the hometown bubble.

the hometown bubble.

I haven’t been very good about writing lately.  (I sound like a broken record.)  Aside from some journaling here and there and starting a few song ideas, I’ve allowed my mind to be distracted by other things… travelling, packing/unpacking, being outside as much as humanly possible, Harry Potter books (I’ve decided to read the entire series for the first time), putting the finishing touches on releasing new music, learning songs for sessions and shows, visiting my family, happy hours on patios, and my newly acquired love/hate relationship with Crossfit.  (Yes, you read that correctly…Crossfit.  I know.)  It’s actually quite pitiful how much I think, “I should write today…about this…oh don’t forget you want to write about that…” and then I don’t.  Case in point, I’m sitting at my kitchen table with the window open, listening to it storm outside.  The dogs are all at my feet because they don’t like the thunder.  I’m settling in and getting in a good headspace to start writing and I see my boyfriend’s car pull into the driveway with a much-needed new bag of dog food.  So I feed them, I send a couple emails, I wash a few dirty dishes by hand, I check my Twitter, and I think how absolutely LOVELY it would be to curl up on the couch with these pups, listen to the rain, and read more Harry Potter (I’m halfway through Book 6.)  But I have to write.  Kind of like when I set my alarm for 4:50AM for a 5:30AM CrossFit class because it’s the only time of the day my guy and I can both go together.  You dread it, you hate it, you want to push “Snooze” (and maybe you do once), but you know how much better you’ll feel once you’re done.  That’s exactly what I’m hoping happens with writing this blog entry. 

There’s a lot of ground to cover, but I won’t try to tackle even half of it in this entry today.  You’d be reading for hours.  I will, instead, commit to writing another blog entry by the end of this week.  So there, I said it, feel free to hold me accountable.

I’d like to give this afternoon’s attention to my hometown.  And my guess is, your hometown is probably an awful lot like mine.  So I’ll proceed…

I was born in Garden City, MI,  lived in a Polish neighborhood in Detroit the first few years of my life, and then moved 20 minutes west (with Metro Airport right beside us), to the suburb of Belleville, Michigan by the time I was a toddler.  The first home I have memories of is the little brick ranch that sat off a horrendously pot-hole-filled road right behind what used to be Dimitri’s Kitchen (which I guess is now called Mike’s Kitchen).  I made my very first friends there.  Friends that I actually still keep connected with via social media.  I lived in Belleville and only Belleville until the day I moved to Nashville, however, throughout my younger years, I ended up attending 3 out of the 5 different elementary schools within Belleville’s city limits.  Don’t worry, I was uncool through all 3 schools, ha.  Between 2nd and 3rd grade, my mother was expecting her 4th (and thankfully, last) child so we inevitably outgrew our little ranch.  We relocated over the bridge, on the other side of Belleville Lake, to a brand new subdivision, where at the time, we were the 5th house being built in the whole neighborhood.  Our new location had us directly beside Belleville High School and it was a dream for me to people-watch all the students, imagining my own “Saved By The Bell” episode when I reached those hallowed doors someday.  Yup, it was a whole new world on the other side of Belleville…

Our new home was walking/bike-riding distance to Main Street and all the glorious things you can only truly appreciate when you’re a kid.  Hours spent climbing and running all over Victory Park, sugar highs from Frosty Boy, hanging out by the library, loaded cheese fries from A&W, candy cigarette’s from the Dairy Mart, feeding the overzealous (and disgusting) carp off the boat docks at Reflections…  It was sublime and as a child, I had no interest in knowing a life outside of my town.

I was a Belleville Cougar cheerleader when I was 8-10 years old, which lead me to cheerleading for South Middle School and the first couple years of high school.  Turns out, I was too cynical & sarcastic to be a good cheerleader even at 9 years old, and I never outgrew it, who knew.  I was heavily involved in dance and singing at Jan’s School of Dance.  The owner/instructor, Jan Oliver, scared the hell out of me as a kid.  She was strict but she was good, and she called me out on my laziness.  She also gave me some of my first public singing performances at our dance recitals over the summer.  I was involved in my hometown’s Strawberry Festival, whether it was singing/dancing in the parades, performing at the craft fairs, headlining on the ‘main stage’ with my comically bad band at the time, or coming in 1st Runner Up in the Strawberry Queen Pageant.  *cringe*

Throughout high school, I started performing at every local event there was…charity dinners, Music in the Park, choir concerts, tree lightings, church revivals (shout-out to Faith Assembly), talent contests, the whole works.  Suddenly, my dorkiness was irrelevant because everyone knew I could sing.  The local papers wrote about me and for the first time ever, I felt almost cool.  I started performing bigger gigs on bigger stages with bigger artists, and Belleville had a unfailing, “That’s our girl” way about them in their support for me.

All of that was great, but the closer I got to graduation, the more I wanted out.

Nashville was calling.  Literally.

I got to feature my hometown of Belleville, Michigan on USA Network’s “Nashville Star 2” when I was a top 10 contestant back in the day.  I was still working as a hostess at our local Cracker Barrel and I’ll never forget one morning, while refilling a gentleman’s coffee at 7AM, seeing my face on the front page of the newspaper he was reading.  That’s when I KNEW knew…It was time to go.

I’d visit Belleville multiple times a year, every year, for over 10 years.  The first 6 years or so, I’d come back and find it, uh, uneventful.  It was the same few storefronts that managed to stay afloat downtown somehow (one of them being the Chamber of Commerce, so I don’t think that really counts), the rest were closed and the buildings stayed empty.  There was no night-life, no trendy bars or restaurants, the closest theater or mall being 20 minutes away.  I was really just visiting for my family’s sake.  Nashville was so big, so exciting, something to do every second of every day…forever a new place to discover, new friends to meet, coffee shops to bring your dog, countless boys to date, any and every concert you could ever hope to see, studios and writing rooms and stages to be on.  I was so certain I could never be anywhere but Nashville for the rest of my life.

I’ve always joked, “God put a bubble around Belleville.  Nothing’s changed in 20 years.”  And although I’ve always thought those exact words to be true, the way I interpret that statement started to shift about 4-5 years ago…

Somehow, as life went on, my hometown started to become my place of solace, my refuge.  I needed a break, and Belleville gave me one.   I needed away from never-ending construction and condos and bar-hopping and bad boyfriends and insufferable traffic and comparing my dreams and my progress to everyone else’s.  I needed my family, yes.  But I also needed the simplicity that I once rolled my eyes at.  I needed to sit in Horizon Park, right beside Belleville Lake, and breathe…just like I’d done throughout middle school and high school, when I used to look for my voice through writing poems, diary entries, and song lyrics down by the water.  I needed to walk my nephew to Frosty Boy and chase him in the park.  Because if I could watch his eyes light up, then I could forget about all the messes I kept getting myself into.  I needed the comfort of knowing that every member of my family was only a 5 minute drive from the other, so that they could remind me who I REALLY was, not this train-wreck persona I couldn’t snap out of.  And $3 drinks with old friends at Johnny’s was quite the welcomed change of pace from the $14 martinis/shoulder-to-shoulder bars/loud bands playing “Wagon Wheel”/getting all dolled up just to have boys treat you like they’re at a buffet/inevitably leaving my debit card somewhere-scenarios I’d been dealing with for years on end.

Whereas I used to look almost sympathetically at those that never got out from my hometown, I was now jealous of them.  Maybe the “world of endless possibilities” is too much, granting me too many options.  When you have so much in front of you, it makes you feel like you should never settle, like you’ll never be satisfied, therefore, you never do and you never are.  And that’s a lot to take on in your teens and early 20’s when you still don’t know your ass from your elbow.  I started to see my old high school friends that were raising their own families in Belleville in a whole new light, as I was on my 4th disastrous relationship of that year in Nashville.

When I made the decision 18 months ago to live 50/50 between Nashville and Michigan, I second-guessed it everyday for months.  It was that internal tug-of-war where the Nashville Rachel was supposed to be so much better, more evolved than the old Belleville Rachel, so how could I resort back after coming this far?  I’m happy to say, it didn’t take too long before I removed my head out of my ass and realized that both Belleville Rachel and Nashville Rachel can indeed coexist together.  They are both me, they both have a lot to offer to whoever will listen, and no matter what, I’ll never be able to out-run that nor should I want to.  It’s kind of like this brand new song I just wrote and recorded a couple weeks ago in Nashville, where the lyric asks, “How you gonna grow when you’re cutting off your roots?”  Perfect, right?

I give you all of this backstory because recently my hometown has been shaken to it’s core.  There’s been a few tragic (and unfortunately violent) losses that has left Belleville stunned and speechless.  It makes no sense.  One loss, in particular, hasn’t left my thoughts since it occurred a couple weeks ago.

I was down in Nashville late last month, loaded up on meetings and studio sessions, and for once, not really reading what anyone was posting on social media.  I was updating my Instagram story fairly regularly, detailing me in the studio and all, and I saw a somewhat familiar Instagram user that had viewed my story earlier that day.  Curious, I clicked on her page and went through some of her photos.  This girl was a few years younger than me and went to school with my sisters, also she hung out with some of my old childhood friends, so I’d see her pop up on Facebook sometimes. I hadn’t physically seen her in a few years.  Last time being at a local bar, where she came up to hug me and tell me that she had started singing out and about recently and how she thought it was so cool that I moved to Nashville.  When I looked at her Instagram profile a couple weeks ago, I saw photos and videos of her singing, posts about yoga and meditation, intellectual and inspiration quotes, and I thought to myself, “She’s super pretty, she’s into fitness and music, she’s single and child-less and likes to go out, I should become real-life friends with her.”

She was gone 24 hours later.

She died inside her house that sat off a dirt road less than 2 miles from my parent’s house.

And just like that, the bubble I was so sure would always cover Belleville burst.  The reality that my hometown is not exempt from ‘the world’ hit hard.  The reality that a young woman…just like me…just like my sisters…just like you…could be taken…?  This isn’t a troubled past/wrong crowd/drugs/bad neighborhood/a photo shown for 15 seconds on the local news.  It’s so much to process and it will continue to be so much to process.

I share this story, not because I have anything new to contribute.  I don’t have details, I don’t have all these memories and stories.  All I have is perspective.

Egypt Covington was one of us.

I’m still Facebook friends with a lot of people in my hometown that are terrified/enraged and quite a few of them are saying the town has gone to shit.  Despite these recent tragic events, I have to say that I disagree.

All the things I couldn’t see/appreciate about my hometown while growing up are still present today.  There’s something soul-stirring about the loyalty of a smaller-town community, regardless if it’s progress rate.  For a long time, my eyes were fixated on the “new and shiny”.  But now I’ve seen the new and shiny, I’ve lived the new and shiny, and the new and shiny doesn’t claim you when you feel forgotten, or when you’ve forgotten yourself.  But your hometown does. 

I’m proud to be from Belleville and to stand with a community that took care of my family and I.  This town gave me the love and the platform to create these big ol’ dreams of mine.  This town let me cry on it’s shoulder every single time my heart got broken, whether by these dreams or some stupid boy.  This town let me start over.  So no matter where the music takes me, I will always appreciate landing on this stretch of runway that continues to welcome me home.  Bubble or not.

 

 

everything in the middle of nowhere.

everything in the middle of nowhere.

It’s a weird thing.

I have literally thought to myself and/or said out loud to others, “I really feel like blogging” and yet… nothing.¬† For quite awhile now.

That is always a huge indicator for me.¬† I write when I have something that needs to be said.¬† When the desire to write my heart, read it back, and allow myself to process is more overwhelming than anything going on externally.¬† And sometimes, there’s just too much that needs to be said.¬† So, instead of flushing them out and tackling these topics one by one, I stay silent.¬† The chaos stays internal.¬† The blog stays unwritten.

I’m currently 3 songs written, 2 hours of Golden Girls watched, and a bottle of wine consumed today so… here we go.

I left Detroit on April 22nd.¬† That means, it’s been a whole 30 days since I’ve seen my dogs, my family, my porch swing, and my bed.¬† It has been 20 days since I have seen my boyfriend.¬† This probably seems extreme to a lot of you.¬† To some of you musician/gypsy spirit types, this seems relatively normal.¬† I rest somewhere between the two.¬†

I make sacrifices all the way around, some days seeming more worthwhile than others.¬† The documentary that initially prompted my split location finally wrapped filming 5 weeks ago, so now the “I have to be in Michigan for this” is up.¬† Clearly, life is much different than it was 18 months ago when I made the decision to give up my ever-dramatic, forever busy, at times volatile, full-time living (and distracting myself from) “the dream” in Nashville.

I now live in an “old lady bungalow” in the suburbs with the greatest man I’ve ever known and all of our doggie children.¬† I have a baby niece and nephew that I’m completely obsessed with.¬† I have a Granny that turns 90 years old in August and lives 5 miles away from the rest of my family.¬† I have an Aunt that probably doesn’t “need” me, but regardless, I feel called to be there for since the loss of my Godfather.¬† I have a few friends (new and old) that truly “get me” and I’m grateful.¬† The desire to create music and share it with Detroit remains strong.¬† I’m “one of them” and I yearn to contribute in a way I haven’t just yet.

However, Nashville brought me up.¬† It’s brought out the very best and the very worst in me.¬† I’m now at a place where I can recognize where I was and who I’ll never be again, no matter how alluring it may seem at times.¬† I am not that girl anymore, praise God.¬† And I’m SO thankful that I can have that realization NOW and not on my 2nd stint in rehab or with a couple kids under my belt.¬† Nashville, for all it’s hardships, is also where so much of my light is…it’s where I’m the most creative, the most productive, the most inspired.¬† Re-working my boundaries and my social circle has been a lot, but I’ve already seen the benefits.¬† I’m still working on eliminating the fog of self-defeating and self-sabotaging thoughts that held me down for so long, but I know the vision is getting clearer everyday.¬† I’m not the same Rachel I was 18 months ago and the Rachel in Nashville today genuinely reflects that.

And yet, all this time and traveling that has taken place since I left my little domestic haven on Baker Avenue in Michigan weeks ago… somehow, my lines have been blurred, scribbled, and stomped on repeatedly.¬† Two trips to Florida and 2 weeks in Nashville later, my sense of “peace” has been relatively non-existent for a month now.¬† There’s definitely a few people I could blame for this, but what’s the point?¬† It’s only partially their fault.¬† Because at the end of the day, I could’ve handled their poor behavior and these toxic situations differently.¬† And I’m disappointed that I didn’t.¬† In a couple of these scenarios, I thought keeping neutral and “cool” would be for the best, for myself and the others traveling with me.¬† It wasn’t.¬† So I ended up feeling like a doormat and allowing a few people that I love to feel the same.¬† Another scenario weighing heavy on my heart tonight is where I completely unloaded EVERYTHING, without ever coming up for air.¬† And regardless if those things were on my heart, I’m disappointed that I allowed those buttons to be pushed so severely.

It’s all left me feeling exhausted.

So yesterday morning, slightly hungover (and definitely sleep-deprived from what is now considered a rare, “girls night” out downtown), I picked up my (nearly) 90 year old Granny from Nashville International Airport at 8:30AM.¬† I immediately took her to the Cracker Barrel where I tried to nurse us both back to life with biscuits and a pot of coffee.¬† I then proceeded to drive 90 minutes to her hometown of Hohenwald, TN, where I’d be dropping her off for a few days with her youngest (and last-surviving) brother, my Great Uncle Johnny and his wife, Aunt Lillie Mae.¬† As tired as I was, I enjoyed the scenic drive with my ‘side-kick’.¬† I hung on every story that my Granny’s hoarse voice tried to tell me of anything and everything.

When we arrived, I stayed most of the day with zero distraction.¬† You see, Hohenwald is a “No Service” zone for Sprint.¬† Not “Extended”, not 1 bar if you stand at the end of the drive…no, it’s “No Service” for at least 20 minutes in every direction.¬† It stormed pretty hard for a majority of the afternoon, so that aided in my long visit.¬† A few times, I just sat out on the porch and listened to this beautifully vast country-side get pummeled by rain.¬† When it cleared up hours later (and I’d eaten about 10 pounds worth of good ol’ country cooking), I hit the road alone back to Nashville.

I was thankful for the solo drive.¬† I typically use that time to explore, get a little lost, make a dead-stop in the middle of the street just to take a photo, admire all the farms/random country stores/abandoned houses/gas stations, and know that GPS isn’t going to work 95% of the time.¬† And this time was no different.¬† I definitely got lost without my navigation working.

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It’s funny how that happens…

We rarely allow ourselves to get lost.

We rarely give ourselves permission or allow time for exploration.

I’m forever grateful for my drives to and from Hohenwald, even if it’s just for that.

Honestly, it’s a spiritual experience.¬† I soak it all in.¬† The scenery is always mystifying to me.¬† My heart is literally pulled in.¬† It was probably on my 3rd stop in the middle of the road to snap a photo that I realized that THIS WAS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED.¬† The peace I SO craved with these Florida beaches, a “vacation” from the dogs and my family life was so completely and utterly unfulfilling for a reason.

Nothingness.¬† No phone service.¬† No social media.¬† No making plans.¬† No time-crunch.¬† No traveling with others.¬† No worrying what others would be thinking or doing or texting.¬† No passive-aggressive bullshit.¬† Just shutting the fuck up and taking it in.¬† And it happened.¬† The peace was unreal.¬† And then, in the midst of trying to figure out which direction I was effin going down on some back country road, there was this….

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And I thanked God at least a dozen times.

And then I drove directly to Kingston Springs, completely bypassing Nashville and the “night out” I had originally planned to have.¬†¬† I went to bed at 10PM and for the first time in forever, I SLEPT IN…until 11AM at that, my first night of more than 5 hours of sleep in weeks.

Turns out, you can really work some shit out in the middle of nowhere.

I don’t know, maybe getting lost is the best way to find your way.

 

-RW

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Burden or light.

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I don’t know when it happened exactly.¬† I just know it happened.

It wasn’t¬†overnight.¬† It wasn’t one catastrophic event.¬† It wasn’t someone’s words that lingered.¬† It wasn’t one specific loss that did me in.

So I guess it was an endless series of things…life…that didn’t seem¬†all that noticeable¬†at the time but “out of nowhere”, somehow, it all¬†culminated into a big ball of everything.¬† Defeat.¬† Exhaustion.¬† Emptiness.¬† Fear.

I lost faith in myself.

I lost trust in not just a dream, but in my purpose. 

No one understands the weight and the weightlessness¬†of someone’s dream except the one dreaming it.¬†¬†They can try to explain it to you, the highs and lows…You can nod your head and say, “I get it” but we both know you’re lying.¬† Because someone’s vision for their life is theirs and theirs alone.¬† The words will always fall flat to the most hopeful of dreams and ambitions.¬† My story will not resonate in your soul like it resonates in mine.¬† That is fact.¬† And each of us can choose to see that as a burden or as a light.¬† In my life, I’ve switched back and forth on how I view mine.¬† And as of lately, it’s been on the heavier side.

And as I sit here on this office couch in Kingston Springs, Tennessee, the reality of my situation is sinking me into these couch cushions more than my big ass.

I cannot ignore it.

I cannot turn off the voice inside.

There is no fire extinguisher to put out whatever is trying to burn brighter inside of me.¬† I’ve looked for one.¬† Whether it was in a bar, or in a bed, or holding new nieces and nephews and trying to convince myself that “This wouldn’t be so bad”…¬† It didn’t work.

So, I have a choice.

We all have a choice.

Burden or light.

Somewhere along the way, a lot of us quit dreaming.¬† It became too hard.¬† Too unattainable.¬† Or, you gave up on yourself before you even started.¬† Or, you turned¬†40 and you deemed yourself “too old”.¬† The world,¬†your family, your significant other¬†told you there was no security in it and you believed them.¬†¬†Whether it was a teacher¬†who once wanted to move to Hollywood or a plumber who dreamed of being a writer all through high school.¬† You went another way because¬†you were unsure.¬† And it’s not to say you don’t live a happy life now.¬†¬†Your life is valid¬†and important.¬† We need the teachers, the¬†bartenders, the taxi drivers, the construction workers, and so on to survive.¬† But maybe you had other aspirations once upon a time.¬† And maybe, just maybe, it’s okay for you to still have them today…even if it’s not what’s bringing in your paycheck.

Being in Nashville the last few days has been a very eye-opening experience.¬†¬†Living here 50/50 is good for me.¬†I’m starting to see it differently, literally and figuratively.¬† I’m having different conversations.¬† And even the conversations that might be the same, I’m choosing to take away different information from them.¬† And the thought that keeps nailing me in the back of the head is this… the dreamer’s dream is as big or small as they make it.¬† It’s as heavy or as light as you want it to be.

I don’t know who/when/where it says that you can’t¬†pursue whatever it is you want to.¬† Or that there’s an expiration date/age for going after something with all your heart.¬† Or that you¬†can only¬†choose “one thing” and stick with it until you get rich or you die of a broken heart and a shriveled liver.¬† Really?¬† Those are my only¬†options? ¬†I call bullshit.

This weekend I was humbled by a few conversations with good friends.

I have confessed my insecurities and my crippling self-doubt about¬†finally releasing my new music and stepping into the “artist” role again.¬† I have teared up admitting that I’m afraid to pick up the phone or shoot the email¬†to ask for help because I feel like no one cares anymore.¬† It took too long.¬† I’ve paralyzed myself by attaching everything to this big vision of how I thought it should be…all the ducks that needed to be in a row…that now that it’s taken longer than it was supposed to,¬†I’m somehow inadequate.¬† My fear became too all-consuming for me to commit and pull the trigger.

Their response to my bleeding heart confessions…?

Do it.  Write it.  Sing it.  And they will come.  The time is now. 

How uncomplicated & undramatic is that?!¬† After this long & drawn out internal war I’ve been waging in my head that has drained me completely…THAT is the solution?!

Yup.

1st conversation:¬† One of my dear friends is a photographer here in Nashville.¬† An incredible photographer at that.¬† She called me up and treated me to breakfast because she wanted to ask for my help.¬† At 32 years old, she wants to start writing songs.¬† Can’t sing, can’t play any instruments, but wanted to follow this creative path because it called to her.¬† She’s not looking for it to produce a hit song or a publishing deal…she just wants to write.¬† I was so blown away by this concept that when she asked if I’d help her, I answered with a resounding, “Fuck yes.”¬† So the next day, she came out, I helped piece together one of her tunes and she was over the moon.¬† She’s still on such a high from absorbing information I’d shared with her about song structure and the business that she can’t stop writing…or singing my praises.¬† And it’s just like, holy shit… how brave that she doesn’t know what she’s doing yet but she’s just doing it anyway.¬† I used to be her.¬† And if she can be her and not feel afraid to dream new dreams, then what the hell is my excuse…?

2nd conversation:¬† Friend of mine has been in town over a decade, singing and writing his ass off.¬† He networks like no one I’ve ever seen.¬† His hair, his clothes, his voice…all loud and proud and he gives off the vibe that he gives zero fucks what anyone has to say about it.¬† Sitting down for coffee with him yesterday, he caught me up on his journey.¬† After over a decade in this town, playing & hosting writer’s rounds and performing showcases as a solo artist, he decided to change it up and form a band to play downtown Broadway every Friday night, after never playing/aspiring to play downtown before.¬† And not just “play on Broadway”, but audition, rehearse, and put together a BOMB ASS SHOW that no one else is doing downtown and that people are flipping out over.¬† He posts videos of rehearsals, etc. unapologetically and people are loving it…he’s exposing his talent in a way he hadn’t before and it’s awesome.¬† Why?¬† Because he felt like it.¬† Oh, and he also started his own clothing/styling thaaang and he’s KILLING IT.¬† So who’s to say that “the dream” has to follow X, Y, Z to be recognized and appreciated…?!

3rd conversation:¬† Yesterday I attempted a Sunday Funday, brunch and all, and it didn’t go quite as I had imagined.¬† By 3pm, my friends had other¬†plans to tend to so I was left with a full belly, a couple of vodka sodas in me, and nowhere to be.¬† As I was driving back to the house and passing through Music Row, a friend/my favorite co-writer called me up and asked what I was up to.¬† I immediately spit out, “Meet me at the office.¬† Now.¬† We are writing a song¬†on a¬†Sunday Funday.”¬† So we did.¬† I’d had this song idea in my head for a few days and I guess I felt it hit too close to home to sit down and flush out by myself.¬† I needed backup.¬† Her and¬†I are good about doing that for each other, ha.¬† During our write/therapy session we started talking about how things in Nashville have changed so much in all the years we’ve been here.¬† We talked about the hustle.¬† We talked about the lack of the hustle as compared to some of these ‘newbies’.¬† We talked about the new crop of writers and artists coming here and how they are making things happen and how it’s easy to feel forgotten if you let yourself go there.¬† She works harder than anyone I know.¬†¬†She’s working¬†the graveyard shift at a “real job” so that she can try to pay her bills, takes a short nap during the day, and then wakes up and writes songs/goes to shows before she has to go work again with a few hours of sleep under her belt.¬† I don’t know dedication like that, I really don’t.¬† But she does it.¬† And when I watch her win CMA Song of the Year in the future, everyone in this town is going to celebrate the girl behind that dedication.¬† I told her, “What if we moved forward acting like we’re fresh off the boat too.¬† What if the stars in our eyes still existed, we just let life cloud them over.”¬† And then we wrote a really good song.

It’s not a prerequisite to have a tortured heart or be¬†a pessimist¬†to chase dreams.¬†¬†We choose that on our own.¬† And how we beat¬†ourselves up is farrrr worse than what anyone out there has ever said/thought about us.¬† So¬†I hope we can get¬†over it.¬† Because the alternative is to stop chasing.¬† And I don’t know about you, but I’m quite positive that I have no other skill sets and I’m miserable doing anything else soooo…this is it.¬† It’s time I start acting like it again.

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Silenced.

I will never, in my lifetime, forget December 2, 2010.

I was sleeping in bed alongside my “work-in-progress” boyfriend at the time, in my blue bedroom, in my new house¬†in Hermitage, TN.¬† I woke up to my phone vibrating on the nightstand.¬† I picked it up¬†and immediately saw a photo¬†of a baby in¬†an incubator, all 19 inches and 7 lbs 4 oz of him.¬† The arrival of my first nephew, Nolan Robert was here.¬† I immediately cried tears of pure joy as I¬†admired this photo.¬† That joy soon¬†turned into tears of desperation and what felt like a hole in my heart the rest of the day/week.¬† He was here, in the world, for me to hold, and I was 600 miles away looking at a photo on my phone.

I finally met and held this perfect baby roughly 2 weeks after his birth, when I was able to take off work/studio/girlfriend duty for Christmas and drive up to Michigan for the holidays.¬† I cried again when I met him.¬† In all honesty, I’ve been shedding tears for him/over him/because of him ever since.

It’s somewhat comical, really.

When I first met my boyfriend Jon and we started dating this time last year, he thought Nolan was secretly my child.¬† I had so many photos of him on my phone and I proudly displayed them to anyone whose attention I had for more than 2 seconds.¬† My friends laughed and said I was obsessed.¬† I’m sure my Facebook and Instagram friends thought the same, with my endless photo/video uploads of him over the years.¬† I was.¬† And I am.¬† But it’s not for reasons that are so obvious to the outside world.¬†

I’m sure you’ve¬†already heard me gush over him and the little person he’s becoming.¬† So I’d like to take a different approach with this blog to¬†acknowledge/celebrate/reminisce over his arrival into this world.¬† I’d like¬†to share with you the truest reason¬†why I’ll love this child like he is my own forever and always.¬† To put it bluntly…

Nolan saved my family.

He may never know that¬†and¬†I’ll never tell him.¬† But I will always know.¬† My sisters, my brother, and my parents will also always know, whether they’ll admit it publicly or not.

The loyalty within¬†my family is ferocious.¬† That is the only word I can use to describe it.¬† It is protective.¬†¬†And just as it can be nurturing and safe, it¬†can also tear you to shreds.¬† No one can truly understand or appreciate our dynamic¬†unless you’re within it’s folds.¬† I’m not complaining about it whatsoever.¬† I love it.¬† It’s the only way I’ve known.¬† It has¬†also exhausted me plenty¬†throughout my life.

I am the oldest of 4…2 sisters and a brother.¬† When I first moved to Nashville,¬†the youngest of the¬†litter, my¬†baby sister,¬†took it the hardest.¬† She was 11 or 12 years old when I moved.¬† I remember her crying on the phone to me.¬† I remember poems and photo collages she’d give to me when I’d come home to visit.¬† I felt a very real responsibility to her.¬† I wanted to show her that having big dreams is scary but beautiful and that she too could be brave enough to chase them…to risk the crash and burn, just like me.¬† I’d drive and meet my dad halfway in Cincinnati, just to take her and my brother for a long weekend away with me in Nashville.¬† I spent so much time trying to instill¬†hope and confidence in¬†her for a bigger life.

My baby sister¬†got pregnant at 17.¬† Out of nowhere.¬† No warning.¬† No sign of a boyfriend or partying or any type of rebellion in that sense.¬†¬†She was¬†a senior in high school.¬†¬†She got impregnated by¬†a “man” that I won’t dignify acknowledging except to say that he had the most minimal part in creating a baby…that, and my hatred for this person consumed me for years after the fact.¬† Now?¬† I still wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire, but I don’t wish him on fire anymore.

I wanted to save my sister from this.¬† My heart was shattered that she didn’t want to be saved from this.¬† I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep.¬† The downward spiral of the situation was fast, severe, and plunged below any level I knew existed.¬† Suddenly there were enemy lines drawn and part of the family stood on one side¬†and part of us on another.¬† Watching my parents go through it was even more torturous than my own hurt.¬† I was driving up to Michigan on a whim a couple times a month to make sure everyone was still breathing.

She can’t have this baby.

It was a thought we all had.¬† It makes¬†me sick to my stomach to look back on that now, but at the time…we really didn’t think the family or my sister would ever recover from bringing a baby into this mess.

I love my sister.¬† I loved her despite the whirlwind of hurt and brokenness we were all swept up in.¬† All the skeletons were out of the closet so there was nothing more to do…but watch her belly grow.¬† I remember Halloween of 2010, she was 8 months along.¬† It was the first time I talked to the baby in her belly.¬† It was the first time I¬†whole-heartedly acknowledged that¬†the baby¬†was coming, ready or not.¬† I went back for Thanksgiving, hoping she’d go into labor during my visit.¬† She didn’t.¬† So I drove the long and lonely 8 hours back to Nashville at the end of November.¬†¬†By December 2nd, a baby was here.

I remember I had driven all through the night.¬† I was tired.¬† I was wearing an orange hoodie & yoga pants with my greasy hair tied up in a bun.¬† She walked into my parent’s house with the baby in his carrier and I lost it.¬† There was hope.¬† Everything dark had led us to this.

My family did recover over time.¬† It wasn’t instant, but there was a new flag for this family now.¬† It wasn’t chaos, it wasn’t hurt.¬† It was Nolan.

Over the years, my love and adoration would never waiver.¬† I’d drive up every other month for him.¬† I’d take him to Nashville with me, all by myself, for a week or two at a time, every single year.¬† He brought out the good in me, the uninhibited and yet nurturing spirit in me.¬† For a long time, nothing else brought out the good except for him and my Granny.¬† I could be a train wreck every other day out of the year.¬† But the days with Nolan, I wasn’t.¬† I was Auntie Ray Ray.¬† And out of all the people I felt I “needed” to be, all the people I pretended to be…Auntie Ray Ray was the most natural, most effortless role I’ve ever taken on.

It would take me 5 very long years to realize that if I built upon who I was with Nolan (and my Granny), I would be a happier person.¬† If I could show myself the same love, support, and forgiveness that I was showing a toddler… I’d probably be living a much different life.¬† How could I be one person that loves/would move mountains/self-sacrifice for her family and then another who just didn’t give a flying @#$* about anything…but who was still fun and funny, carefree and incredibly careless, who controlled her conscience like a light switch.¬† The answer is… I couldn’t be both and do either of them well.¬† One Rachel¬†has to outweigh the other.

So I let the scales tip.¬† And I’ve been letting¬†them tip for the past year.¬† And I’m so thankful that for once, it feels like¬†they’re tipping in the right direction.

So on Nolan’s 6th birthday…I am a puddle of gratitude.

He’s growing up.¬† And so am I.

 

P.S.  If you feel inclined to do so, you can check out the song I wrote for this little nugget a few years back at https://rachelwilliams.bandcamp.com/track/silenced

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ultimate “swipe right”

Around this time last year, I was asked out on date by a dude on Tinder, who’s caption read, “It’s getting cold outside.¬† Looking for a girlfriend for the winter.”¬† True story.

A girl with my dating track record really had nothing to lose.

I had JUST relocated to Michigan for a few months to work on a music project.¬† I had no social life outside of my family.¬† I’d just ended an 8 month turbulent relationship.¬† Detroit was frozen over and there weren’t enough bulky sweaters or Ugg boots to keep me warm.¬† I was the perfect candidate for Tinder.

I arrived 40 minutes late to my first date with Jon.
He was just relieved I showed up and that I wasn’t a dude.

It was a pleasant night, especially considering I had low expectations.  Tinder does that to you.  Well, no, dating does that to you,  ha.  We had dinner and drinks and walked to a local vodka distillery in the freezing cold.  When the night was over, there was a hug goodnight and we drove to our separate homes.

When he followed up the next day to make plans for a 2nd date, I won’t lie, I hesitated.¬† The whole “seeing someone” thing did not appeal to me.¬† Been there, done that,¬†caught on fire¬†one too many times.¬† I’m good…I’m only looking for¬†attention.

I know I’m too much.¬† I’m loud and unfiltered, exceptionally weird as shit AND I work in music.¬†¬†I like to bare my midriff and bar hop any day of the week.¬† I casually “date” and own (laugh at)¬†every single dramatic/scandalous/entertaining story that comes with that.¬† I’m independent, I don’t know how to communicate through any vessel other than sarcasm and I’m too tired to give a shit about guys anymore.¬† The few guys I ever actually called a boyfriend ultimately ended up royally¬†mind-@#*!ing me and inspiring my entire songwriting catalog.

And¬†yet, there¬†I was in November of 2015…600 miles away from those disasters.¬† Those stories.¬† Those bars, that scene, those exes.¬†¬†I’m older now, it’s starting to feel less cute.¬† I’m also in a completely different part of the country now.¬† So what was going to be my excuse?¬† ¬†Did I want the path of destruction to run north and south…Or did I want to do it differently…Am I really not going to go out with this guy a few more times because of who I’ve been¬†600 miles south?¬† I was off the hamster wheel.¬† I was in Michigan.¬† No hamsters live through Michigan winters.

I’m not going to say I gave Jon a chance.¬† Because in all honesty, it wasn’t HIM that I was doubting at all.¬† It was me.¬† So I will say that from our 2nd date on…I gave MYSELF a chance.¬† I gave myself a chance to prove false whatever self-defeating thoughts I’d be carrying around in my head and in my heart¬†that I couldn’t be/didn’t want to be “the relationship type”.¬†¬†

And it truly was a process.
It’s a process to unlearn all the self-sabotaging thoughts/feelings/behaviors.¬† You can’t silence that inner voice as quickly as you’d like to.¬† We’d be out to dinner and he’d compliment me, only for me to roll my eyes or make a stupid face and say, “Yeah, ok.”¬† I’d say that happened for the first 3-4 months, easily.¬† And every time he’d say, “I’m just going to keep saying it until you start to believe it.”¬† Seriously, what is wrong with this guy?¬† He’d do thoughtful gestures like put gas in my car or¬†surprise me with¬†flowers or buy/ship me a Tempur Pedic pillow when I was out of town, and at least half the time I’d say, “Why’d you do that?¬† You don’t have to do that.”¬† Like, he was trying too hard or something.¬† Or even worse, he just doesn’t reeeeallllly know me yet.¬† Because once he does, this shit will stop.¬† We’ll both be swiping again soon enough.¬† Luckily, none of that was¬†true.

Aside from the nice dinners or the thoughtful gifts or the sweet compliments, I was in awe of his patience more than anything.¬† And I still am.¬† I know I’m not easy.¬† I’m still learning.

Jon set the stage for me to look at myself in a way I never had before.¬† Kind of like “Pretty Woman” only minus the getting paid for sex part.¬† He gave me an opportunity to be a woman truly worth pursuing…the way my mom, my dad, my grandma always hoped a man would win me over.¬† And let’s be honest here, they’d all just about given up hope, ha.¬† I don’t blame them though.¬† They knew what I’d put myself through in the past.¬† He showed me that it’s okay to want these things.¬† It’s okay to think of myself as worthy and deserving of a mountain-moving love.

All the things I used to deem cheesy or unrealistic about being in a relationship were deemed so because I’d never felt it before.¬† I thought I didn’t want it because I didn’t know it.¬† So I never hoped for it, I never held out for it, I never asked for it.¬† I talked myself out of it long before any guy would end up disappointing me.

And Jon just gave his all.  Without question.  And continues to do so.

Not only did he expose me to new way to love…but he exposed me to his larger-than-life (borderline creepy) obsession with his bulldog, Stella, his¬†ridiculous ‘if Danny Tanner were trying to seduce you’ dance moves, his grumpy old man opinions on everything from music to politics, he closet full of nothing¬†more than¬†plaid shirts and blue hoodies, his sappy and sensitive feelings when he’s had more than 3 IPAs, his super intense foot rubs,¬† his awkward story/joke delivery, and a million other things that I whole-heartedly love.

Who would have thought that after a¬†decade of dating in Music City,¬†I’d wind up with a car dealer in Michigan… Not I, that’s for sure.¬† But somehow, somewhere our stories blended perfectly.¬† And shit, we just stood side by side for last 365 days creating a new one.

I’ll drink to that.

 

 

Sobering up to a “fallen sky”…

Sobering up to a “fallen sky”…

I don’t want to get political.

I really don’t.¬† And I won’t.

I will say, however, that I urged my fellow family members and friends to vote.  I posted on my social media accounts to please, for the love of God, go vote.  I spent a good chunk of time sorting through my feelings with my fingers on a keyboard the day before the election.  I then proceeded to share these very personal, somewhat uncomfortable thoughts/events/feelings with all of you on Monday evening, as over 1,000 of you have now read that blog post in the past 48 hours.

As in touch with my feelings as I may have been Monday and Tuesday… Wednesday morning was unlike anything I’ve felt in a long time…¬† And truth be told, I didn’t allow myself to feel it for long.

Tuesday:¬† I got my people to the polls.¬† I shared my story.¬† I swelled with so much pride seeing the lines at the polls, seeing everyone posting their photo with their “I Voted” sticker on Facebook and Instagram.¬† I¬† made the executive decision that I would NOT watch any election coverage on Tuesday.¬† So at 7PM, I turned my phone off and left it on the kitchen counter.¬† We then proceeded to our basement bedroom with all the dogs, junk food, and a joint.¬† We let ourselves fall asleep to the sweet sound of “Friends” on Netflix.¬† .

It was out of my hands now.¬† There was nothing else I could do.¬† It’ll be OK.¬† She’s going to win…maybe not by much…but she’s going to win.

My oblivion was blissful.

Wednesday:  Wake up at 7AM.  Jon gets up for work.  I ask him to turn on his phone and check.

“This can’t be right…. No.¬† No…this can’t be right.¬† Trump won.”

I’ll probably never forget what those words felt like.¬† How they knocked the wind right out of me when I first heard them.¬† I jumped out of bed and went upstairs to my phone.¬† I turned it on and there was just buzz after buzz after buzz with about 20 text messages I had missed through the night/early morning from friends and family in complete disbelief.¬† The thought dawned on me, “Holy shit, Rachel.¬† Half of America has been feeling all sorts of shit while you slept.”

Another punch to the chest. 

It’s now 7:20AM.¬† I get on Facebook and start scrolling and it’s not fake.¬† It happened.¬† I immediately find my “medicinal green” and light up.¬† I can’t process this right now.¬† It’s grey & foggy outside.¬† It’s early.¬† Just don’t feel it right now.¬† (And no Mom, I’m not a pothead/wake and baker.)

So I didn’t.

All day long.

I didn’t get on my phone.¬† I didn’t turn on cable.¬† I watched the 2nd season of “Friends” on Netflix.¬† I wanted Rachel Green’s problems in the mid-90’s.¬† I wanted nothing to do with¬†Rachel Williams in 2016 problems.

I picked up my guitar.¬† I scribbled down thoughts.¬† But then I decided that I didn’t want to think just yet so I went back to “Friends”.¬† There’s no way I can put into words, let alone, a song about what I should be feeling right now.¬† What so many of us are feeling right now.

When my boyfriend came home from work, I decided that we should go out for dinner.  I needed to get out of these four walls, off of this couch, out of my numbness.

We walked into a couple of neighborhood bars.¬† On the flat screens behind the bar area was either¬†CNN/FOX/MSNBC.¬† “I cannot,” I told myself and then walked directly out of their establishment.¬† Got lucky on my 3rd bar.¬† All they were playing¬†were the¬†Detroit Red Wings¬† I breathed a sigh of relief.

I ordered up some chicken tenders and a vodka soda.¬† I talked with Jon about his weird day at work.¬† I told him about how insanely funny “Friends” is and how there were so many episodes I’d forgotten about.¬† Then halfway through my second drink, I looked around…

Everyone was cool.

Everyone was drinking and eating.

The sky had fallen and yet, here we all were.

Maybe some of them voted Clinton.¬† Maybe some of them voted Trump.¬† Maybe some of them didn’t vote at all.¬† Either way…I just watched.

I watched as people inhaled and exhaled, laughed, high-fived, sipped their IPA….

And then it dawned on me.

We are all in this together.

There is no “me” and then “them”.¬† Our future President is the same.¬† Whether you are Taylor Swift or Kanye West, whether you are gay or straight, whether you are Mormon or atheist, whether you are an immigrant or born/raised/die in Detroit.¬† Whether you are feeling victorious right now or whether you are feeling confused and heavy-hearted, like myself.

Together.

I¬†know it may sound na√Įve or idealistic, but I have to believe that there¬†is no black or white, gay or straight, poor or rich, right wing or left wing…there is hate and there is love.¬†

The haters were going to be there REGARDLESS, loud & proud, whether it was Trump or Clinton in the White House.  All you need to do is scroll your Facebook newsfeed to see that.

I won’t do it.

There’s a million things I could say about the hateful posts I’ve read.¬† The videos I’ve seen go viral.¬† The words that our President-elect has said that have hurt.¬† The fears I have for my African American peers and my¬†homosexual friends, including¬†my homosexual brother.¬† (Nobody better fuck with my brother.)

But I won’t.

Because in the end, my hate says nothing about me except that I don’t love myself enough to love those around me.¬† And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I¬†have vowed to¬†show myself love and compassion and respect every, single day…even when it feels undoable.¬† Even if it’s just in the slightest, most¬†microscopic¬†of amounts some days.¬† So I will do the same for others.

Whether they’re racist or whether they’re just Republican or whether they just hated Hillary Clinton…I will show love…even if it’s just in¬†forgiveness.

I will rise strong.¬† We will rise strong.¬† If Hillary Clinton can make it through a concession speech, I sure as hell can get through my Wednesday, my Thursday, and every day after that…

And I will start by making the conscious effort to get my face out of my fucking phone.  Out of fucking Facebook/Instagram/Twitter.  I will start by practicing what I preach.

I will thank this¬†election for making me more self-aware.¬† For making me more aware of the people around me.¬† For making sure this big crack in my armor heals and¬†grows stronger than it ever was before.¬† For truly making me feel¬†united with so many of my fellow Americans…because we¬†know we can do better.

Don’t just type the words.

BE the words.

Now that we see the division, don’t hide behind the wall….

Build the bridge.

Build the bridge with no intention of burning it.

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Death…and what’s left behind.

Death…and what’s left behind.

Mortality¬†is something I’ve thought about a lot this year.¬† And when I wasn’t thinking about it, well…it’d come back and slap me in the face a few times to remind me it was still a thing that needed to be thought on.

This year taught me a lot about shutting up.¬† Listening.¬† Learning.¬† I absorbed everything… the softness of baby cheeks, the rush¬†I’d get when creating a song that¬†enthralls me the more we write it,¬†the¬†indescribable beauty I see on every walk/road-trip/sunrise and sunset, the wrinkles in my Granny’s hands, the loudness & the ridiculousness of my family in a room and how I’ll laugh until I borderline pee myself, the heaviness and fluffiness of my 13 year old dog laying on my chest and remembering the good/bad/complete chaos of the last 13 years, stopping and actually smelling the flowers that are always¬†waiting for me on the kitchen table when I get back to town.¬† There was a lot of hurt, disappointment, and loss to take in too.

I’ll admit, I haven’t been as adamant about blogging as I was when I initially started this particular blog.¬† I guess that’s life.¬† At least, that’s what I chalked it up to…¬† But what happens when that life is a lot more fragile than we ever care to admit to ourselves?¬† It’s brutal when it shows it’s cracks…even more brutal when it shatters to something that feels like it can’t be salvaged.¬† And most heart-breaking of all, is when it’s gone forever.

I love to write.¬† A lot of people say I should be a writer, and not just of songs.¬† It’s not that I don’t agree, I just always think that it’s something I’ll get around to.¬† I have plenty of time for “side” careers.¬† My story (or stories)¬†will get written and it’ll be insane and hysterical and touching and heart-wrenching.¬† Right now, I’m busy enough being a singer & songwriter, a big sister/daughter/Auntie to a rather needy (but hilarious) group of crazies, a mother to 4 dogs, a therapist to any girlfriend that calls on me for advice, and a somewhat sane girlfriend to the man of my dreams.

Writing can wait.

Babies can wait.¬† (That one, I’m pretty sure can wait.)

Travelling can wait.

It’s not “the right time”.

The “right time” in 2016¬†has been showing up, even when it was beyond inconvenient, when I couldn’t explain it.¬†¬†When my head was convinced of one thing but my gut¬†was telling me another, so I prayed to the sky that whichever way¬†I proceeded didn’t completely #@*! up the course of life.¬† Thankfully, the world did not end.

And now I’m sitting at a computer at¬†8PM on a Monday evening, the eve of¬†Election Day.¬† Thinking.¬† Feeling.¬†¬† It’s never the right time to feel things and blog about things that are unpleasant.¬† The Election is one of these things.¬† Death is definitely one of these things.¬† Don’t you worry, I’ll only be talking about the latter.

My last living grandparent turned 89 years old in August.¬† Clearly anyone that knows anything about me knows that I worship the ground she walks on.¬† My Grandpa (her husband) was my world when I was younger.¬† He died unexpectedly in an accident when I was barely 6 years old.¬† I remember everything about how they told me, where I was, the look on my Dad’s face… I remember the funeral and how I cried in the corner until the pastor came and found me, how I stepped on my Grandma’s toes when everyone stood in line to hug her after the service.¬† I remember how strange and empty it felt to go to her house for awhile after he was gone.¬† It was my first loss.

  • A couple years later, my Mom’s Mom, my Nana, died from an unexpected blood clot during a hip-replacement surgery¬†when I was 8.¬†¬†One day we were visiting her in the hospital and she was fine, the next day she was gone.¬† She was the same height as me and I loved her.¬† I can still put myself right back in her house, smell the food she was cooking, me clunking the keys on her piano by the front door.¬† My mother has never been whole since.
  • Nine days before my 9th birthday, my best friend died of leukemia.¬† Followed by her father a few years later, also from cancer.¬† I remember her birthday and the day of her death every single year.¬† Any time I find an old photo of her, I treat it like gold.
  • Around the same time, my Mother’s oldest brother, my Uncle Joe passed of leukemia.
  • My¬†sophomore year of high school, my Mother’s father passed away in hospice.¬† I remember the teddy bear I gave¬†my Papa¬†when he moved out of his house and into a home.¬† I still have the rocking horse he made me as a kid.

There have certainly been deaths that have occurred in my life, in my family & friend’s¬†life during those times and since then that have hurt like hell.¬† But the ones listed above were the ones that were fundamental in shaping my understanding of death.¬† More importantly, they shaped my understanding of God.¬† Because there’s no way I could have comprehended anything about love & life, heartbreak & compassion, without praying &¬†pleading¬†to someone above.

So now here we are…

2016.

  • My Granny’s oldest brother, my Great Uncle Wilburn, passed away this spring.¬† It was divine intervention that I was in the right place at the right time to help her travel between Detroit and Tennessee.¬† The decision to not drive her back to Detroit the¬†morning I was supposed to will forever be chiseled in my heart.¬† Her brother died that night.
  • My mother’s brother, my Uncle Corky, died of cancer this summer.¬† I didn’t see him all that much as I got older, but I remember his funny mumbles and his banter with the family growing up.¬† I remember how cool I thought his basement was as a kid.¬† The cathedral that his funeral service was held in made me nostalgic for my grandparents.¬† All the Catholic services that I felt forced to attend as a kid suddenly seem downright beautiful to me now.
  • Literally, one week later, my mother’s last surviving brother, my Godfather…Uncle Mike…was diagnosed with leukemia.¬† I don’t remember the last time I cried so hard.¬† This¬†is my long-haired,¬†Polish Superman.¬† It’s been bad, it’s been good, it’s been us¬†over-eating Polish food¬†at his house last night.¬† I’m optimistic because God told me to be.¬† And I love him so much.¬† And he will see me get married.

The last 2 weeks

  • My sister and niece were rear-ended in a horrific-looking accident.¬† One minute, she was calling me to ask if I wanted her to pick me up a few pumpkins from a roadside stand.¬† A few minutes later, her car was totaled.¬† Thanks be to God, no one was injured.
  • I got the unbelievable privilege to see St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.¬† I’ve played benefits for St. Jude in Nashville before.¬† We’ve all heard the telethons & commercials for St. Jude…but nothing was like seeing it for¬†yourself.¬† Meeting the people that work there, the kids who are just the brightest of lights, and the parents of these kids who are doing everything to make their children’s light even brighter.¬† It was beautiful.¬† If a place like this exists and exudes nothing but hope…why can’t I.
  • Someone that is like a second mother to me had a cancer scare a few weeks ago¬†and surgery to remove a tumor.¬† It’s taken awhile for the results to come back, so my chats with God have been pretty constant.¬† We just found out today that she’s in the clear ūüôā

And most recently…

I found out a couple days ago that a very close friend¬†of 2 of my best friends (and newlyweds) died while deployed in Jordan.¬†¬†Staff Sgt.Kevin J. McEnroe was¬†in the US Army¬†Special Forces with Shawn.¬†I remember meeting him casually with Kristine and Shawn in Nashville.¬† They told me he had a girlfriend so I quickly got over thinking he was “the handsome friend”.¬† A year or so¬†later, I saw him again with his beautiful girlfriend at Kristine & Shawn’s wedding this September.¬† We all danced and celebrated the night away.¬† That was only 2 months ago.¬† I’ve been praying for his family & friends and Kristine & Shawn so hard.¬†¬†Kevin’s sacrifice shakes me at my core.

It’s time we talk about Death.¬†¬†It’s time we talk about what we fear and what we¬†truly dream for ourselves…openly and honestly.¬† What we’re going to do with the life we still have while we’re still able to do something with it.

Not cliché quotes.

Not photos or hashtags or song lyrics.

What are you going to DO?  What are you going to SAY?  WHO do you want in your circle, standing with you?  Who do you want to be NOW?  Seriously.  No bullshit.

After I click “Publish” on this post, I’m going to pray that I’m always awake to these questions.

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Rest in peace, Staff Sgt. Kevin Joseph McEnroe
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My Godfather with my baby niece and nephew this Halloween
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The beauty of St. Jude
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Elizabeth Gail Fontana