "You can always have hugs." He held my delicate self close, and then I was stronger and more ready to enter into life.
Whether you need a prayer, a nice word said about you, to sleep over because you're afraid to be alone, or anything else -- ASK. Because you're worth it, baby. You deserve to be loved, and to have your tanks filled, now and tomorrow.
See Y'all in 10 months for the next birthday post.
The Birthday Girl

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why we never graduate from the classics

As far as I know, my parents never laced headphones over my mom's pregnant belly, so that my little fetus self could rock out to Tchaikovsky or something else that's supposedly helpful for prenatal development.

But based on the number of ticket stubs in my scrapbook, I'd believe them if they said they did.

My father did pick me up from YMCA summer camp blasting either Tank or Edgar Winter Group (I can't recall which exactly), and we rode home with the windows of our Toyota Previa rolled down as I covered my ears, catching my smirk in the side mirror, pleased in spite of myself to have such a crazy parent who wasn't afraid to fly his freak flag, ever paving the way for me to fly my own.

Mom, who has less in her musical library filed under "Eccentric" or, let's just say "Loud," wore out her Pachelbel Canon cassette tape in the Camry as she drove me along quiet Kansas highways, having her own, equally powerful influence on me, even though this has always been less obvious to the outside world.

When home improvement projects were on the weekend schedule in Dad's already busy, full-time-engineer-father-of-four life, he made the job go faster by filling our space with what me and my siblings call "house painting music": that of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Dire Straits, and company.

This is beside the point, but he did his house painting work in cut off jean shorts and a paper -- as in, literally made from paper -- cap.

My brothers and I watched VH1's Top Ten video countdown before school and during our summer vacations. Memorable songs of the early to mid-90s include Meatloaf's "I Would do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)," Seal's "Kiss from a Rose," Blues Traveler's "Runaround," and TLC's "Waterfalls."

As soon as I had the proper technology, I dubbed from my brothers' CDs onto blank tapes: Tom Petty, Lauryn Hill, DC Talk, The Beatles, They Might Be Giants, and Weird Al, among many others.

To this day, I can't hear the Beach Boys sing "Don't Worry Baby" and not become a 9-year-old version of myself, facing the front mountain range in Colorado, on my floral pastel comforter that really didn't fit my personality, feeling romance bubble through my excited veins in the way it could only feel before I had fallen in love, when it was still untouched, innocent, a dream. In that way, the song "Don't Worry Baby" is almost a dream in itself to me now, today.


Despite the constant loop of music that has clearly run through my entire life (to be real, I've spent much time being afraid of pure silence), it took a long time for me to recognize myself as the music connoisseur that I actually am.

I don't know what caused me one day to go to the Internet in search of concert dates, but in a serendipitous moment with the universe, I discovered a few years back that an artist by the name of Rachael Yamagata would be playing a show in Chicago while I would be there watching my dad run a marathon and subsequently visiting my friends Nick and Michelle. The price was right, so I asked Nick if he was game, he was, so I went for it and bought us two tickets.

At the time I was only familiar with a few of Rachael's songs, most notably the song that arguably put her on the map, "Be Be Your Love," plus some others I had heard on her Pandora station. I had first discovered her and "Be Be" via the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

I was in an excellent mood that night I saw Rachael. I surprised my dad at the train station, who didn't know I was flying in from LA for his big race, and he, my mom and Nick, one of my oldest and dearest friends, went to dinner and drank wine and we were all bubbles of happy. Nick and I parted ways with my 'rents to see them the next day, and headed to our show.

When Rachael took the stage after her openers, she yelled at the crowd, "It's Saturday night!"

It was Friday.

Catching her mistake in response to the crowd's laughter, she laughed at herself and immediately won us over.

And then she started singing.

And then, I became a lifelong, I Will Always Attend A Rachael Show When She Is In My City Fangirl.

(Following Rachael's show, I bought a ticket to see Tegan and Sara the next month in Los Angeles. I went by myself and had an excellent time. Since then, I have been to probably 30-40 concerts and stand up comedy shows in the last three years. I truly have become a live music junkie. It is a true joy for me.)

Rachael, with her vulnerability, her humor, her authenticity, and um, HELLO, her VOICE, blew me away. She is legitimately in my top 10 of all-time favorite musicians, and probably top 5. It should be noted that the top 5 list includes Celine.



Last night I got to meet Rachael.

We showed each other pictures of our cats, so I think it qualifies as a legit bonding experience.

Also, I don't think she was faking it when she acted like Office Max was so cute. I mean, look at him. How could she be faking it?:

Also, Ms. Yamagata, if you're reading this -- my boyfriend, Alex, thought after our meeting last night that I should have shown you this picture of Max instead, because it's funnier than the sleepy one above. So here you go:

Thank you for being lovely and gracious. We really enjoyed chatting with you and loved your performance as we always, always do. Can't wait to see the next show. 


Now one more thing and then I'll let y'all go become Rachael fangirls yourselves. Pandora/Spotify, here you betcha come!!!!!

I think it will be a long time before I ever see a show in which Rachael doesn't perform her hit "Be Be Your Love." She may never not perform it (though I did see Springsteen and he didn't sing "Born in the USA" in the entirety of a three hour show, so...).

Last night she opened with "Be Be," in her amazing acoustic version.

Usually she teases the crowd a little bit, makes us wait for it, but I guess she was feeling generous and just ready to go for the classics and hey I'm not complaining.

Last night as she sang "Be Be" and it was time to raise our voices and really sing along for the final chorus, I prompted Alex, "Are ya ready?!" and I realized, "Wow, I really haven't gotten over this song."

We have these songs that introduce us to the artists we love, and then we get to know the musicians more deeply through new albums, their other work. We hear, and sing along, via our own heartbreak and celebration and confusion and bliss, with other masterpieces in their repertoire, and we move along from the place where we started from, from our training wheel songs.

We overplay "Be Be Your Love" and Alicia Keys' "Fallen" and Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery" and we think we've matured, we've graduated into these other songs of these artists we love; not because there's anything wrong with the original hits but because we think that we've moved on as people and because we think our brains and our ears and our hearts have been supersaturated with the same sound and at a point they can't be affected in the same way they once were when we hear something so familiar.

And to a point maybe this is true.

(Also I think a large reason I go after live music so much is because, for whatever indiscernible reason, hearing music in person makes it extra emotional again, in a way that it felt the way I first heard an album or an artist. This is one of life's greatest phenomena, and one of the only ones I'm willing to go into debt over.)

But I think I learned last night, and I think I re-learn every time Rachael breaks out the opening chords to "Be Be," that I'll never graduate from a song about wanting to be in love. I'll never graduate from love. I'll never graduate from music.

Sure, every time Rachael starts to sing "You Won't Let Me," I turn around and tell Alex, "This is my favorite!" and I get really caught up in that, but I still catch myself in my car getting really riled up in "Be Be" sometimes still, too.

I know obviously that I'm in love with Alex, but I'm not always in a state of swoon. But there are moments where I'm like, "Oh my goodness, that face! Would I just look at that darling, perfect, chiseled just for me face!" and all of a sudden in an ordinary moment he doesn't even know it but I am overcome.

I may mature in areas of life, and even love and relationships. I may learn to forgive, and say I'm sorry. I may attend life's classes and do the homework. I may even show up to the graduation ceremony, in my gown.

But when they play Pomp and Circumstance, you bet anything I'm getting choked up. And even though graduation ceremonies are unbearably long, and admittedly bear a trace of melancholy, I'll secretly love that the band will play the song on repeat, because I never want music to end.

So when I toss my cap into the air at the school of Music or Love or Life or Whatever, I expect my mortar board to get frozen up there, tassels slowly waggling in the fog from whatever club I'm at that night: the Fonda, the Wiltern, the Palladium. Because this girl ai'nt never gonna leave school when love is the curriculum and tunes are on the syllabus.

Especially when professors like Rachael are educating the crowd. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Prayers: Thank you for the roses

I've been in California for five years (and some change). Sometimes my car swoops atop freeway exit ramps and I think of the people I knew when I arrived here and I think of the people I know here now and I just think, "Wow." I have met so many great people; people who have looked out for me, put a roof over my head, held me when I cried, fed me when I was only eating fish sticks on my own. 

On Sundays I hang with a really special crowd. I love them. 

But first.

I rise early-ish, smooch the cat, and drive to Panera. I order a bagel or an oatmeal, a coffee or a tea. I go to my favorite mini-booth, tuck my earbuds into place. I open a Word document. And I get to work. 

I write prayers for my Bethel family, and then I go see them. We hug, and we hug some more. They kiss my cheeks, they give me cat litter coupons (truth), they pray for me. 

And so, I pray for them, and with them. And we would love it if you would pray with us. You don't have to get up and drive anywhere (though you totes can, if you want!). You can do it right where you are. Just read below. Much love, from our family to yours. Be well, and be loved.

For another morning, to sit next to these beautiful people, to lean back and let out some sighs of release. To let in some breaths of quiet. To catch the mercies that are new this morning, with the nets of our achy, but still awesomely workable hearts. To think of our God, who holds us how we need to be held – tight, like a baby swaddled into safety; loose, with fingers interlaced so we know we’re not alone, but so we can bravely set out on our journey; or aloft, balancing in trust, waving in the wind, laughing as it whips strands of hair through our streams of vision.

For the roses. For the roses that insist on shoving themselves up through the concrete here in this otherwise unforgiving desert land. For the roses that bleed fuschia into tangerine at their edges, causing us to go “Oh my!” in some Southern accent we didn’t know we had within us. For the roses that are springing from us because someone, somewhere planted a seed in us – because whether we were small, or grown, someone thought, “I want him to know about the peace I have.” And they sang us “Jesus loves me,” or they brought us here, or they just held our hand. For the roses, and the seeds, we can’t say it enough: thanks.

May we bow our heads together for our friends whose plants are drooping. Whose leaves are crackling, threatening to fall stiff and aloof to the parched, neglected dirt below. Be with the couples watching other families meet their babies while they wait desperately for their own. Be with those who thought they had moved on from their grief, then WHAM! Pain rises with the dust in their apartment. Be with the people who just want a partner, a voice to fill the room and an ear to catch their own. May Jesus, and the friends around them, be Miracle Gro in their pots, so that some day they’ll walk into the kitchen and in spite of themselves, smile at the sight of a fresh bloom.

For all those amazing, awesome, wowie-zowie gifts we’re given. For coffee, for air conditioning, for moments that our kids clean up their toys like future Nobel Prize Winners. For pets, who may only bark and meow, but who totally speak our language. For a verse in the Bible about how God will be faithful to complete good works that were begun in us – um, WOW. For gooey cinnamon rolls, that are totally worth the stickiness. For music and meditation apps on our phones. For pool floaty rafts, so we don’t really have to commit to a full plunge into the water. And for love, that innate stirring in all of us that makes this all so worth it, and so great.

We can never say it enough, so we’ll say it as much as we can: thank you. Thank you for creating us, with our dimples and our introversion and our preference for rising early or staying up late. Thank you for giving us people who love us, who we can love in return. Thank you for food in our mouths, beds to rest our heads. Thank you for giving us hope, and grace. There is hurt here, but you give us a reset button. Every day, with endless refills, we can turn to you and say “Help. Fix it. Make me better.” And you do. We love you, and we thank you.