We are greater than the sum of our salary and possessions.

Being in front of a computer during the workday, I have become more accustomed to the influences of the web and accompanying sharing (often over-sharing) of content. Sometimes, it awakens a habit of comparing. I don't like comparing if it is used in a non-constructive way. Being inspired by others and rallied to action? Great. This type of comparison promotes progress. Feeling inadequate about not having a concrete course of action for this thing called life? Not useful or productive.  It just leaves me feeling disconcerted, and even a little sad.

Someone, somewhere once said that comparison is the death of joy, and it totally is. When I figure out who, I will site them properly. And to quote my Dad in response to a meltdown I must have had during my youth over some trivial comparison, "What are you gonna go stick your head in the sand?" Love that guy.

There will always be people with more, and well less for that matter. More/less stuff, food, opportunities, skills etc. There are moments when I am deeply bothered by this, probably because I struggle for some forms of order and fairness in my head, and heart. But we are greater than the sum of our salary and possessions. The proof is everywhere. Sun above and earth underfoot. Accessible by all, regardless of your station in life.

There is no premium on belly laughing or dreaming. Loving someone, or having love returned. No price tag on wonderment.

Happiness can be cultivated because the best things aren't things. 

Writing this for the next time I get flustered by the rat race unfolding around us, which happens from time to time. We can't all just up and venture to Walden Pond when we have an existential dilemma. But maybe I can read it from a shady porch... while drinking a Pumpkin Spice latte.

Get your hands dirty

I don't think it is a generational issue, or correlated to age at all. It's not necessarily driven by social class either. My guess is, it must be a societal trend. We've forgotten the value of getting our hands dirty. This statement is in no way, amply supported; my gut feelings will have to suffice.

When my sister and I were little, we played outside nearly every single day. We had a world of make believe at our fingertips. To this day, a walk around the block brings back vivid memories. Torn jeans, muddy sneakers, and runny noses were indicators of a good day indeed. Capture the flag, running bases, and tag filled the warmer months. Building forts in the snow and sledding marked the winter ones. We were always moving, always exploring. 

My parents talk of similar childhoods. Dad didn't have a lot of toys so he had to work with what he had, or "borrow" things from his cousins. Miraculously, they still talk to him. They all lived together in a two family home, where I happen to live today. If I close my eyes, I can invision them playing together and growing up between these walls.  A few towns over, my Mom was living simillarly. She and her friends played house together, pairing off to make imaginary couples and wandering around Grace Avenue. They played games and made things with their hands. 

As adults, we don't have the same opportunities to play with wreckless abandon, although we can certainly channel our youth if we try. My papa is living proof that youth is a state of mind, not necessarily represented by your age. Gosh, I hope I stay half as cool as he is. Papa gets his hands dirty. He tinkers in the garage, teaches himself how to make different kinds of nautical knots, gardens, and builds. Maybe this is why he stays so young.

Dad works like no one else I know, and thankfully he instilled his views along the way. When I was old enough to work the power mower, he took me landscaping on weekends. If I was way thinner, I would be Jessica Biel in Summer Catch. Although it would seem totally unenjoyable, it is ( I still landscape now and then) and always was oddly rewarding. Dad says it builds character, and I whole-heartedly agree. To exert yourself and labor a little isn't like jumping in puddles or playing tag as a kid. But it's similar in the regard that there is a level of motor stimulation that triggers good feelings in the brain. There is evidentiary support of that... so there you have it.

Things come really easy in the modern age. I am immensely grateful for the ease with which we can access information, communicate, and experience our surroundings. Strides made in technology and the sciences are awe-inspiring. Sometimes though, I fear we are complicating the formula for happiness. A patch of pavement and some chalk was sufficient to occupy us for hours when we were young. And obviously, there were no tablets but we made it ok. Kids should play outside, and get dirty. 

As for me, there's always grass to be cut.

All You Need is Love and Country Music

I have always been a fan of country music, at least for as long as I can remember having an iPod. Even before then, my Mama loved the feel good tunes the genre is known for so we were exposed to it at the very least. I can recall my first Rascal Flatts concert. Regina, my sister, and I balled our eyes out when the guys sang "He Ain't the Leavin' Kind",  while military officers marched on stage in front of a backdrop of beautiful imagery: American flags, families reunited, all that good stuff. Getting chills all over again just thinking about it.

My affinity for country music has been heightened even more so of late. My boyfriend James is a former Marine, although you are never really a former US Marine. That allegiance is hard coded into your psyche indefinitely. Unfaltering patriotism and loyalty are forever etched into his soul; that level of commitment is remarkable to me. Sometimes living with James is like being in my own little boot camp. Through him I am able to share some of his unforgettable experiences. I can't claim to understand his memories; those are priceless and he earned them. But I can still appreciate him for all he, and people like him, have done so selflessly. After his tours as a Combat engineer, positions in Paris and Jerusalem exposed him to culture, history, and decadent cuisines. A five year stint in Texas left him with an adorable twang, adoration of and savvy preparing smoked meat, a knack for line dancing, and last but not least a love affair with country music.

Thankfully, James introduced us to NASH FM. Being a Jersey girl, it was hard to find a good source of country tunes on FM radio. While at college and carless, I didn't have the same free time to listen to tunes anyway. Since the hurricane (our term of endearment for James) moved to the metropolitan region, the whole family has been converted. Regardless of what vehicle you find yourself in, and among my immediate family there are five, you are sure to hear 94.7 blaring.  My morning commute has never been more enjoyable. Although I only have 15 minutes in the car, they are 15 happy ones. The personalities on the Morning Show are vibrant and funny. The content is clean, uplifting, and yes, still entertaining. I don't know the cast personally, they seem like genuinely good folks and I love spending my mornings with them.

The parents, my sister, James and I found ourselves barreling down the Parkway for a beach day this past weekend, and we sang to our hearts' content the whole way there. Luke, Blake, Florida Georgia Line.... and the smell of salt water. It was the quintessential American experience. (Mom drives a Chevy; only American cars in our family.) At home, the story is the same. James rigged speakers in our garage so he can listen to music while he plays darts. He has loads of Spotify playlists spanning country music history. Colt Ford, Jason Aldean, Conway Twitty - the whole gang. These are my companions and I wouldn't trade them.

In this region, country music doesn't always get the appreciation it deserves. Sometimes there is a stigma associated with it. Some people just prefer the Kanye or Gaga types. There is a place for all genres. But if you really distill down the content we are exposing ourselves and younger generations to, I think we should do our best to emphasize the country variation more strongly. Maybe society wouldn't be on quite the downward spiral.

Lee says,

"Be a best friend, tell the truth. And overuse "I love you".  Go to work, do your best. Don't outsmart your common sense. Never let your prayin' knees get lazy. And love like crazy."

Sounds about right to me.

Justin Moore would visit loved ones If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away. According to Miranda's A Heart Like Mine, we would all increase our tolerance of people's differences.  The intoxicating nature of being in love and "This life would kill me If I Didn't Have You".

There is a fair dose of sadness - the heartbreak of losing people dear to us. Most of my favorite songs bring me to tears before the last measure.  I think part of the comfort with discussing the tough topics like lives ended too soon, sickness, and heartbreak, is their closeness to God. If anything, it is admirable to be courageous enough to acknowledge the vulnerability of the human condition and embrace it with open arms. "I Will See You Again".

What is quite important to notice is what they are not singing about. Not many references to violence (except kicking an ass or two, but all in good fun or if it is deserved). They discuss the derrier of course, but the dialogue is a far cry from over-sexualizing men and women. I cannot find that many if any mentions of rape, explicit content, slurs, and diminutive language. They like beer, but who doesn't. Probably a safer bet than Molly's. Maybe Robin and Miley can learn a thing or two from Carrie and Brad. We can only hope there would be fewer news headlines about twerking and infidelity.

  • Proud of coming from Flyover States and Small Town USA.
  • They support the brave troops who protect us. Just ask Toby.
  • Always have fun at The Parking Lot Party or in Red High Heels.
  • And People are Crazy.  Well, obviously. 

The underlying themes are consistent. God, Family, Country... Loyalty, Love, Resilience.  I can't argue with those.  There is an immense amount of fun, kissing, beer, and the like. I still choose country over many other popular genres, hands down.

Like I said before, there is certainly a place for different music, beliefs, and forms of expression. That is what makes this America. Fine men and women fight day in and out here and abroad, so we can listen to and say whatever we wish, even if sometimes what we come up with is probably better left unsaid/undone. But I would recommend a healthy dose of NASH FM if you need some perspective. Don't be surprised if you have a more inspired, fun-loving, and grateful attitude afterwards.