what james taylor means to me

I.

I am eleven years old, dancing around the kitchen with my mom, listening to my parents’ old CDs. It is a Sunday afternoon and I am helping her make banana bread from scratch. My mom is a terrific baker, and I have inherited a love of baking from her. We have turned our giant three-CD stereo onto “shuffle” mode. There is one singer that I especially like. His voice is smooth and filled with emotion, and his lyrics sound like poetry, and the acoustic guitar makes me feel peaceful. “Who is that?” I ask my mom, as the man sings a lullaby about a sweet baby.

“That’s James Taylor,” she says.

“I like his music,” I declare. Up to this point, my musical tastes have existed on a decidedly separate plane from my parents’ music. My CD collection includes Mandy Moore, The Spice Girls, and N’SYNC. Now, I add James Taylor to the list.

The smell of banana bread baking in the oven mingles with the sound of James’ crooning. I come to associate his songs with the warm feelings of childhood and family and comfort. In a word: home.

II.

I am fifteen years old, on the bus to an away game with my basketball team. I always get supremely nervous before games, worried that I’m going to screw up, make a mistake, get yelled at by my coach. The entire day at school, I have been dreading this afternoon’s game. To calm myself down, I pull my portable CD player out of my backpack, slip on the headphones, and press PLAY.

James Taylor’s rich voice fills my ears, reminding me that I’ve got a friend, no matter what happens.

I don’t know anyone else at my school who likes James Taylor’s music. He feels like my own special secret. When I feel lost or self-conscious or alone, his music reminds me that this period of my life won’t last forever.¬†Listening to his music reminds me of the wider, richer world out there beyond the confines of high school—and certainly beyond high school basketball games.

My favorite part of away basketball games is listening to his CD on the bus ride there and back home again.

{source}

III.

I am sixteen years old. James Taylor releases a new album at the same time I am going through a tough time with some friends at school. New music from him feels like a gift from the universe. Even better, many of his songs are about autumn—my favorite season. The magic of autumn is amplified by the beauty of his voice. I listen to “September Grass” and “October Road” on repeat. I imagine one day meeting a boy who loves and appreciates James Taylor as much as I do—who, in turn, recognizes my beauty and uniqueness the way none of the boys at school seem to.

Dad surprises me with tickets to see James Taylor in concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl. I am the youngest one there by at least a decade, maybe two. But I don’t care. I feel like James is singing directly to me. He plays for more than two hours and his voice sounds even better and richer than it does on the CDs I’ve memorized by heart.

It has been one of the hardest and saddest seasons of my life up to this point, but sitting at that concert next to my dad, feeling the breeze on my face and watching my favorite musician light up the night with his beautiful music, I feel hope burgeoning inside me. I am going to be okay. I am going to move on and find new friends. Life is going to expand and keep getting better. I feel sure of it.

IV.

I am a freshman in college, and life has expanded greatly. My world has gotten wider and fuller and more exciting. I have made many new friends and every day, I am soaking up new knowledge and new experiences.

Still, sometimes I feel lonely or stressed or homesick. So much newness can be overwhelming. Whenever that happens, I click over to my James Taylor iTunes playlist. His music makes me feel like I can close my eyes and be transported back to the kitchen with my mom, baking banana bread, dancing around with my silly dog Gar—like I can be my child-self again, even for just the span of a song.

 

V.

I am in graduate school now, living halfway across the country from everything I have known. Here in Indiana, the autumn is more beautiful than any I have experienced. The reds and oranges and yellows explode from the trees, and the sky is crisp and blue. My favorite season should feel more magical than ever.

But it doesn’t. I am lonelier than I have ever been. Most people in my program are married or coupled-up, and I am the youngest one. I feel so single and so naive. As hard as I try to make friends, the close bonds I forged easily in college seem elusive here. I try throwing a party, but it is only mildly successful. The weekends stretch out interminably; the highlight is going shopping at the grocery store.

I get a lot of writing and reading done. The leaves begin to fall from the trees. The weather turns grayer and colder.

I turn on the heater in my little apartment. I bake banana bread. I play James Taylor’s music and feel a teeny bit more at home, a teeny bit less alone. His songs are my touchstone.

VI.

I am twenty-six years old, living back in California. Northern California this time, the Bay Area. I am living with my grandparents and I make friends and I am not lonely. But I am still searching for a partner to share my life with. I listen to James Taylor’s songs—“Something in the Way She Moves” and “Your Smiling Face“—and I feel hopeful that I will find the person I am meant to be with. I think back to high school, when I felt like the only person my age who liked James Taylor. Now, I’ve met quite a few people from my generation who enjoy his music—Taylor Swift {who, I’ve learned, was named for James Taylor} even has a line about his records in one of her songs!

I join an online dating website. On a blustery February evening, I meet up with “Oaktown A’s Fan” at an ice cream shop. He is even more handsome in person than in his profile picture. He has kind eyes and listens to me intently, asks questions and makes me laugh. Quite suddenly, and easily, and wonderfully, we fall in love. Before long, I know that he is the one I want to spend my life with.

Allyn is a very agreeable and open person. When it comes to food or movies or music, he likes pretty much anything.

Almost anything.

“James Taylor?” he says. “I’m not a fan.”

I think at first that he’s joking—teasing me, pulling my leg. But he is completely serious. James Taylor’s music… annoys him.

“I don’t know, something about his voice gets on my nerves,” Allyn explains when I ask, in wide-mouthed astonishment, how he possibly can dislike my favorite musician of all time. “His music puts me to sleep.”

I guess nobody—not even my perfect guy—is perfect. ūüėČ

When Allyn lets me listen to James Taylor on our road trips, I know he truly loves me.

 

VII.

C√©line, one of my best friends, dies in a car accident. I never really understood “Fire and Rain” until now.

Even two and a half years later, I still can’t believe I’m not going to see her again.

VIII.

Dad flies into Oakland and we take BART together into San Francisco. James Taylor is playing a concert at AT&T Park and we bought tickets for our birthday presents to each other. I can’t think of a better way to ring in my third decade on this planet.

We spend the day wandering around the city: exploring the market at the Ferry Building, taking the trolley down to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, finding a hole-in-the-wall Irish pub for drinks. As the sun begins to set, we walk down to the concert. My whole being is filled with anticipation.

The stadium is packed, yet somehow his music makes it feel intimate. He tells stories between the songs and plays video footage of his adorable dog. He plays many of his old classics, and some of his new songs, including my favorite off his latest album: “Montana.” Tears come to my eyes when he plays “Fire and Rain.” He saves my favorite, “You’ve Got a Friend,” for the encore.

After the concert, walking back to our hotel, Dad and I are still reveling in the joy and grace of James Taylor’s music. I think about the last time I saw James Taylor play, when I was sixteen. How much has changed since then. And also how much has remained the same.

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” — James Taylor, “Secret O’Life

 

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and “free-write” about the following questions:

  • Who is a musician that has impacted your life? How so?
  • Turn on one of your favorite albums. Write about various memories each song brings up.
  • What is the last concert you went to? Write about the experience.
  • What musicians or songs have been a comfort to you during hard times?

amber rubarth house concert in seattle

When I wrote a letter on this blog to Amber Rubarth back in May, I didn‚Äôt expect that she would ever read it. I hoped my words might somehow reach her ‚Äď I wanted her to know how much her music meant to me ‚Äď but, even if she never read my letter, I still felt writing it meant something. Even if the words were just for myself, I wanted to reflect on how I had carried her songs within me for years, how they had impacted my life and had been my companions and helped me grow into someone braver and stronger and more assured in myself, more rooted in my being. It was a small gesture, but it felt hugely good.

me and amber rubarth 2

Even though I wrote that letter for myself, when I published it here on the blog, something amazing happened.

The positive response was overwhelming. People shared with me their own thoughts about how music has made a difference in their lives. The post was shared widely throughout the Facebook and Twitter communities. And, within a few days, my words made their way to Amber herself.

I got goosebumps when I logged onto Facebook one afternoon to find a notification that I had been tagged in a post by Amber Rubarth:

Ah my heart!!! Just read this beautiful post from Dallas Woodburn who came to my show last week in San Francisco. My heart is fluttering with gratitude. Thank you Dallas for your beautiful words and gorgeous soul. Wow. So moving. You are a beautiful writer.

It was the opposite of that frustrated feeling I experienced after our brief interaction post-concert, the one that spurred me to write the post in the first place. Now I felt buoyant and peaceful and more connected to the community around me. I had been able to express what had previously felt inexpressible. I had let someone know that their work was important to me. I was happy and grateful that my words had rippled outward and found their recipient. It seemed like a small miracle.

But the ripples did not end there. I received messages from both of Amber’s parents, letting me know how much my words meant to them. Amber and I became email pals, and she even tweeted congratulations on my wedding day!

screenshot_2016-09-05-08-57-39

And I received an email from a man named Bill.

Hi Dallas,

Long-story-short… My wife and I have been hosting a house concert series in the living room of our house here in Seattle for the past eleven years. Amber Rubarth played our series back in 2013. She’s eager to return and we recently talked about this coming October. Before contacting Amber I did some poking around online to see what Amber was up to and came across your blog post. Wow! It had me and several ¬†friends I shared it with in tears. This type of feedback provides the fuel for touring musicians to continue doing what they do. So here’s the deal… If Amber plays here, I’d like to invite you and a guest¬†to come to the show. And I’d pay for the airline tickets for you both to fly to Seattle. I know, this sounds like a scam. Believe me, it isn’t. As soon as I read your blog I knew what I wanted to do. My brain and stomach (intuition) were aligned with each other and agreed this was the right thing to do.¬†Hope to hear back from you and get your thoughts.

I was absolutely blown away when I read this email. To receive such warm and thoughtful generosity from a complete stranger! Immediately, I replied to Bill with an enthusiastic: Absolutely, I would love to come!!

We hammered out the details over the next few months, and then suddenly it was the end of October, and our trip up to Seattle¬†had arrived! Allyn wasn’t able to attend because he had a previously scheduled commitment for that weekend, but my dad was kind enough to fly up from L.A. to join me for the trip. It was my first time seeing him post-wedding it was SO great to get some time just to ourselves, to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. We lucked out with beautiful sunny weather in Seattle and spent the day exploring Pike’s Place Market, walking around downtown, and eating delicious seafood. My favorite was the clam chowder we ate overlooking the water!

 me and dad chowder seattle

We also visited the amazing Chihuly Museum, which I dubbed “Dr. Seuss books come to life”… the delicate, vibrant, larger-than-life blown-glass sculptures were extraordinary to behold! Tickets were a liiiittle pricey, but worth it. We were both really happy we went there.

chihuly museum

Walking back to our hotel, we stopped at a Starbucks {because, when in Seattle, right?} to escape the brief drizzle and enjoy our hot drinks. And then it was time for the concert! After stopping at a neat local brewery for dinner, we took an Uber to the quaint historical Captiol Hill neighborhood where Bill and his wife Micki live.

It was a funny situation because, although Bill and I had emailed back and forth quite a bit, I had no idea what he looked like. When Dad and I stepped inside the beautiful house filled with people {who mostly all knew each other from previous house concerts there} I was unsure what to do! A white-haired man came up to us in the entryway and I asked, “Bill?” He laughed and said, “No, I’m Jim — but Bill’s making cider¬†in the kitchen. C’mon!” And he led the way back through the house.

Bill knew what I looked like from this blog, and as soon as he saw me, he beamed. He and Micki were both so friendly and welcoming to me and my dad. We enjoyed chatting with them in the kitchen before the concert began, and Bill introduced me to some of his friends who had read my piece here on the blog. It was so special to meet them in person!

As soon as Amber came out “on stage” my heart leapt — I was so excited that my dad would get to hear her music live! I knew he would fall in love with her beautiful songs, and he did. I had never before attended a house concert, and I was captivated by the intimate vibe of the night. It was a mix of a casual concert and a Q&A, with the audience jumping in with questions and song requests.

amber rubarth house concert

Partway through the concert, Amber asked, “Is Dallas here?” I waved my hands so she could spot me in the crowd. Amber then sweetly told everyone about my blog post and the story of how I ended up being at the concert that night. Then she wished me and Allyn congratulations on our recent wedding day and played her “Song to Thank The Stars” for us — out of all her songs, it is my favorite and the one that reminds me the most of Allyn.

I was nearly in tears, it was such a special moment.

After the concert, which flew by way too fast, we got to visit with Amber in the kitchen. It was wonderful to get some time to chat with her about her music, the creative process, my wedding, her upcoming tour and new album, and our families. She is one of the most genuinely kind, warm and authentic people I have ever met. Oh! And she recently starred in a new movie that will be released in 2017! It is called “September 12th” and also stars musician Joe Purdy. I can’t wait to see it!

me and amber 2

{A little blurry, but the best photo of the bunch!}

The trip to Seattle was one of the coolest experiences of my life! What a testament to the generosity and connection of people — former strangers, now friends — and the beauty and love present in our world. I feel so very grateful for this experience! Thank you Bill and Micki from the bottom of my heart. And thank you, of course, to my new friend Amber Rubarth!

You can pre-order Amber’s gorgeous new album, Wildflowers in the Graveyard, at her website:¬†http://www.amberrubarth.com/

8 reasons you haven’t heard from me in a month and a half

Hello, friends! Gosh, I cannot believe it is already the end of July. I did not intend to take such a long blogging hiatus… it was one of those things that just kind of *happened* the way that life happens sometimes! Here’s what I’ve been up to this summer {and why you haven’t heard from me in a while…}

1. I went on a trip to Europe! It was absolutely beautiful, and restful, and adventurous, and sad, and healing, and exactly what I needed. This trip was born about a year ago, when I was invited along for a weeklong trip to the south of France with Allyn’s family. Allyn and I decided to extend our trip a little bit and¬†spend some time in Paris to see my friend¬†Celine. We booked our tickets back in December. I could not wait to see Celine again in her favorite city, and to introduce Allyn to her, and for us all to spend time together.

When Celine died, I wasn’t sure if I could still bear to go to Paris without her there. But I knew that she would want me to go — she would have been furious if I canceled that part of the¬†trip! And so¬†I went. And later¬†I will write a whole post¬†about all the things I learned there, but suffice to say it was very hard, and¬†missing her was a whole-body ache, and¬†I felt¬†and saw her everywhere — and there was something¬†very comforting in that underneath all the pain.

sunflowers

In addition to Paris and the south of France, we also¬†spent a few days in Barcelona with Allyn’s brother Colin and Colin’s girlfriend Charlotte, which was lovely. One of the treasures of the trip was getting to spend so much time with Allyn’s siblings — they are such fun, thoughtful, easy-to-be-around people, and I am grateful to have them as friends.

allyns siblings

me and Allyn France

2. I got an eye infection. Immediately upon returning home from our trip. The doc thinks I must have picked something up on the train/metro/plane/airport/etc. So many germs while traveling! Anyway, this derailed me for a bit, with doctors appointments and antibiotics and hot eye compresses. Fun! But it is all better now, thankfully. And now I am much more appreciative of my un-itchy eyes!

3. I’m teaching summer camps for Communication Academy. In the summer, instead of weekly classes, we teach week-long camps for kids and teens. I teach public speaking, journalism, and academic writing. I love teaching the camps because the class becomes very close during the week, spending so much time together, and you see a lot of growth in the students. It’s very inspiring! However, my workdays are longer than during the school year — more of a traditional 9-5 as opposed to three hours in the afternoons — and it can be hard to fit in writing/emailing/blogging time.

4. My role at church is expanding. In addition to serving as a Worship Associate this summer, I am giving my own sermon and leading the service on August 16. I’ve also taken on a leadership position as co-facilitator of a Young Adult Community Circle. All of this is enriching, important work for my soul, and is challenging me to grow in new ways!

5. Janet came to visit for a few days. Allyn and his family took us out on a boat ride around the San Francisco Bay!

me and janet

6. Holly and I met up in Chicago to see our girl Taylor Swift in concert! It was an amazing show, even though we were sitting in the_very_last_row! Spending time with Holly fills my heart up so much. I wish we lived closer, but I am beyond grateful for every moment I get to spend with this lovely lady!

me and Holly

tswift concert 1989

7. Some terrific developments have been happening for me professionally these past couple weeks… I landed a new copywriting gig, won second place in a national writing contest, and¬†have¬†exciting news regarding¬†my novel that I will share with you at a later date, once I am no longer afraid of jinxing things! ūüėČ I also wrote a few short essays about writing that you might be interested in:

8. Now I am back in my hometown, soaking¬†up time with my fam and my brother before he leaves for his new job in NYC on Friday! I am also teaching my writing camp this weekend and next weekend. Yesterday I gave a book talk and signing at a local bookstore, Mrs. Figs’ Bookworm, and was so surprised and grateful at how many people came out to support me! I have such wonderful friends. So, so lucky!

friends at booksigning

book signing sign

And now you’re pretty much caught up! I hope the summer has been treating you wonderfully, too. I hope you are getting time to relax and recharge your batteries. Is there anything you need to take a brief hiatus from? If you feel like you are juggling lots of plates — is there one you can set down, even for a short while?

I missed blogging and I missed checking in with all of you, and after my time away I am feeling rejuvenated and eager to be back! Thank you for reading and being part of my little corner of the internet.

P.S. Murray sends you a big kiss! TGIF & happy weekend!

murray kiss

fabulous friday #39

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

lit up pumpkins

What fun things do you have planned for today + tonight? Allyn & I are dressing up as Sebastian the crab & The Little Mermaid and we’re going out for dinner in Walnut Creek, then out to see the murder-mystery play Deathtrap. I’ll show you a picture of us dressed up in our costumes in Sunday’s blog post, but for now here’s a sneak peak at my wig that came in the mail yesterday! This is actually my first Halloween ever wearing a wig, so I am probably more excited than is normal, haha. {And yes, I’m dressed in my yoga clothes, getting ready to head out soon!}

mermaid wig

Also, I want to back up and wish my sweet Mama a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! It was her birthday yesterday but it was such a crazy day that I didn’t get around to doing a blog post. {But don’t worry, I did call her yesterday and send her a card & present!} My dad sent these beautiful roses to her office… they are USC colors, since Mom is a huge USC fan! Go Trojans!

mom usc roses

Also, because I think this photo is way too adorable not to share, here is a pic of my mom when she was a little girl that is hanging in the hallway of my grandparents’ house. I can totally see the woman I know in her little-girl eyes and face. What a cutie-pie!

mom little girl

Mom, thank you for being my role model and inspiring me every day with your loving heart, genuine kindness, generosity and grace, quiet strength, and beautiful soul. I love you so much. I count my blessings every day that I won the lottery ticket to get you for a mother. It is a true privilege and a gift to be your daughter! ‚̧

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. So remember last week when I finished writing my novel? And remember a few weeks ago when I went to the Orchard nursery with Dana to revel in all the pumpkins and autumn decorations, and I spotted these beautiful hand-painted sunflower tiles and mentioned wanting to someday get one for my own kitchen?

sunflower tiles

Wellllll, guess what my sweetheart did? He surprised me with a gift to celebrate finishing my novel that I’ve been working on for the past three years.

sunflower tile

Not to mention, I hadn’t even said anything about the sunflower tiles to him. He just read it here in my post and remembered, and last weekend he drove to the nursery to pick it out and surprise me. I was pretty much speechless when I opened it. Allyn, your thoughtfulness, love and support blow me away! Thank you so much for celebrating with me! Now, every¬†time I look at this gorgeous sunflower tile hanging in my kitchen, not only will I smile because I love sunflowers and it is soooo pretty — I will light up inside with such a warm memory. ūüôā

2.¬†T-Swift’s new CD. OMG you guys. I am crushing hardcore on this CD. I am in puppy love. I am obsessed. I can’t stop listening to it. SO GOOD! I didn’t even mind when I had major traffic driving home from teaching last night, because it meant more time to bop around in my car dancing to these songs. Is it weird that Holly and I are already giddy¬†with excitement about going to see her in concert when she tours for this CD? Because we are.

t swift 1989 cd

If the music itself weren’t amazing enough, check out her Halloween costume. One of the lyrics to her new song “Blank Space” is “cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”… the caption to her Halloween costume says, “cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a PEGACORN.” {unicorn + pegasus = a possible daydream?} She is so goofy! I love it.

taylor swift Halloween costume

3.¬†These wise words from Heather Waxman… the first time I read them, I felt like she was talking directly to me. As someone who is not often loud and does not prefer to be the center of attention, I love her message that quiet strength and quiet confidence are equally true and beautiful:

Sometimes, we think that we have to be loud and obviously the center of attention in order be confident. But that’s not really it at all. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than a woman carrying herself with soft strength. Quiet and ease. Grace and a smidge of grit.  That’s just so beautiful. She doesn’t feel like she has to prove anything. She doesn’t care if she’s the primary focus of the conversation or sitting and listening as a few people spearhead the conversation. Because she just is. She’s just being. 

4. This week I finished knitting a scarf to donate to the wonderful nonprofit organization Knit With Love that donates knitted and crocheted items to people in need, whether they are impoverished, homeless or struggling with illness.

knit with love

Here is their mission statement: “We believe that the gift of a hand-made item can provide physical warmth to people who may have little else, and can also be a tangible showing of love and support that will serve as an encouragement in this difficult time. Every item is donated to a person who greatly appreciates the hand-made gift. As of June 2014, we have donated over 5,000 knit items to people in 37 countries.” WOW, right? Amazing!

It makes me happy to think of someone wearing this colorful scarf I made and feeling loved!

scarf

5. Finishing with a bang: The Giants winning the World Series on Wednesday!! It feels like the whole Bay Area is celebrating! Everywhere you go, people are wearing Giants’ gear and Giants flags are waving from cars and houses everywhere. I’m enjoying the¬†special feeling of camaraderie with everyone, even strangers in line at the grocery store ūüôā Dana was so cute, waving her Giants rally rag from back when they won the World Series in 2010!

dana giants win

Have a fun and safe Halloween, everyone!!

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are you doing for Halloween?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

fabulous friday #29

Happy Friday, friends! What wonderful things are you up to today?

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1.¬†Catching up on my stack of old issues of The New Yorker¬†that pile up at my parents’ house when I’m gone. My dad always reads them and saves them for me, because I especially love reading the fiction. My recent favorite: “Here’s the Story” by David Gilbert. The ending definitely sucker-punched me, in the best way! This is one of those stories that I want to press into the hands of everyone I meet and tell them, “Read this. You’ve got to read this.” Does anyone else ever feel that way when you read something amazing?

new yorker issue

2. My parents and I went to the Food Truck Tuesdays event that happens here in Ventura on the first Tuesday of every month. It was a blast! I was impressed by the wide range of cuisine offered by the many different food trucks. My dad opted for the lobster tacos, Mom got a classic burger, and I got sushi rolls topped with an Indian-inspired butter pork-and-peppers sauce. Yum!

food trucks

parents at food truck tuesday

3. I made turkey enchiladas for dinner last night. They were a big hit!

turkey enchiladas

4. ¬†Thanks to Whitney for sharing this powerful sermon on love and commitment. I thought the message was absolutely beautiful, and very true {except for the part towards the end where he says¬†it was “too late” to back out of the wedding… I think that if you have doubts in your gut about marrying a certain person, those doubts are there for a reason and you need to listen to them carefully! Which is entirely different from being afraid of commitment in general.}

5.¬†The fro-yo place down the block from my parents’ house has the best selection of toppings… so many choices! I was cracking up at all their sour candy options. My sweetheart loves sour candy, even on ice cream. I need to bring him here!

fro yo toppings

What are your plans for this lovely August weekend? I think my parents and I are headed to the outdoor concert series Rock The Collection tomorrow evening. It’s always a lot of fun, plus it’s freeeeee — can’t beat that! ūüôā

rock the collection

me and mom summer

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

fabulous friday #27 {washington d.c. recap edition!}

Happy Friday, everyone! After a few whirlwind weeks of travel, I’m now back home in Ventura soaking up time with my parents, Gramps, Erica, and Mr. Mur-dog.

I’m also preparing to teach the first weekend of my Summer Writing Camp tomorrow! I’ve got a lot on the to-do list today, but before I get going I wanted to take a few minutes to recap my trip to Washington D.C. to visit my brother for a long weekend. So this week’s Fabulous Friday post is going to be a recap!

Here’s 5 things I loved about washinginton, d.c.:

1. Spending time {and taking selfies!} with my brother. I always love getting together with this crazy kid! He makes me laugh like pretty much no one else on the planet.

selfie with greg

selfie on metro

2. Strolling along the Washington Mall and seeing the Capitol and all the monuments.

me with capitol

greg and horse

3. Going to the Ford’s Theater museum. As a huge Abraham Lincoln fan, it was really sad — but also sacred — to see the place he died.

honest abe

house lincoln died

ford's theater

ford's theater box

4. The Native American Smithsonian Museum. Beautiful and thought-provoking.

smithsonian

native american banner

native american museum

native american statue

5. Going to the Sara Bareilles concert! Greg surprised me with tickets. It was a phenomenal show, and the venue was so much fun! We picnicked before on the grassy lawn. It was a wonderful night!

sara bareilles concert

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20140714_161307

20140714_161535

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What’s on your agenda for the weekend?
  • Have you taken any fun trips this summer?

a year of Wooden: week 25

Hi, friends! I’m writing this from the D.C. airport after a wonderful trip visiting my brother. {Recap post coming later this week!} My flight doesn’t leave for another couple hours and there are thunderstorms in the weather forecast today, so cross your fingers I get out of here safely and on time to make my connection in Kansas City!

starbucks

But right now I’m a happy camper with my little travel workstation: laptop, earbuds playing Lucius on soundcloud {they opened for Sara Bareilles at her concert last night and were aaamazing}, phone charging, and of course a big cup of¬†green tea w/honey.

I’m happy to be coming at you¬†with this week’s year of Wooden challenge!

a year of wooden

  • January:¬†Drink deeply from good books.
  • February:¬†Make friendship a fine art.
  • March:¬†Help others.
  • April:¬†Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May:¬†Be true to yourself.
  • June:¬†Give thanks for your blessings every day.
  • July: Love.

Coach Wooden said, “The two most important words in the English language are LOVE and BALANCE.”¬†This month, we’ll be focusing on the first of those: cultivating and nurturing more love in our lives. Next month, we’ll strive to create better balance in our lives.

Last week’s challenge was to increase the love in your life by increasing the time you spend PRESENT with your loved ones. In other words, it’s not just important to spend time with those you love — it’s important to make that QUALITY time!

One¬†simple thing I did this week was turn off my cell phone.¬†I used it to take pictures and occasionally to see where I was going¬†in the city to keep from getting lost, but other than that I tried to keep my phone silenced and put away in my bag for most of the day.¬†I was highly aware that the time I got to spend with Allyn and Greg — and with my cousin Melissa, who drove down from Baltimore to see Greg and me for dinner, and with two other friends I got to meet up with in D.C. — was limited and precious because I was leaving soon and I knew I would miss them very much. But it got me thinking — our time is limited and precious always, with everyone, even with those people we see every single day whose presence we might take for granted. I definitely felt happier and more loved this week when I was focused on savoring the in-person time I was blessed to have with the amazing¬†people in my life! I’m going to try to live with my cell phone turned off more often.

This week’s challenge is to write a love letter to¬†yourself. What do you love about yourself? What are your favorite qualities that you possess? How can you be kinder, gentler, and more loving to yourself?

Questions for the day:

  • What was you experience this week of trying¬†to be present with your loved ones?
  • Have you gone on any trips this summer?

goals + recipes for the week of 5/18

Hi friends! Hope you are having a lovely weekend! Mine has been busy with loads of good things! Yesterday I taught four writing and public speaking classes of energetic elementary schoolers, then took Bart into the city to attend an event with Allyn as part of his MBA program. I was super inspired by the smarts and passion of these graduate students, plus it was fun to spend time with my sweetheart and meet more of his friends.

This morning, I’m headed off to church, then taking my beautiful cousin Arianna out to brunch to celebrate an academic achievement award she received at school, and then hopefully squeezing in a coffee date with my friend Emy whose birthday was last week and who I haven’t seen in far too long! Later this afternoon my Grandpap is singing in a choir concert, and I’m excited to go support him along with my grandma, Aunt Mary, and cousins Bianca & Makena. Grandpap looooves to sing and it always warms my heart to see him up onstage, doing what he loves best! And then tonight I’m going to a dance party in the city with Allyn. Should be a blast!

Told you it was going to be a busy weekend around here! Before I skedaddle, it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
–¬†write ten pages {didn’t quite make it to ten, but did finish a short story!}
–¬†send out three query letters/submissions
–¬†finish midterm evals¬†of students
Рread up to page 400 in Wolf Hall {but I did get sucked into & finish The Gospel of Winter}
–¬†go to two yoga classes
–¬†connect with two friends

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
–¬†write ten pages
–¬†send out three query letters/submissions
– send acceptances for new young writers project
Рread up to page 400 in Wolf Hall
–¬†go to two yoga classes
–¬†connect with two friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
–¬†sweet potato & black bean mexican salad¬†via Two Peas & Their Pod
–¬†spring vegetable stir fry w/lemon ginger sauce¬†via Two Peas & Their Pod
–¬†black bean mango quinoa salad w/cilantro lime vinaigrette¬†via the real-life rd
curried butternut squash soup w/kale & chicken¬†via Peanut Butter Fingers {similar to this recipe and this recipe I’ve made before}
–¬†homemade jello¬†via¬†It’s Progression
my own tilapia w/pineapple salsa

tilapia

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

the t.swift concert + my celebrity starbucks encounter

Last night, Holly and I headed into downtown Nashville to see our girl Taylor Swift in concert!

red tour bus

It was an amazingly fun night! Holly and I have loved T.Swift since college and we have gone together to two of her concerts before, so she is a special thread in the fabric of our friendship. The Nashville crowd was friendly and cheerful — my kind of people! It was the last show of the entire “Red” tour so there was an extra charge in the air. Hunter Hayes was a special guest; he came onstage and played his new song I Want Crazy, which I love. I had the best time singing and dancing with Holly to all of our favorite songs!¬†Taylor even played some songs from her previous albums, which felt like a surprise treat. The entire concert lasted more than three¬†hours, but it felt like it flew by in a flash.¬†Here are some of my favorite snaps¬†from the night:

holly nashville

tswift dcoke

preshow

super excited

me and hol

That last picture was taken right before we left the house and I think it captures our friendship so well!

Before T.Swift came onstage, there were two warm-up acts: Casey James and Ed Sheeran. Holly and I both like Ed Sheeran’s radio hits, but¬†I think we were¬†even more excited for Casey James. American Idol fans might remember Casey from¬†a few years back¬†… neither Holly nor I are huge American Idol people, but the season Casey was on we both got sucked in for whatever reason. It was the year after we’d graduated from college and we were living halfway across the country from each other, but we watched American Idol every week and talked often¬†about our favorite contestants. Holly was always a huge Casey fan, and especially loved his shoulder-length curly hair; I thought he was pretty cute but that he’d be even cuter if he cut his hair. (I’ve always been attracted to guys with short hair!) He became an inside-joke celebrity crush between the two of us.

46th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards - Concerts On Fremont - Day 1

Flash forward to last week, when Holly texted me with the exciting news that Casey James was going to be one of T.Swift’s opening acts! It felt like a gift from the concert gods just for us.

But the excitement doesn’t end there. On Friday morning Holly headed off to class and I went to the Starbucks right next to Vanderbilt to write. I was standing in line, not paying the slightest attention who was around me because all my energy was focused on trying to decide whether I should try the new chocolate chai latte or stick with my tried-and-true regular chai latte {I ended up sticking with my regular go-to… has anyone tried the chocolate chai? How is it??} I ordered and paid for my drink, and then the barista lit up with a smile and said, “Hi there, Casey! What¬†can I get for you¬†this morning?”

I turned, and there he was, standing right behind me — Casey James! All I could think was, “Why is Holly not here with me???”

He ordered a bunch of drinks, including a particularly fancy one that I like to think was for T.Swift herself. Then we both stood by the counter waiting for our drinks. The Starbucks was relatively empty and nobody else seemed to recognize him. I was torn between star-struck shyness and¬†the knowledge¬†that if I didn’t at least say hello, I would kick myself later. So I summoned my¬†courage and¬†said to him, “Not to be weird or anything, but I just wanted to let you know that I am a big fan of your music.” {His song Crying on a Suitcase is one of my favorites! So good!}

He¬†flashed me a big smile and said, “Thank you so much!” I told him that Holly and I were going to the concert on Saturday and asked how the¬†Thursday night show had been. We talked for a good five-to-ten minutes while we waited for our drinks. He could not have been nicer or more down-to-earth. I was a Casey James fan before, and I’m definitely an even bigger fan of his¬†now. It was so neat to see him playing at the concert last night. He was fantastic!

After the show, Holly and I walked around downtown and stopped at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville for drinks before heading home. It has recently been pointed out to me that I drink out of a straw in the side of my mouth … does anybody else do this, or is it just me?

straw side mouth

Anyway, it was a truly incredible night and I am so grateful that I got to experience the concert with Holly! Now¬†we’re soaking up¬†the final hours of my visit¬†before I catch a flight back to the Bay Area tomorrow morning. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

year of kindness challenge: week 37

year of kindness button

Hello from Nashville! I am currently in the country music capitol to visit my lovely Holly … it is so much fun just hanging out with her, laughing and talking and drinking tea and watching chick flicks. And I have been having a lot of fun exploring the beautiful Vanderbilt campus and surrounding area while she is in class. I’ve been¬†getting some good writing done at Starbucks, too — pumpkin chai latte, bring¬†it on!¬†On Saturday we are seeing our girl T.Swift in concert! SO. EXCITED.

Anyone have any suggestions for places I should try to check out while I’m here in Nashville? Let me know!

The people I’ve met in Nashville have been so warm and friendly. In fact, my entire travel day from California to Tennessee was blessed with so many instances of kindness! From people letting a harried, late traveler go ahead of them in the security line to strangers complimenting each other while making small talk in line to board the plane, it made my heart smile to see so many instances of¬†connection and¬†kindness.

Another happy thing in my life this past week was that I reconnected with my friend Dana, who I hadn’t seen for years … she reached out to me when she saw I’d moved to the Bay Area, and we met up for breakfast on Sunday. It was SO great to catch up! She is one of those sunshine-filled people who makes you feel instantly at ease, and I was smiling the rest of the day after seeing her.

This past week‚Äôs kindness challenge was to fill out a feedback form with five star ratings, write a positive review of a book or product you love, or even call that ‚ÄúHow am I driving?‚ÄĚ phone number on the back of a semi-truck and rave about the truck driver‚Äôs wonderful driving skills.¬†I filled out positive feedback for Marshall’s and Einstein Bros Bagels. It took all of three minutes to do each, and it made me feel like I was brightening someone’s day. Ever since my friend Erica started working at Target, it’s made me more aware that there are real individuals behind even the biggest corporations, working hard every day, who often don’t get as much positive feedback as they deserve. I also wrote two positive book reviews on Amazon {they aren’t up yet, but hopefully they will be up soon and I’ll let you know!} This week’s kindness challenge is certainly one I plan to continue doing. I didn’t see any of those semi-trucks with “How am I driving?” on them this past week, but I’m keeping my eye out … when I do, I am definitely going to call the number and give a glowing report.

The Week 37 Kindness Challenge is to do a household kindness for someone you live with. Do your roommate’s dishes, stock the fridge with your husband’s favorite drink, vacuum for your girlfriend, clean the kitchen for your mom. You get the picture! If you live alone, get creative … maybe you could do a household kindness for your parents or for a friend.

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Always,
Dallas

‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ‚ÄĒ

year of kindness archives:
–¬†week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
–¬†week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
–¬†week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
–¬†week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
–¬†week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
–¬†week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
–¬†week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry
–¬†week 8 challenge: donate toiletries to a shelter
–¬†week 9 challenge: post a kind note in a public place
–¬†week 10 challenge: do something kind for a child
–¬†week 11 challenge: thank someone in a genuine & meaningful way
–¬†week 12 challenge: deliver baked goods to a fire station
–¬†week 13 challenge: give someone flowers
–¬†week 14 challenge: donate books
–¬†week 15 challenge: reach out and spend time with people
–¬†week 16 challenge: smile at everyone you meet
–¬†week 17 challenge: pick up litter/trash
–¬†week 18 challenge: write a kind note to a mom figure in your life
–¬†week 19 challenge: leave an extra-generous tip
–¬†week 20 challenge: donate blood/join bone marrow registry
–¬†week 21 challenge: visit a cemetery and pay respect
–¬†week 22 challenge: practice a little patience
–¬†week 23 challenge: call 3 loved ones on the phone
–¬†week 24 challenge: do something kind for a senior citizen
–¬†week 25 challenge: pay for someone‚Äôs public transportation
–¬†week 26 challenge: volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen
–¬†week 27 challenge: send a care package to someone in the military
–¬†week 28 challenge: give at least one compliment every day
–¬†week 29 challenge: do a favor for someone else
–¬†week 30 challenge: scatter lucky pennies around a playground
–¬†week 31 challenge: mail an empowering postcard
–¬†week 32 challenge: plant something
–¬†week 33 challenge: donate school supplies
–¬†week 34 challenge: give a sandwich to a homeless person
week 35 challenge: compliment a salesperson to their manager
week 36 challenge: leave positive feedback