Thursday, September 11, 2014

Song of the Week: Sweet Silver Lining

Sweet Silver Lining, by Kate Voegele

What it's about: Yup, life is a battle sometimes, but there's always that silver lining.

Why I picked it: Because it's been stuck in my head for days.

Best line: "I may be weak but I'm never defeated." Have you ever had someone tell you they admire you for your strength when you feel like you're just surviving, not doing anything heroic? Yeah. That's why I love this song. Sometimes it really helps to stop and acknowledge that you're weak. But the fact that you're not dead yet despite your shortcomings must mean there's a grain of truth to what people are saying about this mysterious strength you can't see in yourself.

Mood trigger: Listen to this song when you're down on yourself and need a little pick-me-up. I actually just created a playlist for exactly that mood, named after this song.

Random Observation: Kate Voegele is one of the many artists I discovered through One Tree Hill. She sings this song at a certain wedding. If you've seen the show, you'll get why it works.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A new stalker

On Labor Day, I got home late. I was too preoccupied with getting all my stuff inside to notice that someone was waiting for me underneath the stairs. It wasn't until I had shut my door and locked it that I noticed someone had followed me inside.

It was a cat. A black cat. Staring at me.

Now, I don't scream very often—I save it for roller coasters. Any time I'm startled, I usually let out a shriek or an low-toned, operatic "augh." You know I'm truly scared when I let out a shrill, girlie scream.

When I saw that cat, I screamed.

The cat jumped, but interpreted my loud greeting as a "make yourself at home," and headed straight to my bedroom.

Once again, it stared at me as I approached—with a broom, of course—only this time, all I could see were its glowing yellow eyes. I turned a few more lights on, and then started coaxing the cat to walk in the direction my broom was pointed. I was scared to touch it because that much contact would destroy my night with unbearable itching and sneezing.

The cat followed my lead, though, and it was soon back outside where it belonged. I locked the door again, relieved that that problem turned out to be easy to fix. I soon forgot about the cat, and settled into my nightly routine.

The next morning when I left for work, the cat was waiting for me on the stairs. It jumped up the moment I opened the door, again thinking it was an invitation to come in. The daylight helped me keep my wits about me this time, so there was no screaming. And I managed to get the door closed before the cat snuck in.

Having a cat as a stalker isn't the worst thing that's ever happened to me, but it's still a bit unsettling, daylight or not. I'm too young to be a crazy cat lady, dang it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Song of the Week: August End

August End, by Jon Schmidt

What the song's about: Saying good-bye to summer.

Why I picked it: Fall came early this year. Today I put on a jacket before heading to work for the first time since winter reluctantly went into hibernation mode. I wanted to pick a song that had a very Autumn-y feel, so I scrolled through my iPod, hoping a song would jump out at me. Luckily, "August" starts with an A, so I didn't have to search for long.

Best line: My favorite part of the song starts at 1:27 on the video below, and goes to about 1:47. Most of this song is calm and steady, perfect for taking a drive through a canyon or tree-infested street to enjoy the changing leaves, but then 1:27 hits, and it's like you suddenly remember all the wonderful things about fall: a new school year, football season, jackets, hot cocoa—you've heard me make this speech before. I just can't find anything to be be sad about this time of year.

Mood trigger: If you're the summer type, this song will probably make you think of everything you're saying good-bye to—tanning by the pool, weekly barbecues, baseball games, freedom. But if you're the fall type, it'll give you that warm fuzzy feeling that just isn't possible when it's hot outside.

Random observation: This isn't one of my favorite Jon Schmidt songs, so I don't listen to it that often. I'm glad I took the time to give it a listen today, though. Except now I'm bummed that it's not in any of his piano books. Don't you know you're not allowed to release songs without releasing the piano music, too, Mr. Schmidt? You have no idea how much time I've spent scouring the internet for sheet music to some of your songs. Which I would happily pay for, by the way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Convention first-timer

Just a few weeks ago, I was bemoaning this culture that makes us slaves to our 9-to-5 jobs, when BAM! USANA's International Convention hit, the event we spend months preparing for and that defines our entire year.

In a nutshell, here's what my first Convention experience was like:

  • Four 12-hour days, most of it on your feet.
  • By 3:00 p.m. every day, my feet hurt so much I kind of wanted to cry. It was even worse waking up in the morning to the thought: "Crap. My feet still hurt."
  • Getting to know co-workers I don't usually work with.
  • Those who suffer together instantly become friends.
  • Celebrity sightings. I was more struck by people's reaction to these celebrities, though. Some people throw safety and sanity out the window when they see someone they've previously only seen on TV or social media. Yeah, these people are famous, but they're still just people, not deified beings.
  • Convention food. 'Nuff said.
  • As the week went on, I got more and more annoyed with the people who would drop items in random places throughout the store and leave crumpled shirts in their wake (even though I'm guilty of doing both of those things). Four days in retail was all the confirmation I needed that fast food was the right path for me pre-college.
  • During Convention week, the outside world doesn't exist. I didn't cook or clean, I had no idea what the weather was doing, and there was no room for things like current events in my life. If it happened outside the Salt Palace or the EnergySolutions Arena, it didn't happen.
  • The store take-down was inspiring. I have never seen so many people work so quickly with so much focus. We were all off to celebrate the end of Convention week within a half hour of the store's closing.
It was an exhausting, yet exhilarating, experience. Leading up to it, I could not fathom why so many employees look forward to Convention. But amidst the long hours and brutal demands on your body, there are a lot of laughs, fun shenanigans, new friends, and a much-needed shakeup from the daily grind. It may be hard mentally and physically, but, in some strange way, it's good for the soul.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Song of the Week: It's Time

It's Time, by Imagine Dragons

What the song's about: Sticking to your values, even when you get burned. Especially when you get burned.

Why I picked it: I finally jumped aboard the Imagine Dragons bandwagon. All of their songs sit on the upper end of the greatness scale, but this one is the best. In my humble opinion.

Best line: "I get a little bit bigger, but then I'll admit I'm just the same as I was. Now don't you understand? That I'm never changing who I am."

I read a lot of book/TV show reviews. Something I've noticed more and more is that whenever a character goes off the rails and starts doing really dumb things, the reviewer will say something like, "It's frustrating, but it's realistic," or, "Now that the character isn't so perfect, I actually like them more."

I get where they're coming from. Characters have to have flaws if they're going to be interesting and relatable. Nobody wants to be around someone who is always perfect, even if they're fictional. But the idea that doing dumb things makes you more realistic, that going through a painful rebellious period is what raises your cool factor—I have a problem with this.

Yes, we all make mistakes, and everyone goes through rough periods where they do things they aren't proud of. But you don't have to reject everything you've been taught to learn important life lessons. You aren't less of a person if you don't have colossal mistakes on your résumé.

Every time I hear the line, "I'm just the same as I was," I want to shout, "In yo face, Hollywood!" The world will do everything it can to beat you down, but it is oh so refreshing when people rise above it. I love a good redemption story as much as anyone else, but we could use more stories about people who make the right decisions at pivotal moments rather than settling for easy, short-term solutions and having to fix things later. 

Mood trigger: This song always makes me feel better when I'm feeling hopeless about something.

Random observation: And don't forget the line "I get a little bit bigger." Every experience changes you, and if you let it, the times when you have to take the lonely road will help you grow the most.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Song of the Week: Friend Like Me

Friend Like Me, by Robin Williams (from Aladdin)

What the song's about: How much more awesome it would be to have a genie as your best friend than a real person.

Why I picked it: Robin Williams has always been one of my favorite actors. He's an immensely talented guy, and my childhood wouldn't have had as many laughs as it did without movies like Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, Flubber, and Jumanji.

But for me, the Robin Williams genius started with Aladdin, in one of Disney's most clever songs.

Best line: "I'm in the mood to help you dude."

Mood trigger: This is a great song to blast when you need to get some Saturday cleaning done.

Random observation: I couldn't stop cracking up when I looked up the lyrics to this song. Not because they're funny, but because the real lyrics are so different from what my seven-year-old brain thought they were. Even after watching our beloved Disney Sing-Along tapes, I still had no idea what the genie was saying half the time.

Examples (the ones I can remember because I'm still trying not to sing them this way. But I'm positive there were more misinterpretations):

Actual lyrics: Well, Ali Baba had them 40 thieves
My lyrics: Abacadabra and—40 thieves!

Actual lyrics: You got some punch, pizzaz, yahoo, and how
My lyrics: You got some poof [insert your own string of syllables here.] I thought the purpose of this part of the song was to make up your own words; I didn't think he was saying anything that was actually in the dictionary.

Actual lyrics: We pride ourselves on service.
My lyrics: We fried ourselves on purpose.

Actual lyrics: Say what you wish; it's yours, true dish
My lyrics: Say what you wish; it's yours to wish

The only time I remember asking my mom for clarification on the lyrics was when I asked her what a baklava was. Obviously, I got the rest of the song right.

And, since it's two of my sisters' birthdays today, I thought I'd mention a couple of songs that always remind me of them. I tried to pick just one for each, but that was too hard, so I narrowed it down to four each. Which was still hard.


  1. "Winter Wind," by Jon Schmidt. This is Tiffany's signature Jon Schmidt song. I've never been able to play it as well as she can. And she made a really cool arrangement of it on the Clavinova that thrills everyone who hears it.
  2. "My Sister," by Reba McEntire. I don't know if it's because Tiffany introduced this song to me or because Tiffany is my only older sister, but this song makes me think of her more than my other two sisters.
  3. "Everything I Own," by 'N Sync. This was Tiffany's favorite 'N Sync song back in the day. We once made a tape of our favorite moments of each 'N Sync song from their first album. This song had two moments, I think, because we were teenagers and thought Lance's little speech in the middle was hot. But the other moment we wanted to include was the part where Lance sings "everything I own" in that deep voice of his. We were both certain it was in different parts of the song, but we were both wrong. We must have rewinded and fast forwarded the tape (remember when we still had to do that?) for a half hour before we finally found it. I really hope we still have that tape somewhere.
  4. "Will You Be There," by Michael Jackson (from Free Willy). We watched Free Willy a lot as kids, and we always had to watch the Michael Jackson music video at the end. Tiffany and I would get into arguments over whether Michael Jackson was a girl or a guy, and several times we went to Mom to settle the disagreement. She never gave us a straight answer.
  1. "She's In Love with the Boy," by Trisha Yearwood. Kimberly was a Trisha Yearwood child. I cannot listen to this song without seeing eight-year-old Kimberly belting out the lyrics. Or remembering that time Kimberly and Melissa sang this on karaoke at Grandma and Grandpa Jackson's house, and Aunt Terri had to leave the room to cry.
  2. "I'm Wishing/One Song," from Snow White. Kimberly does an amazing Snow White singing voice. Ask her to demonstrate for you some time.
  3. "Far Longer than Forever," from The Swan Princess. Kimberly loves The Swan Princess more than anyone I've ever met. And this song was almost the song she and Jeremy danced to at their wedding. If Jeremy's name was Derrick, it probably would have been.
  4. "Here's to the Heroes," by the Ten Tenors. This song is so beautiful and powerful I almost float away every time I hear it. Kimberly gets that. One time while listening to it in the car, we discussed at length what it would be like to conduct this song. We concluded that it would involve conductor after conductor passing out from joy. So now when I listen to the song, I always envision dignified conductors dropping like flies, and remember the giggling fest that came from that discussion.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Back on the piano bench again

I've set aside my piano goals to make room for other things many times. In 9th grade it was because of marching band. In college it was because of, well, college. Same for grad school. But when marching band ended, when I came home for the summers, when I graduated, reinserting regular piano practice into my life was the first item on my What I Finally Have Time to Do Now That I'm Free list.

It was never hard to make piano a priority again. It was as easy as spending more time with my family or diving into a new book series.

But something was different after I finished grad school. I wanted to relax, try new things. That desire to play the piano was still there, but it was faint, and there was no immediacy to it. I played a few times, but it didn't feed my soul the way it used to.

After about four months of this, I started to worry that maybe I had "outgrown" my love for the piano. It always bothered me when people equated my quitting piano lessons in 9th grade with quitting piano, as if the lack of formal instruction automatically erased the bond I had been developing for nine years. I didn't quit eating after my parents stopped holding my utensils for me. I didn't quit reading after my teachers stopped drilling me on letters and pronunciation. I could no sooner quit piano than I could stop being tall—it was just part of who I was.

Until it wasn't anymore. I filled my life with other distractions—a new job, social opportunities, books, Netflix—almost as a way to protect myself from the reality that I just didn't want to play anymore.

Maybe that's why I didn't notice at first all the different ways my subconscious groped for other things to fill the hole my piano always occupied. I downloaded songs from iTunes with no restraint. I started talking about music. I even checked out a book from the library solely because it had the word "piano" in it.

I tried to fill my life with music, but it wasn't just music I needed. I needed to feel the tiny muscles in my fingers work to create beautiful sounds. I needed to sit on that piano bench, my left leg tucked under the bench while my right worked the pedal, and let the sounds surround me.

These thoughts ran through my mind as I read The Piano Tuner. It was like the piano in my living room was gently nudging me, saying "Remember me? We used to hang out all the time, especially when you were sad or confused." And finally, for the first time in months, I wanted to jump out of bed and just play. Stop feeling guilty about the neglect, forget about everything, and let my fingers do what they've done since I was seven years old.

So that's what I did, starting with my Hanon exercises. That rush of euphoria I often get when I've gone a while without playing the piano didn't come. Rather, my universe was slowly shifting, righting itself. A much more lasting feeling than euphoria.

And the piano isn't the only thing that has shifted back into its place. I'm writing again. I feel more like the strong, independent woman I like to envision myself as. My problems are still there, but they're so small now I can only see them when I squint.

Sometimes you have to be a little selfish to pursue your hobbies, but I've come to realize I don't like being me as much when I'm not pursuing piano. (And let's face it—as far as I'm concerned, playing the piano is no mere hobby.) Sometimes you have to fight for a little bit of selfishness to make yourself the best person you can be.