My mom is an angel. Harp included.

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She doesn’t go floating around in a white robe proclaiming that virgins are going to have babies or anything, but she does play the harp.

My mom spends her time making prayer quilts for people who are sick, and baby blankets for practically all of our childhood friends who have had a kid. She volunteers at the library. She’s a nurse. And she’s probably an organ donor. So, she’s pretty close to angel status.

And she had enough love and forgiveness in her heart to write a letter to my friend who is in prison, which somehow gave me permission to finally write my own letter — at least two years after I saw on the news that my old friend had been arrested. Longer than I should have taken to reach out, even if I will never be able to wrap my head around what happened. I’m grateful for my mom’s example of compassion.

I went to see her play harp at her church Sunday for their Christmas service. It is the only kind of church service I can stomach because there is no preaching, only music.

And I was moved by the experience. Hearing all of the voices harmonizing and the orchestra with the Timpani and  the horns and violins all coming together brought a tear to my eye (not actually too difficult a task). I don’t particularly believe in the story they were singing about but it was clear that they did, they were feeling it.

I had a moment where I was able to get outside of myself and acknowledge that it was real for them, and that their belief resulted in them making something beautiful — no matter my opinion of the subject matter. How nice to be able to just accept and appreciate something for a minute, without having to judge it.

How much lighter would I feel if I allowed myself more of those moments of non-judgement? How much looser would my shoulders feel if I could just relax and take stuff in without having to classify it as “right” or “that sh*t ain’t right”, according to me?

You see what happened here, right? I accidentally had a spiritual experience…in CHURCH! Ohhh, the irony. 😉

Thank you, Mom, for being a bad-ass harp-playing angel.

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Blue October’s music still makes me happy and sad at the same time.

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Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer of Blue October. Jannus Landing, 09-07-13

There’s a word for it. Bittersweet. Their music has that quality in and of itself, and personally that’s how I relate to it. My good friend Leslie played one of their songs for me in 2007 and I was hooked right way. I was in the midst of my awful, guilt-inducing, mistake-ridden, alcohol-soaked divorce and their somewhat tortured, heavy, yet beautiful and somehow hopeful lyrics spoke to me in just the right way that helped me wallow in my misery and lifted me up at the same time.

I listened to their album, Foiled, over and over again by myself on my lonely back porch out at the lake. I drank way, way too much and tried to forgive myself for breaking up my marriage, thereby cutting in half my time with my daughter. Their song Hate Me was kind of a personal anthem at the time. It pretty much encapsulated the self-induced pain I was in during what seemed like an interminable amount of time, but was actually just a blip.

But there were good times listening to Blue October, too. I got to see them play at Lollapalooza and at Jannus Landing with good friends and we had a blast. I have great memories of partying with friends with their music as the soundtrack.

Happy and sad.

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Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer of Blue October. Jannus Landing 09-07-2013

Looking back now, 6 years later, 5-and-a-half-years sober, it’s hard to see any of it as bad. It’s just what I had to do to get here. I learned a lot about who I did and did not want to be, how I wanted to live my life.

And time heals. I have a good, friendly working relationship with Callie’s dad, a wonderful, happy relationship with Callie, and a promising, healthy new love in my life.

I got to take that new love to see Blue October last Friday at Jannus Landing. Dave was game for getting up as close to the stage as we could and staying there the whole time. I really like that about him. He’s up for fun and doesn’t complain about anything. What a keeper.

It was my first time seeing them since 2008 and they are in excellent form. Justin is an intense and totally captivating performer. He is definitely doing what he was put on this earth to do and that is a beautiful thing to watch. The rest of the band is amazing, too. There are so many layers to what is going on onstage that it’s hard to take it all in at once. (Especially when you are trying to avoid getting burned with cigarettes and trampled by other enthusiastic audience members–but that’s just the bad that you have to take with the good to have the up-close experience. I’d only do it for them.)

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Justin Furstenfeld, lead singer of Blue October, Jannus Landing, 09-07-13

Their new album, Sway, has some fantastic songs on it. It’s a little more redemption and renewal focused than past albums and fits my current frame of mind perfectly. But it still has that edge that I love, that undercurrent of darkness running through it that reminds me of where I was, and makes me appreciate how far I’ve come.