Thanks to a wonderful friend, I was able to go to the Venice Christmas Concert last night in Santa Monica.
Now as a “nice jewish girl” Christmas carols don’t mean a whole lot to me, but Venice shows are just magical and the Christmas music is no exception. Venice just released a new double album (you can order it here) so the show was a mix of old favorites, new songs, and of course holiday tunes. Here are a few of my favorites:
Cool Me Down (with a holiday twist!)
(This is the song with lyrics I have tattooed on my wrist.)
Bad Timing Song (also with a holiday twist!)
Winter Wonderland (with a special Venice twist to the lyrics!)
An awesome tribute to Virginia Lennon who works so hard to make these concerts happen!
Blue Christmas (It’s Elvis!) (NSFW, hysterical lyrics.)
I put all these Venice posts into the “Reviews and Recommendations” category because I love them and I think you will love them too. If you enjoyed these videos, check out some more of their music. Maybe you’ll find an album or two that you love… Click on the photo below to go to their website.
Saturday night I was privileged to be in the audience at The Lennon Family Concert, an annual fundraiser in Santa Monica, CA. Officially the line up was The Lennon Sisters, Venice, The Lennon Brothers & Gail Lennon, The Lennon-Cathcart Trio, Ted Lennon, Tim Lennon, and Charlie Vaughn. Unofficially the lineup was somewhat more… flexable. I’m sure the amount of organization it took to pull off a night like we experienced was staggering, but it didn’t feel organized at all. If felt like the Lennon family invited some people (the audience) over to visit, and members of this uber-talented family wandered in and out of the room (on and off the stage) in various combinations all while singing, playing an instrument, or both.
(Yes, Venice is the band whose lyrics are tattooed on my wrist. Yes, The Lennon Sisters I’m talking about are the same Lennon Sisters from The Lawrence Welk Show.)
Our seats were in the very last row so pictures are a little blurry and videos are shaky and often interrupted by audience member’s heads, but I think they will give you a little peek of what I experienced. I hope you enjoy them!
The opening number from the show will sort of give you an idea of the family atmostphere up on stage.
Venice performed some old favorites, and one new song. (I’m not putting the new song online, but it is out there if you search.)
If I Were You
One Quiet Day
All 6 of the Lennon girls took the stage together performing The Heather on the Hill from Brigadoon.
Then it was the boy’s turn.
Finally all 11 siblings took the stage together.
The grand finale had I-don’t-even-know-how-many Lennons on stage singing the Venice song Family Tree. Appropriate and beautiful.
These are just some of the high-lights, there were so many wonderful performances throughout the night. I remember years back when some band members were welcoming children, last night a few of those children took the stage and showed they are as talented as the rest of their family. It was a truly magical night!
Today the Pine Mountain Logs (Venice’s “alter ego” band) performed a free, outdoor concert in Playa Vista. I’ve been to these concerts in past years, they have always been a great time. I love the music, and the crowd is enthusiastic without being obnoxious. (Pretty much the opposite of a bar or club crowd!) People dance and sing along, kids run around dancing and playing, and you are more likely than not to make friends with people on blankets around you. It’s pretty much my ideal concert experience.
Every time I post about Venice I link back to the audio clips on their website, hoping you’ll give them a listen if you aren’t familiar with them. They’ve been my favorite band for many, many years. (The lyrics I have tattooed on my wrist are from a Venice song.) The Pine Mountain Logs are nearly the same line up as Venice, but they perform covers.
Here is a cell phone video I took of Brown Eyed Girl to give you an idea of what the Logs are all about…
(I didn’t intend to ignore Dann Gillen on drums, it was just impossible to get a photo of him from where I was sitting. Sorry Dann!)
My Favorite Quotes:
This list of my favorite quotes is here more for me than you, but I’m very pleased if you also get something out of it. Feel free to share any quotes you love in the comments. In no particular order:
We deem those happy who from the experience of life have learnt to bear its ills without being overcome by them.
– Carl Jung
Part of the problem with the word disabilities is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.
– The World According to Mister Rogers
More people worry themselves to death than bleed to death.
– Robert Heinlein “Tunnel in the Sky”
We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.
– Carl Jung
Adopt an attitude of gratitude.
I am in an extended self-directed course of study. That is, I am in control of my own life.
Forgiveness: Giving up all hope for a better past.
You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.
– Robert Heinlein
Bless them, Change me.
If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters… then all that matters is what we do. ‘Cause that’s all there is. What we do. Now. Today.
– Angel the Series, Episode 2.16 “Epiphany” written by Tim Minear
Some stories are true that never happened.
– Elie Weisel
There’s no ‘should’ or ‘should not’ when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.
– From The World According to Mister Rogers
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
– Carl Jung
First mend yourself, and then mend others.
– Jewish Proverb
Only criminals and adulterers should have to hide who they are.
– Aaron Sorkin
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
– Anne Frank
Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time.
– Betty Smith
It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.
– Carl Jung
When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.
– Helen Keller
Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.
– Carl Jung
Think higher, feel deeper.
– Elie Wiesel
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
– Carl Jung
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.
– Kahlil Gibran
Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.
– Carl Jung
You could move.
– Abigail Van Buren, “Dear Abby,” in response to a reader who complained that a gay couple was moving in across the street and wanted to know what he could do to improve the quality of the neighborhood
Our obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.
– Elie Wiesel
Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.
– Carl Jung
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
– Dr. Seuss
The nice thing about citing god as an authority is that you can prove anything you set out to prove.
– Robert A. Heinlein
The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.
– Carl Jung
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
– Calvin Coolidge
Fear less, hope more
Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the right people in life if you won’t let go of the wrong ones.
Only one thing has to change for us to know happiness in our lives: …where we focus our attention.
– Greg Anderson
Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.
– Jim Rohn
Whatever you’re thinking about is like planning a future event. When you’re worrying, you are planning. When you are appreciating, you are planing… What are you planning?
Funny thing about guilt: There’s nothing so bad that you can’t add a little guilt to it and make it worse; and there’s nothing so good you can’t add guilt to it and make it better. Guilt distracts us from a greater truth: we have an inherent ability to heal. We seem intent on living through even the worst heartbreak.
Did you ever read the Sunday comics? When I was a little kid, I used to put my face right up to them and I was just amazed because it was just this mass of dots. I think life is like that sometimes. But I like to think that, from God’s perspective, life, everything – even this… it makes sense. It’s not just dots. And instead we’re all connected, and it’s beautiful and it’s funny and it’s good. From this close we can’t expect it to make sense right now.
A pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.
– Robert Heinlein
How do you / Greet the day / With sunshine in your eyes / And a smile that seems to say / Hey, it’s ok.? / Because with me every morning / Its like I’m raising the dead / I’ve got to fool my heart / So I can fool my head / To lift out of bed / Lift out of bed / Miles of water / Oceans worrying me when I wake up / It’s over my head / Over my head / Over my head / The weather of worry / And the freeze of fear / Keep my hands on the wheel / But still I’m too scared to steer / So, I stay here / But you’re an explorer / Of the unmapped and grey / With fear in your eyes / You look at me and say, / It’s ok. / Miles of water / Oceans worrying me when I wake up / It’s over my head / Over my head / Over my head / Learning to live is so simple / But simple ain’t easy / And easy ain’t worth your time / I should be fearless / But still now I fear this / I keep looking down while I climb / All these lessons / Seem so simple to me if I’d just look up / It’s over my head / Over my head / Over my head
– Over My Head by Chris Dallman
You say you wanna get away / Feel the sun on your back / Forget the race / Just get off the track / Well that’s alright… / ‘Cause I feel that way too / Yeah, I’ve been there before / You don’t have to go far / To lose what you do / And find who you are / Yeah that’s alright… / Start livin’ the good life / Just wanna feel right / And it’s cool coming down / Cool coming down / This is the real life / Forget the headlines / And it’s cool all around / Cool you down, cool me down / So now you got it in your head / But you’re wondering why / You’re still so afraid / Well that’s part of the high / Yeah that’s alright… / (Chorus) / Losing the war in the battle somehow / Look for yourself in the here and the now / The love of our lives can escape us it seems / Where is the life that we live in our dreams? / (1st verse) / (Chorus)
– Cool Me Down by Venice
I think of you / of you too much / Of where you are and who you touch / I think too much… too much of you / Like it could save my life if I spent one night with you / It took some time but I’m coming around / They had my vibe down at the lost and found / I know who I was before / I was down but I’m not down anymore / I was down but I’m not down anymore / I was away for way too long / I didn’t know my day from my week, my weak from my strong / The way I was was in my way / Oh I was breaking my own rules just to stay in the game / I learned to stand when I learned to fall / The way to win was not to play at all / I know who I was before / I was down but I’m not down anymore / I was down but I’m not down anymore / Couldn’t see what was taking over me / All the thrill of having you there under my skin / Every time was a different crime / Trying to learn how to make you mine / So conditioned, finally I learned / I learned to stand when I learned to fall / The way to win was not to play at all / I know who I was before / I was down but I’m not down anymore / I was down but I’m not down like before / I was down but I’m not down anymore
– Not Down Anymore by Venice
When I go walking I count the shadows / I always have, since I was a child / She calls it wisdom, says it’s my ‘old soul’ / I think it’s the soul’s suicide / Give it up to me / I want to be just like you / Living out of my head / Living out of my mind / Out of my head / Out of my mind / How do you measure the difference between / The way you play and the hand you’re dealt / I must confess that every single day / I want to keep my cards face down on the felt / Give it up to me / I want to be just like you / Living out of my head / Living out of my mind / Out of my head / Out of my mind / Oh, there’s a fire every night in the sky / the stars, I can see ’em / I’m convinced I can be ’em / If I just learn how not to try / how not to try / When I go walking I count the shadows / I always have, since I was a child / She calls it wisdom, says it’s my ‘old soul’ / I think it’s the soul’s suicide
– Count The Shadows by Chris Dallman
Illusions end in theatrical noise. Real love ends only in death.
– Surprising Myself by Christopher Bram
You can chose to let it define you, confine you, refine you, outshine you, or you can chose to move on & leave it behind you.
Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.
– Norman Vincent Peale
Strength isn’t always a physical thing but it is always a mental attitude.
Attitude is a choice. It’s a statement of free will. No matter how tough, we are not slaves to our circumstances. We are masters of our spirit.
Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
– Dalai Lama XIV
Don’t speak to me about your religion;
first show it to me in how you treat other people.
Don’t tell me how much you love your God;
show me in how much you love all God’s children.
Don’t preach to me your passion for your faith;
teach me through your compassion for your neighbors.
In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as I am in how you choose to live and give.
– Cory Booker
The right attitude can transform a barrier into a blessing, an obstacle into an opportunity or a stumbling block into a stepping stone.
Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.
– Bill Nye
You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.
– Trenton Lee Stewart
Things do not change. We change.
– Henry David Thoreau
What you allow is what will continue.
So many of us are not living our lives because we are too busy living our fears.
Worry is a total waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is steal your joy and keep you very busy doing nothing.
Until you make the unconscious conscious it will rule your life and you will call it fate.
– Carl Jung
The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.
When you were younger did you ever write on your hands or arms? It probably tended to be something so important that it could not be allowed to be forgotten. A classmate you had a crush on finally gave you their phone number, or a homework assignment that had to be turned in. Or did you ever doodle on your binder in school or the inside-out grocery store paper bag covering a textbook? (Do not tell me if you doodled on the book itself, I don’t want to know that about you.) “I heart [insert name here]” or “JK + GC TLA.” (Jennifer Kaplan + George Clooney True Love Always, in case you don’t know the lingo…) Something that was just so true that it had to have a physical presence in the world. It didn’t matter that a few weeks later [insert name here] would be replaced with a new name. At the time the strength of your passionate young emotions made this statement the most important thing in the whole world.
Well, it’s sort of the same thing with my tattoos. I enjoy well-done tattoos and I like people who have and appreciate them. It is art that you love so much you have it marked permanently so you can carry it with you forever. I’m not against getting a tattoo on my shoulder or back or ankle, a picture or symbol that I love enough to make permanent, but my tattoos are on my wrists. I need to get a million glimpses of them throughout the day. I need to be constantly seeing them, even if only subconsciously. It’s not really any different than writing a reminder about math homework on my arm or writing something true on my binder. Did I say sort of the same, I meant exactly the same. My tattoos are things that I know to be true, but I need to work at remembering.
From a journal entry dated July, 2008:
I’ve been wanting a tattoo for somewhere around 10 years now, but I could never decide what I wanted and where I wanted it at the same time. Well, the last two or so years I’ve known exactly what I wanted and where, but for some reason I’ve been dragging my feet and never got it done. This morning while I was zoning out at work a new tattoo popped into my head. It’s not something I was really considering, design or location wise, but it just feels SO DAMN PERFECT and all of a sudden I find that I can’t wait to get it. I know the responsible thing would be to wait and make sure this is really what I want, but I think I’m just going to say what the hell and do it this weekend.
I actually ended up researching local tattoo places at work that day and getting the tattoo later that night. It’s the most impulsive thing I have ever done, I think. Nothing has ever felt so right.
It says “I love you because I know no other way.” It is a line from a Pablo Neruda poem:
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
It has a deep meaning to me. First of all I love the poem, but there are a lot of poems I love and wouldn’t necessarily tattoo on my body… I love that line in particular because it speaks to me about the nature of love. There have been people in my life that I loved who caused me pain again and again. At one time I spent a lot of energy either beating myself up for loving them or trying not to love them at all. It became this weight I was dragging around, something I knew I needed to “fix” but didn’t quite know how. It was quite freeing when I finally learned that I can love someone and not allow them in my life. I can love someone and not allow their toxicity to pollute me. I can love someone without giving them control over how I am treated. I can love someone freely with my whole heart, my love not lacking in any way, and still choose what is best for me.
There are people who, for whatever reason, genuinely love me but cannot participate in a healthy relationship with me. Instead beating myself up for things I cannot control, or feeling that my emotions were somehow “wrong,” I can look at the situation with a whole new perspective. I can let go and move on. It may or may not be what Pablo Neruda intended to say, but it is what I hear, it is what that passage means to me.
Now this all sounds great, I learned something and now it is ‘known’ and life will be all cotton candy and unicorns, right? Well, not so much… Maybe other people are better at this than I am, maybe they can learn lessons like these and, like a light switch that is been turned on and they can now see. With me it’s less of a light switch and more of a skill set that must be practiced. Kind of a ‘use it or lose it’ situation. Sometimes I need to take a deep breath and remind myself that it’s okay to look out for my own needs. It’s okay to surround myself with people who don’t expect me to prove my love for them in painful ways. Nothing about my feelings are “broken” or “wrong.” In the moments that I’m struggling with that, all I have to do is look down and there it is written on my wrist. A reminder I take with me wherever I go.
Fast forward to September 2009. I knew I wanted to get a second tattoo. Just like the first time I was carefully considering many things, even made a few decisions, but nothing felt right the way the Neruda quote did. I knew what I wanted this one to express, but not what I wanted it to say. I actually spent a few months looking up quotes online by subject, finding a lot of things I liked, a few things I loved, but never the one thing that I knew I would know when I saw it.
If you know me in real life you know that I have loved the band Venice for a very long time. I can’t even count how many times I have seen them in concert. Their songs are buried so deep in my brain that I’m not always aware of when I’m singing along with every line and getting every word right. (Let’s not discuss singing the notes correctly, that is something I’ll never be able to get right!)
I was at a Venice concert with a friend; we were sitting in the back instead of dancing at the front of the stage like usual… The band started playing an old favorite of mine, but it was like hearing it for the first time. My shiny new perspective changes things around me even when I’m not aware of it. Sometimes even I am surprised.
Here are the lyrics to the song Cool Me Down by Venice:
You say you wanna get away
Feel the sun on your back
Forget the race Just get off the track
Well that’s alright…
‘Cause I feel that way too
Yeah, I’ve been there before
You don’t have to go far
To lose what you do
And find who you are
Yeah that’s alright…
Start livin’ the good life
Just wanna feel right
And it’s cool coming down
Cool coming down
This is the real life
Forget the headlines
And it’s cool all around
Cool you down, cool me down
So now you got it in your head
But you’re wondering why
You’re still so afraid
Well that’s part of the high
Yeah that’s alright…
Losing the war in the battle somehow
Look for yourself in the here and the now
The love of our lives can escape us it seems
Where is the life that we live in our dreams?
There are so many beautiful lines in that song, “you don’t have to go far / to lose what you do / and find who you are” is probably my favorite line in the song. The lyric that grabbed me so abruptly though, was “look for yourself in the here and the now.” It was expressing exactly what I had been scouring the net looking at all those other quotes in hopes of finding. I remember stopping. Stopping singing, stopping “chair-dancing,” just stopping everything. I remember turning to my friend and telling her “That’s my new tattoo.” In a flash I knew, it just felt right, the same way my first tattoo had felt.
I didn’t get the second tattoo as quickly as I had gotten the first one, the font and placement had to be perfect and I wasn’t satisfied until I found the magic combination. It was early October when I finally sat down in the tattoo artist’s chair.
I call this one my “diagnosis tattoo” because the way the first tattoo was a direct result of growth due to a bad relationship, this one was a direct result of growth due to my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. In many ways finally getting the MS diagnosis was a relief, but that’s a topic for a different post. The other thing my diagnosis did was really kick the-obsessing-over-the-future up a notch. I’ve always been a worrier. I can worry about anything. If you gave me a free mansion I could live in the rest of my life, I’d immediately start worrying about who was going to clean it and how I was going to pay the gardeners. It’s just a thing I do, I go to the worst-case-scenario in my head first thing and start trying to figure out how to deal with it. It makes me a great person to have around in case of an emergency, but it’s not conducive to happiness or calmness. It’s something I’ve known about myself for a long time. It’s something that can bring enormous positives to certain situations, I’m not saying it is a bad thing. I’m usually the most organized person in the room because of all the preparation I do trying to make sure things don’t go wrong, but it’s something I have to work to keep in check.
Take a person who can’t stop worrying about things, tell them that they have a degenerative disease with no cure, then stand back and watch the implosion, it’s going to be impressive! Every person is different so every reaction is different, but in general there are only two directions to go, positive or negative. In researching MS I learned that a significant number of MS related suicides occur in the first year after diagnosis, presumably by people who are not yet experiencing any major quality-of-life issues. I’m no mental health expert, but I think those are people who are so focused on what might be coming down the line that they are trapped in a sort of cycle of despair they can’t get out of. As a worrier I totally understand that, but my instinctual reaction was sort of to take it in the opposite direction.
Barring any miracle cures or revolutionary new treatments, MS doesn’t get better. The attacks often resolve themselves, yes, but it is a disease of cumulative damage. Think of coastal erosion, and think of a hurricane. When the hurricane passes things can get back to normal, but MS is still “eroding the coastline” by taking away the body’s function a small piece at a time. Over the years it adds up. I am now in a phase of the disease where I have a significant amount of damage that isn’t going to go away. It would be so easy to focus on that and obsess about what I will do when things get worse. I’m not going to lie, there are times when I still lay in bed and my brain spins ’round and ’round with possibilities, each one worse than the last, but those moments are few and far between.
Mostly I look at it this way: my disease is just going to get worse. No matter how bad I feel today or how frustrating my level of disability, some day down the line I am going to look back on today and consider it the “good ‘ole days.” In the future I am not going to be able to do some of the things I can do today; it’s a fact. When that day comes, do I want to look back on today and regret that I wasted my time worrying and being unhappy, or do I want to look back and smile at how I enjoyed every minute as much as I could? It’s the same way that I can look back now and smile at the memory of dancing in the front row of a concert. I can’t dance in the front row anymore, but those memories still make me happy.
I know you’ve probably heard “live for today” or “one day at a time” in one form or another many, many times. It’s one thing to hear it and say “yeah, yeah, sure, whatever.” It’s another thing to really know it in your head and your heart. Well, I know it now. My life is far from perfect, a few less challenges in life would certainly be welcomed, but if I stop and look around, really take in “the here and the now” my life is pretty damn good. I have things I am passionate about, I have so many wonderful people in my life, and even though my body doesn’t always do what I want it to do, I can still go walk up the block on a beautiful day and appreciate what I see. And on the days I’m having a little trouble remembering that, I only have to look down, I have a reminder written on my wrist.
When I got my tattoos the tattoo artist (same person both times) wanted to make sure I understood that I was getting them upside down. I would easily read them, but other people would have a hard time. That’s ok, I told him. I got them to make myself happy. If you happen to think they are cool, I will smile and say thank you. If you don’t understand or like them, I’ll tell you that’s okay, tattoos are not for everybody. But the fact is that neither scenario makes a difference to me, my tattoos are for me and me alone. I can honestly say that I love them even more now than when I first got each of them.
They are my reminders. They are the lessons that are so important to me, I need them to have a physical presence. They are my tattoos.