Boomerang

She might be tiny, but her voice, especially at such an early hour, is not.

“Mommy! Can you spell DOUGH-DOUGH SIGWA on my Ken-dal?” she yell-asks with just a bit of budding Southern accent in her adorably electric, and often ear-splitting, 4-year-old voice.

“Dough-Dough Sigwa” is actually JoJo Siwa and if you haven’t been introduced to this piece of saccharine sweet, ultra bright, hyper AF pop culture money machine, let me introduce you.

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JoJo Siwa is a 15-year-old dancer, actress, singer, and Youtuber who started on the Lifetime show Dance Moms (not as a mom, but as a kid, duh) and then branched out to create her own brand. That brand now includes a personal vlog, a clothing and bedding line, and a singing and acting career. Her Youtube channel is her go to HQ where she shares her everyday life blogs about her love for her family, her touring schedule, and her obsession with crazy hair accessories. It’s also where she releases her music videos. And that’s what lead to her to being introduced to our house. Because apparently, her songs complete are bangers for the 15 and under crowd.

The one that gets the most play our house is the song “Boomerang”. It gets played multiple times a day. MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY.

The lyrics are uplifting, positive, and talk about persevering no matter what hardships happen. It’s about not caring what people say about you and living your truth. It’s about always coming back no matter what life throws at you and never letting anything get you down. It’s a true hype anthem and really is a good song that breeds positivity and self-love power. 

And it really is fun to see a 4-year-old rock out to.

But in all honesty, I really, really, dislike that fucking song.

It’s so bubble gum sugary pop that I’m pretty sure my ears are getting cavities every time I hear it. While the message is exactly what I feel little (and big!) girls and boys should be hearing, my inner music lover is kind of grossed out by the mass-produced auto tuned side of it.

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I won’t lie. I’m no music saint. I’m not one of those hipsters that likes to tell you that I only listened to it before everyone else started liking it but hate it now and can also detail how your favorite band sold out.  I’ve listened to my fair share of shit music too. But this stuff makes me feel the same way Britney and N’Sync did when they first came out. Like it’s catchy, I get it, but so is the fucking flu.

But that’s the point for things targeted to the under 15 demographic, isn’t it ? It’s all about this shiny new thing and how fast you can get these young people to fall in love with it. As someone who is way older than anyone in that bracket, all of it sounds like hogwash to me.

But me not liking it, doesn’t mean I can’t respect it.

My daughter digs this stuff. And I’m sure thousands of other people’s daughters dig it too.  JoJo Siwa has 9 million subscribers. That’s 9 MILLION!!  And she has a Nickelodeon deal and a tour that is coming near my house in June. ( I will not be telling the young JoJo fan in my house though because tickets start at $121 and gods have mercy, that seems like the most expensive hell I can think of.) So either she or someone who is in charge of her team has some serious hustle.  And on top of all that, her music and videos promote positivity. There’s no hate mixed in there. It’s uplifting, believing in yourself, straight up power.  And that’s what the younger generation needs. Hell, that’s what we all need.

We all have to find places and things to recharge and uplift ourselves. I reread Witch by Lisa Lister, carry around rocks, and listen to 90s grunge when I’m feeling drained. (Note to self: Put on In Utero and read that book again, you’re still running low). My husband likes to go to the range and fire off some rounds. We all need these things that give us our center and bring us to our happiness. And if for my little miss that’s singing and dancing along with this brightly colored decked out 15-year-old wholesome pop star, then so be it.  I can put my taste in music and aesthetics aside and just let the kid have fun.

Let’s pull a page out of Marie Kondo’s book on this one.

Hold this music in your hand.

Was it meant for you?

No?

Then let it go back to who it was and let it bring joy.

It’s not your’s to shit on openly so keep your mouth shut.  

 I will not destroy the happiness of another just because I don’t dig it. It is not some weird power trip for me to flex my better taste muscles on those who like things I do not. It’s not about what I like. It’s about what brings joy to others.  I am not a slayer of joy, and you shouldn’t be either.

There are sometimes that keeping your opinions to yourself pays off. This is the lesson all these annoying things our children love can teach us. This is the lesson we should willingly be able to learn from them. They are often as much as our teachers as we are theirs. This is one of those times. 

So Little Miss is going to keep her JoJo fandom strong. Every day, just like she sings in her song, JoJo is going to come back like a boomerang, and I’ll get to hear it again and again and again. And it will irk me. And I could put on headphones and listen to a million other things. But then, I might miss getting to hear my Little Miss learning how to sing and dance along to a song that makes her heart light up. And that brings me joy.

So I think I’ll keep that.

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Windows Down

In this part of the Carolinas, Summer comes hard and fast.

You see, our Winters aren’t that deep. We don’t dip below the freezing mark enough for it not to be first alert news when it happens. Our Springs are barely a handful of weeks worth of stretching in preparation for the long run that is Summer.

This year, by the end of May, Summer had taken root. The first week of June saw highs in the low 90s and humidity well over 50%. It was like it was going to be for at least the next four months, hot.

It was during that week that I had a rare solo trip out. This trip was the kind of event that house locked stay at home parents look forward to. The kind where you’re running benign errands, but you’re doing them ALONE. No kids, no pets, no significant other. Just you and your to-do list. The kind where you can hear your own thoughts for a change. Not just the unending ramblings of the ones you hold dearest. Cause while you love them, sometimes you love the quiet a little bit more.

Since I was alone this day and was set to be in the car for a while instead of turning on the car’s air conditioner, I rolled the windows down. And much like the advice in a poorly written Country song, I turned the radio up. My solo jam session had begun.

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Uninhibited by the roar of the wind and the thump of the bass, I sang. I sang and sang and slowly, every drop of my build up emotions were loosened. I don’t fancy myself a performer in the slightest, but there in my car speeding towards a routine everyday thing, I was something on display.

The phone cut into the music when my husband called. I told him to hold on while I rolled up the windows.

“Wait, why aren’t you running the AC? It’s hot as shit.”

In my head, I could see his face wrinkle when he asked this. One of his eyes becoming smaller than the other from the effort of trying to figure me out. We’ve been married 13 years, he wears this look frequently.

“I dunno, I like having the window down.”

I didn’t dare try to explain my thinking that it’s cheaper to have the windows down. Or my theory that going ten over the speed limit makes up for the air being hotter outside than what the car’s AC would throw. True, it was warmer, but there was more movement, more excitement, more to get lost in. The regurgitated air of the AC would have felt nice. It would have prevented the line of sweat that dampened the back of my shirt. But it wouldn’t have opened my soul like the windows down music up combo did.

“You’re still broke Angela from Buford.”

There was no malice in his statement. It was a teasing truth mentioning the backwoods community I grew up in.  Even though I’m at a place in my life where I have comforts I couldn’t have even dreamt of as a teen, I often revert back to the behaviors of my dirt road, poor as shit younger self.

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It’s more than just coupon cutting and discount shopping.(Which, don’t get me wrong, I love. RetailMeNot is bookmarked and thrift stores are life) Like many people who grow up in poverty, chasing escapism became an important part of my life. Not being well off enough for video games and too athletic and clumsy for sports, music was my path of choice.

Every song was a story and through them, I got to live. I knew heartache and struggle. I knew friendship and fun times. I knew love, loss, and a little bit of Jesus. I even knew a boy named Sue. When I got older, the flavor of the music changed. I learned the words for rage sounded a lot like guitars. I learned that a bass beat could speak for my heart. I learned the delicate art of screaming four-letter words without breaking the glass cage around you.

So many times, the only place I could find peace was in the car with the windows down and music blaring. It was there I was able to pull myself out of the ocean of responsibility that I was expected to swim and look at the skyline from the shore. The volume pushed the cheap factory speakers to their buzzing brink and the wind wove my hair in knots that would take hours to undo. But it didn’t matter. Those small annoyances were worth their cost for the small taste of freedom.

So now, a decade or so removed, when I do get the chance, not much has changed. I still drive with the windows down instead of using the air conditioner. I still sing with my horribly out of tune voice at the top of my lungs. It might not be popular amongst my fellow drivers, it such as hell meaningful to me.

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My circumstances are not the same as they once were. I am not the same as I once was. My quest for escapism is now of a different variety. I no longer have to quest to escape the pain of an abusive, restrictive environment. My dashes into rebellion are now to find the person I lost under all this caregiver garb.

The situations have changed but the songs, the roads, and the heat of Summer have all stayed the same.

Featured Photos by William Krause  and Luigi Manga on Unsplash

 

C’mon Get Happy…Or Else

In the Seventies, musical sitcoms were a thing. Singing, dancing, canned laughter, and tissue-thin plot lines, as corny as it sounds to us, it was a total hit. It seemed that at any given point, there were a handful of shows featuring singing families on TV. I can only take one musical episode a season at best. I don’t know how people in the 70s dealt with it.

There was one such musical sitcom that featured the story of a family who becomes a band and traveled around the country spreading music, bell bottoms, shitty haircuts and happiness. It was called The Partridge Family. (Get it, because partridges are birds and birds sing? *cue the canned laughter*)

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I personally never watched this show. My childhood was about 20 years too late to be into that mess. But the theme song for that show would become one of those sickly sweet diddies that refuse to die in obscurity. It’s been used in a commercial sense since the damn series ended. You’ve heard, you know it, now everybody sing along!

 

“Hello world, here’s a song that we’re singin’

Come on, get happy

A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’

We’ll make you happy”

 

Doesn’t that feel a little insistent? Like “Hey, your life might be shit and all but C’MON BE HAPPY!! WE ARE GOING TO MAKE YOU HAPPY!” The goal is happiness and The Partridge Family doesn’t care if you don’t want it or how much it hurts to get there. They’re going to make you happy, goddamnit.

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Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

 

And that’s where we are in society currently. “Happiness’ is the ultimate goal. Optimism is the only vehicle to get us there. Why did I put quotes around happiness? Because our quest is not one for true happiness. The thing we long for, lust for, and wear ourselves to the bone for is for the illusion of happiness. We want others to think we are happy. We want them to think we’ve made it, that we have all our shit in together. These illusions of perfection and enjoyment have replaced our internal need for positivity. The validation from likes and shares has replaced the feeling we get when we generally enjoy something.

Our lives have become little more than pay per minute striptease for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Why would it matter if we are crumbling apart on a spiritual level if our selfies look fly? If those friend request from people we wouldn’t speak to in passing don’t keep rolling in, are we even valuable? If you can’t describe it with a hashtagged word, did it even happen?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve stopped chronicling our adventures in life for our own memories and started curating them based on others.

 

No thumbs up on the pictures of you and grandpa before he died? DELETE!

No one liked the poem you shared that you ripped out from your soul? DELETE!

That tagged picture that showed your real smile, double chin and all? DELETE!

 

Before long we’re augmenting not only our memories but the presentation of ourselves. Our ultimate internet form ends up being one of enduring optimism, polished success, and eternal happiness. And it’s as fake as it is beautiful.

That fakeness is what we are expected to obtain. The real part of us, the part that we are still stitching together, is not welcome. No one wants to see that struggle. There is no celebration of our going through hardships. We are not rewarded for the unflattering things that make us individuals. The gritty nasty parts of us remind others too much of the gritty nasty parts of them. Adding our lives to the collective consciousness of online profiles, special groups, and social coteries often means we enter this unspoken popularity contest. Before we can mentally put together what we’ve gotten ourselves into, it’s too late. Like the frog who doesn’t realize the water is getting warmer until it starts to boil, we waste away until we become one with the system. And then we yell the same rally cry as the people around us, but we do it louder and prouder because we are happier than them, after all:

“C’mon get happy!!”

Happiness and optimism are not feelings you can strongarm someone into experiencing. Forcing them to pretend that life is the emotional equivalent of a teen idol number one song isn’t only foolish, it’s dangerous. It betrays the concept of valid feelings and cheapens the power of the true experience. We need strife, we need struggle, we need unhappiness and pessimism to complete the cycle of life. So while the rest of the world might taking advice from a singing 70s sitcom family, I prefer to take guidance from a 90s-00s band out of L.A. who never wore bell bottoms or tried to spread happiness :

 

“Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”

 

 

featured image:Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

I’m looking California and feeling Minnesota

 

At 6:58 am, my phone rang. I could tell by the Mariachi music that it was my not-biological-but-pretty-much brother. I’ve curated a family that is no kin to me to make up for the one genetics left me with. I promise you, the Build Your Own Family Adventure is totally worth it.

I was wrist deep in biscuit dough and drowning in breakfast prep so I had to let his call go to voicemail. When I was able I shot him a text to ask what was up. During the waiting between my text and him returning my call, I found out that Chris Cornell had died. When we got on the phone finally, that was the reason for the call.

It was by accident that I found Soundgarden in middle school. I think it was swapping CDs on the band bus when Superunknown found it’s way into my ears. It quickly became one of my frequently played albums. Even when I bounced around, experimenting with genres of music (yeah, I was totally into nu-metal for a long while) Soundgarden and their grunge brethren were with me. When Audioslave hit, I was instantly in love. There were many, many time Chris Cornell and his four-octave vocals held my hand, iced my burns, and sang me to sleep.

It seemed like the news that it was suicide hit as fast and as hard as his death did. Reports seem split on if he had exhibited signs of depression or not. The trouble with depression is that for a lot of us, the “signs” have been around so long they’ve just become who we are. So often we hide behind a mask so thick, it hides our struggle from even those closest to us.

I can’t speak for Chris, I only know my own story. But I know that hiding your true struggles becomes an art form. We live in a world where mental illness is constantly second guessed and made light of. There’s still this stigma that hangs over us. Tell someone you broke your arm and they say go to the doctor. Tell them you feel depressed and they ask if you’ve tried just feeling better. As if it was that simple.

If you’re fighting that fight, please know you aren’t alone. It’s easy to feel that way. At times it’s comforting.But these are not battles you have to wage alone. There are people there to help you.  National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day online and on the phone (1-800-273-8255).  Here is a link from PsychCentral with numbers for hotlines that specialize various issues.

You are not alone in this. Needing help is not weakness. Asking for help is one of the strongest things you can do. Let’s support each other. 

Now please excuse me while I damage my hearing by blasting some Soundgarden/Audioslave/Temple of the Dog.

Day 5: 10 Songs You Love Right Now

I seriously almost skipped doing today. Its after 10 pm and Little Miss M is still awake. Which means I’m still on the mommy clock. Which doesn’t make me a happy lady. Today has been a stressful day, so I was very much looking forward to time to myself to unwind before getting tired and falling asleep in a puddle of my own drool. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

So, quickly, here are ten songs I really fucking love right now.

  1. “Well, Everybody’s Fucking In A U.F.O” by Rob Zombie. I’ve been a Zombie fan for like half of my life. This new song is just so damn good. And it’s wonderful to sing while walking in the grocery store on Old People Day.
  2. “Breath Of Life” by Florence and the Machine. This song is so powerful. The building of the vocals , the instrumental, its all just perfect.
  3. “I and Love and You” by The Avett Brothers. I love this bands sound and how tight and together they are. The slow “We are headed North” part gives me goosebumps.
  4. “You’re Standing On My Neck” by Splendora. It’s the Daria theme song. I love Daria.I might be Daria.
  5. “Come With Me Now” by The Kongos. This song makes me want to go out and do shit. Badass shit.
  6. “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons. Pretty much everything by Mumford and Sons is magical.
  7. “Renegades” by X Ambassadors
  8. “One Arm Scissor” At the Drive In. They are back! And touring!
  9. “Saint Cecillia”by The Foo Fighters. I love the Foo Fighters. I have for a very long time. They keep putting out music that speaks to me.
  10. “Snow” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Always this song. Always.