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It takes a long time for me to process things. A long, long time. When big events or changes happen in my life it takes me weeks, sometimes months, to let them fully sink in. I hit play over and over again in my head. Concocting something that probably never existed in the first place.

For this reason I feel I have to write about this now, before it changes. Before misplaced nostalgia makes it into something it is not.

The Tragically Hip.

I’ve been hesitant to read what so many others have been writing about the Man Machine Poem tour. I would like to first decide what I think, what I feel. Before letting other’s words and thoughts infiltrate my own. But I haven’t been able to stop myself. I click on the next link before I realize what I’m doing. Desperately searching to find something that makes this make sense. But they are all just words. Words that will never, could never, accurately describe how any of us feel. And these of course are just words too, so bear with me while I make my own feeble attempt.

In order to keep myself in check, and because I have a tendency to ramble, I will try to keep this geared towards an account of the shows I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Yes, this will be absolutely littered with Hip lyrics. For that I make no apology. Who better to reference when describing how I feel?

After all, this is a little beyond anything I’m used to.

Ottawa: I spent half of the concert exactly as I hoped I would. Fully present, completely in the moment, consciously absorbing what I was experiencing. Clearly entranced. Musically I was impressed. Extenuating circumstances aside, I have not been that entertained by a hip show in a long time. There were songs that were performed for all of us, for the benefit of the entire crowd. Some songs I could have sworn were specifically directed at me. And during one song in particular, Ocean Next, it appeared as if Gord was singing only for himself.

The other half of the show I spent lost in my cloud. Of thoughts on life. Who I used to be, who I am now, who I want to be, and how do I get there? The heavy questions that plague some of us from time to time. Given the situation, I was forced to ask myself if I could face the inevitability of death with so much courage? Is having knowledge of your own demise a blessing or a curse? And of course 21,000 people walked out of that stadium having asked themselves their own personal versions of those same questions.

We get to feel small, but not out of place at all.

Kingston: I will not be able to describe what it was like to be in that city, on that night. But I will say that there was a buzz of excitement that I hadn’t noticed anywhere in Ottawa. Sure, the fans in Ottawa were excited. But also somehow cautious, maybe even nervous. This was not the case in Kingston. 25,000 people congregated in Market Square not because we had tickets to a concert. But because there was no other place we’d rather be. We were ready. Ready to show our support, appreciation, and love for The Tragically Hip. We were able to collectively say  Gord, we are here for you. This is what we will do for you. Rather than ask (as concert goers) what he would be doing for us. The city of Kingston made that possible, and I applaud them for a job well done.

Musically I could talk about how they succeeded in giving the entertaining performance that we were all hoping for. With the same songs, energy, quirky stories and dances that have been the highlight of the show for years. It was all there, they delivered on extremely high expectations. But what I really want to talk about are the overlooked moments. The missed lyrics, the quick glances of concern from the band. The far off look Gord had while he stared out at the crowd. The mental pictures you could clearly see him taking. His heart begging his brain to remember this.

And Grace, too. I need to talk about Grace, too.

A man, with terminal brain cancer, standing in front of us screaming an incomprehensible No for all he was worth. Throwing down the mic so he could wipe away his tears and use both arms to hug himself while he sobbed in front of a nation.

You could feel all of Canada stand still.

And then he snapped out of it, for us presumably. And he thanked us. He thanked us. For keeping him pushing. No my friend, thank you. Thank you, for pushing us. You are undeniably, ahead by a century.

To end the night, after the unprecedented third encore, the five of them stood arm in arm in front of the crowd for what we have all assumed will be the final time. Best friends with drinks in their hands and smiles on their faces. Emanating profound happiness.

That is what a life well lived looks like.

And when given the chance to preside over the stage Gord did not attempt a long last heartfelt goodbye, that even he might not have had the words for. He simply asked us to take care of each other.

That, I can do.

That’s what I’m here for.

Drink It Up! – Guest Post

So…Nikki is way better at this but I’m going to give it my best shot! 🙂

A lot of things in life make me happy, but only a few things make me SUPER EXCITED!!! Two of those things are planning fun days with fun people and…Kenny Chesney!! So when I heard the MAJOR CONCERT ANNOUNCEMENT on WBEE last Friday you can only imagine my joy. The day only got better when two of my fun people said that they wanted to go! Then, over the weekend more fun people decided they wanted to go, now it’s turning into something!! By the time I was able to get tickets yesterday, it had turned into a wonderful group of 10 women…GIRLS DAY!!! 🙂

Granted, this concert isn’t until July, which is a long time from now to be making such big plans. But even with everything people have going on in their lives, and some of us stepping out of our “Comfort Zones” to go (Mom…wink, wink), we have all committed. And why not?!

I realized Kenny sums it up nicely as I was listening to his newest album on my way home last night (a little post ticket purchase celebration). His song “Drink It Up” says it all.

Just a few minor details to work out…like sweet talking my Dad into being DD… and we will all be Drinking It Up!!! Can’t wait ladies. I’m SUPER EXCITED!!!


About the Author – Blog Owner’s Note: This weeks guest author is someone who I’m continuously proud to call my sister. She has achieved the desirable “adult who has her life together” status, while maintaining the ability to regularly motivate herself and others to get out there, try new things, be happy, and ask the ever-important question of “why not?”

Random Thoughts

It is the first week of December and the holiday season is upon us. Life is already very busy with seasonal events but it is dark all the time. It feels like it’s time to gain 5 pounds and habitually sit under a blanket. I have nothing to share except random thoughts in holiday colors. They keep me entertained on a daily basis. (Both the thoughts and the colors).

  • A co-worker of mine has the most text-book sounding sneeze I have ever heard. It is literally the perfect Ahh-Choo”. I am simultaneously annoyed and jealous every time he sneezes.
  • I have developed an underlying fear that when my car stereo is connected to my phone via blue tooth I can not only hear the music playing from my phone, but the world can also hear what is happening in my car. Like we’re all under surveillance and Big Brother is secretly watching and recording us. What if this turns out to be true!? What would my lifetime driving demo sound like? My husband’s would most definitely sound like this as he regularly tells other drivers where they can stick it. What would yours sound like? At the very least mine would include some pretty sick versions of Patiently Waiting, I know that much.
  • When you want only 1 piece of toast, why does it matter which side of the toaster you put the bread in? I sometimes use the wrong side on purpose. I’m like “take that toaster, I feel like being a bad ass today”. I’m happy to report that the end of the world is not waiting for us on the wrong side of the toaster.
  • Going to busy restaurants always puts me through a series of mental ups and downs. Every time I see food being carried in the direction of my table I assume it is mine. Tray of food spotted = HAPPY!” Tray of food gets carried past my table = NOT HAPPY!” This scenario occurs even if I haven’t been waiting long for my food, it’s ridiculous.
  • I like to change the words to songs and seamlessly insert my own name into lyrics. You can’t just go all willy-nilly though, it really has to be the right fit. “Oh Nikki (You’re so fine etc.,)” instead of “Mickey”. This example is a bit too generic and obvious for my tastes, but you get the point. I do this quite often and I sometimes use other people’s names too, if it feels right. When I get caught trying to sneak the word “nikki” into a song my husband shakes his head and says “you’re such a dork”. Yes, I am. That’s the point.
  • Sometimes the worst part of my day is the last 10 seconds of Chopped. The countdown makes me super nervous.

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To end on an encouraging note, we have until the 21st (only a little over 2 weeks away!) until the hours of daylight start to get longer again!

Music Therapy

A lot can be said about the impact music has on our lives.  It’s a huge part of our culture. It connects us. To the artists who make the music, to our friends and family, and even to strangers. There’s nothing like being stuck in traffic and looking over to see another driver rocking out to the same song as you. It makes me want to get out of the car and dance.

Many of life’s happy moments are tied to, and sometimes a result of, music. We could literally go on and on about the endless ways in which music affects us. But if we scale it back, and look at it on an individual level, music is also a fairly worthwhile way to gauge our own ups and downs in life. Our most played song lists tend to mirror the thoughts that go on inside our heads. The thoughts that no one else gets to know about, unless you choose to share (or blog about) them. We use music as a crutch, to make us feel better. And even though depressing music usually only instigates and prolongs a bad mood, it is sometimes exactly what we need to work through these thoughts. Getting lost in a good playlist can be as therapeutic as sitting down with a good friend and a bottle of wine.

Earlier today I found myself at a crossroads. Well into my second hour of listening exclusively to Ben Folds, it dawned on me that I must not be in the best of moods. I was enjoying what I was listening to and his gloomy, yet somehow hopeful, tunes were indeed just what I needed. But I was about to go into a meeting where I needed to be a happy go lucky manager. The person who motivates others and pretends like the work we do is important. Not because I enjoy being deceitful, but because at the end of the day productivity is directly tied to my employees’, and therefore my, attitude. I was reveling in the melancholy, but Ben Folds just wasn’t going to cut it. I had to do something quickly to improve my mood and, since I’m all out of happiness cards, my only choice was to change the music.

I listened to this song. It was a simple, obvious, choice. I only had about 3 minutes and I needed to be happy. Judge me if you’d like, but listening to it turned my day, quite possibly my week, around. I went into the meeting with what I hope was contagious enthusiasm. But I don’t feel like I forced myself to be happy, that’s never a good idea. Forcing ourselves into things that don’t quite fit will inevitably lead to unhappiness. Whether it’s a pair of jeans or a relationship. But I did make an intentional decision to change my own mood, by listening to a song that causes me to be genuinely happy. Making that decision, the conscious effort, is sometimes half the battle. And then knowing what actually makes you happy can be a whole different fight.

Even though I’m not having an excess of happy moments on this particular day it is reassuring to know there will always be something, as simple as a Christmas song in September, to turn my downs into ups. Life is complicated. But sometimes being, at least temporarily, happy can be really simple; just change the music. And the next time someone asks me how I’ve been, someone that actually wants an honest response, I might look at my most listened to songs before I answer.

Extraordinary Moments

I’m going to piggy-back off of my last post to tell a story about a recent, happiness-causing, event. So you may want to read that one first if you haven’t, but it’s your call.

My husband and I were on our way to our anniversary dinner the other night.

Picture him, in the driver’s seat, repetitively clicking the scan button on the radio searching for something at least mildly entertaining to listen to. He pauses for only a few seconds on each station, glancing quickly my way before deeming the station unworthy and moving onto the next option. And myself, as the passenger of course, staring off into oblivion at nothing in particular, with a million unrelated memories clouding my brain. So disconnected from the situation that I offer no opinion or visible reaction to the stations he pauses on, forcing him to assume that I do not like the song. He makes an off-handed comment about the poor driving skills of the person in front, next to, or behind us. Or, more likely, all of the above. I try my best to ignore the comment, and make no indication that I have even heard him talking.

Besides the reason for it, which was to get to the restaurant to celebrate 2 years of marriage, it was a completely ordinary drive. A very typical snapshot of life in the car with the Karpens. There is nothing exactly wrong with, or bad about, this situation. But there is nothing remarkable about it either. It is our routine of getting from Point A to Point B. Simply coexisting.

Finally, he settles on a station where the DJ was talking. A good indication that they were just coming back from commercial break, and would soon be playing a song. I pick up my phone to, again, look at nothing in particular. And then, something completely un-ordinary happens.

Our wedding song starts playing on the radio.

He recognizes it first, smiles, and comments that they’re playing our song. I actually hear his comment this time, look at him and smile, and extraordinary happiness ensues. I am abruptly pulled away from the million other thoughts in my head, whatever they might have been, and for exactly 4 minutes and 11 seconds am able to think about nothing else except for him and I, and the fact that we are together, living in this moment.

I immediately recognized it as another one of those appropriately timed coincidences that force me stop over-thinking life, and allow me to just enjoy it, exactly as it is.

The thing about moments, of course, is that they’re fleeting. Before we arrived at the restaurant, he was commenting again on the mistakes of a neighboring driver. I, after enthusiastically singing along to our song, gladly retreated back into my cloud. This time with memories of us and our wedding, our family and friends, and happiness etc.. But the fact that the moment was gone didn’t diminish the fact that it happened.

This extraordinary moment is now a happy memory that we both share, and that I am now sharing with you.

For me, this doesn’t make the ordinary moments in life suddenly inadequate. As evidenced by my previous post, I enjoy those too. I laugh, literally out loud, at myself when I think about spilling beer while getting my morning coffee. And I do, completely and entirely, enjoy just coexisting with my husband as we go about our daily routines. But it is the extraordinary moments in life that make this all worthwhile. They throw me into a state of complete consciousness and let me know that I may just be doing something right after all.

So I’ll just be here, enjoying all of my ordinary moments, so that I’m able to recognize and enjoy the next extraordinary one whenever it comes along.

P.S. To Ben and Brendan: Thank you for playing our wedding song, and for generally just being awesome at life.