family · living local · motherhood

What I’ve Been Doing Instead of #write31days

I didn’t do it. I stayed off the bandwagon. And for a person who a) adores The Nester and b) hates to be left out, staying out of #write31days was HARD.

I did it last year. Amidst three conferences, one week of single parenthood, and long rehearsals for what became A Christmas Carol at the community theater, I did it. 31 posts on Living Local. You can read them all right here if you want. I was really proud of myself.

But then I was done. I didn’t turn it into an ebook. I didn’t keep up the momentum. I was done. I was tired. But I was glad I had accomplished that goal.

So I decided that I wasn’t going to participate this year unless I really, really wanted to. Unless I really had something to say that was worth 31 posts. Because let’s face it, I’m a writer. I’m not a crafter or a DIYer or a recipe blogger. At my heart, at this space, I’m a writer.

But I just couldn’t think of anything I really wanted to write about. Well, actually I can think of a lot of things, but they’re all random and not thematic and scattered. Sort of like my life right now. This business of freelance writing and novel writing and blogging all at the same time has me more than overwhelmed.

So instead of blogging for 31 days here’s what we’ve been up to instead…

 A little consignment sale shopping…and yes, I’d really like to post my tips for consignment but I just can’t seem to find the time. And then I figure someone better has likely beat me to it.

Hanging with the tractor in the rain on big sister’s field trip. In his new $8 Thomas rain boots. Consignment.

Before the deluge began everyone was all smiles. Then they found out there would be no hayride or corn maze or petting zoo…

Got to admit I teared up a little bit at this fundraiser relay for our local cross country team. That coaching gig used to be mine, so I was a little nostalgic when she came around the track in her “Future Raider” tshirt. Oh, and it was insanely cold. Like 40 degrees.

A little pumpkin patch visiting later that afternoon. We like to buy from local vendors. This one is St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Cleveland.

These two. My friend Brooke was visiting and she told them to look like they loved one another. This is as good as it gets. And when did my oldest become such a fashionista?


Millie Moo and I had a date yesterday. We went to the ENT (hello, tonsillectomy! Looks like this post will be getting an update.) and then shopping at Target. The goal was shoes. The wants were not. So we took pictures of what she liked to send to Santa. (i.e. Grandparents–are you reading this?)

And finally I’ve been doing a lot of fall cooking. I briefly considered a 31 days series of fall recipes. Then I realized I am indeed crazy. But I’ll still post some. Like this incredible soup that has a secret ingredient you won’t believe! For recipe updates it’s best to follow me on Instagram.

So, yeah. That’s what I’ve been up to. How about you?

family · living local · motherhood

Simple Family Fun at the Chattahoochee Mountain Fair

Originally published in The Northeast Georgian, September 12, 2014
I have a confession. Every year when the fair comes to town, we try to keep it a secret from our kids. We avoid highway 17 or taken the circuitous route around so they don’t see the action. The few times in the past they’ve caught glimpses, we’ve managed to change the subject quickly and distract them with other activities. 
It’s not that I’m opposed to the fair, and actually I think we did take them once when we still had only two, and they were too young to care or even notice the carnival. But we avoid it because, gracious, like I told many when we went for the first time, I just about need to sell a kidney to take them. 
That’s what happens when you have four kids. Simple Family Fun becomes Expensive Family Disagreement.

To keep this adventure affordable, we went on Family Night and were the last to make the cut at the gate for discount admission (thank you, Lions Club!). The Monday night crowd was light and there was plenty of entertainment without the rides. In fact, I could happily go again just to wander the agricultural heart of this true county fair. But my kids had a collective mindset. 
Carnival rides. 
So three armbands and a few tickets later we were out of cash and ready to go. I’m going to remember this experience as training for when we finally get to Disney because I learned a valuable lesson. When you have four kids of varying ages and temperaments and fears, carnival rides do not equal family time. 

My oldest is scared of heights which meant she wouldn’t ride anything her sister wanted to ride. So then my second daughter was mad because we wouldn’t let her go off with a friend (family time remember?), and by the end of the night she hadn’t gotten to ride any of the big rides she wanted.  Since we were literally out of money, I couldn’t buy tickets to ride with her. Which made me a little sad, too. 
Not my husband, though. He’s about the same as our oldest when it comes to carnival rides. 
Then we had a four year old daredevil who wanted to ride big rides by herself, but she needed a “responsible person” and her sisters were riding the only thing they could agree on together. So there might have been a tantrum or two about that. 
Finally, we had to divide and conquer with one of us referring the carnival and the other taking two year old Gus away from the rides since he was out of tickets. That’s when I really had fun. We petted the cows and watched the acrobats and he made a new friend. The sweet pup standing guard at the milking demonstration received lots of love that night from a little boy who was reminding his mama to just enjoy life’s simple delights. 
Like Family Night at the County Fair.
family · Paynes

A Letter to My Baby Sister Upon Her Graduation

Dear Audrey,

Tonight you sat in that stadium made of cold, gray granite under the harshness of flourescent lights that have shone down on six graduations before yours. Those are the same lights and these are the same stands and other than not being able to decide which shade of blue is the true school color, not much has changed since I walked that line sixteen years ago.

And yet, everything has changed.

You’ll learn that about post-high school in a small town life. Nothing changes. But somehow, nothing is ever the same.

Do you remember the class of 1998 graduation? As a family, it was our first go around with this event and we tried to make it special. You wore that blue gingham sundress with the collar that looked like a watermelon and you were a fidgety, feisty two year old who had no idea that I was about to leave for good. Truthfully, to this day, I don’t think you can remember when I lived at home. You were six when I got married, eight when I made you an aunt, and now you’re eighteen and we’re a generation apart. You wore a cap and gown tonight and sat with classmates whose parents were classmates of mine.

It’s that crazy full-circle of life that always comes back around.

I’m proud to be your big sister, you know. We don’t agree and I think you should find a more modest bikini to wear in front of my girls and you think I’m ridiculous old-fashioned, but I think you’re far too beautiful for your own good and you should be cherished by someone who truly gets how incredibly funny and smart and kind you are.

You have a plan and just enough stubbornness to get you through another round of anatomy. When you graduated tonight you officially finished with more high school and college credits than I had, and you probably aren’t going to be calling mama and daddy in the near future to tell them that you think you’d like to major in interdisciplinary studies just so you can take all the classes you like and avoid math. That’s what I did. Then I endured four years of the “but what are you going to do” question. When your focus is Ultrasound Technician no one ever asks that.

Tonight you walked that damp field over the same blades of grass that have grown there for all twenty-eight years one of us has been a part of this school system. As different as the seven of us are, we all have this in common. Our diplomas are stamped ECCHS and on Friday nights when the lights are shining strong and the jerseys are blue and silver, we all remember what it was like to be a part of that high school family.

If we know anything sharing the same DNA, it’s that family takes the good with the bad and no matter how far you may run, there’s always a place that calls you home. You’re part of the Class of 2014 family now. You’re part of a shared experience that’s bigger than the rumors and the breakups and the games that have defined high school. You’re one of the elite who made it out, who plans to take that diploma and go, but when you’re the last of seven, you also already know–

There’s no place like home.

Much love to you my baby sister. I am elated to say we all made it through, but I am more delighted to see the young woman I know you will become.

All my love,


family · Home · joshua · linkups · one word 365

One Little Corner of Sanity {Behind the Scenes}

We’re rearranging.  Again. Either we’re furniture moving junkies or incredibly indecisive.  Or both. But really, it’s just that we keep trying and trying to figure out how to live best in the space we have (that whole contentment struggle) and so that necessitates constant motion until we get it right.

Or until I get a new idea from Pinterest or the IKEA catalog and it’s back to the moving we go. Thank the Lord I have a tolerant husband who actually agrees with me about most of these projects.  Except when I change my mind halfway through.  Then he gets a tad frustrated and there might be some yelling strong discussions.

I was tempted just to show you the one picture.  Because it appears from that little corner that we might actually have a plan that is organized and working.  But that would be false advertising. Like telling you how there’s less than a 100 calories in a serving of Oreos.  That’s only true if you only eat one and who does that?

We do have a plan.  It’s just that each step scaffolds upon the other, and I can only handle so much chaos at one time. So for now, we have a corner.  And a couple of several messy closets. And rooms that really look like this.

Linking up with Crystal today to tell the story Behind the Scenes.  Join us over here!

family · Friday Five · Friends · linkups

Encouragement {Five Minute Friday}

Joining with this amazing community of writers is a privilege every Friday.  Want to play along? Head over to Lisa Jo’s and read all the “rules”–but the only one that really matters?  Write your heart and give some love to the link before you.

Today’s words is…


They came bearing soup and casseroles and cookies and salads.  They sent cards the old way with stamps and return addresses slipped in between my weekly paper and coupons and bills.  They stopped me in the hall, in the store, beside the peeling paint minivan to simply express condolences that are more than sympathy—they gave me empathy.

It’s a small thing to call the florist and have flowers delivered.  It’s a small thing to rearrange a Sunday afternoon and drive an hour north to hug a friend for only a few minutes. It’s a small thing to show the greatest, deepest kind of love.

It takes patience and conscious effort and intentionality.  It takes work.  It takes a tiny little sacrifice of waiting a few more moments before watching or reading or folding or washing to write a note to place a call or send a message.

But the way it made me feel?  Loved.  Encouraged.  Reminded that I matter to many and my grief is not mine alone.  That in the family of God, we can embrace grief together and remember that this is not the end.

It is the beginning of joy and it is those on the outside who can find the cracks in my hurting heart and fill them with glory.