Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rebellious Fire Alarm


Think of the shrillest, loudest, most piercing noise you can imagine. Now add another 50 decibels. That was the sound of the fire alarm in our hotel the other night. It startles one into a state of awakeness that forces the brain to go from rational to whoa. In this case, the alarm started at 2:54am. It continued until 3:06am. That 12 minutes of constant alarm felt like 48 minutes.

Now, over the past few weeks, I have been reading "The Hunger Games" series. Semi-futuristic, the plot essentially rests on the foundation of The Capitol (government) against The Districts (tribal groups) through the eyes of 17-year old Katniss. Katniss is fierce. Katniss is awesome. The books are good. I usually avoid all things super popular culture, but stumbled in to these. You should read them.

Anyways. I am in the midst of reading these and may have fallen asleep while reading one. No big deal. In fact, I fall asleep reading a lot (a product of graduate school). So when that alarm went off the first thought that popped into my mind was:


Immediate follow up thoughts included the violent death of Katniss and the horrible victory of the Capitol. It only took another half a minute for me to remember: This is not my bed. This is not a book. I am in a hotel and in charge of a group of people.

The shrill alarm distracted me from thinking clearly (although, it being 3am did not help) and I found the items I thought I would need in the event of an emergency: my wallet, my room key card, shoes. I left my room with the intent of finding stairs and walking down, when I realized I had no idea what direction would take me to a stair well. I was about to return to my room to find my map when the announcer came across the loudspeaker that the alarm was a false alarm.

Aw, thanks, guys.  Turns out the whole thing started because somebody left their shower running with hot water and the steam activated the alarm. Our lesson? False fire alarms are not enough to overpower the strength of The Rebellion. Or something like that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

this is what we call "fat and happy"

Did you know it is possible to gain eight pounds in two weeks? It is. I could be in the opposite-of-weight loss commercial. I toured New Orleans and south Louisiana for two weeks and I gained a half pound a day. AND that was with regular use of the hotel-provided treadmills. This is what happens when you have to decide between French toast, beignets, and eggs benedict for breakfast. Hmmm. Should I kickstart this 14-hour day with 2,000 calories of deliciousness, 2,200 calories of deliciousness, or 3,000 calories of deliciousness? Well, the eggs are protein, so they'll be good for me...

Do not misinterpret my jest as complaining! This is legitimately the first of first-world problems, I know. I love that I get to eat amazing breakfasts and that I have no dishes to clean up. I love that my coffee cup stays warm. I am on my fourth week of these tours so now the staff recognize me and some know to bring the orange juice and coffee when they greet me with a smile. And I love every minute of it.

Am I happy about the extra poundage? You bet. They were earned. That's why God invented elastic.

Now off to my morning visit to the hotel workout room to battle my half pound today. Maybe I can leave this week only three pounds heavier.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Magical Places

What makes a place magical? I grew up visiting Disneyland and understood that as a special place (ok, maybe a manufactured special place, but still special). Some might even call it "magical" (heck, the commercials for Disney experiences are founded on the idea that Disney is magical). How about places that don't have "imagineers" working to provide a magical experience? What makes those places magical?
I currently have a job as a tour guide in south Louisiana. I know, I know. I am surprised I am here, too. No need to dwell on the past or what I am doing or how I got here; all you need to know is I am excited for the experience, the job is a very good one, and my life is going well all around. Now this tour guide job is really more of a tour director of a tour throughout south Louisiana, starting and ending in New Orleans. I am writing this from my super plush hotel room, in fact. I even got a fruit basket upon arrival. It's fancy.
Now that we got that sort-of-crucial set of details out of the way, I can get back to my original question. What makes a place magical? Prior to my arrival here, I spent a few days with in-laws up in rural Wisconsin. That place was magical (and I don't just mean because of the abundance of cheese and beer). The undulating landscape rolls on and on and on into seemingly infinite hillsides. County roads pass one picturesque farm after another. Waterways and small lakes stitch these properties together to create a place bursting of greens and golds. And the atmosphere provides for some of the most stunning skyscapes I have ever seen: stormy skies, clear skies, foggy skies, sun rises, and brilliant sun sets. I suppose my historian self is also intrigued about the families and former settlements that make up the history of the place.
That is all magical to me. I don't know what made it that way, though. It just is.
Today's task upon arrival to the Big Easy was to orient myself with the city, especially with the routes and stops and hotels and restaurants for the tour. Tomorrow is the big first day officially and attendees will be arriving for their first day(s). So I did my first set of walking mid-day. Then another round. After I thought I had settled into my hotel room for the evening, I could see the sun was setting out of my window and decided to walk one more stretch as the sun sank into the horizon. And it was magical.
The humidity creates a feeling so that it seems microscopic beads of water gather in every individual pore. Just a full sixty seconds in this environment makes you aware of individual pores and the sweat that is about to drench clothing. That dense air also means each breath taken is velvety. The magic rests in how every body around the city feels it, too. We collectively just move slower. Except this is still a major city so while people may mosey, the traffic flies through the narrow streets, adding to the street noises. It stays busy and easy-going simultaneously. So many people (on a Monday a night!) crowd the streets and while that in itself is not magical, everybody is seeking something different. The historic buildings serve as the stage- beautifully colored props that please the eye. Then the players come out! On a Monday night, some folk have comfortable summer clothes, some look like "tourists" complete with fanny packs and visors, some have rolled up their blue collared sleeves and are looking to relax after a day of meetings, some have dressed to go out to the renowned five star eateries that seem tucked in around every corner. Everybody's plot weaves into this story that is New Orleans as they experience magic.
I don't even know if those things are what makes this place seem magical. These elements contribute to the vibrancy, to the hum, to the magic, but they do not complete it. Maybe it is in me and in each of the other beings that walk around here. Maybe it is just in us and up to us to find it and embrace it.
Jackson Square
Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House- I would be remiss if I did not incorporate the pirate lore somehow on my pirate blog.
A sunset view over the French Quarter

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Forever in my Garden

If you knew me as a kid, you knew I liked the opposite of dirt. I did not like to go outside. I did not like to get dirty. I did not like the sun, nor sweat, or air. I liked a quiet corner of a library. In part because of my mobile upbringing, I understood "seasons" as weather. Gardening was more or less out of my peripheral understanding of life. Funny to think that, now, as gardening is very close to the center of my understanding of life.

Here I am, at the end of my third decade on this planet, and I love dirt. Dirt means I can play. Dirt means I can grow. Dirt means I can relax. Dirt means I can play in my garden. On a very small scale, dirt means I can eat. As much as I can with my crazy schedule, I try to spend time in my garden digging the in dirt. Especially on cool mornings, I get my daily thrills seeing each day's progress of a plant's lifecycle- especially the fruit-bearing plants. I get to eat those!

I love seeing the bud where I know a flower will bloom. And when a miniature globe peaks through and overtakes that flower, it takes everything I have not to shout "looooook! looooook! another one!" Today I noticed a grape-sized watermelon on the vine and nearly keeled over in joy. I enjoy watching the daily changes. Regardless of what I feel like is happening in my life, time marches on as evidenced by my garden. "Seasons" have greater meaning, too; weather plays only a small part of this concept of "season."   

I know what those flowers mean! 

Look! A baby tomato!

Look! Teenage tomatoes (they are still not quite mature enough to be considered adults).

We rent our property, so I had to use my 3' x 6' space with care.
Flowers, tomatoes, and watermelon vines that are now taking over my lawn.
I am okay with that.
I do not know where this life will take me. I just know I will forever keep a garden.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day of Cleaning Ahead (so I write instead)

All of the final "to-do" things are left at the old place: minor knick knacks need gathering, place needs a thorough cleaning. That's what I am supposed to do today. All week I was excited for the all-day cleaning spree. 1) I like to do deep cleaning, as it makes me feel like I have accomplished something. 2) This is like a monkey on my back and once we are completely clean, we will be completely free. (We don't have to be out until June 14th, but I don't want to wait until the last minute). And now that my cleaning day has arrived, I am feeling a little apathetic about the whole process. Eh, who cares? We still have a week, right?


I have to get myself together and make it happen. I thought maybe if I sat at my computer for a moment (in my awesome new place, at my awesome new desk space), I'd get myself inspired. Nope. I just gotta go do it and get it done.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Warming up my Brain

I am sitting on my (new) back porch, sipping on my (mostly) warm coffee, letting my (foggy) brain wake up. I imagine the workings of my brain as something from the interior of a cartoon clock, with cogs and springs and puffs of smoke when it starts working. We moved into a new place, complete with a back yard and patio, about two weeks ago and have been settling in. Today is the first day in a long time that I haven't had anything major to do (no work, no deadlines, only one load of laundry). So I am allowed to take some time to let my brain wake up. It's nice.

I try to convince myself that I can "get in a groove" once [fill in an imaginary event] happens. I'll start doing this more once this stops. I'll maintain a better schedule once I do this. When it boils down to it, I am just not a groove kind of person. (Note: I did not say "groovy"). While in school, I systematically clung to the idea that I was working towards a grooved life. I had a solid year with a solid "groove" after grad school. I spent that year looking for the next non-groove thing to distract me. I am not meant for grooves.

In my new place, I have space. Ask my mom, I like to explore the space. In my space I have an "office." My old desk in my old place was good, but now it is wonderful. I can't hear my neighbors yelling. It doesn't smell funky. Never underestimate the power of natural light through windows! And now I have an extension of my office through my back door and on a plastic Adirondack chair on my patio. The sun lights up the sky, but the towering trees rustle their proctection from the heat. I can think clearly, freely, and openly in my extension of my office before heading back to my desk where I can channel my thoughts into deliberate letter formations that create words that inform ideas I like sharing. 

As always, I struggle to maintain my balance of remembering my past while looking to my future while appreciating this moment. Maybe it is an impossible thing, but I sit here with a mind to be able to do those three things. I think about that as I fuel my day with the parts of life that is beyond coffee. Well, with a little bit of coffee, too.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Is it plural or possessive? That seemingly makes a difference.

I feel there is a societal push to laud your mother louder than everybody else does on Mothers Day (or is it Mother's Day?). "Everybody! I did not spawn from the Earth! Rather, I came from the loins of my mother! Isn't she great?" I have a hard time publicly sharing all that. Especially the loins part.

I know several people around my age who don't have mothers with them here anymore. That is heartbreaking. I know several people around my age who grew up with severe strains on their relationships with their mothers, some even growing up with abuse. That is heartbreaking. I know several people my age who want so badly to be mothers, that are loaded with motherly instincts, and can not conceive. That is heartbreaking. So I tend to keep quiet on Mothers Day, because I know the day represents forms of pain for some folks, for people I know and care about.

Unfortunately for my mom, it publicly looks like her kids (well, at least the eldest) don't celebrate Mothers Day at all. We've outgrown the finger painted cards from our youth and now face the aisles of "MOM" in early May. She has been mom for nearly three decades! But then again, she is a mom every day of the year. And she raised her kids to show humility, so it is hard to brag about Mom when she taught us not to brag. She contributed making my siblings and I into who we are today, but most Mothers Day cards are sappy and don't quite say it right. They don't say, "between you and me, you are a great mom and we don't have all the words to say how much we thank you and love you because there aren't enough words." They don't sell those cards in August when an opportunity might pop up to celebrate a mother after the holiday.

I am blessed to have my mom and I know that. I am blessed that I have both parents. I am blessed both parents had cool moms (and that I still have cool grandmoms). I am blessed to have mother(s) in law, as well. And I am blessed to have motherly figures. God saw that I'd needed a lot of help on this planet and provided me with many mentors and guides and motherly-like figures. They don't make cards for those folks and those folks don't get "days," but they count.

I love my mom and and grateful God gave me her. And I hope she understands ultimately she doesn't need one special day because she has them all.

Friday, May 9, 2014

How Many Trips to Walmart Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

"Hey, your left headlight is out so don't go drinkin and drivin."

"Just kidding, you should never go drinkin and drivin. But your headlight is still out."

My husband thought he was being funny in the way he texted me about some minor car maintenance this morning. Most mornings we have to play car switcheroo, as I park at night behind him but he has to leave fairly early. As an example to how early: It is only 8:00AM and our coffee pot has already turned off the "keep coffee warm" feature.

Seeing as it was likely going to storm some time this morning, I thought "Ah, ha! I am going to just go to the Walmart, change this sucker, and be done before the keep coffee warm feature turns off!" Thinking I wouldn't really see anybody at Walmart at 6:15AM, I threw on a dirty pair of jeans and a shirt I wore two days ago, tossed my hair into a haphazard bun, and trekked my way to the Walmart. Yeah, buddy. I bought the appropriate H7 headlight and drove home. I've changed a few headlights, this will be nothing. In fact, I tease my husband regularly that all of his car projects take infinitely longer than his initial time estimations. "I'll show him what's up. Watch this." I finished changing the bulb before the end of the Bob Dylan song I was listening to finished. "Ta da!"

But then it didn't turn on when I turned on my lights. So I fussed around a bit and discovered that the new bulb was missing a piece when compared to the old bulb. Nooooooooooooo! I had to trek BACK to the Walmart. I topped off my coffee and cruised back to the Walmart. It turns out all of the school zones rest between my house and Walmart. I made an exchange, even upgrading to the next better bulb (just in case), bought a *set* to change out both lights, and decided the Walmart parking lot is just as good of a place as any to do car maintenance. Plus I did not want to jynx myself by driving home only to discover further mishaps.

I popped my hood. "Do you need help, Miss?" "No, I'm fine, thank you!"

I changed the headlight AGAIN. "Are you having trouble, ma'am." "No, I am just changing my headlight, thanks!"

I tested my lights and it still was not working. "Ma'am, are you ok?" "I'm just fine, it's just my headlight."

I installed the other light. "Do you need a battery jump?" "No, thank you, just changing a bulb."

I realized I installed the second light in the wrong place and remedied the situation. "You need some help?" "Nope, just a light bulb!"

I tested the lights again, and they finally both came on. I proceeded to check all of my lights and they all worked. Thank you, Walmart Patrons, for all of your offers to help. Had I known I would receive that much attention this morning, I might have not worn a shirt that stinks. But then, I guess, it is Walmart.

So now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go heat up some coffee, take a shower, and scrub scrub scrub under my nails. And maybe take a does of humility for all the times I teased mechanics and my husband for taking longer than they originally estimated on projects.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Thinking of these past few weeks

Well. I had intentions of writing more. Time slipped away from me. Now, I have one week left of my temporary park ranger position at Andersonville. Where did my time go?

Working here proved beneficial to me for many reasons. It was such a positive experience for me to be reminded that healthy work environments can cultivate passion. My colleagues are nothing short of encouraging and thought-provoking and innovative and passionate. It turns out those things are like my own personal fuel. I thrived among them and was humbled by their intensity and brilliance. I don't imagine any of them will wonder their way over to this blog and read this, but in case they do, you guys rock my socks off.

It was also beneficial to me personally. Everything changed when I walked down that plush, Las Vegas aisle last year and recommited to my husband. I, however, had become so used to living single that I forgot the types of things required to tend to my relationship. I now know for me that proximity is vital. No more long-distancing for lengths of time. I am also more mindful of what it means to think and work together, rather than just for me. Additionally, the idea of moving every several years no longer appeals to me like it once did. I crave roots. Wearing the green and grey for the short time I did reminded me of what a mobile life could look like; I do not desire that anymore.

Finally, I know in my own way that I have made contributions to the memory of this place. They weren't many and they weren't ginormous, but I know the work I did over the past several months contributed to something bigger than myself. That alone made these days worth my time.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

contemplating sunsets

I don't even know how to start after not writing in forever. How about a "how's it going?" and "I hope all is well with you and yours." Seriously.

I contemplate the various posts I could write almost daily. I think about how this or that would make for a good post and then I get distracted. It happens.

My most recent imagined post was some elaborate detail about sitting the watch the sun set. I recently took a temporary park ranger position at Andersonville National Historic Site. I don't like being away from the other half of my heart who still lives in middle Tennessee, but I am certainly enjoying feeling useful at my place of employment. I like feeling like I have a purpose. I have been allowed to stay on park grounds during my stay. My new evening ritual is to walk to the monuments that stand on the field beyond my "front yard." I park myself on a bench and sit for at least a half hour, sometimes I start creeping up towards an entire 60 minutes. Just to the right of my view is the sinking sun. As the sun melts into the horizon, I have time to appreciate each hue as every second discreetly adds a new nuanced layer of orange or gold or purple or navy. My nerd self also contemplates individuals who may have witnessed that sunset in years past. I also wonder what would it take for me to recreate that, whether I can do it with fabric, ink, pencil, paint, or other assorted mediums. As it turns out, my brain's left side and right side are constantly active. I wonder what words would I use while contemplating what color scheme would capture that particular evening best.

Maybe if I spent less time being and more doing, I'd have more to show for it (like more posts, maybe something legitimately publishable). But for now, I am enjoying my evening rituals and contemplation.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

See? I do cool stuff.

Tucked off of Highway 100, the Loveless Cafe has stood as a motel and cafe for decades, now serving as an iconic "down home" eatery for Nashvillians. You know you have reached success when your neon sign and plates of biscuits are instagramed dozens of times a day. The property has motel rooms, a few gift shops, and now, The Loveless Barn. The Loveless Barn opened a few years back as a venue; that venue now hosts the Music City Roots show.

I lack the ability to fully express what happens to my being when I hear a combination of a banjo, a fiddle, a guitar, and a bass. There is something inside of me that begins to take flight. Needless to say, a weekly music show that features bluegrass and Americana music sounds like my heaven on earth. The show airs live on a local radio station from the Loveless Barn (a part of the delicious Loveless Cafe) and is later aired on public television. I went because I love Ashley Monroe (she was playing) and had heard some of Love Kills Sorrow (and love their cover of "Such Great Heights"... they were playing). The Steep Canyon Rangers would be the finale and all I thought was "why not!?" Little did I know I would also discover one of my new favorite bands (and later cause nearly $4,000 in damage to my car, but that's entirely unrelated). So we went forth on a listening adventure.

The concession stand alone is worth the trip: 

Pulled pork, fried chicken, and biscuits. 'Nuff said.
In fact, the condiments table included decorative pats of butter to complete your biscuit concession. Yum. 

A band called "The Westbound Rangers" opened the show. Here they are: 

If you watch through, you can spot me enjoying myself around the 0:50 mark. If you keep watching, you'll see somebody enjoying himself even more than me at the 1:20 mark (no, I don't know him, but his face is really how I felt). This song is really one of the more "easy listening" of their selection and I was not disappointed by a single number in their set (in fact, they inspired me to write a post for my other blog... which is part of why I ended up watching a bunch of their Youtube videos this afternoon... and no, I haven't published it, yet.). 

I had a pretty good seat. And Ms. Ashley Monroe did not disappoint.
 The show went on for over two hours. It ended with a old-timey jam session:

Even watching this footage a few weeks later, I get all sorts of ecstatic about the experience. The bands amazed. The music moved. I may go to one hundred more of these shows, but that first visit will likely always rank as my favorite.   

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Creative Mushrooms

Creativity is a funny thing. I liken it to mycology (I dropped that term to both impress you as a reader and to make my friend in Oklahoma giggle a little). Fungi start somewhere, usually as spores. Those spores land and then grow into various mushrooms (this is where you scientifically-minded folks will see right through my scientific jargon to the poser I really am). Have you ever seen mushrooms or other fungal growth? They don't usually look like this: 

There are some crazy looking mushrooms out there, however. See?

There are also some stereotypical looking ones, too:

Then there is my favorite kind of mushroom, the kind sauteed and served on a steak:


These elements of the mycology field grow in various forms and in various places. Their size and their shape will depend on the weather, light, moisture, atmosphere, and location. Oh, yeah, and those original spores. 

Where is this going, Elizabeth?

Right. Back to creativity-as-mycology. Creativity does not just happen. It takes inspiration. It takes motivation. It takes atmosphere. And it starts with a spore. I think everybody contains the spore for creativity, although each spore grows in its unique way. Finally, you cannot force this growth. Fungi just happens (just look at the tiles in my bathroom... or maybe, don't). Creativity is the same way.

I write this as a means to encourage creativity to flow this evening as I have the mind to start three separate projects and yet lack the creative energy to make them actually happen today. Maybe I will go to bed and wake up to find that a night's sleep will encourage fungi growth. 

Actually, no. I don't want to wake up to find fungi growth, ever. But you know what I mean. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Simultaneously Thinking Fresh and Outside the Bun

I have always loved driving along highways. Yes, I like taking backroads and finding adventures along those, too. However, the long expanse of asphalt stretching out into the horizon brings some form of comfort to me. The reflective green signs announcing the next exit in a half mile stand as invitations to pull off and stop (planned or otherwise). Finally, no interstate journey is complete without seeing the glowing emblems of fast food and gas stations towering above the exits, often visible for several miles. 

Have you ever heard them?

"Stop here!" they scream. 
"No, here!" 
"Grab some fries and a drink!" 
"Stretch those legs and eat a hot dog!"
"This iced tea will make that drive feel shorter!" 
"We have bathrooms AND snack food!" 

That is what those signs say to me, anyways. I usually keep my music turned up loud so I can ignore them. I'll admit it: I give in sometimes.

As much as I have traveled and of the distances I have covered, I forget that those signs are not always recognized by everybody. This past week, I gave a private tour around the Nashville area for a family from Manhattan. One of the things that most amazed the family (especially the kids) was the fact that these places existed. As we'd pull off an exit to work towards our destination, the kids would point and ogle at these culinary treats. "Look! A Shoneys! A Taco Bell! A So-nic!" Evidently, fast food dining is few and far between on that little New York island. Something I take for granted, see everyday, consider American, and rarely actually think about became one of the highlights for this family. They toured an American city and it seems fitting that one of the things they were excited to witness were those glowing pedestals of processed, pre-packaged, high-sodium, deep-fried deliciousness our country is so good at promoting. Welcome to 'Merica. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Day, New Year

Well, hello from the optimistic side of the new year! New Year's Eve is generally a day in which we contemplate the old year. Our human nature tends to focus on the negative and write off the "old" of the past year. New Year's Day is generally a day in which we nurse a hangover celebrate a new year and get excited for the future. Just think! A whole new set of 365 days tied neatly together with a sequential string we label "year" given to you for fresh [fill in the blank]. Maybe a fresh start. Maybe a fresh goal. Maybe a fresh intention. Regardless, today is a new day.

Overall, I am a fan of new days. I try my best to treat each day as its own new day (new day!) and not let the whole "year" thing bother me. I make resolutions throughout the year as needed. I nurse hangovers celebrate the future as often as I can. Today is just another day, really.

But I felt it today. I felt the buzz of newness. I emitted an aura of anticipation as I thought of this upcoming year. I know many amazing things are in store. I know obstacles are in store. I know of my goals and my plans to reach those goals. I know how the majority of these plans will not work out exactly and I will be left with stories to tell. I like telling stories.

I plan on writing more. I plan on being published at some point. Sweet family members have faith in me enough to set me on my writing way (for Christmas, my parents gave me a crazy-capable external hard-drive and my husband gave me a writing desk). Here is what I found about the writing: in the same way that I cannot just hit the pavement and run six miles easily and injury-free after not running for a month, I do not have the ability to just make writing happen like I once felt I did. But my goal is to make that happen. Maybe I have just experienced months of "Writer's Block." Maybe I just got busy. Maybe I just didn't have the right desk! So now that I have the "write" desk (I wish I could have helped myself there, I just couldn't), I have the intentions of making this happen. I will write more. I have no idea of the content, but I will write more. If you choose to continue following my journey, I appreciate that.

Happy New Set of 365 Days to you. May each day bring you joy, regardless of whatever else the day may also bring.