Why Concerts are Important

For how LOUD they are, a good live show sure does have a magical way of drowning out all the “noise” in life and reminding us what’s really important.

That was my experience last night at the Justin Timberlake concert in Seattle. 

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There was a lot to be excited about at this show – from JT’s dance moves and dapper tux, to an unexpected cover of “Poison,” from cameos by Macklemore and Seahawks, to the killer seats my husband scored for us where we soaked it all in one row from the floor. 

But the real magic came at the end of the concert, as I suspected it would, when Justin closed his show with an arena-rattling rendition of his monster hit “Mirrors” – the biggest single from the biggest album of 2013.

I was watching JT dance and sing and smile and clap his hands above his head, but more than that I was watching other people watching him.  The PEOPLE who were packed into this arena at midnight after a three-hour show.  The PEOPLE who were swaying and bouncing and rocking out and closing their eyes as if they didn’t have a care in the world.  The PEOPLE who had surely had hard weeks, exhausting weeks, heartbreaking weeks, even – and who didn’t know where they found the energy to feel so alive at this late hour on a Friday night.  I was watching THEM.  I was watching all of them sing this song as if it was all that mattered.  And I was singing right along with them, feeling the same way.

On our chilly walk to find a cab after the concert let out, I turned to Aaron and said, “At the end of the day, all any human being wants is to sing ‘Mirrors’ so loudly that they forget about all the shit in their life for four minutes.”  Those four minutes are pure redemption, pure oxygen, pure freedom from all the stuff that gets in the way of us having those four minutes of joy and connection a hell of a lot more often.

Any good concert has its anthem.  I’ve ridden this euphoric wave before – during Coldplay’s “Fix You,” Tim McGraw’s “Where the Green Grass Grows,” Incubus’s “Drive.” I would imagine at a Paul McCartney show it’s “Hey Jude,” “Free Fallin’” in the presence of Tom Petty, and that for Katy Perry it’s “Roar.”  Everyone has That Song that gets the crowd on their feet, screaming the lyrics, forgetting about EVERYTHING else for those few precious minutes surrounded by strangers.  We humans need that.  We crave that. We don’t get that nearly enough. 

Why is that?  I don’t know.  Probably for a long list of technical and psychologically-rooted very sound reasons.  But that’s for another blog.  All I want to write about today is about the importance of musicMusic in the midst of thousands of other pulsing, screaming, sweating, singing humans.  And how it is to the soul what an oil change is to a sputtering car, what a “not guilty” verdict is to a desperate defendant, what a fresh snowfall is to a garden that hasn’t felt its touch in years.  Cleansing.  Liberating.  Sacred. 

So go get yourself to a loud, rowdy concert in 2014.  It just may be the best money you’ve spent in a long time.

Next up for us?  Lady Gaga in May. Full report to follow, but I think it’s safe to predict that I haven’t experienced people watching until I’ve experienced it at a Lady Gaga concert.  Until then…keep it loud.

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EVER GREEN: Why My Native Seattle Won’t Let Me Leave

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While stumbling through life at the cringe-worthy age that is female adolescence, I used to parade around the house proudly in an oversized, second-hand Stanford University sweatshirt.  It was white (or, as white as second-hand and worn regularly by an 11-year-old can be) with an evergreen tree and the mascot red cardinal, if I do recall.  My mother bought me two of my favorite sweatshirts at that age – one said YALE, the other STANFORD.  Yet when push came to shove my mother mostly campaigned for me to attend Shoreline Community College.  I am still working that all out in my head, but I think what it mostly boils down to is that Stanford University sweatshirts and Shoreline Community College tuition are about the same price. 

Back to the sweatshirt.  In conjunction with my parading, I swore – SWORE – that I was moving to California THE. DAY. I. TURNED. EIGHTEEN.  PERIOD.  I was a passionate pre-teen who also spent the days immediately following rural summer camp circling livestock classified ads, pleading with my parents that our urban backyard could totally support a horse. 

The stable-in-the-city ambition died a fairly swift death, but I was all California, all the time for YEARS.   You see, I watched  A LOT of Beverly Hills, 90210 and thought that palm trees and beach cabanas were Where It’s At.  Seattle didn’t have cabanas, or Stanford, or Dylan McKay.  California was my destiny. 

No one ever explained to me the subtle differences between the Bay Area and Beverly Hills – that one was known for nerds and one for narcissists.  Perhaps my precocious, smarty pants sweatshirt-wearing self was a little bit of both.  

Well, I never moved to California. Fast-forward six years later and I was applying and accepted to the state university 20 minutes from my parents’ house, and nowhere else.  Fast-forward four years after that and I came thisclose to moving to Hawaii, which was the early 20s love affair equivalent to my 12-year-old intoxication with all things Beverly Hills.  I mean, I came really, really close to moving to Hawaii.  Sold my car, quit my job, emailed the moving announcement to everyone I knew, CLOSE.  People got me sunscreen and ‘So you want to live in Hawaii?’ books for Christmas.  I’m not kidding. 

I’m 30 now and somehow, all the palm trees and convertibles in the world have never quite been able to lure me away from my seductively soggy city.  So what is it about Seattle that has made me what I am increasingly coming to realize is quite the minority – a third generation Seattle native who’s never lived anywhere else?

Well for starters, I am blessed to have all of my family here.  My husband’s family, too.  And I don’t feel the need to spend as many hours baking in the sun as I did at age 12 or 22.  And I actually drink coffee on a regular basis now, so I have found somewhere to spend my money on every corner.  Beat that!

Seriously though, I’ve been struck recently by how rare it is to meet people my age who have lived in Seattle their whole life.  This has become especially apparent in the new mom world.  Throughout my pregnancy prep classes, my PEPS group and local mom Facebook groups, it is truly a rare occurrence to meet another mom (or dad) who was born and raised here and has never left.  Seattle is increasingly a city of transplants – a melting pot of burned out New Yorkers, snowed out Midwesterners, techies from San Francisco and hipsters from Austin.  Some come for jobs (we do have Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks to name a few…), some for the culture (it’s a great place to write, research, be outdoorsy or dive into your dearest political cause), and some for reasons unbeknownst to me.  But they keep on comin’. 

I think I valued Seattle the least when I hadn’t really been anywhere else.  I didn’t travel beyond the three West Coast states until my early twenties.  Between ages 20 and 30, largely due to traveling with my husband for the small business we own, I’ve boosted my “states seen” roster to about 25.  Not bad for a sheltered West Coast girl. 

Here are some of the things I now know to be true about Seattle, now that I know what I’m missing in much of the rest of the country…

 

1.  THE AIR

The air truly is not crisper, cleaner or fresher anywhere else in the country.  Except probably Alaska.  But seriously, I am NEVER moving to Alaska.  I always savor those first deep breaths of Seattle air waiting outside for the shuttle bus after coming home on a flight. I’ve been a lot of places and there really is nothing like coming home to that air.

2. THE NEIGHBORHOODS

 No other city I’ve experienced has such a rich, diverse and welcoming mosaic of neighborhoods.  I am convinced there is a pocket of this city tailor made to suit just about anyone’s tastes.  From the rowdy bars and funky fashion of Capitol Hill, to the patchwork of parks covering Magnolia; from the sunny stretches of California-esque Alki Beach to the Craftsmans and coffee houses of quaint Queen Anne – Seattle’s got it covered. 

3.  THE FOOD

We do not mess around when it comes to our food.  What did Virginia Woolf say?  “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”  Mine has been quite the era in which to grow up here, and witness our food scene explode.  I was educated on truly good food at a young age, working at a landmark Seattle fine dining restaurant from my mid-teens to early twenties. It was there I learned about wild salmon, tried my first of many crab cakes, learned about the art of cheese, and developed an appreciation for wine.  I’ve spent many a lazy afternoon wandering one of our many farmers markets, have eaten at bakeries that transport me to a hybrid of Heaven and Paris, and shopped at grocery stores more beautiful than my house.  We love our food and our food loves us.

4. THE PEOPLE 

Our people are passionate AND polite.  One of the most literate and liberal cities in the country, our residents may read you (no pun intended…) the riot act for voting Republican or failing to recycle, but chances are they’ll follow it up with a smile and invitation to sushi.  Though I’ve heard it can be hard to break into Seattle’s dating scene, most out-of-towners I’ve talked to remark on how NICE people are here – whether it’s the guy who made your coffee, the valet who parked your car, or the neighbor who lent you a cup of sugar (the last two places I’ve lived I really have been blessed with neighbors who have come through for me in a baking pinch – it’s a priceless trait). 

5.  THE WEATHER

There, I said it.  The older and wiser I get, I actually appreciate our weather.  Between the low sun ratio and high education ratio, I’m willing to bet our city has one of the lower rates of both skin and lung cancer.  By the end of winter I AM itching for a week in Hawaii, but other than that our weather is pretty darn tolerable.  It almost never gets REALLY hot or REALLY cold.  The rest just depends on how creative you are with your fashion choices and indoor activities. 

6.  THE BEAUTY

This is the blue, green and city-lights-sparkly icing on the cake, you guys.  Puget Sound, the FERRIES, Lake Washington, Lake Union, The Olympics, The Cascades, The Locks, Green Lake, Alki Beach, Golden Gardens, Kerry Park.  NO WHERE else I’ve been has a laundry list of scenic selling points like that. 

And that’s my list.  It took me 30 years and two almost-moves to make it, but there it is.  For the foreseeable future, anyway, I think it’s safe to say you’re stuck with me, Seattle.  It’s pretty cool to be raising my son here.  Maybe he’ll go to the same Ballard elementary school as me and my grandma, or touch the mermaid tile I made in 4th grade, still embedded in the sidewalk at Golden Gardens Park.  Maybe he’ll be a Husky, too, or one day get engaged on the dock at Green Lake like his dad and I did.  I’m realizing the fact that all of these things are even possibilities is a pretty cool legacy that I’m passing on to him.  I’m lucky to have gotten to know this one place so well. 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How You Do Anything

How You Do Anything

We’re moving later this month, and that has sort of put the pause button on home decorating, but when we’re into our new place, one thing I am itching to do is frame and prominently display some quotes that inspire me.  One that has stuck with me as 2013 has faded into 2014, is this:

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” 

I came across these words as the cornerstone of the editor’s letter in Real Simple magazine’s current issue on balance. The RS editor writes that sometimes, when we feel so overwhelmed that we’re not sure we can do anything well – like we just don’t even know where to start – we need only to choose ONE thing, and do it well

For her, one harried, hurried morning, that meant spending 15 minutes she really didn’t have (know the feeling?) making her son the exact home-cooked breakfast he wanted.  Schedule and to-do list be damned, that morning, for that 15 minutes, she focused on making her son an exceptional breakfast.  And you know what I think?  I think her son, and his mom, will probably remember that breakfast more than they’ll remember what was on the news that morning, or who forgot to put the trash out, or how many minutes they may have been late to school or work.  She made that egg dish as if, by it, her life’s work would be judged.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

My husband is really, really good at this.  He is the type of person who will respond to each of the hundreds of emails that come through his inbox each day.  He’ll make time to call his mother on his drive home.  If he’s making us a meal, he often takes time to make me these perfect little bite-sized “snacks” of whatever he’s cooking, so I don’t get hungry while I wait.  He is extraordinarily generous and kind in the way he treats people, be it his employees, his neighbors, or a homeless man on the street. Aaron is someone who typically pushes just beyond what any given situation calls for.  He chooses to do ANYTHING the way he wants to do EVERYTHING.  I believe all those little “anythings” will add up to the big “Everything” that is the legacy of his life.

I have been meditating on why I have felt so compelled by these words.  To me they have felt like a call to action – consistent, character-molding action.  And I have questioned whether such a seemingly tall order can co-exist with my “Sometimes you just have to buy the cake” philosophy.  I’ve decided, it can. 

For me, this challenge isn’t about striving for perfection, or pouring 110% into all we do to the point of exhaustion.  It’s about being fair.  Fair to ourselves, fair to all of those around us, and even in our character.  I think there are several realms in which this challenge is particularly engaging:

One is in our public vs. private lives.  How many of us are guilty of talking, acting, ignoring, neglecting in private, in ways we would never dream of in public?  They say that our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, and our actions become our character.  What a challenge it is, to behave as if others are watching, even if they’re not. 

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Secondly, it makes me think about how unequally we treat the people in our lives.  For example, I might be bitterly rude to the barista who’s “making me late” for an appointment, then two minutes later be all smiles and easy breezy “life is good” as I float into that salon.  Or I might reserve all my patience for my baby, and none for my dog. 

This idea brings to mind a passage from the New Testament, which implies that, as Christians, our character is judged not by how we act in church, or on Facebook, or with the people we find easiest to be around, but with the most difficult, inconvenient, downtrodden, burdensome people in our lives:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  – Matthew 25:40

So if I’m rude to my barista, it’s basically like I’m being rude to God?  Yep, she’s His child.  He’s offended.  And Lord knows I could go on and on with examples…. You get it. 

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

So this year, I strive to be consistent with my character, with the effort I put into my words and my actions that mean something to others. 

Now, we don’t always have 15 minutes to spend cooking an egg.  And for that I have another quote I refer to often.  This one I want to put next to my bed, so it’s the last thing I read each night before I go to sleep:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” 

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finally, never forget that no matter how you fill your days – by being a lawyer, or an egg chef for a 4-year-old, or a teacher or a CEO – the work you do matters and how you do anything is noticed by the people in your life. You have a chance, every day, to be GREAT at whatever it is you do.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” 

Frozen

Frozen

I want to apologize to anyone who has ever needed me, and I haven’t been there.

Today, our family on Aaron’s side memorialized a family member who died way too young. One year ago today, Aaron’s cousin, Johnny, was taken suddenly and tragically, leaving behind a wife and three young, sweet kids.

It is truly unfathomable to me how I would even go on living if I were in his wife’s shoes. Attempting to wrap my head around that reality is like trying to solve an advanced physics equation or explain the existence of God – I don’t even know where to begin.

Today we went out to breakfast with Aaron’s family and everyone took turns talking to Aaron’s uncle, the father who suffered the heartbreaking loss of his son one year ago today. For a number of reasons (time, logistics, passing a phone around), I wound up being one of the only people who didn’t personally speak to this uncle today, and offer my condolences. Aaron said he offered his on our family’s behalf and not to worry about it, but it has stuck with me all day.

Lying in bed tonight, reflecting on this day with Aaron, it occurred to me – there was a small amount of relief in not talking to the uncle for this reason and this reason alone: I don’t know how to handle tragedy. I really struggle with what to say or do, whether my words would be helpful or a hindrance to someone else’s grief. I am uncomfortable in the presence of others’ grief. That probably sounds pretty selfish, but I just kind of…..FREEZE. I don’t know what to do, when I see someone crying, know they are hurting, or fear a heart is breaking. It’s as if I’m protectively scared that if I get too close to someone else’s pain, my heart might break, too.

I have friends and family members who have been broken to their core, suffered deeper losses than I’ve ever known, and who probably could have used more support and love than I knew how to offer in those moments, months, years… Tonight, I know this. And tonight, I am sorry for my shortcomings.

This last month has been the month of half-written blogs for me. I haven’t published anything because I can’t seem to finish anything. Anything I’m happy with, at least. I have this yearning to write and I have things I want to say, but I wonder if my words are relevant enough, important enough, interesting enough. I hold myself to a high standard as a writer, and yet I know (or I certainly believe, anyway) there are far better, more compelling writers than me. But the world needs each of us, all the time, to give exactly what we can, no less and no more. That is why I write.

So this is not a perfect essay – it’s not catchy or thoroughly edited. I didn’t even plan to write it 20 minutes ago. But it’s from the heart. Tonight when I had this ‘aha moment’ in bed, admitting to myself and to Aaron that I don’t know how to respond to tragedy and sadness, my husband told me I’d hit the nail on the head simply by admitting my weakness, and my desire to not be numb, to not freeze – to do more. He told me that, in the face of tragedies he has faced, it would have meant so much to him if his friends could have simply told him that they didn’t know what to say, they didn’t know what to do, but they wanted to be there for him.

There’s something about this time of year that lends itself to quietness. To reflection. To gratitude. If the holidays carry with them a sort of drunken, carefree spirit in the air, January follows with the sobriety of a cold shower. When the Christmas tree is down and the lights dim, we realize that it’s how we live these other 300+ days a year, that make those ones in December worth celebrating. And some of those 300+ days are bound to include some bad news. Some hard times. Some conversations we’d rather not have and facts we’d rather not face.

I’m learning that even when we want to freeze, and hide, and convince ourselves we have nothing to offer – we DO and we SHOULD. Our friends need us to care – more importantly they need us to let them know that we care – even if that caring is clumsy and vulnerable and not at all practiced. Let people know you care. They really may never know it if you don’t.