My friend Jared has made me a number of fantastic mixed CDs. This morning on a dreary drive to work, I popped one in to make the ride a bit cheerier. One of my favorites, that I’d never heard before until he introduced me is AJ Rafael’s “We Could Happen.” It’s vulnerable and honest, but it has a happy beat. Something about it reminds me of the butterflies of anticipation when you’re entering new territory with someone you like. It really encapsulates that whole wave of hesitation and uncertainty before you take the jump. It’s a unique tune, and it’s a little sappy, but I like sappy. If you haven’t heard it yet, give it a listen:
If you follow me on any form of social media, my Bobby Bones interest is pretty evident. They don’t broadcast the morning show where I live now, but I still listen to clips. Even more than that – I am absolutely hooked on the Bobby Cast podcast where he interviews different artists (musicians, songwriters, etc.) It’s always about the stories, or to get a little VH1 on you guys, the stories behind the stories. I love to learn what makes people tick, what events set in motion all the things that brought someone to where they are, I want to hear their climbs and stumbles, but also their passions. When you talk to someone who is passionate about anything, that drive and interest just pours out of them in a beautiful way. (At this point you’re probably wondering what I’m rambling on about, but hold on a sec.) All of this to say, Bobby Bones is propelled by stories – his own and the stories of others. That’s exactly why his new book Bare Bones: I’m Not Lonely If You’re Reading this Book is so dang wonderful. Bobby has always been open and real on the radio show, but it was really interesting to get the stories of his life in chronological order. (You learn about Bobby’s life, growing up in Arkansas. His mom got pregnant with him at 15, and had him at 16. His dad was only around for a few years. He had a sweet grandma that definitely did what she could to take care of him. He worked really hard in school, and tried to surround himself by positive influences. He talks about the way his childhood has affected his ability to open up in relationships. He shares how his background lets him to connect with people.) And my word…the obstacles he has overcome in life to get where he is? The drive he had to make something of his life, from such a young age? It’s inspiring. I’m an emotional reader (obviously,) but I’ll admit I had to pause sometimes while reading to let the weight of his words sink in. (Also, maybe to get it together and stop crying.) Sure there are definitely some pretty sad parts to this book, but it’s life and it’s real and it’s gritty. At the end I don’t think you’re going to walk away saying “man, I wish I didn’t read that book I’m so sad now.” Because you’ll laugh, out loud. You’ll be reminded how important it is to keep going and learn from mistakes. And you’ll probably take a closer look at your own relationships. It’s a real reminder about the lifelines of friendships, how big of a difference the little things make. When I was reading it, I was reminded that we all come to the table with our own battles and scars we’ve been carrying and they shape us, but they also allow us to connect with others on a deeper level. You never know what someone else is carrying. Sometimes the people who make us laugh the hardest, have the heaviest hearts. You just don’t know – but that’s what’s so important about sharing our stories. So if you haven’t yet, read this book. Laugh a little, cry a little, appreciate everything.
(Image via Amazon.)
Whenever my friend Kaylynn and I get together, a lot of our time is spent hanging out laughing, drinking, getting ready, and singing a long to a random assortment of music in her living room. When I was visiting her over the summer in Athens she introduced me to Tim McMorris’s “Overwhelmed.” The moment the song started, I was hooked. Not only is the video undeniably real, but the song is just so…honest, pure, and full of love. It’s like I can feel my heart swelling in my chest as I listen to the words. It kind of sort of maybe makes me want to cry, but the good kind. It reminds me just how sappy I can be at times. Whatever part of me the hopeless romantic dwells in, just soaks up every single bit of this song. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to share it, (probably because I normally listen to it in Athens, and don’t associate it with Tallahassee when I’m typing my blog,) but I was on YouTube and I was like hello! This needs to be my Turn It Up Tuesday song for sure. So, get ready for some sweetness and listen to this:
So guys, I have a new favorite singer/song writer/artist. If and when I ever grow up, I would like to be like this person because hello! full of awesomeness. Kacey Musgraves. She was born in 1988, making her a year younger than me, but you would never guess when you hear her poetic lyrics and talented guitar playing, and soulful voice. She is wise beyond her years, an old soul. Kacey is beautiful and gifted, intelligent and confident. Ohmygoodness. Blown Away. Basically I’d love to just feature every song on the Same Trailer Different Park album for twelve Tuesdays. The first time I heard “Follow Your Arrow” I was like YES! because it’s so refreshing to hear someone sing the truth. This could be my new anthem, y’all. When you live your life trying to please everyone around you, no one winds up happy because that’s just not possible. Everyone is so darn worried about what everyone else thinks about them and really? it just doesn’t matter. Thank goodness someone’s being real about it all.
“You’re damned if you do
And you’re damned if you don’t
So you might as well just do
Whatever you want”
My mom told me about this segment she’d seen on CBS featuring Kacey, so I looked it up over the weekend and my gosh! Be prepared because I definitely teared up. It was very cool to get a peek into her life in Texas, with her family, her guitar teacher (who also mentored Miranda Lambert!,) her earnest determination that brought her to where she is now, and the gratitude she has for all of it! If you can’t get enough of Kacey Musgraves either, watch this:
So, who’s gonna teach me how to play guitar?
If you follow many of the popular YA authors on Twitter, you probably heard some buzz about Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Even if you’re not into Twitter, if you’ve walked through the new release section of a bookstore recently, or even browsed the homepage of an online bookseller the simple but beautiful cover art might have captured your attention. Even if neither of these happened, you might have noticed it appeared on the New York Times Bestsellers List this week at spot #6. Of course, if John Green or Maureen Johnson recommend something, my interest immediately peeks. Then when I found out this new young-adult fiction novel had to do with bus rides and mixtapes (it’s set in the 80s when kids still used Walkmen and recorded their parents vinyl onto cassettes, which I loved)? I was sold. Both of those are two of my favorite things from my own childhood memories. Unfortunately for Eleanor, her memories aren’t as great to look back upon. That is until she meets Park.
In this gritty, real, heart-wrenching story told from the alternating perspectives of two Omaha high-schoolers, slowly falling for each other we see the world through the eyes of Eleanor and Park. We also see what they look like to each other.
The thing about this book, is it’s not just the story of two angsty teens in puppy love. The depth of the struggles in Eleanor’s home life are described with such an honest intensity, such a no-nonsense frankness that it seems they would need to either be written from the perspective of someone who experienced such hardships in their own life, or had an extremely close relationship with someone who had. Eleanor’s side of the story isn’t written in an “oh take pity on me” way, even though your heart will probably break while reading it. The harsh realities of life appear in such a straight forward way, that is just the way life is. It’s not great, but it’s not the end of the world because that’s the life the character knows, (even if they yearn for a life outside of those boundaries.) Eleanor’s mom is beautiful but weak, and she’s trapped in a disturbing relationship. Richie, Eleanor’s step-dad is not a very good human being. He neglects the children, he’s controlling, he’s a drunk, and the people of the neighborhood are aware that it must be hell to live under a roof with him. Eleanor basically bides her time from day to day, and tries to avoid Richie at all costs. Even though every once in a while there are “good days” there’s not really any erratic behavior that would be out of the question when Richie’s temper flares. So not only is Eleanor’s home life ridiculously difficult, but she deals with being bullied at school. Eleanor is really smart, and insightful but her appearance and her non-conformist personality set her apart, thus making her not accepted by the majority of her snobby classmates. Let’s face it: kids can be cruel. But you know, there’s always a silver lining – to everything, no matter how horrible. And that’s the case with this story too. I won’t ruin the developments of the bond between Eleanor and Park, but what starts as two kids sharing a seat on their school bus rides blossoms into so much more. The bond grows over shared interests, and opinionated dialogue about music and comics, but it overflows into the rest of life, and is joined by a growing affection. You’ll remember what it’s like to hear the beginning chords of your favorite song for the first time. Or how you felt when the one person you think about all day and night is breathing on the other end of a phone line. Or the electricity that zaps straight through the veins of your arm to your heart when your fingertips collide with someone you really like.
As hard as it is for Eleanor to grow up in her dysfunctional family life, Park is also wounded watching her and not knowing how to help. He knows her situation is bad, he just doesn’t know how bad. He can’t really imagine it completely because he comes from such a different background. But even still, no one likes to watch someone they care about suffer. Even though so many reviews talk about the story of two star-crossed misfit lovers trying to make a high school relationship last – I think that’s diluting the incredible bond here. Sure there’s romance, and there’s the kind of love that it seems is impossible to cultivate with the same fragility and innocence outside of teenage connections – but at the same time, this story is about so much more. Friendship. Communication (the kind in soul-bearing conversation, but also the communication that occurs when no words are exchanged.) I think it’s about survival. I think it’s about not letting the evil dark parts of the world destroy what’s beautiful within. I also think it’s about how valuable the thread of hope is in a miserable situation. That hope, no matter how thin can be life changing.
It seems some readers literally devoured this book, but I on the other hand had to read it in parts, take it slow as my heart literally ached while I read. I felt like it was hard to breathe. I felt like I wanted to reach within the pages and give the characters a hug. (I read the acknowledgements at the end of the novel, and those pulled on my heart-strings, too.) If you take my advice and do check this novel out (because even though it’s not sunshine-personified, happy go lucky, spring break beach read material – I am recommending it) I think you’ll appreciate Rowell’s genuine story telling of love, life, hope, and the kinds of bonds that can really pull us through the darkest times. The cool thing is, no matter how grim some parts are – just like life there were some really sweet moments when the light is let in, when human kindness reigns at the most unexpected times.
Have you read Eleanor and Park? What did you think? Please share with me in the comments!