Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good Grief [Christmas in Disney]

Instead of "Christmas in Dixie." Get it? Ha. Haha. No? Oh well. 

Gonna mellow out and get serious here for a bit, friends. But stay with me. I have a point. 

Many of you may know that I am a freelance writer and have written articles for a magazine in my hometown for several years (since my internship there in 2003, actually... wow). I write the "Mind and Body" column, and earlier this year was assigned the task to write an article about dealing with grief during the holiday season.

Honestly, it was not something I knew much about, dealing with true grief and loss. My grandparents, my dad's parents, passed away when I was a teenager, but they lived in New Orleans. I talked to them every other week or so and saw them twice a year. Sure, I grieved, and I feel a loss in their absence, but not in my everyday adult life. I miss going to New Orleans for Thanksgiving, as was our tradition, but I am past the grieving point.

So I wrote the article, relying on the advice from grief counselors, self-help books, and information online. I tried my best to empathize as I wrote sentences about wanting to skip the holidays, and with dealing with loneliness, pain, and fatigue following the death of a loved one. I offered tons of great ideas. Make a new tradition involving remembering your loved one. Don't overdo it. Just say no. Avoid excess. Easy enough, right? Little did I know, my family would be reading my article a few months later, taking the advice to heart, as we grieve a huge loss.

My grandfather, Don Pitts, died in August. He was 78. I'm not going to write an obituary here, this is not that kind of post and, frankly, not something I'm ready to share with the Internets... but I will tell you I talked to him every single day. And he was a funny, funny man. We were very close. And I never once doubted he loved me and had my back no matter what. And I feel the pain of that loss every single day, though it's a bit easier to deal with since I live a state away. My grandmother, his wife for 60+ years, is having a rough go of it, as is my mother, an only child. This is not a sob story, though. This is normal, every day grieving and loss. It's part of life. We knew it was coming. But I am thankful to have had 28 years with him. And thankful for my family and friends throughout the ordeal.

Sister and me with Grandaddy, circa 1988

So came the holidays. Thanksgiving came and went, and yes, we were sad. Though we did change things up a bit and change locations, tweaked the menu a bit. But overall, we got through it. But as we began to plan our Christmas festivities, we looked at all the advice I had so painstakingly researched and presented in the magazine article, and said... to hell with that! We're going to Disney World!

And so, yes, my sister and I, both in our 20s, along with our 74-year-old grandmother and 58-year-old mother (Dad conveniently has to work, making this an all girls' trip), just returned from Disney World. At Christmas. As in, we enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner at Epcot's Biergarten, drinking beers, eating sausage, and watching polka dancers and Christmas Night walking the streets of the Magic Kingdom, where Christmas carols abounded, as well as an actual "snow" shower. It was truly magical. And of course my first stop wasThe Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Obviously.

Needless to say, the trip was hilarious in planning. I loved telling the travel agent, after he asked the age of the youngest child going, that she was 26. I love that I was the one embarrassing my family while dorking out at WWHP, instead of the other way around, as I'm sure it was when we were kids. And I love that I know if Grandaddy can see us from where he is, that he'd be laughing his ass off right along with us.

Here's a preview. More to come. And if anyone out there wants any tips or suggestions... I'm your gal. I just returned a backpack full of well-read tour guides to the library this afternoon.

Sister and me at Cinderella's Castle, 2010

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and cheers to a happy 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Christmas List

Eager to have a gift under your tree for me? Isn't everyone? Here's a random want list. Do I NEED these things? Nope. But yes, do so want.

Bookworm Stationery:

 Any necklace from this Etsy Shop. Some examples:

 The first seasons of Modern Family and Community. Took me a while to jump on these trains, but so glad I did. Now I need to catch up.

(I'll take Joel McHale separately, please.)

While we're at it, I need the first disc of Season 1 of How I Met Your Mother. SOMEBODY misplaced mine. Mmmmhmmmmm you know who you are. 

(Moving on....)

Penguin Postcards. Not like the animal. As in, the publishing house. Very cool idea.

Red Rose Watch from PAXAM Records (Ryan Adams's record company). Sold out, yes. But if anyone got their hands on one and wants to sacrifice theirs or trade for a very nice Bulova watch that was my college graduation gift... let's talk.

A PUPPY (plus the time and money to care for one?).  Yes, it's cliche. But seeing as I am soon embarking on the adventure to live alone for the first time in my 28 years, I'd like a companion. I think I've decided on a Boston Terrier. I will also settle for a smush-face kitty, but only if he's a version of Winston. And if you take away all allergens so my friends can come over.

Vinyl. I'd like as much of the Avetts as possible, the Fleet Foxes, and Love Is Hell to round out my DRA collection. And lots and lots of Lionel Richie. OH and some Dolly Parton. Alvin & the Chipmunks' Christmas album. Old school Reba. Hmmmm what else.... Thriller. Kind of Blue. And some Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. That should do me for a little while.

The Perfect Apartment. I'd love it if the Craigslist Santa delivered to me, as a special Christmas miracle, a nice little 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment/house that is in my price range, but also in a nice area. Preferably on the West Side and more specifically in Sylvan Park. Actually I don't need a whole second bedroom, just a space for my bookshelves and a pull-out couch for visitors. A big kitchen would be nice. And a porch. A front porch, preferably. With room for a swing and rocking chairs. Hardwood floors. Non-sketchy neighbors a must. Am I expecting too much? Absolutely.

LASIK surgery. Saving up for that currently, but if anyone wants to make a donation, I'll take it!

Tickets to see my Auburn Tigers play in the National Championship game.  Tickets are ranging in the $500+ area, while plane tickets out to Arizona are around $1,200 at the moment. Any Moneybags out there want to sponsor a sweet little Auburn grad so that she can cheer on her favorite team and maybe, possibly, find some redemption from that 2004 fiasco (which was also her senior year and last football season as a student)? Anyone? Bueller?

Christmas Vacation on DVD. I just realized I don't have it. I need it. Hallelujah! Holy Shit. Where's the Tylenol?

DVD Player or TV with Internet capabilities so I can stream Netflix directly. Do I need to explain why?

Portable Sewing Machine. It gets expensive to have every pair of pants and every skirt and dress hemmed. Also, I'd need some sewing lessons. That's key.

For my sister to get to meet her idol, Lady Gaga. Yes, I am talking about my 26-year-old grown-ass-woman sister. She loves the Gaga. And it would make her life to meet her. And she's playing a show here in April, so it's the perfect opportunity. And maybe then she would be sweeter to me if I could make it happen.
Sister (on the right) and her roommate dressed as The Lady for Halloween.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Screen Debut

I wrote about the Blue Like Jazz movie a few months ago, and I wanted to give you a (long overdue) update. For a brief recap, the movie, based on one of my favorite books by Donald Miller, lost its funding when some evangelical groups found out its characters' walk with faith weren't exactly... by the book. (Among many, many other reasons, I'm sure.) Regardless, some folks from Franklin, Tenn., generated a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising $125,000 to save the movie. I gave a measly $25 and hoped for the best.

Would you believe that in less than a month, they raised a little under $346,000?! Mostly from thousands of everyday people just like me who gave their measly $10 and $25 toward something they believed in. If that isn't God doing some work in the modern age, I don't know what is.

So filming began immediately, and in Nashville, no less. The second I saw a casting call, I jumped on it, even though it called for "college-aged" kids and were mostly recruiting Belmont and Nashville students. I figured that at 28, I can pull it off. Right? I mean... I'm pretty short. I don't look toooo different from when I was in college? So I signed up and was assigned a day to show up. I ventured over to the Scarritt Bennett Center on Vandy's campus on a frosty morning, wearing "grungy Seattle" clothes (meaning for most, including me... dark plaid) and carrying a  headshot (double ha), as was asked of me, and I kept my fingers crossed the person in charge wouldn't stamp a big TOO OLD sign on my forehead.

Well, they didn't, which is why I'm here to tell you that next year I will be making my big screen debut. As an extra, yes, and in a low-budget indie film... but in a film that I am over-the-top excited about, and I hope you'll watch for.

So let me tell you something about filming a movie... it's not quite as glamorous as you imagine. It's 80% sitting around while set directors, costume and prop folks, and main actors set up the scene.. then 20% actually filming. Then resetting. Reshooting.. Reset. Reshoot. Over and over. Thrilling at first for sure, but tedious after a while. Regardless, I had a blast watching and learning a bit about the process, and I had the opportunity to chat with a bunch of college kids (oh, to be young), as well as the lead actors. The actor playing Donald Miller's character is Marshall Allman, looking quite cleaned up from his TrueBlood fame.

Marshall Allman
We shot a cafeteria scene. Lots of dialogue. I was among 150 or so students filling out the tables in the lunchroom. At times, different people walk around and pick people out to be walkers, or to be in the front of shots. Mostly to disperse demographics, but also I think they just picked out the people who fit parts best, or maybe who they thought dressed the best? I can tell  you the one black dude I was talking to at first had no clue what he'd gotten himself into, as he was among the very few minorities there. He's going to be in every scene, I think.

So as the dude walked around looking all empowered as he plucked the special ones from their seats, I tried several strategies to get him to pick me. First I ignored him. I looked off and chatted with my neighbor, ever-aware of his passing by me. And pass right by me he did. The next time, I acknowledged him, gave a smile (an Oscar-worthy smile, perhaps), and then I acted like I didn't give a care. Again, he passed by. I made an attempt to silently plea "Pick me! Pick me!" with my eyes without embarrassingly causing any scenes. Nope. I tried variations of these tactics with each pass. No dice. Then I gave up on my big screen debut and didn't even notice when he walked by the next time. I happened to look up right as he said "You.. in the plaid jacket... carry a tray." YES! So I carried a tray. And I was walking right behind the main actors in the scene as I carried said tray. (Strategy, folks.) So if the scene makes it in the film, you'll see my face, and my plaid jacket, walking to my invisible seat. Carrying some fruit and maybe a cookie (let's face it... probably a cookie). And trying my damndest not to look into the camera. They also filmed another scene set in the cafeteria, but taking place on a different day, in which we excitedly welcomed the main characters back after they'd been rescued from jail and blah blah blah... just watch the movie. Trust me, I'll let you know if I'm in it.

Here I am, with my prop (the headshot). I'll explain why if the scene makes it to the big screen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lauren's Favorite Things!!!!

Barney gave away his favorite things on HIMYM last night.

You can read his list here. (Why is that video mirrored? Eh... not gonna worry about it.)

So what are my favorite (tangible, give-away-able) things? What would I give away if I had a limitless bank account and superficial need to give away thousands of dollars worth of things instead of feeding and clothing my fellow neighbor? Bits and pieces of the following:

You are so welcome for this Photoshop awesomeness.

  • Cheese straws and Ninja Turtle gingerbread men from Rolen's Bakery in Dothan

  • Denim jackets
  • Toms Shoes
  • Netflix subscriptions with a streaming device (I've just been reminded to add something to my own wish list)
  • Packs of multi-colored miniature rose earrings (c/o Walmart)

  • Vintage record players (is that a feasible giveaway? Probably not)
  • Gift certificates to Star Bagel and Fido 
  • Therapy Systems skin care junk
  • Eileen West granny nightgowns

  • Complete sets of Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings. Essential to any imaginative library with or without children users.
  • Aviator sunglasses
  • Oversized Cheez-Its with Zoe's chicken salad.
  • Cases of Left Hand Milk Stout
  • Old school Super Nintendos

  • Gift certificates to Pangea
  • 60-second Nail polish (in a dark purple...aubergine, if you will)
  • DVDs: Elizabethtown, Love Actually, Interview with a Vampire, and Little Miss Sunshine
  • Weekend getaways in Destin, Blue Ridge, and New Orleans
  • The Friends Complete Series box set
  • CDs: Heartbreaker, The Dance, O, White Ladders, and Hot Fuss
  • Loaded Question (Adult Version) games (hilarious good fun)

To name a few. But really, I'd like to think I'd feed and clothe my fellow neighbor. I don't get it. But hey - if Oprah (or Barney) want to give me some goodies, I'm probably not going to turn 'em down.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Immediate Chin Up Cheer Up {dog days are over}

I have found the absolute best cure for the grumps. Meet Embry. I know nothing about him except that the kid has the most adorable chiclet baby teeth and serious rhythm. And he makes my heart happy.

Here's the song he's jamming to, "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine. I can't help but start shaking all around and dancing every time it gets to the "Run Fast" parts where Embry starts his crazy fool dancing. I do not advise to do this while driving. Trust me.

Also, I listened to this full album last week (I'm a bit behind, I know), and it's VERY good, front to back.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

28 and Thankful

I love Thanksgiving. There's no pressure for gift giving or managing too many schedules for church, visiting various families, etc, like what comes at Christmas. And sure, it's probably because I have a relatively small family and do the bare minimum cooking, myself. Ahem.

But regardless of the why, to me it means gathering with loved ones, eating, and watching football... Long nights staying up talking and watching movies, and catching up on rest. No one faults you for taking naps during Thanksgiving. Or taking three helpings of Grandma's dressing.

We used to spend Thanksgiving in New Orleans with my dad's parents, but after my grandmother died when I was in high school, we switched gears back to Alabama. But dad continues to travel over to go fishing  see his sister, and it's just us girls now. But I have fond memories of times spent in Louisiana. The menu was different there, for sure. I miss oyster dressing and gumbo, as well as all the botched batches of pralines you had to eat with a spoon.

This year marks my 29th Thanksgiving, having just celebrated my 28th birthday in October. And I have a lot to be thankful for. Trivial and not so trivial, here are 28 reasons why I'm thankful and looking forward to another 28 years (YIKES).

#4. Nat and Me enjoying our first
holidays together. Apparently
I wasn't always so thankful for her.
  1. The essentials. I've never had to worry about having a roof over my head or food in my belly.
  2. Family. They may be crazy and may even be the subject of many a therapy session, but they're mine. And they love me. And I love them too.
  3. Friends.  I'm incredibly blessed with great people around me. Friends can be family, and my family is awesome. I have two best friends who I think of as sisters. And recently I was feeling like a Facebook Friend Slut. My number was WAY too high. So I went through and did some trimming (friends' exes, folks who I would avoid if I saw them in public, etc). And while going through, I was reminded of all of the wonderful people in my life who influence me, mostly for the better. I'm thankful for those who have let me into their lives and their families' lives in such a real way. 
  4. Not being an only child. My sister is probably my favorite person on this Earth. Even when she's being a pain in the ass. I truly feel sorry for people who don't know what it's like to share that bond with someone.
  5. Have my (maternal) grandparents around for as long as I have. I know how lucky I am to still have my grandmother now and to have had my grandfather for nearly 28 years. I will always value that.
  6. Being from the South and having New Orleans roots. Love of boiled peanuts, sweet tea, and mashed potatoes. Saying "yes ma'am" and "no sir" to anyone over the age of 35. (This number gets higher and higher, however.) Family catfish fries. Counting cows at the pasture. All things resulting from growing up in Alabama.What is it even like to grow up with concrete all around you and Interstates at your doorstep? I can't imagine. Don't want to. Also, I'm thankful to have the New Orleans roots, which comes with it a love and appreciation for so many things that it deserves a post in itself.
  7. The Information Overload Explosion. A lot of people are annoyed by all the access and whatnot, but the librarian/information person in me is squealing on the inside every time I share a Google doc and edit/discuss in real time with another person. Seriously. I'm that big of a nerd.
  8. Not being lactose intolerant. I love cheese. And chocolate. And ice cream. I would be so sad without it.
  9. Having curly hair. I don't love my curly hair. Like everyone else, the grass is always greener. I wish it were less curly and more wavy, a little thicker. But I am thankful to be able to roll out of bed, wet my hair a bit and let it go. If I need to. Not that I do that often. No way.
  10. Being raised as a Christian. My faith isn't blind, but it certainly is strengthened by the fact that I was taught about Jesus from the get-go, but also encourage to explore the ideas on my own. Plus I absolutely understand more and more as I get older how difficult it must be to adopt the ideas about Jesus and religion if it is a completely foreign idea.
  11. Moving to Nashville. I fall more and more in love with this city all the time. 
  12. Being of above average intelligence. It would suck to be dumb. (So dumb. So dumb. So dumb. Soooooooo.)
  13. My sense of humor. I find amusement in anything. I laugh at commercials. America's Funniest Home Videos. It can be annoying to some, but hey - I'm always entertained.
  14. Music. It makes my life better and enriches my soul.I've said it a million times and I'll say it again... I'd rather be without an arm than without my hearing.
  15. Finding a professional passion/calling. I realize more and more that there are many people wandering around who have no clue what they want to do with their lives, professionally. Don't have passion for their work. I'm so thankful to have found the library world (and for all of my like-minded librarian friends who share it with me).
  16. My church. I haven't had a church I could call home in years. I'm so thankful to have found one in Cross Point. 
  17. Ryan Adams. His music has changed my life and gotten me through so many hard times, but also been in the background for so many great times as well. I am also very thankful for the friendships/kinship formed through the Ryan love. HH4L.
  18. My own office at work. I have my own office for the first time,and it's awesome. At the moment, I am utilizing my dual computer monitors... watching Glee on one monitor while writing on the other. (On my break, people.) But in all seriousness,  I feel special. And it's nice to feel special.
  19. Salt and Vinegar Almonds. Everything I eat isn't mashed carbs or made of dairy.
  20. Charlsie and Emma Dog. Even though they're sound-asleep in bed when I get home most nights, it's wonderful to have someone to come home to and chit-chat with in the mornings. Since she's leaving Nashville soon, I'm latching on as hard as I can. Even if E.D. has taken to growling at me recently. 
  21. Auburn Football and my Auburn Family. It's wonderful to be a part of something like the Auburn Family and to know that many of you will read this and immediately understand (and that many of you will read this and immediately barf, but that's ok too).
  22. Books and the works of so many writers who have not only entertained me, but made me think and changed me. I'm most thankful for Jerry Spinelli and JK Rawling, who inspired within me a love of children's and young adult literature, which led me to the career path I'm following today. Plus... it's just good stuff . 
  23. Wonderful Coworkers who make the days shorter and work more fun. It's wonderful to have meaningful relationships with the people with whom you spend 8 hours of most of your days. Plus it doesn't hurt that many of my coworkers are licensed therapists.
  24. Sanity and Therapy to maintain it, now that I mention it. I'm thankful to have discovered this outlet, and to possess the openness and humility to effectively communicate what's going on so that I can be better. And while it may seem silly to be thankful for sanity, I work in the mental health field and am exposed to diseases of the mind. It's a scary thing.
  25. Motivation to better myself. I know tons of people who don't have this, and it makes me sad for them. 
  26. My daily email buddies. I have a group of friends who I've communicated with either through G-chat or email, back and forth all day every day that we've been at computers... some for as long as we've been out of college. We're talking five and a half years of life documented via emails. We've basically developed our own language. There's some serious blackmail there and I pray to God no enemy of mine gets their hands on it.
  27. Pandora. Genius invention. I'm quite looking forward to my Christmas stations. 
  28. Last but certainly not least, I'm thankful for Hope. I have lots to look forward to. Cheers to the next 28 years!
Sidenote: When I asked my friend Brittany what I should be thankful for, this is her summation for me (copied and pasted from the email): Family, friends, your two computer screens, new guy, emma dog, tuuuhkey, me, your church, auburn football, beer, wine, almonds, job, people at your job that keep you sane, lionel Richie, facebook (for you, not me), books, puppies. 

She knows me well. And yes, I am very thankful for her. Perhaps you all would have rather I simply written that. 

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Go don't stop now GO

    You've probably heard (bits and pieces of) "Sweet Disposition" by The Temper Trap on various commercials and whatnot. Diet Coke, the Eat Pray Love soundtrack/commercial... there was a car ad I think? Some of their other songs I'm now recognizing have been all over TV shows and whatnot. Here's the DC commercial:

    They're blowing up. And I was thinking either they had the best publicist/marketing agent in the industry, or they really were just great. Nat had given me their album Conditions about a year ago, but I've just now given it a listen. Really good stuff. Lead singer Dougy Mandagi (Dougy? How adorable.) has a lovely voice. Oh, and they're Aussies. The accent comes out every once in a while.

    So here are my two favorites off of the album at the moment. Let me know what you think:

    Love Lost
    (Very cool video too. My favorite parts are after 2:35.)

    Down River 
    Live performance featuring Mumford and Sons... (!!!!!!!!!)

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Awake My Soul - A Month of Music

    I've been spoiled over the past month with three shows that easily made their way into the Top 5 I've ever seen. All within weeks of another.

    The National at the Ryman Auditorium

    This was my maiden voyage to Nashville's most historic and well-known music venue. It's so much more than a music venue. This is the original home of the Opry, guys. The place where The Greats once played their songs for the first time.

    I was spoiled rotten with Row D seats for my first trip there. (Thanks to coaxing from my friend Colin to stand in line for the lottery at the venue instead of fighting it out for tickets online... I highly recommend and will do this as often as possible from now on.) 4th Row. I could touch them, if I wanted to. And since Matt Berninger actually jumped from the stage directly into our row, Annie actually did.

    So the show was nothing short of awesome. I wish I had better words for it. They played my favorites from High Violet and Boxer, and a few I recognized from previous records. Matt's voice was perfect. All grumbly and gruff. I wish I had him to sing me to sleep at night. And he kept us cracking up with his dancing about and joking all along with the band. Also the horns, live, really stood out.  Here's a video I took of "Slow Show," one of my favorites:

    For the final encore, the band took the stage and sang completely unplugged, paying tribute to the Ryman's natural acoustics and the musicians who played there for years before we made such steady use of mics and booming speakers. Here's a video, not taken by me. But taken from right behind me, as that's Colin's head in the foreground, and you can hear me cough at about 3:44.

    My Birthday and the Avett Brothers at the Ryman


    After spending my 28th birthday indulging in two cakes and Auburn Football, I began my 29th year again at the Ryman, where I saw the Avett Brothers, my second favorite North Carolina-born musicians. And anyone who has seen the Avetts will tell you they're even better live. The brothers' voices complement each other so well. And their entire band, with its stand-up bass, cello, fiddles, piano, and who knows what else, is incredibly talented. To say the Ryman was rocking is an understatement... there was so much pew-beating and foot-stomping that the building was literally rattling. Seeing as it was Halloween weekend, people were dressed up all over the place ... and they were excited. The band came out in full mummy costume, wrapped head to toe. I know they had to be burning up. Though they didn't play my favorites, and I  honeslty didn't know all of the tunes, I loved every minute of the show. And when Seth Avett came out and played "Murder in the City" for the first encore... I lost it. (See below.) They closed with "Kick Drum Heart," one of my favorites (though I'm somewhat in the minority among my friends for liking it) from their latest album. As you'll see, my seats weren't quite as great as before, but the sound wasn't affected. Here are a few videos I took:

    Seth Avett - Murder in the City

    Kick Drum Heart
    (I apologize for any nausea induced by viewing... I couldn't stop dancing...)

    Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

    Mumford and Sons - November 1st at War Memorial Auditorium


    I was led to M&S this summer, at the insistence of a couple I waited on one evening. They were sitting there making their Bonnaroo packing list, and I got to talk to them about the Avetts, Yeasayer, and a few others I was hoping to see in the near future here in Nashville, and they said "Well have you heard of Mumford and Sons?" And no, no I hadn't. So I went home, looked them up (along with Sleigh Bells)... and I was/am hooked. Best tip I got all night! (zing!) Anyway. So if you're not familiar, get familiar. They're from the UK, and I can best describe them as punkabilly rock with Fleet Foxesque harmonies. Lovely songs on heartbreak, family, and there are hints of spiritual notes throughout. I was thrilled to see them at War Memorial in Nashville. A friend of mine from Birmingham stayed with me on his way to Bloomington, where he was going to see the Mumfords at a dive bar. And he wisely foretold that they wouldn't be playing dive bars for long. The guys blew up after Bonnaroo, and are now well on their way to becoming a household name...

    And go figure they were spot-on live. Beautiful vocals. Clear sound. And since they are a sole-album band at this point, they played everything off of debut Sigh No More and previewed a few new songs. So I was a singing fool. Here are a few videos I took:

    Awake My Soul (In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life.)

    White Blank Page

    But there's more. Yes, more. What else can you say, you ask? How many more words can you find to substitute for your go-to "awesome?" Oh, there was a surprise encore? And Old Crow Medicine Show joined the Mumfords and openers on stage to play "Wagon Wheel?" And "Wagon Wheel" is one of your all-time favorite songs? Yeah, no big deal. It's casual.

    Best. Month. Of. Music. EVER.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    'Neath the Cover of October Skies...

    It's been a while, friends. And I'm sorry for the delay.

    But lemme tell ya... this month has been nothing short of magical. It's been reaffirmed several times over that moving to Nashville a little over a year ago was a good choice. (Not that I was ever really questioning it.) Tennessee's beauty truly shows itself off in the fall. Sure, the weather isn't perfect. It goes back and forth from warm to hot to chilly to can't-feel-your-toes... but the colors are magnificent. Yes, I said magnificent. Just gorgeous. And it awakes my soul. (If you get that reference, yes I'm definitely using a bit of foreshadowing there.)

    I love October. Always have. I live for those 31 days. My version of Heaven, I think, would be 365 days of October. When it's always a marvelous night for a moondance. Probably because it's my birthday month, but also because of the colors, the breeze, the memories of the Peanut Festival at home. And of course, Halloween, my favorite holiday.

    My mantra for the fall:

    Now November has set in, and while I'm very much looking forward to the holidays, I'm mourning October. Here's a glimpse into the weeks since I last posted:

    Friday, October 8, 2010


    Funny things from Tripp and Tyler. These dudes crack me up. Easily as funny if not funnier than anything on SNL these days.

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    Blue Like Jazz... the movie.

    I've said before how much I love Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. He's a fantastic writer and storyteller, funny as hell at times, but my favorite thing about him is his honesty about his walk as a Christian. Mostly autobiographical, Don tells stories from his time at Reed College in Portland, where Christians are in the huge minority. Shares how he questioned his faith and then found his way back. He isn't afraid to talk about doubts, anger, questions with the church, etc. It's good stuff. Changed my life in ways. I have several copies I lend out whenever I get the chance to.

    Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

     "There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her."
     "Believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon."
    "We would eat chocolates and smoke cigarettes and read the Bible, which is the only way to do it, if you ask me. Don, the Bible is so good with chocolate. I always thought the Bible was more of a salad thing, you know, but it isn’t. It is a chocolate thing.”
     So with Nashville' Steve Taylor directing, the movie has its cast and has been well on its way, but they've lost backers. Aside from the usual "It's hard to raise money for movies right now," spiel, Don states on his blog that one of the reasons is the following, which I think is very sad.
    2. Blue Like Jazz is a very hard film for church-going, evangelical Christians to get behind. The folks who invest in Christian movies were scared to death of Blue Like Jazz. While it has a PG-13 rating, there is language, drug use and a scene where the protagonists put a giant condom on a steeple. To me, it’s the only movie that takes an honest look at a Christian kid coming of age in America, a story experienced by tens of millions of students each year. But students don’t fund Christian movies, older white guys do, and they find it hard to relate to the theme.
    Sound hilarious and poignant and awesome to you? Exactly. So the reason I write this is because I just donated measly $25 to a Kickstarter campaign begun by his fans (some dudes just down the road in Franklin, Tennessee!) to raise money to get the ground rolling again on the film... and I just wanted to get word out, because I think it would be great for America to see this side of Christianity.  Not the scary politically charged side. Not the hypocrisy or the judging or the arguing about rules and whatnot. Just the real side of human Christianity. Real people with a PG-13 rating, who laugh at things like a huge condom on a steeple, who smoke cigarettes and drink beer and actually go on as believers, loving God and believing in salvation through Jesus Christ not in blind faith, but with a studied understanding that it's all about loving each other and being good to people in the end. People like me.
    So far, over $50,000 (out of the goal of $125,000) has been raised. I was cracking up at the bonus prizes you get for various donations. Wish I had an extra grand hanging around so that I could be an extra in the movie. Sweet!

    So check it out. Let me know your thoughts. Let me know if you want to borrow a copy of the book.
    Also, for extra reading, here's an article in Christianity Today about the movie, including an interview with Don and Steve.

    Updated October 7th: Blue Like Jazz has been saved! In the 8 days since I posted this, more than $75k has been pledged, and the funds are now at over $140k. How awesome is it to see that many people step up? 

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    "Call me shallow but it's the [bleeping] truth"

    I watched High Fidelity with my parents over the weekend. Jon Cusack easily edges anyone out as my favorite actor, and I think this was the movie to give him that edge way back in the day. This may or may not be due to how much I dig his character. I would, without hesitation, date and marry Rob Gordon and happily spend the rest of my life holed running a record store with him by day and holed up in some crappy apartment, smoking cigarettes and arguing over our Top Fives, by night.

    Rob is disappointed by my healthy collection of Disney soundtracks.

    So I finally actually purchased a copy and brought it home with me for the weekend. Within five minutes, after saying "You know... that Jack Black is a funny dude, but he's super annoying," my dad conked out. Mom gave up after 10 minutes, saying "Jon Cusack is obviously an acquired taste, and not one I've acquired." Who are they? Did I really come from them?

    Anyway, there's a quote in the movie I love, that I somehow had forgotten:

    "...What really matters is what you like, not what you are like...
    Books, records, films -- these things matter. Call me shallow, but it's the f*cking truth."

    I totally get this, without a doubt. Of course, being a real person and a good/nice Christian person and all, I certainly don't judge anyone for their tastes. I recognize that it's what's inside that counts and blah blah blah. But I will totally pass you by if you have absolutely no interests in these realms. They don't have to be the same as mine, by any means. I'm not a snob. You can read trashy romance novels til you're blue in the face or listen to Adam Lambert all day... at least you're excited about something and enriching your mind a bit. (A bit.) And sure, if I like you enough I'll try to steer you to more, um, advantageous avenues... but in the end, one of my philosophies has always been: Never apologize for what you like. I'll happily admit there are some things I love that 98% of of you will want to barf over. Plus, I've ready many a trashy romance novel and am currently in the process of purchasing tickets for Lady Gaga... my tastes know no bounds. How can I feasibly judge you for yours? (Except I secretly kinda do, but only a little bit... I'm kidding... or am I?)

    However, if I recognize in you a kindred spirit in terms of WHAT you like... you've made a friend for life. If I hear you say you like Ryan Adams or Mumford and Sons and also quote Elizabethtown and are also dying to go to the Wizarding World of  Harry Potter and have your shelves full of great Southern novels and children's fantasy books... I'll probably marry you on the spot. We can make it work. (Actually I think I just described Sara Beth... unfortunately we are both far too boy crazy for that to ever happen.)

    Am I alone in this? I guess at least Nick Hornby (author of High Fidelity, the novel on which the movie was based) got it. I'd love to sit down and have a conversation with that man.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    My favorite book of all time.

    Boy's Life by Robert McCammon

    I was introduced to this book in the 11th grade, in which it was required reading from my teacher. And I've loved it since. Read and re-read and passed on and caused others to love it. Now I'm sending it out to the interwebs. McCammon is an author from Birmingham, Alabama, mostly known for years spent writing in the Southern Gothic/Horror genre, but this gem is his one-and-only (so far) shot at the coming-of-age novel, with a mystery and magical realism twist. Can you imagine why I love it? Didn't think so. At any rate, the story is set around a 12-year-old boy growing up in a small Alabama town in pre-civil rights 1964. He witnesses a murder and begins to question everything about what he thinks he knows about the world. You see it all through his eyes, eyes that like to see the best in people and in things, trying to hold on to the whimsies of childhood and belief in magic... all while watching a murder mystery unfold and deal with a trying time to be growing up in the South.

    Just do yourself a favor and read the epilogue and tell me if it doesn't get you the least bit interested:
    "You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn't realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by the silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present, and into the future. You probably did too; you just don't recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God's sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they'd allowed to wither in themselves."

    (C) Boy's Life by Robert McCammon, 1991. (HB) (Recently re-released in paperback.)

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Entertain me

    Actually, I think I'm good. Because I have all of THIS to look forward to in the coming weeks...

    How I Met Your Mother. Started back last night with some good laughs... I'm having mixed feelings about whether I'm ready to find out who The Mother is.

    GLEE. Coming back tonight! When someone asked over teh weekend if I liked this show, all I had to say was "Do you KNOW me?" Of course I love it. It encompasses everything geeky and band-nerdy and music-loving inside me.

    The Big C. I've just recently begun watching this, which is in its first season. Laura Linney is fantastic. I laugh, I cry, I ogle her adorable young doctor. All good things.

    The National at the Ryman, October 3. My first Ryman Show. Can't freaking wait.

    The Avett Brothers at the Ryman, October 29th and 30th. Celebrating my birthday weekend in style.

    Plus of course there are lots of great books and albums coming out. I owe you all TONS of reviews from all I've read so far this summer. I'm still processing Mockingjay, and now am working on another series I love.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    I do love a choir

    I love a church choir. Maybe it stems from being raised in a Southern Baptist church, or maybe it is just a Southern thing altogether, but it never fails that a good choir makes me grin like a fool. Which is probably why this song was the first one I heard that sealed The Killers' place in my all-time favorite musicians. And probably why I said this before about my wedding whenever that comes along. There's a reason we all love Sister Act, people, and it's not just for Whoopi and all her sass.

    And judging from the following, I can't wait to get my hands on Kings of Leon's new album to be released in October. Come Around Sundown is set to release October 18th, and those yummy Followill boys are saying it came out a bit "chilled out and beachy," which usually isn't my thing (I was looking forward to some gloom and grunge), but I have high hopes with the addition of a choir in the first single. Seems their paying an homage to their very Southern downhome roots, which is something I'll always appreciate. Despite all the flack they get here in Nashville (why does everyone love to hate on their hometown bands once they hit it big?), I love me some KOL.

    Kings of Leon - "Radioactive"

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    I still love you, though, New York

    That video was shot on September 7, 2001. Ole Ryan had no clue he was capturing one of the last videos of the towers.

    Hard to believe it's been 9 years. I was a freshman at Auburn on that day, safe and sound and asleep in my dorm room when the planes hit. Lizzie had an 8:00 class, so she was long gone by the time I woke up, and I've never been one to watch TV as I got ready. Back then I wasn't quite as attached to my computer for news or emails either, so I hadn't heard a word about it until I stepped outside and was stopped by a friend on the front steps of our dorm, who asked "Have you talked to Smith? What are they saying up there??" I probably looked like a crazy person as I stood there with a clueless look on my face. See, my boyfriend was a cadet at West Point, the US Military Academy for the Army, located in upstate New York. I remember her saying, "We don't know what's going on... thought it was an accident until the second plane hit... you need to call him." So of course I freaked out. I joined the rest of the nation in those moments of freak out, of confusion, fear, and then that quiet panic of realizing that life has changed. I went to my math class, probably failed a quiz that was later not counted, and then spent the rest of the day in a daze of talking to my friends and family not there with me, glued to those images on the television, and trying to get Smith on the phone. They were quite busy up there. And all I could think was how one time he told me that since West Point is a terrorist target, they would be on lockdown if anything ever happened. I didn't talk to him until mid-afternoon. I was a mess.

    I can remember that feeling so well of wanting to know that each and every loved one I had was safe, even though I didn't know a soul in NYC or DC. Or who would have been flying that day. But I was already homesick, away at college for only a month, and I had that childlike feeling of just wanting my mom and to be home. To be able to see and touch everyone I loved and know they were ok. It was surreal to know that my mom and sister had watched it all live on the televisions at our high school.

    I remember crying for months. Putting a flag on my car.
    I visited New York that October, a pre-planned birthday present from Smith, it was surreal to be there. Surreal to fly and see all the panicked faces around me. I flew into Newark, the airport from which one of the planes had departed. Security was crazy. It was probably the safest I ever was when flying, but I'd never been so scared. When we got to the city, there was still ash in the air and smoke rising to the south. We didn't go to Ground Zero. Didn't want to see it. Felt terrible about the idea of gawking like tourists. Years later we eventually visited and saw the concrete memorial there in the absence of all the mess.

    So now, nine years later, it's still not quite another day. Everyone says "Always Remember," but can we ever forget? I don't think so. Alan Jackson had it right... the world stopped turning for real. But it's nice that today everyone remembers, but we all keep going on. There's a wedding going on at Centennial Park tonight (bet that dude won't ever forget the date of his anniversary). Vanderbilt is playing LSU at the moment, and I can hear the game from my front porch and see all of the Banana Pants walking to the stadium. The Bammers are on the TV kicking Penn State's ass in Tuscaloser. Charlsie is talking about baking cookies. Nat is working an event before the Reba McIntyre and George Strait concert tonight (I soooo wish I had tickets.) I've been on the phone with Verizon troubleshooting my phone. Normal day.

    Life is weird. I kinda wish we all still had the flags on our cars. Despite the terrible thing that brought us together, wasn't it so nice to revel in that patriotism and feel that connection? Of course, I've always been a cheese. Always teared up when Lee Greenwood sang "And I Gladly Staaand UP..." I'm a lost cause.

    God Bless the USA.
    Last weekend on Percy Priest Lake. (Americuh.)

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Pick me, T. Swift! Pick me!

    I've been attending Crosspoint Community Church for a while now, and I can't tell you enough how much I've grown as a person and in my faith during this time. It's been a truly great experience for me. And beginning in a few weeks, I'll be joining a Community Group for women and also volunteering through the Serving Saturdays activities... taking my journey from attending church once a week and reading Christian writers' blogs and books to stepping out in the community and doing something and getting involved. I've very excited about this.

    But on an only somewhat-related note, my preacher and his family were asked to appear in Taylor Swift's latest music video. That's Pete Wilson and his wife acting as Taylor's arguing parents, and also his kids (including the birthday boy). Adorable kids. It made their life to be a part of that.

    Stuff like this just doesn't happen when you live somewhere like Dothan. Or Birmingham, for that matter. Neither does this:

    That is a tour bus belonging to John Rich (from Big and Rich of the "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" Country Music shame fame). And it was parked in front of my house. He lives up the street.

    In my best Stephanie Tanner voice: How rude.


    Another very cool thing going on in Nashville is Donald Miller bringing his "Living a Better Story" campaign to Belmont University. He is one of my aforementioned favorite Christian authors/bloggers, and I am truly inspired by his idea of making your life into a story. I can hardly begin to describe it, as it is the subject of an entire book, but basically when they went to make his bestseller Blue Like Jazz into a movie, he found himself disturbed by how much he was editing his life to make things better, more attractive, more funny, etc., for the movie version. And it got him pondering the what ifs of what could happen if we actually set out to make sure we lived better stories. He realized that his life had been about writing books and making money, and that at the end of the day, he wanted it to be about more. So he started The Mentoring Project. Rest is history.

    Soooooo, back to my story. He came to speak at Belmont, and students were handed cash and asked to "do something" with the money. The idea is that they'll use it to create a story, and then share their stories, via video, blog entries, and other formats here.

    Pretty cool,  huh? These are the things I love about being in a college town, and one that draws big names and cool events to it more so than the college towns of my past (love them as I do...).

    Sidenote: I got to hear Don speak once at a mega-church here back in the fall, and I got my book signed. I dorked out and took a picture with him. He's an upstanding dude. Great speaker. I left inspired. I recommend his books for any person interested in reading about faith and wanting to be inspired, but not preached to. He presents ideas and arguments so candidly and with such humor, that I would call them musings more than anyone. They're the stories of his faith, and he's an awesome storyteller.

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Assault by pelvic thrust

    While I do not want to speak ill of the deceased, I have many questions about Michael Jackson. Did he really have a skin condition? What was the deal with Macauley Culkin? The little boys? Lisa Marie? He left us with an endless stream of WHY. I'm just baffled.

    But what may baffle me most is the following video.

    Am I the only one who finds it a little creepy that he is with this gang of dudes and they single the girl out and follow her around and dance-stalk her? Sending menacing pelvic thrusts her way? (Check out the assault-thrust at 2:13.) Jumping through windows to get to her? Michael, that is not attractive. That is being a stalker. She needed a Sassy Gay Friend to save her from making a terrible mistake.

    A new theory

    Bobby and I discovered something a few months ago, and it has been tried and tested and proved correct time and time again. So I'm sharing it with you.

    So about a month or so ago, we were in Asheville for a wedding weekend. It was a bit of a reunion weekend, since the bride was from my hometown and had gone to college with my sister and me, and it was all a bit reminiscent of being teens let out on our own in a big new city for the first time. Except we have real jobs and money to spend and actual legal rights to go to bars. So we did. And we went to fancy dinners. And we stayed out Friday night entirely too late, considering we were expected to be at a brunch at 10am.

    Needless to say, Saturday morning was less than pleasant. And to top it off, my poor seester woke up with a migraine. So Bobby and I, after foregoing brunch in search of pain medication for Nat, were on our own to explore for a while. But first... we were hungry. And we needed a few things from ole Wal-Mart. So there we are,  hungover and hating the miserable heat that we were disappointed to find was plaguing North Carolina just as much as Tennessee... walking around like zombies, searching for silly things like bobby pins, v-neck tshirts, and Alieve. So we made our purchases, adding some green tea (Bobby's fave that he highly recommended to ease my head), and we headed to Zaxby's. We ate. Realized later it was only 10:30am in Central Time, which just seemed weird to have been sitting in a Zaxby's. And then we headed home.

    The radio was on, and all of a sudden... Michael Jackson is singing. What is this song? Brains aren't working. Then there's a "heee heeehah!" "Go'on Girl!" The Way You Make Me Feel. And we jam out.

    Approximately four minutes later, we realize our moods are instantly lifted. And we decide that the combination of Zaxby's (or probably any acceptable fried chicken goodness), Iced Green Tea, and Michael Jackson will lift any mood. The Trifecta of Hangover Cures, if you will. (Add Alieve also, but that is just a given.)

    So while I haven't tried this out as a Hangover Cure again (I'm not a big drinker, so those Saturday mornings are thankfully few and far between), I have realized The Gloved One's powers for lifting a mood. "Billie Jean" did it over the speakers as I worked a late shift at the restaurant a few days ago (all the servers who had previously been ho-humming about, annoyed at customers and such, suddenly were bouncing around and dancing and singing like crazies). Then just a moment ago in the car, the following, my favorite Michael Jackson song, popped up randomly on my iPod, and my sleepy ho-hum mood was instantly lifted. Try it out. You'll see. He's magical. We always knew it.

    I'd forgotten about this video. Perhaps just listen and don't watch. It's a bit of a [debbie] downer. 

    When I was little, I thought the words were "... and no mustache could have been any clevah." Listen for it. Ha!

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Where were you on August 29th, 2005?

    [Disclaimer: Forgive the length and seriousness of this one... I had a hard time editing my thoughts, but wanted to share.]

    I was on a plane, headed to Santa Barbara, California.

    I always remember my mother telling me stories about where she was when John F. Kennedy was shot (she was in class, and they announced it over the intercom). It was something that everyone in their generation can attest to.

    My first memory of "where I was when" is Princess Diana's death (at the beach, walking around Publix). High school was seemingly void of these nationally bonding marks of time. I was a freshman in college on September 11th, and I actually slept through the live footage (but I'll never forget one of the smokers sitting outside of the dorm's "hey did you hear about New York?" as I walked out to class, nor will I forget failing my math quiz and how unapologetic and unsympathetic my teacher was). More recently, I learned of Michael Jackson's death during shift lineup at the restaurant where I worked at this time last year, and Heath Ledger's as I was driving home from class.

    It's hard to believe that yesterday marked five years that have passed since one of the most personal defining moments of my life. Though if you did not live near the Gulf or have a connection to New Orleans, chances are you didn't pay much attention as Hurricane Katrina came tearing through South Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. For me, it quite literally hit close to home, as my father hails from St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, a small but quite distinguishable area  right outside of New Orleans. Home of the Yat (short for "where y'at?") dialect, the Battle of New Orleans site and memorial, and enough drive-through daiquiri joints to ensure that no roads are safe to drive on... St. Bernard was also home to my only aunt (Nanny Robin) and her family, a few great aunts and uncles, and many memories of first Mardi Gras parades and Thanksgivings spent with my grandparents (they had passed away several years before this).

    I've always had a special connection to New Orleans. Sounds lame, I know, but it's true. I've never really partied there (there was one ill-fated New Year's Eve, but we won't go there today) and shared that connection that so many do. To me, it's home. Another more fragrant and robust version of my first home in Dothan. Where my last name doesn't stand out as it does in Alabama or Tennessee. Where I understand and feel the deep heritage there. I honestly thought I'd move there after college, and a last-minute decision to accept an internship in Birmingham is all that stops this from being a very different set of memories.

    I very well remember climbing on a plane that morning, headed to Santa Barbara for work, and calling my aunt to see if they were evacuating. She was annoyed, tired of all the teases of hurricanes and evacuations from the previous years, saying "Yeahh we're on the way to your parents' house. Probably will be back home by Monday." She packed her husband, their children, and their dog, a few days' worth of clothing, a few pictures, and whatever the kids grabbed that they couldn't' live without for the weekend (which at the time were some gaming systems, iPods, and cell phones). Natalie and I are still a bit upset they left our original Nintendo behind. They certainly weren't prepared to stay 6 months in Dothan, Alabama.

    In California, no one was all that concerned about what was going on in the Gulf. Most everyone watched the news and kinda said "meh... that's sad for Mardi Gras," going on with their business. And then there were the folks and their "good riddances," not mourning the loss of such a vile, sinful city. I don't blame the former in retrospect (surely I do the same with the wild fires there and such), but at the time... I was a mess. Here I am, across the country from where my second home was being destroyed. My aunt's home for 45 years. I'm seeing images of this place I love in complete devastation... the news was unrelenting... and everyone around me is just going on about their business like it's just another day. Cause it was just another day, just another week for them. While it was one of the most surreal weeks of my life. I'll never forget talking to my 13-year-old cousin Karly, who was beside herself not knowing where her friends were, or whether they even made it out ok. My aunt was glued to message boards and email, searching for friends and other family members. (Everyone was eventually accounted for, though many did not move back from Houston or other places they were displaced to.) St. Bernard, closest to the levees, was in a total nightmare. It was just awful.

    Post-storm flooding in St. Bernard Parish

    A St. Bernard Neighborhood similar to my aunt's and my grandparents'
    They had about 13 feet of water in their single story house, and my dad was baffled by what a sheer mess it was. There was a random freaking boat wedged in the carport attached to the side of the house. A dresser from a bedroom on the opposite end of the house blocking the side door. Sludge everywhere. They went back and got all they could salvage after a week or so. Wondered about the health hazards from handling such innocent things as picture frames, jewelry, and books. Much to the dismay of Natalie and I (who are easily creeped out), Nanny Robin creates porcelain dolls as a hobby. There were far too many of them in my parents' house for those six months. (But of course I was happy she was able to salvage as many as she did, for her sake.) :)

    There were some funny memories, of course. The kids adjusting to living in Alabama as pre-teens. Going to public school (they were in Catholic schools and not the co-ed ones in New Orleans). They enjoyed spending time with their uncle (Parran Freddy). They went to the Peanut Festival. They wondered at how we survived without much entertainment, and 45 minutes away from any interstate. But they also grew to love it. Even pondered settling there, but in the end, wanted to go home.

    Now, five years later, damage from the storm is still seen in St. Bernard, and talked about much with my family. Nanny Robin and Uncle Kenny were blessed to have good insurance and the ability to find a home with very little damage that they could fix up and move into quickly. It's a happy ending for them. There are lots of chronological references made to the effect of "before the storm." My grandparents' house is completely gone. There's an empty space where it once stood, witnessing my dad and Nanny grow up, then Natalie and me, and then Karly and Derek. Seeing that empty space for the first time a few years ago is what really got to me more than anything. St. Bernard was essentially wiped out, but many have moved back and are rebuilding. The parish has about half of its population as "before the storm." But Lord knows those daquiri shops are back in full action. I visited a few months ago and I was happy to see that New Orleans is alive and thriving and truly resembling its old self again.

    Laissez le bon temps rouler!  Yeah?
    "Green" homes built in the Lower 9th Ward by Brad Pitt's Make It Right organization.
    Katrina Memorial in Lower 9th Ward
    Same ole streets
    RRB and Me
    French Market Entrance and up Barracks Street
    Cooter Brown's in the Garden District

    Pretty skies above Jacob and Magazine Street (at Balcony Bar & Cafe)

    The Chalmette National Cemetery, adjoining the National Battlefield site
    With Nanny Robin at Jackson Square