The Adoption Process

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Since I’m not watching television, one task that has kept me busy over the past week is my quest to get a dog.  It turns out though, that getting a dog in this country is tricky business.  For starters, we’ve been conditioned to believe that you might as well throw yourself into oncoming traffic if you don’t “rescue” your pet.  Breeders and pet stores seem to have become public enemies one and two, and the phrase, “how much is that doggy in the window” now comes with the implication that you’re a self-centered prick, totally unconcerned with the plight of the homeless in America.

Naturally, as they say, “there’s a sucker born every minute,” and I’ve wholeheartedly bought into this phenomenon – a mindset that I find interesting for two reasons.  The first being that my childhood Cairn Terrier, Mikey, came from a breeder.  Although Mikey put up a valiant effort to chew through our entire house like a termite during his first two years, he eventually settled in to become a calm and faithful companion – you know, the kind of dog that you could take on a walk around the neighborhood without the fear that he would tear away from his leash and literally kill the UPS delivery man.  Which brings me to my second point, our other dog, Winnie.  Winnie was a Black Lab mix, a “rescue.”  Although I loved her very much, and she did learn the difference between “shake left” and “shake right,” Winnie also displayed a few problem behaviors.  For instance, on one occasion she was so desperate to get to an electrician that she broke the windows in my parents’ bedroom, showering the unsuspecting repairman with a waterfall of glass that rained down upon him.  “Welcome to our home, sir!  Can I get you a spot of tea?” … And trust me, after ten years of life with Winnie, I have roughly 2,683 other stories nearly identical to this one.

Although I’d like to believe that I’m exactly the kind of moral and selfless individual who feels that there is no other choice but to bring my new pet in out of the rain, the subject of money has also weighed in on my thought process.  Money and time.  Finding a breeder and securing one of the puppies sounds like a long and expensive journey, and anyway, to quote Veruca Salt, “I want it now!”  I figured that “rescuing” my pet would not only be quick and cheap but would also evoke the warm and fuzzy feelings that I’ve done my part for dogkind.  Besides, purebred Mikey became sickly over his lifespan, and his expenses only grew with his age.  Naturally, as a family member, it was worth it to care for him – yada yada yada – but it seems to me that there might be a reason that in America, thirty-one states have a law against marrying your first cousin.  (Yep! Only thirty-one states.  And no, Tennessee isn’t one of them).

After a week of searching though, I’m here to report that as far as the time factor goes, all my “figuring” was dead wrong.  I’ve learned that the only quick way to rescue a dog is to pull one off the streets yourself.  Or take the one roaming around your neighbor’s backyard.  Otherwise, there are all kinds of adoption forms to fill out and references to provide.  That’s right.  References to provide.  When I showed up at my first pet adoption event, I momentarily chuckled when the man in charge told me to go ahead and fill out an application.  He didn’t wink back.  “Oh, you’re serious?”  I wondered. “It’s all good,” I tried to assure him of my qualifications, “I’m a human, and I want a dog.”  He continued to point to the application, and as I read through it, I wondered if I had inadvertently grabbed the form for adopting a child.  The ten pages were riddled with questions such as, “are you willing to submit to a home visit?” and, “why do you want a dog?”  It took nearly everything inside me to keep from responding, “just got the recipe for a new Korean stew.”

After I filled out my first round of applications, I was told that I’d been “pre-approved.”  By this point, nothing could shock me, and I assumed that my official approval would come as soon as my references had been thoroughly checked.  I quickly lunged for the phone and called everyone on the list, imploring them not to mention the time in 1995 when I forgot, for a day or so, that I was dogsitting for a neighbor.  I figured that any mention of that unfortunate incident and it’s off to the pet stores for me.

Another thing about the adoption process that’s caused a hiccup in the “happily ever after” tale of finding my long lost companion is that most of the dogs offered… well, let’s just say… aren’t exactly what I had in mind.  If you ever feel the need to be the biggest jerk in a room, go into a pet adoption event or a shelter and tell them that you’re looking for a cute fluffy dog that weighs less than twenty pounds.  Better yet, get real specific and ask them if they might have any Cockapoos or perhaps a Schnoodle available.  Yeah, that will land you in the popular circle in a jiff.

So, as you might have gathered, I’m still in search of my furry companion.  My free, small, curly dog that doesn’t shed, bark, or chew my things.  Or run away from me.  It’s just occurred to me that I’ve described Mattel’s GoGo Your Walking Pup, and I realize that I probably should’ve started my own dog search by rummaging around in my parents’ garage.

Just Say No!

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I’ve heard about this kind of thing before. Anxiety, depression, abruptly waking up in a cold sweat, longing for the vice that’s recently been removed from your life. I’ve seen “Celebrity Rehab,” so I know all about the effects that a detox can bring, but I never thought that this issue would apply to me. I’ve never thought that I’d experience the traumas of detox firsthand. Until now. Recently I’ve learned exactly what it is to “go cold turkey.” For the past five days, I haven’t watched any TV.

When I was in fourth grade, each student in my class was asked to monitor the number of hours that he or she spent watching TV per day. I won. By a landslide. Around this time, my mother enacted a two-and-a-half hour daily limit on the time that I could spend in front of the set. Believe it or not, this time restriction didn’t work for me. I either ignored her completely or insisted that the previous episode of “Hey Dude” had been a “to be continued,” so I had no choice but to see another and find out how the loose ends would be tied. I was hooked.

Every morning, before elementary school, my mom would wake me up at 6:30 to watch a half-hour of TV before getting ready to head to the bus stop. The show at this hour alternated between “Lassie,” “Free Willy,” “Tailspin,” “Bullwinkle,” and my own personal favorite, “Gummi Bears,” which I would watch while eating breakfast. At 7:00, “Under the Umbrella Tree” began, and this served as my cue to get my ass into gear for the school day. Sometimes I would fall back asleep, but I always knew I had screwed up if I wasn’t up and at ’em and “Under the Umbrella Tree” was on.

TV is the way that my day has always started, and for years, it’s also been my daily calendar. My parents religiously watched “60 Minutes” each Sunday night, and to this day, its tick-tocking theme song sends me into an instant panic as it signals weekend’s end. For this same reason, I can no longer watch any version of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” and I generally save “Desperate Housewives” for later on in the week. This way, when I begin to feel sick from the Sunday night blues, I can remind myself, “but it’s really Tuesday!” Talk about a great relief!  Wednesday continues to bring me warm memories of a Chick-Fil-A combo meal and Breyer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream (and spitting the chips out into another bowl because they always got stuck in my teeth) and waiting all day in anticipation for 8:00 to hit. From 1996-2000, Wednesday was “90210-day” in my house and as such, it continues to be one of my favorite days of the week.

ABC’s TGIF lineup told me that there were two days without school ahead, and “Rescue 911” meant staying up extra late in the summer. I still sing commercials to occupy myself while waiting in lines or just as a way to annoy my co-workers, my favorites being one for Quaker Instant Grits and the jingle for the Suzi Stretch life-sized doll. I also continue to listen to theme songs and especially love a Carly Simon anthem used in a little-known Judith Light show called, “Phenom.”

Despite many efforts to get in on the action, I still don’t like “Cheers,” but this present-day feeling didn’t stop me from taking it very hard when the show went off the air in 1993. I was seven-years-old and had never seen it before but something about learning of this place “where everybody knows your name” and watching the final episode with my parents struck a chord in me. I sang the theme song on the bus the next morning and spent that day with the show on my mind. I didn’t just watch more TV than my peers, it also seemed to mean more to me. When “Seinfeld” ended six years later, I wrote epitaphs to it all over my trapper keeper in white out. “Serenity now.” Serenity now.

I was also a voracious reader as a kid, and I’ve always found it interesting when people suggest that books are superior to television. I can get behind the idea of “don’t watch TV, go climb a tree,” but I have trouble with, “don’t watch TV with your family, go up to your room and read some C.S. Lewis alone.” Don’t get me wrong, I love C.S. Lewis, but something about the superiority-complex that “scholars” hold over TV watchers has always irritated me. For this reason alone, it has taken me a long time to forge ahead with this experiment in fear that it will sound like I’m suggesting that television is bad for people. I certainly don’t think that it’s bad for people, but by the same token, I’ve wondered what it’s doing to me. I’ve wondered what I would find the time to do if TV wasn’t in the picture.

The main motivation behind this experiment (which is scheduled to proceed for 29 days, equal in length to my trip around America) stems from a blackout (as in power outage, not a result of too many Long Island iced teas) that I experienced in LA a little under a year ago. The power and cable were both out, and I couldn’t watch or record television for an entire night. I was distraught as there were shows that I felt I simply couldn’t miss! I read a bit by candlelight and went to bed angry, like a kid that had missed out on dessert. When I woke up though, something inside me had changed. I found myself hoping that the power would still be out when I came home from work that night. Not having to watch any shows had come to me as somewhat of a relief. Could it be? Could TV be a self-imposed burden on my life?

I ignored this question for the following year and continued to watch television in typical fashion, but I’m interested to see what I’ll end up doing with my time over the next few weeks. Naturally, there are a couple of reality shows that I’ll be saving on my DVR so that I’m not out of the loop forever. Something tells me that no matter what happens, the “no TV” clause won’t be a permanent fixture in my world. So far and in a largely unexpected twist, I’ve spent a lot of time reading Naomi Judd’s autobiography (she also drove through Texas and seems to appreciate fields), and I have strangely found myself missing shows that I haven’t seen in a while, like “My So-Called Life” and “Party of Five.” I suppose the more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m hoping though, that at some point, I’ll proceed with the attempt to expand my horizons rather than simply use this time to move up the expert rankings in subjects that I already know. For instance, I’ve already been tempted to re-read my favorite novel, The Babysitters Club Super Special # 2, but then I reminded myself that the point of this experiment is to learn new things and to step out of my comfort zone. As a result, I’ll go out later and attempt to find Super Special # 3.

I’m also hoping that on day ten or eleven I’ll get the motivation to take up wood carving or learn to make lye soap. Then I won’t simply be a crazy person, I’ll be a crazy person with some skills. Whatever happens though, if this process doesn’t end with me chasing a small boy around the snowy woods like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, I think that one way or another, I’ll come out slightly better in the end. Stay tuned as I come up with things to do! (Hint: “Muzzy” cartoon tapes in French don’t count as “watching TV” for the purposes of this experiment, and my 7th grade flute has already been freshly polished…)

Love Built A Bridge

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Oprah once told me that in order to get the things you want out of life, you need to explain to the universe exactly what it is that you are seeking. And so I did. Only in my case, I decided that the best time to share my request with the universe would be during a conversation that I had with a man who held the direct power to make my wish come true – like a genie. Or Simon Cowell. It’s not that I doubted Oprah, it’s just that I’ve always believed in covering my bases. Naturally, as Oprah had promised, the universe (by way of this man) came through, and suddenly there I was. There I was, face to face with Naomi and Wynonna Judd.

But of course, every story has a beginning, and my journey with The Judds goes back much further than our meeting. So, like any decent narrator, I’ll now take you back in time. Cue the wavy screen and fluttering music.

It was a beautiful spring in Los Angeles (this statement of course being a joke given the singular seasonal nature of Southern California), and everyone around me seemed happy. They might not have been happy in each particular moment of answering the phones or getting coffee or being told that they were a “complete idiot” or “the dumbest person alive,” but they were happy to be gliding down the paths to which they were affixed. To them, this choice of lifestyle was the only one that could possibly make any sense, and they wanted to be there. And they told me that I wanted to be there. And I told myself that I wanted to be there. And for a long time, I thought we were all telling the truth.

I knew how they felt. I remembered being in high school and hearing about a classmate’s plan to become a nurse and truly not comprehending any future career goal that didn’t involve working in television. “Sure, be a nurse,” I thought, “just be a nurse on TV.” I had told nearly every person I’d met from the time I was ten-years-old that I was going to move to Los Angeles and work in TV and stay there for the rest of my life and never ever, ever, look back. So you can imagine then, that when, after seven years of our relationship together, I began to feel like Los Angeles was wearing a ski mask and perpetually holding a plastic bag over my face, I became concerned. I’ve been cautioned never to stick around in an abusive situation, but deep down, I felt that LA really loved me, and I was scared to leave. For the first time, I couldn’t picture my future. The phrase “anywhere but here” entered my mind often, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around what “anywhere” would look like. I no longer had any sense of where I was going or what I would do when I got there. After all, I figured that LA would maintain ownership of the television industry in the divorce. I was finally grown up, but for the first time, I had no idea what I wanted to be.

Enter the duo Judd. Just as I was pounding my fists onto the ground and screaming, “GET ME OUT OF HERE” at the top of my lungs (this could be figurative), I slowly picked myself up when I heard Naomi Judd say something that no one around me “in real-life” ever seemed to agree with. “I sure could never live here, but it’s nice to visit for about three days.” Listen, that might not be the exact quote. I didn’t write it down. But I remember the gist loud and clear: there are people in this world who don’t want to live in LA, and at that moment, I felt ok being one of them. Later, I heard another quote credited to Naomi (actually spoked by Kathleen York in a TV movie… don’t ask too many questions here), “There’s got to be some place on this planet that feels like home.” Naomi seemed to have already voiced the chief thoughts that had been running through my mind, and something inside of me told me that I could also go to her for the answers.

Around this time, Judds music became my life’s soundtrack. I listened to “Old Pictures” and could see a house situated in a wooded area where my future family and I would sit around a camp fire on Friday nights, catching lightning bugs, firing BB guns, and sipping on boxed wine. (You too?). I started each morning with “Love is Alive,” and ended each night with “Flies on the Butter” and “River of Time.” I walked around the Warner Brothers lot wearing headphones, blasting “Grandpa” and “Mama He’s Crazy” into my ears. I completed a half-marathon with the constant echo of “Love Can Build A Bridge” and “Dream Chaser” guiding me along. They said “chase your dreams” and I found myself driving around the country, through twenty-nine states, listening to every song of theirs I could possibly find. They didn’t want to live in LA either. They understood me, and images of a different future started piecing themselves together like a puzzle in my mind. Sure, it was one of those puzzles that doesn’t really have any edges and has 547 pieces of blue sky, and you have NO IDEA where any of them go, but I could see the formation starting to take shape. I had the confidence to say, “I know where I’m going” and to leave the pieces that no longer belonged in my puzzle behind.

Through the course of my time in the world I have met a famous person here or there, and each time that I do, I’m reminded that someone famous is still someone. As Zack Morris once put it, “they put on their pants, one leg at a time, just like the rest of us.” But the subject of Mark-Paul Gosselaar brings up the loophole to my ho-hum “you’re rich and I’m not, who cares” attitude towards celebrities in that there is a handful of people who I feel have gone above and beyond in my world to change my life for the better. These people are the ones with whom I most want to share the joy of our “deep personal connection.” (This is how presidents get shot, isn’t it?) This list is short, but it does have tiers, and there are four people etched into the upper echelon. Three of these names end in “Judd.”

Because of this internal build-up to our theoretical future interaction, I was nervous the second I found out that I’d actually be meeting The Judds. My mind kept fluttering back to 1991 when I marched up to Jodie Sweetin’s autograph table only to be rendered completely mute. I had “Full House” sneakers and spent years of my life pretending to be Stephanie Tanner, but I couldn’t even conjure the words to tell her I liked her show. I certainly didn’t want a repeat of that disastrous episode, but at the same time, I didn’t want to startle The Judds with my enthusiasm. I’ve learned over the years that there’s a very fine line between “fan” and “psycho,” and the perception that I fell into the latter category was a very real concern of mine.

I’m also acutely aware of BFS, “Biggest Fan Syndrome.” Many fans feel that the celebrity at hand has played a more integral role in his or her life than the celebrity could have possibly played in anyone else’s. This condition is something I attempt to skirt to the best of my ability as people riddled with this disease have, as far as I can tell, generally lost all touch with reality. I was privy to a firsthand look at the effects of BFS on the night of The Judds show when some other concert-goers realized that I had a backstage pass in my possession. For instance, one woman kindly informed that my ownership of the pass “really wasn’t fair” because she and her daughter had been singing Judds songs together since 1988. “Tough luck, lady,” I thought, “bring it up with the universe.” (I failed to mention to her that my father, who also had a backstage pass, had asked me on the drive over if any of the Judds have children…)

To me, BFS is one of the first signs that a person is starting to leave “fandom” and is teetering on the verge of entering “psycho’s” territory. Even with TV shows that I loved as a child (see: “Beverly Hills, 90210”), I’m careful to remember that I wasn’t the lone viewer and that I’m not getting a check in the mail each time an episode airs. These shows aren’t really mine. And so too, with The Judds, I avoid phrases such as, “you can’t understand how much they mean to me,” or “I can’t even put my love for them into words.” Because you can understand. Many people understand. And these are the words. Putting my love for them into words is exactly what I’m doing.

As excited as I was for the thirty second encounter that I’d have with the people who sang me home to my new life in Tennessee, I was equally nervous. Luckily, I’d spent the week prior to the show on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard which came as a welcomed distraction. For several days I hung out with my family, played with my nieces and nephew, and relaxed in the perfect tranquility that is a New England summer. Just as I was enjoying my last night and preparing to leave, a day ahead of the group, in order to make it to Oklahoma for The Judds show within plenty of time, my dad called. My flight the next morning had been canceled. As far as I was concerned, everything was completely unraveling, and I completely unraveled with it. I lost my mind.

Through the tears and panic, I rationally told my father that I would take a ferry back to the mainland and drive to Oklahoma because “THERE’S NO WAY I’M MISSING THIS!” He encouraged me to stay the course, and I ended up on a later flight, landing in New York just a couple hours later than I was originally supposed to. I took three planes back to Nashville and then drove 375 miles to Conway, Arkansas to spend the night before meeting my dad the next morning and completing my ten-hour drive together. Although, as far as travel was concerned, things ultimately went off without a hitch, my heart skipped a beat when my flight into Nashville was overbooked and a woman holding a cooler that contained a vital organ had been bumped from the flight. As she informed anyone within earshot that she was “literally holding someone’s life in her hands,” I thought to myself, “Right. But I’m going to meet The Judds. There will be a later flight for you.”

My dad and I made it to the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Durant, Oklahoma and picked up our tickets and passes that read “artist guest” on them. “Wow,” I surmised to myself, “they let me into Heaven after all.” Along with our passes came the instructions to be on the left side of the stage by 8:20pm, giving us another two-and-a-half hours to kill. As nervous as I was in this situation (having to walk up to a person and say hello), I wondered how I’d even made it to this point. Surely, I’d been forced to say, “hello” to people before but for some reason in this moment, I had trouble coming up with the word.

Finally, the time came, and my terror only increased when we were queued up backstage and Naomi and Wynonna walked into the room. For a brief moment, I thought I might pass out which upset me because I figured that in a case like that, I’d miss the show. Throughout my life, I’ve suffered from anxiety attacks. Even when I want to read something in front of the class and feel comfortable with the group before me, my hands start shaking as soon as I get to the front of the room. It’s a problem that only healthy doses of whiskey has seemed to have had any effect on, yet I realized that sadly I’d left my whiskey at home.

I scurried to think of a lead-in joke or something to say. The idea of a “meet and greet” is one of life’s great oxymorons because on one side, you have a person who will tell the story of this meeting until death puts it out of its misery, and on the other side, you have professionals eager to get on stage and leave the roomful of bumbling fools behind. For me though, for the fool, this moment is the one that all of my discussions with the universe had led up to. I needed to think of something to say.

Instead though, somewhere in the middle of the line, I decided to wing it. This strategy was quite out of the ordinary for me as I’ve already prepared several versions of the speech that I’m planning to deliver at the Emmy’s. I elected to “just say whatever comes to mind,” which turned out to be, “I drove here from Nashville, pretty ironic, huh?” As soon as I’d said it, I wanted to take it back. Nashville was 700 miles east of where we currently stood, and they knew exactly how far it was given the “irony” that I’d referenced – that they had driven from Nashville too. I suddenly felt like Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female. I wanted to follow-up with, “you don’t understand, I drove eight hours to see the field from A League of their Own…. I’m generally crazy! I’m not stalking you!” But instead, I forged ahead through the valley that I’d created in somewhat of a foggy haze.

I couldn’t really tell you exactly how things progressed from that point, but I can tell you that The Judds turned out to be the heroes that I’d always known them as. Friendly, polite, and seemingly genuinely happy to be there. I was thrilled. The show was as great as I’d expected, and I got exactly what I wanted out of the night – a story to tell my future kids as they catch lightning bugs, run around the campfire, and dance in the living room with Judds concert tapes playing on the big screen (afterall, this is still my dream, right?).

In addition to the trick about the universe, Oprah says that there is no such thing as a coincidence, and I do believe that Glinda the Good Witch sent The Judds into my life as a reminder to aim high and think big. Oprah also instructs believers to “always look for the lesson,” and I definitely took one home from my trip to see the show. If I really want to get something out of life, it’s worth it to make it happen. I might not always be an “artist guest,” but I can always do my best to show up for the things that matter to me. Yes, I had to take three planes, and yes, I had to drive 1400 miles round trip, and yes, this sounds a little excessive, but I wanted to see The Judds perform and that was the part I cared about. The hassle that came along with achieving this goal was much less important to me.

I hope that throughout the years I maintain a glimmer of this adventurous spirit (universe, this is me talking to you), and I hope that one day Dunkaroos go back into production. Dunkaroos are really the perfect afternoon snack – cookies that come with a compartment of frosting, and I think that if we all pool our pull with the universe together, we can probably get them going again. And besides, I think Oprah would enjoy the occasional package of Dunkaroos too…

One Month Later

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Current Location: Nashville, TN

Hi again! Are you there everyone? It’s me, Margaret… no no, that’s not right… uh, anyway…. I hope that everyone has been doing well in the month since we last spoke, and since you all were so nice in sharing in my travels with me, I wanted to give you an update as to what it is exactly that the nomadic life has panned out to… Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen!

One month ago tomorrow, my parents and I loaded up the car (a different car at that), and left Massachusetts for Nashville, Tennessee. If you’re picturing us sipping lemonade, wearing white gloves, and casually laughing as the breeze catches our hair in a scene that’s in anyway reminiscent of Grace Kelly riding in a convertible circa 1952, well… you’re not picturing the right thing at all. If instead, you see a Ford that wishes it were an actual SUV equipped with a full-sized couch, that my mother proudly purchased from Macy’s in 2001, clutching onto the roof with all its might… let’s just say, you’re a little bit closer.

It will be one month ago tomorrow that my father encouraged me to be his faithful assistant as he prepared to move said couch down a very narrow and winding flight of stairs while explaining to me that he would simply hoist it into the roof of the car, throw on a little rope, tie a couple of knots and botta bing botta boom, ride into the sunset for 1,100 miles. If any of you have wondered what it is that made me think that I could drive 6,500 miles over the course of a month, I present you with this very line of thinking. I present you with my father.

It took us three hours to get the couch out of my parents’ townhouse, and afterwards, my father appeared as though he had just run wind sprints through the Mohave. At best, it was a tenuous scene, and at worst, it hindered on an all-systems meltdown. The stress only crescendoed hours later when we hit traffic outside of New York and traveled just 200 miles within the first five hours. Just when we thought we were home free, my mother got out of the car at a truck stop in Pennsylvania only to find that part of the couch’s tarp evidently liked New York so much that it decided to stay there. Over the course of the trip, two hours, three rolls of duct tape, bungee cords, and too many feet of rope to count became dedicated to “tarp repair.” You know how adults often say things to kids like, “I bet you can’t clean up your toys in less than ten minutes” or, “there’s no way that you can be quiet throughout the whole service at church?” Right. Well, that technique still works on my father. He’ll get anything done that you want as long as you tell him that he’ll never be able to do it. Suffice it to say, I’m sitting on this very couch right now in my new apartment and truth be told, I never envisioned it any other way.

After my couch and I settled into my apartment, I started to realize that I was the only one hanging around the pool during the day. It turned out that the other tenants were spending their days making money, at something they call, “work.” I’ve been taught to avoid all four letter words, so I didn’t immediately leap into action towards living my life with days spent at “work,” but I was getting a little bored sitting around my apartment. It turns out that a person really can only watch “Thelma and Louise” so many times before realizing that they will end up driving off that cliff. Every. Single. Time. So when WME, the company where I worked in LA, offered me a job in their Nashville office, I was ecstatic. (Sure, “ecstatic,” might be laying it on a little thick, but you never know, some of them might be reading this… Love you co-workers!).

Now that I have some amount of money coming in, I’ve decided that I can finally part with the moving boxes that I’ve been storing in the corner of my living room. As long as I was unemployed, I figured they’d be a good back-up to apartment living, but it seems that I can finally throw them away (sorry, “recycle them” just didn’t seem to do it there). As far as the adjustments to life in Tennessee, I have to say that for some reason, there haven’t been any. I miss my friends in LA, but aside from that, I feel like a formerly beached whale finally thrown back into the sea. Of course, the heat takes a bit of getting used to, but luckily, I’m an indoor cat, and central air suits me pretty well. I do miss working in TV, but I love country music a lot, so it’s been almost as exciting to be part of this business. Of course, I don’t dance, I don’t sing, and I don’t “have the rhythm in me,” so my role in this arena is somewhat undetermined. I will say though that not having any definitive goals really does take the pressure off.

Somethings have changed for me in my life here though. For instance, I can now afford to live on my own, so my dream of becoming a recluse is slowly but surely coming to fruition. I can also drive to a place that’s twenty miles away and complete the round-trip within an hour. I know this because today I drove to Franklin to pick up a second VCR that I saw on Craigslist during my lunch break. At my job here, I leave work everyday at 6:00 and make it home ten minutes later. You might think that this sounds like a good thing, but I’m actually putting this one in with “over 100 degrees at 9:00 pm” due to the fact that none of the good TV shows come on until 8:00, leaving me with roughly two hours to stay entertained.

Overall, looking back on my decision to take the trip across the country and to move back to the Southeast, I have to say, that it wasn’t a difficult one. It took me a long time to get to the point where I was ready to leave California, but once I decided to go, I no longer felt that I had made a choice. I felt as though I was doing what I had to. Whether or not this sentiment is accurate can be debated, but I’ve learned throughout this experience, more than anything, to follow the advice that I received personally from Sheryl Crow many years back. “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” The memory of the trip continues to make me happy, and I think that it will always serve as my personal reminder to go in the direction that I feel the wind is blowing me. As long as the wind isn’t blowing me towards crack dens or dark alleys of course.

On my favorite TV show, “Beverly Hills 90210,” Kelly rejects both Brandon and Dylan in one fell swoop with the three simple words, “I choose me.” Naturally, Kelly was always a very selfish character, but in the one life that I’ve been given to lead, I’ve decided that this philosophy isn’t all bad and that doing what I want to is sometimes better than following a shepherd’s advice. Of course, it’s also been said on “90210,” that “may the bridges I burn light the way,” and there are some days that I toy with the idea of making that statement my motto instead.

In the last month I’ve pretty much just been unpacking, buying VCRs, and working away. Two of my co-workers also live in my apartment complex, and it’s been fun hanging out with them and getting to know the area. I have to say though that my instinct tells me that there are still several honky tonks out there just waiting for me to grace them with my presence. The upcoming month will be a big one for me as well. I’ll be going on a family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard (“hey new job, can I have a week off?”) and then following that, I’ll be making another great migration eleven hours west to see my all-time favorite singers perform. You guessed it. The Judds. Stay tuned for the outcome of that excursion as well! I hope you’re all having a wonderful summer, and if you ever make it to Tennessee, I’ll have some Jack Daniels with your name on it. Now it’s time for the first episode of season four of “The Jersey Shore” – it’s true, I guess… somethings never change!