Monday, September 12, 2016

Pure Imagination

I can't remember the first time I ever watched Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. I just remember it being a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I've watched it countless times. As a little kid I was blown away by all the candy and magic that came with the factory. I longed to visit a place like that, equipped with a chocolate river and all! I loved how sweet Charlie was, I laughed when Violet turned Violet, I wanted to try an everlasting Gobstopper. I was terrified of that ride on the river, and I used to fast forward through that part. I knew that in order to be rewarded as a kid, I couldn't be greedy or selfish like the other characters in the movie. I even loved Mr. Wonka himself, for as sarcastic and sometimes scary as he was.

I continued to love the movie through adulthood. I appreciated things differently. Like how close Charlie and Grandpa Joe were and how the movie showed the importance of family. That if we treat others well, and do the right thing, good things will come. That we should be grateful for every moment, every experience, and everything we have.

But above all of these things, the biggest take away from Willy Wonka is this:

 If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it; want to change the world... there's nothing to it.

That was always my favorite part in the movie, when Mr. Wonka is singing this song. And maybe I didn't fully understand the words when I was a kid, but as I got older I sure did. That song is one of my all time favorites. I am brought to tears nearly every time I listen to it. It's so simple, but so beautiful. Paradise, as we know it, is right here. Right in front of us. And if there's something that needs to be changed, we have the power to change it. How amazing is that? Our minds, our imaginations, are really a beautiful, powerful thing. They can give us hope, they can give us ideas, they can give us power and confidence.

I often have conversations with God or my guardian angel. Sometimes, I doubt that these are real. Am I just making it up? Is it just my imagination? When I asked this question to a spiritual director, her response was "Did God not create your imagination?"

That was the only answer I needed. I no longer doubt the power of my imagination. As the song states, there is no life I know to compare with Pure Imagination.

When news of Gene Wilder's death broke a few weeks ago, my heart broke right along with millions of other people across the globe who were inspired by this movie or other work that Gene Wilder did. I'll always think of him as Willy Wonka. I'll always hear him sing the words of Pure Imagination. He made that movie what it is for me and for so many other people. I know that he had many great projects outside of this movie, but I can't help but imagine him up in Heaven in his Wonka costume, joking with kids and eating candy. Pure Imagination.

Bonus: Here is the Glee Cast covering Pure Imagination. One of my favorite covers they ever did It's just the audio but worth the listen.  :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


I will not forget the first time I heard Adele. I was in college, partying with my roommates. Saturday Night Live was on in the background. My best friend Sam noticed Adele, the musical guest on SNL. Sam pointed at Adele and made a comment about how refreshing it was to have a bigger girl on TV, singing her heart out. Adele wasn't like the typical pop star.

I then remember seeing Adele's video for Chasing Pavements on MTV. I was mesmerized. Her voice was so soulful and rich. I remember jamming to her first album, 19. I remember how ecstatic I was when the hit single "Rolling In The Deep" was released. I remember shedding a tear the first time I heard "Someone Like You", but shedding even MORE tears when I heard "Don't You Remember", a track off of her incredible album 21.  I remember how anxious I was to get my hands on her third album, 25, and how happy I was to hear how she has grown as an artist and as a person.

My original impression of Adele remains true to this day: She is not the typical pop star. There really is no one like her right now. Aside from her outstanding vocals, emotional lyrics and soulful style, she's also (seemingly) down to earth, gracious, and hilarious. The real deal. Everything you could ask for in a singer, without any antics necessary.

I've never been able to see Adele live. She has sold out her shows every time she's rolled into town. And, as she gets more and more famous, it has become increasingly difficult to even try to get tickets. She's coming to Detroit for TWO nights, and both concerts sold out in a matter of about 5 minutes. I was "in line" on Ticketmaster just before they sold out. As the dates got closer, I was searching the Internet for tickets. I didn't want to pay a ridiculous amount, but I just couldn't imagine skipping out on this show. Of all of the artists I love, Adele is one I absolutely MUST see. I said so in 2011, and I say so now.

Well, luck came my way because my friend Kristen, who was one of the lucky ones who got tickets when they went on sale, decided to upgrade her seats and sold her original tickets to Sam and I. So now I am going to see Adele. I can barely even type that sentence out, it doesn't seem real. I know that may seem a bit dramatic...I just can't even believe it. Her music has gotten me through some of the toughest heartbreaks I've ever felt. I KNOW I'm not alone in that. That's what is so special about her music. So many of us feel something when we hear it. That's what makes Adele so special.

I feelings for Adele can be summed up in this tweet from 2015:

I wanted to share 10 Adele songs that you may not know if you don't own her albums. Make no mistake, her singles have been incredible. But I'm not going to include them here because my hope is to introduce you to a song you may have never heard before. So here are my 10 favorite Adele songs that were not radio singles.

10. He Won't Go

9. Million Years Ago

8. My Same

7. Take It All

6. Remedy

5. Crazy For You

4. Sweetest Devotion

3. One and Only

2. Don't You Remember

1. All I Ask

Monday, September 5, 2016


When I was in my teens, I loved to make a "Summer To Do" list at the end of every school year. They included simple things like "have sleepovers" or "go for bike rides". But I also set some pretty high standards for myself, adding things like "fall in love", "go on a week long road trip". (I never really checked those two things off the list). At the end of every summer, I would recap. How did I do? Did I check everything off my list? Did I have the BEST SUMMER EVER? I so wanted to always have the best summer ever. I wanted to be able to go back to school and tell everyone how amazing my summer was. 

It wasn't until my mid twenties that I realized my summers did not need to be epic. Maybe it was because I had a full time job, so summer wasn't so much a 3 month long break anymore. Or maybe it was because I realized that just being able to capture some really special moments were enough. I didn't need to have wild adventures or check things off a list. I just needed to enjoy the sunshine, and soak up all the fun that I could.

As I reflect on this past summer, I can't help but wonder how my 16 year old self would rate it. I mean, I got engaged to the love of my life. My niece Cara was born. Those are two pretty important milestones. Maybe I didn't go on any crazy adventures or road trips, but dozens upon dozens of adventures will be on their way. Tom and I have so much to look forward to- and entire lifetime, in fact. The engagement was just the first step. 

There was something else pretty magical about this summer, too. I ran a total of about 42 miles. Nearly every Sunday morning, around 8 AM, I was outside running my 3 miles. At first, my runs started off as a way to change up my exercise routine. Between boot camp, weights, and yoga, I needed some cardio. But at some point, it turned into something so much more. It became spiritual. It became time for me to talk to God,  but more importantly for me to listen. There were several occasions, where, while running, I felt God's presence more than I have in a very, very long time. Sometimes I heard a song that I needed to hear in that moment. Sometimes I suddenly got chills. Sometimes I felt a hand (or several hands) on my back. But most of the time, a message that I needed to hear suddenly entered my mind. At first I was afraid to tell people what I was experiencing when I was running. I was worried they might think I was crazy, or that I was exaggerating, or both. Now, I don't really care who knows or what they think. Those times have brought me such immense comfort and peace, that I've stopped questioning if it's real or if I'm crazy and just embraced it. 

I joke that I hate running. To be honest- it's still not my favorite. But I've certainly learned to like it much more than I used to. I love being able to beat my time, or try a new route. But most of all, I love that it helps me to clear my mind, and gives me quality time with God.

So...this summer, I got engaged to my best buddy, I celebrated the birth of my niece, and I ran. I also went to a few concerts, had a fun girls weekend, and spent a lot of time with my family. Best summer ever? So far, yes. But honestly, they just keep getting better. I bet my teenage self would never believe that.