Monday, June 26, 2017

The sound of friendship


I never thought I'd meet someone on the Internet who I'd have a real relationship with.

No, I'm not talking about Alex. I actually met him in the flesh. Twice, two years apart (neither of us remembered each other the second time, but that's another story).

I'm talking about Jill.

We have the wonderful Hilary to thank, who is still in our lives but has moved on to be an awesome writer and educator outside of California, so sadly we don't get to see her too much.

But it was through a Google search for an image for a tweet that led me to Hilary's blog, which eventually led me to Jill's blog, and after reading both of their blogs for a year I couldn't take it anymore!

I had to reach out and at least try to be their real, off-the-world-wide-web friend.

And boy am I glad they said Yes, you non-creepy person, we'll meet you for queso and Diet Cokes and discussion of books and writing.

Fast forward two years, and we're still in touch.

Jill asked me some weeks back if I wanted to accompany her to the Sound of Music sing along at LA's Hollywood Bowl.

DUH.

This past Saturday our fateful night of singing along with Julie and company was upon us.

I wasn't sure I was going to be the best company for Jill, admittedly, as we approached the actual date. I mean, the movie itself is three hours, and the Bowl itself can be three hours getting in and out and around and through the thousands of people and traffic, and it had been a long time since I'd been social for so many hours on end. I love Julie and whiskers on kittens, you know I do, but I didn't want my Big Bad Moods to creep in and call it a night before I was ready.

Well I'm happy to report the night was perfect.

Even if we were super early for the event.

"Film, 8 p.m.?!" Jill yelled, incredulous, grabbing for her Dolly Parton tote (purchased during our last Bowl excursion to see her Majesty herself) to review our tickets. We had just pulled off the freeway and were at a stoplight by the Bowl's main sign, which said the pre-show (read: 5 million girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes parading across the Bowl stage YOU CAN SKIP IT) started at 6:30 and the movie started at 8.

"My tickets just say 6:30!" Jill continued to cry.

This is Los Angeles, however, and this was Saturday, and moreover, this was Hollywood on a Saturday, so there was really no place we could go and kill time other than right there in Hollywood, because to turn around and go elsewhere in the city and come back would have been ridiculous.

So we made the best of it.

We parked the car, found a patch of grass (yes, there is some) in front of an apartment, sat down and ate our Subway sandwiches and talked for almost two hours about the things we always talk about: feelings, writing, our loves, my cat (because I can't help myself), life in California, our families.

We sat long enough that the sandwiches settled and we dipped into Doritos and Skittles, washing it all down with Diet Coke, every once in a while checking our phones, every time realizing we still had plenty of time to mosey ourselves over to our viewing venue. So we'd tuck our phones away, grab some more blue and orange buttons of candy, and talk talk talk some more.

We talked our way to a trash can to toss out our garbage, talked ourselves to the car to get a sweater for Jill, talked ourselves to the Bowl, to the bathroom, up up up the ramp, then over and up some more to our seats, section M1, seats 27 and 29, our ages (just kidding).

We found ourselves surrounded by nuns, male and female, and one of the boys named Sister Sunshine passed me a cocktail and I thought, OK this night is going to be way more ridiculous than I thought it would be.

At some point the Very True Fact that Christopher Plummer is SMOKIN' came up and Jill and I said at the exact same moment, "He really is," then immediately jerked our heads to meet eyes and said, "Whoaaaaa."

It was determined early on in the singing along that Jill's range is higher than mine, so she took Liesl's part during "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," which worked out quite well for my lower register.

People waved their phones during Edelweiss, cat called whenever the Captain came on screen, and flashed laser pointers across the faces of the Nazis. It was all very silly and fun and I'm so glad I went.

***

After I graduated from college, my best friend Nick gave me a Sound of Music DVD. I had finished school a semester early and went back to campus for a visit, and we watched the movie together with our friend Briana in my brother's apartment and we giggled, all mashed together on a futon.

I went back home to my parents' place, missing my friends (and Nick especially) like crazy, and I would watch the Sound of Music for comfort and nostalgia. Sadly, I think the absence of my friends on the futon always made it bittersweet. But I watched it anyway. I went to the hills when my heart got lonely.

My family, (not big Julie fans), didn't usually want to join me. Dad picked me up from work and as we were driving home I hinted that we could watch it together and he yelled, "The hills are dead, Bailey! They're dead!"

I giggled and watched my movie solo, soaking in my homesickness for college, the theme of that season in my life.

***

The Bowl is actually one of my lesser favorite venues for live music in LA. And as someone who averages about 15 concerts a year, I can say that.

I prefer more intimate shows. I think I like to be inside, for one -- the walls capture the sound, making it richer, like humidity. Plus I like to be really close to the stage, and I don't mind one bit standing for three hours.

Saturday was my favorite experience at the Bowl (though Dolly, as Dolly herself, is no contest), and it's thanks in large part to the giant community that filled the seats.

As we were singing some of the lyrics,

My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies
From a church on a breeze
To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over
Stones on its way

How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

Show them I'm worthy
And while I show them
I'll show me

I thought, no really, some of these are really, truly beautiful. Powerful.

There was a moment, shortly before the show started ("Film, 8 p.m.?!"), that I thought, Oh no. Is depression creeping in? Am I getting in my head? Wondering whether I'm going to enjoy this as much as the tipsy nuns behind me?

And then they started the movie. A trill whistle sounded in the distance as we were transported from the hot Hollywood hills to the snow-capped Austrian mountains. And then there they were.

The hills.

The green, grassy hills.

And there she was.

Julie.

And then we were singing.

And it was gone. That fear of being in my head. We sang that song we've sung for a thousand years, all together, me, Jill, my Internet friend who now, just like that, is a real friend, Sister Sunshine, and 17,000 of our close, personal friends.

My fear melted off as the ridiculous, the fun, the music married itself into where it's been before. Whether I'm bobbin' my head to Tegan and Sara in a tiny venue or zoning out to Iron & Wine while I type in my bedroom, music has always rescued me from fear.

I had several moments during the film on Saturday where I was that person who was thinking, But music really DOES bring us all together and fix things!!

***

I sat on some grass Saturday night, eating Skittles and talking about good things and scary things. I was not all consumed by the scary things; rather, we just talked about them, like the good things and the scary things were equal breaths of wind. I didn't feel rushed, or anxious. I didn't feel sad, or the need to be anywhere else.

I felt at ease, with my friend. My friend Jill.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Prayers, June 25, 2017 -- Love is greater than money


Below are the prayers that were prayed this morning at Bethel. The theme of our sermon was "love is greater than money," which focused on the fact that our relationships can overcome even crippling amounts of debt, and that under God's grace, we owe nothing of ourselves to be worthy. Please pray along with us if you so please. Be well, and have a wonderful week. 

We thank You for this time together, to sit still in a pew, to wave our arms during a song, to hold each other tight in a much-needed hug. For these walls and ceilings that block out the stress of our jobs, our fears, our broken hearts. For teachers who will color with our children for an hour so we can drink coffee in here. For those who empty our waste bins and shut off our lights and track our finances in complicated spreadsheets. Let this place always be a home where we can dump the contents of our messy insides and still be seen as the beautiful children we are.

For the food in our fridge, remind us always to give the utmost thanks. In a time when rent prices are climbing, when people are pouring into the streets to call a sidewalk home, let us not take for granted the many, many provisions You provide for us – clothes to wear, books to read, toys for our kids to play with. Let us never forget that You are our shepherd and You always know where your sheep are, across this vast pasture where You’ve laid us. Help us to enter our cubicles where we earn this food with gusto, knowing that we are never forgotten, our woolen coats counted every night and every morning.

In this expensive city, where shiny toys are dangled before us and raises are sometimes hard to come by, we can come into debt, and with that can come shame. Let us know that with You we don’t have to hide in our shame, that we can turn our face fully toward Yours, that You will take it in Your hands, gently brush our cheeks with Your thumbs and say, “You are Mine.” Guide us so that our debt does not become something that defines or crushes us. Give us love and forgiveness for ourselves so that we can move out of our shrouded isolation and into a place of forward motion, and healing.

For all the good things You give us, and for the fact that we could be here all day and not stop listing them. For giggles that catch us off guard, that don’t stop for several minutes. For a book whose words dig into the deepest part of our heart and actually make us better. For a smoothie with the perfect kale-to-berry-to-banana ratio. For a therapist who doesn’t scold but instead reworks our personal goals to help us truly feel good. For music, thank the good Lord above for music! – for Vivaldi to help us relax, for Dolly to make us feel precious, and for bubble gummy pop to get us up off the couch to dance. May we thank You, always, for the dance.

May Your love feed us in its many mysterious ways this morning, making us brave for this week ahead. In the music that floats out to our seats, in the sweet cubes of bread that melt into our tongues, in the words from Your holy book that offer us tools and comfort for being loved and loving each other to make this whole crazy journey just a little bit easier. We thank You for each other, for teaching us to love and letting us try it out in the here and now. May we each be a light to someone this week – in a fluorescent office, over a phone line, or right here inside these walls. And may You be with us in it all, always.

What makes me feel better, (almost) always


I am sitting here typing with much aggravation. 

And by typing I mean doing very little typing. 

I've been working on a couple of poems this week and I'm abandoning ship on them for now. Not forever, but I don't think they're going to come to fruition today. Finito. Moving on.

About a week ago I asked for some writing topic suggestions, and my friend Alicia (who I met at a wedding and who is darling) asked me to write about this:

What makes you feel better, always? 

Well let me start by saying I'm not a big "always" person. Not that you won't hear it in my vocabulary, because I probably am something of an exaggerator, but I don't know that there are a lot of things that for sure, allllllwayss make me feel better. 

But there are some things that often help. 

So I will list them here. Let's begin. 

Smooching on that sweet little squish cat face. Coming home to see Max after work is always a treat, and I squeal at him like we're just meeting for the first time, every time. 

Hugging Alex.

Crying.

Talking to Michelle. 

Exercising to the point of working up a sweat, then taking a shower, and putting on some clean, dry, cotton clothes. 

Eating something tomato-based, with cheese. Spaghetti or pizza. 

Lying by a pool, with a nice big cold drink. A GIANT iced tea, for example. Getting in the water once in a while, nice and easy, on a float that only dips my tender, prone-to-chilliness body part way into the wet, letting the breeze carry me from shallow end to deep, deep to shallow, shallow to deep. Ideally there is summery pop music playing during this flotation session. Get out of the pool, put on some more gloppy sunscreen, (ideally) shove some salty chips and French onion dip in my mouth, and lie in the sun to let earth's natural heater warm my complicated, sometimes achy heart. 

Writing.

(Though I haven't done it in months, (which is super weird),), cross stitching.

Reading, usually, particularly if the content isn't too depressing, angsty, or dry.

Cleaning! Whenever I engage my body, move things around, and can see a physical change in my environment, I would say almost with certainty that that always makes me feel better.

Taking something off my calendar that my heart really isn't into.

Accomplishing an athletic feat. 

Dusk.

Being the ringleader on a task. The question-answerer. The clipboard-holder. The volunteer-wrangler. It doesn't happen too often, and I don't love it out of a desire to be bossy, rather I just love to be a friendly, helpful face, who can cheer on a team, ease nervous spirits, and help guide people through basic tasks so that a large job can be accomplished. I like it when I'm trusted with responsibility -- I feel capable, strong, and kind, and all of that can make me feel better, if I start the day out feeling like other pieces of me or my life are in rough shape.

Going to church at Bethel almost always makes me feel better. Getting 20+ hugs, hearing my boys sing, catching up. Coming just as I am -- good mood, falling apart, hyped up on coffee ready to talk you into oblivion. I usually walk out in better condition than when I walked in. 

Going to a concert. Sometimes, sadly, they can be a bust, but usually -- especially in the standing room only venues -- I get totally lost in the music and feel completely healed, just as I am. There is nothing like live music for me. 

And the cat. Did I mention the cat? 

***

That's a pretty solid list for me. How about you? What makes you feel better? 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Today's sentences aren't so tasty -- but I will keep typing


And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, we will move into the portion of our Saturday program where we set aside Bailey's unfinished blog post, unfinished poem #1, unfinished poem #2, and un-begun prayers for tomorrow's worship service to start a whole other writing project:

THIS HERE BLOG POST!

This is not only an illustration in Attention Deficit Disorder, but also to discuss an age-old concept of writing that I've learned from listening to several writers I admire, including one I love the most, and her name is Anne.

Anne Lamott, in her famous, wonderful book about writing, Bird by Bird (tip: if you have trouble finding it at the bookstore, check the reference section), offers two overarching tips: give yourself small assignments, and allow yourself to write sh***y first drafts.

Today I'm doing a lot of the latter.

I've been typing for about two hours now.

I've also been sighing for about two hours.

I'll type.

I'll reread what I just wrote.

I'll sigh.

No good, I'll think.

It's not fun to feel this way. It's way more fun to be in the, "Wheeeee! Aren't these sentences tasty?!" phase.

But sometimes days are like this.

On Tuesday of this week, I hammered out 1,200 words of a blog post. I didn't finish it, but I wrote the bulk of it.

On another day this week, I started a poem.

Today, I continued on that poem, and started another.

That's a lot of work for one week, and to write poetry on a Saturday morning when I'm not getting paid for it is saying something. Especially because I don't consider myself a trained poet so I kind of feel ridiculous even trying out this genre of art. But I went to an open mic recently and was well received and it felt so good to be in community and to have my voice literally heard and I think I need that now. Not for the fame or even the praise, necessarily, but so that I don't feel like my words are just hitting a wall. Writing aside, I need community now. And if that can be with word-lovers, then, well, YES.

As I was sitting here sighing, I remembered a post I wrote a few years ago, after a conversation with my bestie Michelle.

I had told Shelly that I didn't feel like I was writing enough, etc., and we talked about progress that doesn't feel like progress.

Remembering that conversation, and Anne's words, are helpful today. I put words on a page today. I put sighs in the air today. It's all part of the process. My 1,200 words from Tuesday may not ever be published. My poems may not be "good enough" for a public reading at tomorrow's open mic.

But I'm doing it. I'm writing.

And I mean it, if there's one thing I've heard across the board from writers who have made it, it's this one piece of advice: Just. Write!

Don't wait until you feel inspired. Don't write only if what's coming out of your fingertips is good. You have to just keep doing it. Olympic sprinters have to run even on days that they're slow. Pastors have to preach on Sundays when they're not real happy with God. Parents have to diaper their kids when they don't feel like changing a diaper...which I'm pretty sure is every time.

I mean, obviously I don't view this writing thing to be akin to diapering, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it on a Saturday morning for no pay.

But it's not always fun. It's annoying when I set aside the time, and I want that "Mighty Ducks Feeling" as my brother says to come over me while I'm typing, and it doesn't happen. It's frustrating to have hundreds of Word documents just sitting there.

But it's important I don't view them as waste, even if they never see the public eye.

This is key.

Those kids may never remember the diapers, but boy are they better human beings for having parents who tended to their daily needs.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to get back to my sighing.

Xox

Friday, June 23, 2017

Accept the good/The Giggle Hour

I'm at the library on my lunch break.

Writing.

The moment felt inspired.

It's Friday, no less. The day-off day.

Granted, I have no idea what I'm going to write to you about, but let's see if we can do this, if I can squeeze in 40 minutes of something meaningful before I chauffeur myself back to the office.

Last night I was driving to Alex's place, headed to Pizza Hut first. I was tired, but I've been getting blue almost every night at bedtime on the nights that I don't get to see him after work. So I told him I'd bring him pizza and we'd go from there. (As it turned out, we ate pizza and both started to fall asleep, so I decided to go home and fall asleep in bed with Max instead of waking up in a stupor on A's couch an hour later. But we had pizza together and I got to see my honey and share salty triangles with him and I'll take it.)

So I was driving, on my way to stop A, Pizza Hut, when I noticed a sign in someone's window, that said this:

ACCEPT THE GOOD

I accepted this message, in this time and place of my life, where I'm feeling depressed but I think feeling it lift?

I pulled through the intersection and immediately, I kid you not, I saw a young man running full speed down the sidewalk with a gallon of milk in his hand.

I don't know exactly where your mind might be going with this image, but just in case it is going to theft, let me dispel that for you. This was not anywhere close to a merchant, so I have no reason to believe this fellow stole this milk.

He was just running.

And I just enjoyed it.

I accepted the good.

I accepted the ridiculous.

A man running down the street with a gallon (NOT! a HALF gallon, but a FULL! HEAVY! gallon!) of milk is exactly the fodder that fuels text messages between me and my brothers. This is exactly the kind of levity I have craved since the first dawning of the Giggle Hour.

What's the Giggle Hour, you ask?

The Giggle Hour, ahhh the Giggle Hour, was a magical time when Bailey Kathleen used to

lose
her
mind.

Particularly this happened on long road trips, but it could really happen anytime, anywhere.

I've always been wired the way I am. OK fine, I've become more melancholic in my adult years, but haven't we all? But I've always been a mix of hyper, happy, and anxious.

When I was a kid, and still to this day, there would be a time where my brothers or my dad or, anyone, really, could just say anything, and I could not stop laughing.

This, to me, is still one of the best, most life-giving things there is.

My brother recently texted us this picture of my niece after nearly nine hours in the car, and said, "We've reached the Giggle Hour."


I've always felt connected to my niece on some level, in the sense that she has "EXTROVERT" stamped all over her, and she's silly and loves bright colors.

When my brother sent me this text, it touched me in a deep way, though. I looked at her face and saw my face. I loved that he still used the term in connection with his daughter.

I loved that she was losing her mind in the car on a long family trip, because that's where I particularly remember losing mine. In the good way. Not the adult way, where now I wonder sometimes if I really am losing it.

The Brewer family rocked a Toyota Previa for many years, and that egg-shaped silver bullet made it to 200,000 miles, lost an air conditioner and some other semi-crucial pieces, but man if she couldn't rev herself up a hill after all that time! I was very sad to come home from my summer job during college and realize that she had been traded in and I didn't get to say goodbye.

We had assigned seats in that minivan, me in the "middle left," AKA driver's side left seat in the middle row, baby Riley "middle right" for ease of carseat adjustments, Mom and Dad in the front, and the big brothers in the back seat.

I think I was Riley's entertainment, talking and probably reading to him, but the big boys were our entertainment. I know we drove them crazy, constantly turning around wanting them to "be funny," but let's be honest they probably loved the fame.

There would be a point where we all gave up, though. We couldn't read our books, play our Gameboys, play one more game of Uno, yet we were still in that minivan bound for Iowa or D.C. or South Dakota or wherever else and so it was either accept each other or drive off the road.

Accept the good.

So eventually I would just start laughing at everything, and Kelly and Patrick, Big Brothers Extraordinaire, would take full advantage of their vulnerable audience, and then the whole car would be laughing at my circus trick.

Everyone's favorite moment was when all it took was for my brothers to say, "Bailey," and I would bubble over into another fit of hysterical giggles.

***

Whenever the Giggle Hour came to an end, there was a renewal over the Previa. We passed the Pringles with more sibling politeness, making sure everyone got equal crisps, and didn't get stuck with broken crumbs at the bottom of the can. The older kids agreed to mingle with us youngin's. Mom and Dad grinned up front.

We were all willing to take on another hour of open, Midwestern road, grandparents waiting down the way.

I can feel all of this energy, this peace, like I'm in that van right now. I've always meant it when I've said that of childhood vacations, the car ride was my favorite part.

***

I don't succumb to as many Giggle Hours now as I did when I was my niece's age. Who can really say they can? But it happens. Alex insists on tickling me, because "You need it," he says. I hate it, but I do laugh like a maniac, and when he stops moving his fingers across my skin but still has a hold of me, I can't stop laughing. He's always amazed at this. "I'm not doing anything!" he'll always retort.

Doesn't matter, Babe. It's the Giggle Hour.

Accept the good.

It's unlikely I'll see another gentleman running down the road with a gallon of milk, but I hope to see some whimsy soon. I plan to do what I can to keep my eyes peeled, and to take notes when I see some good stuff. Text it to my brothers, write it in notes to people who could use some bubbles, and scribble it wherever else it might go -- a poem, a prayer, or right here.