Culinary Complaints

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been terrible at time management. Last-minute projects are my specialty, and something inside of me truly believes that if I have an appointment from 9 to 10, I can easily take on something else from 10 to 12.
What I’m driving at is that I’m late. All of the time. To church to meetings to appointments.
It’s what I do.
Lateness sans fashion.

I guess this whole story started Monday when I had signed up to feed the sister missionaries with my grandmother. I cooked two roasts: one for eating and one for back-up in case we needed more or I ruined the first. Both roasts were large. I cut the first in half and put it in a crock pot. The second was placed in a 9×13 baking dish, and it covered the bottom and filled the entire space.
Three hours later, I shredded meat. The top half of the roast in the crock pot was tough, but I figured I’d chop it up later. I could hide it in a pot pie and no one would notice the almost jerky-like hunks of meat hidden in a thick layer of beef gravy.
The bottom half of the roast in the crock pot was soft, delicious, and wonderful.

And were we late feeding the sisters?  Yes.  Yes, we were.

We ate the oven roast with the sisters. Alice loves the sisters. She really bonded with one sister who recently left.
And by “bonded” I mean that she would quietly fill her dress pockets while the rest of ate.
“Where is the other sister?” Alice asked the companion who had stayed.
“Other sister?”
“Sister Log!” Alice said.
We were all lost.
“Who?” We asked, trying to make out what she meant.
“Sister LOG,” She repeated several times before the “sister that stayed” burst out laughing.
Her companion who had just left was named Sister Woods.
Log, woods. Potato, Puhtahto.

We only ate one roast.
When dawn broke on Tuesday morning, I had a plate full of tough roast and a plate full of perfectly tender roast, and I was so grateful because Tuesday was filled to the brim. I’d scheduled myself hour-to-hour.
My counselor put it thus, “Alicia, you don’t struggle with telling others no… so much as you struggle telling YOURSELF no.”
It’s true.
It is.
Because I look at an hour-to-hour schedule and go, “Heck yes, I can.”
But heck no.
I can’t.
When will I learn?

Just as dawn was breaking and roasts were waiting for me on the counter, I logged onto my online work meeting. Danny slipped out of the house to work out. I made sure breakfast was made and lunches were packed.
What could go wrong?

Stop laughing.
Stop it right now.

Because of course the kids needed to talk to me about their sock choice and needed me to tell them things like, “put the food in your mouth” and “brush your hair” and “all of your hair, not just the top.” They wanted some of Danny’s old uniforms to wear to school for “what I’m going to be when I grow up” day. I took my work meeting to the kitchen, to my bedroom. And right into hell with me.
I had to wake the youngest up and she had a grand meltdown in the middle of the living room floor.

Stop laughing.
Stop it right now.

The afternoon picked up where the morning left on. Wal-mart with 3 kids to pick up pinewood derby supplies, fits over hunger pangs. We went straight from Wal-mart to Lacy’s basketball game.
Trent had a full blown breakdown afterward… the kind that come when you don’t deal with little stuff that piles up over the weeks.
So many tears, hugs, talking, writing, teaching.

And of course Alice can’t handle this at all. If someone is crying, SHE MUST ALSO. By the time I made it to the perfectly tender roast, I was so tired.
I pulled it out of the crock pot where it had been hanging out all day.
“The first half of the roast didn’t turn out at all,” I lamented to Danny, “It’s tough but this half? So good. Would you mind taking that to the cats? They’ll love it.”
I tapped my hands on the crock in the crock pot.
“Sure,” he said and two minutes later came back with an empty plate.
My eyes boggled.
“What have you done?” I asked.
“What you asked!” He shot back.

My friends, he threw the first half of the roast to the CATS.
“I TOLD YOU TO THROW THE ROAST JUICE TO THE CATS!” I tapped the crock, frantically hoping some black magic would make a switch and bring my beef pot pie back home.

This is the part where all of the kids quit crying and started laughing because there’s nothing better than childish parents.

Keeping with the childish theme, I fell into bed at 8:30.
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of bacon frying. Danny came in and said, “I’ve made breakfast and packed their lunches. I took the dogs out. I’m going to work out now.”
It gave me enough free time to pray and read scriptures which I hadn’t done before my work meeting the day before.
It felt good.
For a few good minutes until Lacy crawled into bed next to me and cooed, “You should have seen it, Mom… we woke up and our lunches were set out all neatly, all packed… and Dad made us bacon and eggs. It. Was. Amazing.”

My voice launched into a shrill shell of what it once was, “I DO THAT EVERYDAY.”
“You’re amazing too?” She tried backing out, but the damage had been done.

To add insult to the whole dish, Dad had simply packed their lunches with the dinner I’d made the night before and the gummy snacks I’d bought to hold over the hunger pangs in Wal-mart the day before.
Not that I wasn’t grateful. I was.
But seriously, the kids lack of awareness for what I do every dang day really hit me on the wrong side of the bed.

I spent the rest of Wednesday cooking my buns off. I had two rotisserie chickens that needed picking clean. I needed to boil some eggs and bake some potatoes… all before they all went bad.
I froze chicken and the rest of the shredded beef (I will have my beef pot pie because I should at least eat as well as my barn cats). I popped the chicken bones in my now-clean crock pot and started broth. Alice helped me spear potatoes while we watched a murder mystery. She helped me boil eggs, and we ended our Day of Kitchen Prep by making a big batch of cookie dough. We baked half and put the rest in the fridge.
That night, we feasted on twice-baked potatoes filled with butter and sour cream and cheese and BACON.  I wonder they don’t ditch the name, “Twice-Baked Potatoes” and just call them what they are, “Indulgent Starch Packed with Dairy.”

Truth always wins.

Thursday morning, I had three hours free to clean. I figured it would give me enough time to get the kitchen done and the living room tidied, dusted and vacuumed.
I grossly underestimated the damage done to the kitchen.

Three hours later, my kitchen was NEARLY done. And the dust sat comfortably in the living room.

We went to my son’s basketball game (more tears afterward. growing up is hard), and came home exhausted. Danny kissed my dried hands and made a nice promise, “I’ll do dinner. Go take a load off.”
Two minutes in, he came asking if I could please mince four cloves of garlic and maybe chop an onion?
“And where is our dried basil? And oregano?”

I will say that he really did pull off an amazing spaghetti.
The kids ate it all and asked for more.
Which is more than I could say for the twice-baked potatoes that took me HOURS to make… and there’s a good chance I didn’t bake the monster potatoes all the way through, so cleaning them out was at times tiring and at times painful.

They all sang Dad’s praises, and I did too.
The fact that I do it every night with no accolades only hurt a lot, and that’s partly due to a hormonal discrepancy that creeps up every 28 days.
Give or take.
It’s the one glorious part of my life in which I am never, ever late.

Except those few times, I mean. But it’s okay. Because they’re turning out on the nice side of “a-okay.”

Even if they take Mom’s culinary efforts for granted, they’ll still pitch in to clean the cooking messes anyway. So we forgive.
20170302_205047(Lacy putting dishes away, Trent drying, me washing… and Alice clearing and washing the table.  Thanks to Danny for snapping this moment which I know will make me all nostalgic someday.)


Sheet Cake Bonds

The first time I saw my husband, Danny, I was opening a checking account at the bank he was working at. I was 18 at the time and had just returned to school following the winter break. I’d returned a day later than my roommates due to a family baptism, and following some financial issues needed to open a bank account locally so my parents wouldn’t have to untangle my bad decisions at home anymore.
The night before I’d come home, my roommates had met Danny -a “new guy” who had moved to town mid-semester. They told me he had a job working at a local bank, and I figured that bank was as good as any.
The next day, I went in and opened an account. Danny never saw me, and I certainly didn’t go into the bank with any expectations of even meeting him. There wasn’t any trumpets sounding, no angels singing -not even a hint of premonition.
I just noticed a good-looking young man that stood out in a sea of working women.

At the time, I wasn’t interested in dating. I was so young, and I’d really put too much emphasis on dating when I should have been thinking about education. As a music major, time was sparse and precious. After a full semester of pinning my worth on the number of dates I didn’t get asked on, I sat down and had a heart-to-heart with myself that ended in my putting down my razor and make-up and picking up my books and flute with renewed fervor.

The first time Danny and I officially met, I was on the phone with someone else -a guy I’d dated who lived out of state -and I was wearing sweats, a baggy t-shirt and my glasses.
I never wore my durn glasses on account of my vanity, but as I’d so lately lost my vanity in a pile of homework, I didn’t mind them so much.
“This is Danny Deets,” my roommates presented him to me as I balanced our land-line cordless phone on my shoulder using my ear.
“Hi,” I said. Did I shake his hand? I can’t remember. All I remember is that I walked away, and I dismissed Danny with one single thought:
A guy like that would never go for a girl like me.

He wore polos, okay?

He later confessed he’d been so interested to meet the one roommate he hadn’t initially met, and his take away thoughts still make us laugh to this day.
“When you came over, I thought ‘she’s a hermit,’ and as you walked off I thought, ‘she’s a hot hermit.'”

And that, right there, brings us to our great-grandmothers, Georganna and Dorothy. Thick as thieves!
Here’s Dorothy Hancock -Danny’s great-grandmother through his mother’s mother.
And here’s The Lovely Georganna, my great-grandmother through my mother’s mother, though I only really knew her as “Namina.”

We later found out that the two of them were very close friends, always trying to marry their grandchildren off to each other.

I think about my sweats that day, my careless hygiene, my thick glasses… and how one of our great-grandmothers MUST have pulled some sort of heavenly veil in front of Danny’s eyes as I walked away. Though we didn’t begin immediately dating, we were married nine months later.
After our grandmothers let us know about the relationship between our great-grandmothers, we had a good laugh. For years, we’ve wanted to somehow thank our great-grandmothers for their schemes beyond their graves.

Though I wasn’t able to get to know my great-grandmother very well before she passed away, I have come to know that she is the most-loved person in all of creation. Stories of her wit and humor, her love and talents, are often and frequently told. When her grandkids talk about her, their eyes light up and sparkle.

The last time I saw her, she was at her daughter’s home (which used to be her own) in Holbrook, AZ. She had Alzheimer’s. She wasn’t herself. The house is now owned by my aunt, and yesterday a lot of my mother’s side gathered in it to welcome home a sister missionary. I sat next to my Granny (mom’s mom) and asked her questions about her past, her parents.
In the open kitchen, there was a long line for food -and among the desserts was a family staple: Texas Sheet Cake.

I love Texas Sheet Cake. We served it at our wedding in September 2004, a few months after I spotted Danny behind a bank counter.
Now that I’m following a gluten-free diet, I couldn’t have any sheet cake. I felt a sort of longing, a homesickness of sorts. I think of my great-grandmother when I eat sheet cake, and there I was in her old house, unable to eat any.  I resolved right then and there to not let the sun go down upon the day without filling my belly with some gluten free sheet cake!

When I got home, I cracked open the family cookbook Granny gave me as a wedding gift, knowing there would be a Texas sheet cake recipe I could modify to my gluten free fancies. My kitchen is one of my favorite places to be -my home within my home, if that’s even a thing.  There’s a beautiful west-facing window over my sink, and there’s nothing sweeter than the golden setting sun streaming through that window while butter is melting on my stove.  My feet bare, my clothes splashed in cocoa powder, a thin stream of milk on my counter… I thought of Namina.  She has a way of sticking with us always, and I’ve felt her in moments of deep sorrow and concern.  It’s only fitting to feel her in moments of deep, relentless contentment as well -on Sabbath evenings steeped in butter and chocolate.

Of course the sunset was remarkable.




With such a beautiful heritage of women behind me, I feel the responsibility of passing it on.

What better place to start than in the kitchen with a wire whisk?  It’s where memories are made, where cake is baked, and where bonds are solidified.

And though it took some heavenly help to get Danny and I together, a freshly-baked sheet cake does MUCH to keep us that way.



Seaweed, Muppets, and Bribes

As I’ve been recovering from the holidays, I’ve gone into a sort of cleaning frenzy. I recently posted on my blog’s facebook page the following:

The Kirby man came today.
His fancy demonstration filters lifted my shame from the couch. “How old is this couch?” He asked as he changed filters for the 6th time.
“Eight years,” I say, sitting on the unfolded laundry in my recliner, tugging carefully at the cross stitch in my hand while reading off spelling words to my oldest who is drilling them like an Olympic in training. The spelling bee is only a few weeks out, after all.
My 4 year old watches the man carefully as he switches filters again.
“What are you doing with that thing?” She asks.
“Just cleaning off the couch,” he says with all the feigned energy of a man who -after working selling door to door all day -has to come to my house and clean, “See all that dirt?”
He says dirt, but I hear “shame.” I always do.
“Don’t go in the cracks,” I say, mostly because I don’t want him to see what I don’t know is there and partly because I don’t want him vacuuming up crayons that are still usable.
“Our car is dirty,” the 4 year old speaks again, “So you should go clean that!” Her tone is misleading, making it sound as if cleaning our car is akin to riding Splash Mountain.
At this point, my 8 year old son felt it would be appropriate to yell from the kitchen, “Mom, you SAID you cleaned in here, but there’s SPIDERWEBS EVERYWHERE.”
Look, I’m no queen of clean.
But I must be queen of something because God not only blessed me with honest children, He also sent a couch cleaner in my apparent hour of need.
Also, the retired K9 won’t stop sniffing my house suspiciously which means one of two things:
#1) The house was so incredibly dirty that having a Kirby go over a few surfaces has made his environment completely unrecognizable or
#2) The Kirby man is toting around more than vacuum attachments.
Either way, my couch has a new lease on life.
And my kids are going to need one here pretty soon.
Wait a sec…
Can you Kirby kids? Can you Kirby them until they smell brand new and stop truth-telling to strangers?
Cuz I’d pay for that, folks and friends.
For now I’ll have to content myself with the complimentary can of Febreeze the Kirby man left us.


There’s been a new development.
Ten days after The Kirby Man cleaned my couch and ignored orders from Alice, he knocked on my door again. During those ten days, Danny and I pulled the kids together for a family counsel about finances and our housing situation.
We told the kids that right now, we need to build up our savings account to reach some goals we have as regards a house.
“So, like, can we earn money for you guys?” Lacy asked because her heart is made of gold.
“You WILL be SAVING us money if you just TURN OFF LIGHTS WHEN YOU LEAVE ROOMS,” I offered, and then promptly checked myself before I turned into the version of me that says things like, “Am I just talking to hear myself TALK?!” because I think I’ve said, “turn off the lights” more times than my own name.
and then I calmly added, “and saving money is the same as earning more, in a way.”
“Yeah,” the kids nodded, eager to start. Trenton immediately got up and starting turning things off because his heart is made of eagerness.
We made some goals with the kids, and together we decided that we’d hold off on eating out or renting movies until we’d built up enough cash in our “fun money” can we keep on the fridge.
This is important to note.

Days later, The Kirby Man returned.
He told us that he’d gone back home (out of state) after selling door-to-door in our area, only to have to come back and repo a vacuum from someone who paid with insufficient funds.
“This vacuum is only a week old, it has all of the attachments. I can’t sell it full price, but I need to get rid of it.”
I was all at once flattered and horrified that he’d remembered us.
Are we THAT messy?

“How much?” asked my money-minded husband. I was grateful he was home when The Kirby Man Returned because if it were up to me, I’d buy everything any traveling anything sold because they all work so hard, right? Of course right.

After crunching numbers and some nail-biting negotiations, we bought the vacuum at an extraordinarily reduced price.

The next morning, Trenton sleepily walked into the kitchen and pointed to the vacuum in the (carpeted) dining area.
“Why is that still here?”
“Well… we bought it.”
“We did?” He raised his 8 year old little eyebrow.
“Yep,” I buttered his toast with a focus never before known, hoping he’d drop the subject.
“But… why?”
“Why are you asking?” Maybe I could beat him at his own game? Question him into retreat?
“Because we’re supposed to be saving money and the first time That Guy came, you said we weren’t going to buy it…”
“Okay, look,” I threw down the butter knife in defeat, “Mommy and Daddy may have messed up. But…it was a good deal.”
“What do you mean?”
I explained to him The Good Deal, selling it better than even The Kirby Man himself, if I do say so MYself.
“Okay,” he nodded, drinking a glass of morning milk, “That is a good deal.”

Our new Kirby addition is rather friendly and versatile. I’m afraid to use half of the attachments and MAY have already vacuumed up a ball of embroidery thread.
But I’ve vacuumed a lot, and I’ve used the dusting attachment and dusted a lot. I’ve used a fancy buzzing, spinning attachment to clean my futon and suddenly it’s in a second childhood.
It doesn’t look a day over 5 though it IS 8.

Danny keeps pretending that he’s helping me out by vacuuming after he gets off work, but don’t be ye fooled.
He’s PLAYING, that’s what.

Before the vacuum came into our lives, I’d started a sort of spring cleaning. The vacuum has really helped, much the same way a new pair of tennis shoes really helps when you need some motivation to start or keep on exercising.
Will The Kirby make me magically a wonderful housekeeper? No more than my juicer will make me suddenly a pillar of health.
But I will say this: right now, my house is fairly clean, by my standards.
As last Friday rolled around, I knew I’d lose what cleanliness I’d gained because weekends are absolute SLAUGHTER on houses when kids live in them, so I made a deal with my kids.

The week before, in an effort to dial down the amount of fighting in the car, I’d bought a used “Kids Classic” version of “Treasure Island” and read it to my kids as we rambled down the interstate. I could not have anticipated how into that book they got. Even Danny became interested. Trenton decried every pirate and cheered out loud for Jim Hawkins.
Lacy rather took to Long John Silver over Jim which has caused her mother a little bit of grief and anxiety.
We finished the book on Sunday afternoon, and on Friday afternoon I promised the kids that -because I had the money -I’d rent The Muppets “Treasure Island” if they beat me in a room cleaning race.
And if I beat them?
“Foot rubs,” they drolled out in response. They know what happens if I beat them in a cleaning race. They are my little spa slaves for as long as I can keep their attention.
So, like, ten whole entire minutes.

And so it was that I cleaned my room with ferocity and they cleaned their room.
I recently gave them each a little white board with 4 chores written in permanent marker on them:
Make Bed
Brush Teeth
Tidy Clothes and Toys
Do an Act of Service for a Sibling

If they check all four items off in one day, they earn back a toy from the “take away” bag. The Take Away bag was born a few weeks before Christmas on an unseasonably warm day. The kids basked in the warmth outside and I cleaned their room with all the fervor of a mother on her last nerve.
Most of their toys went in The Take Away bag.
It took them two whole weeks to care.
*head slap*

At any rate, this chore system is working really well now, especially with Trenton who is VERY motivated by achievement. Often he’ll check everything off his chores and forget to grab a toy out of the bag because he’s just so happy with himself. But the best thing to come from the chore boards is how the kids have been nicer to each other.
Last Friday, there was still fighting as they cleaned their room together -but not nearly as much as there has been.

As I cleaned my room, I found all kinds of magical things like a box of popsicle sticks, a doll’s head, and some missing shoes.
But the greatest find of all was two “pirate party kits” my mother had given to me a few years before. I’d put them with my scrapbook stuff, and they’d gone the way of The Forgotten. I pulled them out and basked in serendipity.
Within minutes, I had the kids gathered to my side and we “oohed” and “ahhhhhed” over the pirate kits and had our second family counsel in two weeks’ time.
Minus Dad, we decided that WHEN the kids’ room was clean, we’d all gather therein for a PIRATE PARTY and DINNER and MOVIE.
“IF you win,” I said, sounding very much like Disney’s version of Cinderella’s benevolent step-mother.

Of course they won.
Partly because I let them.
And partly because my room really was dirtier.
And partly because I got distracted with The Kirby’s ability to clean my ceiling fan.

They even had enough time left over to goof off a bit while Mother finished cleaning her room.
“Can I bake cupcakes?” Lacy asked.
Bake she did, with no help from me, and the boxed mix she used which would have made 24 cupcakes made 9 instead.
“Oh, you’re NOT supposed to fill them all the way up?” She asked, innocently.

That evening, as The Party commenced, the kids pulled the party kits out and began assembling small treasure chests and eye patches while I stayed in the kitchen with strict instructions.
“Don’t peek -dinner is a surprise.”
Alice bounced back and forth between the kitchen and kids’ room, and each time she appeared I growled and called her “Swashbuckler” and she squealed and insisted, “she was NICE and SWEET.”

I whipped up one of the kids’ favorite dinners: salmon cakes and canned spinach. The fact that they love this meal is a sort of mystery that I’m grateful for because I’ve always -even as a kid -loved canned spinach and have, since that time, harbored a real terror at the prospect of someday living with people who hated it.

I cued up a Sea Chanty Pandora station, declared myself, “Mother Goose” (because it COULD be that the name originated from a fierce mother-figure pirate woman lady) and made the kids tell me their pirate names:
“Long John Lace!”
“Silver Sparrow!” (Trent)
“Pirate Magoo!” (Alice)
“Long John Silver” (Danny -“that’s not original, Danny…” “Alicia, I don’t care.”)
and then served them up

“Salmon cakes made with salmon caught fresh off the coast of Wal-Mart! and Seaweed harvest ALSO off the coast of Wal-Mart!”
Danny was there, but he was on the phone, so the kids and I ate in their room on a little card table by the light of an oil lamp.
The kids had used tin foil to make hand-hooks, and they all came off because AS IT TURNS OUT, hooks really look cool but aren’t very practical for small folks with two functional hands.
The room was quiet and cramped, but the kids were so pleased with themselves and their hard work. They told us we should party in their room ALL OF THE TIME.
Once dinner was eaten and whisked away, we turned on the electric light and played a game that felt VERY pirate-ish.
We were regular mischief makers, no doubt.

After the game was cleaned up, we pushed the card table against the wall and rented “Treasure Island” with The Muppets. The kids laughed themselves silly and haven’t stopped quoting it.

And suddenly, I’m faced with another weekend without the energy to throw an impromptu bribery pirate party.
(It just occurred to me that bribing is a VERY pirate thing to do.)

So who knows what today will hold? Nothing The Kirby can’t handle, probably.


You haven’t heard from me through the holidays because the holidays killed me. For two months, I felt buried in a pile of, “What’s going on?”
My calendar was LIT UP with appointments and concerts and all manner of comings and goings. I was rushed and tired and sick.
I haven’t had a holiday season like that in six years. I remember how bad it was six years ago, and how I came out of that holiday season with blood on my lip and courage beating in my chest.
I raised my banner, “NEVER AGAIN” with determination, and we kept to it. The years that followed were beautiful, and we really were able to enjoy the holidays -the sights, smells, tastes!
So what happened this year?
I’m not sure I know yet. I’m still head-scratching and trying to recover. The fact that I’m exhaling and reveling in a house without holiday decor is disturbing to me… because I usually feel sad taking them down.

Most of all: I feel a sense of homesickness for the holidays, as if I missed them. To be honest, I really believe I did miss them.
I physically was there and lived through them, but I MISSED THEM because I wasn’t really there.

I exited the holidays feeling sapped and the attitude of “not enough” ruled the day.
Not enough time.
Not enough money.
Not enough space.
Not enough sleep.
Not enough health.

As I began to renew my relationship with God which had been strained at best during the holidays, I felt Him reaching back and telling me to focus on contentment, especially with my house. The message was so strong that I knew better than to mess around. Contentment goes in all directions, but today I’m going to talk about the cash and house end of things.

The house I live in isn’t mine, right? I’ve always said that. I’m renting, I’ve always rented. As I renter, my homes have always been treated as a temporary arrangement.
“If it was mine, I would…,” I say, “But it isn’t, so why bother?”
Well, God told me to stop that.

It doesn’t change the fact that the house isn’t mine, not on paper. But the time for me to start treating my four walls like they really do belong to our family is NOW.

So I’ve strapped on a new attitude, and the house is already feeling much more included.
I haven’t taken to tearing into my house, not at all. I’ve only taken to talking to God about, “what now?”

His answers are low and slow, probably because I need low and slow right now. I picked up counted cross stitch again and stitched a pretty little heart to put on the wall. In a few weeks, I’ll switch it out for a pretty little clover, and a few weeks after THAT, I’ll switch it out for a pretty little Easter Egg, and so that little spot in the house is more OURS because it carries my touch, flawed as it is.

I read Little Women for the first time since High School, and the level of contentment that book carries is overwhelming. I was inspired everyday as I turned the pages over and read of their creativity and happiness and sadness and family connection.
What’s more? The more I read in a GOOD BOOK filled with solid words and ideas, the less satisfaction I found with junk TV to fill my time. That fact alone improved the air in my house, I think.

Instead of abusing my car because it’s legally old enough to drink, I’ve decided I can just learn to love it for it’s quirks and broken parts. Instead of rebelling because I can’t lock it with a button or distract my kids with a movie so they’ll quit touching each other, breathing on each other and fighting, I can take better care of it so the small space the kids are confined to is at least somewhat welcoming.
I’m trying this new thing I learned from The March Family called, “playing together.”
This means connecting and doing mad libs, reading books together while we ramble down the highway to the nearest bulk warehouse.
Danny and I usually love the drives because in days gone by, the kids would nod off and we could visit about grown up stuff like what we’d do with a million dollars or tempt each other to stop off at the casino to try our empty pockets at the penny slots.
But the kids don’t nod off now, and we’re transitioning into the place of parenthood where you can’t jest about penny slots without someone shorter than you asking questions about your moral character -and TRUST ME -after riding in a 21 year old Jeep for an hour with three short people, I am too tired to defend my morality with appropriate zeal.
So we work on playing with the kids and embracing the opportunity to be so physically close together without the option of escape.
It’s harder and better than it sounds.

During my Quest for Contentment, I was given a couple of hours with my Granny who unveiled to me her years as a single mother in a two-story house that was not only old enough to drink… but actually housed Mormon pioneers who shared a few home brews until the Word of Wisdom leaked down and their supplier (read: one of their wives) quit brewing.
Granny lived there. The old, creaky house kept her and more kids than you can count on one hand. She talked about character and things they went without.
She said these sacred words to me, “Going through it was really hard. It was SO hard. I looked around at other couples, the trips they took and the cars they drove… and I wondered WHY. Why couldn’t I have those things instead of worrying about how I was going to get the next meal on the table? But looking back, I’m so glad. I’m so grateful. Those days taught me so many things, and the kids and I really came together. We built a lot of character. Money can’t buy that. Now I can see that God gave me not what I wanted, but what I NEEDED because He loves me, and He is compassionate. That has sustained me through lots of hard times… knowing that God always gives me what I need, even if I don’t know what it is yet.”

God always gives me what I need.

I walked away from our time spent together feeling inspired and pushed farther along in my quest.

As I’ve worked the 12-step program, I’ve come pretty honestly face to face with myself in a moral mirror that has the potential to be peace-giving but often feels SO UNCOMFORTABLE.
I see my vanity and pride, my ego and my selfishness. God wants me to be as a child, but I find I’m more childish than child-like.
The blessing behind it all is that I’m realizing The Problem in most situations is myself and that’s awesome because MYSELF is the only person I have any control over.
So it’s bittersweet, I guess.
But after time spent with my grandma and time spent with The March Family and time spent looking in the mirror of truth, I was hit with a very sincere TERROR of money.

I realized that when it comes right down to it, I would be a lousy rich person.
Not snobby, exactly.
But knowing me as I do now, I know that I’d turn to money instead of God and I would never, never be content.


I would chose not to access humility, I know I would, because with money I could do all sorts of things motivated by ego.
I’m not talking about tropical vacations. I’m talking about donating so much money to charities that they would herald me as The Queen.
I would work really hard to look really good morally all the while holding hostage my motivation:

That realization was comforting, and I have to say that I now earnestly live in fright of monetary fortune. I don’t trust myself to stay true to myself with it.
Maybe later, when I’m as sage as my Granny.

But for now, I’ll raise a glass of milk to my car and drink deep the dregs of contentment.
Something tells me this quest will be life-long.

{As part of seeking contentment, I took a leaf out of our dining table. I’m trying a downsizing experiment that I’m hoping will open up a little space in our living area and also discourage people from leaving their junk lying about. So far, it’s working. But so far, the only junk-leaver has been Me… }

Wee Paws

{this post contains a couple of affiliate links}

This is me pausing. Pawsing. I have lots of kittens on my porch, so I think “pawsing” is more what’s going on here.

The last two weeks have plowed me over in such a way as I haven’t been since last year at this time when I went to two funerals in two weeks for two grandpas. It seemed like every dawn brought a new punch, and after 8 solid days of punches, I woke up with the thinnest skin in the west. I think I got my feelings hurt 5,000 million times in one afternoon. Not like me at’ll.
By some miraculous, fortuitous God-planning, a counseling session I’d set up TWO months ago landed on Monday, right when I needed it. She said two helpful things.
#1) “Alicia, your reserves are depleted in every way in your life. Let’s form a plan to build them back up.”
#2) “Alicia, you struggle saying no to others, but more than that? You struggle saying no to yourself. You can’t do everything for everyone always, no matter how much you want to.”

I’ve spent this week focusing on rebuilding my reserves spiritually, physically and emotionally. These past few weeks come at the end of two months of me falling off the wagon. I’ve been eating whatever and not moving my body and not thinking nice thoughts about my body, so I was pretty much geared up for a good and solid beating anyway.
This week I’ve crawled all bloodied back onto the wagon:
Prayers, meditations, readings, yoga-ings, and lots and lots of drinking.
So much drinking.

For a few years, I’ve wanted to set up a drink station in my home. This week, that fire of desire burned brighter than ever because I spent so much time with a cup pressed to my lips.

Smoothies, green juice, green smoothies, teas! Oftentimes, I’ll down homemade broth because it helps my achy joints.

Joints and drinking! How’s that for a Mormon Mommy?

Years ago, I caught a glimpse of a home makeover a poor married couple did of a small house. It was so freaking cozy that I wanted to curl up and squat in that house for the rest of my life. It was filled with homemade stuff, recycled stuff, salvaged stuff… it was so soft and nice. I can’t find it again -I’ve looked. But the memory of it lives on in my brain.
One thing this house had was a few open shelves in the kitchen with a beautifully simple sign that read, “Cuppa” on it.
Since that day, I’ve longed with all my fibers for a drink station with cups waiting to turn into magical cuppas.

I tried rigging a spice rack into a drink station, but it isn’t working.
I sigh about that a lot.

Last night, after a couple of long weeks where Danny and I tried to extend grace to each other as best we could (I failed pretty much across the board), we went on a date to Sonic and then Wal-Mart. We did a little Christmas shopping, and he indulged my mug shopping.
Window style.
Because there’s no point in buying mugs when you have no cuppa station.

The Pioneer Woman has some gorgeous mugs to choose from, but her Christmas mug outdoes them all because it is big enough to hold tea, broth, chili and all of my hopes and dreams. I kept picking it up and putting it down. Picking it up.
Putting it down.
(photo from eBay)
It’s one of those, “I’m leaving without this, and if I go home and can’t stop thinking about it, I’ll come back for it.”
Like love, amIright?

I love walking through all of The Pioneer Woman’s stuff in Wal-Mart. I don’t love it all nor do I want to own it all, but just walking through all of the bright pops of color puts a bounce in my step. I always detour my shopping through her stuff.

And as I was walking away from the mugs, I bumped into this:

“Danny, do you know what this is?” I held it up in reverence. Anyone might’ve thought it was a magical lamp, waiting to be rubbed.
“This. Is for the drink station,” my proclamation was final.

The fictional drink station that’s been in my head must come out. We’ve waited around long enough. The spice rack is tired of pretending to be something it isn’t.

And with The Pioneer Woman’s flea market find holding the seemingly endless supply of herbal tea I can’t seem to stop buying (judge not lest ye by judged, homey), magic will begin unfolding.
I don’t usually make plans, but when something really matters, I make exceptions.
This matters.
Drinks matter.
Health matters.
Family matters.
See? It’s all important.

I found plans to build a corner hutch because that’s the only available space in my home… a corner.

Mine will be white, no crackle. Crackle always reminds of the crackle nail polish that was all the rage when I was a kid, and I don’t like my house looking like 90’s nails.
The flea market tea rack will fit nicely on it.
So will the mugs I do have.
So will my colorful stack of hot pads.
So will a CUPPA sign.
So will a simple kettle. None of those flowery kettles we see now-a-days. The kettle will be simple and classy: a regular Julie Andrews in kettle form!


I’ll design a “CUPPA” sign, and the world will be at rest because there will be space made for things that are important to our family:
Drinking together.

I can’t keep my hands off my roasted dandelion root tea, which I’ve felt strongly I need to down daily. Everyone hates it except me, and I’m dancing about that.
Wish it worked for the chocolate.

My Granny -our resident midwife and healer -told me you can buy a special blend of herb tea that tastes similar to coffee and is loaded with health benefits. I looked it up on Amazon, and she’s right. Dandy Blend! This stuff is going to find a home in my drinking station. If there’s anything my body is craving right now, it’s DETOX, and this blend has it in spades. Also, the mix of herbs in this tea is mentioned in the series “Good Witch” on Netflix (from Hallmark, I believe). Dandelion, chicory, and beet root.

The drinking station is all but complete.
It’s been dreamed and planned, so it’s only a matter of time.

It will be a great resting place for my cups and mugs -they serve me faithfully everyday and they deserve a pretty resting place.
Ironically, the drink station will be the resting place for the rest of us as well.

We all love us a good cuppa.

And how cute is this drink station I found while searching for the first one I found?

Found here.

A final word on drinks:

I’ve been green juicing daily during this last week of restocking my personal reserves, and I’m laughing at myself because I enjoy it so much.
Did you know that in high school, I used to drink Dr. Pepper and eat a Snickers for lunch? It was my favorite lunch!
And here I am, 31 and achy, getting all giddy over my green juice.

Whole Foods in Flagstaff, AZ has a JUICE BAR which means a lot to me because they juice everything fresh while I wait and then I can drink it without the bother of cleaning up.
As I’ve trudged this path of juicing my veggies, I found a guide in Kris Carr -a cancer thriver who has juiced so much that I can just steal her tips without making too many mistakes of my own. I appreciate this because I’m pretty sure one bad (read: NASTY) batch of green juice, and I’m pretty sure I’d be turned off forever.

You can buy some great books with her juice recipes.

I cruise her site and use her juice recipes, modifying them as I go. My latest favorite is a juice geared toward making my stomach happy which I really need with chronic stomach crap (literally, friends).

Danny and I had a good laugh on our drive home from our date about our green juices. Definitely not something I would have ever thought I’d be excited about!
I throw it onto my growing pile of Things I Used to Think Were Bat-Crap Crazy… riiiiiiight on top of yoga.
Namastay crazy, my friends. And know I’ll always be right there with you.

Neon Light Adventures Pt. I

I wrote a bit about our trip to Nashville in an earlier post.  Here’s more of a tourist’s guide… akin to sitting with Great Uncle So and So while he projects his pictures of his latest vacation onto the wall.

Reminds me of the one time when, at 12 years old, I walked in on my great uncle scrolling through pictures of his kids, who were all grown up and gone.  I scarce wanted to disrupt… it was such a sentimental moment.  I finally got brave enough to quietly ask, “which one of your children is that?” as he scrolled through a roll of pictures featuring an adorable newborn.

“Hell if I know, they all look the same…” he said and kept scrolling.  It was a defining moment in my life.  I think Uncle Floyd taught me more about men in that moment than I’d learned my entire life up to that point.


Nashville was a truly memorable city.  It’s really growing rapidly right now, and I can see why.  The city is so friendly and welcoming.  San Francisco had a beauty and charm all it’s own, but it really lacked the friendly atmosphere Nashville had.  I guess you could say that we felt right at home in Nashville -I think everyone there did.

The resort and convention center we stayed at was incredible.  I’ve never seen anything like it!  There were gardens, restaurants, rooms, shops, a spa, a car rental!  There was even a Dr’s office a stone’s throw from the motel rooms.  Across the street was a restaurant serving all kinds of wildlife and we could make a 5 minute brisk walk to The Grand Ole Opry (and nearby mall).  It was really fun!  It was a bit cut off from the heart of Nashville, but I rented a car one day and we made great use of it.  I went to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch while Danny was in training (which means I can die and feel okay about it) and then we ate dinner at The Loveless Cafe… the best southern food I’ve ever had!  Even the catfish tasted like dessert.

Danny enjoyed his training, and I enjoyed curling my hair everyday.  I felt like a normal person!  Visiting The Country Music Hall of Fame was interesting, but not as much fun solo.  I love music, and Danny does as well -I only wish he could have been there with me.  That said, I was more than okay flying solo at Loretta’s Ranch… because I nerded out big time, and I didn’t really want anyone I knew in my personal life seeing it.


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The gardens inside the resort are breathtaking.  The resort has it’s own map because you get so lost!20160829_114906 20160829_161150 20160829_161159

Can you believe this is all indoors?  I just kept taking pictures!  I couldn’t stop.  The picture below really looks like it is outside, but it isn’t.  Incredible!


Monday night, we took an Uber downtown to check out the Johnny Cash museum.  It was a real highlight of our trip.  It was so well organized and presented -it was inspiring!  It wasn’t too big or overwhelming.
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There’s garden pictures thrown in the middle of all of my pictures.  I make no apologies.


Here’s Danny with some fried pickles.  We were on the second floor of a bar downtown.  They had one band playing downstairs and one upstairs.  It was less crowded upstairs, and the balcony opened up so we could see the lights of downtown.  We could even see the CMT building, and I was pretty excited about that.  I used to watch that channel for hours as a kid.  Crystal Gayle was my idol. 20160829_210914 20160830_094927 20160830_094932

Here’s a few shops -some of my favorites!  Below them is a beautiful river with tour boats.
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Tuesday night, I fulfilled a dream!  We went to The Grand Ole Opry!  Josh Turner, Scotty McCreery, Craig Morgan, Dustin Lynch, Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels!  It was a stellar line up!
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Before the concert started, they honored all military and law enforcement.  Danny stood up and I was so proud of him.20160830_184156 20160830_194304 20160830_204134 20160830_211214 20160830_211322 20160830_212513

I cried while Scotty Mcreery sang, “Five More Minutes.”  And I sang along with all of Craig Morgan’s songs and wondered how his wife was doing since they lost their son.  Danny has been itching to see Josh Turner in concert for years, so it was really amazing how it all played out for us.  For the last song, Charlie Daniels brought out, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and the entire crowd was on their feet!  It was the best -just the best!  We really lucked out with a great line-up on a Tuesday night.

Danny and I walked back to the resort with an extra bounce in our step and grabbed a root beer float on our way back to bed.  This root beer is the best I’ve ever had!
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We wanted to tour backstage, but tickets were sold out for Tuesday night.  I’m glad they were!  We were able to tour backstage the next day and we had the place almost to ourselves (we had to share with one other couple).  Those pictures are really fun to revisit, so I’ll save them for my next post save two:20160831_175807 20160831_180652

Wednesday morning, I took another Uber downtown and spent a few hours in The Country Music Hall of Fame.  Like I said, it wasn’t the most fun place to be alone.  I really wanted to share it with someone who would appreciate it like I did: the history, the quotes, the walls covered in records!20160831_135347 20160831_142431 20160831_142721

Elvis’ Caddy came with a tiny (but also huge and boxy) television.


They also have Elvis’ gold piano.

20160831_151021All of the outfits from the different artists were fun to see. Most of them were fancy and decked out -or gaudy (I’m lookin’ at you, Shania), but King George kept it classy and casual.

And putting them all to shame, Patsy made her own!



We could have left the kids’ room alone -because it is, after all, spook alley season. We sat together Monday night and went over our week. We penciled in meetings, volunteering at the school, piano lessons, scouts… and then we penciled in, “clean kids’ room” on Friday. We stuck to our guns, I’m proud to say.
As I picked them up from school, I asked them “What would you like as a reward for cleaning your room today? It’s going to be a big job, so is there a special treat you’d like? A movie you want to rent?”
They were all in agreement, “TACO BELL!”

My kids are so weird and so easy to please.

The room cleaning was a true job. At one point, Trenton wasn’t visible under his bed, but stuff was flying out in every direction.
“Found my scout book!” (lost after only having it one little week, I might add)
Leggos, papers, cars, kitchen toys blocks, you-name-its… everything was flying out from under those bunk beds. He came out sweaty and grinning, “I needa drink.”
Alice lost motivation really fast, but could quickly be persuaded to clean with one question, “Do you want Taco Bell?”
And Lacy was hard at work -putting equal amounts of effort in cleaning and arguing with her folks about WHY it is important to keep everything.
Danny and I kept a large trash bag in motion between the two of us, and I will say that WE CONQUERED.

It took 3 hours.
And the living room which was clean before the room cleaning began is no longer clean.
Thus it ever was.


Also, Alice has had that outfit (pants with holes in their knees and a swimming suit top size 24 months) on for 4 days.  Prior to that, she changed her clothes 4 times a day.  Danny -the person who does most of the laundry in our house -got frustrated with this and said, “Alice.  Stop changing your clothes.”

Last night, Danny had had enough.  We were going out to A NICE PLACE for dinner and needed to dress appropriately.  He pulled out a fresh, clean pair of leggings (Alice calls them “easy pants”) and a new yellow shirt.

“Alice, let’s change for Taco Bell.”


“But these clothes are so nice and clean…”

“These clothes are so good!”

“Alice, come here.  We’re changing you out of those clothes.”


At this point, I mouthed, “I’m on her side” and Danny threw the leggings at yellow shirt at me.  Currently, Alice is wearing the same outfit.  You asked her not to change, you’ll get it.


We found this doll while cleaning.  That’s toothpaste on her head and a spike coming out of her head.  I wasn’t kidding about the spook alley stuff, friends.  And yes, that doll is now gone.  Mommy drove her to the farm.  She’ll be happy there with all the other… dolls.




You know that old anecdote about kids climbing the curtains? I think it probably came about because one of Trent’s ancestors did it so much it became a thing.



They were so excited with their spoils.  Soft tacos! Hard tacos! Burritos!  Mom didn’t have to cook!  Incidentally, Mom didn’t eat either…


After The Bell, Danny stopped off at the grocery store and bought ice cream bars.  He had to take Alice in with him because from where she sat in the car, she could see the taxi.  Incidentally, Mom did eat ice cream bars for dinner.20161014_204349

A Book and a Flarpy Rose: Episode 1

Folks and Friends!

Today I debut my newest baby: a podcast! A few months ago, I felt compelled/prompted to research podcast shtuff. I figured it was because the non-profit I work for might benefit from podcasting, but a few days ago, Heavenly Father let me know that I should be making my own.

Let’s see what He has in mind!

Today’s episode is about a book I read -a book I won’t tell you the name of because you might not listen to the podcast if I do, suffice to say it is clean.
And there were no vampires.
Or shades of grey.

I also toss in a story that takes place on the muggy, neon streets of downtown Nashville.

Secret Ingredients

Our story today starts almost a year ago -that time of year when grocery stores put things like canned cranberry on sale and offer free turkeys if you’ll spend a Benjamin or two with them. A friend of mine who hates turkey spent a Benjamin and gave her “free” turkey to me because she lives by me and sees all of the children running in and out of the trailer.
She’s intuitive.

I’ve held onto The Gift Turkey. It has lived (bad usage of the word “lived,” I’m afraid) in my freezer, waiting to come forth in “such a time as this” when we are
1) Out of food, even potatoes, because kids eat in a mind-boggling way: “revolving door” style.  I can’t keep up physically, financially or emotionally (“The dishes,” I tell my therapist, “I’m grateful, I try to be… but they just keep coming, and I’m not sure but I think I’m invisible and my purpose in life is to be the person DOING the stuff that the kids will UNDO… and I can’t… I just can’t…” -I’m 100% FOR paying someone to listen to this because they always says things like, “Alicia, your kids can do the dishes.” AH! Answers. Answers I can’t find when I’m in the trenches because I’m incredibly tired. She’s like Vanilla Ice -if you got a problem, yo she’ll solve it.)
2) Needing freezer space because our beef was slaughtered and waiting for a forever home. 20161004_100604 Picking up that meat from the butcher was so glorious. I felt like “The Taylor” from Fiddler on the Roof, “Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles!”

The Gift Turkey was removed from the freezer and put into the fridge. It would fill the gap between the end of our paycheck and moment the beef arrived. It was blessed. I borrowed a turkey roaster from my Mom, and I felt confident. I’ve cooked a turkey once, so how different could it be?

I feel like the word “foreboding” would be appropriate at this point because I remember having the same feeling when my second child was born. Oh, how quickly I learned.

As the turkey thawed (so are the days of our lives…), I found out that a friend of mine had been spending her days at the hospital -her son had been admitted with pneumonia. They were headed home the morning I was roasting The Gift Turkey, so I offered them half of it.
I’m a big supporter of anonymous service, but for the story to make sense, you need to understand that I was giving some of this turkey away. It had to be delicious and cooked well. IT HAD TO BE.

I took the neck out of the bird, no fuss. But where was the rest of the innards? The ones that made me want to puke as a kid? The package said they were under the neck? Nope.
Maybe they forgot. It didn’t matter. I mean, it felt a little weird that The Gift Turkey was heartless, but whatever.
I wasn’t about to kick a Gift Turkey in the… well, if it had a mouth…

So I rinsed it and salted it and found all of the cuts in my hands (fun!), and then I slathered the whole bird in a really mouth-watering mixture of melted butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and chopped, fresh herbs. I stuffed her with all manner of citrus and herbs and garlic and onions!
When I turned to put it in the roaster, I found it NOT hot or even heating up. Google helped me with some very natural alternatives, like using an oven and a cake pan (novel!). But just as I was figuring out the best pan to use, I noticed that the roaster had taken pity and kicked on.
I put the turkey in it, put the lid on and then took a shower.
Because it was noon.

After washing off and eating lunch, I was a little bewildered that my house wasn’t filling with the aroma of roasting turkey… I checked on it only to find that the roaster had caused the breaker to flip! Not only was the turkey NOT COOKING but the melted butter was now UNMELTED.

I could flip the breaker, and I WOULD HAVE IF I HAD KNOWN WHICH ONE AND HOW AND EVEN WHERE. Usually the breakers flip when Danny has too much manly stuff on, so he flips them back and whatever! things work again!
But this?!

I went to the dining area, placed the cold roaster on a chair and plugged the turkey back in. If there’s one thing I really hate, it is playing chicken with salmonella. (Did you see what I did there?)

Forty five minutes later, the roaster oven was COLDER than it was before. Apparently the breaker flip was worse than originally thought. Time was of the essence, and suddenly everything I’m saying sounds like it was taken from an episode of E.R.

I cleared off my nightstand at the other end of the house and plugged the turkey in.
An hour later, it was sizzling.
TOO much. Because -I suddenly remembered -there’s supposed to be a RACK in the insert pan, and there was no rack. I’m resourceful and creative, so I wadded up tinfoil and placed it under the bird in a few places to raise it up. As I did so, the innards fell out the OTHER end of the turkey. The FRONT end.

When did they start putting them there, people?

No matter. What counted is that I FOUND THEM AND REMOVED THEM.

At this point, I felt like a lost/rejected re-run of The Dick van Dyke show. Three hours later, I had no idea what I was going to find in the roaster. I was ready to make a pizza run, if necessary.
But do you know what I found?
A beautiful, plump, golden Gift Turkey. I set the roaster lid down and sang out.
“Bless your beautiful hide!”

It was moist and luscious with hints of lemon, thyme and rosemary. Savory, delicious! Did it compare to the smoked turkeys my Dad makes every year for Thanksgiving? No. But was it dry? No! Was it raw? No! It was edible and I’m pretty sure I heard it begging to be devoured!
After my friend had eaten some, she texted me to tell me she liked it and ask what I did to it.
Folks, what’s the short answer? How do I fit it into text form?
“I pushed the bounds of bacterial poisoning and sang show tunes at it.”

But you know, and I know, why the turkey really tasted so good.
It was The Gift Turkey -given to me in love and given by me with love. That blessed bird was sanctified by God to turn out and taste okay. Surely, if it was up to me, that bird would burn. or never cook. or worse: poison us all.
Thank heavens for Gift Turkeys and secret ingredients (I’m lookin’ at you, Love. And Gershwin, natch).

And here I must put in a plug for The Art of Manliness *dot* com. That site is where I learned how to carve a turkey. And in case you’re interested, it will teach you how to wrestle an alligator. It’s like an online cub scout manual for grown-ups.

The Red Dress

Earlier this year, Danny told me he’d be going to a week-long training in Tennessee at the end of August.
“Okay,” I replied, mechanically. I know all about these week-long training things. They aren’t new. They are code for, “gear up for a week of being the only parent to deal with all the fighting, but take heart! You don’t have to cook at all because kids love cold cereal and cheese and chips in all their varieties.”
“You should come,” he said.
“Yeah, come with me.”

Sweet of him to think I could leave the babe-lings for an entire week. He must think I’m made of sterner stuff than I am.
“When is it again?” I asked.
“Last week of August.”
“I can’t leave the kids right when they’re starting school… and I can’t leave Alice at all.”
“Just think about it.”
“Babe,” this is what we call each other when we’re frustrated, “I can’t even think about it. My brain explodes.”

A few weeks went by with him gently and teasingly nudging me, “you should come with me.”

A few more weeks went by.
“So,” Danny said to me through the phone, “I just found out that when I’m in Tennessee, I’ll be staying at The Grand Ole Opry Resort and Convention Center.”
“The kids will be fine,” I said, “How much for a plane ticket?”

Because apparently I CAN BE MADE OF STERNER STUFF when The Opry is on the line. I started Googling and found out that Loretta Lynn’s Ranch was an hour away from the convention center, and I became more convinced than ever that I had to make this trip. I HAD TO.
I wrestled with money and time and schedules and heavy travel anxiety, and the next thing I knew, I was walking through the front doors of the biggest motel I’ve ever set eyes, ears, and feet in.
There were gardens, shops, restaurants, a spa, pools, a gym, even a car rental place IN the resort. I woke up Monday morning to a quiet, dark motel room. I had a cold, but it turns out it is EASY to have a cold when you’re alone in a dark, cozy room.
It took me ages to get out of bed, get dressed and ready for the day. Danny and I took a shuttle to the nearby mall to eat lunch somewhere cheaper (because that resort food was NOT cheap!) and I stayed on at the mall while he went back to training.
I weaved in and out of shops, thinking of the kids and keeping my eye for treasures for them.
Clothing stores can be so daunting. Sometimes I don’t even bother because I’m overwhelmed.
What do I like?
What is shopping like without kids pulling on your underthings?
Do I even like clothes at all?

I walked into Forever 21 with the sole purposed of finding out the answers to all of these questions.
Did you know the clothes Rachel and Monica wore in season 1 of “Friends” are back in? I don’t understand this. I ran my fingers over the racks and wondered when I got to be too much of a mom to shop at clothing stores in the mall. I loved the floral patterns, but I hated the belly shirts. I loved the flowy dresses, but wished they had sleeves. My fingers stopped on a red, floral dress.
It had sleeves.
It was long-ish.
It was jersey and form fitting… I turned it over and saw the price tag: $10.

I threw it over my shoulder like a continental soldier and took it to the dressing room. I knew putting it on would be a trial experience. It would reveal EVERYTHING. I prefer clothes that hide, not clothes that hug. But I was determined, and for ten bucks, it was a risk I was willing to take.

Looking at myself in the mirror was a funny experience. As I looked over my 30 year old body that’s given life and birth to three babies I missed very much, I felt old. Too old to wear the dress. Outside my dressing room, I heard three girls giggling as they tried on outfits, their southern accents bouncing off the dressing room walls.
“Ya’ll this is perfect for church!”
“Don’t even think about it,” answered a mother, her voice equally as southern and equally as smooth.

I was too big for the dress, right? I looked like I’d had three kids, and isn’t that not allowed, or something?
Just then, my train of thought was interrupted by Me. The real Me, the real Me that has been coming back out to play. We used to hang out all the time until I buried her alive a few years ago.
“You know,” she said, “If you don’t buy this dress and wear it downtown tonight, you’re going to hate yourself when you’re 75.”
She was right. She usually is. And I laughed at myself as I paid the steep $10 and felt like THE MOST DARING WOMAN since Joan of Arc.

I made my way to an Old Navy outlet store where I bought crisp new shirt for Danny because I knew if I was wearing a new dress, he’d want to wear a new shirt… otherwise he’d feel weird. I don’t know why. I just know he’s like that.

When he came in from training, I showed him his new shirt and put on my new dress.
“It works,” he said, “It isn’t you, not quite your style, but hey… go with it.”
I felt the same way. It wasn’t me or my style, but I wasn’t about to NOT go with it.

I put on all the make-up, not just the mascara. I even glued on some fake eyelashes and had painted my toe nails. It was all very BIG TIME business.
Danny was glad I’d picked a shirt up for him, “I wouldn’t have anything to go with your dress,” he said.
Did I pat myself on the back for my foresight? Yes, I did. It turns out when three kids aren’t pulling on your underthings, you can actually think rather clearly.
Speaking of that, at that point it was 5 pm and I wasn’t tired! Were the convention gardens infused with magic?

We hopped in an uber and went straight to the Johnny Cash Museum where I wore a red dress and didn’t care. My rolls came out to play, and I didn’t care. I had a great time. Love him or hate him, Johnny Cash is incredibly inspiring. There was a certain air to that museum that left you with a, “why am I not just going for what I want?”
We took half a million pictures.




During picture-taking, I made a conscious pledge to myself to not suck in, not hunch over, not hide… just BE! It was liberating to just not care about what was going on with me and really be present in a place I’ll probably never go again. This was a once in a lifetime experience, and I wanted to enjoy as much of it as I could, and I wanted to do it in a red dress covered in a flowers. Not young enough? Not small enough? Bah. Who givza.


We left the museum in awe, and really happy to be together in a new town. We rounded the corner and were met with the lights of downtown -lots of bars, lots of live music, and lots of street performers! I dropped dollar bills into instrument cases and took pictures of horse-drawn carriages with red velvet interiors.
Did we rent one?
Naw, Dad lets us drive his for free.

We parked ourselves on the top floor of a bar and ordered some nachos and fried pickles. Danny paid the band to play “9 to 5″ by Dolly Parton and they really did try very hard.
We looked out over downtown and saw the CMT building. Danny ate as many pickles as he could, and I ate nachos like there weren’t any more in the entire world. We took an uber back to the hotel, and the next day we wore our same outfits to The Grand Ole Opry.
Isn’t that some sort of fashion no-no?
Who givza.
I spent TEN BUCKS on a dress and I was going to wear TEN BUCKS WORTH, by jingo. Danny had spilled something on his shirt, so we sent it out for dry cleaning. It made it back home just in time.

Lately, I’ve had these glorious waves of self-acceptance come crashing at my Arizona door. They are serene and exciting, and when they come in, life feels crazy good.
The wildest part about them is… I did nothing to earn them. I don’t understand this. Do you? I’ve spent my entire life working for what I want. I’ve earned and worked and earned and worked and it has been SO incredibly satisfying! Is there anything better than a sweaty brow and a job well done?
I really thought that if I worked out and had a fit body, I’d love my body. If I just EARNED it, right?

But guess what? I quit earning it because honestly? I just got really, really tired. I couldn’t earn anymore. As I’ve sat in quiet and tried accepting my body AS IS instead of AS I FELT IT SHOULD BE TO BE LOVABLE… I found myself in tears a lot. Giving up earning it was not easy. There were times I’d give a half-hearted earning effort only to find myself giving up again, realizing that the self-acceptance that I wanted, that felt so out of reach, was something I wanted more than any work out could give me.
I stopped working out because I hated my body.
I started walking because I love walking. I jogged to get my heart rate up sometimes because I love my heart.
I started feeding my body stuff because I LOVE my body instead of NOT FEEDING to punish my body… or eating TO PUNISH.

There were some days I had to hide from it all. There were some days I couldn’t do housework because of the nasty voices that told me how awful I was.
Who lets their sink get to THIS point?
Who would eat from that table?

I would stop and do something loving. A movie, a bath, a book. I’d pray a lot and reach out to trusted friends and patient family a lot.

Last year, a wave of self-acceptance came crashing through my door and it was miraculous.
I didn’t EARN love, and it poured through every pore. I wanted to shout from the roof-top that I was an okay person with working body and cool trailer and cool used cars!
When the wave left, I was sad again. Since then, the wave has come and gone. Come and gone. Each time it stays a little longer, and I thank God for the miracle of His Grace -the lifeblood that conducts these waves.

At The Grand Ole Opry I wore my dress and didn’t fuss at all. I wasn’t self-aware -I was just THERE. I felt every downbeat, I cried when I felt like crying and I laughed out loud and yelled when they asked if anyone was celebrating an anniversary (ours was just a few days away). I sang loud even when the girl next to me looked at me like I shouldn’t. I didn’t give her much credo, since she cheered more for Dustin Lynch than Charlie Daniels.





As the entire audience was brought to their feet by Charlie Daniels breaking into “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Danny and I decided that we had accomplished something really, truly memorable. The Grand Ole Opry will always hold a piece of our hearts, and every time I mention it, Danny mentions the red dress.

The Red Dress, which has hung out like a champ in my closet since we got home, has become a sort of victorious symbol of living -really living.

It was the right decision, just like going to Nashville was the right decision, just like putting down my earning boots was the right decision, just like sitting still and letting God’s Grace in was the right decision.

When I’m comfy in my own skin, everything seems to wear better on me. Funny. I thought for so long clothes would wear better if I was smaller.
Turns out, I’m good as-is, forever and always. There’s a bright life waiting for me on the other side of insecurity. I don’t always access it, but when those blessed waves roll in, it feels like coming home.






At the end of the trip, Danny remarked, “You know, I really like that red dress on you. At first I wasn’t sure, but now it is my favorite.”
Learning to love myself is like that. It feels awkward and out of place when I try it out, but after I strut around with it for awhile, it wears like it belongs.