my life in my words

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Dance With The Angels [Happy Birthday, Brandie!]

Today’s post is one of celebration and remembrance. My cousin Brandie, who spent her life battling muscular dystrophy, died three years ago (in February) from difficulties caused by her muscular dystrophy and today would have been her 30th birthday.

Happy 30th Birthday, Brandie!

When I was growing up, the cousins on my mom’s side of the family that were in my age range were all boys except for Brandie! So naturally we hung out a lot and we were the best of friends. We loved spending time together. We played Barbies together, talked about boys together, and taught each other things we were good at. Brandie taught me sign language and I taught her about music/culture. I always looked forward to family events and Friday night Poker Nights at her house because it gave us more time to hang out and have fun. She really was like a sister to me!

Because of her, I chose to spend 2 of my summers in Junior High volunteering at a school that specialized in education for special needs students. She taught me the importance of valuing people despite their disabilities and how one person could actually make a big difference in the life of another. A large part of the compassion I have as a person today is because of the things I learned from spending quality time with her before her family moved to Arkansas. I was away out of state on a school trip when she passed away, and even after years, it’s still hard to come to terms with her absence and the fact that I wasn’t able to be there to see her go. This morning, as I was riding in to work, my mind replayed the fun times when I would go over to Brandie’s and we would play board games and Barbies together and have sleepovers as if it was just yesterday. I also got to read a blog post that her brother (my cousin JJ), who is a radio DJ in Fort Wayne, wrote HERE and the love and sweet treasured moments kept flooding my heart and mind. Here is an excerpt:

She tried to live a normal life, she was on Myspace and in chat rooms and every once and a while my parents had to run some over zealous pervert off of our property for trying to meet the girl he met in the chat room.  She wanted to be a Mom, she wanted to live a normal life, and you know what?  She did.  She went with me to see Tommy Lee play live in Little Rock, we had VIP seats thanks to the folks at the Rumba Room.  She went with us on vacation to Disney World and rode all the rides they would let her on and some they wouldn’t.  She was my sister, and I miss her every day.

Brandie passed away Feb. 28th 2008.  Her heart had finally given out.  The disease that tried to hold her back her whole life finally caught up with her.  The Doctor’s told us she wouldn’t live to see her graduation.  Boy, were they wrong.  Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself in my life all I have to do is think of Brandie and then I understand that whatever it is that is bothering me is just not that bad.

Brandie had a spirit that never gave up.  Her one real joy in life was attending summer camp that MDA provided.  It costs 800 bucks to send one kid to camp for the summer.  It really does make their year… she would ALWAYS go on and on about what happened at camp.  Cheap price to pay for putting a smile on a kids face that can only smile on the inside.

We all have heroes in our lives. Brandie was definitely one of mine. My birthday gift to her this year is a donation to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) on behalf of my cousin JJ, who is trying to raise $1, 600 for the MDA sponsored Fort Wayne, Indiana Lock-Up campaign to raise money to provide patients with clinics, research, support, and enrollment in their specialized camp. If you, or someone you know, suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, please consider donating to the organization. If you don’t know where a good starting point is, feel free to check out JJ’s Lock-Up page.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts.
And we are never, ever the same.”

Happy Birthday, Brandie!

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I’m Coming Home

Every family has their traditions. That is a known fact. One of my family’s big traditions is an annual Easter weekend family reunion (for my mom’s side of the family). Normally, we all drive over to Galveston and party hard at the beach for the day and then go out to dinner at a seafood restaurant near our hotel. We spend the rest of the evening playing poker and board games and just being rowdy.

Look at my Mamo (Grandma) and cousins gettin' down! They're party animals! Photo by my Aunt Sandra.

The day before Easter (today), we all meet up at a nearby park that the families all reserve. It’s a giant family reunion gathering of our family and our extended family. There is a lot of barbecue, games of horseshoes, and cracking cascarones that happens throughout the day—not to mention the annual family Volleyball Tournament! I hadn’t been in years, but then I went last year, and I promise you there were so many of us, I felt like I was meeting a whole new clan of family! There was NO way I was gonna remember all those names! But we had a blast last year and I had a great time reconnecting with the fam. Due to scheduling conflicts and a bunch of other factors, I wasn’t able to make it down to Texas for the reunion this year.


I was able to be there in my own little way!

Every year for this reunion, we have t-shirts made to represent our family. The one mandatory part of the design each year is that it MUST have the UT Longhorns logo on the front. Last year, my aunt contacted me and asked if I would come up with a design for the shirts, since she knew I did graphic design for a living.  They wanted the shirts last year to have a baseball theme, since our family is big on baseball. So I came up with a design and they all loved them!

Last Year’s Design:

The kids got white shirts with the green logo

On the back was a "roster" of our family's All-Star Team

This year, they had planned to make homemade T-shirts, but that plan fell through and my aunt contacted me again, asking for another design for this year’s shirts. They wanted it to have the Longhorn logo on the front (naturally) and have an emblem on the back that said TEXAS ARROYOS and they wanted it to look like the Texas Ranger star:

I wanted to incorporate a lot of text in the star without cluttering it. I wanted to keep it simple and make the symbol the focus, so I put the names all jumbled together in lines at the bottom. Here’s what the final design looked like:

Family Reunion T-shirt Design 2011

My aunt shipped my shirt up to me early so I wore it to work on Thursday and got SO many compliments. My aunt also said that everyone loves them! It does my heart good to know that even though I can’t be there physically, I can be there in spirit!

This Year’s Design:

Modeling the front

Modeling the back


The Earth Will Shake

Earth Day | April 22nd, 2011

So up until today’s staff meeting, I was completely unaware that this upcoming Friday is Earth Day. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever really been aware about Earth Day, or the environment for that matter. When I was in Austin, I participated in an event called Earthbeat, but it was basically just a giant fundraising event.

Food disposal bins at Metropolitan Market for Compostables, Garbage, and Recycling

When I moved to Seattle, I immediately noticed a difference in the level of awareness that the city has for the environment and for minimizing our carbon footprint. There are recycle bins next to each trash can on the street corners, and there are even solar-powered trash compactors on the sidewalks.

I remember one time when my friend came to visit, we were eating lunch at the outdoor farmer’s market in Fremont and she tried to throw her food container in the garbage can and the owner of the tent restaurant came over and chewed her out for putting her non-compostable container in his compostable bin. Apparently ALL of HIS containers were compostable, but the one she had brought over from another tent wasn’t. It was quite a sight to see and it definitely left a negative impression on my friend.

At my workplace, we have a team of co-workers dedicated to helping promote sustainability and eco-friendly maintenance in our building. They are called the GREEN TEAM. They do a fantastic job and are always proactive about keeping us informed about ways to conserve energy and take care of our environment. Well today in our staff meeting, we got a little treat and took a break for an Earth Day Quiz!

Let’s just say, I am really letting mother earth down. On this quiz about what waste goes in which receptacle, I got a measly 13 out of 25 questions right. Sheesh. I guess I have some studying up to do!

Oy. Vey.

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Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked

Jewish Passover spread

If I were an easter egg, I think I’d be a speckled one.

That’s what goes through my mind during a Passover Seder. A lot of my co-workers are Jewish and we got to celebrate Passover with them today during a lunch office party. I must admit, even though I’ve been to a Seder once before, I am still clueless when it comes to all the symbolism and ceremonial sections that are included. As it is, my mind tends to wander during ceremonies and long, focused events. Keeping up with all the meanings and which phrases meant what left me in the dark.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever really been much into ceremony and tradition. I mean, I’ve learned a handful of things in my life in various religious aspects that I have chosen to adopt and respect for personal reasons, but aside from those certain things, I prefer to take a less traditional route. I think I just find that many traditions I’ve learned about become cheapened, extreme, and passé.

I still think I’d be a speckled egg, though. Considering the fact that I grew up Catholic until I was in middle school, and after that chose not to fully believe in any diety, and finally in the latter years of High School decided that Christianity was a religious belief I could get behind, I feel I’ve been all over the map when it comes to religion (even though I really haven’t). I did spend the majority of my teenage years researching other world religions and things related to the occult, but mostly to gain knowledge and understanding for things that confused me. I even look at the fact that I moved from an Assemblies of God church in Texas to a non-denominational church here in Seattle as a change of pace.

It was wonderful to learn all about the history of the Seder and the different symbolisms and the difference between an Ashkenazi Jewish Seder and a Mizrahi Jewish Seder. I definitely felt more educated, even when my mind was bouncing from thought to thought about the taste of the matzo ball soup and what other things I needed to accomplish today. It was different, and though I’m still not sure it’s a ceremonial celebration I’d personally adopt, it is still really neat to see religions of all kinds celebrated in the workplace.

Dried fruit & nuts served at our Seder

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Note 2 Self

In case you weren’t aware, tomorrow is one of the best lesser-known holidays* . . .

Record Store Day 2011

Easy Street Records, Seattle, WA

For those who have never heard of Record Store Day:

The original idea for Record Store Day was conceived by Chris Brown, and was founded in 2007 by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally. 

This is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, djs spinning records and on and on. Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008 and Record Store Day is now celebrated the third Saturday every April. 

A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a retailer whose main primary business focuses on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50% music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70% located in the state of operation.  (In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores—not online retailers or corporate behemoths).

Growing up in the Live Music Capital of the World, music has always been celebrated in my life. It’s one of the most beautiful art forms I’ve ever encountered. I love record stores—I would work in one if I wasn’t so sure my entire paycheck would be spent there before it was made! My favorite part of being a teen in Austin was the times when I would go with friends to Waterloo Records or to Antone’s and watch live music or buy new albums. Don’t get me wrong, I love every which way one can access music: iTunes, Amazon, etc., but there is just something wonderful about spending quality time in a record shop, picking up your favorite albums by artists you love.

A special Foo Fighters treat for this years Record Store Day

Last year for Record Store Day, I stopped by the Silver Platters record shop near my house and got free popcorn, free music magazines, free stickers, and of course, made sure to pick up a couple of my favorite albums: HELLO HURRICANE by Switchfoot and LOSING SLEEP by Parachute (I already owned Losing Sleep, but I wanted to get it for a friend of mine.) I also got to watch some local musicians play on the stage in-store. This year, I plan on stopping by Easy Street Records, which is my favorite Seattle record shop! It’s where I first saw Parachute (one of my favorite bands) play live in-store, and it’s so close to my work that anytime I need to pick up a new album, I can do it efficiently on my way home. I also go there sometimes after work, before nearby concerts, just to hang out and listen to some new tunes.

Parachute live in-store performance at Easy Street Records

This year, Easy Street is having a live in-store with The Head and The Heart, which is a local band. My co-worker’s husband helped master their album. I got a free copy of it from my co-worker and I love their sound! If you haven’t heard of them, check them out! It really is a big deal to buy from record shops. It keeps people in locals employed, provides support for artists, and it provides sustainability for musicians—a lot of the levels of success in the music industry are based on physical album sales. I hope you all get to take a quick break tomorrow to pick up some of your favorite music artist’s albums tomorrow at a record store near you!

Murals of album artwork are painted by Easy Streets Glen and they are always changing

If you need help deciding what to get,
check my archived blog posts about music
or read more suggestions here:

PASTE’S 30 Record Store Day 2011 Releases Worth Your Dough

SPIN’S 10 Must-Have Releases for Record Store Day

* I think it should be considered a holiday. 😉


Teenage Dream

This past Sunday, I was able to participate in my first ever Glee Flash Mob!
It was such an incredible experience!

I got my Gaga Monster claws ready to go!

A few months ago, I got an e-mail about a Glee Flash Mob that would be happening and it included basic details and practice times. So my friend and I decided to do it together and just have a grand l’! We attended practices on the weekends at Century Ballroom and would also use the instructional video that had been posted online to practice at her house. Here is video footage of one of our run throughs at Century Ballroom. I’m in the front, right hand side, wearing jeans and my gray Soft Kitty shirt:

Thankfully, we had GREAT choreographers that made sure that we were focusing on not just nailing the moves, but having fun doing it as well. I had a great time at each practice because I was surrounded by other people who weren’t afraid to have a good time!

Bobby Bonsey, one of our great choreographers

I’ve done choreographed dances before, many times, but I don’t claim to have any particular dance skills. In fact, I went to the extra rehearsals because I NEEDED the help. It was just nice to see it all pay off!

Going Gaga | Photography by Jenni El Fattal

The day of the performance, we all gathered at Cal Anderson Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle and practiced, signed photo release forms, and got our mob location maps. We performed our dance at 3 locations that day. The first one was in front of the Space Needle, the second was in Westlake Park downtown, and the third was on 10th Ave. between Pike and Pine back up in Capitol Hill. Part of the fun was going from location to location and finding places to blend in—it’s hard to “hide” a flash mob with that many people. Sometimes it seemed so blatantly obvious what was going on, at least to me. I was still riding high on the fun memories even after it was all said and done. I am so glad I got the chance to participate in something so wonderful. I highly recommend doing a flash mob to everyone!

Taking turns performing the dance in front of everyone at rehearsals

And now . . . the moment you’ve been waiting for . . .
(you HAVE been waiting for it, right?)
Here are some photos and videos from the actual performance!

(I am the one in the solid bright blue hoodie and bright salmon
colored shirt with black jeans and my hair half-up,
half-down on the right hand side)

Me in the Glee Flash Mob in Westlake Park

Photo by Jessica Keener

Here is the Official Video put together by One Degree Events, who made the event happen! Look for me at 5:24 into the video!

And here is another video of the performance at Westlake Park where you can see me at 4:25 into the video:

And one from our performance in front of the Space Needle. The person recording was not very . . . good. But you can catch me onscreen at 2:41 into the video:

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A Matter Of Time

Ladies and gentlemen . . . this is a Foo Fighters appreciation blog post!

Today is a pretty happy day for me. It’s the street release date for the new Foo Fighters album, WASTING LIGHT! Having grown up adoring Foo Fighters, and considering that it’s been 4 years since their last album, the moment I found out they were releasing a new album, I fangirled like no other! I mean, this is the band that’s filled my life with My Hero, Everlong, Hey, Johnny Park, Next Year, Wheels, All My Life, and so many more great songs.

They’ve also recently put out a documentary called BACK AND FORTH, which is a very well-made behind the scenes of how Foo Fighters came to be. Now, I’ll be honest, I was watching it at like 1 am and I was already restless with anxiety to buy the album today. So with the tiredness, anxiety, and love of music combined, I couldn’t help but be extra emotional while watching the footage about Kurt Cobain’s death,  the hardships of being a band on tour, and all the sincerity and humility coming from Dave Grohl (one of my greatest rock and roll heroes). So through the majority of the documentary, I was shedding tears. Tearing up had clearly become my new hobby.

  • Tearing up about Pat Smear leaving the Foos
  • Tearing up about Taylor’s overdose
  • Tearing up about their Grammy win for THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE, which I totally remembered watching as it happened
  • Tearing up about them selling out 2 shows at Wembley and seeing the footage from Wembley
  • Tearing up over how proud I am of the hurdles they jumped to reach their successes

Just so many tears. So . . . bottom line, it was great. Also, I should not watch Rock Docs when I’m tired. 😉

While watching it, I told my friend:

Here’s the thing, with every Rock Doc I watch, it just makes me want to transport myself back to high school and be like, “Someone let me be in your band!!!!!”

These documentaries make me appreciate music, and musicians in all their artistry so much more! My respect for Dave, Pat, Chris, Taylor, and Nate (and William & Franz) has just increased so much after watching Back and Forth and seeing their journey behind the scenes. All that hard work and passion, and musical genius definitely pays off in WASTING LIGHT. One thing I have mad crazy respect for is the way it was recorded—in Dave’s garage studio using only analog equipment—a total nod to OG rock and roll! It’s also really cool that they brought in Krist Novoselic for one of the songs on the album. I was going to do a track listing review, but it would just be too long and I really think that overall, each song is wonderful and just adds to the artistry of the album as a whole.

Foo Fighters have been streaming their new album for a couple of weeks now, and I cannot stop listening to it! They are back in full force action with rock guns blazing! The killer crunching guitar riffs, the master crafted bass lines, Grohl’s voice, and the bumpin’ drum hits are more than amazing. So today after work, I’m going to take my happy feet over to Easy Street Records and pick up my copy of WASTING LIGHT!

My top 3 favorites off the new album are (in this order):
[Click on title to hear track via YouTube]





and just for fun, since this IS a Foo Fighters appreciation blog post, here are two of my favorite older songs of theirs:



. . . oh okay, one more . . .   😉


because let’s get real, how could you not love them after watching their cheesy shenanigans in BIG ME? 😉