Monthly Archives: September 2012

From the Rose Bowl to the Hollywood Bowl

I just met the man of my dreams!

Kidding.  I actually went on a run.

I’ve been running the loop around the Rose Bowl and Brookside Golf Course for several years now.  I’m not a huge fan of treadmills, simply for the fact that I don’t have anything to distract me from checking every five seconds how long and far I’ve been running.  Since I just want the ordeal to be over, running outside makes more sense to me.  It also makes me run faster, longer and harder.  Bonus points: a stunning view of the San Gabriel mountains, interesting characters along the route, and you can always count on a fresh, California breeze, no matter how slight.

This evening, I parked my car in the same spot that I have for years, walked towards the faintly-scribbled, chalk START line, and began a slow trot.  As I quickened my pace in the still-too-warm evening air, my mind raced ahead of me.  I thought about the amazing week I just had. My day job has been extremely busy, yet exciting and fun. This morning, I got paid to play the piano and belt out worship tunes at church with some impressive musicians. It’s not overly glamorous, but it’s completely rewarding, and I’m getting more confident in using my piano skills as an actual, decent (and employable) talent.

Last weekend, I performed at the Hollywood Bowl with Brian Setzer. We played three nights of sizzling swing and riotous rockabilly music, backed by the luscious Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.  There were ninety-six musicians on stage, plus adorable swing dancers and dramatic, scorching fireworks.

Thanks, Jess, for the pic. #fireworksformyfriend

Of course there was Brian: a legend; a man who will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best guitarists in the world. He is a true Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

Brian is backed by two beautiful, energetic singers.

One of them is me.

My boss is better than yours!

The performances were epic.  I will forever cherish being on that stage, in front of at least 12,000 people each night – singing my heart out.  Most of all, I owned it.  This might sound haughty, but I deserved to be up there, and loved every minute of it.  I will never forget the exuberance and joy that was emitted from my very being.  It comes out in many different forms, but I feel it is most pure when I am singing.  My soul soars.

Performing at the Hollywood Bowl was a dream come true!


A smile widened across my face as I rounded the first corner of my route. One mile down. Suddenly, I had a memory of a September day in 2009, running the very same loop.  The recollection was quite the antithesis of the warm, grateful and happy thoughts I was entertaining at present.

The memory was this: I had just discovered X searching for jobs in the Ukraine, even after he had promised me that he would end his (first) affair.  All hope that my marriage could survive the near-fatal blow, crumbled.  I didn’t know what else to do, but flee.

I ended up at the Rose Bowl, ready to run.

I stuffed my earbuds in as tightly as I could, cranked up the music, and started off.  I was attempting to exercise my feelings of anxiety, depression, desperation and fear, to music.

I wanted loud, pulsating, strong beats, to remind me that my heart was physically working.  I was alive, even though I felt at any moment, I might collapse and die of a broken heart.

The first song helped the endorphins kick in, so I put it on repeat. I picked up my pace, found a comfortable stride, and settled in for the first mile. As I rounded the corner, I carefully listened to the lyrics.

You used to light up the dark
with your unrelenting spark
It always put a fire in me

You used to say I’m the one —
the only ray of sun you could touch
without a fear of burning

What are you telling her now?
While you hold her in your arms,
are you pretending she’s me?

And just how long will you go on
before you realize you know she’s
‘The One” but you’re gonna lose her anyway?

Well, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over
and my world shuts down.
But this comes close, I’ll have you know
It’s just a matter of time

But it ain’t over ‘til it’s over!
But I won’t be made a fool

‘Cause leaving me the way you did was just so

I found myself mouthing, singing, then shouting the words, “unforgivable”, over and over and over and over.  Immediate, uncontrollable tears streamed down my face.  Passers-by stared at me in horror.

I was dying right in front of them, and didn’t give a shit. Nobody would have been able to help me, anyway.

My husband loves another woman. He discarded me so quickly. There’s even a cheesy techno song that accompanies this story.

This is happening.  It’s happening to ME.

Unforgivable. Unforgivable.  She’s the one.  She’s the one. He wants her. Not me. 

I ran and shook; I ran and flailed my arms; I ran and sobbed; I ran and screamed.  I threw my head back, opened up my mouth as wide as I could, and allowed blood-curdling cries of deep anguish to escape my body.

The pain was so overwhelming. I couldn’t hold it inside anymore.

I kept running.  Harder.  Faster.

Eventually I pressed “Shuffle”, and a new song came on: “I Won’t Stand in Your Way”, by the Stray Cats.

I got a low, down, dirty feeling
That I’ve been cheated on, and lied to
If it’s so, then it’s wrong, we’ve hung on for so long
Why don’t we have that magic anymore?

I got a strange, sneaking suspicion
That it’s been going on for some time now.
Something shines in your eyes;
something stirs deep inside.
I won’t stand in your way anymore

You said that I’m just a little boy
Who’s easily led astray
Well, aren’t you the same little girl?

I got a strange, sneaking suspicion
That it’s been going on for some time now.
Something shines in your eyes;
something stirs deep inside

I won’t stand in your way anymore.

I won’t stand in your way
I won’t stand in your way.
I won’t stand in your way anymore.

I couldn’t listen to much of my boss’ song that September day, 2009.  It was almost too much to bear. I don’t remember how I calmed down, but it happened, eventually. I stopped screaming and allowed the sweet, California breeze to dry my tears. I finished running, stretched my legs, and went home.

Three years later, I would stand in the wings while Brian Setzer serenaded me (and an extremely large audience) with “I Won’t Stand in Your Way”. I sneaked a crude video as the spotlight framed him and his shining instrument.  Brian slowly strummed the guitar and began his song as a simple ballad.

And then, it turned into a vastly different experience than when the song was first performed, so many years ago. Brian’s crooning voice soared through the monitors and out into the crowd.  As the orchestra swelled, so did my heart. Tears sprang into my eyes.

This song – one that was once too painful; too raw; too close to my experience; too piercing to my soul – became one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.

I had a flickering moment of grief —  but it wasn’t the kind of running, sobbing, screaming, out-of-control grief that was so commonplace three years ago. The dull pang of familiar pain was recognized, but quickly replaced by the intense beauty of the life that surrounded it; life that keeps moving forward.

Life that is accompanied by a swelling orchestra and spectacular fireworks.

That, my friends, is evidence of healing.

A Shooting Star

It’s amazing what can happen in a year.

A year ago, I started writing The Christian Girl’s Guide to Divorce. I had no goal in mind. For whatever reason, I wanted to tell my story, so I opened up. I didn’t think anyone would actually read it, or even really care. To me, divorce is ugly, yet so common, it’s actually uninteresting. Still, I was vulnerable. I portrayed myself as nothing other than real. Oh, and I exercised my potty mouth. A lot.

One year later, I have (almost) become a published author. In addition, I’ve finally accepted my talent as a writer. Mind you, I have always written, but it was in secret. For years, I wrote stories and hid them. I threw most of them away. I felt silly, writing things I knew nothing about.

Sometimes I still feel that way. Yet I am compelled to write.

Recently, I made a grandiose public announcement about going to the mountains and divorcing myself from society for four days to finish my book.  You see, after I signed the contract with Burnside (who, by the way, I am even more in love with because of this very blog post by my publisher, Jordan Green), I felt it necessary to stop blogging the story of my divorce.

I had to save it for the book.

And so, I made an abrupt transition from writing about the past (upon which I have perspective) to the immediate present, and it has become even more — say, poignant?  Messy? Vulnerable?  Powerful? — than even I can handle. Every post feels like a disaster, yet somehow I know it isn’t.

There is more to the story of my divorce. I’m just interested in living and processing today. I have moved on. I fell in love again, and ultimately lost that love, but I’m still standing. I feel stupidly hopeful. As I’ve continued to grow, I simply haven’t felt like writing about X. The details don’t matter much anymore, even if they are shocking and can capture an audience.

This is a problem, though, because books have to have endings. Admittedly, I feel paralyzed, and I’m not exactly sure why.

Perhaps it’s simply because I’ve placed so much pressure on myself to be good; relevant. I know I have a following (this still baffles and excites me!), and I have to deliver. Yet, suddenly, I feel like a horrible writer. Perhaps it’s just that there is an end in sight, and I may wind up being a one-hit wonder. Sometimes, I am afraid I’ll never get asked on a date again if I’ve penned a book on divorce. I’ve imagined the criticism I will face, especially from the Christian community. I’ve already endured a little bit of difficulty in personal relationships.

I hate to break it to you, people, but if you’re in my life, I’m probably going to end up writing about you. My birthday party last week was hilarious in that most guests ended up meeting one another and exclaiming, “OH!!! You’re so-and so?!  I feel like I know you! I’ve read about you in Leslie’s blog!”

I stood back and marveled at the amazing creatures in my life that took the time to celebrate me. And the conclusion I came to is this: if I write about you, it means I love you.


Back to finishing the book.

Once in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I was overwhelmed with the fresh, clean air; the blue sky, warm breeze, cool lake and familiarity of it all.  My best friend Joy and I have been trekking to Hume Lake every summer since we were children. Her parents own an enormous family-sized cabin that is nestled on a hill, in between the most fragrant pine trees. As kids, we spent countless weekends swimming, jumping off the rock and paddling boats in the lake; riding four wheelers to the point of complete filth and exhaustion; hoping the two cute brothers that stayed a few cabins down would want to ride/hang out with us, and strengthening our bond of friendship, which, to this day, is the most loving, loyal and stable relationship of my life.

Hume Lake

The summer after I graduated high school, I worked at Hume — in the Snack Shop.  It was a horribly crappy job with long hours — definitely not as cool as being a lifeguard — but the people with whom I worked made it worthwhile. Almost every evening, while all other staff members had to observe the 11:00 p.m. curfew, we were closing up. Afterwards, we’d sneak out around the lake, lay on our backs and gaze up at the brilliant stars.

I have never seen more shooting stars in my life.

I was 17 years old. My whole life was ahead of me. Little did I know, I’d leave that summer job early to attend my orientation at U.C. Davis, only to decide that I hated it with a passion and didn’t want to go.  Less than a month later, I found myself registering for classes on campus at Biola University: a last-minute, spontaneous decision that greatly impacted my life. Four years later, I was married.

In 2007, Joy and I began an annual tradition of returning to the cabin at Hume together.  We returned again in 2008, but 2009-2011 were too difficult to take the time away. Joy got married, and I got divorced.

Finally: August, 2012 lent the opportunity.

We swam, jumped off the rock and paddled a canoe across the lake.  We rode the very same four-wheeler, which is now a bit rickety, but relaxed in the hot tub afterwards.  We interacted with wildlife, talked for hours and watched every Jane Austen movie imaginable.  I kept intending to turn on my computer and finish the last few chapters left in my story, but I ended up devouring two books, instead.

I just couldn’t bring myself to write.

One evening, Joy went to bed before me, and I decided to sneak out. I didn’t go far, but it was the first time since 17 years old that I had the opportunity to lay on my back again, and gaze up at the pitch-black sky, which was speckled with dazzling, brilliant light.

Oh, God, I whispered in my soul. This is amazing.  

I breathed in the pungent, sweet air, and heard branches crack below the deck.  The raccoons were out, eating the leftover peanuts, gluten-free pancakes and rotten nectarines we had thrown over earlier in the day.

I kept gazing up at the night sky.

God, would You show me a shooting star?  All I need is one. Prove to me that You are here.  I dare You. Just one.

I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again, expecting a majestic display of solar fireworks, all because I had asked.


A satellite cruised across the sky, followed a few minutes later by a noisy jet.

Still, no shooting star.

The raccoons finished their snack and waddled off into the darkness.

Come on, God, please? Remember all those shooting stars You showed me years ago? Maybe I didn’t appreciate them as much as I would now. All I’m asking for is one. I know You can do that. No pressure, though. Only if You want to. I’ll just be down here, waiting. Well, until the bears come out. So…PLEASE?!

I started to realize how ridiculous I sounded.  Me, a broken human being, demanding that God give me something just because I wanted it so very badly in that moment. The truth is, I didn’t need to see a shooting star to know God exists. I had the vast array of the heavens twinkling before me.  I just wanted one for the sake of nostalgia; to say I saw a shooting star. Maybe even more so as a symbol that God hears me, loves me, and is willing to indulge me.

I started laughing, and then, to my surprise, tears of thankfulness rolled down my cheeks as the realization (part deux times twelve hundred) hit me:

I’m exactly where You want me to be. I’ll finish this book with Your help. Right now, I just need to enjoy this time with You.

I smiled, and let the remaining tears slide down the sides of my face, then onto the redwood deck. In the distance, I heard another  branch crack, and decided it was time to go to bed.

I stood up and brushed myself off. As I headed back inside, I briefly craned my neck, one last time.

There it was.

It didn’t even last a second. It wasn’t the most brilliant or memorable shooting star I have ever seen, but I’m quite certain I’m the only person in the world to have seen it.

It was for me.