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,


Christmas · Paynes · sisters

Santa Train Experience

On Tuesday Marmie treated all the grandkids to a ride on the Blue Ridge Santa Train.  We saw Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa and enjoyed the antics of the small ones (and some pouts from the big ones).  These are my favorite Christmas gifts, not the ones you can wrap up under the tree, but the experiences you can give and the time you can spend with those you love. · Paynes · project 52 · summer

Multitude for Monday

Moments of quiet
and serenity
and moments
of gifts
given even in the hard times
the long times
the beaten down times
the “are we ever going to get there”
and “pay attention to me”
times that frazzle
this mommy
into forgetting
that in constant thankfulness
for even the hardest moments
I can see God
over the water
in the sunlight
among the flowers
and the sand dunes
and the animal crackers on the carpet.
We’re back from our jaunt away with Marmie and a couple aunts…and I’m learning hard everyday what it means to live under grace.
birthdays · Paynes · perfectly imperfect · sisters

Imperfectly Perfect Birthdays

I wasn’t going to blog about this at all.  I was ashamed.  I was embarrassed.  I was mad.

Then, I got convicted.

I’m NOT perfect.  Deep breath.  I wish I was.  But that would be boring and everyone would hate being around me, right?  At least that’s how I feel when I’m surrounded by people who do things so much more perfectly than I do.

So the first part of today’s installment is confession.

We celebrated my sister Calley and my brother Corey’s birthdays this past Sunday.  Their birthdays are ten days and six years apart and they both wanted fried chicken.  Seemed like a plan.  Then, disaster.

(This isn’t the embarrassing part yet.  This is just what led up to it.)

Mama got sick.  Really sick.  102 degrees and shouldn’t be out of bed sick.  We descended anyway.  Side note: I think I get this perfection thing from her.  I mean, really, she should have cancelled instead of believing she’d be better in twenty-four hours.

So I got put in charge of a few things.  Like the cake.  Another side note: My mother makes perfect cakes.  See example below.

Well, obviously I can’t compete with this.

But I thought I could reasonably pull together a pretty good chocolate cake for Calley.  After all, last week I whipped out the Pioneer Woman’s Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever and it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

I intended to make that sheet cake again but changed my mind at the last minute and instead tried a chocolate fudge cake from one of our many cookbooks that we have more for decor than actual use.

Well, evidently this cake is not meant to be made in two round cake pans with the purpose of layering.

Nope, didn’t work.  So there I was on Sunday morning, no more butter, an imperfect cake and a failed attempt at making cream cheese icing with Philadelphia cooking cream cheese which, FYI, doesn’t work because the cream cheese is thinned.  For cooking.  Not baking.  Duh, it says that on the package.

This is the picture I took and figured if I did post this would be the view you got.

Gee, doesn’t it look great?  Yeah, this is what it really looked like.

It was…a little flat.  But it did taste good.  I should know.  Half of it came home with me and I’m trying to get that plate cleaned off so I can wash it and I hate to see good ingredients go to waste….

I also made this for my brother.  Nothing like pre-packaged assembly.  Well, I did have to mix the cream cheese and whipping cream.  And of course my mom had the perfect cream cheese because she would never make such a mistake.

Actually, I’m sure she’s messed up plenty, but I don’t remember it because she somehow makes things work anyway.  Maybe one day my girls will feel the same about me.

Here’s a preview of our Sunday afternoon at Paynes-a-Plenty.  Picasa slideshow to come if I can figure it out.

48 pieces of fried chicken….
Loving the swing.
Well this looks good at least.
Happy Birthday Calley!
This so captures the moment.  I think I was telling Corey that I didn’t want to hear about the chicken if it wasn’t done because that’s what microwaves are for.
Uncle Bubby loves his nieces.
Paynes · sisters

Why I Love My Sisters

I’m not an expert on a lot of things, but I know about sisters.

I know all about sharing bathrooms and fixing each others hair and stealing clothes and fighting for attention. 

And I know everything about the fear that turns your stomach to ice and starts your hands to shaking when you get that call.  The call that one of them is hurt and I wasn’t there to protect my baby sister.

And I know all about rushing to be there to hold her hand and tell her it’s going to be all right.  And I pray I never again have to look at Audrey in a neck brace on a backboard and remember the first time I held her and marveled at her beauty.

I was a big sister long before I was a mama.  My children help recreate me every day, but my sisters remember who I’ve always been.

We may drive each other (and anyone with hearing range) crazy, but we will always drive each other home.

Audrey is recovering at home from a head-on collision that occurred Friday afternoon. Many thanks to the first responders, doctors, and nurses who have endured a Payne-full weekend.