Monday, April 7, 2014

Head + Heart - My Messy Beautiful

A True Heart Moment
Husband scooped up Little Man and we made a hurried exit from the park, a wave of shrieks trailing behind us, polluting the air like a dirty exhaust pipe on an eighteen-wheeler.

Big Sister and I sprinted ahead, pretending we were not attached to these two strangers who were disturbing the peace, garnering glares and stares alike.

These are the moments, the daily events, that cause a non-attention-seeking introvert like myself to shrivel up like a Shrinky Dink in a hot oven.

Before I had kids, I did anything to avoid making a scene or drawing attention to myself.  Now, with kids, my days usually contain at least one giant explosion, usually occurring under the microscope of the public eye.

My Heart knows that this is just a phase, and this, too, shall pass.

My Heart knows that someday I will ache for that little face with big, crocodile tears running rivers down his cheeks.

My Heart knows that sooner, rather than later, I will be older, and he will be gone, and I will visit that same park and feel my heart crack open at his palpable absence.

My Heart will wish him back to age three-and-a-half.

But my Head will counter-argue, reminding me of those turbulent days that passed in slow motion, just trying to survive from one tantrum to the next.

My Head will erase any temptation of approaching those young mothers at the park with a smile and an “enjoy this time, it goes by so fast!”

My Head will know that is not what they need to hear, as they wipe runny noses, doctor skinned knees, and enforce time-outs.

As I’m entrenched in these days now, my Heart knows not to wish my children’s lives away, but my Head can’t help but cry out for an easier path ahead.  A light at the end of the tunnel, where it all won’t be so terribly difficult.

The Head and the Heart are at constant battle, tipping the scale precariously from side to side throughout the day, like a tugboat tossed about in a storm at sea.

Some moments I am overcome by the blessing of it all, these children and their wonderfulness.

And then there are the moments when I am buried ten feet deep in the desperation, exasperation, and frustration from trying my best and yet often feeling like a parenting failure.

That weariness holds me in a Vulcan death grip until I can flee the scene and lock myself in the bathroom to practice deep breathing, scarf a cookie, or play a round of Candy Crush on my phone.

Boiling point is brought down to simmer.  Sea waters are calmed.

And by the end of the night, after the scene at the park is long forgotten, we come back to each other, Little Man and I.

We crawl into his bed, turn off the lights, and I snuggle his plump, warm body, as we find each other’s eyes in the soft glow of the night light.

I savor his little boy scent – traces of peanut butter and soap – and I brush the fringy bangs off his forehead, which not long ago was encircled in curls.

He puts both of his chubby little hands on my cheeks, pulls my face close and whispers, “Mama, I wuve you,” as if revealing the Secret of the Ages.

Warm currents of honey-coated electricity flow through my veins, soothing all the wounds of the day.

"I love you, too."

My soul inflates, a hot air balloon about to take flight, and I know I can do this all over again tomorrow.

Tonight, and most every night, The Heart wins.

And thank God for that.

Written for Momastery's Messy, Beautiful Warriors Project, in support of the paperback release of Glennon Melton's "Carry On, Warrior", one of my favorite books of the year. Glennon inspires me, keeps me sane, and makes me laugh.  I treasure her unique, authentic, and hilarious take on motherhood and life. Thank you, Glennon, for paving the way for Messy, Beautiful Warriors like myself.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Name Game

Not a day goes by that I don’t mourn the loss of my maiden name, which is now my middle name.

Savage.

The coolest name on the planet, if I do say so myself.

And I’m saying.

Although I didn’t always feel this way.

A boy in junior high teased me mercilessly with the following mind-blowingly witty quips:

- Savage Beast
- Savage Lover
- Savage Tan
- Savage Hunter
…and my personal favorite…
- Savoir faire is everywhere (taken from a Saturday morning cartoon in the ‘70s called Klondike Kat, anyone remember??)

I recall complaining to my older sister about how I hated my last name, and she responded with a swift kick in the rear: “Savage is the coolest name in the world, and don’t ever let anyone tell you any different!”

I listened to her, because I was afraid not to, and from that moment on, I embraced my unique last name.

As a young adult, my friends (and even a boss or two) referred to me as Savage, completely forgoing the use of my first name altogether.

It lended an aura of badass-ness to my otherwise quiet persona.

At one point, I had a roommate whose last name was McCool, and that household combination became the epitome of 20-something awesomeness. People would call our apartment just to listen to the message on the McCool-Savage answering machine.

But then I had to go and get married and ruin it all.

I could have taken the feminist route and kept my name, but my Southern conformist roots strangled out any shoots of radical independence.

I succumbed to the tradition of taking my husband’s last name, and sliding Savage over to the middle name slot on my driver’s license, thereby pushing out my original middle name.

But here’s the problem now.  My (new) last name also happens to be a popular women’s first name.  So, many people now mistakenly call me by my (new) last name, instead of my first name, and it takes an Act of God and reminders ad nauseum to correct them.

Some never get it.  I worked for a boss for six weeks who could never seem to learn the difference between my first and (new) last name, so I eventually quit. Well, there were other reasons, too, don’t worry.

But this story has a happy ending, I’m glad to report.  After quitting the aforementioned crappy job, and suffering through another short-lived crappy job, I decided to cut myself loose and start my own little business.

I called it SavageMedia.

It’s a good-sounding name for an Advertising Consultant, no?  It screams, “strong, capable, tough,” which is important when a lot of what I do is negotiating ad rates on behalf of clients.

That was fourteen years ago, and SavageMedia is still hanging in there, wedged in between raising two children and another part-time job.  But no matter how busy I get, I’ll never let it go.

Even if I have no clients and no income to report on my tax return, I will still keep printing those SavageMedia business cards.

Because it’s the only sliver I have left of who I was and where I came from, and I never want to let that go.

(And it still makes me feel kinda cool.)


Mama’s Losin’ It

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Divine Secrets of the Duran Duran Sisterhood

My friend grabbed my arm and yanked me up to stand beside her, on top of the folding chairs.

“What if we fall?” I shouted in her ear.

But I was drowned out by the high-pitched screams from all directions.

It was 1984, I was thirteen, and this was my first concert.

The energy and excitement, borderline hysteria, was enough to burst my teeny-bopper brain into a million pieces.

Music was emanating from the giant speakers, but the band had yet to take the stage.

It seemed like every girl born between 1968 and 1972, within a thirty mile radius of Dallas, was under the roof of Reunion Arena that night.

All of us screaming, some crying, releasing the pent up energy that we’d been harboring since we first received the envelope in the mail from Ticketmaster.

Duran Duran.

As the band took the stage, I felt as if I might be able to fly.

*******

I propped open the lid of my laptop to catch up on the day’s events and return some work emails, and of course, ended up on Facebook.

Scrolling through my news feed consisting of political diatribes, pictures of cute kids, and shared news stories about Shaun White, something unusual caught my eye.

A ticket stub from thirty years ago, this very night.

The Duran Duran concert.

My friend had posted it with a shout out to the girls with whom she attended the concert, one she met that night for the first time and is still friends with today.

Women from the far-reaching corners of Facebook were commenting on her post, sharing, and reminiscing about that staggering night.

Everyone had a story about the concert, and what the band meant to them.

Thinking back, there was plenty of shared eagerness to go around, but not everyone got it.  I recall boys in my eighth grade class teasing me about my enthusiasm for the band.  Ninety percent of the friends who signed my yearbook in 1984 mentioned my “Durannie-ness” in their notes.

8th grade yearbook note from one of my sweet tormentors.

The reason why we went (and still do) go crazy for this band is not just the music, their astonishing good looks, or their glamorous personas.  The core of why we remain dedicated to this group is how it brought us together.

In bedrooms with gingham-checked bedspreads and canopies, we swapped more than vinyl.  We shared our secrets, struggles, and fears.  According to the highs and lows that only a teenage girl can conjure, we went from dancing around the room, laughing and singing, to crying over the things that troubled us.

Divorce.  Distant fathers.  How much we hated our hair, our complexions, and our thighs.  Whether a boy would ever like us.  Whether we would ever like ourselves.

It was more than fluff. Duran Duran’s music allowed us to slip into a pain-free world where we could be that beautiful woman on the boat or the mountain top, commanding attention and full of confidence.

Many a vulnerable moment was shared between me and my friends, wedged in with outbursts of sheer teen silliness, and the sum of those parts is something that will be remembered for a lifetime. It made us belong somewhere and be part of something bigger than ourselves.

And as long as John Taylor is still walking this earth, I’m not ready to give that up.

Meeting John Taylor at his book signing in Oct. 2012


Sunday, February 9, 2014

You Are Here

You know that moment, when you forget that it’s now, and that you’re here? And you think that it’s then, and you’re there?

How time speeds up and slows down, all at the same time, and it’s highly invigorating, yet slightly unsettling?

Such is the effect of a certain song sung by a boy with a guitar on a Friday night.

Tonight, I’m sipping a Blue Moon with a slice of orange, and then it was a Franziskaner with a wedge of lemon.

Tonight, I’m sitting down at a table, and then I was bouncing around, part of a crowd with a life of its own.

Tonight, I’m content and confident.  Then, I was flailing and lost but enjoying the uncertainty of the ride.

Tonight, I’m a mother.  Then, I did everything not to be.

Tonight, I’m sitting next to my husband of sixteen years. Then, I wasn’t convinced I’d ever meet someone to take that title.

Tonight, I’m assured there’ll be no fights, drama, or tears. No wandering between bars because we don’t want to go home.

Tonight is not as electrically charged, memorably wild, or desperately free.

But tonight is so much better.

Tonight is older and wiser.

Tonight is loving what you have, instead of always looking.

Tonight is a deeply rooted calmness within that only comes when all the goblins have been chased away.

Tonight is deciding to be cool with ourselves.

Tonight is watching that boy with the guitar, remembering who he was, and who he is, realizing we are in the Second Half of our lives, and not being sad about it.

Tonight is discovering something/someone new and unexpectedly good, and realizing there’s still so much to see and hear in the Second Half.

Tonight is looking back with affection, and looking forward with anticipation.

And thankful for the inspiration.

Here's a clip from the boy with the guitar.  His name is Rhett Miller, and the song is "Big, Brown Eyes" by his band, Old 97s.  I also wrote about them HERE: "Celebrating 15 Years: The Soundtrack of a Single Girl."



And here is the something/someone new (to me) and unexpectedly good. Salim Nourallah, singer/songwriter/producer from Dallas.




Monday, January 20, 2014

How Rick Springfield Spawned My Existential Crisis

I thought Dr. Noah Drake was supposed to make everything all better?  At least he did back on General Hospital in 1982.  Read more about my thoughts on that HERE.

My friend and I fought two hours’ worth of hellacious traffic the other night to have him tend our worldly wounds and please our senses with his skilled hands at the guitar.  And the pretty face doesn’t hurt matters, either.

Still Swoon-worthy

I must add that at the age of sixty-four, this guy has managed to preserve himself somewhere in his late 40s.  A skilled plastic surgeon and a team of beauty managers/stylists are surely involved.  But nonetheless, he presents a pleasing package, as long as you don’t look too closely.

Springfield’s star quality shined throughout his set list filled with radio hits from the ‘80s, such as I Get Excited, Don’t Talk to Strangers, Affair of the Heart, and climaxing with Jessie’s Girl and Human Touch.

Half the fun of the evening was in observing the Super Fans, who were out in full force (and full lung capacity).



For ninety minutes, I was a young girl again, with no other care in the world than what my mom was fixing for dinner and whether or not she’d drive me to the mall the next day to meet my friends.

But after the high from the show wore off, sometime around noon the next day, I was left with the reality of my place in life and the myriad of complaints that accompany it:  exhaustion from staying up too late, heartburn from eating too much bad-for-you food, and a sense of heaviness as the realization of life’s many responsibilities set back in.

I began to reflect on why music from my past meant so much to me.  Why am I obsessed with the 1980s?  Why was I chasing the highlights of my heyday, only to lasso the magic for a fleeting moment, leaving a torturous return to drudgery in its wake?

My answer presented itself as I got in the car and my ears were assaulted by Radio Disney.  As song after song played, I strained to distinguish an electric guitar in the sea of computerized instrumentation.  Oh, yes, if you really tried, you could hear it, underneath somewhere, mixed in between drum machines and mechanically corrected vocals.

But it was so far in the background, it brought tears to my eyes.

And that’s when it hit me.

I am witnessing the end of an era.

The first hint earlier this month was the death of KKRW-FM, the classic rock station here in Houston, changing formats and leaving the fourth largest city in the nation without a tried-and-true, traditional rock station.

Just let that sink in.

Where is the next generation of guitar players going to find airplay?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is even worse…there aren’t any. Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Prince have been replaced by BeyoncĂ©, Justin Timberlake, and Katy Perry, who are all talented in their own right, but don’t make rock music.

The World of Radio has changed, and we all know that, but what does this mean for me, personally, right here, right now?

I grudgingly realized that I’m part of a dying breed, dating back to The Beatles and Elvis.  The young girls of today will likely never push their way to the front of a concert to get showered with sweat during a guitar solo or catch a coveted pick.

No one under the age of thirty is sitting home on a Friday night listening to music and playing air guitar in the mirror.

Someday, sooner than later, Rick Springfield is going to have to trade in his guitar for a walker, and there’s no one, save for John Mayer, bringing up the rear, which isn’t promising.

In times of desperation, I always think, what can I do to change things?  Start a “Save Rock ‘n Roll” campaign?  Get my kids guitar lessons ASAP?  Or just sit back and watch the world change, as my grandmother, and her grandmother had to do, realizing my time in the sun is over.

For now, I’m going to crank up some Zeppelin and return my head to the place where it's been buried in the sand.

I think that’s what Rick is probably doing today, and what he’d want me to do, too.

*****

Jessie's Girl, still as good as I remember it the first time I heard it on the radio thirty-three years ago.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't Stop Believin'

I pulled my bedroom door shut to face the full length mirror.  I didn't particularly like what I saw, but it was better than usual.

Riding the wave of The Official Preppy Handbook, I donned hunter green, plaid, bermuda shorts with a yellow cotton blouse with a ruffle detail down the placket.  Matching yellow knee-socks and penny loafers completed the ensemble.

I had spent hours attempting to curl my hair with hot rollers, and had succeeded in burning the prints off my fingertips, with very few curls to show for it.  I coaxed my bangs into wings like the lady on the Vidal Sassoon commercial, but they failed to take flight.

A touch of Cover Girl blue eye shadow and a swipe of Bonne Bell strawberry lip gloss, all my mother would allow me to wear, were the only enhancements to the awkward angles of my thirteen-year-old brace-face.

The honk of my friend's mom's car out front ended my self-critique session, and I took a deep breath, slid my lucky rabbit's foot into my front pocket, and walked out the door to my first Junior High school dance.

******

Exhaustion, a huge dinner, too-tight jeans, and the promise of an early morning wake up call from the three-year old were all working against me as I struggled to stay alert waiting for the God-Awful opening band to finish.

This is what one must endure in order to see a Journey cover band late on a Friday night.

Husband had kept my expectations low, informing me that the lead singer was no Steve Perry, but he was tolerable.  I was desperate enough for a hit of nostalgia to be okay with that.  Too much Katy Perry and What Does the Fox Say had been burning my ears, thanks to the nine-year old.  I needed to hear some good, live music to cleanse my palate.

When the band, Raised on Radio, finally took the stage, the first thing I noticed was the four-foot tall, bald lead singer, wearing thick, black glasses.  A cross between Woody Allen and Moby, as one of our friends astutely noted.

But when he opened his mouth, it was good.  It was better than good.  It was about a 7.5 on the Steve Perry Richter Scale.  He hit the high notes in Separate Ways.  He echoed the perfect amount of emotion and energy for Lights.

The guitar solos were dead-on. The drums and keyboards were there. When I closed my eyes, they took me back to that gymnasium in seventh grade, wilting away in the corner, tugging on my sagging knee socks while other girls passed by en route to the dance floor.

The opening keyboard notes of Open Arms tenderly tugged me back to the present, and I grabbed Husband, basking in the reality that I eventually bloomed into a girl with whom someone wanted to dance.

He smiled and laughed and pulled me close.  I buried my face in his chest, breathing in his familiar scent.

Forget partying like it’s 1999.

Tonight, I am going to slow dance like it's 1983.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Sing-A-Long, Part Deux

It's almost Christmas, and if you're like me, you're behind the 8-ball.  In between parties, White Elephant Gift Exchanges, and gawking on Facebook at how much others have accomplished, I'll need to kick things into high gear this weekend.

For inspiration, I'm digging up more '80s Christmas favorites to help me get energized.  These tunes, in combo with my list from last year (that you can check out HERE), will have me wrapping, baking, and decking the halls in no time.

Last Christmas by Wham!

This lighthearted tune with surprisingly depressing lyrics always gets my toes tapping.  George Michael's big hair, tight pants, and pre-out-of-the-closet-lady-troubles are enough to make me wish for a reunion with Andrew Ridgeley.






Winter Wonderland - The Eurythmics

This is about as New Wave as Christmas can get.  Break out the hair gel and black eyeliner.

Frosty the Snowman - Cocteau Twins

Another New Wave offering.  As kooky as these folks are, this is a great version of this Christmas classic. Funky and fun, even the kids will be dancing along.

Rudoph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - The Smithereens

I'm envisioning Santa's reindeer, all in a row, rocking out to this with electric guitars.  Super fun song.

Thanks for Christmas - XTC

Happy, upbeat, lovely song.  Too bad it's such a rare find.  Can't get it on itunes, so I've had to stalk Sirius/XM's First Wave and pray that Richard Blade plays it for me.

Christmas Day - Squeeze

A faux-manger scene, Glen Tillbrook probably on drugs, close-ups of tinsel and boobs, you have to see THIS VIDEO to believe it.  And even though it was recorded in 1979, they've already graduated from the '70s and mastered the '80s attitude.

Shouldn't Have Given Him a Gun for Christmas - Wall of Voodoo

Remember the Mexican Radio people?  The video with the head in the pot of beans?  This is their Christmas song.  Enough said.


And on a happier note...

Must Be Santa - Brave Combo

Nothing says Christmas like a good polka.  Happiest, perkiest, accordian-iest holiday song ever. And they're from Denton, TX, which is the icing on the sugar cookie.

Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight) - The Ramones

If you need a laugh (and I know you do), watch this hysterical video of this crazy Jersey Shore '80s couple ripping each other to shreds.  And as bizarre and unexplainable as it is, I'll always agree with Riff Randell from Rock 'n Roll High School that The Ramones are totally hot.



I hope you enjoy these tunes and carve out some time to relax, think about the memories of Christmases past, and make enjoyable new ones for the future.

Wait, who am I kidding?  Nothing will ever top those '80s Holiday memories.

Cherish them, my friends.  Leg warmers may be back in, but the music ain't the same.