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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November's Fabulous Finds

It's a total cliche to talk about how quickly the months go by.

But for a four-month pregnant woman who sleeps through the majority of time following the workday, it's so true. And alas, the legal time for listening to all the Christmas music is here! The weary world rejoices!

Apart from the napping and excessive weight-gaining, this month has been full of lots of accomplishments - like getting through one of the most tumultuous election seasons without an ounce of alcohol. That's right. I'm basically Wonder Woman. Which means I can forego proving what a baller I am by delivering naturally and have the nice doctors load me up with all the epidurals.

Thank you very much!

What I Read

I'm getting through Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker. It's sad, and rich and sweet. And as someone who has been hesitant about motherhood for several reasons (career, travel, and the chance that this little creature we create becomes a jerk), it's been refreshing. She's like the older sister who confesses honesty.

She doesn't get wrapped up in expectation or the "shoulds" of motherhood. And I value the freedom she walks into her journey with.

I'm also working my way through Today Will be Different by Maria Semple. I'm not far enough into it to make a glowing recommendation yet, but I will say I've laughed hard through the first one-third of the book. Her writing style is unique and utterly hilarious. It's like reading an email from a scatterbrained friend.

What We Watched

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

(ALL THE SPOILER WARNINGS). I'm going to try to get through this while keeping my friendships intact.

Short story: y'all. Watch it. It was a gift. A gift that Amy Sherman-Palladino in all of her top hat glory was absolutely under no obligation to give us. A gift that was brought on by the demands of diehard fans who weren't satisfied with the end of season seven - did we forget how awful season seven was? The criticism I've seen as a result is upsetting to me as a creative.

And if I were dear Amy, I'd take my nice paycheck from Netflix and never write another script for that show again. Because that's the fan karma we've collected.

Listen, I've kept (relatively) quiet online and sat on my hands when I wanted to throw down. But loves, you're in my house now. Have a seat and let's chat. I'll make some tea and supply PopTart peace offerings.

For the record: those of you in the Team Logan camp, get in here. Let's group hug. You're excused from my Paris-level rant. That relationship was difficult to watch on so many levels. To the point where I was almost rooting for him. (Almost). If I'd been gaga for him since the beginning, admittedly, I'd have a very different outlook on the series.

And though he plays a central role in all my favorite episodes (You Jump, I Jump Jack and Friday Night's Alright for Fighting) lucky for me, I always knew he was a Cheater McCheat-face and saw through his privileged playboy rallies. And don't you tell me they were "on a break" in season six. A five-minute argument in a pub does not a breakup make.

Once again, Jess sets Rory on the healthy path. You make me proud, bud.

 On the last four words:

I've gone through this series twice now. And several allusions in the very last episode are celebrating the "circle of life" (cue: Lion King). It's clear that Rory is following in her mother's footsteps. The obvious father of her child is the new Chris. Jess is the new Luke. It's not so much of a cliffhanger as it is a promise. A "here we go again."

We got one year with these characters. And I saw them more of how all three of the women coped with Richard's untimely death. Emily found independence. Lorelai found health and stability in marriage. Rory found her grandfather's desk and inspiration to write her story.

Rory will find success with her manuscript (I don't think it's a coincidence that she has an old friend with strings in Hollywood), just as Lorelai has found success with her inn.

On the crucifixion of Rory's character:

If you've never been in a season of utter confusion, struggling with your purpose, feeling the ups-and-downs of worthlessness, wandering and being built up like you're a person who's going to Do Big Things only to be hit with the reality of the job market and the hindrance of your own talents/abilities, maybe it's disappointing to see her unravel.

But man did I identify with this character. Acting out in her hunt for something more, something deeper.

There are a lot of balms for this level of disdain. And you know what one of them is? Getting pregnant. The reality check to end all reality checks. Take it from someone who knows.

The head-scratchers/things I'll allow complaints about:
  • The 45-minute musical interlude. And this is coming from a Broadway lover. It was cute for five minutes, especially since Sutton Foster and Christian Borle (you'll know him from the OBC of Legally Blonde and SMASH), but let's pick one song-and-dance number. Although, I'd keep Waterloo.
  • The therapy scenes. I like the fact that they were there. But in no way this would go down like that in a real therapy session. She was not doing her job and was in no way leading that room to reconciliation. I would've enjoyed watching Lorelai and Emily make real progress in their relationship - and hearing an "I love you, mom." (For the record, that was my prediction of the last four words.)
  • The wookiee. Imagine Luke finding out about that.
  • And if you thought Rory having a one-night stand was out of character, let's talk about Lorelai's rendition of Wild.
  • Sometimes it seemed like we were watching a reunion of characters for the sake of having a character reunion without their appearances moving the plot forward. Take Lane's dad, for instance. 

Things to remember during the dark times:
  •  Kirk and Petal.
  • Final confirmation that Michel is gay. We all knew it, but we didn't know know it. I feel a lot better.
  •   Carole King.
  • Emily's meltdown at her final DAR meeting.
  • The secret bar scene.
  • Emily in jeans.
  • Lorelai winning points for the best her hair has ever been.
  • Paris. Just any scene that she was in. She slays.
  • The wedding scene and the throwback to Luke and Lorelai's first dance.

What I Tried

Do I have friends left? For those of you who stuck with me, I can offer you a special 20-percent discount on makeup! Because lipstick is important.

A few months ago, my friend Louise began selling Arbonne products. And though I've been known to shop for cosmetics in the drug store aisle, I've always liked their products when I've had the funds to order them.

She asked if I'd review a few products on the blog in exchange for a few products. I happily agreed. And now, if you send her an email with your wish-list items and tell her my blog sent you her way, she'll give you 20 percent off your order!


She knows me well. Louise gave me a bright red, and I love the way that it makes my lips feel. It's the perfect blend of a fun color and moisturizer. I tend to go for the matte colors that dry out my lips something awful. This was different. It's almost buttery.

And the smell. It smells like watermelon. Seriously.


I've never used the stuff before, but again it's a smooth product that really moisturizes my face. Since I don't typically wear foundation (I do a quick dab of under eye concealer and cover my trouble spots), I haven't really been able to gauge its staying power. But, again, I really like the feel of it. Especially since my nose is prone to blackhead city.


Y'all. I've seriously been spoiled by this mascara. I'm a Cover Girl convert. And I don't think I can go back to the way things were before. It boasts water-resistant (a little will come off if you tear up), and long wear, and it's completely accurate. Take it from someone who cries at commercials these days, this stuff lasts.

What I Learned

That this is not a time to be hard on myself.

That grace is for every season.

And that with the right friends, we can find resilience to be the women we were meant to be.


Monday, November 28, 2016

When You Grow Out of Your Pants

It's a difficult thing to grow out of your pants.

Actually, with all of the late-night carbs, and begging my husband to take me to Chipotle, it was pretty easy. We're a solid four months into our first pregnancy and I'm starting to feel the extra padding that comes along with it.

I step on the scale in the morning and see another ounce or two tick up to the weight I started at before I made big life changes. Before I took care of my body and stopped eating as a measure to combat stress or overindulge on celebrations.

Not that I was a whole 30 fiend by any means -- those challenges don't have a stick-to-it affect on me and tend to make the pendulum swing for the fences in the opposite direction -- but I had made close to 20 pounds of slow, but meaningful progress.

And for someone who had carried extra weight, including a decade of self-image issues, watching the numbers on the scale blossom higher and higher is, in spite of all the good I know is coming from it, a little disheartening.

Before I was pregnant, I'd balk at the women who complained about their bodies changing under the weight of their growing babies. It didn't make sense. Couldn't they see that the very core of who they were was changing to make room for something wonderful?

Couldn't they take the focus off themselves for one minute to focus on the health of their child?

"Hellooooo!" I wanted to yell. "You're growing a child. Reality check: your body will change."

Enter: a passive resolve to behave and think differently if and when I ever became pregnant.

I'd never complain like that. Surely I'd have the right frame of mind to not complain in such a distasteful way. Especially in a time when I should be so thankful.

But I get it now.

I get how hard it is to fall asleep in a time when everyone is telling you to "sleep while you can because after the baby comes you'll party like a rock star every night" (I deleted those comments on our Facebook announcement, btw. We know.). I get how hard it is to breathe, sometimes. How sometimes even walking feels like your legs are marshmallows, even when your "baby bump" looks more like you've spent a little too much time at the pub knocking back pints.

I'm not saying it's right to complain. But I am saying that it's a lot easier to make promises to yourself when you have no idea what you're in for.

After running (literally) hundreds of miles over the past few years to regain control of my gaining body, I too balk at the fact that my jeans won't clasp. I too watch the numbers on the scale tick up, up and way with one eye open. Afraid to commit two whole eyeballs the witness of these changes.

Afraid of the will-power and discipline it will take to return to the way things were before it all began.

So much of this process, the frustration with my clasps and stubborn zippers is reminiscent of a time where I was at my lowest, health-wise and spiritually. It reminds me that this part of my life, like so many others, is a journey.

And I'm still walking it. Even in the midst of walking into motherhood.

I'm still working to make peace with the mirror, even when it doesn't make sense that we're at war with each other. Even in a season where I should surely be able to give myself grace for the expansion, grace for the stretch marks, grace for the extra weight around my middle.

Grace for the bits and pieces of my life I thought I'd have figured out by now.

And grace for the judgement calls I've made from the outside looking in.

Monday, November 21, 2016

8 Holiday Hostsessing Tips for the Anti-Crafter

There was a time when hosting parties sent me into a whirlwind fit of PTSD. 

Recovering former waitresses, such as myself, will tell you stories about busy kitchens, misfired entrees, tray and champagne flute spills and nightmares where the distance between the expediting station and the guests at their tables was miles long.

Furthermore, I hate glue. I mean hate glue. And crafting. Of any kind, with very few exceptions (like knitting). The mess, the Popsicle sticks, the feathers. I know I'm a mom-to-be and having these sort of items at the ready is supposed to be in my wheelhouse...

Maybe I'll just encourage my children to read/go outside.

At any rate, since I've never earned a Girl Scout badge (Awana, anyone?), and Pinterest makes me grumble angry nothings about patriarchy, boring homemaker expectations, etc., I was never one to play hostess. Who was I kidding? I didn't even own a glue gun.

But, as it always does, my extroversion won out in the end. I started reading books like Bread and   Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes and White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming-of-Age Story that celebrated the importance of community, food and a life shared with people. In your home.

Then the extrovert married a man who loves his friends and his kitchen appliances as equals. And together we began the fearful and wonderful task of opening our home and inviting people in. If our marriage was a song, hospitality is one of our goal baselines.

Last night we had about twenty people in our home for a Friendsgiving potluck, and our little two-bedroom condo felt like it would burst in the best possible way.

So, for you, my fellow anti-crafter, here are a few tips to hosting your own holiday gathering. No glue-gunning required!

Bake the night before

Let me begin by saying: I am not a Rockefeller and don't pretend to be one. Gordon and I invite groups over for potlucks, meaning we all share the financial and cooking strain. So, as the leaders of the soiree, we typically tackle the main course (in our case, it was a delicious pork and gravy dish), and dessert.

All of my desserts I do most of the prep/bake-work the night before. This saves me from crowding the kitchen the day of for the hot dishes, and a lot of stress. Aside from having to restrain yourself/littles/husbands from indulging before the party, it's a fool-proof plan.

Set the table beforehand

The night before the party I had a fresh tablecloth, a flower arrangement constructed with mason jars, scotch tape and Harris Teeter flowers and our plastic cutlery, paper plates and cocktail napkins. I picked up Thanksgiving-themed plates from Tusesday Morning. Not environmentally friendly, but so pretty.

We're fortunate enough to have a lovely set of serving dishes and utensils; if you have it, now's a great time to break out the fancy occasion items.

Make space

Before any party I aim for a clear dishwasher, fridge and trash. This way there's no scrambling at the last minute to make room for leftover foods and any dishware you use throughout the evening. Your guests don't have to play "mash the trash" when they're tossing their used items.

It's just good manners.

Pre-draft text messages

I'll be honest, this is a stressful hurdle I'm still practicing overcoming: about half an hour into a party is where your home reaches "critical mass." Meaning, mostly everyone who will be there has arrived. If they come bearing food and delightful beverages, you'll likely get overlapping questions from guests about where to set up and the best place to put their items.

Then your phone buzzes because someone needs directions.

We live in a gated community and have limited guest parking. I have a set of instructions saved in my notes application on my phone for these moments. If anyone gets lost, needs the code for our gate, or assistance on knowing where it's safe to park on the street, blamo! I copy and paste the draft into the messages and can return my full attention to my guests without having to bury my head into my phone.

Accept help when it's offered

It's as simple as that. I don't want to be stomping around the kitchen in a sweaty fog of rushing to do things at the last second.

Assign tasks (kindly) when help isn't offered

This is a big one: so many people want to give the illusion that you're in control, but the fact is that if you're hosting a party, your job is to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. The fact is that most people, especially new friends, might be more comfortable helping with setting up and feeling like they're contributing, rather than sitting on their hands waiting for people they know to arrive.

A "would you mind refilling the ice bucket?" or "would you please take this into the dining room?"
is fair game in my book.

Relaxing music playlists

At least, before the party begins. I like to make last-minute prep and cleaning as calming as cleaning can be. You can crank up the jams once guests arrive, but something about slapping the bass in the final countdown of what can be both a lot of fun and a lot of pressure seems to raise the non-existent stakes.


Last night before my guests arrived, I prayed over our home. That people would feel welcome. That there would be community, laughter and meaningful conversations.That people would remember how they felt, rather than what they ate. And I think it makes all the difference.

Tell me, did I miss any? Do you have any tips for hosting? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Life This Week


Just as everyone promised, the second trimester hit and my zombie-like tendencies of pregnancy that made me hole up in my bedroom like some sort of Elizabethan invalid have passed.

This was shortly followed by ravenous hunger – the hunger I'd feel after running two miles and needing a Caesar salad with chicken and bread (just, plain bread) more than I'd care to admit; strange dreams about my 35-week pregnant friend's baby holding my finger through her round stomach; and the tiniest flutters I can't yet determine if they are baby's movements or stomach settling.

I'm also learning this strange new emotion that comes from missing someone I haven't met yet. My curiousity is brimming over and I can't help but wonder what this little one will look like and become. It's a marvelous and simultaneous dreadful anticipation.


At work, I've had two opportunities to hear from distinguished military leaders. One was an Admiral at the Pentagon during 9/11. The other was a founding member of the U.S. Delta Force and lead soldiers through the battle civilians know as Black Hawk Down.

My prayer through every job I've had, be it at a preschool, restaurant, grocery store, or my very grown up public relations gig, is that no matter my attitude, joys or inevitable dissatisfaction in each role, that I'd learn all that I could from each.

Learning about leadership from men who have stood on the literal front-lines of combat zones and terrorist attacks is how I'm absorbing all that I can in my current position.


A girlfriend invited me to cheesecake and coffee. This was amazing on so many levels because a. I really admire said friend and have a blast talking about anything with her and b. who could ever say "no" to cheesecake?

I've been trying to soak up little moments like these with my friends and husband the past few months because, though I know I'm about to step into a new season of fun and bewilderment with a newborn, I also feel a slight tugging of mourning for this come-and-go-as-we-please part of our lives. I know that in six months the moments I'll have with friends without the background noise of worrying about my little one, or even longing for them, will be rare. If existent at all.

Life this week is simple, thankful – and in spite of big news for our nation – hopeful. How was your week?


Friday, November 11, 2016

Don't Save it Up

They call it nesting.

And to be fair, it's way too early for it, as far as the books are concerned. That's what I've learned: when you suddenly become expecting and your world turns upside-down the books are your best friend and worst enemies all at once.

Sort of like every single one of your friends from middle school.

At any rate, the past few weeks have been a season of making small preparations. Preparing room. Turning the chaos that is the second bedroom in our condo, aptly named the walk-in-closet with a bathroom attached, into a suitable place for a newborn to be rocked and fed and changed.

How bad is it? Let's just say two large wooden doors my husband lovingly detached from my bedroom closet to make room for our grown up bed set are leaning up against the wall. And a standing desk made out of two-by-fours is in the corner.

Last weekend, I started another project, which was piecing together a brand-new china buffet that rests in the corner of our dining room. Ever since our wedding, our fine china has remained protected in their respective boxes. They were too nice to unwrap and set in our kitchen cabinets with our every day pieces.

Now they're rightfully on display, ready for our next dinner party.

I remember when my aunt gave me the first few pieces at my bridal shower. Before I unwrapped them, she looked at me and said, "Now, I don't want you to put this away. You should use it. It should sit on your dining room table."

And it does. The sugar bowl sits in the middle of our dining room table. It's present for every small group meeting at my house on Sundays. It's there for every podcast recording session.

It's used. And there's a small spark of joy when I hear the clink of removing the lid and spooning out a few grains of sugar into the Downtown Abbey-themed tea my sister-in-law gave to me.

It made me wonder, as I was unpacking these lovely settees from their bubble wrapped storage:

What else have I been saving up?

What else have I tucked away? What have I deemed too special or out-of-the-ordinary for the hum drum patterns of sun rise and sun set?

What have I put on hold for later, when the timing is better, when I have space and room in my life prepared?

I feel that way with my novel-in-progress. A dream for a long time was to see my name on the front of a paperback book. I feel that way with singing. With running a marathon. With making friends outside of work and church.

I feel that way with joining the budding fight for social compassion in this nation.

I have thoughts, ideas, passions. From the simplest acts of keeping granola bars and water bottles in my car for the homeless population I pass in the streets of downtown Norfolk. To following alongside my husband's vision of beginning boots on the ground work of racial reconciliation in a city we love so dearly.

The temptation is to do it later. Later, I'll do it later. It's too important, too big to pursue now. After all, I have to buy groceries. Fold laundry. Get my oil changed. Show up on time for things (relatively).

But I'm learning that later always comes. And what we want, what we fight for, what we believe hardly ever arrives alongside it.

So, friends, what have you been saving up? What have you locked away that's inside of you that you felt wasn't the right time to use?

What sits in your closet or a shelf in your hallway?

What dream is stored up that you want to work for?

Because I think it's time we unwrapped them. I think it's time to arrive and give the world that needs us the grace, compassion and love it deserves and so desperately needs.

This week on the Prodigal Sisters Podcast:

Sarah and I list our final fours on topics like:
  • Fictional characters we'd want to uncork a bottle of wine with.
  • Books that feel like home.
  • Four foods we couldn't live without.
  • What we'd rather be doing than worrying about this week's election results. 
We love this project, and I'd be honored if you'd give us a listen! If you like us, subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app!


Friday, November 4, 2016

A Post for the Women

Let me be the first to say: I cannot be trusted.

For those of you who aren't my real-life people, or my internet friends who've crossed over into the Facebook-friendship realm, my husband and I are a whole trimester into expecting our very first baby.

And ever since, the pressures of life rose and converge.

Everything became heightened. Like watching a color TV for the first time. Or tasting a ripe fruit plucked from the crooked branch of a mango tree in the Dominican Republic.

Different. Real. Real in a way you can't turn back.

The past few weeks have flown. There's been a playlist of treasured, hurting friends and family members, hurricanes, financial unrest, questions and reevaluations about life-stages and career choices and diets and weight-gain and pants that are more than just a little too tight.

Not to mention 8:30 p.m. bedtimes.

I'm not sure when it happened, exactly. Was it when I realized the faint faint pink line on that test wasn't just a shadow? Was it when my sister called me crying after I sent her the news via SnapChat? (Not a recommended method for good-news sharing.)

Was it when we thought midway through the first trimester that we were losing our sweet baby, and I began to mourn someone I never met but loved with my whole heart?

Was it when we went to the doctor's office after that weekend from hell when the ultrasound technician showed us the flickering image on the screen? Was it when I texted "FOUND HEARTBEAT!" to everyone I had asked to pray, pray, pray?

Or was it when I heard that gentle rumbling that sounds unmistakably like horse hooves with my own ears? The fast, triumphant proclamation: I'm here, I'm here, I'm here!

I'm not sure when it happened. When all the unraveling overcame hope, dignity, and replaced them with self-pity.

But I think somewhere along the positive pregnancy lines, somewhere in this season the fears, doubts and worries finally crossed into a more powerful place.

Here's what I know:

My life, my first-world stress, my distractions do not reflect strong
character. Plain and simple.

This isn't me. Seeking a deeper purpose from things like work and bank accounts. To let worry absorb me. To overthink, second-guess, and let my hunt for more, more, more define me.

To the point where the old me, the girl who went on missions trips to third-world countries would be astounded by my materialism, my doubts, and what angers me. Because she was a girl who held her chin high, popped in a Katy Perry song and kept pressing forward.

Even when she was sure she was going to lose.

That's who we are. And somewhere along the way, we've lost it. I've lost it.

We are the Women.

We are the Women who welcome challenges.

We are the Women who overcome obstacles, large and small.

The ones who juggle coffee and car keys, carry all of our Target bags in one lop-sided trip from the car to our house; the plastic bags that make red impressions on the insides of our elbows.

We are the Women who are there for the grief, who find time to meal plan and fight to make time for the people we love when it's tempting to just power through and only think of ourselves.

We are the Women who show up. Who shut up when we know silence is
imperative because our words can be ravaging.

We're the ones who rise up when we're tired. Or grumpy. Or devastated. Or haven't had nearly enough caffeine.

We stay in jobs we're not crazy about because they grow us. In hopes of a promotion or a really nice job reference. We persevere when the world looks hopeless.

We are the Women who remain grateful in the face of everything, because we know the majority of the world lives on two dollars a day. And that's what we believe a fair price is for a tall cup of coffee.

Somewhere along the way I lost this. And I want this. I want it for all of us.

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