Happy 30th Freedomversary, Mom and Dad!

  
On January 9, 1986, my parents landed in the United States after a two-month stint in Italy following their escape from Soviet-occupied Lithuania in October 1985. 30 years later, they still love America more than ever before–despite malcontents in power positions trying to undermine her.

For this occasion, my sister and I wanted to surprise our parents with a gift they would cherish forever to mark this special occasion: lunch at a fancy waterfront near an airport (Reagan National) to give them a nostalgic reminder of how they arrived here–by plane. What better way to mark their arrival to the U.S. than this?

People get confused about our country of origin when we say Lithuania is our ancestral homeland. They think my sister and I were born abroad, when in fact, we were born stateside. (Fun fact:I was the first person in my immediate family to be born in the U.S.! I wear that as a tremendous badge of honor.) That makes my sister Anna Maria and I proud first-generation Americans!

I often share my family’s story to give others a sense of who I am. For without my family and my Lithuanian heritage, I wouldn’t be the young conservative activist and outdoor enthusiast I am today. My family’s struggles in the former USSR taught me many valuable lessons about appreciating faith, family, freedom, and free enterprise. They lived the socialist, Marxist nightmare many Democrats desire to implement here. They know firsthand America is the last beacon of freedom on earth.

My parents came to this country virtually penniless and with more limited English speaking capabilities. America was a strange new land for them. After picking up valuable skills, assimilating, settling in, and getting citizenship, they realized their potential and fulfilled the American dream. My dad owns a construction company, while my mom spent many years in corporate America working as a technological consultant. They are the best Americans I know. Imagine that–folks who lived behind the Iron Curtain to tell the tale AND become naturalized, red-blooded Americans? Only in America.

I’m proud of my legal immigrants parents and happily share their story. I wish more politicians would share these kinds of immigration stories instead of stories that appeal to crony capitalists and big government statists.

On this 30th Freedomversary celebration of my parents’ arrival to the United States, I want to reflect by thanking my wonderful parents–who’ve been married for nearly 34 years–for coming here and allowing us to be born here. We love you and will continue to cherish you forever!

xo,

Gabriella

Go Visit the Newly-Renovated Renwick Gallery

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This past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the newly-renovated Renwick Gallery with some friends. This museum was the recipient of a major facelift for the past two years. Without a doubt, it certainly paid off!

It is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Below is an introductory clip of the museum:

The Renwick collection is called WONDER, and it comprises nine site-specific exhibits that’ll mesmerize and captivate audiences. If you’re not too keen on modern art like I am–very few modern art pieces, in my humble opinion, are art–you’ll seriously enjoy this museum.

According to the museum brochure, the nine artists featured at Renwick are “connected by their interest in creating large-scale installations from unexpected materials like thread, tires, marbles, and blocks of wood–commonplaces objects that are assembled, massed, and juxtaposed to transform the spaces and engage visitors in surprising ways.”

There are several exhibits that stood out to me during our visit.

1.8  by Janet Echelman

I loved this exhibit, especially the fact that it changes colors and has an interesting story behind it (It depicts a 2011 natural disaster that befell the Pacific Ocean.) More context behind the piece from the artist herself:

The work’s title is 1.8 (One Point Eight), which refers to the length of time measured in microseconds that the earth’s day was shortened as a result of a physical event, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan with devastating effects. The forms in the sculpture and carpet were inspired by data sets of the Tsunami wave heights across the Pacific Ocean. The artwork reminds us of our complex interdependencies with larger cycles of time and matter. Its physical presence is a manifestation of interconnectedness – when any one element in the sculpture moves, every other element is affected. “As individuals we may feel fragile, like a length of thread,” said Echelman, “but when knotted together we have the capacity for incredible strength and resiliency.”

Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe

This piece is perhaps the most popular exhibit at the newly renovated  Renwick Gallery. The artist, who grew up in both Mexico City and East Texas, wanted to pay an homage to the memories of the skies that defined these two places. Beautiful, no?

Middle Fork (Cascades) by John Grade

A #tree that almost seemed so real. #renwickgallery #modernart #washingtondc

A photo posted by Anna Maria Hoffman (@annamaria.hoffman) on

In this exhibit, the artist chose a hemlock tree as old as the Renwick Gallery building for the display from the Cascade Mountains  east of Seattle, WA. They masterfully created a full plaster cast of the tree, then used it to mold a new tree out of half a million segments of reclaimed cedar. Very complex, but beautifully crafted. Definitely one of my favorite selections there!

Shindig by Patrick Dougherty

This exhibit reminded of large over-sized bird nests. So I had some fun playing in them.

For all you Instagrammers and budding photographers, you’ll especially love this place. Every room boasted signs that read “Photography Encouraged.” So snap away!

Always be respectful and don’t touch the art.

Happy exploring, fellow D.C. area denizens!

Support Small Business Today and Every Day

Today is Small Business Saturday. Are you going to be a patron of a small business? Well, you should be!

Small Business Saturday was launched five years ago by American Express to refocus people’s attention to local small businesses. Its purpose is to provide a contrast to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (It’s also observed the Saturday after Thanksgiving.) Instead of shopping at big retailers, the movement encourages Americans to be patrons of their local small business.

Here’s more about the movement from American Express:

Why should you support small business today and every day?

Small business fuels American prosperity.

On that token, I want to wish everyone a Happy ‪#‎SmallBusinessSaturday‬! One business I’m especially keen on supporting is Baltic Construction, which is my dad’s 20+ year construction business. If you live in the DC metro area, need home repairs/new construction, and want to support true craftsmanship, consider my dad! Check out his work here.

Are you going to be supporting your local small business today? Let me know in the comments section!

Check Out My Cameo in Maddie & Tae’s Lyric Video for “Shut Up And Fish”

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While listening to some country music on YouTube today, I decided to listen to Maddie & Tae’s new single “Shut Up And Fish” to see if I’d see my photo submission was included in their lyric video. Low and behold, I did! (From the 00:42 to the 00:44 mark, my picture can be seen.) I’m so honored to have a picture of me with my snook catch included. Thanks, girls!

Check out Maddie & Tae’s  single “Shut Up And Fish” below. Good tune!

P.S. The girls tweeted back at me! Very cool.

New Counter Cultured Article: Carrie Underwood Can Inspire Us to Tell Stories

Up at Counter Cultured today, I have a blog post about Carrie Underwood’s new album “Storyteller” being an inspiration for effective political storytelling in conservative politics. Check out an excerpt below:

Female country music singer Carrie Underwood has a new album out called Storyteller.  Not surprisingly, her first single “Smoke Break” off the new album is climbing the charts.

When discussing the inspiration behind Storyteller with iHeart Radio, Underwood said the following: “There’s not one specific story that goes through the album, it’s just, there are very character-based story songs, that are personal. They are my stories that I’m telling.”

Underwood, 32, said her new album boasts a “fresh twang.” She added, “There’s a lot of country, traditional, staple instruments, and obviously storytelling is something country music has always done really well. I feel like we occupy those elements, but it’s very cool and very now and very fresh.”

Country music is all about storytelling, and Carrie Underwood certainly channels this element in her latest album. If storytelling has made country music so successful, why can’t we replicate this effect in conservative politics? If our side starts relying on compelling storytelling, especially visual storytelling, we can effectively disseminate our message to wider audiences without diluting our message.

Continue reading at Counter Cultured.

Zac Brown Band’s DC Concert Rocked Our Socks Off

Last Friday, my sister Anna Maria and I attended the Zac Brown Band concert at Nationals Park. This was the Washington, D.C., stop on their JEKYLL + HYDE Tour.

Since my first exposure to country music several years ago, ZBB has grown into one of my favorite bands. They remain authentically country, and their lead singer can masterfully belt out tunes.

Below is a picture of us enjoying the concert:

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ZBB was preceded by The Avett Brothers, which was their opening act. Admittedly, I’ve never heard of them but figured their music aligned well with ZBB’s. (Indeed, they were pretty good!)

I particularly love ZBB’s music for combining country with tropical flair. They incorporate classic country elements, but spice it up with unique things like a fiddle and gospel choir.

ZBB opened up with their new leading single, “Homegrown.” It was followed with “Loving You Easy,” their rendition of “The Devil Goes Down to Georgia,” “Dress Blues,” “Castaway,” “Let It Be,” “Colder Weather,” “Sweet Annie,” “Keep Me in Mind,” “Jump Right In,” and other well-known tunes off their new album and older albums. Everyone around us was dancing in their seats, singing along, and having a good time. How could you not enjoy Zac Brown Band? It was a rousing good time!

One of the touching moments from the concert was during the performance of their new song “Dress Blues.” They brought out several servicemen, who then marched on stage. The crowd then burst out with “USA!” chants and resounding claps. Patriotism was alive and well at Nats Park. It was a touching moment for those of us living in the belly of the beast best known as Washington, D.C.

Below are some pictures from the concert:

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Unlike other concerts I’ve been to, this one was different in that the leading act – ZBB, in this case – performed for a good chunk of time. (Their show lasted roughly 2 and a half hours.) It goes to show that they appreciate their fans and love bringing happiness through music. Gotta give props to them for that!

Check out their music, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter!

 

New Counter Cultured Video: Millennials Supporting Gun Rights

Today at Counter Cultured, we released our new video project entitled, “Millennials Defend The Second Amendment.”

17 participants from all walks of life participated in our video. Counter Cultured seeks to give conservative/libertarian Millennials a greater voice. Our commentary seeks to make conservatism spicy without diluting the message. Check out the video below:

Make sure you LIKE Counter Cultured on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Update I:  Our video has been profiled by Bearing Arms and The Dana Show.

Update II: Video is profiled up at TheBlaze.