Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ireland Trip - First Day (Dublin)

A Nap, a Pint, and a Bite (to eat).  After an exhausting a and stressful day of travel, those thhree things are the best prescription for happiness money can buy.

We finally touched down in Dublin at 8am local time after a long, sleepless flight from O'Hare.  I caught about 30 minutes of wine induced nappage after our in-flight dinner, but between my excitement and horrendous sleep schedule my body and mind were unable to coordinate efforts to deliver anything close to something that resembles actual, beneficial sleep.

When I went to turn on my phone after landing, the first (of what I'm sure to be many) snag in my plans occurred - my iPhone couldn't pick up a signal (after I specifically I went to verizon before I left and asked them to activate my SIM card for travel in Ireland.  They said they did, buy apparently that was not the case, which I found out after visiting multiple cell phone stores in Dublin).  I know realize how much of a "first world problem" this was, but at the time my sleep-deprived mind couldn't rationalize.  It's funny how easy it is to get sucked into dwelling on negativity, feeling sorry
for yourself, etc...but all it took for me to snap out of it was walking around the city centre.  I distinctly remember talking to myself, saying, "Hey dumbass - who gives a shit about the stupid phone.  You're in Ireland.  Enjoy!"

I took my luggage to the hostel but still couldn't check in for another three hours, so instead of taking a nap (which was my original plan), I decided to take in the sights.  I visited Trinity College, Dublin Castle, and St Patricks Cathedral (all of which you can see on my Facebook/Instagram pages), but it was almost as if I was having an out of body experience.  I was physically there, but mentally I felt very distant.  I don't know where my mind was - probably in survival mode trying to deal with my severe lack of sleep.

Finally it was time to check into my room and take a nap.  I laid down on the bed and I don't think it even took me 20 seconds before I was out.  I'm not sure if I had ever been that happy to lay down in my entire life.  I was sore in muscles I didn't even know I had.  I didn't even have time to take off my shoes or change clothes before I was in the middle of full-fledged REM sleep.  An amazing nap to say the least.  I have taken many a good nap in my day, but very few were ever as sorely needed as this one.

I awoke feeling refreshed and ready to join my friends Erin and Shannon (convenient names for 2 US girls traveling in Ireland), who are also in Ireland visiting over their fall break, for a pint.  It just so happens that the hostel where I am staying has a pub next door and, like all good pubs in Dublin, they serve Guinness.  I enjoyed a great pint and great conversation.  Always nice to see familiar faces when in a foreign land.  After the beer I headed to Leo Burdock's for fish and chips to cap the night.

As mentioned at the top, sometimes all it takes is a nap, a pint, and a bite to heal any travel weariness.  I'm back in my hostel for the night, showered (which was also amazing - that hot water pouring over my body did wonders.  I think I need to add that to the list) and ready to head out for Galway tomorrow.

I'm excited to experience Dublin a again on Monday before I fly home, because I feel like I wasn't fully present today.  St Patricks Park is absolutely lovely.  I think I could just end up spending the whole afternoon there Monday.

More travels await - Cheers!

PS: If this post sucks, I blame it on the lack of sleep.

Ireland Trip - O'hare Airport

Well, this trip is starting off like all good things in life do: with a pint.  Except this pint cost $10.  Damn you airport bar.  Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of Sam Adams Oktoberfest - but $10?  Really?  I have a tough time splurging for a 6 pack of Bells Two Hearted for $10.  So one measly pint for $10?  I guess the old saying holds true: location, location, location.  Where is capitalism at play, here?  Where is the competition?  This bar has a monopoly on the market.  These prices need to be driven down.  $10 for a pint?!  Maybe I should open up my own airport bar chain.  Perhaps that is the eternal entrepreneur in me?  I digress...

So I'm going to Ireland!  This should be a fun trip - one of my all-time spur of the moment decisions.  Booked my flight a week and a half ago.  I have no plans.  I have no idea what to expect.  This rivals my trip out west 2 years ago with my friends Caleb Laidig and Mark Lettinga.  That trip was conceived about 3 days prior to leaving and all we had in the way of a "plan" was plugging downtown Denver into our GPS and figuring it out once we arrived.  It was only supposed to be a 5 day trip to Colorado but we turned it into a 2 week excursion including Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone in addition to Colorado.  Some great memories were made on that trip.  On principal, we agreed that we would not pay for a hotel/any form of lodging the entire trip.  Still don't know how we pulled it off.

Anyways, this will be my second time visiting Europe (my first trip to the "motherland" was another epic adventure that included visiting friends studying abroad in France and Italy over the course of 3 weeks) and I am so excited to get back!  I still have 4.10€ in change from my last trip so I'm hoping that will cover my bus fare from Dublin airport to the city centre - fingers crossed!  I cannot wait to explore the Emerald Isle and take in the culture by which we in America have been so heavily influenced.  The Scott-Irish immigrants who settled in the Appalachian Mountains in America brought with them their Celtic folk music, and it is this mountain music which is the basis of American folk, bluegrass, and country music of today.  Hopefully I'll be able to find some inspiration by truly getting back to the roots of the music I love.

I just finished my $10 pint so I'll stop my rambling.  Hopefully I'll be diligent in keeping up with my blog throughout my travels.  No promises, though.  It's tough to find time to write during the craziness of traveling, exploring, and living in the present. 

It's about time to board the plane, so the next time I sit down to write I will be in Dublin!  


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Musings Under the Golden Dome (Part 2)

I find myself in a familiar place, both physically and mentally, today...

In the physical realm, I'm sitting on my favorite bench basking in a beautiful early fall morning beneath the young maples lining a sidewalk which leads to the Golden Dome - God Quad for those of you familiar with Our Lady's campus.  The leaves are now beginning to tease us with the slightest shades of gold and orange.  Words cannot do justice.  If you have never experienced fall in northern Indiana, you must make a pilgrimage to this holy land I call home.  I suggest late September or early October to understand the true beauty of this place - Our Maker blesses us with an embarrassing wealth of sensory pleasures during this time of year.  The explosion of color, crunch of leaves under your feet, crisp autumn air upon your skin, the aroma of change; one cannot help but look up to the heavens and thank Him.

In the crazy, confused world of my mind, I am simultaneously kicking myself in the balls and hitting my head against the proverbial, nondescript concrete wall of regret.  A breathtaking blonde (a rarity in these parts...she must have been a Saint Mary's student) just strutted past me and all I could muster was a sheepish grin before immersing myself back in the book I'm currently reading ("Proof of Heaven" by Eben Alexander, MD - it's a great book.  I highly recommend you read it.) - I couldn't even produce a simple "Hey" to acknowledge her beauty and give her grace the attention it deserved.  Sure, this book is a fine read, but it certainly does not warrant my undivided attention when such a transient, life-altering moment presents itself with such a gorgeous girl.  Striking up a quick conversation would have potentially (nay, undoubtedly) transformed the trajectory of my life; launching me into a headlong romance which would one day lead to her walking down the aisle into my loving arms, proclaiming "I do" in a dress of white.  Unrealistic and, most likely, unhealthy thoughts?  Undoubtedly.  But so is the way of my misguided (but, albeit, well-intentioned) mind.

Apparently today is not my day.  Again.  Perhaps I am destined to be forever chained to this printed type on worn paper - this book my one, true lifelong companion?  I suppose it is not such a gloomy destiny - at least I would not have to suffer through the inevitable failings of giving myself (physically, mentally, emotionally) wholly to another imperfect being.

But Ted Mosby, the fictional character of undying optimism on the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," gives me hope that I will not meet such a depressing fate.  And so I press on.  Tomorrow, hope springs eternal.  Carpe diem?

And so on and so forth goes the musings of a single 20-something.  C'est la vie...

Unfathomable beauty surrounds us in the physical world, yet I am too foolish and selfish to recognize the gifts of our Creator.  Instead I retreat into the recesses of my own self-doubt and self-pity; a prisoner of my imperfect, unconfident mind.  God, I hope I can one day break these chains.  The sooner the better.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Musings Under the Golden Dome (part 1)

The breeze cools me.  It's hot.  Even underneath the protective cover of the juvenile maple trees that line the shaded walkway in the shadow of the Golden Dome, the heat finds a way to permeate and penetrate my attempt to elude it.  It's a summer afternoon in South Bend - should I expect anything different?  Soon the cool breeze of autumn will blow in, followed by the bitter chill of winter.  In 3 months I should be so lucky as to bitch and complain about the heat.  So I won't.

The cicadas don't seem to mind the heat.  Their familiar call provides the soundtrack for another beautifully lazy day.  Perhaps they are keenly aware that fall is knocking on the doorstep, with winter close behind.  Perhaps they are just living for the moment, oblivious to the fact that life as they know it is about to come to an abrupt end.  Whatever the case, their song ebbs and flows with the waning hours of the day - much like my emotions on this steamy September afternoon.

Currently I'm distracted by a squirrel in front of me, frantically scavenging nuts and burying them as fast as he can find them.  Hoping he will stumble across this secret stash sometime after the snow melts in the spring in 6 months or so.  He probably won't ever find the nuts - this amuses me.  What a fool.  Can't fault him for his lack of effort, though.  But his frenetic work is all in vein.  What a waste of time and energy...The more I contemplate, though, the more I suppose that I am not so different than this squirrel.  Well-intentioned and hard-working.  But dumb.  Too dumb to just enjoy the gift of the present.  Choosing, rather, to obsessively stress about a mostly uncontrollable future...

Back to the cicadas.  They are still singing.  They sing in the afternoon, into the evening.  They sing well into the night.  Providing this world with the gift of their song - whether we, the world, wish to listen or not.

I think I have something to learn from the cicadas.  Just sing.  Live in the present.  Give the world your song and enjoy the gift of the present summer.  Too often have I been like the foolish squirrel - frantically stressing over the impending winter.  A winter - and future - over which I have little control.  Instead of worrying, just live.  And breathe.  And enjoy this glorious day our Creator has given unto us.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Happiness = Selflessness

Today I did something that I hadn't done in a while.  Something that, in my younger years used to be ingrained in me and drove the majority of my actions...I unselfishly gave to another human being.  I knew I would get nothing in return.  I knew that it would not go to further my career, to gain notoriety and publicity.  I gave to someone who could not give anything back to me.  I never saw the person to which I gave, and I probably never will.  He won't ever know that it was me who helped him.  And it felt awesome!  

Now, before I go any further, let me make this clear: Through this post, I am not being boastful or trying to espouse a "look at how awesome I am" attitude.  This isn't a soapbox for me to enlighten you of my kick-ass-ness; rather, it is simply intended as a means for me to share with you an experience in my life today which helped me rediscover the joy that comes from selflessness.
For about the past year (or perhaps even longer), I have found that I have been growing more and more self-involved; almost every waking moment of my life has been focused strictly upon my music and my career.  It has become an obsession.  Tunnel vision.  It has not been rooted in a desire to gain fame or fortune; rather my thoughts, actions, and goals have simply been intensely focused on creating music and finding ways to help sustain a long career doing what I love.  Very pure intentions, but very self-centered and self-serving.

And so it was that I found myself in a rut the past month or so.  So much time and energy focused strictly upon myself and my own ambitions.  It's been poisonous to my mental and spiritual health and I believe it's been the source of my somewhat apathetic attitude toward life.  I would explain my recent existence as a highly motivated and driven exterior shell pursuing a well-defined goal, while inside I have been empty and void of inspiration.  I will grant that when I sit down to write, and when I am creating and playing music, I do feel very inspired.  I feel equally inspired when I go to church and pray.  But still, even with those sources of purpose/inspiration, something was missing.

The missing element was selfless giving; helping out another human being without any expectation of receiving in return.  Today I cleaned out my closet and gave 2 high school kids about half of my clothes (a far cry from what Jesus told us to do, but a step in the right direction).  They, along with their mother, checked into the local women's shelter here in town in order to escape their abusive father.  The 2 boys had been wearing the same clothes for the past 3 days, and were the only articles of clothing they had to their name.  From what the folks at the women's shelter said, the boys never complained about their situation.  It's the type of story that breaks your heart, and as I sit here typing this, I am tearing up.  There are countless stories like this happening in towns all across the country, and I pray that you never have to endure anything like this.  

Obviously, after hearing their story, I went up to my room and began cleaning out my closet.  I made piles of clothes to take to the boys (and the culture of excess in which we live reared it's ugly head...but I will save that rant for another post).  Initially I was just going to give them a few old t-shirts, a pair of shorts, and a pair of pants and call it a day.  But then I re-discovered the joy of giving and the happiness which flows from selflessness.  I didn't just want to give them a few things, I wanted to give them as much as I could!  It was a beautiful feeling and it rejuvenated me; it provided purpose and clarity through the veil of selfishness which had been clouding my soul.  When I took those bags full of clothes to the women's shelter, I knew that the world was a better place.  And it felt good.  My source of happiness was coming from a place outside of myself.  It wasn't a feeling of "wow, I am such an awesome person;" it was something much deeper.  It sounds a bit "new age-y" but I felt connected to the universe, connected to my fellow man.  I felt love.  I experienced God.  You can pray all you want (and I am certainly not knocking prayer) but there is something about getting your proverbial hands dirty and "doing" for your fellow man which prayer cannot provide.  At least that has been my experience.  I suppose that is why Mother Teresa did what she did.

Now I know that what I am saying is not revelatory, by any means.  It has been preached by many throughout the years (e.g., Jesus, Muhammad, Gandhi, Buddha, Mother Teresa...) but it is something that I experienced first-hand today.  Finding happiness through selfless giving.  All I did today was give some clothes which I didn't really need to kids who desperately needed them.  I'm sure they still have many more deficiencies (psychologically, socially, spiritually, and physically) which need to be met, but at least a small portion of their troubles were quelled today.  I certainly have a lot more selfless giving I can do (there is always more that can be done), and through my experience today I will certainly be re-evaluating many aspects of my life.  I hope you will as well.

PS:  In reflecting upon this post, I cannot help but question, "Is it really selflessness if I receive such gratification from doing so?"  So many philosophical thoughts swirling around my head.  I guess sometimes I/we can over-think things instead of just doing what feels innately "right" to us...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Slow Down...Embrace the Pace

I was straddling the seat of my bike, struggling up one of the many slight undulations in the Northern Indiana landscape.  I didn't feel like running, so I settled for a bike ride.  Legs pumping, heart racing, my mind was clouded and corrupted with many unproductive distractions: "Which songs to include on my new album.  The challenges of routing my fall tour.  The doubt and uncertainty of whether or not I will reach my financial goal on my PledgeMusic Campaign.  The state of American culture.  The burning sensation originating in my quadriceps coursing through the millions of nerves leading to my brain..." Stress.  The enemy.  In small doses, it's actually beneficial.  But when you allow it to completely consume and overwhelm you, it is anything but.

With these chaotic, staccato thoughts battling each other for control in my conscious mind, I spotted an Amish man on his bicycle.  He was about a half mile ahead of me, and as I continued to draw closer to him (he was peddling at a decidedly slower rate than me), I couldn't help but notice the striking difference in his demeanor compared to my own.  He was relaxed; I was tense.  His head on a swivel, drinking in the passing scenery; my eyes were locked on him, determined that I pass him before the next mailbox.  As I made my move to pass him, and reached the awkward moment where he and I were peddling side-by-side, he offered a smile and uttered two words that changed my bike ride, and my night, for the better: "Beautiful evening."  Nothing more.  I gave a nod and continued to make my move past him.  As I peddled on, I began to let the words sink in.  "Beautiful evening..."

I was about 8 miles into my ride and didn't even realize it, but it WAS an absolutely gorgeous evening! The temperature was in the low 70's, the sun setting on rolling fields of corn separated by patches of woods.  The crickets and birds were providing the perfect soundtrack for a serene summer evening, yet I was so engulfed in my own selfish thoughts that I neglected to take it all in.  The Amish man provided a perfect juxtaposition to me, and realizing this untethered me from the bondage of my stress.  I believe that God has a sense of humor and perhaps this was his not-so-subtle way of saying, "Look at all of this beautiful stuff I have provided you, you idiot!  Drink it in!  Enjoy it!"

I decided to back off the pace a bit.  I drank in the beauty of my surroundings.  There were cows grazing in a pasture to my left and a rabbit darting across the road just ahead.  As I rounded a corner on one of the county roads, I peered through the woods and caught the sight of 3 deers drinking from the Baugo Creek.  There was beauty all around me, and if it wouldn't have been for that Amish man, I wouldn't have noticed any of it.

As I neared my home, I reflected on the truth in the words of the town slogan of Nappanee, IN (a town about 10 miles south of me): "Embrace the Pace."

Certainly there is value and merit to working hard and planning for the future; but I believe there is equal merit in slowing down to enjoy the beauty surrounding us.  The beauty of enjoying and living in the present.  Like many things in life, the key lies in finding balance.  Perhaps this little blog post can serve as your Amish man, and remind you to slow down and "Embrace the Pace" on your journey through life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Back Porch

As I sit here on my back porch on a beautiful late spring/early summer evening in Indiana, I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of contentment.  I am so incredibly blessed to live in such a gorgeous place; the birds are singing, the sun is setting, and here I sit, able to relax and drink in God’s blessings.  
This serene backdrop is a welcome change from the hectic and jam-packed past 3 and a half months of my life; what a wild ride!  I was fortunate enough to play 41 shows in 13 different states across the Midwest and Southeast since the end of January.  With 15,000 miles and a new single under my belt, as well as an over-abundance of new friends/fans, I am relishing this new-found rest and relaxation.  It has been a time to catch up with my family whom I have seemingly neglected for the past 3 and 1/2 months.  The furthest I have driven has been across town to play golf with my grandpa.  I must say, I am kind of enjoying not spending my days driving in my car!
I have resisted the temptation of work as much as possible since finishing my tour, but I can't help it if my job is also my favorite hobby.  I had a couple meetings the past week, scheduled more for the next few upcoming weeks (I mean, I am trying to promote my new single “Back Home Again (Indiana)” to country music radio here in Indiana), and I also wrote a new song, which I am really excited to get recorded and release towards the end of the summer.  I also began to route my fall tour.  But tonight, I am not doing any of that; I’m just enjoying this beautiful evening from my back porch.  
The back porch has kind of become a haven for me in the days/nights since returning home from the road.  I’ve used it as an office to work, a dining room to eat dinner, and a place just to chill and enjoy the beautiful weather with family, friends, and myself.  It’s a great place to read, write, and think, and it’s a great place to converse.  It’s the perfect place to begin my day with a cup of coffee in the morning, and it is also the perfect place to unwind at night with a pint of Upland beer.  
Sitting here this evening, I am tempted to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m headed.  But in doing so, I would missing out on the greatest gift: the present.  The purples and reds of the sky amidst the setting sun.  The growing calm of the impending nightfall.  
This summer, this back porch will undoubtedly be the place where many more meals and conversations are shared, songs are written, tours are planned, gigs are booked, work is completed, and beers are enjoyed.  But tonight, it’s simply the place where I sit and enjoy life.  I am content in the now, on this back porch.