Happy Birthday to Me…Thanks for the Memories

Happy Birthday to Me…Thanks for the Memories

 After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It’s better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life…There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.

–Sophia Loren, named “The World’s Most Naturally Beautiful Person”one month before she turned 72

On the eve of another one, here’s to friends who taught me over the past few years to celebrate every birthday in a big way. Thanks to pals and family for making rich memories in my 52nd year. You danced, laughed and cried with me through the good stuff and the growing pains. Thanks to you and my God for loving me–especially those times when I didn’t love myself.

My son became a senior, my daughter an adult. I’m not excited about an empty nest, but I’m working on it. That and a lot of things. But for now, what is is enough. I have plenty of candles to light the way. Happy Birthday to Me.

Birthday…Kim made Tres Leches Cake and gang gave me dancing shoes 🙂

Party at Kim’s before Mad Donna’s

Kim calls this one “Salsa Barbie.”

The gang goes to the Nashville Film Festival to support me on the Big Screen, then Musica Campesina begins its world tour…



Film Festival Party

Then there was the Classic Coup World Tour thanks to Rawsam, Emily, and Dehan…

Rawsam takes Road Less Traveled across US, Canada, Central & South America, Middle East
Emily takes Road Less Traveled to Africa
Dehan wears Rebel Reads From Alaska to Europe
Sherry Sifers Coyle wrote: Just wanted to let you know, dear friend, that without the Romeo and Juliet books you provided for my seniors this year, they would have graduated never having read a Shakespeare play. And. . . without having read the play, one of my students would have never had the chance to take first place today in a local Shakespeare speech competition. Love ya’, Cindy 🙂 My students in Nashville Skyped with Sherry’s students in Quito about love and parents after reading R and J together.
Classic Coup in Gulch’s Nashville Clothing Company

Cole in lead role of Our Town
Cole’s junior prom
Mom with Cole
David Sandoval teaching salsa to my students on World Culture Day
Italian cooking class with Paulette

Taylor starts new job
Lake…Kyler and Cole
Tubing with my sister, Penny
Left lake to get story on Rumba at CMA Fest
Examiner Article on Rumba at Chukkers for Charity Featured as Top Story in Arts/Entertainment

So honored to have been part of Moni and Ale’s big day

Thanks to Emily for making reservations and beautiful pics. The fancy photos are hers.
Beach Buddy


Summer Reading to grade
Cole does Tennessee Tech campus tour and is sold.
Cole’s senior pic

One of Kenny and Sheyla’s parties…link to featurette I did for Alimentum magazine

Emila at Cindy D’s luau
Italian Lights…dancing on grapes
Chilean Independence Day

Spoke in Carole’s Belmont University class on Southern Festival of Books and Classic Coup

My Girl

Yuri Cunza of Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presents Journalism and Community Award
Students recite Shakespeare wearing Hamlet tees

Cole rocks pre-K


Thank you, Paulina, for inviting me to see you become my fellow American. You said you waited 18 years and I’ll never forget your tears of joy.

“I Will Survive” serenade at Pablito’s
Getting by with a little help from my friends… thanks for the advice and the love…

And this birthday at Beth’s…Thanks Emily for video and gang for another celebration.

Weekend in New Orleans: Lesson One

Written January 11th, 2010…

Reentry into reality is rough after a NOLA weekend.  Maybe that’s why my first day back I tried to sustain the sugar high, having a praline before bed last night and another for breakfast this morning.  My Café du Monde bag is on the kitchen table, and if I weren’t so tired I’d bust out the beinget mix for tomorrow’s buzz.   Tonight after cooking Jambalaya—albeit an imposter exposed by red roux and a Zatarain’s box—I just downloaded Lil’ Nathan from iTunes.  Lawd, Kim and I found him beautiful at the Rock’n’Bowl.  “Ballin’ on Zydeco” makes me smile…and move.

My son calls from downstairs, “What are you doing up there?”

“Just dancin’ darlin,’” I say in an exaggerated Southern drawl, as if I don’t have one already.

Though I can’t see his eyes rolling, I hear his disapproval:  “I asked Josh if you said ‘Nawlins’ in his class today.  He said, ‘Yes, and it was annoying.’  Why do you have to be so weird, Mom?”

He’d have shaken his head if he’d seen my Facebook status my first night away: “I love me some zydeco.”  He’d have downright disowned me if he’d known I’d stalked Lil’ Nathan on Myspace, downloaded his album from iTunes, and considered buying his ringtone from Myxer.  He’d call this my “New Orleans Faze,” embarrassed by my sharing my enthusiasm for other cultures again with his peers.  It’s tough being a teacher’s kid.  Especially when the teacher is me.  Again, he’d ask, “What about Italy? Or salsa?” though I’d just shrug my shoulders and keep writing this post.  He doesn’t get that I can love more than one place, more than one group of people, even more than one dance at a time.  But to be honest, I HAD FORGOTTEN I can love more than Latin dance since I became addicted to salsa two years ago and began writing about it as the Nashville Latin Dancing Examiner.

Before leaving Nashville, Kim and I had naturally planned to check out the salsa scene in New Orleans.  In fact, for the past couple of years we’ve planned all vacations around Latin dancing.   In Barcelona we hit the two biggest clubs on the Spanish coast.  In California I showed up for street salsa in Santa Monica to the horror of my two teenagers.  On the plane last Thursday we talked of sooner-than-later salsa destinations, like Miami, and those for the long haul, like Puerto Rico and Argentina, favs on our bucket list. But this trip was different—much to do.

We went to NOLA for the reunion concert of the Swingin’ Haymakers, Kim’s ‘90s rockabilly group nominated “Best Country Band” four years in a row by Offbeat and the Big Easy Awards.  Having lived in New Orleans eleven years, she had friends to see—those still living in the city and others who were flying in from Nashville, Tampa, Atlanta, and Chicago. The show was scheduled for Saturday and there would be hours of rehearsal. Still, whether from denial or force of habit, we crammed our salsa shoes in suitcases overstuffed with sweaters, scarves, gloves, and hats, sat on them until they’d zip, and headed out on yet another adventure.  As usual, our salsa quest turned more Monty Python as we found it not-so-easy to find salsa in the Big Easy.

On Thursday we planned to meet our friend, April, a longtime dancer, at a salsa venue.  All three of us were disappointed when a championship game—and possibly record cold weather—cancelled the event.  Though she couldn’t join us on Friday, she suggested other places to try.  At The Balcony the band was good and the crowd friendly, but again, the cold kept most locals away.  Not quite the scene we’d hoped for…

No doubt I’d wanted to return to Nashville and write on Examiner about all the amazing places we had danced.   I’m not sorry we tried.   But I realized having an agenda can mess with my usual “When in Rome” approach to travel.   I was like the tourist who spends precious vacation time frantically searching for souvenirs to remember a trip at the cost of making memories while there.  And though I learned long ago not to be that girl who eats at a favorite chain restaurant instead of trying the local cuisine, I had to remind myself to step out from behind the camera long enough to be part of the action.  As a friend tells me to do often…it was time to let go of expectations, to embrace the moment, to stop worrying about what I’d write in the future and instead live in the present.  When I did that, I was free to fall in love with a city full of soul— an eclectic place alive, festive, and rich with friends, food, and fun. And when I tried dancing to the beat of another drum–literally– I fell into the rhythm of zydeco and the spirit of a magical place.  For photos of this NOLA getaway go here.