Thursday, February 27, 2014

Another song, another story

This week's journal prompt brought a lot of music to mind. I wrote about a couple experiences here; talking with my husband over dinner recently reminded me of another.

Steve and I were visiting his brother's family; on one of our last days with them, we gathered in the living room. It wasn't really planned, it seemed like it just sort of happened. Steve's brother, Chris; Chris's wife, Jodie; their daughters Marin and Ellie, and their son Jack. They had pulled out a song book - music Steve and Chris had written together when they were younger, or other songs that they liked. They are very talented musically, which makes me a little jealous.

Chris or Steve was playing guitar - I forget which. Marin was on the floor between them, singing along and turning the pages of the music book when appropriate. Everyone was singing, except for me (it's only polite really, I'm terrible at it). I was sitting on a small loveseat enjoying their enthusiasm. Ellie, six or seven at the time and adorably blond and tiny, climbed up next to me on the sofa and snuggled against my shoulder. Sitting in their home and enjoying their music and their family, I felt completely at peace.

I didn't really know them at all - in fact, I'd met them mere days before. Normally, such an experience would make me feel out of place and awkward - not being able to contribute to the fun happening around me, and not being the sort to sit around and sing with even my own family let alone someone else's, but I didn't feel out of place or awkward. Being a part of their family moment, cuddling with a child I barely knew, I felt comfortable. I felt like I belonged with them. I wanted them to be my family and I loved them before I knew them.

They sang several songs that morning, but the one that is connected to my feelings of belonging was Being Around by the Lemonheads. I was familiar with this song in high school, but I have connections to it now that I never had before. If you're not familiar with this song, go download it and listen to it right now. The original isn't as good as what my family produces (sorry, Lemonheads) but it deserves to be heard.

The part that got me that day, and continues to toggle that music-ache inside me every time I hear it, is this line: "would you trust me, not to break you? I'm just trying really hard to make you notice me being around."

Steve's family is amazing; they are kind and compassionate and loving. They accepted me straight away, despite all the things about me that felt unacceptable. They treated me like I was part of the family from the very first and when I hear this song I recall that trip and the days so filled with love and new friendships; I recall Ellie, who showed me affection with the simple clarity of a cuddle; and I feel the overwhelming sense of joy at just being around new family, who I really do trust not to break me.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Something awful has happened here. Please look away for the time being.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Journal day: A story and a song

This week's Journal Day prompt, courtesy of Danielle who blogs at Sometimes Sweet, is about music. I love music. I am not musically inclined, don't understand sheet music or notes, and can't sing to save my own life - but music is transformative for me. From tears to screaming out my rage to utter joy, music toggles something inside me that almost nothing else can touch.

There are so many songs that bring up near-visceral recall. Memories from childhood, from my teens, early days of my relationship with Colin - we bonded over music really, both recognising how music can shape a soul and inform thoughts. I feel like I am moving through life to a soundtrack, so I have a lot of songs that come to mind. One memory in particular was either my third or fourth tattoo; it's the title of a song by The Ramones on my left hip. I was on a business trip for work and had a chance to stop in to visit a friend who lived in the area. Her husband is a tattoo artist, so I had him do the ink. He'd never heard of the song and he wanted to get into the feel of it, so I played the song on my iPod while he did the tattoo. I first heard this particular song when I was 12 or 13 and it stayed with me forever after that, representing something both immature and future-shaping for me. Listening to the song while getting the tattoo was a pretty cool experience.

What I would really like to write about though, is "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray. This song has been covered many times and I want to say that I first heard a version by the Doobie Brothers or Steppenwolf or someone like that, but I can't really be certain.

When I was a girl I was very close to my dad. I didn't see him often, but the memories I have are of us out in his work shop - Dad working on his motorcycle and me perched on a stool nearby, handing him tools and asking him questions. The radio -and I'm talking AM/FM here, folks- was on a rock and roll station and there were a few songs that, when they'd come on, we would stop what we were doing and would sing at the top of our lungs.

My dad is kind of a complicated guy. He wasn't a goofy dad like some guys are. He didn't tell dumb jokes or act funny or "pal around." He was serious and quiet; I am the same, and was as a child too. We didn't really let go and be silly too often, so those moments of loud singing (and maybe a little air guitar or pantomimed microphone singing) stand out for me. In retrospect, that's when I felt most connected to my dad. When there was nothing more important than singing out loud and letting that music take over. To 'drift away' and let our souls be free - from worry, and obligations not met. Free from disappointment and from the pain of stuff that didn't work out. To be free from expectations and responsibility and shame.

I hear this song now, and it hits me in a place I am not always aware of - a place where sounds have substance and music can rub me raw. When I hear this song I feel confused, because life is weird and my child-self was in constant torment because I so desperately wanted to be a grown up.

And I feel hopeful. My grownup self knows how to overcome obstacles and pain, and it knows how to find answers.

And I feel useless - sometimes spending time on pursuits that don't help me, on things that are contrary to my goals in life. Or when I forget that I have goals, and instead just let life happen around me.

And I feel overwhelmed. By the world and by my own inability or unwillingness to do the right thing; by the actions and behaviour of others. By the sheer number of things I have done wrong, or don't do at all, or rebel against.

And I feel grateful - for the people who love me, and can carry me through rough times. Those people who have the ability to uplift me and make me feel better. And for the people who don't try to fix me or my problems, but with whom I can just sit and quietly have an experience.

And above all that, I feel the power of the beat, the power it gives me to shut my brain down and relax, to let the music take over, and scrub away pain and doubt and Monday mornings. In its place is left a quiet acknowledgment that life is still confusing and weird, and sometimes it hurts so much that I'm surprised I am not bleeding from somewhere important, but for the next 3 minutes and 53 seconds I can lose myself in joy, in the people who believe in me, and in the rhythm and rhyme and harmony.

For those few minutes I can remember being really connected with my dad, and I can free my soul, and get lost in the rock and roll and, well... I can drift away.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Journal day: Crossroads

I've been at or through or near many in my life. Few felt like such at the time, which I think is how the majority of us experience a crossroads. It's the hindsight, the looking back, that really tells us we were there.

Which brings up a strange point for me - it's when I look back at my decisions through the filters of wisdom and experience that I realise I was ever at a crossroads to begin with. That's what leads me to feeling like I made the right-or-wrong choice, but only based on what I think the potential outcome of the other choice, the road not taken, might have been.

Might have been is a phrase I sort of hate. My inner Buddhist rejects the notion of what might have been and instead always wants to focus on what is. My not-so-inner worry-er usually wins and then my worrying Buddhist is fretting over how I could have made different choices but is also feeling very Zen about it.

I have often thought of my decision to marry Colin as having been one of those moments - the action that started me down the path that I feel like I'm on today. I don't know what sort of life I might have built for myself had I not married him, but I know precisely how he changed me. So many of the filters I use to examine and understand life were formed because of his presence in my life, his influence on my thinking, and because of his death.

My experiences with Colin and his death are responsible in part for my eventual conversion and subsequent joining of the LDS church. His suicide left me broken - heart-broken, spirit-broken, life-broken. It took some time - five years or ten minutes - before I realised I needed some spirituality in my life. I needed something that would help me make sense of myself, make sense of the confusion and the anger and the ugly parts of life.

I didn't find the church right away. In fact, I didn't find the church for another twelve years. What I found instead was a desire to learn and to grow; a desire to find answers, or more commonly, to be okay with not having enough answers. More than anything, I just wanted to find something that made the ache go away. The problem with such an ache is - it doesn't go away. It sits, big and empty and perfectly happy to chew at the edges of my sanity and my happiness. I haven't yet found the thing that makes the ache go away, and truthfully, I think such a thing doesn't exist.

What I have found is a purpose for the aching. I have found opportunities for personal and spiritual growth that I honestly do not believe would have been possible if Colin hadn't died the way he did. And that's why I feel like he set my feet on this path.

I'm not sure where that leaves me. What was my crossroads? Was it marrying Colin at the ridiculously young age of 20? Was it facing his death two years later, or was it when I figured out that I needed a sense of spirituality in my life in order to put myself back together? Was it gaining a testimony of the church and becoming Mormon? I feel like the answer is both C) all of the above and D) none of the above.

I reflect back to the influences of Buddhism, which teach us to be fully engaged in our present moment and neither worry about the past nor attempt to perfectly coordinate our future. Because, oh, I would if I could but... where's the adventure in that?

Thanks to Danielle over at Sometimes Sweet for the journal prompt and for sharing her writing.

Monday, February 17, 2014


Sometimes I read through past blog posts here and I fall in love with my own words.

Sometimes I read through the comments and I fall in love with your words.

Sometimes I read about things I have written and I cringe.

Sometimes I want to delete every single word.

Sometimes I want to be anonymous again.

Sometimes I want to carve out bits and pieces of my soul and paste them here for you to see, and other times I want to write about nothing more serious than bunny rabbits and rainbows.

And then I remember that I hate bunny rabbits.

And I hate censorship.And I hate hiding my true self.

And I hate hating.

Oat-nut-cranberry (or not) muffins

I got a little domestic today. Recipe and inspiration from Ashley, who blogs over at Not So Molly. Not only is the recipe quick and easy, clean up is a breeze - and that's a must or chances of me ever trying anything new go right out the window. I also like how adaptable this recipe seems to be. I was missing finely minced candied lemon peel - because who has that just hanging around in their pantry?

(I did have dried cranberry on hand for the first time in my life because I'm all healthy and stuff now and I put it in my oatmeal)

Throw everything into a bowl and mix it up - save the nuts and fruit if your husband is squeamish about healthy stuff.

Different coloured muffin liners help differentiate between boring muffins and those with extra delicious in them.

Side note: I used my nutri-bullet to chop up the almonds and walnuts - which turned it into finely ground nut-dust. Kinda handy for hiding the texture of nuts from aforementioned Squeamish Husband in future kitchen experiments.

20 minutes in my convection oven was perfect - a minute or two fewer might have been good as well. Suggested pairings include honey-butter, which sounds amazing but was too much work for me. I didn't even wait for these to cool before trying one.

Oh, and these muffins are delicious - if you're wondering.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Snow: gross, but pretty

When we first brought Riker home from the adoption centre, he refused to go outside when it was raining. We would have to force him to go out for potty. He still doesn't care too much for the rain, but evidently he loves the snow.

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