9/30 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...

So, as you may have already assumed, I am NOT the next American Idol. Shocking isn't it? I know you all assumed I would be, right?!! Hahahaaa... Well, I didn't think so. Maybe that was half of my problem in the first place? Who knows.
The trip to Austin was awesome! First of all, as a child from a brood of 9 getting to take a vacation with my mother all alone simply can't be beat! We walked around downtown where our fantastic hotel was, found some treasures in the cutest little vintage shops, ate some great food, had a few drinks, went to the spa and of course found a mall....it was a blast!!

We showed up to get in line at 5am the morning of tryouts and sat on the sidewalk with thousands crowded around us for 2 hours with a cricket infestation until they finally let us in to find our numbered seats. It was regular weather for Texas in July, about 85 degrees already with a humid stickiness in the air that made it impossible not to sweat! We were smiling though and just having fun taking in all the entertainment around us. People had their guitars and ukulele's out, they were singing their 'showiest' songs and the smell of competition was thick in the air.
...and then it happened....
Ryan Seacrest made an appearance and judging from the complete insanity of the 15,000 people around me, this was apparently supposed to be extremely exciting! He definitely looked like ....a guy. I will say he has a lovely speaking voice, which is why he's managed to make the big bucks I'm sure. I'm serious, everything he said was very clear and fluid. He had impeccable pronunciation and great stage presence. He did the whole "THIS is American Idol!!" thing and had us clap/sing/flash our cameras on cue for about 10 takes and then said good luck and we never saw him again.

'Cowboy Casanova' by Carrie Underwood is the song of choice for Austin tryouts. They had us memorize it and sing it over and over and over and shot a bunch of footage. That will be the song contestants who made it through will sing in front of the camera to play during the Austin tryouts episode. This part was actually really fun! They had a music instructor of sorts singing with us and getting everyone all pumped and energized for our big moment...
...so on to the big moment...
On the TV, it appeared that Simon, Randy, and the other judges sat and endured all of the thousands of hopefuls and that your ticket to Hollywood was in their hands at that one audition. Right? I mean, that's what we all thought, wasn't it??

So, you can imagine the shock on every one's face when a crew came out and set up 10 tables across the floor with a curtain in between each one. Then, 15-20 judges came out and sat down and we were told how the auditions would go. We would herd down, section at a time, to the floor. At that point we'd be lined up 4 across at each judges table with 2-3 groups of 4 waiting in line behind us. We'd be pointed at, step forward, sing for approximately 10 seconds, stopped and then the next followed the same. While you were singing, so were the people at the other 9 tables. The two judges at our table would talk behind their clipboards for a few seconds and then dismiss us.
I'm telling ya, I heard the theme song from 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' in my head when I stepped forward. I wasn't nervous, just focused. I just wanted to do the very best that I could with my ten seconds. I belted out my version of Faith Hill's 'If I'm Not In Love With You' and felt(and still feel) confident with how I did. I've been singing my whole life and I'm my own worst critic. There have been times, many, when I didn't feel I did my very best. This time I did and I'm thankful for that. It leaves me with no regrets or hard feelings. What more can a person do than their best? Nothing.

There were around 50 out of ~15,000 who auditioned that were not dismissed. The crowd roared each time somebody made it through. That's when, for me, the jig was up!! I saw people with beautiful smiles and voices full of talent dismissed and the 400lb dude wearing no shirt and the Texas flag as a cape who couldn't sing allowed through! He may have been a nice fellow, but honestly I was stunned. As brilliant as I may find myself to be at times(and those times do exist:)....this time I felt like a total airhead! I realized what was happening when I found out that all the people who made it through in Austin that day, were asked to return in October to audition in front of those famous four judges we see on the show! Get it?
J-Lo, Steven Tyler and Randy will go to each audition city and see the small select group handpicked for show. This means when you watch the show in January every single one of those contestants made it through the summer auditions and were asked to return by their own means to that audition city again in the fall to appear in front of the real judges. 'The good, the bad and the ugly'. This made me feel bad for a lot of them right away. Somebody like Simon Cowell saying to a hopeful singer..."Who ever told you that you could sing should be shot" or.."You're the worst singer I've ever heard" just didn't make sense to me anymore. People spend time and money again to make a trip when those judges know very well why they picked them and that they would be wasting their time and money indeed.
I couldn't be angry. It all fit together now and honestly a show that is ranked #1 in the country needs no other explanation! It's all a genius work of art, put together by a vast, intelligent team of people who know EXACTLY what it takes to get the viewers to tune in....and I'll be one of them!! It's a fun show to watch, especially if you have an itch for singing and entertainment! You bet I'm gonna try to pick myself out in those crowd shots with Seacrest during the Austin episode and I'm happy I did it! I'm proud of myself for following through with something I've had on my bucket list for years. Now I can watch the show with a whole new set of eyes and I'm sure that will be fun in itself!
It was a crazy machine, but totally worth the ride. How can you feel bummed after a few fun days away with your mom? You can't! Life will take you where it goes and it's much more enjoyable when you don't let road blocks hold you up too much. Usually, or I guess in my experience anyway, something bigger and better is always waiting around the corner after a disappointment. I wonder what it is?? It's never what I think it is and that seems to work out for the best, so I guess you just have to keep grabbing life by the horns and hold on!!! After all, it's all these experiences, good, bad and ugly, that give us wisdom and clarity of mind.


7/23 It's almost time!!

Well, well, well....here we are 2 weeks before Idol auditions and I haven't chickened out?! A room has been booked, plans have been made, shopping has been done, I've practiced and then practiced some more! Seems crazy, considering I've been saying I was going to do it for 10 years now!! It's time. Even if I never make it through the first round, I'll be proud of myself for trying:)
Something's gotta give though. If it's not American Idol, there are multiple avenues to explore and I'm excited to see where life will lead me next! My brain is short-circuiting because I've got too much physical and creative energy bouncing around and lack an outlet large enough to handle it!!! haha...

Really though, my life over the past months has been crazy and overloaded...and by no fault but my own! I've traveled to
New Mexico, Arkansas,
some of those twice or more and a few places in between. Along the way I took anybody's picture who'd let me! Snapped, downloaded and edited a ridiculous amount of photos while keeping up with my photo website. http://newdawnphotobytamara.com/
Tried to blog when I possibly could. Made time for friends. Crocheted my first blanket (which traveled to 4 of those states during it's assembly) for my new niece.

Fulfilled my regular duties of cleaning, organizing the house TO DEATH, catching frogs
swimming, building rocket ships,

reading books, cooking, playing, cooking, playing, repeat.... Which reminds me of the two weeks of lunches/dinners I made for my mom to get her to stop eating Nutrisystem.

Took care of/cleaned up after our brood of rabbits,
a couple of chickens, a dog, a giant bird and a fish.

Attended a family reunion dedicated to my grandmother with a gift project for everyone in hand.

Had lots of family pass in and out of town. Shopped, of course:) Offered massages gratis to family when I thought they needed it or even when they didn't. Created a family tree and turned it into 11 canvases and sent them out.

Visited Mom and Dad a few times and each time tackled some daunting task (ie: cleaning the garage, organizing the storage room (which has given people nightmares), updating and re-designing their company website, etc). Chased this guy around on a speeding dirtbike!
When I hear that somebody could use my help, my response is pretty much "sure!". If I have spare time, I fill it with the zoo, the park, a walk, a project...there's always project after project...
I just rattled off a SAMPLING of what I keep myself busy with, so do you see what I mean?! I can't stand sitting still and even when I'm sleeping my brain is at work. Like my dad, my best ideas wake me up straight out of deep sleep! Leo keeps me challenged which is a good thing and I anticipate every second of being his mommy.

I also want to show him that anything is possible and that 'gifts' are not meant to be wasted, talent is meant to be shared, time is precious, tough times are necessary to acquire wisdom, giving is a way of life and love is not an option.....and most of all, that he can always count on me. Taking advantage of every second of life is critical to accomplish those goals, so that's exactly what I intend to do! Wish me luck;)


7/7 Crazy Deams...

You said to try an upbeat tune...here goes!!!

(Remember, there is no background music allowed at the audition)


6/16 Grandma Francis

My grandma Francis was an amazing person, no joke. This weekend is her birthday and we continue to celebrate it even now that she's gone by having a family reunion. I put this picture together and wrote the little poem in remembrance:) The house in the pictures is in shambles there, but those of us who spent years visiting her there remember it much differently. That's Grandma on the right playing her fiddle. She played wonderfully and taught her whole family that playing an instrument and/or singing brought joy to the world. At the bottom is a small picture of her and Grandpa when they got married. These two created a family tree that goes on and on including hundreds of us. What an honor to be in their tree.

I'm only one of hundreds you see
who make up your beautiful family tree
Missing you so and talking to you when I pray
I take comfort in your words of wisdom that help to guide my way
You taught me so much about the kind of person I want to be
and in my heart and with me always is where you'll forever be
Miss you, Grandma.
-Tamara Dawn


6/9 A Mangiare challenge!

See the look on my face here...that's the look of a girl who LOVES a challenge:) I have an impulse when somebody says "you can't do that"...to say "WATCH ME!"

Take, for instance, a week ago when my mother bought my niece a large saucer style chair for her bedroom and we were all outside the store trying to figure out how to get it in the car...we tried the back seat, front seat, the trunk....it just wouldn't fit!! Everyone was ready to give up and decided we needed to drive all the way back later with a truck to get it. Considering there were a trillion other errands to be run, I WAS NOT about to waste that kind of time! My sister said, jokingly, "Somebody should just get in the trunk with the chair and hold the trunk door down! Hahahaa"......
Well, before they all stopped laughing, I was under the chair in the trunk of my mom's Lincoln Towncar asking for somebody to hand me the trunk door and saying "Let's go!"
Now that you know this about me, you'll understand why I did what I did yesterday;)

My mom, in her desire to shed a few pounds, decided to purchase Nutrisystem. I have been preaching to my family for a long time now about the importance of eating well and especially the importance of health/fitness over diet/weight loss. As you can imagine, I was not thrilled about Nutrisystem at all. However, I really understood the predicament my mom was in. She and my dad (who could use a little health/fitness makeover himself, but don't tell him I said so) own and run a large, successful corporation. They work 6 days a week and their days are long and full of hard work, both physically and mentally draining. So, the last thing she feels like doing when she gets home is think of what to make, let alone to actually cook! At this point, she needs to be eating a nice meal (that she didn't have to make), taking a nice bath and relaxing! These are all things we agree on:)

Where we disagree is how/where those warm meals should come from! I suggested to her to take a day each week or two and prepare meals with good ingredients and actual nutrients to freeze. Then she could just take it out and heat it up! She was not as excited about this as I was, because the task of coming up with a menu and preparing the food still seemed daunting. See, Nutrisystem works because it has basically no nutrition, it's not really food! For her, it seemed appealing because it comes in a box and all she had to do was eat it. She said to me "You can't just prepare food for two weeks at a reasonable price...how could you do that?....just coming up with the menu would be hard!"
I said, "WATCH ME!" :)
I don't think she thought I could do it, which made it extra enticing to me. She was paying Nutrisystem $XXX for two weeks worth of lunches and dinners for just herself. I was able to prepare and package two weeks worth of lunches and dinners for her AND my dad for 2/3 the price she was wasting on 'non-food'.
Here's how I did it:
First, I came up with a menu. I perused the Nutrisystem menu and also added some of my own easy/freezable recipes and came up with the menu below(click to enlarge). She can figure out what things she liked and what things she didn't like and change that in later menus.
Then, I compiled a master grocery list. Being mindful of cost, but mostly concerned about being sure to use FRESH ingredients and ingredients with no chemicals.

Then, I power-cooked for about 6 hours and completed all the meals in time for my nephew to take them to her in Kansas yesterday evening since he was going anyway.
The meals came together perfectly, I didn't burn anything but my arm;)
It was actually pretty fun!! I like to cook and I loved the challenge! Also, I work best under pressure so since my nephew was leaving, the time constraint worked to my advantage;)

She had two weeks of lunches and dinners delivered right to her door last night, which is exactly what Nutrisystem offered. The cool part is that it's all REAL food, prepared in a clean kitchen with fresh ingredients....and it's all enough for two! So, now dad can get healthy too!! I even sent along fresh fruit, some bakery bread, yogurt, granola, etc....things she can't easily get where they live.
I was done and had a spotless kitchen before the sun set. I don't mind saying here...."dang, I'm good" Hope you enjoy it, Mom!
There are company's all over that cater to those of us who may not have the time to prepare quality food in their home. DON'T call Nutrisystem! Look up 'meals-to-go' companies that do exactly what I did for my mom. There are even places that have stations where you dish up the meals into containers yourself and then take them home and freeze! For the more frugal household...this only took me about 7 hours total, shopping included. I'm no master chef, so you can do it too I'm sure! You could take a Sunday afternoon and prepare your meals for the week or be extra adventurous and try two weeks! There are always possibilities and the point is IT CAN BE DONE!! You can find a way to be healthful that works for your home and schedule. All you have to do is try it!