Bringing Design Home to Smith County


Smith County native Stephanie McCaleb is making her mark in the design world, one room, one house, one storefront at a time. Stephanie attended Smith County High School and after graduation attended Tennessee Tech University where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Housing and Design with a minor in Business in 2017.

Since then, with her husband Jonah’s full support, Stephanie has blazed quite a trail throughout Middle Tennessee which has finally led to her own storefront – Stephanie McCaleb Interiors, which is located in the heart of her hometown of Carthage, right where it needed to be.

Owning a business in Smith County has always been a goal for McCaleb, and although her business model has shifted over the years, interior design is a long-lasting passion. Over the past four years since graduation, she has worked diligently to gain knowledge and experience in interior design and increase her design skills. And in 2020, the storefront became reality.

Stephanie McCaleb Interiors is a full-service interior design firm and curated home furnishings shop located on Main Street in Carthage, Tennessee. Although McCaleb is based in Carthage, her services are available to all Middle Tennesseans; many of her current clients are from the Cookeville and Nashville surrounding areas, as well as Wilson County.

As a full-service designer, she is able to assist clients in a variety of interior designing tasks, including project and paint consultations, furnishings, renovations, and new home construction layouts. The store – which is soon to be reaching its one-year mark since opening – carries a wide array of furniture, lighting, rugs, and accent decor, all of which are hand-selected for quality, durability, and aesthetic. McCaleb is confident in every service and item she offers, and that’s because, she notes, “I would decorate my own home with my products and often do!”

In addition to working on her own business, McCaleb also regularly coordinates events with other small businesses, especially female-owned and operated. She recently co-hosted a candle pouring event with another small business owned by a Smith County native, and frequently arranges pop-up spotlights within her shop for other businesses, specifically those who may not have access to a storefront property.

In fact, her next big event will be her one-year storefront celebration in September. “It’s going to be a big day for my husband and I and everyone is welcome. We are still working on the details, so for those interested in stopping by, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram at @stephaniemccalebinteriors.”

Stephanie enjoys providing publicity to other small businesses through these events, as well as through social media shares and other word-of-mouth mentions. She acknowledges that small businesses are not easy to start, but that each of them bring a unique touch to hometowns and allows for community growth.

From an outside perspective, opening and running a small business may seem simple to some, however, it can be challenging. Nevertheless, McCaleb encourages those desiring to start a business to reach for the stars. Stephanie’s advice for potential business owners is, “find yourself a support system that encourages you, believes in your ideas, and most importantly keeps you grounded. I can’t tell you how many times in my journey to become a small business owner I received a ‘no’ or hit an obstacle. Each time I was crushed. I questioned if I was really meant to pursue this dream. My husband has been the best at making sure I did not give up, but also keeping me in check with reality.” She credits her husband for encouraging her ambitions, supporting her, and most importantly reminding her to be patient while working towards her goals.

Stephanie says that she is excited about her future. The housing market is exploding as are renovations. “Everyone is interested in making their homes beautiful and that starts with the basics – colors, staple pieces, and then accents to make it more personal. I love every aspect of what I do. From meeting clients, working with them to come up with the right design, finding the perfect pieces, pulling it all together, and then watching it evolve over time as they grow into their space. And now, with the storefront, I have even more to offer to a wider clientele. And, what makes me even happier is I’m doing it where I grew up. That makes it even more special!”

In the spirit, of giving back to her community McCaleb is offering a deal to the readers of Wilson Living Magazine, “As a thank you to everyone taking the time to read this article, I would like to extend a welcome gift for your next visit to Stephanie McCaleb Interiors. Bring your copy of this article or let us know you read it and receive 10% off your next in-store purchase!” (Exclusions may apply to this promotion.)


Compassionate Hands finds Permanent Home

Since 2012 Compassionate Hands has been helping the unhoused in Wilson County. In 2020, this much needed local charity found a permanent space and it could not have come at a better time.

Shelia Weathers, Director of Ministry Development

Compassionate Hands began as a network of churches working together to provide winter shelter to Wilson County’s unhoused population. Their purpose was to insure that no unhoused friend would freeze to death. In 2020, they were blessed with the opportunity to purchase their own building, thus allowing them to offer year-round services.

Shelia Weathers, the current Director of Ministry Development at Compassionate Hands, continues daily to fulfill it’s mission by procuring volunteers, funds and other resources. Weathers became involved after learning about the organization from a board member with whom she attended church. Before joining Compassionate Hands, Shelia was the Development Officer for another ministry located in Nashville, that also served the unhoused population. Because of her background, she was already familiar with her new role and agreed to join their mission. Weathers stated, “I am continually grateful for God leading me to this amazing organization”.

The mission statement of Compassionate Hands is to provide opportunities to serve, support, advocate, and befriend our unhoused neighbors in need in Wilson County. Weathers believes that by providing the men and women who live on the streets during the winter months, a safe place to eat three meals a day, showers, beds, laundry, clothing, mentoring, further supports the long term goal of eventually helping the unhoused find jobs, permanent housing and other resources. During the warmer months, the organization works to support the same individuals by continuing to provide a place to shower, eat, do laundry, obtain counseling, and acquire other resources that many may not have access to otherwise. Weathers reiterated that Compassionate Hands’ mission is vital to the community, since the organization may be one of the few allies for the unhoused population.

Weathers spoke of an incident in which an elderly man in poor health was living in his car in a business’s parking lot. Compassionate Hands’ volunteers began to work towards building a relationship with the man by providing him meals and other needs and asking him to elaborate on his situation. They soon realized that he was receiving disability benefits and paying for his relative’s expenses with these funds in order to house them, which left him with very little. Due to the man’s condition, the organization was able to utilize funds from a recent grant they had obtained, to assist him and his family into housing where they still remain today. This is just one example of the good this charity does for the community.

There are numerous methods that members of the Wilson County community can aid the organization’s cause. Volunteering can be a beneficial experience for all involved. This summer, volunteers are needed on Mondays and Wednesdays especially. Volunteers can participate in food preparation, serving meals, assisting with laundry and showers, repairing bikes, mentoring, painting and minor repair work, landscaping, and cleaning at the center. During the winter season, the shelter is more active in housing people, and needs volunteers for all of these tasks, in addition to nightly staffing for the shelters and bus drivers. The organization also must replenish supplies frequently, and monetary donations are extremely helpful.

In 2020, the organization moved into its headquarters on College Street in Lebanon. It came right at the perfect time, because with COVID, places to shelter the homeless for the night, became limited. The headquarters was used to house the male population and The Glade Church in Mt. Juliet graciously provided their facility as shelter for the women. “Our new headquarters was a Godsend,” notes Weathers “because finding shelter was becoming harder and harder for us because of the pandemic. The long-term plan for the headquarters is to be a place the unhoused can obtain resources/training to obtain sustainability with jobs, housing, and other much-needed life-skills, with the overnight shelter to return to the local churches. But we are taking it day by day and are just thankful that for now, we have this permanent building to offer our unhoused community.”

To find out how you can help Compassionate Hands as a volunteer or donor, call (615) 784-9897, or email

Thank you Blake Leonard

By Angel Kane

So most Sundays, I sit and write my articles. The columns Becky and I pen are not Pulitzer Prize-winning prose but just something meant for fun and fluff.

This week our middle child finally decided on her college of choice. My article was going to be all about our Zoe. It was going to be light, maybe funny and probably a little sad too, because whenever I think of my children flying the coop, I become melancholy.

But this morning as I grabbed my coffee and sat at my computer to begin to compose my column, my fingers aimlessly first scrolled through Facebook. And there, in one of the photos, I ran across a photo of Blake Leonard. Blake is the son of Leah and Daniel Leonard. Leah was my very first friend when I moved to Lebanon. We were neighbors. Little Blake was their first born. We shared birthday parties and backyard plastic pool parties. I have photos of Blake and Zoe, from many a Halloween, when we would walk the neighborhood together.

We moved across town when they were both in elementary school, so like all things do, certain things came to an end. But Leah and I have remained friends. She is one of those people that I can always count on and while we don’t see each other often, when we do, it’s like time stopped.

But I digress, so there was Blake on FB. Leah had posted a photo of him from his Navy boot camp graduation. I hit “like” and scrolled on past.

But then, a minute later another photo popped up of Blake dressed in his finest navy attire proudly standing for a photo. He looked so grown up. So strong. I stopped at the photo and clicked to enlarge it. Then enlarged it some more. He looked a little different than I remembered. He had purpose in his eyes.

And while Zoe picking a college is a big deal in our little life. The fact that Blake Leonard has joined the Navy is a big deal in all our lives. Our Zoe going off to college is bittersweet, but our daughter will be a phone call and a two-hour drive away. And while we are unbelievably proud of all she is accomplishing, I am 100 times as proud of Blake. And 100 times as proud of his parents.

Blake Leonard is doing something momentous. Blake Leonard is committing himself to our country. Blake Leonard is going to protect my life, your rights, our world. He has endured basic training, which in and of itself, is a mighty feat. And at some point soon will be on a navy ship, out in a vast ocean, defending our shores and, oftentimes, shores that seem to have very little do with us but in reality have everything to do with us. His parents, grandparents and entire family are no doubt enduring sleepless nights and overwhelming fear and yet they let him go. Bravery like theirs is something I don’t know that I have myself. While my Zoe will be tucked in her dorm room bed, Blake will be across the world ensuring she wakes up the next morning to the same world that existed when she went to sleep the night before.

So today, on this Sunday, when I should have gone to church but instead got up late and am sipping on my, now, lukewarm coffee, trying to compose a light and funny article, today, I pray for both Blake and Zoe. I pray the good Lord will watch over Blake and continue to give him the courage, wisdom and determination he needs for his chosen path. And I pray Zoe will use her college days to grow into a productive citizen. I pray she will use her talents to make our world a better place.

I pray most of all though, that she will thank Blake Leonard. I pray she will thank Blake and the Blakes that came before him, the Blakes that are with him now and the Blakes that come after him. Because without the Blake Leonard’s of this world, Zoe Kane would not have the blessings that now await her.


None to spare…

By Angel Kane

So the flu has hit the Kane household.

Like many we know, our youngest was diagnosed with Type A influenza. And given all the dire news reports, of course, we were worried.

Thankfully, my husband was able to take him to the doctor before it got very bad and came home with three boxes of Tamiflu.

Three boxes??? There are four of us that live in the Kane household.

“They wouldn’t give me one for you”, he said.

“What are you talking about? They are supposed to give the whole family Tamiflu if one member is sick. That’s what Becky’s doctor did!” I beseeched.

“I don’t know what to tell you. He wouldn’t give me any for you. Zoe and I were with Neill at the appointment so we each got a prescription.”

And with that, I watched as the three other Kanes each took their pills.

“Well, each of you give me some of yours. There is enough to go around.” I said.

“That’s illegal. You’ll have go get your own.” he said as he finished his water.

Mind you, my husband, had had the doctor test him and he was negative for the flu!

So all weekend, as my youngest has puttered around the house with a blanket around his shoulders and a pitiful look upon his face, the other two Kanes have been popping their pills….just in case…they maybe….possibly …..become infected.

To say the weekend has been strained would be an understatement.

I don’t get mad about a lot of things. But I’m thinking not sharing your Tamiflu when someone in the house has the flu might just be grounds for divorce! In fact, its right up there with using my shampoo to wash the dog or driving my car and changing the seat settings.

Not to mention, for some reason, those on Tamiflu have declared that they can’t help care for our flu victim, because they don’t want to get sick.

“The doctor told us to stay away from him.”

Apparently, because I didn’t have the luxury of seeing the doctor, somehow that meant I was the only one able to tend to the sickly child. So all weekend I’ve been tending to my youngest’s every whim, which has consisted of homemade cookies, take-out from Sake and endless hours of watching “Shark-Tank” with him.

Apparently his Type-A flu has made him hungrier and more inventive!

So on Sunday, as I’m writing this, I’m now sitting at my desk, blanket around my shoulders, slight headache and obvious fever.

“You need to go to the doctor. If you start the Tamiflu right at the beginning it won’t be as bad.” says Mr. Nurse Nightingale.

I refuse to look up as I continue to type.

“Ok. Well I’m just trying to help.”

Visions of using his toothbrush, coughing on his keys, breathing on his phone float through my mind.

“And don’t go writing that I didn’t try to help you. We each had to take our own prescription. There was none to spare. This isn’t our fault. You are quite capable of going to the doctor. Blah, blah, blah…”

Not sharing their Tamiflu is going to be the least of their problems.


















Red Dawn – The Sequel

By Angel Kane

There has been lots of talk lately about how the Russians may have covertly interceded with our elections. Hitting close to home, there is even talk that one of the twitter accounts some thought was run by the TN GOP may have, in fact, been set up by the Russians to lead us astray.

The ultimate result, of course, to eventually put in a puppet regime to bring down our country.

If you are my age you must remember the movie “Red Dawn”.

A cult classic, 80’s movie, where the Russians physically invade our country. Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen were the leads as teenagers fighting against the invaders. The band of kids take to the hills and lead an armed resistance against the occupying Russian forces. In one pivotal part, the teens come across their parents in a prison camp where their parents await inevitable death and as they say their last good-byes – one father screams out to his boys, “Avenge me, Avenge me!”

I still get chills thinking about it.

That was when Patrick Swayze was at his prime, Jennifer had her old nose and Charlie was not that weird old guy that freaks us out today.

Well my fellow 80’s cult movies aficionados, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Red Dawn – the Sequel – is upon us!

I don’t know if the Russians are truly behind fake news or the Trump train but what I do know is that if they are, they have now taken it up a notch. In fact, 1000 notches!

I present you the Asian lady beetle aka those  $#%# flying ladybugs that are invading my home, your home, every home!

Tens of them, hundreds of them, thousands of them!

If you think the Russians are trying to meddle in our day to day lives, to lead us off course, while they slowly take over, then surely my theory may not be far off base.

Think about it??

At first, we didn’t notice them.

It was just a harmless ladybug.

Then they multiplied. And multiplied. And multiplied. To the point that on any given day when we should be working, taking care of our families, studying up on our electoral college, we are instead chasing these tiny, flying demons.

If you are like me, you are now on a daily quest to annihilate them. But as soon as you suck their little bodies into your vacuum – twenty more appear. Out of thin air!

I’ve googled, I’ve called, I’ve taken to FB.

Only to find out, they are everywhere! And no one knows from whence they came or how to get rid of them.

Those Russians are so smart! First the elections, next those gold medal winning Russian Olympic figure skaters (who were actually banned but somehow got to skate anyway) and now, the ever present Asian lady beetle.

Sometimes, it all seems just too much to bear.

And then I think back to “Red Dawn.”

Those of you lucky enough to have been alive in the 1980’s surely recall that at the end of the movie, Americans takes back their country. To honor the teens who gave their up their lives in the movie, a plaque is inscribed for them as follows,

    In the early days of WWIII, guerrillas – mostly children – placed the names of their lost upon this rock. They fought here alone and gave up their lives, so “That this nation shall not perish from the earth” 

And with those words, as read out to me in the closing credits by Patrick Swayze, I’m once again ready to do battle.


To read more of Angel and Becky’s blogs go to




Be The Change

Recently I was in a work meeting, and it seemed everyone in attendance was in a funk. It was not a work-related funk, but a general “life as we know it” funk. The conversation quickly turned from work to politics, natural disasters and of course, Las Vegas.

It seems that everywhere we look these days, evil abounds.

There are populations of people that want to harm us. From nukes that may reach our shores to wayward souls who massacre the innocent among us. Natural disasters are battering homes and our spirits. Tweets and daily political posts that keep us in constant turmoil.

Conversations about how we go about fixing what has gone so wrong often lead to nowhere. Fixing “it” seems almost insurmountable until you realize that the next move is ours to make, and we best get to making it.

I don’t know how to fix politicians or world leaders, nor do I know how to make someone insane become saner. I can’t make floods subside, nor can I bring back innocent lives lost.

But I can….

  1. Be kind to those around me. I can smile at the clerk at Walmart and ask their name. The minute I do, we are no longer strangers. In a world where so many are alone or lonely, I will take a minute to ensure those who pass through my daily world know they are valued.
  2. Be a helper. I can hold a door, pay for a meal, do a favor and expect nothing in return. It astounds me that there are so many among us who may be hungry or do not have a permanent home where they can rest. Let’s help them. Let’s feed them. Let’s bring them some peace. For we all know that helping them, brings us peace as well.
  3. Be thankful. I can thank the good Lord above that somehow I landed right here. We may not have the swankiest of restaurants or big sprawling malls, but we have something better. Fridays are for football, the county fair is still a big deal, you get caught behind a tractor on the highway and your life automatically slows down. It’s not a simple life by any means, but at the same time, it’s not the life many in this world suffer though. We know our neighbors. We watch out for each other. Good abounds.
  4. Be resolute. I can right a wrong. I can speak up. I can speak out. There is a time and place for silence, but now is not the time or place. We can no longer let the politicians or other people fix things for us. It’s time we fix things in our own homes. It’s time we fix things in our own schools. It’s time we fix things in our own small communities. Only then will we be ready to fix the bigger challenges facing us.
  5. Be the change. I can make a difference. Even a small one. I can make it every single day. I may not be saving the entire world, but I’m doing what I can to save my little world.

Healthy Living

I’m a sucker for anything holistic.

Some of my first memories are of my grandmother giving me a big, heaping spoon of cod liver oil right before bed, followed by a dose of wisdom. “This will make you smarter than all the other girls,” she would promise.

And with that…I was hooked.

Who needed to memorize multiplication tables each night, when instead, I could endure two seconds of this gross, nasty, magical elixir and just like that, I would know math!

My grandmother was also a big believer in the benefits of fresh goat’s milk. And when I mean fresh, I mean still warm from the utter, fresh. To keep me from gagging, she would add in two tablespoons of chocolate Ovaltine and then place the tall glass of frothy, smelly, awfulness in front of me. “This will make you prettier than all the other girls,” was the promise this time.

To this day, if I pass Ovaltine in the grocery aisle, I have to take a big gulp and look away.

But I continue to be a believer, and so every few months, if I stumble on an article or hear about an amazing superfood that will make me healthier (with no other effort on my part), usually within 48 hours, I’m trying it.

Coconut oil. Check.

Kefir. Check.

Green tea. Check.

Ezekiel sprouted bread. Check.

You name it. I’ve suffered through it.

And most always, I’ve done it alone.

This time, however, my husband was the one who heard about the benefits of apple cider vinegar and wanted to give it a shot. A quick Google search of all this vinegar could promise, and I was in!

Before he could say Kroger, I was home with a big bottle of Bragg’s Organic Vinegar.

This would be easy. I liked apples. I liked cider. And I loved vinegar on my salad.

The bottle said add two tablespoons to a cup of water and then mix in honey to taste.  Are you kidding me? I was weaned on the oil squeezed from the liver of a cod fish.

I drank it straight.

The burn as the vinegar went down my throat was like tiny razors slicing my throat, one paper cut at a time. The taste was like eating a salad puréed in a blender.

This elixir was going to go the way of all the others, but for one small fact.

Throwing away a six dollar bottle of vinegar is not anything Brody Kane can bring himself to do. So instead, every morning, he brings me my vinegar water.

“I promise, two more weeks and the bottle will be done,'” he tries to remind me.

I close my eyes, hold my nose, and gulp it down.

This worked a lot better, when I was the only health nut in the family!

The Purge

This weekend, we did something that all family’s dread.

I had put it off long enough but finally marched up those stairs.

It had to be done!

I knew it. and they knew it.

And it was going to be horrible.

My pitiful children followed behind me with garbage bags in hand. We were going to be at this for hours, days even.

Yes…the time had come to clean out their closets. Oh, the horror!

The annual cleaning out of the closets is a precursor to winter school clothes shopping. And with it being almost November….I was cutting it close.

How my children accumulate masses of clothes is beyond me. But they do. And by the end of fall, these clothes can be found stuffed in random drawers, under their bed, on top of the armoire, in each other’s rooms, on the floor and sometimes, just sometimes, in their actual closets.

Hundreds of socks in all sizes and colors are dumped in the hall as we try to find pairs. Jeans and skirts they forgot they bought are found. And usually, I’ll find at least five items belonging to my husband and I.

“So that’s where my yoga pants are! In Neill’s closet, why of course!”

We toile for hours, and with each passing hour, I become more and more irritable.

“This still has the tag on it! Why do you have five of the same blue polos? This is my belt!”

“No, I’m not giving this away because it’s ugly. When you asked me to spend $30 on it, it wasn’t ugly!”

“Yes, if it doesn’t fit Madison, then it moves to your closet. That’s the role of the younger sister. She wears hand me downs. Look it up.”

Back and forth. Back and forth. We carry on for hours.

Sometimes they try to escape, and I’ll turn to find one gone. I wouldn’t notice but for the fact their sibling immediately outs them.

“Bring me more garbage bags,” I yell to the one now hiding downstairs.

Drawer by drawer, closet by closet, we fill bags to the brim with too short pajama pants, mustard-stained polos, out of style cargo shorts and shoes whose match is long gone.

We also reorganize, color code and finally see the bottom of everyone’s closet.

Why yes…the carpet is still there!

And at the end of the day, we drag bag after bag downstairs and then proceed to pass out from exhaustion.

Rest up. Tomorrow we shop for new school clothes.

Oh, the horror!

My Perfectly Perpendicular Box

If you were to look up the word “uptight” in the dictionary, front and center would be a photo of yours truly. And, in that picture, I’d be sitting in a perfectly proportioned square box.

Oh, how I love my box where everything is just how I like it. Nothing out of place, everything color coordinated in muted colors, elevator music playing in the background, putting on my comfy socks on a Friday night, right before sitting in my comfy chair pinning decorating trends on Pinterest.

And being as uptight as I am, when someone tries to dismantle my little box, I don’t do very well.

So a while back, Brody came up with the idea that I should apply for a spot in a local organization that does quite a lot of good for the community. He had participated in it years before and wanted me to join. The organization, while a worthy one, required an overnight retreat of its members, where I would not know many of the other participants.

It also involved a bus ride, where it’s common knowledge, at the end of which you will be required to tell the entire class what you learned about your seatmate. It required a personality test where your entire personality is dissected and discussed. It required countless interactions, games and discussions with those I barely knew. And it required my sharing a room with someone I had never laid eyes on.

For many years, for these reasons alone, I said “No way!” That box sounded noisy, messy and way too close for comfort.

For one, when I’m on a bus or plane I read, don’t talk and, just in case you try to engage me, immediately upon sitting down, I put on my earbuds and hoodie (the international language for “leave me alone”). I don’t need a personality test to tell me all the ways I’m controlling and crazed.

And I don’t play games because I can think of 101 things I can clean with the time it takes to play an entire game of monopoly or bunch. But the No. 1 thing I dislike more than anything, in this entire world, would be sharing a room (i.e. my box) with a complete stranger.

For some reason, I won’t ever be able to fully explain, in a very weak moment, I finally agreed to attend. So a few weeks ago, I did all sorts of things I never thought possible from my little box.

I made a new friend on a bus. It was slightly painful at first, mostly for her, because she seemed to be one of those people who can talk to anyone.

I completed a personality test — that at the end of the day — found me to be judicious and competitive, which are nice words for controlled and crazy.

And I played games that weren’t so bad, except I missed every ball that was thrown at me, which tends to happen when your hands are crossed in front of you.

But most importantly, I shared a room with a complete stranger, and she didn’t kill me in my sleep nor did she steal from me.

My stranger roommate was very, very nice. A former model and diamond broker who now works for a local non-profit, she kept her side of the room neat and tidy, let me shower first and actually went to bed before I did. As potential psychotic roommates go, she was a good one, although the diamond broker M. O. had me worried there for a minute.

When I returned from the retreat, I was met by both Brody and Becky. who seemed so very proud of me for stepping out of my box. So much so, I found it quite annoying.

“I’m not completely anti-social,” I told them both. “I talk to people every single day of my life and lots of people like me.”

“Sure they do,” both said in unison while trying not to laugh.

But I must say, that evening, upon returning home, there was nothing I wanted to do more than put on my comfy socks, sit in my comfy chair and read about the virtues of properly aligning frames on a gallery wall.

While that other box wasn’t as bad as expected, there is simply no place like home…especially when it’s a perfectly proportioned square box.

With Leadership Wilson’s Dare to Dine set for a Nov. 11, we thought it was a good time to share Angel’s Leadership Wilson retreat experience from several years back. Tickets are still available for this fun event at

The Perks

I’ve been so forlorn lately with the prospect of No. 2 heading off to college after this school year that I almost completely forgot about No. 3.

And then I opened my freezer.

Only to find hundreds of frozen bug eyes staring back at me. And just like that, the school year has begun.

Bug projects, school photos, study guides, homecoming events, never-ending school emails and the list goes on and on.

When we had three little kids at home, my motto often was …. cut it out, glue it down and we are done!

Because nobody has time for that!

The difference though between three kids at home vs one is these days, my motto is… let’s do it together. Just you and I.

Because, at this point in my life, I’ve got nothing but time!

We often go out to dinner now, just Brody, myself and No. 3. We watch him eat, we follow his every move, we hang on his every word.

I was a first born. My brother was the baby. I always thought he was treated particularly well after I left home. Now I’m certain of it.

No. 2 can see the writing on the wall.

“Did you just move a television into Neill’s room? Madison and I were never allowed to even watch television!”

“You let him go to the fair on a school night. What is going on?”

“Are you letting him eat food in the den? You never let us do that!! Hello? Who is parenting him?? That’s his second Coke tonight!! Hello???”

And she is right.

No. 3 gets special treatment. Not because he is No. 3. Not because he is a boy. But because he is my last one.

Maybe it’s wrong. Actually, I’m sure it is. I don’t even care. No. 2 has started compiling her dorm room supply list. She’s made her choice! No. 3 is all I have left.

So while I made the girls find and freeze their own bugs, for No. 3, I’m right along with him as we capture, freeze dry and then pin down spiders, wasps and all sorts of nasty little creatures.

When it was three little kids at home, life was a chaotic blur of fast food dinners, racing between soccer and dance and Halloween outfits that (if I’m being honest) were subpar.

For him, I make banana bread each Sunday so that he can have a warm slice all week. We get to his football games an hour early, just to watch him practice. For Halloween this year, we are hosting a teenage goblin party!

No. 1 has even called home to complain that she is hearing No. 3 is being spoiled.

“Zoe told me that Neill is getting a Polaris. Have you gone insane! She and I had to walk the garbage bins down a gravel driveway all our lives. She said you said it was too far for him to walk!!”

Did I mention that my brother didn’t leave home until he got married at 25? He still lives in Memphis near my parents. They vacation together twice a year and have Sunday lunch together each week.

Now I get it.

Well played, Mom and Dad. Well played!

What Will They Be?

Do you ever wonder what your child will be when they grow up?

When I was young, I wanted to be either an actress or an archeologist. Considering I never once performed in my school play, I can’t say that I’m completely devastated that Clooney and Pitt are not, today, part of my inner circle. (I mean, I am, but not because I’m not a starlet.)

Archaeology, now that makes me laugh out loud. I distinctly remember telling my parents that no matter what, one day I would travel to the deserts of Egypt to study the pyramids…and they couldn’t stop me! My parents nodded and told me they wholeheartedly supported my endeavor. The reason for their unwavering support, of course, was because they knew the only way I’d be digging in the sand, in the middle of a desert, was if someone kidnapped me and then promptly threw me out of a plane while flying over King Tut’s final resting place. No doubt, digging would promptly

My parents nodded and told me they wholeheartedly supported my endeavor. The reason for their unwavering support, of course, was because they knew the only way I’d be digging in the sand, in the middle of a desert, was if someone kidnapped me and then promptly threw me out of a plane while flying over King Tut’s final resting place. No doubt, digging would promptly ensue the moment my practically lifeless body hit the ground, as I would immediately commence tunneling back to America — home of air conditioning, ice and all things new!

So when my own children tell me what they want to be when they grow up, I try not to take it to heart.

You want to join the Coast Guard so you can fly helicopters above the ocean and be that guy that slowly gets hoisted down into the water to save that other guy in the raft?

On the inside, I want to yell out “No you’re not, that’s stupid, you’re going to be an accountant!” but since I’m an actress…I nod, smile and instead offer words of encouragement. “No you’re not, that’s stupid, you’re going to be an engineer!” (Apparently, acting really wasn’t my calling.)

But with our oldest in college and our second child soon on her way, “what are you going to be?” has suddenly become more urgent. Unlike when I was in school and had to wing it, kids these days have a plethora of online tests and tools that help them determine the perfect career choice.

Gone are the days of “maybe I’ll be an astronaut or magician,” my brother’s top two choices growing up. No, these days, the magic is gone as numbers, statistics and science can tell you exactly what you should be when you grow up.

And while I understand the reasoning behind the testing, maybe there’s something to be said about believing one day you might just be that guy who shows unflinching courage as he is slowly hoisted down into the crashing waves just in time to save that other guy in the raft.

Chances are you’ll probably end up being a risk-adverse accountant (or so your mother hopes and prays), but until then, there is nothing better than the dream of visiting far away pyramids or diving into crashing waves to have you believe you can be anything your heart desires!

School Year Pledge

School has started, and, to be honest, I’m a little melancholy.

Most years, I’m glad to return my kids to school. And I don’t mean just glad, I mean ecstatic, overjoyed, beside myself with overwhelming happiness that I’m no longer part-time summer camp director, part-time jail warden, part-time personal chef and full-time zookeeper! When they go back to school, my vacation begins!

But with our oldest child already moved out, our middle child now a senior and only one left that can’t drive, I’m growing sad that these school years will soon be ending. Mind you, I’ve never been PTA President much less Homeroom Mom assistant to the assistant, and so I’m also growing concerned that my kids are going to remember me as the slacker Mom I was rather than the Mom of the Year I meant to be.

So while I still have some time, I need to rewrite history, sprinkle their memories with some fake news and make them completely forget all the times I picked them up late or made them pass off packaged cookies for homemade ones, at every single one of their school parties.

It’s time to reform my image. If Martha Stewart can serve jail time and follow her incarceration with a Prime Time Christmas Special, surely I can become super mom in the next year.

In an effort to replace my senior’s memories (and those of her brother while I’m at it), I pledge to correct my wayward ways as follows:

  1. I will not forget to pick you up from school on the days you don’t have your car. Not even once, because that is wrong and also because it seems to be that one thing you guys bring up over and over and over. I get it, you get out at 3, and I will be there. What, you get out at 2:50? Well, therein lies the first problem.
  2. I will make your school lunch for more than just the first week of school. This will, obviously, also entail my going to the grocery on a regular basis, which is really a huge thorn in my side but I completely understand, after 12 years you can’t eat one more chicken nugget. Have you tried Chick-fil-A nuggets, though, because those are soo good? Ok, no — you are right — make your lunch, done!
  3. I will no longer let my son wear girl shirts to school. Apparently boy polo shirts button up on one side and girl polo shirts button up the other – who knew – well apparently most of the 8th grade boys did last year, so this year, no girl shirts!
  4. I will not forget to wash your tennis, soccer, cross country, football gear every single night — twice — on HOT! Because throwing them in the dryer for 10 minutes with a dryer sheet and then Febreezing them is not the same… even though it kind of is.
  5. I will not wait until the last minute to work on your/my project because all that yelling is bad for everyone. Additionally, I will start working on your bug project at least two weeks earlier so I can order exotic freeze dried bugs and not end up super gluing regular old worms and bees to a piece of cardboard the night before. Because that not only gets you a bad grade but more importantly allows That Mom (you know the one) to make a better grade than me/you!
  6. I will remember to sign your agenda book/permission slip/sports waiver and won’t encourage you to forge my name when you call me from the school office. Because the principal has an odd habit of putting me on speaker and also because your dad’s signature is much easier to replicate.
  7. If there is a short period (promise, it will be short) where I can’t make your lunch and you have to eat cafeteria food, I will remember to put money into your lunch account. Because it’s embarrassing not only for you, but for me to get that call…day after day. And while part of me thinks it’s character building, your dad doesn’t think it’s funny.
  8. I will encourage you to attend all practices even if that means I will spend every single day of this next year waiting in my car or sitting in the bleachers for hours on end. One, because I love you and two, because I have a feeling your dad is keeping a file on me and I probably need to step it up.
  9. I will remember that it’s important that I get your teacher a Christmas gift, a Teacher Appreciation gift, a Valentine’s Day gift and an End of the Year gift because when I/you get that last tardy before Saturday school begins, she just might be “resting her eyes” as you slip into the room at 8:05.
  10. I will do my best to not look absolutely pained as I sit through your Academic Banquet, End of the Year Crossing, School Award Program…because you/I worked hard for that PE award, just as hard as that kid who has won every single other award for the past 12 years. Just as hard!

A Charged Household

Like many of you, my husband and I pay for the lights to turn on in the house. We pay for the food in the fridge, the water that comes out of the tap, and when the heat turns on, that’s us, too.

So, it would make sense then that when I need a phone charger, one of my children would hand me theirs.

The problem started when our eldest went off to college in August. She took at least three chargers that I know of: one for her phone, one for her iPad and an extra one for her car. Probably a little overkill, but at the time, so were the multiple bottles of pepper spray I stashed in her book bag, in her car and under her bed.

Little did I know the balance of power would shift right at that point.

And now there are not enough chargers to go around.

You really see the worst in human nature when resources are scarce. They say mankind will do almost anything to survive: be it for food, water or shelter.

Whoever THEY are, might want to study the human reaction when anyone in the Kane household reaches 4% on any electronic device, because Neanderthals would have nothing on us!

My husband now keeps “his” charger in his car. He claims he knows which of the white power cords are “his” by the little black mark smudged along the cord. I literally have to find my keys, go into the garage, unlock his car, find his cord, start the car and charge my phone in order to read my emails.

Our 16-year-old, likewise, has “her” charger.

“I bought this one with my own money!,” she states emphatically when I try to remove it from her room. Mind you, my 16-year-old has never held a job, isn’t on government aid, and hasn’t come into any inheritance that I’m aware of.

That leaves my 13-year-old son. My baby. My joy. My heart.

That little sneaky one never charges his phone in the same place twice!

Now a sane person would just go buy a new charger, right?

Which I did. Multiple, multiple times.

But the ones you buy in the check out aisles, never seem to work. You need the coveted white ones that are only sold at Verizon, and who has time for that?

So instead I steal, pillage and plunder each and every night, trying to find one stinking charger that works in order to keep my phone charged.

I literally can feel my blood pressure rising as I try to text or read my favorite blog while the phone quickly goes from 4%… to 3%… to 2%… can you feel yours rising too?!

And then… it goes dark.

At that point, my friends, only the fittest survive.

Face Your Fear

They say the only way to get over a fear is to face it. I don’t know who actually said that, but whoever it was, has obviously never been on a plane with me.

I’ve been flying since I was a tiny tot because we had grandparents that lived very far away.  So most summers, I was on a plane or two.

Back then, I didn’t realize there was anything to be scared of. But given a little age and awareness, at some point, I figured out that I was flying 10,000 feet above the ground, in a metal tube, filled with gasoline.

My parents didn’t take my new found knowledge of the death trap we were traveling in seriously, and so the travels continued.

The more I flew, the more scared I became.

For a while, (basically when my parents were no longer my legal guardians) I stopped flying.

Problem solved. No flying. No fear. Worked much better than that mumbo jumbo about facing your fears.

I then married, and once again, I was saddled with someone who thought flying was no big deal. So back to flying I went.

Along the way, I concocted my own personal method of facing fear. Much like the psychological books advise, I pretend it doesn’t exist, I bottle up the fear way down in my psyche, and when it rears its ugly head right before I enter the plane, I let it eat me alive. And I pray. A lot!

I’ve also established a few coping exercises that I’ve picked up along the way. They seem to help.

  1. Every flight starts with instructions from the flight attendant about how to survive should we crash. I know them by heart but that isn’t the reason I no longer listen to them. When the attendant starts talking, that is my cue to put in my earphones and listen to music. Because if I actually listened, I’d focus on the “in case of an emergency” part and how the life jacket under my seat was not going to save me as we are flying over the Appalachian mountains. If there is a fire and the plane is engulfed in smoke, I’m not going to be able to count in the dark how many rows I am away from the Exit doors. The instructions are quite unnecessary, and if I ever hear the words “brace, brace,” I will simply lose my mind and can only hope that we all die so no one can ever tell the rest of the world how I acted in those final moments.
  2. The music I listen to is my 80s playlist. Nothing calms me down like a little Spandau Ballet or Rick Astley. I don’t know why it works, but give me a little “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and I’m instantly calmed.
  3. I wear the same clothes on the flight there and back. Again, I don’t know why, but it works. You can scoff, but considering I’ve been on 100s of flights, worn the same clothes and am not dead — well enough said.
  4. I don’t sit by my husband. Well, let me rephrase. He doesn’t sit by me. While not afraid to fly himself, he says I freak him out because I look so terrified.
  5. So instead he sits me, several rows back, with our kids. I’ve explained that is a mistake because, unlike the instructions, should the oxygen masks come down, I am not going to be able to assist our children. Instead, I’m going to start screaming and crying. He says that is a chance he will have to take. Seriously? What bad parenting.
  6. If I’m sitting by an Exit door, I’m not going to be able to open the door and assist the other passengers deplane. No way. No how. But I’m not going to raise my hand like they ask and tell them that. Instead, I try making eye contact with my husband who, at this point, is chatting up his seat mate trying to pretend he isn’t married.
  7. I’m not going to the bathroom. Seriously? I can’t understand why anyone does. Can you not hold it? Why would I unbuckle myself and then lock myself in a tiny room 10,000 feet above the earth and begin to undress? Not happening.
  8. If you get up to use the restroom, to stretch your legs, to get something out of your bag, I’m going to assume you are ISIS. I don’t care if you are a five-year old blonde child playing with a Barbie, if you are up and make a sudden move, I’m immediately trying to make eye contact with my husband.
  9. He’s the one by now drinking a Coke, enjoying his pretzels and laughing with the people next to him from Utah. No amount of throat clearing and my shouting out “Brody” gets him to turn around.
  10. If we hit turbulence, since by now I know not to count on my hubs, I start to look for the steward. If they continue to serve drinks, then I feel better, If they sit down and buckle themselves up, I think they should be fired. Panic sets in and I raise the volume in hopes that Rick can work his magic.
  11. Finally the plane lands, I gather my belongings and walk off the plane, I profusely thank the pilot (probably a little too much) and then search for my husband who miraculously remembers he is married again.

We then continue on our trip like all the other normal families, none the wiser except for the poor soul next to me who continually listened to me sing “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, Never gonna run around and desert you……

Snoop Got Snooped

Snapchat Phone Social Media Icon Smartphone

I’m a firm believer in snooping. My kids are fully aware.

If your phone is where I can get to it, I’ll go through it to see what you’re up to. I’ll also do random phone snatches, because if you’ve left your phone where I can get to it, it’s probably because you have deleted anything of real significance. (Seriously, I’m no amateur!)

Passwords and codes don’t thwart me. I may not remember them, but my husband does.

The word privacy means absolutely nothing to us. In the Kane household, if you are a minor, living under our roof, you have no legal rights.

Should you not hand me your phone, then I will take your keys, your car, your basic will to live.

I will admit, however, it took me a while to figure out that texting wasn’t the only way teens communicate these days. (My kids got a laugh out of that one!)

But once I realized you could private message on all forms of social media, I was on to them like glue. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I have become quite the social media stalker. It’s amazing I still find time to do anything else!

And then came Snapchat….

For all of you parents who still believe your child doesn’t have a secret Instagram account, let me enlighten you. Snapchat is our form of messaging and it’s basically the only way kids really communicate these days. Texting about homework and posting sweet photos on Instagram are mere smoke screens our teenagers have concocted to throw us off their scent.

The only problem is that in order to understand how Snapchat works, much less navigate it, you must have a young, agile mind. In other words, you must be 24 or younger!!

For those that don’t know what Snapchat is, think of it as a secret society where our kids can post photos and videos that automatically self-destruct within a few minutes. So when your parent tries to snoop on your phone, there is nothing there for them to see.

Half the time when I’m snooping on Snapchat, I hit the wrong button and end up staring at my face earnestly looking down into my daughter’s phone.

The worst part of Snapchat is that our children are posting about everything and everyone.

How do I know this? Because every once in a while, I get lucky and a compliant teenager, living under my roof, allows me a brief glimpse into her Snapchat world. Like magic, she works the buttons and up pop all these videos and photos.

And to my horror, I saw many of you were the stars of these clips!

There you are asleep on your recliner, head back, mouth open, snoring. (With the caption “He is so old!”)

There you are in your yoga pants and favorite sweat shirt (the one with the stains) yelling at them to clean their room.  (With the caption “Blah, blah, blah”)

There you are sitting at the kitchen table, with your robe and rollers, sipping on your morning coffee while scrolling through your Facebook feed. (With the caption, “My morning view”)

And, I must confess, it made be giggle.

Until I noticed, my other teenager filming me, while I was watching you. At the time I was in my PJs, my hair was in a bun atop my head and I had a charcoal mask all over my face.

He started typing a caption. And then he hit send.

The snoop just got snooped!

Some Like It Hot

Years ago, my friend Becky and I talked about opening a Hot Yoga Studio. We had attended a few sessions in Nashville and were sure this was our next calling. We even reserved the name “Some Like It Hot” because honestly, is that not the best name for a hot yoga studio?

We would drive down to East Nashville together, attend our yoga class, grab a smoothie and all the way home chat about meditation, chakras and downward dog poses. Except for the mini-van, we were some pretty cool chicks.

Unfortunately, “Some Like It Hot” never got off the ground. Probably because after googling it, we realized that those who actually taught yoga needed actual certifications — and owning five pairs of yoga pants didn’t score either of us any AP credit.

“They offer the classes for certifications in California,” Becky noted while reading off Google. “It’s a couple weeks long and then you have to train under someone. And it’s pretty expensive.”

“Hmmm. Well, maybe we should open an ice-cream parlor instead,” I answered.

And just like that, “Some Like It Hot” shut its doors. Although, to this day, Becky and I still laugh at the fact that people often “check-in” on FB to the “Some Like It Hot” Yoga Studio Page we created.

Somewhere, that studio is going gangbusters!

So when my oldest, home from college, asked me to attend Hot Yoga (now in Wilson County!!), I figured I was an old pro. I mean, I basically almost started a multi-million dollar hot yoga franchise and was only weeks away from being an instructor myself.

I donned all the requisite cool chick yoga wear (which interestingly enough is exactly what I wear on Saturdays to grocery shop) and eagerly awaited the first class where I would show my 20 year old that her mom was pretty cool.

Yoga mat, towel and cool persona. I was ready.

First off, I don’t recall it being this hot!

Granted, Becky and I only lasted about 6 weeks of being all cool and driving to Nashville. Plus, back then, I probably didn’t know what a hot flash was but now, I’m pretty sure I just experienced a 45-minute hot flash, with 20 other people, with molten lava thrown on top of me and then I was set on fire!

Second off, yoga, surprisingly, is more than yoga pants and deep thoughts.

It is a form of exercise! Right? Who knew? Shocker!

They say that when you begin your yoga class, you should set an intention as to what you will get out of the class.

After the first ten minutes, my first intention was to not embarrass myself by being the girl who ran out of the room to stick her face in a fridge! My second intention was to just keep up with my daughter.

Mission accomplished! And I loved every hot, sweaty minute of it.

Day 2 was even better!

On my way home that evening, I called Becky.

“Do we still own the name, “Some Like it Hot”?”

“Yes, why? Did you go to the new hot yoga place? It’s amazing, but we could never do that. You have to know what you’re doing to own one of those places.”

“Oh I know,” I responded, “I’m thinking we open a coffee house/ice-cream parlor right next door!”

“We could call it, “Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold”. We don’t need certifications for that plus we could wear our yoga pants and eat ice-cream.”

Now that’s an intention!

Holding Down the Fort

A few weeks back, Brody and I and the kids went out to dinner. It was one final meal before he and the girls left for Nicaragua on their mission trip.

They wanted one, last, hot dinner before 7 days of warm bottled water, granola bars and raisins became their staples. They had been before, and they knew what to expect.

My youngest, Neill, would be staying home with me.

He expected this might be his last, hot meal, as well.

Cooking has never been my thing. I can live on cheese, crackers, chocolate chips and coffee and be perfectly happy. A fact my children know well. A fact that caused Neill concern.

“You are going to have to feed me! Real food. Every day!” noted my 14-year-old growing boy.

Got it. Feed Neill.

Yes, I knew I would have to do that because 1) I’m his mother and 2) Brody put it at the top of the list he left for me.

Followed by, 2) feed dogs, 3) feed chickens, 4) gather their eggs, 5) take Neill to football practice, 6) mow the lawn, 7) clean the pool and the list went on and on…..

So for the past week, while Brody and the girls have been sleeping outside, bathing in rivers and building wells, Neill and I have been dealing with our own first-world problems.

  1. The Chickens. Three of our chickens were raised by a sweet young man from baby chicks and are very tame. The other two were purchased at an outdoor flea market, and I’m pretty sure were used in cockfighting. All were fed. All were watered. We even shared their eggs with our neighbors. There was one prison break from the coop. It lasted about an hour. A battle ensued between the dogs and the chickens. I did a lot of screaming. It didn’t help. Those flea market chickens play dirty. Came in handy. Chickens 1. Dogs 0.
  2. The Storm. Neill and I were thankfully home when the storm hit that weekend. The power went out. The alarm then went crazy. Lawn furniture hit our window. A small tree came down. We didn’t know where Brody put the flashlights. I made Neill sleep downstairs. I am now an official storm watcher. Neill probably has PTSD from all the weather updates I made sure to share with him.
  3. The Pool. During the storm, with all the power going in and out, something happened. Loud noises ensued. Burning, smoking pump. Pool pump is no longer running. Call made to have it fixed. Will take a week. Silver lining — no point in cleaning the pool. It will be green by the time Brody gets home. Not my fault.
  4. The Cows. We don’t have any. Now we do. Somehow, they got loose from somewhere. They staged a sit-in on my front lawn. I wasn’t sure who to call. I made Neill and the dogs stay in. The chickens had to fend for themselves. Chickens 2. Cows 0.
  5. Football practice. There is this rule about not missing. Although Brody had limited telephone service, somehow he climbed a mountain just to get service to remind me of this fact. So, yes, Neill made all his practices. All is well with the world.
  6. Feeding Neill. One warm meal was prepared by yours truly, at least once a day. Sometimes even two. I ate crackers and cheese most meals. We shared a bowl of chocolate chips, which made us both happy.

And a few times, we even did things not on the list.

We spent a whole day watching every episode of “The Office” on Netflix and laughed for hours. He walked at the park with me every day just because he didn’t think I should go by myself. I taught him how to bake a cake from scratch. He showed me how to kick a football. And each night, he hugged me goodnight before making sure all the doors were locked before we went to bed.

As memories go, I’ll always remember the week Neill and I didn’t go to Nicaragua.

Telling Tales: Lessons Learned

Graduation is almost upon us. That said, I’m pulling one of my favorite columns out of the vault. Having written this article almost two years ago, I now know our kids survive when they leave us and so do we. And that is a true lesson learned.  

A feeling of both melancholy and excitement prevails in the Kane household as letter after letter arrives for our oldest, from colleges near and far.  As I watch her open each one, I distinctly remember being her age, knowing very little about life, yet believing I knew everything.

As she readies for her journey into this big, wide open world, there is so much I want to be sure I say to her, teach her, show her before she takes off, while deep down I know the real lessons in life will come from figuring it out on her own.

And yet, if she were to indulge me, I’d write it all down for her, place a copy in her suitcase and hope that when she came to that fork in the road, she’d pull out my map of lessons learned and they’d help guide her home.

  1. SAY YES! This is your time, say yes to it. Say yes, to staying up all night, eating fattening foods and laughing with friends until tears stream down your face. Say yes, to unknown places, unknown people, unknown ways of thinking. Say yes to opportunities that make no sense, jobs you may not think you’ll like, invitations to events you’d rather not attend. Say yes to roller coasters, dancing on tables, foods you can’t pronounce, trips that consist of only a backpack and a map. Take in all the Yes moments, as those are the ones that’ll teach who you are and who you’re not.
  2. SAY NO! Follow your instincts and if you feel the word No deep within your gut, then be sure to shout it out, as loudly as you can! You’ll be amazed how strong that word can make you feel. Never do anything that feels wrong, hurts others or hurts yourself. There is no shame in not joining with the crowd, but there is no greater shame than knowing you did something your parent’s can’t be proud of. The word No can be the loneliest word in the world and yet you will grow to be the person you are meant to be, more so in the No moments, than even in the Yes moments.
  3. MISTAKES HAPPEN. No one is perfect and those who profess to be are usually the most flawed. I’ve made many mistakes in my life, the kind that still make me cringe. Don’t dwell on them though. So you said it, did it, meant it at the time and now know to never do it again. Admit it, accept it and move on. Believe me, there is always someone that will follow, that’ll earn an even bigger headline than you did.
  4. SAY I’M SORRY. I’ve learned this little gem after almost two decades of practicing law. I see it every day. People can save themselves so many headaches and heartaches by saying two simple words – I’m sorry. Say it and mean it. If the person doesn’t accept it, then show them you mean it. If they still can’t forgive you then know that some things can’t be forgiven but forgive yourself and do better next time.
  5. MARRY THE NICE GUY. Boys, boys boys! There are lots out there and you will meet many. Some will have the better cars and country club credentials, others will be cocky and crazed, some will be stupid and mean but look past all of them and find the nice guy sitting back, taking it all in. Your friends will all like him, your Mother will adore him, your Dad will respect him, he’ll love you even on your meanest, fattest, ugliest of days because he only sees the you, you are meant to be. Marrying a nice guy means a life filled with very few worries. He will always treat you as his equal, he will always work just as hard as you will to make your dreams come true, he will always be as kind to you as he is to others.
  6. NEVER SAY THE WORDS – I WANT TO MARRY A DOCTOR OR LAWYER. Instead be the lawyer, doctor, teacher, social worker or x-ray tech! If I’ve taught you anything, I hope it’s been that girls can do anything! You are smart, composed and brave. Education is more than just learning, it’s the power to create your own destiny.
  7. THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS NO, UNLESS YOU ASK. Believe me, I know it’s hard to ask people for a job, a favor, a piece of advice but you’ll be amazed by what you will learn if you just ask. And then never forget to pay it forward. People are going to help you along the way which means that one day you will be tasked with returning those favors, two-fold, to someone less fortunate.
  8. PICK YOUR TEAM. Nothing gets your old Mom more worked up than people who don’t pick their team. Not everyone will be on your team and not everyone will pick you for their team, but don’t ever sit on the fence. Pick your team and then fight for that team. Stay loyal, have their back, stay informed, this is your world and if you don’t take a stand for it, then you can’t complain about it.
  9. BE KIND, WORK HARD, LAUGH OFTEN. If you remember nothing else please remember these three things. Be kind to everyone you meet, even your enemies because that totally wigs them out. Be kind to people from all walks of life, because but for a few wrong choices or a few unlucky breaks, you could be them. Work hard. Nothing in life comes easy. You have to work for it, you have to work sometimes till the words on the paper become blurry and your bones become sore. You will come to find, however, that there is no better feeling than accomplishing a goal you earned on your own. Then Laugh. Enjoy this world, laugh out loud, smile, giggle, be funny and have fun. A good laugh can make even the worst of days, worst of experiences, worst of situations, 1000 times better.
  10. GOOD GUYS FINISH FIRST. I promise you they do! Yes, there are awful, untrustworthy people in this world and sometimes it seems they rule the roost. No doubt, mean girl clicks and good ole’ boy networks do exist. So what? Create your own. There are always more of us than them. Find those others, stand together, and you’ll be amazed what good people can do when they join forces.

And above all else, close your eyes and jump! You may tumble and fall but eventually you’ll stand on your own two feet and those same feet will carry you home.

Gone But Not Forgotten

I can stare at this photo for hours.

A few years ago, I had it blown up and hung in the waiting area of our law office. And whenever I passed by it, I stopped and wondered. Who are they? What was the occasion that led to the photo? What ever happened to this family?

The building behind them in the photo has been near and dear to my heart from the moment I laid eyes on her. Built in the 1880s, if only these walls could talk!

During the years, people will stop into the office to share their memories of the old house or the families who lived here, but no one seems to know anything about the ladies and small child in the photo.

The past two months, I’ve been restoring my little diamond in the rough with the help of my friend and designer, Kendra Lester Ray. When we first found the building 14 years ago and moved the law office into it, we tried to honor her past but didn’t necessarily have the time to bring her back to her Victorian bones

And during the years, we have painted and patched to the point where I looked around one day and realized it was time to give our lady a facelift. So with the help of Kendra and my work family, who have given Kendra a run for her money with their own design ideas, we have brought her back to life.

Painters, contractors and cabinetmakers have worked late into the night so we could carry on the business of law during the day. My office family has put down their pens and paper many a day to move furniture, sweep floors and haul things off to Goodwill. Poor Kendra, I’m not sure she realized when I asked for her help that I meant I needed it done tomorrow!

During the week the office is a busy, busy place with work and clients. Saturdays, however, are quiet, but for a ringing phone that goes to voicemail. It’s the day I go up to the office to regroup and when I do, I now find this photo rehung in the newly redesigned conference room.

I still stop and wonder as I stare at the black and white photo — I wonder what the house looked like when this family lived here? I wonder if they’d like what we’ve done to her? I wonder if they were happy here?

During the years, I’ve learned bits and pieces about the various families who, for more than a century, called this building home. It’s been fascinating and wonderful to hear their stories and share in the memories of those who remember those gone but not forgotten.

I still don’t know who the ladies and the little boy are, but my hunch is they were happy here. And, for what its worth, we remember them all the time.

Mother of the Prom Date

When my husband proposed to me, we were at Olive Garden. We had eaten there before. I loved their never ending salad bowl.

He asked me to marry him. I said yes.

He asked my dad. He said yes.

My dress cost less than $500. I found it at the first store my Mom and I went to. I don’t recall there being a second store she was going to take me to.

My cousins and I did our own hair and makeup. Big bangs and pink lip gloss, and we were good to go.

And then we got married.

So the fact that I’m having to deal with promposals, multiple dress shops, hair and makeup appointments, spray tans and dress fittings….all in the name of a school dance…is enough to make me want to say “no way” to the dress!

Maybe its because I went to an all-girl high school or maybe it’s because I was a completely awkward teenager who still had braces on her senior year, but for whatever reason, prom wasn’t that big a deal for me. This guy from the all-boy school asked me. I said yes. I bought a pink, tea-length taffeta dress. I never saw him again after high school. I heard he became a doctor. My mother still brings it up.

With one daughter thankfully done and in college, I’m on Round 2 of high school dances and proms. Round 2 is almost as bad as Round 1 except promposals now seem to have taken on a life of their own. Round 3 will be upon us soon enough as our son enters high school next year, and we will then become the parents of the one doing the asking. God help us all.

For those unaware, a promposal is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as follows:

prom-po-sal (noun) An elaborately staged request to be someone’s date to prom, oftentimes concocted by a 40-something-year-old mother whose husband proposed marriage to her at a chain restaurant. In an attempt to rewrite the past, she insists upon collaborating with her son and his prom date invite. The result is a fantastic proposal often accompanied with a lavish array of rose petals, banners, photographers and an audience of friends and family.

The last promposal we experienced consisted of a wonderfully orchestrated light display on our driveway, in the shape of a heart. In the middle were the words “will you be my date to prom?” all lit up. Rose petals were scattered throughout.

I looked at my husband. He shook his head.

“You said Olive Garden was your favorite restaurant!”

Thankfully for him, three kids and six promposals later, I think I’m about to have my fill of elaborate proposals.

Give me a lasagna, salad and proposal, and let’s call it a day!