The official definition of happiness is: the quality or state of being happy. ~ good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.
Although, many things bring me an abundance of happiness, this post will focus on two things specifically and how blending them together has brought me, not only happiness, but unexpected, yet perfectly timed friendships. One is my husband and the other is Eric Church. Now, before you roll your eyes and blow out a puff of exasperated breath, I want you to understand, the Eric Church thing for me is more about a community and an appreciation for music. His music has brought me much healing over the past two years and I am certain that I will be turning to it regularly in the months ahead. I hope by the time you are done reading the post, it all makes more sense and you come to understand that my obsession with this particular artist dives deeper than the shallows of a young star gazing groupie.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, Jim and I have had our fair share of heartache over the last couple of years.
Here is some of what we have endured over the past two years:
- October 7, 2018 – Our sweet Boston Terrier, Mildred passed
- January 5, 2019 – We lost a friend
- February 28, 2019 – My dad passed
- March 2019 – Jim, Jacob and I all had a terrible and fairly long lasting virus (if Covid had been around then, I would have sworn this is what it was).
- September 11, 2019 – Rotator Cuff Surgery – Right Shoulder
- September 25, 2019 – My mother-in-law passed
- February 1, 2020 – I received my 23andme results stating I was BRCA1 Positive
- February 5, 2020 – My Grandfather passed
- March 15, 2020 – Covid Hit and lockdowns began
- April 2020 – I began a 7 week bout of intense bronchitis
- August 27, 2020 – Our beloved Boston Terrier, Madison passed
So, if my adding is correct, in a span of 1 year, 10 months and 20 days, we lost my father, grandfather, mother-in-law, a friend and 2 dogs. I also had Rotator Cuff Surgery, found out about a life altering genetic mutation, battled 2 bouts of intense bronchitis and like the rest of the world, we started and continue living life amongst a pandemic. Oh, and have I mentioned, that due to the pandemic, a new job opportunity has been placed on hold, so we now have our 24-year-old unemployed son and his dog living back home.
Yet, through all the bad, Jim and I try to find positive light and celebrations happen over things like a sunny day on the river, a weekend spent with friends or a week without a major crisis. Throughout this blogging experience, you will often hear me praise my “tribe”. Without this group of individuals having my back and supporting me through the sad days of the past and the inevitable rough days that lie ahead, I don’t think I would be the person I am or strive to be. However, the person most deserving of my admiration is often the person who receives it the least. In my eyes, he is and will forever be my “Chief”. He is the rock in my life, and I can say without hesitation that I for sure would not be the woman I am today without his support, guidance, love or humor. My grandfather once said he didn’t know how I got so lucky and it is a question I often ask myself. I am not sure how it happened, but I try to be cognizant of my good fortune and although some days I fail, I try not to take him or the marriage we have created for granted.
At this point, I am going to return to dates, because this is where the weaving of the “Chiefs” begins.
- Sidenote1: For those of you, unfamiliar with Eric Church as an artist, he is often referred to as “Chief” by his fans. It is a nickname that his Grandfather went by (as his Grandfather was a Police Chief in North Carolina), and a name that Eric inherited.
- Sidenote2: My own Grandfather used to call people “Chief.” I always loved it when he addressed someone by that nickname and if I were to ever adopt a male dog, this will be my number one name choice. 😊
As you now know, the combination of the last quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 was rough for us. Jim and I had gone to our hometown of New Castle, PA for the weekend and planned to share it with family. However, at about 5:00pm on Friday April 19th, I won a pair of tickets for a Saturday night concert in Cleveland. Long story short…..a fellow fan was unable to attend Saturday night’s concert and was gifting the tickets to the first fan that knew Eric’s birthday. In my defense, the reason I knew his birthday so quickly was because we had tickets for May 3 & 4 in Pittsburgh and members of the Fan Club were arranging a surprise for him on the 3rd, which is his birthday. Anyway, I didn’t mention anything about the tickets until I secured the win and after responding with a quick “you have a problem”, Jim jumped on board and we were on the road to Cleveland early Saturday morning.
It did not dawn on me until after we were on our way that this was the first time in years that Jim and I had done something like this by ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, we love spending time with our friends and often travel in a pack, but for this one nighter, it was simply him and I. I didn’t realize it in the moment, but looking back, this little impromptu trip was a beautiful start to a 7-month marriage enhancing adventure.
We made it to Cleveland late in the morning. After tossing my bags in the room, I wandered to the window to check out the view and giggled like a schoolgirl at what I saw. Lined up in perfect view were 7 Eric Church semis! We changed quickly and headed right back out the door. Jim, being his naturally good humored self, allowed me to connect with my inner roadie and followed as I practically skipped to the trucks. We took pictures at the semis, went to the “Pop-Up Store” and indulged in a couple local restaurant’s versions of cheekily named drinks in EC’s honor. The afternoon sped by and before we knew it, we were searching for our seats at the arena. Our gloriously free seats for the show were way up in the nose bleeds, but we didn’t care! As a performer, Eric and his band have a way of making you feel like you are close to the stage and connected, no matter where you are sitting in the venue. Three hours flew by! We sang every song at the top of our lungs and for the 1,000th time, I fell a little deeper in love with the man I get to call my husband.
Although, I have always liked Eric Church’s music, I did not become a huge fan until he released his album Mr. Misunderstood in 2015. If I hadn’t been raising a son when he first came onto the scene, I may have jump on the train sooner, but I believe whole heartedly that things happen at the exact moment they are meant to happen. Since 2015 though, Eric’s music plays on a regular basis in our home. His music hits home for me on many fronts and I love and admire they way he is growing as an artist and a human being through his music. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a lover or words. As a writer, Eric Church is a talented and unique author. I am not a fan of “simple songs” and he has a way of saying things that make me think, yet are totally relatable. Being able to blend the words with music and then deliver them in an emotionally explosive way to his fans leaves this lover of words and music in awe.
About two years ago, my friend pointed me to a Facebook Fan Page. It was here that I started to take note of the immense, intense and some may say insane group of fans. I can say without hesitation that I have never seen a group of fans like this group in my life. They are kind, compassionate and protective of EACH OTHER! After experiencing the awesomeness of the concert in Cleveland, I continued to read more stories on the Facebook page and became even more obsessed with Eric Church and his adoring followers!
Two weeks after the Cleveland concert, we packed our bags and headed to Pittsburgh for another two nights of concerts. Our seats for Friday night were on the floor and Saturday, they were about 6 rows up from one of the corners of the stage. On Friday night, as Eric made his way through the crowd, he started to head in our direction. I was certain he was going to come directly to me, my brother-in-law stepped out of the way and let me stand at the end of the aisle giving Eric ample room to find me. The closer he got, the faster and the harder my heart pounded. I could feel my pregnant sister’s force and knew that if he got close she was going to shove me politely into his path, but as I braced myself for a connection, he turned his head right, made eye contact with another fan and joyous recognition flashed on both of their faces. He veered to the right, leaving my dream in the dust and embraced the adoring admirer. Although, I was disappointed, I could see the pure bliss on the ladies face, I watched as she smiled and mouthed “I Love You” to the man that everyone was there to see. It all happened super fast and within a minute Eric was on his way back to the stage and the concert continued. Jim happened to be taking pictures of the entire ordeal. Once we returned to our room, I jumped on the Facebook group to share the photos and ask if anyone knew who the luck lady was. It took about 10 seconds for the members of the group to start to reply and within minutes, the pictures were shared with that fortuitus fan.
The next day, Jim and I went to the hotel bar that that was hosting a Pre-Party. After ordering our drinks, I looked up to see a lady seated at a nearby table. She was chatting with friends, but the more I looked her way, the more familiar she became. It took a few minutes for me to figure it out. Then it hit me….it was the woman from the pictures! Since I am not one to stay quiet, I walked over and introduced myself as the owner of the pictures. In an instant, it felt like I already knew her. She filled me in on her EC journey and connection with this group. Turns out, she has been a fan for years and had started a Facebook group of her own.
Saturday’s concert was concert #3 for the year and was just as good as the other 2. Once again, Jim and I had a blast. We laughed and drank and sang and filled another night with lasting memories. From day one in our relationship I have said that he has saved me from being a groupie. Without him, I have no doubt that I would have spent some of my life doing drugs, throwing panties at stages, and trying my best to weasel my way back stages and onto tour buses. Thankfully, this is not my past and I can say I have never done any of those things. However, I am grateful that he will stand by my side and allow me to get lost in the music and chaos that accompanies live performances.
It wasn’t long after Pittsburgh that Eric wrapped up the first leg of this tour. I didn’t have high hopes for the second leg. We had already been to 3 concerts this year and I was scheduled for surgery in September, but I jumped on to look at the dates anyway. It was then that I noticed the final concert was scheduled for November 23rd in Sacramento, CA. I then looked at a map. Hmmmmm….Sacramento isn’t too far from the San Francisco Bay area (my brother and his family live there), plus it’s close to Jim’s birthday AND Thanksgiving. Another little thing to know about me……I can squeeze 3 months worth of activities into 72 hours NO PROBLEM!!!! This all sounded like a perfect get away to me, I just needed to convince Jim that it was a good idea. Guess what! I think he is finally used to my insanity and didn’t really hesitate before saying “book it.” No need to tell me twice. Within minutes, tickets for concerts #4 and #5 in 2019 were booked!
From the time we booked the tickets until we got to Sacramento, the roller coaster ride continued. We had a good summer, but surgery and the death of my mother-in-law brought us some more painful moments in the fall. Thankfully, we had the concerts to look forward to and it gave me motivation to work on rehabbing my shoulder. We had tickets for great seats both nights, but as it got closer, my dream of being one of the lucky fans to occupy the space in the Pit (the area closest to the stage) grew. I watched on the Facebook groups and the EC app as fans spoke up about potential opportunities to swap or purchase tickets. The anticipation of the last two concerts was growing and these fans make being in the pit a desirable experience. The day before we were scheduled to leave, a lady posted that she was willing to sell her Pit tickets for Saturday however she had 4 tickets and preferred to sell them all and not 2 and 2. Uh-oh, I thought to myself. I’m not sure he is going to go for this madness, but knew that I was going to try to get them. I waited impatiently for him to complete a work phone call and hit him with it. After looking at me like I had completely lost my marbles, he said “do whatever you want, but know there is a risk here. We could lose money, and possibly have NO seats.” I shook my head and said, “I know,” but we both knew that no matter what the outcome was going to be, I was on a one-way street to lunacy. I messaged the lady and set the plan in action. She agreed to the sell, but it was tricky and could not be completed fully until Saturday morning. What fun is there without a little anxiety and uncertainty, right? I was now looking at being in possession of 6 tickets. I didn’t think it would be a challenge to sell the other 4 tickets, but figured, worst case would be we spent a lot more than we should have on our first pit experience. My mind immediately went to a post from a girl from one of the groups. She had worked some magic and was able to get friends of hers pit tickets, however, her own ticket had fallen through, and she was left empty handed. As I mentioned earlier, this group of fans is unbelievably caring and supportive. I wanted to honor their plight, so I found the message and contacted the girl. She was ecstatic to be offered the extra two tickets and offered to help me find someone to purchase our original tickets. We immediately connected (like two gypsies tend to do) and by the end of our texting, we had planned to meet for drinks before the concert and started what I believe is going to be a lasting friendship.
Jim and I flew to California on Thursday, stayed with my brother and his family that night and headed to Sacramento on Friday. We found ourselves enjoying the company of each other once again. We walked, chatted, shopped, ate, tailgated with fellow fans and explored the city on our own time. Friday night’s concert was fabulous and once again we nerded out. Saturday morning arrived far too soon. We got up early and got ready to start our day. The first stop was the Box Office. We still had not secured our Pit tickets and needed to go through this process in person. We had plans to meet friends we had not seen in 20 years for brunch, so we wanted to be early to the door. As we approached the box office, we saw a couple sitting outside. They looked to be about our age and as we got closer, I noticed two key things about the lady. One, she had a purple hue to her hair and two, she was wearing an adorable “Be Kind” shirt. Since purple is now my signature hair color, and I often sign books with the phrase “Be Kind”, it only felt natural to approach this couple and start a conversation. We learned that they had made an impromptu trip from Colorado to Sacramento the day before, had luck getting Friday night tickets and were hoping to score Pit tickets for that evening as well. We chatted for a few minutes, wished them luck in getting tickets and set off to finally get our hands on our own tickets for the evening. It took awhile and a few unforeseen wrinkles needed to be ironed out, but we left with physical paper tickets and made it to the restaurant to visit our longtime friends. Brunch was lovely and it was fabulous to see our friends. Our lives are a bit different, but I love the fact that life can bring a diverse group of individuals into the fold and I appreciate all the friendships we have developed independently and together over the years. We parted from our old friends and made our way to a social gathering of our new Eric Church friends. Within the course of 2 hours, I believe we brought several more unique characters into our colorful collection of friends and this could not make my heart any happier.
Jim and I walked quickly back to our hotel, changed and set off for the final show. The day was beautiful and another tailgate was happening, so of course, we couldn’t pass it up. We grabbed our Jack and Cokes, hung out some more with our new friends, took pictures, laughed, and made some more lasting memories (including meeting Eric’s insanely talented photographer and beautiful Director of Fan Engagement.) 😊
After tailgating, we made our way to the Pit line and waited amongst a group of more strangers that once again instantly felt like friends. It was finally time for the doors to open. I walked as quickly as my feet would take me to the special concrete area roped off for those of us coveting the paper tickets. I positioned myself, three standing rows back, directly in front of the center microphone. I looked around the fairly empty arena and smiled. I took a moment to take it all in. As I looked to my right, I was thrilled to see the couple from earlier in the day coming to stand beside us. As anticipated, it was going to take awhile before the concert started, so the girl and I sat down on the floor and struck up a memorable conversation. We shared how we came to be fans and what these artists mean to us. It was obvious that we “got” each other and that this music had seen us both through some rough times. As the crowd shuffled in and the lights start to dim, I grabbed Jim’s hand, rooted my feet to the floor, took a deep breath and smiled once again like a kid in a candy store. I heard someone whisper behind me “look how happy she looks”. In that moment, I was aware of the true happiness I was experiencing and the immense amount gratitude I felt in my heart. I vividly remember thinking, together Jim and I were celebrating the end of a rough ride. The last 13 months had taken us on a journey that included the loss of 2 parents, a friend, a dog, illnesses and surgery. And, although we look at the music that was about to be played from totally different perspectives, there is no doubt that at a variety of times over the last 13 months, this music has provided us both with joy, motivation, strength and comfort . Along this ride and through the attendance of 5 concerts in 7 months, from the nosebleeds to front and center, we rediscovered each other and started a new adventure that we can call 100% our own. We enjoyed the hell out of this final concert and boy am I glad that we did.
I believe that we each thought this concert was a celebration of making it through a painful stretch in life. We were looking forward to the holidays, time with family and our Aruba vacation in a couple months. We had no idea that lying just beyond the shadows of life’s roller coaster ride were higher hills and curvier hidden corkscrews than the ones we had just made it through.
We certainly hadn’t planned on another year filled with more heartache, loss, a pandemic and a mutation that would take both of our breaths away. But, as you know…..here we are.
As I navigate through a future of hard choices and life altering decisions, I know I will be leaning on both the Chiefs highlighted in this blog to get me through.
I could never make it through any of it without Jim. He keeps me grounded, helps to drive out the fear when it sneaks in, holds me when the tears start to flow and tosses in unexpected and poorly timed humor on a regular basis.
As for Eric Church, I imagine his music will continue to carry me through some of the darkest and toughest moments ahead. When the discography begins, the musical journey takes me down a road of memories and makes me feel all the emotions I can stand. Happy, sad, proud, mad, nostalgic, love, strong and empowered are just some of the words to describe my emotional reactions. However, at this point in my life, it is about way more than just him as an artist or the music. My appreciation envelopes an entire community of fans that stand grounded by their love of what his music brings into their lives. Collectively, their fortitude and strength inspire me to want to be a better person. They spark a flame that sometimes smolders and gets lost in today’s world. I have gotten a lot of joy from watching this group support each other over the past 18 months and look forward to watching and hopefully be part of unforeseen challenges that they will overcome, endure and celebrate moving forward.
As for my own personal road ahead, I want to talk about the three ladies I have mentioned throughout this post. All three of these ladies have become my friends and all three of these ladies happen to be breast cancer survivors!!! Two of them are currently enjoying life cancer free. They are two new role models in my life. I get to see their stories unfold on Facebook and admire their strength and zest for life. The purple haired gal in the Be Kind shirt is my current Superhero. She has been diagnosed for the fourth time and is getting ready to embark on another round of treatment. Although she and her husband both are preparing for the long journey to recovery, they have both taken time to support and encourage both Jim and I as we travel our own uncertain path. I have been blown away by their selflessness and kindness and am grateful for the formation of our new friendship. As I have said many times and will continue to say it…..I believe that things happen for a reason. I believe that people can come into your life at specific times for distinct reasons. I believe that there is good in this world and that miracles happen. I also believe you must be open minded and ready to receive beauty when the universe delivers it to your door.
I know I have had an abundance of blessings in my life and I hope that God and the Universe both know how appreciative I am.
I could not end this post with out a special shout of gratitude to the “Chiefs”.
To my main one – Thank You for loving me despite my flaws and mutations. I know we are in for a hell of a year, but I wouldn’t want anyone else next to me on this ride. I can not wait to stand in a future Pit line with you and am only slightly joking about wanting to rent a van to tackle the next tour. 😊
To the one that doesn’t know me – I hope to one day share my gratitude in person, until then…. Thank you for sharing your talent with the world. Without your lyrics, my life would be quiet more often than I would like. You have brought both happiness and what I hope, are long lasting friendships, into my world and for that I am extremely grateful.
In keeping with my theme of blending music with my posts, here are two songs I feel are appropriate for today. Warning…..these will not be my only 2 Eric Church songs on the list, but I promise to take a break in my next post.
This first one has some great lyrics and came out at a time when Jacob was still in college and was only half listening to some of our words of wisdom.
Here’s a quote from this one:
” I know I don’t probably know what I think I do, but there’s somethin’ to Some of It“
And for this insane moment, in not only my personal life, but life in general I have chosen this one.
Here are a few lyrics:
”Greed stalks, sickness steals, and pride lays a wicked trap
You can’t avoid ’em all, no, you gotta trust me on that”
Thanks for taking the time to read today’s post. I am less than a month away from my Hysterectomy and having this for an outlet is more helpful than I anticipated. I find myself reflecting a lot these days on things that bring a smile to my face and joyto my days. As you have learned from this post, my husband and all things Eric Church are two things that bring me happiness . Now, it’s your turn….please share with me….where do you find happiness?
From the Semi’s to the Pit. 5 Concerts…..tons of memories! XOXO