Soundtrack of an Eternal Optimist (2017 in Music)

I headed into 2017 expecting a year of growth. A year of progress. A year all about me.

That's what I got.

2017 I was a little selfish. A little narcissistic. A little inward-focused. And that's exactly what I needed.

I came into this year a little frayed around the edges. Holding my heart together with tape and glue and hope. Hurting and lost and directionless and having lost a whole lot of my purpose in life. Just starting to pick up the pieces and figure out who the hell I was again.

Turns out, I really love who I am. I spent so long being someone's girlfriend, someone's "mom", that I forgot who I was independently of that. I was caught up in what had to be done all the time, on making sure everyone else's days ran smoothly, and I stopped seeing the joy in the little things and basically just got from point A to point B. A friend of mine told me recently that she never saw me really smile until this year, and that hit me SO hard. Me, the girl with a sunshine tattoo! The smiley, friendly girl! I wasn't showing joy? I wasn't actually smiling?

Well, that's changed. I have smiled more and harder in the last year than anytime I can remember. I have laughed and spun in circles and cried tears of joy and danced in my car and just felt ALIVE in a way that I can't explain.

I wanted to spend this year working on myself - getting fitter, smarter, working harder...and I have. But not in the ways I expected. I don't go to the gym every day, and I certainly haven't come anywhere close to my goals for getting back in shape....but I can hike 8 miles up and down hills and over rocks and I feel stronger. I haven't found my dream job, but I know more about what I don't want to do, and I think I'm on my way...I didn't push myself as hard as I could have, but I also made myself do things that I would never have tried before. I've had new experiences and made new friends and become better than I was.

I'm happy in a way I haven't been in years. And I'm full of hope and optimism about what's to come.

And I can't ask for more than that.

Here is the music that made this year what it was - I hope you enjoy as much as I have.

Google Music Playlist

YouTube Playlist

Soundtrack of an Eternal Optimist

1: Clean - Taylor Swift

Rain came pouring down when I was drowning
That's when I could finally breathe
And by morning gone was any trace of you,
I think I am finally clean

2017 was the first year I started alone in a really long time. It was a badly needed clean slate, and I remember being so full of hope as the clock turned to midnight. Lord knows things didn’t always go the way I thought I wanted this year, but overall, I wouldn’t change a damn thing.

2: Love is Looking For You - Miranda Lambert

Maybe you're just jaded
from some nobody's unforgotten words.
Maybe you're just faded,
a little gray from every time
that you've been hurt

One of the biggest things I've been working on throughout the healing process was learning how to let myself believe in anything again. I'm an optimist and a romantic, even on my most cynical days. Last year broke that part of me and getting it back was one of the harder things I've done. I lost so much confidence and certainty and hope and of all the things I lost, I think that was the hardest to deal with. The optimism I have back. The confidence? Let's call it a work in progress.

3: I Could Use a Love Song - Maren Morris

A long gone drive
You know the kind where you take a turn and you don’t know why
But it clears your mind, a surefire cure
I need something stronger
That’ll last a little longer

The first time I heard this song it was a sucker punch. I think everyone can relate to the feeling of being jaded and disillusioned about love, and I sure as hell was for a while. The thing I love most about it though – it’s got so much hope in it. I needed that.

4: Miss Me More - Kelsea Ballerini

I forgot I had dreams, I forgot I had wings
Forgot who I was before I ever kissed you
Yeah, I thought I'd miss you
But I miss me more

That feeling you get when after living your life for others for years, you finally start doing things because it's what you want...When you get back to focusing on yourself and remembering who you are...and realizing that you're becoming the best version of yourself now that it's just you….That feeling? Worth every single damn tear I cried.

5: Inside Out - Sara Bareilles

I am small
I feel like no more than nothing at all
But when I lose sight of daylight
And my darkness falls
I'll be strong
And if not now it won't be long
From when I lose sight of daylight
And my hands are weak and my soul is tired
Oh, I'll give my love from the inside out
Take your best shot
Here I stand, heart in hand
And fearless I'm not
But I am what I am

The best part about this year has been falling back in love with myself after months of self-doubt. I’ve still got my issues and my insecurities and the things I’m working on improving, but overall I am more confident and happier than ever. Life’s pretty great, y’all.

6: Brand New Me - Alicia Keys

I don't need your opinion
I'm not waiting for your okay
I'll never be perfect
But at least now I'm brave
Now my heart is open
I can finally breathe
Don't be mad
It's just a brand new kinda free
That ain't bad
I found a brand new kinda me

This year was definitely when I realized that I don't give a damn about what other people think of me. One of my goals for 2017 was to really focus on myself and becoming the woman I want to be.
I'm not 100% there yet, but I think I get closer to it every day. The progress is what's important, as perfection is impossible (and also boring). I lost so much of myself for so long that I really do feel like an entirely different person - braver, smarter, happier.
The reason for the change may have been tough to deal with and get over, but I'll take that any day, to be in the place I am now.

7: Begin Again - Taylor Swift

We tell stories and you don't know why
I'm coming off a little shy
But I do
And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it's strange that you think I'm funny 'cause he never did

I don't get nervous often. But this spring, before my first first date in 5 years, I was a hot mess. I was all butterflies and trying to not do or say anything stupid. But it went well, and I had a nice time, and managed to not spill my margarita all over myself.
The biggest issue I discovered, and it's something I need to work on, is that I became a smaller version of myself, trying to rein in the sides of me that are too emotional or passionate or energetic. I don't know why I do this, but that needs to end. The people who love me love those parts of me - why do I think I can't trust a man to do the same?
So that's one of my goals for next year - to be myself in all things, no matter what. To let the ugly and the 'too much' show, because it's all me and I won't let someone pick and choose the pieces of me to love. Not anymore.

8: Brand New - Ben Rector

I feel like for the first time in a long time I am not afraid
I feel like a kid, never thought it'd feel like this
Like when I close my eyes and don't even care if anyone sees me dancing
Like I can fly, and don't even think of touching the ground

I first fell in love with this song this spring, when the potential for a new relationship was there, and it was exhilarating and terrifying and I felt all twirly and twitterpated and like anything was possible.
Well. Clearly, that did not work out. But I got a couple things from it: The knowledge that despite my joking, I wasn't totally dead and cold inside, and I was open to falling for someone again, and also, the complete freedom of deciding I didn't give a damn what anyone thought of me anymore. This song may be what started my whole #meovereverything mindset the last several months - the thought of not caring who sees me, of feeling like I can fly, of being fearless - It's song about a new relationship, but I turned it into a love song to myself.
And lord knows we all need those once in a while.

9: Don't Waste My Time - Little Big Town

I'm waiting for the kind of love
that is strong enough
to walk through anything,
so don't waste my time.
I only want to play for keeps,
want to fall in deep,
if you don't just say goodbye,
don't waste my time.

I definitely hit the point this year where I was just over it. I don't need any more people in my life who can't decide how they feel about me - so I decided to just stop putting my energy into dating, and focus on myself. It's probably one of the best choices I made this year. Life is too short to waste on mediocrity again.

10: Shake it Out - Florence + The Machine

I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
'Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

I think just about every playlist I’ve made in the last 6 years has had this song on it. It’s definitely been on year end mixes before – and it’s always some different section that sticks out to me.
I had a rough patch towards the end of summer. Part of recovery, right? We all have ups and downs and the point is not to NOT have them, it’s to not let them completely throw you off.
Well. I got thrown off. For a little while. Stopped working like I had been. Stopped trying to make things better, find something else, do something more. Felt a lot less like me for a couple months.
And then one morning I went for a run and stopped to watch the sunrise between the trees and taking 5 minutes to slow down and breathe and look around was all I needed. And while I’m not where I want to be, and I’ve got a lot, in all areas, to keep working on, I have remembered what I need to be happy and I won’t lose it again.

11: Fly - Maddie and Tae

The road's been long and lonely and you feel like giving up
There’s more to this than just the breath you're breathing
So keep on climbing, though the ground might shake
Just keep on reaching though the limb might break
We’ve come this far, don't you be scared now
'Cause you can learn to fly on the way down

I’m just going to let this one go with the immortal words of the great Michael Scott: “Never, ever, ever give up.”

12: Blackbird - The Beatles

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free

This has been one of my favorite songs for years, and this summer, as my 35th birthday present to myself, I got it in ink.
It probably sounds cheesy as hell, but after the hurt and loss and brokenness, the ability to just feel happy and free and light again meant so much to me. This is my reminder to never let myself lose it again.

13: Life Ain't Always Beautiful - Gary Allan

But the struggles make me stronger,
and the changes make me wise,
and happiness has its own way of taking its sweet time.
No, life ain't always beautiful
but I know I'll be fine.
Life ain't always beautiful
but it's a beautiful ride.

Happiness looks a lot different at 35 than I expected it to, even just a couple of years ago. It was a bumpy road getting here, but all the twists and turns have made it that much more amazing. This year reminded me that I can't just expect joy to come to me - I have to choose it, every day.
And I have. I'm not saying I don't have bad days, or that I don't get sad or upset or angry anymore - that is far from the case. I'm an emotional person, I feel everything times a hundred.
I'm just making myself remember the little things daily that make me happy, and so the other stuff doesn't seem so bad.

14: Perfectly Lonely - John Mayer

Nothing to do
Nowhere to be
A simple little kind of free
Nothing to do
No one but me
And that's all I need
I'm perfectly lonely.

That feeling you get when you realize you are happier on your own than you ever were in your relationship - that's a big moment. I came full circle this year in healing, from being nowhere close to ready to start again, to trying it and knowing I was ready for it, to knowing I was ready but just not wanting to bother. That's more or less where I still am - if something comes along, great, but I'm not going to actively pursue anything. (Unless Chris Pratt decides to knock on my door...)
I'm not scared anymore. I just am really loving only being concerned with myself. As one of my oldest friends said, it's been awesome seeing me a little narcissistic the last several months. I gotta say, I've been enjoying it.
But, you know..."And this is not to say, there never comes a day I'll take my chances and start again..."

15: Rainbow - Kesha

I'd forgot how to daydream,
so consumed with the wrong things.
But in the dark, I realized this life is short.
And deep down, I'm still a child
Playful eyes, wide and wild.
I can't lose hope,
what's left of my heart's still made of gold.

This song may be my song of the year. It was all about finding the magic and the light and the joy in things again. As she sings, "maybe I'm still f*cked up, but aren't we all my love?"
I don't need to have it all figured out. I don't need to be perfect. I have scars but they've made me who I am, and I've learned from them all. And now, being able to let go and live and love and dance and sing and smile and be the optimistic girl I was before - it's all I ever needed.

16: Everybody - Ingrid Michaelson

Happy is the heart that still feels pain
Darkness drains and light will come again
Swing open up your chest and let it in
Just let the love, love, love begin

This song is so optimistic and so joyful and so fearless and I love it. Getting myself back to the place of being a positive person took a while. Getting back to a place where I feel like I can trust someone again took longer. But now that I’m back here, I’m ready for it whenever it comes my way.

17: A Place to Land - Little Big Town

I dip my toe in the water,
before I know it I'm in over my head.
I try and warm myself by the fire
but I end up getting burned instead.
I sold my soul for a little bit of heaven,
put my heart in the wrong hands.
I’ve gone places where
I swore I would never go again.
See, I’ve never had any trouble falling,
I’m just trying to find a place to land.

For being the kind of person who makes spreadsheets and lists and looks at all logical angles before making a decision, I really have a huge romantic streak that wants to just let go and jump in head first every time. It’s gotten me in trouble before, and I’m sure it will again, but honestly, I think it’s one of the best sides of me. If I didn’t let myself imagine all the ways things could go right, if I didn’t have big dreams of love and laughter and adventure, would I be the person I am? I don’t think so. So while I definitely did some falling this year, I’d like to do even more in the next. And if all I find is a temporary heaven, a few moments of joy, a fleeting peace….I’m okay with that. Because I’d rather fall and fail than be afraid to jump off the edge.

18: Little Miss - Sugarland

Little miss, brand new start...
Little miss, do your part...
Little miss, big old heart
beats wide open, and
she's ready now for love.

I am pretty sure I keep saying the same thing over and over, but this year definitely was about me falling in love with myself. It's been amazing. I lost so much of who I am and finding all those parts of me and becoming who I want to be again has been beyond rewarding. And I really feel like looking ahead into next year, I'm ready for another adventure - in love, in life...I am openhearted and optimistic and can't wait to see what lies ahead.

19: I've Got Wheels - Miranda Lambert

Sometimes these wings
get a little heavy
and I can’t stay between the lines
but I’m rocking steady.
When I can’t fly, I start to fall
but I’ve got wheels
I’m rolling on.

This was a year of false starts and do-overs. Mistakes were made, things were failed..but the important thing has always been forward motion. And that I believe I've accomplished. I remain, as ever, a work in progress, and that's exactly what I should be. Always improving, always striving to be a little better than I was the day before. And having the knowledge that when one way doesn't work out, another way will present itself as long as I don't give up.

20: Brave - Sara Bareilles

Everybody's been there,
Everybody's been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don't run, just stop holding your tongue.
Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is.

One thing I've tried to be this year is more honest. I tend to hold things back and push things down and put on the smiley face and then things just build and build and build until I have a tiny breakdown because I can't find my favorite pen. And that's not been a great way to be. So I've tried to be more open about how I'm feeling or what I want.
I've not always been that successful. I am really not good about opening up and saying what I need or why I feel the way I do - so that's one of my goals for next year. Speak up, stand up for myself - don't just let myself fade into the background because it's easier. I've found my voice a lot over the last year, now I just need to let myself be louder.

21: Standing Outside the Fire - Garth Brooks*

We call them weak
Who are unable to resist
The slightest chance love might exist
And for that forsake it all
They're so hell-bent on giving, walking a wire
Convinced it's not living if you stand outside the fire

This song has been one of my favorites since one of my oldest and best friends introduced me to it twenty years ago. And I think it's the perfect way to close out this year and start off the new.
I want to be fearless. I want to throw myself wholeheartedly into whatever comes my way. I want to dance within the flames and get burned and have scars and not be too afraid to try again. I want to live and love and embrace the fact that I might get hurt, but still give it 100% anyway.
I've been working on this, and this is my real resolution for next year - to take chances, to not over analyze everything - to go with my gut, and make mistakes, and pick myself back up. To know that to screw up and fail and get hurt and then to still try again is what living is about. Happy New Year, all!

*This isn't on the links as Garth keeps his music on lockdown :-(


Feeling restless.

I started this blog July 31, 2008.

The name, Gathering Dust, came from a beautiful David Gray song that has been one of the themes of my life for a decade. For my twenties.

In less than two weeks, I turn thiry. And suddenly, I'm not okay with any theme of mine including the lyrics, "my soul is hollow as the sorrowful moon".

Beyond that, I've kind of failed at this thing. This is my second post this year. And it's to say that I'm jumping ship.

My first post was titled "feeling restless". I like the symmetry of my final post having the same name. I'm not sure that I'll ever NOT be restless, but I'm starting to feel like I want to be more settled.

In some ways, I feel like I've found a home here in Nashville, and I'm appreciating the slower pace down here. I've spent a lot of time recently just laying out in the sun, next to the water, letting myself just....be. And it's a beautiful thing.

My new blog is here - http://beautyofnothing.wordpress.com/ - It's empty right now, but that'll change soon. In the meantime, update your bookmarks.

I recently read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and there was a phrase that really appealed to me - "Il bel far niente" - "The beauty of doing nothing". This is something I'm learning how to appreciate lately and something I will hopefully continue to enjoy, now that I've let myself slow down and relax.

So, goodbye to feeling like I'm like gathering dust, like I'm on a mission alone. And welcome to feeling like the world is full of beautiful moments, often in unexpected times.


If I can get through not being able to tie my shoes, I can get through anything.

There's a really long post coming in the near future (unless I get lazy) but I just wanted to share this, since I'm starting to try and recruit people for my team for the Arthritis Walk in June. I found this in my email from someone asking me about what Rheumatoid Arthritis has done for and to me.

"When I was first diagnosed, I went from scared to depressed to scared to pissed off to scared to accepting to scared....Fear is the biggest thing. I don't know how RA is going to end up affecting me in the future. Yes, I can try to control it, and mask the symptoms, but it's always there, and something I'll deal with the rest of my life. There is a lot of uncertainty - will I be able to have kids, will I be able to keep full function of my hands, will I be able to walk thirty years down the line? I don't know, and no doctor can give me a real answer. So it's scary and I can't do anything about it. I'm not someone who is used to being afraid of things, so learning to live with that fear has been a challenge.

But on the positive note - I've learned how strong I am. I've seen how my friends and family pull around me. I have witnessed generosity with donations to charity walks I do, I have been called an inspiration by loved ones and strangers alike. I've grown up. I've learned that I can't hide behind fear and I can't just let life pass me by because of what might happen when I'm forty. Dealing with RA has turned me into a stronger, more independent woman than I could have imagined. And while I wouldn't say that this made developing a chronic illness worth it, it does make it easier to digest."

Since I'm currently dealing with leftover pain from my ankle surgery last October, and wondering how much my RA has influenced the residual aches, and I'm getting frustrated that I haven't fully healed by now, I needed to see this. It reminds me I'm only human. And that I can deal with it. And I'll only be stronger when all is said and done.

I have faith in myself.

And that's pretty freaking awesome.

Oh, and if you'd like to donate (or join the team if you happen to be in Nashville area), feel free! I really don't mind!
Kicking ass and taking names and making RA my b*tch


Driving Round in Circles (2011, Revisited): A year in music

It was a roller coaster of a year for me. There were a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of changes. I lost friends I thought I'd have forever, and made amazing new ones. I struggled with how to balance my old life and my new life. I fought the thought of relationships and ended up falling into old patterns with people from the past. I decided on a huge life change, and made it happen. I said goodbye to people I love. I started a new life. It was a year of ups and downs, of heartache and hardening, of regret and release, but, for the first time in a long time, it's a year that ends with hope.

Here is my year and the songs that got me through it. I was going to post something about each of them, but there's some that are just a little too personal. I just picked some lyrics that were appropriate.

If you would like to download, here is the link. It's also published on Spotify.

Happy New Year to you all!

Lay Me Down – The Wreckers
So shut your mouth
And hold me close
We both know
It's better than being alone

Just Tonight – The Pretty Reckless
Just tonight I will stay
And we'll throw it all away
When the light hits your eyes
It's telling me I'm right

Locked Up – Ingrid Michaelson
Love, love, love is everywhere
But not a drop for me to drink
Tie me up and bind my feet
Drop me in and watch me sink
Like an angry apple tree
I throw my apples if you get too close to me

I Hope that I Don’t Fall in Love With You – Tom Waits
Well the music plays and you display your heart for me to see,
I had a beer and now I hear you calling out for me
And I hope that I don't fall in love with you

Fairytale – Sara Bareilles
So I sing and hold my head down and I break these walls round me
Can't take no more of your fairytale love
cause I don't care for your fairytales
You're so worried about the maiden though you know
She's only waiting on the next best thing

Set Fire to the Rain – Adele
I set fire to the rain
And I threw us into the flames
Where I felt something die
Cause I knew that was the last time

Bulletproof – La Roux
Been there, done that, messed around
I'm having fun, don't put me down
I'll never let you sweep me off my feet

Jar of Hearts – Christina Perri
I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed
'Cause you broke all your promises
And now you're back
You don't get to get me back

Her Diamonds – Rob Thomas
Oh what the hell she said
I just can't win for losing
And she lays back down
Man, there's so many times
I don't know what I'm doing
Like I don't know now

Happiness is – Verve Pipe
Have you ever felt so out of place
That the smile on your face
Was to keep from cryin’
I don’t know how we get so out of touch
But I don’t want much
Just to keep on tryin’

Goodbye – Drive By Truckers
We were really great friends and I always thought
that it would be that way
Yet I wonder if I'd know you if the guy that I saw
last walked in here today

Gathering Dust – David Gray
I got no reason
But that I must
Maybe I feel
Like I've been gatherin' dust

Melt My Heart to Stone – Adele
Why do you steal my hand
Whenever I'm standing my own ground
You build me up, then leave me dead

Sway – Heartless Bastards
I looked into the eyes, the eyes of everyone I know
And the days go by wondering where to go
I was searching all, searching all the time

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day
Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

Rewind – Stereophonics
'Cause change is okay
What's the point in staying the same
Regrets, forget what's dead and gone
If you could rewind your time
Would you change your life?
The House That Built Me – Miranda Lambert
You leave home, you move on
and you do the best you can.
I got lost in this whole world
and forgot who I am.

I’m Movin’ On – Rascal Flatts
I've dealt with my ghosts and I've faced all my demons
Finally content with a past I regret
I've found you find strength in your moments of weakness
For once I'm at peace with myself
I have been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long
I'm movin' on

Second Chance – Shinedown
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance

Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go) – Dierks Bentley
Can't take it with you when you go so
Free and easy down the road I go
Someday I know it's gonna take me home so
Free and easy down the road I go

Home – Foo Fighters
Wish I were with you
I couldn't stay
Every direction
Leads me away

Are We There Yet – Ingrid Michaelson
They say that home is where the heart is
I guess I haven't found my home
And we keep driving round in circles
Afraid to call this place our own

On the Road to Find Out – Cat Stevens
Then I found my head one day when I wasn't even trying
And here I have to say, 'cause there is no use in lying, lying
Yes the answer lies within, so why not take a look now?

Again Today/Hiding My Heart – Brandi Carlile
Who's gonna break my fall
When the spinning starts
The colors bleed together and fade
Was it ever there at all
Or have I lost my way
The path of least resistance
Is catching up with me again today/
But like everything I've ever known
You'll disappear one day
So I'll spend my whole life hiding my heart away

Let the Rain – Sara Bareilles
And if I were fearless
Then I'd speak my truth
And the world would hear this
That's what I wish I'd do

Here We Go Again – Justin Townes Earle
Now I like to think that
I’m no fool for love
I can’t help but feel as though
I play one every time

Little Miss – Sugarland
Little miss, brand new start
Little miss, do your part
Little miss, big old heart beats wide open and she's ready now for love
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright
Yeah, sometimes you gotta lose 'til you win

Fearless – Colbie Cailat
If it's between love and losing
or to never have known the feeling
I'd still side with love
and if I end up lonely
at least I will be there knowing
I believed in love

Many the Miles – Sara Bareilles
Cause I've had my fair share of take care and goodbyes
I've learned how to cry
And I'm better for that

Turning Tables – Adele
I can't keep up with your turning tables
under your thumb, I can't breathe
So I won't let you close enough to hurt me
No, I won't ask you, you to just desert me
I can't give you, what you think you gave me
It's time to say goodbye to turning tables

Further North – Jets to Brazil
This year took ten years to tell me that I’m alone again…
Everything here's about to break.
I'm one inch from all that I can take,
and it's beautiful and sad, but it's all that I have

Shake it Out – Florence + The Machine
I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

Life is Beautiful – Vega4
Life is beautiful, but it's complicated.
We barely make it.
We don't need to understand,
There are miracles, miracles.

Skyscraper – Demi Lovato
As the smoke clears, I awaken
And untangle you from me
Would it make you, feel better
To watch me while I bleed?
All my windows still are broken
But I'm standing on my feet

What a Year for a New Year – Dan Wilson
Soon we'll be lying in our beds
And new dreams will fill our heads
And the old ones will be ended
Hope we'll forget about this place
Let it go without a trace
Wipe the teardrops from our faces
What a year for a new year


in memoriam.

My grandfather was a flawed man. I know that.

He never painted himself a saint, and that might be one of the things I admired most about him. He knew he had made mistakes in his life, and he changed things, and he taught me that no matter what I do, I can always turn myself around.

My grandfather was a teacher. I experienced that.

He used to bring home scrap wood and let my sister and I make the most ridiculous damn creations out of tin cans and two by fours and for some reason, he trusted us to use hammers and nails and not kill each other. Because of him, I am strong, and independent, and can hang pictures and put together furniture and try to figure out to how fix something myself before I get help.

My grandfather was a packrat. I saw that.

He saved EVERYTHING. The garage at my grandparents house was full of empty bottles and stacks of magazines and an airplane propeller. He kept a lot of things that were probably junk, but he also kept the pictures and poems my sister and I did for him and my grandma. I still have some of them. A lot of times, we'd be in the car heading somewhere, and he'd stop on the side of the road and pick up a stool, or a box of books, or a toy he thought my sister and I might like. And then he'd clean it up, and it was as good as new, and when I was younger, when I wanted the 'latest and greatest', I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now.

My grandfather was a clown. I heard that.

The most common phrase I heard him say was 'Do you believe that fib?' He was always telling a joke or making up a funny story or doing anything he could to get my sister and I to laugh. Part of my inherent goofiness definitely comes from him.

My grandfather was a wise man. I listened to that.

From the time I was just starting to notice boys, he always told me, 'Andrea, don't get married young. Maybe not ever. Men are idiots.' As I got older, the advice changed a bit: 'Andrea, you're a smart young lady and don't settle for someone dumber than you like your grandma did.' Most recently, it was, 'This is my beautiful granddaughter. I hope she finds someone worthy of her.' The advice changed, but the love behind it never wavered.

My grandfather was a romantic. I loved that.

He loved his wife. His Jennie. They were together over fifty years. Fifty years. Does that even happen anymore? You can see in the pictures of them when they were young that they were head over heels in love. And through the years, that love stayed with them. They truly were soulmates. When my grandma died almost seven years ago, I thought for sure we'd lose him soon after.

My grandfather was a loving man. I felt that.

One thing I never doubted was my grandpa's love for me. And for my sister. And my father. And my grandma. He did what he could to make sure that our lives would be just a little bit easier. He gave advice and doled out hugs and always had an extra dollar for some cotton candy if I needed it. He cared so much about his family, even when it was sometimes hidden by silly jokes and a little bit of cantankerousness. He loved us so much.

I feel blessed that I had my grandfather in my life for 29 years. That's a gift that so many others don't get. It makes it harder to say goodbye, but it makes it easier to remember. And I don't believe in much anymore, but I believe with every single fiber of my being that when he left this world this morning, he met my grandma on the way to whatever is waiting for us after this life....and just like when they were both here, their hands just naturally found each other's.

I love you always, Big Kid.

April 4, 1919 - September 26, 2011


it's a long trip alone...

I don't want any more ties here. It's already going to be hard enough to leave. I'm already wondering who of my friends will continue to be a part of my life when I'm 600 miles away. There are some people who I have complete faith in, who I know will come visit me, who I'll make sure I see when I come back up here. There are people I'll keep in touch with through email and Facebook and text. But there are people who after I move will make an effort for a while, but a year from now, will only remember me as the loud, weird, clumsy girl who had way too much crap at her desk and loved to bake. And I know that's just what happens...people change, and grow up, and move away and move on. And the people who are important will stay important. And I'll meet new people and start new friendships and maybe, just maybe, find someone to love.

But that doesn't mean that it's not hurting me to think about. I'm too emotional for my own good, especially lately. One of my coworkers has joked that she's going to make me cry as much as possible before I leave.

It's not hard to do. Lately, it's a song or a quote or a TV show or a memory and all of a sudden I'm just a mess. I'm absolutely terrified that I'll move and cling so hard to the people I love here that I'll never meet anyone down in Nashville to start taking their places.

The thought of anything making this even more difficult just kills to think about.

And so I find myself, with two and a half months left to go, pulling away. Choosing nights at home over spending time with the people I care about. Separating myself, distancing myself....trying to make it easier.

Except now I'm living in this weird transition period of enforced loneliness. And I hate it. It's not the kind of person I am. I'm social. I'm outgoing. I want to surround myself with all these amazing people I know. But I don't want to deal with losing all of them at once. It just feels like it should be easier this way.

But....I'm lonely. Incredibly lonely. And while I sit here, watching The Office and crying to myself, trying to relax with a glass or two of wine, I think....it's going to be so much harder once I move, and when I'm lonely, I'll actually be alone.

Maybe I'm just having one of those nights where the world feels huge and I feel small....and maybe things will seem a bit different in the light of day. But right now, tonight? I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to do this.


I think I'll start it over, where no one knows my name

I'm making plans. Lots and lots of plans.

Career-changing plans. Pick-up-my-life-and-move-600-miles-away plans. Life-changing plans. Terrifying, exhilarating plans.

I've lived my whole life in the Detroit area. It's what I know. It's comfortable. I have family here. God knows I have friends here. My *history* is here.

So why am I skipping out on everything, and moving to Nashville?

Of course, a big part of it is my parents. And my sister. And my grandpa. They live in Tennessee, a little more than an hour east of Nashville. Being so far away from them now is awful. I hate that I don't get to see them more than a few times a year.

Part of it is my job. I like my job. And I'm good at it. But this isn't what I thought I would be doing for the rest of my life. Even when I went back to school with the intent of advancing in the company, I didn't know if I was doing it because I loved my job, or if I loved the company. As much as I enjoy the place I work and the people I work with, I can't see myself staying happy here. It feels like settling for something I never thought I'd do for too long, when there are a million other things I'd rather take a chance at.

And then there's the part of me that just wants the adventure...I've always saw myself moving somewhere else, and I'm at the point in my life where if I don't do it now, I won't do it ever. Better to pack up my life and start it fresh while I'm young, and single, and have nothing tying me down to Michigan.

I'm incredibly excited for this new chapter in my life to start. I can't wait to find new places, meet new people, build a new life from scratch.

But damn if I'm not terrified.

What if I get there and hate it? What if I find a job and can't stand it? What if the new friends I make can't compare to the ones I have now? What if the people I have in my life, the people I love dearly, forget about me when I'm 9 hours away?

What if I fail?

I could make myself crazy with the hundreds of "What ifs?" going through my head.

But I would make myself crazier if I didn't allow myself to take this chance.

There's something magical about a second chance. Of starting over where no one knows me...no one knows my history, my mistakes, my regrets. No one knows the things I've done to hurt people, or the people who have torn me to shreds. It's a chance to become someone completely different...or to improve on the person I already am.

And for all the worries, all the fear...there's so much more hope. And promise.

Not only will I be someone with no history, but all the people I meet? They'll be strangers - not people I've grown up with, not people I've worked with, not people who I have seen through all sorts of phases and pieces of their lives.

When I walk into a room, I won't be the girl who runs into walls all the time and trips over nothing (although god knows they'll see that in time). I won't be the girl who makes bad choice after bad choice. I won't be the girl who is outgoing and happy all the time. I won't have to be what people expect of me anymore, because no one will expect anything.

There's something freeing about a second chance.

I'll miss the people who really know me...The people who I trust, the people who I would call crying at 3am, the people who I could sit and watch movies and drink wine and laugh for hours with. I'll miss the people who know what I'm thinking just by the look in my eyes, the way my mouth twitches, the way my eyebrow raises slightly.

I'll miss getting in my car and driving to a friend's house without having to think about where I'm going. I'll miss the bars where they know my name. I'll miss the restaurant where I don't even have to say my order out loud.

I'll miss being able to drive by my grandparents' old houses, remembering where I came from. I'll miss the late night drives up and down roads I've been down so many times before. I'll miss the section of road I drive down that all at once calms me, and frees me, and gives me peace.

There's something heartbreaking about a second chance.

There's a lot of reasons to stay, but just as many to leave. And I think I owe it to myself to just let myself leap.

It's bittersweet, to be sure, but it's what I have to do. And while I will miss what I'm leaving, I look forward to all the possibilities I'll be gaining.

I'm terrified. I'm exhilarated. I'm nervous. I'm contemplative.

But the one thing I'm not is settling.

And that's all the encouragement I need to know that this is the right choice.


The apple doesn't fall far from the tree....(Happy birthday, Momma!!)

My mom used to love getting my sister and I to call her "Beautiful Mommie Dearest".

I think that helps explain where my twisted sense of humor comes from.

When I was younger, I didn't see much of my mom in me. I was always shy, and super sensitive. Mom is outgoing, sparkly, a force of nature. I seem to remember being convinced I was adopted at one point, because I felt so different from my family (and also, because I had just read the Babysitter's Club book where Claudia thinks she's adopted...all of you girls of the 80s know what I'm talking about).

But as I grew up and broke out of my shell, I started to see more of her in me. We have the same stubborn streak. We have the same weird sense of humor. We are outgoing and tend to get sucked into whatever it is we are working on. We can both read for hours on end. We have the same smile and the same eyes, although mine have more green in them. And we both enjoy a good margarita and movie night, although it's been a while since we've had one of those.

I am blessed in that my momma is also one of my best friends. I think that happened once I moved out of the house. It's a lot easier to talk about problems and boys and work and the latest boneheaded thing I did when I don't need to worry about being grounded because of it! Also, when there are two people so similar (especially with that stubbornness...), it's better for everyone else if they aren't in close quarters all the time - because when we clash? EVERYONE knows it.

She knows when I'm lying. Whether it's lying about where I was or who I was with or if I am doing okay or if I am trying to choke back tears on the phone, she always can tell. And she will NOT hold back on telling me the business. She knows how to give tough love, and while at times when I was younger I hated it, now I know it's exactly what I needed then, and it's still what I need now. And while I am sure I screamed at her much more than she deserved how much I "hated" her, and how she was "RUINING MY LIFE!", she managed to make it through my teenage years without locking me in a closet, instead displaying infinitely more patience and love than I deserved at the time. Now I can look back on those times and realize that she just wanted what any good parent wants for their child - the best world has to offer. And if she had to push me to get it, that's exactly what she did. I resented it then, but I wouldn't be the independent, strong, and resilient woman I am today without that. And I will always be grateful for that.

The only reason I would ever consider moving to Tennessee is to be close to my parents (and sister!) again. It's hard not being around them. I miss my mom so much sometimes....There's no one who knows how to make me laugh like she does, or who can comfort me in quite the same way. When my best friend moved to California, after I left her house the last time, I went straight to my parents' and cried on my mom's shoulder. When I was nervous about a first date with someone I wasn't quite sure about, she talked me down over email. I always want to share everything with her, from how work is going to my birthday plans to the newest guy I have fallen hard for. She's always on my side, just happy that I am safe and healthy, even if I have done something fairly (or, let's face it, EXTREMELY) stupid.

I have a lot of 'second' mothers, and I have the best aunties in the world, but nothing compares to a mommy. And mine is the best. And while we haven't always seen eye to eye, we have always loved each other, and we will always bring out both the best and the worst in each other, and really? I couldn't ask for more.

I love you, Momma! Happy [redacted] annual 28th birthday!
(You think I'd give her actual age? I'd like to live to see my next birthday myself!)


And I've always lived like this, keeping a comfortable distance...

Oh, 2010. Sometimes saying goodbye is really rather easy.
It was a mostly good year...the highlights were wonderful - I met some amazing people, a couple of whom have become a couple of my closest friends. It's hard to believe that a year ago I hadn't met them yet, as we easily fell into friendships that seem like they've lasted a lifetime. I got to spend Christmas with my whole immediate family, something that hadn't happened since 2003. I started to really gain some self-confidence, which was something I had been lacking the previous 27 years. I got my own place and in just over two months, have really turned it into a home.
But as always, there were plenty of dark spots on the year. I made some mistakes, and I'm sure I'll make some of them again. I hurt some people. I hurt myself. I wasted time worrying about things that I couldn't change. I wasted time trying to change things I couldn't. I lost myself more times than I care to remember, and I'm still not sure that I'm growing into the woman I want to be.
I've kept myself closed off from so many things. I want so badly to be the happy, successful, independent woman that I maybe turned my back on anything that got in the way...including a couple chances at relationships that, while they may or may not have worked out, could have been something I needed. I never trusted anyone enough to let them in, to believe they wouldn't hurt me. I continued to look at everything with the cold eyes that I've gotten so good at seeing out of.
And that is what disappoints me the most about this year - that I didn't even let myself try. That I didn't take any risks. That I said, "Oh no, I know better - I know that this will never go anywhere. I know that you're just going to make me cry in the end, so let's not call it anything more than it is. And we can go our separate ways, and I can keep being the girl who doesn't care about love."
Well. That was stupid.
Am I really better off not having let myself fall? Am I happier tonight, alone and avoiding people than I would be if I were with someone who may not have been perfect? Did I cry less this year than last? Has my heart broken fewer times? Has it ever even healed from the last time? Don't I owe it to myself to let myself believe in someone other than myself?

So. I don't have any New Year's resolutions. But I do have a new goal in my life - this year and every one after that. Keep my heart open. Let it make some decisions. Stop overthinking everything. Stop assuming the worst out of every situation just because that's all I've had in the past. Believe that the best way to finally heal a broken heart is to let it bleed again. Stop settling for all the moments of the past - all the moments that have just led to regret and tears with no one to help dry them. Let myself take some chances, make some mistakes, but know that they are leading somewhere other than a lifetime of keeping myself apart from any chance of love I'll ever have. Keep dreaming. Let love in.

Welcome, 2011. I can't wait to meet you in a couple hours with open arms and an open heart.


The most beautiful smile is the one that struggles through the tears (in memoriam)

Six years ago today, the world lost a hero. A quiet, gentle, reluctant hero, but a hero nonetheless. She may have seemed an ordinary woman to the rest of the world, but to me, she was the woman I strove to become (and still do). Six years ago the world got a little bit darker, but to those of us who knew her, we discovered there are some lights that don't go out.

I wrote this on my grandmother's birthday last May, and I can't think of a better tribute to her memory than sharing it again - than letting people know that this amazing woman lived, and loved, and made me who I am. I miss her often - when something big happens and I can't tell her, or when I make spaghetti from her recipe, or when I glance at one of the pictures I have of her and my grandpa when they were young, or in so many quiet moments when I see a little bit of her in me.
May 2, 2010
My next tattoo is going to be 'Que sera, sera' in script on my wrist. And it's going to be in memory of my Grandma K, who said that all the time.

Today would be her 92nd birthday.

It's impossible for me to not think about her most of the time, but today especially. There are some people in your life who shape you, who push you, who make you better, and my grandmother was one of those.

Every struggle I've had in my life...every war I've waged, whether it was against myself or others....every thing I've ever tried and failed at and tried again....The part of me that refuses to give up or give in, that refuses to accept limitations, that refuses to surrender...that comes from my grandma. She was a woman who survived anything that came at her. She battled and beat cancer more than once. She stood by her husband and her child and her grandchildren whatever happened. She did everything she could to make sure that her son and his children would have a good life. She looked for the best in people. She looked for the best in life. She was an optimist and she passed that on.

And she was beautiful! In all the ways that mattered, and in many that didn't. She had the kindest eyes I've ever seen. Full of compassion and caring, but with a glint of humor. She was always ready to laugh. Always ready to humor a child by listening to a stammered knock-knock joke, or bumbling story, and laughing her heart out. She could make you feel like the only person in the world she could possibly want to be listening to. She was selfless and funny and generous and loving and big-hearted and a force of nature. She knew when to make you laugh, or when to take you in her arms and comfort you with soft words and hugs. She displayed a stick figure drawing on her refrigerator with the same care as a straight A report card. She would take the time to do whatever it took to make other people happy, whether it was finding the perfect present, or cutting up watermelon into the kind of slices you preferred. She was a great cook and I wish I had cared more when I was younger so I could have learned more from her. I think of all the times I spent at her house, and wish that I had listened a littler harder, paid a little more attention, asked more questions. There is so much I could have discovered, so many things I wish I knew!

Grandma died 5 years ago this past December. It seems like yesterday, and a thousand years ago, all at once. There's not a day of my life that I don't think about her, feel her, discover another part of the influence she had over my life. I was unbelievably blessed to get to spend so much of my time with such an incredible woman. Some of my happiest memories from childhood are the times I spent at my grandparents' house, my sister and I dressing up in stupid outfits, or 'building' things in the backyard, or just sitting at the table coloring with Grandma. She was content with simple pleasures, and the greatest one of those was seeing her son and his children happy and healthy.

It's been over 5 years. And I'm starting to forget some of these things. I'm starting to forget the smile, and the softness, and the easy way she could turn an entire day around. I'm starting to forget the sly look in her eye when she was teasing my grandpa, and the look of her hands as she worked in the kitchen. And that scares me. How could I possibly forget any part of this amazing woman?

But then I look at my dad. And I look at my sister. And I look at myself. And I imagine the sons or daughters I may someday have.
And I realize that no matter how long she has been gone, her legacy will live on. Her touch on our lives will reach into the next generation, and the one after that, and however many come after.

And I know that she'll be looking down on all of us with love in her eyes and a smile that comes from the heart, giving a little push whenever we need it, and being the quiet voice in our heads, reminding us that whatever will be, will be.
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