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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rock on, 2014

I have my 2015 resolutions, but no need to tout them unless I actually tackle them. I learned over the last year that it's not about a "to-do" list; it's all about a "to-done" list. I discovered that at the end of every work week, if I list what I knocked-out, I feel much more confidant approaching the next round of what I have ahead. 

So with that spirit of accomplishment in mind, I wouldn't be a blogger without a post breaking down the Top 10 for 2014. But we all know what number one was . . . is . . . and will always be. This year broke down into 2014, L.B.B. (Life Before Baby) and 2014, L.A.B. (Life After Baby). You can definitely see a shift in what I consider accomplishments! So, starting with the obvious and working our way backwards and then up again . . . 

1. Brought a New Soul into This World: 

Seven pound, four ounce Jameson Walden Weatherford arrived in Macon, Georgia on June 28, 2014 after 11 hours of labor. Looking back, I didn't realize it at the time, but I kicked ass in the delivery room. No matter how you do it - whether natural, with an epidural or with a c-section - any woman who has been through that is nothing short of Wonder Woman. I still can't believe what I physically withstood. And I remain in awe of the prize we got to take home. On that June afternoon, my life was simplified and complicated all at the same time. I'll forever know 2014 as the year I met me as a mother. It will always be the year God handed me the greatest gift I could ever imagine. And it will forever and always be the year of birth in so many ways.

Now for 2014, L.B.B., just when I thought I knew life as you know it . . . 

10. Attended South by Southwest 

Sure I was six months pregnant and didn't get to enjoy ALL Austin had to offer, but I finally made it to South By. I learned a lot. I ate a whole lot. And Jamie and I managed to take our pic by the famous "I Love You So Much" graffiti at Jo's Coffee on South Congress. I also navigated ATL, AUS and ORD airports and the flights over and back with a baby on board in my belly. I quickly learned people aren't always kind to big-bellied women and spreading the arms and legs for a security pat-down with said belly is a lesson in humility. Still, Austin has been on my bucket list of American cities. I definitely want an encore. 

9. Incubated a Human Being

I absolutely loved being pregnant. Even if I did get a little flustered with the comments, as I previously posted here. Carrying my baby boy inside of me was an honor I'll never take for granted. I wrote before that our journey to baby wasn't without its sadness (2014 was waaay better than 2013). I took it day-by-day and thanked God for each one of them. I've also got to give myself props for going to the gym and Pure Barre all the way up to week 35, especially considering I haven't been back. I would have kept going up to 40 if not for a slight stress fracture in my foot. Up until then, I was really digging maternity fashion, too. But there is just no way of dressing up nine months pregnant AND an awkward foam boot. I did keep up with prenatal yoga at the way to the end with the fabulous Mandy Miller at Hometown Yoga, and I credit a lot of that to the breathing that got me through my initial eight hours of contractions. I'm also proud of the pampering I treated my pregnant self to on the journey, from the blow-outs, pedicures, massages and babymoon to the Amelia Island Ritz - 'cause I sure miss it now!

Now for 2014, L.A.B. As small as they seem, once our cub started rocking our worlds, this is what lists are now made of! 

8. Launched

During my blink-of-an-eye maternity leave, I managed to finally put the finishing touches on content for Rock Candy Tours' website. Our extremely patient friend and web guru Adam Ruback of Double Down Productions was able to launch us live, making me no longer the cobbler with no shoes. The website is beautiful and communicates our company's story well, so check it out, and learn more about our Macon, Georgia music history tour company.

7. Re-Vamped

Breastfeeding has more benefits than I ever realized. One of them being whether I am pumping or nursing, I find myself thumbing through Instagram and mom blogs more than ever. That inspired me to get my act together again in Macon Candyland. It started with a dog blog, then our wedding story and now it's finding its voice as a down south working mama's perspectives on new familyhood, as well as a continued love letter to my fair hometown of Macon, Georgia (and maybe just a sprinkle of wisdom according to Dolly Parton). I hope I don't embarrass my son too much when he reads this one day. 

6. Read Two Novels

Call it inconsequential but finishing two fiction books for fun after having a baby felt like a feat. Everyone told me that reading gets left on the bedside after baby. I guess I was told it enough to where I was determined to take on a chapter by chapter challenge. I completely engulfed Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl in record time (and even went on a ladies' night out to see the movie!). I started one of Elin Hilderbrand's surefire "beach read" the Castaways during the summer months after I had Walden, but it took me longer than any easy read ever! It was well into fall and completely wilted before I finished it. But damnit,I finished it. Brace yourself: I'm reading my third novel, a paperback appropriately called Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas. Let's see if I can speed up my new average of a book every two months. 

5. Danced to "Patches" with my Son at Second Sunday

As I got to know Jamie during the early dating days, I told him I had three obsessions: Iceland, Dolly Parton and the song "Patches" by Clarence Carter. The night of our wedding, he had his friend Brian learn and perform "Patches" as a surprise for me. He made my dream happen of setting it up where I could karaoke the song at the 2012 Bragg Jam Christmas Party. The first time I felt Walden kick inside my belly was during the screening of the Muscle Shoals documentary at the Macon Film Festival when the story behind "Patches" was revealed. It remains my favorite song of all time. So, when I booked Clarence Carter to perform at College Hill's signature Second Sunday Concert Series, Walden wasn't even in utero yet. But when Clarence Carter's concert finally happened on October 12, 2014, little Walden made his Second Sunday debut, wearing head phones, of course, and strapped onto his mama where we danced to hopefully what will be one of his favorite songs, too. 

Photo by Maryann Bates

4. Caught the Attention of NPR with Macon's Music Heritage 

In September, I wrote a column in our local newspaper on how the original office space of Capricorn Records was in danger of being demolished. The site, which wasn't just the home to Capricorn Records but also RedWal Music Group, where Otis Redding and my family headquartered the southern soul movement, is the most photographed facade on our Rock Candy Tour. The building has been in a state of critical neglect for decades now. The fact that it was up for demolition was no surprise. But what got me was how music heritage in general - and the landmarks that helped shape the sounds of American music - are an endangered species in many cities with a music past. This plight of preservation made it to the listeners of National Public Radio when friend and Murrow-award winning journalist Adam Ragusea produced a story on Macon's music heritage. You can read or listen to the story here. As for the Capricorn building, good news was received this week where plans are underway to save the historic facade and hopefully re-use the space in a way that continues to connect it with its groundbreaking past. 

The family business at 535 Cotton Avenue

3. Wrote a Feature Story for the 11th Hour

The job that changed everything for me was when I worked as the editor of the 11th Hour, Macon's bi-weekly, brow-raising, alt-newspaper that shook our pristine cherry trees like a polaroid picture when it arrived to town in early 2000. As editor, I also did a lot of writing, trying my darndest to harken the feature writer within my journalism degree. The 11th Hour gave me the chance to have a byline on stories about music, arts and local culture, but we also went deeper, and I soon sharpened my chops with investigative stories on the meth epidemic, sex offenders, prostitution, the money of mega-churches and more. It was a blast. We took our dogs to work, wore flip-flops that everyone made a big deal about, had a margarita machine in our office and our own 11th Hour television show on cable (syndicated in Houston County!). Brad and Meagan Evans, who continue to own and publish the paper, remain our dearest friends today. In fact, Brad stood by me at the altar on my wedding day as my "Bradsmaid." And now that the Evans have two cutie-patootie baby girls, we're starting to enjoy this family thing all together. 

I've been itching to write a feature story, old school 11th Hour style, since having a baby. I don't know if it's hormonal or a flight or fight instinct, but when Brad said they needed a feature for the last issue of the year, I was hell-bent on breaking out the "investigative" notebook and harkening the past. The day after the Ferguson verdict, Brad and I journeyed to one of the worst crime-ridden streets in Macon, based on an obscure lead, to interview an old timer about of all things, Christmas lights. Just like the old days, one surreal moment led to another . . . Brad's giant butcher knife in the front seat of his car, the group of gangsters who never took their eyes off of us and the interview that came through for us. To complete a cover story again for the 11th Hour was one of the best Christmas gifts I gave myself. Brad said it best when he texted me, "We've still got it." To read the complete article "What Killed the Christmas Spirit on Capitol Avenue," click here
2. Submitted to a Literary Agent 

Three days ago I hit SEND and my heart hit the floor. For years, I've tried to work up enough nerve to start soliciting literary agents. You see, my name is Jessica Walden and my real dream is to write children's literature. There, I admitted it. Over the years, there are very few who know about my secret stash of stories I've been writing all of my life. I finally polished up two of my favorites that I penned nearly a decade ago. The week right after Walden's birth, I began researching agents and working on my submission materials. This is just the first step . . . to catch the attention of an agent who can then solicit my work. But this first step was paralyzing. Still, in a Starbucks on the north side of town (because my downtown coffee shop was closed), I finally put it all together and emailed it to the dream agent. I'm ready for rejection. I know that's the second step in this lifelong goal puzzle. But I am also saying my prayers, crossing my toes and doing a rain dance that maybe, just maybe, 2015 is the year some of these stories see the light of day. But even if not, I'll count on Walden to be my biggest critic. If the day comes where he asks me to read him one of my stories, I will be living a dream.  

And that brings us back to one. One perfect blessing. One healthy, adoring baby boy. Today, my mother, brother and stepfather are in town and have spent most of the day with Walden, allowing Jamie and I to have a much-appreciated day date. Earlier, as I was getting ready, I could hear laughter coming from downstairs. Not only was it the sound of my baby boy's precious chuckle, but I could hear my mother laughing along with him. My mom now lives five hours away, and I don't get to hear her laugh enough. These two great loves laughing alongside each other in my home was one of those pinch me moments of peace, love and sweet realization. I love you, 2014. Thanks for the milestones. 

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