Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Mandolin

I've only wanted to play the mandolin for twenty years.

I don't know why I didn't ever pick one up. Maybe it was 14 years of piano lessons, or 10 years of viola lessons, but I didn't even think learning the mandolin was a real option. No one I knew played, how would I even go about learning? I'd pick up a guitar every once in a while thinking I'd try my hand, but it didn't stick; my heart wasn't in it. I'd hear the mandolin on the radio, double tinkling in a solo, or in the background, and think wistfully, "I wish I played the mandolin."

My friend Nancy picked up the ukelele last year, playing solos on her porch on warm summer nights, teaching herself after her children went to bed. It was important, she said, to do this one thing for herself.  "I always wanted to learn how to play the mandolin," I told her.
"Why don't you!?" She said, her enthusiasm radiating, making the whole world seem possible.

Stepping into a local music shop, I saw the mandolins in the back corner. I picked out a matte model and put it on layaway. You'd crow to hear that it was a replica of models from the 1950s--something I didn't know until I picked it out from the crowd and brought it to the register. I wanted to prove to myself I could earn it slowly: paying for the instrument over months, carefully setting aside the money, deliberately anti-instant gratification. I couldn't just walk in and out with a mandolin, I needed to be sure.

I brought a Gretsch mandolin home on a Tuesday night, in a snug case with a learn-it-yourself spiral book. Every night, after the kids are in bed and the evening slows, I pull out my mandolin and teach myself how to play. I practice the chords and learn the fingering, finally understanding how to fret and strum.

My mother dropped by the house on a Friday afternoon. She noticed the mandolin case on the couch. "What's that?" She asked.

"Let me show you," I said, unzipping the case and pulling out the satin wood New Yorker Gretsch, "It's a mandolin. I've always wanted to learn how to play, I don't know why, so one day I decided I would."

Her eyes started shining.

She told me about growing up in Spain, how her uncles, aunts, and cousins played the mandolin. Gathering on cool nights of coastal Galicia, singing traditional folk songs and entertaining their families. They all played, she said, recounting the names and memories of those long ago nights, in kitchens and around the fire. Smoky and salted fish on worn wooden tables. Fog rising outside. The high, clear, old songs echoing from the mandolins.

Maybe the blood wants what it wants, perhaps our DNA passes along tiny codes for music, tradition, and connection, just like it did our dark hair and loud voices. Who can say?

One thing I can say: I play the mandolin.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Get Ready for Giving Tuesday - December 2nd

Are you ready to join the world in giving more this year? December 2nd is this year's Giving Tuesday, a global day of generosity and giving.

What I love about Giving Tuesday is it's not about any one organization, charity, or need, it's about supporting the causes you feel are most important, regardless of the cause. After several days of wanton shopping (ahem,) Giving Tuesday is my reminder to contribute in a way that resonates with our family.

There's something about being grateful for our plenty enough that we share it. A few years ago I discovered how the practice of gratitude can change the way I see the world. In short, what you put into the world is what comes back to you. If you help others, you will have help when you need it. It's not a tit-for-tat thing, it's a more abundant way of seeing how much you already have and sharing it--because so many of us have resources regardless of circumstance. Giving Tuesday is a day that you can join with me, and the entire world, to share your plenty with those who are in need.

I'll be back on Giving Tuesday with a few of my favorite organizations and I'd love to hear from you about causes that you love to support--it would be great to share them!

Help me get the word out about Giving Tuesday! Giving Tuesday is coordinated by the United Nations Foundation with a presence on every major platform. Follow Giving Tuesday or just post your own Giving Tuesday ideas.

Giving Tuesday on Instagram:
Post an #UNselfie
#GivingTuesday tag

Giving Tuesday on Twitter:
@GivingTues and the #GivingTuesday tag

Giving Tuesday on Facebook:
Post any update and tag #GivingTuesday
You could also upload an #UNselfie

Giving Tuesday on your blog:
Post a blog telling your network about Giving Tuesday, use the #GivingTuesday tag when you share your post.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

When the Wall Fell

Can it really be 25 years?

I tried to explain to my child why it still blows my mind.

You see, the world used to be in two pieces. There was our side and their side. There was a West Germany and an East Germany. And there were two Berlins. One half was free. The other half wasn't. A wall right down the middle of a city. It was taller than anyone on earth and deeper than you can imagine. The guards on the wall used to shoot people--they shot above our heads--who tried to cross. And then
One day
There were people on the wall
There were people over the wall
And then there wasn't a wall

Eine Deutschland and one world and everything we knew about dropping the bomb or not wasn't anymore.

It still feels like a miracle.

A messy, messy miracle new world that's sometimes scarier now because there aren't any walls where there once was a wall.

We took pieces of that wall and we threw them all over the world, in classrooms and cities, carried away in pockets from Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie and to everywhere there wasn't a wall. Because once upon a time it divided the world and then we broke it into a million rocks that had one colored side and one gray side, the bright and the absent, and the world took it back.

Because you can't keep people from people. It won't work no matter how high and long and reinforced.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall.

And that something was us.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

#1 Most Important How-to-Write-Killer-Content Answer

I've been asked how to write content.

This is how it works:

  1. Daft Punk is Playing at My House
    LCD Soundsystem
  2. Cool Kids
  3. Safe with You - Single Mix
    Alex Metric, Jacques Lu Cont
  4. Pumpin Blood - Nox Remix
    NONONO, DJ Nox
  5. A Real Hero
    High Highs
  6. Cheap Sunglasses - Two Friends Remix
    RAC, Matthew Koma
  7. The Best Thing
    Electric Youth
  8. Dream of Bombay
    Viceroy, Chela
  9. Flesh and Bone - Jacques Lu Cont Remix
    The Killers
  10. Silver City
    Hey Champ
  11. El Pito (I'll Never Go Back to Georgia)
    Joe Cuba
  12. A Song That Will Help You Remember
    Slow Dancing Society
  13. Just Another Girl
    The Killers
  14. Lessons in Love (All Day, All Night)
    Neon Trees / Kaskade
  15. Coming of Age
    Foster the People
  16. Grand Prize
    Can't Stop Won't Stop

That is how you write content.

Friday, September 05, 2014

There and Back Again (Spanish Edition)

Should I dye my hair a crazy color? Go on a fasting cleanse? Crawl into bed and pretend I am sick? Put on another layer of very dark liquid eyeliner? The world is my neurotic oyster.

A friend asked me if I am in my post-holiday crash, the one where you feel like throwing your life overboard and going on permanent vacation. Where will the funds come from for this vacation? Who knows, who cares?! I'm on vacation until the money runs out!

(It will run out real fast, Calamity Jane.)

I took my heart, and my nest egg, in my clicking hand and bought tickets to Spain last month. Just me and the children--also my sister and her two children, and perhaps my parents. It was scary (I hate spending money,) and also something I felt like we had to do.

It's been 11 years since my last trip to Spain to see my mother's family. I was pregnant with my oldest at the time and so, so sick. I spent the train ride back to Madrid from Galicia regularly vomiting as the diesel fumes wafted back to smack me in the face. With our family complete, and no more babies, it was time to return to the motherland, no matter what.

Isn't this worth it?

(The view from the kitchen window of the flat we stayed in.)

And also this?

I mean, as far as trips go, Spain will do.

The terrible jet lag there, the brutal jet lag when we returned, it was all worth it. Except maybe the part where I dragged my kids to Spain. 

I hope they remember it when they grow up and praise my name. A 10-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 3-year-old aren't traveling companions to sneeze at; they are to be managed, cajoled, and forced to experience culture. My parents forced culture on us, it's high time my children also experienced the sore feet, dehydration, and exhaustion that comes from looking at a set of royal china in a royal palace in some European capital. Tradition!

My kids even got off easy. Since it was just me and my sister (and our combined five small children) with only occasional help from my parents, we skipped some of the major cathedrals and attractions. Next time, my pretties, we'll learn about Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Classical, Gothic, Velazquez, Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and El Greco until your feet fall off in the middle of the Prado. How we do.

Now we are back and my life is resting uneasily on my shoulders. Where is my tiny, manual transmission car? Why are the streets here to wide and accommodating? Where is my daily visit to the bakery for fresh bread and pastries? Where is the beach with crystal waters and the sunsets that go on for forever?

Instead I'm back in my real life, with 7:00 am wake-ups, homework every night, dinner and the dishes, demanding work commitments, with terrible Fanta, and absolutely, positively, no beach.

It's no wonder my Jet Set heart pines for more impossible vacations from my real life.

But really, should I dye my hair?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back to School at the Road Home

Hello Darlings!

It seems like forever, doesn't it? But I'm back today with a purpose: it's back to school time at the Road Home, Salt Lake City's family homeless shelter. You're probably planning some back to school shopping soon, so maybe you could make a little plan for supporting some homeless children?

I won't tell you about when I did my back to school shopping.

(It was two weeks ago. I'm more organized than I have ever been--if all you are counting are school supplies.)

Last year I brought my kids to the store during Christmas to pick out new toys for the Road Home. It was surprising how they responded to children who don't have a home or wouldn't necessarily receive a present. I worry my kids are too entitled, and you probably have the same worry. Don't get mad at your kids for being entitled, ask them to serve, show them how much they have and how they can give as a way of gratitude in action.

It's time for the Road Home Apple Tree:

The Road Home sent me this information:

"Organizers of The Road Home Apple Tree have added the needs and sizes of 26 new children to Apple Trees at 33 locations along the Wasatch Front and are asking the public to help.
"The Road Home continues to see an increase in the number of children in need,” said Celeste Eggert, director of development at The Road Home. “We have had a 50 percent increase in the children we serve this fiscal year as compared to the five years prior. The Apple Tree Program helps to ensure that all the school age children living at the shelter are given a new outfit and backpack to start the school year." 
Apple Trees are set up at DownEast, Payless ShoeSource, Salt Lake area Staples, Old Navy and Intrepid Hybrid Communications. Donated items, which should be new and unused, can be dropped off at any of the 33 campaign partner locations from Provo to Ogden. At the completion of the campaign, which runs through Aug. 11, clothing and school supplies will be delivered to the Road Home before the school year begins." You can read more about the drive here:

Got that? There are Apple Trees around town, in places where you are probably going to shop anyway, with a child's name and what they need. Join me in picking up an extra backpack, another sweater, and some school supplies. If you're pressed for time, refuse to do any back to school shopping because you hold strong, personal anti-consumeristic principles, or are living with a phobia of fresh school supplies, you could also make a donation.

Additionally, you might know Sue from Navel Gazing, but she also volunteers at the Road Home. She shared that the shelter can often use toy room donations as well. If you get in touch with me, I can put you in touch with her for more information on donating items, like new play-doh and Thomas trains. It's a constant need--a constant need that you and I can fill like it's nothing at all. Let's do more.


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Latest Controversial Position:

Shamrock shakes are gross. EW.