When Advent Hurts

We went to a Christmas Eve service at my mother-in-law’s church the other night. Why they had a Christmas Eve service 10 days early, I do not know, but that is beside the point. The point is that I broke down crying while trying to sing “Joy to the World” because I just don’t feel all that joyful.

When we found out I was pregnant, before we got the official due date from the doctor, we estimated that we’d be expecting a baby on Christmas Eve. I loved the thought of expecting our own baby as we also anticipated the celebration of the birth of Christ. I thought about how special Advent would be this year, how much more meaningful. I looked forward to the lessons I would learn and the ways I would be able to identify with Mary. I was excited about experiencing Advent in a deeper way because of my own state of expecting.

But instead of singing Mary’s song of rejoicing, I find myself identifying more with the Psalmist: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” Instead of feeling like joy has come to the world, I feel like I’m still longing and pleading for it.

Maybe “Joy to the World” is just not my song this year. Maybe this year, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is the one for me. I’ve always liked it, but this year, I understand it more. Mourn, lonely, hell, gloomy, shadows, dark, death, misery – these are things I get. There are also things I want – Emmanuel (God with us), wisdom, knowledge, freedom, victory, cheer, strength, mercy, peace.

I guess in a very sad, unexpected way, I am experiencing Advent in a deeper way. It’s just not the way I wanted. So I listen to this version of it on repeat and try to think that maybe we all go through cycles of painful longing and joyful receiving all the time, and it’s just unfortunate that my own personal Advent isn’t lining up with the one on the church calendar.

The Healing Mix

As I’ve mentioned before, music is a healing thing for me, and I know many of you can relate. I’m from the generation that played a song so many times the tape wore out, and I wore out a LOT of tapes. I have a record player now, and I feel like I should have been a teenager in the ’60s the way I like to just sit and listen to records. There’s just something about it. Music connects with your soul, and it connects your soul to something bigger. I think it connects you to God, but if you don’t believe in God, believe this: When you listen to music for relief or healing, your heart connects with the heart of every other person who has listened to that same music for that same purpose. Just imagine the gigantic blanket of healing that Adele is knitting to wrap around the world and how many people are snuggled up under it, right there with you, feeling your pain. I’m cozy already.

I’m not Adele, but I’ve put together a mix of songs that has facilitated healing for me, partly because these songs are awesome and speak to me, but largely because most of them were suggested by friends and family. And knowing that these friends and family are connected with me through these songs just amplifies the effect. If the song you suggested is on this mix, thank you. I had not heard several of them before you brought them to my attention. And if your song didn’t make the cut, thank you too. There was more to the mix than just good songs, and some really great ones just didn’t fit.

This is my first attempt at adding a YouTube play list to a post, so fingers crossed (it’s also here if this doesn’t work), but you should be able to listen to the mix while you read the rest of the post, and as you do, know that if you are hurting, I’m here with you, and the music connects us.

  1. Poughkeepsie – Over the Rhine – This song is a little dark at first, but I have felt very dark at times, and I appreciate that someone else has too. It gets more hopeful toward the end, but it stays appropriately melancholy throughout. Sometimes you just need your music to agree with your mood. You don’t want it to cheer you up and nudge you past your feelings. You just want to cry and feel the pain, and that deserves its own soundtrack.
  2. Reminder – Mumford & Sons – Every time I look in the mirror and see the stretch marks I was starting to develop in pregnancy, I hear Marcus Mumford in my head singing, “A constant reminder of where I can find her, a light that might give up the way is all that I’m asking for. Without her, I’m lost. Oh my love, don’t fade away.”
  3. Tear Down the House – The Avett Brothers – “I remember crying over you, and I don’t mean like a couple of tears and I’m blue. I’m talking about collapsing and screaming at the moon, but I’m a better man for having gone through it. Yes, I’m a better man for having gone through.”
  4. Late – Ben Folds – A song about missing a friend who’s gone and wishing they were still around.
  5. World Spins Madly On – The Weepies – Oh man, who hasn’t felt like this? Your whole world is destroyed, but everyone else just keeps going like nothing has happened. It does seem mad.
  6. Fix You – Coldplay – “Tears stream down your face when you lose something you cannot replace.” Yep.
  7. Rally – Allie Moss – The theme song of everyone who loves me. My buddy Dallas suggested this one for the mix, which is perfect because she has certainly rallied around me like a boss over the past two months. Love you, bro.
  8. Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul – Indelible Grace Music – Man, I love me some Sandra McCracken. And old hymns. The words are just so rich and well-chosen. There’s so much in so little. The full lyrics are here, but just a sample for you: “Still the ear of sovereign grace attends the mourner’s prayer. Oh may I ever find access to breathe my sorrows there.”
  9. Beauty for Ashes – Shane and Shane – Originally, I had something else at this point in the list, but last week, as I was writing my post on healing, I remembered this song and knew it should be in the mix. I’ve always loved the Shanes.
  10. Held – Natalie Grant – You know, it’s funny. I have exactly one Natalie Grant song in my iTunes library. I’ve had it for YEARS, and it’s this one. The one about losing a baby. About how unfair it is and how horrible, but how we are not left alone, how we are loved and held, and how bitterness and hatred may numb the pain but they aren’t the only option.
  11. Unraveling – Shelly Moore – And a nice follow-up to the previous tune, “Yes I’ve found hope that stays around, and I’ve got peace that lets me wait this thing out. Just hold me while I await release, please.”
  12. Soul’s Repair – Red June – Bluegrass always makes me feel better.
  13. Born – Over the Rhine – “I was born to laugh. I’m gonna learn to laugh through my tears. And I was born to love. I’m gonna learn to love without fear.” There are so many tears and so much fear involved in losing a child and thinking about trying again. But I do feel that I was born to laugh and love, and although those “callings” (destinies?) are being challenged, I think I can learn to fulfill them anyway.
  14. Aslan – Kendall Payne – For those of you who have been under a rock for the last 50 years (or those who just forgot), Aslan is the great lion from the Narnia stories, and in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mr. Beaver tells the children that he isn’t safe, but he’s good. This song is about how God doesn’t do the things we expect, but that doesn’t change his nature. It’s also a tip of the hat to C.S. Lewis, whom I love.
  15. Rescue Is Coming – David Crowder Band – Just hang in there. Help is on the way.
  16. Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles – I designed this mix to run roughly through the emotions I’ve felt and thoughts I’ve thought over the past two months. It goes from dark and melancholy through tentative but wishful and finally into hopeful. If you were listening to it as you grieved, you might want to listen to the whole thing, or you might want to hang out in a particular section for a time. Either would be fine with me.
  17. After the Storm – Mumford & Sons – “And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.” I want to say something about this, but I haven’t quite formed my thoughts. Perhaps a new post is in the works…
  18. The Sun Is Rising – Britt Nicole – My sister Susan suggested this song, which is perfect because she’s an awesome encourager, just like the song. Every word of it is great, but all I really hear is, “You’re gonna make it. You’re gonna make it.” Love you, seeeesterrrr!
  19. O-O-H Child – The Five Stairsteps – Obvious choice.
  20. Sexual Healing – Hot 8 Brass Band – I know this one might seem like a VERY odd choice, but you just can’t listen to it and not feel a little bit better. Will and I went to the movies five days after our miscarriage because every good thing we have together has been built slowly over time while watching a lot of movies. There was no better place to start the healing process for us. We went to see Chef, which is just delightful, and I highly recommend it. In it, there’s a scene where Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo are singing this song while a 10-year-old kid looks at them like they’re nuts. I recognized the song before the singing started and would have loved it even if it had just been an instrumental cover, but it’s NOT. It’s got singing too, and it’s great.

5 Things to Heal the Soul

Everybody has their own remedies for a hurting soul. I’ve already talked about time and God and how you have to participate in the process, but here are my favorite ways to pass the time, connect with God, and receive the good to dilute the bad.

  1. Music – I’m working on a post for next week with the mix I’ve made. I’ve been listening to it over the past week or so as I’ve made and tweaked it, and it’s really good. Music is just good for the soul no matter how you’re feeling.
  2. Rest – Y’all know I love my sleep, and when I say rest is good soul-healing, that includes sleep, but it also includes waking rest. Lie quietly for ten minutes (or five if you’re antsy), and just breathe. Just breathe in and out and let everything go. Rest in bed, rest in a bubble bath, rest while lying in the grass with the sun on your skin. Just give yourself a break. Ordinary life is hectic enough. When you’re recovering from a trauma, you need this even more.
  3. Food – By this, I don’t mean eating your feelings or whipping your appetite into shape. I’m not talking about using food or your control over it to momentarily feel better. Enjoy your food. Appreciate it. Use delicious ingredients in your cooking, and really savor the flavor as you eat. Take your time chewing and really tasting each bite. And be grateful for it.
  4. Hugs – Hugs are awesome.
  5. Laughter – We watched a lot of comedies in the weeks immediately following our miscarriage, and sometimes we felt guilty about laughing so much, but boy did we need it. I’m sure there’s some sort of chemical process that happens in your body to make you feel good when you laugh. I won’t pretend to understand it, but I know it works.

What about you? What heals your soul?

Scattered Thoughts on the Bible Judgment

Two things happened this morning. First, I was reading the latest in Rob Bell‘s “What Is the Bible?” series (which is very good, and I suggest you check it out). And second, I was reading back through the past few months of my own Twitter feed because I’m just that vain.

I realized as I was reading Rob Bell that SO often when it comes to theology, either I read and make an immediate judgment about what I’ve just read, or I read with judgment already in mind (or how I think the author wants me to judge). And a few times in the latest post, he’d say something, and I’d think, Yeah, that’s terrible, only for him to then say, “but that’s not a bad thing.”

Oh. Yeah, um, that’s what I said.

I seem to have trouble reading, just reading, anything theological, including the Bible. The problem with this is that when you read looking for flaws, truths, meaning, things you can apply to your life, things you can use to argue a point, or anything else, you risk missing out on the actual point. You also can’t enjoy it.

Friends I’ve been in Bible studies with tell me that I read the Bible aloud very well. Part of this ability is that I practice reading aloud A LOT in class, sometimes even doing accents and voices. The other part is that I hate hearing anything read all monotonously. I used to think other people were trying to read the Bible reverently and it just accidentally came out sounding boring, but now I think people are just reading it the way they read it in their heads.

When I read the Bible silently, it sounds boring in my head. It sounds dry and monotonous, and I feel like I should be “getting something out of it,” but I don’t. I feel like it should be magical and immediately transform my heart, but it isn’t and it doesn’t. When I read a fictional story, I get lost in it, and the words and characters stick in my brain for hours. When I read history or biography, I am fascinated by people that really existed and places and events that were real. I think about how they affected the future, how our world would be so different if not for them. When I read poetry or listen to music, I let the words flow off the page or out of the speakers, and sometimes out of my own mouth, and they are beautiful. And if I like the sound of a particular phrase or tune, I play it on repeat, in my car or my head, for the next two weeks.

But when I read the Bible, it is very serious business. And the serious-business-ness of it blocks my ability to get lost in it, to be fascinated by it, or to recognize the beauty in it. I don’t like this.

I think I make it more serious in my mind because I’ve been told all my life that God wrote it. You don’t get more serious than that. But even though I now know God to be completely loving, always interesting, and often playful, funny or silly, and even though I now believe the Bible to be a collection of stories, poems, letters and songs written about God by his people, I still read the Bible as though it were written by a stodgy old God who demands respect.

I think about God lecturing in the Bible like a very strict high school teacher, but I would like to come to see God engaging me in Scripture like Hilary Swank inThe Freedom Writers.

Which brings me back to my twitter feed. I re-tweeted a Love Does tweet a few months ago that said, “We try to figure out who’s right; God’s interested in who’s loved.” And I feel like this is related to my struggle. I’m reading the Bible trying to figure it out. I see it as some kind of theological challenge – to get all the right answers and justify my life choices based on them. But the whole point of the Bible is that God is real and here among us, loving us like crazy even though throughout the history of humanity, people have done weird and sometimes terrible things and used God to justify their life choices. We still do it today, and he still loves us.

This, I find fascinating and beautiful. This, I could get lost in.

Only Peripherally Related to Miley Cyrus

I hate to reward Miley Cyrus with more attention for her VMA performance the other night knowing that that’s exactly all she wants, but I just have to point out that her outfit (shoes included) and foam finger were not her idea. They both came from Robin Thicke’s videos, “Blurred Lines” and “Give It 2 U.” I won’t share either of them here because they’re just as bad as the VMA performance, and I feel dirty now for having watched them.

I also just watched Miley’s “We Can’t Stop” video, and while there’s way too much of her writhing around in it for my taste, it just looks to me like a bunch of college kids making a stupid video. She looks like she’s 20. Which she is. I’m not excusing her behavior because of her age. I’m just saying I understand it. I know a few 20-year-olds who aren’t idiots, but not many. And who among us can’t look back at ourselves at that age and say there were some things we could have done better? (And that’s putting it gently.) We just didn’t happen to do it on MTV. If I had, my mama would have jerked me off that stage so fast, it would have spun the heads of people in remote villages who don’t have TVs and have never even heard of the VMAs.

I could say a lot of things about parenting and fame and respecting our bodies as women, all of which need to be said to our daughters completely unrelated to this conversation, but I won’t because all of those things have already been said about Miley’s performance. What I’m wondering now is why no one is saying much of anything about Robin Thicke.

If you watch either of the two videos I mentioned before (which I wouldn’t recommend), you’ll see a lot of women’s exposed breasts and butts, and the women who are covered are wearing skin-tight outfits that leave little to the imagination. Meanwhile, the men are aloof, fully clothed at all times in tailored suits or baggy clothes, singing or rapping about how they know the women “want it,” and how they are willing to give it to them.

I won’t say I’m speaking on behalf of all women everywhere because I know there are some out there who do want it and want Robin Thicke to give it to them, so maybe this is just from me:

Dear Robin Thicke,

Let me assure you that I don’t want it. Not from you anyway. Please don’t try to give it to me as it will get kneed up into your intestines immediately.

Also, while I think Miley Cyrus is an idiot, she’s 20 and trying to figure out who she is and how to be herself authentically. Bless her heart, she’s doing it in front of the whole world and floundering, but that’s just where she is. You, on the other hand, are on the downslide to 40 and really ought to know better.

Plus you’re married. Do you treat your wife the same way you treat the women in your videos? Is it naive of me to think that a woman would not marry a man who stood by looking uninterested while she pranced around topless, hoping he would “give it to her”? Something about that just doesn’t say romance to me. No, I imagine you chased her. And I imagine your marriage, like most marriages that have lasted for 8 years, is one of give and take, where you each participate equally in all aspects to make it work. I imagine that this chauvinistic persona you use in your performance life is not who you are at home, and if I’m right, that makes me sad, and if I’m wrong, that makes me sad too.

Robin Thicke, I believe you have something valuable to offer the world, and now that you are in a position of influence and power, it’s time to figure out what that is because right now, what you’re offering us is more of the idea that women’s bodies belong to anyone who wants to take them, that breasts are for the entertainment of men everywhere, that a woman’s sexuality is powerless, that we should bow down in gratitude to a man who is willing to condescend to touch us, and that love and respect are not part of the deal because you literally could not care less.

I want my friends to know that what you’re selling is a lie. I want my friends’ kids to know that you are wrong. I want Miley Cyrus to know that there is more to her than her body. I want your wife to know that you are the luckiest guy in the world if she lets you anywhere near her. If you ever have a daughter, I want her to know that she is worthy of love and respect. And if I ever have a daughter, I want her to be ready at all times to knee guys in the nuts if they ever say to her, “I know you want it.”

How Did He Do It?

I’ve been engaged for a month, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told the story of how Will proposed. Thank goodness it’s a great story, and I don’t mind telling it AT ALL. I actually love it. The other day, I thanked a co-worker for letting me tell it. She was crying from the sweetness and thanked me for telling it. That’s what we call a win-win.

For a little bit of back-story, you should know two things:

  1. Making each other CDs has been a big part of our relationship (see previous post).
  2. For a couple of weeks before he proposed, we picked on each other about it a LOT. Every time he said anything remotely related to weddings or marriage or long-term planning, I asked, “Is that a proposal?” And to that, he would respond saying he hadn’t even decided whether to ask me or not, and he hadn’t even bought a ring. Or if he did talk about a ring, he’d say it was nickel-plated ceramic with a 3-carat pink quartz he’d found in the parking lot of his office. Oh, in a hot glue setting. So romantic.

So our 6th monthiversary (Is that a word?) was coming up on March 28, but since he had to work late that night, we decided to celebrate the day before so we could have more time together. I knew a proposal was coming, and that right soon. I knew he had bought a ring, and I knew he had talked to my dad about it. It could happen any day, any moment really. And the night before we were planning to celebrate 6 months, I got a very strong feeling that that’s when it would happen.

Normally, plan-making goes like this:

Me: What do you want to do?
Him: I dunno. What do you want to do?
Me: (Shrug) Do you want to come over to my place, or do you want me to go to yours?
Him: I don’t care. What do you want?
Me: Doesn’t matter to me. Do you want to eat?
Him: Sure. What do you want to eat?
Me: I don’t care. What do you want?

But the night before our 6 month celebration, the conversation went like this:

Him: Tomorrow, I’m going to come over and pick you up, and we’re going to go for a walk around the lake, and then I’m going to take you out to dinner.
Me: Yes sir.

So all day, I was a basket-case. I let my afternoon class out like 20 minutes early because I just couldn’t concentrate any longer. At some point, I texted Whitney and told her I was really nervous (she knew about the plan for the day and also thought he was going to propose). She reminded me that I would be fine when I was with him, and that turned out to be true, but the whole day leading up to it was completely nerve-racking.

I came home from work. He came over not long thereafter and, bless his heart, was so nervous. Right when he came in, he went to the kitchen and downed an entire glass of water. I just thought he was thirsty. I had some things I needed to prep for class the next day, and while I was doing that, Whitney came home to a slightly tense/awkward scene in which we all knew what was about to happen, but no one was talking about it.

We went out for our walk and reminisced about the first time we’d held hands 6 months earlier, walking that same path. We came to a bench, and he suggested we sit down. I knew this was it, but I had no idea how he was going to do it. When we sat down, he said he’d made me a new CD. Ok, I thought, the CD is involved. But how? On the cover was a picture of Kermit and Miss Piggy getting married (in The Muppets Take Manhattan, one of my favorites), and it was titled The Hidden Message Mix, an homage to the second mix I made for him – the one with all the mushy love songs, not the one with all the break-up songs.

I opened it up and looked at the play list. At the top, it said, “Read the song titles.” So I read them all and just thought, Man, this is the most random mix ever. It had some really good songs on it, and it had a bunch of songs I didn’t know, but the overall message of the titles didn’t seem to be “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” It seemed to be more like “I love you, and hey look! Rocket Man!”

“Do you see the hidden message yet?” he asked. And that’s when I realized I wasn’t supposed to interpret the message. I was supposed to literally see it. With my eyes. I’ll highlight it for y’all so it won’t take you as long as it took me.

  1. M&Ms – Pickin’ On Series
  2. All You Need Is Love – The Beatles
  3. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
  4. Red Sweater! – The Aquabats
  5. You Really Got Me Now – The Kinks
  6. Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard – Paul Simon
  7. Every Breath You Take – UB40
  8. Boss DJ – Reel Big Fish
  9. Elenore – The Turtles
  10. Two of Us – The Beatles
  11. He’ll Make Me Happy – The Muppets
  12. Play the Game – Queen
  13. As Long as the Grass Shall Grow – Johnny Cash
  14. Rocket Man – Pickin’ On Series
  15. Everything I Do, I Do It for You – A New Found Glory
  16. Never Met a Girl Like You Before – Flogging Molly
  17. The Luckiest – Ben Folds

Do you see what he did there? Clever, right?

Well, immediately upon seeing the hidden message, I was crying. And I turned to him and said, “Is that a proposal?” to which he responded, finally, for the first time, “Yeah, it is.”

He got off the bench and on one knee, and he pulled out the ring box and opened it, and I covered my mouth with my hands and tried to see him through the tears. And he said, “Will you marry me?” And I nodded, mouth still covered, and said through my tears of absolute joy, “Absolutely.” Then I had him put the ring on my finger, and we kissed a lot and called or texted everybody with the news.

And then we went out to dinner.

A man has to work up a lot of nerve to ask a girl to marry him, but now that it’s done, and I’ve said yes, Will proposes to me regularly. It’s sort of a carry-over joke from those couple of weeks right before he popped the question. We’ll be hanging out, and he’ll say that he loves me more than anything, and I’ll say that if he loves me so much, he should marry me. He’ll say, “Yeah, I totally should,” and I’ll say, “Is that a proposal?” Then he’ll get a really sweet, serious look on his face, look me in the eyes, put his arms around me and say, “Beth Parent, I love you more than anything in the world. Will you marry me?” And y’all, I cry every time. Every. Stinkin’. Time. Without fail.

We know it’s disgustingly sweet, and we’re ok with that. We hope that we’re always this way, and even though we know that life will get hard and we won’t always like each other, I believe that our disgustingly sweet foundation will remain. That’s just who we are – friends first and always, completely in love.

How Did This Happen?

Well, I opened up my trusty MacBook this morning, logged in to my WordPress account, deleted about 300 spam comments, went to “Posts,” and clicked on “Add New.” And that’s how we got here. Does that answer the question?

Oh, that’s not what you meant? Well let me try again.

Friends, if you haven’t already heard, I’M ENGAGED!!


And this question – How did this happen? – gets asked a lot. I think Will and I both just feel like the whole thing is so surreal. We’ve been asking this question since we started dating, and every time, we answer it as though it had been asked about something totally unrelated, usually wherever we’re sitting. “Well, somebody designed a sofa, and somebody else built it, and then your parents bought it…”

But here’s what really happened:

Will and I met and became friends in the summer of 2006, we think. We’ve always liked each other a lot, just not in that way (well, sometimes I liked him in that way, but other times I didn’t). In November of 2011, The Muppets came out in theaters. We both love the Muppets and decided to go see it together. This was not a date, and it started a looooooooooooooong string of non-dates that would continue for almost a year. We saw every movie released, it seems, and we went to the park and swung in the dark, and we went star-gazing, and we ate dinner in and dinner out, and we talked about life and relationships and men and women, and we played card games, and he dazzled me with magic tricks. And we were not dating.

And all of this was fine because until late March of 2012, I thought I would be living in Europe by the end of the year. And when I knew I would not be moving to Europe, my world felt like had been turned upside-down, but looking back, I can see two things:

  1. What felt like the world being flipped over was really just things falling into place.
  2. Will was there with me through the whole thing, asking me questions, letting me process, not trying to sway my decision one way or another, but really hoping I’d stay because we’d gotten to be very close friends.

On March 24, 2012, I had started to get confused and asked Will if we were just friends. I thought we were, but I needed to make sure because I felt my heart starting to open up to him more, and I needed to know how much of it to give and how much to guard. I told him that I was fine with whatever we were; I just needed to know what that was. He said we were just friends, and then we watched Pirate Radio. And I really was fine with that.

Over the summer, I started seeing someone else a little bit. We had hung out a few times over coffee and gone on one legit date when I told Will about it. It was the 4th of July, and I wanted to hang out with someone, but I didn’t want to go to the fairgrounds and hang out with ALL OF RALEIGH, so I texted Will and asked if he wanted to go to the movies. We saw The Amazing Spider-Man, and afterward, in the parking lot, I told him about the other guy. We were just friends, right? So it was no big deal. But when I told him I was sort of dating someone, he got a little uneasy feeling. I don’t know for sure when he really knew he was interested in me, but I think that moment was a turning point of sorts for him.

He didn’t do anything disrespectful, though. He didn’t try to break us up, he didn’t declare his love for me in a grand gesture to sweep me off my feet, he didn’t even act weird. He decided that if I was going to be with this other guy, then he would be friends with the guy because friends make friends with their friends’ significant others. Or maybe he thought that was the best way to get over me. I don’t know.

But things with the other guy didn’t work out. No hard feelings. It just fizzled.

From there, it didn’t take long. Will went away with his family for a week and found while he was gone that he was really looking forward to seeing me when he got back. I found myself looking for more and more ways to get him to come over and hang out. And by this time, I think Whitney was starting to get suspicious. We hadn’t been living together for most of this time, but it only took a couple of months back under the same roof for her to see that something was going on.

Well one night, for no good reason at all, we decided we’d make each other CDs. And the joke the whole time was that these CDs were going to be filled with all kinds of hidden messages. I’d say, “So far, your mix consists of Something to Talk About, I Can’t Fight This Feeling, aaaaaaand Secret Lovers.” Then he’d say he didn’t know any of those songs, and the joke was ruined. But really, I was being VERY careful not to send him any messages I wasn’t absolutely sure I wanted to send. And I wasn’t absolutely sure about anything, so my criteria for the songs I put on his mix were:

  1. really good song
  2. not a love song

Which meant I ended up giving him a CD full of really good break-up songs. He was confused, and a bit dismayed, at my hidden messages.

Meanwhile, he was making me the following mix:

  1. Home – Phillip Phillips
  2. Feel the Tide – Mumford & Sons
  3. Ballad of San Francisco – Caedmon’s Call
  4. All I Want Is You – Barry Louis Polisar
  5. Three is a Magic Number – Blind Melon
  6. Just Like Heaven – The Cure
  7. I Melt With You – MEST
  8. I Want More – Suburban Legends
  9. Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (That means I love you) – Violent Femmes
  10. Start Wearing Purple – Gogol Bordello
  11. Talk Dirty to Me – Reel Big Fish
  12. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road – The Beatles
  13. Bicycle Race – Queen
  14. Seaside Rendezvous – Queen
  15. Songs of Love – Ben Folds
  16. Rainbow Connection – Weezer
  17. Man or Muppet – Jason Segel, Amy Adams and the Muppets
  18. Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

It was a mix that basically said, “I love you, and I don’t ever want you to leave.” He gave it to me on a Saturday, and when Whitney saw the play list, any question or doubt she might have had about what was going on vanished. She had plans that night and left to go out. We left too, to go out to dinner and play putt-putt (still not a date).

When we both got home that night and I told her we’d gone to play putt-putt, she said, “Buddy, are you dating him?” I said no, and she asked if I wanted to. I said I wasn’t sure I was willing to risk the friendship, and she basically said that was hogwash. She explained that if we went out a few times and it didn’t work out, it would be super awkward for awhile, but we could go back to being just friends. But also, if we didn’t date, we’d eventually meet other people, and then we wouldn’t be close anymore anyway. So we could try it and risk awkwardness and the loss of friendship, or we could not try it and almost definitely lose the friendship in time.

That was Saturday night. On Sunday morning, I listened to the CD and tried to fight my hopes back down because I didn’t want to assume that the hidden message was what it seemed to be. If he was interested, he was going to have to tell me. But I REALLY hoped he would tell me.

We didn’t talk much until Tuesday, when I texted him something about one of the songs on the mix. It was a very brief conversation, at the end of which, he said, “You know, I’ve been wanting to text you all day, but I couldn’t think of anything to say.”

Well, friends, sirens went off in my head. I knew what that meant and had felt for a couple of weeks like he’d been working up the nerve to ask me out. This was it. I asked if we needed to have another awkward conversation (like the one back in March), and he said yes. The next chance we would have to see each other wouldn’t be until Friday, so I asked if he could just call me because I knew I wouldn’t sleep for the rest of the week if we didn’t have that conversation immediately.

He called. We were both SUPER nervous. He asked me out. I said yes. He was surprised and relieved (after that break-up mix I’d made him). And we had our first date that Friday, September 28, 2012. When he came to pick me up, I gave him a new CD – one with all the songs I was too careful/scared to put on the first mix, including Something to Talk About and I Can’t Fight This Feeling.

And that’s how it happened. Well, that’s how we got together. I’ll tell you the proposal story next time.

Summer Listening Update

Hey remember when I made my Summer2012 playlist? Well, it’s growing. I need to work a bit on the order of the songs so they flow better, but here’s the full list as it now stands:

  1. My Generation – The Who
  2. Hit ‘Em Up Style – Carolina Chocolate Drops
  3. I Want You to Be My Love – Over the Rhine
  4. Murder in the City – The Avett Brothers
  5. Merry Happy – Kate Nash
  6. All Day and All of the Night – The Kinks
  7. You Don’t Know Me – Ben Folds (with Ingrid Michaelson)
  8. Stay With Me Baby – Duffy
  9. Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
  10. Elenore – The Turtles
  11. Hey, Soul Sister – Train
  12. Would It Be Nice – The Beach Boys
  13. Quelqu’un M’a Dit – Carla Bruni
  14. These Arms of Mine – Otis Redding
  15. At Last – Etta James
  16. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
  17. Tik Tok – Ke$ha
  18. 1234 – Feist
  19. Paris – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
  20. Infinity Guitars – Sleigh Bells
  21. Bizarre Love Triangle – Frente
  22. 14th Street – Rufus Wainwright
  23. Chobolo – Spokes Mashiyane

And I’m SUPER pumped because I got a FREE iTunes gift card, and I’m fixin’ to get my whole wish list, at which point, I’ll have to update this again, but one step at a time. One step at a time.

Oh, ALSO, I’m working on an “Undercover” playlist that consists entirely of cover versions of great tunes (the Frente version of Bizarre Love Triangle, for example). What are your favorites? If you can find a YouTube version, please share it so we can all enjoy!

Music Time

I like a lot of different genres, songs and artists for a lot of different reasons, but when it comes down to it, I like the music I like because it makes me happy. The show tunes make me catch my breath every time because the magic of the theater hits me every time. The spunky 80s songs make my feet tap uncontrollably, and I can’t help but want to jump around like Wham! on uppers. Anything with a fiddle and a banjo is guaranteed to make me smile automatically. The sad, soulful Brit girls just get me, and that’s all there is to it. The oldies take me back to my childhood riding in my mom’s van. Chicago takes me back to my childhood riding in my dad’s Jeep. And sometimes a lyric will hit me just right, and I can’t get enough of it. I’ll roll it around in my brain and on my tongue, and it satisfies me in a way that only well-crafted words can.

This summer, I’ve got a few songs I can’t get enough of because they make me happy in one way or another. I’m putting them all together in a playlist as a sort of time capsule. I’ll add to it over the next couple of months for sure, but next year, when my life is totally different (as it always is from year to year), I’ll be able to listen to it and, in doing so, hear everything I want to remember from the summer of 2012.

So far, it’s an hour of happiness.

  1. My Generation – The Who
  2. Hit ‘Em Up Style – Carolina Chocolate Drops
  3. I Want You to Be My Love – Over the Rhine
  4. Murder in the City – The Avett Brothers
  5. Merry Happy – Kate Nash
  6. All Day and All of the Night – The Kinks
  7. You Don’t Know Me – Ben Folds (with Ingrid Michaelson)
  8. Stay With Me Baby – Duffy
  9. Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
  10. Elenore – The Turtles
  11. Hey, Soul Sister – Train
  12. Would It Be Nice – The Beach Boys
  13. Quelqu’un M’a Dit – Carla Bruni
  14. These Arms of Mine – Otis Redding
  15. At Last – Etta James
  16. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
  17. Tik Tok – Ke$ha

Adventure Time All the Time

There’s been a lot of talk in my life lately about adventure. Basically I want one. All the time, always. And I’m willing to go to great lengths to get one, which often means I leave the country. It’s almost like a drug, and my addiction to it started in high school with small things. I grew up in a small town that did not offer much in the way of wholesome entertainment for adolescents, so we had to make our own fun. They were silly things really – go to K-Mart and take pictures of each other inside big trash cans (clean ones they were selling, not dirty ones they were using), put weird things in friends’ mailboxes, sidewalk chalk friends’ driveways in the middle of the night, throw a frisbee onto the roof of the church, compile elaborate and precisely designed medleys and choreograph lip-sync routines for them. And this may come as a surprise to some of you, but we did all of these things totally sober.

The silliness continued into college, but as I got old enough and started making enough money to go on grander adventures, that is what I wanted to do. Ringing and running people’s dorm rooms just wasn’t as fun once we realized we could be at the beach at dawn and still get back in time for our 11:15 classes. Then it was driving through the night to catch a concert in Virginia Beach, a wedding in New Jersey and another concert in Raleigh all in about a 36-hour period. And before I knew it, I was on a plane to Honduras, then I was living in New York, backpacking through Europe, sleeping in airports with strangers, working at a community college in Raleigh…

Wait. Did anyone else just hear that record scratch?

The thing I love about adventure is that you come away with the best stories. I’m learning, though, that you can go on a big trip and not come away with a single awesome story, or you can stay right where you are and make your own adventure. When we were in high school, we didn’t even need to leave the neighborhood to do something we’d still be talking about fifteen years later. Shoot, when I worked at Caswell, we didn’t even have to leave the camp.

The secret is to find or make the fun wherever you are, and it can be as simple as doing something totally out of the ordinary. G.Lover and I were just on our way home from Durham, and we started talking about The Hunger Games. She hasn’t read the books yet, and I told her she could borrow my copy of the first one, but I thought it was at work. I work in a church building, and if you can believe it, those suckers gave me a key, so I suggested we go over there and get the book out of my cabinet. It was 10:30 on a Saturday night, so of course there was no one there, but we were both sort of nervous that there would be an alarm or a security person or something. And even though I’m at this place every day of the week, it felt completely wrong to be there on a weekend night. The red light coming from the exit signs was alarmingly bright, all the shadows were different, it was eerily quiet, and I was sure that the police would show up at any moment. On top of that, the book wasn’t there.

Another way to make your own fun is to develop your sense of curiosity and amusement. When I lived in New York, I was always fascinated by the people – who they were, how they became that, what they wanted, where they were going, why they were doing what they were doing. It was a never-ending source of entertainment. I miss that about NYC. I feel like people here are blander than there (friendly for sure, but nothing like this guy), but I’m starting to wonder if I came with that preconceived notion and therefore set Raleigh up to be boring before I ever arrived.

What if I spent more time out amongst the masses? What if I did more people watching and made up more stories about them? What if I made riskier mischief? What if I chose to be amused rather than annoyed? What if I spent less time watching Netflix and more time watching cloud formations or kids at the park or couch-to-5k-joggers at the lake? What if I were less concerned with my to-do list and more psyched about my karaoke song list, less worried about losing 20 pounds and more excited about salsa dance parties in my living room, less afraid of what people might think of my writing and more curious about what my characters might do? What if I had more fun on purpose? This sounds pretty awesome.

So here’s what I propose: For the month of April, I will do something creative, out of the ordinary, borderline crazy or just totally different every day in the name of fun and adventure. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments. I’m not promising I’ll do all the suggestions, and I will not sacrifice my morals or my sleep for any of them, but other than that, I am open to taking risks. And if you want to join me for any of them, I’d love that. Love it. Please join me.

Suggestions can be little things I can do it five minutes or big things that’ll take me a whole weekend. Whatever you’ve got, shoot.