A treat for all my fellow country fans (and another excuse to relive our big-ass road trip)!

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For a few years, country music was a guilty pleasure of mine. Then, I stopped caring what other people think, and country music became just plain pleasure. My love for country music started with my Dad – so many country songs bring back good memories of him. Though he’s been gone for thirteen years now, that love persists – and has grown stronger. Yeah, I’ve heard all the jokes. What do you get when you play country music backwards? You get your dog back, you get your woman back, you get your truck back …. How many country singers does it take to change a lightbulb? Two. One to do it, and one to sing a song about all the good times he had with the old bulb. A few times, I’ve also been treated to a yowling rendition of “there’s a tear in my beer ’cause I’m crying for you, dear”. Whatever. I like what I like, and it’s cool because I like it.

During our most recent road trip, rolling through rural Texas, we discovered 104.1 (“The Ranch”). Tall trees on either side, stretching toward a cloudless blue sky, and a cold Dr. Pepper and …. “Seven Spanish Angels”! This Ray Charles-Willie Nelson ballad gave me goosebumps and filled my eyes with tears when I was a kid. It still does. I sat transfixed in the passenger seat, soaking it in. That radio station took over our dial and held it nearly the whole afternoon (in direct contravention of our rule that we take hour-long turns with music in the car). 104.1 played so many beloved songs that I started writing them down, already knowing I would share them with you. So, break out the cowboy hat and oversized belt buckles …. Enjoy the cheesy, like “Cadillac Ranch” and “Older Women”. Enjoy the poignant, like “Back Home Again” and “Smokey Mountain Rain”. Enjoy all of it. Here’s a list of my favourites from that day, in the order the station played them, with links ….

“Cadillac Ranch” – Chris LeDoux

“Back Home Again” – John Denver

“Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” – Kathy Mattea

“If Heaven Ain’t Alot Like Dixie” – Hank Williams Jr.

“Fool-Hearted Memory” – George Strait

“It Must Be Love” – Don Williams

“Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” – Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson

“I’ve Already Loved You In My Mind” – Conway Twitty

“Drivin’ My Life Away” – Eddie Rabbit

“Smokey Mountain Rain” – Ronnie Milsap

“Older Women” – Ronnie McDowell

“All My Exes Live in Texas” – George Strait

“Long-Necked Bottle” – Garth Brooks

“The Ride” – David Allan Coe

“She’s My Rock” – George Jones

Disclaimer: I did my best to find videos that are not cringe-worthy. This is no small feat in the wild west of Youtube. Just close your eyes and focus on the music.

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Some days are diamonds …. but not this day.

Rocks

Today has not exactly been the highlight of my month. Or even my week. Today has been an exercise in frustration and irritation. I woke up a little later than I should have. So, instead of enjoying the adrenalin boost of my morning work-out, I spent most of the time thinking resentfully about perfect people who don’t even need to work out, and how my work-out (which, despite have been repeated regularly for years, seems to have made no impression on my figure) was just one more thing-to-do in my mountain of things-to-do.

After I had finished up, I headed for the bathroom to get ready for work. The bathroom is a mess. Yes, I know, most mothers who work anywhere but in their home have messy bathrooms, but ours is exceptional today. Why do I let these things go? Then, I saw that our bathroom was not just messy. It had also been frequented by a kid. So, the toilet paper roll was naked, and there was one kleenex stuffed back into the box. The sink was covered with soap swirls and blobs of toothpaste.

My shower made me feel a little better – I was almost cheerful by the time I was ready to wake Fiona and Bridget. However, after realizing that they were both tired, and ready to argue over everything, my mood deflated again. I don’t want this shirt, I want that one. It’s not clean? Why not? How come you didn’t wash it yet? Why do we have to go to school anyway? Why can’t we stay home? I want my hair to go like this, but it keeps going like that. That’s my headband. Uh-uh! It is, too! She looked at me. You know, that kind of look. No, I didn’t! Yes, you did! No, I didn’t! Mommy! I kept my cool until it was time to hand them over to Ryan, who prepares their breakfast when I’m working. At least there’s that ….

Dry my hair, find something to wear, put on make-up – all the while, muttering against the daily grind. Get up, get moving, nag the girls into moving, pile into the car, fight traffic, spend the day at the office trying to focus on office-related tasks (while fending off the relentless chorus of what needs to be done at home, how the girls are doing in school and at daycare – and shouldn’t I be at home with them anyway – what’s for dinner, did I make that phone call I was supposed to make, and oh, no, I forgot a friend’s birthday, and on and on). Leave the office, fight traffic, pester the girls about their homework while tripping over them in an attempt to get dinner on the table at a decent time, help the girls to get ready for bed, sing their lullabies, make tomorrow’s lunches and snacks. Lather, rinse, repeat.

There’s laundry in the dryer, needing to be folded, and dirty laundry in a pile near the washer. A plumber came by last week to fix a couple of things, and I have yet to clean up after him. There’s a wooden panel that used to be part of the ceiling sitting on the floor, and a vile-looking water stain on the ceiling next to the hole left by the panel.  We’re low on groceries. We’re in the middle of the yearly deep freeze that happens between mid-January and mid-February, so leaving the house for any purpose other than snatching the newspaper off the front steps involves a whole lot of fuss.  The ground is white, except where the snow’s dirty, and the sky is a steely grey. Even bare places where the snow has been well-cleared are frosted dull. The wind brings tears to the eyes and pain to the nose and cheeks. On top of all of this, I’m so tired. I’ve always been a poor sleeper, and last week I caught some kind of virus that still has me dragging my feet – and keeps me awake at night, shivering and blowing my nose. I miss Christmas lights, the way they soften the edges of everything and add colour to the drear. And it’s only freaking Tuesday!

Then, though, before Fiona and Bridget even finish their cereal, Ryan appears in the bathroom doorway to tell me there’s cold air coming out of the ducts. Suddenly, the day just as it was seems preferable to whatever we’re facing now. Contingency plans are being generated, voiced and shot down. There’s debate as to what should be the priority – calling our heating company or getting the girls to school on time. Can’t do both. We opt to make the phone call on the way to their school. The girls are late anyway, since precious minutes were wasted running between the furnace and the ducts and the phone and each other.

The furnace technicians are busy (of course), so here I sit, wrapped in a blanket, waiting for them to come when they can fit us in. The plumber’s visit and my new glasses cost us hundreds last week. What’s this going to cost? Who needs this, when we’re already so tired and busy? This latest straw is one too many for my weary, grouchy camel’s back, and I can feel the tears welling up and threatening to spill over. John Denver’s “Some Days Are Diamonds” starts playing in my head. This day is, without question, a rock. Then, I think about John Denver – the feeling when “Rocky Mountain High” or “Take Me Home, Country Roads” comes on the radio. This prompts thoughts of other songs that never fail to lift my spirits and make me sing along. Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Cotton Jenny”, Daniel Boone’s “Beautiful Sunday”, Katrina & The Waves’ “Walkin’ on Sunshine”, Meatloaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”, and pretty much anything by Queen …. and more, so many more. The music in my head forces the tears back behind my eyes, and my resiliance returns. I think of other things that make me smile ….

– the bone-deep caress of sinking into a tub of steaming, soapy water after a work-out

– a slow-cooker filled with rich, fragrant chilli waiting for us when we get home from our long day on the go

– a big glass of red wine soaking into my buzzing brain while I read a good book

– the fat wedge of newsprint that arrives every Saturday morning, begging me to pour myself a strong cup of coffee and immerse myself in it

– thick, soft pyjamas and fuzzy slippers

– Easter pastels, and little girls in dresses that make them look like desserts

– the summer sun hitting the river, making it look like God has spilled a handful of coins across the expanse of wavy green water

– the smell of wood smoke and dry leaves, October’s smell, and the impossible blue of a mid-fall sky

– Ryan and me laughing until we can hardly breathe at the jokes that only we know

– making a pizza together on a Saturday evening, knowing that it will taste better than any pizza we’ve ever had because we made it

– Fiona’s animated face as she devours “The Chronicles of Narnia”, and then tells me all about it in a breathless, wonder-filled voice

– Bridget, dark eyes dancing, belting out “Holly Jolly Christmas”, swinging her arms to the beat in her head, even though Christmas was over a month ago

– Ryan and Bridget a few weeks ago, when the whole city was encased in ice, holding onto each other and penguin-waddling toward the school doors, the biggest and the smallest family members suddenly equal

– the warm, sweet-scented cup of tea warming my hands right now

– the extra time I have with Fiona and Bridget, since I picked them up from school rather than them catching the bus to daycare

– the laundry pile that has been conquered, since I had to do something while waiting for the furnace technician to arrive

This day is no longer a stone. It is now a cubic zirconia.