Sweet tea. Gilmore Girls reruns. Sparkly pipe cleaners. Angry Birds on Aaron’s phone. Avett Brothers live albums. Boots. Our Nashville people. Messenger bags. Our newly rearranged bedroom. Sisters who mail you slippers. Our neighbor who grows crops in his front yard. The funniest youth group on the planet. Being 30.
Grey nail polish. Stacks of magazines. Mawmaw’s chocolate pie. TOMS. Elton John on vinyl. Playing Scabble online with my dad. Burt’s Bees lip gloss. Memories of Miles. Naps. Purple ink pens. Friday Night Lights. Friends across the street. Twitter. A church where you can ask questions and be unsure and fit in anyway. Rolos.
Harry Potter. Car dancing. Clementines. Adults who love teenagers. Hot pink watches. Gel eyeliner. Work friends. Mexican street tacos. Orange tank tops. Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. Friends you’ve had for 25 years. Procrastination. Shopping on the phone with my mom.
Family in all its forms. Taking risks. Choosing to take care of yourself. The unknown. Safe places. The best husband I ever had.
Have you ever realized that something you’ve always believed about yourself may not actually be true?
I think maybe I’m not very nice. I KNOW. I can feel your shock from here in my weirdly uncomfortable IKEA chair. But seriously. I think it’s true.
I mean, I’m friendly. I’m social. And I’m super nice and thoughtful in the context of my closest circle and the youth group. But on the whole? Not so much. I’m cynical and defensive and petty. I don’t give people the benefit of the doubt. I expect them to disappoint me, to hurt me, to put me down. It keeps me from getting hurt if I see it coming. But I don’t think it’s working for me anymore.
Apparently when people are caring and open and interested in your life, they expect the same in return. And when you continue to be guarded and judge-y and closed off, it hurts their feelings. Most people just let those things go and stop being so interested in you. That’s what I would do.
But sometimes someone speaks up. And it hurts. It’s hard. It is most definitely NOT FUN. Your defenses go up, their defenses go up, voices are raised and tears are cried. You leave, not feeling better, but feeling defeated. You are angry and hostile and LOUD. (So loud.) You write them off. You write everybody off.
And then you think about it. You concede that maybe they had a couple of good points. (YOU DID TOO, LEST ANYONE FORGET.) You spend some time thinking about that second circle of relationships, the one full of people you don’t know as well and aren’t as comfortable with, but who are active in your life and aren’t going anywhere. You realize you maybe aren’t as reciprocal in some of those relationships as you probably should be. You could maybe cut some people some slack.
AND IT SUCKS.
But it looks like part of being an adult is learning how to navigate these situations. If you see a deficiency in the way you operate (or have one pointed out whether you like it or not), you have to do something about it, right? You can’t just let it be how you are. (Can you? Could I get away with that?) So I am trying. I don’t want to. But I am trying.
“Tighten Up” – The Black Keys
I didn’t own any Black Keys stuff until after I’d heard this song on that Subaru commercial about a thousand times. That is lame. But I love this song and the whole record, and the video’s pretty great, too.
“Anemone Arms” – Snowden
Super indie, Southern, opened for tons of people. I read about them for the first time in Marie Claire. I really have my finger on the pulse of cool music, y’all.
“Little Girl” – Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, featuring Julian Casablancas
One of my college girls sent me this song because she knew how much I like the Strokes. (Is that lame? I can’t remember which bands are cool to like and which ones are bad. It’s hard work, this stuff.) The whole album is pretty great, actually, but I particularly love this song. You can’t beat it when someone knows you well enough to know what songs you will like.
I’ve never been a big fan of homemade chili. I know I should like it, but it rarely works out for me. I grew up eating Wolf Brand Chili out of a can and I’m pretty sure my brain still thinks that’s what it’s supposed to be. Throw in some club crackers and a little ketchup and you have one fancy dinner on your hands.
The problem is that it’s never thick the way other chili seems to be. It’s less chili and more meat and bean soup. Not that there’s anything wrong with meat and bean soup, but it’s not exactly what I’m going for when I try to make chili. I’ve tried flour, tomato paste, long slow simmering, everything. I just couldn’t make it work.
Last night we had friends over for dinner and decided to make chili. We had the stuff, it’s easy, it’s fall. But I was still looking at a pot of soup. But then. Inspiration struck. In the form of a random chili starter kit we found in the pantry. The chili was already to simmer stage, so it was too late to use the spice packet, but there was a note at the bottom. “If you desire thicker chili, combine three tablespoons corn masa flour with water and add to chili.”
CORN MASA FLOUR. Genius.
So we did it, and it worked. Our soupy meat pot became beautiful, thick, awesome chili. It was so delicious.
BEST CHILI EVER
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
2 cups chopped onion
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 32oz can crushed tomatoes with juice
1 16oz can red kidney beans
1 16oz can black beans
2 8oz cans tomato sauce
2 tsp chili powder (we usually add more to taste as we go)
1 tsp basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tbsp corn masa flour
1/3 cup water
Cook beef, garlic and onion together. Drain. Stir in all other ingredients except the corn masa flour and water. Boil, reduce heat. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes. 15 minutes before serving, combine corn masa flour with water, then stir mixture into chili. Serve with sour cream and cheese. EAT DELICIOUS CHILI.
Despite all the stress and drama around this place lately, there are some good things going on. The leaves are changing colors, there’s a chill in the air, I have some fun new boots. December magazines are coming out, full of gift guides and pretty things and recipes containing things like peppermint and cinnamon and cranberries.
But the best thing? Oh, the best thing comes along every Wednesday night. Which is a little bit confusing, I know, because the best thing is called FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.
Oh, you guys. YOU GUYS. I won’t spoil anything for you non Directv people, I promise. But we are three episodes into the season and I have cried my eyes out multiple times. This show is intense. You just care so much about the characters. You want them to succeed. You want to protect them from the bad things you can see coming that they are missing completely. It’s kind of like working with teenagers in real life.
I don’t know if you can be overly attached to a tv show. I’m sure you can. Maybe we have some kind of serious problem that we would address if only we weren’t so busy cheering on the East Dillon Lions.
I had a hard conversation today with someone who is kind of a giant in my life. It was personal and emotional and I went in mad and left feeling defeated but also potentially hopeful. Not actually hopeful, but hopeful about being hopeful.
Turns out when you let little hurts pile up and anxiety creep in and both parties choose gossip and sarcasm and bitterness over honesty and openness, things get ugly. And you can’t flip a switch and make it all better. I think I thought I could.
I have had a really stressful few weeks. I put myself out there for something that I thought I could be great and was summarily shut down. We are facing a holiday season with no income to speak of. Several major personal and family issues have just been beating me down. It’s been harder and harder to remember how much I love what I do when it comes along with so much drama and insecurity and stress on the business side.
But there have been good things, too, especially on the side of my job that I do love so much. You know, the youth side. I work with truly amazing kids and parents and volunteers, and today I need to document that.
Like when a new family comes for the first time to a Monday night youth group because they saw us sitting together in service yesterday and liked how we looked like a big family.
Or when I get to sit with a group of awesome parents and discuss dating and sexuality and the emphasis is not on rules or limits or fear, but on how to keep communication open and how to raise kids who are sexually healthy and how to deal with the shame issue as much or not more than the sin issue.
Or when a kid who, when he first showed up two years ago, was so shy and closed off and uninterested that he literally would not speak, is now so invested that when he tells us in class that he’s moving away the kids start crying right there on the spot.
Or when my junior high girls see a new girl who is having a hard time breaking out of her shell and connecting and go out of their way to include her and make her feel welcome and basically force her to be a part of the group, and now she is calling around looking for rides to youth group to make sure she doesn’t miss it.
Or when a small group leader, who has been so frustrated this fall with the chaos and insanity in his group that he has seriously considered quitting, has one of those nights where the kids open up and cry and lean on each other and share their pain and their stories, and he finally understands how all that seemingly meaningless chaos and insanity was actually building trust and community and that he wouldn’t have had that night if the chaos hadn’t come before it.
These are the things that matter. That really, really matter. Not petty arguments and bruised egos and old grudges. Those things hurt, and they need to be dealt with, and while they may be small individually they weigh an awful lot when they’re all stacked up together. There are definitely days when they feel too heavy to keep holding up, even if it means you get to have the job you have. But then there are days like today. I am thankful for days like today.
This is my last Avett related post for a while. I promise. It’s just so hard to contain the awesome, you guys.
~ ONE ~
We were all over it when tickets for the Avett Brothers at the Ryman went on sale this summer. They were playing two consecutive shows, so we paired up with our friends Scott and Becka to tackle the Ticketmaster monster the morning of the sale. They were looking at Friday night, we were looking at Saturday, and we would buy whichever night gave us the best seats.
We were not prepared for the part where we both got great seats. What option did we have? We had to buy them both.
Scott and Becka and I have a lot of overlapping music taste – they are the ones I see Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers shows with. It’s not generally music that Aaron is on board with. But we all love the Avett Brothers with an equal amount of passion and obsession, so we had to take advantage.
~ TWO ~
The first show was opened by Chuck Mead, who was the singer/songwriter of BR549. I don’t know anything about them, or him, but I know a lot of people take them both very seriously. I am not one of those people. He played FOREVER, first of all, and every song sounded exactly the same. It was like we were at Six Flags and decided to go to the Nashville Country Show to get out of the sun for a few minutes. Not a fan.
But the second show? Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Grace Potter is straight up my hero. She is a total rockstar badass Stevie Nicks redux funky bluesy ball of awesome. She blew my socks off. Or would have, if I’d been wearing any.
~ THREE ~
I honestly had no idea what we were in for. I knew how much I loved the music. I’d been studying up on the deep tracks to make sure I would know all the songs. I knew they were known for really energetic shows.
But I had no idea how fantastic it was going to be. They opened the first show with their current single, Head Full of Doubt, and the place went NUTS. Everyone sang every word, on their feet, to the ENTIRE SHOW. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The high energy songs were amazing. The four of them stand in a single row at the front of the stage, the two brothers alternating between piano, guitar and banjo (while also playing kick drum and hi-hat with their feet), while the other two play bass and cello and dance around like nobody’s business. Have you ever seen a guy jump up and down and spin in circles while also playing a beautiful cello solo? It’s incredible.
But, oh, you guys. The slow ones. We’ve seen a lot of shows at the Ryman, but I have never seen a crowd go from jumping and dancing to standing still so quickly. It’s enthralling.
~ FOUR ~
I had a mental list of the songs I was hoping they’d do, and over the course of the two shows I heard most of them. (No “Ballad of Love and Hate”, though, which was a big letdown.) Highlights included: Paranoia in B Major, Distraction #74, Living of Love, All My Mistakes (the song God Bless the Broken Road wishes it could be), The Fall, Laundry Room, And It Spread (one of the greatest crowd sing-a-long moments I have ever been a part of), Three S’s. My long shot was a song called “Colorshow”, which is on the Four Thieves record and that I have listened to on repeat for weeks at a time. It’s dark and messy and opens with one of my favorite Avett lines – “Be loud, let your color show, try to keep the madness low” – and ends with a loud kick-drummy chorus of “And I’m done forever, it’s you and me forever / Cause I’m done forever, see it’s you and me forever” and I just love it so much. And they played it TWICE. BOTH SHOWS. Just kill me dead, it was so great.
~ FIVE ~
The shows were Halloween weekend, so there were lots of people in costume. The problem with the crowd that an Avett show draws is that it’s hard to tell if people are dressed up or not. A friend tipped us off to a game he calls “Hipster or Halloween?”, and we played several rounds over the course of both nights. For example: a kid is wearing jeans and a hoodie, but he is also wearing cowboy boots and a coonskin cap. Hipster or Halloween?
There were some great costumes, too. A guy dressed like the “Opulence. I HAS IT.” guy from the Directv commercial, complete with tiny giraffe on a pillow. Crazy Joaquin Phoenix. Space Ghost. Two Waldos were sitting together when a third Waldo came along and sat on their same row.
On the second night, while they were setting the stage after Grace Potter, Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” came on the speakers. By the end of the first chorus the ENTIRE PLACE was singing along at the top of their lungs. Space Ghost stood up and directed us like a choir for a while before busting out his best breakdancing moves. It was a perfect moment.
(I found this video when I was looking for the one below. So awesome.)
~ SIX ~
The first night had a very simple stage setup, basically consisting of instruments and a giant stripey backdrop. So we were pretty surprised when the curtain came up on the second night to reveal a haunted graveyard. There was smoke, there was thunder and lightening, there were creepy birds and tombstones. Then Bach’s Toccata started and they came walking out on stage, stumbling around with their hands ahead of them, DRESSED LIKE MUMMIES. Then they played the whole show dressed like that. It was insane and hilarious and awesome.
~ SEVEN ~
Here’s a video of the mummy entrance and the first song of the night. It really captures the feel of the show and the enthusiasm of the crowd. (Skip ahead a couple of minutes to get to the good stuff.) I am not kidding when I say I’ve never experienced anything like it. They were fantastic, the crowd was super into it, everything was perfect. I could have easily sat there for two more hours each night and listened to them play every single song they have. It was incredible.
I was super excited when I got my Blackberry. It had email, it had a camera, it had a game called brickbreaker that for some reason I found excessively entertaining. It was awesome.
And it has served me well the past couple of years. I love being able to tweet pictures. I love that I get all my email and facebook stuff in one place from anywhere. I love that I appear to be able to drop it on a variety of surfaces without causing permanent damage.
Now, two years later, the shine has worn off. The quality of the pictures I take is pretty bad. The roller ball has decided not to scroll to the right anymore. Turns out brickbreaker is pretty boring. The good news is that my contract is almost up. I could get a new Blackberry! They are cheap! They have better cameras! They have touchpads instead of roller balls! I just have to make it a few more weeks and all my phone problems will be solved.
But then. You guys. Aaron got a new phone. It’s some kind of fancy droid hoverboard 4G high speed microwave laser beam touch screen thing, and it is amazing. AND I WANT IT. Bad. Like, I may just take it from him and hit the road. I hear New York is lovely in the fall.
It is MADE OF MAGIC. The camera does all kinds of cool things (and will let me take pictures of the crazy church signs near our house without having to park and get out and walk up to them, which I totally do when the message is awesome enough, don’t judge). The internet is super fast. You can talk to it and it will convert what you’re saying to text. I could connect all my youth group and personal facebook and twitter stuff to one thing that will let me update them all together.
But the real reason I want it? SCRABBLE.
Technically it’s called Wordfued, but the essence is the same. I need access to portable Scrabble games at all times. It’s totally fine, y’all, I promise not to get addicted. I mean it.
I play Scrabble online with my family all the time, especially my dad. And he smokes me pretty much all the time. In the game we’re playing right now he is winning 431 to 325. That’s pretty typical. He is super good – he’s always talking about playing defensively and setting yourself up and he gets bingos (when you play all your letters at once, but I’m sure you already knew that since most people are totally up on their Scrabble lingo) regularly.
What does this have to do with my need for Wordfued, you ask? Well, while I may get totally killed at Scrabble by my dad on a weekly basis, playing him has made me pretty darn good. Which means that if I have access to phone Scrabble, I can play with my friends who are not currently going through intense Scrabble training. AND BEAT THEM. BADLY.
It makes sense to pay hundreds of dollars for what you will essentially be using as a portable Scrabble machine, right?
My apologies to those of you I am friends with on twitter or facebook. I realize that it’s been very Avett-licious the past week or so. But, you guys, I can’t help it. I am in love with them. I promise this is the next to last post about them, though. For a while anyway.
1. Distraction #74
My favorite part of this song is right at the end when the three of them trade off every couple of words on the verse. And the line “I’m as true as I try to be”.
2. Laundry Room
This song perfectly captures how it feels to be with someone in the beginning. And it has a sweet bluegrass breakdown right in the middle.
3. Murder in the City
This one is Aaron’s favorite. I love the line “always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name”. Such a beautiful picture.