A Mother’s Day Happy & A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet

I think I’ve probably mentioned that I was scared out of my mind when my book came out this past June. I didn’t know what to expect because, um, NEWBIE, so I sort of braced myself for mean reviews and disappointed readers and PLENTY-O-DOOM-AND-GLOOM.

Needless to say, I was sort of WOUND UP on release day.

And then something happened that really shouldn’t have surprised me at all.

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People were so incredibly kind and warm and wonderful.

That doesn’t mean that everybody loved the book. I knew going into this thing that a book of Southern family stories wasn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Even still, nothing can change the fact that the last ten-ish months of book stuff have been so much fun. Over and over again I’ve been so touched by your sweet emails and stories. You will never, ever know how your kind words have blessed not just me but my whole family. Mama, Chox, and Martha have enjoyed your reactions more than I have, if that’s possible, and that has been such a gift for all of us.

Well.

A couple of weekends ago Sister and I were talking, and I mentioned that I’d been trying to think of a way to do something special for the folks who might decide to give their mother or grandmother or aunt or godmother or homeroom mother (I am trying so hard not to leave anyone out; this is one of the more annoying parts of my personality) a copy of A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet for Mother’s Day. Back in November I got the biggest kick out of signing and shipping books for Christmas, but since I don’t have a stockpile of books at my house right now, I can’t make that same thing happen for Mother’s Day.

But then Sister had a delightful idea.

I would like to share it with you at this juncture.

LOOKIE HERE AT WHAT SISTER DID.

First of all, there’s a custom bookplate. I can personalize it and sign it, and since it’s a sticker, you can put it inside a book that you’re giving as a gift. If you are in fact giving a copy as a gift. Which you might not be. And that is totally fine because NO PRESSURE.

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Second of all, there’s a bookmark. It’s printed on coated card stock, so it’s heavier than regular paper and won’t bend nearly as much. I love it so much because it has some of Mama’s most memorable words-o-wisdom on it, and that seems very fitting considering, well, MOTHER’S DAY.

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Sister designed both of these, by the way. At first I was going to ask the folks at Tyndale to create something, but then I remembered that wait! Sister is very gifted with the lettering and the painting! And it just seemed right for her to do the design work, too, especially since she’s heard Mama say all those bookmark sayings over the course of her whole life – just like I have.

Anyway, here is what those two things will cost you should you decide that you’d like to add them to your Mother’s Day gift.

ZERO AMERICAN DOLLARS.

So.

If you’re planning to give someone a copy of A Little Salty… and you’d like to add a personalized bookplate and a bookmark to your gift – or even if you’d just like these little mementos for yourself – all you have to do is fill out the form below. It’ll take you approximately 91 seconds – maybe 97 if typing is not your area of giftedness. On that form you can tell me where to send the bookmark and/or bookplate, and you can also specify how you’d like me to sign the bookplate.

Once you’ve finished filling out the form, just click “submit” – and next week I’m gonna sit down with the list, sign each person’s bookplate, grab a bookmark, put them in an envelope, and send them your way. And yes, I’m all too aware that a bookplate and a bookmark aren’t exactly extravagant gifts, but hopefully they’ll make the book a little more special if you’re planning to share it with a special mama in your life. They’re also a very small way for me to say “thank you” for all of your encouragement and support.

Edited to add: if you need more than one set, that is totally fine. I’ll put them all in the same envelope…just specify on the form what inscriptions you need (To Jane / To Mary / To Sue, etc.).

And if you need a book – well, you can find one at Walmart, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Thank y’all so much for everything you’ve done – and everything you do – to make the book stuff so fun (not to mention that you make this blog such a happy little haven for me and for the people who read here). I am forever grateful.

Love,
Me

Not Here. Over There.

Well, I am still doing my level best to cough up a major organ (SWEET MERCY, POLLEN – I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU), and I just started round two of antibiotics, a fact that grieves me to no end because I like to think that I can cure just about anything with some orange juice, some hot tea, and a dab or nine of Mentholatum). Unfortunately, my unusually small ear canals, my throat, and my lungs have not seen fit to get on board with my personal wellness strategy.

However comma I did want to let y’all know that I have a new post over at Ree’s today. I wrote about my favorite music for springtime, and I’m talking about five new-ish albums that I am loving right now. It would be oh-so-fun to hear about what y’all are listening to, too, so if you’re feeling comment-y, feel free to join the conversation.

Hope y’all are having a great Tuesday!

The Big Boo Cast, Episode 34

I just listened to this episode before I uploaded it, and doing that made me realize that Melanie and I had a guest co-host this week that we failed to mention: THE POLLEN. Oh my goodness. I cough, Alex coughs, I sniff, Alex coughs, I take sip after sip of Crystal Light to try to soothe my throat, and then Alex coughs some more. So basically the whole podcast is like waiting with a child in the sick room of a peditrician’s office. I’m just as sorry as I can be about that, but the pine pollen is just about more than we can stand right now. At least I didn’t resort to using Flonase or a Neti pot at any point in the proceedings.

As usual, we talk about many unrelated things: Melanie’s new career as a mom DJ / choreographer, my weekend in Oklahoma, my quest for a new spring purse, Mel’s fancy dinner this past Saturday night, my exciting MSU baseball-related achievement, the season premiere of Mad Men, and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t remember. And by all means, if you’d like to shop with us as we look at purses during the podcast, click on over to the Noonday bags page. It might be a nice visual reference.

You can click here to listen. Or here. You can even listen right here (I just realized that we could do this when I uploaded the last podcast, and I think it’s a convenient listening option).

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

Hope y’all enjoy it!

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

I am in Oklahoma this weekend for the Baptist General Convention’s Women’s Conference. Last night when I was trying to go to sleep I got very tickled thinking about what the 22 year-old version of me would say about the fact that I’m staying on a campground (there are lodges! I’m not sleeping outside!) for the weekend and hanging out with some of Oklahoma’s finest Baptist women.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that it’s not necessarily something that was on my 22 year-old radar.

I’m thrilled to be here, though, and it is an absolutely beautiful setting. Yay for Oklahoma sunsets and the fried pies that may mark the end of my Lenten resolve. I haven’t tried one yet because I’m quite honestly I’m afraid of the depth of my reaction. I think there would be a lot of feelings.

So.

A couple of weeks ago I did a little video call with my pastor, my pastor’s (sweet, funny, beautiful) wife, Heather, and Ann Voskamp. The fact that I was even in the conversation was sort of hilarious to me, but oh my goodness – I SOAKED UP the wisdom from David, Heather, and Ann that afternoon. We were talking about the topic of the next Secret Church – The Cross and Everyday Life – and it was so encouraging to hear everybody’s perspectives and challenges and stories in terms of trying to walk out the Gospel in the day-to-day. We talked about family, marriage, sports, spiritual disciplines – a whole host of stuff.

I even have this little picture collage as a souvenir, and it delights me for several reasons.

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1) I look just like my mama in these pictures.
2) MY HAIR?!?!?! Did I wake up that day and just swoop it all to the side?
3) Clearly I had no idea where to look when we were talking.

Anyway, you can read some of what Ann had to say right here in part 1, and then there’s my part of the conversation in part 2. Obviously I don’t have quite the, um, depth of Ann, but I hope it’ll make you smile. That’s about the best I can do, my friends.

I know that some of y’all have attended Secret Church in the past, and some of y’all are probably already signed up for the next Secret Church on April 18th. There’s probably also a few of y’all who may have wondered what it’s all about but been reluctant to sign up. I totally get that – because I was, too. But just know this: even though it’s six hours of fast-paced, intense Bible study, it flies by (seriously), it prompts great discussions, and it’s a chance to just go another step deeper in your relationship with God and your understanding of Scripture. There are really affordable simulcast options if you’d like to watch at home, and there are a whole bunch of churches serving as simulcast sites, too.

You can find all the info you need on the Secret Church website.

Hope y’all have a great weekend!

The Devil Is In The Details

I need to say something.

And I hope we can still be friends after I say it.

Here we go.

There is nothing – NOTHING – that stresses me out more than a bunch of details.

I’m not talking about the details that someone might use when they’re telling a story. For the most part I think those kinds of details are charming and delightful.

The details I’m talking about are the ones that manifest as lots of tasks. I’m talking about the little things that have to be done in order to complete a project. I’m talking about the hoops that you have to jump through in order to pay taxes, renew a car tag, return clothes that you ordered online, work on a long-range plan, keep track of mileage, or set up new processes and procedures at your job.

Heaven forbid that spreadsheets enter the picture. Because if they do, you might as well send me a nerve pill when you email me the spreadsheet file.

I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. I’ve always liked the big picture – the possibilities, the what-could-bes, the touchy-feely objectives that might make people laugh or provide some encouragement or remind folks to hug their people a little tighter.

But as far as figuring out the hows and the whens and the wheres of those things? HERE IS WHERE I STRUGGLE. The to-do lists start to feel endless to me, not to mention that all of those troublesome details interfere with my Happy Feelings and Optimistic Reveries.

You can imagine what joy I bring to type-A, goal-oriented personalities.

The irony in all of this is that I live with two very detail-oriented people (as far as I know Hazel is a big picture girl like I am, and I think I will just continue to tell myself that because SOLIDARITY). David and Alex have never met a plan or a process or a set of objectives that they didn’t like, and while that makes for nice balance in terms of personalities (and also in the sense that, for example, my husband is going to the bank for me today since I have a book table at a conference this weekend, and a book table requires that you be able to make change, but unfortunately trying to figure out how much change – and what denominations – is pretty much enough to put me in the bed for the better part of two days), it makes me crazy sometimes (and also a little jealous) that they thrive on structure and lists and plans and goals.

Dealing with details reminds me of when Alex was little and we’d have playdates with different friends who made those toddler behavior charts for their little ones. There were always lots of lines and boxes and stickers and checks, and just the thought of keeping up with something like that made me all itchy and fidgety. I am all for affirmation and accountability and consequences, but if there is a series of daily poster-related action items that have to be completed in order to encourage good character, then I am instantly transported to the boondocks of the far reaches of my comfort zone.

And I will probably suggest that maybe a better idea would be to look at all the stickers and make a pretty picture and talk about how those pictures make us feel.

This past Monday afternoon Alex came home from school with a chart that he put on the refrigerator. I was immediately suspicious because of my long-standing resistance to charts, tables, graphs, etc.,, so I asked Alex what was up and pretended to be totally casual about the whole thing.

“Well,” he said. “We’re studying water usage, so for the next couple of days we have to keep track of how we use water.”

This was when I started to feel faint.

“So on this chart,” he continued, “every person in our family will make a tally mark after they wash dishes, wash clothes, flush the toilet, take a shower – you know, pretty much any time we use the water.”

Oh. Say it isn’t so, my child. Say it isn’t so.

And here’s what I knew within seconds of Alex’s explanation: 1) there was no way I would remember to fill out the chart, and 2) the task-oriented people in my family were going to totally overachieve with those hash marks.

For the last two days I’ve watched them dutifully document their water usage. They are prompt, they are consistent, and they even make all their tally marks the same size. It is a sight to behold.

I, on the other hand, have been true to my usual form. I’ve forgotten to mark the chart, then glared at it for awhile, then tried to count how many times I’ve washed my hands since Monday, then made a bunch of marks in the wrong column, then scratched them out, then thrown up my hands in frustration because IT DOESN’T EVEN LOOK PRETTY. I’ve been reminded by a certain fourth grader that I should just fill out the chart throughout the day instead of waiting to mark stuff down all at once, and I have politely smiled and nodded my head while silently wondering if he has ever met me before.

Mercifully, however, today is the last day of our chart-keeping. I can once again wash a load of clothes without a the pressure of a follow-up task afterwards.

Other than moving those clothes into the dryer.

And folding them.

And putting them away.

(Hold me.)

(The details never go away, do they?)

So, I’m curious. Which are you? Do you like the big picture? Would you rather get lost in the details? Or are you a little bit of both?

A Strange And Perhaps Unmerited Sense Of Accomplishment

We had flash floods last night and early this morning (MY WORD at the rain; there were times during the night when it sounded like people were emptying buckets of water on the roof), so most of the schools in our area had a late start today. The only problem with this development was that we didn’t find out about the late start until Alex and I were about to turn in the school parking lot, which means that we missed out on getting to sleep in a little later than normal, not to mention that I had gone through the motions of putting on make-up way earlier than was actually necessary.

SO. Since we were already out and about, we decided to head to Panera for coffee (me) and a cinnamon crunch bagel (Alex). We hung out there for 30 or 45 minutes, and I decided right then and there that I would like to start all of my mornings that way. It was so relaxing and peaceful and calm, all qualities that have been lacking during the early mornings at our house thanks to a certain adorable puppy who likes to run through the house with shoes and then wrestle them to the ground before she barks at them for an average of 3 1/2 minutes. She’s a cute one and all, but at least once a morning I want to pull a Frank Costanza and scream “SERENITY NOW” at the top of my lungs.

(And while I don’t have any idea what David’s Crocs have done to upset Hazel so much, I do know that she wages war against them at least twice a day.)

(The good news is that Crocs are seemingly indestructible and thankfully none the worse for the wear.)

Anyway, as I soaked up the quiet in Panera this morning, I eventually started thinking about what I needed to get done today – and reality set in. Since Mondays are usually my grocery store day, I knew that I had to make a list, and as Alex and I talked about what might be good for suppers this week and what I needed to buy, a very appealing thought started to form in my mind:

I could go to the grocery store right now.

RIGHT NOW.

AT 8 IN THE MORNING.

So that is exactly what we did.

By 8:30 I was putting my newly purchased groceries in my trunk, and I basically felt like I had cured a disease while crossing the finish line at a marathon and simultaneously advocating for world peace. There was just something about knowing that I’d planned the meals and done the shopping and IT WASN’T EVEN 9 O’CLOCK that made me feel like I could fly. It made me feel like I could touch the sky. It made me feel like I could soar. It made me feel like I could run through that open door. It made me feel like I could fly. It made me feel like I could fly. It made me feel like I could fly.

Sometimes some 90s song lyrics are all that will do.

So for the rest of the day – even after I dropped Alex off at school and went to work (where I stored all my perishables in the refrigerator) – I kept thinking about the early morning grocery run and how it had made my whole day. It didn’t matter what challenges I faced. It didn’t matter that the pollen was trying to choke and also kill me. It didn’t matter that my hair was totally uncooperative and flat as a pancake. None of it mattered.

Because I had gone to the grocery store, found what I needed, crossed every bit of it off my list – and I’d done it all by 8:30 in the AM. It really did make me feel like I had won all the things in all the areas of competition and clearly someone needed to give me a medal. Or, better yet, A CROWN.

And listen. I get it. In the grand scheme of life, it was a tiny little thing. Not that big a deal. But sometimes getting those little things out of the way – especially when you weren’t planning on it – makes you feel like you have accomplished the biggest, hugest, most majorest (totally a word) goal that anyone has ever attempted. That doesn’t make it true, of course, but still. THE FEELINGS.

Have you done anything lately that’s made you feel like you’ve unexpectedly conquered the whole wide world? Did you clean a bathroom? Weed a flower bed? Organize your silverware drawer? Pull the floor mats out of your car and spend more than 15 seconds vacuuming them? Buy a new container for your paper clips at work? Put a pot roast in the crock pot before you made the morning carpool rounds?

Don’t be afraid to bask in your victories, people. If you have just washed every towel in your house and maybe even folded a couple of them, you need to celebrate it. Let us cheer you on.