Monthly Archives: January 2012

What is on Your Bucket List?

Life is not easy right now. It’s not necessarily hard, but it is definitely not easy. On any given day, we’ll have $100 or less in the bank. On any given day, we could have credit collectors calling. Most days, we eat the basics.

Every day, I lived as if that day was the most important.

I woke up and focused on getting to work. I worked and focused on getting to break. I took my break and focused on sleeping. I worked and focused on getting off. I got off and focused on getting home. I got home and focused on relaxing. I relaxed and focused on worrying. And then I went to bed, only to wake up the next day and repeat.  My life was one endless cycle of nothing. I was going nowhere, and I knew it. I was too ashamed to face it, so I “relaxed” to hide it from myself. My family suffered. My writing suffered. Worst of all, I suffered. There was so much that I knew I needed to do, but I couldn’t gather the strength to face it. After all, who wants to face the fact that their life is completely stagnant. I had so many dreams, and I’d traded them for regret and hardship.

I needed a shock straight to the brain to wake me up, and I got one. Facing the choice of having no job or keeping it, I realized that I didn’t want to live like I had been. I had no joy in anything anymore. There was just no life left in me… So I quit. My dreams weren’t so far off, and my situation wasn’t so terrible. I sat back and looked at it all. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a roof over our heads and kept most of our independence. We didn’t have the most refined foods, but there are a lot of amazing recipes you can make with ramen and canned vegetables. We weren’t living easily, but I’d forgotten about living entirely. So, I quit.

It’s been two days since my last day at work. I had a day to mope. I sat around and watched Korean dramas like a dork. I read a book. I wallowed in a hot bath and pigged out on a splurge of Mickey D’s. But today is a new day.

Today, I’ll be writing down a bucket list. For those of you who have not seen the movie or heard of it, a bucket list contains all of the things you most want to do in life. If you want to eat pizza in Italy, it goes on the bucket list. If you want to catch a fly ball in Yankee stadium, it goes on the bucket list. The most important factor is that every single one of them must be something that you in your mind deem as not necessary. Is it necessary to travel the world? Of course not. Is it necessary to graduate college? Not completely. Is it necessary to write a best seller? No. But a life full of pure necessity is not living.

It’s been two days since I started my new life. Today, I write up my own Bucket List. Today, I will decide just what path my life will take. Will you join me? What is on your bucket list? Are you willing to step up and step out of the rut? Are you willing to see just how amazing your life can be?

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An Unexpected Hero

Her stage name is Arielle Nicole. She is brilliant. And, she is a constant reminder that there is no such thing as fate.

I’ve known Arielle since we were in elementary school. She and my sister were best friends, and I invited myself in to their friendship. I was fortunate enough for my sister to share. Even back then, Arielle was determined to do something big with her life. I remember being amazed by how many instruments she had in her house, everything from a guitar to a drum set to a flute (I think). My 10 year old self was a little overwhelmed. This girl, younger than me, had a goal in life while I was still floating aimlessly around. She had a passion and a hunger for something I could even begin to imagine.

A few years later, Arielle began actively pursuing her goal. She began taking voice lessons and guitar lessons, drafting up songs and writing music for it. On our sleep-overs, we’d stay up all night trying out harmonies or taking pictures for her future success. We have videos and pictures and weird voice recordings of our late-night antics, and I never admitted to her just how entranced I was by it all. I was in awe. At 15, she had a goal and a plan of action. She was following her dreams without looking back. Part of me heard what adults said around me, that it was a great goal but few ever succeeded. Part of me agreed, but most of me hoped they were wrong. After all, I had my own aspirations of greatness. If someone as determined as Arielle couldn’t do it, what hope did I have?

Spring 2011, Arielle went on tour for her first CD, “This One’s For You.” On the return trip home in the middle of the night, she and her mom hit some wild boars. The truck flipped over several times, pinning her hand under the side and fracturing one of the vertebrae in her neck. By all rights, she should have died. By a miracle, she was alive. If her hand hadn’t been pinned under the car, her mother might have been able to move her. If she’d been moved, she might have had severe damage done to her spine. Somehow through it all, Arielle found that silver lining and held on. She was saved by her hand. It was crushed though, her little finger ruined to the point that doctors said she’d never have control of it again. My parents were the first people her mother called and the first to arrive at the hospital. They held her hand while she lay in a bed, arms and legs strapped down to keep her from shaking or pulling out her breathing tube. My sister and I were horrified at the news.

Over the next few weeks, I watched one of my closest friends overcome a horrible situation. Not only was she in a neck brace, but she was unable to play music. Luckily, it was her strumming hand but as a writer I could imagine her pain. She had put so much into her career only to have it literally crushed. Any normal person would have given up. Most of us would have screamed at God or sunken into the depths of depression. Arielle didn’t.

She was very open the entire time about her feelings. Everything was realistic, blunt, and honest. She didn’t sugar-coat anything. She didn’t try to hide behind false smiles and high walls. Instead, she let us all in on her struggles and, in the process, showed us just how strong the human spirit can be. She had her ups and downs. She faced a long, difficult road. Still, she kept smiling. I remember visiting her a few weeks after the accident. She didn’t get up much from her bed, but she had a look of peace about her. At one point, she pulled a sliver of glass out and set it on the table. I was shocked. She seemed to almost shrug it off. It was just another reminder to her of the miracle her life was.

About six weeks after the accident, she posted a video of a brand new song. She was sitting on her hospital bed in the middle of her living room, brace around her neck and a ukalele in her lap. It wasn’t perfect, but it was one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Here sat this amazing young woman, overcoming such odds, while I sat taking my life for granted. I don’t remember what the song was, but I remember her face. I remember the way her hands moved across the ukalele and the way she seemed so lost in her music. There was this sense of reverence about her that came through in the way she strummed the strings. This was a miracle, her sitting before that camera playing a song. That was the first time I realized just how lucky I was to have met her.

On June 28, less than 3 months since her accident, Arielle played her first live show for an audience of 100+. She played only a few songs, but everyone had tears in their eyes. A friend stood next to her, handing her a pick every time hers slipped out of her fingers. She never missed a beat. Instead, she sat radiant on her stool, her voice carrying through the crowd. The crowd was silent. Up there under the lights of the stage, she was beautiful in a way few people ever are. She shone with such a spirit of determination and trust: trust that, no matter what, her God and her choices could make a difference. Arielle is beautiful to begin with, but that night held a different level of beauty. She had transformed from the focused young musician of a few months past to a mature, determined young woman with an uncrushable spirit.

Arielle has just started her first tour since the accident. Her CD has blossomed, and her career is beginning to take off. She has healed beyond all doctors’ expectations. More than that, though, she has inspired every single person who meets her. So often, we take our lives for granted and assume that we’ll have another day to do something. We set a goal and decide to do it, but we forget to enjoy the moment. On her website, Arielle says, “Music has gone from something I want to do to something I get to do.” When I read that, I am speechless. No matter how many times I read it, I always get chills.

I know what I want to do in life. I have my goals, I have my plan, I have my talent. I know I have all the ability, and I don’t pay attention to the people who tell me that I have a hopeless dream. So often, though, I forget that this is all a blessing for me. I have the beginning stages of Carpell Tunnel Syndrome in my right wrist. It comes and goes, but there are times when it hurts just to lay it on the table. At some point in the future, I may not be able to write with that hand. There are times when the pain can be overwhelming and I think about quitting. After all, what is a writer who can’t write? There are other times when Life rears his ugly head and I want to give up because of the improbability of it all. So few writers manage to scratch the surface of their realities. What makes me think that I, little old me, could accomplish something so great as a best seller? I look around me at all the problems and all the issues and all the obstacles, and I give up.

I’ll be putting a picture up of Arielle soon on my goal board. That quote will be underneath it. A little pain in my wrist is nothing compared to the pain she went through. A few issues in life are nothing compared to the struggles she overcame. Who am I to give up, when I’ve been given so much? Who am I to waste the time I’ve been given? How pathetic am I that a friend’s struggle was needed to wake me up…

Arielle is one of my heroes in life. I have shared her story with a few people. She has not only inspired me, but has given strength to many others. Fate is not determined by the circumstances which life presents. Fate is determined by how we use those circumstances. Arielle is in front of me, the example I shall try to emulate. I never thought the quiet red-head would become such an influential person in my life. For that, Ari, thank you. Thank you for never giving in. Thank you for ignoring the limits set by the doctors. Thank you for defying expectations. Thank you for showing us all that we can do anything. Thank you.

Americana/Texas Country Singer

 

That Never-Ending Debate

A friend was asking for help starting up a blog and I realized I’d never used the poll function! Or, I haven’t used it successfully… So here’s my latest attempt at technology. My apologies if I fail miserably or if it’s too cliche for you to click on. I’m curious to see if it works.

Ok, so I’m also curious to see if there’s any old-school folks like me out there. But mostly, I want to see if it works.