Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidaze!

There is truly nothing like the holiday season to remind you of what you have to be grateful for. The holiday season often comes with a touch of sadness for those you miss, someone or something you've lost recently or long ago, and of any regrets from the past year. However, the holiday season also comes with a boost of renewed focus for me. I am very fortunate that I am able to take off as much time as I have, and I always save up for the week before and after Christmas. This year, I took off the Thursday/Friday before Christmas and the entire week after Christmas (which fell on a Sunday this year). Several of my friends and family either had to work on Christmas Eve/Day or return to work the day after Christmas. The thought of having to do this reminds me of how grateful I am for the ability to take off the time that I can during Christmas.

People often ask me what I'm doing or where I'm going to warrant taking 7 days off of work. I'm not doing anything out of the ordinary (even for me) this year. Just taking the time off to be at my Mom's house, hang out with my Mom, Dad, sister, niece, and brother in law. No schedule, no hurry, no traffic, no problems! In fact, I spent all day yesterday in my pajamas and felt great about it.

I am very lucky that my mom sees Christmas through the eyes of a child. She has always been in elementary education, so a lot of it comes naturally to her - however, she has a gift for Christmas that is unrivaled. My mom has always done everything to the extreme, but Christmas - well, there are just no words to describe. 4 Christmas trees, presents stacked for miles throughout the house, more casseroles and cookies and candies that you can even imagine. She even remembers (every year) what dishes are whose favorite and makes sure to cover everyone. She works her butt off at Christmas, but I know she loves it. Though I don't have the extreme creativity gene that she does, I did inherit from her a huge appreciation for the season and what it means to our family. I may not have 4 trees at my house, but you better believe that on Christmas morning, I am more excited about seeing people open my gifts than I am for receiving gifts from others. I absolutely love it. My family's Christmas is super awesome because we always take it slow and watch each other open gifts, so sometimes it will be hours before the last gift is opened.

This year, we spent Christmas Eve at my sister's house so Mary Ashtyn could wake up Christmas morning to find what Santa left from her. This slight change in routine was great because 1) my sister's family only lives about 10 minutes from my mom's house and 2) Santa 'redecorated' and transformed Mary Ashtyn's toddler room into a 'big girl' room, complete with full size bed, TV, and bookshelf. The discovery of her 'new room' was after she dug through the massive pile of toys left by Santa in the living room. Seeing her process all of 'that' and being a part of her excitement was more gift than I could ever ask for. It's something I wish I could bottle up and have a slight whiff of every now and then when I'm feeling blue because her excitement was so real and so magical.

I know that many people celebrate many different things during this time of year, but I think that there is a common thread that all people acknowledge, love, and celebrate: FAMILY. Without my family, this season would be meaningless to me. Gifts and details will come and go, but family (or the memories of) lasts forever. Hopefully we all (myself included) can learn to put familial differences aside and be glad that we have the time together. Because every moment together counts.

And so, to everyone, everywhere - no matter who you are or what you believe and celebrate - I hope that your heart is filled with joy as mine has been so far.

Me, I'm looking forward to having the rest of the week off with no plans and no place to be (except with my family) is excitement enough for me.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Assorted observations of late

Wow, it's been a long time (almost 2 months since my last posting, and I'd slipped to approximately 1 post per month), so I'm going to make some general observations about what's up in my life or going through my mind lately:

  1. I love this time of year.  My birthday marks the official start of my favorite season.  November 17 usually is very close to the week I always take off for Thanksgiving to be with my family.
  2. Thanksgiving this year was great because I was with family.  It could've been better by us not all (yes, all) having the stomach virus at some point during Thanksgiving week.
  3. I am especially excited this year that I have an extra 'thing' to look forward to.  Approximately 1 month after the new year arrives, me and a friend are going to Atlanta for 2 nights of Widespread Panic's Wood Tour (acoustic).   Widespread Panic Wood Tour  
  4. This backs directly up to the week long trip in Cancun that I'll also be spending with Widespread Panic {sigh}.  So it looks a little something like this:  Friday/Saturday:  Acoustic Panic in Atlanta; Sunday:  fly back to LR; Monday:  fly out for Mexico; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thurday, Friday:  4 nights of electric Panic ON THE BEACH; Saturday:  recovery day; Sunday: fly home [Monday return to work :(  ]  To say that I'm excited would be a small understatement.  This will definitely eliminate the overall sense of depression and letdown that naturally comes with the completion of the holidays.  
  5. I don't know yet what I'll be doing for New Year's, but given #3 & 4, I will be perfectly content having a tame evening with my family, if that's what I end up doing.
  6.  I am very grateful to have several days off of work to spend with my family for the Christmas holiday.  There is absolutely nothing like being 'at home' during the holidays.
  7. I have been reminded lately of how much I really love both of my dogs.   In different ways, but I love them both equally.  
  8. Sydney (my 'younger,' 9 year old German Shorthair Pointer rescue baby) was very recently diagnosed with liver disease.  Other than her liver problems, my vet confirmed that she is the picture of perfect health so I am optimistic that she will respond quickly and fully to the medications that she is now taking daily.  I took her in because I thought she was having a UTI or bladder infection or something and ended up finding this.  I feel very lucky that we found it this early, and my dr. said he expects her to live her full life expectancy.  But, of course, I'm still worrying and concerned for the worst.  She'll go through another round of testing in about 25 days, so send us your healing energy.  
  9. I'm not putting up a tree this year.  
  10. I am as excited as I am every year about the holidays (maybe even more excited due to the age of my niece and how much fun she is going to have), but for some reason, I have absolutely no desire to drag out all the holiday decorations and 'deal' with that.  There is always at least a week (usually more) during December that I'm not even at my house, so I'm just not doing it this year.
  11. I have been called Scrooge at least 5 times due to #10.  Not putting up decorations does not make me a Scrooge.  I have more Christmas spirit than at least 2 of the average persons combined.  Trust me.
  12. I love Christmas shopping.  Probably too much.  I always overspend (to my recipients' advantage) but I absolutely love giving gifts.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy receiving too.  But I would almost venture to say that I enjoy giving gifts more than receiving. 
  13. I went to my first and LAST Wal-Mart Black Friday sale.  I was in Forrest City for Thanksgiving and my sister talked me into joining her to attempt to get a couple of great deals on some stuff for Mary Ashtyn.  I won't even bother with the details - I'll just say that I saw many grown people acting like pure idiots.  It is a shame and so not worth the money saved to have to witness the insanity that comes with 'Black Friday' shopping.  From now on, I'll be at home in my pajamas doing my shopping.
  14. I'm sick of politics.  Never a huge fan but already getting sick of the campaign trash talk that spoils my nightly news.
  15. Saturday Night Live can still make me laugh.  I've been a huge fan since I was around 12-13, and though they've been through a few rough periods, they have consistently made me laugh all these years, and it feels damn good to laugh as hard as they make me.  I watched several episodes this weekend - new and old - that both made me laugh out loud.  
  16. I wish that bad things didn't happen to good people.  I guess bad things happen to both bad and to good people, but it hurts me to see bad things happening to good people.  I know of several instances lately where assorted 'bad' things have happened to some of the most undeserving people I know.  This is on my mind a lot.
  17. It is my 'grown up Christmas wish' that everyone I know (and those I don't) have a wonderful holiday season.  Whatever it is that you celebrate - I think we all celebrate our family - the ones that we love and that love us, and the happiness that comes with adorning your loved ones with gifts, large and small, to express the love you have.  Spending quality time in fellowship with your friends and family is truly the best part of the holiday.
  18. I have a magazine/newsletter addiction.  It drives my sister crazy when I show up to my mom's with my obligatory stack of magazines, but I absolutely love sitting down with a magazine or a local newspaper (Arkansas Times, Sync Weekly, etc) for a good read.  I think I'll do that now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fall into Autumn

This is, hands down, my favorite time of year.  The leaves begin to change colors and fall, the much anticipated drop in temperature finally occurs, college football, and just an overall inner sense of coziness, inside and out.  Something about this weather makes me want to burn candles for hours, and I do!  And there's always that reminder that fall is just the beginning with all of the awesome holidays to come.  :)

In the last few months, I have become active with and began serving on the board of a local non-profit, Mamie's Poppy Plates.    Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, so in honor of this day, we at Mamie's Poppy Plates created an event "Shop, Dine, and Play with Mamie" and had various businesses across the state of Arkansas volunteer to participate in the event by donating a portion of their proceeds from today to Mamie's Poppy Plates.  For more information about MPP, please visit Mamie's Poppy Plates or Mamie's Poppy Plates blog.

I had a really great day today!  Nothing too exciting, but rewarding nonetheless.  I slept until 10:00, which was much needed.  I made my way into getting up and about and heading to Hillcrest after lunch for Hillcrest Harvest Fest.  It was basically a bunch of street vendors with various autumn-oriented activities, music, and festivities along lower Kavanaugh.  It was awesome!  The weather was perfect, there were kids running around and having a blast, and I just wandered around with a smile on my face.  I did some kid-watching for at least an hour.  You can really learn a lot from children, even watching them from afar.

I picked up a few items for myself and my niece (cannot buy anything for myself without buying something for her!) and left brochures for Mamie's Poppy Plates wherever I could.  I had the chance to talk to a couple of ladies about MPP.  They were both so amazed at what we do, they both had tears in their eyes and wanted a handful of brochures to tell as many people as they could about us.

There was such a good feeling in the air.  Everyone seemed a bit excited and just happy to be there, including myself.  It was such a good 'fall kickoff' in my mind, as I am always very thankful for this time of year (when it finally arrives - especially after a hot summer).

With the feeling of fall in mind, I decided to go pick up some mums and a pumpkin to complete the fall experience.  My doorstep is complete.

I look forward to next weekend, as I will have my mom, my sister, and my niece at my house for the weekend to Race for the Cure.  Mom, Brooke, and I started this a few years ago.  2 years ago, we added Mary Ashtyn to the mix and I look forward to our team of 4 making our 3rd annual Mary's Girlz Race for Cure (in honor of my mom's mother who died of cancer).  If you have never done the race, I strongly encourage you to experience it, whether in the race or from the sidelines.  There is more positive energy in that place than I have almost ever experienced.  It is a very emotional and bonding experience with everyone around you.

I look forward to next weekend, and I look forward to the many things that this season holds for me.

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Life is too short.....

Coming to the realization that there are people in my life who I care about exponentially more than they care about me is a very hard reality to accept. I suppose that it’s part of being an adult, and I know that it’s part of being a bleeding heart. I may be tough on the outside, but I have a lot of love and kindness to give to others. While I may take things harder than most people when hurtful things are said or intentions are misconstrued, perception is reality. Lately, my reality is showing me things that I believe I’ve been ignoring for some time, and I am devastated by the thought of what has been unfolding in front of me.

I do know that I have some very dear people in my life who care about me, and I know that they have no doubt about how I feel or the infinite things I would do for them. It’s just that there are some people in my life that I don’t know about, and the thought of going through the motions with a ‘friend’ makes me ill. I am a very honest person (sometimes painfully honest), but you will never find me faking it with anyone. I hope that there are people in my life that – if they are faking it with me – they will do us both a favor and move along. Life is too short for anything less than 100%, and I’m learning that more every day.

As I get older and watch the relationships around me change, I cling tighter to the love that I have in my life. I try not to take anyone or anything for granted, and I want to live each day as if it is my last. I definitely need to do a better job at this.

I encourage anyone who takes the time to read this to make sure that the people that you love know it. Don’t assume it, and don’t let them question the integrity of your relationship. A day will come when you won’t be able to say what you could’ve said today.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The lingering lead in the corner......

Tuesday, August 9 marked the 9th anniversary of the day we lost Mikey Houser.  It always sneaks up on me because Jerry Garcia died the day before and I usually hear the talk of that and forget.  This year rolled around like a freight train, and it's like the loss of all 9 years is rolled into one and I can't seem to get it off my mind and my heart.

I was always a big Mikey fan.  Schools always had his big following, and the I Love JB fan club has never suffered attendance.  Don't get me wrong, I love them all (Team JoJo!!) - but I loved Mikey.  There were times when he would play the intro to Surprise Valley or the gut-wrenching solo in City of Dreams that would make my heart surge and tears burst from my eyes at the same time.

I remember my reaction to the first Mikey critic I encountered - "how could you not love the lingering lead?"  At the time, was a 'noob' so I left it alone.  But I just remember thinking that Mikey WAS Panic.  His sound distinctly defined that band!  Even I knew that!

Though I was first introduced to Panic in 1997, it took a few months and a couple of shows to 'stick.'  I saw them 2 times in 97, 10 times in 98, and the number grew each year from 1999 - 2002.  I met so many people along the way that are now lifelong friends.  I've lost dear people along the way due to the hardships that come with this wonderful life.  Anyone who knows me knows what a tremendous part of my life Widespread Panic has been since our introduction.

I remember the New Years Eve run of 2001 - there were murmurs of Mikey being ill.  The rumors started to soar between those shows and the next time I saw them at Oak Mountain run of 2002.  By that time - rumors abounding, the fans were upset and uneasy.  I don't think the band made an official announcement about his illness until after those shows, but the Oak Mountain run said it all.  It was as if the band took the opportunity to put their 'arms' around the crowd and bring us into the process of losing Mikey.  They played the most heartfelt shows and songs and moments that I have ever experienced in my life.  This would be, hands down, the best run I ever experienced.  I left that weekend knowing that it was not good, and that the future was uncertain.  I was scared.  I saw the band again at the first annual Bonnaroo that year as they headlined 2 nights (keywords:  Dottie Peoples & choir, Tall Boy > Testify > Tall Boy). Hallelujah! I heard my last This Part of Town with Mikey on lead.  The 'event' that was Bonnaroo 2002 was epic in so many ways.  I was surrounded by a very large group of my very closest friends.  Exactly as it should have been.  I did not know that when I saw Panic at Red Rocks the next weekend, that I would not see Mikey on stage again.  Ever again.  I just remember thinking that he was so frail, but he was so determined to play as long and as much as he could.  I would hear my last Mikey-led Waker this weekend.  One of my all time favorites.  Still I feel like I am free.....

This was back in the day before Facebook, so I got most of my news either through phone calls from friends or from Spreadnet - a message board for Panic fans.  I will never forget reading that on July 3, 2002, Widespread Panic took the stage for the first time without Michael Houser.  July 2, 2002 - Cedar Rapids, Iowa - would be the last show that Mikey played.  As I sit here and sort through these memories, I am surprised at how vivid they are.  I remember WP playing in Little Rock on 7.16.02 - my first show without Mikey, and it was painful.  On a break between Panic dates, some girlfriends and I went on a camping/float trip weekend at the Buffalo River, so we were "off the grid" for the weekend.  On Sunday, August 11, I remember getting the first voicemail that Sunday when we started packing my van.  Mikey had passed the day before.  It was real.  Jennibette, Joy, and I lay in the back of my van and held each other as we cried.

George McConnell had some huge shoes to fill.  I had always been a big G-Mac fan since also following Kudzu Kings around.  He carried the band for a few years, and for him I was grateful.      Word on the street was that Mikey's dying wish for the band - his friends - was to keep the music going.  They did it.  In late 2006, Jimmy Herring took over the lead guitar and all began to seem right with the world. He was just a better fit for this band.

To date, of the 132 Panic shows 64 of those were with Mikey.  Though it's now slightly under 50% of my Panic repertoire, Mikey's presence has been at every show.  At a recent show in Oakland in the depths of Party at Your Mama's house, I closed my eyes and it was as if Mikey was up there.  I told my friend, "That's Mikey.  I hear it."

I am so grateful for the experiences this band has given to me.  I am happy that my life led me to Panic early enough that I got to 'know' Mikey.  I will never forget the "wizard in the corner" who founded the band that changed my life.  As the band prepares for a bit of a hiatus (the first one since Mikey's passing), I am looking forward to celebrating with the band at Panic en la Playa in Cancun for a 4-night run in January.  Is this a dream?  Yes, it's real.

"The man in the moon is a musician........"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Adventures Abound!

I can't believe that it's been since the end of May since I last blogged!  My intentions from the beginning were to try and blog on a weekly basis, but I've been busy.  In fact, the things that have been keeping me busy will likely be the primary focus of my blog.  I also can't believe that the summer is about half-way over!  While I don't have the fortune of being off work during the summer, there is just something about that laid-back-summer-mentality that I love.  It has been extremely hot this summer in Arkansas, but it does seem that it has been cooler than last summer, which is welcome!

I have been very fortunate to have already had several super-fun summer adventures that are definitely ones "for the books."  Along the way, I've also made some new good friends and enhanced my relationship with my current friends.  Since several of my friends have told me that they "live vicariously" through my travels and adventures, I will try to share the highlights of my summer so far.

Just a few days after my last blog, I was blessed to have my favorite band (Widespread Panic) come to my hometown and headline the Friday night Riverfest show.  While they have played in Little Rock several times in the past (at Robinson Auditorium, Riverfest Amphitheater, and Alltel/Verizon Arena), they have never played Riverfest festival.  This year, WP played a "festival tour" in May where they played several music festivals - primarily around the Southeast.  There is nothing better in my book than having WP play in Little Rock.  Hometown Panic makes my heart very happy!  That particular day was one of the best days I've had in a long time.  I had a new friend from South Carolina come to Little Rock to hang with me for the Panic weekend.  We started the Panic celebration with a huge pre-show gathering at my long-time favorite Rivermarket bar, Sticky Fingerz.  It's been too long since Panic played in Little Rock (which always includes Sticky Fingerz events), and so I was very excited just to pre and post party at Stickyz.  To add to the sweetness, I was completely surrounded by at least a hundred people who I haven't seen in forever.  There are so many people that I've met through the Arkansas music scene and through the Panic music scene, so the pre-show, the Panic show, and the post-Panic show were all like a huge family reunion of people that I love.  Some that I see regularly, some that I haven't seen in years, and even a few that I've met through WP related Facebook groups but had never met in person.  It was absolutely wonderful and I was in heaven.  The stage that Panic played on was on the Little Rock side of the river and faced the Clinton Library.  The weather was perfect, the crowd was awesome (especially for a festival crowd), and I was surrounded by some of my most favorite people in the world.  As if life wasn't already great enough that day, my friend Chris Kotoun surprised me with an extra backstage/VIP pass that allowed us to hang backstage during the show and watch the concert from an elevated reserved area on the side of the stage.  After 140+ shows, I've never had the fortune of going backstage or even meeting a single band member, so this surprise was one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me!  Chris and I were backstage before the show, and while we didn't get to go into the band's lounge area, we were literally at the foot of the stage when the band exited their trailers to head to the stage.  Of course, I was dressed in my alter-ego 'costume' which is basically a platinum bob wig that makes me feel very rockstar-esque and I have SO much fun when I wear it.  As the band walked towards the stage and past Chris and me, most of the band members weren't paying any attention to us, but Dave Schools (rockstar extraordinaire) pointed at me and mouthed "rockstar" at me.  There are no words to describe the pride I felt by his simple words and acknowledgement.  We watched over half of the show from the elevated viewing area on the side of the stage (see pictures for view), and it was completely amazing to see the boys so close and, even better, to get to view the crowd from the band's perspective.  During the show, I floated back and forth between the backstage area and the spot where most of my crew was hanging on the lawn.  The viewing area we hung out in was on Jimmy's side of the stage, so I was essentially facing Schools all night.  While it may sound like an exaggeration, I know for a fact that Schools on several occasions made eye contact with me and gave me the raised eyebrow right before he dropped a huge "bass bomb" as if to say 'watch this.'  I felt like he was playing for me, and I have no doubt that he could sense my awe and love for the band.  I was grinning from ear-to-ear all evening.  I am forever grateful and forever indebted to Chris for sharing his extra backstage pass with me.  I will never forget the experience, and to have it all happen in my hometown just makes it seem like a dream.  After wrapping up the evening with an awesome post-Panic show by Weakness for Blondes at Stickyz, we headed for my house to get some rest because we had a big day ahead of us the next day.

Saturday morning came and we trekked to Kansas City to see Panic in the only non-festival venue of that tour.  Though I had been to KC several times for work, I'd never seen Panic in KC and have always heard wonderful things about shows they play in KC and about how super the Midland Theater was.  We made it to town in time to have some local barbecue at Arthur Bryants (awesome).  We were lucky enough to have a hotel that was literally a block from the Midland Theater.  The boys played a smokin' show in KC that night, and I left town the next day feeling really satisfied and so glad that we made the trip.  Memorial Day weekend was definitely one I'll never forget, and there's nothing I would do differently.

The best way to avoid "post-Panic depression" is to have future plans to look forward to when returning from a good Panic weekend.  Fortunately for me, I had a big one to look forward to after the LR > KC weekend:  Red Rocks.  Though 2011 would be my 7th year to see Panic at Red Rocks, it had been since 2006 that I'd seen them there and it felt like forever.  I made the trip with my awesome sister and met my friend Richie in Denver.  However, there were several (10+) people staying at the same hotel as us that I have met recently through Panic, so it was awesome that we got to hang with some of those good people.  Additionally, we spent some good time with my new friends Mac and Chance, some fellow Arkansas boys who love Panic like I do.  Once again, there were so many people in Denver that I knew and though they played 3 nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), there were quite a few people that I either didn't get to see at all or didn't get to spend the amount of time that I wanted to with them.  That seems to happen everywhere I go.  Panic has always played excellent shows at Red Rocks, but I knew that this year would be extra special because 1) it's their 25th Anniversary year and 2) they're taking an indefinite hiatus after this year.  They have been 'breaking the rules' and playing songs that have never been played before, so I knew we were in for quite a treat at Red Rocks.  I just had no idea what a treat they had up their sleeve.  While Friday and Saturday nights were great shows, the Sunday matinee show was hands down one of the top 5 shows I have EVER seen.  I don't say that often, but I mean it when I say it.  The first set was all original Panic songs and the second set was all cover songs.  And not just any cover song.  Every single song they played in the second set were songs that I "chase" for months at a time.  The second set of Sunday night was one that I don't think I could have even dreamed up.  And if I did, it would have been just that - a dream.  I never in my life thought that I would witness a set such as this.  And to make things even better, Sunday night was the night we chose to do the "tarp run," which scored us second row seats and put the icing on the cake.  "They" always say 'never miss a Sunday show,' and "they" are so freakin' right.

I was completely exhausted after traveling and 3 intense nights of Panic, so I really was looking forward to going to our family's lakehouse the following weekend for the Fourth of July with my favorite girls - my mom, my sister, and my niece.  It was a nice relaxing weekend and I got to spend some great quality time with my family.  Every time I am around my niece, I fall more in love with that child and I would do anything in the world just for a sweet smile of hers.  The long weekend at the lakehouse was just what I needed to re-energize for what was to come on the following weekend.  :)

I have never been to California before in my life.  The opportunity presented itself and seemed like it was meant to be because 1) Panic was playing a 2-night run in Oakland at the Fox Theater, 2) I have a good friend who lives just a few minutes from the Fox Theater, and 3) I had a Delta travel voucher for a free flight that I hadn't used.......yet.  So, I had the fortune of traveling to San Francisco for a 3-day weekend and got to visit my friend Richie while also seeing Panic 2 nights in Oakland.  Though I knew 3 days would fly by, we were able to squeeze in a few touristy things and saw enough to know that I definitely want to go back when I have time to do all of the wonderful things that the SanFran area has to offer.

Returning home from California, I was absolutely exhausted.  I was honestly a little glad that I didn't have anything planned travel-wise (at least anytime soon) and could just look forward to being at home and relaxing.  Don't get me wrong, I would always love to be on Panic tour, but a good part of me also just wanted to be a homebody, stay home with my dogs, and just relax and enjoy some "me time" by the pool.  And that is just what I intend to do.

Though work has been keeping me very busy (and stressed) in the last couple of weeks, I am trying to focus all of my efforts and energies on doing things that make me feel good, productive, and relaxed.  Even if it is as simple as sitting on my deck with ice tea and a good book, it is an indulgence that I intend to pursue.  There is some serious "downtime" that is long overdue, and I plan to get caught up on it.

Just reading through all of the fun things I have done recently makes me tired.  And so, I will wrap up this blog entry by saying how grateful I am that I have the means and motivation to do such fun things.  I love and appreciate all of the people that I have spent time with in the last 2 months.  I appreciate that I have a job that allows me to take time off to do the fun things that I do, and I don't take any of what I have for granted.

I am very excited now about the relaxation and productivity that this weekend holds.  I think I'm gonna turn off the phone and the alarm clock for the weekend and just breeze through the weekend without regard to what time it is and any place that I'm expected to be.  Just let me make it through the workday tomorrow and all will be well with the world.

I hope everyone has as great of a weekend as I plan on having!  Peace and love to all!.......

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A chilly breeze has blown my thoughts to what's to come......

There's a lot of hype lately.  Widespread Panic just kicked off their 25th Anniversary Summer Festival Tour.  After a short break between Spring Tour and yesterday, they played last night at Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores.  Thanks to a live stream, folks were able to experience a selection of the bands playing.  For some reason, all bands streamed were done in video, but Panic was audio only.  Whatever.  I was just glad to have something to 'witness.'

In the last 18 hours, I've done a lot of pondering about my favorite band, its habits, its heritage, and my perspective.  I am the first to admit that I am a 'Panic snob.'  It's not that I don't appreciate everything they do, but I do have higher expectations than most people I'm standing next to at a show.  I sometimes have an opinion about a selection that someone else thinks was the highlight of their night.

Do I think that I've earned the right?  Sometimes.  Last night, while streaming Hangout Panic, I had a couple of head-scratching moments where I couldn't understand why they chose (or didn't choose) a few that they did.  I will not go into specific details of last night's show because the details don't matter.  However, I woke up this morning, looked at the setlist again, remembered a few highlights of the night, and today my perspective is a little different than it was last night.  I'm also sitting here watching (for the 57th time) the Birmingham/Oak DVDs and remembering the big picture of why I love this band.

It is important that I remember that this band appeals to so many people.  Different people - with different flavors of musical tastes.  The cool thing about Panic is that - in my opinion - there's something for everyone.  At every show, there is something for everyone.  No doubt that there are shows that are - for each individual - better than others.  However, I can honestly say that in 126 shows, I have never left thinking "I should have stayed home."  I don't think I ever will.

In the last week, I've read several interviews with band members talking about the 25th anniversary, them taking a break, etc - and the reality of Widespread Panic taking a hiatus is really starting to sink in with me.  I've been mentally avoiding the subject for a while, but it is very much in my face right now and I'm scared.

I knew this was coming.  When they said months ago that they were going to take a break after this year, I made it my personal goal to see as many shows as I could this year.  Between mid-April and July, I will have seen them 11 times.  Not as much as I would like, but I am grateful that I can do this much.  I'm hoping to see them at least 5 - 6 more times in the fall for Halloween and New Years (hopefully).

2011 has been very good to me so far.  I've already made many new friends, went on a solo journey to DC (and had a BLAST), and had a for-the-books Panic weekend with my girls for the first time in way too long.  Just thinking about the next 7 weeks  (7 shows) makes my heart race.  [I'm a lucky girl.]

What exactly am I trying to say?  I just need to document (again) that I freakin' adore this band.  I think that just like any healthy relationship, there are always going to be things that they do (play) that I'm not head-over-heels for.  That doesn't mean that I love them any less.  There are most definitely regular occasions where they do things that make me feel like I can fly.  They know how to put a big 'ole smile on this girl's face.  And I am so very grateful for their eccentricity that allows so many different types of people to enjoy them as much as I do.

Here's hoping that the boys enjoy their break after this year - but not too much.  In the meantime, I will most definitely enjoy everything they do.  My Panic cup is more than half full - it's overflowing!

My name is Ashley and I'm addicted to Widespread Panic.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Capital Panic Adventures

Spontaneity is not something that occurs often for me - at least not of a large magnitude.  However, on a whim in February, I booked a 4-day trip to Washington D.C. because Widespread Panic was playing there.  I had been to D.C. the summer before my senior year of high school, but I was definitely interested in going back and seeing the sights (and, of course, Panic).  If you know me or have read my earlier blogs, you are aware of 1) my love for Widespread Panic and 2) that I'm not afraid to travel/go to shows alone if necessary.  This trip turned out to be another of my solo trips.

And so, this time last Monday, I arrived at the Little Rock airport as excited as a 6 year old approaching the gates of Disney World.  The gate attendant kindly asked me if I would be willing to take an alternate route to D.C. to free up a seat they needed for the flight I booked.  Given that I have more flying to do this summer and that the attendant gave me a $300 flight voucher, I was happy to go through Atlanta instead of Memphis.  I was excited that this was already a good start to what I knew would be a fabulous trip.

Going through Atlanta instead of Memphis, I ended up with a bit of a longer layover than I would have had, so I wandered through Terminal A to pass the time.  As the time finally neared for my ATL - DC flight, I made one last run for the restroom.  As I approached the women's restroom, I noticed a guy standing near the entrance guarding bags and obviously waiting on someone to exit the women's room.  I made it halfway through the entrance myself when I thought to myself - 'that guy looks just like Phil Lesh'!  Trying to play it cool, I did a quick turnaround and stood outside the restroom to check this guy out again.  As I remembered that Furthur played at the Fox Theater in Atlanta the night before, my heart started racing and I approached him.  "I don't want to be 'that person,' but would you mind if I got your autograph?"  He looked at me, puzzled, and said "well, I'll need something to write with."  As I fumbled through my purse (and my words), I realized that I had no pen.  However, I did have my camera (even better).  After taking the self-portrait of Phil Lesh and me, we made small talk about the Fox, how awesome it is, and how much he loved playing there.  He asked me if I went to the show and I told him that unfortunately I hadn't, but that I was just passing through Atlanta airport on my way to see Panic in D.C..  He said something about "what a great group of guys" and "tell them I said hi," and we went our separate ways.  My heart raced and my hands shook for at least 20 minutes after my awesome encounter.

And so, Day 1 of the trip, 4 hours in - my karma was definitely paying off. 

Because this particular week in DC is also Cherry Blossom Festival week, I was unable to find a hotel in downtown DC for less than $300/night.  So, I opted to stay in Alexandria and rent a car - which was still MUCH cheaper than staying downtown would have been.

Monday night, I had dinner with my cousin Holly whom I haven't seen since the last time I was in DC in 1997.  We had a lovely dinner and catch-up convo, then I headed toward downtown DC for a spin.  I watched the sunset while sitting at the Washington Monument and enjoyed the opportunity for some prime people-watching.

After a good night's rest, I awoke Tuesday ready to get out and see as much as I could.  Unfortunately the weather had different ideas.  Not only was it pouring rain, it was about 45 degrees outside and I was NOT prepared for cold weather.  Since I had a car, I took advantage and drove around downtown DC familiarizing myself with the area and checking out some of the must-see things that I wanted to come back to. 

When the rain dried up, I parked the car and began my trek.  I was completely amazed at the beauty of the cherry blossom trees that lined the many streets around the Capitol Mall area.  I visited the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, WWII Monument, and Vietnam Memorial.  They are all wonderful sights, and though I'm not a big American history buff, I did enjoy seeing the assorted 'tokens' of American tribute and pride throughout the city.

The primary place that I intended to visit was the Holocaust Museum.  The Holocaust is something that has always amazed me in many ways, so I reserved the entire day Wednesday for this very special place.  The museum is free, but they hand out tickets for specific tour times for crowd control purposes.  When I got my ticket, I had 90 minutes to spare, so I headed first for the children's exhibit.  David's Story, as the exhibit was called, was based on a book written by a man who was a Jewish child during the Holocaust and amazingly survived.  The exhibit is written from the perspective of a child and for the understanding of children.  I left that exhibit in tears and with a very heavy heart.

I spent another hour in another temporary exhibit that was based on Nazi propaganda and the role that it played in the Holocaust.  It was very interesting and a very good segue into the main exhibit.  I ended up spending about 3 hours in the main exhibit - contemplating every word, every picture, the lives that were taken.  I left the place with more questions than answers, but I knew I'd been exposed to something that would impact me forever. 

One of the common phrases stamped throughout the museum/exhibits is something that really stuck with me:

The next time you witness hatred
The next time you see injustice
The next time you hear about genocide
Think about what you saw

Just a few pictures of the families that were torn apart.  There are several hallways throughout the museum that have pictures from floor to ceiling of impacted families.

Piles of shoes that were stripped from the victims before they entered the gas chambers.  They were told that they were going to be given an antiseptic shower for good health.

Panic Time 

On a less somber note, I had 2 wonderful nights of Panic in a historic theater that holds 1200 people.  I had come a long way for these 2 nights, and I thought I was going to burst before the lights went down before the first night.

Tuesday night was the first show.  I think that at peak volume that night, there couldn't have been more than 60% of the seats occupied.  I took advantage and sat on the 2nd row of the balcony and looked down on the boys.  I don't think there is a bad seat in that place, but I really loved my spot.  The place was so beautiful and intimate - it was a venue that is definitely not the typical Panic venue, and I was soaking up every moment of it.

My highlights of Tuesday's show:
  • Solid Rock
  • Who do you belong to (always a favorite)
  • B of D
  • Gimme (included a nicely modified lyric to honor the band's recently deceased long-time equipment manager Garrie Vereen - "gimme a lift here Garrie")
  • New Speedway Boogie (never thought I'd get to hear that one!)
  • Junior
I met a couple of really cool guys from Atlanta on the first night who I hung out with both nights.  I didn't get their last names, but Mark and Brian were both super cool and I'm sure I'll run into them again someday.
Highlights of Wednesday night's show:
  • Help Me Somebody > Saint Ex > Second Skin > Ophelia > The Shape I'm In > Porch Song (WOW)
  • Postcard (this town is nuts, my kind of place......)
  • Last Straw (sandwiched strangely in the encore between Up All Night and Give - 2 of my least favorite songs; at least it salvaged what would have been a terrible encore, IMO)
There were quite a few more people at Wednesday night's show than there were Tuesday's.  And the crowd was really rockin' Wednesday!  I met quite a few people from various states in the northeast.  Most of them hadn't seen Panic more than 5 - 6 times, but in talking to them during and after the show, I was certain that it wouldn't be their last.  Most people I encountered were astonished that I had come all the way from Little Rock, AR - by myself - to see this band.  I was happy that people could tell how much I loved this band.

This fella's shirt was getting a lot of attention.  He said he made it himself.  I think the shirt speaks volumes for how many fans feel about Panic.

Groovy crowd

The 2 nights at the Warner Theater only strengthened my love for Panic.  They were solid as gold both nights, and Jojo got several opportunities to show out (which I LOVE).  I left the show the second night feeling more elated than I've felt in a very long time; thankful to the boys for showing me a good time, and thankful to myself for following my spontaneous idea of getting my DC Panic on.

I have the fortune of jumping back on spring tour next weekend as a few of my best girls and I head to Oak Mountain - a venue that is a very special place for Panic fans.  Several of the most memorable shows I've ever seen occurred there, and one of the last times I saw Mikey play was at Oak Mt.

Can't wait to see all of my fellow spreadheads in the upcoming shows this spring and summer tour.  The boys are on fire and I'm ready to witness some of that heat!

"I spent a little time on the mountain, I spent a little time on the hill..........."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Excitement in the form of Panic

I'm one of those people who loves Sundays.  To most people, Sunday represents the end of the weekend.  You don't get to stay up late on Sunday like you can on Saturday because you have to get up early to start the first day of (for most) a 5-day workweek.  Any chores that didn't get done on Saturday must get done on Sunday so you can feel like something was accomplished this weekend.  Oh, dreaded Sunday.

But wait.....

Today, I didn't get out of bed until 12:10.  I made my way to the couch to wake up with a cup of coffee.  I came across the first 15 minutes of Avatar.  I am one of the 2% of the population who hasn't seen this movie.  Though it was not typically something I would like, I was completely amazed by the graphics as well as the interesting story. 

2 hours later, I'm still on the couch.  Unable to find the motivation to get up and do the things I didn't get done yesterday.  Don't get me wrong, I made progress yesterday.  But there are a few critical things that must get done before my head hits the pillow tonight.

What are these critical tasks that I can't get motivated to do?

Pack.  And not even for a dreaded work trip!  I'm packing for a mini-vacation to our nation's capitol.  And not just for a tourist visit (though I'm sure I'll get my share of that too) - for 2 (count it, two!) nights of Widespread Panic at the Warner Theater in downtown D.C.  Friday night marked the opening show of a 2-night run in Louisville, KY.  They play tonight in Indiana, PA and take Monday night off.  And then, they're bringing the heat to the District of Columbia!

I spontaneously booked this trip about 5 weeks ago, anxious to do something different.  Took care of the travel arrangements and bided my time whittling the days away until I make my 2nd annual Ashley's Solo Panic Tour to a Random City I've Never Been to Before.  I went to Chicago for 4 days at the end of August in 2009, and while I got to the shows and hung out with people I knew, I still went alone. 

I lot of people think it's weird.  I think it's awesome!

Don't get me wrong, I love when I can do trips with my friends!  I have 2 really awesome trips on the books with some great friends in the next 2 months.

But I also LOVE going on trips/tour with myself.  I remember a time in 1999 - I had an itch to go see Panic.  They were playing in Chattanooga the night before Thanksgiving, and I wanted to go.  With family commitments, none of my friends could make the trip.  I decided that I wasn't going to let that stop me.  So I drove to East Tennessee by myself.  I found some random fun people to hang out at the show with, and after the show, I drove back to my Mom's house with plenty of time for rest before Thanksgiving lunch.

Now here I am, almost 12 years later, excited like a child on Christmas Eve.  I am so excited about seeing all of the history in the capital of our United States.  I am also very hyped about seeing Panic in a historic theater 2 nights in a row.  I am anxious to enjoy Panic with a different flavor of fans.  I am thrilled that I get to roam the city and do anything and everything that I want to do.  I would have been just as excited if I had a travel partner, but there is certainly a unique excitement that comes with doing a solo vacay.

The thing that puzzles me at this point - why can't I get motivated to get it together?  I have my list, but I have been deferring all day to actually make it come to fruition.  After all, it's just PACKING!

I have an idea.

Widespread Panic
The Warner Theatre
Washington, DC

Hope everyone has a great week - I know I am!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Walking on Sunshine........

What a week! 

As defeating and horrendous as work as been this week, there have been enough bright spots in my week to totally outweigh the work crap.  So today, I am focusing on the positive.

Around mid-February, I had an "aha" moment and decided that I was going to change my lifestyle health-wise.  I joined Snap Fitness gym on March 1 and have been going around 4-5 times a week, which is a major accomplishment for me.  After working my ass off at the gym, choosing healthy food comes naturally.  I'm not wasting my time working out to blow my efforts on bad choices, and so far, everything has fallen into place fairly easily.

Getting back in the habit is the hardest part.  I am one of those people who either does something 110% or not at all.  Up until this point, my health focus has been 'not at all.'  It's been so easy for me to get back into focusing on living the healthiest life I can. 

This past Tuesday, I started a 6:00 a.m. boot camp class.  I won't lie - it's very challenging.  But it's even more rewarding.  I'm very excited about having exercise and strenuous activity as a part of my everyday lifestyle.  The trainer/instructor of the boot camp class is awesome, and I can foresee myself being active in the class for a long time to come.

After this morning's boot camp, I went to work feeling like I was unstoppable.  Several situations at work threatened my euphoria, and just as I was near giving in to the negativity, I was reinforced.  I scored tickets to go see my favorite band - Widespread Panic - at my favorite venue in the world, Red Rocks.  Making the trip to Red Rocks this summer wasn't something that I had decided for sure that I was going to attend, but I went ahead and purchased the tickets (and have since decided for sure that it's on my summer agenda).

Most of the people I know weren't able to score even one (if any) tickets for the three-night run.  I was fortunate enough to get several sets of tickets for all 3 nights.  Enough to cover my friends going with me.  Tickets went on sale at 11:00 and were sold out by 11:03.  I acknowledge how lucky I am.

While the crap continued to pile on for the rest of the day, I couldn't be brought down because of how excited I was about my ticket acquisition.

And best of all, I have one more day of work (tomorrow) until I am off for 4 days next week to go on a solo trip to Washington DC to see the boys (Panic) for 2 nights and do all the fun touristy things that DC has to offer.

To Tomorrow, I say - bring it on!  You can't bring me down, because I'm walking on sunshine.

I hope everyone has as good of a Friday, weekend, and next week as I will be having. 

Peace and love!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Can you see the sun from where you're standing now......

It's been a while since I've blogged - lately I just haven't been in the mood.  Until today.

I've had one of the best days today that I've had in a while.  That's not to say that I haven't had some good days lately, but from the time I woke up this morning until this very moment, I've had a smile on my face and in my heart.

I awoke this morning to my sweet girl (doggy) Sydney cuddled up next to me in my bed.  She never gets in bed with me, so I put my arm around her and savored the moment.  I got out of bed, took coffee on my deck to relax and listen to the neighborhood (and the lovely singing birds) wake up.

First stop was the gym.  I've made it my number one priority to get in shape and have found a gym that I love.  1500 calories down, I left the gym with the natural high that always comes after a good workout.  What a great start to a day that would only get better.  I headed home to shower before my lunch date, but not before spending a few minutes happy-dancing around my house when an irresistible Michael Jackson song came on.

Next up was a lovely lunch with my best friend Jennibette.  She had yet to experience Yaya's in west Little Rock, and as perfect as the weather was, I thought it would be great to enjoy a lunch on the patio there - I was right!  We enjoyed some tasty sangrias, wonderful salads, and even better - each other's company.  We've both been so busy lately and we had much to catch up on.  It was a really fabulous lunch.

Moving on, we headed on to a bit of girl-pampering and got pedicures.  Girl talk, getting my feet rubbed, and uncontrollable giggling (as a result of my VERY ticklish feet being scrubbed) resulted in me leaving that place feeling completely revitalized and on top of the world.  My plan was to go home and spend some time on my deck lounge chair reading a book and possibly taking a nap. 

However, I got home and decided I'd like to go see a matinee.  When I discovered that the movie I really wanted to see started in 20 minutes, I darted to the movie theater and enjoyed "The Adjustment Bureau."  This movie deals with the basic question "Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us?"  I won't go into my opinion on this matter, but I will say that I enjoyed the movie overall.  It really forces you (or me, at least) to ponder certain questions, although it did end on a bit of a cheesy note.  I do think it's worth watching once.

Last stop was my obligatory weekend trip to Kroger for some produce and sushi.  A couple of episodes of Glee and a spicy tuna roll later, I'm just about ready to call it a wrap. 

From start to finish, this day has been downright awesome.  Full of fun, good weather, and simple pleasures.  We may 'lose' an hour tonight with the time change, but I feel like I've gained something timeless today - joy.

I hope everyone out there had at least half of a good day as I did - that makes it swell!

Until next time......

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Accentuate the positive?!?

I try really hard to be a positive person as much as humanly possible.  Sometimes the odds are against me and it's just impossible. 

In my current job, I do application support for a system that is the heartbeat of a life insurance carrier.  I was originally assigned to the "project" of selecting a vendor/system, then continued on the project as a Business Analyst, working to learn and configure the system to meet the needs of the business.  After it rolled out in summer of 2009, our roles started changing and I eventually found myself in an official role of production support. 

I started working for this company in 2003 as an executive assistant and managed to work my way up to a manager before I got tagged to be on this project.  I was honestly skeptical when I first was assigned to the project, but looking back now, I am so grateful for the experience and knowledge that I've gained.  What began as a project has turned into a whole new career path, and I've learned more about system architecture and configuration than I could have ever imagined.  Don't get me wrong, I had some serious low points during the "stand up" phase of the project.  Working 70+ hours a week for almost 2 years, going through a divorce in the meantime, understaffed and overworked.  I wouldn't trade it for anything though.  It has been a long but rewarding ride.

Having never worked in an IT role before, I guess I was oblivious to how challenging (for lack of a better word) users can be not only with a new system, but with systems in general.  On a daily basis (and several times a day), I am dumbfounded by some of the things I encounter.  Makes my goal of positivity really hard to achieve.  I have failed miserably the last two days. 

More importantly than anything, I love my team.  I mean, really.  I am on the greatest team ever!  Though technically there are 2 teams working on this system, we work together like one team and get along like family (keeping in mind that families sometimes have their hurdles to overcome).  We help each other out and achieve the impossible (or at least the very difficult).  My team is the motivation for going to work every day.  I mean, I do like my job, and I love the company I work for, but the daily grind can really get frustrating.  I am so glad to have my peers. 

Tomorrow is a new and better day!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In the easy chair with my boots on.....

Today, I am excited about........Spring Tour!  And by that I mean Widespread Panic spring tour.  After 14 years and around 125 shows (wow, that makes me feel old), I still get just as excited today as I did when I was 20 and still getting my Panic feet wet.  I guess you could call my following of Panic a hobby.  I've certainly dedicated lots of time off, money, and airline miles to seeing them anytime I can. 

Though it is a little fuzzy, I can still remember my first show (7/18/97).  It was the summer after my senior year in high school and several people I knew were going to see this band I'd never heard of at Mud Island in Memphis, so we tagged along.  My friend and I got a little too intoxicated, so I spent most of the show helping her and not really absorbing the music and the crowd.  After starting college at Hendrix, I was lucky enough to see Panic again that fall of 97 at Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock.  By this time, I'd familiarized myself with their music, so it wasn't so foreign to me.  However, I was not prepared for the vibe in the show.  I was completely sober and was able to make my way to the front row in front of the bass player, Dave Schools.  I was so amazed in watching the crowd and how into the music they were.  This was something I needed to be a part of.

After seeing 2 shows in 1997, I saw 10 shows in 1998, 10 in 1999, and even more in the next few years.  The Panic took me to states that I may have never gone to otherwise.  And best of all, I've met people from across the country that I've made friends with. 

As my group of friends has grown older, gotten married, and had children, their ability to see as many shows as I can has been restricted.  Though I love going to shows with my "crew," I decided that I would not let my friends' ability to go (or not) keep me from going.  So, I've been to several shows solo - which is a lot of fun - in a different way, but fun.

My Dad always asked me when I am going to grow out of this "Widespread Panic phase," but I think he has finally started to realize that this is not a phase.  It is really a big part of who I am.  I mean, I've almost been seeing them every year (on average 8 times per year) since I was 18.  That's almost half of my life!  It is in my blood now, and I have no intention of quitting them anytime soon.

People often ask me why I would go and see the same concert over and over.  Please let me clarify that no 2 shows are the same.  Every show is different, and they never play the same song within 3 shows.  There are no costume changes, no fancy acrobatics or pyrotechnics.  But the music makes up for all that "fluff" that is not there.  The music, to me, is spiritual.  I leave most shows feeling like I've just encountered the divine.

Panic has been touring for 25 years this year, so there are rumors that they are taking 2012 off to take a break.  With that in mind, I am trying to see as much of them as I can this year.  After 9 years, the band is returing to Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Pelham, AL in April.  I booked my hotel room today, so the excitement is starting to set in.

So why did I write about this today?  I wanted to express my "Panic experience" because a lot of people have either never heard of the band (they're not really played on a typical radio station) or they have misconceptions about the band.  While there are a few "bad eggs" who attend shows, most of the fans are people just like me.  We have good jobs, homes, we're responsible adults who enjoy the good music and the friends that come with the experience.  We pay taxes, we take showers, and we need a break from the same old same old.  You may go to every Razorback game (or otherwise) - I just prefer to go to Panic shows. 

If you are interested in their music, I would highly suggest you check out to enjoy many of their live shows that are available for streaming.  They have many studio albums available, but the essence of Panic is in the live music.

So here's to 25 years, and hopefully many more! 

RIP Mikey.

Peace, love, and Panic.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice. And Snow.

What a great (and, as it turns out, long) weekend I had!  I mean, wow!  My sister and niece stayed with me Friday and so began the lovely weekend I would be spending with my niece.  Brooke was sweet enough to let me have Mary Ashtyn Saturday afternoon - Sunday afternoon.  Don't get me wrong, I love my sister.  But having that sweet baby girl to myself for an overnight visit is like gold to me.  I mean, I could trade every gift for every holiday for just a night with Mary Ashtyn.  Have I mentioned that I love being an aunt?  Aunt Sassy, specifically - a name my sister imagined. 

I mean, this child runs up to me and says (in a very prissy  and southern voice) "Hey Sassy!"  My heart melts.  Every time.  It really does.  And she's developed these very cute mannerisms that are just the most precious thing I've ever seen!  How could I say no to anything she asks of me?

I am very grateful that we had snow this weekend.  I am glad that the extra layer of fun was added to the adventure of "going to Sassy's house."  She really thought it was cool.  As it turns out, she's an avid snow-eater.  After the first bite, she wanted a cup of snow with a spoon right up until the day she left (which was extended for one lovely day because of the weather). 

I won't recall every little irrelevant thing we did together for the weekend.  But I will say that the last few months of being a part of Mary Ashtyn's life have really impacted mine.  Being able to experience the holidays, life, and the world through a 2 year old's eyes is truly amazing.

Being an aunt is really an amazing thing.  I absolutely love children - all kinds.  But I also really love my quiet time and freedom - enough at this point in my life that I know I'm not currently ready to be a mom.  I think being an aunt is the best of both worlds.  I was definitely destined to be an aunt.  Being more than that remains to be determined.

So thanks be to my sister and her hubby for sharing that sweet girl with me for the weekend. 

Have I mentioned that I love being an aunt?

Aunt Sassy

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Things that made my heart smile today

I've rambled incessantly the last couple of posts, so today I'll keep it brief.  Below is a list - in no particular order - of things that made me happy today:
  1. Coming home to a yard that was free of leaves.  Raking and bagging leaves is a back-breaking job that I am glad to pay to have someone else do for me.  I had a couple of great guys who came over and rid my yard of leaves, twigs, dog poo, and even mowed.  My yard and I are happy.
  2. Discovering that Big Love season 4 is available on Uverse On Demand.  I've been anxious to get caught up before season 5 airs in a couple of weeks, and this will make it possible.  It's the little things, you know!?  :)
  3. Having lunch with my co-workers.  I am very lucky to work with a very eclectic group of people.  I am very thankful for everyone that I work with.  We are all very different, and I think that's what makes us so great.  I am grateful that I work in an environment where we work as a team and complement each other's skills.
  4. My sweet four-legged children.  While I know deep-down that they were happy to see me because they'd been locked inside all day (see #1), I felt extra excitement that I like to think is them just being glad to see me.  I don't know what I would do without them, and I am just as excited to see them when I get home as they are to see me.  There is nothing in the world like unconditional love.
  5. Talking to my niece on the phone before bedtime.  She has grown up so much in the last few months, and I am so happy that we can have a phone conversation that she - for the most part - understands what we're talking about.  I love that child so much.
Well, that's all for today.  And considering that my precious niece and sister will be here tomorrow evening (and I get to keep my niece Saturday night), I'll probably have my hands full for the weekend.  I'll have plenty of exciting things (and pictures) to share after the weekend!  I hope everyone has a great one!

Peace and love.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

By it's very definition, glee is about opening yourself up to joy

With the purchase of my new tv (courtesy of Santa Claus), I decided to join the Blu-Ray club.  Naturally, I followed with a Hulu-Plus subscription which inevitably led to me checking out a show that I've been somewhat curious about:  Glee.  Hence the title of this blog.  Though this blog is not going to be about the show, I will admit that it is better than I expected and has a great sense of dark humor.  I'll go ahead and admit that I will be compelled to watch the entire show.  Starting tonight with Season 1/Episode 1.

What is on my mind tonight is glee, but of a different form.  I get so much joy and glee from my family.  I have several friends and close coworkers who I know are not as fortunate as I am in my relationship with my family.  I am so very lucky that I am close to my sister, my mom, and my dad.  I have a very open relationship with both of my parents, and I always have - even in high school.  My parents have always been "cool" because I could be honest with them.  Sometimes I probably told them things that they would have rather not known, but I think deep down they were also proud that I always knew I could tell them anything.  I am so grateful for that.

My family has experienced some challenging times in the last couple of years, and it has brought me even closer to my mom.  I didn't think it was possible to be closer to her, but as things change and our relationship changes with the time, I discover that we can always be closer.  I am so grateful for her.  Though I am biased about what a wonderful person my mom is, I know without a doubt that anyone who knows my mom would agree that she is a saint.  She has been a school teacher for over 35 years, and she has touched the lives of so many people.  I often run into grown adults who will recall specific songs or lessons my mom shared with them in their education journey.  There must be hundreds of kids out there whose all time favorite teacher is "Miss Maribeth."  I wasn't made out to be a teacher, but if I could make a difference in half of the number of people's lives that my mother has, then I can be proud.

In the last few months, I've been very compelled to do something different.  At first, I felt like I was being driven in a different career direction, but after some serious soul searching, I think my heart just needs to do some things that are meaningful and make a difference in the lives of others.  People who have met me would probably agree that at first impression, I come off as a hard-ass.  But people who really know me know that I am a big softie and am very devoted to making a difference or doing something to help others.  I am working on several outlets by which I can devote time and money (what little I do have) to achieve this.  Once some of my ideas have come to fruition I will share them on here and hopefully educate others on ways that they can give too. 

In closing, I would like to officially document my primary new year's resolution.  I'm not usually one to have a resolution because it is just so cliche to me.  However, this is something that I really want to do, and I'm hoping that putting it in writing will help me follow through.  So here it is:  get out more.  The last year has really been me doing a lot of work and when I'm not working I'm so tired that all I want to do is go home and do something mindless.  However, it seems like I "wake up" and weeks have passed since I've done anything fun or seen my friends.  So my goal is to get out more - whether it's going to the dog park (which I love), going to see local live music, going on road trips, or going to the library.  Central Arkansas has a lot to offer, and I plan to take advantage of it. 

Here's to making the best of 2011!  I'm signing off now to watch the Razorbacks play in the Sugar Bowl.