Our Song

We don’t have a song. When it came to choosing one for our first wedding dance, he didn’t really care, and I did but I changed it three times. We ended up with Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” (Titanic was released a few months before we got married). Cringe, I know.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, haunting melody, Celine’s voice is magnificent… but so what? There’s nothing especially meaningful in that song for either of us – we didn’t hear it at a special time in our relationship, it wasn’t playing the first time we kissed or the second or indeed ever when we were together except when we saw the movie. It was just a cliché love song playing on every radio station in 1998.

I’m kinda surprised at myself. At us. That we don’t really have a song. And that I didn’t pay more attention in choosing the Just Right Song for our wedding. Music lives large in my life. There’s always something playing – in the car, in the kitchen, while I’m writing. New alt rock, latest hits, classic rock, sixties and disco and country, country, country. My greatest discovery last week was the Billy Joel channel on satellite radio – #knoweverysong!

billy joel

I “have” songs with other people – “Come On Eileen” and “Just Can’t Get Enough” are always high school BFFs, “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel is Israel 1987, “Eternal Flame” and Richard Marx are first boyfriend. Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” is my son and so is Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”. Even my little guy and I sing The Wanted’s “Glad You Came” together.

The family movie last Friday was Three Men and a Baby (that’s a fun trip down bad 1980s hair and fashion!) – once the chaotic, slapstick hilarity of three goofy guys taking care of a crying, pooping, giggling, hungry baby girl simmers down, they sing Sha Na Na’s version of “Goodnight Sweetheart” as a bedtime lullaby. Ryan and I looked at each other.

And somehow my brain skipped from Sha Na Na to Grease to Buddy Holly, to the Garth Brooks concert he took me to in Vegas two years ago, to every Les Mis song we know by heart because we’ve seen it six times, to the first Elton John concert we went to at Sun City and the next time we saw him with Billy Joel in Oakland…

We don’t have one song, it’s true. We have hundreds. And now that I think about, we should’ve gone with Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” at our wedding!

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Our Song by OPI

This post was written as part of the April A to Z Challenge. To read more of my A to Z posts click here.

It takes tea

Last week was a week from hell. It slammed me from the inside out, from the outside in, up, down and sideways. A bad week? That would’ve been doable. Anyone who saw me, spoke to me, texted me can attest to my emotional unraveling. Even if it was just in passing.

I didn’t want to write about it. I didn’t want to write about how sad I was. I didn’t want to think about the things I didn’t want to think about. About why I felt so sad. So unraveled. Or write about them.

But I can’t stop thinking about them.

Let’s just call it one of those weeks. Or one of those months. Or one of those years. We all have them. Things are good, and life feels wonderful and possible and then suddenly it doesn’t. Or maybe not suddenly. Maybe slowly and painfully. Maybe for no real reason, or maybe for the biggest reason of all.

Bad news. An ill family member. Too much work. Not enough work. A difficult child. A fight with a spouse. Or a friend.

The reasons don’t really matter. What matters is how we feel. And how we cope.

Tea. Copious cups of South African or real English caffeinated tea, milk, two sugars. Often it’s just the act of making it that helps me to feel better. When we moved into our house, my sister gave me six of the most perfect mugs that can be cradled in my two hands, like I’m holding a warm heart. I even take my perfect mug of tea in the car with me. My sister calls me crazy, with a smile. I call me surviving.

tea

Music. Loud. Especially alone in the car. Where I can crank up the volume, lose myself in the rhythm and the lyrics. Sometimes the song squeezes my heart with every beat, and sometimes it just fills the silence. Old favorites – here’s where I admit that Alphaville’s Forever Young is my most loved song in the world, that nothing gets me like John Cusack blasting In Your Eyes from his boombox in Say Anything. But AltNation on satellite radio has the perfect mix of cutting edge and 21st century classic for someone who feels like she’s classically going over the edge. As I hold my warm heart-mug of tea listening to Cardiac Arrest, I’m coping. And I’ve ended up with quite the playlist. That counts for something.

Kids. Husband. Sister. Friends. Out-of-the-blue text from Canada. Extra kisses for mom, and squeezy hugs that say I’m here. The one who saw me not quite holding it together at pick-up and whispered in my ear that if there’s anything I need… Small town, big hearts.

And some days, I don’t cope. I’ve had a few of those. Eaten too little. Slept too much.

There are days when I totally lose perspective. When the new telephone system at the pediatrician’s office makes me so angry, I almost throw the phone on the floor. When going to the grocery store feels like climbing Mount Everest. The highest altitude I’ve ever been at is 11,000 feet – I don’t do well up there. The air is too thin. And cold. Makes me nauseous.

But then, I’ve also found perspective. I have friends who’ve lost brothers and parents just this past week, who’ve found out about life-threatening cancers, whose children have had surgery. Running out of milk is really nothing. It doesn’t take much to keep perspective. Yes, they are complicated, difficult days but the human spirit is strong, and I will survive (another great song!).

And that spirit and heart can wallow for so long before they need to feel useful, creative, worth something. Four banana breads worth. Because I cleaned out the freezer, and discovered 30 frozen bananas – no exaggeration. Sometimes I cope by cleaning (not often, circumstances are usually pretty dire) and by baking – which usually sounds like a great idea, and smells delicious, but in reality I’m regretting it as soon as I distractedly spill a cup of flour on the floor, and the eggs don’t crack cleanly into the bowl but drip onto the counter, and the kitchen looks like it was attacked by a tiny army of four-year-olds (he was helping), and why am I making four banana breads when I only have two pans, and now I have to clean up this mess… not coping!

Breathe. A little alt rock. Another cup of tea. Get perspective.

The worst week ever. But not writing about it is more of a cop-out than writing about it. Because that’s how cope. If you’d like a cup of tea and a slice of yummy banana bread, I’m here.

Whole Lotta Country

(Hit play and turn the volume way up!)

When I was ten-years-old I saw Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton perform the song “Islands in the Stream” on TV. Dolly was wearing a whispy, flowing black dress, her bottle-blonde hair in its signature Dolly-style. Kenny wore a tux and his mane of gray made a big impression on me. They were both very glam. Exotic even, to my wide eyes. They stood together on the stage, and Dolly waved her dress and tapped her heels as she sang. It was that southern drawl that drew me in, as much as the catchy music and lyrics. Bitten by the Country Bug.

dailymail.co.uk

dailymail.co.uk

Music played in our house and in the car all the time when I was growing up, but it was never country music. My mom loved rock – Dire Straits, Talking Heads, Fleetwood Mac – and everything by Billy Joel and Elton John. My sister and I would listen to the Top 40 every Sunday – we knew all Madonna’s songs by heart, every Michael Jackson move, we loved A-ha and Duran Duran. I heart the 80s! Definitely no room for country tunes – that “Islands in the Stream” performance was a one-hit-wonder for me.

Until I moved to the U.S.

A Friday afternoon in 1999 found me driving up to Tahoe with my Texan friend – she has the strongest southern accent of anyone I know, it’s possibly the reason I’m friends with her, just to hear her say “y’all” over and over! She turned up the volume to Garth Brooks’ “Papa Loved Mama.” I couldn’t get enough of it! Those lyrics – Mama’s in the graveyard, Papa’s in the pen… Damn.

For someone like me who loves telling stories, there’s no greater storyteller than a country music artist. Every song is a heavily dramatic narrative – about love, and relationships gone awry, boys seeking daddy’s approval on the wide, open prairie, and misunderstood mothers. Set to the soulful or catchy tune of an expertly strummed guitar, these songs reach in and squeeze my heart with every beat. Add that southern drawl that I wish was mine, and I’m lost to the music of Nashville.

It’s the wannabe actor in me, I’m sure, that’s drawn to all things country. When I hear Trisha Yearwood sing “She’s in Love with the Boy” I play out the scene in my head: chickens pecking the ground, high school sweetheart, dad doesn’t approve, mom saves the day. My favorite song this past summer was Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” – backroad town, boy meets girl, heavy guitar, pick-up truck on the lake. Dra-ma-tic!

It’s not for everyone – I part ways with many in my love of country music. I’m getting used to the surprised looks and eye rolls when I disclose that yes, I did see Garth and Trisha in concert a couple years ago – best concert ever! Or that the TV show Nashville (musical drama series about fading country music superstars and hot new talent) has become my must-see Wednesday night viewing – mostly for the music, and also because of the beautiful, expansive Nashville scenery, the perfectly country hair and boots, not to mention haunting guitar performances by unshaven cowboys at the Bluebird Café, where every country musician is discovered. Better than Game of Thrones! How can you not watch it?

My red cowboy boots have become as essential to me as flip flops – I’m so glad it’s fall so I can now wear them every day. I’m working on saying “y’all” more authentically (my South African accent gets in the way). Last night was the Country Music Awards in Nashville – every song was fantastic! But the one I loved the most was sung by Kenny Rogers and a Dolly-replacement (Jennifer Nettles)… I was back in my parents’ living room in Pretoria, circa 1984, mesmerized by “Islands in the Stream.”

Rock ‘n Roll always… but definitely a whole lotta Country!