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These words are my diary screaming out loud

Friday, May 25, 2012

I think this makes me old.

As of today, I can officially say that I graduated from college more than 10 years ago.

Holy. Crap.

Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary, if you will, of my USNA graduation. I remember very little about 24 May 2002, to be honest. Just that it meant it was all over, and that was fantastic. I remember lining up on the (now nonexistant) hill waiting to march into the stadium. I remember Ken Neptun's mom Wendy standing at one of the corners as we marched in, telling us to throw our covers up to Ken and making me cry. I remember being grateful I didn't fall in my horribly dress white shoes up and down the ramps to get my degree and shake Dick Cheney's hand. I don't remember any of the speeches. I barely remember throwing my cover. I remember Tara giving me my first salute, and getting my shoulder boards changed out. It's all pretty spotty.

And it was more than ten years ago.

In some ways, those ten years have just flown by. I can't believe its actually been 10 years. But on the other hand, it seems like so long ago. I've done so many things in that 10 years. So many Navy experiences in the first 6 - Paris, Newport, two ships, a deployment, moving to DC, a shore tour that set me up for later. Since getting out, I've moved twice (well, more than twice, but moved cities twice), decided I wanted to stay in the defense world, found a niche, and established myself in it. Personally, I've become an actual adult, had my heart broken a few times, chosen poorly in some things and wonderfully in others, learned a lot about people, become less naive, bought a house, left that house, had a nightmare tenant, been unemployed, gotten two cats, and met the man I plan on spending the rest of my life with.

More than ten years. I can hardly believe it...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More on the nuns...

I was part of an extremely interesting conversation last night at a friend's baby shower, of all places. She and her husband both come from very Catholic families, with nuns on both sides. One of those nuns was present last night, and we started talking about the current situation with the Vatican and the American bishops that I've talked about here before. She is part of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and her work is in the organization that administers all of the Catholic hospitals in the region, which means the whole situation is very close to her. Her insight was refreshing, to be honest, and really reaffirmed my admiration for the Sisters who have devoted their lives, in the name of their Church, to helping those less fortunate.

I came away from that Church with the reminder that no man is infallible, and the Church is more than just the men who lead it. It is the people who comprise it, the God that began it. All of the people like me, who feel like we're leaving the Church, are really being left by those who claim to represent the Church. Sister reminded me of the importance of knowing and understanding the history of our faith, where it came from, and where some of the Church's teachings have come from. I was able to express some of my feelings, and some of the difficulties I've had with the Church in recent years, most specifically the part where I don't go to Church to be told where my politics should be, and how the Church is supposed to be bigger than that.

When she had to get going, Sister expressed that she had enjoyed the conversation, and enjoyed being able to speak her mind a little bit in a safe environment. I appreciate that more than she could know, because I left that conversation with a sense of comfort that I had not felt in a long time. Not because of everything that was going on, but something about the open, honest conversation about faith, hearing some of the best explanations for my own and others' questions about faith that I'd heard, was comforting. I wish the Sisters the best with this "investigation" and hope that the result is what the rest of the world, even non-Catholics, seem to understand. Our nuns are some of the best people out there, and the work that they do is exactly what should be representing the Church.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cancer is a giant b****.

All I can think about today is how much cancer really, really, really sucks. How in 2012, when we can clone sheep and put all of our music on an inch square electronic device, we still cannot get a handle on this horrible disease. This disease that takes so many forms, and ravages so many people, and ends so many lives far too early, and tears others completely apart. How it doesn't discriminate who it attacks - how it doesn't just stick to the bad people, or the unhealthy people, or the people with the right risk factors. How it can decide that the lungs of an otherwise healthy, non-smoking woman in her late 30s are the perfect place for it to set up shop, and not give any clues that its there until its pretty much too late.

I met Ali a few years ago at a Sister Hazel and Pat McGee show at Wolf Trap. I made a bunch of new friends that night, some that I've become very close to and others that I see now and then but always enjoy. Ali is one of the second half - not someone that I became very close to, but someone that I'm always happy to see, usually out at a show. Nearly two years ago, Ali was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer after going to the doctor for a headache she couldn't get rid of. She knew from the start that it was incurable, but she has fought incredibly hard, and been an inspiration to everyone who knows her. This morning, I woke up to the news that there is nothing more the doctors can do for her, and she's now in hospice care. Basically, she's nearing the end of her fight and the primary objective from here on out is to keep her as comfortable as possible. And that really, really sucks.

I've spoken many times about the music family and community that I'm lucky to be a part of. Not just the Rock Boat family, although that makes up a very large part of it. And when any part of a family hurts, the whole family hurts, or at least it should. Just because Ali and I aren't close doesn't make it any easier to process this news, or make me think about her any less, or make it any easier to focus on anything besides her today. All it does is make me hate cancer more.

Ali, I'm so proud of you for fighting. I'm so proud of how optimistic you've remained through all of this, and how your spirit has shone even through this disease that has broken not just the bodies but the souls of so many. I'm proud to know you, and I thank you for touching my life. I hope that someday, someone will find a cure for this horrible, awful, terrible disease. And I pray for peace and comfort for you now, and that you feel the love being sent your way from so many right now.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Music: Volume Two by Amy Gerhartz

I mentioned in my post the other day that Amy Gerhartz's new 5 song EP would be available soon, and here it is! Not everywhere yet, but for now, you can buy the digital download here. It will be available soon in hard copy and on iTunes. I highly recommend it, of course :)

Track Listing:
1. Already Yours
2. Take a Chance
3. As A Friend
4. Look To Me
5. Afraid of the Dark

And keep your eyes open for tour dates - if Amy makes it near you, you don't want to miss her!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More on the whole Church thing...

When I blogged about the nuns a few weeks ago, I said I was going to keep an eye on that story, and this is me following up.

I don't always agree with E.J. Dionne, a liberal columnist for the Washington Post, regular contributor to MSNBC, and occasional member of Meet the Press's political round table. I read him and his colleagues regularly, though, because I like to take in all sides of most debates. But the column he wrote yesterday really struck a chord with me. Entitled "I'm Not Quitting The Church," Dionne writes about a full page ad that ran in the Post recently urging liberals to leave the Catholic Church.

Now, first of all, this type of ad absolutely hurts the cause for which this group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), purports to be trying to advance. It gives the far right ammunition. It defeats its own purpose. While Dionne doesn't come right out and say that, he does make some very salient points about why he will decline that invitation to leave the church. He specificially focuses on a paragraph that he finds particularly offensive. He writes:
My, my. Putting aside the group’s love for unnecessary quotation marks, it was shocking to learn that I’m an “enabler” doing “bad” to women’s rights. But Catholic liberals get used to these kinds of things. Secularists, who never liked Catholicism in the first place, want us to leave the church, but so do Catholic conservatives who want the church all to themselves.
He then spends most of the remainder of his column discussing the issues of women's rights in the church. He talks about some of the work done under Pope John XXIII, who spoke of the "natural dignity" of women and their inherent rights as human beings. Then he moves into the nun part, prefacing it with wishing that both the FFRF and today's bishops would read a little more of Pope John and align a little closer with him. He pretty much asks the same question I asked in my post: "Why in the world would the Vatican, apparently pushed by right-wing American bishops, think it was a good idea to condemn the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main organization of nuns in the United States?" He talks about all the good they've done, and how often Catholics like himself refer to this type of work in their defense of the Church they love, some of the same issues I mentioned in my post, only he's far more articulate about it than I am.

A friend of mine, also a liberal Catholic Democrat, and I were talking about this column yesterday.  She told me that she had recently expressed similar frustrations with a pastor back home, and that he had come back to her with a reminder that the Church on Earth is flawed because men are flawed. I think that's a great thing to remember, for me in particular - just because the Church on Earth isn't really something I can get super excited about these days, that doesn't mean that the big picture is the same thing or even close. Of course, that's probably some sort of blasphemy against infallibility or something, but I'll refer back to the original post where I led off with the fact that I'm not the best Catholic.

Dionne ends his piece with a poignant quote, one that I'll quote to end this post. The Church would do well to listen.
Too many bishops seem in the grip of dark suspicions that our culture is moving at breakneck speed toward a demonic end. Pope John XXIII, by contrast, was more optimistic about the signs of the times. “Distrustful souls see only darkness burdening the face of the earth,” he once said. “We prefer instead to reaffirm all our confidence in our Savior who has not abandoned the world which he redeemed.” The church best answers its critics when it remembers that its mission is to preach hope, not fear.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Some things I get to be proud of

First, just to get it out of the way (and this is not included in the things I got to be proud of)... Anyone who's turned on a TV or picked up a newspaper or been on Facebook in the past few days knows that the conversation has been dominated by conversation about gay marriage. I blogged about my thoughts on this topic back in late 2010, and I don't feel the need to rehash those points again.

Now that that's out of the way, moving on to the REAL topic I wanted to talk about. Anyone who knows me or who has been reading this blog for any period of time knows that I'm a huge music nerd, always have been and probably always will be. I've also always sang, and written off and on for a large majority of my life. I took the "sensible route" and never really pursued singing, which I can't say I completely regret, but I definitely get that slight pang of jealousy when I see someone else on stage and think I should be doing that, and I definitely get a huge rush when I do get the chance to sing on a stage, even if its karaoke. For the most part, though, I'm OK with the fact that most of my singing will be done in my car. I have several friends, some closer than others, who took the giant leap and have pursued their dreams, and I love nothing more than the chance to help them do so and the feeling of pride I feel when they do well. I've two such opportunities this week that I want to share.

First of all, Tony Lucca came in 3rd place on the The Voice this week. I, along with I'd assume a good chunk of 10 year old girls in 1990, had a HUGE crush on Tony when he was on the Mickey Mouse Club, and when I first got to meet him in 2007, I had one of my very few star-struck moments. I've had the pleasure of getting to see Tony play many times since then, and, because he's the type of guy to do so, getting to know him a little bit as a fan as well. So I, along with many of my friends in the Rock Boat family, felt nothing short of huge amounts of pride not only with Tony's amazing run on the show, but also because of the amazing class he showed in dealing with the drama that was Christina Aguilera. If you haven't heard anything of Tony other than what you saw on the Voice, do yourself a favor and go get some of his original music. Its all on iTunes, and I think you can still find his latest album on for free (with the option of paying what you want).

The other opportunity to be proud this week, while smaller in scale, was HUGE for me. When I met Amy Gerhartz back in 2005, she was playing coffee shops and restaurants in the Norfolk, VA area and working a day job at a music venue just waiting for the right show to convince her bosses to let her be the opening act. That chance came in December that year, when Jason Mraz and Better Than Ezra were playing. I was in the audience that night, and while I had met her once before, I fell in love with her music based on the short set she played. We became fast friends, even though within a few months both of us had moved out of the area - me to DC for the next Navy job, and Amy to New York in pursuit of her dreams. In the past seven years, I've watched Amy do everything she could to get herself out there. I've seen her play in seedy bars, do residencies in swanky NYC restaurants, move to Atlanta in hopes of breaking into the amazing independent scene there, work day jobs she hated to make ends meet, have deals and opportunities dangled in front of her only to have them not work out, but still continue on and grow in every possible way. Last spring, she released a five song EP, with the promise of more to come. The first time I heard those five songs I was in the car with Amy, and I couldn't even express how proud I was of her.

Since she moved to Atlanta, Amy's been able to gain exposure to a wide variety of people who have done pretty well at advancing the careers of independent musicians. That's how she ended up working with her producer, the amazing Brian Fechino, known also to many as a phenomenal guitarist. And I'll take a little bit of credit, although Brian may have had more influence, with getting Amy's name to the folks over at Rock By The Sea - I'd been suggesting her to them for a long time, and this year they booked her for their annual fundraiser festival. I was supposed to go down to Panama City Beach for the event, but between the new job and the trip to see my sister and her family that I have coming up, I just couldn't make it happen. But I got an email halfway through it from one of the organizers telling me that Amy was a hit, so I knew I couldn't wait to hear from her how it had gone.

Turns out, saying that she was a hit was an understatement. Apparently, Ken Block, the lead singer of Sister Hazel, was among many who fell in love with Amy at this event. He had seen her play and heard her music before, but apparently she went to a new level for him at this event. He gave her a shout out from stage during Sister Hazel's show. He led the crowd in getting her to play an encore during her show. Basically, he was her biggest fan, and made sure everyone knew it. Amy sold more merchandise than just about anyone at the event. She gained countless new fans. And all of this is just ahead of the release of the second of her five song EPs.

I am SO INCREDIBLY PROUD of Amy. Words don't even begin to express it. I told her I was going to start living vicariously through her, because only good things can come from here on out. The only way that I can really think of to show how proud I am of her is to tell you all to go buy her music!! The Volume 1 EP is available on itunes or you can order hard copies through her website. Volume 2 is coming soon (should be available for download at all the usual spots on May 15th) but until then you can listen to samples of the songs here or here. And she'll be touring soon, so keep your eyes open for dates in your area. And in general, because I have a feeling Amy's going places.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Where were you?

There's usually at least one major event for which everyone in a generation will remember exactly where they were when it happened, or when they found out it happened. I think for mine, there have been two so far. The first was 9/11, which I've posted about before.  I think the second is the day Osama bin Laden was killed.

It's hard to believe that its already been a year since the person that basically defined so many lives, both personal and professional, since 2001 or before, was found in his compound and taken down by a team of our Navy's finest. I remember exactly where I was when I found out.

It was the last night of the VH1 Best Cruise Ever, put on by the amazing folks at Sixthman, and I was sitting where I spent a lot of time on that cruise, at the blackjack table with my girlfriends. I had been on 4 previous cruises with most of these girls, all Rock Boats, but had somehow never managed to get to know them until this cruise. I was just getting myself back to even when one of our other friends came over and said guys, you won't believe this - we got Osama, and they think we got one of Qaddafi's sons too.

I wasn't really sure what to feel, at first. I was concerned that travelling home the next morning would become difficult due to increased security (luckily, it wasn't too bad). I was worried about retaliatory attacks. My job is to plan for the worst case scenario, so I absolutely immediately go to that. But then, I stopped and realized, holy sh!t, Osama bin Laden is dead. Public Enemy Number One is no longer a threat. Of course, I knew that wasn't the end of the threat of al Qaeda or its sympathizers, but what a huge deal.
A little later that night, after we'd al finished up our blackjack and cashed out, I headed back to my cabin and turned on the news to get the details. I took a picture of the TV with the breaking news alert at the bottom.

For the next few weeks, we all watched and waited to see what would happen. A year later, I think we're still all watching and waiting to see what will happen. And we'll continue to do so, because while the death of its leader was a huge blow to al Qaeda, it wasn't the end. And while they're nowhere close to what they were with him, they sure are trying their best. I was going to have a hard time forgetting that cruise anyway because of the new friends, the amazing music, and the epic sunburn, not to mention the death of Osama.