Friday, December 19, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Best Songs of 2014

Y'all, this list baffles me. There were so many good songs out there, it's hard to choose my favorites. But when push comes to shove, here are the thirty I'd have to say were the best of the year.

30. Iggy Azalea - Fancy
 
29. Kenny Chesney - American Kids
 
28. The Chainsmokers featuring SirenXX- Kanye
 

27. Magic! - Rude
 
26. Dierks Bentley - Drunk On a Plane
 
25. Chase Rice - Ready Set Roll


24. Ed Sheeran - Sing
 
23. Clean Bandit - Rather Be
 
22. War on Drugs - Red Eyes
 

21. Anna Kendrick - Cups
 
20. Rae Srremmurd - No Flex Zone
 
19. Jason Aldean - Burnin' It Down
 

18. Sharon Van Etten - Every Time the Sun Comes Up
 
17. Katy Perry - Dark Horse
 
16. Chris Young - Lonely Eyes
 
15. Vance Joy - Riptide
 

14. Drake - 0 to 100
 
13. Sam Smith - I'm Not the Only One
 
12. Hiss Golden Messengers - Saturday's Song
 

11. Sam Hunt - Leave the Night On
 
10. One Direction - Story of My Life
 
9. Jenny Lewis - She's Not Me
 

8. Jay Z - Holy Grail
 
7. Bastille - Pompeii
 
6. Tove Lo - Habits
 
5. Ryan Adams - Gimme Something Good
 

4. Sia - Chandelier
 
3. Swedish House Mafia - Don't You Worry Child
 
2. Mr. Probz - Waves
 
1. Pitull ft. Kesha - Timber
 


Again, there are tons of songs that I didn't add onto my list, but the list is entirely based on my personal preferences. I figure it's a good mixture of everything, and 2014 was a great year for music!
 
The Best Songs Of 2014

Foxie's 90th Birthday

The entire family gathered in Henderson, NC this weekend to celebrate the 90th birthday of my grandmother, Foxie. Good times were had by all, and it was so nice to catch up with those family members I haven't seen in a couple of years. Unfortunately I got so caught up with chatting that I didn't take as many pictures as I hoped, Nevertheless, I did get some good ones.
 
I found a picture of my grandmother when she was about my age. (She appears to be slightly buzzed in this picture, which confirms that we're very much related.)
Beau got upset when a few of us left him with the other dogs at Foxie's house while we ate lunch at the country club.
Later, my dad, brother, and my brother's girlfriend and I decided to take Beau and my mom's dog Ellie for a walk on the golf course. The weather was absolutely fantastic.
 
Before the party started on Saturday night I found my grandmother's lynx coat in the closet. Since it was cold outside and I had forgotten to pack my own coat, my mom told me to wear this one if I went outside during the evening. And wear it I did.
 
This was one of the many handles of whiskey that was consumed in its entirety over the course of the night. One of my older cousins (he's 36 with three children) polished off the Woodford Reserve and spent the early hours of the morning asleep with his head on the toilet. Bless his heart.
 
A picture of all the cousins except one. This picture isn't to be confused with our annual cousins Christmas picture, which includes all my second cousins on my mom's side as well.
 
Foxie opening her gifts. She decided that she had her own unique way of wearing her princess tiara, and also wanted to sport her new boot slippers that one of my uncles gave her. That same uncle spent the evening calling her "Princess Xena, Warrior Princess".

This was taken at the end of the night. People were obviously enjoying themselves and getting a little rowdy in the process.

Beau was so exhausted by 11:00 he could barely keep his eyes open, so he retreated to the couch for a quick catnap.

To tell you the truth, I didn't last much longer than Beau. Around 11:30 I asked my youngest cousin (16 and sober) to drive me back to the hotel so that I could call it a night. I may have taken an early departure, but I was still able to enjoy the story of events the next day with everyone else.

And it still boggles my mind that my grandmother is 90. May she live to see many more birthdays!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Card Archive

Ah, Christmas cards. Who doesn't love a sneak peak at other people's families? I must say, in looking back through my mom's album of past Christmas cards, my brother and I were adorably photogenic. And Highball, our English Springer Spaniel, had to be a part of the scene more often than not. Now if we aren't the most American-looking family, I just don't know who is.
 
My brother's busy plucking out the dog's hair, and
I'm just perfecting my "good girl" act for Santa Clause.
At least the dog knows what's up.

It seems I ate the special brownies that night.
Perhaps my brother did too, because he looks utterly confused.
 
I look like I'm up to no good.
My brother looks like he's unaware of the camera.

Velvet and lace? What was my mother thinking?
At least she knew I deserved a photo sans the little brother.
 
Before the "ladies always cross their legs" lesson
was bestowed upon me, apparently.
Apparently we're part of the Von Trapp family.

Is my brother wearing clam diggers and knee socks?
But seriously, what's going on there?

Singing merrily at our grandmother's house.
My mother looks like she's ready to kill us.
 
The "I don't understand why you're still taking pictures after twenty minutes" smile.
I better have a plate of mac 'n cheese waiting for me when we're done.

Ah, yes. Those awkward years where I had a boy's haircut
and my brother had gigantic Harry Potter glasses.
 
I was too cute for words.
Sadly, my brother was born the following February
and thus stole my limelight forever.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wheat Farmers versus Rice Farmers

I came across a really interesting article in the opinion section of the New York Times. Essentially, the article argues that the wheat farming societies (i.e. North America and Europe) are much more prone towards individualistic thinking that those societies living in rice farming societies (i.e. Asia).

The concept is pretty fascinating if you think about it. Those who have historically relied on growing wheat (or crops related to it) to survive haven't needed to rely on their neighbors for a successful crop. Those growing rice, on the other hand, must work together to do so.

Most of the world aside from Europe and North America relish a society in which community works as a whole. Individuals must learn to conform to the actions and mindsets of those around them. This can't be seen just as an economic disparity between our society and theirs, because that simply isn't true. Many of the Asian cultures whose societies are most hell-bent on everyone working together are the ones whose economies match (or exceed, in China's case) America's economy.

So it would suffice to say that America (as are its citizens) is the "black sheep" society. It makes you wonder if the tables would be turned, had we been the ones farming rice. How much of our society's mindset is based on history? Do you suppose the nature versus nurture argument could be applied to an entire nation? And with that being said, is it possible that Americans as individuals have developed a natural instinct to stand out from the crowd?

I would love to see additional sociological studies conducted here. What are the differences in our marriage statistics with regard to the individual-driven versus community-driven societies? You would assume that the community-driven societies boast a higher marriage rate and a lower divorce rate. However, according to this article, that might no longer be the case. It seems that some Asians are beginning to step away from the woven web culture and trying to assert more independence. Is that necessarily a good thing? I think an argument could be made in both cases.

In America's case, our government has begun to fail us. Its lack of unity continues to cause and exacerbate problems that are at the forefront of our country's livelihood. As individuals we are constantly competing with each other and being groomed to believe that we can only count on ourselves. It could be easy to attribute our culture of bullying, mass shootings, internet trolling, political corruption, extramarital affairs, and just all-around acts of stupidity (i.e. the man who decided to be eaten alive by an anaconda for a special on the Discovery Channel) to our society's system of rewarding those who act against the cultural norms.

See the source imageIt sounds so simple, doesn't it? To create a civilization where we encourage and support each other while working together towards a goal that is unattainable to the individual. Easier said than done, obviously. But it begins with small steps. For instance, a group of coworkers working together to find a solution to a problem. Or teachers and parents acting together to further their children's education. Even better yet, a couple working together to make their marriage work.

One person just can't do it all. That's something I personally have trouble with, because I tend to veer too far to the "independent" side. I've always taken the lead on group projects. I've always been the one to plan vacations with groups of my friends. I've always attempted to move from one place to another with little to no help from others. I've destroyed so many of my relationships (friendships and romantic relationships) by being overbearing, controlling and quick to cut ties.

Perhaps in the New Year one of my resolutions should be to learn to trust people more and to allow them to help me. It's certainly worth a shot.

This world is a frightening place, and it's so much easier to navigate when you have a group of people lifting each other up.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Memory of Christmases Past

This time of year can be hard for a lot of people, because it brings back memories from past holidays spent with loved ones who have since died, relationships that are no longer intact, and perhaps even places that now cease to exist.

My Christmases growing up were wonderful. Some of the best memories I have are those where my cousins, my brother and I are all sitting impatiently on the stairs at my grandparents' house on Christmas morning, waiting for the "go-ahead" from our parents to rush into the living room and examine the loot Santa Clause had delivered the night before. (Side note: I've discovered in years past that Santa didn't actually come to our house until Christmas morning, hence the adults making the kids wait on the staircase.)

There were always parties in our family. Each year we'd attend the annual Christmas Eve festivities at my great aunt's house in Durham or at my grandmother's neighbor's house. There were a few instances where my grandmother hosted the party herself -- and there are home videos that show all of us dancing merrily, children waddling through the living room, couples showing off their new engagement rings, the older generation sitting off to the side and taking it all in.

Most of all, I think of my grandfather. He would be perched in his blue arm chair with a cigarette in hand (soft pack Dorals), a drink in the other (usually bourbon on the rocks), and his loyal golden retriever sitting quietly at his side. He preferred a quieter atmosphere 364 days out of the year, but he loved being immersed in his family during the holidays. Come next Saturday, he will have been gone for 16 years.

It was these times that I cherish and miss the most. More than anything, I miss being that blissfully innocent child who was ignorant to the ongoing feud between my mother's two brothers, the constant competition between my mother and her sister, and the hatred my mother and her siblings (and even my grandfather) felt towards my grandmother. I think that's why the holidays often get me so choked up -- I miss those days more than anything. What I wouldn't give to be able to relive even one of those Christmas parties where the room was filled with laughter and joy (at least from my perception) and my grandfather was still alive.

In 2012, for the first time in my life (and my mother's life), we didn't spend Christmas at my grandmother's house. My mom decided it was time to spend the holidays at her own house so that she wouldn't have to deal with the added stress of being around her mother. Despite that, my brother and I drive up to see our grandmother every Christmas morning after our presents have been opened. My parents don't understand why we bother doing this (my grandmother is a notoriously "mean" woman), but my brother and I do. We're chasing the memory of the tradition we loved so dearly growing up.

These days, we have a different tradition. Every year, on December 23rd, my parents throw the family Christmas party at our house. Aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends, and close friends are all in attendance. I do love this tradition so much -- we pick from the buffet my mother sets up in her dining room, drink from the makeshift bar in the kitchen, sing Christmas carols while my mom's cousin plays the piano, smoke cigarettes on the back porch (my aunt and I do, at least) and watch as my mother and her siblings and cousins compete to remember the toasts of generations past. It's a great way to celebrate Christmas, and I do love spending time with my extended family.

However, it's not quite the same. But then again, I guess nothing ever is. Traditions fade, family members pass away, and life gets complicated. There's no going back, but there's always the memory of Christmases past.

That's just the thing about the holidays, I guess. It reminds us that life is short, and we must honor the memories of the past and look forward to creating new ones in the future.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Beau on the Greenway

Good morning, everyone! I hope y'all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! In the spirit of returning to the "usual routine" after a holiday weekend, I figured I'd start off slowly on the blog and entertain you with pictures of Beau's first hike on the Greenway this weekend. The sun shone down, squirrels were chased, bikers were diverted, and a large buck was spotted prancing along the creek (unfortunately he disappeared before I could take a picture). All in all, I'd say it was a successful stroll.
 
Is that a cat I spy?

Trottin' along.

Where did the buck go?

Squirrel! Squirrel!

C'mon, Mom! Stop being a slowpoke!