It’s been a while since my last blog, I guess the 12 Days of Christmas was an intense almost two weeks of writing and zapped me for a bit… Plus it’s been a busy few months traveling, planning parties, trying to buy a house, trying still yet to wrap my brain around life in general. In a word: craziness! I, just like everyone else get in the occasional rut, becoming sedentary within everyday life, not moving forward and pursuing the things I want like I should. Then there are times when the key just clicks and my brain opens like a flood gate and all I want to do is sit down and pour out all the things that are coursing through my mind. I have said in the past that for me writing is like therapy, allowing me to tell a story, release my creativity and let it all out. Of course it has it’s drawbacks, when you write a blog from a personal place it’s kinda like saying “Hi! Welcome to my brain… Hope you like it!” Anna Nalick said it best when she wrote the lyric “… If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me, Threatening the life it belongs to. And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd, Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud, And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to.” It’s exactly how I feel, but sometimes, like it or not a girls just got to let it out. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs you know that this whole thing started about three years ago when I had a tiny little (hopefully not) mid-life crisis, I decided to take life off hold and live and have had quite a bit of fun doing so these past few years. One of the first things I did as a part of this new life was train for my first 5k, the Race for Hope, back in May of 2010. It was an amazing experience which I have blogged about in the past and probably will bring up again and again in the future, deal with it, it’s a good cause! My travel buddy (Mary-Alice) and I decided to head back to D.C. to participate in this worthy weekend again this year, and of course it gave me new perspective in my own life once more. This blog is my attempt to express the feelings I felt during this trip and work it all out in my brain, so here goes nothing… “Hi! Welcome to my brain… Hope you like it!”

I first learned about the Race for Hope after attending my first David Cook concert in November 2009, as you all know I’ve blogged a blue streak about how much I love his music and how you should too (there will be more of this shortly, but for now it’s a little deeper than that). I was at a crossroads in my life at the time and after that night in November everything changed for me, my outlook on life, my goals, my dreams, everything. I was ready to leave all the crap that had been weighing me down behind and move forward, and I’ve been working on just that ever since. The Race for Hope at the time gave me something to work toward, when it first came up Mary-Alice said “I don’t walk to the mailbox and you want me to do a 5k?” Those words were truer than true for both of us (since that time we have finished a half marathon, who would’ve thought?). I trained for months to be able to finish my first race, my first day at the gym I could barely run one lap around the track, but on May 2, 2010 I achieved my goal. It was amazing to be surrounded by such strong people who were suffering in unimaginable ways, some were sick, some were grieving, and others were just there trying to make a difference. When you stand with 10,000 people all in support of a common cause there really isn’t a word that carries enough weight to describe the feeling, it is profound to say the least. Fast forward to this year and we were headed back to D.C. to experience the race once again…

Now I’m not sure exactly what it is about travel that messes with my mind in such a way that when it’s over, I crash! I can say the same thing about David Cook concerts, and when you put them together, well there’s bound to be trouble. My friend Torey compared it to a drug when I returned home an emotional wreck, he said “Well, you’re use to being in one place where everything is ordinary and then you go off to this strange place where everything is new and different, even the people you are around are new and exciting. You live this other life for a few days then you come back down to reality and it’s like oh, this sucks!” I am by no means saying that my reality sucks but there are definitely a few areas that could use some tweaking. I do however think Torey is right in a major way, traveling always brings new perspective to my life and experiences that change me in ways probably not normal to most people. I can assure you at least once a day you will find me at work standing on a cliff overlooking the pacific ocean, watching the sun go down. Yes, I am actually in a small brick building in Newnan, GA, but in my mind I’m in my happy place somewhere between Seattle and San Francisco watching the tide roll in and it is magnificent! I mean it can’t possibly be normal to daydream this much right? Or to be able to see yourself living in almost any city you pass through, I have like 145 lives going as we speak… Should I move to Seattle for the weather, maybe Chicago, it was nice, how about LA they need writers, or New York City because, well we don’t even have enough space to write all that here, I mean it’s ridiculous really! But then again if we are gonna talk about normal, most normal people can attend a concert “just to hear good music”, not this girl, nope… Ok well, I wasn’t profoundly moved by the Dixie Chicks concert I attended, they just had good music. But, I have to say every Cook concert I’ve been to seems to send me into some strange state of mind where I question every life decision, I look at everything differently and it’s really kind of annoying and amazing all at the same time. Maybe it’s because he seems so normal for the industry, maybe it’s because we are the same age, maybe it’s because I got to watch the whole idol process, maybe it’s because he’s hot, who knows? Certainly not I… But this time around I think I got a better idea of what could possibly be the reason these trips and shows turn my world completely upside down, I will try to elaborate as best as my heart will allow here now…

First i’ll cover the travel portion. For me traveling is something I have always wanted to do, even when I was a kid I wanted to go to all these places I saw on television and when I took my first steps into New York City at the age of 14 I was done for! That trip “exposed” me to a world I had never experienced and one that I wanted more of, and still do until this very day. Each time I visit or revisit another place the experience exposes me to new people, new sights, new sounds and most importantly new possibilities. These trips while bringing me such joy also cause such internal frustration to arise because my mind over loads with all the possibilities surrounding me, the frustration continues to mount when I realize that a lot of those possibilities don’t exist back home and that makes me crazy at times. I love my friends and family here and I don’t want to leave them, but I also want a career that I love and am passionate about that I have yet to find in this place. The frustration mounts and ends with me crying until 3:30 in the morning because my confusion level is at a 1,589 on a scale of 1-10. Could someone please just help a sista’ out and tell her where she’s suppose to be already? I know, I know, everything happens for a reason and I am here right now in this moment writing this blog because it’s all a part of the journey to figuring it all out, every wrong turn leading me to right where I am suppose to be at just the right moment on a street in Washington, D.C. yeah, yeah, yeah… Why is it so darn difficult to take ones own advice sometimes, why is it such a bitter pill to swallow? Cause it’s a crappy little pill when it’s yours to take that’s why! I kid, but sometimes you just have to step back and take a breath and try to put it all into perspective, which leads me to Mr. Cook, and a whole other set of tailspins… Like I said before, for whatever reason it is never just an ordinary rock show for me, which I have never been able to explain. I have never left a show the same way I came in and I think this time I finally figured out why that is. This show, A Night of Hope, was a part of the weekend’s fundraising efforts benefitting the National Brain Tumor Society and ABC², it was an acoustic “story teller” type concert and it was incredible. The evening started with an always entertaining round of people watching between Mrs. Henson and myself, D.C. has a very interesting demographic, take that as you will. When the show started we heard from a few young survivors, the eldest of which was quite the comedian, I definitely see stand up in his bright future and the youngest, she likes unicorns and yes I was already shedding the first of many tears that night. Next up, David Cook, I’m not sure but I have been told that I lost my voice and all functionality for an hour and a half during the show… Ha Ha Ha very funny Mary-Alice! Ok, maybe not so funny because it was kind of true. Unlike the two other shows I’ve been to, there was a lot more talking, and “soul baring” and I was gone! I am not someone who is easily impressed, things like fame and fortune don’t mean a thing to me, but when you wear your heart on your sleeve and it is nothing but good and pure to the core you can pretty much bet your bottom dollar I’ll be your biggest fan from here on out. Whether you’re friend or family or rock star or otherwise, the genuine, truth telling people, no matter what that truth may be are the ones I gravitate toward and want to surround myself with… So, as I stood and listened to this man talk and sing and cry for his loss I was overwhelmed with a barrage of emotions, and it hit me like a ton of bricks, the reason why I always leave these shows feeling different than before and questioning myself is because somehow amidst all the guitar riffs and noise of the crowd, he makes me want to be a better person. It is rare in this crazy world to encounter a person that makes you check yourself and want to be better, he does that for me, I stood there and thought “What am I doing with my life? What can I do to be better? What can I do to help someone else and inspire them to be better?” I have only ever met him briefly so it seems almost impossible to have such admiration for a person you hardly know. But somehow, he doesn’t make it very difficult to see the good in him and make you want to dig deep and find the best inside yourself and expand on those good traits. Even better still, while I can’t speak for this perfect stranger, I would bet my last dollar that if he were to read this himself he would probably roll his eyes, think it a tad bit fussy and proclaim that it’s really not that big a deal… That kind of humility, I believe, is why his fans love him and keep coming back for more, well that and the voice, and the pretty face doesn’t hurt either;) Remembering it now the show was a series of Aha! moments and realizations for me that continued into the next morning at the race (I must say Oprah would have been very proud:)). Watching someone exhibit such kindness, compassion, raw openness and emotion with a crowd of mostly complete strangers all in the name of such a worthy cause is completely disarming and awe inspiring. This partially explains my vast silence for the greater part of 24 hours (sorry about that M-A, my head was a mess), I was quite simply amazed by this solidly good human spirit that was before me and witnessing these characteristics in another person made me wish that there were more people in the world like him. Then it really got crazy up there (in my head) when this thought struck me hard “Well, what are you doing to make this world a better place? A more kind and compassionate place. Maybe these people are all around you and you just don’t take the time to see them…” I mean don’t get me wrong, I try to be a good person, but I could definitely be better, I guess we all have things we could work on within ourselves and I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking about those things since that night. The next day at the Race for Hope as the survivors lined up and walked past us before the race began I checked myself once more, thinking of all the things I have to be thankful for and how blessed I really am. As I ran along side of the survivors I thought to myself “Suck it up Amanda! What do you have to complain about? So you have shin splints from hell, who cares? These people have experienced pain and suffering that you cannot fathom!” and yet they ran on, so I did too, their yellow shirts bidding me on to the finish. I was surrounded by runners and walkers who bore the names of their loved ones who were taken by this horrible disease and I thought of all my family and friends who I love and would never want to see hurt in such a vicious way, I gave thanks for their health and prayed that they never have to suffer something so painful in all of their days. And then there were the kids, tiny little people who should be playing in a park somewhere carefree as children ought to be, not growing up within the halls of a hospital. And, even more inspiring is this, although these kids face huge obstacles and are wise beyond their years they still believe in the magic of unicorns and hope. Watching them I thought of four little boys back in Georgia and 2 little girls in Florida and how I would do anything to spare them such pain, I cannot imagine the strength the parents of these kids must have to get through the days, they are quite simply the definition of a hero!

As I looked around I saw the good in 12,000 people, 12,000 people that made me want to be better and do better in my own life. I have to say I was not in church that Sunday morning, but I definitely felt God was there on Freedom Plaza in some major way, that’s what he wants from us after all right, to do good for others and work toward becoming better than we have been in the past. I personally think that’s really what this crazy life is all about, helping each other, lifting each other up to become everything we ought to be, inspiring each other to fulfill our purpose and potential with what time we have here. While writing this over the past few days I think it’s helped me to realize that all the madness and frustration I was feeling inside myself was really none of those things at all… it was my heart challenging my mind. It was an internal struggle to remind me to work harder for what I want, to live for those people who won’t have the chance, to be the kind of person that inspires others as all of these people inspire me and to simply be better tomorrow than I was today. If everything, big or small, happens for a reason, I believe in May of 2008 when Mr. Cook won American Idol the universe knew he would use the platform for good and change the lives of many. Whether it be drawing attention to or raising money for a cause close to his heart or exposing a small town girl to a world that challenges her and inspires her, he has done good. If I could have told him just one thing when he left the stage that night it would simply have been “You did good!” That work is something to be proud of, but I’m sure he would just say it’s really not that big a deal, I would just like to say: David Cook, you’re a pretty big deal around here! Your success surpasses record sales and includes strength and integrity, your Mama did good by you! Thank you for sharing your work with the world, thank you for being a good person and inspiring me to be better, thank you for making me think about and see things from a whole new perspective, thank you for introducing me to 12,000 people who inspire me to live hard and go for my dreams because life is often all to short… Since I can’t say it over dinner, I’ll say it the only way I can, here and now, Thank you!

I couldn’t end this blog without also thanking all the people who gathered on Freedom Plaza that day with a common goal in mind, working toward ending such a horrific disease. You have all inspired me and make me want to work harder and live each day to the very fullest. I am not the person I want to be by any means, I am still a work in progress, I guess we all are… I am eternally grateful for the lessons I am learning on this journey and the opportunity to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday. Wherever my next adventure takes me I will carry these lessons with me and when things start to get crazy up there in my head I will try to remember this moment and find solitude knowing that my heart is just challenging my mind once again, reminding me that it’s never to late to chase a dream, never to late to find inspiration, never to late to become a better you! For whatever rhyme or reason my challenge and inspiration came in the form of an American Idol, yours may come from your Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, Uncle, Aunt, Niece, Nephew, Cousin, Husband, Wife, Life Partner, Friend, Co-worker, maybe even a stranger on the street. It really doesn’t matter where it comes from, just open yourself to the possibilities that surround you and when you’re ready, when the time is right, someone will show up just in time and you will look at their life and know you want to be better, and then you will, one day at a time… And of course I would love to know, who challenges and inspires you, who makes you want to be better? Post your answers on FB, Twitter or email me:amduke25@yahoo.com





The fundraising efforts are still going strong, if you would like to donate to this cause please click the link below… Email a copy of your donation receipt to amduke25@yahoo.com and I will gift David Cook’s new single “The Last Song I’ll Write for You” to the first 100 donors via iTunes as a thank you for your donation. Thanks for your support now and always!









Pick up David Cook’s new single “The Last Song I’ll Write for You” available on iTunes and Amazon.com