Where the Blog Posts Have No Name

…Oops.

I was going to write this post almost three weeks ago – the weekend immediately after I saw U2 in Pittsburgh. Life happened, emotional volatility happened, depression happened and I felt so crappy yesterday that I actually almost deleted this blog altogether.

But then, my husband happened and he helped me remember that I’m not doing all this for nothing. So, here I am, writing about a concert that was the better part of a month ago, because this is my blog and I’ll do what I want with it!

I’ve been a fan of the U2 for as long as I can remember – my parents got a mix CD as a wedding favor when I was a kid, and the second I heard Sweetest Thing, I was hooked. Other musical obsessions have come and gone, but I always find myself putting their discography on shuffle when I’m on a road trip or having a bad – or terrific – day.

This is a blog post about my favorite band.

Say what you will about U2 (and Bono, in particular). They’re too feel-good, they’re over-exposed, whatever. They don’t care about that, which I think is part of why I love them so very much. They have done exactly what they want to do for 40 years now. They make music that connects with their audience.

One of my earliest memories of listening to them has me in the backseat of whatever car my dad was borrowing from his dealership at the time. I had my discman, and I had Joshua Tree borrowed from the library. I was probably nine years old, and With or Without You had me sobbing like a damn fool (and trying to hide my tears from my parents). I obviously hadn’t yet experienced heartache like Bono’s wailing, but I felt the emotion in his voice, in those ringing guitar chords, in the crashing drums.

That connection was something I needed, even though I didn’t quite realize it at the time.

I don’t want every blog post here to become “Hey, did you know I’m a depressed mess?!” but it’s something to note in this post. My depression manifests itself in loneliness – I’m extroverted and outgoing, but when I’m not actively engaged with people, I often feel like the entire world is pulling away from me. Enter Bono.

The One Campaign is not without fault, and I’ve never ignored that. What I love about it is its simplest philosophy. Bono explained it in his pre-One performance in Pittsburgh. Basically, you can, and should be able to, connect with every single person, from every walk of life, on at the very least, ONE topic. One common ground. One tiny thing that allows you to see the humanity in everyone. That connection is something I’ve made an effort to remember every day, whether I’m annoyed with seemingly everyone at work, or I’m feeling particularly hopeless. I’m not alone, no one is.

So, three weeks back, my husband and I went to one of my favorite cities, to see my favorite band. I was supposed to see their 360 Tour a few years back, but I was without transportation, so my tickets went to waste. I was heartbroken, but I think I’m actually happier now that this Joshua Tree 2017 Tour was my first. It’s so apparent how much this tour means to the band, which made it that much more special.

I’m not exactly sure what the best way to write about my experience is, so I’m just going to intersperse the rest of this post with pictures from the show (sorry for the crap quality – we were in literally the last row and the stands were actually moving the entire time, the crowd was so into it), with thoughts and memories. Basically, if you don’t care about U2, this isn’t the post for you?

Okay, first off, I can’t be a lifelong fan of U2 without some fangirling over Bono. He’s aging like a fine, fine wine, and he looks so joyful that I often forgot that he’s nearing 60. He ran around the stage, grinned boyishly, and just clearly had the time of his life on that massive tree.

Being in the back row meant we were surrounded by… interesting people. The best, though, was the man we now affectionately refer to as Dancing Guy. This dude… was living his best life. The second U2 took the stage, his shirt was off, and he proceeded to dance like a maniac the. entire. concert. He only stopped flailing his arms to eat french fries that his not-thrilled sons had. I only looked away from the stage to watch him dancing, and each time, I was overcome with joyful laughter.

(This post is all over the place and I’m sorry)

IMG_1492

So, I went into this assuming that they would play Joshua Tree first, then go into a small greatest hits set. They actually start with five or songs before Where the Streets Have No Name happens, and when it does… god. The chills, as the stage turned red and the Joshua Tree glowed and those driving guitars set off. It was one of those moments I’ll never forget. The sun had just completely set and the night just became sincerely alive.

IMG_1459

Speaking of the sky, moments before U2 took the stage, a rainbow appeared right over Heinz Field! It never rained, but it was super overcast… and then the sun happened to duck below the clouds just enough to cast a perfect rainbow. Un. Real.

IMG_1437

Okay also! (I’m so sorry I’m doing this with no semblance of chronological order. This is a terrible post) The Lumineers were SO GOOD. I’ve listened to them a little before, and their brand of drum-and-guitar-heavy folksy rock is right up my alley, but I didn’t expect to love them as much as I did. Wesley Schultz’ voice rang over the rivers and he was so fun to watch. Consider me a new full-fledged fan.

IMG_1526

The emotional climax of the concert came in Exit, a song I’ve rarely listened to, to be honest. That’s completely changed after this concert – now, that mostly-instrumental jam is one of my go-to’s when driving. For the concert, Bono rants and raves and struts around the stage as Shadow Man. IT WAS A LOT TO TAKE IN AND I LOVED EVERY SECOND.

IMG_1540

If you’ve known me for any number of years, you know how much of a role music has played in my life. I grew up doing theater and singing in various bands and choirs. I haven’t performed in several years now, but truthfully, the only thing I miss is the power music has to, at once, connect you to something bigger than yourself, and to entirely disconnect you from the real world. That feeling was so overpowering that night in Pittsburgh. I could glance up from the stage and see downtown, and see people carrying about their normal evening. They were removed from what I was experiencing, but because we’re all people just trying to get by… I felt overwhelming love and humanity.

IMG_1532

Um, this post is a mess and I am sincerely sorry if you wasted your time reading it. I guess if you’ve stuck around til now, I can tell you that I couldn’t get enough of this tour… so I got myself a GA ticket for their Buffalo date – and I’m doing the damn thing. I’m going to find the line the morning before the show, camp out if I’m able to, and try like hell to get right up on the rail. This band means more to me than I can properly express here. Clearly. Since this post is a disaster.

Thanks for… reading? Hopefully next time, I’ll be able to write cohesively?

#MyErie is Hardly a Sinking Ship

There’s been a big conversation online lately about my hometown. Erie is the fourth-largest city in Pennsylvania (well, fifth when Penn State has a home game) (seriously). I’ve lived here my whole life – nearly 30 years – and while I’ve done my fair share of complaining – who hasn’t? – I feel inclined to write this post.

CBS recently ran a story that made me feel sick to my stomach. You can read it here, but I’ll save you the time. Erie is a “sinking ship”, the headline yells. You need to escape it. You need to get your affairs in order and get the hell out. You won’t make more than a Walmart employee here (also, sidebar, but what the hell? Don’t look at Walmart employees as less-than you. Look at the company’s horrible treatment of their employees however you want, but do not insult the employees themselves).

I’ve experienced the family devastation of a parent losing their job. I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. It’s a horrible experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it’s not the entire human experience, and it would be terrifically sad if that was the case.

The Erie that I know and love is so much more than the loss of manufacturing jobs. It’s significantly more than the crime and violence that, for some reason, people think is only here? (There’s a definition on Urban Dictionary for Erie that zeroes in on crime here… hi, have you been to literally any other city in this country? Crime is everywhere).

Many of my high school classmates vowed to leave Erie after graduation, and to never return. If they’ve found their happiness in other places, that’s wonderful! But so many people think they have to pair that move with sincerely ridiculous trash talk. It doesn’t stop after they leave, either. I’ve been told my life here isn’t “impressive” (newsflash: I don’t care). I’ve seen countless tweets and posts ridiculing Erie and its residents. A super fun thing is the way many of these tweets dive headfirst into racist and sexist discourse, but that’s another post for another time.

This post goes hand-in-hand with one I wrote previously – I don’t care what you do with your life. If you’re happy and fulfilled, do whatever you want, as long as in the process, you’re not harming anyone. If you’re unhappy here in Erie, or if it was a terrible place for you to grow up? Get out! Forge a new path for yourself. But, that doesn’t give you a free pass to think any less of anyone who is doing things differently than you are.

If, for whatever reason, you want out of Erie, but have to stay, let me share with you some of the reasons I have come to love this city. Note that I said I’ve come to love it here? For several years, I wanted out, too. Clearly, I’m still here, and I’ve found more than a handful of reasons why I’m now more than thrilled this city is my home.

Probably the most known beautiful part of Erie: our Bayfront and Presque Isle. They’re a photographer’s dream, and our sunsets are famous, for good reason. Driving the peninsula is a rite of passage for every 16-year-old here, and now that I’m an adult, those drives have become sacred catch-up time with my best friend. There’s been a ton of development on the Bayfront over the past several years, and it’s now one of my favorite places to spend a summer evening. Watching the Brig Niagara sail to and from port very sincerely never gets old.

The resilience. It’s probably cheesy, but, thanks to the War of 1812, Erie’s slogan is, “Don’t give up the ship.” The current attitude about Erie is nothing new. Even now, with the attitude toward the city being unnecessarily negative, there are beautiful things happening here, all the time. The arts are thriving – our local community theater continues to win awards. There are so many unique galleries and performances spaces. Our local sports teams have huge followings, and do you know the name Connor McDavid? We got to watch him play here for four seasons! Young adults are finding so many new ways to change the scope of this city, and it’s incredible to watch and be a part of .

Erie is a Sanctuary City (and we are so much better for it). There are over 10,000 refugees living in Erie. That’s 10,000 people adding to our economy, buying houses, working in all sorts of jobs, enjoying entertainment, and making the city a diverse place. In this current political climate (mess), it’s more important than ever to recognize the important role these people play in our community. Erie wouldn’t be the same without them.

We get to experience all four seasons, without the scary storms other places get. Okay, I’ll admit that I don’t drive in the snow unless I have to – it’s a big trigger for my anxiety. That being said, winter is actually my favorite season! While there’s something to be said about the year-long pleasant weather in desert and tropical climates, there’s something even more beautiful about watching the city come back to life every spring. And, honestly, I would go crazy if every single day looked the same. Even though we see every sort of weather, things never get as severe here as other places. There have been some tornadoes that I can remember, and we do get a lot of snow, but I’m so thankful natural disasters aren’t in the mix.

Our close proximity to so many more cities. My husband and I recently made up a summer bucket list – mainly full of day-trips to the surrounding area. We’re two hours from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, and four hours from Detroit and Toronto. Do you know how many cool little places you find in between? While we love visiting big cities, the wildly unique smaller cities and towns we find are what keep us on the road.

The damn millennials and their go-getter attitudes. Okay, I did my share of complaining about my old classmates who don’t like Erie. But, us millennials aren’t all bad! I know so many people around my age who are doing some incredible things here. There’s actors, musicians, tattoo artists, restaurant and store owners, journalists, web designers, photographers… I could go on and on. Nothing makes me sadder than when Baby Boomers paint our generation as lazy and entitled. We are changing this city and we are making it better, every day.

Erie has historical significance. Historical significance means cool architecture, big old trees, and lots of lore – a photographer’s dream. I could gaze at the architecture downtown and in the county for hours on end. It’s important to remember that us current Erieites are a part of something. I think when you remember that, you realize that while things may not be overall perfect here currently, we are simply a part of a much bigger story, and that’s what makes #MyErie a place I am proud to call home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Treating Anxiety With a Big Apple

A few weeks ago, I took my husband to New York City, for his first time ever. I’ve been to the city six times now, and each time, I’ve loved it more than the previous.

For a really long time, I wanted to live there. When I started my current job, I was so excited, because I found out how easy it is to transfer between stores – and my company has over 700 stores across the country. I told myself I would work here for a year, then figure out how to move to the city of my dreams.

For myriad reasons, that didn’t happen – but I’m not upset about it. I love my life. I love the house my husband and I share, and I love the people who are around me every day.

That being said… there’s one very specific thing I’ve only found happens when I’m in NYC – and I’m trying like mad to replicate that here in the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania. This most recent trip allowed me some time to really think about what I had been noticing on previous ones, and I’m so glad to have finally figured it out.

When I am in New York City, my anxiety all but disappears.

The first time I really noticed this happening was on a trip in 2011, with some of my dearest old friends. We were going about our day, enjoying the city, and taking our time getting ready for the evening. We had tickets to a Broadway show (Mary Poppins, I believe), and for whatever reason, we all assumed and believed the show started at one time… only to check the tickets while we were getting ready, and seeing that it was actually starting a half hour earlier than we thought – aka, in about five minutes. Our hotel was in Times Square, so we didn’t have to go far, but you try fighting through primetime crowds in the center of the city. It was a situation that, here in my city, would have caused me to break down and freak out – I hate being late, and a lifetime in theater means nothing makes me more ashamed than sneaking into an already-dark venue.

I found myself as the leader of our group, pulling my friends behind me through literal hoards of people (I think Times Square was more crowded than New Year’s Eve that night). We made it to the theater a moment before curtain, giddy and out of breath, and I realized that I felt truly awesome. 

That feeling is what I think I’ve been subconsciously chasing since.

This most recent trip was especially important to me, for a number of reasons. As I said, it was my husband’s first time, so everything felt a little special and new – I love showing him places that hold a lot of meaning for me, and I especially love when he comes to enjoy them as much as I do.

My previous trips to New York felt like a whole lot of tourism. While I love taking cliche pictures of famous sights as much as the next person, there’s only so much of that you can take – and, in a place like New York, you are missing so much if Times Square is all you see. For this trip, we stayed with friends who live in the city, so our time felt much more leisurely, and it was so nice knowing where to get the good bagels and burgers!

The biggest reason this trip meant so much to me, though, was my utter lack of anxiety. I know that’s partially due to my symptoms being far more in check now than they used to be, but a larger part is because I don’t have time to be anxious in New York. The parts of my brain that fill with entirely unfounded dread at home (or anywhere else, let’s be real) are full of subway routes, dinner ideas, and the general buzz of a completely alive city. I don’t do well when I’m left alone with my thoughts – I need things outside me to be at least pleasant to keep myself in check.

This was something I noticed to a lesser extent in Disney World – there’s a ton of stimulation there, as well, but it’s a little more in-your-face than New York, so THAT in itself gets to me after a while. But in New York… I can just BE. The city itself is the exact balance I need of things to do and see, white noise, people-watching, and beautiful things to photograph. There’s something to be said about the way New Yorkers interact with each other, as well. Instead of being in other people’s business, everyone is just trying to make their own way the best they can. That mindset works really well with me.

It doesn’t take much thought to acknowledge that, all things considered, moving to New York would make sense for me. If money wasn’t an object, I think we would already be there by now. But, I’m not as disappointed as you might expect. This trip was a great way for me to do a hard reset on my anxious brain.

Usually when I come home from a vacation, I crash (hard, in the case of Disney World). That didn’t happen this time. I’ve felt nothing but clear-minded and happy with where my life currently is – a nice change from the constant dread that usually takes over! I’m sure part of this is due to the wonderful company we had in the city; getting to reunite with some of your favorite friends is bound to leave you in a really good place. That place means just a little more when it’s somewhere you always struggled to get to before.

IMG_0860IMG_0872IMG_2420IMG_2272IMG_2437IMG_2570IMG_2312IMG_2463

Pink Winter Sky

The sky today was a charming shade of pink. I couldn’t help but snap a ton of photos on our way to work this morning!
Feel more than welcome to share these images – just please make sure you link either this blog, or my Instagram if that’s where you’re sharing!

img_0642img_0643img_0644img_0645img_0646img_0647img_0648img_0649img_0650img_0652img_0653img_0654img_0655img_0656img_0658img_0659

Days like today make me so grateful to live somewhere that has all four seasons! I hope you find some beauty and inspiration in your normal daily routines.

-Meredith

We are married people!!

I’m writing my wedding/honeymoon recap post from 38,000 feet up in the air and a passenger just gave me their free drink coupons and I am emotional, so bear with me. Or don’t; no one is actually making you read this (yes, yes I am).

So. Nine days ago, Scott and I got married. We have rings on our fingers as proof! The day was so chaotic and loud and full of hugs and laughter and I never wanted it to end. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to properly express my gratitude to our family and friends who helped make our day what it was. Just, if you were there, thank you, from both of us.

Then there was last Saturday. You may recall that our honeymoon destination was closed because of Hurricane Matthew… the day before we were set to arrive. You may also recall that I deal with terrifically crippling anxiety and depression, SO. The instant that first hurricane warning came out… I was convinced Disney World was going to be destroyed. I stayed up almost the entire night before our wedding coming up with potential alternate honeymoon plans (highlights included Vegas and this hotel in the Poconos with the most gloriously ridiculous hot tubs I’ve ever seen – I woke Scott up at 3am to show him that!).

(Not-so) sadly, we didn’t get to see that insane Poconos resort (though we may have just planned our fifth anniversary trip there! thanks, airplane gin!)… by some insane stroke of luck, we booked a later flight to Orlando, arrived at the Pittsburgh airport and then got put on an earlier flight that was leaving literally the minute after we boarded. Honestly, it wasn’t until we were walking toward the Magical Express that I actually let myself believe our original honeymoon plans were still on!

I won’t bore you all with recaps of our seven full days in the happiest place on earth. I will, however, dump some pictures here for you! In standard me fashion, I took more photos in the past week than I have in the past six months put together. Also, if you are planning a trip to Disney World, I completely recommend paying for the Memory Maker. I’m an avid Disney blog reader, so I see a lot of moms recommending it so the entire family can get in photos, which is great, but I think it was completely worth it for us, too! It was so nice to not have to worry about handing my camera off to random people (y’all know that thing is like my baby), and we got some amazing photos that we otherwise wouldn’t have!

So, that’s it for the text part of this post. Highlights from our wedding and honeymoon to follow…

img_0126

2016-10-07-07-13-41

2016-10-07-07-23-31

2016-10-07-10-16-13 img_1151img_01502016-10-09-19-50-12 img_02312016-10-09-19-53-24 2016-10-10-19-42-04    img_0276 img_0286 img_0325 img_0338  img_1390 img_1469 img_1735 img_1816