Sunday, August 17, 2014

Blueprints for Friendship in Cities that Surrender to the Dark Way of Vital Lowborns: A Coming of Age Tale of a Girl and a Band

For the past couple of weeks, something has been troubling me. When my mind gets quiet, I have felt a nagging feeling in my heart that just won’t go away. It’s interfering with my work. It’s affecting my sleep. I just can’t shake this feeling of loss.

This feeling hit me for the first time a few weeks ago, and for a while, I couldn’t deduce what was nagging at me. After quite excessive brain-wracking, it hit me.

This terrible feeling that has been plaguing me. I figured out its origin: one of my favorite bands - Anberlin - is breaking up.

I know. It doesn't seem earth-shattering enough to be affecting my sleep and work. Seems a little silly or overdramatic to claim a band's break-up is distracting me at my job or impacting my mood on a daily basis, right?

I can’t argue with you. In fact, when I figured out the cause of my melancholy, I felt confused and tried to think of something else it could be. But that was it - Anberlin's break-up was the cause without a doubt. I felt ridiculous and embarrassed; so much so, I initially avoided telling my husband what was really bothering me when he inquired. But after a little interospection, it all made perfect sense. Just hear me out.

To start, if you don't know Anberlin - the aforementioned band that is breaking up - they are an alternative/indie rock band (my description, not theirs) from Florida, who has been performing together for more than a decade. They have released seven albums (not including compilations and live albums) - all of which are some of my favorite albums I own.

As for my relationship with Anberlin, the roots run deep. I started listening to them in 2003 after I bought tickets to a show they were opening. I was in the 10th grade, and music was the beginning, middle, and end for me, so for every show I attended, I wanted to ensure I knew all the bands - just in case I fell in love with them. Then, I could say I’d seen them live at least once and cherish the memory. This was a frequent practice for a couple of years, but I can only think of one band that I think was worth the time and research: Anberlin. 

Anberlin playing at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC - July 2003

I saw them in a small club in Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle - and as I remember, they played only five songs. They opened for Further Seems Forever, Autopilot Off, and The Movielife - all bands I loved - but for me, Anberlin stole the show and my heart. I was so entranced by them. The music was so intriguing. It was catchy but unlike anything I’d heard. And like so many other girls before and after me, I was especially enthralled by their frontman Stephen with his amazing voice and charismatic presence. To make the show even more exciting, I got the chance to meet the band after the show. I took pictures with them and complimented their music and performance. I still love these pictures so much because they capture who I was so perfectly (not to mention I’m wearing my awesome Kermit and Vincent Price shirt!).

Me at 16 with singer Stephen Christain

Me with bassist Deon Rexroat

But that show was special to me for a completely different reason: it was on my 16th birthday - the exact day. My 15-year-old self couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate my Sweet Sixteen than pushed up against sweaty people in a little club while we danced and sung along. And it was. This show is still one of my fondest memories from high school, and Anberlin was the biggest part of it.

Since July 19, 2003, I have loved Anberlin. Even when my tastes shifted, they stuck with me. They grew, matured, and changed in the perfect ways with me instead of pulling away from with shifts in their creations that alienated me as a fan. As I got older and matured, they continued to connect with me through their music, lyrics, and stage shows. I have loved a ton of bands throughout my music-cognizant life, but I associated most of those bands with a certain period of my life. But not Anberlin. 

Anberlin is transcendent in my life - they have been background music in my life story since I started listening to them. They are me in the 10th grade when music was all I wanted to do all day. They are me in college when I was traveling with friends to explore and find purpose. They are me when I met my husband for the first tim and  we talked about things we loved - Anberlin being one of our common denominators. They are me getting married and stating a new life. They are me now when I look into the future and see the world changing in front of me. They are me now when I see nothing stays the same. They are me now recognizing how priorities shift and visions of the future change. They are me now maturing into the person I want and need to be. 

Anberlin performing at an acoustic in-store performance in Philadelphia, PA

So, in a way, as heartbreaking as it is, by breaking up, Anberlin is doing what they do best for me. They are continuing to grow with me. They are reflecting the path I see in front of me. They are showing me the way forward.

I know it sounds melodramatic to be taking a band’s break-up so seriously, but at the end of the day, it isn’t their break-up that is nagging me. It is the idea of the change on the horizon.

Because I’m not the 16-year-old in Cat’s Cradle singing along to “Foreign Language" anymore. I’m not the 19-year-old squeezed into a record store in Philadelphia after driving for six hours to hear “Unwinding Cable Car” acoustic. I’m not even the 26-year-old who danced around, screaming the words to “Self-Starter” alongside her 16-year-old brother, who has just started going to shows. I'm someone else now - although I’m not sure who quite yet. A homeowner? A woman getting ready to become a mother?

That’s what has been keeping me up at night. That’s what has been plaguing my thoughts constantly. This idea of change has been making me nervous, and like I have done so frequently throughout my life, I have turned to Anberlin to help me understand it. And for a moment, I felt let down because they are breaking up and can no longer help me. But that isn’t true at all. They are helping me transition to this new person that I am.

Stephen performing at the NorVa

With an announced and amicable break-up, they released one more album for me to love, and they are coming through Norfolk one last time for me to say goodbye and to remember every person I’ve been who has loved their music equally but in such different ways. 

And on their final album, “Lowborn," they have sent me beautiful lyrics that speak to me even more than their others have on past albums and reach out to comfort me. On "Atonement," Stephen sings, "I've loved where I've been, but my heart's where I'm going." Then, in “Harbinger,” Anberlin offers a lovely so-long: “Love’s pressure is just kisses and what’s last’s to come; and look back with a lighter soul; harbor motion into the great unknown.”

Me with singer Stephen and drummer Nate at the NorVa in 2006 (the last time I was able to meet them)

So, thank you, Anberlin, for being a part of my life. Thank you for sharing so much of yours with me. Thank you for all the words and melodies that will always fill my heart with an incredible joy. Thank you for the wonderful memories. Thank you for growing with me. I can’t ask any more of you. You have done more for me than I ever knew.

In your final year, when I dillusionally felt like you might be letting me down, you’ve outdone yourselves again. Instead of letting me down, you have come through the way you always do. You have placed a period on the end of this sentence. Now, I can move on to the next part of my story.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Our Musical Inspiration

Before I can post anything about each room in our house, I need to share a special detail about our house that I will be mentioning in all of the posts.

Since the very beginning of the house building process, I've had my mind on the interior design. It's a fun and creative, but it also is a concrete activity that can kept my mind occupied whenever we had trouble before and during construction.

Even though it was a fun distraction, it wasn't always distracting in a good way because there are so many choices out there, and I didn't know where to start. It got to be a little overwhelming trying to make decisions. 

But Chris solved the problem one night last summer. We were still living in Suffolk, and I was talking to Chris about colors for the living room - OK, it might have been more like whining or complaining about it. Regardless of what it was, at that time, a light bulb went off in Chris's head, and he asked, "Why don't we use our favorite albums to do the rooms?"

I adore my husband - the brilliant man. It was a perfect idea. He suggested we pick an album for each room we wanted to decorate and then use the album artwork to inspire the colors and decor. It would narrow down our choices, and it was a way to make the rooms very unique to us. It also guaranteed we picked color combinations we liked (cause we already love them on the albums).

We went through and picked an album for all of the rooms we knew we would be using a lot (the living room, for example), and we decided to keep the other rooms neutral for now (plain old linen white paint on the walls).

Now that all the rooms are painted, I'm so happy with how they turned out. It is a special way for us to make the work of decorating easier while also displaying our passion for music, which is one of the things that brought Chris and I together when we first met. 

So here is the list of rooms and the albums we picked for each. We made some bold choices, and I'm so glad we did. 

"Chase This Light" by Jimmy Eat World

"The Everglow" by Mae

"Bleed American" by Jimmy Eat World

"The Crane Wife" by the Decemberists

"Stay What You Are" by Saves the Day

"Deja Entendu" by Brand New

In each of the individual room posts, I'll talk more about the album choice and how it inspired us. And of course, I'll show off the semi-finished product (a lot of the rooms don't have furniture or accessories in them quite yet),

In closing, I highly suggest this technique for anyone who has no decorating experience or finds it overwhelming. It made the process if picking paint, furniture, decorations, etc., so much easier. Also, it made the house even more of a reflection of who we are and gave us the opportunity to choose things we love. Additionally, there was only one time that it was a problem, but you'll hear all about that soon enough. :)


Thursday, May 1, 2014

The level-headed office

Having an awesome office in our home has been a priority for us even before we decided to build our first home and we were still looking to buy. 
Since we first got married and moved in together, we have had a space in our home dedicated as an office, and we knew we wanted to continue the tradition in our first house.  
The Plan
The office has been in our house plan since since Day 1, but it had a different shape when we first designed it with the help of FIL.
Originally, the office was going to have two massive closets - one of each side of the door as you walked into the room - for comic book storage and a ledge near the ceiling running around the whole room where Chris could display his collectibles, like his Bowen Marvel busts (nerd alert - I know!)
However, early in the house design process, we decided to ditch the formal dining room (because we didn't want to knowingly add - and spend money on - a room in our house that we knew we would use once or twice a year), so the plan for the office changed. Although we don't want a formal dining room, we recognize other people might if we ever decide to sell our house. So we deleted the closets from the office and moved the comic book storage elsewhere in the house (this was an excellent decision - more to come when I cover the FROG). With the deletion of the closets, the office is now a simple room that gets some of the best light in the house, especially because it has a beautiful trio of windows at the front that faces the street. These windows just let the light pour into the room.Now, the office can act as a formal dining room if we ever sell or if we ever find ourselves in need of one.

The Office Under Construction

FIL working outside of the office windows

The Construction
The office has the distinction of being one of the rooms on the front of house. It might seem a little odd, but we didn't want the kitchen or living room in that location, so the office got placed there by default because that was the only choice - except the half bath - YIKES!
Throughout construction, rooms seem to fluctuate in size based on how complete they are - they can look bigger or smaller, squarer or rectangle-y-er (???). However, the office never seemed small to me. As soon as the guys started framing the house, the office has felt like a huge room. It's always remained consistent.
Additionally, unlike other rooms in our Big Blue House, the office has not been a problem child. It might be perhaps because my no drama husband has taken the lead on this room, but it most likely is because it just has required any special attention. It didn't require special wiring like the living room. There wasn't any tiling to worry about like in the kitchen and bathroom. It didn't have special architecture accents like the master bedroom and FROG. It's just a simple square room.
Additionally, the special details for the office aren't going to happen until after we've moved in. The ledge I mentioned before is still completed as a father/son project by FIL and Chris after we are in the house. There is also a plan for FIL to construct a desk and storage space in the office, but that will take place later also. So for now, it remains our level-headed square room.
But the office does have something eye-catching about it. It's at the front of the house and it greets you as you walk in, so like a well-mannered middle child looking to get Mom and Dad's attention with a new nose ring, the office got some funky paint.
We had a hard time picking an album as a theme for the office. Nothing popped out in our minds immediately when we thought about it. Finally, we sorted through our vinyl collection, and an album spoke to Chris: Jimmy Eat World "Chase Our Light." 
It fit both of our requirements for picking it as a room inspiration. I absolutely love his album; we both do and it has beautiful album art. But... well... I was still a little worried about picking it because it's a bit loud.

Am I right? A little loud? Still, Chris and I both really like it, and we agreed to pick one color from it and make it a statement piece in the room. So we picked the green that peeks through the feathers. We agreed it was a good choice and moved on.
I felt confident with the choice until the paint came. When I saw the small green paint spot on the can, it screamed out at me. And I got a little nervous. This room was going to be seriously green. Too green? As you'll see in later post, we picked a lot of bold colors through out the house, but this one really stood out - even among all if our colors. But I decided not to get too worked up about it because my mom raised me to know paint can always change (she also taught me to never buy full price paint, but that lesson went out the window with the album art idea).
Well, when the paint went in the walls, I was very pleasantly shocked. The paint is beautiful! Sure, it's bold (and everyone who sees it says the same thing, "Wow, that's really green!"), but we love it, and it looks amazing with the white trim and crown molding and with the dark flooring. It's also a very sunny room, and it makes for a very cherry atmosphere, which I love. I should know by now Jimmy Eat World won't let me down - even if interior decorating.

The boys installing the front windows

The office with the walls up (and a ton of duct work in it)

After the drywall was installed

The Final Product
The office has been the middle child of our home since day one if construction. It's easy-going and doesn't need constant attention to ensure it doesn't get unruly and act out. However, it did go trough a phase of self-modification that had us worried. But our level-headed office didn't let us down. It looks beautiful, and I think we are going to love using it (even it does become a dining room in the future).

Standing in the foyer looking to the office (and living room)

Looking to the front of the house from inside the office 

A panaromic shot of the (semi-)finished office

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why I Haven't Written More Home Construction Posts

If I had to give myself a grade for my coverage of the construction of our home, it would be... um... a F! Without a doubt. 

I think I started off strong with quite a few posts, but I recognize (and I imagine you do too) I haven't written a post since our footer was dug in November - YIKES!

I hope it goes without saying that our house has greatly progressed since my last post. In fact, it's nearly done! We are scheduled to move next month, and we are extremely excited about it.

So, why was the silence so prolonged? Well, until recently, I hadn't thought much about why I wasn't updating GingerSnaps more often. I wrote it off with the excuse of being busy - I just hadn't gotten the chance to post; I just didn't have the time. But after a lot of thought, I know this isn't true.

The real reason I haven't made the time to post is deeper than not reorganizing my priorities.

From the beginning of the house building process, I have been told (by both others and myself) that it was going to be remarkably stressful. And while I recognized the stress building in me during the construction, I didn't realize how poorly I was managing that stress.

I thought I was pushing it out of my mind, but what I was really doing was neglecting, surpressing, and/or avoiding every aspect of the process that stressed me out.

Frequently, over the past couple of months, I avoided or curtailed conversations about the house when Chris brought them up. I would give vague, quick answers when a co-worker or friend asked me how the house was coming along. And I never updated GingerSnaps because it would mean I'd have to think about the stress and face it head-on.

Now, this is where the issue gets a little more complicated (tired of my excuse yet?). Writing has always been like therapy for me. I have alway found it extremely cathartic since I was younger (even before I was old enough to know what cathartic meant). 

I've always enjoyed pouring my stress and emotions out of myself onto paper in order to gain new perspective on the situation and take those thoughts back in (to fix, resolve, etc., any problems). Think of it like a blood transfusion. Taking out the bad and bringing in the good. In writing, I can sort thoughts out, and then organize them into little boxes, only to pack them back nearly into my mind again. Things are neater and clearer at the end of it all.

It would seem like writing would be the perfect outlet for the stress I was feeling, but there was a hold-up. Writing for this reason has one huge requirement: brutal honesty with both myself and my audience.

But that was the problem. I didn't feel like I could be honest. I've never written about such personal events in a public arena before now, so I felt hesitant about writing about what was going on, especially if there was bickering or any type of drama involved.

I think of myself as an open and honest person, but I forgot when I decided to write everything down for everyone to read I'm not the only person involved - there's Chris, his family (especially his dad), and my family. I foolishly never got everyone's OK up front to be as candid and honest as possible. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have identified my stakeholders up front and gotten the go ahead from everyone before ever starting posting to Ginger Snaps.  

So, because of that, every time I tried to write, it always seemed like there wasn't anything to say - at least anything interesting. I could have (and maybe should have) posted every milestone with little detail, but it might not have been very interesting (especially if I wasn't very passionate about it). Just think about all the drama they inject into those HGTV shows - if they didn't do that, every episode would be the same and boring. No one would watch.

If I did that, it seemed (at least to me) like I was wasting your time because it wouldn't be entertaining and my time because it wouldn't be therapeutic. I'm sorry if it's a silly excuse. Once again, in hindsight, a lot of you would have preferred some so-so updates rather than none at all. And I'm sorry for that too.

As with any endeavor, this effort needed good planning, and I definitely failed in that department. One more time: Sorry.

Going forward, as we move closer to our official move-in, I'm going to try to make it up to both you and myself. Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to do a post for each of the rooms as well as the exterior of the house, giving a synopsis of all that went on (the drama even!) during the construction and sharing with you the amazing transformation from woods to dirt to a bunch of plywood to beautiful house in just a few months.

I hope you will enjoy it even though it's so late. And in the future, I'm going to always remember the complications and limitations I discussed here to ensure I never again cut off the most amazing and least expensive therapy ever, especially during one of the most stressful times in my life.

Finally, here's a picture of the house to hold you guys over: 

Thank you so much for your patience and support, and for reading!