Thursday, November 14, 2013

"My Life's Been a Country Song"

I’m always proud to assert that I’m a country girl—born and raised. Right along with that, comes the fact that country music was my first love—and although I have flings on the side with other genres, it will always have my heart. Growing up in a town without even a single stoplight, no one seemed to question my love. However, now that I live in the “big city” of Albuquerque, I catch more flack for loving country than anyone should.

So, the simple question that I always have to answer is:  “Why do you like country?” Of course, this is usually followed up by a snarky statement like:  “It’s just about drinking and sad stuff.”

Sure, there are those. Country music is definitely good if you’re depressed and need to cry it out.

Perfect example of this stereotypical thought (note—not a song I enjoy, but nonetheless):

Tear in My Beer - Hank Sr. and Hank Jr.

But, there is much more to the world of country music, and my love for it comes for many reasons.

1-We don’t hide our crazy. We know we’re crazy, and we embrace it. We name it and call it crazy. We go for it. While Rihanna may sing “that’s not fair” when someone calls her crazy, we realize that there’s no crazy like country crazy, and we own it!

Go to Hell - Casey Donahew Band

No Cure for Crazy - Kellie Pickler

Stripes - Brandy Clark

2-There’s depth to the feelings expressed. Country singers—the good ones anyway—don’t just say, “hey girl you lookin fine!” Instead, they work through the struggle of defining those feelings. In my opinion, there have never been truer expressions of genuine love than those of a good country song.

Sometimes, love lasts a lifetime
He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones

Carried Away - George Strait

Turn My World Around - Glorianna

I Hope You're the End of My Story - Pistol Annies

Oklahoma Sky - Miranda Lambert

Who I Am - Wade Bowen

3-Country songs can be encouraging and can remind us to chase our dreams. In fact, if you listen closely, you’ll hear this sentiment expressed by many country women singers.

I Was Here - Lady Antebellum

Pioneer - The Band Perry

Even If It Breaks Your Heart - Eli Young Band

4-They’re not afraid to sing about deeper things in life—whether that’s family, God, friends or something else.

Mother Like Mine - The Band Perry

Love Like Crazy - Lee Brice

House That Built Me - Miranda Lambert

I'm Gonna Love You Through It - Martina McBride

5-Much like the way country folks embrace their crazy, they also know how to deal with a breakup in style. What better way to do so than with a rocking song that inspires confidence?

Walking Away A Winner - Kathy Mattea

Red High Heels - Kellie Pickler

6-Most of us who lived in the country grew up learning how to hunt, ride, fight, etc. As a result, we don’t take much of a hard time from anyone. We aren’t afraid to fight back and stand up for ourselves, and country music expresses this frequently.

Gun Powder and Lead - Miranda Lambert

Independence Day - Martina McBride

We’re strong, and not afraid to tell you so
Country Strong - Gwyneth Paltrow (okay, so she's not entirely country....but I love this song)

7-Country music can be depressing. It truly can, and that’s one of the things that is so great about it. Many country artists aren’t afraid to express some really difficult emotions. Sometimes, heartaches don’t fade; sometimes we all need a good song to cry along with while we drive. That’s when these come in handy.

What Might Have Been - Little Texas

Whiskey Lullaby - Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss

8-It gave me realistic expectations of love.

Unhappily Married - Pistol Annies

9-It reminds me that I’m not alone in my screw-ups, my hard times, and my occasional bad choices.

War on a Desperate Man - Eli Young Band

10-We do have our drinking songs, our dancing songs, and some that are just perfect to turn up the radio, roll down the windows, and belt out on a happy day!

Oklahoma Breakdown - Stoney Larue

Bad Example - Pistol Annies

Perfect Day - Lady Antebellum

Friends in Low Places - Garth Brooks

I Just Wanna Dance With You - George Strait

I love country music for many reasons—because it is so complex. It’s music from a bunch of differnte types of people—many who were small town kids who have lived a life similar to the one I have. I like country, because they’re songs about my life. To quote a song I’ve always loved:

My Life’s Been A Country Song – Chris Cagle

Now I know how Merle Haggard felt when he sang the words mama tried
And I've lived those teenage
Friday nights the pyrmid of cans in the pale moon light
And that Summer Becky broke my heart
Alabama sang old flame burnin'
Well I've danced with George Strait
Drank with George Jones
My life's been a country song.

It's all about fallin' down and gettin' back up
Your good times and hard luck
True love and amazing grace
Workin' all week for a back ache
Raisin' caine, Friday nights, Sunday church to set it right
They can write it on my stone,
My life's been a country song.

Country music is about life, and perhaps my view is biased, because I grew up in boots and jeans. But, I’ll always love it and always defend my love.

To be fair, like any other genre, we have some awful songs that are devoid of anything of value—things like “Hey Girl,” and anything that involves Luke Bryan shaking anything or a Taylor Swift breakup. But, people of the world, stop being so hard on country and pigeonholing it as a simple genre of depressing drinking songs. It’s so much more than that. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giving Thanks

We’ve all seen—or perhaps even been the ones writing—the 30 days of thankfulness posts on social media. While I can’t seem to help myself from making jokes when I see some of them (I make jokes about everything...don't get offended), it truly is nice to see people expressing gratitude for the simple things in life.

Ok, I really couldn’t help myself, but it’s just one joke:

Nonetheless, I’m thankful that so many people are thankful, and I have numerous things to be grateful for as well in my own life. However, I also am quite aware that—since I can’t even commit to dinner plans more than two days in advance—I am most likely incapable of committing to posting on the same topic of thankfulness for an entire month. Let’s face it, there will invariably come a day within the month that I would rather post something snarky, funny, or completely irrelevant.

It’s my social media, and I do what I want.

As a result, I weighed my options and decided a blog post would have to suffice.

This has been quite the up-and-down year in my life, complete with the ever-changing journey of “finding myself,” determining priorities, making changes, and growing up. People have come and gone, and I have allowed myself to go from the lives of some. At times, I have slipped from the optimistic-to-a-fault person that I have always been into someone who saw nothing but stormy skies and hard times. Yet, it has all been part of a process that has shaped me and made me stronger, and for that, I am perhaps more grateful than anything.

I am thankful for the people who never left my side—even when I turned into a Debbie Downer for a week or two. These are the friends and family members who are the most important part in my life. They are the saints who will answer the phone in the middle of the night to tell me that it’s all going to be okay—even when they had already convinced me of the same thing hours earlier. These are the people who will offer a hug when times get rough, celebrate life’s victories with you, laugh about nothing, have random dance parties in the living room, and enrich your life. I’m blessed beyond measure to have these people in my life, and I cherish them. Thank you.

I am thankful for the people who have left my side—and in some cases my life. Upon the exit of some, I felt broken. Yet, their absence taught me a great deal about the things I can overcome and the type of people I need in my life. I have since realized that there are some people whose presence in our lives is meant to be merely seasonal. They come in, they stay for a while, they may even leave their mark or change our lives in some way, and then they leave. When they leave, we have a chance to rebuild, pick up the pieces and learn our lessons. This makes us stronger, and I will always be grateful to be strong.

I am thankful for new beginnings. This year, I became an aunt and learned so much more about the beauty of life. Words cannot express how much my sweet niece blesses my life and how often I thank God for her.

Sarah Kaylee teaching me that there is always a new day—and a new generation to help inspire.

I am thankful for my family. We’re quirky, and we have our own set of flaws—but we’re always there for each other. They make me laugh, they help me when I’m struggling, and they’re always my biggest supporters. From grandparents to aunts and uncles and cousins, I have a wonderful extended family. Then, of course, I have the most supportive parents, the sweetest sister and brother-in-law, the most amazing little brother, and the most adorable niece possible. I love them all dearly.

I am thankful for life’s struggles, for hard lessons learned, and for the times when things seem to be all chaos and no clarity. These are the times in which we find what we're made of and allow us to see both previous and future times of happiness with greater respect.

I am thankful for dreams that persevere, even when there does not seem to be a clear pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

And, sometimes, we get a glimmer of the sun shining off of that far-off pot of gold. These are the little moments that keep us going, and for those, I am incredibly grateful.

I am thankful for optimism that continues to shine even into the darkness of uncertainty.

I am thankful for new friends whose presence in my life gives me a renewed hope on the connection of human hearts.

I am thankful for good music—regardless of genre—that gives me a running soundtrack throughout the day (whether it’s deep music of the heart, or a hilarious interjection into an all too serious moment).

I am thankful for the stars at night that remind me of simple beauties.

I am thankful to have a wonderful house to live in, and a phenomenal roommate with whom to share it.

Thankfully, my roommate puts up with all my silliness, and even joins in the fun!

I am thankful for my dog—and for my roommate’s dog—who always remind me that unconditional love does exist.

They also remind me that sometimes the most unlikely pair can become great friends.

I am thankful to have a sense of humor, because life is hilarious—and because life without laughter is not really worth it all.

I’m also thankful to have silly friends who share my silly sense of humor and aren’t afraid to act a little crazy with me from time to time.

I’m thankful for this crazy roller coaster ride we call life. Even with its ups and downs, it’s absolutely a beautiful mess.

And, finally, if you stuck through reading this entire post of garbled thank-you notes, you’re probably one of the people I love, and I’m thankful for you. 

Thank you!