The Killers Concert, Atlanta 2018

It all began with “Mr. Brightside” and Hot Fuss in 2004. It was a new sound, something I hadn’t heard before, and when Sam’s Town came out two years later, I knew The Killers were a different sort of band and I was going to love them indefinitely. Then came Sawdust, Day & Age, and Battle Born, and then there were Brandon Flower’s solo albumsFlamingo and The Desired Effect – and now we have Wonderful, Wonderful.

What is this kind of music anyway? Rock, yes. But some songs take me five or six tries to fully embrace them. I don’t get the melody or the lyrics are strange. (That’s Brandon Flowers for you.)

Sure enough, once they’re embraced, it’s concrete. I’ve run hundreds of miles to the sound of The Killers.

Short of one song I’d love to hear live (“Miss Atomic Bomb“), they played everything I hoped they would.

From “Dustland Fairytale” and “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” to “When We Were Young” and “Mr. Brightside,” even “Run for Cover,” my favorite on Wonderful, Wonderful, I sang along to every single word. I loved it. I. LOVED. IT.

(Other songs on the playlist – “Human,” “Read My Mind,” “Somebody Told Me,” “Spaceman,” “The Way It Was,” “I Can’t Stay,” “Smile Like You Mean It,” “For Reasons Unknown,” “Rut,” “Runaways,” “All These Things That I Have Done,” “The Calling,” and “This River is Wild” – which is a huge favorite!)

The encore was the most fun. They’d left the stage so we could lure them back. Instead of lighters, we held up our cell phones. I couldn’t believe we produced enough light to illuminate the entire arena.

They were back on stage for four more songs, and we lost our minds all over again.

Brandon Flowers was notes away from losing his voice, but the crowd was on fire. We were thunderous. We sang the words for him. How could we not?

I don’t go to a lot of concerts, but when I do, it’s for my favorites (and with my favorites).

Signs of Life Days Seventeen through Twenty

When Friday morning rolled around and I’d finished a laundry list of things to do, including laundry, I hibernated in my bedroom for two hours awaiting my best friend and her family to arrive. I was going into a weekend with house guests and their four-month-old puppy. For an introvert and lover of all things neat and tidy, I needed a little bit of time to prepare mentally.

That may sound terrible, like I don’t enjoy having company, but that isn’t true at all. I love hospitality and I certainly love hosting people who are important to me, but I need to ready my brain for a house to be in disarray, for extra mess in the kitchen, for an increase in overall noise. Throw in a puppy and we’ve got a busy household. Because I love these people and their dog, it’s a no-brainer! It just means I need a minute.

Corey, Gwen, Alex, and four-month-old Wrigley showed up late Friday night. In my animal-loving fantasies, I anticipated Major and Wrigley running circles around each other, spending hours in the backyard, and wearing each other out, and out-snoring each other in marathon napping sessions.

Nope. That’s not at all what happened. Despite Wrigley’s attempts, Major wasn’t having it. It’s like he knew Wrigley was a Georgia dog, and in this Tennessee house, this wasn’t okay. While Wrigley puttered around the house, Major secluded himself to my bedroom and whined. This might be the closest they got to one another.

His loss! Wrigley Chubb is a sweetie pie.

We all went to the dog park and Greenway on Sunday afternoon so both dogs and both 13-year-olds could get out some energy. Jackson wore his Georgia Bulldogs hat in solidarity.

That’s Jeremy (on the bike) and Alex (on the skateboard) and Major following them inside the dog park. Poor fella wanted to run alongside them.

Our families have strong ties to one another, so anytime we can plug in and make memories, it’s worth it. Though Major didn’t make the family photo (he was hiding in the bedroom), Salem was a big boy and suffered through it. He kept his eye on Wrigley the whole time.

Before they headed back to Atlanta this morning, we had one more visitor to welcome. My family lived in Atlanta from 1990 to 1993, and while Corey’s friendship is one I’ve kept since living there, my sister has hung on to a few friendships as well. Andre was like a big brother to me. In fact, all of my sister’s friends treated me like I was their little sister. I felt special, loved, included, all of it. This is where social media has been a blessing to people like my sister and me – it’s enabled us to keep tabs on folks from everywhere we’ve lived.

So when I read a Facebook update from Andre saying he was going to Gatlinburg for the weekend, I jumped on it. COME SEE ME! What’s it been – 18 years? More? I don’t even remember.

Of course, this means he knew Corey too, because she was always at our house and we all went to the same high school. They were seniors, we were freshman.

How does this happen exactly? To go decades without being in touch and then see someone again and it feels like no time has passed? Or even if you realize time has passed, it just doesn’t matter.

Sitting next to Andre on the couch in my grown-up living room, in a home I share with my husband and children, it was all I could to not act like a 14-year-old girl and talk about how special I felt riding around in his red Chevrolet Tracker. He was so sweet to me, and I never forgot it.

This is the stuff that makes life GOOD and worthwhile. Deep and abiding relationships, making memories with people you love, loyalty that spans decades…

And puppies. We cannot forget the goodness of puppies.

Signs of Life is a blog series I’m writing for February 2017. It was born out of desire to replace the negativity and despair that’s been bogging down our friendships, families, and communities after a tumultuous election season. This series won’t solve the world’s problems, but I hope it will create a speck of light and positivity when and where it is needed. 

Oliver turns one

“Serious baby is serious.” This is indeed Oliver. He is an observant child, ever-watchful and curious. He does smile, though, so I caught several sweet grins and giggles after lots of adult silliness.

Those eyes, though. The eyes are everything.

jem_4838-low-res jem_5065-low-res jem_4928-low-res jem_4955-low-res jem_4979-low-res jem_5036-low-res jem_5152-low-res jem_5259-low-res jem_5302-low-res

Atlanta and the College Football Hall of Fame

We spent Halloween weekend in Atlanta with Corey, Gwen, and Alex so we could spend time together and I could do a few photo sessions.





Look at this precious face I was happy to photograph:

jem_4838-low-resjem_4928-low-resOn Friday we ate dinner at a hibachi place, which was a first for Jackson and only the second time for Jeremy.




On Sunday we went to the College Football Hall of Fame, which Jackson has been asking to go to since it opened. Yes, we wore our Packers gear, but that’s only because they were playing the Falcons and it was mandatory to represent. I loved, loved, loved seeing so many Packers fans in downtown Atlanta! Can’t imagine what game day looks like in Green Bay.

The College Football Hall of Fame was every bit as fun and interesting as I’d hoped. Lots of interactive activities, lots to read and see, and there was a partial field on the lower level for folks to try out their field goal abilities and passing game. My three boys loved it.










To see my favorite video from the weekend, click here. 

Besties in Atlanta

Our Atlanta weekend getaway was long overdue. In fact, we were supposed to go in January, but Salem’s last hospitalization nixed that. Instead, we capped off our spring break with a few days with some of our best friends.

Corey and me March 2016

We ate good food, went bowling, and hung around the condo. Corey and I escaped to Ulta and Nordstrom Rack, and some of us napped. The boys played Nerf and video games, goofing off and not showering. We went to IKEA, where the boys nearly died of boredom. It was a close one.

Waiting around IKEA

As usual, I love how the boys reconnect so easily after so much time apart. We don’t force their friendship but rather facilitate it. Eventually their relationship will look and function differently, but for now, it works.

A word about Jeremy’s face in the photo below: He’s being a goofball. This is what happens when your mother is a photographer and says, “Smile” way too often. I think he looks like a Muppet (and promptly told him so).

Jeremy Alex and Jackson 2016

My favorite photo from the weekend, however, is this last one. Rarely does my husband let me take his picture, but when he does, it’s always a good one:

Chuck is awesome

The De Gracia Family

About a million years ago, I lived in Atlanta and went to middle school. We had just moved from West Germany (a few months before the Berlin Wall came down) and my parents bought a house in a quiet subdivision in Clayton County. It was a lovely lot situated around a small pond that was shared by the neighborhood. Next door lived Nortasha and her family. She and I were in the same grade and rode the school bus together. Despite being neighbors, we ran around in different circles, so we actually didn’t know each other very well.

JEM_7200 low res

Fast forward those million years and we became friends on Facebook. Our kids are the same age. We share similar values and appreciate the same sense of humor. I like things she posts, she likes things I post. We keep an eye on each other in this way.

JEM_7212 low res

For all the reasons Facebook is annoying and intrusive, I can’t foresee leaving this online community. Army brats can’t nail down a hometown. For us, there is no such place. When you move every three years, home is where the Army sends you, and in 1990, the Army sent us to Atlanta, next door to the Graves family.

JEM_7227 low res

We go to Atlanta once or twice a year to visit friends. Some time last fall, Nortasha and I started messaging about family photos. Nothing concrete, just something like, “Hey, next time you’re down this way, let’s figure it out.”

JEM_7256 low res

Of course! There’s no question. This is life coming full circle. Photograph your children? Absolutely. 

JEM_7241 low res

We met at a park Sunday morning. It was chilly, not as warm as it had been all week, but the sun was shining and the sky was a perfect shade of blue. We hugged, made introductions, and got started.

JEM_7277 low res

Nortasha and her husband, Adolfo, are adorable. Lovebirds, sweethearts, the whole nine. All I had to do was click the camera.

JEM_7250 low res

Their children, Gigi and Gabriel, were great sports – teeth chattering, but smiling and doing their best, despite the cool temperatures.

JEM_7357 low res

JEM_7287 low res gray

JEM_7391 low res

This photo session was a gift to me, a valuable reminder that paths can cross again, new memories can be made, and people aren’t ever really forgotten.

JEM_7396 low res

Thanks for carving out some time this weekend, De Gracia family. I hope we can do it again.  

JEM_7415 low res gray



Weekend Recovery

T’was an amazing weekend in Atlanta with my BFF for her Bachelorette Party. Many thanks to the W Hotel who over-booked our standard corner room and had no choice but to upgrade us to the Presidential Suite. The amount of shock we experienced was fully captured on video, which I intend to share with you later this week.

In the meantime, I have squandered the day away with photo editing and eating cookies. After I press “publish” on this post, I must, must, must write a paper that’s due tonight.

Our view from the room: ATL

Cheers to a fabulous night:Cheers

Love this girl! (This photo is a re-creation from high school graduation night in 1996. The original is probably in a storage bin in the basement. If I can find it, I’ll show you.)Bathtub Re-creationMore photos and such to come. For now, I must harness some level of responsibility. I should also probably get changed out of my pajamas.


The Marvelous Mumford and Sons… Again

I squealed like a teenage girl. It was fantastic.

The whole process of getting tickets to a Mumford concert is complicated. You have to apply to be considered to purchase tickets. I’d been rejected twice already, so when I received an invitation to purchase tickets for the Atlanta concert, I had no pause. Two tickets. Immediately. Yes, please.

My original date for the evening, the hubs, had a work conflict, so Karin was my concert buddy for Atlanta. We met up with Corey and Gwen, along with another great couple, grabbed dinner, and found a spot on the grass in Centennial Olympic Park for The Full English tour.

camera_20130910195749591 camera_20130910195942070Chuck and I have seen Mumford and Sons before in June 2011. At that time, they were just breaking big numbers and developing an enormous fan base at rapid speed. That meant our concert venue was a bit smaller and better controlled. Last night’s concert was outdoor and housed a thousand layers of sweaty people. Don’t get me wrong – it was spectacular. But, if you’re even a touch claustrophobic or are sensitive to cigarette smoke (or other smoke) or prefer not to have cheap beer spilled on your feet, then perhaps an outdoor concert isn’t for you.

But this was Mumford and Sons, so none of that mattered.

20130910_210953 camera_20130910210924313 camera_20130910210828291The most puzzling part of the night was this couple: camera_20130910223757551 copyThey took the grassy spot in front of our blankets, right behind two garbage cans, laid down in a drunken stupor, and slept through the entire concert. Even after the final song concluded (The Cave), and we began to walk out of the park, they continued to lay there. For minute we wondered if we should wake them up and tell them to go home, but… we didn’t.


The only problem with having plans every weekend in December is that they cause the month to go by too quickly.

We spent this weekend in Atlanta with my bestie and her family. I came home with more than 300 photos on my camera, which is insane on my part. After dedicating some storage space to engagement photos (see one example at the end), I blew the rest on Chato and the three boys. We took them to Legoland and then the Varsity for heart-stopping greasy food.

Miniature Atlanta: The Fox Theater in Legos

Miniature Falcons game:Falcons game in Legos

Chuck liked Legoland, too! Daddy builds

New Legos for two sweaty, happy boys: Lego Christmas

Post-Legoland:The three boys

The Varsity for lunch:Signage

With hats:The Varsity

The Amazing Chato:Sleeping Chato

The old men nap:the old men

I rarely take staged photos of anyone but my kiddos, so this was a real treat. This engagement shot is one of my favorites:
photo 7On our way back home from Atlanta yesterday we stopped at our favorite Christmas tree farm to chop down a tree. The thing is huge, and by huge I mean that I can’t reach the top of the tree even with a six-foot ladder. But more on that tomorrow. Right now there’s an episode of Homeland on the DVR and a treadmill waiting for me.

The Fabulous Georgian Terrace Hotel

Karin and I were so pleased with our choice of hotel in downtown Atlanta this past weekend. Directly across the street from the Fox Theater, the Georgian Terrace Hotel was the site of the premiere party for the release of “Gone with the Wind” in 1939. While it’s long since been updated for modern amenities, it retains the classic charm of a traditional Southern landmark. Check-out was at noon on Sunday. We stayed until 11:55 a.m.

Saturday night happened to be prom night in Atlanta, so while we took dessert on the terrace we enjoyed watching the parade of dresses (from classy to tacky to “Do her parents know she’s wearing that?”) and relished the delightfully warm weather.