First Lobster – Final Thoughts and Happy Holidays

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Happy Christmas! I hope all of you reading the blog have enjoyed the Christmas Countdown. I hope it has brought you a fun, crazy, upbeat soundtrack to a season that is full of jingle bells (literally), stress, and sometimes sadness. Thanks for joining me on this emotional journey of stories and songs.

Creating daily content was tough and at times I was uninspired, but I’ve enjoyed the process and the Mixtape of it all. I’m really proud of myself that I didn’t fall behind and was able to get a post in every day. (Thank goodness for post scheduler.) Plus it gave me something fun to put together for friends and family. I wasn’t sure how this was going to shape out, or where I wanted to go with it, but I’ve enjoyed it and I’m glad you guys have stuck through 24 days of crazy music.

Personally, I might consider this a year round song for me, I love it, but I know it’s very polarizing song, which is why I didn’t include it on the Mixtape. I think this version could make even the Scroogiest Mariah fan smile. No December is complete with out it.

I hope the end of the year is full of laughter, family, friends, experiences, delicious food, and nostalgia. I can’t wait to introduce you to the projects I have in the works for 2018.

Much love to all! Enjoy!

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24) Gloria Estefan – Abriendo Puertas

gloria puertas

This is a New Year’s song and I think the best song to end the Mixtape with. In a direct translation it’s about opening doors and closing wounds. If you decide to be happy, you’ll be happy. Each new year is a time to mentally move on from the weight of the past year and start “fresh”.

It’s a great sentiment to end the holiday on, especially after the stress, chaos, last minute shopping, kitchen fires, midnight scotch tape runs, and taking part in too much champagne. It’s also a great way to start the New Year. A positive outlook. ‘Que en la vida hay tanto por hacer, deja tu llanto y hecha pa’lante con fe’ (In life there is so much to do, stop crying and move forward with faith). I think some of the beauty and messaging of this song may be lost in translation, which is a huge shame, but if you don’t speak Spanish, trust me on it.

This would be the perfect time to talk resolutions, but I’m not big on ‘resolutions’. Just like I’m not big on giving things up for Lent. I am not a vision board fan either. I’m more of a conscious and measurable steps person.

So I’ve adjusted my approach on the subject. I’m more of a believer in trying to make my life better in productive, committed way. Less lists, more feelings. In my opinion, personal goals and change are things that should be constantly evolving and that you’re working on, but not obsessing about. (Unless it’s a measurable action. I obsess about my financial goals and that’s ok. Also, a much healthier obsession than WebMD-ing medical symptoms.)

In 2018, I’m going to work on being more present, having a better balance in my life, and learning more things. All goals of mine from last year that are difficult to measure. Some months were good, others were terrible. Nothing was mastered, but it was a consistently conscious effort. Therefore I feel good about 2017 and what awaits in 2018.

As long as I approach 2018 with an open mind, go with the flow attitude, and Marco Polo explorer mentality, I’ll be able to put things in the success column. I don’t doubt that 2018 will be tough and have it’s moments of total shit, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to navigate them better than this year, as I’m a year wiser and theoretically smarter.

2017 is almost over, approach 2018 like Gloria. With a little latin rhythm, an open heart, and the feeling that ‘Abriendo puertas, cerrando heridas. Yo te lo digo de corazón, quel año nuevo será much mejor.’ (Opening doors, closing wounds. I’m telling you from my heart, the new year will be much better.)

23) Carly Simon – Let The River Run

carly river

*Note: There are a lot of ‘Working Girl’ movie spoilers in this blog post. Also, there’s a spelling mistake above…oops.

‘Working Girl’. A total 80’s rom-com – big hair, white tennis shoes, panty hose (yuck), that has given me one of my favorite one-liners in film. Tess (Melanie Griffith) tells Jack (Harrison Ford), in their meet cute, before they know how they’re tied together, ‘I have a head for business and a bod for sin.’ The great power of underestimating women.

I feel like nothing says ‘kicking ass and taking names’ quite like Carly Simon and a gospel choir on the Staten Island Ferry. But that’s just my opinion.

A few other thoughts on Carly, ‘Working Girl’, and rivers:

  1. At the end of the video Carly’s dancing in the lobby in an all winter white outfit. I think this might have been the beginning of the dance/exercise craze – Prancercise. (It’s amazing and genius.)
  2. I would really like a mash up of ‘Let The River Run’ and Pocahontas’ ‘Just Around The River Bend’. Similar broad theme, totally different genre and era.
  3. If you have not ever seen this movie, you should get out there and watch it now. It’s cheesy. It’s 80’s. It’s pretty far fetched, especially by today’s standards. In the late 80’s there weren’t a ton of strong female roles in entertainment, and this movie has two. (Sure, one is like the evil queen, but you kind of love her.) They’re both pretty unapologetic and I love that.
  4. In an interesting turn of events, we find that Kevin Spacey was in fact playing a version of himself in this movie. A disgusting, powerful, predator. It’s quite eye opening given the information we have about his personal life today.
  5. Being a woman in the work force in the 80’s was difficult – whether you were at the top of your game or trying to climb the ladder (even if this is a fictional movie). Being a woman in todays work force is still difficult. Harassment, gender discrimination, wage gaps, and the constant pressure to try to do it all and ‘prove’ yourself, is still prominent (and all things I have unfortunately had to experience). I am hopeful that this year’s #MeToo movement will spur change and that bad behaviors (and not just against women) will be broken down, punished, and society will develop a zero tolerance policy. I also know that change is slow, there will be obstacles, and there are people out there who don’t consider this a ‘real’ problem. Wake up!
  6. ‘Let all the dreamers, Wake the nation!’

22) Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

tswift shake

We’re nearing the final days of The Mixtape. The few days before Christmas are charged with a frantic, hectic, chaotic, energy. It can be a little much. So it’s time to Shake it off!

I have mixed feelings about T. Swift in general. I want to be Blah about her. I want to dismiss her as a cookie cutter, tweeny bop, pop artist, but I can’t. I don’t like all her stuff, but she knows how to create a hit. She knows how to reach the masses. She knows how to market herself. She’s moved through genre’s, seamlessly, awesomely. Plus, it’s totally dance-able, and fun, and she doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously. At the end of the day, she gets mad props and I can respect that. (Even if her taste in men, is at times, questionable. And she gets in weird fights with Kanye, which I still don’t understand if it was real or not. It still makes for good material.)

So as the last minute pressure of gift giving, meal planning, overwhelming amounts of family, year end numbers, finances, and a Christmas tree that’s losing it’s needles, starts to suffocate you, be like T.Swift. Dance around. Poke fun of yourself. And most importantly SHAKE IT OFF!

21) The Doobie Brothers – Long Train Runnin’

doobie train

Without love, Where would you be now?

The Doobie Brothers always remind me of the holidays. I know. It’s weird. I saw them summer of 2001 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at Summerfest. I went up to spend the weekend with one of my best college gal pals and all her friends who are from the area.

It was great. I yelled at cyclists who weren’t wearing helmets. We saw great music. We drank a lot of underage beers. We smoked cigars. House parties. Sleeping in. It was what every summer late teenage weekend was, and maybe should be. Sounds like a great summer memory, right? How does it relate back to the holidays?

Peppermint. Lots of it.

Being that we were underage at Summerfest we would not be able to consume there. Unless you had a really good fake ID at the time. (Mine was not that great. Plus taking a chance off campus, in the real world, was bold.) I don’t remember who was the genius in the group, but someone had an empty Echinacea bottle. The Echinacea bottle was then filled with Peppermint Schnapps (I’m embarrassed even admitting that.) and snuck into Summerfest in a purse.

Looking back:

  1. It was far from enough to get anyone even buzzed.
  2. Peppermint Schapps – what were we thinking? But I guess at the time, and not being able to legally purchase anything, you made it work with what you had.
  3. This was genius. I would love to take credit for the idea, but it wasn’t mine. Resourceful. And that was before Googling things meant anything.
  4. I still can’t believe it didn’t leak. Maybe it did and I don’t remember. The reality of the task now seems to have a lot more issues than we thought through at that time.

But we danced to The Doobie Brothers that summer. Toasted them with Peppermint Schnapps. At the time, I thought these were the best days of my life, and in that moment they were. But they got so much easier once I actually turned 21.

20) NEEDTOBREATHE – The Heart

needtobreathe heart

First off, I’d like to start off by saying, this is the only song from NEEDTOBREATHE that I know. I’m not sure how I heard it, but it’s a knee slapping good time. It’s catchy, it’s fun. I dig it. It wasn’t until today that I found out they were Christian Rock. Hopefully, as a reader, you see this as an inclusive song, not a religious thing, as that is never my intention. But like I said, it’s knee slapping good and not preachy at all.

At a very early age I was exposed to the molotov cocktail that is politics, money, and power. Sometimes it explodes, sometimes it doesn’t, but it always leaves a mark. Every action is complex, complicated, and falls into a gray area of sorts, even if you are considered the “good” guy.

On December 20, 1989, the US military invaded Panama. My home country. The only home I’d ever known. My childhood. I’m not going to get into the politics of it, because, personally, I have a lot of mixed feelings about it, and I know I am unable to be objective. I am repeatedly trying to better understand my feelings on the situation. They’re layered, complicated, blocked from my memory for my own protection, and blurred by time. It’s a unique work in progress.

Even today, 28 years later. It makes me anxious. I don’t like talking about it. Christmas, 1989, I was 7. My brother was 4. My sister was 3 months. Santa was delayed and we didn’t celebrate until later. He left us a note. There were too many helicopters flying around our house so he couldn’t safely land. The reality was my parents had kept all the presents at their offices because we had just moved. It wasn’t safe to leave the house. So Santa was fashionably late. (Fashionably late as an adult – cool. As a child – if side eye had existed, he would have gotten it.)

There were other traumas that holiday season, and in the years leading up to that Christmas, but I like this story the best. It’s the happiest in a most unhappy time. My parents kept us all together, and were fiercely protective and creative about the situation. We all did the best we could (and I think we’re all better, and more complicated, people because of it). Of course with all the helicopters Santa couldn’t make it. His reindeer might get hurt! It was SO obvious!

When you experience something like this there’s a weird invisible thread that ties you, your family, and your community together. Even as you try to hide it away, it still lives within you. It is a shared experience that is difficult to explain and difficult to understand, especially as a child. Only the people who lived it, who experienced it, understand the part of you that lives safely tucked away.

But it wasn’t all war, and fear, and the sky lit up with mortars, and tanks rolling up and down your street. It was also freedom of speech and close families and rebuilding to be a better, safer place. It was genuine hope. It was 100% the worst of times, but it also had some really great times in there too.

I am not resentful or angry that I lived this. In all honesty, I’m a little proud. I’m amazed at the growth of my home in the last 28 years. There are still problems, like in all developing nations, but I’m constantly in awe of our progress (and our traffic).

Noriega was the man who taught me about real hate. It is why dictators round out my top three things I’m most terrified of. I created the mixtape for flow and sound, with no regard to the specific days. Maybe this was supposed to be the song for the 20th of December all along. The irony is not lost on me that it could be considered “Good” (in the Christian sense) versus evil.

‘Ain’t no gift like the present tense. Ain’t no love like an old romance. Gots’ta make hay when the sun is shining. Can’t waste time when it comes time to dance.’

19) Weezer – Island In The Sun

weezer island

I don’t do that well with cold weather. I think Weezer’s ‘Island In The Sun’ is the perfect solution to chilly temps as part of the holiday mixtape.

Hip! Hip!

It’s a fun, catchy, warm song. Perfect for an island getaway. Or an island getaway you’re using your imagination to go on.

Of course we’ll never feel bad anymore. We’re getting all the Vitamin D. We’re warm. There’s probably great seafood. Only downside is if you forgot the sunscreen.

Hip! Hip!

Picture your beach vacation. Picture your best friend getting Jamaican braids like Monica on ‘Friends’ (seriously, all I want in life is for one of my friends to get those braids and swing them around). Instant positive outlook. Instant good vibes. We’re in the final stretch people, we can do this!

Hip! Hip!

18) George Michael – Freedom! ’90

george michael freedom

George Michael played a prominent role in our family Christmas last year. The singer, who I love from Wham!, passed away last Christmas and we celebrated him.

We had an impromptu George Michael jam session in his honor. We toasted him with champagne. Everybody in the family played a different shaker. As a result, he has earned his spot in the holiday mixtape. It’s the feeling of nostalgia, memories, and mourning. A moment that existed purely based on timing. Had we not lost him, it would not have occurred.

I like Freedom! 90 for three reasons:

  1. He uses the original super models in it. Those ladies were “fashion” in the 90’s.
  2. Well it looks like the road to heaven, but it feels like the road to hell. When I knew which side my bread was buttered, I took the knife as well. Posing for another picture, everybody’s got to sell. But when you shake your ass, they notice fast, and some mistakes were built to last.  
  3. George Michael is basically blowing up his past successes. (The Faith jacket, the guitars) Ballsy. Brutal. Just sit back and watch it burn. (Burn into a new, exciting, different pile of money.) Sometimes the clothes do not make the man. 

George, you’re missed. Thanks for giving us a reason to party like it’s 1990.

Now I’m gonna get myself happy.

 

17) Madonna – Holiday

madonna holiday

Madonna. She has done amazing work, she has done crazy work, and in my eyes she will always been THE Queen of Pop. I’m pretty sure I was dancing around our family apartment singing ‘Like A Virgin’ before I even knew what a virgin was. I also JUST spent an hour re-living my childhood on YouTube.

Madonna has spent a lot of holidays with me. Her music just suits celebrations.

There was one Christmas in particular, I was 16 or 17 years old, and we had just moved to the US. We were experiencing our first real winter, and it was cold, and miserable. We had had Christmas eve dinner and were trying to find our way, as a family, into new traditions, since everything had changed.

Being a moody teenager, I was going to stay up late. Santa was still up wrapping presents in the basement, so I was going to be up too. I turned on VH1. In the late 90’s you could count on VH1 to give you amazing Pop-Up Video marathons and in depth Behind The Music exposés. That night, Christmas Eve, they had Madonna’s Truth or Dare documentary on from the early 90’s.

I definitely know my younger siblings would NOT have been allowed to watch this. I’m pretty sure, I probably wasn’t allowed to watch it either. Lucky for me, my parents were helping Santa and I was sneaky. This was before TiVo or DVR, so you sat through the commercials and it seemed really long, but I was committed. It was controversial. It made me uncomfortable and I was ok with it. It was in black and white. It was art. It was risky and risqué.

The more I watched, I realized that besides making awesome dance tunes, Madonna had some issues. Some might say, she was either a marketing genius or was really profiting from showing her ride on the Hot Mess Express. BUT, no matter what, she was a total badass. Even today, the world is still in need of more female badasses.

The thing that stuck out most to me from Truth or Dare was towards the end. Spoiler alert: They’re playing Truth or Dare and Madonna is asked who has been the love of your life? And she says, ‘My whole life? Sean. Sean’ and for some reason that hit me at the core. They were divorced, it had been volatile, and he was still the love of her life. I’ve always been a little skeptical about love. (Ok, I’m skeptical about everything.) But at that age, and at that time in my life, I was starting to realize that it was all way more complicated than I ever expected.

To this day, I still carry Madonna’s double Sean with me. It perplexes me, but also makes me happy. It’s raw emotion. I think this is where my love for movies that don’t have happy endings comes from. It’s sad, it’s a bummer, but it’s ok. It’s bittersweet. It’s totally real life. Everything keeps pushing forward. And just like that, thanks to a highly inappropriate movie I should probably not have been watching, the fairy tale bubble burst.

You can turn this world around, and bring back all of those happy days. Put your troubles down. It’s time to celebrate! 

Much like the Spice Girls, this is not my first use of Madonna in a holiday card. So I give you my Christmas card, circa 2007 (approx.). It’s a four fold out card. Paper hand scored for the folds. The cover is the religious Madonna and Child, followed by Madonna and her children.

holiday madonna 2007

 

16) Spice Girls – Spice Up Your Life

spice up your life

I consider the Spice Girls to be holiday music. You may not agree with me, but anything with SPICE in the title, in my opinion, falls into the holiday category. I made an awesome mixtape a couple years ago for my sister at Halloween. It was called ‘Pumpkin Spice Girls’ and included the finest Halloween songs (‘Monster Mash’, ‘Black Magic Woman’, ‘Abracadabra’, ‘I Put A Spell On You’) mixed in with Spice Girls hit (and not so hit) songs.

My correlation with the holidays and Spice Girls started even BEFORE Pumpkin Spice was a thing. Let’s take the way back machine all the way to 1996. That year I made a Christmas card for my family where I used our brand new scanner (which was a coveted piece of technology at the time) and put all our faces on each one of the Spice Girls. Five of them, five of us. And I set the background of the family Spice Girls to a close up picture of all the hermit crabs my sister had collected at the beach in sepia. (I wish I still had that to share. It was pretty amazing. I was a creative kid.) I don’t remember clearly, but I’m pretty sure my dad’s face was on Scary Spice. What can I say, I thought he’d look good in cheetah print.

Enjoy your non-traditional holiday music with this one. Create your own traditions and find your own “holiday” music and remember ‘All you need is positivity…Spice Up Your Life!’