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Some 30 years after my introduction to the sultry musical magician known as Prince, I finally got to see him in concert.

It would turn out to be his second-to-last performance.

Prince

Prince hit the airwaves with Purple Rain when I was 12 years old and newly “into” music, and I saw the movie at a friend’s 13-year-old birthday party. Not to go all get-off-my-lawn on you, but 13-year-olds were less world-weary back in those days, so Prince’s overtly sexual performances and offstage antics in that movie were eye-opening for us, a group of relatively sheltered girls in South Mississippi.

Suddenly, guys who could dance were HOT (Dirty Dancing was still three years away). Guys who wore skintight jumpsuits, high-heeled boots and ruffled blouses were HOT.

I say guys here, but I really mean just the one guy. Sure, we had David Bowie on the charts already, but he was still two years away from his turn in Labyrinth, another movie that illustrated the utter hotness of guys who danced in skintight pants, high-heeled boots and ruffled blouses.

Prince sang about sex in ways that even 13-year-old girls sensed were more empowering than creepy, more poetic than dirty.

For example, this passage from When Doves Cry starts out as a well-crafted poem, then turns erotic:

Dream if you can a courtyard
An ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses
They feel the heat
The heat between me and you

I could go on – the man had SO MANY songs.

I can only say that Prince’s April 14 concerts were pure magic – even though I was only able to go to the first, everything I’ve heard assures me that the second was just as good, if not better.

When I learned it was only going to be Prince and a piano on the stage, I briefly worried. It sounded very Las Vegas, very gimmicky.

I had faith that Prince wouldn’t do gimmicky, however, and I was right.

From the moment he stepped onto the stage, emerging from a cloud of fog, I went pure fangirl. Understand, I’ve seen A LOT of concerts, and never have I spontaneously high-fived strangers, screamed uncontrollably and danced with no thought of remaining inside of my own personal body space.

This is what it must have been like to see The Beatles in 1964.

He looked and sounded amazing. He didn’t have to adjust his songs down to meet any reduction in vocal capacity, a trick that I’ve seen other older singers use. His voice had lost absolutely no range over the years.

I came out of the Fox wanting an album filled with Prince singing his songs accompanied only by his own piano-playing. There was nothing Vegas about it – every song was pure feeling and talent. He could have sung it all without the piano and it would have suffered little.

I almost didn’t go. We missed the initial ticket sale and were already slated to be out of town on the original performance date. Had he not postponed his shows by a week, we wouldn’t have been able to go.

Thirty years. That’s a mighty long time.

And it was worth every minute.

I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

For the record, today is January 20, meaning I tried on a bikini in the dead of winter and didn’t hate myself. That’s next-level crazy.

pants

Clearly not a bikini shot, but I’m loving my strong legs these days. Also my lion’s head garbage can.

 

By no means was there an Instagram faux-perfect body staring back at me. First of all, I’m paler than any swimsuit model would dare to be. Six-pack abs still elude me, mostly because I’m not giving up ALL of the good things in life, like the occasional glass of wine and chocolate croissant. The thighs could be spindlier, but they just don’t seem to want to (even when I was seriously tracking meals and workouts and weight and body fat percentage, they didn’t want to be tiny).

What I saw in the mirror was … OK. My abs are in good shape (I have a little oblique action going on). I’m loving my arms and shoulders — although my lifting game is not impressive weight-wise, my tiny muscles are a joy.

Finally, my legs are STRONG. They have a few muscle cuts. They can climb and lift, which in the end is more important than being skinny.

At 43 years old, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, and I feel fabulous.

Over the past few years, I started rethinking my nutrition and fitness goals. I stopped having a “goal weight” (I have no idea what I weigh right now, but my clothes fit the same week after week, so SCORE). I began to pursue weightlifting not as a weight-loss activity, but as a bone-building, let-see-what-these-muscles-can-do activity. I’m not lifting super heavy – my condo gym is small and frequently not populated with spotters, so I have to lift only what I can safely carry (a good travel rule for suitcases, too).

The husband helped me make a standing desk for work – it’s hard to get sleepy after lunch if you’re on your feet.

The biggest changes I’ve made have involved food. I cook. A LOT. We eat more whole foods than processed foods. Note I didn’t say NO processed foods – we still eat meatballs from the Trader Joe’s freezer. I still make a weekly trip to Moe’s Southwest Grill with the office crew (Moe’s Monday waits for no one). We eat the occasional frozen chicken burrito at home (a Trader Joe’s original, yet again).

But for breakfast? Oatmeal. Not instant. Sometimes steel-cut. Topped with cinnamon, walnuts and raisins.

Lunch? Leftover quinoa. Always a salad (sometimes only a salad) with good greens, grape tomatoes, feta and sometimes banana peppers. I like the Caesar dressing from Trader Joe’s, but after reading  about “natural flavors” in The Dorito Effect, I’m considering just topping my greens with a little vinegar.

Dinner? I have a great recipe for chicken tacos from The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook by my favorite cookbook authors at America’s Test Kitchen. Also included in that book is a stuffed manicotti recipe – that one is a two-day affair, since it’s easier to make the sauce one day and complete the dish the second day.

We eat a lot (A LOT) of cheese and salad. I make a mean meatloaf. The aforementioned meatballs come into play at least once a week with my homemade marinara sauce – sometimes with stuffed ravioli (yo, Trader Joe’s again), sometimes on a bun from Publix for sandwiches (although I’m notorious for leaving at least half of the bun on my plate – simple carbs aren’t taboo, but they aren’t a requirement, either).

I drink a lot of water. And a bit of coffee. The occasional glass or three of wine.

Perfect dietary guidelines? No. Better than some, worse than others, but it’s working for me. My meal-planning is a combination of deciding what I would really enjoy and what’s good for my body. Not good as in, oh, this will keep/make me skinny, but good as in, oh, this will help with today’s deadlifts, or help me stay upright and focused while I finish making this presentation.

Good as in, I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

reindeer

The filigreed reindeer built for themselves a primitive god, not recognizing the power they had unleashed until it was too late to dash away.

Because all Christmas decorations should come with a backstory.

A friend embellished the legend for me, complete with a short “Repo Man” reference:

And the caribou deity proclaimed, “For I am Reednier, and I have become Yuletide! Thou art my minions. Let us go forth and rejoice, defy gravity, eat apples, fine cheese and chocolate, and pause for decaf lattes! Yes, and not pay.”

Because everyone should have friends who add delightful details to your weird backstories.

 

So, in awkwardly timed news, the husband and I are heading to Paris this week to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

Am I scared? No more scared than I’ve ever been traveling to a major city.

I came of age in the ’80s and early ’90s, and I paid attention to the news, meaning that I knew England was potentially still a hotspot for IRA bombings when I traveled there in 1993 to take a World War II history class for the better part of a month.

I paid attention, but I also roved the city like a … well, like a girl who was raised in rural South Mississippi her whole life only to discover at age 21 that she BELONGED in a big city like she had never belonged anywhere else. I endured a couple of subway station evacuations, kept an eye out for abandoned knapsacks, as instructed, and went about my day, like you do.

European countries have dealt with more terrorist bombings and shootings than Americans can even imagine (hit up Wikipedia’s page for terrorist incidents in France – this isn’t the first day at the rodeo for Paris).

I fell in love with New York City a few years after 9/11, traveling there repeatedly with the knowledge that Manhattan is the quintessential American city, meaning that it’s a juicy target for terrorists. Again, I watched for weirdness and went where I wanted to go.

I realize that “See something, say something” only goes so far, and watching for abandoned backpacks in the train station seems like a very 1980s model of protection. At the same time, however, I won’t live in fear of the unknown.

I live in Atlanta, another major American city, albeit without the cachet of New York City. We have a pro football team, a pro baseball team (for now), several concert arenas and TONS of people – in short, Atlanta could very well be a target, too. Any place on the planet could be a target, frankly, if we’re including incidents of mass shootings that have nothing to do with international politics.

Paris is a lovely city, a lively city, a city that feels REAL. Unlike New York and London (and Atlanta, as long as we’re naming names), it hasn’t succumbed to to the outbreak of EveryCityLookstheSame that is rapidly spreading all over the globe.

To paraphrase Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar, Paris is music, champagne, kisses, joy and life.

So, I’m heading to La Ville Lumière, a city that I love, with the man I love, to fearlessly, if cautiously, eat, drink, talk and perhaps weep with its citizens. More than hating the enemy, more than demanding violence in the name of peace, celebrating life, love and freedom is the ultimate revenge on those who would like the world to cower.

I recently took my final ride in an Atlanta taxi.

No, I’m not moving. Neither do I plan to drive, walk or bicycle everywhere in this only partially pedestrian-/bike-friendly city.

My latest experience with an Atlanta taxi was simply the last straw in a old, troubled relationship.

Since I moved to Atlanta nearly two years ago, Uber has been my go-to car service. The cars are cleaner. The drivers are nicer. The pick-up times are more reliable.

taxi

Writing that sentence, I just realized that Uber’s cheaper pricing really is at the bottom of my list for using them. How about that.

Anyway, returning from a business trip to San Diego last week, I found myself arriving at the Atlanta airport at around 8:30 p.m. Normally, I would take the MARTA train back to Midtown and either get my husband to pick me up at the station or take an embarrassingly short Uber ride back to the condo (if the sun hasn’t already gone down, I’ll happily hike the mile or so back).

For those familiar with MARTA, however, you know that trains get stupidly scarce at night, and I was facing a 20-minute wait for a train, plus a 20-minute ride to Midtown, plus another, say, 10 minutes to get back to the condo.

Just taking an Uber could get me there in less than half the time. Continue Reading »

True confession: I don’t miss being a homeowner at all.

Turns out I despise yardwork. It’s like laundry: It never ends. Except it’s worse than laundry, because it has to be completed outside in the 90-degree heat, and it never looks as good as it could unless you plow thousands of dollars into chemicals, machinery and just plain starting over with new landscaping. And I can at least wear my clothes, whereas I only entered the yard to maintain it. Futility at its finest.

I also don’t miss the feeling of having never done enough, knowing that you should find a stylish chair to go in the corner opposite the couch so you can have that conversational nook you always read about. Only whenever anybody comes over you end up chatting at the kitchen table over coffee or cocktails or wine, because everyone knows that’s where the best conversations happen.

The constant pressure to be refurbishing something, with an eye toward styling it to suit the tastes of some unknown future buyer, who prefers creme-colored walls and, uh-oh, your color selection was closer to a light beige? No thanks.

The awful realization that the one thing tying me to a city I need to leave is a house I don’t want anymore? Deliciously non-existent.

I suppose I’ll get back into the real estate business one day, but there are no guarantees. I’ve tasted freedom, and it is sweet.

Carters

Vanessa Vick/The Carter Center

I can’t tell you why I decided to watch Jimmy Carter’s press conference about his cancer diagnosis last week — I guess the marketing presentation I was working on somehow wasn’t enough to make me cry on its own.

I could go on for days (and several friends and family members will insist that I already have) about former President Carter’s awesome attitude, his straightforward, just-the-facts speaking style, his willingness to accept his condition and its possible (some would say likely) outcome.

In short, the man has had 90 great years, he’s done some exceptional things, and his love for his family, friends, neighbors and the world is without boundary.

What struck me most, however, was Carter’s absolute adoration of his wife, Rosalynn.

He noted that marrying her was the best decision he ever made, and whenever he mentioned her, he did it with a spark of joy in his eyes and in his voice.

They’ve been married for 69 years.

69 years. And he’s still so very much in love.

We hear a lot of spousal rhetoric from politicians (not that Carter is a politician anymore — he’s well into his elder statesman/superhero stage), but a lot of it rings hollow.

I’m reminded of an extensive conversation I had with a couple of Huntsville bloggers a few years ago during which we discussed the overwhelming tendency of married folks to complain non-stop about their spouses at work and when out and about sans spouse.

Our conclusion? If you’re married to someone about whom you have nothing nice to say, why are you married to that person? And if you do have something nice to say about them, why aren’t you saying it?

A lot of us grew up thinking that spouses sniping at and about each other was the norm. Many of the more popular TV shows in the ’70s and ’80s depicted footloose singles (Three’s Company), single moms (One Day at a Time), or functional (at the end of the day) married couples who spent their non-functional moments engaging in ugly banter (All in the Family).

Now that I think of it, there were an awful lot of single folks and divorced/widowed parents on TV during the ’70s and ’80s. Marriage is THAT hard, guys.

I’m not saying you have to be Jimmy Carter, head-over-heels-in-love every second of every day. But if you can’t brag on something about your spouse at least every once in a while, you’ve got problems.

Try saying something nice about your spouse. Now try saying it again, to someone else. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself believing it. Because it’s true. And it’s more important than anything you’re tempted to complain about.

One of my favorite quotes is credited to Robert Anderson: “In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.”

President Carter has been finding grounds for 69 years. I would say that the rest of us should be so lucky, but instead I’m going to say that the rest of us should try harder. It costs us nothing to be nice, and we might just find ourselves falling in love — yet again — every last day.

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