Tuesday, November 2, 2010

.:Well, I guess this is growing up:.

Holy amazeballs - I haven't updated in the better part of a year! I've been writing a lot in a real life journal, but that should not excuse me from neglecting my friends who may want to keep up with things. Sorry, friends! I love you. :)

The past few months have been a whirlwind of passion, stress, excitement, heartbreak, and just plain growing up. As I approach the 25th year of my being alive and amazed by this world I am so graciously allowed to inhabit, I find myself becoming more and more who I've known myself to be in the depths of the heart region. It's a wonderful feeling, one that is very difficult to full describe. I feel more at peace than I've ever felt, and I believe a lot of that is because I'm discovering what it may mean to actually have faith and simply know how to relax. I'm a Connell - relaxation doesn't come easily to us - but I find rest in the beautiful parts of my day that make me stop and think, It's great to be alive.

I got baptized in May, so that was pretty cool. You can see the profile here. You can see the video here. It was a beautiful milestone in my life. I couldn't help but cry the whole service because I honestly felt like my life was changing by this experience. I'd gone through a period where I didn't want anyone to know I loved the Lord because it seemed cliche and uncool and, actually, kind of stupid. Our culture has such a weird way of handling Christianity. It seems that you're either looked down upon as stupid and simple minded (Imagine that.) or you have to fit into some sort of box where you buy all the Jesus shirts just to make sure people don't have to question you to your face. (I'm paraphrasing a long conversation in my head here.) I've always felt different, though, and I wasn't sure how to handle it. I wasn't even sure how I felt, to be perfectly honest, because since Nathan's death and my departure and disassociation with Campus Outreach, I was a bit deterred from the whole idea. Since finding my community with Vox Veniae, I've discovered a people that resonates well with my ideals and my heart, and I realized that it was really my faith that lead me to them. I've never met a more loving, warm, encouraging group of people in my life, and they not only support me, but they share themselves with their neighbors as well as our community. I realized that I had known Christ my entire life, but only when I found this community, I started actually following Him and doing what He says. All of that to say, my baptism wasn't a testament that I had "found Jesus for the first time." It was a testament that I had found Jesus for the last time - you know, the Jesus that doesn't judge or hate or point fingers, but the one that really, truly, earnestly loves every single person without question or fail. The perfect example of Love is what I want to be apart of forever ever (forever ever).

So, there's that. I got over my expired relationships - all of them - this summer on my roadtrip. Two solid weeks of driving and crying, seeing family, listening to old music that brought up incredibly poignant memories that shattered me all over the highways of my past, and seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes I have missed passing through over the 3.5 years I've lived in Austin. I made peace with my old private school by visiting the campus and seeing the faculty. Some amazing things happened at that school that have shaped me to be me, the me I love so much today, and those are the moments I am choosing to carry with me. High school is horrible for pretty much everyone, so why did I harbor these feelings that were so long ago? So, I got over it. I got over a lot of things. I saw the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I let my tears cleanse my soul to get ready for this next, huge part of my life.

That brings me here to today. I survived Austin Fashion Week, and learned my boundaries/limitations. In my business, I am stressed out a lot of the time - more eustress, not so much distress - and some of that is due to time management but the fact that I have some great people in my life who want me to do creative things for them. How awesome is that?! I've been doing a purging of stuff from my apartment because, really, why do I need a lot of that stuff?! Get rid of it! It feels great, and no, I am no where near done. I'm learning to say the word "No" more, and it's a great word to say for yourself. If you haven't discovered it yet, you should try it. I've paid off some credit cards lately (THANK GOD.) and I'm trying to save up for some business endeavors. All in all, things feel really great, and I'm getting ready for the East Austin Studio Tour again. This year, it's going to be really personal for me, especially in light of the business I've been building for over a year now and also in light of the recent events regarding suicides of our youth across the nation. I'm really excited about my installation, which I am involving a few of my friends in, and I feel great about it.

Things are going well, and I guess I just had to stop fighting becoming an adult and just... do it. It's harder than I thought it would be, especially since I decided that, okay, I will keep up with my damn taxes. [Insert eye roll here.] Even still, I haven't lost that spirit inside me that demands fun and adventure. I'm just learning how to add it in with everything else that requires me to become a strong, independent, successful, healthy woman because that is exactly what I am on my way to be, and I'm learning so much good, great stuff on this journey.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

.:I read with every broken heart you should become more adventurous:.

My friends are very dear to my heart. Sugar Mama's cupcakes are also very dear to my heart. In the past 2 days, 2 of my friends have brought me said cupcakes. I just tried to work off at least one of the 3.5 I've eaten within 48 hours. (My friends really love me.)

The truth is that they brought these delicious treats to me after the guy I was dating and I broke up. I'm not sure if one can actually "break up" with another without being officially boyfriend and girlfriend, but to save time from that headache, we'll just ignore that part. Honestly, I kind of saw it coming given a few obvious signs that, of course, I refused to acknowledge as things that would walk straight out of the book He's Just Not That Into You. What can I say? I come by it honestly.

I believe in giving those I care about the benefit of the doubt, especially if I have a romantic interest in a person. Although I have trust issues, I kept trusting in the hope I had that this would be different. It felt different, at least in the beginning. I've never felt so comfortable with someone I was dating. I trusted that he would actually try again after our "almost break up" in December. Maybe I'm just truly naive. Or maybe I was just truly hopeful for this relationship. Whatever. It's over, right?

It may be over, but it still hurts quite a bit. Rejection is really hard to deal with, but I've learned so much throughout the past 3.5 months and I am continuing to as my journey leads me in another direction. I'm choosing to not allow fear to invade my heart, but rather search my heart to find the love placed within it that can create something really beautiful.

Monday, January 18, 2010

.:You've got to give a little love to get a little love:.

Gina just let me borrow Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years," and I can't put it down. I have so much cleaning to do in preparation for tomorrow night's Neighborhood gathering at my place, but I just want to read this thing until I can't read anymore.

I'm in a very soul-searching stage of life at the moment as I am now in my mid-20's and consequently an "adult." After my birthday and coming back from a trip with my parents, I decided to make a lot of changes that involve who I am at the core - a musician, artist, designer, among other things - and who I want to be (which also particularly involves my physical health). All of my recent goings on have inspired me to further question everything I encounter, and lately, I've been wondering just how everything (including people) in my life plays out, or if all of it ever will.

Many people see me as a passionate person, and I would have to agree. My friend Jennifer came to visit and she said even my shower curtain screams passion! I just thought it was an ordinary shower curtain. Who knew?! But as I've been reading this book, I've been thinking about the narrative that is my story and wondering what I'm going to really do with that passion that I am so known for. When it comes to "life story," there are certain things we include, certain highlights we hit, and then it comes to the here and now, which is obviously unwritten. But what Gina and I are questioning is what our here and now will say. What kind of story are we living and breathing? Is it great? Is it boring? Is it mediocre? Is it worthy of being "read"?

We write our own stories. We make choices every day to do the right thing or do something different or give ourselves a break. Essentially, we are the authors and if something needs to be done, we should write it in there. I think Miller maybe talks about God as Author, but I haven't gotten to that part yet. Regardless, as I read this story, I'm wondering about my own and where I'm going from this point forward. Even with all of my changes, I'm pondering what other adjustments that need to be made. How can I spice it up a little bit? How can I make my story a great story?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

.:You give your love so sweetly:.

Something happened today that has been on my mind ever since. It forced me to realize just how selfish and horrible I am, and I've been thinking about the heart of my friend who helped me see this light all day long.

This morning at Vox, my realization began when my friend Hannah shared information about Haiti. I listened to the facts of the devastation as photos rolled behind her, and I started to think about how these people have lost so much and all I can think about during this time are my own issues. It's disgusting, really, to be so self-absorbed, which is largely what I've been since coming back from Georgia and making all of these lifestyle changes. But it didn't stop there.

Sweet Becky, my friend who was homeless but now lives in a trailer on the East side and sells flowers on the Drag, shared something that made me really upset for her and then upset at myself. She has been deeply connected with a pastor she calls "Brother Dwayne," who has a church on the East side and has done really wonderful things for the homeless community. Brother Dwayne has been on Becky's lips since the day I met her, so I know she really loves this man and all he has done for her and countless others in need. Becky announced that he died in a car wreck not very long ago, maybe last week, and although I never met him, I'm tearing up now just writing about it. I don't deal well with death, and most of those close to me know this, but especially when such incredibly loving individuals such as Brother Dwayne are taken away. It seems that the really great ones are taken before anyone can prepare for it. He also has 3 children with 1 on the way. My heart was crushed. Becky spoke a little bit about her own feelings, and that's when I realized I'm a really horrible human being.

Picture a woman who is about 60, pretty short, round, almost toothless, and wears an interesting array of clothing that is too big for her. She has long white hair and very pale skin with tiny, beady eyes. She is often mistaken as homeless although she is no longer, though she still struggles. This sweet woman told a room full of people that she wanted to do more for the homeless in Brother Dwayne's honor. Becky - a person who has barely anything to her name - wants to give more to other people. It's so beautiful that it makes me cry as I sit here comfortably on my leather couch, with air conditioning, listening to music on my iPhone that plays through a portable Bose speaker. I just want to rip my heart out and stomp on it for an hour.

I want a heart like Becky's - to give everything I have for other people because I truly want to. To have that desire, that ability to forget about yourself for the benefit of others, is something I hope I can achieve one day for my own life. Maybe one day I won't be so comfortable with all of my stuff surrounding me but instead make a difference out of humility.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

.:They call it Stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just as bad:.

WOW! I have a story today that is pretty much awesome!

Since I'm changing all of these things in my life, I decided I would check out TC's Lounge on the East side Monday night because I heard from some friends there was a really good blues band that plays there every Monday. I took my friend Jenny and I thought I would give it a shot to see if the band would let me sing "Stormy Monday" with them. As it turns out, I knew the guitarist from when I worked with him over 2 years ago, so that was exciting. I spoke to him about singing and he informed me that I should ask the drummer, but that he would most likely say no. I also talked to him about playing the song. He said they would play it for a certain singer who would occasionally drop by, so I thought maybe my odds were better. I spoke to the drummer man and he shot me down! He was nice about it. I asked if they could play that song and, yes, he lied to me and said they didn't. He was nice about the whole thing, but I couldn't help but feel like I had been played.

So that brings me to yesterday... My friend Courtney and I decided to go to Austin Java for lunch. You are supposed to park in the parking lot and either walk to the restaurant or take the free shuttle. We took the shuttle, and the driver guy was really cool. I decided he would be my friend the moment we got in the van. We started talking about blues music and I tell him how un-bluesy the band at TC's was to me the night before [Note: Even though they are a good blues band, that was so un-blues what they did.]. He said, "You're a blues singer? Let's hear it!" and he turns off the cd player (Stevie Ray!!!). I hesitated, laughed because I thought he was joking for a second, and then just started belting it out, right there in the van. He really liked it! He got my phone number for when he does a collaborative blues album (he's a blues singer/guitarist) and he told me about the Open Mic Night at Ruta Maya on Tuesdays. I immediately decided I would go, and Courtney said she would be there, too.

The way the Ruta Maya Open Mic Night works is that all the artists get there at 8:30 and put their names on a small piece of paper for a lottery. If someone played last week, they weren't allowed to play this week. There were a bunch of people up there, so I wasn't sure what was going to happen as they only had 16 slots. My heart was pounding the entire time! This guy Nikolai was going crazy over my eyes while we were all meeting, which I found hilarious. He kept shouting things like, "Ooooh, those are the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen!" and "They look like Heaven!" If you could hear this guy's voice, you would undoubtedly be laughing, too. I wish I could describe it. This guy was a character - and there's more to say about him later. I digress. The guy pulls out all of the names but 2 and the 16 slots were already filled. Then, he says, "SavannahRed?" I told him it was me. He said, "Ok, you're on!" WHOA! Talk about nervous. My heart briefly went to live with my stomach. It was a really great feeling just to know I was getting a guaranteed chance, even though I didn't know what time it would happen. Their system is quite interesting, but it worked, for the most part.

I had only been to one other open mic night in Austin, so I didn't know what to expect at Ruta Maya. There were some decent acts, some not as decent acts, and then some really great ones that I should have followed up on. A guy I met on the balcony sat with us the whole time, and he is a really sweet guy named Joe. I could tell Joe had been on the scene for a while. Everybody seemed to know him, even from way back, and he had a really chill vibe going on the whole night, even though he was tired and needed to get up early. We would talk between sets about the music scene or the artist, and I really liked hanging out with Joe. He knew Nikolai, too, and he told us that he would definitely put on a show.

Enter Nikolai on the stage. It takes him what seems like forever to get the house band set up, but it was worth it. This guy must be close to 60. He's pretty tall, has a big nose [read: schnoz], and a gray bowl cut. He was wearing a really long, white trench coat-looking thing over a white blazer over a red pleather vest and red pleather pants. I shit you not! Joe said, "Oh, this is going to be loud!" And he was not kidding. It. was. RIDICULOUS! This guy had the house band playing some kind of metal something and he was singing/screaming "FLY!" as he mainly knelt on the stage while the mic was in his hand. He tried to spin around and fell on the stage, then did a hand stand while singing. It was amazing! He kept trying to climb on the speakers and fell off a few times. He did backflips in front of the audience and did a backflip off a table where some people were sitting. It was nuts! I don't think anyone could turn their attention away from this crazy man on stage, and he was on there for a reaaaaally long time. It was pretty intense.

So, the night progressed and I got hit on literally 7 times throughout the night. I started laughing about it really hard at one point because it seemed so unbelievable. I mean, getting hit on at Ruta Maya? I never would have guessed that in a thousand years. Joe said, "You look good! That shouldn't be such a surprise!" Thank you, Joe! But seriously... hippies hit on me. Strange. (Favorite one of the night: "Hey, what's your name?" "Anslee" "Do you come here often?" "I come for yoga sometimes." "Oh, well you should come to the poetry open mic night! Do you write?" "Yeah, I do write, but I'm actually here for the music open mic." "I was about to leave, but if you're singing, I'm sticking around." Hiiilarious!)

Finally, they call my name, and I'm after 2 other people. The first person goes and the second is MIA, so then it was time for me! I tell the house band what to do, make a few jokes into the mic, and then we're set. I was so nervous that I felt like my legs wouldn't stop shaking and my feet couldn't really feel the stage below me. But singing on that stage felt so natural. I wasn't worried about whether or not I would start coughing or lose my voice or hit the wrong note. I was just up there. I felt so free. I felt so beautiful. I felt like I was the most important person in the world at that moment because people were there, listening to me, listening to my talent that I've hidden for a little while. It felt like home, despite my nerves. Courtney and another person I met recently, Cherie, were taking pictures of me and cheering me on at the base of the stage. It just felt so magical and real at the same time. I wish every moment of my life could be like that, and it's a lot like that when I sing because I just love it so much! And especially when I sing "Stormy Monday" because I feel like I own that song, I know it so well and I've made it my own. I felt complete on that stage.

Afterwards, I got so many compliments from everyone, especially Courtney and Heather, and I felt so supported and so loved that I couldn't help but beam the rest of the night. Joe was playing soon, so I stuck around to hear him, and he is phenomenal! We talked after he played about collaborating, and we both agreed that it seemed like something we should do because we truly enjoyed each other's talent. So, here's Joe and me!

I love where life is taking me right now. It's digging up my roots, and in a really great way. I wanted to call my parents after I sang but it was about 1 am, so I knew they wouldn't like it, even if it was good news. I am hopeful about this new/old venture for me. It's new because I put what I've done my entire life on hold until now. It's ok, though. I pursued other things that are working for me, too, but it's definitely the right time for me to get my knees deep in the music that rocks me to my core - the blues, jazz, anything. This feels so right. I am so fortunate. I hope it never, ever stops.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

.:Just give me some kind of sign, girl, oh my baby, show me that you're mine, girl, alright:.

I really don't mind that a lot of my life is public. My parents don't understand the whole blogging/Facebook thing, and I catch a lot of slack for it. As long as I don't divulge too much personal stuff, I think I'm pretty safe.

So, I had a crazy moment not too long ago. It's safe to say that Thanksgiving to mid-December was about the time I was very out of control. It's interesting how emotional situations combined with holiday festivities [Read: FOOD!] and the busy time that this time of year brings can just knock you off your rocker if you allow it to. I took the trip to my home in Georgia to straighten myself out, or "reprogram" myself, as my Aunt Kathie said. It is always good for me to surround myself with those who know and love me best. They remind me of where I came from, the dreams I once had and yearned to accomplish, and who I am in their eyes - which is held to some pretty high standards, but not ones I cannot meet or even exceed.

During a time where so many people are creating resolutions for the year ahead of them, I chose to make lifestyle changes that would carry on much past 365 days. I feel like I've been entrusted with this personality and this magnetism that somehow inspires people, and I don't know why, but I need to make it work the way it's supposed to and quit hiding behind things. I've been a mover and a shaker my entire life, and I've allowed myself to get caught up on some very small things, and for what? It just makes matters worse when I do. So, how about we stop? Fine. I gave up on that in order to work harder and be the best me.

I just want to give the world my best, and I believe it's ok to fall short of that, to allow myself to fall short of that, but there has to be a time where you pick yourself up and get your ass in gear. I'm ready. I'm ready for good things. I've always said, "Opportunities: take 'em or make 'em!" and I'm trying again, again again again, to live by that. It's easy to forget. It's easy to be lazy or unmotivated or uninterested, but that's not me. To feel "entrusted" with something like the ability to change the world with vintage-inspired clothing or to bring more sunshine into the world is like owning a key - you have this gift that allows things to happen or open up, and because you are the one who keeps this special thing, you should not allow yourself to lose it but rather use it at the time when it is needed. That may be weird, but it's what my heart understands at the moment to keep my head in the clouds but my feet on the ground.

Happy 2010! I learned so much in 2009, so I'm pretty excited about what this year is going to teach me and, perhaps, teach all of us.