setting a higher bar: the beauty of different + jason parker quartet

Another title for this post might have been: a seriously introverted writer goes out to meet people-from-the-internet in the real world and survives.

I can’t remember how I first found Karen Walrond’s blog – Chookooloonks – I only know I am profoundly grateful that I did.  I’ve written before about being a drooling fan girl.  Last Sunday held a rare opportunity: Karen came to town for a beautifully different book event.

The evening felt like grace and warm honey.

For many reasons, my mother hadn’t visited us in over three years.  We’ve seen her, just not here in Seattle.  Mum was finally able to travel, and timed a trip so that she and I could celebrate what would have been my Nana’s 100th birthday together.

When I realised that Karen was coming to town the night before, I asked Mum to come early so we could attend the event together.

At Christmas, I gave my two sisters copies of Karen’s The Beauty of Different, and noticed Mum’s curiousity and interest in the book.  This would give me a chance to give Mum her own copy, with the added bonus of meeting the book’s creator and having the book signed.

Mum and I had a great time anticipating our night out, getting dressed up (although my bed and floor were littered with discarded dress-boot-shoe combinations – why do I ever stray from the planned outfit?), and going out for dinner beforehand.

Over dinner, I admitted to Mum that if she were not there, I might have already chickened out and stayed home.

From an evening I desperately wanted to enjoy.  Yep, it’s sometimes like that being an introverted fraidy-cat.

We were running late (see getting dressed above) and the event was well underway – dim lighting, smooth jazz sending inviting tones out to the street, every seat in the house occupied – by the time we arrived.

After standing at the door scoping out a good place to stand, we picked our way to a back corner.  I was startled by someone reaching out to me – Karen was right there, warm hand on my fresh-from-the-outdoors cold one (okay, who am I kidding, my hands are always cold) pulling me into a welcome hug.

That set the tone for the night.

Jason Parker Quartet alternated sets with Karen reading from the book.  At times a low-key bass line held the words.  When Karen read 20 imperfections (that most practical people agree are just perfect), she alternated with Jason’s trumpet riffs.  (The triptych at the top was from that pairing.)

When Karen told us about 8 things that freak her out, she tried to maintain her native Trini accent throughout.  The crowd ate it up.

There was so much passion in the room – the musicians each deeply committed to the soul of the music, every guest held rapt by Karen’s words spoken with such warmth, Karen’s confidence and kindness.

Karen was not the only person I would meet for the first time there.  I have also enjoyed a slowly growing online friendship with Tara Austen Weaver, of Tea and Cookies, and looked forward to connecting with her there.

Wow.  There are some wonderful people in the world.

Tea greeted me with another warm, welcoming hug and my jitters warred between settling down and amping up.  At the end of the evening, Mum and I shared a lovely conversation with the gracious Tea, and yet I could feel myself trying too hard.

I usually go home from a social gathering like this kicking myself for something I did or said.  This evening was no different.  I felt like a jerk more than once.

Other people mostly tell me they don’t remember it that way.

That postcard Karen is holding?  She’s doing these instead of bookmarks. Because she is beautifully different and doesn’t adhere to old publishing rules that say publish-a-book-make-a-bookmark.  In the upper left corner the postcard says, “you are receiving this postcard because the sender is wildly convinced you’re uncommonly beautiful.”

I know, right?

Karen’s book is sub-titled Confessions of a Confident Misfit.  I crave that kind of confidence.

Maybe it comes from really settling into my own beautiful different.  Time to read more of the book.  While I listen to some awesome jazz.


  • Great photos, Jet! We had such an amazing time sharing the stage with Karen. She’s an inspiration, and it’s a night I won’t soon forget.

    Sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet…maybe another time.

    • Thank you, Jason! It was a special evening. I was surprised – and yet not – to read on Karen’s blog that the flow of the evening was unrehearsed. You all made magic on the stage. I wanted to greet you afterward and thank you for the music – alas, my meeting-new-people meter was busted. Next time, then.

    • Thank you, Katie. It was a wonderful night. You could get a sense of it by getting Karen’s book and one of Jason’s CDs and then playing one while reading the other, with a candle on the table. 😉

  • As someone who has missed more than a fair share of cool things because I was too much of a chicken to go alone, I totally understand.

    But I am SO GLAD you came on Sunday—it wouldn’t have been as wonderful without you (and your sweet stylish mom) there!

    I loved our chat, and didn’t notice any trying too hard.

    Next time we’ll make it easy, eh? Yoga pants and fleece and a walk along the lake?

    So glad I got a chance to meet you!

    Oh, and the photos are wonderful. I love that you got one of Karen laughing! That was a shot I wanted but none of mine came out. Well done! That picture sums up the evening for me. xox

    • Thank you for getting it, Tea, and for your kind words about our visit. It was such fun to meet you, and yet, I still second-guess myself much more than I should. Yes, yoga pants, fleece (or these days, the rain jacket) and a walk along the lake sound awesome! Followed by chai at Peet’s maybe?

      Also, thank you for your comments on the photos. I seldom like indoor shots of people, and I refuse to use flash, so these are high-ISO, high-grain shots. I was really happy with the one of Karen laughing – that just seems to be so her with the ready laugh.

    • Thank you for your visit and kind comments! That was my favourite photo also.

      What a wonderful collection of people came for the evening. In my head, I’m socially capable, and I wander around and chat with people, asking how they enjoyed the evening, and how they came to be there. In reality, well… it’s different.

      I really love the idea of meeting new people. I do want to work on getting more comfortable with the reality of it, because there are great folks out there – the kind of folks who would have a good time at such a cool event.

    • Thank you, Lynn, for stopping by. It really was a wonderful evening, and Seattle does have cool stuff going on. I often find that I learn about the cool stuff after it’s happened. I was thrilled to know about this beforehand and anticipate going.

      I think there are lovely things about North Carolina, also, yes?

  • I loved reading your take on the evening and seeing your beautiful photos! I’m Jason’s wife and even though I am partial, I thought that night was pretty spectacular. You don’t see something like that every day.

    So sorry we didn’t get to meet that evening, but hopefully we’ll see you at another one of his gigs some day. 🙂

    • Darrah, thank you for stopping by, and thank you for your lovely comments. I had fun with the photos, and it’s a real pleasure to have someone with your eye find something to like there.

      The evening was indeed special – there was a collaborative magic there that was so much greater than the sum of individual magic ingredients.

      It would be wonderful to meet another time, when I beat back the fraidy.

  • your post makes me want to buy the book as in right now. I want to have that glow on Karen’s face. I feel like this book will make an ordinary people like me to feel extra ordinary 🙂

    • Annalyn, I hope you will go out and get the book. Right now. 😉 It will be a wonderful gift to yourself.

      Karen finds that glow in everyone she photographs. And you are extraordinary!

    • Thank you, Shawna – it always feels like grace to capture a moment that special. Karen laughing like that = magic!

      Your story is tender and honest – thank you for sharing it, and your wonderful photos from the night. I wonder how many of us go around with that sense of outsider-ness, when we would so enjoy meeting and connecting with each other?

      Yes, next time!

  • Really? I woulda thunk you had all the confidence in the world AND I truly thought you were already friends with Karen! I was lucky to meet her at the opposite end of the week at a blog conference here in Nashville. It is good to “visit” with you again, Jet!

    • I’m good in small groups. Or one-on-one. And even though the jazz club was small and intimate, it was also daunting, with the general-awesome-quotient present that night.

      I really like people. And I’m sure (when I think about it clearly) that other people have much better things to do than judge me. But still.

      Thank you for the kind words – it’s good to hear how others see me. I’m sure it was a pleasure for you AND Karen to meet each other. I hope you and I will too, at some point.

  • I love Karen Walrond (I was just reading her book) and I’m thrilled that you got to see her in person. The photos are beautiful! And I love the idea of an evening feeling like grace and warm honey. You have a wonderful way with words!

    • Ah, thank you for another visit and your kind words. It’s a thrill when another photographer sees something to like in my pictures.

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