What's in a Name?

From PenMeetsPaper

I get some quizzical looks when I mention "The Big and Bright." Unless you're a native Texan -or maybe even if you are- those words might not ring a bell. There's an old folksy song about the Lone Star State called Deep in the Heart of Texas. The first line sings, "The stars at night, are big and bright... deep in the heart of Texas." I can remember singing it a million times as a kid (they really start that whole state pride thing early here) and I'll hear it every now and then at a fair or rodeo.

It's a cheesy song, no doubt. But that first line stands out to me. This all began as a place to tell stories. Stories of people doing brave, bold, original, creative, unique things. Artists. Designers. Entrepreneurs. Innovators. Small business owners. Girl bosses. Guy bosses. Anyone with that never say die attitude making a name for themselves and changing lives along the way, whether it be others' or their own. These people are the big and bright stars shining boldly, unabashedly, in a world content to stay inside the lines.

I'm telling different kinds of stories now. Stories of families changing, couples committing their lives to each other, people embarking on new adventures. In fact, I'm becoming one of those people, embarking on a new adventure and following the voice in my head saying "do this thing that makes you feel alive." So I'm going for it, camera in hand this time, because everyone has a story to tell. We all have that brightness inside of us somewhere - now I just want to capture it.

The "life and style" part will stay, as will the occasional features of entrepreneurs I find inspiring. But at the heart of it all, it's still storytelling, and those lyrics still ring true. I want these images and stories to reflect that outlook of doing and creating things the Texas way - confidently, boldly, authentically. That's what The Big and Bright is all about.

Where I've Been and Where We're Going

Well there went the second half of 2015. I honestly did not mean for The Big and Bright to be so neglected, but sometimes, life just happens. June to December was a whirlwind. Oddly enough, the writer of this Texas blog and her husband moved to Oklahoma (for now). Even more ironically, this website that I began as a creative outlet helped secure me a job in digital marketing, doing this blogging thing full time for a variety of companies. Oh, and we got married. Minor detail.

At no point in my life prior to marriage have I looked so deeply inward. There's something incredible about having the unconditional love and unwavering support of someone to make you examine yourself: your flaws, your capabilities, and your priorities. My husband has helped challenge me in the absolute best way possible to go after my dreams, pursue new passions, and make things happen.

That means changes for this site, so I want to be up front with those who read here. The Big and Bright will soon look different. As I mentioned, I've done a lot of soul searching in these last six months and some priorities have shifted. Up to this point, The Big and Bright has been a showcase for the people, places, and style that inspire me. It will continue to be that, but I'll be including more of my own writing and photography as well. The writing style might be a little less editorial and a little more personal. This site has really helped me to appreciate people who are living boldly, being their authentic selves, creating things, and doing things their own way. So instead of just writing about those people, I'm going to BE one of those people. And this will be my place to share that.

So yes, lots of changes ahead. Most of all, I want this to be a place for creative inspiration and encouragement to live boldly. I hope you'll stick around for The Big and Bright 2.0.  Here's to a new year!

Say What?? Commonly Mispronounced in Texas

First, let's just issue an apology to the Spanish language in general.  Texas commandeered a lot of its words and then proceeded to follow almost none of its pronunciation rules.  We've made up our own rules, fallen deep into our gringo ways, and sometimes, we're just lazy talkers - regardless, there are several towns and landmarks that Texans pronounce completely differently than you might expect.  Let's take a little lesson in Tex-speak (in alphabetical order):

Bexar (San Antonio's county) - mispronounced BECKS-ahr (cue the cringes from San Antonians). 

The Texan way: Bear. Grizzly, polar... bear.

Blanco (town, river, and county west of Austin) - sometimes said BLAHN-co.

Locals say: BLANK-o.  Again, apologies. 

The Blanco River flowing through Wimberley.  Photo by JMoore Outdoor.

Buda (south of Austin) - commonly said like BOO-da/Buddha.

Tex-speak: BYOO-da.  Say it with me now - Buda is Beautiful!  Same sound.

Burnet (northwest of Austin) - occasionally said burn-ETTE.

Really said: BURN-it.  Dern it.

Dumas (Panhandle) - we'll let you guess how this might be pronounced.

Correct: DOO-muss.  

Humble (Houston area) - commonly said just like you would say Humble Pie.

Tex-speak: UM-bull.  The H is silent.

Iraan (West Texas) - commonly mispronounced as I-ran or Er-ahn, like Iran, the country.

Ready for it?  It's eye-ruh-ANN.  Tricky!  

Ranchlands in Iraan, Texas - photo by Lands of Texas.

Italy (East Texas) - looks pretty simple, right?

Wrong.  Locals say IT-lee.  No "uh" in the middle.

Lamesa (West Texas) - sometimes said la-MAY-sa. 

The Texan way: La-MEE-sa.  Gettin' gringo, here.

Leakey (west of San Antonio on the Frio River) - commonly mispronounced as LEE-key, like a faucet.

Correct: LAY-kee.  

Blue Hole, Leakey, Texas

Kuykendahl (busy road in Houston) - it looks scary but it's really not!

Instead of KOY or KOO-ee, just say KIRK. Kirk-en-doll.

Manchaca (Austin area town and road) - occasionally called Man-CHOCK-uh

Tex-speak: MAN-chack. Just forget the A on the end even exists.

Mexia (East of Waco) - this one's a doozy.  MEX-ee-uh? Meh-HEE-ya?

Nope.  Meh-HAY-uh.  Horses eat HAY in Mexia!

Miami (Panhandle) - welcome to Miami?

The Texan way:  My-AM-uhh.  Don't ask why.

New Braunfels (between San Antonio and Austin) - all too often said New Bronze-fulls.

There's just one braun, people!  One braun.  New BRAUN-fels.  Your fellow Texans thank you.

Palestine (East Texas) - not like the country!

Tex-speak: Pal-es-TEEN.  

Wolf Creek Lake, Palestine, Texas - Photo courtesy of East Texas Film Commission.

Refugio (near Corpus Christi) - occasionally mispronounced as Re-FYOO-jee-oh.

Correct: Reh-FURY-oh.  Just stick an imaginary R in the middle there.

San Marcos (south of Austin) - commonly said with extra emphasis on the O in Marcos.

The guy may as well have been named Marcus.  Lazily (locally) pronounced San MAR-kiss.

Waxahachie (south of DFW) - commonly mispronounced as WACKS-uh-hatch-ee

Think WOCKS, as in rhyming with Rocks.  WOCKS-uh-HATch-ee.  

Did any pronunciations surprise you?  Texans love to do things their own way, so we know there are several more. Which ones would you add? 

Nazareth to Nashville: Landing a Dream Internship with CMT

Hailing from a panhandle farming community, population 300, Kenley Kleman had big dreams when she left her hometown of Nazareth to attend Texas A&M.  She had developed a strong interest in television and communications in high school and worked to pursue those callings in college, majoring in Agricultural Communications and interning in the summers with a major event planning company in College Station and Channel 10 News in Amarillo.  During her senior year, Kenley took the reins on her PR dreams and steered them away from Texas, momentarily, to take advantage of a major opportunity: the internship of a lifetime with Country Music Television.  Kenley talked to us about her stint in Nashville, the perks of a job with CMT, and what she learned working with a major television network.

TB&B: What spurred your interest in working for CMT?  Is it something you've always wanted to do?

KK: From the time I was little, I've been fascinated by all things entertainment, show-biz and live events. I've also grown up on country music while listening to both my dad and brother sing and play guitar my entire life.  What better way to combine the two than working for CMT?!  It had always been a dream of mine, but I don't know if I ever truly believed it would happen.  Not because I didn't think I was capable, but it almost seemed too far-fetched for a small-town girl from Texas.  What would they want to do with me?  Little did I know God had greater plans (like He always does) and I wound up in Nashville in January 2014!

TB&B: What was the interview process like?

KK: I actually completed my interview via Skype.  Oddly enough, I think I was even more nervous than I would have been had it been in person!  When I applied, I listed the five departments that I was most interested in working with and crossed my fingers and prayed that someone would call.  I'll never forget the day I saw a Nashville number come up on my phone.  My stomach dropped as I answered it and I think I said YES! before they even officially asked me to interview.  Soon after we Skyped, I received the email I had been waiting for all along.  I had gotten the internship with the consumer marketing/social media team!  It's still hard to believe.

TB&B: Run us through a typical day at CMT.

KK: My work days would start at 10:00 A.M. and honestly, it was always something different, especially since I did two different internships - one with consumer marketing/social media and the other with corporate communications (press/public relations). With marketing and social media, some days I would go right into meetings going over marketing campaigns, social media strategies, and new initiatives.  Then, I would get busy writing tweets and Facebook posts for my assigned content.  When I first joined the press team, I was super busy helping plan and coordinate the CMT Music Awards Red Carpet.  After that, my days consisted of monitoring media for mentions and writing press releases and pitches to send to media.  At least once a week, a big star or up-and-coming singer would visit CMT to perform or do a taping and we would get to watch.  I loved that part.  We also had a lot of parties!  Whether it was good ratings, a successful premiere or just the end of a good week, CMT was always ready to celebrate.  As you can imagine, it was the most FUN job I've ever had!

TB&B: What were a few of your most exciting intern moments?

KK: Oh gosh - I don't even know where to begin!  From the first day I walked into the CMT office to hanging out at all the hot spots around Music City, ever single minute of it was exciting.  I'll never forget working the red carpet at the CMT Music Awards and getting to hang out with all the big stars back stage.  It was a surreal moment for sure.  When Alan Jackson walked through the door, I immediately got chills.  He's been one of my all-time favorites since I was little, so that was definitely an unforgettable moment.  But honestly, some of my favorite moments were making crazy memories with my roommates, who are now some of my very best friends.

TB&B: What aspect of your internship made you feel most accomplished?

KK:  CMT's internship program is absolutely fantastic.  Interns are valued.  And that is HUGE.  I learned more than I ever imagined I would and that is because I got to offer ideas and my opinions were heard and sometimes implemented!  I think I felt most accomplished when I got to write my first press release and pitch and send to media to coordinate interviews.  That's the moment I knew I wanted to do PR for a living!

TB&B:  You had several visitors while you lived in Nashville - where did you love to take them?

KK: Yes, I was very blessed that my whole family and several close friends made it to Nashville at some point while I was there.  I'm not sure if it was because I was living there, or because Nashville is just that great of a place ;)  I enjoyed taking them to the classic spots like the Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium.  I loved giving them a tour of the CMT building and introducing them to the people I worked with too.  But hands down, our favorite place was Robert's. It's one of the honkytonks on lower Broadway and they play the old stuff (like really, really old stuff) that my family loves.  We practically lived there!

TB&B: What made this the dream internship?

KK: Well, it was literally something I had been dreaming about doing for a long, long time.  And the fact that I actually got to write messages and design strategies that affected the success of the company was so rewarding.  I also met some of my very best friends (two are in my wedding) and grew up in ways that I never would have had I not taken the leap and moved to Nashville.  There are no words to express how grateful I am for the experience.

Since completing her internship, Kenley has returned to Texas to take a PR job in Dallas, refining her skills while working with clients from around the world.  She hopes to one day open her own firm focusing on entertainment public relations.  Best of luck to this Texas girl with big aspirations and a bright future!

Love, The Nelsons Project

Today, we're directing you over to Style Me Pretty to read all about one Austin-based photographer's incredible project.  Shalyn Nelson's grandparents' 63-year marriage has inspired her to embark on a journey to find real love stories that have withstood the test of time and to compile them in a book.  She's calling it the "Love, The Nelsons Project," and she's on a mission to travel to these couples, sit down and listen to their story, and document it through her beautiful photography.  

Do you know a couple whose story deserves to be told and preserved?  Shalyn is taking nominations until March 1st.  Send her an email at hello@lovethenelsons.com with "LTN Project- Old Love" as the subject line.  What a book of treasures this will be!  

How sweet are Shalyn's Papaw and Mamaw, Joe Ray and Billie Wanda?  We can't wait to see the all the stories that will be told through the Love, the Nelsons Project.  Follow along with Shalyn's journey on Instagram at  @shalynnelson and use the hashtags #lovethenelsonsproject and #oldlovebook.

Original feature and more information on Style Me Pretty | Images courtesy of Shalyn Nelson | Love, the Nelsons Fine Art & Wedding Photography based in Austin, Texas