Stop, Collaborate, & Listen

Tonight I spoke at Oak Mountain Presbyterian here in Birmingham. I had the best time and was reminded all over again why I love the local church. I really can’t explain what it does for my heart when I go into churches and see women talking and laughing and loving one another so well (honestly, seeing women who KNOW one another is no small thing – it makes me teary-eyed every single time). So all that to say: I was so honored to spend a few hours with the OMPC women tonight.

And while this may seem like a very small and meaningless detail about OMPC, I need to share it: they have a crushed ice machine there.

No kidding. That ice was such a big deal to me that for about five minutes after I enjoyed my first cup of ice water, I wondered how I was going to share the news about the ice with David and tell him that we might want to consider moving our membership.

I mean, good theology is one thing. But good ice in a church? It is a ministry in and of itself.

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My love affair with certain kinds of ice is nothing new. After all, I’ve mentioned one or 98 times that I have a real thing for pellet ice. My favorite ice in the world is probably from Zaxby’s – it is a little larger than Sonic ice and all manner of glorious – but then last week I went to the new Chick fil A that’s close to my work and discovered that they also have pellet ice, albeit in a slightly larger size.

I’m not gonna lie. This was a Chick fil A game changer for me. I have always enjoyed their lemonade and their unsweetened tea (and occasionally a combination of the two), but their ice is typically so large that I feel like a straw has to fight it every step of the way. The pellet ice, however? Well, it ensures that the ice won’t melt as quickly (pellet ice is so good about staying icy cold) AND there is increased straw movement inside the cup.

Not that I overthink this particular topic or anything.

So, if I had to currently rate my cold-drink-over-ice options, here’s where I’d land.

1. Zaxby’s unsweetened iced tea with two lemon wedges
2. Chick fil A Diet Dr. Pepper (but only at the new CFA with the larger pellet ice)
3. Zaxby’s Diet Dr. Pepper
4. McAllister’s unsweetened iced tea with one lemon wedge (their lemon wedges are bigger than most, and though their ice is subpar, the deliciousness of the tea covers a multitude of ice woes)
5. Urban Cookhouse unsweetened iced tea with two lemon wedges

Honorable mention goes to Crystal Light Strawberry Orange Banana over crushed ice from my refrigerator.

If you are equally high maintenance with your drink options, please feel free to share your favorites.

And if you just happen to prefer some room temperature tap water, please know that we won’t judge you for your ice-free preference.

We might not understand you.

But we will most definitely love you anyway.

Happy Friday, y’all.

Feeling Scrappy

One big reason why I started this blog is because the thought of scrapbooking totally overwhelmed me. It seemed like a mysterious world filled with adhesive letters and specialty scissors and decorative papers, a world that demanded countless hours of cropping photos and executing themes and writing captions. In bubble letters, no less.

So in order to escape the feeling that I was failing Alex miserably in terms of documenting his childhood, I decided that a blog was a fine idea. And listen – I took to blogging like a Southern girl takes to fried catfish. I wrote about our days, I kept a record of funny things the then-toddler was saying, and I even had pictures (that I could crop in seconds, mind you) to accompany the posts. The blog became – and has remained – my handy little digital scrapbook, and that suited me just fine. I’ve never once regretted my inexperience with paper trimmers and punch boards.

Well.

A couple of weeks ago Alex went with his class to Washington, DC. I have known since he was in about 2nd grade that he’d have to complete a gigantic scrapbook after the trip. And since David actually went to DC and chaperoned and helped get all the necessary pictures and walked who knows how many miles across our nation’s capital and etc., I have known for some time that any scrapbook supervision was going to be my responsibility. I think that’s oh-so-fair.

But none of that changes my my personal challenges with craftiness – and those challenges are precisely why the prospect of helping with this scrapbook has filled me with some small degree of fear and trembling.

Honestly, I’ve felt flat-out intimidated. Because do you know what crafty people have that I do not? SKILLS.

This past Friday, however, I decided that it was time to face the music (or the memories, as it were) and make a trip to Hobby Lobby for our supplies. I mentioned to my friend Heather that I could no longer put off purchasing all the much-needed papers and stickers and whatnot, and since Heather is a bit of a scrapbooking mastermind and dare I say enthusiast, she offered to accompany us on our trip to the HL. I was so thankful for her kindness that I may have cried.

No kidding. When Alex and I pulled into the HL parking lot right behind Heather and her daughter, I thought of that verse from Proverbs that says “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” Granted, if we were getting all technical I’d need the verse to say “sister,” but that is sort of missing the point because GRATEFUL.

Now here is where I want to be clear. I am all for helping a kid with his or her homework, but doing a kid’s project is nowhere on my parental priority list. So while yes, I am absolutely going to supervise and help with the scrapbook, I am also super aware that I completed 5th grade and all of its assignments back when Ronald Reagan was president. That is why I have tried to be exceedingly clear with Alex that he is the person in charge of writing recaps, selecting pictures, and assembling scrapbook pages. I’m mainly along for the ride to supervise the process, assist with organization, and make sure he meets his deadline.

All that to say: I know full well that the pressure isn’t on me. Even still, I walked in that Hobby Lobby and almost instantly felt like I was starting to sweat. Like, starting to sweat out of the top of my head. Hobby Lobby is a lot of seasonal merchandise and crafting supplies for a person who typically doesn’t dabble in either, so after grabbing a shopping cart and then stopping in my tracks right next to some Easter baskets, I sheepishly looked over at Heather and said, “Um. You want to tell us where to go?”

“Back there,” she pointed. “Just follow us.”

You know those times in your life when you really need for someone to take control and boss you around a little bit? THAT.

We walked to the back of the store as Heather and C talked about some craft they wanted to try (this is a discussion that I have had approximately zero multiplied by never times in my life), and when we finally arrived at the back of the store, I know for certain that my jaw dropped when I saw the TWO AISLES full of stickers that were waiting on us.

Seriously. I didn’t even know that many sticker themes were possible.

The first thing we did was get Alex to pick out a scrapbook. Heather advised that I buy an extra set of scrapbook inserts (is that even the correct term? the words have lost all meaning), so I threw those on top of the navy blue scrapbook like a wide receiver spiking a football in the end zone. Giddy with productivity, I was. But then we wheeled over to the paper aisle, and after a quick look-around, I promptly waved a white flag of surrender.

I was somewhat overwhelmed.

Eventually Alex picked out a big book of patriotic-type scrapbook papers (WHO KNEW such a thing existed? I for one did not.), and Heather and C suggested a few of the individual papers that might come in handy. By the time we got to the end of the aisle, I felt like the worst part was probably over.

But then I remembered that we still had to pick out stickers, and the top of my head started to sweat again.

(Listen, all you cute 20- and 30-somethings. I just want you to know that SWEATING OUT OF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD is totally a thing. AND IT IS YOUR FUTURE.)

(Also, be really good to your eyelids.)

(One day you will wake up and realize that they have betrayed you, and try though you may, you cannot convince them to be loyal again.)

(Insert perfunctory platitudes about the good part of the 40s being wisdom, perspective, blah blah blah blahblahtedy blah.)

When we first turned down the sticker aisle, my first reaction was to flee (lo, and quickly) because there were quite literally thousands of options and I can barely make a decision when confronted with two kinds of salad dressing. So once again I let Heather lead the way. “The Stickabilities brand is really good,” she began, “and you’ll probably…”

“WAIT A MINUTE,” I said. “DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT YOU KNOW THE BRANDS? AND HAVE PREFERENCES?”

This was more than I could comprehend.

“Oh, yes ma’am,” Heather replied. “And I’m telling you. The Stickabilities are good.”

Needless to say, I loaded up our cart with every Stickabilities flag and eagle and USA-emblazoned medal I could find. I’m not exactly sure how many stickers I bought, but I can say without hesitation that WE HAVE US SOME STICKER OPTIONS.

At that point I assumed we were finished, but Heather said, “Hold on. You’ve got to have tape.”

“Oh, I have tape at home,” I answered.

“No – you need this tape,” Heather replied, and then she held up a package of some plastic containers that apparently dispense tape in dots. Apparently this is better for securing pictures to scrapbook pages. And suffice it to say that I was incredulous to find so many tape-dispensing options. All this time – all these years – and I’ve actually been using my hands to tear off tape strips of varying lengths. LIKE A SAVAGE.

But once the tape dots were in the cart, we were done. All finished. Fully outfitted and supplied.

By the time we made it to the cash registers, I had mentally thanked Heather and C approximately 37 times before I thanked them for real and they set off in search of other crafty items. There’s not a doubt in my mind that without their help I would have walked out of Hobby Lobby with a scrapbook, some construction paper, and about four bottles of Elmer’s glue. Their assistance really was huge. And if that weren’t enough, the scrapbook and the scrapbook paper were 50% off. I KNOW. Stickers were 50% off, too – but only the Stickabilities brand. I’m so glad we picked those. I hear they’re the best.

A few days have passed since our Hobby Lobby excursion, and while I don’t want to speak too soon, I think we’re making progress. Friday night Alex sorted all of his pictures. Saturday he wrote all of his reactions and opinions and whatnot. And Sunday he started putting everything together, which is why I looked at this pile for a very long time before it dawned on me that maybe he should pick out scrapbook paper for each page.

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I believe the phrase you’re looking for is “outside of her comfort zone.”

But Alex? He is a trooper. He has really worked hard the last couple of days, and while there’s still a ways to go, by diggity we’re organized. Not to mention that we have more patriotic-themed scrapbook supplies than I even knew existed this time last week.

We’re broadening our creative horizons, y’all.

And my nerves may just live to tell the tale.

We Can Pretend There Are Paragraphs

1. I’ve decided that going to the cleaners is my favorite errand. Doesn’t matter if I’m dropping off or picking up. It gives me such a feeling of accomplishment even though all I’m essentially doing is driving my car and then rolling down a window. The whole experience smells like productivity to me.

2. The area underneath my eyes is the bane of my existence right now. We are in a battle that I know I will not win. My 40s tell me so.

3. Melanie’s book trailer made its debut yesterday. Y’all are going to love this book so much. Because yes, it’s hilarious just like all of Mel’s books are, but it is also oh-so-tender. You’ll treasure your friends more than ever after you read it. Promise.

4. This season of Survivor has my undivided attention. And the fact that last night’s episode was two hours? GLORIOUS.

5. Typically we do a BooMama group bracket for March Madness, but I just didn’t get my act together this year. However, I’ve decided that UAB is going to be my tournament team – along with LSU, but that probably goes without saying (update: NC State just beat LSU, so there’s that). Kentucky seems pretty close to unbeatable to me, but it’ll still be fun to watch what happens.

6. Tonight we grilled hamburgers for the first time in a while. For my whole life I’ve eaten ketchup and mayonnaise on my hamburgers – no mustard – and I’m still deeply loyal to the ketchup and mayonnaise combo. However, as I’ve gotten older, dill pickles have become increasingly important to hamburger success. I am partial to the Vlasic Ovals. Super crunchy for a hamburger dill.

7. You’re welcome for all of this riveting information about condiments.

8. Last weekend I took Alex and a friend to see the Sponge Bob movie. I feel like I don’t even need to say anything else because a bunch of y’all said, “Oh, bless her heart” as soon as you read that, and I already feel better about those two hours that I will never, ever get back.

9. To be clear, though, I do still savor any opportunity to sit beside a certain fifth grader in a public setting.

10. I got very tickled when I watched this.

11. Hope y’all have a great weekend!

A Sign That You’re Home (A Giveaway)

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About three years ago I wanted to add something special to our house – something that would commemorate signing a contract for my first book – so I ordered a personalized wooden sign from Tara and Andy at the Between You & Me Sign Shop. I picked my favorite quote from The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, and I was thrilled to pieces when the sign arrived a couple of weeks later.

These are the pictures I posted back in 2012, but the sign is in the same spot – and I still love it just as much.

(I know that last picture is super blurry, but you get the idea.)

Then, a couple of years later, book two happened. And when I finished writing Home is Where My People Are and started talking to the folks at Tyndale about what might be a fun book release giveaway, that sign in my living room immediately came to mind. I mean, obviously I’m not giving away my sign, but I thought y’all might enjoy the chance to win a personalized wooden sign of your own. There’s just something so tender and sweet about words that settle way down deep in your heart, whether those words come from a book, from Scripture, or from a favorite family saying.

So the folks at Tyndale got in touch with Tara and Andy from Between You & Me, and together they’ve come up with a mighty fine giveaway. They’re giving away a 2 foot by 2 foot personalized wooden sign from Between You & Me Sign Shop, and I’m already so happy for whoever wins. That’s a big ole sign, you know?

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The sign in the previous picture is one of their best sellers, by the way.

I’m also a little partial to this one.

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Isn’t that great?

ANYWAY, if you enter this giveaway, you have a chance to win the 2 x 2 sign of your choice, and you can customize it with something you see in the Between You & Me shop OR something that you choose on your own.

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There will also be 10 runners-up who will receive a free copy of Home is Where My People Are.

And if you don’t win but you’d still love to buy a personalized sign for your house, you can get 15% off your Between You & Me Sign Shop order by using the code BOOMAMA15.

To enter, all you have to do is fill out the widget below. There are all sorts of ways to earn additional entries (you’ll see after you enter your email and name on the Giveaway Tools widget). We’ll select winners on Tuesday, March 24th, and they’ll be notified via email.

And thanks so much, everybody, for all the ways you’ve supported the new book. Your emails, your tweets, your sweet blog comments – they have all meant the world to me. I’m so grateful for each one of you.

Happy Giveaway, y’all!

(I’m closing comments on this post so that people will use the widget to enter the giveaway.)

(Just over-clarifying for redundancy. It’s my gift.)

Duly Noted & Repeated

I’ll be back in a little while with a really fun giveaway, but in the meantime I wanted to post this video. It showed up on my Facebook early this morning, and I’m just endlessly fascinated by stuff like this. I mean, do you know how many people continually make “realtor” a three-syllable word? Do you have any idea how many times I’ve mispronounced “forte”? Would it be possible to attend some sort of weekend workshop where all we talk about is stuff like this because IT MAKES MY NERDY HEART SO HAPPY?

Anyway. Please do enjoy.

See y’all in a little bit!

The Dog & Me & All This Time

My people have been out of town all week. I was leery of saying that earlier this week because, well, BANDS OF THIEVES WHO SCOUR THE INTERNET (not really), but by the time I post this my fellas, who have been in Washington, DC and Williamsburg, VA on Alex’s 5th grade trip, will be on the way home. Needless to say, I cannot wait to see them because 1) I have missed them, and 2) I have a feeling that they will have some stories. I also have a feeling that they will want some sleep, especially considering that they didn’t have the luxury of recovering from the switch to daylight savings time (plus a time zone change from central to eastern) after a SIXTEEN HOUR BUS RIDE.

Say it with me: SIXTEEN HOUR BUS RIDE.

Before they left I figured that I would do all sorts of wonderful things during this six-day stretch of being home by myself. I imagined that I would organize some closets, catch up on all the laundry, clean out the refrigerator, and maybe even tackle a few projects. And while I have done some laundry and I’ve definitely taken care of Hazel (normally Alex is Hazel’s go-to caretaker), I’ve mostly read and watched a little TV and then gone to bed early. I had plans to go to dinner a couple of nights, but I felt so guilty about leaving Hazel (after she’d already spent the day at home while I was at work) that I re-scheduled.

I can’t even speak to the level of co-dependence this reveals between Hazel and me.

Suffice it to say that the level of co-dependence is significant.

In my defense, though, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave her when she has already missed Alex like crazy this week. Every single afternoon she has walked down to his room and looked for him. It’s been like watching a combination of a Hallmark commercial and a sad dog movie play out before my very eyes.

And then there’s this.

I lived by myself for six years before David and I got married, and I loved it. I really did. I liked the quiet, I liked having that space to myself, I liked cleaning and decorating my little apartment and knowing that no one was going to mess it up. In so many ways I liked the solitude.

But after this last week, I think I have realized that I AM NO LONGER THAT INDEPENDENT 20-SOMETHING.

Because my word. My biggest takeaway from this week of holding down the fort with Hazel is that the quiet has been sort of deafening. And night before last I may or may not have turned on Madagascar 2 in the den so that I could sit in the kitchen and maybe it would at least sound like there were other people here.

It was a little bit of an alone time low.

Even still, I’m really not complaining. I’m so happy that the fellas have had a great trip and made all sorts of fun memories and etc. In lots of ways the timing of this week-o-alone has been perfect because I have been craving some time to just be still and think, and sweet fancy Moses I sure did get it. For days.

Literally.

So now? I’m all margined up. I’m watching State play in what will probably be their only game in the SEC basketball tournament, and I have American Idol on the DVR, and I may be able to squeeze in tonight’s episode of Survivor if I can stay awake. Hazel is resting comfortably – at least until the next time a pinecone rolls 1/4 centimeter closer to the house – and I’m beside myself that my people will be home soon.

I’m also tickled that I found this little meme on Pinterest.

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I may make it my official wall hanging for Alone in My House 2015.

And if this pattern repeats itself in 2016, some of y’all are totally coming over for a slumber party.

We can even have a special encore presentation of Madagascar 2.