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My parents bought an RV earlier this year. They and their friends, who also have RVs, have camped all over the Mid-South. I took my first trip with them last weekend when we met my brother at Kentucky Lake/Land Between The Lakes! In accordance with the incredible summer we’re having, the weather was perfect. Hot enough to enjoy the lake during the day, but cool enough to enjoy sitting outside in the mornings and evenings.

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We camped at Hillman Ferry, which is on the far north end of Kentucky Lake. None of us had stayed at the lake before and didn’t know much about the area. Next time we’ll probably go further south, closer to the bird sanctuary and bison and elk range that my parents and I would have liked to see.

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Hillman Ferry does have hiking and biking paths with some pretty scenery. A doe with two babies lives in a field near the paths, and we saw her both evenings. I was able to get pretty close!

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But of course, we spent most of our time in the water. I performed my annual demonstration that I can still water-ski, thus renewing my license to stay in my family. (I’m mostly kidding)

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And of course, there were some circus tricks.

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Kevin and I took the Jetski over to experience The Quarry, Kentucky Lake’s primo party spot. It was worth a visit. Almost every college and frat house is represented in the graffiti. Party on, Wayne and Garth.

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The beach area was prettier than what I’m used to at a lake.

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My parents befriended a couple whose campsite was right on the beach. As we were leaving, we noticed that they had at least ten hummingbirds around their hummingbird feeder. I’d never seen anything like it!

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We camped a lot as a family when I was a tween. I wasn’t a fan (I used to sleep in the car instead of the tent – the one rebellion within my grasp). Camping still isn’t my #1 favorite activity, but I now see the appeal of getting away to the wilderness once in a while. RVing is also a vast improvement over tent camping. I’d go again!

Add a Comment + Posted in: family, summer, travel

It’s been years since my last Curly Hair Post, and I have some new recommendations! I know we curlies are always on the lookout for new products and ideas, because our hair care is no simple task. (I’m a low-maintenance girl in a high-maintenance body.)

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As part of a slow gravitation away from chemicals and junk, I’m using more natural hair products. Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat shampoo and conditioner have been my choice for a few months. The shampoo feels amazing on my scalp and doesn’t dry out my hair as long as I alternate it with something more moisturizing. For that, I use Organix Moroccan Argan Oil shampoo, conditioner, and deep treatment. However, I’m almost out of those and might try their new Coconut Water or Sea Mineral Moisture next.

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I’ve parted from my beloved Marc Anthony Curl Envy Cream in favor of an organic shea butter leave-in conditioner. Beautiful Curls is consistently the cheapest (though I’d still like to try Shea Moisture). Since I made the switch, my hair truly feels healthier and has a more natural texture.

For styling, I’m still in a committed relationship with Tresemme Bouncy Curls gel. I can only find it at Wal-Mart these days, but you absolutely can’t beat it for under five bucks. I also like Tresemme heat styling spray.

Recently I was given a couple of bottles of Aveda Be Curly Curl Controller. Don’t mind if I do! Ironically, it makes my hair a little wilder than I prefer, so I don’t use it every day. But it’s all-natural and smells INCREDIBLE. I would use nothing but Aveda products just for the smell if I had a million dollars…

Not pictured is my faithful finishing touch, Herbal Essences Set Me Up Spray Gel. I need something to provide a little additional hold without stiffness or stickiness. Most spray gels are just regular-weight gels in a spray bottle (do they think we won’t notice?), but this one is airy and perfect. I dread the day they discontinue it.

Aside: after hearing about DIY flax seed hair gel from my sister, I bought a pack of whole flax seeds intending to make a batch. I still haven’t taken the plunge, but if/when I do, I’ll post about the experience. It’s bound to be entertaining!

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I’m on my second Conair Infiniti Cord-Keeper hair dryer and have no complaints. The diffuser that comes with the dryer is great, but when the teeth inevitably break off, I get a standard replacement diffuser at Sally Beauty. I’d like to hear from anyone who uses a fancy expensive dryer – do they really make a difference?

Other than a standard wide-tooth comb, I use no other styling tools. My hair hasn’t been straightened since probably 2008, when I went to a Ouidad salon in Ft. Lauderdale for their famous “carve and slice” haircut. That haircut brought me to a new level of acceptance of and appreciation for my curls. I’ve always hated how differently people respond to me with straightened hair, anyway – the once-overs from guys who usually look through me, the “You look so much better!” exclamations. Like I’m suddenly a more valuable human being because my hair is more socially acceptable. It may seem silly if you haven’t experienced it, but embracing your natural curls can be a sensitive and almost political choice for people of any color. DON’T LET THEM TAME YOU!

PS: If you’re in the Memphis area and need a hairstylist who knows curly hair, contact me and I’ll be happy to refer you. I’ve been with mine for years and she is a diamond in the rough. If she ever leaves town, I might have to move with her!

2 Comments + Posted in: beauty

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My vegetable garden’s been in the ground for about eight weeks. We’re having one of the wettest, coolest summers on record, and as a result, this year’s garden is noticeably smaller and less fruitful than last year’s. It’s a bummer, but there’s not much I can do about it other than fertilize. Who knows, it might take off in September!

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First, the good news: the tomatoes are cranking up! I’ve harvested a few cherry tomatoes and a couple of Romas, and the Better Boys are starting to come in. My dad set up my Florida weave system for me. I intended to use heavy metal stakes (the kind they use for traffic signs), but they’re expensive, and I already had this PVC pipe, which works just as well and won’t deteriorate. Anyway, I keep adding twine as the plants grow. So far, so good.

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First big tomato!

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The middle part of the garden is struggling. My squash plants drowned almost immediately. I’ve lost several bell pepper plants (including a replacement for one original plant), and the ones that remain are barely clinging to life. True to its usual form, only the jalapeno is actually bearing flowers. My eggplant’s flowers keep falling off, but it looks healthy and I think it may get going soon.

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The cucumbers are thriving and flowering all over the place, but no actual cukes yet.

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In other plant news:

♥ I have a handmade wooden planter in a shady spot near my front door. This year, I splurged on three Kong coleus (colei?) for the planter. They keep getting bigger and more gorgeous, with lavender cone-like flowers in the middle. I love looking at them.

♥ My gardenia bush got fried by our cold winter. Loss of a plant generally isn’t a big deal, but to me, this is no ordinary gardenia. I planted it the week my ex-husband left, and over the years I’ve felt a symbolic bond with it. It’s my version of Valancy’s rosebush. In fact, it’s come back from the mostly-dead once before. Once it was clear that last winter probably did it in, the only thing I could do to help it was cut it all the way back to the roots. Still, I had very little hope. So I was surprised and thrilled a couple of weeks ago to see these tiny leaves shooting out of the roots! It may take a long time to branch out or flower again, but LIFE REMAINS.

♥ About a year and a half ago, I planted tiger lily bulbs in my front garden bed. We had them at the house I grew up in in Hickory Hill, and they just say home to me. Well, last month they finally bloomed!

Nature makes me want to dance! And so does this dress.

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4 Comments + Posted in: gardening

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So what we are saying is this: you have no guarantees, but dream anyway. You will hurt more if it doesn’t work out, but your laugh will have a more rapt quality to it. You’ll feel the sting, but your face will glisten with the fresh dew of presence. You will love more, you will feel the air in your lungs, you will feel boulders of sadness on your heart, but you’ll be alive. And you’ll be okay. Saint Bartholomew said, “Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain; what you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.” Exactly. Jesus did not say, “I will rescue you out of your disappointing world.” He did say, “The thief comes to steal and destroy, but I have come that you would have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
      – Jan Meyers Proett
, Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me


What did he have to mope about, really? What more did he want? Love, he could hear Eve saying. Purpose. Love. Purpose. Those are the things that you can’t plan for. Those are the things that just happen. And what if they don’t happen? Do you spend your whole life pining for them? Waiting to be happy?
     - Rainbow Rowell
, Attachments


I am trying to remain fully alive to my hopes and dreams without losing my mind. It’s harder than you would think. I’ve been wondering how many times, how many years, you can bear unfulfilled hopes before their weight starts to crush you. How do you keep affirming them without bitterness creeping into your heart? How do you create a steady baseline of joy that’s not dependent on anything changing for the better?

I need to be reminded again and again that having an open, alive heart means that you will get hurt. You’ll be disappointed and make mistakes. You will crash and burn. Sometimes you won’t know why it happened or what you’re supposed to learn from it. You’ll be freshly reminded of what you’re missing. You may need time to pick yourself up again. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you took a brave risk, and you’ll be a more complete person because of it. To quote another Rainbow Rowell novel, “I look like this because I’m alive. Because I’ve had experiences.” Having experiences often leaves us worse for wear, but in some mysterious way, it brings us closer to the abundant life Jesus talked about.

I feel restless, itchy for positive change and hopes fulfilled, and I still believe I must be somehow on the brink. I’ve heard many women say that late in labor, there’s a moment when you feel like you just cannot do it anymore, and that means the baby is about to be born. I’ve believed myself at a similar point many times before. History shows that I have always been wrong. But this time, something is about to be born. There’s too much electricity built up in me. It has to go somewhere.


*** This post is part of a monthly OneWord 365 linkup at The Messy Middle.
You can also check out my Alive Pinterest board. ***

6 Comments + Posted in: hope, one word: alive

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I’m turning 35 next month, which seems like a good age to declare that Normal is never going to happen for me. Regardless of my future, my chances at a traditional life are officially in the rearview mirror. If I marry again, it won’t be like marrying a longtime friend in my early 20s – we’ll already have decades of separate personal histories. If I find a career I love, it’ll be like Chandler Bing switching to marketing in Season 10 of Friends, not the informed plan of someone who knew what she wanted to do at 22. If I become a mother, via adoption or biology, I’ll be an Old Mom with an established general cluelessness about child-rearing. If none of those things ever happen, that’ll be a whole other challenge.

It’s time to stop looking at and judging myself by a framework that’s no use to me. Time to shake off the shame, burn the map, and take the machete.

I think I was always destined for a Plan B life, because it’s authentic by nature, and so am I. Much as I sometimes wish otherwise, fakery is not in my bag of tricks. I can’t convincingly pretend to be other or better than what I am. I’m hopeless at playing it cool. I can’t maintain an illusion of having it all together. I tried for years, back on the Plan A track, and it wore me down to nothing. But in Plan B, there’s no hiding the fact that I’m perpetually flying by the seat of my pants. Everyone is, in fact, but I’m too far gone to cover it up. I’m permanently out of the game.

However, I tend to exchange it for a new game – acting like Plan B is one big exciting adventure. Sure, it can be, but more often it’s a heavy load of uncertainty, false hopes, and dead ends. It means hacking through the jungle with no confirmation that you’re headed anywhere good. I’ve felt so weary of it lately, too weary to be the Eowyn I want to be. I need to give myself grace and freedom in the weariness too.

I need to surround myself with other machete-wielders. Blazing a trail by yourself is too large and lonely a task. I need regular reassurance that I’m not some pitiable anomaly, but am valuable right where I am. I want to be inspired by lots of different examples of a purposeful, fulfilling life. I don’t think you can ever have enough. None of us are meant to do this alone, and I’ve been trying for too long.

4 Comments + Posted in: reflections, singleness

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I’m winding up a visit with my sister and niece! They got here last Friday. Here are some highlights:

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A small-plane pilot friend of my dad’s took us to DeWitt Spain Airport because Niecy loves planes. She took to the controls immediately. My dad, who’s worked in aviation for most of his adult life, was thrilled.

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My brother was also here over the weekend! All three of us are only together a couple of times a year. We missed my BIL Lance, who’s at church camp this week.

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Niecy has been having a blast with Nanny and Poppy.



Debra and I enjoyed a long lunch with Caroline, one of my best friends. They’re both due in October, just two weeks apart!


We hit the pool at my parents’ friends’ house. I must say, it was a big upgrade from my backyard kiddie pool.


Niecy paid her first visit to the ice cream (wo)man! She chose a rainbow push pop.


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Yesterday we went to the zoo to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and free admission day.



I probably won’t see Debra again until Niece #2 is born. It’s tough being so far apart, but I’m thankful for these times with my hermana!

Add a Comment + Posted in: aunthood, family

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I can’t believe this summer is more than halfway over, and there are still so many things I want to do. Even as I try to convince myself all fun, spontaneity, and possibility will not end with the summer, I want to be sure I’m making the most of it. So here’s my Summer Second-Half Bucket List:

  • See at least one movie at the Orpheum (The Princess Bride and the Grease sing-along are both coming up!)
  • Make a Jerry’s run
  • Watch the Perseid meteor shower. I always intend to do this and never do.
  • See Begin Again (I’ve heard great things) and Boyhood
  • One more Peabody rooftop party
  • At least one more Levitt Shell show
  • Ride my bike more often (I haven’t hit the Greenline in months)
  • Plan and execute an awesome triple birthday party for myself and two friends (details still pending)
  • Run the Elvis 5K on my birthday
  • Go to the Weezer show at Snowden Grove. They’ve been one of my favorite bands since college and I’ve never seen them live.
  • OCEAN TIME.


I would prefer to enjoy these things in good, fun company, but this is my commitment to myself to go alone if I have to. Do you have any incomplete summer bucket list items?

1 Comment + Posted in: memphis, summer

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Today over at A Peek at Karen’s World, I’m sharing one of my family’s favorite funny stories. It all happened in August 2008, when we got caught in a storm while boating and had to take refuge on the mysterious island of Boca Chita…

Read more here!

Add a Comment + Posted in: florida, memory lane

doing vs being

Recently, someone asked a group I was in about our callings. Calling, Vocation, however you want to define it, has always weighed heavily on me. I’m still figuring out what I believe about it. Like most people, I would prefer a clear-cut purpose and destiny – to walk a definite path from an early age and consistently advance, because that’s more satisfying and impressive to others. This meandering life can be a liability. I have never known definitively what I “wanted to do” in terms of a career. I’ve always wanted to do too many different things. So I develop my skills here and there as I can, jack of many trades, master of none.

But one of my evolving beliefs is that calling and career don’t necessarily overlap. For many of us, calling is bigger and more nebulous than a title. It’s more tied up in who you are than what you do, and the better you know yourself and how God made you, the clearer your calling becomes. When I thought about my personal callings, I didn’t think daughter, sister, friend or even writer (although I’ve come a long way in claiming that). What came to mind was:

- To love and affirm the people God brings into my life, right where they are
- To write and speak truth so that people will feel encouraged and not alone
- To live as a strong woman of God outside the traditional married-and-mom-by-25 box, help blaze a trail for younger women, and give them hope
- To bring beauty and joy to the world however I get the opportunity
- To do all these things to the best of my ability, not get bogged down in perfectionism, and not give up when I fail (because I will, often).

This list isn’t really one you can drop during a casual discussion group, or put on a business card. It’s not quantifiable. It’s not snappy. Sometimes I struggle hard with that. I feel inferior to people whose roles and gifts are more obvious. I worry that no one will ever look past the surface and see me. But being seen isn’t my job and shouldn’t be my goal.

I’ve come to believe that if I focus on the things I know I’m called to, everything else should fall into place. Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot by not having a five- and ten-year plan, but I know how quickly those plans can dissolve before your eyes. Right now I’m just living open. Giving God room to surprise me. Working at being faithful to what I know. Right now, that’s enough for me.

4 Comments + Posted in: empowerment, reflections

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Rainbows are still popping up around here with surprising frequency. They keep appearing in the evening, after work, while I’m out and about. The first few caught me by surprise. But yesterday, I was almost home from work and errands when the sun started shining through the light rain that was falling. As soon I pulled into my garage, I leapt out of the car and looked to the east. It wasn’t curiosity. I knew a rainbow would be there – and it was.

I jumped right back into the car and drove a few blocks over to the elementary school and ball field, where you can always get a great panoramic view. Standing happily in the parking lot with my camera, I felt a little amused at myself. I was acting like a stormchaser. I thought, I’ve become a rainbow chaser. I’ve gotten so attuned to the right conditions for a rainbow that I can look for them with confidence and expectation.

I wish life was that certain. But sometimes, even when the circumstances are right, you have to wait for that rainbow to appear. Sometimes the sun goes behind a cloud before its light has a chance to catch. There are no guarantees. But I’m still trying to be a person who keeps an eye on the sky.

1 Comment + Posted in: faith, hope

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