Sometimes I Say Too Much

Sometimes I say too much.
I wear my emotions like a comfortable blanket and
the need to share my excitement can not be contained.
I’m not one to mask my feelings.
I’m not good at it.
Get a few beers in me and
I’ll tell you my life story.
Hell, I’ll tell you my story anyway.
There is a need to purge myself
of my flaws and
hope that others will learn
from my stupid mistakes.
I am honest to a fault, but
horde certain parts of myself like
a shroud never to see the light of day.
I care about how others see me and
I like to be liked.
There are days however, that
I long to just pack up and go
where no one knows my name.
To be that random girl that you meet
in a coffee shop,
have a great conversation with,
and then remember from time to time
as if it were a dream.
I am awkward and
too hard on myself.
I over analyze everything until
my soul hurts.
I am a walking contradiction.
I am an introvert and
a social butterfly.
I am exhausted with
trying to be someone I’m not.
Where is my Etch a Sketch for life.

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The Hump

I struggle. I struggle with such self doubt on my ability to reach out. I struggle with my need for praise that will push me to do what I love most. I write. I dream. I create and yet I don’t have much faith in myself. I understand this weakness. I know I am not the only one who deals with this. I believe all writers feel or have felt this way and it’s the getting over the hump. The getting to the “fuck you” portion of the process that becomes so difficult. I have been a writer my entire life. I learned to read at the age of four. I was one of those children who smelled the books in the library just to soak in the age and mustiness of the pages. I have at least two books on my shelves that I never returned because I just couldn’t part with them. Oh imagine what those fines would be if I still had the same library card. I beat myself up on a regular basis because I don’t think I have enough to say that would keep others intrigued. I am no different from the fashion designer who is so very talented and desires the recognition that such a fierce world demands. I am no fucking different than the woman wearing a skirt that she hates but understands the power of her legs. I am no different than the mother who wakes up at five o’clock in the morning to make coffee for her husband and lunches for her kids. I am no different than the teacher who taught me to use my words in such a way. Cussing, using flowery language, or speaking from the horrors that live within my mind, I am no different. I rant, I call attention to myself, I plead for recognition, and what have I done? Whined with fury and sadness and lust for a life that I may never achieve. I am writing for the wrong reasons. Writers should write because it’s how they breathe. It’s how they live. It’s how they cope. I will get over this self inflicted hump of mine and write. Flowery words may come through these fingertips of mine, but at least they’re mine.

Thankful

I have seen an endless amount of posts on Facebook this month mentioning what people are thankful for. For every day of the month, people write one thing they are thankful for and although I long to have the discipline to try to do something everyday, I lack the ability to try to sum it all up in one statement a day, so with that being said, this is my month of thanks all rolled into one post.

I am incredibly thankful for the warm snuggly man sleeping upstairs hogging the entire bed in hopes that my side will be warm by the time I join him. When I say he is my best friend, I don’t say these words lightly. He brings out the best parts of myself, understands the worst, and supports me as I travel down the road of life. I have no idea what I would do without him by my side taunting me and helping me to become a better person. He’s exhausting, loving, affectionate, and so very hard on himself and I am so very thankful he is mine.

I am thankful for my son for he is why I am here today. I am so very proud of the sweet, intelligent, and talented man he has become. Every heartache he brings and every smile he inflicts is a testament to me doing something right. Becoming a mommy at the age of eighteen is never an easy thing and I would never recommend it to someone. However, because we grew up together, his opinion of me is just as important as my opinion of him and I have an incredible desire for him to be just as proud of the woman who loved him first. I am so glad his little soul found mine all those years ago.

I am thankful for my beautiful daughter with her wild, loving, and affectionate heart. I am so proud of how she grasps her own personality and struggles while she finds others who will accept it rather than changing for those who don’t. I love her giving nature and how she doesn’t understand how humans can be so mean to each other. I am thankful for her desire to still snuggle with her Mama before she starts her day at the tender age of eleven and I am so thankful for her ability to march to the beat of her own drum when so many others don’t have the courage.

I am thankful for my amazing father. He has truly become one of my best friends. He has picked me up at my weakest moments, praised me when I needed it most, given me words of advice, and hugged me when I just needed a daddy, very very badly. He was the first man I ever loved and the role model in which I have judged all others. We are too much a like and have moments in which we lash out, but I am the parent I am today because he showed me how it’s done.

I am thankful for my fabulous siblings. Not only because they are the link to my past and future, but because of the people they are today. I am thankful for every single phone call my sister makes to me, even when she makes claims of stalking. Her support of me is so very loved and needed. She is my personal cheerleader in life and I could never imagine a moment without her. I am thankful for the strength of her outstanding husband and her loving kids. My brother has become the man I always knew he would become. I am thankful for the strength he has within himself to have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. He is beautiful, proud, and softer than he appears. I am thankful for the lovely woman he has brought into our lives and his gorgeous daughter. I am thankful for my other brother in his ability to straddle the lines between two families with such grace. It is never easy being a child caught between a blended family. We claimed him as our own years ago and ours he continues to be.

I am thankful for the open arms of my fabulous in-laws. They accepted me and my son in a time when I was so unsure of myself. They showed me such love and I continue to be humbled and honored to not only have them as my own, but for their giving nature and ability to continue to inspire me to be better than I could ever hope to be. I am also thankful they have raised such an amazing son for without their guidance, I wouldn’t have the husband I have today.

I am thankful for my job. Yes, the one I gripe about on a regular basis. It has given me the opportunity to not only work full time, but be a Mommy. I have been able to go on field trips and participate in activities without having to always use vacation time. I have managers that although drive me batty, are willing to work around children sick days, me going back to school, family emergencies, and on some days just simply having the desire to leave early because everyone needs to play hooky every once in awhile.

I am thankful for quiet nights and moonlit skies. I am thankful for the guitar pic in my pocket and the dear friend I was with when I got it. I am thankful for wine and girl nights and my cats when they’re warming my lap when no amount of clothing will ease the chill. I am thankful for road trips and strangers who never need to know my name. I am thankful for my Mother and all the things she taught me in her short life. I am thankful for my pillow and coffee and old movies and Johnny Depp. I am thankful for my step-mother and her constant desire to be everyone’s something and yet never her own. I am thankful for her friendship although it’s not what it used to be. I am thankful for my Grandmother. For her years of insight, love, support, and honesty. I am thankful for my family and I’m thankful for my friends.

So, before this list of thankfulness gets any longer, take a moment and list the things you’re thankful for. List even the bad things that may have turned good in the end. List even the smallest thing. Be sappy about it, be brave, and then go out and spread it around. There are those out there who have so very little to be thankful for. Be the change.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The Beauty of Music in the Ear of the Beholder

I was a child of the 70’s and 80’s with a father who was a former DJ and an avid music enthusiast. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t see four to six albums propped up next to the turntable stand ready to be listened to and carefully dissected. Before an album played, Dad allowed one of us kids to gently brush off the dust with a cleaner while he set the turntable in motion. Our household grooved to The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Sam Cooke on Saturday mornings as we went about our chores. We sang along with James Taylor, Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, and John Cougar Mellencamp while dinner was being made and I personally longed for the day I could belt out a song like Janis Joplin and Whitney Houston. I fell in love with The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Boz Scaggs while wearing headphones far too large for my head and at the age of two, I went running through a record shop yelling, “Elvis, Elvis, Elvis” when I heard the voices of adults mourning him in the August of 1977. As time progressed however, new records came into the house in the form of a cassette after Dad purchased our first JVC cassette deck in 1980. It allowed for us to make mixtapes for road trips and for passing along to friends. The Christmas of 1984, I received my first Panasonic boom box and spent hours recording songs from the radio. In 1988, Dad blew out his speakers while trying out our new CD player for the first time. He was unprepared for the level at which the CD’s had been recorded at and was forced to purchase new speakers. We still had a cassette deck in the car, but the days of having to use a pencil to rewind a tape when the deck went out were fading fast as new and improved technology came onto the scene.

Music technology has had to move and keep up with a generation of people who desire instant gratification. A generation who seems to have lost the desire to peruse a music bin for that gem, that CD that will become a part of their life’s soundtrack. Today, we have MP3 downloading straight to our cell phones, computers, and satellite radio. How far we have come from Thomas Edison’s phonograph. Though technology has certainly changed how we listen to music, is all of it good? Are we losing a battle to hold onto the past? Or, is there a way to hang onto some of our past technologies and move into the future at the same time? Can we have our cake and eat it too?

In the 1940’s Columbia introduced the 331/3 rpm long-playing record. (randomhistory.com)These LP’s were able to hold a total of sixty minutes of music which was unheard of. It’s predecessor, the 78 rpm album could only hold up to three minutes on each side and were more fragile. 45’s were single play records that held up to five minutes on each side and were popular in jukeboxes because they took up less space. (historyofrock.com) By the time cassettes came around we were blessed with up to ninety minutes of tunes, but anyone that ever made a mixtape on one of those, found out very quickly how easily the tape got tangled. CD’s allowed for entire live concerts to be listened to and they didn’t get tangled up like cassettes did. Today, an Apple iPod Classic holds up to 40,000 songs, 200 hours of video, or 25,000 photos all in a little device that fits in the pocket of a pair of skinny jeans. (Apple.com) Technology has progressed quickly and based upon the decline in the selection of CD’s when shopping a brick and mortar store, progress is waiting for no one to catch up. It is moving forward whether we like it or not.

In the video Capturing Sound: How Technology has Changed Music, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18Wl6ws9Als Mark Katz, speaks of his study of the progression of how we listen to recorded music. In his presentation he speaks not only of his book by the same title, but of his findings while writing the book. He has developed what he calls the Phonograph Effect, which is “any change in musical behavior, whether listening, performing or composing, that has arisen in response to sound recording technology”. In a study done by Ipsos Reid, a Canadian company specializing in market research, Katz found that 29% of American respondents reported that their favorite genre of music changed after they started downloading music and 21% indicated that they developed new radio listening habits. The freedom of being able to explore new music became more accessible and people loved the control they gained over their musical listening experience. However, he also touches on the subject of nostalgia when he spoke to a young college woman about her excitement on her fifteenth birthday when she purchased a Flaming Lips CD, but with file sharing all she remembers is sitting in front of her computer. The video was recorded in 2009, so although most of what Katz says is quite relevant, we have already progressed further in our desire and capabilities to access new music. At the time of his findings, file sharing sites like Napster had already been under fire for copyright infringement.

In the article Survival of the Fittest in the New Music Industry, author David Browne covers some of the pros and cons of the direction in which the music industry is going. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/survival-of-the-fittest-in-the-new-music-industry-20121108 Shirley Manson of the band Garbage mentions how after leaving their previous label Geffen, the band now has more creative freedom. Shirley had gone to the label with a solo album that she cut, only to be turned down because it didn’t have any pop songs on it. Browne also goes on to say that in the past, cash advances were given to the bands by the labels to cut the records and make videos and those days are gone. With more people downloading their music, CD sales have hit bottom and in order to make up for the loss, artists are touring longer and even asking fans to contribute to their recording costs through companies like Kickstarter, “a crowd-funding service that lets musicians pay for recording costs by way of contributions from fans”. Artists like Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls were able to raise more than $1 million in contributions from fans, ranging from $25 to $10,000. When asked whether she felt guilty for asking fans for money, she responded that she’s just doing her job as a “working-class musician”. Browne gives a great perspective of what some of the artists think about where the industry is going. He wraps up the article by mentioning the benefits to bands and managers for becoming more savvy and open to working with social media. Not only to sell the music itself, but also sell the tickets to the shows.

We now have listening services like Pandora and Spotify, both of which have free options and if the short commercials drive you batty, for a small fee the listener can upgrade to a premium account. With these services, all you have to do is type in an artist that you like and they will give you multiple other artists that sound similar. On Spotify, you can customize your own playlists, listen to others, and share your findings. On Spotify Radio, the service will customize a “station” based upon a listener’s personal playlist. The possibilities for a music lover is endless. The question that I often battle with though is for every artist that a listener may like, there are fifty more artists that sound just like them. This may be great for an artist that in the past may never have received recognition, but at the same time, the industry has become so oversaturated that it’s difficult to remember particular artists. However, this does make the search for that “diamond in the rough” that much more enjoyable when you find them.

For all the advances that technology has made, there are things that were also taken away. The one on one commadre that could be established when speaking to another music fan. While working in a music department, I found the stories of how a person was moved by a particular song or album, fascinating. A song became a memory, a scent, an emotion. It had the power to bring a person back to the first time they heard it. My Dad has told me stories of how he and his buddies would spend hours in the local record shop pouring over the new releases. Devouring them, arguing over what each song meant, and gambling about the outcome of it’s success. New releases forced people to get out into their community and face one another. Gone are the days of having to get up early to be the first person to purchase the new David Bowie or Radiohead CD. Instead, with just one click you can have it downloaded to your favorite listening device. Although the new technologies are outstanding with what they’re are capable of, I can’t help but feel a bit of remorse for what we have lost.

For the girl that grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, no matter how much I love technology and how it spoils us, I’m still a huge fan of vinyl. With a record, the listener is forced to sit down and truly listen. You must have patience and the ability to slow down. Pushing a button to skip to the next song is not an option. The first time I heard Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue I was bewitched by the beauty of it and thrilled to hear the crackle of the vinyl as the needle hit the wax. It’s a comfort sound equal to the taste of a warm peanut butter and jelly sandwich after it’s been sitting in your lunch pail for hours. I was in a record shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the headphones tuned out all other sounds. I couldn’t believe that I had gone my whole life without hearing the magic of this man. Since that fateful day, I’ve listened to Kind of Blue on cassette, CD, and currently I’m listening to it through Spotify, but on a rainy day, I’ll take my vinyl copy off the shelf, turn on my refurbished 1968 Pioneer Pro turntable, let the needle down, close my eyes and let the magic of the man take me back in time where technology was built to last.

The Master and the Cursed

This is a replacement poem based on Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet
Please visit his website http://www.brianturner.org/sections/here-bullet/

If a soul is what you want,
then take my sweat, tears, and blood
Here are the whips and chains
the hand that brings them down
thoughts are what you mask
Here is my heart to break and curse
that damaged flesh, never to be repaired
into the dark abyss. And you ask for
me to forgive you. Because you, wait
here to be brought to your knees
hissing with the pain you have caused others
the concrete slab that I’m lying on
my body racked with hunger and cold,
inside I’m gone, already thinking of beyond
spun in a web of hate, because you, wait
here in your creation, your own personal hell.

Grey Smoke and Pine

This was a class exercise in which we had to write a war scene. Seeing as how I have only witnessed war through the eyes of others and our pop culture, I was a bit out of my element. It was also a difficult subject to write about due to the content and emotions I was finding myself having to deal with as I became attached to the main character. So, without further adieu, I give you Grey Smoke and Pine.

They never said it would be so cold. The dirt and tears on my face have molded into a thick frozen paste and I can’t feel my toes. Are they still there? My lips are cracked and bleeding and I can’t remember the last time I had a bite to eat or felt water filling my mouth. My throat is so dry and I long to hear a familiar voice. I’m all alone in this ditch, with its hard earth cutting into my back. The smell of pine helps to ease the stench of death and memories. I just need to hold out until the sky empties herself of the metal vultures, for I have a letter to deliver.

It was supposed to be a routine raid made with two other platoons. While we thought ourselves to be so clever, we hadn’t anticipated the enemy knowing our plans. It wasn’t until we heard the gunfire and distant screams, that we realized our mistake in believing in our own bluster and courage. Our commanding officer was yelling for retreat when the sound of God taking a flying leap off of Mount Everest came from the southwest corner of the ancient Capital. The horror etched on the faces of the brave men next to me, will haunt me for the rest of my days.

The delivered bomb, cut a mile and a half radius across the grand city. I don’t think we walked more than an eighth of a mile before we came across the dusty debris of fallen stone, wood, and brick. Moaning voices, screams of agony, and the hummed silence of the fallen, mingled with the floating grey mist of blood and flesh. I was numb. This was a dream. I kept pinching myself to see if I would wake up in my room with the picture of Betty Page on the ceiling, but my youth filled prayer was never heard. We continued to stumble through the streets, looking for familiar faces, only to find dogtags lying on the ground next to what once was a human. We collected what we could, knowing that a letter would be sent out to the closest relative. In my selfish thoughts, I was grateful they wouldn’t have to send a letter out for me.

We split into twos in order to find as many of our fallen, before heading back to base. Lucien and I had been friends since primary school and were assigned together to wade through the northwest portion of the city in search of survivors and dogtags. The silence stretched out before us as we kept our heads down and our ears alert. Our moods didn’t lighten as we came across solitary limbs aching to be sewn onto their owners now missing frame. There were no children laughing as we passed a swing that had been attached to the lower limb of a tree, now only a broken stump lying lifeless against Mother Earth. Lucien was kicking up stones and dirt when his foot collided with the unseen undetonated grenade in his path. He was thrown to the ground as I watched in stunned terror, knowing that I couldn’t stop what was coming next.

The fifty or so feet that I ran to get to him seemed like a mile. It wasn’t until I had him cradled in my arms that I realized that the lower half of both of his legs were missing and several pieces of shrapnel protruded from his abdomen. He clung to me as he repeated his mothers name, grabbed my hand in our secret handshake, and took his last breath while uttering “home”. I was choking. I screamed at the sky with mournful agony, cursing our Almighty Father, for his mercy had only caused me sorrow. I took off Lucien’s tags and placed them around my neck, gently picked him up, placed him over my shoulder and began the walk back to where the rest of my platoon planned to meet. When no one was to be seen, I set myself into a deep ditch on the side of the road and laid Lucien next to me. There was a small pine tree that I used for more shelter as I waited for their return.

January wind seeps into my bones as the jets fly overhead. I tune my ears to hear the soft crunch of boots upon frozen earth. The platoon is creeping closer and I will soon hear the hushed voices of lost innocence, fear, and sorrow. My toes are numb and my face hurts with the frozen mask of blood and tears. Thirst and hunger are racking my body and for the first time in my life, I can’t bring myself to pray.

One Step at a Time

I am the Volunteer Coordinator for our bike team that rides in the West Michigan Breakaway Ride for Multiple Sclerosis. This is a title that took me several years to settle into. When my Mother passed away in 1993, I participated in one more local MS Walk before I made the choice to ignore the MS Society and any event it had to offer. I had no interest in being a part of something that would remind me on a regular basis that this was a disease that took Mom away from me. I was angry, furious actually. This was not supposed to happen to the lady that taught me how to swim and climb a tree. She had three kids and a husband who still needed her and this disease could go “suck it” for all I cared. I never had a chance to know her as an adult. I only had her through my teen years, riddled with angst. My brother was only ten when she passed and my sister only fourteen. I would often feel guilty for being the oldest and knowing her longer.

My husband spent another several years gently persuading me to join him at one of the rides. He completely understood my hesitation and never pushed too hard. In the Spring of 2001, I quit smoking and that summer, I climbed Sleeping Bear Dunes all the way to Lake Michigan. I felt amazing and was looking for another kind of physical challenge. The baby step I took that year was the first of a very large step taken later. I had my daughter in the Spring of 2002 and wanted to lose the baby weight that never wants to go away. My husband and I would often discuss the love I had for riding my bike everywhere in my youth and it was then that I made the choice to become active with the MS Society again. That Christmas, I received a stationary bike that I would use to train during the winter, along with a homemade certificate stating I would receive a new bike in the spring and the registration fee was taken care of for the MS150.

I was a rider for three years before I found out that Wisconsin was having their inaugural fifty mile Challenge Walk in October of 2008. I  made the walk my new physical challenge and decided to head up our volunteer team for the Bike MS event. I don’t think that anyone ever truly realizes how far fifty miles is until they walk it. It was one of the most difficult and rewarding challenges I’ve ever faced and I’ve gone back to do it every autumn. This September will be my sixth year.

There is nothing in this world that will bring my Mom back. However, she continues to fuel me. She was a tough cookie. Faithful and stubborn. She was always looking for the next big thing that was going to cure her of the disease, some of which my Dad had to talk her out of because he knew they were gimmicks. With the memory of her battle, I have been given the opportunity to meet and become friends with some of the most amazing people a girl could ever find. Others with MS and those that support them, walk for them, ride for them, run for them, and fight for them. The same disease that surrounded my childhood in such a negative way has helped me through my adulthood in a very positive way. It has cut me open, torn out my heart only to help me heal all over again. I have watched so many people struggle with this disease. I have seen the heartache it causes and the triumph on the faces of those that have just concurred their greatest fear. Whether that be to get on a bike, climb a hill, or simply stand up out of their wheelchair. I have seen the look on a persons face when their legs begin to give out and the stubbornness that gives them the strength to continue or to listen to their body as they decide to sit down. I have allowed tears to stream down my cheeks at candlelight vigils during the Challenge Walks, yelled at the sky, run arm in arm across finish lines, and felt the pain of walking in bad shoes for twenty plus miles. I realize that not everything in life has to be a cause. I also know that some of us have it better than others. I have an outstanding family, terrific kids, a loving husband, and fabulous friends. I believe in spreading the wealth. My wealth happens to be love, a lot of sweat, a loud voice to cheer people on, and two legs that still work. I have been told time and time again how my Mother would be so proud. The truth is I don’t see it that way, for I am the one who is proud to be her daughter.

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