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Archive for the ‘pushing through the tough days’ Category

When I was a kid, I developed an obsession with the 1955 movie of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!. I don’t actually know why this movie was so interesting to me – I can’t even remember when I first became fascinated but I do know I drove my family crazy by playing that VHS almost daily. And I also remember that even then I had no interest in the character of ‘Laurie’, the female romantic lead. Besides one empowering moment of being a strong independent woman in “Many A New Day,” she generally is kind of a wimp. Given the expected roles of women and the gender norms of the days in which both the Broadway production and the movie were made, I shouldn’t be surprised that ‘Laurie’ was young and pretty and looking for a man to complete her, to dream only of making a marriage and of which handsome man will bid on her pretty picnic basket. In popular culture at those times, the characters that were instead allowed to be strong, independent females were usually older, widowed or spinstered women who could offer the sage wisdom of their years and experience.
Enter the character of ‘Aunt Eller’ in Oklahoma!. Even as a kid I recognized that she wasOklahoma_M (2) just plain amazing! She gets to be sassy and sarcastic, she gets to two-step with the cowboys and look at dirty pictures with them and wave a gun at the town leaders. She gets to be kind and loving to her niece and strong and supportive when things go bad. She gets the funny lines, the scene-saving moments, and the homespun charm of a lovable character.
When my high school put on the production of Oklahoma! in my senior year, I was devastated to learn that I had to choose between the honor of representing my region on a trip to the Model United Nations in The Hague, Netherlands OR to fulfill my dream of bringing ‘Aunt Eller’ to the stage. As my father loves to tell the story, I cried for weeks over this horrible event. In hindsight, I am eternally grateful that I took the chance to travel abroad and to have that incredible and unique lifetime experience in the Netherlands and Russia – BUT I can admit that I also regret missing the chance to be ‘Eller’ for even just those few months.
That regret stems mostly from the fact that now, as an adult, I can understand and honor the type of character and the type of woman that ‘Aunt Eller’s’ creators crafted. As a grown woman with more of that famous life experience and less of the high school naivete, I can more deeply appreciate the strength of this character.
Like her counterpart in Carousel, ‘Nettie Fowler’, ‘Eller’ is the foundation of the town and the support system to whom our lovelorn-clueless-tragic female lead turns to when life falls apart in the climactic moments of the show. Her advice when a character dies and threatens the beginning of ‘Laurie’ and ‘Curly’s’ marriage is:
“If you cain’t fergit, jist don’t try to, honey. Oh, lots of things happen to folks. Sickness, er bein’ pore and hungry even-bein’ old and afeared to die. That’s the way it is-cradle to grave. And you can stand it. They’s one way. You gotta be hearty, you got to be. You cain’t deserve the sweet and tender in life less’n you’re tough.”
As in Carousel, once more, a Rodgers and Hammerstein character reminds us to hold our heads high and to keep pushing forward when life gets difficult.
But to me, the quintessential Eller shines through in this one simple line: “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.” It has taken me a lifetime to learn this lesson well, to realize that I don’t live my life for anyone else but me. I FINALLY have grasped the concept that no one, NO ONE, can sit in judgement of me or my life choices. I’m never going to be a millionaire or a Broadway star or a Rhodes scholar. I’m going to live a quiet life and hopefully make a small difference to someone. I don’t have anything that makes me special or noteworthy – I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else. But I am who I am and the older I get, the more comfortable I have become in my own skin. I have my scars and a chip on my shoulder and a list of mistakes that is 9 miles long. But I will no longer allow anyone to put me down or say that I’m not good enough – I’ll be damned if I ain’t jist as good.
So thank you ‘Aunt Eller’ and thank you Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein for creating happy moments from my childhood and learning moments in my adulthood.

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I was a teenager in the 1990s, an experience that I cannot describe to you – you have to have lived it to truly understand it – but that’s a subject for another day. Where I was going with this thought is that as a teenager, you’re looking for guidance, for a way to frame and structure your world that makes sense to you. Thank God that I was a country kid and that my generation had a poet, a sage, a wise soul named Garth Brooks to give us that much-needed guidance. As one of those terribly awkward, nerdy, bookish teenagers, Garth-Brooks1I needed to figure out how to keep an open heart and a strong soul in the face of shallow high school concerns. Enter Mr. Brooks and his three chords and the truth. Words of wisdom indeed….

♦ The Change – As long long as one heart still holds on / Then hope is never really gone” and “But it’s not the world that I am changing / I do this so, this world will know that it will not change me.”

♦ Unanswered Prayers – Just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care / Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

♦ We Shall Be Free – When the last thing we notice is the color of skin /And the first thing we look for is the beauty within” and “When we’re free to love anyone we choose / When this world’s big enough for all different views / When we all can worship from our own kind of pew / Then we shall be free.”

♦ If Tomorrow Never Comes –Tell that someone that you love / Just what you’re thinking of/ If tomorrow never comes.”

♦ Do What You Gotta Do – There ain’t nobody in this world / That’s gonna do it for you / Do what you gotta do.”

♦ To Make You Feel My Love – The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea / Down on the highway of regret / The winds of change are blowing wild and free / But you ain’t seen nothing like me yet.”

♦ The River – oh hell, just the entire song…listen here

 

And now that I am an adult and have actually lived and experienced some of the difficult situations that Mr. Brooks was crooning about, his words still guide me and reassure me that I’m not the only one who has suffered a heartbreak and a rebuilding….

♦ Every Now and Then – “I love my life and I’ve never trade / Between what you and me had and the life I’ve made” 

♦ I Don’t Have to Wonder Anymore – “And I still don’t know / Why things happened like they did / But I parked that old pickup / On that lonesome river bridge / I took your ring from my pocket / And I held it one last time / Watched that diamond sparkle /I drew back and I let her fly / And in less time than it takes to tear to fall / Oh that old ring went under / Lord, and now it’s gone for sure / And I don’t have to wonder anymore.”

♦ She’s Gonna Make It – “And you know it’s not like she’s forgot about him / She’s just dealing with the pain.”

♦ Beaches of Cheyenne – “He promised her he’d turn out / Well it turned out that he lied /And their dreams that they’d been livin’ / In the California sand / Died right there beside him in Cheyenne.”

♦ Cowboy Song – “He’s just chasin’ what he really loves / And what’s burnin’ in his soul / Wishin’ to God that he’d been born a hundred years ago.”

♦ In Another’s Eyes – “Oh in another’s eyes / Staring back at me / I see a sinking soul, trying desperately/ To turn the tide, before it dies.”

♦ Ask Me How I Know – You make all the rules, you’re set in your ways / You gotta have your freedom, you gotta have your space.”

♦ Learning to Live Again – I’m gonna smile my best smile and I’m gonna laugh like it’s going out of style.”

♦ How You Ever Gonna Know – “You know failure isn’t failure / If a lesson from it’s learned / I guess love would not be love / Without a risk of being burned.”

♦ The Dance – Our lives are better left to chance / I could have missed the pain / But I’d have had to miss the dance.”

 

So no matter your age or what stage of life you’re in, if you’re feeling lost or in need of some guidance, find the Garth Brooks station on Amazon or (for a truly 90s hair entertaining experience), search him on YouTube and watch the old videos. Let some good old country music wisdom guide you…

 

[on a random side note, the exception to his brilliant writing rule is “Cowboy Cadillac” – it’s a catchy tune but damn those lyrics are dumb, is he writing about his woman or his truck?]

[a second random side note, I admit that I have had to overcome some disillusion and disappointment about Mr. Brooks as a human being and a husband as his first marriage ended and his relationship with Trisha Yearwood has unfolded.  It’s always hard to watch your icons reveal their flawed humanity – and in light of my own personal feelings about infidelity – it was a difficult pill to swallow.]

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At the annual banquet for my volunteer fire department last week, I was both honored and amazed to receive my 15-year service stripe. 2017 marked 15 years of volunteerism and endless learning about fire, rescue and EMS operations for me – but those years have also taught me lessons in brotherhood, loss, service, upheaval, fear, bravery, disenchantment, persistence, change, frustration, giving, and surviving.

Here is what I *thought* fire service would be: 9474973637_cb6f92dcc0_b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what I *hoped* fire service would be:  firefighters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what the fire service really *is*: moe-larry-curly-fire-pole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that. But, seriously, to the men and women that I have had the honor of serving with for the last 15 years, thank you for all that you do. And thank you for letting me serve beside you.

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Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play

And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn

And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around

Our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it’s always darkest before the dawn
Shake it out, shake it out

annyalice.deviantart.com

artwork by AnnyAlice

Shake it out, shake it out,
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off.

 

‘Cause 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.

Shake it out, shake it out
Shake it out, shake it out,
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off.

I tried to dance with the devil on my back
And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It’s a final mess but it’s left me so empty
It’s always darkest before the dawn.

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark and right at my throat
‘Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I let it happen to me

Shake it out, shake it out
Shake it out, shake it out,
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off.

“Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine

Written by Paul Epworth, Tom Hull, Florence Welch • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

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[Maroon 5]

I’m at a payphone trying to call home / All of my change I spent on you

Where have the times gone / Baby it’s all wrong /where are the plans we made for two?
Yeah, I, I know it’s hard to remember / The people we used to be

It’s even harder to picture / That you’re not here next to me

You say it’s too late to make it / But is it too late to try?

And in our time that you wasted / All of our bridges burned down
I’ve wasted my nights / You turned out the lights

Now I’m paralyzed / Still stuck in that time when we called it love / But even the sun sets in paradise
If happy ever after did exist / I would still be holding you like this

All those fairytales are full of shit / One more stupid love song  / I’ll be sick
You turned your back on tomorrow / Cause you forgot yesterday

I gave you my love to borrow / But you just gave it away

You can’t expect me to be fine / I don’t expect you to care

I know I’ve said it before / But all of our bridges burned down
 [Wiz Khalifa]

Man work that shit / I’ll be out spending all this money while you sitting round

Wondering why it wasn’t you who came up from nothing

Made it from the bottom / Now when you see me I’m stunning

And all of my cars start with the push up a button

Telling me the chances I blew up / or whatever you call it

Switched the number to my phone / So you never could call it

Don’t need my name on my show / You can tell it I’m ballin’

Swish, what a shame could have got picked / Had a really good game but you missed your last shot

So you talk about who you see at the top / Or what you could’ve saw

But sad to say it’s over for Phantom / pulled up valet open doors / Wiz like go away, got what you was looking for

Now ask me who they want / So you can go and take that little piece of shit with you

I’m at a payphone trying to call home / All of my change I spent on you

Where have the times gone / Baby it’s all wrong /where are the plans we made for two?

If happy ever after did exist / I would still be holding you like this

All those fairytales are full of shit / One more stupid love song / I’ll be sick
Now I’m at a payphone…

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Today is what I would (now and probably forever) consider a bittersweet day in my life – today would have been my wedding anniversary. I look back at the young and trusting person that I was just those 6 short years ago when we got married and I weep for the innocence lost and the dreams and memories that I will never make. I mourn the death of that marriage – I loved that man and I liked being married. I mourn for the happy person that I was that beautiful autumn day and I am sad for the good, decent man who has become not so much.

Now, I do fully understand how lucky I am to be out of  my marriage. Staying with a man who had been unfaithful and dishonest with me for the entire length of our relationship would have been foolish and toxic. Continuing to try to fix an unfixable situation would have eventually caused major psychic and physical damage to me. I spent so much time and emotional energy trying to make myself more attractive, interesting, and appealing to him – not knowing that he was…uh…otherwise involved. I am jumping for joy at the independence and stability that I have earned since ending things with him. I am eternally grateful that the Lord only burdened me with him for the short time – its only 10 years of my life gone, after all. I truly am a stronger person now having gone through all of this and I can hold my head high that I did nothing wrong except to love the wrong person.

However, with all that said, I am still sad today. As much as my mind tells me how lucky I am to be out, my heart still breaks for what I have lost. A few tears may be shed at some point today for the scars that I bear and the hurts that I still carry because of that once-happy day 6 years ago.

I will pray, once more, for forgiveness to enter my heart and for the hurts to go away. And I will give prayers of thanks for the stronger person I am now. Like I said, a very bittersweet day indeed…

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To whoever says my job isn’t difficult: have you ever tried to tactfully schedule an office visit for a squirrel with a self-inflicted scrotal injury? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

This is a true story. One of our clients called and needed to see one of our small animal vets because his squirrel had, for some unknown reason, done harm to himself. What ran through my mind was a mixture of disgust (ew!), horror (why that area of his body?), pity (that poor baby), and curiosity (what’s mentally wrong with this animal?). I have been around animals all of my life and have seen some pretty grotesque sights – but this one even made me cringe. And I’m not even a guy so I lack that sensitivity on the subject of ManLand!

But, this got me thinking – what kind of harm do we humans inflict on ourselves? We may not all be as….er…obvious about our self-inflicted scars as the squirrel was, but like it or not we all do this sort of stuff to ourselves. Sometimes its physical mutilation (cutting, eating disorders, piercing/tattoo addictions, plastic surgery addictions, etc.) but I think mostly its mental and emotional. I think we all beat ourselves up, inflicting a variety of short- and long-term injuries, over a plethora of topics – work, relationships, children, marriage, friends, holidays, schools, etc.

Think about it – what scars are you carrying with you that you inflicted on yourself? What internal stress have you allowed to cause pain and suffering? What have you mentally sliced yourself up about?

Take it from an expert – on both squirrels AND emotional mutilation – nothing is worth harming yourself over! No person or subject on the planet is worth any extensive harm you might do to yourself! Forgive, forget, and look for something wonderful on the horizon! Have faith that the Lord has a plan and has something amazing in store for you! How’s that for a Pollyanna moment?

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