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Boy oh boy band

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Half a lifetime ago, I was somewhat of a boy band aficionado. My childhood was soaked in New Kids on the Block, but things really picked up speed in the late 90s when we had so many options: Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, and the ultimate, NSYNC.

I was obsessed with NSYNC. I knew every piece of trivia, every nuance to every song (remember when Justin dropped down the shaft and landed in a crouch and then did that chin-lift/smile at the camera and we all dropped dead of love?), and the fact that JC’s last name was pronounced “sha-ZAY.” When I was 17, Laura and I drove 5 hours to Denver for their show at Mile High Stadium, and after the opening acts (Pink and Sisqo), screamed like maniacs along with tens of thousands of other girls. It was their “No Strings Attached” tour – you know the one. The one in which they were lowered to the stage like marionettes? YES.

nsync

When I went to college and became an adult in the eyes of the law, NSYNC dropped on the list of “things worth losing my mind over.” I realized that I probably wasn’t going to wind up marrying JC. Justin was going solo. Lance had been batting for the other team all along. Besides, at that point there was SO MUCH Shania and Faith and Martina and Dixie Chicks to listen to. I heard about the new groups – O-Town and Westlife and eventually the Jonas Brothers – but really, the boy band era was over for me.

But that phase couldn’t last forever. Because One Direction.

One Direction burst on the scene a few years ago with the kind of hooky, catchy, bubblegum pop appropriate for their fresh-faced, teenage selves. They spun on the beach and played in the waves with their arms spread and bounced a lot. They were babies. And I tuned them out. Sure, I knew their big songs from the radio – but I wasn’t paying attention. I certainly didn’t know any of their names.

1D

That was then. But this is now. HARRY ZAYN LOUIS LIAM NIALL.

Say what you will about my musical taste – but about a year ago, I heard “Story of My Life” and thought, “This is surprisingly good.” So I looked up the video, and found them all… adorable. Suddenly I was captivated by these guys – not in a predatory, pedophile kind of way (ew), but just because they’re incredibly likeable. They’re funny. They’re well-spoken. And despite millions of dollars and a mind-boggling level of fame, they’ve somehow managed not to go the way of Justin Bieber (that is, psychotic).

one direction

I don’t want to marry them – I just want to cook them soup.

I think that what I like most about these guys is that with the exception of Harry (who between his style, charisma, and swagger is obviously Best in Show), I don’t think they were destined to be famous. They have average-to-good voices. They have average-to-good looks. They DO have fantastic hair, every one of them – but if they’d never had a stylist, they’d still look like they did before fame:

OneDirection

But they had a chance at fame and jumped on it. What are the odds?

Recently, in an effort to ignore all of the horrible news in the world, I went on a YouTube binge and watched, um, A LOT of videos of these guys – because if you have a choice between depression and joy, please just choose joy. One Direction is so much better than fear and sadness and terrorism (no one can challenge that statement). Anyway, this “research” led me to some opinions – which I will share here in a bulleted list:

  • Their voices, best to worst: Liam, Harry, Zayn, Niall, Louis.
  • Their current hair, best to worst: Harry, Zayn, Niall, Louis, Liam.
  • Their style, best to worst: TIE BETWEEN ALL OF THEM. Good job, stylist.
  • Who I want to hang out with, most to least: Niall, Harry, Louis, Liam, Zayn.
  • Current favorite song: “Steal My Girl,” duh.
  • Sure, Harry is the favorite of millions of girls. But that still leaves at least several hundred thousand girls who find each of the other guys their favorite. So no one can feel sorry for any of them.

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably a 14-year old girl and my new best friend.  And if after all this you STILL can’t get behind One Direction, at least watch this cover of “Story of My Life.”

Okay, and fine – also watch this. It’s a nugget of fun:

Writing as light

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The darkness of this world has been weighing me down and sucking me under, cinderblocks tied to my ankles. You know what I’m talking about; all the news is bad. Every day is full of incessant sound bites, ISIS and Syria and Ebola and child abuse and gunmen hiding in the woods. It’s enough to give even the most stalwart a panic attack.

My heart has been beating more rapidly these days, and my fingers have been twitching. It’s not that I’m necessarily afraid for myself (although perhaps I should be). But at a very physical level, this world is not a safe place – and yet here we are, living complicated lives that slap against others’ complicated lives like BBs in a pinball machine. Life should come with a warning: Brace yourself – this is gonna hurt.

Which is why this weekend meant so much to me.

I was invited to attend a workshop called the Art of Songwriting hosted by the Nashville Treehouse. It was fairly last minute, and I had to rearrange some pre-existing travel (to Seattle – which is a trip I’ll need to make up soon). But the writer in me has been in need of some TLC (not this) (or this), and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Fifteen women gathered for two days, and we had a chance to share songs, share stories, co-write, and learn from each other. It could so easily have turned into a competitive game of comparison – because shoot, these ladies could WRITE – but somehow, everyone seemed to bring their most authentic self and check any ego at the door. I was shocked. It was beautiful.

As I drove to the Treehouse, I made a conscious decision to shut the door on all of the darkness and stress and jam it with a folding chair.

And sometime during those two days, full of freedom and light and encouragement, it occurred to me that jamming the door is nothing new for me. I’ve been a professional door slammer since I was 14 (just ask my parents) – but in the last couple of years, I’ve been jamming it in the wrong direction. I’ve been doing it to my writing. I’ve blocked it out, said no, curled up in the dark closet where it’s “safe,” hoping that the boogeyman doesn’t find me.

But the only way to scare off the monsters is to bathe them in LIGHT. And that’s what writing is for me: pure luminosity.

I had forgotten. But this weekend reminded me, and I’m grateful. Kim and Paulette, thank you for hosting us – and Abby for this beautiful video!

The Art of Songwriting Sneak Peek from Nashville Treehouse on Vimeo.

All That I Want

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

It’s been awhile, but I’ve written a new song.

I love this description of the creative process, especially because it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who experiences #3 and #4. Actually, I tend to get stuck there – which is probably why I finish so few creative endeavors these days.

But I pushed myself to finish this one, and even though I want to apologize for its imperfections, I’m making myself share it. Even if it’s just a work tape and even if my guitar skills are bad and even if I’m not sure about certain parts SEE I NEED TO STOP APOLOGIZING AND JUST PUT IT OUT THERE.

Because you guys are safe, right? Thanks for listening.

:::::

[I’ve taken the track down for now. Maybe you’ll hear it again someday.]

Duluth

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

This past summer, I helped run a singer-songwriter contest at work. This was one of the entries.

Is that guy Minnesota or what?

Gabriel Douglas wound up being one of the winners of the contest, and I met him in San Diego when he opened for Gregory Alan Isakov. His personality is bigger than life (as is his beard); he’s like a caricature of himself. He’s out of control. And since he makes me laugh A LOT, we became fast friends.

When we met, one of the first things he said to me was, “Duluth is the greatest city in the world.” Duluth. Duluth, Minnesota. The song above is about Duluth, Minnesota. And geographical chauvinist that I am, I knew that this could not possibly be true – Gabe Douglas must be very sheltered. Minnesotans must never get out.

Those humble Midwesterners – they’re so precious.

But when a work trip took me to Minneapolis last week, I decided to make the jaunt north on Friday night to hear one of Gabe’s bands play in – you guessed it – Duluth.

And I loved it.

Duluth is nestled on the shore of Lake Superior, built right up on a hillside. When I-35 dropped down toward the city, the lights were sparkling on the water and the stars were bright as flashbulbs. I used all of my hotel points for a room on the waterfront, and then walked up the hill to the little downtown strip.

We spent most of the evening at Tycoons, a bar/restaurant that used to be the City Hall, with a speakeasy in the basement that used to be the town jail, all “Not in Nottingham” style. Since Gabe was my only friend and he was busy being the Most Popular Man in Duluth, I made friends with the locals. By the time the show was over, I’d social butterflied my way around town, crashing into bed at 3am because Duluth makes you wild and crazy.

The next morning involved a stroll along the water, coffee at a bakery called Amazing Grace, and – once again – the confirmation that my assumptions aren’t always right. Of all places, I can’t wait to go back to Duluth, Minnesota. It charmed me.

[And speaking of charming, listen to this song Gabe wrote for his niece on her 3rd birthday. It’s magic. You’ll be happy the rest of the day.]

Like family

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Okay. I’m back. I’ve begrudgingly re-entered Real Life after being whisked away for a week in Never-Neverland – that is, a week in California with Gregory Alan Isakov and a related cast of characters.

You know the situation – LÄRABAR held a singer-songwriter contest and three artists won a chance to open for Greg – and since this project was my baby, I flew west to manage the shows. We started in San Diego, then moved up to LA, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco. We wound up the PCH, and I visited San Francisco for the first (but surely not the last) time. I got some much-needed quality time with my sister-in-law, Ashley. And all week long, I fell more and more head-over-heels for my new friends – the contest winners, the Kris Orlowski guys, and of course, Sir GAI and his band.

There is something about getting away from the day-to-day routine that snaps you out of bad habits and ruts. It opens up the horizon and awakens possibility. It reveals fears and insecurities and the places where you grasp for control. And as one of these dear new friends reminded me one night, the thing that you’re clinging most tightly to is probably the thing you most need to let go of.

He’s right, you know. The only way to receive anything is to open your hands.

I’m back in Denver now, and opening up Outlook crumpled my soul like a piece of paper. Email is a hazard of any job, I know – it just feels particularly cruel after such a rejuvenating time AWAY from it.

I’m so sad that this project is over. But last week slapped my heart awake, and I’m just really thankful that it happened at all. I can’t pretend to know how or why it made me feel this way, but here it is: I trust that there is so much good ahead.

In the meantime, check out the pictures from the shows, captured by the one and only Ashley Parsons:
San Diego
Santa Barbara
San Francisco

On Friday night when the goodbyes were happening and I was dreading walking away, Greg hugged me and said, “This feels like family.” And it did.

The best kind of busy

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

I don’t write a ton about my day-to-day goings on at work, but trust me when I say they are many, and they are crazy. My to-do list never ends, and my schedule never stops. I know I’m not alone when I say this, but still: I am busy all the time.

Luckily, I like a lot of my projects, and none more so than THIS.

LARABAR Simple Singer-Songwriter Contest

[It’s okay, I’ll wait. Check out the link and then come back.]

Okay. Is this right in my wheelhouse or what?

First of all, if you don’t know who Gregory Alan Isakov is, you need to change that right now. He’s an amazing talent, and a great guy, to boot. He has a new record out called “The Weatherman,” and it’s all I see people talking about in my Facebook newsfeed this week. It’s really, really good – and I’m lucky enough to be joining him for 3 tour dates in August when the LÄRABAR contest winners perform during his shows.

Do you want in on this? Here are a few ways you can be involved:

1)      If you’re a singer-songwriter (and I know a lot of you are!), enter the contest. We want to hear your songs – and if you win, you’ll be hanging out with me in California next month (the real prize, let’s be honest).

2)      If you’re not a singer-songwriter, pass the contest along to anyone you know who is.

3)      If you live in California, get tickets to GAI’s San Diego, Santa Barbara, or San Francisco show – and let me know you’ll be there, because I’d like to hug you. I’ll probably be at the Los Angeles show, too.

4)      If you live anywhere else in the US or Canada, go see GAI. He’s touring all over this summer, and you’ll love him.

I’m busy. But this project is the best kind of busy. In the midst of the stress and the chaos, I feel really lucky to have the chance to work on something fun, something that makes me happy.

Ins-and-outs

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Lately, I’ve been using this space for a lot of personal processing, and just realized that I’ve neglected to update you on some of my actual goings-on. Yes, I am just that pompous to believe that the world is desperate to know about the ins-and-outs of my everyday life – so without further ado…

1) I cut off my hair: 10+ inches on the salon floor, leaving me feeling like a sassmuffin. My hair hasn’t been this short since 2008, and I’m ready to go even shorter next time.

2) It’s hard to tell what’s been the worst expenditure of the past week: head gasket repair, new clutch, 4 new tires, bill from the ER, or dental work. When it rains, it pours. And I cry.

3) If you want to believe in magic, watch “Searching for Sugar Man.” I haven’t been so captivated by a documentary in ages.

4) Today, I’m wearing a grandma shirt. No really, it used to be my grandma’s. It’s a red and black silk houndstooth print with a high neck and puffed long sleeves that cinch at the wrists. It’s the most old lady thing in the world, and I kind of love it.

5) Lissie’s cover of “You Can Go Your Own Way” is haunting and beautiful and completely transformative of the original. And I know what you’re thinking: you wonder if this means that I saw the movie “Safe Haven.” And the answer is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

6) The things I am currently most looking forward to: eating here in March, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity next weekend, and Greta’s arrival tomorrow night. Praise be.

Wherever you are, I hope that it’s warmer than it is right now in Denver. Someone put me on a beach so fast.

Joy to the World Wide Web

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Thanks to our office Christmas lunch yesterday afternoon, I had the chance to spring out of work early and take myself on my standard 9-mile walk.

Wearing my new Patagonia Nano Puff jacket (which is the perfect weight and warmth for winter in Denver), I booked it from Sunnyside down through LoHi, across the Highlands to Sloan’s Lake. I looped the lake just in time to look back and see this sunset.

Given that the only daylight I see anymore is on my drive to work in the morning, witnessing this was a rare gift.

As I turned toward home and the light faded from the sky, I had the thought that an amazing(ly horrible) holiday album would be “Jolly Old St. Nickelback.” And as is the case with ALL of my genius ideas (trust me, there are plenty), I posted that very thought on Facebook this morning.

Little did I know that my friends would take it to a whole new level.

With a little help from my friends, I present to you:

Holiday Albums That Should (Never) Happen
What Destiny’s Child Is This?
We Three Kings of Leon
Mary J. Blige, Did You Know?
Santa Babyface
O Come All Ye Faith Hill
The Friendly Beastie Boys
The First No-LMFAO
It Came Upon a Midnight Everclear
Deck the Hall and Oats
Little Drummer Boyz II Men
O Come O Come EmmanuElton John

Joy to the World Wide Web, y’all. And joy to your Wednesday.

Tuesday love

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

BOOK
I just finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  I can’t tell you what this book did to my heart.  I can tell you that wherever life takes me next, I’m going on a major backpacking trip first.  If you know me at all, you’ve already heard me talk about it.

SONG
Say what you will about Taylor Swift’s latest album, but I can tell you this: “All Too Well” is classic Taylor, and it hits me in the gut.

QUOTE
“How we spend our minutes is how we spend our lives.”  I don’t know who’s credited with coining that phrase, but it’s hitting home for me these days.  I want to spend my minutes well – which means, ugh, maybe I need to stop watching “Dawson’s Creek” on Netflix.

PLAN
I recently volunteered to be bumped from a flight in exchange for a travel voucher.  I’ve decided that I want to use it on a solo vacation somewhere peaceful in early 2013.  Requirements: a beach, a kitchen, and plenty of quiet.  Any ideas for where I should go?

May I know whose hand I’m in

Monday, October 1st, 2012

On September 18th, we lost my grandma to pancreatic cancer.  She was diagnosed back in July, and even though we knew that death was coming, it still felt very sudden.

This past Saturday, we laid her to rest in Richland, WA, and then celebrated her life during a 2-hour service at the church she had attended nearly her entire life.  My grandma was widely loved, and the hundreds of people in attendance were confirmation of her gigantic sphere of influence.  She lived her life so well.

This weekend, I was reminded of what it means to be part of a family – the complicated parts and the beautiful parts, the uncertainties, the joys.  To belong to a family means you’re going to laugh and you’re going to cry and you’re going to roll your eyes – and sometimes, you’re going to do all three at once.  Especially when you’re all sharing the 15-passenger church van.

Anyone who knows me (or has visited this site for any length of time) knows that these days, my family looks different than I ever anticipated.  Maybe you feel the same way about your family.  Maybe things have not turned out the way that you planned.  Maybe you assumed one thing with such certainty that your new, unexpected reality causes nothing less than an internal shriek.

Family members were missing.  We are broken and incomplete.  This weekend held moments that were so potent with reminders of the way that things used to be, and will never be again.

People are quick to glibly label those feelings “nostalgia” – but that’s absurd.  These feelings are more important than that.  The lament and longing that come from the loss of a former life that molded you into who you are today are no small matter.

When I was dropped off at the airport yesterday, I told my mom and our friend Sharon, “Going back to Denver feels really lonely.”  And it did – it does.  I left my family members and the town in which I was born, and flew back to Colorado alone.  When I landed, I took the shuttle to the long-term lot where I’d left my Subaru, and headed back toward the city.

As I drove, I remembered that I was missing a show that I had initially planned on attending.  Peter Bradley Adams is one of my favorite songwriters – maybe even my soul mate.  Probably.  Is he married?  Let’s look into this.

PBA writes some of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and I was crushed to be missing his show in Denver.  So I turned on his music, and listened to a song about the loss of place and of belonging – the loss of what was, what might have been, what can never be again.

And yet, his words have a hopeful, trustful bent: “If I wander ‘til I die, may I know whose hand I’m in.”

Of all of the ways I would like to be like her, this is the greatest: all the way to her death, my grandma knew whose hand she was in.  And prone to wander as I am, I hope to continue this legacy.