Thirty, Flirty and Reflecting...

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”  -Henry David Thoreau


I’ve said it before, but there’s no harm in repeating – the above is one of my favorite quotes.  I’ve essentially been treating it as my life’s mantra since the day I came across it in the conclusion portion of Thoreau’s “Walden.”  The majority of the book (especially the beginning) is – in my opinion – actually a bit boring to read.  It’s a basically a collection of Thoreau’s thoughts on what constitutes “living,” written from his voluntary, reclusive residence in a one room cabin on Walden Pond – a lot of musings and existential thinking and stereotypical “deep thoughts.”  It’s kind of like talking to a drunk guy with no personality who’s been sitting at the same barstool since 8 AM – “What is life, man?  Ya know?”  I suppose I should give Thoreau credit for some pretty killer imagery and literary comparisons when describing the wildlife that Walden Pond attracts, and he does garner a few LOLs with his witty jabs at the general population.  For example:  “While England endeavors to cure the potato-rot, will not any endeavor to cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely and fatally?”  Zing!  However, the conclusion portion of the book is where it’s at.  Lots of quote-able nuggets nestled about its many paragraphs.  I remember reading it in high school (Mr. Harmon’s class) and that “different drummer” part just jumping out at me and running on a loop in my brain for the remainder of the day.  I dog eared the corner (because you can’t use highlighters on official school property) and then when I got home I typed it out in a fancy font in Microsoft Word, printed it out on a piece of computer paper and fun tack’d it to the outside of my bedroom door.  Pretty sure it’s still there, too – tack and all.

He prefaced the quote with this: “Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises?” and, here’s the thing…

I think I finally realize what my pal HDT was trying to say.

It’s not hard to see why that quote would appeal so much to a high school teen.  At that age you’re all about challenging authority and being an individual.  Square pegs don’t fit in round holes.  Why follow the path when you can blaze a trail?  I mean, take your pick of senior class quotes – they’re all the same verbal message, just wrapped up in different grammatical paper.  They’re all about taking your uniqueness out into the world and making it a better place.  Dream big, do bigger!  You’re the key!  You’ve got what the rest don’t!  And while that it true, if you back up one sentence it’s clear Thoreau’s getting at something deeper.  He’s talking about being yourself, but he’s also throwing a little shade at how we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and setting our own bars by how high our neighbors have theirs set.  Think about it.  This world is ripe with this comparison epidemic – social media being the biggest culprit.  How many times do you find yourself scrolling through your news feed reading posts and seeing pictures and thinking about how your life does or doesn’t measure up to the highlight reel you’re basing it off of?  The farther down we scroll the crappier we feel about our own life accomplishments or lack thereof.  Suddenly what we bring to the table isn’t enough.   But, “Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises?”  Why, my friends are we desperately trying to keep up with the proverbial Jones’s?  Because, we never will.

I’m one hundred percent sure that tomorrow’s impending milestone birthday is the culprit of this revelation, but chalk it up to me embracing my almost thirty-year-old status.  You can quote me: Constant life comparisons will be our undoing.  If I compared all the things I’ve accomplished thus far to all the things you have accomplished, I’d probably feel like the last twenty-nine years of my life have been a complete waste and vice versa.  But if we list our own accomplishments and let them stand alone, they all seem pretty impressive.  I’m just as guilty as everyone else.  Telling people that I graduated college with a degree in broadcasting feels like a cop out.  Because in my head, “talking for a living” is nowhere near as noble a profession as say, using science to study and solve world problems.  Ya know?  All of a sudden my personal accomplishment of completing a four year program in three years with damn near perfect attendance and a 3.8 GPA to obtain a degree in my desired professional field is more or less a sloppy finger painting compared to the Chemistry and Microbiology double major Mona Lisa who is continuing another four year pursuit to obtain her doctorate.  I look at others who have amassed this super versatile, young professional wardrobe and have full time, big kid jobs and all of a sudden my three part time jobs and closet full of gym shorts and Target tees seems unworthy and embarrassing.  But, who’s to say being a radio personality or a voice actor isn’t as impressive as a chemist or a microbiologist?  And, who’s to say  that bartending in a Target tee is low brow and managing a department in a smart outfit equals higher status?  We do!  In our heads.  We say this stuff to ourselves constantly!  We convince ourselves that we’re behind schedule or professionally lacking or our relationships aren’t progressing as quickly as everyone else's.  We carry this guilt of not being enough because – in our heads – everyone else has the cooler job, the perfect family, the more put together home, the bigger bank account, the dream spouse, the list goes on.

We give ourselves the short end of the stick, but we’ve done a lot of super impressive things, guys.  I’m talking really cool shit.  Think about all you’ve done in just this past year.  How many goals did you reach?  How many items did you check off your to do list?  How pounds did you lose?  How many toddlers did you potty train?  How many dinners did your family rave about?  How many work problems did you solve?  We are all leading impressive lives, people!

Reflecting is mandatory on the eve of turning thirty (as is true with any major milestone birthday, I would imagine), and in doing my fair share of it these past few weeks this Thoreau quote is just speaking volumes and proving more relevant to me now than it did those ten-plus years ago.  By comparing myself at thirty to others of the same age, I’m deeming myself unworthy of the title.  But as HDT says, the “apple tree” and the “oak” cannot mature at the same rate.  “Shall he turn his spring into summer?”  No way!  Imagine if spring and summer were the same thing.  That would suck.  We would have no new life to look forward to after the bare winds of winter and the colors and temperatures of autumn would look less impressive and feel less refreshing if we had none of summer’s vibrant greens and sunshine to proceed it.  We need to stop comparing our springs to other’s summers.  Spring and summer both stand alone in their own merit.  They each contribute equally admirable qualities in their own time.  And, thus it is with personal accomplishments.

Thirty carries with it this terrifying preface of being a reminder of life un-lived or a life stood still, but I say bring it on.  I’ve pulled off a decent handful of accomplishments, and I’m optimistic that another decent handful awaits me as the “dirty thirty” ushers in the next decade.  If your outlook is less confident, let me use my concluding sentences to drive home this one thing.  Should you find yourself at a similar crossroad, my advice is this: Let your list stand alone.  Take those filled with other’s accomplishments and toss them out the window.  Follow the beat of your cadence and step away.

Running Down a Dream

“You can’t be everybody’s cup of tea.”  -Kacey Musgraves


Guys!  I’m back!  I’ve been off the internet journaling map for three whole months!  I missed you guys.  I missed this.  Writing!  Free time!  Man, it feels good to be at a coffee shop, drink in hand (I traded bourbon and ice for coffee and milk foam today because it’s the afternoon and to quote one of my new co-workers, I’m “feeling myself.”) and laptop screen open.  Remember back when I had that post about quitting my job at Granite and being all nervous about not having that routine of a 9-5 and worried about going stir crazy with no real work schedule?  Who wrote that post???  Seriously.  What on earth was I thinking?  Was I actually under the impression that I would just be job-less and sit around sighing longingly out the dining room window wishing of workdays gone by?  Sometimes I crack myself up.

I’ve actually been up to quite a bit since my last post.  For one, I started working at this new brewery in the Crossroads (actually right around the block from where I’m currently sitting) and while it seems utterly redundant to quit a brewery and then work for another brewery, I only have two shifts a week and it is maybe seven city minutes from my house.  So, while it seems exactly the same it’s not.  Exactly.  For two, I picked up a trivia-hosting gig at a charming, hole-in-the-wall dive in Waldo.  I’ve always wanted to be a trivia emcee (as hilarious and low-brow a dream as that is) and two Thursdays a month I comb the internet for little known facts and gems about everything from currency to college stats, arrange them into multiple choice and true/false format in a Power Point presentation and then slowly sip rye manhattans while I do my best to entertain and inform regulars and strays for two whole hours.  I’m still doing voice tracked weeknights at the station to keep myself relevant in the radio circuit, and – despite my daily chanting of the Martin Family Mantra (as deemed by only me) “Two People, Two Pets” – Doug and I went on a weekend window shopping tour of local animal shelters back in April and came home with a scrappy little, tiger-striped, wire-haired ball of energy we named Scrimshaw Meriwether Martin.  Our house has now become a “Two People, Three Pets” household.  We lucked out, though and ended up with a super smart dog who is very eager to please, so my nightmare scenarios of waking up in the morning and stepping into a soft, steaming pile of dog shit on the floor on my way to make a pot of coffee or coming home from work to find a gory scene of cat carnage littered across the living room rug while the dog picks his teeth with their little cat bones are nonexistent.  I’ve actually even lost a little weight from our two-a-day walks in the midwestern humidity!  At any rate.  Point being?  Things are poppin’.

I also deemed the start of 2017 the start of Becci Martin’s “Career Year!”  (Said with the exclamation point and usually followed by the gusto of a slammed fist on the table – much similar to the way one pounds along with a live Irish band at 1 AM.)  I’ve been wanting to break into the voice acting world here in the city, and I figured I’d stop employing excuses and instead just make some realistic, proactive, adult steps forward and got myself an agent.  As fancy as that sounds, she is nothing more than an avenue to find auditions for me.  Agencies contact her for a project that needs voiced, she sends out a mass email to all her clients that fit the description, we record our auditions, attach them to a reply email and hope for the best.  You’ve heard it said from actors in general that they audition for a living?  Pretty much 100% fact.  I also decided to revamp my profile on the Adobe Creation Exchange (ACX) and throw myself into audiobook auditions and see if I couldn’t snag something.  I made it this year’s goal to get one voice over gig.  One.  I figure, don’t set the bar too unrealistically high, because the amount of people in this city – let alone everyone on that internet audiobook exchange – is a pretty impressively sized pool of talent.  A lot of the talent out there also has some pretty padded portfolios of previous work.  I laughed out loud when I was reviewing my ACX profile.  It had a section where you could list your previous projects or any awards that you had won, and you know what mine said?  Previous Projects – “None, but I’d love to be your first!”  (LOL.  Literally.)  But, you gotta start somewhere, right?  Starting is the hardest part.

So, I’m auditioning for projects my agent is sending me and getting crickets in response and I’m auditioning for audiobooks on ACX and getting rejection messages back months later, and then – out of the blue – I get a message from one of the authors who’s book I’d auditioned for a couple weeks previous.  He said my audition was the “most promising yet,” and he wanted to set up a time to chat on Skype and send me a copy of the manuscript so I could read the book in it’s entirety and see if I was still interested in narrating it.  Totally elated, right?  I’m talking cloud nine-type shit.  I read the book, we chat on Skype, he gives me character back-stories and explanations of plot twists, the whole nine yards.  I get off the call and tell Doug I’m feeling pretty confident I’m going to get this gig.  After that call?  Crickets.  Crickets for maybe three whole weeks.  I’ve basically written this guy off because I haven’t heard from him and he’s probably hired someone else and why can’t he have the decency to send me a rejection email?!?!  Right?  So, after I’ve forgotten all about him and his awful book and my one shot at narration fame (I’m dramatic by nature.), he messages me.  I got the job.  Doug and I go out, we toast drinks, we squeal in excitement (Well.  Okay, maybe only I squeal in excitement.), and I throw myself in headfirst.  So much so, that I coerced my husband into building me a home studio, which sounds really fancy but don’t be fooled.  It’s more or less a glorified blanket fort tall enough for me to stand in, but I love it.  I lit up when I saw it.  I finally felt like an organized, professional voice over artist.  I had a booth, I bought a mic, I bought cables and interfaces and amps and preamps.  I was a working adult making adult purchases for my very adult career that was about to take off.  Right?

Wrong.  I’m sending finished chapters off to this guy for his approval and I’m getting back some pretty constructive-less criticism:  Your narration voice is off putting.  That character sounds nothing like we had discussed.  Why did you over enunciate those words?  Read this line more sad.  Take in what’s going on in the scene you’re reading and imagine that as you’re reading it.  I mean I can’t technically put those in quotes because they aren’t exactly verbatim, but those were all actual criticisms after he listened to the first chapter.  Awesome, right?  In a nutshell, “Hate it all.  Take it from the top and this time, do a good job.  Just read.  It’s not rocket science.”  So after that first round of feedback, I’m crushed.  Totally deflated.  I told one of my friends that it felt like I had just taught my kid how to walk and he’s crossing the street (because for some reason, babies first steps are on highly trafficked roads) and he gets hit by a semi truck.  I should also mention that in addition to narrating this book, I’m also producing and mastering it.  So, every time there’s a revision I have to go back in to the studio days later, listen to the original file, talk along with it until I match my voice, re-record all of the changes, and cut out the bad and paste in the new, add the exact same effects as before and adjust the volume so it all sounds consistent.  Then mix it down, submit it and hope it’s the ticket.  Otherwise?  Round three.  That’s a lot of work for one person who isn’t getting paid one red cent for her efforts.

Now, please don’t read that and think, “Oh, Bec just can’t take criticism.”  Not true.  My high school days were pretty much nothing but acting and public speaking (I only threw in golf to have that coveted “well-rounded high school experience” that colleges wanted to see on student applications.) and having worked in radio for the majority of my adult life I’ve been dealt my fair share of criticism from colleagues and listeners.  Criticism is essential for growth and progression.  But there’s a way to go about it that boosts the effectiveness of how it’s received.  Ya know?  You can’t just tell someone they suck in sixteen different ways and then expect them to rush off energized and excited and ready to try again.  Come on.  To quote me – “Get real.”  Tell them what they’re doing wrong and point them in a direction to fix it and then also express what they are doing well so they continue to do it.  Otherwise I might as well be wearing a blindfold in a basement, groping my way through the room I’m in to find the door to the stairs.  It’s a waste of my time and his.  Plus, with creative projects everyone interprets things differently.  That’s part of the whole “creative license” that an actor is entrusted with so they can “do their thing,” so to speak.  Every actor has his own way of performing.  As I explained to this guy when I finally got the balls to advocate for myself and my talent, which could actually be a whole other post in itself (as a doormat, it was quite the red-letter day for me).  He had told me that I was reading one of the lines all wrong.  It was clearly written the way he had read it, why didn’t I read it that way?  Well author guy, guess what happens when someone writes a sentence and asks two different people to read it?  Do they read it exactly the same?  No.  They each read it how they read it because that’s how people reading things goes.  *throws hands up*  Alas, I digress.  Suffice it to say what started off as an exciting new adventure had turned into a burdensome time-suck that I had to convince myself daily of being a worthy cause of my time.

So, fast-forward a handful of weeks.  Here I am, doing this book thing, taking notes and recording chapters and making edits – feeling like perhaps this isn’t what I’m meant to be doing.  I mean sure, I’ve had people tell me that I have a good voice for that kind of thing and I’m a good storyteller, but did I honestly think that kind words from friends and family would mean I would actually be successful at this?  Maybe I’m not as talented as I thought and maybe what this guy is saying is true – that I’m a ho-hum narrator and I can’t do character voices and my creative instincts are off the mark.  Well, one morning I’m on my way in to the studio to bang out a few more chapters and I get this call from my agent.  Apparently one of the clients I auditioned for around Mother’s Day liked what they heard and decided to go with me for their project.  So, we set up a record date and I met them at a studio in town (a real one, not a blanket fort) and for a little over an hour I stood in a booth and read copy for six different ads promoting alcoholic drinks made with Tropicana.  Turns out, they’ll eventually be running between songs on Spotify (Eeeeee!) for those who don’t pay for an ad-less premium account.  And, here’s the thing…

Up until that point – that day – I had felt like my instincts were all wrong and voice acting wasn’t something that would ever really happen for me because there were too many others out there far better and with much more dynamic voices and in a sea full of that kind of talent how would I ever get picked?  Friends.  That day I was vindicated.  I.  Had.  Talent.  I had creative instincts!  I was a professional voice actor.  I played it cool while I was there, but as soon as I walked out of that studio and into the parking lot I burst into spontaneous laughter for no other reason than career affirmation, I guess.  I just wish I could have bottled that feeling that afternoon.  After being totally down about that freaking audiobook and all the feedback I was getting that made me feel so off the mark, I was finally – as the kids say these days – on point.  After that afternoon, my outlook has been totally different and my conversations with that author have evened out and my confidence has been restored.  I’ve even recorded fifteen out of thirty-six chapters in that book (Halfway point, here we come!). 

Now, I don’t want you to come away from this thinking, “Oh, precious little snowflake Becci.  Needs to be praised and affirmed all the time to be able to do her work and have worth.”  No.  What I want you to take away from this is that you literally can’t be everybody’s cup of tea.  If you are hot tea in a world full of porch-brewed iced tea of course you’re going to be the odd man out and question yourself and your talents.  But, you know your worth.  You know what you are and aren’t good at.  You know where your skills lie.  And if something inside you says that you’d be the successful at a certain endeavor, listen to it and chase it down until you get a freaking side-ache.  Everyone has the power to succeed.  And when the criticisms roll in with out construction, remember this:  It may be inevitable, but it is not insurmountable.

Becci Bootles

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  -Abraham Lincoln


Yes.  That quote is from the Gettysburg Address.  It was one of the very first things I learned to memorize.  It’s such an odd memory, isn’t it?  The first thing you ever memorized?  Or, at least the first thing you remember learning to memorize?  My Grandpa Jack worked for years for Great Western Gas.  His company car was a semi with a giant propane tank on the back that he would drive all over, filling tanks for people who lived outside of town.  When I was little, I’d tag along with him during the summer.  We would pull out of his driveway and at the first stop sign before we pulled onto the highway, he’d look left and give the all clear and ask me what was coming from my way.  I’d look right and give the all clear, then – because I was an ornery little shit head – I’d lie and say a truck was coming and brace myself on the dash dramatically.  Grandpa would slam on his breaks and I’d laugh like a hyena while he would resist strangling me (I’m sure) and yell out that I was to never ever do that again.  We’d stop at the Phillip’s 66 and I’d buy a bag of Skittles with the change I fished out of grandpa’s pocket while he shot the shit with his brother Dale behind the counter, then we’d hop back in the cab and head out to our delivery.  Sometimes the trips were short and he’d listen to whatever stories I’d rattle on about at that age.  Sometimes the trips were longer and on those trips – I’ll never know why – he would recite the Gettysburg Address.  Breaking Abraham Lincoln’s long sentences into smaller portions for me to repeat after him.  We’d go back and forth as the miles went on and after a good handful of trips riding shotgun, I’d had the whole thing memorized.

My Grandpa Jack passed away this morning.

I put my phone on silent when I go to bed at night because, every so often, late night texts and calls can roll in without warning.  Lighting up my bedroom with the blinding light of the call screen and jarring me from my white noise-induced slumber with either a sharp, resounding DING or that familiar trotting ringtone blaring next to my left ear.  When I woke up this morning there were three alerts from my news app highlighting the latest antics from the Trump camp, two Facebook notifications, a message about a new Twitter follower I’d amassed, and a missed call from my mom.  I closed my eyes for another couple of minutes waiting for the voicemail alert to pop up and, when it didn’t I sat up and checked my phone again.  No voicemail, just a text from my brother: “I want to go to work, but I’m just sitting here bawling.”  Shit.

I’d been expecting news like this at some point during the week, but no matter how prepared you think you are to hear the worst, when it hits it packs a punch.  I went downstairs and called my mom, running my hand through my bedhead as she confirmed what had been sitting in the back of my mind ever since St. Patrick’s Day.

Grandpa Jack had been in the ICU for the last nine days and on a ventilator for the last five.  I had gone down to visit him last weekend and left for KC thinking that was probably the last time I’d get to see him and shoot the proverbial shit as we had so many times.  He had a bi pap machine on when I got there, so it was hard for him to talk clearly, but before I left the room that night I watched his mouth through the mask and heard him say, “I’m gonna miss ya.”  I took both of his hands, gave them a squeeze, kissed him on the cheek and told him I loved him and that maybe I’d swing by in the morning if he was up for any early visitors.

Growing up, I had young grandparents.  Not talking teenagers or anything obviously, but my parents had my sister and me in their early twenties, so, to me, my grandparents were never old.  Sure, they had grey hair and wrinkles and ate oatmeal and Tums.  They went to bed early and woke up even earlier, but they also still worked.  They went to music festivals.  They went on road trips and vacations.  They babysat us all the time.  They took us to the swimming pool and took us camping.  They helped us build forts and drew pictures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on printer paper with permanent marker so we could color them in.  They would seek us after we would hide and they let us sit on their laps and drive on dirt roads outside of town.  To tell of my childhood would be to tell of them.

In the last four years, I’ve lost three of my grandparents.  With the passing of each one I find myself revisiting those memories from my childhood, and here’s the thing…

It’s made me increasingly aware of just how much of an adult I am.  Somewhere between running through the tractor sprinkler in their front yard and making mud pie “pizzas” with clover “pepperoni” and getting each one of those heavy-hearted phone calls, I had become much older.  Feeding scraps to the kittens in the barn with grandma and tagging along with grandpa riding shotgun in his propane truck while he made his deliveries – those times were farther away than they had seemed before.  Going out to Grandpa Don and Grandma Darlene’s farm for Easter weekend, coloring eggs at the dining room table covered with that same gold and white checkered table cloth and following the scavenger hunt clues to our Easter baskets, and meeting on Christmas Eve at Grandpa Jack and Grandma Janice’s to eat soup and open gifts before staying up way too late playing obnoxiously loud games of ten-point pitch and drinking “fake wine,” those things won’t happen anymore.  You know how you don’t realize certain things while you’re in them?  Living them?  When you’re sitting around with everyone after dinner and catching up and remembering when, you don’t know that it’s the last time.  You figure you’ll leave that night and head back home and see them next year, same time same place.  Then all of a sudden you just don’t, and you find yourself staring off into space wondering when everyone got so old.  You notice a few more age spots on your grandparents’ hands and a few more lines on your parents’ brows.  You look through photo albums at pictures from even as recent as five years ago and compare them to the faces you see sitting around you and you just want it all to stop.  You want time to literally stop.

I went back to Atkinson a good handful of times last year, and after every visit I’d think to myself, ‘Bec.  You should really blog about being back home,’ because when you’re back home, time does seem to stop.  You grow up and become independent and move away and your friends and coworkers and the people in your new circle all see you in this certain light, but when you’re back home you’re a kid again.  Ya know?  You get wrapped up in this comforting nostalgia that just seems to warm every part of you.  Those little bits of who you used to be shine through.  It’s like, when I’m in Kansas City I’m Becci Martin, but when I’m back home I’m Becci Bootles.  Yes, laugh out loud if you must (How can you not).  I’ve had my share of nicknames, but that one wins most ridiculous and most creative at the same time.  I don’t recall the exact age I was when Grandpa Jack started calling me that, but it stuck and ever since that’s who I’ve been to him.  “Boots!”  He’d always yell that out when I’d walk in the room.  When I’d hug him goodbye, he’d pinch my ear and drag his voice up in this ridiculous old-man falsetto saying “Becci Bootles!” in this sing-song way as I pinched his ear back and then he’d laugh hysterically.

It will be strange going back home this weekend, driving past his house on the way into town and not seeing him in his armchair in front of his living room window.  To leave town without an ear pinch.  Instead of knocking on the front door and hearing “Boots!” as I pop my head in, it’ll just be an empty room in an empty house.

Death is one of those things that can’t necessarily be categorized as good or bad.  It’s initial gift is loss of life, which many can rightly argue isn’t a gift at all.  However, death is a process, and through that process family connects, feelings are shared, faults are forgiven, faith can be strengthened or faith can be found.  We start at grief and find ourselves somewhere in the neighborhood of acceptance and closure.  For those who death takes, many times what starts as pain ends in peace.  My grandpa was never the same after my grandma passed away two summers ago.  You could tell he missed her every day.  When I got the news this morning, I cried.  A lot.  I cried for the loss of a man who had been so special to me and such an integral part of my very happy childhood.  I cried at the thought of the time spent with him in his room in the ICU being the last we would spend together.  I cried at the thought of my dad who, after the death of his mother two years ago had to now endure the death of his father – the man who raised him and whose influence on him is probably more significant than I can even understand.  I cried for a sudden emptiness in the lives of those who knew him.  I cried for loss.  Then I thought of my grandpa – In a pressed shirt and a bolo tie.  His boots poking out of his straight leg blue jeans and a cowboy hat on his head with a bunch of pins on the brim and a turkey feather tucked into the band – looking just as he always had.  I thought of him standing in front of my grandma with a big smile on his face – one of those cheek to cheek smiles that lights up the whole room and makes your eyes squint.  And then, I cried again.  I cried at the beautiful thought of my grandpa finally being home and at peace and with the one he never stopped loving.

Death is a terrible gift giver, but it’s gift starts the process and it is through that process that we eventually reclaim – in a sense – that which was lost in the beginning and can move forward with friends and family toward healing.

The Pen is Blue...

“And the TRUTH!  …shall set you free!” – Jim Carrey  ‘Liar Liar’


So, every year about this time I find myself Googling “things to give up for Lent.”  Most of the results are the same articles I’ve read year after year.  Turns out, not a lot of people sit around dreaming up lists of things for the lazy or creatively lacking to either give up or do/eat/drink less of during Lent.  For those of you unaware, Lent is essentially a pre-Easter tradition among Christians observed as forty days of “preparation.”  We fast, we get ashes ground into our foreheads in indistinguishable blobs meant to represent crosses, our churches (especially Catholic ones in the city) host massive fish frys on Fridays with copious amount of fried fare from shrimp and fries to mac and cheese and of course – the obvious – fish (with endless pitchers of keg beer to supplement our hours spent waiting in line, of course), and for a good handful of people, we also carefully choose give something up.  We go without.  We simplify.  For forty days leading up to Easter Sunday, we go on a journey of discipline and reflection through personal sacrifice.  For some it’s going without soda or sweets or – for the extreme (myself included in the wiley days of my collegiate youth) – alcohol.  For others it’s giving up time, taking on additional projects or tasks they wouldn’t otherwise.  It’s kind of like a revamped, post-New Year’s resolution.  We leave our old selves and vices at church on Ash Wednesday and begin our (hopefully) transformative journey to Easter Sunday.

As a fan of new beginnings and fresh starts, I’m very much a Lent advocate.  Even if you don’t pursue it from a Christian standpoint, it’s still just as refreshing a practice.  Who doesn’t love re-dos?  A chance to erase our bad choices and habits and start over with a clean slate?  It’s a very optimistic time of year for me, and as I’ve gotten older my Lenten sacrifices have gone from the simplistic “no alcohol” (no easy feat for a college sophomore) and “no swearing” (a failure each year it was attempted) and “no cheese” (maybe my most challenging to date…seriously…cheese is everywhere) to more difficult challenges (if you can get more challenging than no cheese), and this time I’ve decided that this year’s Lent will revolve around honesty.  Forty days of telling the truth.  And, I know what you’re thinking, “That sounds too easy.”  I thought that at first too, but here’s the thing…

Think about how much we lie.  Seriously.  I’m not talking about some kind of grandiose, fabricated, strung out, elaborate lie that takes all of your time and energy to pull off.  I’m talking about the simple ones we tell ourselves and our friends and family and coworkers daily.  We honestly probably don’t even realize we’re doing it, that’s how subtle and commonplace they are.  For example, your friend blows you off for the third lunch in a row.  You text back, “no worries!” when actually you’re pissed off that you’ve rearranged your schedule three times now just for them only to have them bail at the last second.  Or you’re passive aggressively unloading the dishwasher and slamming cabinet doors open and closed and your husband asks, “Need any help in there?” and you reply, “No, thanks.  I got it!”  Or your friends ask you to go out for drinks and you’re bra-less, nestled comfortably in the cushions of your couch in your sweats, five episodes of Grey’s Anatomy in and you ignore their text, replying in the morning “Oh, man.  Passed out early.  Sorry I didn’t respond!”  Or someone asks your “honest opinion” and instead of giving it to them, you decide to placate with the response they’re fishing for rather than what you really want to say.  No sense hurting feelings, right?

I am 100% of the mindset that one should not rock the proverbial boat.  I take the back seat to louder, more opinionated voices and am very much a “go with the flow” advocate as opposed to the “blaze your own trail” trumpeters.  However, Lent is not about carrying on as you usually do.  It’s about finding your comfort zone and then making every effort to venture outside it.  I was talking with my husband, mulling over Lent ideas and we stopped on the “telling the truth” suggestion and he said, “That would be a good one.”  I mean, think about it.  Think about a world where we were all totally honest about our feelings.  Think about the doors of communication that would open.  Instead of hitting send on the “no worries” text, what would happen if we sent back “You know what?  This is the third time you’ve bailed.  I’m kind of upset and bummed that we can’t find a time to hang out.”  How would the conversation change?  Imagine if you got one of those texts from a friend.  What would you respond?  It would be kind of a wake up call, huh?

Same goes in relationships.  What if we were totally honest with our partners – dating or otherwise?  What if we checked all the “I’m fine” and “It’s okay” at the door and actually responded with how being rejected and ignored and pushed aside and taken advantage of made us feel?  I’ve more than once been caught up in the stereotypical trap of thinking I could act a certain way and my husband would be able to pick up on the fact that I was upset or unsatisfied.  If I distanced myself enough or talked in a certain tone things would click and he would connect the dots and would apologize for whatever shortcoming flavor of the month he had committed and would profess his apology on bended knee.  Delusional is such a harsh word, but what I just mentioned is exactly that.  How many times have we listened to stories from friends about their litany of irritants and suggested if they just brought it up to their significant other their worries would be that much easily resolved?  It’s a no brainer when observed, but when we are the culprits it is expertly camouflaged.

I come from a fairly non-expressive family.  We’re expressive in the sense of vocal volume and diameter of hand gestures, but aside from that we don’t really talk about our feelings.  We will talk to others about our feelings concerning the opinions we have about other family members, but we don’t go to said members themselves.  Historically, we’ve never been good at one-on-ones.  Better to keep the harsh criticism to ourselves and continue about our day than ruin someone else’s big idea, right?  Someone else will tell them what we’re thinking or else they’ll eventually figure it out for themselves.  That’s how I was raised.  So, from my vantage point, this Lent poses a hefty challenge.  It challenges me to confront my own feelings and expectations and call out those that aren’t living up to it.  Will my new candid remarks come off as refreshing and earnest or left field and bitchy?  I suppose we won’t find out ‘til Wednesday.  However I can say that as a person who classifies herself as more of a doormat than the door (is that the right metaphor?), it should be – if nothing else – an interesting experiment as well as a personal challenge to take the focus off of pleasing and placating others and focus more on the standards and goals that I’ve set and how those I’ve surrounded myself with fit in.  Regardless of the outcome, it should be both challenging and changing.  Two things that I believe are at the heart of the Lenten season.

That said, I’ll end with some song lyrics that over the years I’ve more or less treated as my own Lenten Mantra: “Give our stumbling direction, give our vision wider view.”  If you’re an observer I wish you well on your forty day journey, if you aren’t maybe consider an area of lacking in your life that you’d like to boost or an area in life where you overindulge and what to cut back.  After all, a bit of change is good for those willing to commit.

Subbing Sap for Songs

“Through music we may wander where we will in time, and find friends in every century.” – Helen Thompson Woolley


About this time every year, you start to see an overabundance of cutesy couple photos, well dressed date night selfies and perfectly angled snapshots of crystal vases overflowing with red roses.  Boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives craft paragraphs of artfully chosen platonic praises of their other half to post for their friends and followers to see.  It’s all mush and kisses and baes.  Everyone is head over heels and #blessed.  February equals love – both commercialized and true – there’s no escaping that, so when I was mulling over what to post about this month the obvious topics came to mind: marriage, couples, relationships, blah, blah, blah.  Things we’ve all heard before, right?  Things I’ve actually already blogged about before.  After all, people love more than just other people.  I mean sure, I love Doug.  I also love sandwiches.  And bourbon.  And queso dip.  And fried cheese balls.  And sweat pants.  So this time around, I figured I’d spare you all the sap and sweethearts and for a little change of pace, share my thoughts about one of my other great loves – music.

Music is fantastic, right?  Surely we can all agree on that – lovebirds and cold hearts, alike.  Music is universally recognizable, like a smile.  It can speak or silence, rally or reassure, spark or sedate.  It’s as much communal as it is personal.  It doesn’t even necessarily need to be in a language you understand.  I remember when I was tossing around the idea of starting this blog, I was talking to my mom and she asked me what kinds of things I would post about.  My response?  Oh, I don’t know.  Whatever anyone else posts about.  Things I like, things I don’t like, things that make me happy, things that piss me off…maybe albums I think are noteworthy…you know.  The usual.  Well, today I hold up one end of that bargain.  This Valentine Season I bring to you “Becci Martin’s List of Noteworthy Albums: 12 Solid Albums That I Love, That You Might Not Love, but That I’m Going to List and Defend Anyway.”  And, here’s the thing…

I had a bit of hard time paring this list down to just twelve.  I had lots of contenders, but in the end I decided that unless I could listen to the whole album top to bottom without skipping any tracks, it wouldn’t make the final cut.  New albums are like a day project for me.  I carve out some alone time and listen to the entire thing beginning to end with no interruptions – track A to track Z – picking up on song transitions and lyrical themes, trying to pick out the track titles before they reveal them, really letting myself sink in to the mood of the album.  That may be a bit nerdy and intense, but if you think about all the work that goes into making a studio album, shouldn’t it be just as much of an experience for the listener as it is for the creator?  Plus, we live in such a musically saturated world that it’s much easier to compile a playlist of singles we can’t get enough of than it is to sit down and take in an album in it’s entirety.  Anyway, we’re getting too philosophical.  Original point being:  Twelve albums made the cut.  However, participation trophies should be awarded to the following:  Zac Brown Band, Alanis, Of Monsters and Men, Grace Potter, Modest Mouse, Florence and The Machine, The Killers, Vampire Weekend, One Republic, Pistol Annies and probably a few others I’m forgetting.  Now.  Onto the list!

#12 The Struts “Everybody Wants”

This album, one word:  Infectious.  Think Queen meets Aerosmith meets Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I stumbled across this album last year and from the very first track I was hooked.  I’m a sucker for driving bass thumps and chant-worthy anthems and this one has all that and then some.  It’s more or less become my go to album for when I’m feeling self-confident and celebratory.  You know, like when you’re just one hundred percent feelin’ yourself.  It’s a dance around in your underwear in the hallway, sing into the back of the showerhead, belt out the chorus at a red light with the windows down type-album.  I loved it so much that I actually bought an eighteen dollar concert ticket on a whim and drove to Omaha by myself just for the night so I could see them live at Sokol – #worthit.

#11 Taylor Swift “Red”

I know, I know.  *Insert judgmental comment about me actually enjoying stupid, serial-dating, awkward and annoying, squad-having Taylor Swift*.  Go ahead, I’ve heard it all before.  But, I won’t be deterred.  Love her or hate her, this album was pure professional genius.  Up until “Red” came one the scene, T Swift was falling into this spiraling pit of fairy tales and princesses and boys and all of the non-teen fans were starting to yawn and eye roll a bit.  This album made her an adult.  Her relationship sagas were still the center of the songs, but the lyrics and delivery were all grown up.  Something she definitely needed.  Up until this album I really had no desire to see her live, because I didn’t want to stand amongst a shrieking mob of pre teens with sparkly lip gloss living in fantasy worlds.  Now, I felt like I could go and not be the oldest one in the crowd.  Plus, she was able to top multiple charts in multiple genres at the same time.  The definition of career badassery…in my opinion, anyway.

#10 Sara Bareilles “Kaleidoscope Heart”

I’ll admit that I have a bit of a crush on this chick.  She’s one of those artists whose personality really comes through in her music, like when you can hear someone’s smile in a song.  She’s goofy and serious all at the same time with creative melodies and lingering lyrics.  Imagine a really awesome host at a piano bar – witty and engaging with a voice that can belt and who kills on the keys.  That’s Sara Bareilles.  “Kaleidoscope Heart” is a solid emotional album – you laugh, you cry, you get fired up, you decompress – it taps into all the feels.  Bonus?  Creative lyrical nuggets abound.

#9 Imagine Dragons “Night Visions”

I found out about these guys when asking my cube mate for good songs to add to my cardio playlist.  He played me the song “It’s Time,” and mentioned that if I liked what I heard that they were playing a live show in town in a couple of weeks.  He put me on the guest list and when Doug and I showed up there couldn’t have been more than fifty people there.  But, when those guys took the stage – dude – so much energy.  They oozed passion.  I only knew one of their songs and I stood there in that tiny crowd completely captivated and emotionally engaged.  During one of the songs, the lead singer rolled out this giant marching bass drum and just beat the hell out of it.  It was sweaty and primal and totally awesome.  They rocked the shit out of that place.  Possibly one of my favorite live shows to date.  Everything from the uniqueness of the lead’s vocals to the different compositions and instrument choice, it all works creating one of those killer debuts whose themes resonate with a lot of different crowds.

#8 Kacey Musgraves “Pageant Material”

This chick is all about authenticity and individuality and doing your own thing, and that is an attitude that I most definitely rally behind.  I almost chose her debut album over this one, but I remember listening to this one at our old apartment.  Everything had been cleared out, but I was doing a load of laundry over there because we didn’t have a washer and dryer at our new place yet.  There wasn’t really anything to do for the duration of the spin cycle, so I put my ear buds in, laid on the floor and listened to “Pageant Material,” and halfway through the track list this song comes on with this gorgeous – almost bagpipe-like – violin intro and these simple vocals about human imperfections and I just closed my eyes and soaked it all in.  It was beautiful.  And comforting.  And when any music has that kind of effect on a person, I consider that “noteworthy.”  P.S.  The song was “Somebody to Love.”  Give it a listen.  You won’t regret it.

#7 fun. “Some Nights”

As the name implies, fun. is, well, fun.  Not everyone can pull off gratuitous amounts of auto tune and keyboard sound effects, but these guys can.  Much like The Struts, they have a Queen vibe to them, a sort of quirky theatrical-ness that draws you in.  Their songs are catchy and anthemic and for as sleight as the lead singer is, he has some powerhouse vocals with a surprisingly high range.  They’re stompy and clappy and chanty and just an audible treat.  They are also way cool live.

#6 Miranda Lambert “Revolution”

Much like T Swfit’s “Red,” “Revolution” was Miranda Lambert’s big career album.  She proved she was more than just a hotheaded, gun wielding, revenge seeking female psycho.  Her reputation up until that point was all “I’m gonna shoot you,” or “I’m gonna burn your house down,” or “I’m going to stalk you and your new girlfriend and make you fear for your life.”  With this album, her gooey emotional center is more exposed and she proves that she’s just like the rest of us.  It’s a reflective album with a notable vibe of maturity and while her signature “crazy” was still present, it didn’t overpower the softer notes that made this album so great.

#5 Maren Morris “Hero”

This one is pretty fresh out there in the musical world still but, man, it’s a heavy hitter.  It’s great to see all of these new females coming out of the woodwork in the country music world and so refreshing to hear this chick’s soulful and unique vocals.  Seriously.  Maren Morris deserves both the hallelujah and the amen.  If you’re ever looking for the perfect album to sing in the shower, this is it.  It’s such a big sounding album.  I mean, she can bring down the house just as easily as she can get a ridiculously poppy verse stuck in your head, and make you pine for a lost love just as easily as she can make you want to choreograph a super sexy bedroom strip tease (Listen to “Let Me Show You How It’s Done” and tell me I’m wrong).  She is just one of the coolest new voices out there and I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.

#4 Kip Moore “Wild Ones”

Kip Moore is probably one of the most underrated vocals in mainstream country music.  He’s one of those artists with a huge following despite less than a handful of hits on the charts and singles getting actual airplay.  Which is wholly impressive.  He’s got this growly voice that makes him equal parts swoon-worthy and badass.  Think Steve Earl with laryngitis.  If I’m belting Maren Morris in the shower in the morning, then I’m belting Kip Moore in the car during the commute to work.  Every single track on this album is live show-worthy and I’ve kicked myself multiple times for missing him when he comes to town (which, since I’ve lived here has been twice).  It’s all the energy you love about 80s rock melodies narrated with country music’s core story-telling lyrics.  To quote my father, this album is “the cat’s ass.”

#3Mumford and Sons “Sigh No More”

I read an album review one time about these guys where the author described them as a medley of banjos and strings that met out back behind the barn and exploded.  Spot on.  From the first chord to the last note, this album is like a non-stop folk train blowing through a hipster hoedown.  And I mean that in the most flattering way.  The feelings that these guys can stir up and the energy that they bring with all of their musical dynamics and builds is just incredible.  Mumford and Sons is an experience, to sound totally nerdy.  They run that gamut of love and revenge and despair and redemption and wrap it all up with a folky, little bow.  Plus, their live shows will leave you sweaty and out of breath.

#2 NEEDTOBREATHE “Live from The Woods”

Yes, their band name is actually in all caps.  I wasn’t trying to yell it at you.  I heard these guys five years ago in the basement of a radio station that I worked at in Omaha and at the time they had one single on Top 40 radio – “Keep Your Eyes Open.”  They didn’t really do all that much after that, but recently they had a pretty big song “Brother” that Gavin DeGraw actually tagged along onto and snuck them back onto my musical radar.  I did a little Spotify creeping and stumbled onto this gem.  Good rule of thumb:  If a band can kill a live album, they earn a place among the “noteworthy.”  Live albums are my kryptonite.  It’s like being at a concert with out the overpriced beer and lack of elbowroom.  Their southern charm and the lead’s soulful, raw vocals are the deal sealers.  “Live from The Woods” is equal parts energy and authentic emotion.  I recommend.

#1 Say Anything “Is a Real Boy…”

Everything you love about the misunderstood generation.  Moody angst and pent up aggression alongside screaming outbursts of defiance and resentment.  At the time, front man Max Bemis had a generous amount of mental problems and social anxieties that manifested into some of the most psychotic verses and sweetest serenades – equal parts entertaining and dark.  Is there unnecessary profanity?  Yes.  Is there yelling?  Lots.  Is this a guilty pleasure album?  One hundred percent.  “Is a Real Boy…” came out in 2004, and when 2014 rolled around they announced they were doing an anniversary tour, playing smaller venues and singing their iconic album front to back.  Every Say Anything fan’s dream.  When does a show like that happen?  Essentially never.  Tickets were dirt cheap so I bullied my husband into tagging along with me.  We stood in the middle of a sweaty, packed auditorium floor and I sang every single word of every single song at the top of my lungs.  This album is hardly life changing, but it is eclectic and rock-heavy and belt-worthy.  The perfect album for shameless off-key sing-shouting and spasmodic steering wheel drumming.

So, there you have it!  “Becci Martin’s List of Noteworthy Albums.”  Twelve solid musical compilations to add to your queue!  Or dismiss completely.  Your choice.  Kudos for making it all the way to the end!  That kind of turned into a bit of a long post, huh?  At any rate, I suppose I’ll leave you to your regularly scheduled Valentine themed programming of cutesy couple photos and date night selfies *wink*.  Cheers!