Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When you thought I wasn't looking...

A Tribute to All Mothers-biological, adopted, and those who may have never given birth, but have stood in the gap to care for a child
By: Guest blogger, Becky Ballard
Last weekend was Mother’s Day- a joyous occasion, a day set apart to shower our moms with flowers, treats, homemade cards. A time to show the special ladies in our lives how much they mean to us, buy their lunch at Cracker Barrel, a corsage for church. I have always thought that May was the best choice to celebrate Mother’s Day because it is one of the loveliest times of year. (I also believe it should be a long weekend, or maybe held numerous times throughout the calendar but no one has ever asked me!)

This past Sunday at church, Bro. Mark Shelton asked for all moms to come to the front of the church for a special word of prayer. What I loved about this was he clarified that “mothers” can be anyone who has loved, supported, or cared for a child-regardless of whether they had ever given birth. As we all gathered at the front of the church he said the most beautiful prayer for us, a prayer of thanks for a mother’s love, a prayer for strength, wisdom, understanding. All of those things that we need daily to raise up our children so they will be well-adjusted, kind, compassionate adults who will be positive contributors to society and, to make the world a better place.

I have been so blessed to have Betty Bryant as a mother. She is loving, kind, beautiful, smart, hard-working, caring, and a million other things. Everything that I hope to be one day when I grow up, but so far haven’t accomplished yet-not even close. I know that raising two strong-willed girls wasn’t easy, and our personalities clashed from time-to-time as I was growing up. But the second I became a mother, everything became clear to me. All the decisions she made that I didn’t understand at the time, the discipline that I felt was too military, the strict curfews, the lectures, spankings, all the things that I rebelled against, thought was unfair, I finally understood with perfect clarity.

 As a looked into the eyes of Hannah and Micah the first time I held them, I felt a love like no other, a desire to protect and give them the world, the best life has to offer. A feeling of jubilation mixed with fear that I would somehow “mess up” these perfect little babies. That the decisions I would make as their mama would negatively impact their lives. Now my daughters are 13 and 9, I still struggle with that fear and try to find a balance between giving them the desires of their hearts and doing what is best for them. Like their mother, both of my daughters are strong-willed and a little on the stubborn side. But they are beautiful, smart, tender hearted, and the most precious things on this earth. I would gladly die for them without a second’s hesitation, but worry about how I live for them and the example I am setting for them. My own version of tough love has had to come into play many times and I am sure there will be more arguments, misunderstandings, drama, and tears to come. It is my hope and prayer that they too will understand it better when their precious babies turn into sassy adolescents who are trying to find their way in the world. I thank God for the privilege and honor of being Hannah and Micah’s mama and Betty’s daughter.
In honor of my mother, I have re-written one of my favorite poems to express how much she means to me.
When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw you read from your Bible when you were troubled, scared, facing life’s disappointments, but still having faith when times were hard

And I believed that God will hear my prayers and strengthen me when I am weak; that I never have to feel alone or be afraid.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw you pack a bag of goodies for my daddy with his favorite Little Debbie cakes, Coca-Colas, clean clothes, and his Marlboro Reds when he would go on the road

And I learned that a wife should try to take care of their husbands and make them feel cared for and special; That it is the little things like this that keep a marriage together.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw you cry along with us when our childhood pets died, dig the grave all by yourself, and let my sister and me pick flowers from your garden to place on that grave

And I knew that your heart was pure and tender, and pets were not just animals; they are family and should be loved and adored.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I heard the washing machine and sewing machine late at night, busy sounds from you working early morning hours on housework, canning vegetables from the garden you had slaved in, and the weariness in your voice as you drove my sister and me to town for practice, games, and events.

And I understood that being a mother can be a tiring and thankless role at times; that parents sacrifice so their kids will have a better childhood than the one they had.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw you labor for days preparing delicious holiday cookies, candy, and meals and decorate our little home as if it were the White House, with a Christmas tree in every room and Christmas carols playing on the stereo

And I felt like I was the luckiest girl in the world, that holidays are magical, and there truly is no place like home.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

Heard you enforce the rules, stand firm on curfews, not tolerate my bad attitude, and always be the “mean” one while Daddy got to be the “fun parent”

And I understood that you loved me enough to be the “bad guy”, wanted to keep me out of trouble and prevent me from making harmful decisions that would put me at risk of not having a happy future

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw you be a loving, adoring and fun grandmother- making every day special, changing your plans to accommodate them, giving them precious memories and unconditional love-the best “Nanny” in the world

And I realized how blessed I am to have you as my mother and my children’s grandmother.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw you care for my sick father with tender love and affection, put his needs above your own, kept things together for your family, even though you felt like breaking, and hid the toll it took on you from us

And I realized how incredibly strong you really are.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,

I saw myself as a mother and realized I am not as giving, compassionate, loving or understanding as you are

And I wanted to be more like you in every way that makes you Mama and Nanny to all those who love you. You are my hero and the reason why I am the person I am today. I love you so very much.

-Your Daughter Becky

Friday, May 17, 2013

One final guest post.

Thank you so, so much to my many fantastic guest bloggers over the past two weeks.  If you know these men and women, please encourage them to do posts more often. I have loved their humor, their insights, the way that each encouraged me to reflect on - and appreciate - my own life a little more, and simply getting to know them better through their words.

I'll be back next week with more piddle projects, book reflections, recipes, and small-town adventures.  

First, however, one final guest post...and how fitting in honor of National Police Week.

Johnny Edrington
By: Guest Blogger, Fran Smith
When I turned on my computer early this morning, one of the first images I saw was of someone I haven’t seen in over 24 years.

For just over 8 years after I graduated from college I worked for my hometown newspaper. I wrote stories (both news and feature), took pictures of countless people, laid out pages and generally did whatever was asked of me. And I loved it. I loved meeting new people, hearing their stories and putting it into written form. I enjoyed the banter, sometimes serious and sometimes not, between elected officials and their constituents. I even didn’t mind the frequent trips down the street to McDonald’s where a 5-year-old with missing teeth and a gigantic smile was celebrating her birthday with Ronald and friends.

What I especially loved about the job were the regulars, those people you see every week, sometimes every day. You get to know those people – be it the mayor or judge executive or police or school superintendent. You ask about their kids or their spouses or what they did for fun on their days off.

And that’s where the picture I saw this morning took me back to – my tenure as a reporter/photographer/receptionist/flunky at the Central Kentucky News-Journal in Campbellsville. One of my regular tasks was to check with the local police about burglaries, shootings, accidents, etc. Wednesday mornings were hectic as our deadline was at noon. Inevitably, there was always an incident that occurred the previous Tuesday night that HAD to make the next day’s paper and it fell to me to find out the details. That meant calling the officer who had worked the case and, since he’d worked the previous night on said case, waking him up early Wednesday morning. I’m sure I’ve been cursed more times than I care to remember.

However one local policeman never seemed to mind being awakened after a late-night shift. He never seemed to consider my questions mundane and he always treated me with respect and kindness. I always apologized profusely and sincerely for waking him up. But without fail he always gave me an “Aw shucks, this is part of my job” reply then proceeded to give me the details, numerous yawns included, I needed for my story.

His name was Johnny Edrington and after serving a stint as a local policeman he attended the KY State Police Academy to become a KY State Trooper. He was serving in Laurel County when he murdered after pulling someone over in Laurel County. I will always remember coming into work early that December 20th morning in 1988 and the sports editor telling me Johnny had been killed. I knew what he was telling me had to be true. You don’t joke about someone dying but it was a fact too horrible for my mind to comprehend. He was a public servant, he was doing his job, he was my friend. And now he was dead.

Sadly the murder has never been solved. There were countless rumors, of course, and rumors about rumors but the mystery remains unsolved. According to the story on WBKO his death is one of only two unsolved police murders in Kentucky.

Johnny was a good guy. I know it sounds terribly cliché but he was. In a world where fewer and fewer people actually care about right and wrong, he did. And he was good at his job. He was competent and he did things by the book. Anyone in Campbellsville who knew him knew the state police was lucky to get him as a trooper.

Once assigned to Laurel County, Johnny had met and married a young woman there. She was pregnant with their first child when he was killed. That daughter has faithfully attended the memorial services that honor a father she never met. I know he would have been a great dad. I hope she knows it, too.

Each time I would see Johnny’s parents (both are now deceased, many said of broken hearts) we would reminisce about their only son. Inevitably tears would be shed and we would comfort each other with the fact Johnny had died doing what he loved. Sadly Johnny probably never imagined that doing what he loved would get him killed and his body left on the side of a road in Laurel County.

When it snows and there is a beautiful sunset, I always think of Johnny. There was snow on the ground when he died and the next day the sun gave a spectacular performance as it set. I took a picture of that sunset and I look at it often. It reminds me of Johnny. It reminds me how short life can be. It reminds me how the life of a good person can be snuffed out so needlessly and quickly.

My mother used to say that eventually someone will talk, someone will be drinking and begin to brag about killing a state trooper and never getting caught. I hope her prediction was right. Twenty-four and a half years is a long time to wait to find the murderer. I just hope it’s not too long.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm basically a mess, but hopefully a delightful one.

By:  Guest blogger, Melissa Ashby
Although I’m an avid collector of quotes and mantras, this one in particular has been nagging at me lately:  Live imperfectly with great delight.  I read it somewhere, scribbled it on a post-it, and stuck it on my cabinets where I see it every day.  I’m trying to practice it.   I’ve got the live imperfectly down to an art;  it’s the much delight part that proves to be a struggle.  Don’t get me wrong—I’m pretty laid back, mostly optimistic, and genuinely happy. But I have to admit, I do my share of mentally beating myself up over my shortcomings, and I often fall into the slump of what my mom calls “carrying the weight of the world” on my shoulders.  I know it’s not healthy or practical or even logical to worry and wallow in your own failings, so I’m on a mission to make sure the delight in my life (and it’s already there, for sure) gets to the surface every single day.

For quite some time now, I’ve been old enough to know that life is not like it is in the movies.  I know that the media feeds us ridiculous expectations for career achievement, parenthood, body image, time management, diets, home decorating, and even the necessity of “finding ourselves.”   I can laugh at the Pinterest boards that pair cheesy tater tot casseroles and rock hard bodies (these can’t coexist!) and illustrate perfectly organized home offices and designer living rooms that no one could possibly maintain in real life (where are the electrical cords, tufts of cat hair, and piles of mail?).   I KNOW I can’t live up to these standards—surely no one can—but, if I’m not careful, I still let the feelings of incompetence creep in.  My house is so cluttered!  My clothes look like I haven’t shopped since the eighties!  I haven’t exercised this week!  How did I get this far behind at work? Everyone who just saw my kid’s tantrum thinks I’m the worst parent ever! We’re eating popcorn for supper again! 
I’m ashamed to admit that I actually take pleasure in seeing signs of others’ imperfection, not because of some sick schadenfreude, but because the cracks in other people’s lives mean that they must be a little like me—flawed, horribly imperfect me-- and I love them more for it.  If, in your gorgeous Facebook photo of your gorgeous kids baking gorgeous cookies, I notice a bit of laundry strewn on your kitchen floor, some gunk behind your faucet, or a dog eating out of the trash in the background,  I am not judging you;  I am actually thrilled to find that you are—like me-- living imperfectly, and you are showing me that it’s possible to just let the joy roll right over it.

The muddy trail through my kitchen, the school bag of ungraded papers, the mother-in-law’s birthday remembered three weeks late, the gray roots I haven’t covered, the photos I haven’t printed , the insane amount of hair that accumulates in my bathroom each day, the winter clothes still in my closet in May . . .   I vow that these things will not diminish my joy and my self-worth.   I will, instead, delight in my new honeysuckle handsoap, the brightness of the sky today, my daughter asking to borrow my earrings, my son’s fierce hugs,  real butter on my waffle, a belly laugh shared with my husband, a profound moment with my students. 

To show my absolute commitment to this pursuit of joy in the midst of chaos, our family jumped off the ultimate cliff of insanity:  we got a new puppy.  The absurdity of this move is clearer if you know that our kitchen is currently gutted for renovations (possibly the real source of my current feelings of pandemonium), we live in town with no fenced yard, and we have so much “running” to do that I cry on most days.  However, we are embracing little Beatrice—“Bea” most of the time—into our wild, imperfect lives with hilarious, giddy, romping puppy delight.  Although I groaned at taking her out for 3 a.m. potty trips, it hasn’t been that bad.  In fact, when we’re out there, I take a few minutes to listen to the spring wind in the leaves and the cool newness of the predawn hours.  I’m finding delight.  It’s right there in the midst of everything.

Some of my most recent delights:
...and here's the current, highly imperfect state of my kitchen, and the reason there's no recipe from me today:

This video has been making the rounds, so you may have already seen it.  If not, take the time.  It’s worth it.  This couple has restored my faith in humanity with their unabashed willingness to just go with it:

Have a highly imperfect and delightful day!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

So..uh...I wrote a poem about some snakes

By: Guest Blogger, Stephen Pickering

Well, this is awkward.

So far in Pillow Book Guest Blog Extravaganza, we've had a series of wonderful and frequently poignant vignettes, all of them containing some extraordinary stories and ideas that speak to the human condition and how we cope with the world around us.

I...well...there's just no getting around it, I wrote a poem about a snake infestation that happened a few weeks ago. And...uh...I based it on Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven. There's really no deep message. It's not even that funny. I'm not sure why I did it.

I am so, so sorry.

So. Here. I guess.

The Lawn Snake
By Stephen Pickering

Yes, I Instagrammed a picture of some snakes. I...I don't know why. 

Once upon a spring day dawning, as I staggered, feeble, yawning,
After many a game of baseball watched the night before.
As I tottered, boxer shorted, out the bedroom, sleeping thwarted
By the sound of something creaking, squeaking outside my front screen door
‘Just the mailman,” I grumbled, “delivering mail outside my front door—
Only this, and nothing more.”

Groggy, fixing sketchy coffee, I paused to wonder if I should see
If the mailman had just left me a package purchased from an online store.
Barefoot out the door I fared and grabbed some mail, yet unaware,
That at my feet a creature glared with a cold fury never known before
‘twas a lawn snake, basking in the sun upon the grassy floor
Only this and nothing more.

As I flipped from bill to bill I felt a movement near my heel
An expression of some evil will, coiling, bad intent laid in store.
Shrieking, flailing, arms pinwheeling, I sprang away with senses reeling
Tripping backwards, scrambling, kneeling, fighting back waves of primal terror.
The lawn snake calmly flicked its tongue, my feeble screaming it ignored.
Quoth the lawn snake, “…”

“Why come you into my yard?” I asked the snake, now on its guard,
“Do you not know my home is barred from you and all your kind that came before?
I ask you please, depart from here, return home,” I begged, sincere,
“For I do not wish to always fear stepping on some scaly thing, this I deplore.”
The lawn snake stared, no concern for the hatred that I bore.
Spoke the lawn snake, “…”

Towards the house I then turned, the snake my requests having spurned
But alas, it was then that I learned that the lawn snake was joined by more.
By the porch steps deep in slumber, other lawn snakes, three in number,
Rested peaceful, lying under the mailbox where I stood before.
“Leave this place,” I demanded, “Only this do I implore.”
Silence, then, and nothing more.

Sadly, then, I stood defeated, my hopes unheard or unheeded
And sadder still I left, retreated—retreated to my home, indoors.
And there I sat, my own thoughts haunted by the lawn snakes, there, undaunted
And the cruel way they flaunted, flaunted their presence, my ire’s source.
I went to bed, hopeful yet, but knowing that I should fear the worst.
A yard of snakes, forevermore.

Then the next morn, restless, weeping, I gave up my listless sleeping
Fearful of the lawn snakes keeping, keeping watch outside my front screen door.
Cautious, out the door I leaned, seeking out foes serpentine
For on that morning I did mean to drive to the nearest Walmart store
Where I could find the lowest prices on electronics, furniture, and more!©
There were no snakes there to report.

Courage strengthened, feeling daring, I walked outside, now uncaring
For any reptile at me staring as I walked across to open my car door.
“Silly snakes,” I sneered with wrath, “I do not fear you in my path
For if I’ve done the proper math the one of me can slay with ease you four.”
I reached the car with suited speed and knew I would no longer need
To fear the creature’s awful deeds as I once had before.
In fact, if I saw them again, I would--



I'm never going outside again.

Fin. That was the end of the poem. Again, I'd like to apologize. I don't even have a recipe.


A Heap O' Livin'

By: Guest blogger, Terry Staley
As I sit here contemplating what to write about I think, “Do I want to be witty and funny or do I want to be the intellectual thinker and write something profound and thought provoking?  I must do something really good to follow up on the previous blogs; they've all been so wonderful. I have age and experience on my side…surely I can come up with something great.”

And so I continue to think, but I also pick up a book of poems by Edger A. Guest that I found at a flea market. As I read, I find that he had captured a few things in prose that I feel in my heart, so I will share them with you. The first is a verse from the poem “House.”


It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home,
A heap o' sun and shadder, an' ye somethimes have t' roam
Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye left behind,
An hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind.

It don't make any differunce how rich ye get t' be,
How much yer chairs an' tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain't a home t' ye, though it be a palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o' wrapped around everything.

I must say that I totally agree with Mr. Guest on that one. The second poem is called “The Gentle Gardner” and it truly speaks to me.

The Gentle Gardner

I'd like to leave but daffodills to mark my little way,
To leave but tulips red and white behind me as I stray;
I'd like to pass away from earth and feel I'd left behind
But roses and forget-me-nots for all who come to find.

I'd like to sow the barren spots with all the flowers of the earth,
And to leave a path where those who come should find but gentle mirth;
And when at last I'm called upon to join the havenly throng
I'd like to feel along the way I'd left no sign of wrong.

And yet the cares are many and the hours of toil are few;
There is not time on earth for all I'd like to do;
But, having lived and having toiled, I'd like the world to find
Some little touch of beauty that my soul had left behind.
What I'd like for you to take from this blog are a few things I have learned from age and experience:
1. No matter where you go, there's no place like home.

 2. You only have one life so don't waste it on trying to have the most "stuff;" get out and live it. Plant a garden, get your toes dirty and have fun.

3. Family is Love!

Last but not least, the thing that Tom lived the most:
4. Things don't get any better than "big food" and friends and family.

So there it is, for what it's worth, my advice for a heap o' livin'....Live, Love, Laugh and be true to yourself.
Terry Staley

Friday, May 10, 2013

Like a duck takes to water.

By: Guest blogger, Brandy Groce Pruitt
I’m ok with puke.  I can handle a little snot.  Even a bowel movement that doesn’t happen where it’s supposed to doesn’t evoke much gagging on my part.  (Please note: I can handle these things when and if they are produced by MY children: Vital information.)  These immensely useful skills have come from motherhood.    Ah, the things it will teach you. 

My son is 13 and my daughter is 3.  I’ve had some trials and tribulations controlling the bodily fluids of children.  And not just that, but I’ve experienced many tantrums in grocery store aisles, questions you don’t really know how to answer, sleepless nights, finicky eating habits, middle-of-the-night trips to the ER, and sleeping with tiny feet in my face.  It wasn’t exactly second-nature in the beginning; it took a little time to get accustomed to these things.  But I choose motherhood, and I welcomed every ugly detail.

My fiancé, on the other hand didn’t exactly choose fatherhood.  I mean, he did choose to date and subsequently marry me knowing I had children.  But I’m sure his list of life goals didn’t include “being married with children (that aren’t mine) at 26”.  And yet, he never showed the slightest hesitation in loving my children just as if it was in his life’s desire.

My daughter nicknamed him GeeGee (like Lee, but with a “g”) the first time she met him.  He is now referred to by this name at all times, and by all members of my family.  Using his given name is equivalent to your mother saying your full name when you have done something that appalls her.  I was skeptical that he would really stick around.  When he met me, he was 24 with no children: aka: a single mother’s definition of “out-of-my-league”.  But by some miracle, he is still with us and will marry me in September. 

Now, he is a lot of great things: sweet, loving, a sender-of-flowers; but the single most attractive thing about him is that he loves my kids.  I don’t mean that he tolerates them, rolls his eyes and grits his teeth at their silly requests…I mean he genuinely cares about them, despite all the weird experiences they have introduced him to.  This is just a short list of the ways that I know his lifestyle has changed since meeting us.
~He has gone to work with his toenails some beautiful shade of pink or purple safely hidden beneath steel-toe boots on at least two occasions.  Don’t tell him I told you all that!

~He has been forced to move, during mid-meal from the place he is sitting at the table of a restaurant while everyone stares at the tantrum-throwing child we have with us.  Lily likes to decide where everyone sits when she gets cranky.

~He has learned to ask lots and lots of questions about specifics he never knew mattered.  “What color cup do you want to drink milk from…the pink cup with the straw or the pink cup with the lid?” “How many marshmallows do you want in your bowl for snack” Because if you get it wrong, man does it cause a mess.

~He was quick to recognize and accept (maybe a bad word choice…more like deal with rather then accept) my children’s complete and total disregard for bathroom privacy.  There is no lock on our bathroom door and they fully intend to take advantage of that fact.  If they need you, the bathroom is no safe haven.  Dressed or not, they will enter and tell you just what they need.   

~He has spent countless hours watching Busy Town Mysteries, Barney and Friends, and WWE Smackdown and you would never know he wasn’t actually enjoying himself.

~He is instrumental at averting hormonal teenage rants.  And if you have never experienced any of these rants, just know that the fact that GeeGee helps keep them at bay sometimes is vital to my sanity. 

~He has stood by patiently while the family he loves grieved the very man he would “step-in” for.  He was there for us when no one in the world would have expected that he should be.  Always respectful and never judgmental, the manner in which he conducted himself and cared for us will forever astonish me. 

~He has been awoken in the night to wet sheets and a crying toddler who struggled with potty-training.

These may seem like small insignificant things that he has done, just all part of parenting a lot of people would say.  But for a man who has never before known what it was to give selflessly of his time to two tiny humans who desire his undivided love and attention, I know loving us has not come easy; but he sure made it seem that way.  Our GeeGee has taken to our wild and crazy life, one that is exactly opposite to what he was familiar with, like a duck to water.  And we are forever grateful that he likes to swim. 
True story this week:
When I was younger and dreamed of marrying Randy Travis (no judgment, please) the most terrifying issue facing me was that I didn’t know how to cook pinto beans.  Never mind the fact that I have no recollection of ever uttering the words “I’d really like to have a nice pot of pinto beans for supper” none-the-less bothered my tiny 8-year-old soul that I wouldn’t be able to fix something that seemed a staple food and thus couldn’t be found in a cookbook, at least none of my Grandma’s anyway.  Maybe it was because I knew Randy would like to have beans and cornbread after coming home from a hard day of singing, maybe it was because I knew my daddy thought pinto beans was the finishing touch to any meal served after 9am, or maybe I knew there was always that possibility that I’d fall for a boot-wearing country boy who would like his woman domesticated.  Whatever the reason, I was genuinely concerned about cooking pinto beans.  And yet, I have eluded this bean dilemma for nearly 30 years.  But my husband-to-be is one of those country boys who cooks with lard and eats beans and cornbread…looks like it’s time to learn how to cook pinto beans.     

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Treat yo' self.

By: Guest blogger, Danielle Dodson
I guess I should start by saying that my name is Danielle and I’m not great at cooking, but I am great at impulse buying groceries. I’ll be walking down a grocery aisle to buy pasta sauce when I suddenly see coconut curry sauce on the shelf and stop dead in my tracks to think of all the things I could make with it. I’ve actually had concerned strangers ask me if I’m lost in the grocery because I get so wrapped up in these little reveries. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I found myself in a Trader Joes after trying to eat healthier. Day 1 of healthy eating had involved scrambled egg whites for breakfast, hummus, veggies and a fruit salad for lunch, and a giant bowl of salad for dinner. So far, so good…until about 8pm. I became ravenous. I’m just going to say it: salad really is the worst. Actual healthy salad is mostly just lettuce, and no one will ever persuade me that lettuce qualifies as satisfying food. So, that night I found myself wandering into the ice cream aisle. The coffee ice cream beckoned to me…and I impulse bought it.  

For the next few hours, I kept trying to resist, but I could feel the ice cream dragging me towards the freezer with some sort of magical force. Pulling the ice cream out of the fridge, I dipped a spoon into the carton. As the spoon collected a little ball of creamy goodness, I couldn’t wait to drop the scoop into my bowl and instead put it straight into my mouth.  However, the freezer was much colder than I realized, and my spoon stuck fast to my lip. In that split second, I had an important decision to make: I could wait for the spoon to warm up in my mouth, or I could just pull the spoon from my lip and see what happened. This would also be a good time to mention that I hate A Christmas Story (I’m a Christmas Vacation kind of girl) but the film did teach me what happens when someone puts his or her tongue against frozen metal. I never imagined that kind of thing actually happening in one’s kitchen, so I ripped the spoon off.

BLOOD EVERYWHERE. Gushing. Seriously. I went through tissue after tissue. I just sat there feeling like a complete idiot. How could I have injured myself by eating ice cream? A welt had actually formed on my lip. I live on my own, I’m in what seems like my millionth year of grad school, and I sometimes feel like a helpless little kid whose outside grows older while the inside stays just as clueless. Eating healthier felt like something that would make me more mature and grown up, but I couldn’t even do that right. How could I have been so impulsive and stupid? My darkest thought came as I put the ice cream back in the freezer: “my lip hurts, but I still really want this ice cream” (I ate some again – more cautiously this time – after my lip stopped bleeding). *Just fyi: Danielle did tell me that I could exclude the picture if it grossed me out.;)

Then, I just started laughing.

I realized in that moment I’m always going to be the kind of person that needs to have a treat. Honestly, we all are. In the words of Donna from Parks and Rec, sometimes you have to “treat yo’self” (see the video below. They have a Treat Yo Self day, but I think it works for everyday).  I think we all know that we should treat ourselves, but it’s so easy to let guilt (about nearly anything) make us forget that. Life is short, and one of the things I admire in Liza is that she really takes time to photograph and share and cook things that make life better and more beautiful. So, I’m trying to be more balanced in my life - and healthy eating is a part of that - but if I want ice cream now and then, I get it. I know the case could be made from this story that treating myself to ice cream is actually a very bad idea, but the truth is that feeling like I was limiting myself that day actually made me more impulsive. If I’d taken some of the pressure off myself about my lifestyle, I probably wouldn’t have ended up with a spoon full of lip flesh on my counter (sorry, that’s probably not a great mental image).

I also realized that you have to be able to laugh at yourself every now and then, because sometimes stuff is just funny  - even if it does cause lip pain. I think that’s part of treating yo’self – if you can turn some of the little things that frustrate or embarrass you into something you can smile at or at least feel better about by telling other people, they don’t seem as bad.

In the spirit of Treat Yo Self, here a couple of things that make my day better: 1. The Treat Yo Self video. 2. A picture of Kate Middleton’s baby bump (I study British history so I pretend that looking at pictures of her is work). So, go treat yo’self today. You deserve it. *(This is a lesson I’m still learning to perfect. Case in point: yesterday I treated myself to donuts about 20 minutes before going to the gym: disastrous results).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Elvadine, what’s you gots to write about?

By: Guest blogger, Brandy Groce Pruitt
I am the type of person who loses themselves in a book.  I am the person who wants to finish “just one more chapter” before turning in for the night even though I am struggling to stay awake. The person who subsequently wakes up at three in the morning, drooling on the pages of said book.  When I read a good book, I feel some sort of odd connection to the characters, a connection that lingers with me long after I’ve finished reading.  I find myself contemplating their lives after the happenings in the book, and sometimes even what their lives were like before I met them. 

And as much as I enjoy and love this pass-the-time hobby of mine, it has not always been the case.  It shames me to admit that I would actually avoid many of the reading assignments during school.  I would (GASP!) result to watching the movie after choking down two chapters and hope that my BFF would fill me in on how it differed from the book so that I could pass the exam.  Oh, forgive me English and Literature teachers of the world.  If it is any consolation, I have now read-and quite enjoyed- To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  I even tackled Gone With the Wind, even if I did stretch it out over the span of two summers and had to start over several times due to information overload.  Oh, and if that doesn’t redeem me, I sometimes find myself honestly longing for those vocabulary books that I would have classified as cruel and unusual punishment in high school. 

My growing love of reading stemmed from many things.  First, I felt a desire and obligation as a parent to have intelligent and insightful conversations about literary works with my son and not appear completely unsophisticated.  Secondly, my guilty conscience got the better of me for scraping by all those years of high school without finishing the book. (Clarification: I did actually finish some books.  I didn’t skimp on every one of them.)  And the biggest contributing factor was a life that was falling apart. 

I have experienced a life that, at times, has overwhelmed and nearly broken me.  There have been times that my heart, soul, and body were in turmoil.  I have stayed sometimes when I should have gone; gone sometimes when I wished I would have stayed.  In rebellion, I’ve hurt people that I truly cherish, done things I pray every night my children never ask me about, and had my feelings crushed so often I wasn’t even sure I still knew how to feel hurt, sadness, or disappointment.

Books became an escape, a therapy technique that I unknowingly devised for myself.  I would read to stop thinking.  I would read so that I wouldn’t worry.  I would read to not fall apart.  Because, well…falling apart just isn’t really an option.

Life gets a little messy and hectic sometimes.  I am happy that I found a healthy release, something that lets me forget how stressful the day/week/month has been.  I hope everyone is able to find something that makes the strains of life bearable.  And if having a library card in three counties just so happens to support your stress relief, you are in good company with me. 

“It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” ― Oscar Wilde

We aren’t just a bunch of bookworms at my house; we speak fluent in movie quotes too! 

Here are just a few little gems that lend themselves into our lives on a regular basis:
“It’s so FLUFFY!”-Despicable Me
If you love it, can’t live without it, need it in your life…it is “fluffy.”  Example: Bacon.  It’s so fluffy.

 “My pinky promises.”-Despicable Me (Seriously, watch this movie!)
 If your pinky can’t promise, well then…you are a liar.

“One time, at band camp…”-American Pie
If you have never used this line, I’m seriously concerned about you. 

“Ice cream…Lieutenant Dan, ice cream!!”-Forrest Gump
No one at my house asks for, mentions, or even thinks of ice cream without channeling Forrest Gump. 

“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.”-Steel Magnolias
Ok, so I’m truly the only one in my house who has seen this movie or uses this line.  You ladies know what I’m talking about though.

Every time we see one on the road or someone loses focus of the conversation, which happens a lot to us, we remember good ole Doug the dog.

Pretty much everything Dory says in Finding Nemo can fit into daily conversation, wouldn’t you agree? I know finding P.Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney is top on my bucket list. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

A community is its people.

By: Guest blogger, Renee Kelley
I woke up to a nice surprise this morning. The Sun!!  We had an extremely rainy & cool weekend here in Burkesville. It is amazing what a bright sunny morning can do to get you in the mood. In the mood for what you ask? Anything your heart desires but for me today it is writing a blog post.
Thank you Liza for inviting me to guest blog on your blog! I find it an honor.
Well this week I am reaching a milestone in my life. You know the one. The big 40!! I have heard stories about this illusive old age for years. You know everyone ages and inevitably people in your life will turn 40.You know the birthday party that you get the old walking cane with bells & horns and the party décor is all black & silver. Sort of like the end of time. I remember Mom’s & yes I truly did think she was old. Now I realize that was all wrong. It is not old at all. It is just the beginning for many things in one’s life and for me.

I am starting a new journey in life. I am walking an unknown path to my future. I am a newly divorced Mother who is embarking on a journey of epic proportions. That is what it felt like in the beginning BUT now it feels like I have a new chance at a wonderful life. I am reenrolling in college & throwing myself into life 100%. To make this happen, I felt it necessary to move back to my hometown. I have had a hard time leaving Burkesville behind over the years. I often wondered why that was but after moving back home last month I have been reminded over & over each day what that reason was. All I knew was that Burkesville was drawing the kids & I home.
The reason is the people. The people I grew up around & the people who has been planted here within our community to grow & intertwine with us to make us who & what we are. Burkesville Kentucky is truly a community to be proud of.

In times of heartache in our community there are always the troops who align to make sure the hurting find comfort, the hungry get fed & those without resources they need in the time of emergency are met. No matter how great! Those are the doers, and Burkesville is full of them. Doing makes you feel compassion for someone else. It makes you feel a purpose greater than yourself. It may make you get your hands dirty but it will not kill ya! I promise your life will never be the same. It brings us out of our shells, makes us socialize & communicate with a human instead of a computer or phone. It is truly gratifying. It makes us better people. More important than that doing for someone else makes someone else’s life a little better.
This week, I challenge you to do something selfless. Do something for someone that you know they cannot repay you for. I am not a goody too shoes good doer. I am a simple country girl who realizes what a doer can do for a community. We have so many here. They are amazing & beautiful without even knowing it. They are the people who always have a smile for you when many times they cannot even find one for themselves.

You see within this community is the places where I can put my heart in soul into because well… so many here have put their heart & soul into me over the years. I am so proud to be home & proud to call Burkesville Kentucky my home. I look forward to summer here in the Ville with the Farmer’s Market being one of my first stops each Saturday morning. Go out and be selfless see how it feels. Oh & tell no one. If they want everyone else to know they will tell them.
Until Next Time,
Renee Kelley

Friday, May 3, 2013

The last bit of nonsense you'll have to hear from me for a while...

Inspired by Cheryl Strayed's, Wild, and in honor of my Dad who was at every track meet from my 7th grade to my Senior year - standing at the 300 yard mark pushing me, in the voice I could recognize in any high school gym or on any track, to the finish line via unjustifiably proud claps and words of hilarity or encouragement  - and who died November 5, 2010, I ran the Bowling Green marathon last November 4. I was motivated. It meant something to me. I was proud.

The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon last weekend? Well...I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I got to spend a weekend in Louisville with my beautiful, spirited niece who finds more joy in escalators and jumping on the bed than most of us choose to find in anything.  I'm glad I ordered exactly what I wanted at Jeff Ruby's (playboy sushi roll, filet, green beans, and loaded mashed potatoes). Nevertheless, it really isn't something that I want to make a big deal over. In fact, what I will remember most about the weekend has very little to do with how I felt upon crossing the finish line and more so with how awesome it was to see, hear, and feel the community spirit of Louisville. I submitted the paragraphs below to the Courier Journal, but I have no idea if it will get printed.  I thought I would share here as well...

City of Louisville,
You know, I always knew I liked you better than Lexington. Despite living in a rural, southern Kentucky town where UK basketball dominates conversation (and...well, basically, daily existence for many) for much of the year, if given the choice, I would certainly travel northward on I65 rather than I75 on any given day.  There is an authenticity to Churchill, and the crowd that frequents it, that Keeneland will never have. Staff at restaurants, hotels, and shops consistently seem friendlier and more helpful in your city, the one my southern inflection will always pronounce as "Lulvul." Your downtown is a beautiful mix of historic architecture, modern art, green space, and eclectic shops. 
And, this past weekend, my affinity for all things Louisville was only magnified. Despite swearing off marathons after completing my first last November, my competitive desire to match my local running buddies inspired me to sign up for the Derby festival race this year.  If you haven't run 26.2 miles before, let me tell you, it isn't a whole load of fun.  Sense of pride and accomplishment? Sure. Fun? No. One of the primary things that kept me going, however, was the friendly faces, hilarious signs, ringing cowbells, Gatorades and orange slices being handed out from front yards, high school bands and random strangers with stereos playing things like "Sweet Caroline," high-fives from college kids likely drunk at 9:00 am, and cheering words of encouragement from people who love their town and love the Derby festivities.  You all literally kept a lot of us going.  So, on this Monday morning, I offer a sincere "thank you" from the grateful heart and sore legs of this marathon finisher and Louisville admirer.
I love my crock pot. True story.
From Good Housekeeping's, Fast Weeknight Favorites cookbook
Slow-Cooker Latin Chicken with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes
As called for by the recipe:

3 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1  tsp. smoked paprika or 1/2 tsp. chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. salsa
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
1 roasted red pepper, cut into strips (approx. 1 cup)
1/3 c. loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped lime wedges

Sprinkle chicken thighs with 1/2 tsp. cumin, salt, and pepper.  Heat 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add chicken and cook until well browned on all sides. Transfer chicken to plate. In same skillet, combine smoked paprika, allspice, broth, salsa, garlic and remaining 1 1/2 tsp. cumin. In 6-quart slow cooker, combine beans and sweet potatoes. Arrange chicken thighs in single layer on top. Pour broth mixture over chicken. Cover slow cooker and cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. With slotted spoon, transfer chicken to serving platter. Spoon the rest of the mixture over chicken, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.

My modifications...
*I cut the recipe in half.
*I used thinly sliced chicken breasts instead of thighs.
*I used regular paprika rather than smoked and nutmeg/cinnamon/cloves instead of allspice.
*I did not peel my sweet potatoes.
*I didn't have fresh cilantro (although this would have been delicious) so I just sprinkled an herb mix over the top.
*I browned nothing in a skillet. I put this all in the crock pot before work, flipped it to low, and in about 5 hours it was ready. 

Trust me, the picture doesn't do it justice.  This is a keeper.  Try it.
I love that even in our tiny, rural town, there are such neat things to get into if one chooses to look.  For example, how many of the surrounding cities have an art studio on the square where people can go check out a local artist's amazing work and take a portrait, landscape, still-life or charcoal class themselves?
Thank you, Billy Guffey, from this tightly-wound librarian who needs to hear "It's just paint on canvas. Go for it." fairly regularly.  You are a gem in this community.
Work in progress...

Picture taken in Salzburg, Austria - May, 2011

Decided I wanted to make it more abstract
Get excited....amazing guest bloggers over the next two weeks on Pillow Book!:)
Off to Chicago for the weekend!