Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Inspired by Amy...

It's gotten very late, but tonight was wonderful, so I really want to write before I head off for sleep...

First off, let me mention the great new thing that happened today: Gerald had his first Nashville guitar lesson! One of his goals in coming here was to find a great guitar teacher who could show him some of those special Nashville techniques that all the great session players have. He found this teacher through a guitar store, and booked his first lesson for today.

The teacher was very impressed with Gerald's playing (of course!), and he'll be able to teach him more skills that will improve his ability to compose on the guitar. He's also going to teach Gerald the Nashville Number System. This is a way of writing chord charts here is that is used by every session player in Nashville. In simplest terms, numbers are used to represent the chords of the song, and where they fall in the scale. Once you choose your key, your 'Do' becomes 1, 'Fa' becomes 4, 'So' becomes 5, etc, and then you can play the same chart into any key. (Yes, I'm explaining this terribly, but I already told you I was tired!)

Oh, and if you're unfamiliar with the term "session player", this is someone who works primarily in the studio, recording back-up instrumental parts on other people's CDs. A singer like me would hire session players to play piano, drums, cello, fiddle, etc, on my CD. A session player needs to be highly skilled so that they can play a huge range of music. On one CD, they'll be playing southern gospel, and on the next, they're be playing country-rock, and they need to sound equally awesome on each song. They are paid by the hour, so they also need to be able to play new music very quickly with almost no rehearsal. A skilled session player is a gift to the music industry.

And speaking of gifts, guess what we did tonight? ... We saw Amy Grant perform!

Lipscomb University was having their Christmas lighting ceremony tonight, and what a gorgeous night for it. After the sun went down, it was still 20C and perfectly clear. The air was warm and rich, and we had to laugh at the people lining up for hot chocolate.

Lipscomb is sort of interesting in and of itself. It's a Bible college, but they also have an entire grade school that's somehow part of the same system. So you can start at Lipscomb in Kindergarten, and stay at Lipscomb all the way through University.

The ceremony was outside on the steps of a huge building surrounded by tonnes and tonnes of lit-up trees. The first group to perform was the University Jazz Band and Vocal Ensemble. Really smooth, tight harmonies. Then, they has this mass choir of 300 children, made up of 3 choirs from the Elementary, Junior High, and High Schools. Each choir performed on its own, and then they did a few songs as the mass choir. I'm such a sucker for choral singing, so this was all just so wonderful for me.

And then they brought out the guest of honour, Amy Grant. I found out about this free concert the first or second day that we arrived here, and I've been counting the days ever since. Sooo excited!

She had a small band, and the mass choir backed her up on several songs. It was all Christmas music, and she did a nice mix of classics and originals. And you can tell it's a songwriter's town - she announced the writer's names before the title of every song.

She told us that her daughter always wants to get up on stage and dance. So, at one point, Amy opened the stage up to all the children in the audience who wanted to come up and dance. Her daughter led the way, but once the other children saw that it was for real, there was a flood of children up on the stage, rocking away to Up On The Housetop and Mr. Santa (to the tune of Mr Sandman). It was so joyous and wonderful! And so tempting to jump up and join the party. Gerald made sure I just danced on the spot...

After the party settled down, Amy sang one of her most beautiful songs, Breath of Heaven, the song that tells of Mary's journey to the birth of her child. It has haunting music, and as the first chords sounded, it started to rain - cool and soft. It scared away a few folks, but really, it just set up this lonely and beautiful atmosphere for the song. The choir filled in with lush harmonies, and Amy's singing was rooted and honest. It was truly magical. (Until the woman in front of us decided to gouge our faces with her ginormous umbrella, but we can edit her from the memory.)

She did about a 50 minute set, after which they had more Christmas lighting ceremony stuff to do. We didn't stick around for all that. We were just there to see Amy. And I'm sooo glad I went! So talented, and so inspiring...

Tonight just reminded me how much I want to be here... how much I want to write and sing for God's glory... how blessed I am to be on this adventure... I'm just so thankful for it all!

Monday, November 27, 2006

My First Nashvillian Birthday!


Today has, thus far, been wonderful. Lovely phone call from les parents, accompanied by slight pangs of homesickness. Lots of emails from friends, and a few e-cards thrown in. I missed a call from Newfoundland on my cell phone. Going to call them from a pay phone soon...

Gerald has written me a song for my birthday, and tonight we're going out for a romantic Italian dinner. It's strange being away from the rest of la familia today, but it's still a pretty awesome birthday. I have a new house, a new country, a new husband, and lots of dream-come-trues... What more could I ask for?

Okay, a little catch-up on what happened this weekend:

We did lots of dull things, like shopping around for a cell phone, buying a few groceries, blah, blah, blah. We did lots of small-but-satisfying things, like trying out our new fireplace and making hot chocolate in our new pawn-shop microwave. And we did some Nashville stuff, like jamming on our guitars, and establishing our new song-a-week challenge.

The fireplace is actually awesome! The weather is certainly not calling for fires, but I'm just so excited that we've had one every night. I've always wanted a fireplace, so now we light up at any excuse. (Wait, maybe I didn't phrase that quite right...)

Back in the cafe today. More Nashville observations: They have smoking in restaurants here! We Ontarionians (is that a word?) don't know how lucky we have it. Oh, and I've written before about how air condition obsessed they are here in Nashville, but who would think they'd still be at it in November! Seriously! It's lovely outside, but you still need to bring a jacket for inside the restaurant.

Oh, and it's 23C today. Happy Birthday to me!

Yesterday, I tried out a new church, Bellevue Community Church, or BCC for short. It was recommended by several people as having a great music program and great music people. I've been to many churches, but this is very different from any where I've ever been.

It's non-denominational, so I knew it wouldn't be Anglican and we wouldn't have Communion. I also knew it would have contemporary music. But here's what I wasn't expecting:

First off, it's HUGE! It's situated on acres and acres of property on a hill, so from the parking lot you can see for miles. They formed this church to appeal to the non-churched, or those who are uncomfortable in traditional churches, or those who've had bad experiences in church. So nothing about it looks like a traditional church. There are no crosses, icons, or stained glass windows. The seats are like those in a movie theatre, and the building is more event theatre than sanctuary.

The service was in the contemporary worship style: music, announcements, prayers, message, and out. The music leader for this week was Canadian, so I introduced myself to her after the service. Apparently, there are a lot of Canadians in the congregation. The sermon was fantastic. It was about living a life of gratitude. They're doing an 8-week series of sermons, so this was part of the series.

The whole environment, again, was very "un-churchy". I don't mean that as any sort of insult, because that's actually what they're aiming for. They want people to feel very comfortable in the presence of God. In between the 2 morning services, they have their coffee hour, which they actually call Happy Hour (nice!). They sell Starbucks coffee at 2-to-1 prices, to encourage buying a drink for a friend or newcomer.

And this church is very friendly and welcoming! I had tonnes of people say Hi, and the info desk gave me lots of info, and even the phone number of their music director. They have tonnes of programs in music and drama, and a lot of stuff for youth. They do a lot of outreach into the community, and have many volunteer opportunities. After the service, I even ran into 2 people I knew, which was sort of funny. I really enjoyed my visit, and will probably go back again.

And now, off to celebrate the rest of my day!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Catching up...

So, today, we can officially use my new unofficial tourism slogan for Nashville:

NASHVILLE - It's like Newfoundland... but Hot!

Today, it's a whopping 21C! I have no idea what that is in Fahrenheit, but it feels awesome! We had breakfast on the front steps, and our jackets are still in the car.

I'm writing this from a cafe in Hillsboro Village (the cool Annex-like area). We still have no internet or phone, so it's a little hard to feel connected right now. We've decided to hold off on internet til the New Year, to keep our bills low while we're away. We'll be visiting cafes and the library to keep in touch there. And after we leave the comfort of this cafe, we'll start our hunt for a phone number.

The last few days have been relaxing and fun. We tried to see a show at the Blue Bird, but it was sold out, so we went to see a movie instead. The Queen. Brilliant on all sides of script, acting, and visuals. We've been meeting and making friends, so socializing is getting fun.

We've also become daily Walfart shoppers. It's a 24-hour Walfart, so 2 nights ago, we went shopping at 2 in the morning. You'd be surprised how many people were in there. Nashville is sort of an early town. Because people don't tend to have the standard Toronto 60-minute commute, things start early here. It's not uncommon for a concert to start at 6pm. We thought it would be tough to find anything that was open 24-hours, but the Walfart and the Walgreens are our friends. No IKEA though, so I'm a little confused about where to get curtains and tea-lights.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here. Felt no great need to celebrate it, seeing as how we just had Thanksgiving a month ago. We slept in, worked out in our new workout centre, walked around the neighbourhood, and found the one restaurant that was open yesterday for supper. Very nice day of enjoying our house and exploring our 'hood.

Today, we're back to work. Our big goal is getting a phone, and trying to have one Walfart-free day (don't think we'll make it!).

Oh, and as we sit here, we are bombarded with Christmas music. Americans truly believe Christmas starts with Thanksgiving. Don't they know the no-Christmas-til-after-Allison's-birthday rule?

Off to explore our new city!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


We're home!!!! We're in our new home!!!

First off, let's just state the obvious - We love it! It's a gorgeous 2-story townhouse in West Nashville. We're in a gated community (read: safe and private!) with a pool and a 24-hour fitness centre. It's a small community, with kids and a playground. We're in an end unit, which not only means it's quiet, but also means windows and grass on 3 sides of the house.

The house is 1350 square feet - that' s bigger than our place in Toronto! The main floor has a living room, kitchen, dining room and 1/2 bath. Upstairs has 2 huge bedrooms (one of which will become the music room) and a huge 2-sinked bathroom. It's full of closets and is impeccably clean. There's a dishwasher, a washer-dryer hook-up and ... wait for it... a wood-burning fireplace!

Outside, there's a small patio in the back, and we can plant flowers in the front and back in the spring. We are surrounded by trees and sunshine. Okay, the sunshine isn't guaranteed, but it's nice right now!

We haven't met our neighbours yet, but the staff is awesome. They all live on site, and one lady is going to lend us a bed and a sofa til we get set up. Southern hospitality!

We took a visit to Walmart tonight, where we literally packed up 2 carts with towels, sheets, dishes and brown sugar (for the espressos. We didn't bring towels, but we did bring our espresso maker!) The poor girl at the check out was a little stumped. She asked if we were newlyweds. Well, we sort of are...

We don't have the bed yet, so tonight will probably be camping out. But we don't care. We're just so thrilled to be here.

Tonight, we met up with a Canadian friend of Gerald's named John. He's a singer-songwriter who's been here for years. The three of us hopped off to F.Scott's to hear my friend, Teri Reid, sing. F.Scott's is very upscale restaurant with killer desserts that offers live jazz. Not very "Nashville", but very cool and fun.

I met Teri at Stamps-Baxter this summer. I had only heard her sing southern gospel then, so this was a real treat. She had a great quartet, with herself on vocals and keyboards, joined by sax, electric bass, and drums. Awesome sound in a great atmosphere.

We're exhausted and excited and just so happy tonight. I have to admit though, now that we have a place, I'm a little homesick for Sebastian! But we have just a few more weeks to get settled and make a few friends, and then we're back in Toronto for the big turn-around. The time is going to fly!

Almost home...

We had great plans for today, but they were all pushed aside as we tried to secure our apartment! Word to the wise: For all you Canadians hoping to rent an apartment in the States, bring all your financial records with you! Seriously, it was easier to buy a house in Toronto than it was to rent a place here in Nashville.

We had hours of long distance phone calls, and faxing documents back and forth. There was nothing wrong with our records; it was just a matter of collecting all the stuff they required. Finally, at 4:55pm, we got the call that we had been approved!

We celebrated with dinner in a great Indian restaurant. We were seriously afraid that Nashville would only provide us with deep-fried chicken and barbeque (not that there's anything wrong with that!). But if you keep your eyes open, there's some great ethnic food around here.

Tomorrow, we get the electricity hooked up, and then we're good to move in! This is such a relief for us. We'll get settled in now, go home for Christmas, and when we do come back for our longer stay, our home will be here waiting for us. And now - decorating!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Songwriter Sunday

This morning, I decided I would visit Christ Church Cathedral. This is the Episcopalian church I visited this summer, in my post-Stamps-Baxter days.

As I walked up to the front door of the church, I started to get very nervous. I couldn't really figure out why. I'm very comfortable in all kinds of churches, and I always love visiting a new church. And then, it dawned on me: I wasn't simply visiting this church. I was starting my search for a new home church.

Ugh! Everything dropped right into the pit of my stomach. I've never in my life had to search for a new home church. I've just always attended Dad's church. And now, in a new city, in a new country, I have to find a new church. One where Dad is not the priest, and nobody knows me from Adam. It's not even like attending a new church in Toronto where I might know one of the priests, or they at least would have heard of St. John's. It's going to be all brand new.

I'm sure, at some point, this will be a wonderful and dynamic change. But this morning, all I could think about was how many things are changing and how quickly our "normal" is going to shift. As Gerald pointed out, the last time my world changed this much, it was a completely traumatic experience. This is, obviously, very different and very positive. But I think my body relates change to tragedy, so it's probably bracing for the worst.

I found a pew in the middle of the church, and it really is a striking church. Beautiful stained glass, including 2 windows made by Tiffany himself. The choir is traditional and stunning, as the voices drift over you from the upper gallery. And the dark green paint and rich wood trim combine to make the huge sanctuary quite comfortable. It was a Communion service, with a lots of hymns and liturgical music - all very cheerful. They call their book The Book of Common Prayer, but it's almost identical to our much more contemporary Book of Alternative Services, so that felt homey to me.

The preaching was excellent (a perfect 15 minute Anglican sermon!). He spoke about the dangers of making success, materialism, and secular activities our "religion". He challenged us to look into our datebooks. Can you find something in the past week that honoured God? Can you find something in there that served someone in need? If not, challenge yourself to do both in the next week. A great exercise...

After church, I found out about their women's ministry, and picked up a newsletter. They're having a speaker for their women's group next Sunday. I think I may go. The church shopping has begun...

This afternoon, Gerald and I attended our first official songwriter's event since arriving last Sunday. Doak Turner is a songwriter, who has started a brilliant networking opportunity. Once a month, he hosts a party at his house. And at first glance, it just seems like a good time - lots of food, a beautiful setting, and 50 people in the mood for a good time. But this is clearly a party where the song wins out over the food. (Don't mistake me: The food was awesome!)

Everyone gathers about 3:00pm, and grabs something to eat. After the paper plates are tossed, and the grease from the fried chicken is wiped off the fingers, then the real party begins. Everyone pulls out their guitars and finds a room in the house, and just starts playing songs. I mean, every room in the house! With the exception of the bathroom and the kitchen, every room is just full of people playing their songs for each other. There is a keyboard in each room for the keyboard players, and one room is assigned to hold guitar cases.

Each room becomes a "round". A round is a common Nashville phrase where the songwriting conch is passed around. I play a song, the person next to me plays a song, and so on around the circle til it's my turn again. It's a very popular format for songwriting concerts. At first, I was completely intimidated. I mean, I write a few songs, but I know I'm a singer first. I don't have a huge rep of songs that I can just pull out and play and sing at any time. So, at first, I just sat back and listened as Gerald joined in the round. (Totally Gerald's element!)

But after a while, I got the itch, and I did the few songs I could do by myself. I was completely nervous, but so happy I did it. When I did "I Call Out Your Name", an impromptu choir formed and we had full harmonies on the chorus. What a blessing!

We met lots of great people, including a lot of folks who moved here from all over the country to chase their dreams. All week, I have been frustrated that it has taken us a whole week to get out to a songwriting event, but I met a lot of people who've been here for months and they're just getting out now. Guess it's all relative.

We hear about the apartment tomorrow. Fingers crossed. Prayers raised...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A day to relax...

Today was our first day to really relax. Now that's we've found a place, we figured we would chill out and just have some fun. We got in the car and just started to drive, and by a stroke of luck, we found ourselves in Hillsboro Village.

This area is sort of like the Annex in Toronto. Lots of great little shops, restaurants, and cafes. There's a rep cinema, and an intimate guitar store, that we actually visited on the honeymoon. This part of town also features Jackson's, home of the infamous deep-fried twinkies, which I tried last summer. We also found a fantastic used book store, and now that we have an apartment, we clearly need some new books to fill it!

It was a gorgeous day (finally!) so we just tried to spend lots of time soaking up some southern sunshine.

Our plan was to see a show tonight, but we've received an invitation to a songwriter's party tomorrow. This is a monthly event where songwriters gather to share food and music. We don't really know what to expect, but we have friends who've attended, and they say it's just awesome. So, we've decided to stay low tonight and brush up on our songs for tomorrow. It's been so crazy this week with just getting around and trying to get set up that the guitars haven't had much breathing time. But tomorrow, bring on the music!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Apartment found!

We have fallen in love with a place! It's a gorgeous townhouse in an apartment community in the west part of Nashville - an area called, appropriately enough, West Nashville.

We have our application in, but because it was late Friday when it all came together, we won't get an answer til Monday. Fingers crossed and prayers raised!

We drove around the neighbourhood and there's lots of great stuff. Very convenient area - only 10 minutes from Music Row, and near a Baskin-Robbins and a Costco! That's just good livin'.

Actually, after we filled out the application, we looked around for restaurant for dinner. We took a wrong turn, and when we drove into a plaza to turn the car around, we found a Vietnamese restaurant! It was small and hidden, but completely authentic! It was so good - total comfort food!

I started to write a song tonight. It's about the Beatitudes. Part way through the process, I realized that, with some tweaking, it could be a good hymn. So I tightened the structure to fit it into the structure of a hymn. It's 3 verses, in a meter called CMD. (Don't worry if you don't know what this means. I don't really understand it very well either, but you know how some hymns can be sung to different tunes? Well, writing a hymn to a certain meter means that you know what tunes will fit your words.) At this point, I think it's good, but I'll have to look at it again tomorrow to be sure. Funny how things can look different in the light of day.

Not much else to write about tonight. We're just exhausted, and so happy to have found a place. We said we wanted to have a place found by the end of the week, and now that we've accomplished that, we can relax and have some fun this weekend. We'll probably go see a show, check out a church, and get in touch with friends. Whoo-hoo!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hunting for a home...

Today was all about apartments. We got up early and started with our viewings. We had five apartments lined up, all in the west end of town. It's a gorgeous area called Bellevue, and it's about 10 minutes from Music Row. (Music Row is the part of town with all the publishers, studios and music makers. NSAI has its office and meetings there, so we know we'll be in there several times a week.)

Bellevue is hilly and intimate. The fall colour is just hanging on, and you can tell we just missed a stunning show. Today was, yet again, rainy and grey, but the whole area was still beautiful. The area is fairly quiet, but still has lots of shops and stuff.

Of the five places, only one was really ugly. The rest were all pretty good. They all have dishwashers (whoo-hoo!) and almost all had their own washer-dryer in the apartment (big whoo-hoo!). None of the places were simple apartment buildings - they were all apartment communities. With small differences among them, they all had a pool, a fitness centre, and a club house that hosts community events. They all had lovely landscaping and green spaces for Sebastian.

There's one place that's particularly caught our eye. It's mid-range rent, and definitely the smallest place, but it's completely charming: hardwood floors, private balcony, and a wood-burning fireplace. We'll probably see a few more tomorrow, but this is the one to beat.

Not much else going on with us right now other than apartment hunting. We are anxious to get started on making some music, but we really want to get settled in first. We both believe a good home environment is critical to the artistic process, so this is a huge job for us. We're hoping to have a place by the weekend. Then, let the decorating and music-making begin!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Getting stuff done...

Most of today was all about prepping for tomorrow. We've spent hours figuring out what we want in an apartment. After all, we haven't rented for years, and lots of things are different here. For example, most places have a "pet fee", which is a non-refundable deposit of several hundred dollars, plus $10-20 added to each month's rent. Clearly, we will have to find a place that's pet friendly. Some places have breed restrictions, but no one is very worried about a poofy pomchi!

So today, we short-listed apartments, and I've set up 5 viewings for tomorrow. All have pools and fitness centres. And 2 bathrooms - a necessity for the survival of our marriage!

After a very late lunch, we headed over to Gruhn's Guitars - Gerald's favourite place in Nashville. It's very specialized and high-end, kind of like 12th Fret in Toronto. We spent hoooours in there! I found a really tiny little Martin that I just love. It's small and sturdy, even smaller than a parlour size. It would be good for teaching, but the real draw would be traveling. Throw it in a soft case and you can take it on an airplane. After my airplane tragedy this summer, that's a pretty sweet option.

Gerald has fallen in love with Taylor's T5 - a unique guitar that can be played as an acoustic, and then, with the flick of a switch, it becomes an electric guitar. I played it too, and we tried a nice echo-effect on "Jesus Loves Me". Just haunting. It even makes me sound like a great player! Santa, if you're listening...

Tomorrow's going to be long and late, so tonight is going to be quiet and early.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

5 Stays in 5 Days...

So, we're now staying in our fifth place in 5 days. You'd think we were on tour!

A friend of our's is out of town, and has offered us use of his house for the week. Talk about Southern hospitality! We really didn't want to move again, but it was an offer we couldn't refuse. So most of today was another time of packing the car, driving around, unpacking the car, finding out how to set ourselves up again in a new space... Sounds petty, I know, but it just takes up so much time and energy. Gerald has become brilliant at packing all our stuff into my little Corolla.

This afternoon was all about regrouping and figuring out how to approach the rest of the week. We gathered info on apartments and have made a shortlist of areas and places. We are determined to get a place with a pool! (Can't really blame us, can you?)

We found a Tower Records that's going out of business, so we went in and helped relieve them of some excess gospel inventory. (all 40% off! yay!) We then had over-priced lattes and tried to figure out a good map of Nashville to buy. So far, no real luck...

So let me say this observation: Toronto is huge, but sooo easy to drive! I will never take the grid for granted again! Nashville is twisty, like St. John's, but it also has this lovely habit of changing street names. Like one minute you're on West End, and then it suddenly becomes something else, and 5 miles later it's something else! And don't even talk to me about miles. No one says, "Drive 5 minutes" or "Drive 2 blocks". They all say, "Drive 5 miles". How am I supposed to know what 5 miles is? I'm a metric baby! Also the speed limits are higher here. Lots of residential streets are 60km/hr. Not really complaining about that, but it's taking some getting used to. Actually, it will probably take some real getting used to when I get back in TO. Don't really want any speeding tickets for Christmas!

We took a visit to a guitar shop today. It was pretty small, and didn't have a lot of selection. But there was no one else in the shop, so we kicked out a little duet of I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. Spontaneous and fun and lovely.

Tomorrow, we're hoping to start our apartment visits. Can't wait!

Monday, November 13, 2006


We’re here! We’re in Nashville!

But how did we get here?

We were finally able to leave the city on Friday, so we packed up the car with a month’s worth of living, and headed off to the border. We were careful not to pack things that made it look like we were moving in a permanent sense, as that move won’t happen til January.

Still, one the border guards decided to give us some trouble. We were questioned separately about our plans and intentions, and our relationship to one another. But because we’re not planning on working while we’re here, and they couldn’t find any real issue with us, we were given our passports back, and off we went.

It’s about a 12 hour drive to Nashville, but since we have the time, we decided to make it into a little road trip. Our first day’s drive brought us to Cleveland, where we stayed in an awful little hotel. Happily, it was next to an awesome little Mexican restaurant, with killer peppers, and a hot sauce so tasty you could drink it with a spoon. (Well, we could drink it that way!)

The next day was dedicated to the Mecca of Cleveland (for the non-sports fans!), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Wicked good fun! It’s full of exhibits and memorabilia and completely awesome things. I was most impressed with how diverse the music was in the museum. They had lots of displays on the early influences of rock and roll, including bluegrass, country, folk, blues, jazz, and gospel. Mahalia Jackson has been inducted to the Hall of Fame as an ‘influence’. And I discovered a gospel group called the Soul Stirrers, who’s original lead singer was Sam Cooke. Bought their CD - sooo good!

Some of our favourite pieces in the exhibits:
- Elvis’s grade 7 report card.
- Michael Jackson’s glove (tacky, but doesn’t it represent so much of our childhood?)
- Madonna’s Gautier bustier (again, tacky, but...)
- Aerosmith’s microphone with all the scarves on it.
- Handwritten lyrics by Hendrix, Orbison, and the Beatles.
- And my personal favourite, a hand-written chart for Bobby Darin’s rendition of Mack the Knife!

I loved watching the range of people that were at the museum - kids who play in a band back home, and middle-aged couples having high-school flashbacks. So many different people, all in love with great music and great times.

After a quick lunch, we jumped in the car to head to Cincinnati. On the way out of town, we passed by a parking lot full of football fans getting ready for the game, and they were having a tailgate party! They all had the backs of their cars opened up, and they’d dragged speakers and barbeques and dogs and children and noise into this parking lot. So American! Could have been a scene from a movie!

It was a terrible day for driving with Grade A Newfoundland weather - rain, drizzle, and fog. But a triple espresso concoction from Starbucks keep us on the road and singing in the rain.

We hit Cincinnati in the evening, so we really didn’t get to see much of the city. We were looking for flying turkeys, and I was tempted to put up masking tape walls in the room, but other than that, it all seemed sort of plain and normal. Our hotel was really nice, with a big cushy bed and a downtown location. We were exhausted from the rough drive, so we decided to head out for dinner and relax for the rest of the night. We found a great restaurant called Shanghai Mama’s, that advertises as "an authentic 1920's noodle house". It’s dark, and moody, and very cozy. We started with their award-winning shrimp tempura, and moved on to huge bowls of noodles. Mine was orange duckling with thick noodles and a spicy sauce. Just incredible! Next time you’re in Cincinnati...

Next morning, we got up early (well, early for us!) and headed straight for Tennessee. We drove through Kentucky, where we had our first Cracker Barrel visit. Hello! While in Kentucky, Gerald treated me to a medley of every song every written with a reference to Kentucky. And even though we’re definitely in the off-season, you can tell this is gorgeous country down here.

And then, we crossed the border into Tennessee! Whoo-hoo! For our first night in Nashville, we decided to give ourselves a special treat: A night in the Opryland Hotel!

The Opryland Hotel is not like your everyday hotel. It has over 2900 rooms, many with their own personal balconies that hang into one of the many atriums of the hotel. We had a standard room (read: barely affordable) but it was still gorgeous and lush and beyond comfortable. I completely fell in love with the crimped fleece throw on the bed. If I wasn’t so chronically honest, I would have accidently slipped one into my suitcase...

I don’t even know if I can describe this hotel in any way that will do it justice. It has enough stores, restaurants, and pubs to fill a mall. You need to carry your map with you at all times if you have any hope of getting back to your room. But the most spectacular things are the atriums. They are huge and tropical and gorgeous. They are full of palm trees and fountains and cascading vines. They are full of pathways so you can walk above the trees or behind the waterfalls. One of the atriums is so big that it houses several large buildings containing restaurants and stores. This atrium also has a river where you can take a boat ride. When they built the river, they filled it with water from rivers across America and around the world. (It reminded me of baptisms at St. John’s when we use water from the River Jordan and all the provinces.)

But the best part is that it’s all decorated for Christmas! The official shows don’t start til later this week, but all the decorations are up, and it’s fantastic! There’s the stuff you expect: mini lights on every plant, a ginormous tree, and a place where you can write (actually, email) Santa. But there’s also the North Pole village that floats above the Italian restaurant. And the jack-in-the-box that appears to be jumping out of the roof of one of the atriums. And the all-white, larger-than-life-sized nativity that is built in and around the outdoor swimming pool and fountain. (Yes, I did say in!)

The whole experience was romantic and luxurious and just plain wonderful. Not something we could do everyday, but definitely a great way to start our time here in Nashville.

Today, we have checked into a regular hotel in the city. We’ll be staying here til we find an apartment, which we’re hoping will happen this week.

It’s taken so much time and so much work to get here, but now that the time has come, we couldn’t be more excited!

We’re here!!! Whoo-hoo!!!

Friday, November 10, 2006

We're on our way to Nashville!!!

This is it! We are all packed up and ready to drive to Nashville!

I can't even tell you all the delays we've had in getting ready for this - Delays with renovations, installations, and just plain complications. I've wanted to write here many times in the last few weeks, but it has been very long days of moving stuff and cleaning stuff and fixing stuff, and at the end of the day, all I wanted was a cuddle with the puppy and a good night's sleep.

We've decided to make a road trip of the drive down: Tonight, we're going to hit Cleveland, so tomorrow we can visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Saturday, we're driving to Cincinnati where we will visit one of their many great-looking museums and galleries. And then, on Sunday, it's Nashville. Makes sense to land there on a Sunday...

Monday, we'll start looking for apartments. We've narrowed down our options, thanks to the internet, and we're probably going to choose a place just outside the city. We've been living downtown for so long now, and the idea of being surrounded by trees and clean air is pretty attractive.

And now, the horrible part: We're leaving Sebastian here for this trip! It's purely practical - We don't know where we'll be living yet and we know we're going to have to spend a lot of time out getting furniture and stuff. But, omiword!!!!! It's just the hardest thing to leave him. Mom and Dad will care for him, so he couldn't be in safer or more loving hands. But he's such an important part of our lives... If you're in Nashville with a cute puppy, please be warned that I may need to grab your puppy for a brief little cuddle. (Don't worry, I'll give him back!)

So now, final things in the car... make sure we have enough gas and a few bottles of water... and we're off!

Time to make the dreams come true!

"The universe will reward you for taking risks on its behalf." Goethe