October 24, 2012

You Know What I HATE About Blogging?

The pressure.

The feeling that I have to follow up a really popular post with something equally popular and interesting and witty and compelling and all that when, sometimes, I just don't have much to say.

Well....that's never true. I always have a lot to say.  I'm just trying to learn when and where it's appropriate to put those things online.  Sometimes they're best left said over a cup of coffee with a trusted friend who will keep her mouth shut and also not judge the things you are sharing with her. 

I feel the same pressure whenever I get a new Facebook friend or Twitter follower. I feel like I suddenly need to prove to that person that they made a good choice in following/adding me.  Sheesh.  So much pressure.

But things are going well in Mandy World.  Very well.  I assume I'm allowed to share these things, so I'm going to...

Since my last post about my amazing music weekend, I've been contacted by the SofarDFW coordinators to be a consistent blogger about their local shows, and I could not be more excited about that.  I've written for them a modified version of my own blog post that will hopefully show up on their official blog some time this week. 

The VERY SAME DAY that happened (last Tuesday, if you were wondering), I met up with a friend at Jupiter House Coffee, where two members of Seryn were sitting and chilling out.  Of course I giggled inside, but I kept my composure. I just smiled and, in my head, thought "My GOODNESS I love Denton...and my life."  I sat there so long with my friend that the band's manager eventually came in and recognized me from the shows, and we spent an absolutely lovely few minutes talking.  She thanked me for my blog post, hugged me...she is charming!  Obviously we became Facebook friends after that.

DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT PRESSURE?  Now I want to prove to these people that, yes, I'm a huge music fan and all, but that they made good choices in putting me in their own lives.  But the truth is, sometimes I go weeks without posting anything on this blog.  Or I will go off on a Twitter RAMPAGE about a football game or a marathon of slasher-movie-watching. 

(side note: in the time it's taken me to write parts of this, get some work done, check Facebook and Google Reader a couple of times, I read a post by Jen about a blogging conference she went to in Toronto, and now I'm super jealous and wish that I felt led to blog more often.)

You know what I hate slightly less about blogging? Finding a way to wrap them up and conclude.


October 16, 2012

Tuesday Tunes: Music Weekend

(Quick disclaimer! I am not a music-blogger, per se.  I just blog about music from time to time!  This is a personal blog, so there are some personal feelings on here.  For an AWESOME article in a real news source, check out THIS post from the Dallas Observer! Thanks for stopping by here, too, though!) 

Earlier this year, I wrote about a pretty amazing local music experience: my first SOFAR show. It was really incredible, and it introduced me to some great new artists (whom I now follow on their respective Facebook and Twitter pages, hoping to catch another local tour date from any or all of them).

I was incredibly fortunate to be placed on the guest list again when SOFAR came back to Denton this past weekend. But, before I get to the house show portion of my weekend, let me first mention that the previous evening I had been to the Kessler Theater in Dallas to see one of my very favorite bands: Seryn.

Wait, I have to back up one more time.

When my best friend was in town for her birthday in August, I introduced her to Seryn as we were driving around being fabulous.  She immediately bought their CD, and I mentioned how badly I wanted the album on vinyl. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I get a text message from a friend I haven't seen in person in years.

Ann asked me if I could have lunch any time soon, because she had something for me. Now, I knew from her Facebook page that she was best friends with the folks in Seryn.  What I did not know was that she is now working for the band.  She had noticed that my BFF had ordered my birthday gifts from the Seryn website, but, since they were backordered, she wanted to help in any way she could to get them to me in time for my birthday.  The gifts were a Seryn t-shirt (most comfortable t-shirt ever, btw) and....

 Seryn's album on vinyl!  Do you think I was excited? I'm not saying I cried...but I'm not saying I didn't.

As a birthday gift to me, Ann got me a ticket to see Seryn at the Kessler on October 13th.  Did I cry again? Maybe a little.  I'm not ashamed...it was incredibly kind and generous of BOTH my friends, and it made me feel very loved!

So, now we're back to the Kessler show.

Julia Sinclair opened the evening.  Ho. Lee. Crap.  This tiny little thing came out and completely owned all of us with her personality and huge voice. 

I tweeted during the show that she had an amazing quirky quality like Regina Spektor, but amazing pipes a la Brandi Carlile.  Can I just say, I love it when artists read and respond to tweets?  It shows me how much they care about what their fans are saying!  


Definitely check out her stuff. She's amazing. Here's a YouTube video of her singing "Lies."

Next up was Marcus Foster, an incredible performer from London. This guy...I knew he was going to blow my mind within the first 8 bars.  He's got this incredible voice...reminded me of Glen Hansard (not his Swell Season stuff, but more of his solo work) and sometimes Ray LaMontagne (mostly in his ballads...my favorite of which was "Solid Ground," a track from his "The Last House" EP, which will be released next week!).

Here's a pretty good fan video of Marcus singing "Solid Ground" I found on YouTube.  I was chatting with Marcus at the Sofar show, and was excited to hear that he will be back in the US touring sooner rather than later!

Next up was SERYN. 

The thing about Seryn...for me...they totally ninja-ed their way into my brainA wonderful friend shared them with me months ago, and I incorporated them into my iTunes shuffle.  Then one day, I found myself skipping around to find their songs intentionally.  Then I just sat and listened to the whole thing while working and...well, I wasn't working. I was sitting and staring off into space listening to the intricately layered instrumentation and vocals.

They became my happy-place music.  

Any time I felt any anxiety or stress, or if I couldn't turn my brain off and fall asleep, I put on Seryn.

The show at the Kessler...it was just perfect timing.  There's been a lot going on in my mind and heart lately, as I posted about recently.  I was building up to a desperately-needed catharsis, and was about to just cue up the Betty Spaghetti's husband scene in "A League of Their Own" just so I could get the damn ugly cry out and have done with it.

(Come on, I know you have that ONE THING you watch/listen to when you need a good cry. Right? No? Just me?  Okay.)

The Seryn experience I had on Friday night was....you know, I'm still having trouble finding the right words to accurately describe it.  I've heard that they're so much more live than they are on a recording, and that is a fact. 

During the intro to my favorite song of theirs,  Nathan (the guitarist with the Epic Ginger Beard of Awesome) shared some things about the song with the audience, and mentioned that everyone who was supposed to be there that night was there.  He believed it was all happening just like it should be happening, in that moment in that venue.

The whole set was surreal.  I tweeted at one point, "I think I may actually be in Heaven right now. If I am, please don't send me back yet."

I don't know enough about the band members to speak to their faith or spirituality, but I can tell you that I personally felt the Holy Spirit in the room as I experienced their set.  Not heard, their set....experienced.  Because it was a multi-sensory experience, and I felt emotionally cleansed when it was over.

Exhausted and, yes, shaking in my hands and legs, but cleansed.

I drove home and reflected on the amazing music I'd heard that night, and I slept better than I have in a long time. The next day, I had a meeting up at the theatre, and then, at lunch with my husband, I was reading through my Twitter feed and deduced that I was going to get to see ALL THREE ACTS AGAIN in the intimate, acoustic environment that SOFAR provides.

I arrived at an absolutely beautiful home in Denton, found my friend Melissa, and told her how excited I was for HER to get to experience her first SOFAR show!

The first group up was an adorable husband-and-wife duo called The OnesYou Loved. (Doesn't he kind of remind you of Jim Sturgess??) Unfortunately they couldn't stay long, due to a CD-release party/concert they had to get to, but I really enjoyed hearing them play. 

Next up -- YOU GUESSED IT. I got to see Julia, Marcus, AND Seryn all play again in a completely different environment than the night before, with a beautiful landscape and a blustery October afternoon as the backdrop.

Afterwards I found my friend Ann again to thank her profusely, and she was so excited that I'd gotten to see Seryn twice in one weekend. I'd been posting on Facebook about the SOFAR concert, and she managed to keep quiet about it so that I could be surprised. She introduced me to Nathan, who was a doll, and of course I had to get a picture because...well, gingers have to stick together whenever possible.

I asked Ann, "Does it ever get old, hearing them play? I mean, is it ever NOT completely spellbinding?" I was so pleased to hear her answer "No." I am so grateful to Ann for the opportunity to see Seryn at the Kessler, and to Joanna and Polly and all the rest of the SOFAR crew for putting me on the invite list again.

I'm sad to say that there were many people who apparently just did not show up to this SOFAR performance. I mean, it gave the rest of us an even more intimate environment (not to mention plenty of leg room), but I just wish that more people could've gotten to experience what we did that afternoon.

I spent some time chatting with Julia and Marcus afterwards, too, and they were so incredibly gracious!  Julia had one of those fancy-shmancy iPhone squares so that I could buy her CD, but, since I didn't have any cash, I got Marcus to sign one of his promotional cards for me.  Look! He loves Texas!

It was an amazing 48 hours of music, and I'm so grateful to Ann, the SOFAR crew, the amazing hosts who opened up their beautiful home to us, and of course, especially the musicians.

 It was truly an unforgettable weekend.

October 11, 2012

Pitbulls are Awesome

Did you know that October 27th is National Pit Bull Awareness Day? A lot of organizations are celebrating the breed and raising awareness about the FACTS vs. the MYTHS regarding this wonderful breed all month long.

I celebrate it every day of my life.

You guys have met Carmen before.  But I want to use her as an example throughout this post and, frankly, I just like posting pictures of my baby.

Despite plenty of websites debunking myths about pitbulls (or what people assume are pitbull breeds) and explaining the importance of the responsibility of the dog owner and ending Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL), there are still others who make a life's work out of trying to label the breed as "dangerous."

You guys...let me veer off track for a second and say that one of my BIGGEST pet peeves in any situation is to take the actions of one and then label a group because of it. 

Listen closely, kids.



 There are so many hot-button issues (especially as we approach the 2012 Presidential election) circulating the interwebs and social media where we need to remember and apply this.

All Republicans aren't conservative, closed-minded haters.

All Democrats aren't liberal wing-nuts who have no morals.

All Christians aren't judgmental and unloving.

All Athiests aren't cross-burning, occult fanatics who worship Satan.

All pitbulls aren't dangerous, vicious dogs who will bite the faces off of children.

I understand that there are plenty of examples to support the above samples, if you look closely enough.  HOWEVER. If you can prove that even one is different, then you can't say "all."  Just...stop it. Okay?

Some celebrities such as Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer), Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory) and Wil Wheaton (OMG meet Marlowe!) use their tremendous influence encourage animal rights and adopting/rescuing dogs from shelters (all breeds!), and I just know it makes a huge difference.

There's also the story of how a shelter in California took in and rehabilitated many of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick's dog-fighting campaign, and many of those "aggressive, vicious" dogs are now in happy homes...some even (gasp!) with children! 

Luckily, the dogs are forgiving. When someone loves them, they don't remember how badly they were treated.

Don't believe me?  Go read London's storyWe could all learn a lesson from these animals. 

Yesterday, I read on Twitter that Kelly Ripa made an off-handed remark about pitbulls in an interview with Christopher Walken.  No, she didn't go off on a tirade about the breed.  Yet, it was still detrimental to the work that pitbull advocates are trying to do to educate people.

Kelly Ripa has major influence on the American public, and therefore she has a responsibility to retract her statement.  Her comments could encourage the myth about pits, and have major consequences, including but not limited to even fewer rescues/adoptions of this breed in shelters all across the country.

There's a petition on Change.org to get Kelly to not only apologize publicly, but to spend some time in a pitbull rescue facility to see how the dogs really are. I'm signing it.

You know...I don't publicly go off on a passionate tangent on "issues" very often.  Most people take care of that (and then some) for me on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I won't get on my electronic soap box about healthcare. I won't publicly denounce Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

You may say I have misplaced priorities. But I just can't keep quiet about pitbull ignorance.

Animals can't defend themselves when people spread slander.  We have to give them a voice.  We have to educate ourselves and make sure that no more dogs are shot just because a cop thought they were dangerous.

Or put down just because they look like they are a pitbull.

Look, I understand a natural fear, because of the stories and the media and the slander, or even just because they can be large dogs.  A large dog even coming at you to lick your face can be scary.

I'm afraid of most cats.  Because some little bastard (or bastards) bit me or scratched me when I tried to pet it.  But that doesn't mean all cats are assholes. 

If you ever want to see just how wrong the hype is about pitbulls, just look at London.  Go visit a shelter and see one. 

They are strong.  They have a lot of energy.  They want nothing more than to please their masters.  Irresponsible owners are the reason the dogs get a bad rap.

Or come visit Carmen!  She may lick your feet (she's a weirdo like that) but if you scratch her chest and play tuggy-rope with her, she will be your best friend for life.

October 9, 2012


(for the record, that's not the brilliant blog post title I wanted.  but at the end of the day, that's the basic subject of what you're about to read. and it's more important to me to get all of this said than to come up with a witty title.)

(also this post is gonna be long. sorry.)

I have lots of internet friends. Some I've met in real life, some I may never meet in real life, but I actually feel closer to them than you might imagine.  One of those awesome internet-friends-I-just-haven't-met-yet-but-I-know-we'd-be-besties friends is Bex.

Bex is rad.

Bex sent me a CD full of Nate Ruess music (Fun., yes, but also stuff from when he sang with The Format).

Bex (indirectly) encouraged me to read Bukowski and watch The Big Bang Theory.  These are all reasons Bex is the bomb.edu, but I want to talk about a post she wrote recently (real recently...like, published today) in which she basically set up camp inside my brain and put into words many of the things that I haven't been able to quite articulate yet.  Here in a moment or two, I'm going to straight up copy/paste some of her sentiments and then add my comments.  But first...

Anyone who knows me (and knows me well) will have noticed that, over the past 10 months or so, I have made some pretty drastic changes.  I stopped drinking soda, cleaned up my eating, and lost 20lbs (and counting, I hope).  I stopped drinking alcohol. I started spending more time at home. I got back into a habit of spending time with the Bible and reading my devotional emails and trying to live a Christ-focused life. I started saying "no" to things.

I'm trying to simplify.

All of these things have made a couple of things very clear to me...the first and most important was that I needed to start making Christ a priority again.  The (very close) second was that I have not been the type of wife I should've been trying to be from "I do." The third was that, even with all these awesome internet friends...all you really need is a close circle of real life friends.  K.I.S.S. and all that.  Keep it simple, stupid.

I'm trying to recognize which friendships are worth cultivating and making daily, real effort to maintain, and recognize which ones are surface, online, fringe friendships that probably don't need to take up a whole lot of energy or drama or stress. Please understand what I'm saying here. Nobody is a throw-away friend. I wish ill on nobody. All I'm saying is...simplify. 

I need to prioritize.

What makes me happy? Actually, what makes my husband happy? What makes my Creator happy? Is what I'm doing making all 3 of us happy? Because that's what matters.

So onto the Lovely Bex and her amazing words that seemed to reflect what I've been stressing over lately:

I'm here to tell you that sometimes it's okay to be selfish. There's a difference between being selfish and being self-centered in that selfish can be temporary, whereas self-centered rarely is. Sometimes you're worn down by constant demands that are made by loved ones and/or coworkers. Hell, sometimes you demand too much of yourself. It's okay to take a step back and breathe, because here's something that took me too damn long to learn -- it's okay to say "no" to people. You can say no to hanging out if you want to stay in. You can say no to a phone conversation if you know that you'll just be dead air to the other end of the line. You can say no to favors. If your friends know you well enough, they'll back off. They know as well as you do that if they had a crisis in the middle of the night, you'd still show up with no hesitation. Needing time to yourself is not synonymous with being a jerk.

Word, Bex.

You guys, if I'm saying "no" to things and wanting to stay home instead of going to the bars, or not taking the ONE day I have off and going to see your show, stop taking it personally. It's not you, it's me. I just need to recharge. I need to do what's best for me. 

It's okay to re-prioritize your life even though some people may not make the cut... and it's okay not to miss those people, too. Usually it means you've made the right decision. You'll get nostalgic occasionally, but it's mostly nostalgia for the fun or the happiness you had with the people in question. In our everlasting instinct to want to think the best of people, our memories turn to the happy times when we reminisce. If you've ever been upset over the end of a crappy relationship, you know how this goes. People change. You change. As the age-old proverb goes, change is the only constant.
Speaking of which, it's okay to change. You are not betraying anyone by growing as a person (and if they act like it is a betrayal, seriously, it's time to re-evaluate your social circle). Life is too short to pretend to be something or someone you're not just to appease other people or keep from hurting their feelings. Some people want to travel, others are homebodies. Some people want to get married, some will never get out of their party animal stage. Some people want kids, some people don't. Some people need friends outside of their marriage, others are perfectly content with their spouse and their family.  It's okay to be any of these things, as long as you don't lie to others -- or yourself -- about who you really are and where your heart truly is.

Some of those are...whoa...I mean get out of my head, Bex. The colored text (I added the color to point it out) is something I've been trying to verbalize for a couple of weeks now.  

Facebook has put a pressure on all of us to hang out all the time and stay completely invested in the lives of our 400 friends. I really wish I had a nickel for every time I've seen an "I miss you so much let's hang out!" and it just seems...rote. Borderline insincere at times.  But here's the thing...it's okay! I really don't mind if you don't wanna hang out with me; nor should you mind ("you" being the general population here, of course) if I only want to stay informed of your life based on what you choose to share on social media. It's really, really okay. I love seeing parts of your life, "liking" your photos and whatnot...but it's really really okay if we don't keep putting this ridiculous pressure on finding a time to get coffee, which is probably something neither of us really wants to do, so let's just be honest about that. 

I don't expect my hundreds of Facebook friends (does that make me sound like an a-hole? I don't mean to...) to put in a whole lot of effort to keep up with me outside my public timeline. I won't do the same for all of them.  Put that energy into the friendships worth cultivating, and you'll save everyone a lot of hurt feelings and awkwardness. It's really okay.

Re: it's okay to change -- yes.  It's okay for me to change.  It's okay if you change. It's okay if you don't change. I don't drink alcohol at the moment...I don't care if you DO.  I want to stay home with my husband on a Friday night...I don't care if you wanna go OUT.  It's okay to be different and to have different priorities. I don't feel judged at all for my recent choices, but it's important to me that my friends know that neither do I judge them for theirs (unless they are harmful, of course, but that's coming from a place of concern and compassion, not judgment).

If someone is incandescently happy, don't you think you should be happy for them too?  Don't you think that they might have walked through the fires of hell to get to their happiness? Don't you think that if you focused a little bit more on yourself and how to escape your struggles that you'd eventually find your own happiness (and want to shout about it from the rooftops)?  I mean, I know it takes less effort to sit, sulk, and snark (and if that's what you choose to do, then I sincerely pity you) ... but what will you ever truly accomplish with your life if that's your attitude toward someone you claim to love who is happy?

Okay Bex, I hear ya. This one, I am guilty of doing to others. Part of my personal growth in the last year has been learning to recognize and admit to my flaws.  This is one of mine.  I get bitter, sometimes. I get angry when I feel like others seem to have every possible fortune bestowed upon them, when I'm struggling to make ends meet or don't get cast in a show or....am having a fat day while they (rightly) announce meeting their next weight loss milestone. I don't think I tend to dwell (for long, anyway) on my struggles so much, but I DO have to fight a knee-jerk reaction to be bitter, rather than happy for friends. I have to be proactive about remembering my own gifts and blessings and talents.

I'm...working on it. And yes, I know that "I'm working on it" and "I'm aware of it" do not give me carte blanche to be an asshole.  I'm going to mess up and struggle, but please know that it is something I'm aware of.

I recently turned 31. I'll blog about the actual birthday and all of it's awesomeness soon (all my pictures are at home, and by the time I get home, I'm sick of looking at a computer screen). I thought that, by my 30s, I'd have more of this all figured out.

I don't.

But I'm making changes, and they feel good. I truly hope the same for you...for my "fringe friends" and for my close friends, I wish you the same clarity and simple happiness...whether that comes on a quiet patio with a cup of coffee or surrounded by music and loud laughter and talking and people!

And I ask your forgiveness if I've hurt you or made you feel judged or unhappy on this journey of mine. It's my responsibility to not take the stumbling blocks along the way and use them as an excuse to bring you down with me.

Now, go get yourself another cookie (or bagel, or pickle, or whatever it is you are craving) for making it through another long post!

October 2, 2012

It's not the Quinoa

I took the photo above (with the help of a friend, obviously) for the 7 Days project/group that I'm a part of over on Flickr, and in the past couple of days it's become more and more symbolic of what (I think) is going on in my life right now.

The intersection.

The specific intersection, and what those words mean to me: Ponder scripture.

Me, holding on (for dear life?).

Glancing upwards, and on unsteady ground (you can't tell from the photo, but my balance was precarious, especially in those heels).

The STOP sign.

Confused yet?  Allow me to back up...

During the end of rehearsals and the opening and run of the last show that I did, I started noticing that I was experiencing slight heart flutters, or palpitations. I have a heart rate testing app on my phone (ah, technology!), and I found that my heart rate wasn't particularly high or low; in fact, it was quite normal.  So I changed my description of this feeling to say "I'm just very aware of my heartbeat lately."  From those in whom I confided this slight worry, I got the following responses:

"You're pregnant, I bet." (Nope. Unless I just don't know it, but odds are against it currently.)
"You're just stressed out." (Well, always...at least a little. But really, things are going quite well for me!)
"You're not getting enough sleep." (Fact)

But it mysteriously went away over a long weekend spent feeling fairly relaxed and content.  The following Monday, I had some quinoa with my lunch (it's a recent obsession), and almost immediately I felt "very aware of my heartbeat" again.  OH OKAY IT'S THE QUINOA! I thought to myself.  So I did some googling, found that some food allergies/aversions can cause your chest to feel tight/constricted because it makes the lungs swell. That seemed logical.  So I decided to cut out the quinoa for a week or so, confident that would be the end of the heart flutters.

Cue a death in the family a week later (expected, but still very very sad), a high volume of work and deadlines at the office, everyday annoyances, and a lack of time to deal with everything the way it probably needs to be dealt with, and OH HEY IT'S BACK.

It's not the quinoa.

Look, I hate admitting that I'm having a hard time.  I'm terrified of sounding negative or whiny.  Who wants to post that they're just having a hard time dealing with regular life, when you know that post is going to show up right after a post about a 7-year-old kicking cancer's ass, or a woman undergoing chemo who still pours her LIFE into rescuing animals??  Put on your big girl panties and deal with it, Mandy, right?

Yeah, but...nobody expects me to be able to handle everything alone. I wasn't created to be alone. God doesn't want or expect me to handle these things alone.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

So I posted on Facebook yesterday that I needed prayers (or, from those who don't choose to pray, pictures of puppies) because I was having a hard time not flying into a rage and/or bursting into tears.  You know, straws & camels backs, that whole thing... My friends came through for me and then some.

I have amazing friends and a husband to whom I can confess (without feeling silly) that I feel like I'm under a spiritual attack.  Work is hard -- but manageable.  Christine is gone -- but I have faith that I will see her again in Heaven. The choices I've made recently to better myself and my life mean that I am being prepared to fight on the Lord's team, and the Enemy doesn't like that.  Not. One. Bit.

So he (who does not deserve the capital "h") attacks where my insecurities lie.  Am I being a good friend? A good wife? Am I encouraging my husband?  Do my efforts to sound positive just come across as selfish and full of crap? Do my friends really like hanging out with me? Am I talented, or do I just think I am?  Are my efforts to implement new processes at work selfish, or do I truly want to help the greater good?  Did I tell Christine I loved her enough?  What if she never knew?  What if something happened to my spouse at such a young age?

(Gee, don't tell me you don't wanna pitch a tent inside MY brain lately, huh?)

I see email previews and my heart races.  I see "Hey honey, I don't mean to be...." and I fill it in with "...rude, but, I'm really upset that you've __________ or not done _________."  I get a work email that says "I just feel like I have to tell you....."  and I fill it in with "...you're really not ______ enough lately."  I have dreams that I've been cast in a show and everyone is prepared but me; and I get chastised publicly by a director.

It's not the quinoa.

And I need to be confident that it's okay and normal and beautifully, tragically human to feel this way.  And I'm encouraged and expected to confess and ask for help.  No, I'm not dying (any more than most of us are every day).  I'm healthy and I have the things I need.  But I need to learn to acknowledge that my feelings and fears are there and that they are valid, and then stop allowing them to control me.

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You." Isaiah 26:3

So if you have a minute and don't mind...I'd love the prayers.  And if you made it through this entire post, go get yourself a cookie.  You earned it!