Thursday, February 25, 2016

Are We Out of the Woods?

With every doctor appointment, scan, or test, comes anxiety. We worry that there will be new growth, or that the medicine has stopped working, or that the cancer has spread to another area of the body. The worry is inevitable. As much as we try to stay positive, or to believe that everything will be okay, we can't help but feel anxiety. This is cancer we're dealing with, here. It's unpredictable.

This past week we heard the kind of news we don't like to hear. The bad news? It's swelling in his brain. The good news? It's not a tumor. We have to balance being grateful for that while standing together to decide how we will treat the swelling. We also have to keep a close eye on him for the next 8 weeks, because if he shows any sign of confusion or sleepiness, it means the spot has continued to grow and we need to take action sooner. Our options? Low dose steroids or surgery. Neither option are great, this man does not handle steroids well (they threw him into a psychosis that lasted a month) and he's already had two brain surgeries.

And then there is the lungs. There is a spot that is growing, which means it is resisting the medication he is on. He will be tested to see if he is eligible for a new medication. If he's not, he will have to go through radiation therapy on his lungs.

As I was processing all the news last night, I couldn't help but think of a Taylor Swift song. Are we out of the woods? Although that song is about a relationship, that same question applies here.  Just when we think we're in the clear, something else pops up that we have to battle. There is no "clearing" in sight, just a constant path of twists and turns.

The good news is that we stand together in this, and push each other to keep going, to ask for direction when we are lost and to encourage each other. The even better news is that we have so many people around us, sending their prayers and well wishes, letting us grab their hand when we need someone else to lean on.

In September 2014, our lives were totally changed when we learned of the initial diagnosis. In February of 2016, we've learned that the changes just keep coming. We can't be fully prepared for them, we just have to hang on and push forward.

I know I've blogged about this before. But the biggest lesson I can share with anyone who stumbles on this is this: appreciate life and the small moments as much as you can. Do not stress about little things, let go of grudges, forgive. Do not wait until cancer or another illness becomes a part of your life. Love the people around you loudly NOW, and cherish the wonderful gifts you have been given.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Without Music, Life Would Be A Mistake"

I get as excited for the Grammy Awards the way most people get excited about the Superbowl. It is my favorite night of television as it brings artists from all the genres together to honor music. Last night I went into the Grammy Awards feeling excited- some of my favorites were going to be performing, and I was curious who would win each category. The overall show was a little bit of a let down, and today I come to you to review and dissect- while staying kind, because as I've talked about in the past, nothing bothers me more than unnecessary hate.

The Awards

Over the years, the Grammy's has become less about the awards and more about the performances. Almost all of the awards are actually given out prior to the live show. There are tons of categories for music's biggest night, here I just highlight a few. 

Best Musical Theater Album
My Pick: Hamilton
Winner: Hamilton

If you haven't heard about Hamilton, it's about time that you do. Hamilton is a broadway musical, hip hop style, written about Alexander Hamilton. The cast is rich in diversity, as is the music. I urge you to go listen to the soundtrack on Spotify. You may just find yourself hooked into the craze.

Best Country Album
My Pick: Traveller, Chris Stapleton
Winner: Traveller, Chris Stapleton

I first heard about Chris Stapelton when he and Justin Timberlake performed a duet at the CMA Awards. I was intrigued, so I headed to my reliable source of Spotify to check it out...and I fell in love. It was my favorite Country album released this year, and overall one of my favorite albums. Chris has a raspy, gritty tone and a pure love for soulful country music. It's not like most country albums released these days- and I think that's probably a good thing.

Best Rap Album
My Pick: To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
Winner: To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar

I own three of the five albums that were nominated for this award (Nicki Minaj and Drake being the other two). I love all three. But Kendrick's album is just so...fascinating. He raps about real issues, he is an advocate for black rights and for black lives matter, his music MEANS something and he puts his heart and soul into his words and his art. There are plenty of people who won't "get" Kendrick, but there are also plenty that do.

Best Pop Vocal Album
My Pick: Taylor Swift, 1989 OR Kelly Clarkson, Piece by Piece.
Winner: Taylor Swift, 1989

This was a tough call for me because Kelly Clarkson was also up for this award. I would have been elated for either one who took home this award. Vocally, Kelly crushes it over Taylor. They are both solid album with gems and magical moments.

Best New Artist
My Pick: Tori Kelly
Winner: Meghan Trainor

Tori was my pick because of her incredible vocals. I urge you to go give her a listen. She will give you chills. But Meghan has been able to rise to the top of the charts more than once, and she was certainly deserving of this title.

Song of the Year
My Pick: Blank Space, Taylor Swift
Winner: Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran

Other than Girl Crush, I loved every song in this category. The first time I heard Thinking Out Loud I cried like a baby, and Tom and I both have it stashed aside as a possible- one day- wedding song. But we need to talk about Blank Space, because that song is killer. When midnight struck on the day 1989 was released, I was most excited about the song Blank Space. I kept going back to it. I loved the concept and the sound and the little lyrical jabs. Then I read why Taylor wrote the song:

I think as a song writer you have to be pretty well aware of who you are as a person, then I think you also have to have one eye on what people think of you. What the general perception is of you out in the world. In the last couple years I've noticed there's been a pretty sensational fictionalization of my personal life. To the point where it's sort of like 'Wow, that too?' They've kind of drawn up this profile of this girl who is a serial dater, jet setting around with all her boyfriends, she can get 'em but she can't keep 'em because she's too emotional and she's needy. Then she gets her heart broken because they leave and she's jilted so she goes to her evil liar and writes songs about it for revenge. 

So, Taylor basically wrote the song as a "if this is who you think I am, let's write about that". I loved that! It's such a fantastic song.

Record of the Year
My Pick: Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars
Winner: Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars

Like the previous category, I was a fan of every nomination here. Uptown Funk,'s been on the radio for one year and 3 months, and I have YET to get sick of it. It's. So. Damn. Catchy. And good. and rich. And fun. And perfect. And I will continue to love it, no matter how many times it is played.

Album of the Year
My Pick:
Winner: 1989, Taylor Swift

I didn't have a pick here, because again, I loved all of the albums nominated. I think Taylor gets the crown here for a few reasons: 1. The ultra, mega success of 1989. I haven't done all of my research here but I'm almost certain 1989 outsold the other albums a lot. 2. Her ability to make the official "jump" from Country to Pop and still remain incredibly relevant, crush it on the charts and earn incredible reviews. 3. The songs on 1989 are quality tunes. Unlike some pop albums, 1989 has deep content. 

The Performances

Taylor Swift, Out of The Woods
Out of the Woods is one of the weaker songs off 1989 for me. That being said, she managed to bring the song to life in a beautiful, almost haunting way on stage. I loved that she repeated the bridge of the song, and I love that she sang it with powerful vocals. 

Bonus: Adele singing along to every word in the crowd. 
Bonus 2: Jack Antonoff playing guitar! Jack is one of the masterminds behind the 1989 album, He's also part of the band Fun,. The Bleachers, and co wrote the song Brave with Sara Bareilles. I'm a big fan of Jack's work and loved seeing him as part of the performance.

Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt, Take Your Time/Heartbeat
These are two very attractive country stars. But this duet simply didn't work. Sam Hunt has some catchy tunes, but his "bro country" vibe didn't mash with Carrie's sweet, romantic song. Carrie's vocals were stunning as always. 

The Weekend, Can't Feel My Face/In The Night
I love The Weekend and I love his album- I was glad that it won a few awards last night. I also love his genuine vocals, that he just went up there and sang. Vocally, it was one of the better performances of the night.

Andra Day and Ellie Goulding, Rise Up/Love Me Like You Do
Prior to last night's performance I wasn't sure who Andra Day was. This morning, I went straight to Spotify to get a dose of her music. That should tell you how captivated I was by her gorgeous vocals. Ellie is one of my favorite artists, and I thought she sounded great last night. Together, they had a beautiful performance.

John Legend, Demi Lovato, Meghan Trainor, Luke Bryan, Tyrese, and Lionel Richie for a Lionel Richie Tribute

What a random group, right? What a BEAUTIFUL group, right? John Legend and Demi Lovato stole this performance for me, they both sang beautifully. Demi really put her entire soul into that "Hello" performance. I loved how much Lionel Richie loved it! This was a fun performance, a great tribute to a wonderful artist...and this is the performance where I turned to Tom and said "THIS is why I love the Grammy's!" bringing artists of all different genres together! 

Bonus: Many glimpses of Bruno Mars dancing :)

Little Big Town, Girl Crush

The vocals here were stunning.  It seems everyone loved "Girl Crush" this year. And when I first heard it, I thought it was a pretty song with strong vocals from the gals in Little Big Town. But then I really listened to the words, and I just couldn't get behind the song. It's not a sexy song about having an actual "girl crush". The lyrics are actually saying "I want to be this girl because you love her and I want you to love me". I'm sorry, but am I the only one who finds that to be a little creepy? I do think the vocals are beautiful, though.

Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix, That's The Way of the World
What a combo! The accapella styling of Pentatonix with Stevie wonder really worked here. It was quick, but it was real (just their voices, no big to do), and it was really lovely.

Hamilton Cast, Hamilton
I was excited that the Grammy's took time to honor Hamilton and show us a performance- I've been listening to it so much it was cool to actually see it live. Great voices here, fun song, wonderful musical.

Jackson Browne and The Eagles, Take It Easy
Not much to say here- it's a great song, and they did it well, even after all these years. 

Tori Kelly and James Bay, Let It Go and Hollow
Just two talented singers with their instruments singing two beautiful songs. Tori's vocals are incredible. James doesn't quite match up, but I enjoy his songs and his smooth voice.

Kendrick Lamar, Blacker The Berry/Alright
This performance was intense, but powerful. Both of these songs speak to the struggles that blacks face in today's culture. They are IMPORTANT songs. His performance was equally important, using visuals to really drive his point home. 

Adele, All I Ask
This is my favorite Adele song off her latest album. I was so excited to hear her perform it live! But, tragically, there was some major sound issues here. Something was way off. Adele later tweeted that it was the piano mic, it fell onto the strings. It sounded awful- like a bad guitar. It also affected Adele's singing. I'm about to say something I never in my life thought I would say, but Adele was off pitch. I know, I didn't think it was possible either. I can't blame the girl, that awful sound glitch must have thrown her off horribly. I think she should get a re-do. But at least we know that she IS human. I still love her, and this song.

Bonus: Bruno Mars introduced the performance. Bruno also co wrote this song.

Justin Bieber, Love Yourself/Where R U Now
I wish this kid wasn't such a tool because I actually do like his music, and I thought he delivered a solid performance last night. It's just so hard to root for him. 

Lady Gaga, David Bowie Tribute
Gaga was the PERFECT choice for this tribute. While some may have just gone up there and sang a few Bowie tunes, Lady Gaga fully emersed herself into the character, and put on a SHOW. She was amazing! I loved her vocals, I loved her dance moves, I loved that she took on this tribute with PRIDE and joy. 

Chris Stapleton, Bonnie Raitt and Gary Clark, Jr, B.B King Tribute
These three were a perfect choice for such a soulful tribute. I went to bed before this happened, but I watched it today and was captivated by the vocals here. A lot of people don't know this about me but I actually spend a lot of my time listening to blues/soul type of music. I loved this, right up my alley.

Alabama Shakes, Don't Wanna Fight
As I just mentioned up above, I listen to a lot of blues music, and Alabama Shakes fits nicely into that category. Brittany Howard's voice is just unreal. Their music always makes me want to do a little groove.

Hollywood Vampires, Ace of Spades
I was so confused about this band. Tom and I kept kind of giggling whenever they were announced. Like- what? How random. I'm not into harder rock music, so I didn't love this.

Best Acceptance Speech: Taylor Swift, 1989 album win. She "responded" to Kanye West recently claiming that he was the reason she became famous, but she did it in a classy, empowering kind of way.

Who was robbed: I wish Kelly Clarkson would have won something, but I don't necessarily think she was robbed. I can't really think of anyone who was robbed. Plenty of people are upset that Taylor won over Kendrick Lamar. I think 1989 was pretty deserving. I do think the Foo Fighters were a little robbed.

Someone I discovered: Andra Day.

What was most upsetting: Adele's sound issues causing some major problems.

Who needs to release another album asap: Bruno Mars, Bruno Mars, and Bruno Mars. 

One more thing: As much as I love pop music, I listen to a slew of other genres. Hip Hop, R&B, Country, Blues, Indie, Alternative, Broadway...the list goes on and on. As much as a lot of my favorite artists were honored tonight, there's so many more I love that will likely never be part of the Grammy's. That's something I like about myself, that I don't just stick to one genre or only know "popular" music. That's also something I love TO DO, is to discover new music or to find out what others listen to. Right now I'm listening to a lot of Ron Pope. Go check him out!

WHEW. What a night, right? Tell me, what were your favorite moments?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


When I was in high school, a loved one was suffering from severe depression. I remember another wise friend of mine saying to this person "you need to arm yourself with the necessary tools to fight this". I loved that phrase then and I love it now. Whenever I find myself struggling, I go back to those words. Over the years I've personally found solace in many different "tools": prayer, writing, talking it out, and, most recently, working out. I've found all of these things to help clear my head, to give me confidence, and to bring me comfort, and peace. But above all of these things, there's one that stands above the rest:


Music brings something out in me like nothing else can. I am so often comforted by lyrics or a melody. I have certain songs that I turn to for nearly every mood. When it comes down to it, music is there for me. And no matter the genre, I can always find something that sparks a fire in me, or something that brings me peace. And as someone who is very often filled with worry, peace is something I long for.

Nighttime is a parade of worry. It's like as soon as the world starts to calm down, my brain decides it's the perfect time to craft to do lists, negative thoughts, long term worries, and overall emotion. I've struggled with this for several years. There are nights I only get a few hours of sleep because I simply cannot get my brain to settle. I've tried nearly every remedy: meditation, prayer, Melatonin, oils, deep breathing, the list goes on and on. And usually, these things work. For a short time. And then it's back to the struggle. 

Music, though, has once again come to the rescue. A few months ago, one of my favorite musical acts, Jill and Kate, released an album called "Lullabies". And. As the title suggests, it is an album of lullabies that they wrote. The duo surprised a good friend for her baby shower, as this friend had been requesting this kind of album from Jill and Kate. 

So, at 28 years old, I decided to give this album a try to help me sleep. And it's worked. The songs are so beautiful and pure. Each song is special for its own reason, but the song "Sunshine" brings me a unique sense of comfort. I could see that most would think the song is intended to be a parent's message to their child, but when I listen I imagine it's God's words to me. I take great comfort in knowing that God is on my side. This song has done wonders for my prayer life.

I never quite make it through the whole album without falling into a peaceful sleep. I just put it on shuffle and let it do its work. I find something new every night. 

I don't usually listen to the album during the day. I kind of like to have it saved. I don't want it to lose it's magic. I do, however, turn to it in moments of panic, when I need something to bring me back down. 

I've been trying to figure out the best way to share the impact this album has had on me. It didn't seem enough to just post a Facebook status. This album is so much more. It's my safety net, it's the words I need to hear, and it's the tool I use to arm myself for battle. My hope is that by sharing this, others who may struggle with nighttime anxiety or insomnia will take a listen and find just as much comfort as I do.

And while you're at it, check out Jill and Kate's other music. Those two have something so special. Their songs are written from the heart and they harmonize so beautifully. Their music has been part of my life for several years now, and I'm super grateful for that.

You can find Lullabies on ITunes, Spotify, or Amazon.

We can do better.

I know, I know. My blog posts are pretty rare these days. Post weight loss I've been struggling with what exactly I should write about. But today I felt inspired.

I hopped on social media yesterday (the day after the Super Bowl) to do my usual "catch up". I was pretty disappointed in what I saw. On nearly every site, my feed was filled with negativity. I read everything from people complaining that the half time show was "wrong" because it promoted acceptance and gay pride, and because Beyoncé took a stand against police brutality, to people calling Cam Newton an "ungrateful thug" to people saying that they were shocked Lady GAGA could "actually sing". (A backhanded compliment).

And I couldn't help but feel frustrated. I mean for crying out loud: why do we feel the need to drag everyone else down? Why do we find pointing out flaws of others so entertaining? Why did I spot more articles about BeyoncĂ© "almost falling" than I did about the importance of the message of her song? 

I know it's easy, especially on social media, to side with negativity. But you guys, we have to be better than this. I'm not saying we all have to agree on anything. I can appreciate a different opinion. All I'm saying is, you don't have to be so mean about it. And you don't have to broadcast it for the world to 

I am certainly guilty of airing my feelings on social media, and I haven't always been nice about it. But reading the comments and articles on Monday was a pretty real reminder of how toxic that can be. Imagine if you logged into Facebook after a performance or speech you have only to see people tearing you apart. It wouldn't feel so good. So let's try to be better.

This isn't to say we shouldn't have conversations. As I said, I get that we all aren't going to agree. I just don't think we're being productive if we're spitting out hate instead of having a constructive conversations.

Maybe that's just me. But I'm going to strive to be better. A friend of mine has a "three nice things" rule. She tries to say three nice things as she is watching things like the Super Bowl or American idol or Award shows... And she carries this strategy into real life. What it does is challenges you to see past the negative, and to find three great qualities about the person/situation/performance. It can be tough, but it has abundant rewards. Perhaps it's a motto we can all adopt.