Monday, April 29, 2013

Another NashVegas Night

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I should never have left town without that big yellow metal chicken secured in the back of my SUV

(While I was out of town and the victim of a week of bad internet connection, one of my past blog posts was featured in the online magazine Better After 50 (it really is, I think).  After reading my piece, stick around and read some of the other sassy, funny, and thoughtful things the other writers have to say.)

Sometimes a gal just has to get out of town.  The endless rain and gray skies made me think “Go South.”  And so I headed to the bright lights of one of my favorite towns --  NashVegas.  I went to meet up with friends for the All 4 The Hall benefit concert Keith Urban and Vince Gill do for The Country Music Hall of Fame.  You might remember that I wrote about it at this time last year.

There is so much besides country music that draws me to the town.  I made my stop at Parnassus Books where I bought the wonderfully creative and well-balanced book by Theron Humphrey, Maddie On Things.  Check here to see if Theron and Maddie are coming to a bookstore near you.  If you're not a dog lover before you open the book, you soon will become one.

I also ate way too many carbs late at night. And in the morning.  I bemoaned the fact that the gritty, small-town Nashville that I first knew and loved is growing into a sleek, modern mini-Atlanta with apartment high rises, expensive hotels, and chain stores.  A lawyer sitting next to my breakfast companion and me one morning half agreed with me.  He pointed out the restaurant window and said, “They should keep that place and that place and that place.  But frankly, I’m glad to see that building come down and a nice mid-rise apartment go in.  My wife and I want to live where the action is, but we’d like a change from our house to an apartment.”

Isn’t that the story everywhere?  So many people want to live in the midst of the excitement that pretty soon they’ve torn down all the things that make a neighborhood worth its salt.  Then you’re just left with the apartment buildings full of people who wanted all those things that made the neighborhood interesting.

But some things in NashVegas don’t change much.  There is still plenty of music to be had.  What made this trip particularly good was I had a concert double-header.  Gary Allan was in town singing at the Ryman Auditorium the night after Keith and friends.  So let me leave you with a tour of Lower Broadway on a Wednesday night in April.

There’s always action in the alley between the Ryman Auditorium and the music clubs that line Lower Broad.
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With all that neon, the city deserves the name NashVegas.
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A Music City hopeful playing for tips while competing against the ubiquitous big screen TV.
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The boots and jeans of country singers tell their own stories.
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I love being at the stage.
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A perk of being up front – you get your Hatch Show Print signed.
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Gary Allan reminds us that “Every storm runs out of rain.”

I finally got a bit of a smile out of him (around :20).  Gary’s “An Alright Guy.”

The sights and sounds of Lower Broad around midnight.  Most clubs have two bands playing. Multiply that by a dozen clubs on the strip and you understand why the sound in this clip is chaotic.  On a warm night the front windows of the clubs are thrown open, and it’s non-stop music as you stroll. 

Head to the comments box and tell me where you like to go when you just need to get away.  Do you have a special room -- or chair?  Or does a certain kind of scenery or activity recharge your battery?  Share your special place in the comments.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tragedy in Boston

There are no words.  Prayers for all who suffer.
Justice will come.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Midlife Crazy, Or You Can't Jump Halfway Out Of An Airplane

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Things have been a little crazy around here lately

Life has been a little crazy lately.  I’ve been trying to organize my ideas finally to start a MASSIVE renovation on our house.  I’ve been trying to figure out my travel agenda for the rest of the year (from Louisville, KY all the way to Tunisia in North Africa).  My geriatric dog has developed a little problem with making it outside in time.  We had a few tornadoes touching down in town recently.  You know, just a little busy.

And so, well, I guess all of this activity overtaxed my brain and warped my perspective a bit.  Or maybe it was hormones,* because I decided to go back to school and get yet another college degree.  The three I already have simply couldn’t give me what I needed.

Starting a blog when you’re not trying to sell anything but your stories and your infectious (I mean it – best to keep your distance) personality is like dipping your toe into the water.  “Will anybody read me?”  “Will anybody say anything to me?”  “Which bloggers will let me sit at their lunch table?”  How insane is it to even start writing that first post when there are tens of millions of blogs on the internet?  How would I ever be found?

But some of you wonderful people found me and stuck around.  You shared your stories in the comments and encouraged me.  You made me think I could write.  I met other writers online who inspired me and made me feel guilty for not doing even more with my words.  And then I finally told myself it was time to step up to the challenge.  So I filled out the first college application I’ve completed in over 30 years.

I want to create long-form essays.  I want to improve my travel writing skills.  Perhaps I’ll even try poetry.  Someday I’ll finish a book, maybe two. I might even go back to teaching.  However, it’s difficult to achieve any of that without a writing community to give feedback or deepen my understanding of the practice.  Spending a recent weekend at the AWP Writing Conference surrounded by people who could not only talk writing, but who could also talk writing theory and history of writing (I’m a sucker for that academic stuff) showed me how far removed I was from doing what would make me happy.

I don’t want to dabble in writing.  I want to be a writer who talks regularly with other writers and constantly expands her range of writing skills.  That’s when the decision to earn an MFA burst through my walls of doubts about not being talented enough to get accepted or not having the time or the stamina to produce yet another thesis.  Finally fear was conquered by desire.

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At least this time I don’t have to live in a cheap, buggy apartment surviving on hamburger and canned vegetables.  Universities have developed low-residency programs for people like me who have made the crazy decision midway through their adulthood that they need to live a writing life.  With two weeks of intense on-campus time for three summers, followed by constant online conversations and massive amounts of writing being passed back and forth for the next three years, I’ll be well on my way to finally earning the title “writer.”

You might remember the little barn quilt tour I took you on last summer.  That was near Ashland University, which so kindly decided that I qualified for its MFA program.  It will be my haven where I’ll get to talk Creative Nonfiction ad nauseum.

This does feel a bit like jumping out of a plane.  Someone will now expect something from me in this game.  I can’t waffle and stall by giving five hours a week to serious writing when they’re expecting five hours each day (yikes!).  I’m not going into this simply to try it on for size, not at the current price of college tuition.  Like jumping out of a plane, I can’t do this writing gig halfway.

For reasons I don’t quite understand myself, once I hit mid-life I’ve felt like jumping out of that plane more often.  I dare to say I want to be a writer.  I not only travel across the ocean, but have a home there. I talk with my husband about returning to the Scottish Highlands to finally make it to the top of mountains I failed to climb when we were there ten years ago.  I have plans that will take me long past the day of my death to check off my “to do” list.  This one’s exhilarating.  And scary.  But the door to that plane just opened.  One . . . two . . . three . . . .

*Today I saw a face serum for women that said “for skin hormonally affected.”  I think that means “for wrinkles.”

What have you done that’s like jumping out of a plane?  Inspire us in the comments box.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Time For A Little Spring Cleaning -- For The Body

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Welcome to Diet #462.

At this stage you might say, “Why try?” But this time I’m trying something new. This time I’m actually going to succeed.  I have to.   At my age it gets harder and harder to lose the weight.  My body has settled into a sort of inertia where it doesn’t just get harder to lose it as each year passes.  It’s an impossible dream as each week passes.  Those pounds stick to me as tight as a tick after a summer hike.

Excess weight means problems with my newly diagnosed osteoarthritis.  I could have trouble just getting up and down in a yoga class.  I’ll have no hope of fulfilling a desire to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up.  It means I may not take a bike tour through Italy or Vermont.  Or, even worse, I may not be able to get up and down the three flights of my beloved French apartment or easily walk the cobbled streets of Dijon.  And losing just 10% of my current weight can bring me so many health benefits, like lowering my risk for heart disease.

Of course there is no end to tips on how to cleanse my body and lose weight.  Yes, I’m full of toxins and inflammation from fast food, too many carbs, and an addiction to sugar and foods with a high fat content.  I accept the fact that I need to fill my body with healthy food full of antioxidants and vitamins and the right kind of protein and all those good things.  But how?

Food denial is the tool of choice for some proposing this path to health:
Cut out sugar.
Cut out bread
Cut out all dairy products
No fast food. Period.
Never eat after 7 p.m.

Others suggest fasts or cleanses to flush out toxins.  The primary effect is to leave you with a kitchen pantry full of things you’ll never use again, such as quinoa, sauerkraut, prunes, kale, and a juicer you bought specifically for those three magic days.  The frustration of trying to clean the darn thing caused you to give up even sooner than the kale and artichoke juice that was supposed to be your lunch all weekend.

Others offer miracle food delivered right to your door.  It does take the effort out of dieting in terms of portion control and not having to think about what you’ll eat.  On the other hand, it tastes almost as good as the packaging it came in and, because it needs to have a long shelf life for shipping, it’s filled with the chemicals and preservatives that I really need to extract from my body.

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So for my spring-cleaning of the body I’m desperate enough to try something new.  I’m excited about it and am eager to share this new amazing strategy I’ve adopted for gaining energy, dropping pounds, and cleaning out all the gunk clogging up my system.

A good friend shared her secret with me after listening to all my excuses for not losing weight.  She listened to my whining about how hard it was.  She listened to the problems I found with most of the weight-loss programs out there.  She listened to my “I should, buts . . .” and “I would ifs . . .” and then she told me that I was making it too complicated.

She had me repeat the four words that will bring me a new body: I EAT HEALTHY FOOD.

Nobody knows better than me what healthy food is.  After years of trying to lose more than a token 15 pounds only to gain back 20, I know what an appropriate portion size is.  I know that I shouldn’t step foot in a fast food place (“Oh, it’s ok.  I’m going to order from their healthy menu.”  Yeah, right).  So my dear friend made me say aloud “I eat healthy food” and post that message anywhere and everywhere.  At my computer, in the car, in my bedroom so I’ll see it first thing in the morning.  See it.  Say it.  Do it.

And you know something?  It seems to be working.  There have been times my old food routines tempted, but I repeat my new mantra and make a better choice.  It’s a start.  My healthy food record is about 60% success and climbing.  I’ve gotten back to cooking, which gives me more control over my food.  Little by little I’m boxing up my old food habits and carting them off to the trash.  And I now have the energy to do that because I eat healthy food.

Healthy food in moderation.  It’s a scary prospect.  Desperation makes me willing to try anything.  I’ll keep you posted.

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What’s your own recipe for a “spring cleaning” of the body, whether it’s food choices or an activity or something else?  What’s your greatest struggle when you attempt it?  Share your story in the comments box.

If you’re wondering what’s a quick and easy way to know if you’re eating healthy, take a look at the picture above.  The USDA has replaced the familiar food pyramid with a new food guidance diagram to remind you what a healthy meal looks like.  Trying to model the plate is a good start to cleaning out your body.

This post is in response to another Mama Kat prompt.  Drop by to see what others wrote.

Mama’s Losin’ It
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