Saturday, July 19, 2014

No Ear for Harmony

The walls of the soundproof booth closed in on me.  I strained to hear the barely audible chimes and beeps piping through the headphones placed over my ears.

The noises dwindled, trailing off into the depths of my fuzzy head like soap bubbles swirling down a drain.  I began to wonder if the sounds I struggled to hear were only in my imagination, conjured up to reassure me I still had full range of hearing.

As an ill-prepared, hung-over college student sweats during a final exam, knowing her sins may have finally caught up with her, I sat in the chair wondering if this would be the end of the line for me and the love of my life.

I’d been to a lot of concerts in my forty-three years, many of them in small venues, crushed up against a speaker by an unforgiving crowd.

I’ve attempted to use ear plugs a few times, but they always fell out, and frankly, I didn’t like the way they tickled my ears and muffled the very sounds in which I was seeking to submerge.

Salve for the wounds of the week.

People ask me all the time, “How do you manage to go to so many concerts?  I’m always too tired at night.”

And here is my answer:

I go because I have to go.

It’s like oxygen to me.

All day long, I’m suffocated by The Wiggles and Radio Disney, and I have to cleanse my musical palate at least once every two weeks.  Preferable once a week.  Four weeks, and I start to get the shakes.

A musician at heart, I played the piano as a child, and as a young adolescent, I discovered that banging out some Beethoven was an enjoyably therapeutic way to release angst.

My musical tastes expanded with the New Wave movement of the ‘80s, and I discovered bands like The Cure, The Smiths, and Depeche Mode.  Coupled with the upbeat pop sounds of Duran Duran and INXS, I delighted in the ability to always find a song to fit my mood.

Music became more to me than sound emanating from a Sony Walkman.

Music became a manner of holistic healing.

Solace in another’s lyrical expressions.

And today is no different.

I’m not likely to connect with a poet at a coffee house, but set those same words to music, and I’m all ears.

I can listen to almost anything and enjoy it.

The magic of the live show lies in the connection between performer and audience, artist and appreciator.

Each artist speaks his or her own language, and the listener is invited to partake in the dialogue for the evening:  a love lost, then found; a memory preserved; an emotion that at the writing of the song was so strong and prolific, it overtook every cell of the songwriter’s body.

During a good live performance, all of these stories, feelings, people, and places will be transferred from artist to listener, aided by chords and melodies.

There is nothing else in the world better to me than listening to a live show of a musician who is performing with his/her whole heart and soul.

"A life without music is a life not worth living." I dramatically pondered.

I panicked, envisioning denial of the heartfelt harmonies of The Mastersons.  The gorgeous, rootsy ballads of Ryan Adams.  The witty, rollicking missives of Rhett Miller and Old 97s.  The meditative melodies of Chris Martin and Coldplay.  The playful, rhythmic groove of Bob Schneider.

I sat with sweaty, wringing hands, waiting for the results of the hearing test.

“Everything looks good.”

Exhale.

I’ve got tickets to a show next week.

I’ll try to remember the ear plugs, I promise.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Trials, Lessons Learned, & Aligned Stars

I slowly placed the phone back on its receiver, careful not to tangle the long, peach-colored cord with the black one from the neighboring answering machine.

“Well, what’d he say?” Roommate demanded.

“He said it’s over.  That we should just be friends.  That he’d see me around campus.” I choked on the words, reeling from their cutting reality.

“Whatever, he’s an idiot.  Get dressed, we’re going out.” Roommate charged.

I obeyed, mainly because I was too weak to argue with someone who usually won.

Retreating to my bedroom, I threw open the door to the closet, taking refuge in early '90s fashion, finally deciding on a sleeveless chambray shirt tucked into a floral-print wrap-skirt from Harrold’s. 

Giant, silver-fluted earrings completed the look, hoping to instill the same level of confidence possessed by the girl in the store who’d sold them to me.

Roommate was waiting for me when I came out with a shot glass filled with ominous-looking amber liquid.

“Drink up,” she commanded.

It was going to be a long night.

********

The car sped precariously down Lovers Lane, with the driver’s attention torn between obeying traffic laws and finishing her cigarette.

Entertainment options were thrown out like items on a fast food dollar menu.

Having picked up several other girls along the way, the debate centered on which bar to bless with our presence: Yale Ice House, Across the Street, Milo’s, or Cardinal Puff’s.  Someone piped up with Rhythm Room, adding that Jackopierce was playing, which had the added benefit of hoards of their fraternity brothers in residence to potentially distract me from my heartache.

I broke the tie by casting my vote for Rhythm Room. 

********

After fighting the crowd to get in and ushering our fake IDs quickly under the nose of the bouncer, we found an open picnic table out back and parked ourselves there with our pitcher of beer.

Jackopierce, an acoustic duo comprised of SMU contemporaries Jack O’Neill and Cary Pierce, had just started their set.  I strained to hear their guitars and pleasing harmonies over the noise of co-eds laughing and socializing. 

The crowd ultimately settled down, and we were treated to some of the best covers I’d heard in a while…U2, REM, Big Country, with several original songs thrown in.  They were clearly talented, with a certain dazzling stage presence, which proved to be a winning combination in allowing me to forget my troubles.  At least for a few hours. 

Which eventually turned into twenty-five years.

********

Husband and I took our seats right up front, thrilled to have an evening of adult conversation that wouldn’t include any mentions of Spongebob or Peppa the Pig.

The show was packed, and we visited easily with the other fans around us who had driven all the way up to The Woodlands from Houston to see Jackopierce on their 25th anniversary tour.

Husband and I had a separately attained, yet mutually shared love of the duo.  It was one of the many things we had in common when we met.  In our sixteen years of marriage, we’d seen them play live as many times as we could: their farewell show on New Year’s Eve 1997 in downtown Houston, their first reunion show at Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas in 2002, another reunion show at Mucky Duck in Houston, and lastly, at Warehouse Live back in 2007.

It had been seven years, and we were ready for Jack and Cary to take the stage.  They possess a distinct chemistry together as musicians, although each is talented in his own right.  There really is nothing more clean, musically, than hearing their two voices in tandem. 

And as they performed each song that night, what came through loud and clear was more than perfect pitch.  It was a gentle, yet confident air of contentment that I’d not seen in them before.  A joy that shined through in performing and seeing the fans enjoy their music. 

Just two guys on stage enjoying themselves, like the rest of us.

Gone were the attitudes that often piggyback on the insecurity of youth, replaced by genuine gratitude for earning a living doing what they love, connecting with others in a meaningful, authentic way.

It mirrored so much of what I see in myself at the age of forty-three. 

We’ve given up chasing fame and what we thought success would be. Success is now defined by having a Good Life:  enjoying what we do, and having people around us, family, and friends who love and appreciate us.

And because we’re not striving for the unattainable, we’re better for it.

Their show that night was the best performance I’d seen from them, by far.

Jackopierce successfully assures us that the mid-point of life is nothing to be feared, but to be celebrated.

All the Tiny, Hidden Bits of Goodness that have been simmering away throughout our youth and early adulthood finally boil to the surface at 40, and it all begins to make sense…the missteps, the trials, the lessons learned.  They can finally take a backseat to all of the blessings. 

They led us to where we need to be.

Yeah, we missed a couple turns (but it never really mattered)
On our way to change the world (and it’s just about to happen)
The stars align
This is our time
We're gonna take it.

Indeed, you will, guys.

And this fan intends to have a front row seat.
Me and Cary Pierce...Go Ponies!

If you want to be happy, go buy Jackopierce's 25th Anniversary Live CD, recorded at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas HERE.  And watch this montage video for their new single, "This Is Our Time" celebrating 25 years of music and fun:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Take a Deep Breath and Let Go (Part II)

The cat followed me into Big Sister’s bedroom, close on my tail, and when I made myself comfortable on her bed, he followed suit, curling up in a ball at my side.

We surveyed her room, neat and tidy, missing the usual mix of discarded shorts and t-shirts littering the floor.  There were no half-drawn pictures or half-read books strewn about, waiting to be finished.

Her dolls were lined up in an orderly fashion, without the promise of a tea party or a new adventure for the afternoon.  Her desk top was deserted, markers and pencils corralled in their cubbies, denied the opportunity to bring ideas to life.

It had been a week since Big Sister boarded the bus to camp, all smiles and waves, while I bravely hid my red-rimmed eyes behind dark sunglasses.  This was a grand improvement over last summer, when my parting image was of her sobbing into her tie-dyed pillow (read about that HERE).

This year was different.  She was a big girl, a veteran.  She worried about the other first-timers and vowed to comfort them in case they felt sad.  She knew the reward for being brave was several weeks of independence, having fun, making friends, and trying new things. 

Testing out her wings without Mama hovering.

And as I linger here in her empty room, just to feel close to her, I know this is right.

For every twinge of sadness I feel when I can’t grab her for a bear hug, I picture her beaming face on the camp website, arms encircling new friends.

For every time my throat tightens when I remember I can’t tuck her in at night, I imagine her snug in her bunk bed, whispering and giggling with her cabinmates.

For every ache I feel in my gut when I long to ask her about her day, I cling to her letters, full of excited details of each new activity she’s tried, and each triumph she’s attained.

As hard as this is, I know this is right.

As for Little Brother, he is soaking in the undivided attention, ecstatic that we can spend our entire morning playing with cars or blocks without Big Sister stealing the spotlight.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the relief I often feel knowing that there’s one less mouth to feed that day, one less minion to manage, one less living being to keep alive. 

The peace in my house is tangible without the daily sibling squabbles, and in their case, knock-down, drag-out, fight-to-the-death battles.

Yes, rolls of wrapping paper can be light sabers.

But for all the fighting, there is love that sneaks in, even if it’s disguised as a zombie in Minecraft.

Thank you, Sweet Jesus, for five minutes of Minecraft.

I know he misses her, too, and in the blink of an eye, she’ll be home, and they’ll pick up where they left off.

Time feels suspended today, though, and I remain in her room, soaking in the lavender goodness.  The soft, girly comforter beckons me to stay, and I’m drawn to the pictures, notes and trinkets on her bulletin board, all clues to the secret of who she is becoming.

All of this will surely evolve, as she grows into the young woman we’ve raised her to be, ready to leave the nest to take on the world.

But for now, I’ll take comfort in knowing that she’s coming back.

And this is all good practice for the day that she doesn’t.

Because that day will come, friends, when we Mama Bears will have to take one last deep breath and let go.

Don’t worry, we’ll do it together.

*****
Hooking up this week with the best writers on the interwebz.  If you're a blogger who writes, a writer who blogs, or a reader who lurks, please join in the fun.  I'm always there when I can be.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Screens & Summertime: Win the Battle

We are officially on Day 4 of Summer, and already it’s like Gladiator around here.  The kids are fighting and screaming before the sun has barely had time to rise. 

When they’re not fighting, their favorite pastime is tv/computer/ipad.  I stick to a consistent daily schedule of throwing them outside to play, making sure they run off as much energy as possible.  And I enforce nap time after lunch for the three-year-old and rest time for the nine-year-old.

But seriously, no matter how hard I try to encourage them (aka, threaten them) to get away from the screens, they circle them like buzzards, waiting for the moment I give the signal that it’s okay to descend.

I can’t help but reminisce about my summers spent playing card games, working good, old-fashioned jigsaw puzzles, and reading books, when not engaged in Kick the Can with neighborhood kids.

And then a light bulb went off…I think I might have some old games stashed away in a cabinet!

Sure enough, I found this:

Crazy Eights card game from the 1970s

Daughter and I spent the afternoon playing Crazy Eights and having a grand old time.  Memories of sitting Indian Style on my yellow-checked gingham covered canopy bed with my BFF came flooding back.  Sticker collections, vinyl LPs, and Crazy Eights or Old Maid occupied much of our summer leisure time.

And then, since we were on a roll, I decided to press my luck by instructing her to read an actual BOOK, with actual PAGES.  No e-readers here.

Remember these old things?

And guess what?

A little bit of magic happened.

We actually spent the afternoon without the constant drone of tvs, ipads, ipods, computers, You Tube, Itunes, Spotify, or Club Penguin.

And this was the end result:

Happy Girl

Never fear, friends, if our electronically dependent family can do it, so can yours.

At least for one afternoon.

Baby steps, people.


Linking up with the Yeah Write Moonshine grid.  Oh, how I've missed these fine folks!

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