Paducah or Bust

This weekend, I took what was possibly the most beautiful drive of my life, to Paducah. The colors of the leaves along the highway were absolutely, positively breathtaking. Breath. Taking. Anyway, I fear there is a good chance you might have never heard of Paducah. There are two reasons for my fear. First, several of the people to whom I mentioned my trip looked at me with a quizzical look on their face and said, "What is Paducah?" (not "where" but "what," weird huh?) Second, every time I type Paducah - either while texting or writing an email or blog post - spell-check underlines it like, "What is Paducah?"  Having had those experiences, I feel like I should explain to you that Paducah is a lovely little city in Kentucky that is just about half way between Chattanooga, TN and St. Louis, MO.


Its location is precisely what made Paducah enticing. I met a lifelong friend from St. Louis there to catch up and have some time together. It was long overdue.

photo (2)

Surprisingly enough, while wandering around Paducah's quaint downtown we stumbled upon some familiar faces.


How bizarre to see two other St. Louis friends sifting through antique shops in Paducah? Turns out they were headed back from a week in Asheville, NC. SMALL WORLD.


For the record, Paducah is a charming little place chock full of antiques and art galleries and its size makes it the perfect day trip destination. It's especially ideal if you want a quiet place to spend quality time with one of your favorite people on earth.


Annnnnnnd, in case you're in the business of keeping score, I'm crossing another state off the list. Technically this wasn't my first stay in Kentucky, but it was the first time I've had a picture taken of myself there. So, check and check.

Now tell me, have you ever heard of or visited Paducah?


Book Club Bloggers: A Little Honesty

Book Club Blogger day is here once again. And will you look at that? I'm posting my review ON TIME. Someone mark this date down. Even in a week of veritable silence around A Foreign Land, I am managing to publish my review on schedule. (Look, I have to congratulate myself. Deal with it.)

Moving on to the review...

Guys, can I be honest with you? When I realized this book was a Holocaust story I was a little bit disappointed. Not because I don't see the value in all 20 hundred Holocaust stories that are out there. But more because I feel they're a little bit, "Been there. Done that." Is that callous honest enough for you? There have been and continue to be so many atrocious incidences of genocide in our world and I wonder why oh why the only one that I really ever hear about is the Holocaust. I mean, even the fact that I use the term "Holocaust" and the first thing that enters your mind is the Nazi occupation during the Second World War says something. So well covered is this horrific tragedy, it has taken the little "h" holocaust word to capital "H" Holocaust status.

It's true. I found myself thinking, "Another concentration camp story?"  (And that my friend's is transparency. Bring on the hate mail.)

Because I found Jane Yolen's book to be mildly entertaining, short and easy to read however, I finished it without further complaint. I'll admit it offered a bit of different take on the period than I'm accustomed to. By inserting a modern day character into a concentration camp, Hannah was able to experience the atrocity with eyes more like my own. Even her initial boredom and distaste for her family's Seder rituals mirrored my own boredom with the book's subject matter. This meant by the end, my heart was more pricked than it might have otherwise been by the telling of this tragic tale. Although, I could argue I was feeling guilty rather than genuinely moved. I mean really - what kind of a heartless automaton is "bored" by a Holocaust story?

In summation, I would say that another book about the Holocaust obviously would not have been what I would have chosen to read if left to my own devices. However, if books like Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic can be tools to begin discussions about The Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda I say, "Keep 'em coming." Frank discussions about these tragedies GOING ON RIGHT NOW are indeed a first step in preventing further hidden slaughters like the one experienced by Hanna, her family and the countless victims of the Nazi regime.

For more bloggers (hopefully less heartless) takes on The Devil's Arithmetic, check out Charlotte's blog The Daily Snapshot.


A Silent Majority

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the much buzzed about documentary Miss Representation.  It was a kind of geeky girl’s night out. The film addresses the portrayal of women in mainstream media and its resulting effect on their... our... presence in positions of power and influence in America.

As a woman with deeply ingrained feminist roots that have continued to evolve and develop, I found this film incredibly intriguing.  It is one I would heartily recommend, even if you think "feminism" is a dirty word. (In fact, you should ESPECIALLY see it if you think "feminism" is a dirty word.) The film's writer/director/producer Jennifer Siebel Newson raises questions concerning the media saturated and often toxic culture in which she is raising her young daughter. In pursuit of answers - that result in, often, even more questions - she conducts a series of in depth interviews with women (and men) in the entertainment industry, in positions of media influence, and in high profile positions of political power.

The film was an 85 minute information upload. In addition to the onslaught of often disturbing imagery and soundbites, the audience is pummeled with statistics that occasionally made this viewer's eyes well up with tears.  For instance, in a country where women make up 51% of the population, it is heartbreaking that the boards of the six major media conglomerates (Disney, Time Warner, NewsCorp, Viacom, CBS and General Electric) consist of roughly 15% (And I'm being wildly GENEROUS with that number) women.  This simple fact alone, raises troubling questions concerning the presence, much less the accuracy, of the female viewpoint in our nation's media. Seeing this simple truth in black and white broke my heart. And that reaction, for me, was partly what made Miss Representation so compelling. The stereotypical "angry" feminist voice that is too frequently loudly provoking and rife with finger pointing was replaced with a rational, intellectually persuasive and well reasoned perspective. Countless examples of the absence of, and the trivialization of the female voice was shown to be the American media's norm.  How can that be good for ANYONE in our country, male or female? If the majority of a population is rendered practically silent, we all suffer.

The documentary has spawned several conversations already and lots and lots of contemplation. As a woman who's brand of feminism, as I mentioned before, continues to evolve and mature I can't help but be influenced by the startling truth represented in this film. Sure, there were some issues that I took with Miss Representation. For instance, I don't believe that women have cornered the market on abuse from the American media. Women aren't the only ones being misrepresented. If you isolate the film industry alone, (which I'm going to do, because this is MY blog) it can be incredibly disrespectful and unfair to men also. They are often painted as immature oafs sitting on the couch with their hands in their pants. Too often male leads are silly man-boys incapable of any worthwhile accomplishment. They ogle women and toys, they fart and waste space seeming to communicate that men are stupid and juvenile.  But, what struck me is that there are so many beautiful, edifying, inspiring male stories told to counteract those disrespectful mesages.  But unfortunately, so many of the female stories being told are simply "find me a husband" tales. Aren't we as a gender more than that? (the answer is, "yes.") But this ultra prevalent, one dimensional portrayal of women in film is just one result of the lack of the feminine perspective in positions of power in the American mainstream media.

The film gave me lots and lots to think about. And when faced with an issue as pervasive as this, it would be easy to become overwhelmed, hopeless and ultimately apathetic.  But instead, I chose to find one thing I could do to start "being the change." As a consumer, my most powerful voice is where and how I spend my money. Therefore, my personal take away from Miss Representation was this, "Seek out films telling multi-dimensional stories about women and PAY MONEY to movie theatres to watch these films. (especially on opening weekend - Friday is best)."  It isn't going to solve the media crisis in our country, but it is a little something that I can do to make my voice heard.

Have you had a chance to see Miss Representation? Would you?


Baseball on the Brain

I can't help it. It's October, the World Series is going on and I was born and raised in St. Louis.

It's in my blood or something. I HAVE to watch the World Series. Even if during the rest of the summer I've been indifferent about baseball.


There's just something about the World Series.
It is something so big that it made me miss Modern Family.

That. Big.


Of course, cheering on a team who was 8 and a half games out just LAST MONTH, won a wild card spot and then fought their way into the franchise's 18th series appearance is not all that hard. If - wait, when - the Cards pull off this series victory, it will be nothing short of miraculous. 



This had me laughing so hard I was crying...


A House A Home

About a month ago, I ran across an article on Apartment Therapy that caught my attention. I mean, I liked it so much I pinned it.  High praise, right?  The article was entitled 5 Completely Free Ways to Make your House a Home.  Since one of the items on my Ultimate To DO list is just that - Make Our House a Home - I found it pretty inspiring.

When I put that item on the list, it was my intention to decorate our house into a home. I intended to create a perfectly coiffed and fabulously photo worthy showcase and then cross that item off the list. For some reason, I equated a "Home" as something to be shown off or put on display. What I loved about the Apartment Therapy article is that it flipped my script. It changed my whole perspective and it helped to re-frame my list item. A home is a place that is lived in, that is loved, and that is used with joy. What I hope our home always is is a place where the hubby and I feel safe and comfortable and relaxed and ourselves.

The Apartment Therapy article suggested that there were five things, things that we are already doing, that create a home. So, hang on folks, I'm crossing another item off my Ultimate To DO list.

1. Spend Time in It:


One of my favorite places in the world is the couch in our living room. It's where we spend Sunday Mornings (to watch CBS Sunday Morning), it's where we've had some pretty monumental discussions about our past/present/future, it's where I come when I can't sleep so that I don't keep the hubby awake all night, it's where we eat dinner very often *gasp*, we laugh there, we've cried there, and it is where we spend a majority of the time that we spend in our house. The couch in our living room is where real life happens.

2. Use Your Space:


It's been in our kitchen that I've learned how to cook. (Well, as much as I've learned so far.) We've made Thanksgiving dinners in our kitchen, we've eaten surprise doughnuts with friends on early weekend mornings, we make dinner together here at night and coffee here in the morning and it seems to be where people first gather during parties. Our kitchen is far from state of the art. It's not full of top of the line gadgetry or marble counter tops. But, it is well loved and well used.

3. Speak Kindly:

For the first few years of our marriage there were times when our house was a bloody battle ground. Let's just say we didn't always communicate well. "Kind" might not have the adjective on the tip of either of our tongues to describe all of our conversations. But, with the help of some great counselors, a bit of practice, a whole lot of effort on our parts and unending grace from God we're learning to speak to one another kindly. Interestingly enough, a huge part of that is just listening more closely to what the other has to say. We sometimes even use those totally cliché and completely effective communication techniques - like speaker/listener - to help. Speaking kindly has undoubtedly made our home a more pleasant and all around safer place to be.

4. Music Matters:

About a year ago, the handsome hubby splurged on a Bose sound dock. At the time, I didn't really see the point since we never really played music around the house (maybe because we didn't have a way to do it - duh). But, what a difference it has made. There is no doubt that music makes such a difference and goes so far in creating atmosphere. Music makes cleaning the tub that much more tolerable. Music puts people at ease and sets a tone when entertaining. And music in the house gives me a chance to sing along somewhere other than the car! Plus, usually nobody is watching so I can bust a move if it's ever called for.

5. Entertain Without Worry:


For the past several months, I've had a pretty regular standing Wednesday afternoon engagement. Liz and Emery come over to hang out, chat, and Emery squeals and laughs at our crazy animals. These Wednesday afternoons have been amazingly good for my psyche, but they've also been good for the hostess inside me. Slowly but surely, I've relaxed. No longer do I feel like I need to have my house in tip top condition when they walk through the door. I don't feel like everything must look perfect for our time together to be worthwhile. If you could look closely at the above picture you would notice that my rug is not vacuumed. If the shot was wider you would see that there is junk all over the coffee table and the magazines are in total disarray. Truth be told, the counter tops in my kitchen were probably a mess too. These Wednesdays have reminded me that sometimes entertaining is more about the time spent with our guests than presenting a perfectly clean home for inspection.

Tell me, please, what are some ways you've made your place feel more like a "home"?


Waiting as Patiently as I'm able to...

One would think that I might have mastered patience at this point.

One would be dead wrong.



Remember back in July when the book club bloggers read Love in the Time of Cholera? Remember how I vowed not to let it beat me? Remember how stubborn I am?

Welllllll, I FINALLY finished it. Just. Now.

Like several months later.

But it's finished. Fineeto. 
The dang thing is posted on Paper Back Swap and I don't ever plan on reading it again.


I liked the characters less as I read the book. There were times when I was nearly gagging over some of their behavior. As I finished it I grew even more tired of the book's form than I was when I originally reviewed it here. I'm proud of myself for finishing, though I can't say that I took much pleasure in most of the reading experience. 

All that to say, I finished Love in the Time of Cholera and I now intend to re-institute the, "If I don't like the book, I'm not forcing myself to finish it," rule.


Saturday Night in Our Town

This weekend marked the close of the River Rocks festival in Chattanooga. River Rocks is a ten day, outdoor festival, "that celebrates the Tennessee Valley’s incomparable natural resources, the health benefits of an active, outdoor lifestyle and Chattanooga’s commitment to environmental stewardship and land conservation."


I'm not going to lie and tell you that I participated in any of those outdoorsy events. Because, let's be honest, there are bugs outside. Eww.


But, we did enjoy the closing night party in our most favorite spot in Chattanooga, Coolidge Park.


We started off the perfectly weathered evening by watching a hot air balloon being inflated. (I promise it's more magical and exciting than it sounds.)


Since the owners of the balloon were offering 10 minute tethered rides in the balloon for super cheap, we considered hopping aboard.


But ultimately, we decided to enjoy the view from below instead.
Next up was a free concert in the park by the "very big" band, The Jayhawks. In the preceding weeks I was told several times how "big" of a band The Jayhawks are. My general rule of thumb is if you have to tell me that a band is really big, they probably aren't really big. However, I realized that I was familiar with the band when they played this song...

Familiarity is HUGE with me when it comes to music. I'm definitely not hip and trendy enough to discover new bands. I'm a concert go-er that likes to sing along. So when they played a song I knew, I instantly enjoyed the show that much more. "Big" or not, for my money, The Jayhawks put on a great show.


We met some friends at the park. We shared some cupcakes - obviously - and reveled in what just might be the last outdoor concert of the season.  By the way, if you haven't already, meet my friend Liz. Liz, this is everybody. Everybody, this is Liz. Liz has a blog called Motoring Forth and I bet she wouldn't mind if you stopped by to say, "Hello!"


The night came to a beautiful and dramatic close with a sculpture burn. A local artist, Andrew Nigh, spent several days constructing the piece and then in the company of dancing fire eaters and a healthy dose of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire, he burned that sucker to the ground.


It was quite a spectacle.


As the sculpture burned, I could hear a conversation between two local women in the crowd. One woman was in her forties and the other in her twenties. Both had been born and raised in Chattanooga and explained that during the early years of their respective lives it had been a really depressing place to live.
{Liz, if you're reading this, DO NOT look at the next picture... it contains children up WAAAAAAAAAY past their bedtimes!}


As the women cheered for the burning of the sculpture they celebrated the manner in which the city was, "growing up." They spoke with pride, affection and excitement in their voices. I'm not gonna lie, it was some of the most perfectly delightful eavesdropping I've ever done.


I haven't been witness to the monumental changes those women must have experienced having only lived here a short time. But, their conversation made me stop and recognize just how much the city has "grown up" in the five years we've been here. There have been countless developments and improvements (and not just in my attitude). Standing there, watching the burn, I had a moment of pure gratitude and uncharacteristic humility. It's no secret that I've not always been Chattanooga's biggest fan. But, what a privilege it is to be living here during such a transformative time in her history.

Can you tell that I'm totally enjoying learning to use the still new-ish camera?


Happy Thoughts (23)

The Book of Mormon Soundtrack
It's been on repeat in my car for the last week. It hasn't gotten old yet and I still laugh at every joke.
(In case you missed it, we saw The Book of Mormon and it was outstanding.)

Unexpected Gifts
After missing a shift last weekend, I was excited to unexpectedly pick up a few hours at work.

More Unexpected Gifts
So, it turns out that I have incredibly generous friends (not such a huge surprise). A couple of them are preggers and others of them are just in the midst of cleaning out - let's call it curating - their closets. As a result, I'm making a hall.  Turns out my self imposed shopping ban hasn't been as difficult as I anticipated thanks to the influx of  friends' clothes that has been making its way into my closet. I seriously have a whole new wardrobe to play with lately. It's pretty outstanding and I'm incredibly thankful!!!

Every once in awhile I feel like I get a glimpse of the bigger picture and it seems like I can see life moving by in slow motion.  It's a rush.

After those slow motion moments, I'm quickly reminded that I'm NOT in control.  Turns out the bigger rush comes when I close my eyes, trust God and enjoy the ride.

What's making you happy on this lovely Friday?


Is This Going Somewhere?

Faithfully working my way down my Netflix queue (No easy task), Sofia Coppola's Somewhere arrived in our mailbox recently. Like so many others I've been a fan of Coppola's understated works (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation) and am keenly aware that even her clunkers (Marie Antoinette) are a feast for the eyes. While I would place Somewhere closer to the Marie Antoinette end of her spectrum of work, I cannot get the film out of my brain. It is by no means my favorite film by Coppola, still it has haunted me for days.

Somewhere is the story of a hard partying, a-list, bad boy actor at the apex of his career. Johnny Marco (quietly portrayed by Stephen Dorff) is gluttonous in the carnal trappings made available to him. He's hard drinking, aimlessly promiscuous and achingly lonely. Enter Cleo, Marco's semi-estranged daughter. Elle Fanning, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite working actresses (Phoebe in Wonderland, Super 8), is luminous in the role. Cleo proves to be the catalyst that turns Marco's meaningless, isolated life of consumption into something much deeper and more meaningful.

Truthfully, Coppola's screenplay is about as subtle as a sledge hammer. Her point is crystal clear from the opening shot to the ending credits. Marco is a wildly successful and pitifully lonely guy in need of direction.  For instance, we meet Dorff's character driving his Ferrari in circles on an isolated road. His car goes in and out of frame as it accelerates and decelerates seemingly without any point or purpose.  But, as the credits roll we see Marco once again in his Ferrari, this time the horizon is limitless, the highway is crowded and he is clearly headed somewhere.  I promise, this is not the only in-your-face, "Get it? Get it?" symbolism in the film. But, somehow in the midst of Coppola's extra long - often tedious - cuts and the uber arty, film school-y symbolic plot devices, she manages to create a thing of haunting beauty. As I mentioned before, I cannot get the film out of my mind.  Coppola (and her cinematographer Harris Savides) have a way with the camera lens. Her understated (well, understated compared to the lavishness of Marie Antoinette) and beautifully simplistic images have stayed with me for days.

Somewhere, though probably not Coppola's most successful film, is still worth a viewing.  Fanning is a joy to watch and honestly this is her film. She plays Cleo with innocence and charm. Her character manages to be a quiet, grounding voice of wisdom without ever crossing the pretentious, too big for her britches line. Meanwhile, Dorff manages to capture that, "I want to fix him" bad boy quality that makes, has made and will make so many of our knees weak. (Admit it, there's something about a bad boy that needs to turn his life around.) When viewing the film one should simply know what to look forward to and set expectations accordingly. Without a doubt this film is character driven and often left this viewer wondering, "Is anything going to happen? Ever?" But its not-so-subtle warning against a life frittered and wasted by the trappings of "success" and consumerism has gotten stuck in my gullet. And though there were moments when I wanted to take a fast forward button to Coppola's lengthy edits, in retrospect I really enjoyed the film and have come away an even bigger fan of her work in general.

Have you seen Somewhere? What was your take?