The Big Boo Cast, Episode 62

There are times when Melanie and I record a podcast and everything seems right in the world. The skies are blue, life is easy, and cheerfulness comes oh-so-naturally.

This particular podcast is not necessarily one of those times.

But here’s the thing, I guess. After the last few weeks and everything that’s been going on in the world – not to mention with our close friends and family members – well, we were feeling a little punchy. And while yes, punchy can certainly be funny, we probably weren’t showing off the sunniest sides of our personalities the day we recorded episode 62.

But you know what? It ended up being an oddly therapeutic conversation (well, I mean, I can’t speak for Melanie, but it was therapy for me, at least). And we covered all sorts of topics: Tiny House Hunters, my great closet clean-out of 2016, the confusion over when a “dress” is actually a shirt, Melanie’s lack of interest in a process, my unfortunate experience with a handkerchief dress, plus so much more.

Finally, thank you so much for your emails, messages, comments, and prayers during Mama’s hospital stay and after she passed away. I said this yesterday on the podcast Facebook page, but the joy of the Lord really has been our strength. Please know that our family is so grateful for y’all.

You can click here to listen. Or here. You can even listen right here on the blog.

Or, as always, you can subscribe on iTunes if you’re feeling particularly fancy.

Just FYI – here’s where you can get more info on the products / places we mention (these aren’t affiliate links – just regular ole links):

acrylic T necklace holder

Blue Door Boutique

Tiny House Hunters

Melanie’s Pinterest

Sophie’s Pinterest

Somebody giving a hedgehog a bath


The Intern

Band of Brothers

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Mrs. Kennedy & Me by Clint Hill

Murad Rapid Age Spot & Pigment Lightening System

Bad Day by Daniel Powter

Hope y’all enjoy it!

Erin’s Fancy Hamilton Spreadsheet

The blog hasn’t been working today, so a little while ago I posted something on Facebook that I was originally planning to put in a blog post. But now, of course, the blog is working (thank you, kind web hosts at Fused), so I thought I’d put the Facebook post here for those of you who might miss it otherwise.

This is some impressively needless explaining, isn’t it?

So here’s the Facebook post, and I’d just like to say that if you are a Hamilton fan, well, YOU ARE SO WELCOME.

I don’t know if the link will show up if you’re an email subscriber, so you may have to click through to the post.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sit and think about other processes that I can overcomplicate.

What can I say? IT’S A GIFT.


It occurred to me a few days ago that while I’ve mentioned on social media what’s been going on with our family, I haven’t written a blog post about it. And I know that I don’t have to write a blog post about it – there certainly aren’t any rules about this sort of thing – but it feels strange not to mention it on the blog since, for over ten years now, this is where I’ve documented such a big chunk of our family life.


On Monday, June 27th, after several days in ICU, my sweet mama passed away and met Jesus face-to-face. We rejoice that she is whole and free.

And I said this on Facebook last week, but I think it’s worth saying again: Mama was a true Southern lady, a devoted wife, an incomparable mother and grandmother, and a loyal friend. Her relationship with the Lord was deep and rich and real. She was one of a kind and loved by many.

I’m so grateful that she was ours.


There’s so much about the last week and a half that I’m not ready to write about yet. There’s so much that I’m still processing. There’s also the ever-increasing realization that even though I am so relieved that Mama isn’t suffering – even though I find great comfort and peace from knowing that she’s with Jesus – there’s a grieving process out in front of me, and I have to move through it.

And since we’re talking about it, I’ll tell you the number one thing I’ve learned about that process so far: grief is weird.

Seriously. It’s the craziest thing. One minute I’m fine, I’m cooking supper, I’m laughing at something somebody said, and the next minute I’m in tears because there’s a mama talking to her daughter on an HGTV show, and there’s something about the inflection of her voice that reminds me of my own mama.

So as far as recounting everything that happened in the hospital, as far as trying to put some big shiny perspective on this particular encounter with loss, I’m nowhere near ready.

But here’s what I can tell you without a second’s hesitation: in the middle of our family’s heartbreak, the Lord has been so gracious.

In the middle of our family’s heartache, the body of Christ has loved us and comforted us and rallied around us and prayed for us and shown up for us.

And the personal nature of all that love and care – from the Lord and from His people – it’s been a game-changer, y’all. It has ministered to our family in ways that are difficult for me to describe. Because seeing how people reached out to Daddy – watching how folks have cared for him and for us – it has been such a testimony to the power of community and investing in other people and putting down some relational roots. I believed it before, of course. I’ve even written about it a little bit.


I will talk about it forever, I think.

Consider yourselves warned.


Here’s what I keep thinking about.

About a month ago Alex and I went to Mama and Daddy’s house for an extra-long weekend. The new book came out on a Tuesday, I drove to Mississippi on Wednesday, and on Thursday I had a book-signing at a store in my hometown. Alex and I got to the book signing a little early, and Sister – who was also in town – brought Mama about a half hour later. Mama was having a hard day with her words (her memory was still so strong, but dementia gave her fits with language and processing), and for most of the afternoon, she just smiled and squeezed people’s hands. At one point she looked at Sister and said, oh-so-slowly, “I wish I could talk.” There were several good conversations going on at the same time, and Mama was frustrated that she couldn’t jump in.

But 48 hours later, Mama had a much better day. She rode with Sister and me to a family reunion in south Mississippi, and even though her speech was still slow, she wasn’t having to fight as much with her words. She was thrilled to be at the reunion, delighted to see different people from Daddy’s side of the family, glad to be able to talk a little bit with some folks she had known for a long time.


Mama was all about the desserts that day – her sweet tooth was fired up and ready for the homemade cobblers and pies – and after Mama finished her lunch, Sister fixed her a “sampler platter” of sweet treats. It tickled Mama to no end.

After the reunion ended, Sister took us on a little road trip to the community where Mama grew up. Our first stop was the church that Mama attended her whole life, and as we pulled into the parking lot, Mama pointed and very slowly said, “That’s where your daddy and I married.”

We knew that, of course. But since words hadn’t come easy for Mama over the last couple of years, Sister and I were both struck by the fact that out of all the life Mama had lived in that little Methodist church, she made sure to tell us about marrying Daddy. For her, that was the highlight.

As we pulled out of the church parking lot, Mama did her best to narrate our drive down Highway 18 – just like she’d done when Alex and I were with her on the same road a few years before. This time, however, I grabbed my phone and started recording. I have no idea why; as a general rule I am a picture taker, not a video maker, and prior to that Saturday I think I’d probably videoed Mama approximately zero times.

But that day, I did. And I am so thankful.

We kept driving down the highway until we reached the cemetery. Mama wanted to see her parents’ graves, and since the cemetery soil was a little rocky, she couldn’t use her walker. So Sister got on one side of Mama, and I got on the other, and we walked her up a small hill until we reached the spot where Mamaw and Papaw Davis are buried. We stood there for several minutes until a big, dark cloud rolled in.

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And then we giddy-upped (as best we could) back to the car.

As it turned out, though, the rain held off, so Sister drove down to Mamaw and Papaw Davis’ old farm (if you’ve read the new book, you know that land is also known as THE PLACE WHERE MY SINK LIVES). Sister climbed the fence and did a little exploring. Thanks to my broken foot, though, fence-climbing was off limits, so I stayed in the car with Mama. Sister walked around for a few minutes, took a whole bunch of pictures, then hopped back over the fence and jumped in the car just as the rain started to fall. She showed Mama pictures of the old smokehouse, the cattle guard, and the chicken house, and after she put up her phone and started to drive again, she asked Mama if she’d like to see the back part of the land.

“YES,” Mama answered.

Within seconds Sister turned down a little side road that runs around the perimeter of the property, and Mama started to talk again. She pointed out the place where her childhood home used to stand – before Papaw built “the new house” – and she reminisced about life on the farm. When we got to a point where we could see the ponds Papaw used to fish, Sister stopped the car.

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Eventually we looped back to the highway, and we headed home.

It was the last trip we took together.

And it was such a great day.


So now we’re back in Birmingham.

A couple of hours ago I picked up Alex from his first day of football workouts, and as we drove home, he told me all about the fun and the drills and the running and the friends. We were about to turn in our neighborhood when he changed the subject.

“Mama? When was the last time you talked to her?”

I knew that he was talking about Mama.

“It was just a few days before she went in the hospital,” I answered. “I called to check on her and Papa, and I didn’t know if she’d want to talk on the phone or not. But she did. And you know what I’ll remember the most about talking to her that day?”


“We were about to hang up when I told her that I loved her. And even though words were a struggle for her, she said, ‘Love. You. Too.’ That was the last thing she ever said to me.”

Alex and I were quiet the rest of the way to the house.

We miss her so much.

The Big Boo Cast, Episode 61


If you have any doubts at all about the fact that Melanie and I covered a wide swath of conversational ground in this podcast, then just take a look at all the links below. I believe the phrase you’re looking for is “ALL OVER THE PLACE.”

We talk about coffee, summer snacks, lunch foods, whether the whole Hamilton phenomenon is already dead to Melanie, personality traits we enjoy in others, and the many reasons it’s probably a good idea that the Shankles didn’t get any chickens.

We also devote considerable time to a discussion of foods we don’t necessarily care for.

And then there’s a whole bunch of other stuff but who could possibly remember it all?

You can click here to listen. Or here. You can even listen right here on the blog.

Or, as always, you can subscribe on iTunes if you’re feeling particularly fancy.

Just FYI – here’s where you can get more info on the products / places we mention (these aren’t affiliate links – just regular ole links):

Newman’s Own Special Blend

Starbucks Columbian Coffee

Starbucks Iced Caramel Macchiato

Boot dryer

Cheez-It Grooves (straight-up Grooves)

On the Border tortilla chips

Shipt (Of course. We mention it every week. We adore it.)

Conecuh sausage

Parks & Recreation

Hamilton: An American Musical

Seth Brings Jon Snow (Game of Thrones) to a Dinner Party (there’s some language – just FYI)

Outlander, Book One

The Left Behind Series

Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic books

Bridget Jones’ Diary

The Proposal

Maya and Marty

The Big Boo Cast Facebook Page

Because Vulnerable Makes The Thing Better

I will warn you that I’m going to write this post in one sitting and probably won’t edit it a lick before I post it. There’s a young’un in this house with a full line-up of practices and other assorted fun this afternoon / evening, so I’m a smidge pressed for time. But I want to be sure to write this down in a blog post – because it’s something that keeps coming up and I hope maybe the story behind it will encourage you / put some pep in your step / remind you and me both how much we need each other (so many times for reasons we can’t even see yet).

All righty. How’s that for an overly wordy set-up?

(Also: I used the phrase “pep in your step.” I am 109.)

I knew when I started writing Giddy Up, Eunice that it was going to push me outside of my comfort zone a little (lot). It was clear pretty early on that the book was going to circle around the stories of three pairs of women from the Bible, and I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’ve never really written about the Bible. I mean, I’ve written a blog post here and there, and I’ve spoken at some events, but a whole book? With Bible stories at the heart of it? Not really my wheelhouse.

(By the way, David likes to kid me and say that, if nothing else, my publishing legacy will be, “And then Mama tooted, y’all.”)

(I’d really be so fine with that, truth be told.)


Somewhere early on in our first books Melanie and I began sending each other chapters as we finished them. We were both so used to immediate feedback from blog posts – that is the wonder of a comments section – and it felt a little weird to write a whole chapter and then not have anyone else read it. So we sent chapters back and forth, and I guess in doing that we sort of became each other’s book-writing commenters. I don’t think I would have finished a single book without that system in place, even though sometimes it felt like the most vulnerable thing in the world to let another set of eyes look at a chapter I’d written – especially when I didn’t think what I’d written was particularly, you know, good.

I had the idea for Eunice in the fall of 2014 – just a few months after I finished writing Home is Where My People Are – and then I spent probably six months thinking about it / praying about it / figuring out what it was going to be. While all that was going on I was working on a proposal for it, trying to outline chapters, mapping out the structure – but I wasn’t doing any real writing. So, when I started the actual writing, I remember thinking two things: 1) do I even know how to do this? and 2) this is going to be a little more serious in places…how’s that gonna fly?

So I wrote the intro and the first chapter, and I got Melanie’s feedback, and if memory serves she already knew some of the content because we had talked through it and she’d heard a talk I did about Mary and Elizabeth.


When I was working on chapter two, I was walking down the hall to my office one afternoon when a thought came to me out of nowhere: “When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognizes and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred spaces.” It hit me so hard that I went straight to the computer and typed it out, and I remember thinking how weird it was to write that sentence because it’s not how I normally talk or even think. But I put it in the chapter, and I was immediately so uncomfortable with how people might respond to it – if they would think that I was getting all touchy-feely-pin-this-to-Pinterest on them – that I quickly wrote a joke underneath it. I don’t know that the joke fully undermined the sentence, but it certainly made light of it and diminished its impact.

Then I finished the chapter and sent it to Melanie and maybe winced a little bit because I didn’t want her to think that I had gotten all touchy-feely-pin-this-to-Pinterest-y.

The next day Melanie sent me her feedback, and it was all very kind and encouraging. Then she hit me with some truth:

Here’s my only thought and maybe it’s me being protective of you. But this statement –

When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognizes and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred spaces.

– I think I’d lose the parenthetical (after it)…because it distracts from it in my opinion. Own that God gave you that word and that you wrote it. And I know that may be silly but that’s my thought.

So I took out the joke.

And I let the sentence stand on its own.

It didn’t just change the tone of the chapter; it changed the tone of the whole book. Melanie, without knowing it, gave me the confidence I needed to write what I was supposed to write.

And I have to tell y’all: since the book came out two weeks ago, that sentence is the one people have mentioned to me more than any other. On Twitter, on Facebook, in conversations – that sentence is the one that people have quoted back to me the most.

A reader named Melissa Crawford actually made this graphic and posted it on the launch team page, and I had to laugh a little because it really should say “(and Melanie Shankle)” next to my name.


And every single time that someone has mentioned it, I think about Melanie telling me, in so many words, “OWN THAT. GOD GAVE YOU THOSE WORDS.”

So often, I think, we have our “thing” – whether it’s singing or painting or cycling or organizing or teaching or leading or writing or running or whatever – and our temptation is to hold it super close to our chest with our arms wrapped ALL THE WAY AROUND IT and not let anybody else peek in for fear that they’ll laugh at us or judge us or criticize us or etc. We start to tell ourselves that our interests are dumb and we’re not any good and really there are thousands of people who can design logos / bake / sell houses / create marketing campaigns.

And we’re right, you know. There are thousands of people who can do all of those things. What we forget is that we need thousands of people. After all, how boring would the world be if we only had, like, seven chefs?

Not to mention that those seven folks would be completely overwhelmed by all the cooking they’d have to do.

But my bigger point is this: if there’s something you love to do – maybe even something you feel like you were made to do – then look for a person or the people who will cheer you on and tell you the truth. Make yourself vulnerable and share your songwriting / app coding / business consulting / oboe playing with them. They might tell you how phenomenal you are. They might tell you that a certain element needs some work. They might tell you to go back to the drawing board. They might tell you to stay after it because there really is something there.

If they’re people who really love you and truly have your best interest at heart, they’ll be honest with you. They’ll spur you on. They’ll push you in the right direction – even if the direction isn’t what you expected.

That thing you love to do might not feel as safe. You might not be able to hold it quite as close.

But it’ll be better for the sharing. You will, too.

So in the words of my friend Melanie: OWN IT. GOD GAVE YOU THAT THING.

And I just wanted to tell you that on this fine Monday afternoon.

Good talk, team.


The Big Boo Cast, Episode 60


In lo, this 60th episode of our little podcast, we cover a wide range of topics: beach life, skin care favorites, pet peeves, summer plans, and what preferences we have when it comes to speaking in front of people.

We also talk about summer plans (or lack thereof), including my upcoming trip to NYC (“ALEXANDER HAMILTON – just you wait, just you wait”). I believe there’s also a minute or two in there when we talk about summer memories of yore, including bare feet on hot pavement. SIMPLER TIMES.

You can click here to listen. Or here. You can even listen right here on the blog.

Or, as always, you can subscribe on iTunes if you’re feeling particularly fancy.

Just FYI – here’s where you can get more info on the products / places we mention (these aren’t affiliate links – just regular ole links):

Boys in the Trees: A Memoir – by Carly Simon

Giddy Up, Eunice – by, well, me

Our Fancy New Facebook Page for the Podcast

Skinceuticals Overnight Moisturizer for Dry Skin (Mel uses this one)

Skinceuticals Overnight Moisturizer for Combination / Oily Skin (I use this one)

Dr. Gross Alpha Beta Pads

Dr. Gross Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Pads

Dr. Gross Glow Pad with Active Vitamin D

– The slide at the Nanes clubhouse (the internet is a wonder, y’all – I can’t believe I found this)

Nanes slide

Nickel & Suede Earrings

Enjoy, y’all!