Singing: The Ultimate Detox

Image courtesy of thehoopla.com.au

Image courtesy of thehoopla.com.au

Perhaps it is because I’ll be singing karaoke in January or maybe I just need to howl at the moon—whatever the case, I’ve recently found myself singing loudly, well, everywhere. I do most of my singing on my commute to any one of the three colleges I teach at, but I also sing at home and while running errands.

A while back, I wrote a post on the link between grief and song, but my current penchant for belting out various tunes has me wondering what other connections there might be between singing and everyday life. Here’s a short list of possibilities I’ve come up with:

  • I just like the feeling of being loud
  • Singing acts like a catharsis, a release of frustration (I am a teacher, after all) and, as previously mentioned, grief (I recorded a podcast about my very recent journey with grief after the sudden death of a family member.)
  • I’m super serious about prepping for karaoke
  • One of my not-so-secret wishes is to be a rockstar, and singing loudly helps me live out this dream, even if only for a pretend audience

Whatever the reason (and the list above is by no means exhaustive), I find I always feel refreshed after indulging in some screamo or holding an extra long note. I’m not super into regular “cleanses” that involve only drinking juices or other dietary restrictions, so maybe singing is my detox and way of giving voice (no pun intended) to all that is not language within me yet.

Your turn: Do you like to sing? If so, what are your reasons? Is it for fun or might there be another purpose?

What Makes You Vulnerable?

“My weakness I feel I must finally show.”
Awake My Soul, Mumford and Sons

This post is a bit darker than usual, but I feel I can’t break my hiatus from posting written blog entries until this one is seen.

To answer the question posed in this post’s title: What makes me vulnerable? Asking for help when I am so incredibly depressed I lose my words.

Now let me put this in context: Around the end of June of this year, I felt…off.  I don’t really know how else to describe it. I’m typically fairly calm, content, and level-headed, but I found myself off center. I was snapping at those closest to me and always felt either fuming angry or deeply sad. There was no in between. Thus started three months of the worst depression I have ever faced.

I don’t know where it came from or why it never left during that time period, but there it was when I woke up in the morning, haunting me throughout the day, and keeping me from sleep.  There was much crying and frustration and voices (yes, voices, which makes me sound schizophrenic. But it’s more common than you think.) I couldn’t do anything without crying. I knew there was a problem, but didn’t know what the source was, which near made me go insane.

What was the most maddening for me during this time was the fact that I’m a writer…but I had no words. When my fiancee or a friend or a family member would ask me what was wrong in a genuine attempt to help (which I am so grateful for), I had nothing to tell them. I wasn’t trying to be coy or less of a burden. I legit had no idea what was wrong with me. I eventually stopped reaching out because it seemed pointless.

I kind of felt like Vincent Van Gogh, as portrayed in Doctor Who. During one of Van Gogh’s fits of madness, he has a short conversation with the Doctor:

The Doctor: Vincent, can I help?
Van Gogh: It’s so clear you cannot help. And when you leave—and everyone always leaves—I will be left once more with an empty heart and no hope.
The Doctor: My experience is that there is, you know, surprisingly always hope.
Van Gogh: Then your experience is incomplete! I know how it will end. And it will not end well.

For months, I felt exactly as the artist did in the previous exchange. I felt as if everyone always left me, and I was always alone. I felt like this experience I was having would end very badly.

I don’t think that people should live without hope, but I do think that everyone reaches a point where they truly believe there is none. I agree with Van Gogh in the sense that if someone has not experienced that, then her experience of life is incomplete. But the point isn’t to stay there. It is to rise and get help.

I know it’s a cliche saying, but it is true that sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to go anywhere but up.  That’s where I was, and I decided to just fold into myself. I didn’t reach out, as mentioned before, and tried to deal on my own (This didn’t go well. If you’re experiencing depression, please tell someone). I watched depressing movies so I could cry. Sometimes it was all I could do not to hyperventilate. And in between all this, fielding the voices in my head, and fighting just to go out and see the sun on so-so days, I made it my goal to find words for whatever it was I was feeling.  In the process, I amassed a pretty good collection (some of which I’ve already shared in this post, with more quotes to come).

Now to circle back to the question posed in the beginning of the post: I was vulnerable during my depression, especially because I didn’t have words. But, somehow (and very thankfully), I moved past that to ask for help again. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t pretty. But I started to say, to a trusted few, things like “Something’s wrong,” and “I can’t take this anymore, but I don’t know what to do,” and “I don’t know what this is.” And people stepped in. My fiance, my friends, and family checked in on me. They made sure I had everything I needed. They skyped with me in a minute’s notice. They got me out of my apartment.

It’s hard for me to accept help. I think part of this hearkens back to the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” One of the main characters says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I wanted to soldier through the depression on my own because I wanted to be independent, but I also didn’t want to be a nuisance. The kind gestures of those closest to me showed me that I deserve a love much better than what I originally thought, and I try to carry that knowledge with me wherever I go now.

After getting help, both personal and professional, I’m feeling better. I’ve been ok for about a month now, and I can’t fully express how refreshing it is. I’m back to being myself. I still get frustrated and blue, but it’s manageable and in proportion with the circumstances I face. And I also get happy and smile a lot. But more than that, I’m content. While some may see content as being “middle of the road,” for me, right now, there is no sweeter feeling than to just be satisfied with where I am.

I must give credit where credit is due: There are two web sites (one blog post and one TED talk) that really pushed me to be brave and write this post: Natalie’s “The Lies in Our Heads” and Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability.”  Thank you, ladies, for sharing your stories.

In her TED talk, Brene Brown talks about telling “the story of who you are with your whole heart” and having “the courage to be imperfect.” That’s what this post is for me. That’s why I felt I couldn’t post anything else before I wrote this. I had to learn that being depressed wasn’t my fault. I had to learn that it’s ok to be imperfect and ask for help, spreading that messiness to others who can do something positive. And I needed you, the reader, to know this and, perhaps, let what I’ve learned sink into your own life.

Epilogue: I was seriously thinking of making this a private post just so I could write it, but only for me to see. So why make it public? Because I’m starting to find words and, as a writer, it’s important for me that I put those words out in the open, knowing that this could backfire or that not one person besides myself will read this or care. But even in the times when I don’t believe in myself, I know that risk is worth it, that the written word infused with authenticity has the power to change everything. Aside from authentic human relationships with the closest people in my life, it is all that has ever changed me.

Here are some of the other words I found to help me through my journey and articulate what I was feeling:

“Do not ask the price I paid. I must live with my quiet rage.
Tame the ghosts in my head. They’re unwild and wish me dead.”
Lover’s Eyes, Mumford and Sons

“I feel fine, and I can smile,
But I feel the anger coming.
It’s underneath.
I don’t know why
It’s always overflowing.
It’s a constant fight
Deep inside,
And I wanna forget it.

I confess I’m always afraid, always ashamed
Of what’s inside me.
I confess I’m always afraid, always ashamed
Of what’s inside my head.

And I can breath, and I still feel,
But not the way I want to.
I’m on the edge. I don’t know how
I can escape this nightmare.”
Confession (What’s Inside My Head), RED

“You’re so mean when you talk about yourself. You were wrong.
Change the voices in your head. Make them like you instead.”
Fuckin’ Perfect, Pink

“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
(Thanks for sharing, Stephanie Levy!)

10 Songs that Should be on your iPod (or other MP3 player…)

Album cover for the Evanescence single "G...

Album cover for the Evanescence single “Good Enough”, version 1. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Streamy Awards Photo 1189

Streamy Awards Photo 1189 (Photo credit: The Bui Brothers)

Wordplay (song)

Wordplay (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, now that I embarrassed myself with 10 guilty pleasure songs yesterday, let me make some suggestions for songs that I think should be on everyone’s iPod.  I’ll admit, I do lean towards rock, but I have been on an R&B kick lately (though that didn’t really show through on this list).  Hope you find something you like!  This started turning into classic rock songs that you shouldn’t be without…hopefully further editing has balanced this post out.

1. Living in the Moment – Jason Mraz
This is a great song to serve as a reminder to loosen up and enjoy life.  I tend to keep busier and more stressed than I should, and this song reminds me to “not waste my days making up all kinds of ways to worry about all the things that will not happen to me.”

02 – Living In The Moment

2. Hook It up – Captain Dan and the Scurvy Crew
Pirate Rap. ‘Nuff said

06 Hook It Up

3. Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked – Cage the Elephant
Good song for when you want to feel badass. Just open the windows, put your shades on, and blast this song down the highway!

03 Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked

4. Taxi – Gym Class Heroes
A song made up almost entirely of band names.  As a writer, I find that impressive.  When I first heard this song, I tried to write a poem made up of band names.  It failed.  This song, however, does not.

Gym Class Heroes – Taxi

5. Good Enough – Evanescence
Usually known for their gothic stylings, this Evanescence tune is almost classical.  The piano and string arrangements are smooth, and when coupled with Amy Lee’s vocals, this song is absolutely gorgeous!  It’s both sad and happy, but then again, sad is happy for deep people.

Evanescence – Good Enough

6. The Doctor’s Theme – Murray Gold
This man is a music genius!  This song is great mood music.  It’s short, somewhat ominous, and yet oddly beautiful.

03 The Doctor’s Theme

7. Welcome to the Jungle — Guns N Roses
I like feeling badass…can you tell?

Guns N Roses – Welcome to the Jungle

8. Catch and Release – Silversun Pickups
I almost went with Panic Switch, but I needed more slow songs and this is a great one. It’s sexy, but also a little sad.  I always picture a figure skater when I hear this song because the music here is so clean and precise.  I also love the bass melody.

Catch and Release

9. Bromance – Chester See and Ryan Higa
This, like Hook It Up, is a silly one.  The title says it all.  I watched the video for this song on YouTube, saw it was available on iTunes, and downloaded it.  It’s set up as part rap song, part 80s power ballad, and all hilariousness.

01 – Bromance

10. Lost in the Echo – Linkin Park
I wrote a letter to Linkin Park and told of how this particular song was my favorite from their current album, “Living Things.”  It has served to give me energy and confidence.  For example, I played this song while driving to school on my first day of college level teaching in September.  I love the rhythm and hard-hitting lyrics.

01 – Lost In The Echo

ipod shuffle loja online leilao

ipod shuffle loja online leilao (Photo credit: sucelloleiloes)

Now it’s your turn!  What is one song you think should be on everyone’s playlist?

I Can’t Believe I’m Doing This: 10 Songs I’m Embarrassed to Say I Listen To

Back in August, I wrote a post about music I’d recently discovered. But we all have songs on our iPod that we put on when no one else is listening.  They’re the guilty pleasure songs.  For me, a lot of these songs have a nostalgic quality.  Others, well, there’s just no excuse…

1. Ultimate – Lindsay Lohan

Over (Lindsay Lohan song)

Over (Lindsay Lohan song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, this one doesn’t actually have a nostalgia excuse.  I worked at a library for a few years where I helped out with children’s programming.  Many times we’d play “Freeze Dance,” where the object was to freeze right as a song stopped playing.  One of the songs we played frequently was this one.  After hearing it so many times, I just put it on my iPod.

Lindsay Lohan – Ultimate

2. Who Do You Think You Are? – The Spice Girls
A little know song by Britain’s other fab five.  It’s got a funky retro vibe that I dig. But I swear, I listen for the nostalgia.  Not like I dance around in my apartment on a regular basis to this song.  Nope, not at all.

Spice Girls – Who Do You Think You Are?

3. We R Who We R – Ke$ha
There really is no excuse at all for this one.  I heard it on the radio once and thought it was the most stupid song in existence.  The second time I heard it, I started bopping my head.  The third time, I started singing along.  Oh, pop songs, how you are so terribly catchy.

02 We R Who We R

4. Never Gonna Give You Up – Rick Astley
Why yes, I do rick roll myself on occasion.

Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

5. Man, I Feel Like a Woman! – Shania Twain
Silly as it sounds, there are times when I feel empowered by this song.  Not in the “I am woman, hear me ROAR!” kind of way.  But in the “I am woman and, dammit, I’m going to have fun!” kind of way.  Also a fun one to dance to.

Shania Twain – Man! I Feel Like a Woman!

6. I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys

Millennium (Backstreet Boys album)

Millennium (Backstreet Boys album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know why nostalgia embarrasses me, but it does.  I don’t think this is a particularly bad song, though I was around 13 when I first made the “this is a good song” judgement.

Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way

7. All or Nothing – O-Town
Another boy band.  I’m more embarrassed by how excited I get when this song plays on Pandora than by the song itself.  Also, I belt it out whenever it’s on.

8. A Little Pain – Trapnest
Oh, the days of conventions and cosplaying!  In an article I posted last week, I showed a picture of me dressed as a character from the anime Nana.  That character is the lead singer of Trapnest’s rival band.  There was a time I was very much into anime, thus how this song made it’s way onto my iPod.

Trapnest – A Little Pain

9. Wonderwall – Oasis
Yeah, nostalgia.  I’m not even sure why I’m embarrassed by this song.  Maybe I just needed to fill space in this post…

Oasis – Wonderwall

10. Heartless – Kanye West
Yo Kanye, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but I made up this dope dance to yo’ song.  No really, I made up a dance that’s more a series of hand gestures. I don’t know that I’d perform it if asked.  It’s silly.

Kanye West – Heartless

I was going to include a Schoolhouse Rock song on this list, but ,dammit, I like interjections!

Your turn to share!  Any embarrassing songs on your MP3 player?

Books and Art and Confetti, Oh My!: My 10 New Year’s Resolutions

Confetti, Times Square

Confetti, Times Square (Photo credit: StuartMoreton)

I recently read this article about New Years Resolutions by Don Miller.  It gives some concrete reasons as to why some resolutions don’t seem to work out for those that set them.

Two reasons that stuck with me were 1. the resolutions weren’t meaningful and 2. no plan was made to go along with the resolutions.  It got me thinking about how these two specific reasons are exactly why some of my resolutions for 2012 failed.  I simply didn’t want the results badly enough or other goals not on my “official list of resolutions” were more immediate and promising.  One, honestly, I just plain forgot about.

To avoid resolution failure in 2013, I have made a list of 10 resolutions (or goals, as I like to look at them) that are important to me and that have a solid plan for achievement behind them.

1. Work out at least once a week
This is a failed 2012 goal of mine.  In 2011, I really got into kickboxing.  I stuck with it all year.  Around December 2011, I began to show up to class less and less.  I’d really like to get back into the swing of exercising because I always felt great afterwards (there are few things as refreshing as a post-workout shower).  Also, I miss being able to punch things and not getting in trouble for it 😉

I know “more exercise” is a pretty common resolution for most people, but health is pretty important to me.  During my last check-up this summer, my doctor said I was very healthy and all of my blood work was great.  I’d like to do my part to keep it that way.  Exercising regularly is a habit I want to get into now so that as I age and perfect health may not come as easily, I know I’m doing everything I can to stay in shape.

Books - bookcase top shelf

Books – bookcase top shelf (Photo credit: ~ Phil Moore)

2. Read 20 books I own that I have not read yet
I, like many other literatis, buy books quicker than I can read them.  I have bunches of books on my shelves that I have not read or never finished.  This is typically a source of much frustration since, oddly enough, what keeps me from reading this particular set of books is other books.  This goal is an attempt to help myself focus on the books I already have.

I was going to make the resolution to make my way through all of them, and then I realized that would be crazy.  I like a challenge, but there are times I know I’d just be setting myself up for defeat.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s my list of unread or partially read books (and I have a strong feeling I’m missing a bunch that are hidden in my room under well-placed piles of paper, clothes, and craft supplies):

Ordinary Genius – Kim Addonizio
Eve and Adam – Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant
Elegy with a Glass of Whiskey – Crystal Bacon
Notarikon – Bowman
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers – Shane Claiborne
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
Boundaries – Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Vacations on the Black Star Line – Michael Cirelli
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Blinking with Fists – Billy Corgan
Jesus Freaks, Volumes 1 and 2 – DC Talk
Great American Poets: Emily Dickinson – Emily Dickinson
50 American Plays – Matthew and Michael Dickman
Fire to Fire – Mark Doty
Alabanza – Martin Espada
Harlot – Jill Alexander Essbaum
Necropolis – Jill Alexander Essbaum
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Eye of the Fish – Luis Francia
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
New World – Suzanne Gardinier
me and Nina – Monica Hand
Selected Short Stories – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hip Logic – Terrance Hayes
Teaching Poetry Writing – Tom Hunley
Absence is Such a Transparent House – Aby Kaupang
Still to Mow – Maxine Kumin
Breaking the Alabaster Jar – Li-Young Lee
Passwords Primeval – Tony Leuzzi
Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
Surprised by Joy – C. S. Lewis
That Hideous Strength – C. S. Lewis
Poet in New York – Federico Garcia Lorca
A Gentle Thunder – Max Lucado
New and Selected Poems – Thomas Lux
Gloryland – Anne Marie Macari
Ivory Cradle – Anne Marie Macari
Times Alone – Antonio Machado
Wild Domestic – Tamara Madison
What Learning Leaves – Taylor Mali
What Teachers Make – Taylor Mali
Song of Thieves – Shara McCallum
Panic – Laura McCullough
Pink Elephant – Rachel McKibbons
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – Donald Miller
Searching for God Knows What – Donald Miller
The Tiny One – Eliza Minot
Western Practice – Stephen Motika
The Essential Neruda – Pablo Neruda
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair – Pablo Neruda
Lucky Fish – Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Evidence – Mary Oliver
Pier – Janine Oshiro
Dancing at the Devil’s Party – Alicia Ostriker
Volcano Sequence – Alicia Ostriker
Convergences – Octavio Paz
Sudden Dog – Matthew Pennock
Boy – Patrick Phillips
100 Poems by 100 Poets – Harold Pinter
Ariel – Sylvia Plath
The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers – Bhanu Kapil Rider
Capirotada – Alberto Rios
Open Secret – Rumi
With or Without You – Domenica Ruta
Shadow Society – Marie Rutkoski
Barter – Ira Sadoff
Grazing – Ira Sadoff
Year of the Black Rainbow – Claudio Sanchez
Striking Surface – Jason Schneiderman
Hurdy Gurdy – Tim Seibles
Measure for Measure – William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night – William Shakespeare
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Passion and Pride: Poets in Support of Equality – Bruce Spang
How Good is Good Enough? – Andy Stanley
American Sonnets – Gerald Stern
Early Collected Poems – Gerald Stern
Save the Last Dance – Gerald Stern
Stealing History – Gerald Stern
Dracula – Bram Stoker
View with a Grain of Sand – Wislawa Szymborska
Phantom Limb – Brian Turner
The Girl Who Feel Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There – Catherynne Valente
Door in the Mountain – Jean Valentine
The Water Books – Judith Vollmer
17 Love Poems with No Despair – B. J. Ward
Gospel Night – Michael Waters
This Sharpening – Ellen Doré Watson
Triangle – Katharine Weber
Tortured for Christ – Richard Wurmbrand

3. Read 10 of the books on my Goodreads list.
This is an extension of goal 2.  There are books I already own, and then there are books I would like to get a hold of.  Right now, I have 352 “To Read” books.  10 is barely a dent, but it’s 10 more than I would read if I didn’t make this goal.

4. Publish a poetry chapbook with a press
Last year, one of my goals was to have between 3-5 poetry submissions out at any given time.  I’ve been pretty steady with that submission number, so now I want to up the ante.  My manuscript has not been picked up, which is not surprising as I’ve only been sending it out for about a year.  But, I’d like to tinker with it before sending it out again.

In the meantime, I’d like to market around a chapbook, which is, essentially, a shorter manuscript.  Poetry chapbooks are typically in the ballpark of 18-25 pages.  This, I think (and hope!), will be much easier to put together.  Also, if I publish a chapbook, I may get more press and a better chance of publishing a full poetry manuscript. Yay, professional and creative ambition!

PASTEL

PASTEL (Photo credit: hichako)

5. Create more art (which is to say, work on a piece at least once a week)


This is one of my looser goals.  Since I work in so many different mediums, I want to give myself some wiggle room.  My main three art forms are poetry, photography, and mixed media art.  I’d absolutely love to finish a piece each week, but I’d need way more hours in the day for that.  Instead, I’m being a bit easier on myself and starting with simply working on a project in at least one medium each week.

This goal has a three-fold reason behind it.  When I create art, I feel free.  I love making something from nothing and letting the piece become a force of its own, gently letting me know which direction to go in.  This part has to do with making time to do something I love.  The second reason has to do with the fact that I have two Etsy shops: Roaring Out and Lady Velociraptor.  I sell mixed media art and fine art photo prints in the second shop and would like to increase the number of my wares.  Lastly, while I have been good with submitting poetry (see goal 4), I have not been good with publicizing my art for display in galleries and magazines.  In order to do this, I feel like I need a bigger portfolio.  This will be the year I create that portfolio to (hopefully) give me enough umph to walk into galleries and say, “Hey, I have art and you have wall space.  How convenient!” (except, you know, more professional-like).

6. Practice guitar at least once every other week
Like goal 4, this is another resolution that is branching off of one for 2012.  The 2012 goal was “learn guitar.”  Very vague, I know.  But, I did sign up for a guitar class in the fall and stuck with it.  Because of that class, I have enough material to practice with on my own (though I do plan to continue with the classes in the new year).  I say practice every other week because I already have a couple of things to do each week, like teach and create art and exercise and, you know, sleep.  So, again, I’m going a little easier on myself here.  If guitar goes well this year, I may up the ante in 2014 with practicing every week or every few days.

7. Watch every Jason Statham movie
So, I have a celebrity crush on Jason Statham (there’s explosions and fire and fight scenes when he’s on screen *swoon*).  This resolution is more for fun than improving personally or professionally.  Everyone needs some silliness thrown in 🙂

The movies I have left to watch are:

Jason-Statham

Jason-Statham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
Turn It Up
Ghosts of Mars
Mean Machine
The Transporter
Transporter 2
Transporter 3
The Italian Job
Collateral
Cellular
Chaos
London
Revolver
Crank
The Bank Job
Death Race
13
Gnomeo and Juliet (I almost excluded this movie, but he’s the voice of Tybalt. I have to see this!)
Safe
Parker (coming out in 2013, as are, like, 27 other movies with Jason Statham.  I’ll get to those as they come out.  Geez, this Brit is prolific).

Image representing Etsy as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

8. Try to post something brand new on Etsy at least once a month
As I mentioned in goal 5, I have two Etsy shops.  Last year, I made a resolution to post something on Etsy once a month.  The problem is that I counted renewing a listing for an already existing item as a “post.”  That just wasn’t meaningful enough for me because it was too easy.  So, I’m raising the bar.  I want to post a brand new item in at least one of my shops for each month.  I was tempted to say that I needed to post a brand new item in each shop every month, but I’ll start small for now.  If anything, it means 12 new items by year’s end.

9. Post on this blog twice a week
Much like the previous goal, this one’s 2012 incarnation was too easy.  The goal was to post once a week.  But I was already doing Poetry Monday once a week, so there was no challenge to do anything differently.  Now that I’m recording Poetry Mondays every other week, there’s a bit more for me to keep up with, especially since I’ll need two original posts on Poetry Monday’s off weeks.  Hmm, maybe I should start a Folk Music Friday….

10. Pay off one of my two credit cards
I figured I’d round out my resolutions list with a practical financial goal.  Not much to say here except I hope that by this time next year, I’ll have one less bill to pay 😉

Some final thoughts on an already long post:
1. I once heard someone say that people should strive for progress not perfection.  That’s something I’m going to keep in mind this coming year, and I encourage you to do the same.

Even if I only attend exercise classes regularly for one month and read 4 books from my lists, I’m not going to beat myself up over it because, hey, that’s more than I would have done had I not made these goals.  I can adjust resolutions this time next year if need be.  At the age of 26, I’ve realized that what makes a more interesting story is the journey rather than the destination. But crossing a big goal off the list is fun too 🙂

2. In the fall, I took an e-course called “Creative Courage,” which is organized by Stephanie Levy. In this course (which I highly recommend if you are a creative lady), participants were encouraged to make a list of 5-10 fun things we would like to do before the year is out.  This was an exercise in encouraging us to intentionally make time for activities we enjoy.  I made a list of 8 things and accomplished 6. I think what really helped me focus on these “mini goals” was the fact that I made an actual list and posted it in my room where I’d see it every day.  This constant reminder was so helpful and encouraging.  So, that’s what I’m going to do with this list, too.  I’m going to be staring at these same 10 goals all year and my hope is that I’ll get to cross them all off.

I’m sure I’ll be posting updates on these goals, which will help me with resolution 7 😉

What are your resolutions for the new year?

Shiny Things! or, 10 Songs I’ve Recently Discovered

Back in November, I wrote an article about songs I was listening to.  I said I would write a post about the new music I discovered on Pandora.  Nine months later, I’m finally getting around to writing that post!  The songs listed here are part what I found on Pandora, part new music I’ve discovered other ways.  Either way, I hope you like what you hear!

1. Propehcy by Carter Burwell – The movie “Howl” stars James Franco as a very good Allen Ginsberg (I will admit, I was surprised.  Playing Ginsberg in all his mania and even simply reading the epic that is the poem “Howl,” I imagine, is difficult to portray). Very appropriately, the soundtrack of this movie has become my new writing music, particularly this song.  It ebbs and flows, dramatic and serene, love it!

Prophecy

2. Ballad of the Sad Young Men by Roberta Flack – I heard this song in the beginning of a lecture by Patrick Rosal.  It stuck with me and I got the album, “First Take,” for my birthday. Rumor has it that the album this song is on was, as suggested by the title, recorded in one take.  I have a lot of respect for Flack’s undeniable singing chops.

Ballad Of The Sad Young Men

3. Acknowledgement by John Coltrane – If you read my Blue Like Jazz post, you’ll know I’ve been listening to Coltrane for a while.  About a year ago, a friend of mine gave me four gigs of new music.  I’m still discovering new tunes from the cache he gave me.  A discovery within the last three months or so has been Coltrane.  I am most definitely falling in love with jazz music.  Something about its inherent creativity and improvisation speaks to me.

Acknowledgement

4. Girl with One Eye by Florence + the Machine – Ok, I know Florence been around for a little while, and I’m late to the bandwagon. I’m just now discovering her awesomeness. It was love at first listen for this particular song and I.  It’s sassy and, yes, I do belt it out in the car…terribly.

Girl With One Eye

5. The Cave by Mumford and Sons – I have my roommate to blame for this one.  It’s his favorite song of the Mumford and Sons collection he has.  Maybe about six months ago he kept playing this particular tune incessantly.  I’d be lying if I said it had to grow on me.  This song starts out kind of slow, but quickly picks up pace.  I can’t help but bop my head whenever it comes on.

6. Sky by Joshua Radin, featuring Ingrid Michaelson – Here’s another song I discovered because of a friend.  She randomly said there was a song she thought I’d enjoy and sent it to me.  She was definitely right.  I feel like this tune is unique in that it acknowledges the fact that people in a relationship fear that the other person will leave them, but, many times, these fears only manifest themselves in dreams.  The song ultimately renews the singers’ love for the beloved.

Sky (featuring Ingrid Michaelson)

7. That Wasn’t Me by Brandi Carlile – Another song recommended by the same friend who introduced me to “Sky.”  About a month ago, I got a voucher for three free MP3 songs on Amazon.  I did a facebook poll asking which songs people recommended.  My friend recommended this one, and, once again, she was spot on with her choice.  This song won me over with the first few seconds of piano playing and kept me hooked with the soulful, honest lyrics.

That Wasn’t Me

8. Right as Rain by Adele – This was a Pandora recommendation. Damn, that girl can sang!  I realize people know this already, but it bears repeating.

9. I Will Not Bow by Breaking Benjamin – One of my favorite bands, RED, toured with Breaking Benjamin for a bit.  I wasn’t able to go to a show on that tour, but I heard that Breaking Benjamin has a music style very similar to RED.  Pandora played this song on the RED station I created.  Definitely one to head bang to!

10. The Last Fight by Bullet for My Valentine –  I heard this song during one of the Body Combat sessions at my gym.  There are few things I like more than punching along to a rock music riff.  Bullet for my Valentine has quickly become a favorite band of mine.  They’ve got a great mix of gritty lyrics and attitude that are right up my alley.

The Last Fight

An Open Letter to Linkin Park

Linkin Park Tee

Linkin Park Tee (Photo credit: प्रतीक)

Dear Linkin Park,

Your latest release, “Living Things,” is quite different, as are your last two albums, “Minutes to Midnight” and “A Thousand Suns.”  This isn’t a complaint.  Though I will admit that upon first listening to “Minutes to Midnight,” my immediate first thought was (and I quote), “What the hell was that?!”  Your new artistic direction took some getting used to, but it grew on me.

I began to like the use of electronica and cleaner guitar riffs, even if that meant sacrificing the grit and industrial edge that first attracted me to the band’s style.  Unlike many of my friends, I did not discover you guys in high school.  I wasn’t an angsty teen.  I didn’t have (or, at least, didn’t realize at the time) much anger during my teens.  I discovered you guys  in 2007, my senior year of college, after a break up. It was through your music that I found the permission to get angry.

Fast forward five years and you are still in heavy rotation on my iPod.  I still listen to “One Step Closer” when I need to get pumped up, to “Don’t Stay” when I need to get pissed, and to “Breaking the Habit” when I’m creating my own artwork, be it writing or mixed media.

Many people I know were quite disappointed in the direction the band and the music went in.  I can’t say I blame them.  Change is hard.  But I’m honestly very glad to see that while you may have honed a more polished sound, your lyrics are still pretty damn searing.  I think that’s what keeps me coming back.

Since ’07, I’ve graduated with an MFA in Poetry. While working on my own pieces and “finding my voice,” I really gained a firm understanding of what it means to be an artist.  And then I think of what it must feel like to have pressure from an industry that has brought you wild success…and, come to find out, they just want you to keep producing the same thing.  No room for experiments, no room for growth. I’d find that both heart-breaking and maddening. So kudos to you guys for sticking to who you are as artists and as a collective band.  Correction: I think it is this kind of risk and artistic integrity that keeps me coming back.

I meant for this to be a straight-up CD review, but the written word tends to be its own beast.  For those who have not heard the new album, don’t expect, well, anything.  What helped me appreciate this album was to not have expectations, which sounds bad, as if I am asking you to set the bar low.  That is not what I am saying.  What I am asking is for you (yes, you, the reader) to have open ears and an open heart….wow, that may very well be one of the most cliche phrases I have ever typed.  What I mean to say is this: Let the trickling beats and interweaving vocals of Mike and Chester (a staple of this band I’m SO glad they didn’t sacrifice for the album) speak to you.  If they don’t, then they don’t.  Come back to “Living Things” in a year, two years, even five years.  I do think this album has something to say to everyone.  I say this as someone who has been steadily listening to this album for about a month and is still finding new things to enjoy: a beat I didn’t hear before, a phrase I had never caught until this moment.  Am I saying this CD will change your life?  Perhaps not.  But could it offer words for an emotion or event you couldn’t utter before? Most likely. Linkin Park is good at that.

Guys (and I speak to the band now), I think you should know this: A few weeks ago, a friend of mine took a poll to see what we’d choose as a theme song if we were involved in a prize fight for our first national title (he’s really into boxing).  My first instinct was to go with something by Flyleaf (for the screaming chick power) or Bullet for My Valentine (for the pure rock energy).  Then I heard “Living Things” and changed my mind.  I put down “Lost in the Echo.”  That song may not include a female front woman or rock riffs, but there is a certain strength and tenacity that is so real, so intimidating, so perfect that I’d want nothing else to fly in the face of my opponent.  Every time I listen to that song, I imagine myself walking up to the ring, steel-faced (which can be quite amusing if you think about it, since I’m a 5’5″ woman with a pretty thin physique).  But seriously, who wouldn’t feel badass walking up to an opponent with these lyrics swirling around?

Test my will / test my heart
Let me tell you how the odds gonna stack up
Ya’ll go hard / I go smart
How’s that working out for y’all in the back, huh?
I’ve seen that frustration
Been crossed and lost and told no
And I’ve come back / unshaken
Let down and lived and let go
So you can let it be known
I don’t hold back I hold my own
I can’t be mapped / I can’t be cloned
I can’t C-flat / it ain’t my tone
I can’t fall back I came too far
Hold myself up and love my scars
Let the bells ring wherever they are

It was a good reminder that your music will always, in some form, be woven into the soundtrack that helps me to take the hits and to deal a few blows of my own.

Thanks for that.

25 @ 25: Slick Sound

The last picture of the 25 @ 25 series doesn’t actually feature me.  If you’ve followed this project of mine since last year, you will know that I don’t really like being the subject of my own pictures.  But that’s what a challenge is about — to push yourself to do something that isn’t easy.

I wanted to end this series with a shot that looks forward.  One of my resolutions for this year is to learn to play the guitar.  When I was 19, my mom and grandmom gave me a brand new guitar.  I started to teach myself and get callouses, but I didn’t keep up.   I love music and want to become proficient in at least one instrument.  So I’m hoping that by this time next year I will post a video of me with my guitar playing a song without looking down to check that my hands are in the right place.  For now, this picture will have to suffice.

I also want to take this time to thank all of you that have followed  me on this 25 @ 25 photo challenge journey.  Thank you for your patience during the photo droughts.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as much as I have.  Rest assured that I will continue to take pictures and post a few here, just not for any larger project…at least not for now 😉

Just joining the 25 @ 25 project now?  Check out the first post and get caught up on the shenanigans here!

Want this picture hanging on your wall?  You can purchase prints of this photo (straightened and colors brightened!) in my Etsy store, Lady Velociraptor.

Sunday Morning Playlist

Music - an art for itself - Headphones and mus...

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a music related entry.  I love finding new bands and artists (and recently discovered Pandora Radio… “new music” post to come soon).  In that spirit, I put together a playlist showcasing a sampling of what I’ve been listening to lately in hopes that people can find a new song or two to add to their mp3 player.   So here it is: a collection of what I consider some funky, killer, and risque tunes!


Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Lazy Sunday Afternoon Music

Nothing But the Best (album)

Image via Wikipedia

Most days I’ve got a soundtrack playing through my mind.  This lovely, lazy Sunday’s playlist includes a track by Old Blue Eyes.  Enjoy the tune 🙂

Frank Sinatra – All the Way


Poetry Monday – Adrienne Rich

Today’s poem is titled “Waiting for Rain, For Music” by Adrienne Rich. The poem is from her book titled “Tonight No Poetry Will Serve.” Thanks for watching!

Seeing RED

I got to meet the guys of one of my favorite bands last month.  It was St. Patrick’s Day. While most people wear green on this day, all I saw was RED (I know, I know, terrible pun).  I’ve been a fan of this band since before their first album was released.  I first heard their music back in 2006 on Myspace (gasp!).  I was hooked.  When I heard they were offering the chance for six fans to hang out with them during each stop of their latest tour, I knew I had to go.

And I did.  And the guys were awesome — funny, down-to-earth, talented dudes.  I was the first person to step onto the tour bus.  I had no idea what to say, so I just said “Hi!”  Before I knew it, I had shaken hands with each of them and was sitting next to the drummer.  We hung out for about 30 – 45 minutes and talked about everything from their new album to the fact that they had a fight with a taser a while back.  It was definitely one of those “I can’t believe I get to live this life” moments.

I went to this concert with a friend of mine who works for a magazine.  She was able to get a press pass (Thanks, Suzy!)  This means that during RED’s set, I was in their faces taking pictures.  See?

I will never forget being in the press pit, headbanging, singing, and clicking away with the SLR.  Now, I never have high expectations when trying to take pictures at a concert because most of them turn out to be unintentional light paintings.  But sometimes, you get shots like this:

 

 

The Link Between Grief and Song

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between grief and singing.  I know these can be thought of as pretty disparate concepts; one is filled with anguish and the other is (usually) associated with beauty.  And yet I can’t help but think they are inextricably linked.

I’m reminded of a poem by Jane Hirshfield called “If the Rise of the Fish”.  In this poem she writes, “If the leaves.  If the singing fell upward.  If grief./For a moment if singing and grief.”  I love these lines.  What would happen if singing and grief existed together in the same space for a moment?  What would that look like?  Would it be a mixture of light and dark?  Would it look gray and muddled or luminous?  I’m not quite sure but I love the fact that Hirshfield plays with this concept.

As far as my own creative process is concerned, I tend to write when going through a hardship.  Tension, living in the gray and unknown is what moves me to write.  And this creative process is helped along by music.  Most of my process has been influenced by the belief that tragedy is not necessarily found in the process of enduring a rough time; the real loss would be doing nothing to turn hardship into something beautiful.

There is a song by RED that I find myself going back to.  It’s called “Hymn for the Missing.”  Although these guys are pretty hard rockers, they compose some beautiful instrumentals.  And I think this song illustrates the concept of melding grief and beauty really well.  The lyrics clearly convey loss: “Where are you now?  Are you lost?  Will I find you again?  Are you alone?  Are you afraid?  Are you searching for me?  Why did you go?  I had to stay.  Now I’m reaching for you.  Will you wait?  Will you wait?  Will I see you again?”  So many questions.  I can’t help but think of this verse as depicting the bargaining stage of grief.  The uncertainty leads to questions, but questions don’t always lead to answers.  And still, we put them out there.  In the backdrop of this song is a beautiful piano arrangement that crescendos into an absolutely gorgeous, full instrumental – a reminder that grief and song can complement each other in the most heart-breaking, stunning way.  Listen to “Hymn for the Missing” here:

Hymn For The Missing

 

As I mentioned before, Red is a rock band so I wanted to showcase what they can do.  Check out their face-melting performance on Conan back in February: