Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back Where I Come From

Oklahoma - Kenny Chesney says it best in his song Back Where I Come From..."In the town where I was raised, The clock ticks and the cattle graze. Time passed with Amazing Grace, Back where I come from." And although he's talkin' bout Tennessee, these words still get to me.

Returning home to Tahlequah, Oklahoma from my busy urban perch was a much needed respite for my weary soul. There's nothing that grounds me more than the smell of freshly bailed hay blowing in the wind and watching the town I know and love tinker on the verge of progress and regress.

The purpose of this Oklahoma pit stop was to attend my sisters' HS graduation. Watching them graduate from my high school was a bit emotional. Not only did it seem just like yesterday that it was me walking across that stage, but also I was hit with the reality that it's actually been 6 years! "How could so much time pass? I'm glad I'm past this. But these days were so great! Ya, but I love my life now." I thought to myself...pretty much a mixed bag.

It's funny how the relatively simple things can have such an effect on the freedom to cruise down the highway at 80mph (speed limit is 75), or holding my new baby niece and breathing in her sweet smell, or gorging myself on my fave "white dip" at El Chico(s) - i say it with an "s" - the Mexican restaurant in Muskogee to which I happily drive 30 min to get my fix.

Now you can lie on a riverbank
Paint your name on a water tank
Or miscount all the beers you drank
Back where I come from"

Throughout the duration of this long weekend, the great outdoors lured me back places o so familiar to me. I joined friends for a day out on Lake Tenkiller, braving the sun-worshipping crowds gathered for the holiday weekend. There I was in awe of the beauty that beheld me in this often-overlooked gem of a destination. The emerald rolling hills submerging themselves in the almost equally green waters contrasted with the bright blue sky painted with cumulus nimbus puffs - an idyllic day for boating and swimming.

In an effort to reclaim some of my most fond childhood memories, I joined my younger sister on a 4-wheeler excursion (in my sundress). The familiar vrooom of the engine sent sparks through my chest as the exhilarating ride began. It had been a few years since my last ride and I was feeling a bit anxious and rusty, but as is true with riding a bike, it came back in no time. Following her through trails, around ponds, and (unwisely) into a muddy field - i got stuck and mud was flying up all around me...i was at a crossroads btwn saving my fave yellow and white dress or getting the 4-wheeler out of the mud - amazingly making it back safe with only a drop of mud on my dress!

The past four days taught me a lot about little. It truly is the "little" things in life that make a life great. Family to love, good friends to laugh with, new life, the great outdoors, favorite foods, small towns, absence of time, and all that is home.

"Back where I come from
Where I'll be when it's said and done
I'm proud as anyone
Back where I come from"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lessons from Nonna

In celebration of my (BBBS) little sis Mia's 10th birthday, we visited our friendly neighborhood mom and pop pizza shop. Nonna's Pizzeria offered us not only a deliciously cheesy good time for a bargain price of $22 for 5 people, but also great memories and life lessons on the house.

Mia and I were joined by her mom (Bobby) and two neighbor friends for the birthday feast. As we ate the whole wheat crusted cheese pizza to our hearts content, I was able to get to know Bobby a little better and learn about Mia as well.

Mia beamed over the hodgepodge of gifts I stuffed in an oversize birthday bag, equally as excited for each gift, as if they were each little treasures in a newfound chest. I just love the simplicity of children...they are amused by the smallest most seemingly insignificant things...I believe what is left most to be desired for many kids is simply attention. This they crave just like a big slice of gooey pizza.

After consuming the whole pie, everyone still had room for chocolate on chocolate cake - a special request from the birthday girl. The generous employees at Nonna's were kind enough to supply us with extra utensils and even sing along the all to familiar "Happy Birthday" song. A song that everyone knows, yet no one seems to grasp the right pitch...making it all that more special.

I'm sure the evening looked quite different from the eyes of outsiders...the lone yuppie entertaining folks from the Marshall Fields Garden Apartments, but from my perspective, all was right with the world - A world where love conquers race, culture, education and class.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Live Your Dreams

"Live Your Dreams," that is my goal this year, my mantra, my battle cry. I set out in 2008 to move beyond the acceptable, to never settle for complacency and to strive for the adventure that's promised in living life to the fullest.

So far, I feel I've made some decent strides - I have resurrected a childhood dream of playing the piano and dove headfirst into a travel writing class to see if the marriage of my two loves (travel & writing) could coexist in a healthy and fruitful manner. I've also had the opportunity to satiate my strong appetite for good food and new restaurants through a secret diner rating program. All while simultaneously planning my "big trip" to Scandinavia this year. Whew...just writing this makes me tired.

In just the first five months of "living my dreams" I have learned a lot about myself and how much it really requires of a person to do this. It's funny that doing what you love/want requires sacrifice. Guess it's true for all things. I've sacrificed sleep, time with friends, money, sleep, and other "good" things in striving for my "best." I have a newfound appreciation for ambition, goals, success and all they entail.

I guess I can look at the first half of this year of actualization and be happy with my progress, all the while knowing that the race is not over, the prize is not won, and look forward to the next seven months. As it turns out, "Living Your Dreams" is not a sprint, but a marathon...and I will press on and relish the journey!