10 day album challenge #1: Eva Cassidy, Songbird

So, a friend of mine nominated me to do an album challenge. “The task is to post once per day for the next 10 days about the top ten albums that have an impact on your life, and to pay it forward by nominating someone else each day to do the same.”

When I got this challenge, I must admit that my heart sank. I have never considered myself a very sophisticated music lover. I know what I like, but I have a hard time putting into words why I like it. Who am I to comment on another artist’s art?

And then there’s the fact that I absolutely HATE chain letters. At least this one didn’t threaten me with death or dismemberment if I didn’t comply. But still.

I don’t like to be told what to do. And 10 days’ worth of writing is a heck of a commitment. But at the same time, I was intrigued at the thought of stretching my writing wings in a musical way and flying right out of my comfort zone.

Okay, so I’ll play. But no one is the boss of me! I’m changing the rules to suit me. First of all, I’m not writing about this for 10 days in a row. I will write about 10 albums, yes, but only on the occasional “Music Monday”. And I refuse to nominate anyone else, because I try to avoid adding stress to the lives of the people I love. Having said that, if you’re reading this and would like to take up the challenge, go for it!

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So, for my first entry, I’ve chosen the album Songbird, by Eva Cassidy. Yes, I’ve written about Eva Cassidy before. She died an untimely death long before I ever heard her beautiful voice, and that adds an extra special poignancy to every song she sings. Her voice is like sinking into a fragrant warm bath after you’ve had a particularly stressful and strenuous day. Ahhhhh… She really was a songbird.

The reason this album is on my mind at the moment is that the 4th of July is coming up. What does that have to do with Eva Cassidy, you ask? Well, when the fireworks start, my dogs are always terrified. I mean, totally and completely freaked out. And I know that some people react the same way. But last year I discovered something. Eva Cassidy is the balm to my dog’s spirit.

I had only been in my house for a couple weeks, so I knew this would be a particularly challenging fireworks experience for Quagmire. He had yet to feel completely settled in our new home. So I knew that I’d be staying home and making an extra effort to keep him calm on that most despised of holidays.

I decided to close us both into our new bedroom, turn the lights down low, and listen to soft, soothing music. It is my humble opinion that there’s no music more soft or soothing than that of Eva Cassidy. So that night we listened to the Songbird album on Youtube over and over and over again. (For what it’s worth, Quagmire’s favorite song on the album seems to be Fields of Gold.)

And it worked. Quagmire curled up at my side and fell asleep despite the pops and booms coming from beyond our little valley. Now this album will be forever linked with the 4th of July in my mind.

The next time you’re feeling anxious, listen to Songbird. It’s like musical Xanax, but in the best possible way.

Thanks, Eva Cassidy.

Songbird

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On Being a Contrarian

Nothing makes me thirstier than being told there’s no water available.

If a book has been banned, it goes to the top of my reading list.

When someone tells me that this is no place for a lady, I suddenly feel as though I weigh 1000 pounds. (We shall not be moved!)

If I’m asked, “Why on earth would you want to do that?” my instant response is, “That’s why.” My default reaction when told I can’t do something is shock, confusion, then determination.

I’ll stick my neck out every time when those around me are cowering in the foxholes. It’s a wonder I haven’t been shot.

Traditions make me chafe.

Zigging makes me want to zag.

Rules that aren’t founded in logic make me want to screech. “Because I said so,” or “Because this is how we’ve always done it” is why I grind my teeth in my sleep.

Many of my sentences begin with the word but.

My mother telling me that life’s not fair did not comfort me at all. It should be fair.

I like to invite people to join me outside of the box.

I tend to be quite polarizing. Love me or hate me, I hope that you’re challenged, at the very least.

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Thwart a Terrorist — Build a Bridge

As I’ve mentioned before, my most viewed blog entry is the one on Bridge Symbolism. It’s viewed about 25 times a day, by people all over the world. I have no idea why, but it gratifies me. Now more than ever.

Bridges symbolize connection more than anything else. They join places and people together that might otherwise find it difficult to interact. They link us. They allow us to reach out.

In a world where terrorism seems to be on the rise (as we have all seen recently), it is more important than ever to connect. Terrorists are the very opposite of bridges. They want to cause disconnection. They want us to stop interacting and communicating and learning about one another. They do not want us to be linked. In fact, they want to block our paths. They want us to be afraid to go around the next corner or across the next border.

So I implore you to reject all forms of disconnection and isolation. Cast off all forms of hatred. Extend your hand to your neighbor. Cross over. Make someone welcome. Be a bridge.

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[Image credit: careerrocketeer.com]

Procrastination

This will be my 575th blog entry. I haven’t missed a day since I started this project back in December of 2012. It astounds me that I’ve been able to come up with this many points to ponder, but I have loved every minute of it. Because of this blog, my writing has improved and I’ve become much more observant. I’ve also made new friends and have become much more comfortable with who I am. It turns out I actually kind of like me. Go figure.

It really amazes me that I’ve kept this up for so long, though, because I’ve never tackled anything this ambitious before. I could never be bothered. College? Yeah, I always graduated with honors, but that wasn’t really a challenge for me. Education is just something I’m good at. If I could get paid for learning, I’d be a millionaire. This, on the other hand, takes effort, but I adore it. That’s why I never procrastinate when it comes to this blog. If anything, I often put it ahead of other things that I should be doing. That’s what I’m doing right now.

I’m supposed to be packing my apartment for my upcoming move, but I’m so overwhelmed I feel paralyzed. I don’t know where to start. Basically, I don’t wanna. That’s what procrastination is, if you think about it. It’s an internal temper tantrum that you’re throwing because you don’t want to do something that you have to do. Think about it. You never put off doing the fun stuff.

Even though I know that in these situations I always feel much better if I get it over with, that still doesn’t seem to motivate me to get off the couch. I’ll do it tomorrow. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.

Since I know my ability to procrastinate so well, I try really hard not to have more than three unfinished projects lying around at any given time. Before I add something to the to-do list, and thus add to my stress level, I try to get rid of something else. But packing is the mother of all list generators, so I’m a bit of a wreck right now. Having more than three things hanging over my head is making me anxious.

If you are limiting yourself to only three projects a day, I highly recommend that you make one of the three a nap. So off I go, to tick that nasty little chore off my list. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Honestly, you should be impressed. It’s not easy to sleep when you’ve got so much on your mind. But I’m willing to accept the challenge. I’m a go-getter.

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Shovel Friends

My mother used to say that you can’t pick your relatives, but you can pick your friends. And among your many friends, there are always a few who stand head and shoulders above the rest. I call these “shovel friends” because they are the kind you can call up at three in the morning and say, “Meet me in Central Park, and bring a shovel,” and they’d be there, because they’re that loyal, and they know you so well that they’d be confident that you aren’t involved in something that will send them to the state penitentiary. I can’t take credit for originating this concept. I think I heard it on some reality show. But, hey, it resonates with me, and I’m not above stealing a really good idea.

I’m actually lucky enough to have several shovel friends, and they’re worth their weight in gold. They have been there for me through my highs and lows, and I have no doubt that they will be there for all my future emotional topography. But make no mistake: shovel friends aren’t, and shouldn’t be, blindly loyal. In fact, a true friend is one who will call you on your stuff. He or she won’t let you get away with silliness or stupidity, and will expect mutual respect. These friends can always be counted upon to give you the reality check that you so desperately need. The best friends are the ones who question you and challenge you.

So take a moment to tell your shovel friends how much they mean to you, because they will most likely be the most valuable relationships you’ll ever have.

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(Image credit: my.opera.com

Bridge Symbolism

Having worked on drawbridges for over 12 years, I’ve come to know how strongly many people feel about bridges in general. Just publish your plans to demolish or replace one, and brace yourself for the public outcry. People love to walk and jog across bridges, and many’s the time I’ve witnessed marriage proposals. Fishermen often have their regular spots staked out, and people love to hop out of their cars during bridge openings to enjoy the weather. For some inexplicable reason, the mentally ill are drawn to bridges as well.

Another strange thing about bridges is that people view them as bigger barriers than regular streets, even if they are fixed span bridges with no chance of causing a delay. People will not hesitate to take a 10 minute drive on an interstate which has the same length of road without exits as even the largest of bridges possesses, but if their route contains a bridge, that same 10 minute drive is viewed as a hassle to be avoided.

What do bridges symbolize to people? In the tarot, the bridge card means progress, connections, and stability. Often people view bridges as the only way to reach a destination, and therefore bridges are a way to overcome obstacles. Bridges also represent transitions. “Crossing over” is a euphemism for taking that journey from life to death. Perhaps that’s also why so many people use bridges when they’ve made the unfortunate decision to end their lives, a decision which, speaking from personal observation, is made far more frequently than is reported in the media, and is also a decision which they instantly regret, judging from their screams on the way down. You can be fairly certain that any bridge that you cross that is more than 40 feet above the water has been a place where someone has died.

Perhaps my favorite bridge symbol, though, is that of hope. If you can just get over that bridge, you may find yourself in a better place on the other side. Some bridges are harder to cross than others. If you’re afraid of heights they can be scary. If feeling the surface shaking below your feet unsettles you, then your crossing can pose a challenge, but trust me, that challenge is deceiving. You do NOT want to be on a rigid and inflexible bridge. Not if you want to live. So in some ways bridges can represent a struggle, but one with the prospect of better things on the far shore. I find that inspiring.

If you’re reading this, welcome to my most popular blog entry! The fact that it’s so popular has me flattered and also confused. So I’d love it if you’d tell me why you’re here in the comments below! Thanks!

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