Thursday, March 14, 2013

She's Country- My Musical Evolution

When I was little, like most kids the only music I heard was what my parents played.  My mom was an Elvis fanatic, and my dad listened to old school country- Christy Lane, Chrystal Gayle, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson.  He also loved a few folk groups from his youth in the 50's and 60's, his favorite of all time was Peter, Paul, and Mary, consequently I could sing If I Had a Hammer and Blowin' in the Wind from memory by the time I started school.  I think this early introduction to music molded me more than I would care to admit when I was a teen.

As a school kid, I listened to the same trendy pop music that everyone did- Wilson Phillips, Tiffany, NKOTB.  I will never forget begging my mom to let me buy my first cassette in 5th grade; it was Whitney Houston's first album and I had to sell my parents on how positive her lyrics were because they were so religious that they didn't trust pop rock.

In middle school I didn't really know where my musical tastes lay.  My two favorite artists from the late 80's were Garth Brooks and the Indigo Girls.  I suppose with folk and country I was headed back to my roots, but I got side-tracked once I hit high school.  Growing up I never had many friends, was bullied and a loner.  In high school I finally found people who liked me- the misfits.  That was the early 90's and in Washington state the big alternative movement was Grunge.  I discovered Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, Jane's Addiction, Nine Inch Nails and many more.  It was at this time that music became intensely important to me.  Music was what our entire identity, from our clothes to our art to our parties, was built around.  We went to concerts nearly every weekend, local bands who were trying to make it in the Grunge scene.  I started exploring the 80's metal that I had missed in my sheltered youth, Metallica, Alice in Chains, Ozzy.  This music shaped my life all the way through college.

After college I went off to Germany and lost music for a long time.  I had no CD's, no radio.  Once I had babies, all I listened to was Barney and lullabies.  It wasn't until we moved back to the US in 2005 that I dove back into music.  At that time I was angry, I was drinking, and I was a mess.  My musical choices reflected that- Evanescence, Blue October, Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin- the 2000's version of alternative.  I would drive to work or school, blasting hard rock at the top volume in my car, screaming and crying.  What appealed to me in the music, just as with grunge in the 90's, was the anger and pain.  I felt that I was different from other people, I lived on the dark side, I felt all the anguish of the world.  The lyrics to Soul Asylum's Runaway Train summed up how I felt:

Can you help me remember how to smile
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile
How on earth did I get so jaded
Life's mystery seems so faded

I can go where no one else can go
I know what no one else knows
Here I am just drownin' in the rain
With a ticket for a runaway train

In 2009, I got sober.  Somewhere around the same time I started listening to the country station when the kids were in the car.  The only alternative station in the area had really crass, disgusting DJs and it wasn't appropriate for kids.  I couldn't stand mainstream, mindless, shallow pop music, I still can't.  That left country.  Over time listening to the radio it grew on me, until I find myself now with a collection of over 1000 country tracks on my iTunes, listening to the radio or a Pandora country station all day at work and exclusively in the car. 

A couple of days ago, when I was re-reading this blog I listened to the Linkin Park song I had posted here.  It made me wonder if I had strayed to far from myself by this obsession with Country music, so I put on my old alternative channel on Pandora with all my old favorites.  At first it was okay, some bands I still love, specifically Linkin Park, 3 Doors Down and Blue October.  But a lot of the songs just seemed like sad, angry noise to me.  Then the song Call Me When You're Sober by Evanescence came on and I was transported to 2006- driving to class at Wayne State and bawling my eyes out because I was so miserable in my life.  I felt that misery all over again, and became instantly depressed.  That's when I knew that music wasn't for me any more.  I switched to my Country station and knew I wasn't going back.

People say that Country is sad- that it's nothing but break-ups, beer and tractors.  To be honest, there are quite a few songs about those things, but that is not all Country is.  Country is love, it's hope, it's freedom, and it's grace.  Country music is uplifting, it's about being the best you can be and making the most of the life you have.  That's why I love it, it makes me happy, it restores my soul.  I am Country.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Back in the Saddle

I haven't blogged in a long, long time.  I'm not sure I even care to be blogging now, to be honest.  I just know I need to get things out of my head and frankly I can type faster than I can write in a journal.  So here goes.

Perhaps a check in is the best format for this. 

Where am I physically?  I'm 36, married with two kids ages almost 9 and 11.5.  3 cats, 1 house, 1 job.  Living in the suburbs of Detroit and working in the city.  Sober 3.5 years.  Husband unemployed nearly 6 months now, so wearing the mantle of sole provider for the household, minus his unemployment contribution.  I suffer from near-constant pain, from sciatica and other health problems.  I don't sleep well, or exercise, or eat right.  I'm kind of a mess.

Where am I mentally? Here I know I'm the biggest mess.  I'm tired of life and all the stress it brings.  I'm tired of making it through one day at a time.  I'm tired of dealing with problems.  I'm tired of jumping hurdles and running races.  I'm tired of working too hard for too little pay.  I'm tired of pain. I have so much resentment and anger that it's making me miserable, not just to myself but to the people around me, to my kids and husband.

I resent that I am the sole earner.  I know that finding a job is tough and that my husband is trying but I feel like he hasn't been trying hard enough.  I resent that I have to nag him every. single. day. to get things done.  Make a car payment, call the bank, do the taxes, cook dinner.  I resent that he hasn't picked up much slack around the house.  I feel if I were out of work I'd be busting my butt to keep the house clean, the family fed, the work done.  I know he's depressed, and has a host of physical health issues himself, but I can't help but be annoyed when I walk through the door at 5 after a day of intense work and the dinner isn't made, the kitchen isn't cleaned, and he hasn't done any of the things he said he would do that day.

I resent my job, they pay me peanuts and I've got more responsibilities than any one person should have. 

I resent my kids, though I hate to admit it.  I resent the energy they need from me, the way they take so much for granted, how messy and irresponsible they are.

Sometimes I resent my sobriety, because if I could drink I could make all this go away for a little while.  But I know that is not an option, so I keep plugging on, day after day.  And I resent that too.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

An Apology

Today, I read something on a blog that really upset me. Who am I kidding, it made me furious. I responded with the same hateful and ignorant attitude as the blogger herself. I shared my rage: with people who didn't get it, with people who did, with my kids, with my cats, with my husband. I brought it out of the internet and into my home, head and heart. I let it ruin my evening and cast a pall on the family. I apologize for that. I apologize to my family, for taking my anger with a stranger out on them. I apologize to my home, for bring such negativity into it. And I apologize to myself: for the time and energy wasted, for sinking to that judgmental level that I dislike so much in other people, for exposing myself to something that I knew would upset me in the first place.

The internet is a strange land. For some people, the more they are exposed to, the more narrow minded their view becomes. I fell into that today. I still think the blogger was distasteful and wrong, but I didn't need to become that way myself. There will always be choices, attitudes and belief that I disagree with, that, in some cases, I abhor. My job is to keep myself and my family away from those people. I can't change them, they can't change me (as much as they'd like to). Holding on to anger about it won't hurt them any more than it will help me. So I'm letting it go, and praying that someday, the other people accept that they can't and shouldn't control my choices any more than I can control theirs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I'm part of this really amazing team on Etsy called April's Army. Members of the team came together because of our mutual love of the website, Regretsy. Regretsy started out mostly as a site that posted links to really f'ed up things for sale on Etsy. As the tagline reads, 'Where DIY meets WTF'. However, it's a lot more than snarky fun. The site is run by April Winchell, a previous writer for the Rosanne show and all around awesome person. She uses the website mostly for good, and only rarely for evil. ;-) She points out resellers, which abound on Etsy now-a-days, helps to get rid of counterfeiters and people steal other's designs, and best of all, generates a ton of money for charities.

Inspired by April's example of charity, our team has opened a shop on Etsy which is used exclusively to raise funds for people in need. Each month, we will run a sale with proceeds going to a specific charity. This month's sales will benefit For Jason, which is a shop whose proceeds are used 100% to help the owner's fiancee in his battle against pancreatic cancer. The sale will start Monday, April 25 and go through Sunday, May1. This month, I helped create a Barbie outfit for an April Winchell doll being made by Loki's Books N More (pictures soon!). I also collaborated on a fantastic doll with BendedBabies. Amy, the mastermind behind the mummy dolls of BendedBabies, and I have a lot in common. I enjoyed working together with her on our piece so much and am really in awe of how she turned out.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I fail

Last night, Fiona was doing something typical Fiona, that is being destructive for no apparent reason. She was pushing her feet against a table with glass sides and broke a pane of glass. I heard the crack, and when I came over to investigate found her reaching through the broken pane to try to grab the glass pieces. I freaked, yelled 'are you crazy?!' and sent her to her room because I honestly didn't trust myself to talk to her at that moment. I had no words, no idea how to deal with the situation. I called Paul, and he calmed me down, assured me that the glass was crap and he's broken them himself (this was a thrift store find). I told him I didn't know what to do with Fiona anymore, I am a complete failure at parenting her, I have no ideas left on how to be HER mom. I thought she was in her room, I thought she couldn't hear. But she could, and did. He went to talk to her about how dangerous broken glass is because, in fairness, how the hell was she supposed to know that? I heard her sobbing, hysterical because 'mama is mad at me! she said she doesn't know what to do with me!' FUCK.

Somehow, he calmed her down, we talked, I reassured her for the trillionth time that I do love her, and we all moved on. Except I can't help but feel I broke another piece of her.

I suck at this parenting thing. I don't know how to be the mom she needs. I do everything wrong, and have since she was little. I can't help but feel that her mental health issues are all my fault. I broke her, I couldn't handle how intense she was, how intense she is, so I'm always telling her to stop. Stop crying, stop singing, stop yelling, stop running, stop talking. Be quiet, go away, leave me alone. Why am I such a bitch? Why can't I just let her be? Why do I always feel I need to fix her?

I want her to love herself and who she is. She is so amazing in so many ways. She defies the status quo, she does what she wants. She is so thoughtful, too thoughtful really, her imagination and her mind take her to scary, dark places more often than not. She is full of life and energy and brings joy to so many people.

I am so scared for her and her future. More than anything, I'm scared she'll turn out to be like me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

She breaks my heart

On our way home from a friend's house tonight Fiona suddenly burst into tears. She apologized for not listening. Not because she didn't listen tonight, or today, or even yesterday; she felt bad because of all the times she hasn't listened in the past. I reassured her that she had nothing to apologize for, that I love her, that she is good and she needs to let go of these things and not be so hard on herself. But the floodgates were opened.

She shared her fear that I will leave her, or that I will be 'taken away'. She sobbed hysterically while she talked about her fear of losing me. She talked about her fear of going to school because of some horror stories boys in her class told her about a ghost at the school that cuts off kid's heads (yes, I've already emailed the principal and teacher!). She talked about how I make her feel safe, because I love her. I told her that her teacher loves her too, but she said that's not the same, because I'm her mom.

I said what I could to reassure her: ghosts aren't real, those boys are stupid bully liars (I know, not PC but I couldn't help myself), I will never leave her, no one can ever take me away from her, and most of all I love her always no matter what. The problem is, she doesn't believe me. She beats herself down, she thinks she's unworthy of love, she thinks she's bad. SHE IS SIX YEARS OLD. Why is she so hard on herself? How can I convince her that she is loved? How can I convince her that she is an amazing, beautiful, talented, smart, kind, vivacious, wonderful girl? Everyone who meets her is charmed by her. She has a light in her that burns so brightly, but she can't see it.

I am so scared of what her future holds. A lifetime of medication, of therapy, of depression and anxiety. Will her diagnosis shift to something even more sinister than what it is now? Will she abuse drugs or alcohol or herself in her depression? Will she live, or will she try to kill herself? What will her life be like? Will she ever learn to love and forgive herself? Will she ever learn to treat herself with respect and gentleness? How can I teach her these things?

It breaks my heart to see my little baby so incredibly sad and scared. It breaks my heart that my reassurances fall on deaf ears. I wish I knew what to do, how to be, to make it all better forever.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What I've Done

Anyone who is my friend on Facebook already knows that I went to see Linkin Park play at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit Tuesday night. It was, as Fiona would put it, OSUM! I don't want to forget a thing, so here's what I remember seeing, thinking and feeling. Warning, really long post to follow. I've split it up with headers so you can skip to the actual LP show if you want.

The show was scheduled to start at 7pm. I work downtown, so I went in to the office late and stayed until 6. It was a short drive (less than 5 minutes) to the Joe Louis but my anxiety was in full swing. What if I couldn't get parking? What if I got lost? What if someone accosted me on my way to or from my car (this IS Detroit we're talking about!)? Around 5, I poured myself some coffee to hopefully give me a jolt long enough to last through my drive home, but I about halfway through drinking it I noticed my hands were sweating, and I was having hot and cold flashes. These are the first two signals my body sends me when I'm starting to have a panic attack. Shit. Thankfully I carry Xanax for just such emergencies and when I notice the signs early enough, one little pill can prevent me from having a full fledged panic attack (which SUCKS. If you've never had one, you have no idea how much. I hope you never have to learn). So I popped the pill, dumped the coffee (caffeine + anxiety = BAD) and calmed myself down enough to get on my way safely.

Driving to the Joe Louis was a piece of cake, and parking was great. There was security EVERYWHERE. Guess us Linkin Park fans can be a rowdy lot. I was pleased to see that I wasn't the only middle-aged, 'normal' looking person in the crowd. Sure, there were a lot of punk kids but there were also couples who I could easily work with or attend a PTA meeting with. Entering the arena, the first thing I noticed was alcohol everywhere. In addition to vendors selling it every few yards, there were guys selling cans of beer in at the foot of every set of doors to the arena itself. Oy. Personally, I don't like to drink at concerts, I want to remember every second and not be a bit foggy. But I knew I'd be surrounded by drunks and I was a little afraid of what kind of people I'd be sitting next to. Did I mention yet that I was all alone?! No protection!

I was in my seat by 6:15 and spent my time waiting for the show to start feverishly checking Facebook. I was very glad to have a smart phone to be able to keep in touch with friends, it made me feel less alone. The two seats on either side of me stayed open until Linkin Park started, which was kind of weird, but kind of nice too. The people behind me were drinking steadily, but they never got so drunk as to be obnoxious. The people in front of me did, but I tried my best to ignore them.

The first band was a mix of techno and metal. I didn't care for them. No idea what their name was, they were British and the accents mixed with the loud music made it impossible to understand a single word they said. The second band was better, more metal/ hard rock but still I don't think I'd buy their album even if I knew their name. Yes, they were just as unintelligible as the first band. Watching them, and the crowd in the pit in front of the stage (I was in the nosebleed section, as you can see from the photo) was interesting. It reminded me a lot of my early twenties, going to concerts in college and later in Germany where the name of the band or how good they were didn't matter, it was about the experience. The pounding music, the flashing lights made me feel that feeling of being lost in the music again, for a few brief moments. It was cool, and I sort of miss being able to descend that deeply in the music, but in the end my pounding head, aching legs and too present brain let me know that I am way too old for that anymore. It makes me a little sad, but I accept it.

The band opened with New Divide, the theme song from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. This is one of their very few songs that I don't know well, and the only song that made me feel a bit like a poser as everyone around me sang along and I only mouthed the words to the chorus. I honestly can't remember what they played next. One really great thing to their show, if you texted a code to a number during the show, you got emailed a link to an audio download of the ENTIRE show! It's not available yet, but I am so psyched for when I get it and can relieve the entire experience again and again...

Here's what I can remember of the songs they played, in no particular order:
Bleed it Out
Waiting for the End
Leave Out All the Rest
No More Sorrow
Wisdom, Justice and Love
When They Come For Me
Burning in the Skies
What I've Done
A Place For My Head

I know there was more, they played for about 1.5 hours, but I'm getting confused because I've listened to all their songs so many times that I can't remember if I'm hearing it in my head because they performed it or just because I know it that well and can recall it so easily.

Every song was amazing, they didn't play a single song I don't like. I was super excited when they played a clip from a Martin Luther King Jr. anti-war speech which they put on their album under the title 'Wisdom, Justice, and Love'. The text:

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight,
Because my conscience leaves me no other choice.
A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war:
This way of settling difference is not just.
This business of burning human beings with napalm,
Filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows,
Of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane.
Of sending men home from the dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged,
Cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.

They followed it with my current favorite song: Iridescent. This isn't the best sounding video for it, but most closely resembles my experience

And in a burst of light that blinded every angel
As if the sky had blown the heavens into stars
You felt the gravity of tempered grace
Falling into empty space
With no one there to catch you in their arms.

Do you feel cold and lost in desperation?
You build up hope, but failures all you've known.
Remember all the sadness and frustration
And let it go.
Let it go.

Really, this song, these lyrics, sum up the whole experience for me. I felt so connected to Chester and Mike when they were singing and I really understood where they were coming from, especially Chester. He's got 4 years sober, and most of his music in the last years has been about facing your demons, letting go of your past, forgiving yourself and others. Just look at the lyrics to What I've Done, which is a song I've always loved but never really GOT as well as I did this night. The video is clearly about the shit we humans have done to fuck up the Earth. But watching Chester, singing with him, it was clear to me that the song is about recovery and self-forgiveness.

In this farewell
There's no blood
There's no alibi
'Cause I've drawn regret
From the truth
Of a thousand lies

So let mercy come
And wash away

What I've done
I'll face myself
To cross out what I've become
Erase myself
And let go of what I've done

Put to rest
What you thought of me
While I clean this slate
With the hands
Of uncertainty

So let mercy come
And wash away

What I've done
I'll face myself
To cross out what I've become
Erase myself
And let go of what I've done

For what I've done
I start again
And whatever pain may come
Today this ends
I'm forgiving what I've done

In fact, the whole concert was about recovery and self-forgiveness. It was exactly what I need at this moment in my life and it made me feel so strong and so confident in my choices. So much was illuminated to me about myself, I am so thankful I went. Thank you so much to Chester, Mike and the whole band for being so fucking honest. A lot of people don't like the new sound because they are stuck in the same old rut of hatred, anger and self-loathing, but the new music is about life, love and exploring new things. I love it, I need it, and I'm grateful for it.