Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tough call, but I believe I'll take numerous trips to Paris over poisonous berries.

"Road trip: those are still the two most inspiring words to vagabonds and couch potatoes alike; after all, the great American spirit was forged by road trippers from the Pilgrims to Lewis and Clark to the Dharma Bums. Le Road Trip combines the appeal of the iconic American quest with France's irresistible allure, offering readers a totally new perspective of life on the road. Le Road Trip tells the story of one idyllic French honeymoon trip, but it is also a witty handbook of tips and advice on how to thrive as a traveler, a captivating visual record with hundreds of watercolor illustrations, and a chronicle depicting the incomparable charms of being footloose in France. Armchair travelers, die-hard vagabonds, art journalists, and red wine drinkers will all find something to savor in this story." - Review,

Road trip, vagabond, great American spirit, irresistible allure, iconic quest, witty handbook, captivating visual record, incomparable charms, red wine drinkers...One of my greatest hopes is to write a book one day both inspired by and reflective of this most perfect of combinations.  If a product of numerous trips to Paris or Prague rather than an Into the Wild journey, all the better.
If you've read this blog much at all, you are well aware of my obsession with all things Vivian Swift. I love her wit, her confidence tinged with self-deprecating hilarity, her slightly Bob Ross-esque illustrations (by the way, I saw in a magazine yesterday that there is actually a BR teacher certification program), her ability to tell a story, her willingness to say things others might deem irreverent and blasphemous, but that remain unequivocally funny (but not mean-spirited), and her appreciation of the little things that make her happy. 

Despite this adoration, however, her most recent book, Le Road Trip, has cozily rested on my bookshelf for months, the hidden nook it has occupied since April.  I had pre-ordered it.  I was so excited when I picked it up at the post office. I have read reviews and her blog religiously since early spring.  Why the wait then to even crack the cover? 

I don't really know the answer to this, but I assume it has something to do with me considering it the "perfect last bite," the literary "Christmas morning," the "saved-for/long-awaited/much-needed vacation departure" (the one in which I would be wearing something totally hip like the stuff I pin on Pinterest, but don't actually own).  Sometimes the anticipation is where inspiration is found.  Sometimes it is hard to start something we don't want to inevitably end.  Sometimes the quest is the irresistible allure. 

And sometimes we just sit down, forget about the sadness we may feel when it's over, and relish the incomparable charm of the actual experience.
Probably my favorite passage thus far...

What is the official color of Paris?
A. Gray Without Melancholy, as in the sky on a typical overcast day in the Ile-de-France.
B. The honey color of the morning sun warming up the Oise limestone exterior of the Louvre.
C. The quicksilver surface of the Seine in the wake of a Bateau-Mouche.
D. Mansard Blue, the color of Paris rooftops with the sound of an Edith Piaf record playing in the background.

All of the above"  (27)
"Gray without melancholy"....oh, that's good. 

Take some time this weekend to think about how you would describe your own town or your favorite vacation spot. 

The Catbird Seat in Nashville is not a French restaurant.  However, when I imagine French cuisine, I think of beautiful presentations, small decadent bites, and a fundamental ethos that eating is not just about consumption, but an appreciation of the food culture.  If you find yourself with a particularly fat wallet one week, I encourage you to try this somewhat hidden Nashville gem.  I have to admit, it is a pretty amazing experience.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lucky girl.

A month of status updates...

Nov. 1: I realize most of you don't care what I'm thankful for. I also know we should be mindful of gratitude everyday and blah, blah, blah. Too bad. Facebook is narcissistic at the core and it never hurts to remind ourselves of all the good in our lives.

On this first day of the month, I'm thankful for authors who say something that makes me want to be better or live more fully or think about something in a new way.

"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." ~Mark Twain

Nov. 2: This sounds like I'm being facetious, but I'm really not at all...
I'm honestly thankful for the way Facebook has allowed me to get reaquainted with- and see the wit and foolishness in- old friends I haven't seen in a while or those I only knew by name only. I laugh so much everyday because of people like Kevin Griffith, Brandy Groce Pruitt, Jessica Cossel, Becky Ballard, and Brent Burris.
Nov.3: I'm thankful for parents who showed me how animals, both stray and pet alike, should be treated; for my 12 cats, none of which are here because I thought, "man, I'd really love some cats."; for my beloved dogs, Lucy and Willie, who have been my best friends for six years; and for a community where people know the names of most of my herd. 
Nov. 4: I'm thankful for secret-keepers, "good luck" text senders, surprise mid-race cheering sections, and for those who would've been there if they could have/I would have let them. Most importantly, I'm thankful to have been raised by a father who would've supported me and whose own work ethic motivated me to keep going and a mother who didn't get too mad when I told her only when it was over.

Oh, and I'm thankful I didn't die either.
Nov. 5: I'm thankful for the man and father my dad was, for the 30 years I had with him, and for the person he inspires me to be.

Love and miss you today and everyday.
Nov. 6: I'm thankful for my niece, Isabella Morgan. I love her little southern accent, one that seems thicker when she's doing pet voices. I appreciate her masterfully endearing combination of foolishness and thoughtfulness. I enjoy trading silly faces with her at Jones' as her mother tells us that is isn't good manners. I'm inspired by the way she'll dance, greet waitresses and store employees, and play pretend with reckless abandon.
She just makes every day better.

Nov. 7: I'm thankful for friendships in the unlikeliest of places; and for people who, by all logical accounts, I would disagree with on every issue, but who I just adore; and for those many miles away who still find ways, through letters, cards, emails, and texts, to make my life so much better.

I'm just grateful for the wildly diverse group of people I'm fortunate to call my friends.
Nov. 8:  I'm thankful for fireplaces and coffee. I'm pretty sure one of the reasons I sleep so little is because I'm just excited to get up, start coffee (don't knock Folgers...have you tried the vanilla biscotti "gourmet" version? It's delicious), sit in front of the fireplace with Wendell and watch MSNBC (just pretend that says Fox News, Neal Poindexter).

I thankful for little things like this that start my morning right...and for the great job I get to go to afterward. 
Nov. 9: I'm thankful for the relationships my sisters, mom, and I have. I honestly don't know three people who are funnier, willing to be more foolish, or with whom I'd rather be around. Trust me, what you see on here is only the half of it...we're even more ridiculous than it seems. 
Nov. 10: I'm thankful for Terry Staley. Because we find the same things funny, because we can acknowledge "it is what it is," but still have a lot of joy in our lives, and because we "solve" the world's problems every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I know how lucky I am to call her "friend"....AND that when lightning inevitably strikes me in that library office, she's surely going down with me. ;)
Nov. 11: I'm thankful for friends who know what 16-year-old Cumberland County Friday nights were like, who waded in creeks and jumped on hay bales and went roller skating with me, whose mother's kitchen I know like my own...and who have become even better, more authentic friends since we've gotten so incredibly old:)
Nov. 12: I'm thankful for those 45 minutes of my life I got back when I decided go ahead and turn "Magic Mike" off and not finish. I would one gabillion percent choose Conan over any of those fools anytime.
Nov. 13: I'm thankful for little things - whether it's a project, book, or TV show - that give me something to look forward to and make the workday more fun.

Sorry, Zach, it's not the UK episode of New Girl and a checkerboard to work on tonight!

Oh, Nick, how I love you.
Nov. 14: I'm thankful for really pretty things that, when I take the time to notice them, make me smile. I'm fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.

Did you all notice the frost flowers this morning?!
Nov. 15: I'm thankful for Caroline Kraft...and Centre College for bringing us together. Who knew that the girl in pigtails (she had been at dance team practice) standing in Yerkes 306 in the fall of 1998 would be the same girl I would travel all around the world with 13 years later; the one people in Cumberland County would recognize in Houchens because they've seen her picture so much on facebook; the one who would remember Dad's birthday two years after he died; the one who knows where mugs are at both my house and my mom's; the one who karaokes 9 to 5 with me at my sister's wedding reception; the one who has enjoyed coffee with me at cafes all over Chicago; the one I absolutely consider my family ...?

Actually, I should've guessed it...the white, mid-calf socks and jean shorts we were both wearing that day had to be indicative of something special.

I'm thankful for best friends.
Nov. 16: I'm thankful for those kicks in the pants that remind me to get over myself. Situations may suck, but I can choose to not have pity parties.
And for homemade bread and the perfect cup of coffee.
I realize those make no sense together.

Nov. 17: I'm thankful for authors/books that have inspired me this year to try more, work harder, laugh more often, or take more time to self-reflect, but not take myself too seriously.
Nov. 18: I'm thankful for wonderful in-laws-by-extension. My sisters have happy lives, supported and loved by great guys with families who have opened their arms to all the Turners. I'm glad to be tied to the Morgans and the Edwards.

Plus, they sure can dance.
Nov. 19: I'm thankful to have grown up on such a beautiful farm and to still feel so content and in awe when I walk it now.
Nov. 20: I'm thankful for those memories that keep me from being bitter about waking up at 3:30 am fairly often. Thanks, CLT, for beating and banging around the kitchen in the pre-dawn hours nearly every morning. I'm pretty sure: 1) those are the best biscuits and gravy and eggs I'll ever eat. 2) JNT did a lot of cussing under her breath between 4-6 am.
Nov. 21: I've never understood the "I'm glad [insert bad thing] happened because I learned [xyz] or it led me to [xyz]" mantra. I can't think of one bad or sad thing that has happened to me that I'm glad about; that would seem to give that person or that circumstance too much power. What I am grateful for, though, is self-respect and strength, products of growing up in a household where I saw it and where it was expected, that allows me to not stay bitter; to still see potential; to laugh at those people who foolishly ran from awesomeness.;) That's right; I am apparently incredibly arrogant at 5 am.

I'm grateful for pride, and "not like the kind in the bible that turns you bad." (And as always, I'm grateful for the Avett Brothers;))
Nov. 22: I'm thankful for thoughtfulness without motive; for kindness shown to those who don't see it very often; for unexpected stories that brighten my day and make me so very proud; for a mother who happens to be the best person I know.
Yesterday, a woman in the library and I were talking about elementary schools. One of the first things she said was, "I remember picking kids up from school and seeing your mother stand at the buses and hug every child and tell them she loved them. That was probably the only time of the day that a lot of those kids heard that." It almost makes me cry even typing it on here. I know we joke and make fun of each other on here, but I hope everyone knows how proud I am to be Jackie Turner's daughter. 
Happy thanksgiving, all.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why I ran 26.2 miles voluntarily...

A few trusted secret-keepers knew and that's it. Carefully and sneakily selected because I needed to borrow their iPod...or possibly needed a ride during training runs...or because I'm a horrible liar, these folks respectfully kept it quiet.  Nevertheless, the question most of them asked, and the one that many others echoed upon finding out what I had done, was an obvious, and quite legitimate, one: Why would you run 26 miles if not being chased? are my answers:
1. Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild, inspired me to seek peace of mind in the outdoors, in a personal challenge, in pushing myself beyond limits I had arbitrarily established for myself. Seeking solace in the months after her mother's death (and from a life that she wasn't proud to be living), Strayed set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. My version: do Sunday morning training runs to the top of Marrowbone Hill alone.
2. The second anniversary of Dad's death was November 5. The Bowling Green marathon was Sunday, November 4. I wanted to do something that I thought he would be proud of, something that required me to do for myself what he, sometimes vocally and sometimes merely by his own actions, always did for me: work harder than I thought I could.
3. I get bored. I like to have a project. My propensity for crazy thoughts is too strong. Thus, training kept me physically and mentally occupied.
4. I simply wanted to know if I could do it.  I like to challenge myself.
5. I figured I would never be in better shape...kind of a "now or never" rationale. I also wanted to try something like this before I had a family and more important responsibilities than running for hours.
6. I was inspired by wonderful friends like Melissa Brown Holland who had done marathons before (and I won't lie: by "inspired," a part of me does mean "jealous of" and "too competitive to let others outdo me":))
7. We should do things that require discipline. We should do things that we really don't want to do. It strengthens character and necessitates perspective. 
8. Fall is my favorite time of year to run and we've had beautiful weather the past couple of months. I didn't want to waste it by piddling indoors.
9. I don't feel guilty eating really delicious, but not necessarily healthy, food after 18 mile training runs.
10. I got to buy a neat little fanny pack, gel carbohydrate pouches, and a new turquoise running shirt.

This was something I simply wanted to do for myself and I'm glad I did it the way I did it. I didn't tell many people because I didn't want anyone to worry (my mom already thinks I should pack my stun gun when I run), or try to talk me out of it, or give me training tips/advice, or ask me about my time. Plus, I only signed up for the race about two months prior and I followed no particular training guide. I just had the attitude, "Well, I'll train as much as I can and if I feel ready, I'll do it. If not, I won't." I certainly didn't want to spout off a bunch of crap about signing up for a marathon and then not even do it. Finally, my only goal was to simply finish the thing without walking.  And I did just that. I figured others really didn't need to know this. 

So, that should cover the "Why?" question.  I'll leave you with a few things I learned and/or was reminded of.
1. You can always do a little bit more. This might mean that you take a few more steps, or go an extra mile, or make it to the next road sign. Each time I ran, I refused to let myself do just what I had done the previous run.  This is probably a pretty good general life philosophy; don't settle for "good enough."
2. The rationale, "If I can do 18 miles, I can do 26." isn't as solid as I thought.  Miles 21-26 were a bitch.:)
3. If you don't put pressure on yourself (which I tend to do when training for races at which I expect myself to do well or when running with other people), running really can clear your mind and be a form of cheap therapy. 
4. We live in a gorgeous area. Rather than drive, walk or run some of our back roads or even Hwy. 90 and I guarantee you'll find beautiful hillsides and fields you never noticed before. You'll appreciate the seasonal decorations on people's porches and the character of their barns.  You'll take pictures of ponies, goats, and cows that you wish would magically say, "Pretty morning, huh, little lady?":)
5. Personal satisfaction and a sense of pride really are good for the soul.
Did I mention that when you run you don't feel as guilty about eating crap?
In a homage to the fallen giant, Hostess, I offer you Homemade Zingers...

I used the recipe found at: Homemade Twinkies and Zingers

Monday, November 5, 2012

"One hell of a cowboy in Heaven."

CLT, November 13, 1948-November 5, 2010

When I was little (you know, still sleeping in the same bed with Leigh Ann because we were both scared "little"....i.e. probably still 10 or 11;)), I didn't like to go to sleep until I had said to Mom and Dad, "nighty night, love you, see you in the morning." For whatever reason, this simple phrase was the thing that made me feel at peace; it was my warm milk, or my prayer, or my few minutes of WBKO news. This silly redundancy of words, the origin of which is unknown to me (name one other person who says "nighty night":)...) just made me feel settled.

And, you know what? My parents always made a point to humor me.  It didn't matter what time either came in (Mom might be at a night class, Dad on some horse-related or farm-piddling trip), they always walked back to the room that is now Isabella's and quietly responded in kind.  I can even remember telling Mom, "I don't care what time Dad comes in, make sure he comes back and tells us nighty night."

In retrospect, however, I don't think I enjoyed this ritual solely because it helped mark off a daily"to-do." I imagine (and I'm not one for psychoanalysis or anything) that I liked this little phrase because it was also the one time of the day that Dad and I both told each other we loved each other. You see, my father, the man whose passion for his farm and family was certainly obvious in deed, was very stoic when it came to words.  In fact, I don't really remember he and I mentioning that we "loved each other" until the last year of his life (we probably wore him out telling him in the hospital:)). This never bothered me, however, for two reasons: 1) I am my father's daughter in many ways, and this happens to be one of them.  I can be guarded with my emotions even if if my heart is full.; 2) He literally showed me every single day how much he loved me and our family. 

So, he may have been a man of few words (ha, well at least when it came to gushy stuff:)), an emotional crime to some, but I honestly never felt slighted. And even though I may have secretly enjoyed the "nighty night" business because I got to hear him say it, I didn't "need" it...I didn't need it because I had these things:

A father who would let me go to the barn with him and "help" no matter how much I was likely in the way.

A father who showed us how to bottle feed calves and strip tobacco and ride ponies.

A father who would bring said ponies to the yard during birthday parties and take our friends for rides; or to the county fair so Leigh and I could win a trophy.

A father who would wear me out if I needed it. We kind of giggled at Mom and her fly swat; Dad's spanks typically curbed whatever behavior got us on the wrong side of his hand in the first place.

A father who took us sledding and fishing and to George Strait concerts.

A father who helped with our math homework, making more sense in 10 minutes than an entire class lecture had earlier in the day.

A father who introduced me to Lyle Lovett and Chris LeDoux in the passenger seat of a pickup truck heading to Oklahoma.

A father who came to every ballgame and track meet, no matter if it was weekend or workweek. And the man who would let me and/or the referee "have it" if he felt we weren't playing up to our potential.:)

A father who told the same stories, often from his favorite brown leather chair in the living room, but who found a way to make them even funnier each time.

A father who was both quick-witted foolish and incredibly and perceptively smart.

A father who had a keen sense of justice and morality, one based less on religion or politics, and more so on the simple notion of "just do things the right way/treat people the right way simply because you should."

A father who respected a huge variety of people and taught his kids to do the same. Dad didn't care about race or gender or class or sexual orientation. He appreciated "shoot 'em straight, honest, hard-working" people. 

A father who took us for Sunday drives.

A father who drove around beater trucks, embarrassing his middle-school daughters, with the same sense of pride as those in expensive little sports cars. 

A father without pretense. A man comfortable in his own skin. A dad who thus helped his daughters be the same (Mom, I couldn't have said it any better than you).

A father who asked about my day even while he was in the hospital. 

A father who loved Isaiah, Lydia, and Caroline as though they were blood kin.

A father who I felt really "got me." Dad always seemed to understand my wandering ways even when they were mixed with a contradictory desire to feel settled.

A father whose courage and humility motivate me everyday. I don't think I will ever witness someone whose fortitude to stay alive, and really be "alive," is so strong.

A father who was a realist. He never felt sorry for himself or as though he was "above" cancer.

A father who just grinned when I caught him eating Doritos and chewing tobacco while taking a chemo infusion.  I'll never forget his response to my concerned pleas that maybe neither were a good idea: "Yeah, I'd hate for something to kill me."

A father who gave me more funny, endearing, and pride-inducing memories in 30 years than many have from parent-child relationships that last much longer. 
So, to the father I never told nearly enough, but the father who knew me well enough to make it unnecessary.... I love you so much.