October, 2008

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Ben

Friday, October 31st, 2008

In July of 2007, I took a ferry from Seattle across the water to Bainbridge Island, and drove to the beach where I met one of my best friends, Carin, and her 2-year old son Ben. We walked along the water, and threw rocks into the waves, and looked for little sand crabs, and ate grapes and crackers, and soaked up the glorious summer sunshine. Ben was running, and climbing, and laughing. It was a perfect day.

Looking back on that afternoon, our ignorance is obvious – blatantly flashing like a neon sign, humming with a warning we could not hear – as no one could have ever expected what was to come. For a few short weeks later, Ben was diagnosed with an aggressive, high-risk form of cancer called neuroblastoma. And since that day, Ben and his family have walked through nothing short of hell on earth.

While thousands have prayed, Ben has endured surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplants, oral drugs, experimental antibodies – not to mention excruciating pain, vomiting, and the side effects of atrociously harsh narcotics. Jeff and Carin have watched their baby writhe in pain, with no power to do anything about it, or to explain to him “why.” They have continually trusted their son’s safety, health, and comfort to the doctors and nurses – all the while living in fear of what the final outcome might be.

Last night brought some unspeakably heartbreaking news. Ben has four new tumors – three on his brain, and one on his liver. Despite every effort over the past 14 months, the cancer is spreading.

News like this is like… a fistful of broken glass. A fish-hook in the side. An anvil on the chest. And it takes me to a very raw and ugly place – one in which I doubt prayer, and I doubt God. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair. He’s just a little boy – barely 3-years old. He should be trick-or-treating tonight. I cannot stand it. Is there anything worse – anything more senseless – than the suffering of a child?

When Ben was baptized as an infant, his mom, beautiful Carin, stood in front of our church congregation and read the scripture that they were claiming for his life: “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Who knew that Ben would actually be faced with all of these things within the first 3 years of his life. Now I am clinging to the promise that none of these horrors can separate him from the love of God… but where is this love?

I know I’ve asked for this before, but please join me in praying for Ben, his parents Jeff and Carin, and his little brother Ryan.

Friends old and new

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

My friend Matt is in his second year at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, and the other day, he emailed me saying, “I miss Seattle more and more. Yet, sadly, it’s becoming more of a memory than an old reality.” What an unfortunate truth – and one that has been sneaking into my own way of thinking in recent days. Seattle will always, always be home. But all of a sudden, it feels further away. I hear about the things that my friends are doing, and the new people that they have met, and I see pictures of them having fun in my favorite places, and it all just feels so… far.

I know that my friends will always be my friends. But space changes things. Distance changes things. Time pulls certain people and circumstances away, away, away, like taffy – and the longer we try to hold on, the more stretched we become.

But when we learn to let go – when we choose to let go – we find other hands to hold. They are not replacements. They are not the same. But they are wonderful and beautiful in their own unique ways – ways that no one else could be – and they are walking a parallel path to mine in this new chapter. I have found some of these people, and I am so grateful. And as my friend Emily mused about her own life in a recent email, “I don’t want to miss this good season because of selfishness or envy.” Me neither.

My friend Joel wrote to me, “I think that if you take steps, at every opportunity, towards your dreams, you generally find that somewhere along the way, you’re actually living the dream.” All of the little steps that I have taken since leaving Seattle have led me to where I am now – 10 months into a new life in Nashville, new relationships, a new perspective. I am not the same girl that I was when I arrived – this time has changed me. I have seen sides of myself that I never knew existed – and some that I would never care to see again. I have doubted and despaired, and I have lived and laughed. Many, many times, I have cried – and I know that I will cry again.

But today – beautiful today – the tears are nowhere to be seen. And today, I feel like I am living the dream. So take it from me. If you are thinking of making a life change or taking the plunge or chasing a dream, do it. It’s never easy. But it’s always worth it.

And my new friends are making this whole thing so much more fun.

Oil issues?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
Last week, I did something that I am not proud of. I went somewhere that I try to avoid at all costs – except, of course, LOW COST. Where else am I going to get my toiletries and gum (and wire, as it were) at a fraction of the price?

But if there ever comes a day when I bring my shoe-less, pajama-clad toddlers with me to Wal-Mart at 11pm, please stage an intervention.

And can I just say that the other Annie (the cooler Annie) is the video-blogging queen? She is. I laugh SO HARD with her around; I’m so glad that she is my friend. And notice my shout-out to Sarah Markley, who I have yet to meet, but who writes so beautifully about her daughters and her life in Southern California. She makes me excited to be a mom someday – is it awkward to say that sometimes after reading her posts, I feel my ovaries churn?

Yeah. Probably awkward.

Save the penguins! – or – Anti-Twitterpation

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Yesterday, I was this close to writing about Twitter, and calling it “N is for NOBODY CARES.” But I figured that all of you Tweety Birds would be hurt. And when I’m honest, isn’t this blog just one big, festering, narcissistic Twit? Or whatever.

So instead of ranting about our culture’s obsession with broadcasting the minutia and detritus of our lives, I figured that I would just go ahead and continue broadcasting the minutia and detritus of MY life. But I’ll try to do it using words like “minutia” and “detritus.”

When my friend Aaron Chan started med school, a professor drew an iceberg on the board. “This is your brain,” he said. He began to add tiny penguins on top of the iceberg, saying, “These are the things that you know.” Eventually, the iceberg was so crowded with penguins that “at some point, inevitably, penguins start to fall off.”

Twitter is pushing my penguins off the ledge.

To be fair, it’s not just Twitter: Facebook, MySpace, blog updates, text messages, email, and all sorts of other technological “ways of knowing” are cramming and jostling their way onto my iceberg. I can’t keep up – but more than that, I don’t WANT to keep up. I honestly do not care where my 922 Facebook friends are at all times (brushing your teeth, in line at Starbucks, reading CNN.com, going to church, at a bookstore, grocery shopping, sitting at your desk, eating potato chips, what-have-you). It doesn’t mean that I don’t care ABOUT these people, that I don’t care about YOU – it’s just that for the first time, we humble laymen have the capability and the technology to mass-inform… and we, myself included, have gotten a bit slaphappy about it.

So. What to do? Give up the internet? Erase my online footprint? Boycott status updates? Feel more and more aggravated as my brain is cluttered by people’s Twittery Tweets, crowding out important information like birthdays and bible verses and when was the last time I changed my Brita water filter? I can’t hide from the internet – it’s unstoppable, like… like a train that… can’t be stopped.

Whoops. There went my simile penguin.

Please. For the love of flightless, aquatic birds. Let’s attempt to be more responsible, intelligent, and discerning with what we are unwittingly forcing upon each other’s icebergs. I’ll try if you will.

N is for Nourishment

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Last week, the stars aligned.

First, my friend Debbie dropped me an email, seemingly out of the blue, asking me if I read any Annie Dillard. My reaction: does Rick Astley shake his groove thang? Annie Dillard is breathtaking – one of my favorite writers. Her “Living Like Weasels” makes me want to throw a chair across the room, it’s so good. Debbie’s email reminded me to pick up my copy of “Teaching a Stone to Talk,” and ingest some meaty essays. I could feast on her words for days.

Then, my friend Handy Graham recommended the eastmountainsouth record. I already had one track from their 2003 (and only) album, but after Graham’s endorsement, was inspired to purchase the whole thing. It has not disappointed – this album has become the soundtrack to my world for the past couple of days.

A few days ago, the eastmountainsouth track “Still Running” popped up on my iPod, and I listened attentively to the words. The lyrics seemed familiar – balmy, true, trustworthy – and in a moment of synergy, I realized that it is based on an Annie Dillard essay, “God in the Doorway.”

This is as glowing a recommendation that I can give: get your hands on a copy of Dillard’s “God in the Doorway” and eastmountainsouth’s “Still Running.” Read the 3-page essay, and follow it immediately with the song. When I did, it was like chasing a cupcake with a glass of milk: good on their own, but together, divine.

One of my all-time favorite memories

Friday, October 24th, 2008

It is 2003. I am at a Seattle coffee shop with the two boys I used to nanny for, then 3 and 5; I am ordering them hot chocolates. We find a Magic 8 ball by the cash register.

Annie: Oh, you guys! Check this out – you shake it and ask it a question, and it tells you the answer.

Big Brother [enthusiastically]: Cool! Will I be a spy someday? … YES!

Little Brother [shake shake shake, then holding the ball close to his face, softly whispers]: I love you.

Big Brother: Hey, that’s not a question. Here, let me try – am I going to die soon? Not likely. AWESOME!

Little Brother [shake shake shake, thinking hard, then]: I wish I had a squirrel club.

Big Brother [now angry]: NO. That is NOT a question. A question has to have an answer.

Little Brother [thinking hard, finally the light going on, then tentatively asking]: Um… is mouses bad?

– – – – – – – –

BONUS FEATURE:
When I took them home that day, I thought it would be cool to continue with the same future-predicting theme. So I took two blocks from their wooden block set, and used a Sharpie to write different answers on each side – sort of a dice they could roll for answers. Little Brother immediately took his and ran to his room.

And when I cracked the door to check on him, he was standing against the wall, and with one giant, dramatic roll of the dice across the floor, he yelled, “DO YOU LIKE EAGLES?”

– – – – – – – –

Happy weekend. I wish I had a squirrel club, too.

Making strides

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

When I moved to Nashville, I had two goals: to play at the Bluebird Café, and to run a half-marathon. Let me say it again: SQUEEEEEEE! But the running thing is still… how should I say… in process.

I hate to run. The other night, I tried to go running, but called it quits after a mile and a half. I am not “Chariots of Fire” material; however, should they ever make a movie called “Lazy Lass,” I will be the leading lady. I think that God created me with the spiritual gift of lying in bed watching “Oprah” and drinking wine – it’s in my genes. Every ounce of energy that I expend is a battle – one that I am willing to fight, but not something that comes easily.

But my friend Hunter tells me that anyone can be a runner.

A few weeks ago, I heard about a running group that meets on Wednesday evenings in East Nashville, and runs a 3-4 mile route. That’s farther than I’m used to running, but thinking that I might find more motivation by joining a pack of people than doing it on my own, I showed up last night.

The route was 4.32 miles. I need to say it: GOOD LORD. I had never run that far in my life. But when I looked at the clock, and then did the math, I realized that I was going to HAVE to run the entire thing – no walking, no resting – because I had the Handy Graham coming over at 7:30. And if I was going to make it home in time, I had to RUN.

As one who doesn’t have many opportunities to “achieve” or “accomplish” in her everyday work-life, it was a HUGE satisfaction to run, and finish, and do something that I didn’t think I could do. I ran – I ran slowly, but I ran. I was home in time. And I felt proud.

By the way, if you live in Nashville, hire Handy Graham. He’s great. AND, he was voted “Best Handyman” in the Nashville Scenesee? I know. I have impressive friends.

Input, output / What goes in is what comes out

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Sometimes I wonder if this blog gets the best of me – the best of my creativity, the best of my concentration, the best of my time and efforts. I have been posting nearly every day for a long time now, and I have occasionally greeted the computer screen with nothing to say, and after wracking my brain, have come up with something banal at best. No one should have to read about the weather (even though I write about it), what I’m doing at my desk (even though I show you), or what I dreamed about the night before (even though… no, never mind, still not interesting).

I recently told my mom that I am consciously making the decision to not feel guilty about my lack of prolificacy when it comes to songwriting – there is enough that I already feel an unnecessary amount of guilt about in my life, so why add to the heap? Unlike many Nashville songwriters, I write simply when something hits me – it could be weekly, it could be monthly, it could be seasonally. Writing this way might never make me any money, and might not lead to a “career” as a songwriter, but I think it will lead to an overall enjoyment of the craft.

The same needs to go for this site. My routine of posting every morning, Monday through Friday, has been a good practice in writing for me. But I need to not feel guilty if I don’t have something to say, something to post. Before I can produce, I need to consume – through reading, and thinking, and observing, and mulling things over. I need to interact with people (real humans), and go running, and listen, and nest, and camp in the rain (this Friday night’s event, God help me). I need to spend time living in order to find things to write about.

So in the coming days and weeks, I might not post as regularly. Or maybe I will – I don’t know. I suppose I’m just giving myself permission to let the thoughts ebb and flow, and to hold off until the light goes on.

Or to wait until I get a text message like the one I got this morning:

Today I get to eat gator-on-a-stick and see the smallest girl in the world. Jealous?

Because THAT is something worth sharing.

Sisters

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

My little sister Sarah came to visit this weekend. Isn’t she beautiful?

She is all good things: sunshine and light and compassion and loyalty. Where I am sardonic and blunt, she is genuine and measured. Where I am an eye roll, she is a kind word. Where I am a sneer, she is a laugh. She is going to be an incredible nurse soon, and will not be held back. Africa is on her horizon.

But I’ll keep her as long as I can.


Tuesday Snoozday from Annie Parsons on Vimeo.

M is for Magic

Monday, October 20th, 2008

(A word of caution:
Prepare yourself not for art, or beauty, or wisdom, or humor, or insight…
but simply for an explosion of my heart.)

Remember this mysterious, ambiguous entry?

I received an email this morning:

Annie,
Congratulations! You’ve passed our audition process…

And on June 21, 2009, I’ll be fulfilling one of my biggest dreams and playing at the Bluebird Café.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!

I am completely speechless.

I wish I could say that I rocked my audition, but… I didn’t. No, really – I DIDN’T. I was certain – sure – POSITIVE – that I wasn’t going to make it. I have never felt nerves like I felt that day; I could barely play my guitar, which is bad since I can barely play my guitar ANYWAY. I messed up the words to my song. I was freezing cold. I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t think straight. I have been nervous before, but have always been able to reason myself out of it. This time, I was completely out of control – no amount of self-talk or deep breathing or sheer force of will could calm me down.

I never in a million years expected to have made the cut. To some one else, this might not feel like a big deal. To me, it’s an answer. It’s confirmation. It’s hope. It’s the entire world.

I cannot believe it.

Dream your dreams, kids.