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December 2011
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February 2012

What I'm Into (January Edition)

I must say January is shaping up to be my favorite month of 2012 so far. That it's the only month we've seen this year is a minor issue.

Read and Reading: 

I'm not sure I can properly convey how much I loved Nelson Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. Everyone should read it for the history of South Africa, insight's into Mandela's life, and reflections on race relations and the injustices that occur around the world. It is surprisingly well written and even handed. He recognizes his missteps where appropriate and the gift of hindsight is readily apparent as he covers the years leading up to his inauguration as president of South Africa. It made me want to learn more about what happened after he became leader of the country he fought for- beyond what I learned from the movie Invictus. What struck me the most was how ordinary Mandela was but how the choices and decisions he made propelled him to become extraordinary. How inspiring is that?

Thomas Nelson sent me a complimentary copy of the young adult book First Date (McGee). It's kind of The Bachelor goes to high school mixed with Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. It's loosely based on Esther but it wasn't heavy handed with the parallels. Addy seems an introverted character, which we don't find too often. At times, the book went the predictable route but there were a few surprises I never saw coming. I don't want to give it away but I felt the ending could have been more satisfying. I could've done without the murdered missionary parents subplot and wish Addy's beliefs about dating had been more clear. Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable read.

Currently reading: The Language of Flowers (Diffenbaugh), Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Simonson), When Helping Hurts (Corbett and Fikkert), and The War of Art (Pressfield).

Also reading Introverts in the Church (McHugh). I'm going to have much to say once I'm finished. Because Myers-Briggs has told me I'm an extrovert instead of acknowledging my many, many introvert tendencies. Have I been masking myself as an extrovert all these years?

On deck: The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib is No Longer Willing to be the Church's Backbone? (Henderson).

(I read 5 books this month. Still low but Mandela's book was 625 pages. That's got to count for something.)

TV: My must-see TV: Once Upon a Time, Downton Abbey, Revenge, Parenthood, Parks & Rec, The New Girl, The Vampire Diaries

People have all sorts of opinions on the start of Downton Abbey's second season. But personally? I love it. I love the characters, the plot development, and especially the witty dialogue. I can only imagine how I'm going to feel by the end of the season, where I've been assured all manner of good stuff occurs.

If you love Once Upon a Time, definitely weigh in at SortaCrunchy's weekly OUAT Tuesday posts. Great discussion about themes, who characters could be, and filtering through the prevalent theories.

Movies: The Swell Season documentary, a must-see for any fans of the movie Once 

Moneyball, which made me so excited for Spring Training to begin. I know it wasn't a competely accurate reflection of the A's season that year. It neglects to mention the team's star players, including my favorite White Sox Jermaine Dye (though I did hear his name on some game footage!) But as far as going into the psyche and persona of Billy Beane, the film more than delivers. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill especially brought their characters to life in their scenes together. The behind-the-scenes action of trading players and the like was fascinating to this baseball fan.

Music: I saw The Civil Wars play their first show at the Ryman. Hallelujah and glory be.

New discoveries: The Head and the Heart (via Natalie Lloyd), Seryn (via Jess Bertram), Sarah Hart, Among Savages, Wye Oak (via @ineffablegod), David Robbins (via Knox McCoy), Walk Off the Earth (via Shawn Smucker)

I am obsessed with Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know. Obsessed. I heard it a couple of months ago but didn't pursue it any further until the local radio station played it again last month. Now I can't get enough. I've listened to some of his other stuff- and it's great- but really I just want to listen to this song on repeat.


What have you been into this month?

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. 

This Is How We Met: a new series

Every love story starts out the same: two people meet. There's a dizzying array of possibilities after that.

Sometimes the connection is instant; other times the pair loathe each other. Sometimes one person doesn't know the other exists. Sometimes it takes a few false starts before the romance becomes apparent. Or maybe they're friends for years before they start seeing each other in a new light.

"Tell me how you met." That was my favorite part of meeting new patients while I was a hospice social worker. Because no two stories were the same, even if they both started out at the same dance hall in Chicago.

I often marvel at how marriages come to be. If he had not stood in that particular corner, if she hadn't been running late for a meeting. Or she was dating someone else but he patiently waited just the same. Or, and this may be my favorite, if she hadn't asked him to dance.

At times, it seems a miracle that people fall in love and walk down the aisle.

On the days that I seem particularly bewildered by the notion of true love, I repeat to myself: it only has to happen once.

I've hated Valentine's Day for a long time. It's a cliche, I know. The single girl hating the Hallmark holiday. This past year I've intentionally appreciated the love already in my life, as inspired by this moving post from Tea. I know that I am very loved, even if my great romance hasn't yet occurred. I am amazed by the wonderful people in my life. Love really is all around us (bonus points if you name the movie).

Something about Valentine's Day makes me feel like friends and family aren't enough compared to Mr. Right. It makes me angry that my mind and heart so easily forget. I don't want to go down that tired road again this year.

In November 2011, I was struck by an idea. My own way of redeeming Valentine's Day. Starting February 1, 2012, I'm kicking off a new series called This Is How We Met.

TIHWM tagline

(The Twitter hashtag will be #TIHWM, since it's apparently not a blog series until you have a hashtag. Or something like that.)

I've asked real life friends and blog friends to share their stories of how they met their spouse. After all, every marriage began with a first date. Something singles can relate to all too well.

I want this series to encourage those of us still looking.There's an intangible quality to why some relationships work out and others don't. Dating can be awkward, complicated, and exciting all in one. I hope that by hearing these stories, you will walk the path before you openly and adventurously. Because, seriously, we don't know how or if it will happen so you might as well enjoy the ride in the meantime.

I also want it to encourage those of you who are married- to look back and reflect on how your relationship has changed and grown since those initial days. Selfishly, I hope that by remembering those days before you knew your spouse was the one, you will better understand the single people in your life.

When I asked my friends to share their TIHWM story, I was blown away by the response. What was to initially be a February feature will now be an on-going series. I am so beyond words excited to share these stories with you.

Maybe one day I'll write my own TIHWM post. Until then, I'll enjoy and learn from yours.

TIHWM stories

The Beauty of Melancholy (music that moves me)

I sat in Belcourt Theater the other night in a likely dedicated audience. This was for the true fans. We came seeking insight, for a glimpse in to the workings of a favored band. We waited for The Swell Season to grace us with their presence. The theater darkened as the documentary began.

I'd long forgotten that a documentary covering the band's two year tour had been made. By chance, Belcourt was offering a second showing of the movie. It seemed perfectly paired with my birthday week.


My love affair with The Swell Season began with the movie Once. My friend Jill and I watched it one fall night, almost a year after we'd traveled to Ireland. The movie began unpretentiously and my heart soared with the songs. Jill and I pointed out the various places we'd been to in Dublin but mostly we were caught up in the story about a Guy and a Girl and the music they made.

Were Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova actors, musicians, both? How did they make such wonderful music together? Once blurred the lines while perfectly capturing What Might Have Been between its characters. We didn't get our happy ending but it seemed strangely fitting.

A couple of months later, Glen and Marketa picked up an Oscar for their song Falling Slowly. Their story became our story. I held on to Marketa's delayed acceptance speech for some time: "fair play to those who dare to dream and don’t give up."

There were rumors that Glen and Marketa dated in real life. That the movie romance became real. This seemed right and fitting.

But then came the release of The Swell Season's Strict Joy album in 2009. They'd broken up but managed to keep the band going. Out of their pain came remarkable music.

And so I came to The Swell Season documentary wondering what I would see. Would I root for their relationship or understand its demise?

As the movie played, I did both. We witnessed sweet, tender moments and what we saw was so good. We also saw a dischordance so obvious that it mystified me how they'd ever gotten together in the first place.

Glen worked hard at the musician's life for 17 years before finding a semblance of fame. Meanwhile, Marketa hadn't even graduated high school when they shot the movie. Almost two decades between them. She was uneasily thrust in to the limelight. He's a brooding artist to her matter of fact forthrightness. One scene toward the end is striking in their differing outlooks.

When Glen howls his way through a song or Marketa nearly cries her way through hers, we are swept up with them. We find beauty in their melancholy. Regardless of circumstances, music resonates and transcends. It helps us remember and sometimes even forget.

We never see their Great Romance or the actual break up but each scene shows us exactly what it should.

The movie left us wanting for more. We relate to the ache of what could be and what isn't.

When I got home that night, my friend called me, having done a little research already.

"Marketa married someone else," he announced.

There it was, a finality the movie couldn't give us.


The Ryman Auditorium show sold out in minutes. Too fast for my friends and I to get tickets. I thought my days as a Civil Wars groupie had come to an end but the week before the show, a friend asked me to go when her husband had to drop out.

Their first show at the Ryman. It was the stuff of dreams, theirs and ours. I remarked to my friend that it seemed like witnessing history. As I've sensed from the moment I discovered the band two years ago, this band is going places.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the opening act The Staves. Gorgeous spare harmonies. The three women stood in the center of the stage and captivated us all. I could almost forget that they weren't the reason we came.

But then Joy Williams and John Paul White stepped out on to the stage, looking very much at home. The music swept over us, one song after the next.


Pain, heartbreak, despair. Relationships in all their complexity and complications. The music exploring these maladies haunts us in the best of ways. As John Paul joked, there are bands that make you happy but the Civil Wars are not one of them. There's no denying their appeal, however.

Ever the entertainers, the mix of banter partnered with searing harmonies kept the audience entranced and garnered them not just one but three standing ovations.

(Since it's Nashville, there was the ubiquitous surprise guest appearance by Taylor Swift. She and The Civil Wars performed Safe and Sound, their contribution to The Hunger Games soundtrack.)

Without fail, I've cried at every Civil Wars show I've been to. This, my fifth, was no exception. It wasn't bad to cry- and it certainly didn't reflect my positive state of mind. Sometimes it's the music itself that gets to me but usually it's the lyrics that pierce my soul. I sat in the wooden pew two days after turning 32 and let the words wash over me. Then I dried my tears. I tapped my feet. I threw myself into the beauty of the evening.


Because 32 seems full of hope and yet I still relate to shades of gray. Maybe we need to remember the sad, pain-filled periods of our life to properly appreciate the good times. There is grace in processing where we were and where we'd like to be. I believe the gloom can illuminate our way, from darkness to light. So even though my outlook is good, I will continue to listen to music that moves me in this way.

They took the stage for their encore and left us awed over an unplugged Dance Me to the End of Love.  The last note hung over the auditorium begging to be plucked down. Instead, it hovered over a night we did not want to end.

We filed out of the warmth of the Ryman and in to the flurries sparkling the winter air. And this, too, felt right.

What music inspires you? Do you find beauty in the melancholy?

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