This past weekend, I went to Texas to visit family and to cheer on my sister and brother-in-law in a charity dance competition benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters. Ironically, both my sister and I competed in charity ballroom dance competitions this year. Being polar opposites, I loved and relished every moment of being on stage, performing, and wearing tons of makeup and an outrageous sparkly costume whereas my sister was slightly mortified and had to be talked into it. That being said, I didn’t even place in my competition and my sister and brother-in-law won the whole thing. #polaropposites I thought I would embarrass us both by posting both our videos today.
You may remember all the fun I had in LA in December – so much so that I had to split it into 2 posts! (here and here) I was lucky enough to go back about a week ago for some fun work projects with CMT! I was in town for work, but I managed to fit in a few extra activities too.
When I arrived, I picked up my rental car and had a few hours to kill before my first meeting in Marina Del Ray. I decided to wander that way and check it out since I hadn’t been to that part of town. I happened upon Cafe del Rey where I enjoyed friendly service, one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten, and this view:
I still had some time to kill and luckily that time coincided with my friend Dick’s commute home. We decided to meet for some lemonade and a walk down Venice Beach. I hadn’t been to this part of LA before and it was hilarious to walk by Muscle Beach.
The next bunch of activities revolved all around work, which by the way was probably the most fun project I’ve worked on this year! CMT was in town shooting THIS!:
Tic Tac is the sponsor of this edition of CMT Crossroads and I got to star in a commercial promoting the special 50th episode. Look for me soon on CMT and possibly VH1! The commercial was shot on the Sony Pictures Lot which was fun for this Nashville girl to go to work on. I loved walking to my hair and makeup trailer and seeing that these two were right next to it.
I also got to wear a really fun retro look for the shoot.
The costume was designed and styled by the talented Amanda Valentine. (Project Runway fans will remember her from a couple of seasons ago. Some of you fashionistas may be familiar with her line Valentine Valentine.) She was assisted by the talented and creative Cheryl King who somehow made the adorable pillbox hat I wore and designed and made the Tic Tac tray I carry around in the promo.
Once the spot is out, I’ll be sure to share it along with a few more photos!
That night I went to Villa Blanca for dinner with my friend Ray. It was even more delicious than the last time I was there. We are both avid Real Housewives fans, so it was fun bumping into Lisa Vanderpump!
It wouldn’t be right to dine at Villa Blanca and not have a glass of rosé!
Acting like tourists and not caring one bit!
Other highlights from the trip include:
A friend in Nashville suggested that I should have lunch with one of his great friends, Leonardo, while in LA. Never one to turn down new friends, I took him up on the offer. I am so glad I did! Leonardo has lived a colorful life which has included: living all over the world, having a successful career as a cardiologist, and building and selling several very successful companies.
It was fun to pick his brain over lunch about what makes a person successful. Some of his advice included:
1. Realize there is no such thing as failure. The only things that happen are: success, or learning something. If you learned something, take that knowledge, apply it, and keep trying.
2. Don’t take no for an answer.
3. The enemy of the good is the very good.
4. Never get too comfortable, always strive to achieve more.
I have a feeling that this lunch was only the start to a long friendship.
It was also fun to get to stay with and see a little bit of my childhood best friend Claire! We painted LA red one night with our friends who also happen to be two former Miss California’s, Meagan and Mabelynn!
Each time I go to LA, I find that I love it more and more. The weather is perfection, the people are so nice, and there are a million fun things to do! I hope to be back soon! What are your favorite LA activities?
For the past 10 weeks I have been preparing for one of the most exciting events of my life thus far – a professional ballroom dance competition. You might think I’m joking… but I’m not. If there’s anything this girl loves it is:
1. A Sparkly Costume
2. Being on stage
4. Layers and layers of spray tan
5. Not only having a great time, but being able to raise money for a cause I believe in with all my heart while doing so.
Similar to Dancing With The Stars, this competition pairs up Nashvillians with professional dancers who compete against each in a dance contest, all while raising money for one of Nashville’s coolest non profits.
Safe Haven Family Shelter is an extra special homeless shelter. Safe Haven takes in homeless families and provides them not only with meals and shelter, but with assistance finding a job, and then a home, and then necessary services like financial counseling, etc. to end the cycle of homelessness for that family for good. As it’s been said, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”
Each vote helps raise money for this special place. (Um hi, that’s also a tax deduction for you…) Please help us raise money for Safe Haven Family Shelter! In case you needed a little extra prompting, check out this video I made of some of my partner and I’s 10 weeks of preparation. (I’m pretty proud of this, I should actually be embarrassed, but I love it!)
VOTE FOR US HERE!
If you have an interest in ballroom dancing and you live in Nashville, I could not possible give a higher recommendation to my partner Donald Stamper. It goes without saying that he is an incredible dancer, but he is also a fantastic teacher, patient, hilarious, fun and ridiculously good looking. Book him today!
And… just in case you were worried, I’ll make sure to post the video of our performance as soon as I can get my hands on it after this Saturday. A Scandinavian girl doing the cha cha… should be interesting!
Hope you all made it safely through this week – Friday came so soon for me after a busy week! I thought it might be fun to update you guys on some of the things I’ve been doing lately in Nashville.
Co-hosting the Country Music Is Love Concert Benefiting City of Hope:
Starting rehearsals for Dancing for Safe Haven with my talented partner Donald Stamper. You’ll be hearing more about the sassy cha cha we’re perfecting and how you can vote for us soon!:
Celebrating my dear expectant friend Tessa at her baby shower:
Being featured in Nashville Lifestyles Single In The City issue and accompanying party:
I guess you could say that I’m a consumer holiday’s dream girl when it comes to Valentine’s Day. I’ve always loved romance, chivalry, flowers, and chocolate, so it seems fitting that on Wanderlust and Glitter Dust’s first Valentine’s Day that I post the most true and epic love story I’ve ever read.
I remember exactly where I was when I first read the story of Layng and Linda – in a condo in Key West in the midst of several middle aged men that I only knew semi-well quietly reading an article from the New York Times. Suddenly I burst into tears, much to the bewilderment of everyone around me who asked, “are you ok…?!”
That moment was about 3 years ago and their story has stayed with me ever since, going back to reread it every so often. Layng’s son is a friend who was on the trip to Key West with me and I have been incessantly bugging him since then about meeting his parents. I called him the other day about the possibility of publishing the story and he suggested that his dad and I meet for a coffee, which I was ecstatic to do.
We met at Fido for what ended up being the most inspiring, animated, and stirring conversation I have probably ever had. Layng Martine Jr. has an inherent kindness and deep soulfulness about him that is apparent within about 5 seconds of meeting him. He also happens to be a new member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (Some people you may know of have recorded his songs… Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Reba, and Trisha Yearwood to name only a few. Click here to read more about him and his accomplishments.) We talked about everything from our backgrounds, to our life goals, to what we think makes a romantic relationship really work and when we both had to leave I blurted out, “I just feel like this conversation isn’t over yet, can you meet again tomorrow?! I want to talk more before I publish this! Will you be my best friend?!” and because he has that inherent kindness, he was polite enough to oblige me.
When Layng talks about Linda it is with some of the deepest respect I’ve ever seen conveyed in a marriage. Even after all they have been through – and 48 years of marriage by the way – he thinks she hung the moon, he wants her opinion about everything, he is in awe of her accomplishments and her heart. “Brenna, it’s just amazing. She doesn’t want ANYTHING. She’s just happy.” Cue me trying not to tear up in Fido.
I know you’re probably ready to read the story already, right? Ok, without further adieu, as written by Layng Martine Jr. (it will be obvious why he’s won so many awards for writing!) and published in the New York Times in 2009, “In a Charmed Life, a Road Less Traveled”
“My wife and I were in a motel in Roanoke, Va., on our way home from three months at the Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania, where she had been convalescing after being crippled in a car accident. It was our first night away from the skill and comfort of the nurses we had come to depend on, and so far, so good.
Then we woke up and smelled something. It smelled like a bowel movement. I lifted up the sheets. It was a bowel movement, and it was in our bed.
We knew we had a lot to learn, but we had no idea how much.
Hearing the word paraplegic had made us focus on the big thing, the fact that Linda could no longer walk. Less anticipated were the smaller humiliations and inconveniences, like bowel movements in bed or on the way to a party, sores that came out of nowhere and took months or years to heal, and inaccessible restroom stalls that caused Linda to have to catheterize herself in the public area where people were washing their hands and talking.
And on it went, the list of indignities. She couldn’t watch “Good Morning America” if the remote fell off the bed when she reached for her glasses. She wet the seat on airplanes and in friends’ cars. She could no longer feel sexual intercourse (and the powerful muscle spasms in her legs threatened to crush anyone who tried).
But we’ve learned, and adapted. Now we know the places with good handicapped-access bathrooms (Starbucks), which airline makes things easiest (Southwest), which cities have smooth curb cuts (San Francisco), and which movie theaters don’t make us sit four feet from the screen.
Anyone who is in love is living a charmed life, especially if you’ve been in love for many years, through good times and bad. I have been crazy about Linda since the first time I saw her. We always felt we could handle any challenge because we were facing it together. This time we knew we had the will, but the demands were so exhausting, the changes so pervasive, that sometimes we wondered how we would cope.
This incredibly capable woman who loved to hike mountains, ride waves, and run marathons, who had cleared our sizable backyard of eight-foot-high brambles and helped me move all our furniture into three houses, suddenly couldn’t do any of those things, ever again.
Not long after getting home from the hospital, when we were having dinner by candlelight at our kitchen table, she burst into tears. “I don’t know if I can do this for the rest of my life,” she said.
All I could say was, “We’ll do it together.”
We began to think of what we could do to replace playing tennis, walking on the beach, working in the garden. Since Linda loves the ocean, a friend found a specially designed beach chair made of PVC tubing with wide inflated tires that allow it to be pushed across the sand. It’s yellow and white with a big red umbrella.
The first time I saw Linda sitting atop those tubes and under the red umbrella, I told her she looked like Ronald McDonald’s homecoming queen.
She laughed like crazy, then repeated it to everyone she knew.
A few summers later, one of our three sons suggested that he and I get on either side of the chair, slide Linda off, carry her into the ocean and drop her just beyond the waves so she could float calmly behind the crashing breakers.
At first we put her in a life preserver, but she tipped over and couldn’t right herself. So we took it off, and to our surprise she bobbed peacefully, looking once again like every other person lolling in the sea on a summer day.
You know those great old stores on Newbury Street in Boston with five or six steps up to each one? At first we could get up only about three of those a day. Now we can do every single store, one right after the other, all day long. My arms and my back are stronger — so are Linda’s — and there’s a rhythm to our teamwork that’s become second nature to us.
We take many more drives now, preferably in our convertible, looking for pretty roads and funky hamburger places, especially ’50s-style drive-ins where they bring the food to our car. Before the car even moves an inch, though, Linda has to put on her seat belt, because even a semi-sudden stop at low speed will whap her face against the dashboard as if she’s a spring-loaded bobblehead. She has no stomach muscles. Her body works only from the chest up.
I remember the day we had to tell her that. She was in the I.C.U., tubes all over, machines and screens whirring and blinking, traces of dried blood in her gnarled hair. The doctor and I stood on either side of her bed.
“Linda,” he said, “this accident you were in was a rough one.”
“I can tell,” she said, her words warped by the breathing tube.
“At the moment your legs do not move.”
She looked at him. “Will they?”
“I doubt it.”
Her eyes shifted over to me. I squeezed her hand gently.
After the doctor left, tears filled her eyes. “It was all too perfect,” she said, “wasn’t it?”
And it did seem that way. It always had.
My first glimpse of her was through the screen door of her house; I’d gone there to see her brother. She was 21, and I was 22. She looked adorable in her orange dress, and I thought, “If that girl will have anything to do with me, that’s it.”
We settled in Nashville, where I was an aspiring songwriter. A decade later we were able to buy a summer house on a harbor in Rhode Island. That’s where we were going when the accident happened. We had been traveling in two cars when something went wrong with mine and we stopped in Knoxville at a repair shop. Linda was wearing a blue and white seersucker dress as she and our youngest son, Mac, who was 15, walked to her car. It was the last time I would ever see her walk. As they pulled away, she called out, “See you in a few hours!” and blew a kiss.
I blew one back.
We planned to meet up later at a motel in Allentown.
Have you ever come upon a traffic jam on the Interstate and looked for an exit to try your luck on the back roads? That’s what I did the night of Linda’s accident. I drove right by my family without even knowing it. I bet I wasn’t more than 100 feet away.
It was late. I was impatient. Traffic was stopped in both directions. Finally I managed to move to the shoulder and scoot along to an exit, where I found an empty frontage road running parallel to the highway.
Barely onto it, I saw a cluster of blinking blue lights in the distance. Wow, what happened? I wondered if Linda and Mac were already at the motel, or if they were also stuck in this jam. Then I thought: Could they be in that accident? But wait — of course not. They were way ahead.
A while later I stopped at a diner, where I found a pay phone and dialed the motel. When I asked for the Martine room, the desk clerk said, “There’s someone on the other line calling for Martine, too.”
“Someone from the hospital in Hershey.”
“Can you connect me?”
“No, but they gave me their number.”
I hung up and redialed, my face hot. The woman who answered identified herself as the hospital chaplain. She said my family had been in an accident.
“Are they all right?”
She put the doctor on, who told me that my son was O.K. My wife, however, was a different story.
I listened as he described her condition, then asked, “Can she think?”
“Yes. Her brain is fine.”
And that’s when I knew we could do it, long before I had any idea what “it” was.
Now, 15 years later, we do know.
We know that most people — strangers, anywhere — will knock themselves out to help us if we explain what we need. We know to say “Yes” to nearly everything because there is probably a way to do it. We know there is happiness available every day, most of it requiring more effort than money. And effort seems like a small price to pay for a day at the beach, a trip to New York or for dinner up eight steps to a friend’s home.
A few months after the accident, Linda started driving again. Her car has hand controls. She thinks nothing of driving to visit her father two hours away by herself. She has rolled three marathons — yes, a full 26-plus miles in a racing wheelchair.
And now, so long since that fateful night, looking across the dinner table at my wife, or seeing her across the room at a party, the hopeless crush I have on her is as wonderfully out of control as when I first saw her more than four decades ago through the screen door. I still get excited after work when I pull in the driveway and know that I’ll soon get to see the sexy, beautiful, very funny person I live with. And, later on, snuggle up to her in bed.
We’ve rolled up and down the hills of Tuscany, squeezed into pubs in Ireland, explored narrow streets in Paris and Rome, gone to Red Sox games, had coffee in the sunshine in San Francisco, Portland, Chicago and Miami. And we’ve learned that alongside great loss we can still have a great life. We want it so badly, and we love it so much.
At sunset, as we sit on the deck of our house in Rhode Island in our side-by-side chairs — mine Adirondack-style, hers on wheels — we look across the water at Fishers Island and think we are as lucky as two people can be.
We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, or who will live how long. But we were young together. We struggled to make a life. We raised three great sons. We’ve each been the caregiver and the cared-for, and I suspect that we each have a little more of both in our future.
We are two, but we are one. And I love those numbers.”
Every time I reread this story, it feels like the first. Layng’s words touch my heart so so deeply and I always seem to take a new lesson from it. Talking to Layng, it is apparent that he and Linda just get what’s really important in life and I am so inspired by their love, loyalty, commitment, and respect for each other. I hope that on this Valentine’s Day, whether you are single or in a relationship, that you will also be inspired to love the way they do.
As I mentioned, Layng is an award winning songwriter and he sent me this excerpt from the speech he gave when he was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame this past October:
“Now I will attempt to thank my incredible wife Linda.
We’ve been married these 48 years.
Linda has made me feel like a valuable and good person when I wasn’t sure I was either of those.
I have had the benefit of her wonderful judgement at all key moments.
She has loved me and kept her sense of humor through the darkest of times.
Early in our marriage I failed in a business…we lost what money we had, and eventually lost our house..had to decide if I would go back into the Madison Avenue world where I had been before, and not been happy, or shoot for our dreams and come to Nashville.
“Nashville”, Linda said, “no choice”.
We got here with a four week old baby Tucker, two and a half year old Layngo, and started over. Linda never batted an eyelash.
There were many nights when I was loading trucks out by the airport hoping one of my songs would be successful that I would stop in my tracks and think, “Hey, Wait a minute! How realistic is it in this life that you could have Linda AND a hit record?”
Often…it seemed asking too much.
So, Linda Martine, thank you. You ARE heaven on earth.”
Happy Valentines Day Y’all!