Tonight, we are driving home from gymnastics and I am refereeing something that is going on in the backseat. I’m not quite sure what. Voices are raised back there. The severity of the thumping and conflict is getting elevated.

Someone is accusing someone else of being too picky. Someone else is saying someone’s breath stinks. I don’t even know the catalyst of the chaos honestly. I just know that when a rotating, airborn shoe landed in the passenger seat beside me that an intervention was warranted.

But it didn’t exactly come out the way I planned. When the car pulled into the garage shortly thereafter, I said OUT NOW in such a way that I didn’t even hear the doors close. Those kids leaned into the last inch of door-closing with their backpacks to avoid making a sound.

I stayed in the car. For a long time. 

Then I went in and instead of asking about homework, I started doing write-offs. In my head, anyway. I will NOT be a Grinch. I will NOT be a Grinch. I will NOT be a Grinch. I will NOT be a Grinch. I will NOT be a Grinch….

But I already am. What is it about this time of year that makes some of us almost unbearable to be around? One minute, I’m like find-me-some-mistletoe, hell yeah, FA LALALALA and the next minute, I’m boxing a pillow and hiding in the garage wishing I still smoked.

I got it all figured out though. I took that To-Do List and I wadded it up and I threw it away. Who knew it weighed so much? 

It’s NOT about the gifts. It’s NOT about the gifts. It’s NOT about the gifts. It’s NOT about the gifts. It’s NOT about the gifts. It’s NOT about the gifts. It’s NOT about the gifts. You’re welcome.

I think that I can come out of time-out now. And play again. We all can. That’s all.





Dear Kids In 2024



To My Kids Upon Being Eligible To Vote In 2024,

You are 7 and 9-years-old these days. We just left a movie theatre in the middle of a Tuesday since there is no school today. Today was not a snow day. It’s Election Day in the red state of Tennessee.

We all three held hands today and crossed the street to cast a vote. No lines. Turnaround time was 5 minutes with a sticker for each of us to prove it. It was important for me and your father that you experience democracy firsthand now that you are old enough to grasp the concept.

I don’t know the results yet as a write this. It is a close one to be sure. No landslide this time.

Kids, you must listen to me. When the going gets crazy and people REALLY start to piss you off:  

  • Find someone who is intelligent with whom you completely disagree on just about everything political. Schedule coffee with them. Ask questions. Nod your head. Don’t fake it, but understand that debating politics often leads nowhere. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to listen. There is no better way to become more certain of your convictions than to have a civil conversation with someone who believes the opposite. Don’t refuse to be confused. It is an opportunity to hold your beliefs up to a light and see if there are cracks that you have never noticed.  
  • It is ok to be a Wobbly (to be fully unconvinced by either side) but don’t be lazy. I am a Wobbly. People will call it fence-walking and roll their eyes at you. Ignore it if you find your equilibrium perfectly fine on the fence. Don’t feel pressured to be labeled. There is nothing wrong with being independent. It means you are still figuring things out. The most interesting people in the world are a work in progress. Your beliefs can be too. 
  • It’s also ok to be passionate. If you know what you believe, and why you believe it, stand up and state your point. Just don’t forget to listen and be self-critical. You may not be right, and you need to know that. Regardless, if you have an opinion, let it be known and be prepared to explain it. 
  • Don’t take the hate bait. There will always be a handful of people who are assholes where politics is concerned. They will say things that offend you. It is better to be offended than to be an offender. Trust me. Check the definition of ideologue in the dictionary, and then read Socrates. Enjoy your pillow at night. 
  • Study Abe Lincoln. Read his writing and his speeches. Lincoln was a master craftsman with the English language. A word is never wasted or misused by honest Abe. Appreciate his decisions and the circumstances that affected and depended upon them. He suffered from clinical depression. Serious bouts of it. Debilitating ones. How did he function as the leader of our country with such a perceived impediment? I am giving you the job of finding out. He sought ways to allow his good and bad demons to do a creative dance. He sought to understand people. Vote for the guy who you think Lincoln would have at his bedside during one of those dark times, or at his table during an important discussion. 
  • It is okay to laugh during Saturday Night Live during election years no matter what. I am going to be worried about you if you do not. Sense of humor is key for survival. Without it, you are toast in most all sticky situations. 

 Love, Mom


Now, maybe – just maybe – they will call this thing soon tonight so we can all unclinch our buttcheeks and get on with the business of doing the next right thing tomorrow.

Tuft Stuff


Recently, we were out to a pretty fancy dinner to celebrate my little sister’s 25th birthday. It was a chew-with-your-mouth-closed, man-can-I-pocket-one-of-these-glasses restaurant. Everyone was waxing poetic about how time flies. And it does. My sister was born when I was 13-years old. I was actually playing in a middle school volleyball tournament across town when she made her debut. 

25-years-later, she reminds me as I lean over some Wagyu steak that I used to show her how to shave her arms by, well… by shaving mine. I was in disbelief. I just slackjaw gawked at her like she had no less than ten heads. Shave my arms? That sounds so Goth. I ran between the crowds in school but shave my arms?

Then I halted mid-denial with my fork suspended over the plate because I remembered these strange tufts of hair that are thicker (and darker, there I said it) than the rest of my forearm to this very day.

Right then and there, I had to gently put down that crisp linen napkin and pull up my sleeve to double check. That’s when it all came flooding back to me. I did it. Oh hell, did I ever. I shaved my arms right in front of her. Multiple times. 

My husband found this to be a tad bit hysterical because we have always joked (or he has) about those hair tufts, especially when I exercise – that particular quadrant of my arm glistens just a bit more than the rest. Go on, grab a barf bag. Never said we were normal in this corner. I wonder if this is the same sister-modeled-behavior that prompted my little sib to give herself the blunted asymmetrical haircut soon thereafter? So very sorry, Mom. I bet if I would’ve been allowed to shave my legs at ten, I might not have shaved my arms as a teen? Note to self for prepubescent daughter’s sake. 

Shaving my arms in front of a toddler? I cannot believe the universe saw me fit to be a mother after that. 

You know what? It is some scary stuff that the brain can suppress when it feels entitled.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting with one of the coolest professional shavers to walk this earth.

One of my best friends is battling cancer. In a preemptive strike against her foe, she decided to beat cancer and chemo to the punch and shave her head first. Amy’s fight with cancer is just one of the many reasons I have been walking around with a cloak of new perspective lately. Maybe it just part of growing older but I feel like people I love are fighting these types of battles at every turn. I almost feel guilty deriving such perspective from seeing them battle uphill, one-day-at-a-time. Every. Single. Day. That doesn’t seem fair. If you’re going to watch, seems like you ought to be able to throw a few punches in the ring too. At least break a sweat for crying out loud. I hate watching her do all of the work while we all sit back, pray, and hope to the God of our understanding that she and the other fine people fighting cancer win in a knockOUT round at the end. It feels like a pretty passive seat in the auditorium but I think the important thing is we are in a seat. That we are cheering. That we are crying and cursing. Praying. Sometimes just cursing. 

Short blog today. I just want to thank Amy and others like her from the bottom of my heart. Thanks to all of the people out there who are wearing their struggles publicly. You cloak us in such perspective every day. You click it right around our shoulders like a seatbelt every morning. It’s messy business, this living. I am determined to keep these memories, the good, bad, and ugly, less suppressed going forward.

In other words, I might go ahead and choose to remember the burned dinners and temper tantrums (mine, not theirs) way on down this country dirt road if I ever get there. We are the sum of our mistakes just as much as the sum of our successes. And if I ever catch you staring at my arm hair, I will shave yours in your sleep. It’s not nice to stare. Oh, like I care. 


Love you, Amy Keller. Keep fighting. You’ve got this fight … and a friend with a furry arm. 

Please feel free to go give my friend a fuzzy hug on her Caringbridge site:






Remember This- But Not That


Long time, no write. I could offer a million excuses for the hiatus. In short, I was too busy enjoying summer (which can greatly resemble being lazy if you aren’t looking closely). We were just ridicuously swamped (cue, sarcasm). What with solving the endless conflicts at every turn, such as bacon versus donuts for breakfast or swimming versus creekpawing for nature nuzzling (Is that a word? It is now.)…it’s miraculous that we made it out alive.

If I had a dollar for every time that rock-paper-scissors averted a meltdown this summer, I would be the one saying a dolla make me holla. Honey BooBoo who? There were all kinds of victories penned into the history books during Summer 2012 (in newly mastered cursive, no less). Inaugural little league baseball season under the belt and, as for me, I was instrumental in orchestrating countless emotional reunions between black hole socks and their long lost mates. I take what I can get in the personal victory department. I OWN that title- Mental Health Maestro for the black hole sock population. Yep, business cards in the mail.

This one big thing did happen over the last few months though. Not in a single instant. Not like a Bam!- knock-me-on-my-tail ephiphany. But I did have one summer-long, summer-wide divination that I wanted to share. After a month of mulling it over, here goes: My kids have reached the age where they have been given the gift of a long-term memory.

This is great, right? This means that they can remember Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. It also means that they know full well when I screw up and can likewise remind me of it… for the rest of eternity, should they so choose. 

These kids have invoked the handy use of their cerebral filing cabinet. The storage spot that can successfully house a timeline of events ad infinitum. Another way of looking at this is the following: There is potential for them to remember every single miniscule and venti parental botch from here forth with such clarity that they can relay the dirty specifics at the Thanksgiving dinner table in, say, 40 years in all kinds of mixed company. I should be glad that their minds are healthy enough to take note of such things. And I am…I am also utterly terrifed.

Olivia will never remember the time I dropped her right on her little bobblehead at eight weeks of age. This was before I knew that you fasten such small baby cargo in a bucket seat prior to clicking the bucket seat into the backseat, middle riding position. Turner will never remember the horrendous post-partum anxiety and depression that held me in a vise-grip for nearly the first half-year of his life. Olivia will never remember my inability to cope with stress in healthy ways during the same time period. 

Oh, the parenting manuals. The worthless, overpriced parenting manuals.

The more that I try to have a measured, textbook response to a tantrum (mine or theirs), the more damage I seem to do sometimes. But here is the thing. Parenting is messy work. Messy, messy. Like yank-the-wire-whip-outta-the-mixer-while-it-is-cranking-full-blast messy.

It felt so much safer taking a few risks or liberties when I knew the kids would never remember it. No longer can we enjoy the cushion of short-term memory. In fact, they already remind me often enough with a few well-worn stories that may or may not include me slamming a door too hard (read: off the hinges). Or a raising a voice that may or may not have registered on the Richter Scale. 

Since we are in the business of telling the truth around here, check out this example of how ridiculously kids are wired to be parent vigilantes.

I can remember faking an arm injury during a game of nerf football when I was just about my daughter’s age. Maybe 8-years-old. I really, really wanted that X-ray at the hospital. And I really wanted that X-ray to confirm that I needed a bright pink cast. The hard, plaster kind that everyone at school gets to sign with a Sharpie on Monday morning. And so I pulled it off. The fall, the grimace in faux pain. The trip to the hospital. If my parents hadn’t taken me, I might’ve accused them of not caring. I can even remember hoping the X-ray technician didn’t notice that I straightened my arm easily when removing it from the cold X-ray table. Slip up for the novice faker. She did not notice. And would you believe this? When a child’s arm is rapidly growing, it can appear as though there are loose bone fragments around the elbow? Lucky me. I scored the cast. And some sympathetic parents for a few weeks. 

Flash forward. Approximately 30 years. My kid sustained an injury recently at a trampoline park. This happened during the two seconds (ok, ten minutes) that I was not watching him jump like a maniac down a row of trampolines manned by uniformed park staff who forbade sitting down for a rest on the bouncing area (you might get jumped on, people). In fact, I think that I was completely zoned out on a nearby bench, zonked from jumping for five minutes straight myself. And still traumatized and mortified by how claustrophobic I felt after I leapt into that foam pit in an effort to be a cool parent. Backfire. It is not easy to get out of that foam pit. Forget doing it gracefully in a skirt. That foam pit is straight up hell on earth for a germo/claustrophobe. I was rewarding myself with a little news/blog catch up on my cell phone when the kid fell. 

I was flagged by the trampoline staff member who was waving his arms at me like a wide receiver who hadn’t been tossed a single pass all year. Loser mom had to be flagged down as MIA parent of lost/hurt/found child. If you know my kid at all, you know that we have a gift for the dramatic ’round here. Insert your own apple-falls-far-from-the-tree joke here. I believed that he fell. I believed that it hurt. I thought that he might be faking it beyond that. I was actually kinda mad because I thought he was faking it. While he was screaming in pain, nonetheless. Recall pink cast at all costs? 

This is the part when I scooped up the injured (ignoring the staff’s wish for me to remove my shoes before plowing a few people down to reach him). Ever tried to run across a trampoline with a 6-year-old in your arms? I would imagine that it feels similar to trying to tapdance in jello. We went down together. Twice that I can remember before reaching the bench. The bench- scene of neglectful parent playing on her phone a few minutes earlier. Scene of triage now. There were tears. There were sweaty tears and screaming while trying to decipher the extent of the injury. There were people staring. And there was my kid in fetal position writhing and holding his ankle while I urged him to just please stand and try to walk on it. We wiggled the toes. I had visions of the ER medical bill. Dollar signs for a tie-dye cast were making me dizzy myself. It took him a good week to shake the limp of a pretty legit sprain. Kids don’t fake limps for a full week at a time. All good now but….

Guaranteed to be reminded of that one for a few years. Or fifty. Remember that time I was on the brink of fainting from pain, mom? And you stood me up and MADE me walk to you anyway? 

Bottom line. The summer’s epiphany has confirmed one of my worst fears. Perfection is much more of a liability than an asset. You know what? I will go so far as to say perfection is the enemy. The good news? I have wanted to let that perfection chase go for a long time. And so my toast to fall and winter? Here’s to being imperfect parents. They are the only kind worth having anyway. They give you just enough dysfunction to be funny later. At least, that is what I am choosing to believe today. 

Side note: December 20, 1999. I am 25 and break my right wrist (the one I write with) the week before starting graduate school. I was snowboarding with my boyfriend (now husband). It entailed a ride down the slope on the yellow sled. And a ski glove being cut off my hand by very large, clumsy scissors. And a stint with my arm dangling in a Chinese finger trap at the base of Breckenridge, Colorado to realign the snapped bone. The cast was blue because the Titans were making their run on a Super Bowl. They lost by an inch. Ain’t karma a little wench? Fakers, beware. We are only keeping it real here. 




I used to be a chameleon. Not in a former life. NOT a real one on a branch in some petrified and camouflaged pose to survive. Survival might have been my alibi back then but it is doubtful that I would’ve ever admitted to it during my chameleon fling. The story is that I used to be one of those people who changed ever so slightly based on my surroundings. Maybe we’re all guilty of it at some point in our lives. Pretending to be someone we aren’t isn’t hard. In fact, I would argue that it’s too easy. Look at what happened to Jessica Simpson when she dated John Mayer. It was so obvious. Chameleon. Dark brunette trying on existential for size and some unconvincing cerebralish, angsty rocker tees. Poser. And we all saw how that one panned out. Not well. 

Being Southern hasn’t always been a source of pride for me. Just take note for a moment of some of the events that earned us spots as national headliners in history. It is not an excuse for my seditious ways. Just an explanation. It was my first stint in the real world as a 20-something. I was surrounded by sophisticated transplants from about the globe. Every job I landed celebrated a great geographical mix of people. My parents always put education first and it opened doors to some great experiences. I am certain that was the idea behind all of the sacrifices they made in order for this to happen. I eventually arrived in Colorado on a self-dare with every intention of making it home. And the question would invariably come from each new acquaintance or colleague: So where are you from? It is the unfailing 20-something inquiry. The novice’s most monotonous and predictable of pick-up lines.

30- somethings ask so-what-do-you-do? 

40-somethings perhaps will ask so-who-do-you-do? I don’t know (not there yet). 

But 20-somethings living in a town of transplants always ask so-where-are-you-from

I can remember flashing an extra toothy grin before and during the hometown interrogation. This was an effort to demonstrate that not only did I have a mouth full of teeth but they were perfectly, ridiculously straight (orthodontia, be blessed). Preemptive strike against the banjo jokes. God forbid that my answer,Tennessee, frighten a potential suitor away.

I grew my vocabulary intentionally and religiously during those formative years in an effort to thwart the stereotyping. I highlighted words in books. Kept a nerdly little list of my favorites and found ways to slip them into conversation in an attempt to appear at faux Ivy League from a distance.

It was a subtle and forgivable snubbing of my origins from the bystander’s perspective. But let me tell you, the first time you downplay ownership of your home fires, it stings your very heart if you have one. It is a betrayal on some deep-rooted level. Most of the people I grew up around are salt of the earth people. They work hard. They’re loyal. They’re honest. But suddenly, it seemed that people from elsewhere were judging. They thought that I was just getting lucky during conversations when my subjects and verbs agreed. Consistently. I am not proud of the period in my life in which I downplayed my origins. 

For many of those disillusioned years, I had no idea that I was sitting on a goldmine of my own sophistication. Literally sitting on a quilt hand sewn by my great-grandmother. Or thumbing my grandmother’s recipe books, for instance. It takes years to cultivate the knowledge that comes from knowing what you have when you have it. I know how to fold a linen napkin. I know where the dessert spoon goes. I know thank-you note protocol. I know the love that goes into a good casserole and why Flannery O’ Connor described herself as a pigeon-toed child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you-complex. Because that is exactly the way I feel about my southernness now. I will knock out a doubter with a cast iron skillet these days before I will ever deemphasize my southernness again. I mean you won’t find me flying the Stars n’ Bars from my car antenna but I can get down on some peach cobbler. Down here, we regale you with our imperfections after we make peace with them ourselves.

Growing up, if you needed to find me, you might follow the trail of muddy footfalls inside or out. But even back then, I would not listen to country music. Country was not cool among my teenage company. A full decade before I even came into this world, southerners were already making it clear that being-from-the-south is an identity to be owned and appreciated. Look at 1969. Mere Haggard was already proud to be an Okie From Muskogee. Three decades after Okie hit the charts, I was living in Colorado making it my second job to suppress any nuances of my southern accent (which, for the record, played a small part in my husband asking for my digits the first night we met in Boulder. God bless you, persistent accent).

At some point, this southern identity crisis sorted itself out. Enough that I hit the knees and begged my husband to relocate us back to Tennessee so that my kids can have this stop on their passport for a few years. I feel that strongly about it. Around the same time that I molted out of my chameleon skin, country also got really cool. And I don’t blame it. But the cat’s really going all feral crazy out of the bag lately with Hollywood infiltration around here. I don’t know how I feel about that. For years, I wanted it to be cool but this is not what I had in mind. Ashton Kutcher did not need a front row seat at the Country Music Awards.

I’ve come to the realization that the South is like a family member with whom there are no crimes beyond forgiveness. Even if you turn your back on it for a period of time, it is still perfectly happy to see you when you come back. Most all of us always come crawling back to our native foundation. A good ole’ piece of bedrock where even chameleons are welcome. Especially one with a good pair of cowboy boots. Oh, and there’s a vocabulary word that I can introduce you to. Lucchese. As in the boot. Take that, Italy. Hand crafted in Texas since 1883. Get (I mean git) ya some.

Till The Town


For the longest time (read: the handful of years since spouting their first words), my kids thought the word till was just short for until.

Will you read this book to me for the 800th time?

Can you wait ‘til your dad gets home?

How long ’til we can have chocolate?

Can you try to wait ‘til the sun comes up?

Asparagus tastes funny.

Oh, wait ‘til you go pee.

But these days? They’re getting introduced to the real definition. The Merriam-Webster version which may or may not include the phrase dirt-don’t-hurt. 


Tilling is precisely what we have been doing to our little hometown during this summer heat wave. We’ve been plowing and mining it for a few diamonds in the rough. Translated: Getting our kicks on a budget. The result? This little photo essay detailing our scavenger hunt of late.

The goal this week was for us to find five cool things about our town that Murfreesboro, Tennessee dwellers may scarcely notice when out and about.  It happens. We all tend to neglect that which we see everyday. Live in Colorado long enough, you may fail to notice that the mountains really do come up purple with the sun. Live near the beach, you forget that your nighttime ears are privy to the sound of waves while others greet their pillow to the tune of sirens. Or bongo drums. Or coyotes. Or crickets or 13-year cicadas.

Everyone’s written about it. Everyone from Toni Morrison to Francis Bacon. We can all own up to that lackadaisical way that we meet life when it gets predictable. Better known as taking stuff for granted. It is a little monstrosity of a vice deposited in our DNA. The inability to appreciate that which is right in front of us. Without further adieu, I present:

5 Good Reasons To Till Your Town

 (…because you might be missing something like this.)

  1. Billy Bassmouth at The Donut Country. If you live here, you surely know this donut stop on Memorial Boulevard. In fact, I’ve known their mom n’ pop faces since I was a kid and my feet dangled a foot above the ground on those well-loved bar stools that do, in fact, spin a full 360 degrees without stopping. Last week, we stopped in for the signature chocolate-dipped donuts. They were all out. None left. Not surprising after 10 a.m. The early bird gets the donut. When the woman behind the counter saw my kid’s sugar-deprived heart break, she actually went in the back of the kitchen and hand-dipped the remaining three plain glazed ones. I think that she dipped them three times. Ever since my kids were babies, they have been obsessed these donuts AND another inconspicuous gem in the down-home establishment. He resides on the wall just out of kiddo-reach and range of vision. But he is there- just to the right of the counter. You can burn a few donut calories by hoisting the little ones up to jab their chubby little index finger (who am I kidding… I did it for my 8-year-old last week) at Billy Bassmouth’s red ‘ON’ button. He animatedly sings “Take Me To The River” AND nearly flops off of the plaque in his groovy glory. Call us easily entertained if you must. This one gets a collective smile from my whole crew every. single. time. 

  2. Penny The Tracks. No, it will not derail the train. Already verified on Snopes. I would not steer you awry. Yes, your grandmother will disapprove of this endeavor based on the inherent risk leaning over a train track involves so don’t invite her this time. Is it dangerous? Possibly. But probably not. Keep in mind that there is risk involved everytime you pull out of your driveway in a 4,000 lb. piece of molded steel with your hands at ten and two o’clock on the wheel. Near the Cannonsburgh Village (but closer to where the old Court South gym facility of the 1980’s used to sit), there is a place where you can actually hang out in your car or on the curb to wait for the train. I still have my paper-thin penny talisman from when I was a little girl. I’m pretty sure that it’s kept me out of trouble from time to time. All you gotta do is believe, right?
  3. Wilbur. The name given to the Willow Tree across from Middle Tennessee State University’s campus by my kids, your local arborists. If you grew up near any weeping willow trees, surely you have wondered if the hanging limbs would suffice for a tarzan swing or two. You may have even tested out the hypothesis as a kid. I never did. So 30 years later, when my own kids vocalized their wonderings, I told them that I was doubtful that the long shoots could support them. I was wrong. The whole time the kids made swings of the the braided green shoots, I was having flashbacks to Shel Silverstein’s most magical of all children’s books, The Giving Tree. I’m not sure campus authorities would appreciate a whole classroom full of swinging kids on this exceptionally beautiful tree but I will swear on my life that tree enjoyed having the attention of my kids for an hour or so. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you should have another read of The Giving Tree as soon as possible. It’s good for the soul if you are feeling particularly Hobbit-like in this heat. 

    Above: Wilbur, Keeping someone’s bike seat cool. Below: Wilbur, Keeping some ginger child happy.

  4. Jam On It. I beeline to the same little booth every weekend at the Saturday Farmer’s Market on the town square. I’m not sure any kitchen is fully complete without a jar or two of Marcy Jams. Let the kids pick their favorite jar for spreading on crackers. My favorite? Firecracker Pepper. I know. Who would’ve thought spicy for jam? Well, who would’ve thought weeping willow for swing too? Trust me. I won’t beg you to go and snatch up a jar of it but I will tell you that your winter, spring, summer and fall taste buds are missing out if you don’t. If you’re on the organic bandwagon, you’ll be pleased to know that many of the ingredients in these jams are grown right in Marcy’s backyard. P.S. You will also want to check out Marcy’s recipes that make fab use of her jams right here. –> http://www.marcyjams.com/recipes.html
  5. Saturn V. It’s worth a high-five. Just over on Baird Lane in front of Hobgood Elementary School sits a 29- foot model of NASA’s Saturn V rocket. No, it’s not Disney material nor has it been reported to transport Buzz Lightyear to infinity and beyond. However, it is still a very cool afternoon stopover for your blooming astronaut(s). Several business in the Murfreesboro community donated materials and labor for the Saturn V model. You Tube a montage of the Saturn V moon launch together before you go then bike over to check out the model at Hobgood during the summer when the kids are out of school. You can always commence your school-to-school playground crawl (a far cry from the pub crawls of old) from here afterward. This is how I plan to raise the Rick or Rachel Steve of the next generation. Make them noticers of the mundane who react to the world around them. And surely when that happens, they will spot me an airline ticket to the Amalfi Coast, right?

‘Til the next time we TILL some little or big town.  

Au revoir, y’all. 




When Simple Is Simple

When a story starts with Once-upon-a-time, I guess the ending is pretty predictable. Suspense officially wrecked here. Let me make it up to you.

Allow me to introduce you to a little slice of celestial coast on the Florida panhandle called Seaside. If you’ve met this town before, great. Consider this an amble down memory lane. The Truman Show was filmed here. Keep-It-Simple isn’t just a mantra in these parts. In fact, does Seaside even have a zipcode to bind it to the rest of the otherwise hurried world? I’m not sure that it does. Check out the post office. 


Seaside, Florida is tucked loosely away at the top of the Gulf on a road known to locals and guests as 30A. I particularly love that the scenic highway is named in such a way that it sounds almost cellblock-like. 30A. Yet another of life’s unique ironies. Life down here can make even Andy Griffith’s ole’ Mayberry feel breakneck. Tourists who choose this little part of the Redneck Riviera as a respite from the real world will rave about the white sandy beaches. Don’t get me wrong. The beach is all that and more.

Truth? Seaside beats out the Turks and Caicos destinations of the world every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Paradise found right here in the Central Time Zone. The cottage town is one of New Urbanism’s best success stories. It pulls off this superlative with an impressive pile of little reasons as attractive and clandestine as that shell atop the ivory dune.

Seaside’s 10 Best Kept Secrets


  • The wall-mounted rusty bottle opener in the Airstream Food Court. It’s the little things. It always has been. My son was stymied by the fact that his soda wouldn’t twist open. Do you remember the sound that happens when you use one of these? Ah, sweet hiss of summer exhale. If you don’t remember, then it’s been too long for you. Get thee to the ice bucket. P.S. No it’s not the same with a handheld opener. It just isn’t. The same way that a Vespa is not a Harley. Sorry. 


    • The outdoor showers. I can vouch for the al fresco fab factor on showers at two of the cottages. I am certain there are many more. The homes affectionately called Changes-In-Attitudes and Big Pink have exceptionally noteworthy showers outside. If you’ve ever ambled in from a sandy day at the beach with the tangible stench of happy beach body, you know the appeal of an outdoor shower.  Just trust me. It is the closest way to experiment with being a nudist without ending up on the internet. Clean towel? You’re so money (forgive Swingers reference). 

    • Pavilion personality. With street names like Odessa and Ruskin, each gateway to the beach does not disappoint. Noticing travelers (the only kind that should gain entry to this perfect little town) will want to spend a day drinking in the various Pavilions and each one’s unique architecture. There are around ten such unique gateways to the sea. Every boardwalk serves as a specific street’s spillway onto the sand. There is an obelisk one on Coleman Road. A pelican one on Pensacola. And my favorite? East Ruskin, hands down. I am already prepared to wish my marital vows a happy 20th birthday atop it in 2023. Not to mention, the landmarks are great markers for kids drifting with the gentle tug of undertow on the boogie boards. Many times last week, I caught myself saying to the junior beach bums, ‘Come back when you float to the pelican’


    Above: East Ruskin Pavilion


    Above: Sketch of Pensacola Pavilion

    • Bookstore with a sandy floor. True, I’ve never really met a bookstore that I didn’t like. But this one is different. Call it the vibe. Call it the ambiance. This one calls itself Sundog Books and is situated on a charming caddycornered spot in the Seaside square. If the bookstore doesn’t fit your mood, it sits beneath an equally cool Central Square Record Shop. How vintage chic is that? A record shop. Can we go ahead and Portmanteau the words quaint and cool? Very quool. The children’s section at Sundog is superb and the handmade cards are a fantastic loitering spot for stand-up-and-read comedy. 

    • I wear my sunglasses at night. Not quite. But I do ride my bike at night down here. It seems to be the favorite mode of tranport in Seaside. It’s like the Pied Piper (ocean) started playing and everyone is in lazy pursuit of nothing in particular on two wheels. This, of course, means fewer cars. And if you’re like me, cars are a carbon-huff-n-puff reminder of the real world. And the real world is not welcome here. If your tikes aren’t quite roadworthy yet, fear not. Seaside offers weeride rentals wherein your kiddo can co-pilot behind you tandem style. You do the pedaling, they can even ride handsfree and devour the ice cream cone, dribbling it from chin to toe while you provide the tow.

    • Cobblestone streets. What exactly is it about a cobblestone street? I am still trying to figure it out. I think that there is some comfortable rhythm that life reciprocates when you bike or walk on cobblestone. Something that is reminiscent of speed bumps. You know those things we barrel over at home that are only meant to encourage us to slow down. Perhaps the nature of a cobblestone street just screams (or whispers) pedestrian to me. Pedestrian=Beach Pace Friendly. Cobblestone is also not high-heel friendly. I don’t need such a good excuse to wear flip flops day and night but I’ll take it.
    • Rooftop Bar At Sunset: Bud & Alley’s. Let me rephrase that. Rooftop + Sunset + Bud&Alley’s = Bucket List Material. And if you need further convincing that this venue begs your presence, just check out this pic. My kids, your greeters. And no gremlins allowed after 10pm. Next stop, cocktail, mocktail, waves, and a playlist that I would certainly like to hijack for my itunes account.

    • And this. Whatever this is called. Every once in awhile, your bike ride or nighttime walk to Heavenly for a scoop of gelato (how long am I allowed to make this list?) will require a glance up at the cottages passing by. And more than every once in a while, you’ll spy window panes like this one. Call it what you want. Starfish in a series? Silhouette de beachy keen? I call it accidental art. It is everywhere down here.

    • The Meltdown. I’m not speaking of the human/child tantrum. The Grilled Cheese Kind of Meltdown. Seaside has an outdoor Food Court of sorts arranged neatly in toe-to-head Airstream trailers landscaped nicely to compliment the grassy amphitheatre beyond. Honestly, I would drive 16 hours round trip on a monthly basis just to eat from these food trucks. But the grilled cheese menu at The Meltdown is either something sent straight from the heavens or sent from the netherworld to tempt us. Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil & Prosciutto is a perfectly legitimate way to sin if you ask me. Even Anthony Bourdain would be drooling in this well-worth-it line of patrons. The line moves quickly. No such thing as rushed here. 

    • The Porch Swing. Is there anything more quintessentially southern than a porch swing? A place to sit and surrender to gravity. Who can argue with that? If there is any one piece of nostalgia that reconciles the good life to me, it is a porch swing. And there is no shortage of them in Seaside. Have a seat. With your grilled cheese. Or your book. Or both. Or better yet, a boy. 

    Callie and Matt before the walk to Bud & Alley’s. 

    I guess I should go ahead and admit this blog was my way of procrastinating instead of putting away the clean laundry from the trip. It beckons so I must oblige. We all must find that one way to stretch happily-ever-after out a bit longer when we are lucky enough to find it. But make no mistake about it. Henceforth, SPF is a completely new acronym around here. Seaside, Por favor. 

    And finally, a few of my favorite pics. Just a few more won’t hurt. That’s a wrap on Summer Vacay 2012. Don’t for a second think that the countdown hasn’t started to 2013. 


    Olivia & TJ, Age 6 and 8



    The Padre at a Sunset Shrimpout on the beach.


    The man, the myth, the legend…The husband with Liv.


      The Stretch


      I can feel it. Can you? Election tremors. Just here and there. The ground makes a growly sound. Feels like a grip on an aluminum baseball bat in winter. Occasional but serious reverberation. Twitter, Facebook feeds, sermons, signage, and just general brink-of-mayhem behavior pervade the air out of the blue between episodes of Mad Men. I will be the first to tell you that I don’t consider myself a political person. But it’s not because I don’t have strong opinions. Oh, I have opinions. We should all have opinions. Opinion means that we are thinking things over, that we care enough to spend energy exerting our beliefs, that we want to hand this country over to our kids in such a way that their hard work as national and global citizens will be worth the toil. Opinions are important. But opinions take energy AND, unfortunately, energy is a finite resource. I would like to think that if we are going to flail and tumble down the road kicking and screaming about something-  that it really and truly matters to us. But I can already tell that I may need to take an indefinite hiatus from social media until after November. I already feel like screaming CAN’T WE JUST ALL GET ALONG? It is only June.

      After I saw some recent meme out there on someone’s feed aligning Obama with Hitler, I have decided that instead of bitching, moaning and defriending-left-and-right (no pun) about it…that I might write about it?

      Here’s the deal. I don’t care if you hate Obama. I’m sorry to hear that. Hating someone requires high energy expenditure. So does changing a nation in distress. Let’s all cut each other a bit of slack without having to understand each other’s intent fully. Let’s all just say we want what is best for this nation, shake on it and play nice. I’m not sure you can find one American right now that is singing praises of our status quo. I’m not. But this lopsided boat we are in wasn’t built or sunk in a day and slinging loads of mud in it sure isn’t gonna help it sail again.

      I just have a favor (ok, 3 of them) as we head into election ’12 time:

      Can we:

      Assume Goodwill

      Harder than it looks. Let’s assume that we all want what is best for this country even if our stance seems to be an accomplice for sending us all to hell in a handbasket. 

      Frame It In The +

      Tell me something positive your candidate has done or pledges to do. Educate me without making me feel stupid. I don’t watch the news that much. It is depressing and this is why I ration it.

      If you don’t have something nice to say, say it to your wall. My wall here at home doesn’t care. I think it even appreciates that I don’t blow some of my gripecentric mess out into the world. We’ve had plenty of oil spillage this decade to last a lifetime. Let’s clean up a mess- not make one by attacking one another’s beliefs.

      -Acknowledge Accomplishment Whether You Travel By Donkey or Elephant

      I mean if you really want what’s best for this place we call home, can’t we all just give a little bit of credit where credit is due? I recently heard that there were a few naysayers lined up to dog the First Lady’s initiative to help raise a healthier generation of kids through her “Let’s Move” program? Go grab some kids and start a garden. That’s energy better spent. One of the best ways that we can fix healthcare is to get a grip on this obesity epidemic (and consequently, the skinny jean epidemic, just for me, while we are at it). 

      When I bear witness to folks bickering over politics, it stresses me out. Not gonna lie. I feel like I’m in the middle of a twisted family fight with two stiffarms holding spitting, rabid foes at bay. I’m not naive enough to think that this plea will fix anything. But at this rate, I’ll take one singular amen to agreeing to play this election stretch just a wee bit nicer than planned? It will make a difference to someone, somewhere. I promise. Swear on my voter’s registration card. And if all else fails, I’m just going to wear that helmet you see up there and referee. I don’t like that helmet. It doesn’t go with much of my wardrobe but I will wear it if necessary.

      P.S. I don’t know why this blog decides to switch fonts on its own. It will not permit me make a uniform edit. One minute it’s Arial, the next Times New Roman. I guess to illustrate a damn point, I’m just going to let it have a mind of its own. We can just agree to disagree, Lords of the Font, ok?




      D. Is For Diva


      If you have any doubt that your kids are in command, try finding a way to go to the bathroom solo during their first five years here on planet Earth. Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that their longings and aspirations are suddenly your longings and aspirations, the boat tends to right itself a little (maybe every other day) and the sails catch some wind- among other things


      Olivia: “Mom, I want to be in the Nutcracker.”

      Me: “Awesome”

      (That very afternoon)….Adult boots up computer to google local dance schools. Prods the public via Facebook regarding which one is the best. Downloads the entire composition history of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on iTunes. You Tubes Sugar Plum Fairy and forces kid to watch- but she ends up mostly staring at me watching the screen with an overload of goofy grinning and nodding.

      Fast forward.

      Last weekend. Dance recital weekend. 

      Hello. My name is Shannon, and I am a Dance Mom. 

      Mind you, Ballet was one-third of what we ended up signing up for in the end. There is also Tap and Hip Hop in the apparent Nutcracker for which my daughter aspires. And gold hair glitter. And four (counted them 40 times) costumes at $80 a pop. Not including alterations. 

      Yes, that sound is the dear Tchaikovsky pirouetting in his grave. It is also the sound of my pocket change hitting a therapist’s bank account.

      Dance has always been one of my favorite corners of the arts. Never a dancer myself (save a few tables that I choose not to discuss), I love to watch people dance. I wish that the The Nutcracker would run year-round. And all of the other genres are equally fascinating. Name your vernacular. Jazz, Modern, Swing. Michael Flatley, Cirque, Stomp, Line, Belly Dance. Ok, even the Electric Slide. Olivia and I were actually lucky enough to watch the Nashville Ballet troupe rehearse for the Nutcracker last fall. I had chillbumps the whole time. When I yelled, “Look, that’s the guy who plays Drosselmeyer!” about some recognizable guy in sweats and a wifebeater, Olivia turned pink and leaned over to get an imaginary piece of lint behind her seat.

      So, I thought that I knew what I was signing up for with this dance thing. And I did. Not.

      Over the course of the weekend, I:

      -Nearly fainted from lack of time to eat. These performance weekends are no damn joke. Made a cold cloth from the high school auditorium’s inabsorbent bathroom paper towels for my forehead. The first time I have been allowed solo in a loo since I can remember.

      -Hot glued my fingers together trying to mend a sudden hole in another child’s much too small costume. I am lucky that I am not being sued for causing that one some emotional distress. Hoping to rush the statute of limitations on that if possible.

      -Learned that 9 year olds do, in fact, require deoderant. Did not know that. There is just nothing sugar plum-like about discovering this the hard way. It induced what can only be classified as morning sickness on a non-prego person.

      -Learned that other moms are freaking nuts. And if their kid’s tap shoelace flies out during their time on stage, it will be YOUR fault as a backstage mom for not double-tying it tight enough. At age 9. Or as I now like to call it…108 months.

      -Learned that my daughter likes to try to do the worm to entertain others while waiting for her stage call. On a carpet littered with more bobby pins than Joan Rivers has botox pricks. This, mind you, will invariably result in ripped (make that gashed)  tights when it is much too late to replace them. 

      And so while the show was a HUGE HIT after ten months of practice and preparation…and I cried proud tears …and we slept for 12 hours straight on Sunday, I have learned one other irreplaceable truth. That it is fun and HARD work to support someone else’s dreams. Almost as FUN and HARD as chasing your own. 

      Bigger Truth? I would do it all over again and probably will. Does that mean that I won’t make a hard sell with some cleats and a lacrosse stick pretty soon? Yes, I will be doing that. In fact, heading to the sporting goods store sometime this week. Bank on it. And bank on the fact that I can do a helluva Dougie myself now. Free lessons if you want. Bring your own Tchaikovsky and wine. 



      (My dancer, age 8, the morning of the big show. June 2012)





      Here we are again. The last day of the school year. Wait. What?

      I know it’s trite. I know that it has been said a thousand times in a thousand ways but where did this year go? Next year, I will be the proud parent of a first and fourth grader. It is the parenting of the eldest that is always the most precarious. Uncharted territory. With the second, you get to try and patch the pitfalls that you made with the first. You know when to push back, when to let up, when to shut up and when to leave the house before it all blows up.

      Every year, we ask our children to reflect on the school year. Usually this conversation takes place over the slurping of a spaghetti dinner or trampolining at sunset on the first night of summer without a set bedtime. Reflecting is an important word in this family. It, much like breathing, is something that we must do but sometimes forget to do on this busy journey. It is such an easy step to skip…like forgetting the gas tank cap, toothpaste top, or to close the underwear drawer before the babysitter comes over. A little step. An important step nonetheless. 

      What I have realized slowly but surely (all of the epiphanies seem to come to me in this deliberate, foglifting kind of way) is that I, Matriarch, must reflect on each year too. I hear what these kids are saying. Multiplication was hard…it felt GOOD to master those times tables. It felt good to stand up for the friend on the playground when the bully gave them a wedgie. It felt good to be honest when I lied. I hear them loud and clear. I throw the most profound reflections on post-it notes, date them, wad them up and toss them into a Mason jar, also known affectionately as the Memory Jar. It it like a popcorn bag of shuffled chronology in there. Everything from first poo in the toilet to first stage-dive at pre-school graduation. They are in there in their crinkled up glory to be unfolded one day.

      So back to practice-what-you-preach. Mothers of schoolers frequently keep at least one of their calendar years in this fashion. Start month? August. End month?…Last day of school. My turn to reflect on the year. We survived it. This is the least that I can do. 

      What I have learned this year:

      • If you are standing in the hallway after your child has presented his/her project and another parent comes up to you and says “you guys did a really great job”, then you are DOING IT ALL WRONG. This is not your project. Not in the 3rd grade and sure as hell not in the 4th. If a project requires more of your time then your child’s, you are on track to be a horrendous enabler. Let it GO. The lettering does not have to be stenciled in a straight line. The Mayans will not descend a few months early to end the world if your child’s work is the actual work that is turned in. It is called teaching responsibility. And the best way that you can do it is to keep your perfect little penmanship off of their work. Whose assignment is this again?
      • The other parents are crazy. And they think that you are too. There will be parents that you do not like in your child’s classroom. Plain and simple. But instead of coming home and sharing with your spouse that you think Jonah’s mom is a borderline psychotic and a really shitty driver, stay the course. And zip it. Their ears hear everything. Even from behind closed doors. And truthfully, this is your opportunity to show them that we can all get along with people even if we are all different to put it mildly and nicely.That includes not going ballistic over the parent who cuts in line every day at pick-up time. That includes not eyerolling over the child who is allergic to deoderant, all nuts, latex balloons and poinsettias. Be sympathetic to the child who has to live with the crazy mom. Who knows? Maybe someone, somewhere will be sympathetic to yours for the very same reason.
      • Do not tell your child that the teacher is wrong. There is a time to teach the kids when and how to usurp authority. It is not in kindergarten or third grade. I am not sure when it is. I will let you know when I figure it out. In the meantime, if you go on a rant about your kid’s teacher, guess what happens? Yep. Monkey see, monkey do. My child went straight to school and the first thing out of that taut little mouth was something like, “My mom says that you are WRONG.” I don’t know what comes after that line. I choose not to stick around long enough to find out. Basically, I have been on the other side a few times. Did a few 24 hours as a teacher myself. They have a hard job. You can disagree in a tactful way. Choose your battles wisely and acknowledge all of the things they are doing right during the onslaught. But leave the kid out of it. You may be Maverick, Top Gun. But your child ain’t Goose…nor should they be.
      • Last but not least. You cannot drink until you blackout but you can stage a BLACKOUT every now and then. My kids love Blackout night. Sounds raucous, I know. We stumbled upon this ritual by accident. The electricity was knocked out by a spring storm a few months ago. Electronics weren’t working. The house was dark. The TVs were dormant. Heaven. We sat in the dark with flashlights and talked. Told stories. Invented chain stories. Made up wacky songs about athlete’s foot and country ham n’ biscuits. You know what happened? The lights came on and we weren’t finished having our fun. Blackout is now a regular ritual around here. And by far one of my favorites. Just don’t agree to stage it during a Stanley Cup final without consulting your spouse first.


      And so it goes into the history book. My reflection on School Year 2011-2012. Wonder what the next one will hold. Bet it involves a takeback on part of this one. That’s ok. Isn’t that the point? Life’s but one big, fat draft, revise, reflect and edit … and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


      Photo: TJ reportedly in reflection mode, 2012