Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bambi Goes To Seminary.

Why are you downcast, my soul? Put your hope in God.

Awake, my soul.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.

I'm in a bit of a stalemate. A little bit of a slouch. A little bit of a valley. It's not dark, it's not scary, it's not super difficult. It's just kind of....bleh.
I don't wake up well in the morning, and when I do, I tend to fall back to sleep.
My room is a disaster and I avoid cleaning it.
I'm behind and I cannot focus for more than 5 minutes to get any of my Navigate reading done.
Things are messy and undone and my answer to productivity has been to sleep or turn on the tv.
This is not me.

David commanded his soul to hope. He commanded his soul to wake up, to rest, to praise. I want to command my soul, but I don't really feel like it. Could someone please command me to command my soul? Or command my soul for me?

On the way to work this morning, I turned on Bless the Lord - I often pick music in the car that I hope will 1) wake me up 2) put me in an attitude of praise for the day 3) get me focused on God.
My thoughts are often drifting and distracted, but I at least try to control the background music. And sometimes it works - even if just for the 15 minute car ride.

Today, as the song was building up to the glorious part where the music cuts out and the harmonies yell out, "BLESS THE LORD, OH MY SOUL!" and my soul was starting to listen and respond, I had to bring my car to an almost complete stop as I let 2 beautiful deer cross the road right in front of me onto the Seminary's campus.

Deer are my sign - some people have rainbows, red balloons, shooting stars, dolphins - things that they are especially sensitive to that, cheesy as it may seem, always seem to come at the perfect time and remind them of God's presence and love in a particular moment. When I go home, I beg for deer. There are a few places, on the back roads of South County, that I frequently seen them, or have had to stop for them in the past. For some reason, I remember those exact places and my heart kind of begs God to see them each time I drive by. I really don't see too many deer in Massachusetts - especially crossing the street in the daylight. I also don't often find myself in a place here where I feel like I need to beg for deer. But this morning, in a place where I was commanding my soul to praise the Lord and my soul was responding, rather than trying to command God to reveal Himself to me, He did just that.

I can't say that i've been good at commanding my soul all day today. It has been slow and I haven't had much work to do. I'm dreaming of Thanksgiving and my mini vacation and the moment when my room will be clean and my feet will be warm on someone else's heated bathroom floor. It's work. It's exercise to command my soul. Right now, it wants nothing more than to just be lazy and complacent and stay in this slump. Ice cream on the couch with 3 hours of tv sounds great to my soul right now. Snuggling up for a nice long nap sounds good right now. But I was encouraged this morning. When I command my soul to praise the Lord, my Lord responds and receives the praise. And my soul is lifted.

Friday, November 19, 2010

to the left of center.

1) I didn't realize that I had made 50 posts in my blog already. This is number fifty one. Really? What have I talked about for 50 posts? Maybe i'll celebrate when I get to 100. Strike that - that's pushing pathetic.

2) I was driving to work today when I suddenly realized how poor the allignment of my car is. How is it that I didn't realize for however long that I need to hold my steering wheel a few degrees to the left in order to keep it driving straight? I've been so mentally consumed with the fact that it almost stalls out at every stoplight to notice that it doesn't even drive in a straight line when the wheel is unattended. I realize a little bit of a curve is probably natural. But this isn't exactly "slight." We're talking some serious "veering" to the right if I let go of the wheel. How is it possible that I did not notice this? Then my thoughts turn to the amount tension my left wrist has been withstanding for however long as I hold the steering wheel in place, to the left of center. (I also noticed that I tend to hold the steering wheel with my left hand - or at least hold it in place with my left while texting, curling my hair, applying lipgloss, and baking a cake with my right. JOKES.)
But then, naturally, on my way to work at 7:45 in the morning, I start thinking about the amount of tension in my life that I cause or that I don't even realize I put up with. This for example - I didn't even realize that I was exerting extra energy to hold my steering wheel in the place it needed to be even while driving straight. Or this morning, I spent way too much time trying to put curl into my hair, which does not naturally enjoy being curled or staying curled. The attitude of my hair as I try to do this is nothing short of tense. "Jenna, we've been through this a million times. I'm straight. And I'm thin. And I don't like curl. You won the war of the bangs, but i'm not letting you have this one."
And then I got to work and these thoughts stop. Anti-climactic, I know. Maybe i'll process these thoughts more someday. But today is Friday.

3) I went to the dentist this afternoon for the first time in about 5 years. College and moving to Mass and lack of good dental insurance have caused major procrastination in this area. It was a fairly good visit, but I always leave the dentist feeling a little confused about where I stand with them. It's kind of like we just had a DTR that really didn't clarify a single thing, and I know i'm going to have to go back to resolve some details, even though there were a few really great moments in the conversation. Congrats on only having one cavity, but we might see more with the x-ray. Stay tuned. You have beautiful teeth, but please come back next week for a big needle filled with novacane and a filling. You have a little gingivitis, but no plaque! You're great at brushing, but let's work on that flossing. You have a beautiful smile, but lets rip out your wisdom teeth. Really, it's not you, it's me....

4) Pumped to be going to the theater tonight (please re-read that sentence with a snobby British accent on the word "theater" - actually, so it's more like "theataah"). Meeting up with a group of friends to go see El Schwab rock it in 2 Gents of Verona in Rockport. Pumped.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the bathroom has heated floors.

Thanksgiving is next week?
Why didn't anyone tell me?
I've been daydreaming a little today - work is slow, and i'm a little ancy. So natually, my thoughts drift off to things like planting a church in Spain.

Or flying across the country to see the Pacific Ocean.

Or maybe i'll hop on a plane and go find a cafe in Europe to plop down in for a few weeks.

Or an orphanage in some country where there are babies that desperately need holding.

Or I'll just move somewhere and play music all day long.

I'm itching for an adventure. If you think about it, this really is the longest time i've been somewhere since leaving for college. I mean, I was at St. Mary's for 2.5 years, but always with a new adventure in the summer for a few months to shake things up a bit. But now i'm here. In Beverly. And I love it. But I also get a little ancy sometimes for a new adventure. I wanna just hop on plane, all by myself, and do something.

My solution?
I'm housesitting next week from Wed night until Sun night and they need me to sleep in the house. The house is a mile and a half away from my own house, so it's not anything too terribly adventurous - but I am so looking forward to the change of scene. They have a big comfy couch and a lovely kitchen to cook in, a cute little cat and a quirky old bulldog. Best part: the bathroom has heated floors.
Just in case you missed that:
I can think of nothing better right now than someone else's big cozy couch, cooking up a storm in someone else's fancy kitchen, and warm toes in the bathroom. Oooh and candles. There should be candles.

Yes, please.

It will be my mini-vacation. And I will embrace it with all that I have.

On the subject of cooking - I made my first meatloaf last night, complete with asparagus and homemade rosemary foccacia bread. Meatloaf you say? What a strange choice.  As wonderful as my parents were at cooking and baking, I think my dad had been scarred enough by casseroles and ham loafs as a child for both of them to stear clear of any comfort food-type dishes that even slightly resemble anything like a meatloaf. So i've always wanted to experiment. I, afterall, don't have anything against meatloaf. In fact, I often enjoy it, I just have never tried making it myself. But I think I did a mighty fine job, if I do say so myself. and the asparagus and fresh bread were a lovely combination. I also bought the makings of my pumpkin crumble cake, but will be saving that for another time. New favorite blog to follow: giveagirlacookie.com - just don't read it when your hungry. I can't be held responsible for the late hours of the night you may stay up baking.

Next on my list of recipes to try: Homemade Chicked Pot Pie.

Dear Mr. Right -
Whoever you are, you will be well fed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Please Enjoy This Public Way

There's a spot down at the water, one of the "Please Enjoy This Public Way" entrances, where the waves come in up against the sea wall, and as they roll back out, they pull the big, smoothed stones up against each other. The stones clack and rattle in the tide, and it is one of the most beautiful sounds I've heard in a while. I was hoping for a low tide when I went out to take some photos the other day, but the waves at high tide and this high pitched rattling pleasantly startled me. The photos were no good at the water, but I sat and listened for a while. I thought about writing a song before I realized that the stones had already written the song. Or was it the waves that did the writing?

Then I set off to take other Beverlean photos.
I call these Blue Sky Steeples.

 These are, "How to Walk in Beverly."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ma'am I ammm tonight.

I feel like lots of things have happened and I’ve thought seriously several times about updating the blog, but I’ve never felt like I had anything amazing worthwhile to say. So…I’ll start with some pictures and then maybe move onto a few thoughts from the car ride home tonight.

Halloween Party Slash El Schwab's Bday 2010
The Winners
(The costumes were sooo impressive this year!)

The birthday boy.

The hostesses.

Then my brother came to visit and it was fantabulous. We ate froyo. He ate more frozen pizzas than I can count on one hand. We went into the city and were silly. We (FINALLY – after a year of trying) saw Needtobreathe in concert and it was stinkin amazing. He learned how to play Trains. He’s gonna move to Boston. I just know it.

Sweet smiley guy from Green River Ordinance
and sweet action shot of Bear

He's way too cute.
We're friends.

So for some actual thoughts, and not just picture updates – we were driving home Fri night from seeing Elisa’s mom’s band play at a place in Georgetown. The soundtrack for the car ride happened to be Sara Bareilles’ new album.

Now, I love Sara. I’ve seen her in concert. Girls got pipes. Even on tour, her voice was crystal clear. She’s adorable and hilarious and her music is, for the most part, pretty solid. Some cheese here and there, some elements added/adjusted to make things a little more playable for the radio - but often some pretty crucial, cut-to-the-core lyrics. However, after an abbreviated scan of the new album, we realized that about 8 or 9ish out of 12ish songs on the CD are about heartbreak, loneliness, emotions associated with breakups or being alone, etc. Not bad music – in fact, there are some beautifully written ballads and a few great toe-tappers.

Something, or multiple difficult things must have happened since her first album. I’m not knocking that – life throws all kinds of stuff at us – and if we’re lucky, we get to use both the good and the bad for art. We get to learn from it all and create from what it creates in us. I’m all for using crummy stuff in life to make good art. But I started to think of the impression I now have of Sara Bareilles after this album – what the album says about her, and what I would want an album of mine to say about me. I know there’s more to it, and I want to listen more closely to give her more of a chance, but on first and second listen, all I get from Sara this time is heartache. I hear “Hey, it’s me, Sara, again, but this time around my heart is super broken and I’m trying to get over it.”  Or with Derek Webb recently – I used to be crazy about his solo stuff. Now all I hear is, “Hey, I’m Derek and this CD will serve to express my political opinions and push people’s buttons.”

I’m all about evolving as an artist. It’s a little bit of a bummer to know that an artist you used to love has transitioned into a season of music or art that you don’t relate to as well – but that’s the nature of being human. And in good cases, it’s the nature of an artist and the nature of their art.
However, I think that I’ve been struck lately by a handful of musicians that seem to move into a narrower season. It might be a season of something new and different for them, personally – which can be exciting and birth wonderful music - but in the process of trying to recreate themselves within this new realm of thought or idea, they become stuck in nothing but that one thing.

Hypothetical, metaphorical example – My doctor tells me that I need to eat more vegetables, and while trying to discipline myself to do so, I am mystified by so many vegetables I never knew I loved. Suddenly I’m lost in a rainbow of bell peppers, a plateful of grilled asparagus and summer squash, and a 3-ring-circus of broccoli florets with mushrooms and onions. Vegetables begin to rock my socks so much that I practically leave fruit in the dust. I avoid eye contact with chicken and other proteins. I cross the road to walk as far from bread and whole grains as I can. Besides the fact that I am suddenly more flatulent than usual (not in real life, folks – this is what we like to call a metaphor), I have been so wooed by the world of Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato (or are they fruits?) that my balanced diet and therefore my own health and wellbeing is floundering because of my tunnel vision of the leafy greens.

I want to give Sara and Derek and the others that aren’t currently at the top of my favorites list the benefit of the doubt – but I can’t shake the feeling that they’re overdoing it a little. I never want someone to listen to an album of mine and be able to say or to feel like there was one topic that almost all of my songs were written about. There may be a time and season for that. But that’s what I use iTunes for. If I want to create a playlist of breakup songs, I can create my own with endless resources at my fingertips. But I find myself a little sad when I purchase an album that is mostly all on the same topic.

What kind of representation and expression of life is that? It breaks my heart that her album is all about heartbreak, but life is too complex and too complicated and too beautiful for me to write an entire CD’s worth of songs about sad things, even if they are toe-tappers. And I’m after much more than a CD that is so politically charged it’s hard to hear past that to anything else. I’m not convinced that an entire album entirely about falling in love will bring anyone a lot of connection, comfort, or growth for any extended amount of time. I don’t think I’m sold that creating a playlist for an album should represent a single slice of a season in your life. I don’t want to create something that will only relate to someone for a brief season. Call me selfish, but when I buy or create an album, I want a feast. I want vegetables piled high, but I also want a thick slab of meat, fresh baked rolls from the oven, heaps of mashed potatoes, and a deliciously fruity pie to round things out.

I’m still trying to formulate what I DO want an album of mine to say about me, and I may wrestle with that ‘til I die.  But for now, I’m pretty sure I’m not ok with such a heavy unbalance of topic/theme. I’m pretty sure I’d want a smorgasbord. A few toe-tappers to get you hooked, a love song or two to sweeten things up a bit, some struggles, some heartache, some lessons learned, and a little bit of sass. But I DO have to hand it to Sara for sticking to her guns about not writing us a love song.