Sunday, March 30, 2014

Forever starts now!

As usual, it has been a long time since my last post.  But considering that 1) my last blog post was less than a week before Moby's death and 2) nothing of significance has occurred in my life since then, it is justified that I've not been very active in my posting.  On a positive note, I've had some really great things going on recently, and I'm here to share a significant change in my life.

Early last year, I was dealing with the end-stage "stuff" of my oldest dog/child, Moby.  To the extent that you can, I was trying to prepare myself mentally for his death and trying to let him enjoy every moment he had left.  This post is not intended to rehash Moby's death, but it is important to understand how much Moby loved and adored me.  Here's why:  he was the closest thing to a child that I've ever had.  I often felt like there was a little boy trapped in there that wanted nothing more than to be as close to his mom as he could and to see me smile.  I know without a doubt that he wanted me to be happy.  And he directly influenced a big lifepath change that I was about to make.

One day in late spring/early summer last year, I was on a walk in the neighborhood with Moby and Sydney - in fact, probably one of Moby's last neighborhood walks.  We walked past a neighbor who was in her front yard refinishing a piece of furniture, and I complimented her work and we started chatting.  One of her two daughters ran into the yard, and soon she (the mother, Edie) was telling me about how she adopted two siblings.  A few minutes into the conversation, I remembered that Edie and I met about a year earlier while we both were getting an oil change and sitting in the waiting room where she told me her adoption story.  Edie's daughters are absolutely gorgeous - faces that you just don't forget.  So as soon as I remembered that we met, I mentioned it to her and she remembered as well.  How ironic that we'd met at a Firestone place where she told me her adoption story, then a year later, I happen to run into her again (she lives in my neighborhood!) and she was telling me her story again - neither of us remembering that we'd met and had this conversation already!  I'd told her before that I was somewhat interested in adoption, but I told her on this day that, as a single person, I just didn't know how to get to that point of being "ready" to take the leap of adoption.  This was when she made a suggestion that probably changed the course of my life from that point forward.  She asked if I'd thought about fostering as a way to see if I really was interested in adoption.  While I'd definitely thought about adoption, I'd never thought about fostering - and I honestly didn't think single people could foster.  Edie told me about a local non-profit that was established by a group of churches in Little Rock - The Call, which acts as a liaison between prospective foster/adoptive families and the State of Arkansas.  They help with training and generally expediting the whole process.  Before I left Edie's house, we'd gone inside and she signed me up for an informational meeting, which is the first step in becoming a foster or adoptive home.


 Fast forward a couple of months, and I'd attended the informational meeting and completed "PRIDE training", which is the training component of certification required to be a foster or adoptive parent.  The training was held in July.  Moby passed on August 2, and he was in such bad shape the weekends of the PRIDE training, my mom actually came over and stayed with him while I attended training.  So it was all very emotional, obviously.  After I attended the training, in my head I thought I was ready to be a foster parent right away.  Then Moby passed away and my heart was broken.  My world was upside down.  For 2 solid months, I sort of "checked out" and fostering unintentionally took a back burner while I grieved.  From the time Moby passed until early January this year, I'd made no progress on my fostering certification.  I did, however, use that time to do a LOT of self-evaluation, focused grieving, praying, and dealing with a very strong feeling that being a foster parent is something I am destined to do.  And as I moved through the grief stages and was able to focus on the happy "stuff" with Moby, I had really strong feelings that Moby would've wanted me to do this.  He would've absolutely loved having children around, and he would want me to be happy - not sad.  


And all of a sudden, I was READY (mentally).  I got all my documentation together, made the accommodations in my house that I'd been advised on previously, and I submitted my packet to the State of Arkansas.  They reviewed my packet, did a home study, and officially opened my home as a foster home this week.  Now, I'm just waiting on the phone to ring.

Getting to the point of being ready has been a very emotional process, especially as I still have a lot of grief related to my loss of Moby.  I have been overwhelmed at the support I have of my family, friends, and co-workers.  I've also tapped into a support group meeting hosted by The Call, which has been a great resource for all of my questions.



It's still hard for me to imagine that as soon as I get the first call, my life will be forever changed.  And I will have the opportunity to forever change a child's life.  I know it is going to be extremely challenging, but I also know it's going to be incredibly rewarding, in many ways.  I know that being a foster parent is most likely going to be the most profound thing I've ever done.  I've found several "single foster mom" blogs that have already been very helpful to me, so I really am going to try and do some consistent blogging to help others going through the same experience.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.  I am most definitely going to need them.  I just returned from vacation in the Dominican Republic (Panic en la Playa), which is my last planned thing I had on the books (I will be blogging about PELP very soon).  Effective immediately, my first priority is the foster children.  Life changing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fur-ever Love: My Moby

"You can hear it coming like a train out of control.........."

This song has always had a special meaning to me.  And though the meaning has evolved through the years, the intensity of it only grows stronger.

The train that I hear coming - it's moving fast and gaining speed.  There is not a thing I can do to stop it except prepare for the disaster it will leave after it blows through my life and leaves me in pieces.  Knowing it is coming doesn't make preparing for the aftermath any easier.  In fact, I wonder if it makes it harder.

Though I've been saying for a while that the end is near, I have no choice but to deal with the reality that my best friend is living on borrowed time.  Precious, borrowed time.  And though I thought I was ready for it, I know that there is no way to prepare yourself for the loss of a loved one. He may be furry and he walks on four legs, but he is my love.....my best friend.....the most unconditional love that I've ever experienced.


It was pure luck that on an early spring day in 1999, my best friend/roommate and I made an impromptu decision to get a dog.  No research, no looking around to find the "right breed".....we wanted the first dog we could find.  Our search of the classified ads led us to an old lady's home in Guy, Arkansas.  Her german shepard had gotten knocked up by the neighbors collie, and she was pissed.  She wanted to get rid of these dogs as soon as possible and told us to take as many as she wanted - she was sending them to the pound that weekend.  She lived on a farm and all the puppies were living under an old pickup truck propped up on cinder blocks.  As we knelt down to peek at the litter, all the puppies scattered away from us.  Except one.  His ears were twice the size of his head, and he was uncoordinated and awkward.  He came running towards us, tripping and rolling on the way, as puppies usually do.  There was no denying, this was our dog.  We loaded him up in the car and took him home as fast as we could.  He went for at least a week without a name.  He was too special for any regular dog name, so we thought about it harder than any decision made by most college sophomores.  No less than a week later, we decided on Moby Dick.  Not after the literary character but after the Led Zeppelin song - a drum solo, specifically - "because there are no words to describe".


And ever since that day in '99, Moby has been my man, my one true love, my furry soulmate.  There have been good times, and there have been bad - and Moby has been by my side through all of it.  He always had this innate sense of my feelings.  He would crawl in my lap and cuddle with me when I needed it the most.  Or when I was crying my eyes out, he would join and howl at the top of his lungs with me.  How he always knew exactly how to take care of me is beyond anything I will ever understand.  

Now it's my turn - to take care of him.  There is so much that he can no longer do, and the list gets longer every day.  It breaks my heart - not only because I know the end is getting closer, but because of the many things he can't do.  He used to be so active and capable of doing everything and anything.  Now, going down a step into the backyard is a challenge, to say the least.  My goal for every day is to get him to eat, and some days I fail.

After all this boy has done for me, I need to know that I've done everything in my power to keep him around as long as he should be.  "Should be" is a very grey area, unfortunately.  I am terrified of having to make the decision to put him to sleep, but I am equally terrified of keeping him around longer than he should be for my own selfish reasons.  He is not suffering.  If he was, I wouldn't be so torn about making the decision.  But he is so pitiful and often helpless.  Not the dog he used to be, and certainly not the dog he would want me to remember.  

Anyone who met or knew Moby recognized how special he was.  Everyone has a Moby-story.  Mostly funny, and many of them involving me chasing him and yelling at him.  But everyone loved him.  And he loved everyone.  Most of all, me.  Up until the last few weeks, his place was ALWAYS at my feet.  He would sit for hours on end wherever I happened to be sitting, standing, dancing, cleaning, exercising, biking, walking.  How lucky I've been to have someone who wants to be around me no matter how happy, sad, pissed, tired, grumpy, nervous, or excited I was.  I know that I will never have the kind of unconditional love I've had with Moby.

I can't imagine my life without Moby.  I've had him for almost half of my life, which is so crazy to think about.  I would rather lose a limb than lose him.  I feel like I could function better without a leg than I could without him.  I have tried to "prepare" myself for his expiration day, but how do you do that?  I've been thinking about it for months now, but in the last few weeks it has consumed me completely.  And I still don't know the answer.  Every morning, I wake up and the first thing I do is to check and see if he's breathing.  When I walk in the door from work, I wonder if today is the day I'll find him non-responsive.  


Unfortunately, my reality is that at a moment soon-to-arrive, he will either go on his own or I will have to make a decision to put him to sleep.  I despise both of these bullshit options, but I know for sure that I don't want to have to make the decision.  So as awful as it sounds (and it is so terribly awful), I hope that he will go on his own.  Soon, before I have to make the horrible dreadful decision.  

In the last couple of days, I've spent several hours laying on his bed with him.  Looking him in his eyes and telling him "it's okay baby boy, you can go now.  I will be okay.  I love you so much.  Please just let go."

I hope he hears me, and more than anything, I hope he knows how much I love him.  





Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Grown Up Christmas List

I've been overwhelmed lately with the typical seasonal worries:  what to buy my loved ones (how to pay for all of it) and gift ideas to give my family for myself (when I don't need a thing).  This afternoon, as I was sitting here stressing about all of this, I was also listening to my entire music on shuffle on shuffle - thousands of songs that could have been selected.  This song played, and I was reminded of how much I really love it (and needed it hear it).  I think it means more to me this year than it ever has, as I am so fortunate to have everything in the world that I could possibly need (and then some).  Additionally, I know many people who have lost loved ones this year, and my heart absolutely breaks for them.  I know several families whose lives have been torn apart by either a job loss or a disaster, and my heart aches for them.

So as we all find ourselves getting lost in the bustle of the holidays, regardless of what you believe, please remember that all of the toys, gifts, and disposable things are meaningless in the grand scheme of life.  Friends, family, peace, love, and happiness are what it's all about - and the disposables don't provide those things.

Please remember those who are hurting this year, and do something kind for a stranger.  It will make you feel so good.


Amy Grant - Grown Up Christmas List


Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies.

Well, I'm all grown-up now,
And still need help somehow
I'm not a child, but my heart still can dream.

So here's my lifelong wish,
My grown-up Christmas list.
Not for myself, but for a world in need.

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely wrapped beneath our tree
Well heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul.

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth?
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth.

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bringin' the ROCK to Little Rock

Everyone who knows me knows that I.LOVE.MUSIC.  Specifically, live music.  It is very close to the center of my world - right next to my family.  So my favorite band is on hiatus - that doesn't mean that I'm on hiatus.  I've always squeezed in some different "flavors" of music between my Panic shows.  This year, I've committed to seeing even more of the different flavors that make the live music world go round.

I've been in Little Rock for 13 years and have been a live music buff since before I arrived.  I've also been fortunate to almost always have great options of live music going on in my now-hometown to choose from.  This is no-doubt in LARGE part to the tremendous efforts of the awesome Chris King and Suzon Awbrey.  They not only provide 2 of the greatest establishments Little Rock has to offer (Sticky Fingerz and Rev Room), but they recognize so many different types of music that Little Rockers love.  I personally lean more toward the jamband flavor, and they always have great gigs in that arena.

I am super pumped about seeing Hayes Carll tonight at Rev Room.  Though he's now I worldwide sensation, I had the fortune of meeting and hearing him play at college gatherings my freshman year at Hendrix.  As it turned out, he was friends with some of the new friends I was making and I remember the first freshman party I attended (read White House) - he was playing some Bob Dylan on guitar and a few folks were gathered around singing along.  In high school, one of my best friends Sarah Hughes played routinely like this at our get-togethers, so I was drawn in to listening to Hayes et al.  This would not be the last time of my freshman year that I got to witness Hayes on guitar.  Hayes graduated Hendrix that year and I attended one more year before transferring to UALR (oh the regrets.........another blog).

Years later, and I'm talking probably 13 years later, I can't remember how I heard it (this was pre-Facebook and other social media) but I heard that Hayes Carll had just put out his first album in the previous year and its' reception was great!  I couldn't believe it!  I remember ordering 4 of the cds online and waiting anxiously for them to arrive.  I gave the other 3 cds away, as I wanted to get the word out about this great artist.  As luck would have it, Hayes was also playing at Sticky Fingerz for (I believe) the first time.  I gathered a few of my closest friends and we went.  Me and a couple of friends were instantly drawn in.  This guy has the most clever yet poetic lyrics and all of his tunes are catchy.  And the voice, oh the voice.........The best of all worlds.  I would venture to say that he is in my all time top 5 favorite artists.  That's a huge statement for me.

I have Hayes-brain today because he's playing tonight, but I listen to his music regularly.  He has released 4 albums, all of which are great.  Each album has a variety of tunes - something for everyone.  Hayes has a special love for Arkansas - even naming one of his albums Little Rock.  I am fairly certain that Arkansas is the home state of his lovely kick ass bride (who happens to be one of the many awesome friends I made during my Hendrix years).  Hayes usually plays in Little Rock twice a year.  Once during the spring and once around Thanksgiving.  I try my best to make each show, as it is always the best of times.  And often a mini-Hendrix reunion.  Awe.

So if any of you Little Rockers are reading this and don't have good plans for your St Patty's Day Saturday night, I implore you - go to Rev Room!  You will NOT regret it.

A hundred million thanks to Chris and Suzon, who make such great music and fun times available to central Arkansas.  You are appreciated, my friends.  Keep on rockin.

Cheers!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

21 random things I love

Per the topic, these are all random, goes-without-saying things (in no particular order) that I love.  Though it goes without saying, I must mention that I will assume that those who know me know that inherently, my family, friends, dogs, and Widespread Panic are at the top of this list.  Because they are not random, however, they are not on this list.


  1. Intervention and Hoarders (reality TV shows on A&E):  I like Intervention a whole lot more than Hoarders, but I think it's safe to say that a large part of me enjoys these shows because watching these poor people who are in various stages of awfulness in their lives make me feel better about my own.  Is that bad!?
  2. 80's hits:  I will always have a special place in my heart for the music hits of the 80s.  My girlfriends and I had many a dance routine to everything from Bobby Brown to Debbie Gibson.  Some of my greatest memories come flooding back to me when I hear such a song from my past and can recall every word to most songs from the 80s.
  3. Quotes:  I try to read at least one new (new-to-me) quote a day.  And some days, I even write them on the wipe-off board at work to share the wisdom or humor that is worthy of repeating.
  4. Fake tattoos:  Though I have a few real tats, I really love wearing a fake tattoo that is exceptionally large or noticeable - especially when I'm going to WP shows, music festivals, etc.  The great things about them is that they aren't a permanent mark but they are a great expression of yourself.  They give you that little surge of rockstar-feeling, and I would wear one every day if I could.
  5. Helping people:  Whether it be volunteering for a worthy cause or simply paying a stranger a nice compliment, I honestly get pleasure from putting a smile on someone's face.  You never know what kind of day a person is having, what thoughts are crossing their mind, or what terrible fate may await them in their near future.  Sometimes something as simple as kind words in an elevator can change a person's day and remind them that they are important.
  6. Toe socks:  yes, the silly ones that are basically gloves for your feet.  While they take some getting used to, I thoroughly enjoy wearing them - especially because they allow me to wear my Chacos (sandals) even when it's cold outside.
  7. Fall season:  while I like summer and winter, I LOVE the fall and the spring.  Basically, I love the milder seasons.  Extreme heat and extreme cold get old fast, but unfortunately, those extreme seasons seem to last longer every year.
  8. In accordance with #7, I simply adore camping.  Whether it's light-weight backpack camping or full-on-bring-all-the-amenities camping, I love to be in the woods, surrounded by nature and hearing the sounds of wildlife and the trees blowing in the wind.  The icing on the cake - the crackle of a campfire.  Just talking/writing about it makes me want to go now!
  9. DVR:  I despise commercials, so I have officially eliminated them from my life through the use of a DVR.  Aside from the obvious of not having to be at home at a particular time to catch your favorite show, it's absolutely great to be able to hit the fast-forward button when that annoying Aflac duck invades my nightly news.
  10. Cups with lids/straws:  I remember as an early elementary age student, I loved to still drink from "sippy cups."  There was just something about being able to lay in bed with your cup turned sideways/upside down without spilling and being able to drink from a 'nozzle.'  Now, as an adult, I am in love with my Tervis Tumbler/s, complete with lid and straw.  I can't explain the pleasure I get from it, but I can just say that it makes me happy.  That's why I have over 8 Tervis Tumblers, I suppose.
  11. My car:  I have a 2006 green Subaru Outback wagon that I got in mid-2005.  It has over 125,000 miles on it, but I still love it just as much (if not more) than I did when I first got it.  The beauty of a wagon is that it has the perks of an SUV (extra storage space, seats fold down for the doggies) but it gets the gas mileage of a car.  Plus, my model has a sunroof that is half the length of my car.  I can't imagine ever having another car (and I plan to drive this one until it dies), but if I do have another car, it will either be a new Outback or another wagon (Volvo Cross-Country, if I'm lucky).
  12. People who stand up for what they believe in.  Even if it is something that I don't agree with, I have respect for people who aren't afraid to support what they believe - especially when they aren't just "following the crowd".
  13. Hammocks:  I love the old school rope knit hammocks (my mom has a really great one in her huge backyard overlooking the lake that is her backyard), but I was recently gifted with an ENO hammock (double nest, to be exact) and it is absolutely wonderful.  So far, I've only used it on my recent trip to Mexico, but it is outstandingly durable and you can pretty much always find a place to put it up.  I plan on doing some hammock-camping in the upcoming spring and my ENO hammock will be something that remains in my car so that I always have the option to put it up and hang out, read a book, or take a nap wherever I go.
  14. Water:  hot, cold, mild.  Drinking, swimming, bathing.  I love it all.  It makes sense that my sign (Scorpio) is a water sign.  My wish when I die is to have my ashes spread in Greers Ferry Lake, as I grew up on that lake and have many great memories (as well as our family having a current house on that lake) there.
  15. Trashy humor:  I have always had a love for humor (dark, dry, you name it), but I have in the last few years developed an intense appreciation for humor that is borderline (if not over-the-line) offensive.  As long as it is not racist or judgmental to a specific group of people, I'm willing to attempt a laugh.
  16. I love to laugh.  Giggling is good, but the kind of laughing that you just can't stop, the kind that causes your face to hurt from laughing so hard, the kind that makes others laugh even when they don't know what you're laughing at - it's good stuff.  Contagious.
  17. Meeting new people.  Don't get me wrong, I have a great group of friends - many of whom I've been friends with since childhood.  But I think you can never have too many friends.  My lifestyle (specifically traveling to see Widespread Panic) has opened up a world of opportunities to meet new and different people from all over the world.  I can (and have) make conversation with a stranger in a bathroom line and end up being friends with the person because we discovered we had a lot in common.
  18. The feeling I get at around 5:10 on a Friday afternoon.  There is nothing better to me than walking out of the office knowing that I have nothing to do (or just as good, something fun going on that weekend) until Monday.  The cycle of feelings changes throughout the weekend, but at the very end of the workday on Friday, the amount of weekend-time is at an all time high and the possibilities for the weekend are endless.  I live for Fridays.
  19. Being appreciated and showing appreciation.  This tends to make me think primarily of work.  I currently work in a thankless job, and while I don't perform my job duties for recognition or even for thank-yous, it is especially nice to hear from time to time that there is someone out there who appreciates the hard work that I put into my job.  I try to remember the same thing and show appreciation to those who do things that may go unnoticed.  Appreciation goes a long way (and that's a two-way street).
  20. The excitement that my dogs exhibit when I get home from work.  While much of their excitement is directly related to the fact that the know they're about to get food and treats, I like to believe that they are also simply excited that I am home and they are glad to see me.  The love of my dogs is such a wonderful, no-strings-attached, exciting love that it keeps me going at times when I feel like nothing I do is right or appreciated (see #19).  Every single day when I pull into my driveway, I can count on - without a doubt - Moby being in the front bedroom of my house, chin on the windowsill, awaiting my return.  And although he knows it's me, he barks at the front door until I've unlocked the door and made my entrance.  What a great feeling of acceptance.
  21. Singing.  Though I may not have a great singing voice, I've always been a song-lyrics-fanatic and I love to express myself through singing.  Specifically when alone in my car or in the shower.  I have to refrain myself from singing while at work when indulging myself in loud music at my desk.  I know that I think I sound better than I actually do, so I'm doing the world a favor by keeping my singing to myself.  But I'm also doing myself a favor by singing my heart out whenever I can - because it makes me a happy (and a much more tolerable) person.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Panic en la Playa: What a dream!!!




June 21, 2011 - I received confirmation of successfully obtaining a room/entry for me, my sister, and my brother-in-law that we would be attending the first ever Panic en la Playa.  This confirmation came just a few days before I departed for a 3 night Panic run at Red Rocks, and I was so excited about it.  It seemed so far away, but I had plenty of Panic activities planned for 2011 to keep my mind off of how far away February was.  I knew that I had been given the opportunity of a lifetime for a legendary experience.  


Fast forward to January 2012.  The time had finally come.  I thought that if it was possible to die from excitement, that I was on my death bed.  :)  I've been to Cancun/Playa area on several occasions and even been to all inclusive resorts, so I knew what a grand experience that is.  However, my mind simply could not 'compute' the thought of a 4-night Panic run combined with an all-inclusive resort vacation in Cancun!  


Between the time I booked Panic en la Playa, the band announced that they would be doing a 4-venue acoustic Wood Tour that would sandwich the Mexico run.  Having started my Panic career in 1997, I was always intrigued by the Sit & Ski tour, an acoustic tour that the band did in 1996.  I'd heard the shows on tape (yes, on tape - back then, anyway) but aside from seeing the boys do a semi-acoustic first set on New Year's shows, I'd never experienced a fully acoustic Panic show.  I had to go - or at least try.


As with most things Panic these days, there were a LOT of people who wanted to go to the Wood shows.  I decided to try for tickets to the Atlanta shows and if fate would have it that I would get tickets, then I would be there.  It just so happened that the Atlanta shows were the weekend before the Monday that I already had my flight booked to head to Mexico a day before the shows.  Fate is a fabulous lady.  I got 2 tickets for Friday and Saturday (via the phone, no less).  I was more-than-pleasantly surprised when my best friend, Jennibette, said that she would like to go with me, as lately many of my closest Panic travel buddies have been busy with families, etc - which has resulted in me "flying solo" to see the boys.  While I have no problems with doing solo Panic shows, it's always better to have your loved ones by your side.  I was absolutely thrilled that JB was going to the ATL with me!  There will be a separate blog about the Atlanta Wood shows, but I couldn't write about the Playa trip without mentioning the "appetizer" of Atlanta Wood leading to the "entree" of Panic en la Playa.  Wanna see pictures of my ATL experience, go here.


After 2 nights of awesome, better-than-I-expected acoustic Panic in Atlanta, we flew back to Little Rock and I had a night at home to switch gears, luggage, and haul ass to Mexico.  I am so glad that I went to Atlanta - it was the perfect precursor to Playa Panic.  And while I loved the acoustic shows, I was ready for some plugged-in-Panic.  Some loud as hell electric ringing in my ears Panic.


Since I went a day early (ahead of my sister and her husband), I was able to meet several new friends and have a nice evening with a great dinner and tropical drinks on the beach.  I was nice and rested the next day, which was when the majority of the crowd arrived.........and show #1.





The mass of fans brought with them a surge of excitement and the reality (for me) that this was really happening.  As I waited on Brooke and Jay to arrive, I sat for about 30 minutes on the beach just staring at the stage that was set up.  It was so surreal, and just too good to be true.  In fact, there were so many things on this trip that seemed too good to be true that it still feels like a dream.


I won't do a daily blow-by-blow writeup of everything we did, but I will say that there is not a single thing/detail that I would change about this trip to make it better - because it could not have possibly been any better.  Here are a few reasons why this dream trip was absolutely the most fun, awesome, ridiculous, epic week of my life.

  • Upgrade to first class going to and from Cancun (a little unexpected bonus that makes flying so much more tolerable)
  • Oceanfront room that was a 1 minute walk from the stage, including a jacuzzi tub on the balcony overlooking the ocean
  • Having an awesome room to myself for the entire week, as my 'guest' stayed in the room with his wife and her friend
  • A resort which had several restaurant options with great food - all at no cost 
  • Free drinks all.week.long................have I mentioned that I LOVE all inclusive resorts?
  • A resort that was full to capacity - with like-minded people who were all there because we love Widespread Panic ('love' is an understatement)
  • Meeting people from all over the world (yes, world - Go Team JAPANic!), many who I know will be friends for years to come
In addition to the overall experience, there are some highlights of the FOUR SHOWS that I have to acknowledge, in no particular order:
  • Every single night, the band was having fun.  Not that they don't always have fun on stage, but you could tell how much they were all enjoying themselves.  I would get cracked up watching Dave and Jimmy jesting with each other.
  • Though it wasn't my first, I've been chasing Vampire Blues for almost 2 years.  It's one of my favorites and it's been on my wish list for a while.  It was so good.
  • The return of old Visiting Day - electric:  I got to hear the "old school" Visiting Day in Atlanta acoustic-style, but I thought it was just because they were playing it acoustic.  The crowd went wild when they played VD the original way, and though I like the new way too, I immensely enjoyed the throwback.  I think Jojo did too because he was preachin' it.  Maybe they'll keep it up!?
  • Many Rivers to Cross:  they played this Jimmy Cliff song in Atlanta - another one that I thought would be a one-timer.  This was the first song of the encore on the last night, and I cried like a baby.  JB's voice is perfect for this song.
  • Night 2 in general
    • I'm not usually one to fight the crowd and make the commitment necessary to be a rail rocker.  However, we got down to the stage early enough that there was rail space directly in front of Jimmy and planned on hanging there for a few songs then moving back.  We stayed there all night, and I loved it.  Dave was really showing out that night and I had a front row viewing of it.  
    • Sharon, Tortured Artist > Spoonful > Sleepy Monkey > Kinky Reggae > Sleepy Monkey > Stop-Go > Disco
    • Did I mention Kinky Reggae?  JB has rapped it before during Sleepy Monkey, but never played the full song.  It was stellar!
    • Protein Drink > Sewing Machine - they always rock this song out, but on this night, it was especially intense.  Jimmy nailed it and I headbanged for 10 minutes. :)
  • Ballad of John and Oko; this was played first time ever at one of the DC Wood shows, but I figured it was a one time thing.  They opened with it on night 3.  Awesome.
  • Bust it Big.......twice (night 1 and night 4).  I've always loved this song, but it's become even more special to me since finding out that I was going to Mexico.  Many people complain that they play it too much.  I can't get enough of it.
  • Lawyers, Guns, and Money to end the last set of the final night.  They turned that place out during the song and the shit hit the fan!  
  • The final song of the entire run - Postcard.  One of my all time favorites, and perfectly appropriate.
Cloud 9 Adventures definitely knows how to throw a "party."  Mad props to them for pulling off an event that will go down in history.  I know that coordinating such an event with so many people is not an easy task.  They nailed it, and I wouldn't have changed a thing.  Here's hoping that Panic en la Playa will be an annual event.  It was absolutely a priceless event.

The best part of it all?  "Doing" Panic en la Playa with my sister/best friend.  





Here are a few pics from the trip.  To view the entire album, go here.




I love to wear fake tats to shows, so it was mandatory that I created my own for this event.  I made enough to share with about 150 people, and it was awesome seeing people wearing them around the resort.


The lights were amazing all week!


The view from my room - chillin' in my new ENO hammock





Me, all smiles on the beach



My crew


The very talented Valentine Cranford exhibits her creativity on the beach.


Team FORREST CITY!!!


My family - Night 4


Me and my sister/best friend







Saturday, January 7, 2012

Career highlights: Panic career, that is......

With my favorite band's hiatus looming and thoughts of Atlanta Wood and Panic en la Playa coming soon (I'm a lucky girl), I've been reflecting on some of my most favorite moments in the 15 years that I've been seeing Widespread Panic.  The following are some of the moments that will live in infamy in my mind, in sequential order, but by no means in order of significance:



  • First show 7.18.97
    • I had heard studio Panic before, but never live.  This was the summer after my senior year of high school and I was just following my crowd of friends to Mud Island for a concert.  Unfortunately, I was too intoxicated to remember much about the show.  But the mere fact that it is my first show means that it has to be in my list of highlights.
  • Second show 11.20.97
    • It had been a few months since the first show, but this was the show where I "got it."  I was a freshman in college and tagged along with a group of friends to this show in Little Rock at Robinson Auditorium.  Our seats were crappy, so I somehow managed to walk my way up to the rail and ended up directly in front of Dave Schools.  I must've had the noob look on my face, and Schools noticed it immediately.  He was making faces at me and then dropping bass bombs.  I remember looking around the crowd and seeing people dancing their ass off and smiling like there was no tomorrow.  I knew from that night on that this band and it's crowd was something I needed to be a part of.
  • First solo show 11.25.98
    • After seeing only 2 shows in 97, I saw them 10 times in 98 - which is pretty good given that I was also in college.  This particular show was in Chattanooga the night before Thanksgiving and given the holiday, I couldn't find anyone who could make the trek with me.  So I went alone.  I've always been a 'loner,' independent, and unafraid of trying things on my own.  This was my first solo Panic show.  And not my last.  It was the first of several solo trips.  After a smoker show, I drove my little car for 7 hours back to my Mom's house because her stipulation for me being able to go to the show was just that I be back in time for Thanksgiving dinner.  I made it.
    • Encore:  Heaven > Coconut
    • http://everydaycompanion.com/setlists/19981125a.asp
  • NYE 98 - Fox Theater - 4 night run
    • Ahhhh, the days of mail order.  My friend Sandy and I scored 2 tickets to all 4 nights of the shows leading up to NYE.  This would be my first NYE show.  Though I had jumped head first into the Panic community, I was still a noob.  These 4 nights BLEW.MY.MIND and I was officially hooked.  '99 would prove to be an even more 'productive' year for me Panic-wise.  
  • Memphis Run Mid South Coliseum 2001
    • Having grown up 40 miles from Memphis, I've always considered Memphis to be 'hometown' shows.  So as sleazy as the Coliseum is, I love seeing Panic there.  They always bring the place down.  This year, they burned it down.  Dirty Dozen Brass Band joined them both nights and I was surrounded by many friends, old and new.
    • House of the Rising Sun (w/Dirty Dozen)
    • Sharon > Christmas Katie > Arleen > Swamp (w/Dirty Dozen)
    • Remember Bayou Lena!?  {miss that song!}
    • http://everydaycompanion.com/setlists/20011123a.asp
  • Oak Mountain 2002 run
    • As rumors and speculations made their way through the Panic community about Mikey's illness, I wasn't sure what to believe.  I didn't want to believe, but I had this sinking feeling deep down that there was something terrible.  The electricity in the crowd was amazing, and the boys played 3 shows that sent the message to the crowd of "we're in this together and we love you."  Many a tear was shed that weekend, and the crowd cheered the boys on during what must have been a difficult run for them to get through.  Looking back, I don't really know how they did it.  They played so many songs that were raw emotion and we embraced them in return.  I left Pelham that weekend never having been officially told that Mikey was sick, but in my heart I knew it was true.  A sadness and uncertainty filled my soul because I didn't know exactly what was going on, but I knew it wasn't good.  
    • Encore night 2:  Help Me Somebody > Don't Be Denied.  I don't think I've ever heard a crowd cheer as loud as when JB sang "pretty soon I met a friend, he played guitar.......we started a band, we played all night"
  • Bonnaroo 2002
    • This was the first ever Bonnaroo and I was lucky enough to be with about 25 of my closest friends.  Widespread was headlining 2 of the 3 nights.  Since I thought that Oak Mountain might have been the last time I'd see Mikey, I was thrilled to see his beautiful face on stage.  My favorite moment of the entire weekend was seeing the look on his face (ear-to-ear smile) as Dottie Peoples and the Peoples Choice Choir joined the boys for Tall Boy > Testify > Tall Boy.  I swear the crowd levitated and I had what is probably the closest thing to a religious experience.  It was as if this choir was singing him into heaven.  Ever cried during Tall Boy?  :)
  • Red Rocks 2002
    • Fast-forward to the next weekend and we headed to Red Rocks.  This would be my 4th year to attend Panic on the Rocks, but it was probably the most important as it was the last time I would see Mikey there.  Bless his sweet soul, he was so weak and frail, but he played his heart out.  I bawled like a baby during Waker (my last one).
    • As it turns out, this would be my last Mikey show.  Having been to the amazing shows in 2002 that I had, I felt like I got as much as I could and in my heart, I said goodbye to Mikey in Colorado as I left that Sunday.  I just didn't know that he had such little time left.  I am very fortunate that I got to see 8 of Mikey's 10 last shows.
  • Chicago 2009 2 night run with Allman Brothers
    • I went to Chicago solo and went to both shows completely sober.  I've been a fan of Jimmy's since the beginning, but I think that it was this weekend that I realized I was officially was 'in love' with the sound he brings to the band (without feeling guilty because I will always miss Mikey).
    • Highlight of that run:   Just Like a Woman (with Gregg Allman)
  • NOLAween 2010 run
  • Sunday Red Rocks 2011 second set
    • I'm a sucker for covers.  Always have been.  Don't get me wrong, I love my Panic songs.  But there's nothing like my favorite band playing some of my other favorite songs.  Someone had the genius idea of playing an entire set of covers.  Each song is one that I would consider a 'chaser.'  But this time, they were all compiled into one set of awesomeness.  Fortunately, we chose Sunday night as the night to get in line early and were 2nd row for this madness.  
    • http://everydaycompanion.com/setlists/20110626a.asp
I have no doubt whatsoever that 4 nights in Mexico will be on this list in just over 3 weeks from today.  However, if I died today, I would die a happy and Panic-satisfied woman.  I am undoubtedly lucky for all that I've gotten to experience in 15 years with the boys.  But I selfishly hope that they play until the end of time.

Long live Widespread Panic!

Stay tuned, as my next blog will most likely not be until after Atlanta Wood > Panic en la Playa.  I can only imagine the awesome stories I will have to tell after those shows.