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Music, My Old Friend, and a Few Favorite Albums

January 4, 2017

Music is not something that I’ve written a lot about on this blog. Although it’s always ever-present in my life. Perhaps because various songs always accompany me on the road, at my desk or in movies, they are so integrated into daily life that I rarely give it a second thought. But so many singers, songwriters and songs have impacted my life in deep ways.

I have a bit of an eclectic taste in music — country artists, alternative, acoustic, and a real weakness for 1970s singer-songwriters and bands. I’ve discovered some great music over the last few years. If you’re curious, here’s a sampling of what I’m currently listening to on Spotify.

Mary Chapin Carpenter remains my favorite. I’ve grown from 18- to 41-years-old with her words and music a constant by my side. Her 15 CDs sit on my bookshelf. (Yes, I still own CDs — an entire tower of them.)

Lyle Lovett, Dawes, Jason Isbell, The Head and the Heart, and Jackson Browne made a very long drive from El Paso to Dallas, Texas go by in the blink of an eye this past summer. And Harry Chapin’s songs are the anthem of my dad and family road trips when I was a kid. These are just a few of the many musicians who have made an imprint on my life.


I know of no bigger music fan than my brother-in-law, Steve, whose house is lined with vinyl albums and CDs, and he writes thoughtful posts about music on his blog, Parallax Moves. He and my sister, Sari, are always adding to their top albums list, going from the top ten to now 250!

For Steve’s birthday last year, I put together a list of my top six albums, along with some thoughts about why I made the choices I did. I’m already working on my next set of favorites since Steve’s birthday is next month. It’s hard to narrow your favorite albums and songs down to five, ten or even 20. I don’t know how Sari and Steve selected 250.

I also started wondering if “young people” today are even familiar with the concept of an album. So much music is released digitally now, and you can buy or listen to individual songs. Is “album” an outdated term? I’ll leave that to Steve — and you — to answer.

Without further ado, here are my top six favorite albums. Stay tuned for more!

Hell Freezes Over, The Eagles
I fell in love with The Eagles when I heard this album as a sophomore in college. This collection is one of my most frequently played CDs, and it includes all so many classic songs (granted not “Lyin’ Eyes”). Many music aficionados would argue it’s a cop-out to include a “greatest hits” type of album to a favorites collection. But I would argue Hell Freezes Over is a live album that marked the reuniting of The Eagles, and it also includes individual songs that were not recorded as Eagles songs otherwise (e.g. Don Henley’s “New York Minute”).

The Joshua Tree, U2
This was a tough call since it was either The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby (and my first concert was U2’s Achtung Baby tour in 1991). But when I look at the songs I still love today, it’s always “With or Without You,” “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Where the Streets Have No Names,” and “In God’s Country.” The songs are timeless and showcase how only musicians can create such powerful music and songs.

Greatest Stories Live, Harry Chapin
Greatest Stories Live is a symbol of my childhood and long road trips driving to and from Lake Tahoe. But what puts it on my “top albums” list is how the album and Chapin’s songs are timeliness. When I heard the songs as a kid, they were dad’s favorites songs. At the time, I could recognize the poetry in the songs. But as an adult, the songs have different meaning as they speak about a life lived, regret and reflecting back on the past (e.g. “Dreams Go By,” “Mr. Tanner,” “Taxi,” “Circle,” “Cat’s in the Cradle”). So now as I listen, I understand why dad loved them so much.

Stones in the Road, Mary Chapin Carpenter
Since Mary Chapin Carpenter is my favorite musician, it was really hard to select a top album. I wanted to include Come On, Come On since that album really made her a well-known name and how I was introduced to her. And of course, the songs are always compelling. And now after listening to her latest album, The Things We are Made Of, I feel that’s now one of her best works. But Stones in the Road (the follow-up to Come On, Come On ) spoke to me immediately and continues to as I listen to it today. The songs really showcase Carpenter’s talent, diversity and lay the foundation of her future songwriting.

Sweet Baby James, James Taylor
This album was a no-brainer to chose since it’s the record that brings us “Fire and Rain,” which is one of my favorite songs. Sweet Baby James also contains some of Taylor’s best songs: “Country Road,” “Blossom,” and of course, “Sweet Baby James.” Taylor himself is often cited as one of the first to included in the singer-songwriter movement that began in the early 1970s. I think this album is emblematic of that depiction of Taylor and his music.

American Idiot, Green Day
I’m not a big fan of the punk genre. However, I’ve always enjoyed the groundbreaking music of Green Day, with “Good Riddance” being in one of my top ten favorite songs. Perhaps it was seeing them perform at Lallapalooza in 1994 at Aztec Bowl when they were still fairly unknown. I think American Idiot is a work of art on its own. Every song Billie Joe Armstrong wrote for American Idiot is part of the overall album’s story of Jesus of Suburbia and the disillusionment of my Generation X.

What are your top albums? What musicians do you always listen to? Do we share any commonalities? Do you have recommendations for me?







Looking Back at 2016

December 30, 2016

When I reflected at the end of 2015, I wrote that the year was defined by new, adventure and non-stop. When I think of 2016, one word comes to mind: change.

Change defined this year for us in a big way — moving from San Diego to Indiana. It was scary and exciting, but has been a wonderful thing too. Of course I miss my friends and family in San Diego, and some of the adventures we were able to have there. But we’re really loving our life in the Midwest — making new friends, enjoying the change of seasons, exploring Indiana, the cool fall weather and our first snow. Change has been good and we’ve rediscovered a sense of wonder and newness that I didn’t realize was missing before.

I wrote recently about my blog turning seven years old. I love that I’ve been making these year-end photo collages for the past seven years as well. They give me a chance to reflect on all the memories during the year and seeing how much joy and love exists. Of course there are always challenging, depressing and tough times (2016 certainly had its share). But what keeps me sane is trying to focus on the positive and reflecting on the happy times.      Thank you for reading Leah’s Thoughts and being a part in my journey. Happy New Year, and here’s to a great 2017!

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Seven Years of Telling My Story. Seven Years of Leah’s Thoughts.

December 21, 2016

Seven years ago today — on December 21, 2009 — I published my first blog post and Leah’s Thoughts was born. Many call this day the blog-o-versary. I like to think of it as the day I began writing my own story.

In many ways, I’ve devoted my life to telling stories. When I was in elementary school, I wrote creative stories. In the third grade, my teacher said I wrote the best three-page story about a girl who didn’t like Christmas. In middle school, I wrote and published my own newsletter that I sent to pen pals and people across the country.

In high school, I discovered journalism and knew I was meant to writer stories professionally. I joined the school newspaper and loved every minute I spent in that class from my sophomore to senior year.

I was a journalism major at San Diego State University, and found myself writing for The Daily Aztec newspaper. And when I graduated, I started work at a publicity assistant at KPBS where I worked helped tell stories for the San Diego public TV/radio station. From there I went on and did several other jobs, all having a writing component attached to them — whether it was writing about San Diego State in hopes of recruiting prospective students or ghostwriting speeches for the university presidents. Writing never left my blood.

But in late 2009, something changed. I started to realize there was a story I was not telling — my own. I’ve been writing for others for so long, I wanted to share my own experiences as a mother to a 2-year-old daughter, not knowing what the heck I was doing as a parent.

So I started writing. I wrote about how I hated to sunscreen Sophie to go to the park (that feeling has since passed). I wrote about my love of bookstores, my decision to only have one child, all of Sophie’s first days of school, and my struggles with motherhood.

I wrote about the loss of my beloved dog and cat, leaving my secure full-time, state job to start my own freelance writing business and be my own boss, moving my life across the country, and so much more.

In the past seven years, I’ve published 524 blog posts. So many stories, feelings, rants, thoughts, recipes, book reviews … I chronicled it all here on my blog.

The world of blogging has changed considerably since I started this site seven years ago (my commentary on that subject is a post I’m saving for another day). So many bloggers talk about getting their pageviews and readers to the “perfect” number, or playing chicken with social media followers to get the attention of brands and PR reps. Many want to get paid for sponsored content. And I’ve read bloggers who go on-again-off-again with wanting to quit blogging (to which I always think, “I want to quit the gym!”).

Writing my blog has always been — and will always be — about telling my story. I have never cared about pageviews and statistics. I care about the words and stories I tell, and that they are honest, real truth.

I don’t write what society wants to read. I write for myself to have a chronicle of where life has taken me. And I’m still humbled and grateful to the people who read my words. I may not write as much as I used to, but as long as I have words to write and things to say, I’ll keep writing them here on my blog.

I know some of you have been reading here since the beginning. And to those of you, thank you! And to new readers and people who have joined me along the way, I am thankful you stop by from time to time.

Here’s to the past seven years … and to the future, whatever stories are told.

Monday Musings ~ December 12

December 12, 2016

Happy Monday! How are you this second Monday in December? It snowed in Terre Haute last week. Not a huge amount like other parts of the country is getting, but enough to cover the ground and to see snowflakes. It was pretty exciting considering we’ve never lived in snow before. Everything looks so pretty right now — very wintery and festive. The Sycamore Farm barn below is down the street from our house. I love seeing how beautiful it looks each day.


1. How do you all handle listening to music when you’re on-the-go? Here’s my problem: I have music that I’ve purchased that are either on CDs or living in my iTunes music library. I did have a ton of that music downloaded to my iPhone, but it was taking up too much space. So I bought an iPod Shuffle for myself to transfer some of that music.

I also have songs saved to playlists on Spotify that I listen to when driving, running and walking. That’s only available via an Internet connection, so you must use data. I upgraded to Premium to download the songs, but turns out they can’t be downloaded to an iPod Shuffle. But I can play them offline on my iPhone (from the app); however I have to — wait for it — download them first. So I’m back to square one with music taking up room on my phone. I beginning to think it was easier when we all paid for music and made mix tapes.

2. Speaking of music, American Songwriter released its list of the top 50 albums of 2016. I’m not quite as up to speed on music as I once was and am not familiar with most of these picks. But I was glad to see one of my favorite bands, Dawes, make the list. I’m excited to see them in Indianapolis next year!

3. If you’re a book lover like I am, you’ll enjoy this article in which 25 authors talk about the best books they’ve ever received. I love that Charlotte’s Web made the list. It’s still one that inspires me most. And speaking of books, The New York Times picks the best book covers of 2016. Do you agree?

4. I found this article fascinating about why people never smiled in old photographs. Interestingly, when I got my Indiana driver’s license earlier this year, they directly me NOT to smile for the photograph. Apparently showing teeth distorts the facial recognition feature that is now used with identification cards. I wasn’t prepared for that, so let’s just say my photo makes me look like I’m posing in the 1800s rather than today.

5. Here’s some humor to end this post. The other day, I was doing some online research to write an article about amazing kids who are doing great things. I come across an article entitled “19 Kids Who Will Grow Up to Change the World.” I click on it thinking I may get some fodder for my article. It was NOT what I expected, but holy cow, was it hilarious. I laughed so hard I cried.

What’s going on in your life? What are you thinking about on this December Monday?



Forming Friendships and Baking Cookies

December 6, 2016


Making new friends is never an easy task. At least it’s never been for me.

I’m not talking about building relationships and getting to know others. I’m talking about finding people who truly “get” me, and whom I can really trust.

For most of my life, I’ve played my cards close to my chest. It takes time for me to get to know people and understand what makes them tick. Part of this is my introvert nature. But part of it is also my personality and tendency to “go it alone,” or navigate what life hands me by myself. It’s easy for me to be alone. It’s harder work to be outgoing and open myself up to deeper relationships with people.

Last week, I received a text from Heather, a friend I met just briefly at one of the first Terre Haute community events we attended (just two weeks after moving to town). After that initial meeting, Heather and I started following each other on Instagram and later Facebook, and I found we had a lot in common. In her text last week, she wrote, “Are you free Saturday night, can you bake 100 cookies and do you want to meet some fun women?”

I was touched at Heather’s thoughtfulness and was excited at the prospect of hanging out with her and other nice people. Throw that in with my love for all-things holiday baking and cookie exchanges, and I was in!

So I took to the kitchen and baked 100 white chocolate, cherry and macadamia nut chunk cookies. And off we went to her friend’s holiday party where — as she promised — I  met some very nice people, enjoyed great conversation, and walked away with a tray full of delicious cookies!

Making new friends is an intimidating process for me, especially at 41-years-old, in a new town, and so many close friendships have already been formed. That was one of the hardest parts of moving from San Diego — leaving my wonderful tribe of friends I worked long and hard to build.

But I’m starting to find people here in Terre Haute that I have more in common with than not, and so many of them have been extremely welcoming to me. Sometimes it takes something as small as cookies to be the lead in to spending time with a new friend. And for that, this introvert heart is grateful.

If you’re now in the mood for cookies or want to bake something to show a friend some appreciation, here’s my full list of holiday cookies for your baking enjoyment.








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