IF I WERE GOING TO WRITE A BLOG IN AN ATTEMPT TO WIN FRIENDS…

3.27.13

This would not be it! If however I were writing a blog in an attempt to influence people, I’d strongly hope this would be the one. The topic of conversation here is one of controversy, especially in the Bible Belt from whence I proudly hail. If you have yet to figure out which hot topic I am referring to it is that of marriage equality. For the better part of the day my Facebook newsfeed has been flooded with both signs of support and disdain regarding the matter. As the day progressed and the posts became nastier and more self righteous my irritation grew… I would like to believe that I am a pretty tolerant person, your views upon your life and the way in which you choose to live it deserve my respect and I expect the same from you regarding the choices I make for my life… One thing however, that I will gladly admit I’m pretty intolerant of is the hatefulness that many people use to belittle the lives that others have chosen for themselves. I have never understood and probably will never understand why anyone possesses such a desperate need to let the world know that their chosen way is so absolute. And in proclaiming such, must also state that all other perceptions of life, love and relationships are completely wrong and immoral. Ok, let’s go with that, lets say that you’re religious beliefs are indeed absolute truth and that god would be very upset if you in fact chose this lifestyle for yourself… I have the perfect solution to your dilemma, do not choose this lifestyle for YOURSELF! Throughout my religious upbringing there was this recurring theme called “free will” this would be the perfect chance for you to exercise it… Just sayin!

I personally think that’s a pretty clear cut answer to any problems one might have with the issue of same sex marriage but if you’re still on the fence I’ll give you just a little bit more to chew on…

If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it one thousand four hundred and fifty three times: “This country was built on Christianity and the contents of the bible” (which isn’t entirely accurate according to those things I learned while acquiring a political science degree)… However, if one is going to use such arguments, one must also acknowledge a few key points from the very foundations of our great nation i.e. separation of church and state, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and so on and so forth. Oddly enough they did not specify which churches were exempt from this constitutional decree nor did the founding fathers establish which forms of happiness were appropriate to pursue, it simply said that all “men” are created equal and that they were endowed with these unalienable rights…

Still not convinced? Ok, let’s talk about hiding your personal judgement behind god and religion… If I hear “I’m not judging anyone, I don’t have to, God’s already stated his position on the matter and its wrong!” one more time I may be the first human to successfully roll my eyes out of my own head. Just a little FYI, that’s still judging and it’s not your place. If you believe so firmly in your own religious practice then you’d stand down, let everyone make their own life choices and allow the creator to handle his business. “Well I’m so tired of everyone jumping on Christians for standing up for their beliefs” and “You say don’t judge and be tolerant but the first thing you do is write a blog and condemn our belief system” two things I’m sure I’ll hear upon publishing this blog. Here’s my answer to that: I am not here to condemn nor judge your faith and beliefs, they are yours and I respect your dedication and commitment to them. But, if you didn’t catch the key word in that last sentence I’ll say it again, they are YOUR beliefs! It is a big broad world out their filled with thousands of differing belief systems, even as many as 34,000 different sects of Christianity. All of which I’m sure believe strongly that their personal convictions are the ones that are most pleasing to God. This particular debate however should not be a question of “I’m right and your wrong” this should be a question of the basic human right to choose the life that you wish to live, one of the reasons our forefathers declared independence and founded this nation…

Sanctity: The state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly. Ultimate importance and inviolability.

So you’re worried that the allowance of same sex marriage will somehow destroy the “sanctity” of marriage? Newsflash boys and girls, I know plenty of marriages that are far from holy, sacred and by no means saintly… They are convenient, they are loveless, they are abusive, but they are in no way sanctified, yet still those remain legal. Of course I know just as many marriages that are healthy, loving and happy. I doubt the people in these relationships would hardly agree that the marriage of another couple, homosexual or not, would ever have the ability to lessen the value of the marriage that they are in. Quite frankly the only relationship of two consenting adults that you should be concerned with is your own. I personally have never met a homosexual person that has tried to convert a heterosexual person to their sexual orientation. I have personally never met a homosexual person who insists that their lifestyle choice is the correct one for a heterosexual person. And, I have personally never met a homosexual person who actively tries to change a heterosexual persons moral beliefs for their own life. I have met quite a few however that would appreciate the same respect and courtesy from the innumerable heterosexual people who do these things to them, I’m sure on a daily basis…

This is not a debate about right and wrong, how you choose to live should be just that, a choice. I personally have dear friends who have struggled their entire lives with feelings of unworthiness and shame because the feelings that come naturally to them have been labeled wrong, immoral, disgusting and abnormal. This may be your personal belief and you have the right to it, but they have the right to their beliefs as well. They have the right to pursue happiness in the life decisions that they make and to live the life they choose whether it measures up to your moral standards or not. I mean, I wonder how you would feel if someone from another religion, say a Muslim, came into your home and told you that you could no longer own a gun? Oh wait, I know how you would feel because that’s what Barack Obama is trying to do, right? And you’re not having it, right? No one should be able to make that choice for you, right? Right! So, just keep that in mind the next time you want to make a choice for someone else, whether its a choice you agree with or not, unless its YOUR life it shouldn’t be YOUR decision!

As I said in a previous post everyone wants to “cry freedom” when it’s their freedom at stake but we all have to acknowledge that if we want freedom, we have to give freedom. If we want the freedom to own guns, we have to also allow others to own them and live with the consequences no matter how fatal. If we want to worship the god of our choice we have to allow others the same freedom and respect, knowing that by doing so we can still maintain our own personal moral integrity. And, If we want the freedom to choose who we marry, we should realize that everyone should have that very same freedom, whether you agree with their choice or not…

It is not my intention to judge or degrade anyone in their beliefs, it is not my intention to imply that you should change those beliefs and adapt your own life to the beliefs of others. It is my intention to hopefully shed some light on the fact that we all should have the right to live the lifestyle of our own choosing without constant degradation. I once heard that “it is the mark of an intelligent man to be able to entertain the thoughts of others without accepting them as his own.” All I’m asking is that you stop and think about how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot, if you were fighting for the freedom to live your life as you see fit, something tells me that you would fight ’til the death to attain the freedom you sought… I guess you can’t really blame anyone else for doing the same now can you?

 

 

TO ALL YOU LOVERS OUT THERE, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY…

2.13.13

To everyone else, Happy Single Person’s Awareness Day! <3 No really, all kidding aside, Valentine's Day is all about love and we all love someone out there. Truth be known, if you're really lucky, you are surrounded by love on a daily basis and today is just another day to celebrate the ones you love and their love for you. In my younger days Valentine's Day was such a bummer if you didn't have a sweetheart, I'm older now and I realize that my life is so full of love that I have absolutely nothing to be depressed about. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't turn a hot date away, I'm not stupid :p But today, I will celebrate the love that surrounds me and I hope you will do the same. And, if you look around and can't find love in your life, go spread some sort of kindness to others who may be feeling the same way... There is love out there for the taking, show love to another human being and I assure you that it will return in abundance. Open yourself to its beauty and all the forms that it may come and realize that it may not look like you expect but it is lovely just the same...

As you all know, I love the people who take time from their day to read what I write and I love sharing my favorite things in an effort to show my gratitude... Recently I purchased Alicia Keys latest album "Girl on Fire" and I am absolutely obsessed! This album is full of love, whether it's falling into it or out of it, she's got it covered. I think it is the perfect thing to share on Valentine's Day for those who are in love, those who are searching for love, those who find love in everyday places and those who are not currently a fan of love, everyone an find a track to LOVE on this album. I personally would like to find what she's singing about in the lyrics of "Not Even the King", that is surely some good love right there! And I can certainly relate to "Brand New Me" as many of you I'm sure... And "101", well, that song does Otis Redding type things if you get my drift. I could go on and on but I'll let you discover this album and all it's glory for yourselves, trust me, you will not be disappointed! I will be sharing this new favorite with one lucky winner this Valentine's Day. Comment below and tell me how you plan on spreading the love this V-Day and you'll be entered to win... Now go show someone just how much you love them today and everyday! I'll announce the lucky winner before midnight, it could be you

These are just a few of the places I find love everyday...

 

 

 

30 BEFORE 30: A RETROSPECTIVE

1.21.13

So, this is it… Today I turn 30! Three years ago I sat down and asked myself what I wanted from life and what was stopping me from making every dream that lay before me a reality. The answer to the first half of that question came in the form of a list of things I had always wanted to do or achieve, the answer to the second half was NOTHING! I decided right then and there that my life had been on hold for far to long, that I was going to do everything in my power to make myself happy because I couldn’t depend on anyone else to do it for me and that I was gonna have a lot of fun in the process…

I remember as a kid I couldn’t wait to turn 18 and get my life started. I had a plan you see… I’d graduate high school, go to college for the customary four year run, obtain my degree and get married at 22. Then of course my husband and I would wait a year and then welcome our bouncing baby boy (it was of course going to be a boy because I had always wanted a big brother as a child and would provide one for my future daughters). This would all take place by the time I was 24 (the age my mom was when she first married) and by the time I was 30 I would have at least three small children (all two years apart) and probably a fourth little one on the way. It was everything I’d ever wanted! Well, that’s not entirely true, it was everything I thought I ever wanted, and definitely everything that I thought was expected of me. Now don’t get me wrong, I grew up with parents who taught me that I could do and be anything I wanted, probably to such an extent that they now wish they had scaled that particular propaganda back just a notch or two. But, when you grow up in the rural south where most everyone looks the same and talks the same, where everyone worships the same god on Sundays but insists that their way is the right way and far better than your way, a place where raising a good strong family is the best measure of success, you start to believe that if you don’t do those things you have somehow failed at life….

Therefore when I was 16 and started to hear that crazy girl inside of me cry out for freedom, I told her to shut up! When I was 18 and she wanted to run off to New York City and become an art major at NYU, I told her that she’d never survive in such a crazy place, no matter how much she loved the energy it carried. As a 20 year old art major at a much smaller, more appropriate school, I told her that passion or not, photography would never provide any sort of stable career and she should choose more wisely. I continued this process as the years passed, I repeatedly silenced the girl inside who wanted to live her life with wild abandon, I convinced myself that the life I wanted was the appropriate one, the one with the husband and the kids and the white picket fence. God, the universe, whatever you call the Devine hand that guides your life and mine had another plan and it has been the greatest gift of my life thus far…

Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that when people say “If you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans” they speak the truth. This does not mean that the Devine forces in our lives do not want us to be happy or successful, it just means that sometimes the path we think is best for us to travel is not the path that will lead us to the places we need to be. I spent a large portion of my twenties pining for things I didn’t have, things that would “complete me” (thanks for that “Jerry McGuire”), a life that for most is by all means perfectly satisfying, but a life that was not meant to be mine at that time and maybe never will be. That, like so much of my future, is yet to be determined and I’ve learned over the past three years that it’s ok to not know where I’m headed. *I’m sorry, I think the girl I was at 22 just rolled over in her proverbial grave… Please excuse her!*

It wasn’t until I was 26, almost 27, that I realized that everything good, bad and utterly heartbreaking happens for a reason… It serves a purpose in the trajectory of your life, it may be hard, it may be unbelievable, you may fight it with every ounce of who you are but someday you will look back and see how every piece of the puzzle fits. This realization happened for me as I drove to a concert one night with a friend, and as she talked about the boy who had left her hurt and broken, I began to think about the boy who had once reduced me to a similar state and suddenly, like a vision from the almighty, I saw the life that I would have lived with him and I realized that it wasn’t what I really wanted at all. I realized that I wouldn’t be right where I was in that moment if I had gotten what I wanted, what I thought was best, what I had planned. I realized that the wild and crazy girl that I had been trying for years to silence would have remained forever bound and gagged in a life that was not meant to be hers. It was as my life advisor, Oprah, often says “a holy moment” and I knew right then and there that I was not only going to be ok, but that my life was going to be fabulous from that moment on!

I went home that night and started writing down everything that I wanted to do before I turned 30, things that I had been putting off for years, things that served only one purpose: to make me happy… Guess what? Clearly God laughed again because I haven’t marked off half of the things on that little list, but it is and will remain throughout my life, one of my most prized possessions. Why you ask? Because it represents the beginning of a new life, it represents the day that I started to believe that my life was filled with possibility, it represents the day that the wild and crazy girl I had been trying to deny for the greater part of my life peeked her head around the corner and started to emerge… And this time, I didn’t try to push her back below the surface, I simply set her me free!

In the past three years I feel that I have lived more fully, experienced more joy and learned more about life and myself than I ever did in the previous 27. I have learned, but not perfected, that life is short and never guaranteed so you better live it while you’ve got it to live. I have learned that you can’t make everyone happy all the time, therefore you have to do what makes you happy and simply do your best with all the rest. I have learned that the love you seek doesn’t always come in the form of your perfect Prince Charming, sometimes it comes from parents who believe the sun rises and sets on you, sometimes it comes from friends who are ever by your side, rooting you on and believing in every dream you pursue and sometimes it comes from nieces and nephews and godchildren galore that warm your life with their hugs and kisses and smiles that ooze love in its purest form. And sorry Jerry McGuire, but I have learned that it takes two complete people to create a complete relationship, so don’t go looking to someone else to fill the hole inside of you because that is no ones responsibility but your own. I have learned that sometimes you wake up in the morning thinking it is nothing more than an ordinary day and next thing you know you’re having a conversation on the telephone with Sheri Salata (aka Oprah Winfrey’s executive producer) or by some universal force you end up at the right place at just the right time and bump into David Cook on the streets of Washington, D.C. Clearly, from such experiences, I have learned that every day has the potential to be the next best day of your life! I have learned that most people, including Sheri and David, are genuine and kind and want to do good in the world. I have learned that everyone, good or bad, has a story to tell and I have learned that their stories intrigue me…

Most of all, I think I have learned that I am responsible for my own happiness and while the people in my life can and certainly do add to it, they cannot be expected to create it for me. And, if I could pass along any advice from this journey of mine, it would be this: Never attempt to silence your true self and throw the plan out the window! It is no coincidence that as a child I was always fascinated with the cool carefree aunt characters of my favorite television shows (i.e. Aunt Jackie from “Roseanne”) because I’ve kind of become that character in my own life, only slightly less neurotic… It is no coincidence that I longed to be the kooky grandmother who had fabulous stories to tell from her younger days, because I can assure you, should I ever have children and grandchildren, I will never miss an opportunity to tell them in great detail about how when mommy was young she met rock stars and chatted with extremely powerful women and traveled the world and chased her dreams until they became reality. It turns out that these childhood dreams and fascinations were in actuality a premonition of the life that awaited me, even as a small child that crazy carefree girl was trying to tell me something about my future. It took a while for her to get my attention, but oh how grateful I am that she’s finally been set free and living the life she was meant to live. And, as far as plans go, while I definitely recommend setting goals for your future, I will say this… Sometimes plans change, and that’s ok, do not fall apart when this happens! I assure you it’s happening for a reason and I promise, if you will simply relax and be willing to ride the wave, wherever you end up will be so much better than you ever imagined it could be, so much better than you ever planned…

So, this is it… Today I turn 30! As I walk into this next chapter of my life I go knowing that wherever I am today, it’s ok. And, wherever I go tomorrow, that’ll be ok too. It’s ok that today I am 30 and I still have 2/3 of my list waiting to be marked off. It’s ok that I haven’t bought a house yet or that I didn’t get that tattoo, it’s ok that I haven’t met Oprah or learned to ski. It’s ok because I know I am living as fully as I can in this moment and when it’s time, it’ll happen… And for all of the things I have yet to do I carry the memories of the things I have done, going to Vegas and running a half marathon, going to the Oprah Winfrey show during the final season and taking ballroom dance lessons… All of these experiences I will take to the grave with immense joy and satisfaction, knowing that they are now part of my life story. And, if it took 27 years to let that crazy girl inside be free, then so be it, because I wouldn’t take anything for the journey that has brought me to this point… It has made me the now 30 year old woman I am today and I think I like her just fine!

So, this is it… Today I turn 30, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds… Somewhere within myself, I hear that crazy girl saying “Turn the page Amanda, the next chapter begins now, and it’s going to be spectacular!”

 

*I would love to say thank you to anyone who has read anything I’ve written about these crazy times over the past three years! I love you all and I’m forever grateful for your continued love and support!!! Onward and upward, the best is yet to be:)*

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WRITERS AND CREATORS OF DEXTER…

1.20.13

To the Writers and Creators of My Most Favorite Guilty Television Pleasure, Dexter:

I am writing today on behalf of myself, and millions of other fans I’m sure, who were left lukewarm and lacking after this years season finale. Deb shoots LaGuerta? Really! I mean I think we, as dedicated fans of Deb, all know that she has been teetering on the edge of a potential nervous breakdown since season one and now she’s shot the Captain of Miami Metro? So basically, you all just tied the restraints to a beloved characters straight jacket… My personal, completely non-professional creative writer thoughts on this particular ending, it was a lazy, lackluster cop out. Ouch, it hurt a little to even say that concerning writers who have in the past written cliffhanger finales that left me screaming “NOOO!” at my television screen, followed by a thirty minute period of shocked silence where I sat slack jawed and unmovable because Rita had just fallen victim to Trinity. Now that, as unbelievable and shocking as it was, is the kind of television that I crave!

Unfortunately for me the entire season, while good in many ways (aka the Dexter/Hannah storyline), seemed a little scattered and disjointed. In previous years there have always been main threads connecting the individual plots of each episode throughout the season… For example, while Dexter encountered many a bad guy during season one and successfully alleviated them of their badness upon his table, the Ice Truck Killer was that seasons gold medal kill. The same goes for Trinity in season four, his serial killings were the overarching theme throughout the entire season leading to Rita’s bloody death… And by the way, thanks for ruining relaxing bath time for millions of women with that one! No really, I can live with the fear of ever taking a bath alone in the house again for that sort of brilliant writing. It is this high standard that you, the writers, have consistently spoiled viewers with that left us all, well at least me, wondering what was up this season? It seemed as if there were a lot of little stories that were slowly building to climax and then fizzled just before we reached the peak, and really, nobody likes a plot tease!

Lets start with Hannah McKay, basically because her relationship with Dexter was the most interesting and steady storyline this season, and I’m a girl who enjoys a hot storyline. Since I first began watching the show a few years ago, plowing through four seasons in less than two weeks, I was curious as to how the writers would handle Dexter in the love department. Then came Rita and as their relationship progressed I thought to myself “Ok, look Dex, she loves you and she knows how the evil of others can affect a person. Just come clean and tell her and maybe she’ll understand. Maybe she’ll go on a kill with you or at least do your kill laundry when you come home…” And yes I am very aware of how bizarre it is that this show has persuaded an entire fandom to root for a killers happiness, but hey, vigilantes need love too
I think that sentiment alone speaks volumes about the writing of seasons past. So, needless to say I was extremely excited when the apparent heat between Dexter and Hannah began to develop. Of course then he put her on the table and I thought “Oh great this love affair is going nowhere fast!” Thankfully Hannah put a stop to that as she cavalierly told Dexter to “Do what you gotta do!” And if you’re a fan, well, you know what happened next… Finally Dexter had found someone who understood him, someone who accepted him, even the darkest parts. He didn’t have to hide or lie anymore and unlike Deborah, Hannah understood his needs in a way no other person, not even Harry, ever had before. Despite Dexter and Hannah’s obvious emotional connection the writers, instead of giving the fans what they wanted by taking the relationship to an even deeper level, chose to have Dexter run from his true feelings and have Hannah locked up for Deb’s sake. I mean, I understand his need to protect his sister, but really Dexter did you have to go to such extreme measures? And then there’s the matter of Hannah’s escape and her simply walking away by the cover of night… Please tell me that’s not how their relationship ends? Didn’t we already go through this with Lumen two seasons ago, Hannah cannot just walk away and leave Dexter to live alone, that is simply unacceptable!

Other storylines that fizzled as the season progressed included Ray Speltzer and his rental house of doom. As the season began I just knew that he would continue to elude the authorities and torture Deborah until the bitter end when we would all gain the usual satisfaction from watching Dexter take the life of this seasons arch enemy… No go! Instead he was dead by the end of episode four and while his death led Deborah to an odd acceptance of Dexter’s kill code, it left fans still wondering who this seasons final kill would be…

Then there were the Russians and Isaak Sirko. I mean how confusing was that? First we hated them because they killed Mike Anderson, then we feared them as Isaak sought to avenge the death of his beloved Victor and then mid season we become totally thrown off as Dexter helps Isaak die peacefully after developing some sort of mutual respect and friendship with his enemy… I mean how are we suppose to know how to feel? We hate him, but kind of feel bad for him and then we’re kind of sad that he has to die yet relieved that Dexter is no longer in danger. Talk about toying with our emotions!

And speaking of toying with emotions, I hardly think that I’m the only one who had to back track to season two just to check on the way Doakes actually died… As soon as his face showed up in the preview for the season finale I immediately checked my Dexter fact book (aka google) to determine if his death had included plastic wrap and blood slides or he’d simply fallen victim to the exploding swamp shack. Of course once I found out that he hadn’t died on Dexter’s table I just KNEW he had escaped the fiery flames and had been tracking Dexter for the last five years… I mean if you’re going to resurrect a previously pivotal character, who had the possibility of escaping death and could potentially still be alive, in a preview for a season finale you’ve got to do more with that storyline than a stinkin’ flashback!!!

And then, there’s Bobby… The arsonist! I mean this story line did allow Dexter to comes to grips with his “dark passenger” and the fact that he himself was responsible for the lives he took and not some external force, much like Jensen and “Bobby”. This of course led Dexter to have mercy upon his victim and allow Miami Metro to deal with his crimes and punish him appropriately, this also led to another dead end for fans who thought this story might lead to the seasons big kill…

I guess by this point you can tell where my frustration lies with this season, where was the usual fluidity that the writers usually use to glide us anxiously through to the thrilling end? Or was this seasons villain suppose to be portrayed by LaGuerta and her undying pursuit of Dexter as the Bay Harbor Butcher, finally resulting in her not so shocking season ending death? You can ask my Dexter watching cohorts, I practically spent the entire season chanting “LaGuerta’s gonna get it!” like a school kid after every episode. Even though I’ve had my issues with LaGuerta’s behavior in the past she’s never really irritated me so badly that I wanted her dead. And I certainly never would’ve put the smoking gun in the hands of Deb who recently told her brother she thought she was in love with him and successfully spent most of the season pouting because he was in love with a woman she loathed. Again I ask, are you guys trying to send her to the nuthouse? Or maybe that’s part of next years storyline. As for me, the gunshot that ended LaGuerta’s run in the series was rather over dramatized and anticlimactic. And then Dexter and Deb just tidy up and walk away as if nothing ever happened and leave us waiting for a grueling nine months to see how the writers will, hopefully, somehow pull this whole storyline together and help us all realize that this ending was not in fact a fatal mistake after all!

After the finale I was left wondering “Am I the only one who was totally disappointed?” I found, after talking to other Dexter fans, that I was not alone… One friend even blamed me for her disappointment after I had filled her head with my theories of how the finale might play out. Following the shocking trailer for the seasons final show, which ultimately ended up being more shocking than the actual final show, my head was flooded with possibilities! For example, LaGuerta drugged Deb causing her car crash in an attempt to keep her from covering Dexter’s back so she could in turn catch him red handed and prove, once and for all, that he was the real Bay Harbor Butcher. When Dexter discovers this he not only uses the information to free Hannah, but also now has motive to take care of LaGuerta in the usual “kill room” manner and save himself from the fact that she is correct about his mysterious and deadly past… Don’t like that one? Ok, I’ve got more… Hannah’s escape from prison serves an actual purpose other than her fleeing by night. When she finds out that LaGuerta is onto Dexter and trying her absolute best to bring him down, Hannah does what she’s best at, she creates an accident! This does three things, it puts an end to LaGuerta’s quest for justice, it allows Dexter to continue to explore his more human side as he continues to develop the loving relationship that fans so want him to have and it mends her contentious relationship with Deb! I mean lets face it, there is no way Deborah could continue to hate Hannah after she saved Dexter from certain demise… Still not satisfied? Ok, here’s the big one, that whole Doakes teaser, not a teaser at all! He’s alive and he’s been tracking Dexter for the past five years, hiding out, watching as every kill took place, gathering the evidence needed to bring Dexter down. And since he’s been following each kill he knows that LaGuerta is in danger and shows up, along with the rest of Miami Metro, just in time to save her from Dexter and leave fans wondering how on earth our beloved killer will once again escape unscathed…

While I remain immensely disappointed with the conclusion of this slightly schizophrenic season I sincerely hope and pray that the next season will work itself out and help me understand all of this craziness in the long run… I must admit when I recently discovered that the new season will air June 2013, I was elated to find that the usual nine month wait had been reduced to six and I would hopefully have answers sooner than later! With this in mind, I beg of you the writers, please return our show to its usual cohesive yet shockingly dramatic formula… There is definitely something to be taken here from the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” We’ve loved Dexter for seven seasons now, as a serial killer, son, brother, husband, father, friend and lover. We know that eventually our time with this beloved character will end, so this is my plea as a devoted fan, please don’t disappoint us in the home stretch… Bring Dexter and the customary riveting story lines back in season eight, we are patiently and faithfully waiting to be shocked and delighted once more!

Sincerely,
A Devoted Dexter Fan

 

ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS…

1.5.13

So I’m sure all of the Christmas decorations have been packed away by this time. And, I’m sure you’re just a little sad that the holidays are over… Well have no fear, because I have one more day of Christmas cheer for all of you, my dear readers. Of course I planned it this way, it was not because I don’t have nearly enough hours in the day to fully involve myself in my hobbies and quite frankly got a little behind this year and therefore the final day of Christmas is now taking place in January… I just wanted to extend the joy for you all. Hey that’s my story and I’m sticking to it;)

I’m pretty sure its obvious that photography is one of my favorite things in life. My fascination with photography began when I was in 9th grade at East Coweta High School, in Ms. Shankel’s English class. We were assigned to present a “demonstrative speech” and I chose the topic that I thought would require the least amount of effort and still produce the highest possible grade, that topic for me was photography. Throughout the course of researching the craft, presenting a decent speech and attaining a better than decent grade I discovered that this topic was something that I actually enjoyed, was fairly good at and possibly might want to pursue in the future. It wasn’t until two years later, in Ms. Greene’s AP US History class that I knew photography would play a huge role in my future. We were studying 1968 “The Year That Rocked the World” and Ms. Greene had prepared a bulletin board full of photographs and facts from the happenings of that particular year. She gathered the class around the board to go through the history it contained and I remember, almost like an out of body experience, my 16 year old self honing in on one singular photograph and when I did something within me said “I want to do that! I’m going to do that!” This was the photo that changed my world:

 

It was raw and real and held nothing back… It was a significant moment captured forever in time with the single click of a shutter. At 16, the adventurous side of me wanted to run out of that room, catch a plane to anywhere and take photographs that would travel through generations and have the same affect on some other kid as that one particular shot was currently having on me. On the other hand the overly cautious side of me said “Don’t even think about it, they probably don’t have indoor plumbing wherever it is you think you’re going and you’ll get shot!” If you know me, you obviously know which side I listened to, but still, to this day there is a wild and crazy girl inside just waiting to hop on a plane and photograph the latest breaking news. (If anyone out there would like to pay me to do so, I am open to any job offers starting… Now!) This duality of mind is one I have struggled with my entire life and probably will until the day I die, but I’m working on letting that wild girl free…

Choosing safety over passion is what led me to a six year stay in college, trying to avoid not having a stable career after college in a roundabout way led me right to the place I was trying so desperately to avoid, needless to say I was “taking the long way” to quote the Dixie Chicks, back to the place I was always meant to be. At the moment I may not be photographing majorly historic world events, but I find joy in photographing the major life events of my friends, family and clients. It is always the quirky photos that become my favorite, the ones where you know you have captured that special smirk between spouses or the unique look of a child that embodies their little personality, the look you know they will carry into adulthood… These are the moments that are caught with the single click of a shutter at just the right moment, these are the images you will cherish forever, these are the moments that I love to capture. There is one photograph that I have of my grandparents that is my absolute favorite, it embodies everything that I remember about them from my childhood and it’s the silliest thing you’ve ever seen, but it’s true to them and I love it!

 

Those are the kind of candid and honest shots that make me fall further in love with photography every time I pick up a camera… I would like to take this opportunity to share this love of mine with the final winner of the “12 Days of Favorite Things” holiday giveaway… This lucky winner will have the chance to gain some of their own treasured family photographs during a one hour photo shoot provided by Amanda Duke Photography. And the final winner for 2012 is Erica Morgan! Congratulations Erica, I hope we can capture a few photographs that you will treasure forever!!!

It has been my joy to share my favorite things with you all again this holiday season, here’s to a happy and prosperous 2013, see you in December for more “favorite things”!

P.S. Oh yeah, I promised I would answer the question that I posed to all of my readers, so lets do that now… What would I do in 2013 of I knew I could not fail? Well, as hard as it is to leave the past behind and start a new life, I’d do just that. I’d leave my safety net behind, I’d become a full time photographer and writer and pursue the goals that make me happiest. I would spend 3 or 4 months in Europe seeing all the places I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid and I’d finally put all of those stories that have been constantly rolling around in my head onto paper. When I came back to the states I would drive across the US and overcome my “fear” of talking to strangers, I’d indulge the part of me that always wants to know the untold story of that random person on the street and I’d photograph anyone that would allow me. Then I would write that book I’ve been thinking about for three years now, a New York Time best seller no doubtOf course there are thousands of others things I want to do in the future, but hopefully we have a lifetime remaining for all of that… But, for 2013, my 30th year on this great planet, I think that is a pretty good start! I hope you all go out and do something this year that scares you to death and it is my sincerest hope that whatever the leap may be that it brings you true happiness in the coming year! Happy holidays (just a few days late)!!!

 

ON THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS…

12.30.12

Ok, ok… Christmas is over and clearly I suck because my procrastination caught up with me over the holidays. Either way, I still have two days of Christmas left in my bag of tricks and I will share the eleventh now…

I’ve said many times that it’s the little things in life that make me the most happy. I am reminded of this as I sit, drinking my coffee and listening to the crackle of a warm fire… Oh wait, that’s not a fire, it’s my WoodWick candle! While growing up we had a wood burning fireplace, I always loved to hear the pops and crackles as the fire burned. Most home builders these days take the easy route and choose a gas fireplace for convenience. While this option is much easier than chopping wood and igniting a traditional fire I still miss the sights and sounds of the old fashioned fireplace. What does all of this have to do with a candle you ask? Usually not much, WoodWick candles however, as their name implies, have a wick made of wood that causes a wonderful crackling sound as they burn. It’s like having your own tiny little fire anywhere in your home. And more importantly, they smell amazing! My friends and family know that I don’t smell so much, sometimes this is a blessing, sometimes a curse. The fact that I can actually smell these candles is another reason I love them so much. These candles come in a ton of different scents and sizes and they are always presented in a simple yet elegant container that blends easily with any decor. I am pleased to share the simple joy that these candles bring to me and will hopefully bring to today’s winner… And that person is Stephanie Boyd! Congratulations Stephanie, I hope you enjoy the WoodWick candle collection as much as I do!!!

Check back tomorrow for the final prize of the “12 Days of Favorite Things” holiday giveaway, you could be the winner!

http://www.woodwick-candles.com/

 

ON THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS…

12.24.12

Yesterday I spoke of my love for reading, as well as the fact that I don’t make nearly enough time for this beloved pastime. If there were ever a culprit to blame for the aforementioned tragedy it would be that I have a greater love in my life… This sweet lover of mine goes by the name of television!

The love I have for television started as a young child. At night when my mom would fall asleep on the couch I would stay awake and watch shows like “Cheers” and “The Jeffersons.” I remember when I started school and had to go to bed before the prime time line up, I would bargain with my mom to stay up until 8:30pm just so I could watch “Murphy Brown”… And when she refused to let me stay up any later, I would go to bed peaceably and then crawl from my room to the living room and watch while hiding behind the sofa. Yes, I was a very precocious child… For whatever reason I was captivated by television at an early age and it’s something that still intrigues me to this day. Oddly enough I think that little girl who loved dramas and sitcoms so much may have been in touch with a passion that will, hopefully, soon play a large part in her future…

When I find a really good television show that excites me, I will sing its praises to anyone and everyone that will listen. As odd as it may sound, really good television makes me happy, much like a really beautiful piece of furniture or a really good cup of coffee. It’s the quirky little things in life that thrill me most:) And you know that I love sharing the things that make me happy with my readers. Although I still love my old favorites like Grey’s Anatomy and Dexter (even though at the moment I have a bit of a bone to pick with the writers, but that’s another blog for another time) this year, I have several new favorites to share with you all…

If you haven’t heard about “Touch” you are truly missing out on an amazing piece of television. The story revolves around Jake, an autistic boy who sees the world differently than most, and his father, Martin, who spends his days helping Jake connect the dots of each story in an effort to fulfill destiny. The concept behind the show is laid out in a monologue given by Jake in episode one:
“The ratio is always the same: 1 to 1.618 over and over and over again. The patterns are hidden in plain sight. You just have to know where to look. Things most people see as chaos, actually follow subtle laws of behavior. Galaxies, plants, seashells – the patterns never lie, but only some of us can see how the pieces fit together. Seven billion, eighty-million, three hundred sixty-thousand of us live on this tiny planet. This is the story of some of those people. There’s an ancient Chinese myth about the red thread of fate. It says that the gods have tied a red thread around every one of our ankles and attached it to all the people whose lives we are destined to touch. This thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break. It’s all been predetermined by mathematical probability, and it’s my job to keep track of those numbers, to make the connections for those who need to find each other. The ones whose lives need to touch. I was born 4,161 days ago on October 26, 2000. I’ve been alive for 11 years, four months, 21 days and 14 hours, and in all that time… I’ve never said a single word.” The stories of the lives that Jake and Martin encounter span all across the planet, they demonstrate that everything happens for a reason, at a specific time, in a specifically devine order. The stories show that we are all more alike than we are different, that humanity alone connects us all one to another. As you watch each episode it seems chaotic in the beginning, everything seems random and disconnected, sometimes it’s hard to understand and put the pieces together… But, as the storyline progresses and the episode draws to an end, every piece of the story begins to fall into place and in retrospect it all makes complete sense… Kind of like life, huh? At least once during every episode I am mesmerized by the enormity of the universe and exactly how amazing this life really can be! I want to call Oprah up and say “Oprah girl, if you’re not watching this show, you are missing out on some fabulous Aha moments!” It isn’t very often that you find a television show that makes you question life, your place in it and the connections you make each and every day. I hope that when you watch “Touch”, for the first time and every time, you experience the same kind of awe and wonder that I feel when I watch and you realize that your life has meaning, that you too are part of a grander plan…

Another favorite this year… “The Newsroom.” I watched the entire first season of this show in 24 hours flat! I was hooked within the first five minutes and the following clip is why (I just did a little happy dance while watching this again, politics excite me, I’m weird I know)…

 

The reason I fell so hard and fast for this show is the fact that it is not just another cliche political sound bite. It brings hard questions to the forefront and addresses the political laziness that plagues most Americans. Lets be honest here, do you stand up and proudly proclaim that you live within the borders of the greatest nation on the planet Earth because you wholeheartedly believe in it’s flawed political system or is it in actuality because your daddy and your daddy’s daddy told you so? In the last election did you vote according to your core political belief system or did you vote according to fear driven campaign tactics? And, when selecting the future leader of the free world, is the preference between Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash really something of pressing importance to be discussed at a national political debate? All of these things, along with the intertwining relationships of the newsroom staff make for one smart and thought provoking television series, another thing that is hard to find in today’s reality driven tv line up (which don’t get me wrong, I also watch plenty of). Mainly, “The Newsroom” is thought provoking, opinionated and unapologetic which are three things I love in both life and television! I hope that you will give this show a chance and I hope you love it just as much as I do…

And last but certainly not least… My latest television obsession is “Scandal”! This show follows the story of Olivia Pope, D.C. “fixer”, former White House Communications Director and mistress to the President of the United States. Each week Olivia and her staff, all hand selected by Pope from the “isle of misfit toys,” work together to clean up Washington, D.C.’s latest scandal. There is never a dull moment during this fast paced political thrill ride, paired with a side of scandalous love affair. The stars of this show, Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope) and Tony Goldwyn (President Fitzgerald Grant), do a spectacular of drawing you into their star crossed love affair. The chemistry that they share onscreen is quite frankly, for lack of a better word, HOT! At times their raw acting abilities make you ache personally for a love that simply, due to extenuating circumstances, can never be…

 

I mean really?!?! As badly as I don’t want to support marital infidelity, and while I’m still not exactly sure if I love or hate Mellie Grant (a.k.a. the First Lady), who could walk away from a man that talked to you like that? It is pretty evident that all Fitz wants, is to be with Olivia, often offering to walk away from the Oval Office to do just that. Clearly we don’t often think of our nations leaders as real people who love and feel, “Scandal” goes a long way in portraying President Grant as a flawed human much like the citizens of the country he serves… And while Olivia Pope is the “other woman”, I think every woman alive can sympathize with her desire to be with the man she loves and her ability to juggle everything that life throws her way. If you’re looking to add a little spice to your television routine, I hope you will check out “Scandal”, I promise you will not be disappointed!!!

Ok, time to get down to business, one lucky winner will walk away with the chance to check out at least two of these shows via a one month subscription to Hulu Plus (Sorry, “The Newsroom” is still only available on HBO outlets)… An that lucky winner is Blake Brafford!

Congratulations Blake! I hope you enjoy the recommended shows!!! Check back tomorrow for more prizes, you could be the lucky winner…

For more information on these shows please visit the websites listed below:

http://www.hulu.com/plus-

http://www.fox.com/touch/

http://www.hbo.com/the-newsroom/index.html

http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/scandal

ON THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS…

12.23.12

Last year I made a New Year’s resolution, not to lose weight or get healthy like usual, but to read more. I love to read but for whatever reason it is something that always seems to get pushed to the bottom of my to do list, this year however, I made a concerted effort to change that bad habit. Did I dive head first into all the classics that I’ve never taken time to read? No… Did I read biographies and learn about the lives of great men and women? No… So what exactly did I read this year? What captures the “2012 Favorite Things” title in the category of books? Ok ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, buckle your seat belts because this will be a very interesting revelation. I am going to reveal something about myself that may surprise many of you, something that some of you may already know, something that will garner disdain and many outrageous opinions I am sure. I have kept my thoughts, which are many, about this one particular thing to myself for way to long. Here we go, time to come out of the closet… ummm yeah not like that… I am one of the millions of women, and some men, who devoured every word of the “Fifty Shades” series this year… Twice! Please hold your laughter, judgement and eye rolling for the end of this blog, I also ask that you please open your mind to what I have to say about the subject starting now…

I think it is safe to say that this book series is a once in a lifetime phenomenon for any author. I am pretty sure that E.L. James would agree as she has gone from an Internet fan fiction writer, to a self published ebook author and onto being named “Publishing Person of the Year” by Publishers Weekly in the matter of a few short years. Millions of copies have been sold since the first “Fifty Shades of Grey” ebook publication in 2011 and even if you haven’t read it yourself, chances are you’ve heard about it through the grapevine. The grapevine is exactly how I came to read the series which is certainly out of my usual literary genre. Everyone on television and radio seemed to be talking about these salacious books, judgmental rants were circulating on Facebook daily about their immoral content, even my sisters friends were talking about the words that lie between the mysteriously dark covers and that meant only one thing; I had to read them! If curiosity ever killed a cat, then I am dead one thousand times over, one personality flaw I cannot deny is the need to know things, and I needed to know what all the fuss was about when it came to “Fifty Shades”…

Now I will admit that I am not a fast reader, unless of course I’m reading something that grabs my attention, when that happens I am a beast in the speed reader department. Needless to say I read all three books in the “Fifty Shades” series in about two weeks and while there is quite a bit of lascivious content within, this was not what kept me turning the pages. If you haven’t read the books, my guess is that you probably think it is nothing more than 1000 pages of explicit sexual dialogue, it is not. There is plenty of that and it has it’s place, but that is not what drives the story. While James has received endless criticism for her less than perfect writing style, the woman can certainly tell a story that sucks you in and keeps you hanging through every chapter until the very end. The “Fifty Shades” trilogy revolves around the rather unusual love story which takes place between Ana Steele, a young, naive college student and Christian Grey, a wealthy and powerful business tycoon. Without actually reading the books it’s hard to digest a lot of what you’ve probably heard takes place within the pages, it’s certainly not your typical Danielle Steele romance, but I’ll attempt to explain my thoughts on why I think most women find this story so intriguing. My theory is this: Every woman, no matter how strong, modern and independent she may be, wants to be loved, cared for and protected to some degree. I’m not talking about the kind of “love” that I often see, you know the “Hey you’re cute and nice enough, kinda funny and tolerable, age appropriate and acceptable, ok I’ll marry you” kind of “love”. Women, deep down, want to know that the guy they are with would do anything to be with them, move heaven and earth to make sure they were happy, rearrange their entire life just to make you theirs. That is exactly what Christian does for Ana and why I believe women are so drawn into this story. Likewise, I believe that every woman can see a little of themselves in Ana, she considers herself an average girl, plain looking and she often questions what the stunning Mr. Grey sees in her… And really, what woman couldn’t sympathize with that line of thinking? I mean really, if a beautiful and wealthy man sauntered into my life, introduced me to his dark and mysterious lifestyle and then offered to turn his world completely upside down simply because he thought the sun rose and set on me and he couldn’t live without me, well I’d personally wonder what kind of drugs he was dabbling in myself… And on another note, for those men who have read the series, I think it’s safe to say that most guys would be equally grateful to find a woman who accepts them completely and sticks around despite their tragic past and extensive personality flaws, loving them in spite of every obstacle. Everyone wants to feel that kind of love and that is why I believe E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades” trilogy has been such huge a phenomenon, not solely because of the adventurous sexual situations, but because of the emotions that lie just beneath the surface of pleasure and pain.

I know that a lot of people have expressed some pretty strong feelings concerning this series of books and it’s contents… Many proclaiming that they didn’t “need” to read books about fictional characters because they were happily married and satisfied, some suggesting that reading the series would somehow aide in destroying marriages and families, and even implying that by my reading these books it somehow made me less “Christian”. To those people I say, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, my opinion just happens to be that if a book with an unusual perspective on love and sex somehow affects your faith or destroys your marriage and tears your family apart, it obviously was not very strong to begin with and the books are not to blame. And, if you are truly happy in your relationship and aren’t interested in having a little fun via fiction then more power to ya! All I ask is that you “don’t knock it before you try it” and don’t judge me for satisfying my curiosity about a fictional novel, that does not in fact make me a bad person…

For those of you not I interested in “Fifty Shades” I do have a lighter reading recommendation… Earlier this year I heard about the book “Angels & Idols” via twitter. Again, out of curiosity, I downloaded the book onto my kindle app not knowing what the book was really all about. I quickly became engrossed in the story of Reggie Hamm, a Nashville musician and song writer, and his family’s struggle with adoption and disease. The story follows Hamm through his professional rise and fall, all the way to China for the adoption of his baby girl and the search for answers about her condition that changed their lives forever. Throughout the book Hamm struggles with his faith and the circumstances that continue to mount against his family. This was another book that I quickly devoured, mainly because I wanted the answers about the disease plaguing baby Bella about as badly as her parents. Hamm has a way of drawing you into their story and making you feel fully vested in it’s outcome as if you are one of the family. Another reason I was so completely drawn into this story is the series of “random coincidences” that prevail throughout Hamm’s life. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as coincidence, and even when I don’t like the course of events, I believe everything happens in devine order… The picture that Hamm paints of his life only reaffirms that every single thing happens for a reason, no matter how big or small everything serves a purpose, you are always exactly where you are meant to be in this journey we call life. Mr. Hamm’s story is inspirational and it came at a time when I needed reassurance that everything would work out as it should, it served that purpose fully and for that I am thankful. I hope you all will check out “Angels & Idols” and enjoy it just as much as I did, hopefully it will bring you the same message of hope that I received…

Since the first of today “favorite things” has been both wildly popular and controversial I am giving today’s lucky winner a choice between these two books as their prize. If you’ve already read “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James or simply don’t want to give it a try you can choose to receive in it’s place “Angels & Idols” by Reggie Hamm for your reading pleasure. And that lucky winner is Mindy Reyes!

Congratulations Mindy! I hope you enjoy your reading selection… Check back tomorrow for more prizes, you could be the lucky winner!!!

For more information on these books and the authors please visit the sites listed below:
www.eljamesauthor.com

www.regiehamm.com

ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS…

12.22.12

Today’s favorite thing is one that in actuality I wish did not exist in any capacity at all… I wish this because if cancer didn’t exist, there would be no need for charity’s raising money in an effort to find a cure and there would be no families suffering from this disease and its hideously life altering effects. Everyone, at some point, has been touched by cancer in some way, shape or form. Maybe it was just someone you knew in passing, maybe it was a random story you were drawn to through social media or maybe it was someone who you loved dearly. This year some of those closest to me were touched by this wretched disease and their lives were changed forever… I lost a dear friend who I had known my entire life, one of my best friends on the planet had to say goodbye to her only sister, the niece she loved like her own cried unconsolably because her second mother had to leave and her mother watched as the child she brought into the world departed it again. These are the reasons I hate cancer, much like billions of others who have been touched by the effects it brings, I someday want to live in a world without cancer!

Lisa Parsons Walker was 46 years old when she left this earth. She had the brightest, most beautiful green eyes that sparkled with excitement every time you saw her. She had a gigantic smile that could light up a room and always let you know just how happy she was to see you. She loved her family and friends, and she had faith that was relentless. She didn’t want to leave, she loved life, she wanted to live and she fought hard to do so. This was her third fight with cancer, she kicked its ass twice, the last time God decided it was enough and at last she found peace. Even though I have lost people in the past, Lisa’s death hit me hard… She had always been there in the background of my life, Christmas parties and graduations and everything in between, then suddenly she was gone. I really never expected her to leave, she fought so hard and had beat it in the past, I was so sure she would beat it again like the prize fighter she was, but this time was different. And while it hurt me to lose her, I hurt for her family that was left here to carry on a million times more. Watching the ones you love lose someone and not being able to fix it or make it better is a helpless feeling and I don’t do helpless well. Lisa’s death has made me appreciate the people in my life more, the ones that I talk to every single day and the ones that I don’t talk to nearly enough. Her desire to live, even when she was weak, makes me want to live life harder and more fully than I ever have because we never know how long this ride will last… Life is short and passes far to quickly, so do what you want to do today, don’t put it off, live the life you want while you still have the chance! That is what I learned from losing Lisa, I miss her and I ache for those who miss her far more than I ever could. I know that she is forever with us and she will never be forgotten like so many who have been taken by this disease.

Hopefully one day cancer will be a disease of the past, until then we can support charities in search of a cure. I wore a t-shirt during Lisa’s fight from the Stand Up to Cancer organization, a portion of the proceeds go toward cancer research and finding a cure. Even though cancer is most definitely one of least favorite things, supporting what I feel is a good cause always lands on my “favorites” list. Purchasing and wearing a t-shirt that raises both funds and awareness in an effort to eradicate this disease is the least I can do in memory of my friend who will never be forgotten.

I hope today’s winner will wear their t-shirt proudly in memory of Lisa or possibly someone who they have personally lost to cancer. Hopefully, one day in the very near future, cancer will be a thing of the past… Until then, we’ll keep hoping, fighting and remembering! Love you Lisa<3

Congratulations to today's winner, Paula Grant! Check back tomorrow for more prizes, you could be the lucky winner!!!

For more information about today's "favorite thing" please visit http://www.standup2cancer.org/

 

ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS…

12.21.12

For some music is simply background noise that touches their ears in random places; the car, the grocery store, the restaurants in which they eat. For those people music never really goes much farther than the surface of their awareness, it never truly reaches their soul… I am not one of those people! Actually for me, music, much like writing, is therapeutic. It escorts me through my random moods which often vary from one moment to the next. When I’m happy I listen to everything from Aerosmith to Pavarotti, when I need to blow off steam it’s Pearl Jam and Sound Garden. When I’m in a funk, I turn on the ghetto fabulous tunes, there is absolutely nothing that Kanye and a little “Gold Digger” can’t fix… And Otis Redding, well he’s good for other moods;) I love it all, heck, when I die my girl Mary-Alice knows that “Good Riddance” by Green Day better be played, and maybe a little “My Way” by good old Frank Sinatra…

So, you can pretty much bet in the years to come, there will ALWAYS be a music category during the “12 Days of Favorite Things”. This year I’ve discovered several favorites including Alabama Shakes’ “Boys and Girls”, John Mayer’s “Born and Raised” (Love Is a Verb is my personal favorite), Pink’s “The Truth About Love” and many, many more. Even though the album that lands at the top of this years list was technically released in 2011, I did not discover it until earlier this year, so it simply had to be shared…

The Civil Wars “Barton Hallow” lies somewhere between country/folk (a place where I rarely land) and indie/pop, creating a sound that is both soothing and haunting in simultaneous rhythm. The duo is comprised of Joy Williams, who despite her Californian roots doles out southern harmonies as beautifully as any native I’ve ever heard, and John Paul White who comes by his gritty, lonesome sound more naturally as a born and bred man of the south. Together their voices weave achingly melodic love songs, as well as a few “not so” love songs, that leave listeners longing for lost love, love to come and everything in between. My personal favorite “To Whom it May Concern” weaves a wistful tale of “knowing” the one you love, even though you have never met him or her. The voices of Williams and White intertwine and you easily become lost in the tale of these two lovers who long for the day when they will finally be together. As the song draws to an end White croons softly “Dear whoever you might be” as Williams replies “I’m still waiting patiently…” These are words that I, as a tough, single, modern day woman can totally become lost in… Because let’s face it ladies (and some gentlemen), as badly as you try to deny it, deep down we all want a love like that. Someone who knows you are who they’ve been looking for all along, even before they knew where to find you. Making you feel something like that through music and lyrics is true artistry, an attribute that seems to be long forgotten in today’s music industry, but one that is certainly not missing from “Barton Hollow” and The Civil Wars! One lucky winner will have the pleasure of enjoying a visit to “Barton Hollow” this holiday season via a signed copy of this amazingly beautiful album. And that lucky winner is Haley McKenzie!

Congratulations Haley! Check back tomorrow for more prizes, you could be the lucky winner!!!

For those of you that did not win today’s prize you can visit www.thecivilwars.com for a free download of The Civil Wars “Live at Eddie’s Attic”.