Heard · Seen · Seen/Heard/Tried

Falling from a Height, Holding Hands

About eight years ago, I had the fortune of being able to meet my favorite poet, Gary Snyder, in person at a reading he did at Grand Valley State University (one of his poems is actually responsible for the name of this blog). He read several poems from his book Danger on Peaks, and afterwards he did a signing. When we met, we talked briefly about how I had studied in Japan and how I was going to go back one day (he lived there for some time, too). I wanted so much to explain how wonderful his poems were to me, and to talk for him about nature and Asia and life. But, the line of his fans had to keep moving, so I tried my best to express as much as I could with a “thank you.”

Though I had read several other books of Snyder’s poetry before going to see him read that day, I hadn’t read Danger on Peaks. It was exciting to hear him read poems that were new to me, and I sat fully focused the entire time. For his final reading, Snyder decided to close with a poem called “Falling from a Height, Holding Hands.” He explained that he wrote it after watching a news story on 9/11, and as he read the poem aloud, everyone listening seemed to hold their breath. The poem was so simple, and yet–like so many of his poems–captured so much. His explanation and reading was so moving that I was brought to tears, and like the rest of the audience, couldn’t manage to speak. He must have gauged the effect the poem had, because–suddenly–he decided to read just one more: “To All the Girls Whose Ears I Pierced Back Then.” Our hearts lifted in laughter, and I felt so inspired. What an amazing talent he has–he can bring people from tears to laughter in just moments with his writing.

I know that without actually being there to hear him speak it may be hard to fully grasp the emotions in the room that day, but I still feel a stirring in my heart when I read “Falling From a Height, Holding Hands.” I’ve included the poem below, along with “To All the Girls Whose Ears I Pierced Back Then.” These poems remind me to remember the tragedy of 9/11 and to avoid becoming desensitized. They also remind me to focus on the importance of growing, learning, laughing, loving, and cherishing life.

Falling From a Height, Holding Hands


What was that?

storms of flying glass

& billowing flames


a clear day to the far sky–


better than burning,

hold hands.


We will be

two    peregrines    diving


all the way down


To All the Girls Whose Ears I Pierced Back Then

for Maggie Brown Koller

(among others)


Sometimes we remember that moment:

you stood there attentive with clothespins

dangling, setting a bloodless dimple in each lobe

as I searched for a cork & the right-sized needle

& followed the quick pierce with a small gold hoop.

The only guy with an earring

back then


It didn’t hurt that much

a sweetly earnest child

and a crazy country guy

with an earring and a

gray-green cast eye

and even then,

this poem.

Heard · Learning · Monday Matters

Don’t Be Positive, Idiot!

I was on my way to work a couple weeks ago listening to the Jillian Michael’s podcast, and though I usually find it interesting at the very least, on that day the episode really hit me the wrong way. The episode I was listening to is called “Bad Stuff Happens,” and in it Jillian goes on for about 10 minutes positing that people who are positive are basically unrealistic idiots. She rants about how bad stuff is going to happen, and about how people who deny that are just going to end up more disappointed than if they accepted that not everything always works out in the first place. She also talked about how what matters is how we deal with the bad stuff–the lessons we learn from things that don’t happen the way we’d like.

Now, for the most part, I agree. However, what really bothered me is that Jillian was equating positivity with a lack of realism. She said she “hates positive people,” but to me, people who do the very things she suggests (like finding the good in the bad and learning from hardships) are positive people. I always try to have a positive outlook on things, and that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m denying things might not work out the way I want. For example, we put in an offer on a beautiful house that we both love. And it seemed like everything would probably be fine–almost to the point of it being too good to be true. However, neither of us were like, “We are going to get the house.” We said, “There is a good chance that since our offer was accepted, we will get the house. A lot depends on the inspection, but we’re hoping for the best.” After the inspection, we’ve found there are some things that need to be dealt with, and so now our positive outlook has morphed into “Well, we’ll see how much the sellers are willing to work with us on the things that need to be fixed. There is a good chance they won’t want to, but maybe they will! If they don’t, the house wasn’t meant to be ours and we’ll find something else.” We are being realistic, but we are also being optimistic.

I also feel that every challenge is a lesson, no matter how hard it is to get through at first, and no matter how hard it is for me to initially understand exactly what the lesson may be. I tend to push myself toward gratitude in these cases, which admittedly can be difficult at times. For example, I had a really tough time when leading a training session at a former job in which some trainees just didn’t seem to like me. Their bad attitudes disrupted the entire training session, and ruined all of my excitement about the training. I was in shock, and couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. At first, I had to really focus on everything that went right, despite the things that went wrong. I was grateful to have my husband and friends, who supported me and reassured me. And with that change in focus, over time I was able to remain positive and find the lesson: I grew so much, learned a lot about myself and about others, and came to realize that it doesn’t matter if people don’t always like me. In this case, positivity and gratitude went hand in hand. Oh, and I never ever denied how much learning that lesson sucked.

I feel like I could give countless examples of how you can be a positive person without ignoring or denying reality and that bad things happen. Being positive is about choosing to focus on the bright side and about learning from hardships instead of dwelling on them or letting them consume you. I think Jillian Michaels actually encourages positive behavior all the time, and that in her podcast she mislabeled positivity as being synonymous with naiveté and denial. Ultimately, I understand my concern comes down to semantics, but Jillian’s blunt declaration really rubbed me the wrong way. Rather than telling people, “Don’t be positive” or that positive people are idiots, I’d like to say, “Find the positive in every negative, and work your way through it.” That’s what we’re doing with the house, that’s what I did with that training session, and that’s what I continue to do through the tough parts of my day, every day.


What do you think about positivity and optimism? Do you agree that it’s possible to have a bright, hopeful attitude while being realistic and understanding things don’t always work out?


That’s why we got here late!

The morning of our anniversary was really good–Chad got hired for a part-time job, I got most of his scrapbook present finished (even though he came home and caught me working on it unexpectedly!) and I managed to get him a toolbox full of shiny tools while he was interviewing (bringing it home on my bike, no less!). Also, Chad gave me a lovely ice tea maker, a chocolate chip cookie, and a gift certificate to a Paper Goods store! The afternoon, however, became an entire other story.

From the time we left home, everything seemed to be going wrong. As I mentioned before, we bought tickets to see Guster alongside Ben Folds Five and the Bare Naked Ladies, and the concert was in Detroit at the DTE Energy Theater. After a few minor complications running errands before leaving, we then had trouble with the directions going to the hotel. Then, we had worse trouble with directions from the hotel to the Theater! We wished in vain for working iPhones or a GPS as time ticked away and not a single gas station attendant seemed to know where to direct us!

Finally, we arrived at the concert about an hour late, finding out Guster only had about 4 or 5 songs left in their set. This obviously bummed us out, but on the bright side, we had really nice lawn seats, the sun was shining, and we were looking forward to Ben Fold Five at the very least.


As we were waiting for Ben Folds Five to come on, a younger couple approached us and asked if we’d like two extra tickets they had for seats in the 19th row. They said the guy’s dad’s company often got free tickets to shows, and that two of their friends bailed on them. We were really excited! I told them it was our anniversary, they said they were glad they chose us, and I told Chad, “That’s why we got here late!”

20130720-102710.jpgWe took this shot right before the couple approached.

As we watched Ben Folds Five, I felt so happy. The couple leaned over to tell us that the tickets were VIP and that we could get drinks without waiting in line. I thought about how the day was going to turn out after all, and about how people really are nice sometimes! To be honest, by that point I had been getting exhausted with trying to stay positive, but now I felt like it had all been worth it.

Just as Ben Folds Five finished, they leaned over and asked us, “So, are you guys going to get drinks?” Chad and I looked at each other and then back at them. Chad said, “Uh, I guess so.” The girl replied quickly, “Oh, cool, can you get us some?”

I asked, “What do you want?”

“Oh, anything,” she said.

“Well, do you want beer?”

“Yeah, beer, anything!”

“What kind of beer?”

“Any kind is fine!”

She handed us a twenty and we walked a few feet away. I looked at Chad and said, “What a bummer. They’re totally not old enough, are they.”

Chad agreed, and decided we should go back and say we were leaving and that they could have their tickets back. I was so angry! I had been sitting and thinking of their kindness, only to find out they were using us to buy alcohol. We proceeded to sit in a different area on the lawn that was wet with a terrible view, watched a few horrible Bare Naked Ladies songs, and then left, getting lost on our way back to the hotel again. When we finally did get back to the hotel–putting a cherry on top of everything–there was no running hot water! A maintenance guy came to fix it, and when he finally left, we passed out from exhaustion and a bit of disappointment.

The next day we woke up and took our time before leaving the hotel, going to Trader Joe’s, and meeting a good friend for lunch. We felt better after sleep, and got home without any issues. As we rode home, we both talked about how much better things were going, and we remembered how on our wedding night five years ago we had initially gone to the wrong hotel and had troubles, too. Hopefully that’s not a sign of how every 5 years from now will be, but at least the entire time in between will be filled with an awesome marriage. It’s true that I was discouraged by the evening events on our anniversary, but at the end of the day I still felt glad that at the very least, we went through it together! And compared to a lot of other challenges we’ve faced, that was a piece of cake.

As I’ve written before, no matter what challenges we’ve faced, what kind of day we’ve had or kind of mood we’re in, every day I’m grateful to be married to my best friend. I never have to worry about sounding stupid or about messing up, and I never have to worry about needing someone to talk to because I always have him. He accepts me as I am, but always inspires me to do more, try harder and be better. When we got married, I thought I knew him, yet 5 years later, I feel like I know him like he’s almost an extension of myself! I can’t wait to experience how much closer we grow over the next 5, 15, 25, 55, years and more (even if that means occasionally getting lost and missing a show!).

Happy 5th anniversary (on July 12th), to my sweetheart Chad.


It’s a good excuse that I love to use…

So many people are holiday haters, and start ranting about materialism and about how holidays are arbitrary as soon as one approaches. I was on my way to the station this morning when a song by Kina Grannis came on (I mentioned her beautiful version of Sound of Silence last week). The song was called “Valentine,” and it really summed up my feeling about that holiday–and all holidays, really.

There is a line that says, “It’s a good excuse that I love to use, baby I know what to do: I will love you, I’ll love you, I’ll love you.” She also talks about not needing “those things,” and I totally agree. I don’t need an excuse to go crazy loving my husband (I always do, anyway!), and I never need an excuse to celebrate! But I love all holidays, theme parties, normal parties…any reason to get together. I embrace every moment we have to share joy, whether through a Valentine song, a dinner, or a quick conversation and a hug. It may sound cheesy, but I truly believe in the cliché of making every moment we have together count.

How do you feel about holidays? Are you looking forward to any gatherings soon?


Heard: “Real Good Hands”

Say what you will about Valentine’s Day, but I love it. I love all holidays, in fact. I get that many of them are company-driven and that many people tend to focus on the more materialistic aspects of the days, but give me a reason to have a party, celebrate, or make an ordinary day extraordinary and I’m definitely game!

On this Valentine’s Day, I’ve been stuffed up and laying around all day trying to get some rest–there is no good timing for being sick, but right now is especially bad timing! Despite it all, I am still planning a little something for my handsome husband (maybe more on that another day?).

Since it is Valentine’s Day, no matter my sniffles and coughs, I’ve been listening to some lovely music to fit the mood. Last weekend I was listening to a segment on NPR’s American Public Media in which Gregory Porter was being interviewed, and I fell in love with his song “Real Good Hands.” In the interview, Porter said how he wanted to show his true intentions to his then-girlfriend’s father, and so he wrote a song about it. I love the way he reaches out to her father by saying her father was once in Porter’s shoes, that he somehow “paid (his) dues.” Such a great song!

I’ve been listening to this song dreamily all day (perhaps that dreamy feeling is sickness-induced?). What are you listening to these days?