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?

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

goals + recipes for the week of 3/22

Hi, everyone! Hope your weekend is winding up great.

I had a busy day at church serving as Worship Associate with a special guest minister, Jason Shelton, who just so happens to be a minister at Holly’s church in Nashville! I actually saw him leading the choir when I went to a church service with Holly during my last visit. It was such a nice coincidence to have him visiting my church and it made me feel closer to Holly in a small way. I miss her a lot!

Jason Shelton is a super talented composer and musician, and there was lots of¬†fantastic music during both services today. The theme of today’s worship was “music, change, the old and the new” and I maaaaay have written my Call to Worship about Taylor Swift. I was a little nervous about it, but the writing came straight from my heart and felt so appropriate to the theme. Happily, I discovered there are other T.Swift fans in the congregation {including a very sweet group of seventy-year-old women who came up to me afterwards} and everyone applauded at the end of my Call to Worship! #mychurchrocks

with allyson pirates

Backing up to Saturday, we celebrated Allyn’s sister Allyson’s birthday last night with a pirate-themed murder-mystery party! My guess about the murderer was completely off, as was most everyone else’s, but Allyson used her excellent sleuthing skills and solved the case. I could tell she really enjoyed her party, which made me happy because she is such an amazing person. I hope the party was a small way to show her¬†how very loved she is! Also, check out the red beard on Allyn {aka Captain Redbeard}… it totally stole the show, haha.

allyn redbeard

Now… time for¬†goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last time:
–¬†copyedit through Chapter 8 of client’s manuscript
– finish editing manuscript for a friend
–¬†participate in The Minimalist Challenge
connect with two friends
finish reading The Autograph Man

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– finish final read-through¬†of client’s manuscript
– finish editing manuscript for a friend {this got pushed to the back-burner with other projects, but I really want to finish it this week!}
– do yoga two times & PT exercises daily
– connect with two friends
– finish reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
green goddess hummus via Cookie + Kate
spring panzanella salad via Two Peas and Their Pod
orange chicken tofu via Detoxinista & The Pajama Chef
easy chickpea salad via Food Friends
bunny bait via The Pajama Chef
Рmy own potato, sausage & veggie bake

Questions of the day:

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

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

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?

pumpkin carving & other weekend highlights

Hello and happy Monday, everyone! My day started off in a very special way… I stopped by Target to pick up the Deluxe version of my girl’s new CD!!

t swift 1989 cd

I have been a fan of T.Swift since her country music “Tim McGraw” days. She was one of the {many} things Holly and I bonded over in college ūüôā Longtime blog readers might remember when we went to her concert in Nashville last year as the final stop on her RED tour! It was a blast.

red tour bus

I listened to the first six songs driving home from Target, and now I’m taking a little break before listening to the rest… I’m trying to savor it. Nothing like listening to new music from one of your favorite artists for the first time!

Look what else I found at Target: my favorite English muffins! These babies are seasonal, so I need to enjoy them while I can!

pumpkin spice english muffins

Pumpkin in the autumn is a total weakness of mine. I may have also been swayed to purchase some Tazo pumpkin chai tea and a box of pumpkin spice oatmeal. Is anyone else pumpkin-obsessed like I am?

Speaking of pumpkins… yesterday I went to Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch in San Francisco with Allyn and our friends Justin and Fawn. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and everyone in the city seemed in a great mood after the Giants’ win on Saturday night! {And they won again last night, too! Only one game away from clinching the World Series title!} We had a fun time wandering around the pumpkin patch, inspecting pumpkins and admiring¬†the adorable, creative costumes worn by numerous little kids running around with their parents. We saw lots of Ninja Turtles, Elsas {from Frozen}, and Power Rangers — which made me happy, as I was a huuuuuge Power Rangers fan back in the day! Yellow Ranger all the way.

I did not take pictures of any of the little kids, as I did not want to be a creepazoid, but here are some photos I snapped of the patch!

pumpkin patch

20141026_115829

IMG_20141026_121946

After the patch, we stopped by a picnic that one of Justin’s former coworkers was hosting in Alamo Park, right across from the famous Painted Ladies — the houses featured in the opening credits of Full House. I completely forgot to take pictures because I was too busy enjoying the conversation and noshing on a chocolate pastry that Allyn & I got at a farmer’s market on the way there.

But I did take lots of pictures of our pumpkin-carving once we made it back to Justin’s apartment! We did it old-school with knives and our imaginations. In the previous few years I’ve carved with a template, so this was a new adventure! Instead of a traditional Jack-o-Lantern or Halloween design, I decided to carve a cheerful sunflower. {I’m sure you are not surprised!}

sunflower pumpkin

Allyn made a googly-eyed face with a snazzy, slightly off-kilter¬†mustache! Haha, the off-center mustache was driving Justin crazy, but I think it adds to the pumpkin’s charm!

allyn pumpkin

We had a LOT of pumpkin guts when we were done!

pumpkin guts

It was Fawn’s first time ever carving a pumpkin, and she did an amazing job! Her design was so intricate — all those little teeth! — but she carved it flawlessly. No toothpicks were needed in the creation of this Jack-O-Lantern!

Fawn's pumpkin

And here are Allyn & my pumpkins, all lit up:

lit up pumpkins

It was such a fun day!

The rest of the evening was spent doing work {schoolwork for Allyn, getting-caught-up-on-emails-etc for me} and chatting with Allyn’s roommates while making veggie & black bean tacos for dinner. All in all, a truly wonderful weekend!

Before I head out, I want to wish a heartfelt congratulations to our family friends Peter & Brooke, who got married yesterday! The wedding was down in L.A. and since I had to work on Saturday, I was unable to attend, but the rest of my family went and had an amazing time. I love this picture of them from the reception. So much love and joy for you both, Brooke & Peter!

peter and brooke wedding

Questions of the evening:

  • What was a highlight of your weekend?
  • Did you carve pumpkins this year?
  • Who are your favorite music artists?

fabulous friday #3

Happy Friday! What fun plans do you have on the horizon? I’ve been battling a cold this week, but thanks to plenty of rest, green tea, and Grandma’s homemade soup, I am feeling much better … ready to embrace the weekend!

Here are five things I’m smiling about:

1. The USC-Cal Berkeley game! I’ll be heading over bright and early with some new friends from the East Bay Alumni Club. I’m so excited to tailgate and cheer on our Trojans! It’s been five years since I’ve been to a USC football game — crazy!

One of the last games I attended, back in college ...

One of the last games I attended, back in college …

2. Pumpkin spice English muffins are back on the grocery store shelves! YUM. Is it too much to slather these with pumpkin butter? Because you bet that’s what I’ll be eating for breakfast all week. ūüôā

pumpkin spice english muffins

3. My Grandpap’s birthday is tomorrow! We’re all getting together to celebrate on Sunday. Bianca and I are planning to make these funfetti cookies {thanks for the recipe Sarah!} and Grandpap’s favorite dessert, cherry-cheese pie. Photos and recipe to come!

grandpap bday

4. Two new songs that I’ve been listening to over and over:

tswift dcoke

5. Whitney’s blog posts reflecting on her recent trip to Africa … wow, you guys. Read her words and gaze at her photos and prepare to be inspired. She makes me smile, she brings tears to my eyes, she makes me feel filled with grace.

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving today?
  • What do you have planned for this weekend?

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

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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