September 29, 2017

Life Lessons I Learned in the Bathroom at Whole Foods

The other day I stopped into my local Whole Foods to grab something to eat. I went to the ladies restroom to wash my hands and when I opened the door, a small boy, maybe four or five years old was standing in front of the sink.

"I need water," he said to me.

I looked around at first, making sure it was definitely me he was speaking to. Then, I realized he was trying to wash his hands, but was too short to reach the faucet.

"Do you need help with the soap, too?" I asked.

"Uh huh," he said, holding his hands under the soap dispenser, which was also too high on the wall for him to reach.

I pushed the button, releasing a few dollops of foamy soap into his outstretched fingers. Then I reached up and turned the faucet on as he did his best, on tiptoes, to wash his hands under the stream of water.

Without thinking, I began to dispense a few paper towels for him too.

"I'm having pizza for supper," he shared. "Two slices, and you can sit with me if you want."

I smiled. "That's really nice of you," I told him.

"Look for me out there," he said. "I'll be the one with the two slices of pizza. You can sit with me."

And with that, he exited the bathroom, hands clean and ready to eat his two slices of pizza.

After I finished up, I walked out of the restroom and spotted his family. There was what seemed to be a mom and dad, and a couple of younger brothers and sisters. The mom was wrangling them all and my bathroom buddy was contently eating his pizza. He didn't see me as I passed by and at that point, I felt like it would be strange to approach the table as this random woman who had chatted with their child in the bathroom.

But this interaction has stuck with me. I've pondered it so many times.

It's cliche, but we can learn so much from kids. I guess not having any myself, I forget this because I don't engage with them on a daily basis. But there were some good lessons from my bathroom interaction.

First, it's okay to ask for help. Actually, it's not just okay, it's completely natural and normal. We all have something to offer and we all have some sort of needs. Why not work together and help each other along the way?

Then there's the topic of community, which I was welcomed into, no questions asked. I guess I looked harmless enough and this kid appreciated my assisting him with his hand washing, so it just seemed like the next logical step to invite me to sit with him while he ate two slices of pizza.

How many people in the world feel lonely, disconnected, and like nobody even notices them? Sometimes I get a sad feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see an older person, eating alone at a restaurant. But do I ask them to join me? Not usually.

My young friend in the Whole Foods bathroom has got it right. We all need something from each other. And together, we aren't so alone.

I want to be more like him. Willing to ask for help without feeling like in doing so, I'm admitting some sort of weakness. And I want to be more willing to create community, taking it beyond just those I know and am familiar with, but extending this idea of community to others. Those who might otherwise be eating or spending their time all alone.

Those who might need a bit of extra help, but also have something valuable to give.

September 28, 2017

Clayton Tiny Homes presents The Saltbox

Clayton Tiny Home Saltbox

This week, I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at a very special tiny home. The Saltbox, with 452-square-feet of charm and style, is part of the Clayton Designer Series. Clayton is a well known name around East Tennessee and one of the largest home builders in America.

The Saltbox was designed by Birmingham-based architect Jeffrey Dungan, whose work has been featured in Southern Living as well as Garden & Gun. The Saltbox is designed to be a perfect year-round vacation home if you're looking for a life that combines simplicity and luxury.

Before I even set foot inside the house, I was struck by its clean lines and unique style. Of course it didn't hurt that when I toured it, it was located against the picturesque backdrop of Fort Loudoun Lake. The house will be moved to the Clayton showroom in Maryville, Tennessee where you can visit it for yourself!

Once I went inside the house, I loved the way its design felt so open and airy. The living area, which felt spacious to me, had plenty of room for a regular sized sofa and two comfy club chairs. I love the concept of tiny houses, but I wouldn't want to sacrifice having friends over or entertaining and thankfully, you wouldn't have to with the Saltbox.

There was also space for a dining table, able to accommodate six chairs. I could easily imagine eating a quiet dinner with my husband or enjoying a fun meal with a few friends around the table.

Careful attention to detail was paid in the kitchen, with modern quartz countertops, a deep sink and plenty of cabinet space. Everything felt very solid and built to last. And the interior style was modern but not so trendy that it would feel outdated anytime soon.

The walls and ceiling were both covered in pale shiplap, and the flooring was a wide oak plank. All of this helped to unify the space. Soaring 9'5" ceilings and walls of windows added to the tiny home's spacious feel. I also love how no nook or cranny was wasted. A small area past the kitchen served as a writing desk, but it would also make a great place for folding laundry, being adjacent to the washer/dryer.

The bathroom had a full sized tub and subway tile for a spa-like feeling. In fact, the bathroom in the tiny house was about the same size as that of my own (circa 1959) so I felt right at home.

In the bedroom, which also featured the pale shiplap walls, there was plenty of space for a queen sized bed and two side tables. A nook opposite the bed would have been perfect for a small dresser or even a TV stand.

I learned that the tiny home was built indoors at a facility in Addison, Alabama. It is outfitted with a Summit Appliance® range, dishwasher and refrigerator, special ordered from a company in New York that creates appliances for tiny apartments in the big city. These are also perfect for tiny houses.

The house is incredibly energy efficient with Ply Gem® aluminum clad windows and doors, a space-saving tankless water heater and optional 1,000 gallon above-ground cistern to harvest rainwater, which would give Saltbox owners ways to minimize utility consumption.

Something else about the house that I really liked was the fact that unlike some tiny houses you might have seen with wheels, it can be permanently affixed to your land.

As well as being a great permanent home, the Clayton Tiny Homes Saltbox would make a perfect weekend retreat for a writer or artist, as well as an airbnb on a beautiful piece of property.

Clayton's Designer Series started as a collection of concept homes, but with research and development, they have pushed the limits of innovation, rethinking the future of housing in better and smarter ways.

They strive to listen to their customers about the trends they appreciate as well as the dreams they have for their homes. Clayton saw that there was a desire for minimalism, high-quality materials and increased functionality. As the minimalist lifestyle gains popularity, they believe that more people will embrace the ideas of living at a lower cost, using less energy, and being responsible for less upkeep.

The Clayton Tiny Homes meet international residential building codes, which means the homes can be placed anywhere. Pricing starts in the lower $100,000's.

To learn more about the Saltbox and Clayton Tiny Homes, visit or follow them on Facebook. 

September 25, 2017

Things I Like About Me

The other night, I was watching a live web stream of the county fair beauty pageant in my hometown. Only in the south, right? No longer living there, it's kind of funny to be able to pull up a website and watch the televised event from anywhere in the world. It's a small town and my mom was one of the hosts so I had a good reason to watch.

Seeing those lovely young ladies walk around on stage in their fancy dresses and perfectly coiffed up-dos reminded me of my own fair pageant days. Wait, you didn't know I was a contestant in a beauty pageant back in the day?

I was in fourth or fifth grade and I remember the pageant like it was yesterday. My hot rolled hair was teased into big poofs and I was wearing pantalettes. It was the 80s and I had wanted a much more sparkly dress for the occasion, like a real pageant dress. But my parents decided against it. The dress they wanted me to wear was more Laura Ashley than Bob Mackie, but it came with pantalettes and that was what finally convinced me. Pantalettes! Can you imagine? The sole reason I wanted to wear them was I thought they made me look just like Scarlett in Gone with the Wind.

I walked out on that stage, covered in its scratchy bright green outdoor carpet, holding my breath as the emcee introduced me.

As part of the pageant registration, we had been required to fill out a questionnaire about ourselves, with information about things we liked and disliked.

In a booming voice, the emcee bellowed my name and announced that my favorite foods were broccoli & cheese and brownies (hopefully not mixed together, right?). The crowd clapped politely and as I turned to walk off the stage, I CLAPPED FOR MYSELF. There's a VHS home video somewhere to prove it. I didn't consciously plan to do it, but in the moment it must have felt like the right thing to do.

The beginnings of this post were already forming before I was reminded of these fair memories, but then watching the fair pageant just sort of helped it all come full circle. I was having a moment in which my mind was flooded with negative thoughts. All about myself. Things I don't like about myself. Things I find repulsive about myself. Things I hate about myself.

And the sad part is, I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. Every day I see and hear comments made by people who are struggling with self-hate. Sometimes it's in real life, sometimes it's on social media. Ironically, its usually people I feel so envious of for one reason or another. People whose lives seem way more fabulous than mine. Who appear to have it all together (whatever 'it' happens to be). But apparently they are struggling too.

I was thinking about how I'm 35 and even if I lived to 90 (which would be amazing!), I will have already spent more than a third of my life feeling this way. Which is ridiculous. And such a complete and total waste of my precious energy.

I didn't get here overnight. But it wasn't always like this. Once upon a time, another version of me wearing freaking pantalettes marched out on a stage in front of a crowd of strangers and gave herself a round of applause. That's the me I want to be. The one who did her thing, liked what she liked, and celebrated it. I was her once, so surely I can be her again.

I know it's not that easy. Years of screwy messages and wrong beliefs built up over time to get here. But surely it is possible to get back to that other me. And that's what led me to this post.

I'm tired of picking myself apart, ripping myself to pieces and finding so much not to like. It's just dumb.

I'm starting my list of things I like about myself. It's not complete, but here are a few things. Maybe I'll add to it. Perhaps it will inspire you to do the same.

Things I like about me:
  1. My hair. Last week, my husband said matter of factly, "Your hair is really big." I know. And I like it. (He meant it as a compliment btw).
  2. My sense of humor.
  3. My not wanting to be late. Ever.
  4. The way I pretend to eat the dog food and say "yum, yum, yum" to entice my picky chihuahua to eat when she won't otherwise.
  5. My tender heart and the fact that I cry nearly once a day about one thing or another. 
  6. That I can recite all the US Presidents in order to the tune of Yankee Doodle
  7. My love of words and language. 
  8. My eyebrows (I overplucked them to the max as a teen, so the fact that I have any left at all is a miracle) 
  9. My curiosity about anything and everything, which drives me to keep learning no matter how old I am. 
  10. My creativity and the way I can see possibility in things others might have passed over or relegated to the curb. 
  11. My fascination with old things, the stories they hold and the important roles they played in the lives of those who possessed them. 
  12. My mad cooking skillz (not baking, I cannot bake. Do not confuse the two). 
  13. My love of dogs (especially old dogs - once again, things others might have passed over or relegated to the curb) 
  14. The way I can always find great treasures at thrift stores 
  15. The fact that I'm tall. 
So yeah, that's just a few things. I hope to figure out a few more. If you are struggling with negative feelings about yourself, I dare you to try this exercise. If you can't think of one thing, ask somebody who loves you to help. I guarantee you there's plenty of good stuff to like. 

September 20, 2017

Things to do on the First Day of Fall

Friday, September 22nd is the first official day of fall. Just yesterday, I was sweating in the muggy East Tennessee heat, but I'm willing temperatures to cool down now that the new season has finally arrived. I'll let you know how it goes.

I love the feeling that each new season brings. And maybe it makes me basic, but I love fall. It ushers in some of my favorite traditions. So with the first day of the season, let's celebrate with a big time.

Here are some of my suggestions for things to do on the first day of fall, or at least at some point during the next three months. Happy Fall, Y'all!

:: Make this variation of a fall Chex Mix 

:: Visit a local pumpkin patch and pick out a few pumpkins for your front porch 

:: Watch Dead Poets' Society, one of my favorite films that feels perfect for fall 

:: Read the poem To Autumn by Keats

:: Drink caramel apple cider floats

:: Rake the leaves for a neighbor who needs a bit of help

:: Get a little crafty with a can of orange glittery spray paint and whatever you can get your hands on. 

:: Listen to Eva Cassidy sing Autumn Leaves

:: Wear corduroy and flannel

:: Make my Hillbilly Apple Dumplings

You'll need: 
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple
  • 1 can of refrigerated crescent rolls (8 oz)
  • 1 stick of butter (or less)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 can of Mountain Dew 
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
Wash, core and slice apple into 8 pieces. Wrap one triangle of crescent roll dough around each slice. Arrange these in a 9x13 baking dish. Melt butter in a saucepan and add sugar and vanilla. Stir until lumpy (sugar does not need to dissolve). Pour the mixture over the crescent-wrapped apples in the pan. Pour Mountain Dew over the crescent-wrapped apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

:: Plan a weekend adventure to small town festival where they celebrate things like apples, giant pumpkins, or scary stories

:: Turn plain brownies and candy pumpkins into mini pumpkin patch treats! 

:: Enjoy a Friday night high school football game in a small southern town 

:: Try pumpkin spice everything 

:: Make the most of this season that ushers in a time to reflect on gratitude, togetherness with ones we hold dear, and the chance to make new memories with your favorite people. 


September 18, 2017

Vintage Beauty Shops

“I think that the most important thing a woman can have- next to talent, of course- is her hairdresser.” ― Joan Crawford

“People always ask me how long it takes to do my hair. I don’t know, I’m never there.” ― Dolly Parton

“Beware of her fair hair, for she excels
All women in the magic of her locks; 
And when she winds them round a young man's neck, 
She will not ever set him free again.” 
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“She could hear her hair growing.” 
― Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

“Maybe the hairs on my head were numbered" she went on with a sudden serious sweetness "but nobody could ever count my love for you".” 
― O. Henry

“There will be those who love you for your hair and those who love the beauty of your mind and those who adore the warmth of your heart. but there will be those who will leave you for not conforming to their type of hair, mind and heart. And there will be those who will live/die to see your bad hair days, derailed mind, and broken heart. but what matters most is Who You Are” 
― Goitsemang Mvula

“Her hair was full of lights” 
― Anaïs Nin

“she's got
tucked away
in her hair
poems swim
under her skin.”
― Sanober Khan, A Thousand Flamingos

“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”
― Coco Chanel

September 15, 2017

The Best We Can Hope For | Life Lessons from Kenny Rogers

When I was in college, my roommate graciously agreed to let me use my Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits CD as our alarm clock music. Every morning we woke up to "Lucille," "Ruby," "Coward of the County," and arguably Rogers' most iconic tune, "The Gambler." While Rogers isn't responsible for writing "The Gambler," he brought it to life in a way that makes me feel like he believes every word of the song is true. 

Today, while driving home from work, "The Gambler" was playing on the radio and I felt overcome with emotions. Roll your eyes all you want, but that song kills me every time. 

This got me thinking. There are really only two kinds of people in the world. One is those who recognize "The Gambler" for the brilliant pearls of wisdom it imparts on so many levels, that are relevant across all cultures, across all demographics, and all eras of time. Then there are those people who think it's just a song. 

Lately, I've been doing some meditating. Don't laugh. After years of hearing about its positive effects on people who have difficulties juggling stress and anxiety, I finally decided I would give it a try. 

To be perfectly honest, I have always thought meditation was all a hoax. I mean, the idea of sitting quietly in the midst of a hectic day sounds heavenly, but what does it really do for you? 

Not knowing where to start on my own, I downloaded a meditation app on my smartphone called Headspace. The free version of the app gives you a short series of daily meditations and even though I'm only a few days in, I feel like some of it is working. 

One of the things that has stuck out to me so far is how the guided meditation tells you to let go of your thoughts. It actually gave the illustration of sitting on the side of a road and watching the traffic go by. Seeing each passing car as a thought, coming into frame and then moving along on its way. 

This feels like a new approach because I guess we're prone to want to jump in there and take control. I know I am. But apparently what's really better for us is if we can sit back and let the flow happen. 

In some ways this flies in the face of what I was taught to believe as a child. I remember reading the Bible verse that said you should take every thought captive. That paints quite a picture doesn't it? This idea that your thoughts are all running around on the loose and it's your job to hunt them down and capture them and somehow keep them all in your possession. 

But this illustration from the meditation app sort of makes it seem like your thoughts are flowing and it's not your job to capture's your job to let them pass by. 

The irony is Kenny Rogers in all his wrinkle-free glory is probably somewhere at a meditation retreat right now. He gets it. Why can't we? 

You've got to know when to hold 'em. 

What does that mean to you? First, I think you have to consider what you're holding. I've held onto some things which have served me well over the years. Certain beliefs I can draw strength from in times of trouble. Feeling like I'm part of something much bigger than myself. People who will stand by me, who love me no matter what. 

Know when to fold 'em. 

Folding in a card game means you've looked at your cards and you've assessed the situation and decided it's not worth going forward with the hand. You haven't yet left the table but you're out for now. 

Some folks might say we don't fold nearly enough...taking on too many things that aren't really suited for us. Others might believe we need to take more risks with our little cushy lives. You get to decide for yourself what's right for you. 

Know when to walk away. 

Then there's walking away. Walking away is a peaceful way of ending something. Things didn't get so bad but it's not working for you. Thus, it was time for you to go in a different direction. 

If you have found yourself in a situation like this at present, I give you permission to walk away. Seriously. 

Know when to run. 

And what about when to run? What things in your life have you run from? I know for me there have been plenty. What's more, there were plenty of other things I should have run from and I didn't. We always pay for those dearly. 

When Kenny says you never count your money while you're sitting at the table, I take this to mean the table is where the work is happening and counting the money is sort of like celebrating prematurely. The work's not done so it isn't time to count the money just yet.You'll get to count up your spoils and celebrate but maybe now isn't the best time.

He goes on to say that the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep. This could apply to so many things in our lives. In my case lately, it applies to my thoughts. In reference to that idea of meditation as allowing your thoughts to flow by, I've been trying to figure out what to throw away and what to keep.

Negative, harmful thoughts about myself that keep me stuck in a mindset that doesn't serve me...I'm pitching those straight into the garbage.

Hopeful thoughts, ones that feel light as air, with the soft fragrance of possibility surrounding them...those are the ones I'm working to keep.

The only part of the song I don't actually agree with is the part about dying in your sleep. That's not the best we can hope for. I believe we can hope for so much more than that. 

September 7, 2017

Super Simple Tailgating Tips for Fall

It's football time in Tennessee and we're getting ready for the first home game of the season at Neyland Stadium. I've got a few fun and simple tailgating ideas you might want to try this fall as you celebrate the joys of college football with a hundred thousand of your closest friends.

We know tailgating is all about the grub! These ideas are not only easy, but they taste great! Hope this inspires you to think outside your typical tailgating box, so to speak.

Big Orange Popcorn! 

Who doesn't love popcorn, in all different forms? Serve up your favorite brand of cheesy popcorn in cute white cups for individual servings. Your party guests will keep coming back for more!

Chilly Weather Chili in Stuffed Peppers 

Chilly weather calls for chili, the perfect tailgate food! Make up a batch of your favorite recipe or opt for store-bought. Trader Joe's as an awesome vegetarian option in a can. Spoon your chili into bell peppers (mine are UT orange of course, but any variety will do). You can cook the chili ahead of time and then reheat your stuffed peppers in the oven or a crock pot. Let your guests dress it up with various toppings. Yum! 

Orange & White Caprese Salad Stacks

Caprese salads are one of my favorites and making them as a stack means they are easy to transport for game day. I snagged some great orange tomatoes and layered slices of tomatoes with sliced mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with some olive oil and maybe a splash of balsamic vinegar. 

Some other things you might want to grab for your next tailgate: 

Orange & White pumpkins (perfect decor for Big Orange Football!); a galvanized tub to hold your drinks; Assorted orange sodas (or whatever flavor fits your team); brown Solo cups (they even have laces!)