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. 

Love, Loss, and What I Ate

A few weeks back, I saw a cute off-Broadway show called Love, Loss, and What I Wore by the sisterly writing duo Nora and Delia Ephron. Based on a book of illustrations by Ilene Beckerman it recounts the memorable moments of the author's life in terms of the lovely and sometimes awful clothes that she happened to be wearing at the those points in time. She spoke of first days of school, first dates, first marriages, and even second marriages for that matter. Prominent times in her life remained vividly affixed in her memory thanks to the colorful frocks and fanciful pieces that she remembered having on as she lived each day in and out. The show itself featured 5 women speaking in monologue and conversation format. Ranging in age, race, and experience, the women's stories were abundant and pleasantly varied. I was consistently laughing so hard, I felt pain deep in my stomach. That's the best kind of laughter and it was such a fun evening out with my mom, nana, sister, and family friend Joy. There was even a great sense of camaraderie for everyone in the audience; it was deeply personal and very relatable for each and every woman in attendance. Feeling fat, feeling thin, feeling fashionable or fake, happy or sad, included or not in the midst of family members, friends, and even strangers. The commonalities run through every woman's life and I strongly recommend seeing the play for a good laugh and a nice reflection on times past.

If, however, I had to write my own play, mine would be called Love, Loss, and What I Ate!Thinking within the constraints of the play, I too have very fond and vivid memories of past experiences, and yes I remember exactly what I was wearing. That dreadful sweater or a sweet and soft party dress. But more so, I remember exactly what I ate...

On my sixteenth birthday, we shared an enormous Cannoli filled sheet cake. Top layer was chocolate cake, and bottom was vanilla joined in the center by fresh raspberry preserves and chocolate chip filled cannoli cream. Instead of sickeningly sweet icing, it was covered in freshly whipped cream that was light and fluffy just how I like, with a subtle hint of vanilla.

When I was just fifteen, I went to the UK for a study abroad program and my host mum Dawn made us a gluten free pizza, as her daughter Nicola was allergic. I was not too excited to eat something as odd as pizza less the gluten but it was divine. The dough was unbelievably tasty and it was loaded with the freshest of vegetables. Mushrooms, broccoli, corn, name it and it was on that pizza. I am not sure I ever enjoyed pizza more, but maybe that can be attributed to the company with whom I ate.

After playing outside one evening during the great snowstorm of 1996, my sister and I ran inside frozen to pieces in search of something warm. Mom had already prepared tomato soup with white rice (how we liked it)and warmly grilled cheese. We had hot cocoa as well with some whipped cream. We licked the bowl spotless and settled by the fire for a safe night in, snow falling at the window.

My first date ( I mean a real legit date with an actual man and not some foolish boy), this handsome guy Mark took me for Middle Eastern food at this great nook called Neyla in Georgetown, Washington DC. I had hummus with warm pita bread, generously seasoned chicken, and crisp vegetables. We split dessert :)

So maybe you do not recall what you had for breakfast this morning, but what I mean to say is that alot of emotions we feel are dictated by what's on our plate. We build memories around the dinner table, in the corner booth at the city diner, sitting all snug at our favorite coffee shop, or at some bar we cannot remember the name of; but that cutie you were talking too... you remember him alright! Next time you are feeling particularly elated, stop and think about what you happen to be eating. You never know, it may shape your favorite tradition or comprise a story you tell your grand babies someday.