Archives for February 2012

Tonight The Music Seems So Loud

When I was growing up, I knew from an early age that my mama and daddy didn’t share the same taste in music. There was some common ground, of course – they both enjoyed standards from the 50s and 60s – but Daddy mostly listened to country music (Charlie Pride, Ray Stevens, Willie Nelson, and the like), while Mama preferred classical music. Or pop classical, at least.

Music Box Dancer, anyone?

Oh, my mama loved it. She also loved the soothing stylings of Ferrante & Teicher, a piano-playing duo whose eight-track tapes filled Mama’s Ford LTD glove box to overflowing.

Wouldn’t you love to know where they got those jackets? And those wigs?

Mama always claimed that it was “sooooo relaxin'” to listen to instrumental music in the car, and I think she was right considering that I typically wanted to take a nap after listening to one of her eight-tracks for five whole minutes. What I couldn’t understand, though, was why she enjoyed that music as much as she did. It just sounded so boring to me. Plus, I was more than a little aggravated that I couldn’t listen to my music from Xanadu or Grease while we ran our errands. Thankfully I had an older brother and sister who loved to listen to The Doobie Brothers and Kenny Loggins and James Taylor and Earth, Wind & Fire, but if I was riding in the car with Mama, I might as well accept my pop classical piano music fate. She adored it.

And really, why wouldn’t she?

That’s my musical heritage, y’all.

Like most children, I vowed and declared that when I was a grown-up, I would never listen to instrumental music in the car. I told myself that when I became a mama, I would be sure to listen to really cool music that kids would also like. You know, awesome stuff like The Theme from “The Greatest American Hero” and Jessie’s Girl. Or maybe even Tainted Love if I was feeling particularly sophisticated – since the people who sang it had fancy British accents and all.

When our little guy was born, I really did make a point to be Very Intentional about what we listened to in the car. We wore out some Veggie Tales CD’s until he was about four, and then we gradually made the switch to Christian music – mostly praise and worship. Eventually we added our favorite singer / songwriters (Dave Barnes, Ben Rector, Gabe Dixon) to the mix, plus bands like NEEDTOBREATHE and The Fray. I’ve always used sports talk radio as a fall-back if I wasn’t in the mood for a sing-along, but over the last year I’ve noticed that the language has gotten increasingly colorful and not so appropriate for little ears. I’ve tried listening to Christian talk radio, but to be honest it’s a little difficult for me to get interested in a radio host’s thoughtful analysis of dispensationalism when I’m trying to run five or eight errands in a 90-minute window between school and soccer practice.

(And listen. I know that right now some of you are probably thinking, Why do you have to listen to anything? Why not just ride around with the radio / CD player / iPod turned off? Why not just enjoy some silence?)

(Well. Because that solution would be way too simple. And also way too quiet. That’s why.)

A few weeks ago I decided to hit the “scan” button on my radio and see if there was something new or different that might work as a more laid-back listening option, and I ran across a jazz station that’s run by Samford University. I figured I’d give it a try, and I have to say that much to my surprise, IT IS A DELIGHT. There are no screaming DJ’s, no commercials – just “Birmingham’s Smooth Jazz.” The little guy has been a good sport about it, even though a couple of days ago he reminded me of my own eight year-old self when he said, “Gosh, Mama – we sure have been listening to this music a lot lately.” But I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy the fact that there aren’t any lyrics; it’s a nice change of pace, especially in the mornings.

Today we were on the way to school, chatting on and off while my new favorite station played softly in the background. We had just pulled up to a stop sign when I thought, Hold on. That sounds a little familiar. I think I might know that song. And when I turned up the volume, this is what I heard.

WAY TO ROCK IT, MAMAW. I mean, I don’t know what kind of full circle moment it is when you start listening to the jazz / easy listening version of music from your junior high days, but I confronted that milestone this morning. And I’ll have you know that I not only confronted that milestone; I walked around it, stared at it awhile, wondered how I felt about it, then threw my arms around it and happily embraced it for several minutes. Because regardless of how much I loved George Michael’s music when I was a teenager, it turns out that an instrumental version of his songs suits my 40s just fine.

And while I can’t say for sure, I have to admit that there’s at least a small possibility that I’m going to hop on the iTunes in the next day or two and see if there’s any Ferrante & Teicher music I need to download.

Clearly Mama was on to something. And as much as it kills me to admit it, I’m guessing that it probably would be “sooooo relaxin'” to listen to them now.

A Title, It Eludes Me

Thanks so much for your sweet comments about the book. I am going to try to soak up as much of your encouragement as I can, mainly because several people have told me that the next few months of writing will be, um, challenging. I know that there’s a whole lot of work in front of me; even though the manuscript is due July 1st, the book won’t come out until the summer of 2013 (probably). I have had a couple of small, delicate come-aparts when I’ve tried to figure out how I’m going to juggle taking care of my people and working and blogging and carving out wee bits of time to catch up with the DVR and, you know, writing a book. But I think that D and I have figured out a pretty good plan for February and March, so we’ll see how it goes.

(Can you tell that I’m trying to stay calm about everything even though I’m silently screaming SWEET FANCY MOSES in my head?)

(Good. I’m glad you picked up on that.)

(Moving on.)

One day last week my friend Cindy posted a dip recipe on Facebook, and as soon as I saw the ingredients, I thought, Oh, yes ma’am. I will try that, and I will try it soon. Since some friends and I were planning to enjoy an array of appetizers this past Friday night, I thought the dip would be a perfect addition. And I’ll tell you what: it did not disappoint.

After I tried it, I immediately thought of all you dip-loving girls. It’s great with vegetables, crackers, or chips. Ready?

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (I use Muir Glen), diced and drained
1 lb. bacon, cooked and chopped into small pieces

Stir everything together. Cover and chill for 2 hours, then serve.

I know it’s not exactly a fancy recipe. But trust me when I tell you that IT IS DELICIOUS.

All righty – I know this is a mighty short update, but I’m going to watch the last 2 minutes of the State / LSU basketball game and try to maintain my composure. We were up by 17 at one point. Now the game is tied. Clearly the Bulldogs are trying to kill me.

I still love ’em, though.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.

The Book Thing

Remember when I told y’all last week that I was going to have a lot of words on Monday?

Well, I am here to make good on that promise. But consider yourselves warned. This post is gonna be a marathon, not a sprint. You might want to grab a protein bar and some almonds.

And please – I beg of you – fill up your water bottles. It’s critical that you stay well-hydrated.

Back in May I told y’all that I’d had an idea for an e-book and was hoping to finish the first draft sometime in July. In retrospect the finish-first-draft-by-July idea was a whole bunch of wishful thinking on my part. I worked like crazy on the e-book in June, but the more I worked on it, the more two particular things became blindingly clear: 1) I can get very distracted by the technical side of things (formatting, reading up on e-book publishing, etc.) and waste lots of valuable time that could be better spent writing. And 2) editing a book chapter is a vastly different exercise than editing a blog post. Because for me, at least, editing a chapter NEVER, EVER ENDS.

By the time August rolled around, I had a pretty good rough outline in place, and I’d finished several chapters, but I felt stuck. I didn’t know if what I’d written up to that point was any good, or if I was heading in the right direction, or if the stories I was telling felt connected, or if I should just walk out in the middle of the street and throw my laptop on the ground and then run over it several times with my car. I decided that it was probably best to take a little break, clear my head, and re-visit the e-book in early fall.

As it turned out, my break from the e-book coincided with the time that Melanie’s book proposal was going out to publishers. Since I’ve always assumed that no one would ever want to publish anything I wrote (it has always seemed unlikely to me that a publisher would take a chance on someone whose idea of quality blog material is an in-depth look at the latest flavor of Cheez-Its), I had never investigated the specifics of getting a book published. Maybe that’s one reason why it was fascinating to watch Melanie walk through it. I asked her approximately 489 questions about how everything worked, but it wasn’t because I thought I would ever be doing such a thing myself. It was because I am nosy. Now you know.

Mel and I emceed .MOM not too long after she signed her book contract, and while we were there, I met a couple of really nice book editors who work at publishing houses. After I had a very eye-opening conversation with one of them (I told her my idea for the temporarily-on-hold e-book, and she did not in fact point and laugh maniacally), I walked straight to Melanie’s hotel room and spent the next 30 minutes uttering some variation of What does it mean? What does it all mean? Do you think this means I’m supposed to write a book-book instead of an e-book? WHAT DOES IT MEEEEEEAAAAAAN?!?!? Melanie never really answered me, though, because she was too busy rolling her eyes and banging her forehead against the fauxhogany desk.

Sometimes I can be a little high-maintenance when it comes to decision making.

In all seriousness, Melanie gave me some great advice that morning, and for the first time in my whole life ever, I started to give some real consideration to the book thing. I spent most of the next week mumbling to myself while I walked around the house and weighed my options and shrugged my shoulders, and when I couldn’t seem to figure out what to do next, I emailed Mel’s agent to see if he might be willing to talk to me, mainly to help me sort through all the book-related crazy in my head.

Just to be clear: I was still about 86% sure that I was never going to write a book. And I was certain that if I could just talk it out and listen to the wise counsel of a professional, we’d determine in a matter of minutes that the possibility of my e-book idea getting published traditionally was TOTAL NONSENSE, at which point I’d be able to return to my normal routine of mumbling to myself about really important things like my hair and why a second season of Revenge might be hard to pull off and is it normal that I still remember all the lyrics to the songs on Hee Haw and oh sweet mercy is there a switch I can flip to make my hormones SIMMER DOWN, ALREADY?

I talked to Mel’s agent, Bill Jensen, the day after my birthday, and much to my surprise, he liked my e-book idea and thought that some publishers might like it, too. I told him that I had a huge mental block about writing a proposal because, well, FIERY FIREBALLS OF DEATH, but he assured me that I could do it. I told him that another reason I’d been reluctant to pursue the book thing was because the thought of having to promote something makes me want to claw out my eyeballs with a spork, and he totally understood. We also talked a good bit about our favorite Bible translations as well as the lost art of Sunday dinner, but that’s neither here nor there, really. By the end of our conversation we’d agreed to start working on the proposal and just see where it might lead.

Easy-breezy. Kicky, even.

For the next few weeks I worked on that proposal every single night, and I am happy to report that it did not in fact kill me (you can imagine my relief). I actually loved working on it; I found it strangely fun to try to wrap my brain around what the different chapters might turn out to be at some point down the road. It didn’t take nearly as long to finish the proposal as I thought it would, and before I knew it, all I had left to do was to sit back and wait to see if any publishers were interested. That was at the end of November. And a little over a month ago, in what was surely the most surreal moment of my life, I very happily accepted an offer from Tyndale to write my very first book. I mean, my word. Who in the sam hill would’ve thunk it?

The manuscript is due July 1st, which means that I have about four and a half months to write like crazy and decide it’s all garbage and then write like crazy some more and then run to the corner of my bedroom and hold my knees and rock back and forth and wonder WHAT? WHAT HAVE I DONE? WHY DID I THINK I COULD DO THIS? WHAT HAVE I DONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNE? After all, it’s not every day that I commit to writing an exegetical commentary on the book of Obadiah.

Oh, you didn’t fall for that, did you? YOU KNOW ME BETTER THAN THAT, INTERNET.

The book – and we’re about 98% settled on a title, but I can’t blog about that part yet – is going to be a non-fiction collection of Southern stories about family, friends, food and faith. My hope is that it will be a funny, cheerful, encouraging reminder of how God does some of His very best work in and through the people He so graciously puts in our lives. I’m beyond grateful to my family and friends who have given me permission to tell their stories, and I’m so honored to be able to share those stories with the 14 to 22 people who might read my book. As always, I am dreaming big.

And finally, I just want to say this: I wish there was some way that I could adequately express how profoundly thankful I am for all of you. The fact that you stop by here and read what I write will forever be a wonder to me. Without y’all, it would’ve never occurred to me to write an e-book or traditional book or matchbook or phone book – there would be zero books of any kind on the horizon. Y’all bless me every single day with your comments and emails, and I am forever indebted to you for that. From the deepest part of my heart, thank you so much.

You’re the best bloggy people in the whole wide world.

Pinning

I’m gonna have a lot of words on Monday. A LOT of words. Words about some STUFF and some THINGS, mind you. Just you wait.

But in the meantime: pictures. Or pintures. Or pinterestures.

1) These return address stamps are fab.


2) I’m obsessed with this skirt. I can’t explain why. All I know is that I went in Anthropologie a couple of days ago to buy a candle, and when I saw this skirt hanging in the window, I ran over to it and gazed at it longingly. They had a navy and white striped shirt with it in the store – which was an interesting choice (that’s my code for I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE ANTHRO MATCHING TECHNIQUES) – but on the website it’s paired with a denim shirt. And it looks super cute.


3) All my favorite foods. All in one place.


4) It’s called Fail-Proof Pizza Dough. AND THAT IS THE TRUTH. The ingredients in this dough are the same as another recipe that I’ve used for the last year and half-ish, but the ingredients are combined in a different order. As Robert Frost once wrote, “that has made all the difference.”


5) Comeback Sauce is a staple in the South. Or at least it’s a staple in Mississippi. I don’t hear people mention it as much in Alabama, but maybe that’s because people can’t stop saying “ROLL TIDE” or “WAR EAGLE” long enough to talk about deeply meaningful things like Comeback Sauce.

Comeback Sauce is great on chicken (prepared any which way), hamburgers, and I’m sort of partial to using as a dip. The only trick is that if you use it as a dip, the dipping agent needs to be saltine crackers. Not chips. Not Triscuits or Wheat Thins. Saltine crackers. Just trust me on this one.


6) I think about this purse more than I feel it is normal to think about, well, a purse.

Source: bodenusa.com via Sophie on Pinterest


7) This pillow makes my heart go pitter-patter. This pillow is also beyond my budget, so unfortunately it will not be making my heart go pitter-patter in the comfort of my own home. But still. Love it.


Have a great weekend, y’all!

Happies

A few weeks ago my friend Amanda gave me a heads up that there were some new varieties of Fig Newtons that merited my attention. I finally remembered to buy some when I was at the grocery store earlier this week, and while I think Amanda may have been talking about another new kind of Fig Newtons, I would just like to say that these?

ARE DELICIOUS.

They’re also pretty low in sugar – only 7 grams in a 3 cookie serving – and you can pretend like they’re totally healthy because, hello, 8 GRAMS OF WHOLE GRAIN.

They’d also be killer with a little cream cheese or peanut butter on them, but I’m trying to be a good girl.

******

Given the fact that a new skin care regimen that I was trying took me on a bit of a rollercoaster ride in December and January, I spent more than a few minutes wondering if I was going to walk through the rest of my earthly days with my skin looking like my 20-something self’s worst nightmare.

I don’t know. Call me crazy, but I feel like break-outs should be a thing of the past during this season of life. IT SEEMS ONLY FAIR.

Anyway, when I was in Houston a few weeks ago, I saw Melanie’s skin for the first time since September, and it looked FANTASTIC. I knew that she’d been using a Clairisonic Mia, and I’d been thinking for a few months about buying one for myself. When I saw what a difference it made (not that her skin looked bad before, mind you, but it just looks more vibrant now), I made up my mind once and for all and ordered a Clairisonic Mia for my own dadgum self. It was a splurge, but it’s still much less expensive than buying four or five products from an expensive skin care line. Plus, it doesn’t have to be replaced every 2-3 months like a pricey jar of moisturizer.

No kidding – my little turquoise Mia is my favorite skin care product I have ever used. It exfoliates (gently), and I can’t get over how clean my face feels – even when I’m wearing make-up. Best of all, I’m back to using my regular moisturizer (Eucerin with Q10), and it works better than ever now that my skin is finally back in proper working order.

The Mia was one of those purchases that I thought long and hard about before I ordered it, but if you have some extra gift cards sitting around – or maybe some extra birthday money – the splurge is a lot less painful. I LOVE IT.

(Those aren’t affiliate links.)

(Those are just want-to-share-the-goodness links.)

*****

This post by Emily is encouraging and touching and wonderful and good.

*****

Last night I watched Smash. I hadn’t really planned to watch it, mainly because I couldn’t figure out how a drama with musical numbers wouldn’t wind up being a little awkward (Cop Rock, anyone?). As it turned out, the show is really well done, and there were a couple of things that stood out. First of all, the music is beautiful – great arrangements, pheonomenal vocals – and second of all, Katharine McPhee is excellent. I’ll definitely watch next week’s episode, and in the meantime, I’ll be annoying the people in my house by singing this song A LOT.

(The two characters in the video are auditioning to play Marilyn Monroe.)

(That bit of context might prove helpful.)

*****

So. Anybody else have a new cookie / skin care tip / blog post / TV moment / generally fun something-or-other you’d like to share?

Fire away.

The Lay Of The Land

I’m not gonna lie. Things have been just been a little hectic around our house lately. In fact, last Wednesday I decided I was going to drop all pretense of being able to handle everything that’s going on right now, and after the little man was asleep my poor husband listened patiently why I rattled off all the reasons why I can’t juggle everything that I’m currently juggling because, well, I AM NOT A VERY STRONG JUGGLER.

Don’t get me wrong: I love to be productive, and I’m so grateful for my work / writing / other commitments, but every once in awhile I start to dream of days upon days upon days of sitting on the couch in my pajamas, not to mention that there’s a whole new season of The Real Housewives of Orange County starting in a few days and I would really like to be free to dedicate more time to that because I understand that Gretchen and Tamra are friends now. And yes, even though that runaway train is no doubt going to jump the tracks before the season is over, I would sort of like to climb on board and pretend for just a few weeks that watching reality television is my job and at the very least maybe take a nice nap or two along the way.

So.

You know.

There’s that.

I have to admit, though, that there’s been a whole lot of happy weaving in and through all the busy. Last Thursday I discovered that The Fray’s new CD was streaming on iTunes (the album comes out tomorrow, at which point the streaming, it will cease), and I’m completely obsessed with it. It’s so great, in fact, that I looked into getting tickets for their show that’s coming up in Atlanta, but when I saw that the only tickets available were general admission, I backed off that idea, mainly because Mamaw here needs a reserved seat. If I had to stand in the middle of a teeming mass of 20-somethings jostling for the best view of the stage, odds are that I’d probably pop my hip out of its socket, not to mention that I’d run the risk of spilling my Ensure all over my fellow concert-goers. So I’m thinking that it’s probably better to just stay at home.

I’ve also had a whole bunch of fun with my people – they are so great about rolling with everything and making me laugh when work stuff and writing stuff start to err on the side of crazy. There’s an eight year-old in this house who’s so over the moon crazy about his daddy right now that I occasionally feel the need to put a twist on the Star Wars tradition and wake him up by saying, “Good morning, my son. I don’t know if you remember or not, but I AM YOUR MOTHER.” On one hand seeing the little guy with his daddy completely melts my heart and tickles me to absolute pieces, but on the other hand I kind of want to gather him up in my arms and stick my nose in his hair and sway him from side to side like I used to do when he was a baby.

But that wouldn’t really work because 1) I would throw my back out and 2) have you smelled an eight year-old little boy’s hair lately? It is not always so pleasant. Regardless, I love my boy. And I love how he loves his daddy.

Now. Let us talk of carefree things and have some show and tell. I think you’ll find that these pictures will make you feel really good about your organizational and housekeeping skills. At least compared to mine.

This is my suitcase from the trip to Houston. I unpacked it last week. Approximately 10 days after I returned from said trip to Houston. Sometimes I tend to move at a leisurely pace where pesky bits of follow-through are concerned.

This is a pile of clean towels on the bed in our guest room. I did fold them eventually. But now there’s another big pile of clean towels on the bed in our guest room. If you know of a laundry fairy, I would very much appreciate it if you would pass along her number. She could really fulfill her calling here.

This is a map that my Sister spotted in HomeGoods over Thanksgiving. She pointed it out to me because she thought I’d like it, and I liked it so much that I bought it. Isn’t it whimsical and kicky and fun? The problem, however, is that I can’t decide where to put it, and that is why it has been propped up next to the wall in our hallway for the last two and a half months.

TWO AND A HALF MONTHS.

If you know of a map hanging fairy, I would very much appreciate it if you would pass along her number.

This picture represents what I feel is the dominant organizational structure in our home right now: set out a bowl, then put some stuff in it.

As you might imagine, our current organizational structure is somewhat lacking. However, it is nice to know that there’s a purple marker, a tube of ChapStick, and two different varieties of gum in the same bowl. IT ALL MAKES SO MUCH SENSE.

A sweet friend sent me these flowers about two and a half weeks ago. They are still so beautiful. And as you will notice, they are flanked on the right by A Bowl With Some Stuff In It. We are consistent with our preferred methods of inefficiency.

So that’s what’s going on around here. It’s not the strongest housekeeping season of my life. It’s one of the busiest work seasons of my life. But thanks to the people who are in my life – and thanks to the very good God who put them there – it’s one of the richest and sweetest seasons I can remember.

Funny how that works.

Happy Tuesday, y’all.