Tuesday, 30 April 2013
Sir Paul once wrote that sadness is just happiness in a black jacket.
I wrote it down, but I don't think I really understood what he meant back then. My dad had just died, and I was young, and I thought that all sadness was identical and overwhelming.
I didn't know that grief doesn't always come as a tidal wave crashing into your life. That sometimes it settles around your shoulders like a soft blanket, or gently flutters in the corners of your vision. Always there, but never too much.
My old piano teacher died last week. She was in her seventies, but it was unexpected. An accident.
I haven't seen Mrs. Peters in twelve years, at least. I quit taking piano lessons about a year before we moved away from that small town, focusing instead on my vocal and flute lessons with her daughter. When I got the word about her death, I was shocked, but I tried to shrug it off. I told myself that I hadn't seen her in such a long time. That this wasn't going to affect my life, so why get upset?
But the grief followed me anyway, tugging at my arms and trying to get my attention no matter what I did to blow it off. I finally sighed and gave in . . . and found to my surprise that it simply wrapped me up in a black jacket for a little while. Just like Sir Paul had said.
Like so many other things in this life, grief comes in many shapes and sizes. I spent so many years running from one kind of grief that I didn't let myself learn to embrace another kind - a kind that allows us to feel, to be human, and to recognize the impact that other people have on our lives without taking us to pieces and forcing us to rebuild everything all over again.
Mrs. Peters didn't actually teach me how to play the piano. She took over my brothers' and my musical education when our original teacher moved away, but by that time, I already knew her. I used to tag along to Leslie's lessons and sit on the couch in the basement studio, reading Archie comic books and listening to the notes being pounded out on the old upright. When the Clevelands left and my parents signed us up with Mrs. Peters, I was happy because I already knew her. (And it didn't hurt that it meant Leslie and I would be able to do recitals together.)
I still think of her whenever I see an Archie comic book.
Almost every week for seven years, I walked the three blocks from our house to the basement where Mrs. Peters taught her lessons in her parents' house because her home on the farm was too far out of town. We worked our way through book after book, from recital to recital, until she decided that I was ready to compete. I didn't want to play competitively on any level, so I quit. By that time, I was in high school with a very full schedule, so it was not unexpected, but sometimes I wish I had stuck with it for at least that one last year before we moved away.
Still, I had close to a decade of lessons from her, and more than anything else, what I remember about Mrs. Peters is how much she believed in me. She believed that I was good, that I could play the piano well, and she acted on that belief. She set me up with other students to play duets and with small groups in recitals and churches and anywhere else that she could get us in. She even tried to get me to compete at district events for school. She expected me to play well and to perform well, always. I let her down a few times by not practicing enough or not memorizing something that I should have, but she never thought less of me for it.
It's a lot easier to be confident when you know that somebody out there believes in you. That is the gift that Mrs. Peters gave to me over those seven years of piano lessons. It is a gift that has helped to shape the woman I have become, and I will always be grateful.
I have not seen Mrs. Peters in years, but she is woven into the story of my childhood. Her death does not rock my world like it does for other people, but I grieve for the woman who taught me so much while laughing softly at the memories that she brings to life for me.
This is happiness wrapped in a black jacket. It has taken years, but I think I finally understand.
Thursday, 18 April 2013
I was so proud of myself for easing back into blogging regularly in 2013, and then . . . no posts for a month.
On the plus side, I went on vacation for nearly ten days and it was wonderful! I spent time with several college friends, and then spent Easter weekend with all of my siblings together in one place, and I came home with almost four times more books than I left with.
I love to read.
Actually, Noelle and I were trying to explain the relationship that I have with books to her boyfriend at one point during the trip, and the best we came up with was that I am a very fast reader. As in, I can read 2-3 full length books per week, no problem. I'm not sure that he totally believed us until the three of us were flipping through his DVR and Noelle pulled up the description of a show. She waited about one second before starting to read it out loud. When she had finished, Paul looked at me and asked if I had finished reading it before she did. I smiled at him and said, "Paul, I finished reading it before she even started."
It's been a very long time since I thought about how much (and how fast) I read. In light of that conversation, I decided to try to track every book that I read in 2013, partly for fun and partly to see what I actually read. Maybe there is an interesting theme that will come up, or maybe I'll realize that I read too many novels and I should try to throw in some other stuff...
(Actually, that last part is probably true. I don't need to track all of my books in a year to know that!)
I'm tracking the books in Goodreads, and I haven't sat down yet to figure out if I can link it up to this blog, but I'll let you know if I do. I'm also hoping to review the books once in a while, because I know that I appreciate getting reviews or recommendations from people before I pick up a new book and I'm willing to bet that some of you do, too. (My friend Ann tells me now and then not to read certain books because she knows that I'll hate the writing, even though I might like the story. I trust her judgement enough that I have never read any of them. I figure that there are enough other books out there to keep me busy. But the point is that I appreciate getting an opinion from someone else before spending time or money reading it myself.)
All this talk about books is making me think of the mess in my room right now - created partly because I bought a new bookshelf at IKEA last week and had to re-organize my rather large library to make it all fit. I think that's my cue to go clean while I still have energy daylight discipline...
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
In no particular order...
* The smell of honeysuckle
* Dandelions. I know that they're weeds, but that shade of yellow is just so happy. I can't help smiling when I see them peeking out from the edge of the sidewalk.
* And speaking of yellow, daffodils. They remind me of springtime in England, and they're blooming all around my office right now.
* Sunsets in LA in the winter. The colors are not as spectacular as winter sunsets in the midwest, but LA sunsets have their own unique glow.
* The dining patio at the Getty Center. It's so big and open and airy, and that view can't be beat. On a clear day, at least.
* Copying several months' worth of photos from my phone to my computer and rediscovering pictures that I'd forgotten about.
* The way that seagulls watch the sun. Especially at sunset. They all stand still on the beach and watch the sun dip down into the water. It's like watching a ceremony to honor an ancient god.
* My Converse shoes. Even at the beach.
* Santa Monica. Not for swimming, though. Just for being.
* Flowering cacti. Because it's unexpected.
Sunday, 10 March 2013
Remember how I said yesterday that my birthday felt fast, without a lot of fanfare?
It was a good birthday - a very good birthday - with lots of well-wishes and cards and Facebook notes and even flowers . . . but something about it felt a little weird.
I didn't realize until today what that something was: It didn't feel complete.
I love all of my people, and I love everyone who celebrated with me on the actual day. But I have people from work. And I have people from church. And I have people from neither one. And on my birthday, it was all just people from work. It wasn't a complete picture of my life. It was only one section. A wonderful section - a section that made me feel very loved - but only one section of my life.
And my life is bigger than that. I've fought hard over the last two years to make my life - my community - bigger than that. So it wasn't bad to have the day all about my friends at work; it just felt a little odd, and I couldn't figure out why until I had had dinner last night with some friends from church and then coffee today with old high school friends. And afterwards I smiled the whole way down the mountain into Glendale and thought, "Now it feels complete."
It's like Marcus says in About A Boy, one of my all-time favorite movies: "Suddenly I realized - two people isn't enough. You need backup. If you're only two people, and someone drops off the edge, then you're on your own. Two isn't a large enough number. You need three at least."
By the end of the movie, Marcus realizes that three isn't enough, either - you need a whole group of people to back you up, to be there when life is happy, and when it's sad. To support you and celebrate with you. And sometimes to share their garlic bread with you, just because you asked for it.
You need community.
That's what felt weird about my birthday - half of my community was missing. I have a lot of people that I value in my life, and I need them all. I think I needed to be reminded of that, especially now that I live so much closer to work.
That, and the fact that you never know when you might get a piece of garlic bread just by asking for it.
Saturday, 09 March 2013
As of two weeks ago, I am not a resident of Burbank any longer.
And you know what? It really wasn't as scary as I expected.
For one thing, trying to move a two bedroom townhouse all by myself made me realize how many friends I have - how many people in my life are willing to step up and help me when I need it. I'm really not alone, even though I was living alone for several months. I could not have moved without all of the help that I was given, whether it was posting Craigslist ads on my behalf or helping me to pack, or helping me load and unload my Uhaul truck - or even the simple help given by the friend who dropped everything to pick me up at the Uhaul store and drive me a few miles back to my car at the end of a long day. Moving alone is hard, but looking back at the last month, I think it was worth it if only for the experience of seeing how many people are willing to help me out. If you are one of those people, thank you a million times over!
I moved into an almost-new three bedroom townhouse located only a few minutes from my work. For the first time in my working life, I do not have to get on a freeway or highway to get to work, and it's a beautiful thing. I wasn't sure about living in the area of my work - it may sound odd, but the surrounding landscape has always been an important part of my life, even as a little girl in Nebraska, and I've never loved the landscape around here as much as I do closer to Burbank. I think that the dramatically reduced commute is going to make up for that, though. For now, at least. Nothing is ever permanent, right?
Including my age. I had a birthday this week. It was fun, but kind of weird coming so close after weeks of preparation for a move. I didn't really have time to plan a party or anything, which was okay with me, but the lack of much fanfare made the whole thing feel very . . . fast.
I don't much else to say on this lazy Saturday afternoon. I mostly wanted to check in and say hello.
My laundry in the washer is banging around in the garage. I should probably go check on that...
Thursday, 31 January 2013
settle down, it'll all be clear / don't pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear / trouble, it might drag you down / you get lost, you can always be found / just know you're not alone / 'cause I'm gonna make this place your home
This song has been fluttering around the edges of my world for the last few months. I admit that I kind of love it. In one simple chorus, it reminds me that life is not always perfect, but hope makes things okay.
It reminds me that this life is not permanent, and I shouldn't expect things to last forever because they won't, but that doesn't mean that the new things won't also be good.
It reminds me that I'm not crazy to be sad or even a little scared when things change, especially when I don't really know what that change will look like.
It reminds me that there really are only seven unique plotlines in the world, and that I can always find another person who has lived through something similar to me.
And it reminds me that I'm never lost so far that no one will ever be able to find me again.
(All that in a pop song...)
It's good to be reminded of these things sometimes. I tend to be pretty emotionally stable, unlikely to burst into tears without a really obvious reason (like a broken wrist or busted teeth or something equally traumatic). I'm perfectly happy to be this way, but sometimes living in the mellow middle means that I don't let myself express what I'm really feeling. I convince myself that it's silly to feel sad over leaving a place - it's just a place, after all - and so I just don't let myself feel sad. And then I'm sad that I'm not allowed to be sad, and I start to think that maybe I'm a little crazy for wanting to be sad, and then I try to be more cheerful to make up for thinking that I'm crazy, and then I feel sad for faking happy, and then that reminds me why I was feeling sad, and I get sad all over again because I have to leave the place, and the cycle goes on and on...
Sometimes life would just plain be less complicated if I always let myself feel whatever I'm feeling!
As of today, my roommate and I will officially be moving out of our lovely townhouse within the next thirty days. She is moving away, and I... Well, I don't know exactly what I'm doing.
Sure, I have some plans in place. I have a couple of friends who also need housing, so the three of us are going to look for something to share. I think it will be a good situation . . . but we don't know where, exactly. We don't have a timeframe. (I might have to use storage and crash on couches for a few weeks.) We don't have a place. We don't have a city. All that we have is a range of at least 10 miles . . . located at least 20 miles from where I currently live. And therein lies the problem.
I'm fine with moving. Really, I am. But the sadness hits at the oddest moments - watching the morning sun light up the cafe curtains while filling up my coffee cup in my local bakery, joining the streams of people wandering downtown on a Saturday afternoon, circling through the equestrian district on my way home from dropping off the rent check... I love where I live. I live the city; I love living next door to Griffith Park; I love how I feel surrounded by mountains while still living in the Valley. I love living two blocks from our sweet little downtown district, and the large Catholic church whose stained glass windows paint the sky above me when I leave home after dark. And even though I have a long commute, there are a few points along my drive both to and from work that make my soul happy.
It may sound strange, but I'm not quite sure who I will be when these things are no longer part of my daily life. And that makes me sad. And maybe a little bit scared.
And then I hear a whisper of song. I breathe in, and then out, and remember that I am not alone. That someday I will be home. And until then . . . well, it'll be okay.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
While sitting in a meeting at work a week or two ago, trying to get six people to agree on the best way to teach a new technological process to our hundreds of faculty and thousands of students, someone suggested that we make a training video.
When everyone else seemed enthusiastic, another person started listing all of the people in our office with family members who had connections to film production, trying to come up with someone who might be willing to volunteer their time to help us make a training video, because, as several people agreed, making videos is hard and complicated and would take too long for us uninitiated to figure out.
As is common with me, I started talking before my brain had quite caught up and could stop me. "Making videos is easy, you guys," I said with a too-cool-for-school shrug. "I make videos all the time." (It's true, but in the spirit of full honesty, I have to admit that mine are just for fun. Not for professional purposes.)
All eyes turned to me. Most of them looked a little skeptical.
"Seriously, you guys. I mean, this is my degree."
At least four of the five other people in the meeting all responded so quickly I couldn't really tell who said what, but each point was, "Your degree? But I thought you were an English major!"
I shook my head. "Nope. My degree is in Media Communication."
And that was when my brain finally caught up. My degree is in media communication. Not English Literature.
You'd think I would remember that, right?
Even more, later in the day I remembered (and told my boss) that I took a full year of video production classes as part of my degree, and that I have worked as both a contracted scriptwriter for promotional videos and as a contracted camera and lighting operator for an indie movie. It was all long ago (relatively speaking), and I'm not going to claim tons of experience, but I can also pretty confidently say that I know what I'm doing when it comes to creating a promotional video.
It blew my mind a little, though.
In the almost nine years since my college graduation, I have worked in a variety of jobs, but since that first summer after school, I have never had a job that leaned very heavily into the media part of my degree. Some of that - okay, a lot of it - is because of me. I've always had this idea that it wasn't worth even applying for any job that hinted at the creative arts because I had a snowball's chance in you-know-where of getting it.
I actually had a few (valid, I thought) reasons for this. One, I didn't have much of a portfolio. Two, because I didn't have much of a portfolio, I didn't feel like my experience was worth much in the real world. And three, I did a radio internship my senior year that turned me off of the world of corporate entertainment - clawing your way up through the ranks, focusing on the money, and accepting any job, no matter where, as long as it was a step up. I didn't want anything to do with that, so I veered away from anything with media ties, which put me even farther away (in my mind) from any chance of getting a media or arts related job.
It's been so long that I started to forget how much I liked all of that media stuff. There was a reason why I majored in it, after all. (And it wasn't because I had any clue what I wanted to do after school...) I also started to forget how much experience I actually do have in it.
My job these days is a customer service position, and I like it well enough, but over the last year, it has fallen more and more into the world of marketing and corporate communications . . . and I love that. I go home at night so tired from juggling the demands of my customer service duties with the laundry list of marketing items that must be done, but honestly, I wouldn't trade it for anything right now, if only because it has brought me full circle, reminding me once again, in one more way, that God always knows what He is doing in my life. That even when I almost blindly pick a major with no earthly idea how to use it in the real world, and even when I spend five years trying my hardest to stay far away from any association with that major, He can still draw me back to the things that I love and whisper in my ear, "You can do this. I believe in you."
I have to make a training video at work over the next few weeks. Me, a girl who almost forgot that she knew anything about video production. And you know what? I'm excited. I'm excited to make the video, to use my talents . . . and to see where God is going to take me next. He already brought me all the way around ("like a record, baby, right round round round"). What kind of crazy places will He take me to from here?
Friday, 25 January 2013
Why is it that I only worked for three days this week, but I feel as tired tonight as if I had just finished a super-busy full week??
I could probably trace it to the length of my to-do list in those three days of work, or to the amount of walking that Kristin and I did during her visit last weekend, or to the amount of sleep I got while she was here (a lot - we slept in every morning!) compared to the early hour shock to my system of the last three days...
Whatever the case, I'm so glad that it's Friday.
I'm also glad that I discovered Pandora. This is not a new discovery, but my appreciation of it over the last few weeks has grown exponentially...
...with my random pick of the Phillip Phillips Pandora station!
I don't follow American Idol very closely, but when a coworker started playing his single regularly, my ears perked up.
Sometimes I confuse his sound with Dave Matthews - seriously, folks, is there such a thing as a voice twin? - but it's okay because I also like Dave.
And when I needed a new Pandora station last week, I typed in 'Phillip Phillips' on a whim . . . and found my new favorite station ever.
If acoustic/mellow rock is your thing, try it out. I promise you'll love it.
I don't have a great segue to this, but I also wanted to share this video (link provided in case the embedding doesn't work):
Seriously. Cute, funny and inspiring, all at the same time. How many times can you claim that?
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
The Griffith Observatory is my happy place.
I don't visit often - usually only when out-of-town friends are visiting - but it is one of my favorite places in LA. High up on the side of the mountain, surrounded by the wildness of Griffith Park, overseeing the entire scope of Los Angeles, Hollywood and West LA, even into the San Gabriel Valley and South Bay, it always looks to me like an ancient temple looking out over a modern city.
Sometimes I just need to get elevation, to be able to gaze out across the plains like baby Simba in the opening scene of The Lion King. To feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, to get above the noise of the traffic and the people...
The Observatory is LA's answer for me. Quiet, sun-soaked, windy, and on a clear day you can see from the ocean all the way to the mountains near Palm Springs.
Kristin flew in from Minnesota for the weekend, and we spent yesterday wandering around downtown Burbank. I bought a large piece of art for my living room and carried it the three blocks home instead of walking home to get my car and then driving back down and looking for parking, just to avoid carrying a giant canvas for a few blocks.
As we approached the fire station near my house, at least ten off-duty firemen suddenly burst out of the building, pointing up the street in obvious excitement. At the far end of the block, a service van suddenly blew through the intersection with loud popping sounds, followed by at least three police cars with lights flashing and sirens wailing.
We both froze just as the group of firement turned around to go back inside. They all looked at us and smiled, so we smiled back. The last two - both fairly young and very good-looking - stopped. They apologized for the commotion and asked about the giant painting that I was carrying, and when I told them that I could sort of see a pirate ship in the strokes of the floral bouquet, they agreed with me and even traced parts of it to demonstrate.
The canvas is sitting in my living room, waiting to be hung on the wall, and now all I can see when I look at it is the pirate ship.
"What is a pirate's favorite type of boat?"
Thursday, 03 January 2013
I signed up for Netflix last week - the streaming version, not the someone-mails-you-a-dvd version - and put a few TV shows in my instant queue, all ready for me to watch at a moment's notice.
I was scrolling through the queue yesterday and I had to laugh at myself. I mean, I knew I had eclectic tastes, but really?
Sure, there are some similarities in this sample of my current lineup, and an interested observer could probably draw enough parallels between these to get a pretty good idea of what kinds of things attract me to TV shows, but when I look at it, I just laugh.
If anyone is wondering, I definitely recommend any of these four shows.
- Name: Christine
- Location: Los Angeles, California, United States
- Gender: Female
- Member Since: 9/7/2005
I'm a 30ish woman who can pass as much younger. Maybe it's because I work with college students, or maybe it's because I'm single, or maybe it's because I like to laugh. Want to know what else I like? Follow along and see!