“One reason people resists change is because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain.” ~ Rick Godwin
These gals tickle me. We’ve been talking about dieting this week. Almost all of us Happiness Gals are trying to drop a few pounds. Thanks to Weight Watchers – again – I’ve dropped ten pounds in the last three weeks, even after Apollo Pizza (Did I mention their cauliflower crust? It’s a must for the dieting gal). Deb has since gotten on the WW train, and Erin is thinking about it. Weight Watchers ought to pay me commission I do so much advertising for them. We Happiness gals make our own support group though. We’re supportive and entertaining.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Apollo Pizza in Richmond is a groovy little pizza and beer joint that also happens to have a big brain. Their Pages and Pints gatherings feature a variety of local and regional authors who read from their works while patrons enjoy pizza on handmade crust, or cauliflower crust if you need to go gluten-free, or in my case, you’re on a diet. A bunch of us Happiness Gals met last night to hear readings from Ronni Lundy, author of the James Beard Foundation Award winning Victuals, and my old friend Robert Gipe whom you met back in March 2015 signing his first book Trampoline. Here’s a great little video of Robert talking about Trampoline and how he came to create it. You ought to watch it. Last night he read from the second of his trilogy released last month called Weedeater.
In virtually every writing class I’ve had the subject of writing an accent, specifically a mountain or southern dialect, always comes up, and without fail everyone says the same thing: don’t do it because it inevitably reads like a bad face job looks. It’s extremely rare to find a writer who can make it work. But there’s one writer who can and it’s Robert Gipe. His books are transformative in several ways, not the least of which is his ability to stay true to the regional vernacular without losing his reader or making the characters sound devoid of intellect. Plus, if you ever have the chance to hear him read his work, take it. You will be changed. And ask him to read his ghost sex scene (tell him I told you to ask). His brilliant words will make you howl with laughter, raise an eyebrow, and most importantly, think hard about the lives and circumstances of his characters. He just gets better all the time. I’m real proud of him.
Then there’s Ronni Lundy. She’s sweet as the day is long. I heard her read for the first time last night, and what a delight she was. Though Victuals is touted as a cookbook, it’s far from your run-of-the-mill Betty Crocker tome. The description reads; “Victuals is an exploration of the foodways, people, and places of Appalachia. It explores the surprisingly diverse history–and vibrant present–of food in the Mountain South through recipes, stories, traditions, and innovations.” Ronni’s insights into how food is a gateway into the larger Appalachian culture is as thought provoking as any prose out there. I’m a fan for sure. Remember I said last night was awesome? Robert and Ronni are just two reasons why.
I finally made it to Erin’s new venture in downtown Versailles; Rabbit House Books and Notions. She always wanted to open a bookstore, and by dern she did it. I love that about her so much. It’s an absolutely adorable space with a great selection of new and used books. She’s gearing up for chakra workshops, essential oil workshops, and yoga. She’s already offering acting and writing workshops. It’s all fantastically forward thinking; right up my alley. Plus, she’s perfectly located with easy access and great parking. Tonight was Rabbit House’s first author reading. Erin hosted an open mic prior to inaugural author, Courier Journal columnist and soon-to-be Spalding University grad, Taylor Riley. I adore Erin, and I’m tickled as can be to watch her follow her dreams. She inspires me every day. It was a great way to spend a cold, rainy Saturday evening.
“There are three solutions to every problem: accept it, change it, or leave it.
If you can’t accept it, change it. If you can’t change it, leave it.”
Like yesterday’s photo where we saw Harriette and Silas meet the first time, here we see the moment when Erica Chambers and I met. This is sometimes what it looks like when photographers meet. She was a pure delight.
Erica and I have a lot in common. The more she talked, the more I felt like I was meeting my younger self, but a much nicer version. It was very trippy actually. We’re both photographers, and both use Canon. We’re both musicians. At least we play different instruments. We’re both from Eastern Kentucky, neighboring counties no less. It’s uncanny how similar we seem to be. If Erica was older we probably would have met sooner. Leave it to Erin Chandler to connect people. Erica designed Erin’s book for which she used one of my photos on the back cover. We were destined to meet. As if meeting wasn’t enough, she was kind enough to snap the bottom photo of Deb Chenault, Erin, and I. If only Stacy Yelton had been in it we’d have the original Happiness Girls foursome. It was a great day and I feel like I made a real friend in Erica.
“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Erin Chandler held her book release party today at The Cabin; her home in Versailles that’s a central character in her story. The Cabin was built as a gift to her grandfather, Gov. Happy Chandler, by the state. It was bequeathed to Erin’s dad, Dan. He is the youngest child in the photo taken at the Governor’s mansion hanging over the desk. It’s a beautiful photograph published in last week’s Ace article about Erin’s book, and inaccurately attributed to me. Though I wish I could take the credit, I’m not old enough…for once. Ha! Erin’s party was wonderful of course; packed full of people that adore her, and rightfully so. I had the chance to meet some really wonderful people today, and catch up with others I haven’t seen in a while. I never go to one of Erin’s parties that I don’t come away having met some of the most interesting people on the planet. I enjoyed watching her sign copy after copy of her memoir that I just finished reading yesterday. I can’t say enough about it, and not because we’re friends, but because it is a deeply compelling story. I’m extraordinarily proud of her.
“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
~ Carlos Castaneda
Finally, after ten long years of work, Erin Chandler has published her memoir. She graced me with the opportunity to read an early draft some years ago, and let me tell you, even then it was an engrossing, heart-tug of a read. I got my copy of the real thing today, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it’s finished glory. I’m incredibly proud of Erin, and in awe of her determination to see this project through. She is one of the strongest, most compassionate, creative, driven woman I’ve ever known. It is a true honor to call her my friend.
“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one’s voice.” ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin
It’s been almost a week since we convened to hug Sandy Davis’ neck. I wish we could meet every Friday for dinner, or just laughs. Jeanne Marie’s phone says all that needs saying about my Kentucky tribe. I love them all so much, and I’m so lucky to have them as friends.
“Fear has two meanings:
‘Forget everything and run’ or ‘Face everything and rise.’
The choice is yours.”
~ Zig Ziglar
Erin Chandler had a gathering to say goodbye to 2015, welcome 2016, and bring together a few family and friends for laughs, food, and music. Indeed, we had all of that and more. Some of us met for the first time. Others of us knew one another from various and sundry parts of our lives. And many of Erin’s closest family joined in the celebration.
Erin’s first cousin, Whit, confessed to me as we stood in the kitchen. He confessed that he attended many a Stealin Horses show at Café LMNOP during his youth. He was the guy doing the pogo. If you’ve ever seen a Stealin Horses show, you’ll know that during our take on Gloria, Kiya would pogo at some point, and always the dancers would join in. Whit was one of those Solid Gold Dancers! He made my night with that story. Plus, I realized that I hadn’t been crazy all these years by thinking I knew him from somewhere. I really did.
Whit’s mom, Erin’s Aunt Toss, was drawn to the music. She was also drawn to Silas House. She was very cute about it, too, making her way around the room quietly, weaving in and out of the crowd, until finally, she made him scoot over so she could sit beside him. She’d had her eye on him from the start. Ultimately, however, she was in it for the music. The bottom photo with Whit warms my heart so much. He is so tender with her in the way he talks with her, the way he touches her. Frankly, I think Whit hung the moon. That he’s also one of the world’s best huggers is just icing on the cake.
It was a great evening just as Erin intended. Before dinner we each said what we were grateful for in 2015 and what we hoped for in 2016. I’m blessed in so many ways and grateful for every bit of it. That’s true in 2015, and it will be true in 2016 come what may.
“The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit.
Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
~ James Allen
I had a guest register available at the reception. I didn’t realize I’d forgotten it until I went to bed Friday night. I attended All Saints Day service this morning and picked it up afterward. Sixty people attended Friday’s reception. Sixty people took time out of their lives to come see my work. Some I’d never met before Friday. Some sneaked in and out without my seeing them though they were kind enough to leave their signature. Some drove nearly two hours to be there. Some took off work. Some were recovering from major surgery. Some couldn’t stay long, and others stayed the whole time. Someone pointed out how many segments of my life were assembled in that room: family, close friends, old friends, new friends, co-workers, writers, actors, artists, musicians, librarians, bankers, software developers, railroad men, professors, social workers, therapists, pathologists, nutritionists, the list goes on. They’re not all represented in this collage, but I couldn’t think of a better way to have a group hug in the outhouse. Sixty people. I may be speechless for a week I’m so overcome with gratitude.
“Talking about our problems is our biggest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.”
~ Rita Schiano
Erin Chandler and Stacy Yelton: two of my all-time favorite people in the whole world. In keeping with yesterday’s faith theme, Erin even has a cross shadowed across her. Smiles and faith at brunch. It doesn’t get much better than that!