Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cover Me....

We interrupt this post to bring you this hilarity: everytime I see the Blogger Dashboard, I can't help but think "Bloggerdise by the Dashboard Light." We now return you to your regularly scheduled nonsense.

Cover versions -- 95 times out of 100, covers can't hold a candle to the original. At worst, they destroy our good memories of songs. At best, they are poor reproductions. But sometimes a cover version turns out to be better than the original -- or at least the version that I tend to enjoy most. I present, in no particular order, my favorite covers:

1. I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye). Gladys and the Pips were shouting about a cheating love. Marvin made it dark, brooding, ominous -- almost like he was channeling John Fogerty (and oddly enough, CCR covered this not too much later, choosing to cover Marvin's version). You knew this wasn't going to be a sweet happy song from the first shakes of that rattlesnake tambourine.

2. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (James Taylor). Marvin's original wasn't bad by any stretch. But somehow, JT's is the one that I cling to more. It's a happy reminder of a good childhood, filled with fun and music. And quite frankly, it's easier to shag (dance, shag DANCE) to JT's version.

3. Respect (Aretha Franklin). She took Otis Redding's song of male prowess and turned it on its head. Rumor has it that Otis heard it and said, "That girl done stole my song!" Sock it to me, sister.

4. Hard to Handle (Black Crowes). Damn. Otis can't win tonight, can he? Now, don't get me wrong -- Otis Redding is awesome! But again, another one that I just prefer, because it's more well-known to me.

5. Oh Lonesome Me (Kentucky Headhunters). I'm sure a few country purists have just dropped over dead. Too bad. I love the Headhunters, and I love this particular version. It's rollicking fun, and good to dance to (no doe-see-doeing either)!

6. Please Come Home for Christmas (The Eagles). I think it was Charles Brown who did the original, but this will always be the definitive version for me. Jon Bon Jovi's is passable, Aaron Neville's is just alright, but this one is the best. Ever. Bar none. Seriously.

7. Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away (Al Green & Lyle Lovett). What can you say about Willie Nelson? I'm not crazy about his singing..... However, he is a very gifted songwriter -- exhibit A: "Crazy," made famous by the immortal Patsy Cline. Exhibit B is this particular song, a classic to country-philes. This version of "Funny How Time Slips Away" appears on the Rhythm, Country and Blues CD project, which paired various country and R&B artists. This song, in the hands of Green and Lovett, is just nothing short of awesome. Fonked-out Willie. Ah yeah.......

8. Smokin' in the Boys' Room (Motley Crue). Yeah, I left off the umlauts. Sue me. Another one that just reminds me of high school and the fun times. High school was something I would never want to experience again in a million years, not even knowing what I know now and going back and doing it again.... But that's not to say it didn't have its good moments. Every time I hear this song and think of high school, I think of my friends on yearbook staff and all the fun times we shared: DP and the nin-jitsu blades (you had to be there), me falling out of my chair, the weekend at SS's house with NO sleep!, lots of silly good times. Why this one song reminds me of all that, I'll never know. But hey -- don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

9. All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix). Oh yeah. I've heard Dylan's a couple of times, and no, no no. I can't wrap my brain around it. Hendrix wins by a mile. By a marathon. By Alaska.

10. Mr. Tambourine Man (William Shatner). Psych. (evil maniacal laugh commences)

10. Shake Your Tailfeather (Ray Charles & the Blues Brothers Band). Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was in the movie. And yeah, yeah, yeah, it's still awesome! When I heard someone attempting to sing this a couple of weeks ago on American Idol, I thought, "My God! Ray Charles and John Belushi are BOTH spinning in their graves!" That was the ka-chunk, ka-chunk sound you heard........

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Idol Worship, Week 2

Sweet Lord. It just gets worse and worse, doesn't it?

Okay, before we take a look at the nevergonnabe's, I must say that Kelly Pickler, Katherine Neill, and Paris Bennett are going to be VERY strong contenders. It would not surprise me if all 3 are in the big hunt. Fabulous voices all!

Tuesday's torturers:
Munchkin Woman (whatever her name was): she had on a pink cowboy hat. Correction: she sounded like a Munchkin on helium. HORRID!
Rhonetta: holy Jesus. She was just (beeeeep) horrible, and had not a (beeeeep) bit of (beeep) talent, unlike that (beeeep) Paula Abdul who ain't even CUT no (beep)(beep) record in no twenty years. So bow down (beeeeep)! I do admit to a bit of amazement at how she was able to keep her glittery tube top up around her rather ample (but sagging) bazoom.

Wednesday's woefuls:
Wolfie: sings like Clay Aiken? He can't even beat out Clay Pot!
The girl who quit her job: Homegirl shoulda KEPT that day job!
Marcus, the "all-terrain entertainer": Hmm. Well, he certainly had an interesting hairdo. But when he broke into "This Little Light of Mine" I 'bout lost it. Yep. That's how I want to make my mark on "Idol" -- go in and sing a Sunday School song.
27-Year-Old Rock Girl: In the words of Dr. Evil, "riiiiiiiiiiight." 27, my considerable azz. Those have been a tough 27 years for her.
Santo NiƱo de Atocha dude: As my pal Carol said, "He made the Baby Jesus cry...."

I can't wait until next week......

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cold chills....

YAHOO!!!!!! My cousin Maggie made her way into the world today! I'm so very excited! A new little cousin to love and watch grow. I'm so excited for my cousin (her mom) and their family. This is totally awesome!

Here's the part that gave me cold chills: she was born right around 2:00 PM ... the same time that Tee's funeral was starting. One life ends, another begins. The circle of life goes on. Amazing. Freaky. Mysterious. Awe-inspiring.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ob-la-di, ob-la-dah....

Life goes on, brah!
La-la how the life goes on


Tonight was the viewing for my friend Tee. She looked good, considering what she had been through. It isn't meant to sound humorous, but I'd never seen Tee as a brunette, and it was a bit jarring. I also saw Em and her little sister .... oh my Lord! The hugs and the tears, the laughs and the memories. They had photo collages of Tee and her family (both birth and her own family), and one of the photos was her senior class picture. It reminded me that Tee and I had gone together to have our pictures made -- and she had done my hair the night before. I had forgotten all about it, and it brought back memories of sitting in her living room, watching that day's episode of Days of Our Lives while she was rolling my hair. I could go on forever.....

And yet, as the life of one of my friends has ended, a new life will come into my family! My newest cousin Maggie will be born sometime soon -- my cousin (her mom) will hopefully be induced tomorrow (crazy thing -- you have to call and see if they can squeeze you in??? What kind of crock is that?). I can't wait to see her after she makes her appearance! I know that Maggie's older brother will have some adjusting to make, but he is a good kid and will do well.

Goodbye Tee -- I will miss you and hope that you greet me on the other side!
Welcome Maggie -- I can't wait to meet you!

Ob-la-di, ob-la-dah
Life goes on, Brah!
La-la, how the life goes on!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Keeping the memories alive....

Forgive me, but I need to write more about my friend Tee. Even as I spent today working on important things for my company, I often found my thoughts wandering back to my child and teen years. It is so hard to believe that Tee is really gone. So I am trying to remember all the smallest things to keep the memories alive -- and to keep her spirit alive in my life and in my heart.

Tee, Em and I were all oldest children. There's something about daughters who are the oldest who tend to attract toward each other -- all my closest girlfriends in life have been firstborns. Like myself, Tee was also the only girl in her family. I think that is what helped bond us together. We needed sisters -- and found them in each other and in Em.

Tee was the first person I knew who actually had a KISS album -- on 8-Track, no less! GASP!!!! In our very conservative church, that would have caused mild coronaries in some people. They weren't even her folks -- I think an uncle had put them in the pile when he gave them their stereo. She also had a record player in her room, and I'll never forget the first two songs we played on there -- "So Nice To Be With You" (Gallery) and "Beach Baby" (I forget who did it). Tee was also an unabashed country fan. She really was country when country wasn't cool. She was a die-hard Alabama fan. Now at the time, I was so incredibly hip (or so I thought) because I knew who U2 was before anyone else. I would have d-i-e-d-died to listen to country. She didn't care. Because of her, I knew pretty much all of Alabama's 80's songs -- and as I later discovered, so did everyone else at our school. Closet Alabama fans, perhaps.

We had our share of slumber parties and sleepovers. I'm sure our mothers were all about ready to kill us the next morning, because God knows we got giggly and silly and everything else. I'll never forget one slumber party at my house, where I had a schedule printed on the back door of my room -- can you imagine "7:00-8:00 -- Listen to WANS; 8:00-8:30, do nails..." (like we were actually going to STOP listening to the radio at 8:00 precisely)... Makeup and hair and giggles and all sorts of craziness. This was repeated at least 3 or 4 times throughout the year. And we all I shared a die-hard love of Days of Our Lives. Oh my sweet Lord. If it wasn't me calling Em, it was me calling Tee at 2:00, saying, "OH MY GOD! Did you see that? What is going on? Oh my Lord!" Or trying to call either of them, getting a busy signal, and knowing that Em & Tee had gotten to each other first -- this was before conference calling! Bo, Patch, Shane, and "The Pawn" - no, it's Roman - no it's John Black - ah, whoever the hell you are..... they were all our men.

Tee was a cosmetologist. She went to "career center" -- only we still called it "vocational school" back then. And for her, it was a great vocation. Not only did she enjoy what she was doing and learning, but she was good at it. She was the best in her class. From 11th grade on until probably late 1989, when I was in college, she was my hairstylist. I would come home on weekends and schedule a home-cut with her. She was a natural, honestly! It is a shame that she stopped doing hair, and then her health didn't allow her to start again.

Tee only attended one prom -- her sophomore year with an ex-boyfriend who was a senior. He'd already bought the tickets. Her favorite aunt took her shopping and got her a beautiful red dress. She went and had a nice time -- okay, as nice as you can have with an ex that you don't particularly care for anymore. I was there too, as a hostess -- an "honor" given to the Top 8 sophomore girls (read: free labor). She didn't go as a junior or a senior because she only had the one formal dress and was afraid that everyone would say something about it. It did not matter to her that I knew for fact that some of the snootier gals were truly swapping dresses with their friends. She couldn't do it. She did wear it in the pageant one year. But that was it. She wore it twice, and it was a shame, because she looked great in it. I suppose that's a reason why I go to every dance I can, even if I have "nothing to wear" -- because life's too short not to have fun.

She had a mint-green Gremlin for her first car. I had forgotten all about the car until this very moment. A couple of years later, my then-college roommate was joking around with her boyfriend and he made a remark about a Gremlin. Stephanie looked at me and winked and said, "John, you're being mean. Annette's first car was a Gremlin." I took the exact description of Tee's mint-green Gremlin and wove a tale for him. I even tossed in tears about getting rid of the car..... When he left that night, Stephanie said, "That was great! How'd you come up with it?" She had no idea! Tee was also the first to buy a brand-new car, and it was a SHARP car (a Nissan Sentra, if I recall). Bright red, too!

Sometime in '88, I came home for a weekend and C of C just happened to be playing a nearby school. I got Tee to go with me, and we had a blast -- an absolute blast! I ran into a few folks I knew, and she was just amazed at all the people I'd met and the stories I had. We both grew up in teetotalling households, and she was the first person from "back home" to know that I not only drank on occasion but totally enjoyed it. She wasn't shocked -- and shared the same secret with me! I think it was the first moment that marked our true adulthood.

She was there for me when I had my hugest crush in college -- and there when I walked to her house (two houses down) one night and said, "Go walking with me." She immediately knew that things were going south in that relationship, and walked with me without saying a word until I was ready to talk. And like all good friends should, she immediately wrote him off as persona non grata in her world. She didn't know him from Adam, but he'd broken my heart, and that was enough.

In late '89, Tee inspired me, although in a roundabout way. It was a less-than-ideal semester -- from Hugo interrupting our lives and throwing us all into a whirlwind, to not seeing eye-to-eye with my roommate (and one of my dearest friends) to the point where I was barely civil to her (and now cannot fathom why). I came home needing a good laugh and friends who could perk me up and support me. I mentioned to my mother that I was going down to visit Tee. She got quiet and said, "Um, you can't." She then explained that Tee had moved out just the night before, after a huge row with her parents. Of course, self-centered me thought, "How could she DO that to me? She KNEW I was coming home this weekend. How DARE she?" But then I became very sad. Em had just gotten married that summer before and was expecting -- and in no condition to go out and celebrate or do any of the things that I now took for granted in college. And now Tee was gone. I worked over Christmas break in the offices at a textile mill (doing some catch-up work in their accounting department), and there were slow times. So I took a notebook with me and started writing poetry -- mostly about Tee. And how I felt about her leaving. I couldn't contact her -- didn't know how or where or who to call. I was never so lonely as I was that Christmas.

Then the next summer, Tee was married -- another year later, she had a daughter, just like Em. And things were never the same. That's life.

Everything must change, nothing stays the same
Everything must change, no one stays the same
The young become the old, and mysteries do unfold
That's the way of time, nothing and no one goes unchanged
There are not many things in life you can be sure of
Except rain comes from the clouds, sun lights up the sky
Hummingbirds do fly
-- from "Everything Must Change" by Quincy Jones
(sung at our baccalaureate service just before our HS graduation)

To Tee: In a couple of days, we will commit your body to the ground, with the sure and certain hope that one day we will see you again. I will remember. I will remember you whenever I hear an Alabama song, whenever I see a red formal gown (with hoop skirt to boot!), when I flip through high school yearbooks, at the reunion... hard to believe you will not be there, and that is just so not right. It is wrong on a thousand levels that we will be holding a picture (along with Jeff & David's) and not having you stand with us. I will remember you everytime I look at the house next door and then the house next to it, where you lived for a good part of my life -- or the house near the church, where you lived for a while. Whenever I see Em out and about, I will remember you as well. Whenever I have a chance to donate to breast cancer research, I will do so, and remember you. I will proudly wear a pink ribbon not just in October, but as often as possible, and I will remember you. Yes, my friend, my heart-sister, I will remember.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Memories of Tee

As you can see below, my old friend Tee lost her battle with cancer. I want to share a few memories and thoughts about her.

Tee came into my life somewhere around May 1976. She had started attending our church . I saw her on the school playground, and I can remember her outfit even now. It was a mint-green short set, with a tank top that said, "Butterflies Are Free" (and had the little butterfly on it). Sometime over the summer, she moved next door to me, and we were friends from then on. There were always us three: Tee, me, and my long-time best friend, Em.

When we wrote "LYLAS" in our yearbooks, we meant it. There were times when we had our fusses and our melodramas, and our good times and bad. She and Em were boy-crazy a little earlier than me, and were into cheerleading and other things that didn't necessarily interest me. But that was okay too. There were times I was closer to Tee than I was to Em and times they were closer to each other than either was to me. That's life when you have a trio of best friends. We were friends all the way up through high school and even into my college days. I had gone to school across the state, over 200 miles away, and we still stayed in touch.

We walked each other through our silly young-girl crushes and our first serious loves. There were engagements (some broken, some fulfilled) and weddings. I was in Em's wedding as her singer. I didn't go to Tee's. I had already set up a job interview out of town for the same weekend. The interview was set before the wedding date was. Being young and dumb and full of myself -- and also considering I wasn't terribly wild about her choice of groom (he has redeemed himself to me, however) -- I went to the interview. I got the job, but then it fell apart a few months later. I honestly regret not telling them to reschedule the interview and going to the wedding. I should have.

Then there were children. Em had her daughter first, and then Tee's wedding was that summer. Tee had her first a year later. And suddenly jobs and families and everything possible separated us. It's hard to be the lone singleton, and by that time, I had other friends who had become just as dear, and who had seen the grown-up (okay, growing-up) me and seemed to understand me in ways that Em and Tee couldn't. They were mothers and wives -- I was still the single career gal wanting to live it up.

And we drifted further apart. Phone calls stopped and seeing each other in the store took its place. Life has a funny way of doing that. I became totally wrapped up in my work life and my church life and my college and post-college friendships. Another regret -- because as a Girl Scout, hadn't I learned to ...
Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold.


Apparently not.

Then came the times I might only see them in the stores every few months -- time to play catchup. I genuinely enjoyed hearing news -- both good and bad. And it seemed that for Tee, her health became the bad news. I ran into Tee' s mom at the grocery store one day. Tee had started having back problems, and hip problems, and could not even work full-time anymore. And with two very active kids to keep up with, it was all she could do. Em was now a nurse, also with two active kids. And I was still the career girl. One day this spring, my mother had gone to the grocery store. She ran into Tee's aunt who relayed the news that Tee was battling breast cancer.

Breast cancer? NO! Thirty-six-year-olds are supposed to be in prime of their lives, not the fight of their lives. I got angry. I got sorrowful. I got guilty. Because I was too damn busy with my own life to do anything besides pray. I didn't know what to do, what to say, how to even broach the subject. I mean, it wasn't as if I could just pop over and say, "Hey Tee, your aunt told my mama that you have this, and it sucks, and I hate it and I want to do something, and I know we haven't really been all that close in years...." All I knew to do was pray.

Two days ago, I got the e-mail y'all saw below, and then the news today. And I am still angry. Angry at myself for having been such a dadgum schlub. Angry at a disease that is robbing a family of their daughter, sister, wife, mother. Really angry at myself again, for being a putz extraordinaire. The sad lesson is that life really is too short. I should have done something in spite of my awkwardness. And I didn't. Except pray.

I do believe in the power of prayer. In some strange way, my prayers were answered. Tee was healed -- healed of the pain and sorrow and struggle of this life, the ultimate healing and that she is at peace and at rest. But I sure would have preferred the other kind. The kind that would keep her here for her daughter's sweet sixteen in a couple of years. The kind that would have her watch her children graduate high school and maybe college. The one that would have allowed her to live life to its absolute complete fullest and then go into that good night at a ripe old age, not way too soon.

The really odd thing is that quite a number of years ago, I was working on a roman a clef kind of story about the three of us: Em, Tee and myself. I mean, I started this story in 1990. And in the story, we were in our mid-30s, and the character I created for the real-life Tee died. Do you know how completed effed up that feels to me right at this moment? To think that I wrote about it years ago (although it wasn't due to cancer) .... and that it actually happened is just freaking me out. I had planned someday to have a collection of short stories -- and I can promise you this particular one will never be published. It's now way too personal.

And forgive myself? Not for a while. Not for quite a while.

God bless you, Tee. I will miss you.

Forever your sister,
A.

Very sad news.

After a long battle with breast cancer, my friend Tee passed away earlier today. Thank you for all the kind thoughts and prayers.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A moment to be serious, please....

Today is supposed to be a good day. I am off work today, I am heading to Atlanta tonight for some fun with friends, I have a family gathering tomorrow that is supposed to be fun.

Enter reality, in the form of an e-mail, with some very sad news about an old friend of mine:
"Tee is in (Local) Hospital and they just found out she has cancer, again. She's on a ventilator but they plan to unplug the ventilator in 48 hours. She's 37 with two children. They need a miracle."

If you are so inclined, please take a moment and pray. Pray for Tee, for a miracle, for her peace and comfort, for healing. Pray for her family and all who love her.

Tee, I am sorry that I wasn't as close to you in my adult life as I was as a child and teen. Forgive me. I have had you in my prayers for a long time, but have been too much of a jerk to do much for you other than pray. I continue to pray for you. I pray for that miracle.

Thanks for indulging me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

OHHHH! My head hurts.....

From laughing so dang much at this year's "American Idol" wannabes. I'm not talking the good ones who get those little yellow slips and a trip to Hollywood. I'm talking about the ones who make me think, "Oh My God. Please tell me that when I sing I never sound that bad....."

From Tuesday night:
Crazy Dave: Somebody give that boy an IV of Ritalin ..... PLEASE!
Miss Ukraine: forgot her pole, didn't she?
Everyone who attempted to sing "Lady Marmalade": HOLY CHEEYET, people! Learn the words!!! Mocha Choca Latte?????

From tonight:
Mr. Weird Outfits (the "entrepruhhhhneeurr"): Dude. Seriously? Holy Jeez.....
Mr. Coaster Inventor: You seriously chose "If I Only Had a Brain"??????
Everyone who attempted a Paula Abdul song: You gotta be chittin me......

I wish to God's sake they had "Older Idol" -- I'd go and try out and see whether or not I have what it takes. That's all.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A great underrated movie!

There are "cult classic" movies and then there are undiscovered gems. Luckily for me, I have a fave in each category that features Tim Curry, who is one of my all-time favorite actors. Everyone knows about him as the sweet tranvestite, Dr. Frank N. Furter (see "cult classic," above). But not everyone knows about him as Rev. Ray Porter (see "undiscovered gems").

The movie is Pass the Ammo, from 1988. It is a wonderful satire, which unfortunately fell victim to some bad timing. It was supposed to have been released in late 1987 (if I remember the story correctly), but ended up being postponed by over a year -- and unfortunately by then, the subject matter was "old news." It matters not to me. The satire is still just as biting nearly 20 years later, and it is a damn shame that this movie is so overlooked.

Jesse Wilkes (a younger Bill Paxton) and Claire Waters (Linda Koslowski as a stunning redhead) are a couple of Arkansas kids. She is a poor farmer, he's a con artist, and she loves him... Claire's poverty isn't helped by the fact that her grandmother changed the will 2 hours before her death, leaving all her worldly goods to The Tower of Bethlehem Ministries, headed by the Rev. Ray and Darla Porter (Tim Curry and Annie Potts). But Jesse has a plan -- one that includes Claire's two jailbird cousins (Dennis Burkeley and Glenn Withrow). With the help of an "inside man" their plan almost comes off without a hitch. Almost. Major hijinks ensue -- with a little additional help from a few ministry investors, a New Age producer who's been "goosed up with divine inspiration," a few angels in the choir, a gun-loving redneck militia, and a Cajun sheriff..... well, you can just imagine. Oh, and it's all being broadcast world-wide.

If you've never seen it, get thee posthaste to your nearest video rental place, FIND yourself a copy (warning: as of now, it's still not out on DVD -- just VHS), and watch. It is so friggin' hilarious, I don't even know where to begin. It's also a mighty powerful satire about televangelism, "prosperity gospel" and stuff that's still happening today in religious television. I lucked out a few years ago finding a copy on eBay. If the day ever comes that it is released on DVD, I will be "the happiest woman since Eve!"

Seriously, go. Rent it. Laugh. Laugh. Laugh. Oh, and Arkansas people: there's a special cameo in there by a very well-known Arkansas broadcasting icon (radio and lately TV). Believe me, you can't miss him.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Getting better all the time.

I have the world's best friends. I promise. I always knew this, but after my meltdown the other day, I rediscovered it.

During my rough day, just as I was getting ready to go to the boss's office to discuss the project I was working on, I heard, "Nettie, please call the switchboard. Nettie, please call the switchboard." I thought, "Oh man! What is going on?" I went up front and there was my friend Nicole, with a present for me. She had tried calling earlier to let me know she was coming by to pick up a part they needed at their office, but I had the phone on "no calls" (to work on the project). She brought me some scrapbooking supplies and a Frappucino. To someone who was on the emotional edge and crying all day anyway, I just cried all over again at how completely sweet and selfless it was. Even our receptionist was moved to tears -- but she hates to see anyone cry (kind of like Truvy in Steel Magnolias).

Then the next morning, after a looooong sleep prefaced by a migraine, I awoke to a response (to my previous post) from my good friends in Georgia. I started crying all over again. Plus my friends on the MBOL were just so sweet to me as I begin this new phase in my life -- of recognizing the good in myself and stopping the negative self-talk.

We had a girls' lunch out that day (okay, really just my department, but....). I brought back some dessert and gave it to a coworker who was also having a very bad, horrible, terrible, no-good day on Thursday. I felt really bad that I couldn't console her in her hour of need because of my own crisis. She replied that working with me each day was present enough -- and to take back the dessert (I told her to pass it on to her hubby!).

And best of all, the project (Phase I) is finished, and I'm working heartily on Phase 2 on Monday. Gotta get it done -- time crunch. And now I know what I need to do with this project each month.

Today, I went shopping with a dear friend - just like old times, and I had such a great day! We laughed and gossipped and just had a total blast catching up on all the news we'd missed with each other. She's just like a sister to me, and even though we haven't spent too much time together lately, it was as if no time had passed.

Life is good.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Today is the day...

Let's just suffice it to say that today was a less-than-stellar day in my world, but I came to some realizations on the drive home that I wanted to share. Thanks in advance for indulging me.

Today I choose to break the cycle.

Today I choose not to listen to that tape loop in my head -- the one that tells me that I'm not smart enough or good enough or (whatever) enough. The tape player may never go away for good, but today I'm no longer choosing to push "play."

Today I surrender the stubborn side of my independent streak -- the one that says asking for help is a sign of weakness, and accepting help when offered equals failure. I instead choose to accept said help because it means someone cares that I'm shouldering too much for my own good, and I choose to ask for help when I'm bogged down.

Today I embrace all the good things that my friends and coworkers and other loved ones say about me -- and not to summarily dismiss it by saying, "Yeah, but that's because they're my (friend, coworker, etc.)"

Today I accept that I do not know everything. I cannot do everything. I cannot be all things to all people. I accept that I must pick and choose -- and learn to pick-and-choose wisely.

Today I choose to ignore those who feel it their duty to attempt to break my spirit. I will bless their hearts and let them go.

Today I learn the real meaning of "let go and let God." Today I acknowledge that I am not in control of everything in the universe -- only my actions and reactions.

Today I start over. Tomorrow I will do the same. And every day after that.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Classic Nettie: a dose of summer for a winter's day!

Taken from my June 1999 "Top Ten List" (formerly appearing on my web site, and now stored in glorious electronic archive on my hard drive):

Yeppers, folks, the list you've all been waiting for! Whether you're hitting the holiday road this summer, searching for fun in the sun - or staying in town working all summer - everyone knows you're gonna need some great songs for cruising! Here's what's in Nettiemac's car this summer, and I proudly present to you my picks for Summer '99 (in no particular order)!

Music for All Occasions by The Mavericks. No, I haven't gone crazy -- hear me out! If you want to hear real country music, don't go for the big-smiling, too-cute boys in hats. Instead, go for these men, who sing about love, life, and everything in between. This is what's been playing in my car for the last couple of weeks, with everything from cool honky-tonk sounds to tender ballads. While for me, just about anything by the Mavericks will do, this one remains my favorite pick.

Bat Out Of Hell by Meatloaf. Mr. Loaf's debut album makes almost any good list of mine. I don't know why it's so appealing to me, but there are some things you just don't analyze. Last year, as I headed to the beach, this one was on auto-reverse all the way down there. It must have made at least 5 trips through the old tape machine (which is probably why the machine is on the fritz now), and it never got old. I must have sung every song to death, and couldn't get enough of it.

Grease (movie soundtrack). The perfect summer sing-a-long; it's pure fun, and you know exactly where the song is in the movie. I have a bad tendency to do hand motions to "Greased Lightning" while driving -- and I bet half the people who saw me thought I was an idiot, while the other half began singing, "Greased lightning, go greased lightning..." The original Broadway soundtrack isn't bad either, but for those of us who grew up with Olivia and John, no other version will do.

Songs You Know By Heart by Jimmy Buffett. It wouldn't be a summer without tunes by the Big Kahuna of the Parrothead Nation. Here's one you'll hear almost everywhere you go this summer. This one's especially good to keep with you, when you're sitting in traffic and wishing you were anywhere else. It's a great mental escape to the Keys and to the good life. And if I could make a living as a beach bum, God knows I would! So grab onto your shaker of salt, and enjoy the tunes!

Big Ones
by Aerosmith. I admit, I've given the bad boys from Beantown a bit of grief lately. Still, if I had to pick any of their stuff for traveling music, this is the one. I know it will be in my case this summer. This is the best of everything from Permanent Vacation forward (pre-Nine Lives, though), and it's a winner for putting the top down, letting your hair down, and being free to do what you want!

Grand Strand Gold (compilation). Okay, at least that's what this album was called when I bought it about ten years ago. It's had several incarnations since, all put out by Ripete Records of South Carolina. You will hear these songs all over the Carolina coast, from Myrtle Beach to Beaufort. And if you're looking for the best in pure Carolina beach sounds, then look no further. Put this one in, and prepare to shag the night away, baby! Special note: in South Carolina, "shagging" is dancing. The shag is the official state dance; there's a movie about it, go check it out. Still, we had lots of fun in college explaining to our British exchange students that for only $10, they could have six weeks of group shag lessons!! :-)

Boston by Boston. This one's just a great hard-driving, good-rocking CD that I wouldn't want to be without. Some of the songs may be a bit dated, but the sounds never will be. While again, just about any CD would do, the first is always the best, and these guys are great!

Cracked Rear View by Hootie & the Blowfish. Another great debut album makes the list!! Again, while I like all CD's from H&TB, this one remains my all-time favorite. It's just pure infectious pop, and it's always good for a smile and a light heart. And isn't that what vacations are for -- forgetting all your troubles and being lighthearted for a time? Enjoy!

Greatest Hits (both volumes) by the Eagles. I hear you saying, "Ugh! These songs are so old, so jaded, so dated." And in spite of all your best intentions, you listen to them over and over again. Why? Well, if you're like me, it's almost as if these songs are the soundtrack to your life. And the underlying thoughts and feelings of the songs don't go away -- in some ways, they seem more true the older you get. Update: Just go ahead and the "Very Best of" (the 2-CD set). Way more songs, including some of the truly good ones that should have been on the original 2 GH's.

Big Chill (soundtrack). If you want a great sing-along album, then this is the one! This one hearkens back to the days when the highest compliment a song could get was that it had a "good beat and you can dance to it." If you're up for a heavy dose of the Motown sound, with a bit of other good-time stuff thrown in, then you can't go wrong with this one!
"But Nettiemac," I hear you saying, "are these the only ones you'd pick? Aren't there others?" Of course, my child, there are always other good tunes for the road -- it all depends on your musical tastes and styles. Here are others you may want to consider, dependingon your personal tastes. My own list of runners-up include (also, in no particular order):

Rubber Soul by the Beatles. For me, this is the best of all the Beatles albums. It's less pop-oriented than Meet the Beatles or Hard Day's Night, but it's also not quite as trippy as Sgt. Pepper's. The songs are catchy and good to sing along with, and you'll enjoy them!

Latin: Colors of the World (compilation). Colors of the World is a collection of compilations issued by Allegro Records. Others in the series include a sample with songs from all over, a Celtic compilation, and and African compilation. This one is great for hot rhythms -- from the rumba to the conga to the tango, it's all here, and it's all good! This one definitely gets you moving!

Metallica
by Metallica.
Also known as The Black Album, this one's an excellent choice for hard-driving music. While I'm not a metal-head, Metallica is one of my metal picks (along with AC/DC's Back In Black). If you're looking for something to bang your head to while driving, you can't go wrong with this one!

Rock of the 80s
, any volume (issued by Priority Records).
Yes, I admit with pride that I am a child of the 80s, and there are times I really miss the music. I certainly miss the variety found on the airwaves at the time, and there's something about these albums that take me back. I have several of the volumes in my collection, and they're all excellent.
"One last question," you say. "Are there any bands of today you'd put in your collection?" Paul Simon once sang, "I seem to lean on old familiar ways," and I suppose I do too, to a degree, with my musical collection. But, just because I don't keep the latest stuff in stock in my collection doesn't mean I don't listen to it on the radio. I like some of Sugar Ray, some of Matchbox 20, almost anything by Collective Soul and by the Black Crowes, a good bit of Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and a few other picks. Who knows? If it hits me the right way, I might even buy a CD or two from some of the bands. I'll keep you posted......

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

A coworker and I went to lunch today at a nearby Chinese buffet (and may I say, a very good one, with a huge variety -- something sorely lacking in most CB's but I digress.....). Naturally, we got fortune cookies at meal's end, and I went ahead and opened mine.

Mine was amazingly wise: Just because you make a mistake doesn't mean you are the mistake.

Wow. I had to read it several times. I wanted to make sure that it was what I thought it said. I almost cried, because it was pretty timely.

I tend to beat myself up over the most minor flubs and peccadilloes. I did a flub last night at work -- one where even my boss said not to sweat it, it was fixable -- and beat myself up all the way home. I tried hard to focus (my key word for today) on the tasks at hand today -- and it seemed as if Murphy had invaded the building. The nasty negative feedback loop kicked in -- you know, the one in your brain that says, "You are a screw-up. You are way out of your league. You are fooling everybody you know, because you're not that (fill in the blank)....." and on and on.

Sometimes, that negative feedback loop gets so embedded in our brains that we take it for Gospel, especially when we do make honest mistakes. And we tell ourselves that we are not (whatever) because someone in our past once told us that -- and our brain held on to it, and plays it back to us ... sometimes more, sometimes less. But we deserve better than that -- and need to remind ourselves that we are good because we have been lovingly created to be good. That we are not junk and that we are not mistakes, regardless of how many mistakes we will make over our lifetimes.

Fortune cookie: a whack of perspective with dessert to boot.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Of prosthetic chins, French failures, and ol' cousin Nimrod

I went over to my pal Stacey's house today to exchange presents and visit for a while. We had a great time, and I am so blessed to have her, hubby Chris and kids Rebekah & JP in my life!

Speaking of the kids .... well, to use a good ol' Southern expression, "they ain't right!" (Believe me, in my world, it's a high compliment). It means in this case, they crack me up and leave me in stitches. Tonight, it was Rebekah's turn to perform.....

First, JP had brought a false nose (Halloween style) into the living room. After he abandoned it, a few minutes later, she purloined it, strapped it around the bottom of her face and said with glee, "Look Mommy!!! I finally have a chin!!!" Another thing that Stacey and I have in common: round Irish faces without chins......

Next, we were helping her study for her test tomorrow in South Carolina history. Stacey asked her, "Of the three settlements, which lasted: the Spanish, the French, or the British?" Rebekah said, "The British.... the French, they failed" and threw her hand up against her forehead in extremely dramatic fashion. I swear, if they do not enroll her in a dramatic arts class, it will be a major mistake -- that girl has talent!

Then we began talking about settlers, and I mentioned my great-great-great-great-grandfather, who came over from Ireland to SC in 1792. He had a son named Nimrod (my direct ancestor), and we all cracked up over the name Nimrod. Yeah, it's a Biblical name, but it has such a bad connotation these days ("What a nimrod!"). So I started teasing Chris about a cousin of his out West -- the only other male in his family -- and said that he'd better start producing some other male heirs, so that Rebekah and JP could have a cousin Nimrod L. Rebekah starts howling, "NO! No cousin Nimrod!!!"

JP also had his funny moments of the evening, but he was working on his homework and not really engaged in the hilarity. He was busy trying to come up with "P" words for his worksheet! At least easy P words that he could draw.....

I love these kids to death, and I love the amazing way that their minds think!