music

This is What it’s Like to Listen to a Taylor Swift Album for the First Time

In August of 2017, my sister and I leaned into one another, a headphone in each of our ears.

We were sitting in a high section of the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA, waiting for Dierks Bentley to go on stage. The room was echoing with people going to and from their seats.

The clock hit 9:00pm. It was a Thursday. Spotify unveiled their new releases of the week. But we only cared about one.

It had been almost three years since Taylor Swift released 1989, and we were desperate for new music. And now, the first single off of the upcoming reputation had finally been released.

“Look What You Made Me Do” came in firing. We bounced our feet around, listening to every word. We gasped, we shrieked, we opened our eyes wide and let out an “OH MY GOSH.”

A few months later, at 9:00pm (midnight for the east coast) on another Thursday, we sat in our favorite chairs in the living room and streamed the entire album.

Unable to fully understand each lyric the first time it hit us, we listened to the attitude, we bobbed to the beat, we sighed, we laughed, we clapped, we screamed.

In a matter of weeks, we knew the whole album by heart.

For some reason, this is the first Taylor Swift album I remember listening to for the first time. Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red and 1989 all had their first listens, and I now know every word to every song, but for some reason it’s the reputation release that sticks out. Maybe it’s because it’s the first album she released after my sister and I moved out of our parents’ house and into a place of our own. It was the first album we could play at full volume and stay up late talking about without having to worry about keeping anyone else up.

After reputation, it became our tradition to listen to the albums together. To experience them for the first time, together. 

In August of 2019, we heard Lover for the first time.

In July of 2020, as “stay at home” orders remained in effect, folklore became our biggest and brightest calendar event. And in December of 2020, evermore sent similar shockwaves throughout our very abnormal world.

In April and November of 2021, we sat in a new living room in a new apartment, listening to the new recording of the Fearless and Red albums, singing along to songs we already knew and learning the ones we didn’t.

On this past Thursday, my cousin Taryn and I stood in the audience of a concert in West Hollywood. My sister, now married and living with her husband, was unfortunately home with the flu. The concert started an hour late. By the end, even though the show had been great and the artist even more talented than we thought, we were tapping our toes, anxious to get out of the venue, into the car, and into the world of Midnights.

It was 10:30pm. We were an hour and a half behind the rest of the world who had stayed up to listen. We still had no idea what to expect. For half of our drive downtown we had theorized. Had tried to pick our favorite songs based solely on their names. We tried to know the album before it introduced itself, because we were desperate for the familiarity it would bring once it did.

Once I got on the freeway, we hit play. It was pitch black outside, with only spurts of traffic to brighten the road. “Lavender Haze” started playing through the speakers.

We swayed and then we flung our hands around. I smacked the steering wheel over and over, my excitement needing to escape somewhere.  We drove home, listening to the album in sequential order, one after the other, making only occasional comments, often just sounds. When we got back to my apartment, we hustled in and took our spots on the couch and recliner, and then played the rest of the album.

All 20 songs.

I listened the way I always do, in the same shape. I melted into the couch, my legs tucked under me, and I sat still. I listened, still. I let the album pour over the top of my head like water, absorbing each song in its entirety.

At the end, I couldn’t pick a favorite, couldn’t say much of anything. I was just shocked, quiet, and contemplative.

It felt like the day after Christmas. The end of a book or a movie.

The tension and anticipation, that thing that pulled you through each waiting day, the moment you had been waiting for, had passed. But it was not over. Because now it was time to look.

The first listen of the album lays down the pieces of the puzzle, and in every listen after you search for yourself. For the words that make things make sense. Because that’s why you’re here, that’s why you showed up. To see if she wrote a song that gives you language you didn’t have before. To see if she found a way to speak a feeling you’d only been able to hold.  

It might not be a feeling unique to a Taylor Swift album. I think it’s more a feeling consistent with art. But over the years, for those who listen, Taylor Swift’s music has become a reliable source of discovery. Of validation. Of the truth. And not just the capital “tea” truth that allegedly spills the secrets of this celebrity or that, but the truth about the feelings we all carry around with us. The truths about life we don’t always have the ability to talk about.

When I listen to a Taylor Swift album, I find, more often than anywhere else, the urge to point and say, “that. I feel like that.” And she makes talking about those feelings feel good, feel normal, feel uniting where it was previously isolating.

After I listen to a new Taylor Swift album, I often lie awake wondering if I could do that. Create. Be honest. Write something that makes people say, “that!” And knowing I’m not the only one that feels that way, listening to a new Taylor Swift album gives me hope that there are people all around the world starting the projects that will make it better.

So you’ll always find me on that couch, on a Thursday, at 9:00pm or quickly after. I will always show up to listen to a new album, because I always have more to say. And Taylor helps me say it.

This Post Was Brought to You By Amy Grant

The living room is empty.

My dad is at work and my mom is in the other room, maybe cleaning or reading or talking on the phone.

I am eight years old, and I am in the mood to dance.

I sift through the CDs on the shelf, press the power button on the stereo, and open the tray of the seven disk CD player that I have already flagged as something I need in my own house when I grow up.

Amy Grant’s The Collection goes in the disc one spot. I turn off shuffle.

I hear the CD start to spin and I wait, wiggling my toes on the large oval rug where I usually spend my Saturday mornings hunched over my favorite yellow controller playing Zelda on the N64. The moment the music starts, I skip to track seven. Then I scoot back to the center of the room and place my hands in front of my face—my fingers spread wide.

The opening notes start and I wait, holding my pose, until Amy Grant starts to sing Emmaaaannnn-uel, upon which I start moving my hands up and down and around my face, assuming I look as poised and mysterious as the high level contemporary dancers at my dance studio—while in reality I probably looked like I was trying to swat a fly away from my face in slow motion.

When the chorus hits, I throw my hands in the air and jump around, singing my heart out, free, though never distracted enough to miss the next round of Emaaannnn-uel’s and their corresponding hand choreography.

When the song ends, I consider starting it again, but then skip forward to track 11, like always. There is no choreography to this song, just slow swaying around the room. I hold my hands out in front of me as if I’m dancing with someone, and move from the living room to the dining room and back, unaware (and unfazed) that a good portion of the song is in Hebrew.

As the last few notes fade out, I return to the rug, preparing for my big finish. I Have Decided comes blasting through the speakers and I begin to march around, agreeing with Amy with animated fingers that point to the ceiling. I close my eyes and wave my fists, willing her words, her decisions to be true for me too, and it makes me feel grown up. At the end of the song, I walk over and turn down the music, then lay down on our green couch.

The next song starts and I bob my head but I don’t stand up. I turn over on my side and look at the doorway leading to the hall. I know that if I turn left through that door I’ll find my baby brother’s room and the room I share with my sister, and if I turn right I’ll find my mom and dad’s room, where I’d spent last Sunday night sleeping on the floor because I had a nightmare. But I don’t move, I just lay there for a while, bobbing my head without a care in the world, already wanting to start the CD—or my version of it—over again.

Why Finding Your Own Voice Can Help Everyone

Not too long ago, I did a thorough cleaning of my house in which I gave away things I didn’t use, threw away things that were broken, and, more than anything, found things I forgot I had. One such thing was a book called “Music Listography,” which I’m pretty sure I impulse bought from Target, and seeing as its copyright is from 2009, it’s safe to say I bought it a while ago.

The point of the book is to flip through the pages and fill in the music related prompts with lists of songs, bands, concerts, albums, etc, until you have a kind of music autobiography (or listography) of your life. It’s a cool idea, and the creator, Lisa Nola, has a whole series of “listography” books to help you create a simplified, listified story of your life.

Looking at it now, I have no doubt why I bought. And to be honest, there is a part of me tempted to add the rest of the series to my Amazon cart as I write this. For as a writer, it is not only important, but vital to me to constantly get to know myself—what I like, what I dislike, what I’m working towards, and what I believe in—because it helps me continue to write, which in turn helps me understand myself, the world around me, and where I fit in it.

Perhaps one of the most important things we can do with our lives is understand it. Not understand the who’s and how’s of everything and everyone around us, but the what’s and why’s of our own personalities, beliefs, behaviors, and dreams. It is important to know where we stand, and to discern and feel confident about our opinions, from music to politics to religion, and everywhere in between.

We are all born into different families and different circumstances, in different environments with different obstacles. That gives us each a unique perspective. We all have our own reasons to believe in what we believe in, and different motivations to fight for what we fight for. So it is crucial to get to know ourselves and accept ourselves, so that we may be better equipped to know and accept others. In knowing where we stand and what we believe, we are given the opportunity to talk to other people from a place of confidence and grace, rather than fear and defensiveness. It also gives us the opportunity to see a new side of things, to explore a new avenue of thinking, and perhaps even change our mind.

So as our world continues to demand change, I have made it a mission of mine to learn all that I can about the world I live in, about all the sides of it that I know and all the sides I don’t. I’m looking at different perspectives, listening to different stories, and hearing different voices. In doing so, I am getting a better idea of who I am, what I believe and how my unique voice can help advocate for this much needed change.

The day I bought that “Music Listography” book I know it was from a place of longing. I wanted to fill the book out, but I wanted to do it in a way that would be impressive to others. While I was curious about “who I was” I was more concerned with whether that person was cool. Today, as I flip through the pages, I have a much clearer idea of how I would actually fill them out, and I might even go through and cross out the answers that were so clearly reaching. For now I know the music that moves me, and I know the reasons why. And though a small part of me will always want to be “cool” I don’t want it at the expense of being honest—not just in the context of this book but in every aspect of my life.

I truly want to know and be known, so I will keep learning, keep growing, and keep listening. I will keep asking questions, not only to get an answer, but to hear the many answers until I find one that aligns with who I am and what I believe in. I will share the things that give me comfort in the hopes it can comfort others, and I will share the things that make me uncomfortable to find out why, and to see if I can help change them.

I also think it’s important to note that we all fight on different stages and at different volumes. So as we work to figure out who we are and where we stand, let us also discover how we were made to stand. It might not be in the same place, in the same spotlight, or in the same style as those we know—even those we share beliefs with. And that is okay. We all have a unique voice and a unique way to share it, and so long as we keep working to find that voice, find the honesty in it, the fight behind it, and how we can best use it, we will find our way to not only stand, but create lasting change.

January & February Favorites (2019)

Have we finally made it to March?!

Didn’t it seem like February lasted forever?

Or is it just me?

Either way, I’m excited we’re finally here. It means we’re one step closer to spring, baseball season, a general thawing of my limbs. Let’s just say, I’ve been looking forward to March and it has taken its sweet time to get here. However, there have been a handful of things that made the wait a little more bearable:

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Podcasts

Y’ALL. Whether you are a regular podcast listener or have never listened to a single minute of one, I promise you will get sucked into the chaos of Dr. Death. While I’ve recommended it to pretty much everyone, I consistently have a hard time truly explaining it. To give you the bullet points: it follows the story of a man who may or may not be IS DEFINITELY a sociopath, and also happens to be the worst neurosurgeon ever. The. Things. That. He. Did. Oh. My. Gosh. Listen. (find it here)

On completely different level, Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet just makes me laugh. In each episode the brother and sister duo pick a theme such as “libraries in Los Angeles” and then do dramatic readings of the most ridiculous one-star reviews they can find. I laugh every episode. (find it here)

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Movies

If you watched the Oscars, you might have seen Free Solo win Best Documentary which, after seeing it, I can officially say it 1000% deserved. It follows professional climber Alex Honnold as he sets out to free solo (a.k.a climb with no ropes) El Capitan. You know, the casual 3,000 foot rock in the heart of Yosemite Valley. The cinematography is just out of this world, as is the stress you feel while watching. (find it here)

Since my brother is a rock climber, both Free Solo and The Dawn Wall are high on his recommended list, so the other night he came over and we watched both. I’d like to say this one is less stressful, but it’s not. You are immediately captivated by the spirit of climber Tommy Caldwell as he sets out to climb “The Dawn Wall” a section of El Capitan that has never been climbed before. I tell ya, these guys will inspire the heck out of you, but they also might very well give you an ulcer. (find it on here)

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GU Energy Gels

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For the past few months I’ve been training for the LA Marathon and I have absolutely no idea what I would do without these on my longer runs. They are super lightweight so I can keep them in my pockets, and they give me just the energy boost I need to keep running. Not to mention, every flavor I’ve tried is delicious! Highly recommend! (find them here)

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Books

Little Fires Everywhere follows a mother, Mia, and her daughter, Pearl, in their move to Shaker Heights, Ohio, and their introduction to the Richardson family, which has a whole series of repercussions. It’s the kind of story that moves slow but has you hooked the whole time. I loved it! (find it here)

The Tattooist of Auschwitz gives such a unique perspective of real life Holocaust survivor Lale Sokolov, who spent most of his time in the concentration camps working as a tattooist, giving other prisoners their identification numbers upon entering. Lale falls in love with a fellow prisoner and the book follows their journey throughout their imprisonment and afterward. (find it here)

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Music

In the music world, it has been a series of badass ladies that have stolen my heart over the last couple of months. These are a few of my favorites, with the ever colorful adjectives iTunes uses to describe them

thank u, next by Ariana Grande: “This album doesn’t arrive a minute too soon. As Grande wrestles with what she wants—distance and affection, anonymity and star power, and sex without strings attached—we learn more and more about the woman she’s becoming: complex, independent, tenacious, flawed.”

Heard it in a Past Life by Maggie Rogers: “A thoughtfully sewn patchwork of anthemic synth-pop, brooding acoustic folk, and soft-lit electronica.

Inner Monologue Pt. 1 – EP by Julia Michaels: “In her second solo EP, Julia Michaels dives further into the messy space between logic and love. By tangling clashing emotions together, she captures the profound thing that’s so perplexing about being in love: it’s complicated.”

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Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know! My Amazon cart is always open…

See my previous favorites post here.

Playlist of My Life

Hello and welcome back to another edition of: Kim turns her favorite YouTube videos into blogs but she always credits back the original creators so please don’t be mad at me I love you, bye. (Title Pending)

During one YouTube deep dive or another I came across a series on Teen Vogue’s channel called “Playlist of My Life”, where different people list songs that hold specific significance in their lives. I was instantly hooked. A series that lets you learn about people you admire and gives you music recommendations at the same time? Count me in!

After watching a good handful of the videos, I decided I wanted to come up with my own list—which was a lot harder than I thought it would be. But alas, after an intense session of analyzing both my iTunes and Spotify accounts, I got a list of about 40 songs, which I then widdled down to my traditional 17 which I want to share with you today:

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1) Audience of One by Big Daddy Weave

This is my favorite worship song of all time. It is one of the first songs I felt I really understood and so it holds a special place in my heart.

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2) I Was Here by Lady Antebellum

This song more or less describes what I hope to do with my life. The first time I heard it, I just remember nodding, thinking, “Yeah! Me too!” in the most gloriously corny way possible.

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3) Roses by The Chainsmokers

This song reminds me of my sister and always makes me feel happy inside. The simplest kind of happy. Which I wrote about in this blog post a couple years back.

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4) Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton

This is one of my favorite songs of all time that just knocks me to my knees because DAMN. I mean…DAMN. The way he sings the line “I’ve looked for love in all the same old places, found the bottom of the bottle’s always drYYYyyy” might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.

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5) I Hope by The Dixie Chicks

When my mom, sister and I discovered this song a while back, we kind of took to using it as our collective therapy song. We’ve played it many a time when we (or someone we know) need to take a breath, and though I can’t really explain why it works, it just does.

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6) All Over Now by Eric Hutchinson

This is another one that I turn to almost every time I need a song to help me out. Which is kind of funny because it’s definitely not an uplifting song, but for whatever reason it calms me down and gives me that little nudge I need to keep pushing forward.

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7) Sugar We’re Going Down by Fall Out Boy

Ahhh, 9th grade. This was the very first song I ever put on my blue iPod Mini and boy did I think I was the coolest. This song also makes me think of my Papa who, alongside my Grammie, gave me the iPod mini for my birthday, and a few weeks afterward called my house (my landline!) to ask me if I liked my “new blue radio.” This song always brings that memory to mind and puts a smile on my face.

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8) Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand

The very first time I heard this song I was in 8th grade, riding in a car with some of my classmates. It came on the radio and the girl next to me said, “Who is this?” I had absolutely no idea, but the girl in the front seat knew immediately. For whatever reason, this sparked an interest in me to be “the knower” from then on, a mission I still carry out to this day.

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9) More than Anyone by Gavin DeGraw

This has long been one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s just such a beautiful and romantic song and I can’t help it, I’m a sucker. Also, I first heard it on One Tree Hill, one of my favorite TV shows growing up and it had a special meaning for a few of the characters so…I’m a sucker x2.

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10) Poprocks & Coke by Green Day

This song reminds me of my best friend in high school who first pulled me out of my shell and introduced me to what I thought at the time was “edgy music.” I remember being the textbook 2000’s teenager with my headphones on listening to Green Day, Simple Plan and every other emo-centric band at the time, internally insisting that no one knew what it was like to be me.

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11) Growing Up by The Maine

The Maine was one of my favorite bands in both high school and college and me and my best friend at the time probably saw them in concert upwards of eight times. This song sticks out to me because I think it kind of encapsulates their music and how it made me feel at the time.

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12) Electric Feel by MGMT

This song makes me think of my first car, Jeffrey. Growing up I was always the one driving my friends and I around and this song reminds me of late summer nights, with the volume up and us laughing and dancing our hearts out.

*flute solo*

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13) Washed by the Water by Needtobreathe

Needtobreathe is my favorite band of all time and I found their music by accident one day when I was on iTunes. This was the first song I ever heard of theirs and I immediately fell in love. 10 or so years later, it’s still my favorite song of theirs, and one of the best things you can ever hear live, if I do say so myself.

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14) Don’t Know Why by Norah Jones

I’m starting to notice that I have a habit of using terribly sad songs to make me feel better… Is that weird? I feel like it’s weird. This song, to me, is like butter. It instantly relaxes me and makes me feel like everything is going to be okay. Maybe it’s the piano, maybe it’s Norah Jones’ voice, maybe it’s just remnant angst I’m still harboring, whatever the reason, this song just does it all for me.

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15) It’s Gonna Be Me by *NSYNC

I mean, I couldn’t be born in the 90’s and not have an *NSYNC song, right?

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16) Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

Great news! This song is as happy and carefree as it seems! I’m not all sad!

Get it?

Like I’m not all bad but with…sad…

Okay, maybe I am a little sad.

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17) I Wanna Dance with Somebody by Whitney Houston

If you know me, you know that I love this song with my whole heart. If you ever invite me to your wedding or any party that involves a DJ and dancing of any kind, I will request this song and I will find my way to the center of the dance floor and sing it at the top of my lungs.

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So that’s me in 17 songs. At least so far.

What songs would make up a playlist of your life?

What I Learned from My First Stagecoach Festival

This past weekend I went to the Stagecoach Country Music Festival for the first time. Leading up to it, I didn’t know what to expect. Stagecoach is held in the same venue as Coachella, which I’d actually been to before to watch my brother play lacrosse, but even so, I really had no idea what I was walking in to.

Now that I’m back (and still alive!) I thought I’d analyze what my friends and I did right/wrong, in order to better prepare us (or you!) for future trips.

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What We Did Right: We stayed offsite

After we bought our tickets, our #1 priority was to find the best/most affordable/most convenient lodging. As it turned out, this was a very intense and stressful process, because everyone else who just bought their tickets was doing the exact same thing. But we ended up getting a great place on Airbnb about 20 minutes from the venue and it was great to get away from all the madness each night.

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What We Did Wrong: Parked at the venue

One of the downsides of staying upwards of 20 minutes away is the need to, you know, get to the venue. On Friday night we decided to drive straight there and park in the lot. It was a relatively smooth process on the way in, but it took us a solid hour to get out of the parking lot after the show, 45 minutes of which we didn’t even move. (Note: a friend of mine who’s been to Coachella suggests that if you leave about 10-20 minutes early at the end of the night, getting out of the parking lot is not too bad!)

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What We Did Right: Parked at a friend’s house

After Friday night, we asked some friends of ours who were staying at a house in walking distance from the venue if we could park in their driveway. The walk from their house to the venue ended up being the same distance and took the same amount of time as parking in the parking lot did (about 30 minutes) but once we arrived back at our car that night, we were out of their neighborhood and on the freeway back to our house in approximately five minutes. Granted, this isn’t a luxury that everyone has when they go to Stagecoach, but if you do stay offsite and know people staying closer, it’s worth the ask.

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What We Did Right: Brought bandanas

One item we constantly heard as a recommended bring was a bandana, and even though we weren’t exactly sure why, we all showed up on Friday with one packed in each of our bags. This would prove to be on of our greatest choices because not only does the wind pick up after sundown, blowing dust all up in your business, but the walk back to your car/house/camp/etc. is essentially one big parade of dust. I couldn’t recommend them more.

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What We Did Wrong: Left our chairs at home

Overall, the first day was really one big learning experience. In preparing for the trip we had bought cheap chairs but weren’t sure whether they’d be too bulky/nerdy to carry around. So on the first day the four of us only brought a few towels and a blanket to sit on. On our walk into the venue, we quickly realized that EVERYONE brings chairs. And after spending the afternoon and evening sitting on the hard ground, we found out why. Needless to say, we proudly carried our chairs in on Saturday and Sunday.

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What We Did Right: Brought sunscreen

I get it. Applying and reapplying sunscreen isn’t something you want as your number one priority when you’re at a music festival and you’re trying to look cute and have fun and forget all your worries and all of that. But as the sun set on Friday and we took a look around at some of the people who didn’t take the time to apply (or reapply), it was clear they were going to be hurting for the next two days.

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What We Did Wrong: Didn’t bring blankets and (good enough) sweatshirts

As it turns out, when the sun goes down in the desert and the wind picks up, it can get freaking cold! Saturday was especially cold and had all of us curled up and shivering. So we made a note for next time to not only bring blankets, but maybe even a pair of pants and a bigger jacket. It might seem ridiculous when you’re walking in at 3:30pm and it’s 100 degrees outside, but you have the option to either rent a locker, or if you’re with a big group, you can set up camp by the main stage and rotate getting up for food/drinks/exploring.

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What We Did Right: Sang and danced as much as possible

One of the best parts about any concert or sporting event is collectively enjoying something with a bunch of strangers. It’s a very uniting feeling. And even though it might seem weird to sing at the top of your lungs and dance your damn heart out in front of all these strangers, it’s really the only way to go. Lose your inhibitions, have a drink and just dance! It’s fun, it’s freeing, and at night it’s the only thing that keeps you warm!

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Overall, I would definitely go again. Even with the slight bit of chaos it took to figure everything out, I had a great time and was so glad I went. For anyone thinking of going next year, I’d say go for it! Even if you’re not a big festival person, it’s worth going once to try it out, especially if you go with a group of people who are looking to experience it the same way you are. Plus, you really can’t beat live music. Especially live country music in the (almost) summer time. It feels good down to your bones!

How to Keep Your Christmas Decorations Up All Year Round (List-cember #7)

My least favorite part of Christmas is the moment it ends. Right after that clock strikes midnight, everything is over. All the planning, all the stress and anxiety, (probably) all the Christmas cookies. Like the day itself, they vanish into thin air, leaving only the memories behind.

Tonight, as I wrapped presents for my family and friends, I sat on my couch, basking in the season. I took a good look around my house, marveling at all the decorations we’ve hung up, dreading the day we’ll have to take them down and leave the walls plain again.

Decorations have always been one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I love the lights and the sparkles and all the red. I love the pride people take in filling their houses/cars/desks/etc. with Christmas spirit and the tradition of strangers coming together to marvel at that pride. It makes me wish Christmas lasted all year long. Though I suppose that would take away the novelty of it all, wouldn’t it? Then again, should we really need to consider pride, spirit and community a novelty? Shouldn’t these actually last all year long?

This got me thinking. What if when we took down our decorations, we took what they represent with us? For example:

1) Christmas Lights

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These quite simply make people look and awe. Whether it be with their colors, their arrangement, or their uniqueness. In many ways, even though we look at Christmas lights our whole lives, every year it feels like we’re seeing them for the first time. This is the same way I feel about people when they show unwarranted kindness or unthinkable bravery. It’s not that I forget these qualities exist, it’s just a pleasant and inspiring surprise when I come across them. So in this upcoming year, what if we made an effort to be these displays of light? I think it’s safe to say, especially in today’s society, the world could always use some more light.

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2) Ornaments

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I love ornaments. (So much so that I hand out superlatives every year.) I love that—at least the way my family does it—they are all unique and have a different story and memory associated with them, and that after all this time we still tell them. Pictures have this same quality. Unfortunately in this digital age we so often exile photos to the Internet and never think of them again. We need to print more pictures. We need to put them on display and remember the memories they capture. That way, in the moments we’re feeling low or nostalgic, we don’t have to scroll through our phones and try to dodge the pressures of comparison, we can simply look up at our wall or on our desk or bedside table and remember a moment that meant a lot to us.

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3) Paper Chains

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By now this might be a rather outdated decoration, but I still love me some paper chains. More than anything, they remind me that I can make things with my hands and they don’t have to be perfect. These days with the constant access to websites and services that will do practically everything for you, it’s easy to forget that we have hands of our own built for crafting. Then again, with all the Pinterest wizards dominating the Internet, it’s easy to get discouraged when we try. But, like a paper chain, things we make by hand, whether it be home improvement projects, gifts, or a hot meal from scratch, it feels good to sit back and realize that you made it; that you put in the time and did it yourself.

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4) Snow Globes

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My sister collects Christmas snow globes and is always one to walk over and shake them in a store. I think they give her, and me, and most of the general population a minute or two just to breathe. With a few shakes we stand and watch the snow or glitter fall, listening to the song that winds down, and for a moment we’re transported somewhere far away. While this might be harder to do in the general chaos of life, we can always take a second to stop and breathe; to take in the sights and sounds and smells around us and just be in that moment, completely as it is, just as we would until the song ended and we put the snow globe back on the shelf.

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5) Christmas Music

I know, I know, this isn’t technically a decoration. But when you consider that Christmas music is playing from every speaker, everywhere you go, for almost two straight months, it kind of turns into one. Call it an atmosphere decoration if you will. Granted, this “atmosphere decoration” technically exists all year round, chameleoning to fit the designated atmosphere (i.e. “elevator music”). But there seems to be this general agreement that in November and December you only listen to Christmas music and in January-October you listen to everything but. As I elaborated in this post however, I say listen to whatever you want, whenever you want. Decorate your atmosphere with music that makes you feel good no matter what time of year it is and no matter what anyone else thinks.

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So, as you start to de-decorate your house in the coming weeks, try to remember what it is about the decorations that draw you to them. Is it the light? Is it the color? Is it the associated memories? Then go out and find it in the confines of an average day, or create it yourself. Magic is not dictated by a calendar, and neither is goodness or glitter for that matter. So spread it around and soak it in, no matter the season.

You’re Free to be Great, So Go for It

This past week I officially hit the 900 mile mark of my 1000 mile running goal for the year. It’s been a trying 11 months to get here, and I have a feeling this final month will take everything I have to finish. My body is tired. It’s been sore and achy and fatigued more days than it hasn’t. And yet, I still feel strong. I feel like I can do anything.

Over the course of this year, I’ve looked for and found a variety of different things to listen to/watch while I’m running, the most prominent being my ever changing playlist on my phone, aptly titled “Running.” Consistently among my favorites on the playlist is “The Greatest” by Sia.

The song starts as follows:

Uh-oh I’m running out of breath, but I’ve got stamina.

Uh-oh I’m running now I close my eyes, well I got stamina.

And uh-oh, I see another mountain to climb

But I got stamina

For obvious reasons, this first verse makes sense on a running playlist. I mean what else besides stamina—and the slightest bit of insanity—do you need to get yourself running? To add to that, in the next part she sings:

Don’t give up

I won’t give up

Don’t give up, no, no, no

Which again, is exactly the kind of mindset you need to have while running.

The part that really hooks me though, is the chorus:

I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive

I’m free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest

The greatest, the greatest alive

The greatest, the greatest alive

I tell ya, whenever that chorus kicks in while I’m running, I break out into a sprint. Because aside from being the kind of inspirational “go team” type of sentiment that I need when I’m exercising, it fills me with motivation that I can take further.

I’m free to be the greatest, she says, I’m alive.

In other words: I’m free to be the greatest I can be, in anything I choose to try, because I have the great privilege of being alive. I firmly believe that the idea behind these words is what gets me out there running every day. It’s what put the idea in my head that I could run 1000 miles in the first place. For there’s truly nothing greater than making your dreams a reality and your doubts fiction.

So, I encourage you to chase them with everything you’ve got. Because as of today, as of this moment, you are completely free to be the greatest you can be, so you might as well go for it.

 

September & October Favorites (2017)

I always have trouble knowing exactly how to start these blog posts because I feel like the meat of the post is in the favorites, you know? So if I spend all this time in the intro trying to get you excited for the favorites, I’m just wasting your time because every single extra word I type with my unpainted fingernailed fingertips is one extra word you have to read before you can get to the part of this post that actually matters. So really, the introduction is just rude. Because a part of you feels like you should read it, just in case you miss something wildly important, but then the other part of you just wants to skip it and read on, because clearly nothing important is going to be said in this intro, is it? But the curiosity still lingers, so you read the whole thing, and then you get to the end and realize you totally could have skipped it.

Sorry.


 

Insanely Chill w/ Cody Ko Podcast

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Unlike some of the other podcasts I’ve recommended in previous favorites posts, this one doesn’t necessarily have a specific theme. Cody Ko started on Vine and then shifted over to YouTube and in the last year made his way into the world of podcasting. Insanely Chill is essentially a space where he just talks about whatever is on his mind. I like it because each episode is like one long conversation with a friend, except that friend is doing all the talking, but somehow it’s okay because that friend is pretty funny and clearly needs to vent about a few things. So you listen, and even though you don’t get a single word in edgewise, you enjoy yourself and then sign yourself up to have these conversations once a week.  (Find it here)


 

The Hollars

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Have you ever watched a movie and had it be exactly what you needed to watch in that moment of your life? Well in the middle of September, while my best friend and I were on vacation in Denver, we turned on The Hollars in our hotel room after a long day of exploring and it could not have been a more perfect choice. It is John Krasinski’s directorial debut and it makes me hope with all my heart he has more projects in the works. It makes you feel all the feels and I can’t recommend it enough. (Find it here)


 

Gaga: Five Foot Two

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I’ve always been a Lady Gaga fan, but after watching her Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, that respect and admiration tripled. It follows her journey to record her fifth studio album, Joanne, her struggles with fibromyalgia, and her performance at the 2016 Super Bowl Halftime show. My favorite line from the documentary is said in regards to Lady Gaga’s newfound maturity as an artist, but I think can relate to everyone: “I’m a woman struggling now,” she says, “rather than a girl.” (Find it on Netflix)

 


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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells

Throughout this entire book I was torn between wanting to binge it and needing to put it down. Written by Jeannette Wells, it is the story of her unorthodox (to say the least) upbringing. It is a hard story, but an important one. It’s a good reminder of how many different lives are being lived around you. (Find it here)

 

 

How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky9780147515995

Watsky is one of those people who I’ve seen around but never really known a lot about. Thankfully I picked up How to Ruin Everything at a bookstore in Colorado, thus introducing me to the world of Watsky. The bio on his website describes him as “a rapper, writer and performer from San Francisco now living in Los Angeles. A versatile lyricist who switches between silly and serious, technically complex and simply heartfelt,” which I think is a completely accurate description of his book as well. How to Ruin Everything had me laughing out loud, contemplating life and underlining phrases I hope I’m clever enough to emulate in my future writing. I’d recommend looking into all of his projects, including this book. (Find it here)

 

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The Sun & Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

I read Rupi’s first book, Milk and Honey, last year and was instantly hooked and The Sun & Her Flowers continues with that addicting, must read quality. So, if you’re in the market for some poetry, I’d recommend Rupi one thousand times over. She is one of those people who can find words to express emotions, leaving you feeling like there is someone out there in the world who gets it, you know?  (Find it here)

 

 


 

Music

I’ve have been absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of good music the last two months have brought. It seems like every week there has been a new song or album that I am playing on repeat.

My music library has been looking like this:

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(the hamburgers, of course, being high quality musack)

I could recommend so much, but here are a few of my favorites:

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Kesha, Rainbow

For the most part I’m hit and miss with Kesha’s music, but this album got me! It’s such a good combination of mature and silly and it does a great job at showcasing how talented she’s always been behind all the glitter. (Find it here)

 

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Jessie Ware, Glasshouse

A few years ago I was obsessed with Jessie Ware’s album, Tough Love, so when I saw she had a new album coming out I was pumped and immediately preordered it. It did not disappoint. (Find it here)

 

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JP Cooper, Raised Under Grey Skies

I was first introduced to JP Cooper when he was featured on The Shed Sessions, a series on the Jacksgap Youtube channel. Since then I’ve checked in with him over the years, and was excited to see him release his first full length album. It’s absolutely beautiful. (Find it here)

 

268x0wDemi Lovato, Tell Me You Love Me

I’ve been waiting patiently for an album of Demi’s to perfectly showcase her voice and DAMN, if this doesn’t do it. I’ve been playing this album on repeat, loud, so I can pretend I’m hitting all the notes she does. (Find it here)

 

download (4)Hoodie Allen, The Hype

Similar to Watsky, Hoodie Allen is someone that I’ve always heard about but never really dove into. That being said, I decided to shuffle his Spotify station while I was on a run one day and immediately came home and snatched up some music, including his brand new album, The Hype(Find it here)

 


 

Pecans

If you’ll recall from my last favorites post, I introduced my new obsession with Honey Vanilla Bourbon Pecans. Well let me tell you, these past two months, I have dove head first into the world of pecans. I’m serious. For the longest time I just assumed I didn’t like them and then I actually tried them this year and spoiler alert: pecans are freaking delicious. Everywhere I go I try pecan flavored things because I feel like I’ve wasted so much time eating non-pecan flavored things. Among everything I’ve tried while out and about, these are two of my favorite pecan flavored products I’ve found in the grocery store.

I’m in so deep guys. If things carry on this way, come 6 months from now I’m going to be that person on social media using tags like #justpecanthings or #allpecansallday. Pray for me.


 

Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know! My Amazon cart is always open…

See my previous favorites post here.

If I Were on Carpool Karaoke

Unlike most guests, I obviously wouldn’t have a successful discography to sing along to as James Corden and I drove around downtown Los Angeles, thus making the call from The Late Late Show rather surprising. Had they heard my music turned up to a volume that blocked out my voice, thus leading me (and possibly them) to believe I sounded exactly like the artist actually singing? Had they caught me on one of those days when I forgot there were other people on the freeway and I thrust my body around behind the steering wheel, wobbling my car between the dotted lines? Had they somehow managed to get their hands on old family videos where my sister and I wrote songs while we were out on the lake fishing, our most prominent hit being, “My Butt is Sore”?

Why did they want me here? I would wonder to myself as I stood on the sidewalk outside CBS studios, and then I’d open the passenger’s side door of a silver SUV and James Corden would say, “I just really need some help getting to work.”

Once I was in the car, he would ask if he could turn on some music and I’d nod. In a perfect world, he’d play “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston first. It’s my ultimate jam, my #1 song requested at every wedding I’ve ever attended, and the true key to receiving my trust for this musical journey we were about to embark on.

We would jam our faces off and I’d probably ruin any hairstyle the team at CBS had given me before we left. I’d also undoubtedly be sweating by the end, and I’d zone out for a few minutes post-Whitney, wondering if I’d worn a post-Whitney worthy, sweat disguising t-shirt. What am I even wearing? I’d ask myself. Am I wearing anything?! I’d look down at my body, ensuring it was in fact clothed, and when James saw the wave of panic followed by an immediate wave of relief wash over me, he’d ask if I was okay.

“Oh yeah,” I’d say, “I’m fine, I was just making sure I was wearing clothes.”

Not knowing what to do with this response, he’d smile politely, make a turn to shorten our originally planned route, and turn the radio back up.

The second song would be another well-known anthem or perhaps a legendary ballad. Something everyone should know in the hopes of distracting the audience that I—someone nobody knows—am in the passenger’s seat, rather than the likes of Bruno Mars, Adele, or Harry Styles.

I’d do my best to sing along, keeping my volume a few notches below James, who actually can sing. About halfway through the song, I’d start to worry I was getting carsick, and even if I wasn’t, I would worry that I might become carsick. And since I still wasn’t used to the fact that I wasn’t alone in my car making deliveries for work, but was instead sitting alongside James Corden being recorded by 6 different cameras, I’d zone out on this thought for a while. Am I going to puke? I’d wonder. Or am I only making myself think I’m going to puke. Did Harry Styles think he was going to puke? I bet Bruno Mars NEVER pukes. You can’t get vomit on silk. The dry cleaning bill would be outrageous.  

“Do you mind if we play a little game?” James would say once we were finished with the third song. “Sure!” I’d reply enthusiastically, my posture growing worse and worse as I got more comfortable.

James would propose a speed round of song identification in which a snippet of a popular song would play and the first person to guess it would receive a point. I would nod politely at the rules, camouflaging the competitive side of myself that was screaming WE MUST WIN THIS OR OUR LIFE MEANS NOTHING.

By the fourth round of the game, we’d be tied, and my heart would be pounding. Again, I’d completely lose sight of the fact that I was being recorded for television and focus only on the game…and this incredibly slow driver that will not get out of the way!

“EXCUSE ME,” I would say to the navy blue Prius in front of us as my LA traffic demons rose to the surface, “WE HAVE PLACES TO BE.”

James would smile, remaining professional, and I’d start to come back to him, only to have the Prius turn on their reverse lights IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET!

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” I’d yell. “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER!”

I’d then return to James, having completely blacked out until the Prius was out of the way, unaware of anything that might have come out of my mouth.

“Shall we continue?” I’d say sweetly.

“We shall,” he’d say, and then I’d mysteriously win the game.

On the final lap of our drive, I would get quiet as I started to overthink everything that may have happened during the car ride. Was I funny? Was I crazy? Should I have just stayed in my car? Do they regret inviting me on this show? Do I regret coming? Where even are we?

Just then, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding would come on. It’s another one of my favorites. A wave of calm would wash over me as James and I sang along, and soon I’d be consumed by the song, rolling the window down and holding my hand out to feel the outlandishly hot air characteristic of a Los Angeles autumn.

As we pulled back onto the CBS lot, we’d be whistling to the end of the song. (Him more than me, I’ve never been quite able to whistle correctly.) And as the song came to a close, I’d realize why musicians—and other celebrities if you count the Apple Music extension of the series—sign up to do this. It’s the same reason why (most) people that sit in traffic don’t kill each other. It’s the same reason why, in this fictional story, the CBS producers recruit me: Music can bring out the best in people, and can bring even the strangest of stranger together.

So as Otis Redding faded out and James Corden put the car in park, I’d smile, knowing that yes, while I was probably a crazy person sure set the gif-ing Internet on fire, I was also just a person, sitting alongside another person who appreciates music. And even though there were a bunch of cameras on us and I had sweat under my arms and was still a little nervous I was secretly carsick, we had shared a moment. An experience that no one could ever take away. And that’s really what music is all about.

 


 

Also check out: If I Were on the Bachelor, If I Were on Dancing with the Stars