The Undertaker's Wife: a book review

I was originally drawn to this book because I am great friends with a real life undertaker's wife. Their stories are some of my favorites. Just like the author, Dee Oliver, describes on her first date, my friend has had to be a part of a few "detours" with her husband while a "third wheel" joined them in the back of their van. Once they were on their way over to our house for supper, but when they showed he was carrying his suit in with him and we knew he was going to have to take his lasagna to go. Duty called. It's a strange world, but he does his job beautifully and it is really a gift, and she has been the perfect compliment to it. So I was excited to read some more stories from an undertaker's wife.

This book shares the true story of Oliver's first dates with her husband, a fourth generation funeral director, as well as his sudden death which left her with their three girls to raise. She then shares her journey into becoming a certified funeral director.

This book, while entertaining, wasn't super captivating for me. There are bits of humor, some of which is redundant, and glimmers here and there of her faith. The story is interesting, but I found myself having a hard time relating to her wealthy, Southern lifestyle: she mentions being in Garden Club, and the Country Club, and her decorator, and lawn guy, and botox. Actually, she mentions botox A LOT. Which just felt strange to me.

I did appreciate the vulnerability she shared, and I liked that the last few chapters were more "how-to" than story. She shared what was helpful to her in her early widow days. And she shared what spouses should do to prepare for their death, because we never know when it will happen and the even the smallest preparations-- like having your obituary already written-- can help your grieving family tremendously.

I finished this book wanting it to contain a little more depth, but it was a unique story none the less.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions are my own. 

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Every time she gets a minute, that's the time when they begin it... 

Blythe has now seen Cinderella about 3 or 4 times and she is in love. Which makes me happy because it was always a favorite of mine. Cinderella was always my favorite, next to Belle, because she had this imagination bigger than her circumstances [and Belle because she loved to read and could see past exteriors]. She always remained kind in the midst of meanness. And she got the prince, so that wasn't a bad gig either. 

During our wedding recessional we played several songs while people were dismissed: we walked out to "You've Got a Friend in Me", but soon "So This is Love" crooned over the sound system. 

For my birthday this year, Brent took me to go see the new Cinderella in the theater. And I became that little girl again and I didn't even care that I didn't have a little one with me as an excuse to see the movie. I was so happy they still made it a fairy tale, and so happy they kept the theme of kindness. It was wonderful.

And now I have Blythe who wants to play "drop the glass" all the time. She wants to dance at the "ball game". And she wants to sing "Sing Sweet Nightingale" and wash the floor. 

I took advantage of it today, and I got the entire kitchen floor washed and she "helped", and was perfectly content and perfectly soaked for half an hour. 

What are some things you get to share with your kids now that you loved as a child?

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#dirtypics / Take Two

I seriously can't get enough of your [#]dirtypics. < Speaking of which, can someone please come up with a hashtag that won't get us all reported? [And if you missed the original post and are confused, click HERE.]  This is all coming from a person who loves organization, and no clutter. But reality doesn't always match my brain. I think on Pinterest there should be pictures of beautiful room designs, and then a side by side of the same room after it's lived in.

First, let me start with a picture of my desk where I am typing this: 

I couldn't NOT have a follow up after I got such an awesome response. So please, read through these comments I received and take a looksy at these pictures, and then go put your feet up on your piles of laundry and pour yourself another cup of coffee. 

//  It's funny about the laundry thing you said: this is my pile from a month ago I'm just now folding- the big piles are all donations because I'm sick of having to fold so many clothes-- I'm just donating the clothes we really don't need. 3 bags so far.

 //  I often think this while I am posting cute pics of A. when there is a sink full of dishes behind her or laundry baskets on the floor!

//  I am SO SORRY I cleaned the boy's bathroom before I read this, or I could make you feel like Superwoman. Just picture lots of soap scum and dog hair everywhere. I sprayed basically the whole room down with KABOOM, used the toilet brush to clean the shower and tub, and paper toweled the rest. If they don't like this, if they should notice their feet burning in the shower or the coughing up of dog hair, I figure they can clean as well as I can. Take that boys. grin emoticon

//  From the mom who had the upstairs bathroom painted light yellow because a teenage boy lives here and I hate to clean bathrooms (gross, sorry, but true). And this is my end of the school year kitchen island/bar..... (And I don't even have the energy to care....give me a week)

//  I so often fall prey to the, "our house is a mess, this dinner was terrible, I have no clean clothes, I'm the worst wife ever & (insert name here) always has it together!" mentality. It's easy to forget that no one has it all together!

//  Before kids my house was spot less, literally spot less! Now I 'try' to care but after running after a 3 year old and a one year old all I want to do is have 1 second of quiet. I 'try' to still keep a clean house but after putting toys away 100 times I just don't care "they will drag them back out tomorrow, so I'm going to bed." M's face stays dirty most all day, (she hates her face being washed) so it only really gets washed when we leave the house or bed time. I know every mother feels this way but it still makes me feel bad when I see everyone's 'perfect' house/kids.

//  That's a coffee table. Or maybe a ranch. There is a lot of imagination going on in this house. More imagination than cleaning these days.

//  I do laundry once a week and then spend the rest of the week struggling to dig through the mounds of clean clothes to find something to wear! Dishes...forget it...Momma's tired after supper time! 

//  I'm right there with you! I use the crib containment pretty frequently to try to get to use the bathroom by myself. And I removed all of the winter clothes from W's drawer this weekend (in frustration over him constantly wanting to wear sweatshirts when it's 80 degrees outside) and they are sitting in a basket waiting to be put away. C. still has 3 month clothes and winter clothes in his dresser and desperately needs 12-18 month stuff moved into it but I haven't gotten that far yet. And this is the current state of my basement floor, I call this clean enough for company these days

//  I just vacuumed and mopped the floor yesterday. I love my family and dog, but sometimes I 

want to shave the dog bald and confine my family in the garage.

//  This is the state of our entire home. Unpacking is a beast.

please, everyone, do not miss the BABY IN THE LAUNDRY BASKET! my favorite. 

//  Giving myself a pat on the back. We're doing awesome! Below picture is unpacked boxes in our spare room. Yep, we'll get those one day. Close the door for now.

//  From your post: "This random assortment of bills and coupons and hair clips and other paraphernalia is happening...
Yes. "Is happening..." As in, "it's not done yet...it's still progressing..." As in, "it is actively getting worse by the second..." As in, MY ENTIRE HOUSE.

 // Last week, [my husband] was gone and we did no cleaning the week before he left. Then I did no cleaning the week he was gone. I ate only macaroni and cheese and ice cream and cookies. Then I cleaned for five hours before he came home, even though he said he didn't care. But I cared and sometimes I just need something to happen out of the routine for anything to get done. 

//  Gathering for a yard sale here for the upcoming weekend...and trucking all the stuff to my mother's in [another town]! Our piles may beat your piles...on the other hand, our closets look awesome, you can now walk into the storage garage and what doesn't sell is going to Goodwill! My laundry piles are on the bathroom floor and you should see the top of my coffee table. 

//  My kid is mad because I put clothes on him. His fort is crushed and the house is a disaster. My pile of laundry would give you nightmares.

And if reading through those is not the absolute best way to go into your weekend, I give you this: 

I messed up taco night last night when the shells got overlooked in the toaster oven while I attended to Blythe. This was actually terrifying, but Brent to the rescue!! He threw the entire thing outside and saved the house. Sheesh. Taco shells!?! Of all things. I'm going back to peanut butter and jelly. 

And send me your ideas for a hastag that will not link us to nightmares. And then let's keep this conversation going, please? 

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chicken skin

When I was in Junior High something lovely happened to me-- not only did I grow my bangs out awkwardly and get a retainer, I also developed atopic dermatitis, i.e. eczema. It was contained mainly to my legs. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this, basically eczema is very dry skin, and when scratched it becomes inflamed and irritated. At its worst there are tiny bumps that look kind of like blisters or goosebumps, and sometimes ooze. [Ooze is never a verb you want to use when you're describing yourself, just saying. Especially not in Junior High.]

I remember one very specific outburst on my shins that itched so badly I took a hairbrush to my legs and scratched until I bled...and kept scratching. That's how badly they would itch. I went to a dermatologist, he confirmed what we assumed, "It's atopic dermatitis," and told me what to stay away from: really hot water, scented anything, and scratching. As a Junior High girl I thought he should have added shorts and skirts to the list, but he didn't scratch that on the prescription pad. He said I had a good chance of outgrowing it in my late teens or twenties.

Mild and unscented soap helped. So did not shaving, so in the winter if I kept enough lotion on and only shaved when I had a basketball game, I could keep it mild.  By late high school I wasn't  as self-concious about it because it was a little more contained, as were my insecurities. On a mission trip to Colorado my Junior year I was sitting next to a boy--a cute boy-- who I happened to be madly crushing, and he and our friend joked about it and called me "chicken skin." Thanks to high school requirements they even knew how to say it in Spanish, piel de pollo. I laughed with them because the boy was so cute and I had to act cool about my freaky skin. 

In college it was pretty tame, unless I shaved too often or used the wrong products. And that cute boy wised up and asked me out and stopped calling me chicken skin. But my legs tanned funny and were never going to be smooth like other girls. I had to come to that realization. After I married the boy who called me piel de pollo, we moved to Kentucky and I think our water was really great or something, and my legs looked better than I could ever remember them looking. Maybe that dermatologist was right, maybe I was going to outgrow this?

Then we moved back and I had babies and, fun fact, pregnancy can cause eczema to flare back up. And it did. And so I'm back to square one in a lot of ways-- minus awkward bangs and a retainer.

Just two nights ago I had to get up out of bed and go get my "special" lotion and put it all over my legs because they itched so badly, the little bumps were back, and all I wanted to do was scratch the dickens out of them. I know people notice. My softball girls even asked me last year, "What's wrong with your legs?" because I had major patches of untanned parts that were slightly bumpy where I had had a flare up last summer. But I don't think people notice as much as I think they notice.

Why am I telling you all of this? I'm not sure, really. But I think I just wanted to share all of this with you to say: we all have our chicken skin. Yours may not be a physical trait, or maybe it is. Maybe some cute boy called you something in Spanish, but he didn't follow it up with a marriage proposal so his words sting to this day. I see girls in the summer rubbing Bath & Body Works on their super smooth legs and I have to suppress the envy. I do.

But I've come a long way since I was in Junior High. Sure, given the opportunity I would choose flawless skin. BUT I've learned I am learning to accept it. I'm learning to love my Cetaphil and Lubriderm. I'm learning there are far, far more important things than my chicken skin. Swimsuit season is coming up. Can we all just embrace whatever flaws we have and get in the water? And if my legs look particularly bad this summer, can we all just agree not to call me chicken skin...in any language?

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a year of Becksy-Becks

First I have to say-- I am LOVING the responses I am getting on facebook and via text and on here from Monday's post. PLEASE keep them coming. I want to write an updated "dirtypics" post by the end of the week to share the good news that WE ARE ALL NORMAL! Seriously. Send me more pictures!

Each month I posted a picture of me holding Becks. Before I knew it, a year had passed. ONE. YEAR. I posted her one year letter, and her birthday party, but I never got around to posting her monthly pictures in sequential order so you can all see the change and growth. She doesn't even look like the little 1 and 2 month old. I never took a 12 month shot like this [I still can! She hasn't grown!], but without further adieu, I present: A year  of Becksy-Becks [< Blythe's loving name for her]. 

1 month
seriously...who is that?
2 months
3 months
4 months

5 months

6 months

7 months

8 months

9 months

10 months
can you tell she started crawling this month? check out those knees!

11 months

one year
check out mwphoto's post with all of Becks' one year pictures:)

Our sweet, sweet girl. 
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About a year ago some friends from small group were joking about how we needed to start posting "dirty pictures" on our social media. Before you all disown me, of course we only were referring to realistic pictures of our lives that are not glitzy, not Pinterest worthy, and not something an Instagram filter could clean up. Reality. The raw, the messy, the every day. The parts of us we don't post on instagram. One of the guys said we should post those pictures and hashtag dirtypics. Unfortunately our idea of #dirtypics and others' ideas of #dirtypics are different, so that idea was put to rest quickly, but not before he posted a picture of his wife cleaning out her pantry at 1 a.m. #dirtypics.

I like this idea, and it was one that I was struck by again when I was recently listening to a sermon about this very topic. Women in particular struggle with the comparison game anyway, so why do we subject ourselves to "the scroll"? You know what I mean by the scroll-- flipping through Facebook or Instagram, seeing the well-balanced meal your friend  coworker-from-8-years-ago-that-you-haven't-talked-to-since-you-moved-7-years-ago-posted and feeling bad about the frozen pizza you just stuck in the oven for your family...again.

I don't intentionally post pictures with the thought "oh, this will make me look really good and make it look like I have it all together." BUT, I also rarely post pictures of meltdowns and dirty diapers and piles of laundry, so by the lack of their appearance I am often just painting one portion of the picture. Which presents a falsity. Which is where the struggle begins because we all do that. And when you take that times the 500 people we are scrolling through, well, our dirty dishes and tantrum-ing toddler can seem not good enough. And where did I go wrong? 

You didn't go wrong. You're doing awesome. We're just not posting our own dirty pictures.

So, lest I ever leave you with some false ideas of my reality, here are some of my truths:

/ the girls woke up early today. Early to them is not early early, but still I stay up too late reading and so any amount of early makes me grumpy and can't-get-out-of-bed-y. So I let Becks cry for about 15 minutes, and I went in Blythe's room and told her she could get out of bed but had to stay in her room and promptly shut the door. I texted Brent, who was finishing his workout in the mudroom, to come get Becks and I crawled back in bed. #lazy

/I hate meal time. It's the worst. I never know what to make the girls and regardless of what I make all they want is bread and crackers anyway, so nine times out of ten they get peanut butter sandwiches. They don't eat enough fruit. They don't like enough vegetables. #healthy

/ Becks is in a screaming stage. I think she wants to talk but can't but knows what she wants but can't communicate it...thus screaming. Real pleasant. #thevolumeisinsane

/ I had a friend over for coffee this morning and no sooner had she walked in the door than Blythe threw herself on the floor in a fit because her doll wouldn't fit properly in the blanket. Legs flailing. Welcome to our home. #hospitality

/ Yesterday we rushed home from church, threw the girls in their beds for nap, and were scrounging in the fridge for lunch. Brent was getting some stuff out, so I stuck my head in the fridge and was handing him the other ingredients he needed, but he didn't take them from me immediately and I got impatient. He sensed my impatience, grabbed them from me rather not-nicely, and we ate the first 5 minutes of our lunch in silence. #tilldeath

/  I'm trying to sort through all my closets and drawers and corners and crevices and am getting ready for a big, huge garage sale [June 5 & 6 if you're in the area!], and so there are literally piles everywhere. Today, as I write this post, this is my bathroom:

/ Also, I snapped a picture of my kitchen floor for you:

/ Also, this random assortment of bills and coupons and hair clips and other paraphernalia is happening:

/ When I say I "planted a garden" don't be fooled: I stuck three pepper plants in the corner of my backyard. And when I say "I stuck three pepper plants" don't be fooled: my dad came over and stuck three pepper plants in the corner of my backyard. #greenthumb

/ Sometimes I put the girls in the crib together so I can go to the bathroom by myself. #containthem

/ If we have clothes on before 8:30, Blythe immediately asks where we are going. #wedontgetoutmuch

/ I do laundry on Tuesdays. It usually takes me a solid two weeks before I fold and put away. However, there is still a laundry basket in Becks' room that has [folded!] clothes from approximately 3 weeks ago. #procrastination

/ This weekend I finally sorted through the girls' clothes in their closets and drawers and pulled out the next size and season. I kind of skipped this last year with Blythe's stuff because I had a baby and because Kali was bringing me hand me downs in small doses and it just was a mess. Blythe still had some 18-24 MONTH stuff in her drawers. #organizationskillz

So there you have it. I could go on, and on, but just wanted to make sure to keep it real for ya. I've always felt like I can be vulnerable with others and I tend to trust easily, but social media is its own beast in so many ways and I apologize if I've ever come across as anything other than someone taking a day at a time, sifting through the mess, and enjoying whatever most of what happens.

What would your #dirtypics be?

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my mother's day post...several days late...because I am a mother

Two years ago I wrote this post for Mother's Day. It was no doubt my truth. I openly shared that motherhood was hard for me at first. I still struggle with envious thoughts when I see first time moms who transition flawlessly and are at the park with their kids on day 5 of life. I still barely got out of my pajamas at month three. But, that is their story and their truth, and they have other struggles as a mom that I may not ever face.

And this year on Mother's Day I had two babies to fill my arms. The richness of that statement is not lost on me.

While we were at church we sang several songs, as we always do. But this time, as I stood in the pew by myself since Brent was onstage, two lines from two different songs stood out to me:

Grace has saved us-- nothing of our own. 

Oh to Grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be. 


And as a mom in that pew on Mother's Day singing, I realized grace is my truth this Mother's Day. Grace is my story this year.

Grace in the meltdowns.
Grace in the inadequate meal prep.
Grace in the too-much-tv-time.
Grace in the "busy".
Grace in the yelling.

I have to give myself grace or I will crumble under the weight of it all. I'll crumble under the feelings of inadequacies...UNLESS... I give myself grace.

Grace. That free and unmerited favor from God.
Nothing of our own.

Two years ago I wrote motherhood is a slow process that bombards us all at once. I wrote there is something beautiful in the hardness of it all; there is something beautiful in the messy moments of becoming a mom. And I have learned since then that that beauty? It is grace.

And daily I cling to it.
have Meagan take ALL your pictures if  you're in Louisville area
So this Mother's Day I hope you accept grace for yourself.
And I hope you extend it to other mamas, and all the women I see everyday.

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graduatin' time

I'm sure it's happening around you too: everyone is graduating! I love this time of year because graduations are a big deal: they celebrate work and effort and sticking-to-it, and they are also this very scary end to something you've finally figured out. In a way, graduations are kind of a big shove out the door while wearing a weird hat. 

A couple years ago a very special group of "my" kids graduated. I had taught them their sophomore and junior years, and they had seen me through my first year of pregnancy. We literally laughed and cried our way through those two years. If you ever want to know crazy stories about me, just ask that class because they have plenty [and I of them. wink. wink.]. However, when they graduated I wanted to do something special, but didn't have an income to do it with. So I made card/books for them. I thought I would re-share these now, for all those graduating this time of year and stepping out into the big unknown. 

Here is what the little books say [there are a few inside jokes we shared in class]: 
[I did a screen shot of the actual document, so disregard the red squiggly lines trying to tell me I'm wrong…]:


And if you are wondering:
"Purty neat" reference is HERE
"Guy on a buffalo" reference HERE
And if you don't get the Atticus and Bob Ewell reference, rummage through your change drawers, find $5, and go buy a copy of this book HERE 

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the smell in the garage


The other evening Brent came in and smelled like the outside. You know, that smell of sweat mingled with sunshine and wind and leaves? He opened the door to the garage and what came tumbling in with him was like a scrapbook of summer memories.

He had just pulled the mower in, and the scent of gasoline and grass clippings was nearly overpowering. Earthy. Strong.

And I thought of the countless rides on the fancy riding mower I spent in my Grandpa's lap. He would let me steer all over his yard, not caring that I was burning fuel. I drove down the hill where I would later get married, and through the back yard where I would cut the cake as a new bride. And then we would pull into the little shed,  he would help me navigate it's small opening, and then turn off the key. And that is when the magic happened. We would sit for what felt like forever, waiting with growing nerves and anticipation. In the quiet, dark shed we sat on the old mower and waited for it to POP! And when it did I would squeal with laughter and surprise and, every time, Grandpa would laugh as if it were the first time.

I thought of the times I would run out to retrieve Dad for supper, watching him walk those neat, straight lines. His socks pulled high, and his black boots pulled over them. On the hottest of days he wore a straw hat to compliment his cut off jean shorts. Speckled with bits of green grass, I would flag him down and let him know it was time to eat. Eventually he let my sister and I try our hand at mowing. But we were slow, it was laborious and we complained, and our lines were jagged and let large patches scattered throughout the yard. Quickly we were hidden, only being allowed to mow the back yard. And soon we did a poor enough job back there that the mowing was once again back in my father's more capable hands. My sister didn't do a poor job on purpose. And I'm not talking.

When I was in Junior High art, we were asked to create something that spawned from a favorite smell that held a lot of memory for us. Nearly everyone in the class chose freshly cut grass. [I chose my fifth grade English teacher's perfume, but that's another story...]. When I was a teacher, I did a sensory writing activity and brought in different smells to spawn writing memories for the kids. One smell I brought in was grass. And every student wrote feverishly on that topic.

Grass and gasoline. Summer is so near.

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