Saturday, December 04, 2004

Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum

I had practically given up on dating. I had been disappointed too many times, I was exhausted by all the games, and it was starting to seem, well, not worth it anymore. But the undeniable spark I felt when I first met him renewed my hope, and made me think twice about throwing in the proverbial towel just yet. Everyone, including him, told me how difficult it is to date a musician. But somehow, I thought that I was stronger than that - that I was independent and secure, and that it surely wasn't as difficult as they all made it out to be.

At first, my confidence was reassured. We spent some wonderful times together. I had more fun with him than I had had with the sum of all the men I had dated over the past year. We laughed and had good conversation. We listened to great music and ate great food. We played in a wind tunnel and laid on a bed of nails. He taught me to jump down stairs on a bike. Good times.

But then he left on tour. With him on the other side of the country, or in some cases in another country entirely, our actual dating reached a state of seemingly perpetual hiatus. As the tour rolled on, our phone and email conversations became increasingly infrequent, and regrettably one-sided. He assured me not to take it personally, that he was, in fact, interested, but that he was just focused on his career. At some point, I came to accept the fact that we just can't date right now. I resigned myself to hoping that our paths would cross again. (Lesson: Be careful what you wish for!)

Now and then he shows up at my gigs, unannounced. And, once the butterflies settle, I land right back in the center of square one. My attraction to him, the beginnings of feelings for him, all come rushing back, and I find myself once again wanting that which I cannot have. It's a vicious cycle, really. One that precludes me from fully letting go, moving on, and being happy with someone else. And although I realize that I shouldn't want to be with him, and that his lifestyle and my wants and needs don't work together, I also realize that these kind of choices often have no founding in logic.

So as the mad dashing of the holiday season begins to subside, I wish my little drummer boy peace and happiness, wherever in this vast world he may find himself on Christmas day.

Monday, November 08, 2004


I don't generally consider myself a star-struck kind of person. You know the type - the ones who get so excited upon encountering a celebrity that their voice reaches a pitch normally reserved for pre-teen girls. The ones who have an alarmingly sizeable collection of autographs and photos. The ones who you fear may turn out to be stalkers. Not usually my thing.

Last Saturday, I had a gig with one of the bands I sing with. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a fundraiser for some private school in LA. Then, sometime around the third song of our first set, I noticed him. He sat at a table off to the side of the room. Dark glasses. Long braids. Unassuming, with a surprisingly small entourage. A bodyguard the size of what I can only imagine the abominable snowman would look like (only not quite as snowy white). Arguably one of the greatest musicians of our time. Stevie Wonder.

I had heard he might be there, but when reality set in and he was sitting before me, I froze. I never get nervous when I sing. I've met a few famous people in my life, and I always seem to hold it together pretty well. But this time it was different. Surely, he knows most of the songs we are playing. Surely, he will notice if I forget the lyrics or if I sing the slightest bit out of tune. Not usually things I worry about.

Despite all the self-induced pressure, I made it through the gig with only two minor mistakes. And he seemed to be enjoying the music, singing along and rolling his head the way he does. In the end, I was able to meet him and take a photograph. And I didn't turn into aforementioned psycho. He was kind, gracious, and surprisingly humble. It was a great honor to play for him, and an experience I will never forget.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

A Tribute to Dance Dance Revolution

Watching the kids in the arcades jumping around on the arrows, trying to make time with the music and the arrows on the screen, I always thought there wasn't a thing in this world that could get me to do this. But XBOX, in all their infinite wisdom, has created a way for me to experience the joys of aforementioned game in the comfort of my own home, without fear of public humiliation. For those of you not yet initiated into the cultish world of DDR, it is truly a marvelous thing. Allow me to explain...

With endless selections of clubified beats and helpful commentary, you jump and stomp on a floor pad, trying to snychronize the movements of your feet on the arrows to the arrows that come up on the screen. But don't be misled - it's not as simple as it may first appear. There are varying levels of difficulty, and, as Shannon and I learned last night, you are upgraded without warning to the next level when you master a song. The rhythms and combinations range from moderately challenging to absolutely impossible. If you are skilled enough to pass a song, you are scored and graded. This is the catch. You become addicted to increasing your score, to perfecting your moves, to beating the computer or your friend, depending on how you set it up to play. And then, just when you develop the slightest bit of confidence in your DDR abilities, you make the foolish decision to challenge your friends to a dance-off. (Beware, Emily and Mark - we are going to kick your arses.) So you see, it's a never-ending cycle that we get sucked into.

Therefore, to all of you at XBOX and Konami, we salute you. Thank you for bringing us endless hours of entertainment (and a great workout), and for being so gracious as to accept obscene amounts of money on our behalf.

Lessons in Forgiveness

I haven't always been a patient or forgiving person. I remember babysitting my four younger siblings, a duty I resented since, after all, it was never my choice to be the oldest, and losing my temper on a regrettably regular basis. It seems that two, if not all five, of us were always fighting when my parents returned from their date nights, which I now can appreciate how desperately they needed. Most often, my sister, the baby, was the unfortunate recipient of our constant torture. I remember thinking that I could never be a teacher, and I had serious doubts about my ability to be a mother someday.

And then I met Gracie. My four-year relationship with J had fallen apart two weeks prior. Having lost Bella only months before, my heartbreak and lonliness had caused nearly irreparable damage. So Shannon and I went to the shelter after work one day. I wasn't sure I was ready yet, but what would be the harm in looking, right?! Wrong - I should have known that I can never walk into a shelter without walking out with a new pet. There she was, in the same "featured pet" space that brought me my first fluffy bundle of joy, the death row cage. I had seen her picture on the web site, but she was different here. Her picture portrayed a large dog with a sad face, and here in front of me was a small puppy with a sweet face. I opened the door to say hello, and she climbed onto my lap and nuzzled against my chest. Check, please! I was a goner. That was November 1.

By December 5, I was ready to take her back. I realized I was in over my head. Buyer's remorse, I guess. She was not 1-1/2 like they told me - she was a puppy, still apparently teething and chewing on everything! That, coupled with the worst case of separation anxiety of any being on this planet, caused destruction approximating that of warfare and natural disasters. My roommate's couch, my roommate's phone (later I would learn that my roommate was mean to her, causing the chewing bias toward her things over mine), electrical cords, shoes, lingerie, a brand-new sweater, my down comforter, just to name a few of the unfortunate items left in ruins after encountering the unnatural strength of her young jaws.

I soon learned to puppy-proof the house, and we moved into our own apartment, away from the horrible roommate, and her behavior noticeably improved. Now that we've practiced our routine for two years, she is finally starting to trust me. She knows that I will always come back when I leave for work. She has learned the difference between the kennel and the shelter. She understands, for the most part, what things are off-limits. But every now and then, she inexplicably reverts to the terror that I first brought home. There is no rhyme or reason, no way to predict when and what she will do. And when it happens, she looks at me apologetically, with that same sad look from the photograph, a look that begs "do you still love me?" And I cave. And I realize that her snuggles on cold winter nights, and her excited bouncing when I first open my eyes in the morning after she patiently sits at the foot of my bed awaiting her walk, and her thankful kisses when I play with her, and her gentle paw on my leg as she sits quietly next to me when I am sad, and the way her whole body wags when she is happy, are worth more than anything I may ever have to replace.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Puppy Love

I remember the day I met Bella. It was April 28, 2001. J and I had decided to stop by the shelter, but we were just looking - we weren't ready for a pet just yet. She was the first one we saw - you know, the one in the "featured pet" cage, a euphemism that we would soon learn meant she was on death row. "Adopt me today," her card read, "I'm ready to go home." Her name was Brandy then. I remember how fluffy and soft and cute she was. I remember how sweet her disposition was when we let her out to walk and play a little. I remember how we decided maybe we were ready, and how we couldn't wait to take her home.

My family always had pets when I was growing up - dogs, cats, rabbits, even a chicken. But they were kept outside, not really a part of the family, just animals that we had to clean up after, feed, and often fear. But Bella was different. She was our baby, our little one-year-old sweetheart. And the first pet that was really mine.

She stayed in the house with us, even slept on our bed, we spoiled her lavishly, we loved her deeply, and she was perfect. I remember how quickly she was housebroken after a single accident. I remember never having to worry when we left her alone at home, and I remember crying the first time we left her at a kennel, seeing the sad look in her eyes as we went away. I remember how she hated baths, and how when her fur was wet, she was so small. I remember how we could never find a toy that she wanted to play with, and how there was nothing that she wouldn't eat. I remember trips to the bark park and the dog beach, and the thousands of compliments on our little social butterfly.

But most of all, I remember July 2, 2002. I remember waking up late and not taking her for a morning walk, a ritual we had never missed until that day. I remember wishing that she hadn't been so well-behaved that morning, waiting patiently until I awoke instead of jumping on me when the alarm went off. I remember rushing home to my apartment, without so much as a pat on her head or an "I love you," to get ready for a very important meeting. I remember the horror in J's face when I answered the door and he was screaming at me. I couldn't hear what he was saying. Maybe I didn't want to hear it. And then I remember running, falling to the cold, hard asphalt and disappearing into J's embrace. And my fists pounding on his chest. I remember looking through the thick wall of tears to see her lying on his car seat, motionless. And collapsing again. And how every time I looked, I hoped she would move. Breathe. Grin. Lick my face. Just one more time so I could say goodbye.

I remember her little ceremony - just J, his mother and me in a little room, Bella in her little box. I remember how perfect she looked - not like she had been hit by a car, but like she was sleeping. We laid her on the blanket that she first came home in, we gave her the one toy we finally got her to play with, we gave her one of her favorite treats, we gently placed a photo of the two of us in the box. It was quiet in that little room, just like she always was.

But now the flowers on her grave are wilting. The photo on her headstone is fading. The lines in the grass are long gone. Her face is blurring in our minds, sharpened again only by photographs that never did her personality justice. We see her in our dreams. We remember her only in our hearts.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happily Ever After: A Love Story

The scene: Lazy W church camp, circa summer 1987

From the moment they met, Angela knew there was something special about John. Although she was but a young girl, she had feelings for him that she would not experience again until much later in her adult life. Yes, this was more than a crush - it must have been love. But John didn't return her sentiments with the enthusiasm she had hoped. And so, at the young age of 12, Angela felt the first pangs of heartbreak that would become all too familiar over the next 16 years.

Fast forward to early 2003...

Angela and John's paths cross again, thanks to the ingenious intervention of two mutual friends. Except this time, the tables were turned. With less than a year of healing from her most recent heartbreak, a 4-year relationship that she was sure would turn out to be everything she had dreamed of, Angela was not ready to open herself up to love. But John would not give up - something told him that he should persist, that this second chance meeting was not just coincidence.

After months of inner struggle between her heart and her head, Angela realized that the feelings she had could no longer be denied. Her jaded heart had given up long ago on finding her ideal, her soulmate; and yet, here was this man who seemed to be everything she wanted, everything she needed. This relationship was different than anything she had experienced thus far. And so she decided to give love another try.

Long story short...

In November of 2003, John (who, incidentally, I went to high school with) proposed to my cousin Angela at the very spot where they first met. In August of 2004, they were married in one of the most beautiful weddings I have had the pleasure to attend.

I have never seen two people more in love, or better suited for each other. And even though their experience in married life is limited to these last few months, I know they will never be apart. They are perfect for each other in every way, sharing many important interests and personality traits, and complementing each other in all other areas. Most importantly, their love is deeply rooted in their faith - the very faith, in fact, that initially brought them together, and they grow closer to each other as they grow in their individual relationships with God.

Their story is proof to me that there really is someone for everyone who will make us happier than we could ever imagine; someone who we will love, and who will return that love, stronger than we may ever think possible. Everything I want, everything I need, everything I dream of having when I finally find that person who is my ideal, I see in them. They give me the faith and strength I need to continue in the cosmic dating process that will eventually lead to my own happy ending.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

'Tis the Season

Two weeks ago was the fateful American Idol-Season 4 audition. I stood, powerless before the panel of merciless judges, internally debating whether I actually wanted to go through with this whole thing. Always the cautious optimist, I was preparing myself mentally for the pangs of rejection, but still hoping for success and the promise of stardom. It’s funny how when you finally hear the judgment you have so long agonized over, you realize what you wanted all along.

You see, this dream ended almost as quickly as it had begun. But when I was eliminated after the second round, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, rather than feeling stripped of my lifelong dreams, I felt a calm sense of relief. I’m not going to lie – rejection is never fun. But I realized from the peace I felt that I was truly okay with the outcome. What struck me, though, wasn’t my reaction, but the reactions of the other 5,000 hopefuls. Most of them were crushed by the opinion of the three people who saw them at this one audition.

Watching them leave, dreams shattered and spirits broken, I felt incredibly fortunate that, although I may not have made it onto American Idol, I have a singing career waiting for me on my less-than-victorious return. And I realized that, cliché as it may sound, happiness is more about our perspective than our situation - you know, the whole "glass is half full" thing. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want or expect, but if we focus too much on the little things that sometimes don’t go our way, we miss out on the million other things that do.

And so, as autumn afternoons make way for winter nights, and visions of Thanksgiving turkeys and pumpkin pies dance in my head, I begin to think of the countless blessings in my life, most specifically those little things that we all too often take for granted.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Idol Dreams

Since I can remember, I’ve been singing and performing for whoever would watch and listen. Shannon and I can justify singing karaoke on pretty much any occasion, and I’ve been singing with three local bands for a little over a year. I truly love to sing, and I suppose on some level, I’ve dreamed of being a star for most of my life. But, like most fantasies, this dream may be better left in the reality that exists in my mind, rather than actually chased in life.

I have been persuaded by my girls at work (Shannon, Emily, Carolyn, and Mary Ann) to audition for American Idol. We are a bunch of reality show addicts – we watch even the worst of them (and if we miss one, Carolyn always has an update), and we have gone so far on occasion as to create betting pools for some of the favorites. Last season, American Idol made that list. So when they raised the maximum age this season, my “I’m too old” excuse was no longer valid, and I was promptly given the official rules and audition information by Emily. I couldn’t come up with a different excuse that would satisfy the girls, who, sensing my apprehension, insisted that I make a timeline and post it outside my cubicle so they could check my daily progress and make sure I don’t back out of the audition. So it looks like I’m going to do it.

You would think that I’d jump at the chance to more actively pursue a singing career, but I find myself having serious reservations. Rejection is hard to handle in any situation, but when it could be televised nationally, I just can’t imagine how I’ll deal with it. In fact, the pressure of being on television in general is hard to handle. I really enjoy my “day job”, and I already get to sing on the side, so I haven’t felt a need or strong desire to pursue a full-time singing gig. Not to mention that my participation in the show would be a logistical nightmare.

But despite those fears, which torment me in the night, I can’t disappoint the girls. So as the anxiously anticipated audition date draws nearer, the flutters of both excitement and nervousness intensify in my stomach.

And so begins the story of the star inside me who might just get her chance to break free…