PEZ Con 2015

by Emily on March 29, 2015

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Today I drug the family to PezCon 2015.

Actually I think the official name was “First Annual ATXPEZ Collector’s Gathering,” but “PezCon” rolls off the tongue easier and much more fun to say.

I didn’t even know about this little gathering until a friend posted the link on my FB page. Yesterday. But I wasn’t about to miss my chance to hang with some other Pez nerds. So the entire family piled in the car to head to the Hilton Garden Inn to check it out.

I’d never been to a PEZ gathering and wondered if Pezheads are like Trekkies? No clue what to expect. But I have to say it was a good mix of everything.

There were all kinds of PEZ and PEZ-related items, ranging from a dollar to hundreds. I came home with some European smurfs, the Pink Panther and Ryan’s fav – a “fantasy” Saints PEZ. Some people were wearing PEZ gear, but for the most part this was a normal crowd, just pleased to be there and chat about our fav Austrian candy.

I loved looking at all the vintage dispensers and was amazed at how much some of those little things cost. I really wanted the nun, but she was almost $500 so I had to leave her there. But I did come away with a t-shirt, and they even gave the kids a free PEZ dispenser each.

We came home and I introduced my new friends to their new family. They fit right in:)

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Bringin’ Lucky Back…

by Emily on March 27, 2015

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Well it’s been a while since I’ve written here, but after an extended hiatus I decided it’s time to bring this blog back to life.

What have I been doing in the meantime? Staying busy, I guess. I’ve written plenty over the last nine months (um, just not for this site). I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to other lifestyle websites and provide content for small business clients.

The family is doing well, although life seems to be getting crazier rather than calmer. Is that normal? Molly and Allie love second grade, and Elizabeth enjoys preschool – her last year before she starts kindergarten in the fall. Our house is ridiculously loud and scattered with artwork, school papers and piles and piles of clothes. With three girls and multiple outfit changes per day things get messy fast. Add a dog and a bunny to the mix and sometimes it feels like we’re living in a zoo. And I’m only a mediocre zookeeper.

I’ve also learned a lot over the last few months, unfortunately including more than I ever wanted to know about metastatic breast cancer. My dear friend Alana was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer last fall. She’s been public and open throughout her journey that we’ve all felt the highs and lows right along with her. It’s been eye-opening for all of us.

She is one of the kindest, smartest, most inspirational and freakin’ hilarious people on the planet. I’ve learned so much about faith, grace, friendship and, well, life from watching her journey (here’s a piece I wrote for Lake Travis Lifestyle about her journey).

One of the most important things that Alana has taught me is to the live life intentionally. None of us are promised tomorrow, so we need to make today count. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have we should give thanks for what we do. Count our blessings. Don’t wait for tomorrow.

But of course, Alana would be the first to admit this isn’t always easy. This type of thinking doesn’t happen overnight and we’re all learning. I’ll find myself counting my blessings in one breath then cursing traffic in the next. I REALLY had to remember what is important when the girls spilled blue nail polish all over the carpet.

So anyway, here I go. Gonna spend less time wasting mindless time on Facebook and watching dog videos and more time intentionally doing things I love, such as writing and doodling (more on that to come).

I’m bringing Lucky back. Happy Friday!!

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Katrina – Nine Years Later

by Emily on August 29, 2014

Nine years ago today? Wow. I remember watching the Katrina coverage from a hotel room in The Woodlands, TX, where we’d evacuated. Ryan and I were engaged, with our wedding set for the upcoming weekend in New Orleans. I’d swaddled Nugget, our 5-month-old Springer Spaniel, in a blanket and carried her in as if she were a baby. Phew, she passed. Dogs weren’t technically allowed, but what was our other option?

We stayed up most of the night watching the news (no Facebook, no Twitter, no smartphone – just the TV news and the occasional slow internet when we could connect). We worried about our city and the friends that we knew stayed behind. After all, the last few hurricanes had been false alarms and “it’s such a hassle to leave….”

Initially, it looked like New Orleans was spared the worst of the storm, but then….

There are thousands of heartbreaking stories of despair after the levees broke. People trapped in houses. Pets left behind. People who lost everything. Thirst. Stench. Squalor. Chaos. 80% of New Orleans was under water. It was terrifying and tragic.

But amidst the horror, there are also stories hope and great encouragement. Heroes stepping up in daring rescues. Neighbors helping each other clean out those nasty refrigerators and ultimately helping rebuild. People came together in a way we wouldn’t have known possible. The amazing, impromptu wedding that The Woodlands United Methodist Church and community stepped up to throw Ryan and me is one beautiful example. Family and friends gathered to share the day with us, some literally wearing the clothes they evacuated in (because again, we all thought we’d be gone 2,3 days tops). Many people didn’t know whether they’d have a home to return to. Sadly, some didn’t. But the event provided a glimmer of hope and a reminder of what is truly important. People came together – not only in New Orleans, but across the country to help those in need.

So thank you. Not only to the people who contributed to our wedding (the church members, the lady who stayed up all night long making our wedding cake, the vendors who donated flowers, photography, tux, limo – even the judge who stuck around an extra hour on the Friday of Labor Day weekend so we could get a marriage license in Texas – then waved mandatory waiting period). But there are thousands of others who helped out with recovery efforts all over the world. Whether you donated your time, money or resources – no matter how big or how small – thank you. If you brought a boxful of blankets so that evacuees could be more comfortable – thank you. If you volunteered your time at the Astrodome in Houston, which housed 11,000 refugees from New Orleans – thank you. If you gave money or even simply said a prayer for those suffering – thank you. I saw firsthand how Texas cities welcomed New Orleanians and provided support – and I know this support extended all across the country.

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This sign was hanging in TWUMC. I’m thankful so many church and community members answered, “Yes!” Everyone’s efforts made a difference.

Nine years, huh? Hard to believe. In some ways it seems like forever ago, but in others it seems like just yesterday. We’re now in Austin, with three kids and that same swaddled dog we snuck in the hotel (oh and a bunny added to the mix just for fun). But we get back to New Orleans as often as we can. And always encourage our friends to do the same. After all, there’s no place like it.

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Would Jimi Hendrix have the same legacy if he’d played right handed? Well, ok, there’s a good chance yes. After all, he IS Jimi Hendrix. But part of what sets him apart is his style of playing and the cool way he holds the guitar. It’s his signature.

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I’ve been pondering this a bit lately, because my daughter recently started guitar lessons. She’s right handed, but for some unknown reason insists that she’s more comfortable playing left-handed. Normally I’m all for being different, but this complicates things. I’m new to all things guitar, but apparently it means we either need to have her regular guitar restrung for a lefty, purchase a custom-made guitar for a six-year-old beginner (um, no) or force her to play right handed.

Now, playing right-handed has several benefits. Assuming this sticks and she continues, she could more easily borrow other people’s guitars. And buy them cheaper (any thing that starts with “custom made” sounds expensive). Also, many teachers are more comfortable teaching right-handed, simply because that’s what they’re used to.

But I did some research and found a few interesting tidbits. First, I learned that Paul McCartney originally tried to play the guitar right-handed, but made little progress. He was going nowhere until he reversed the strings and switched to what was more comfortable – playing lefty.  The rest, they say, is history.

I also read that although he’s a lefty, Jimi Hendrix’s dad insisted that he play right handed (he thought playing left-handed was the sign of the devil), so Jimi learned to play both ways. He could play right-handed, left-handed, even upside down – but whenever his dad was around he made sure to play the ordinary, “right” way.

Don’t Fight Natural Instincts

Pondering these two greats made me think how some skills and natural talents simply can’t be forced. Sure, you can try to change someone or fit them into the mold of what is “normal,” or you can take their natural instincts and talents and encourage them to run with it.  Ordinary isn’t always best.

I have a friend who is a pretty good golfer. He’s happens to be left-handed, but he plays right. When he was young and just beginning everyone insisted he play right handed, for many of the same reasons as the guitar above (easier to buy clubs, can always borrow someone else’s, etc.). So he did.

At first it was hard to learn and didn’t feel natural. He kept at it and today he enjoys golf and plays any chance he gets. He’s good, too. But he’s not great.

The question is, could he have been a great golfer had he been encouraged to play the way it felt natural? Who knows.

Would Paul McCartney have become frustrated and quit playing if he were forced to play the guitar right handed for much longer? Hope not. But again, who knows.

It’s not about Lefties vs. Righties

This post isn’t a debate about lefties vs. righties at all. It’s more about following your passion and natural instinct, even if it’s not the most conventional or easiest way. Most people who are experts in their field – no matter what industry — have a combination of passion, natural talent, hours of practice and good timing on their side. They followed their heart and jumped at opportunities. This is what makes them great.

The accountant next door may be a damn good accountant. But could he have been a great photographer had he pursued his first true passion?

Or what about the project manager down the hall? No doubt she’s good at what she does. But could she have been a great marine biologist if she’d pursued her childhood dream of working with dolphins?

Of course, we can’t all be legendary musicians, Nobel Prize-winning scientists or billionaire CEOs. I’m a dreamer but also a realist, and I’m all for having a plan B in life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work your tail off for Plan A. Even if it’s hard or not the ordinary way.

There’s a decent chance my daughter will decide in time that guitar just isn’t her thing. So if you see a lefty youth size guitar on Craigslist in a few months you’ll know it didn’t quite work out. But at least it won’t be because we forced her into something that didn’t feel right. I want her to know that often the easiest, most traditional route isn’t always the path to greatness.

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“I don’t work at being ordinary.” –Paul McCartney

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On Male Communication

by Emily on February 26, 2014

The other day on our way to dinner, out of the blue my daughter asked, “Mom, can there be male girls?”

Hmm… I stalled in answering, trying to collect my thoughts. Ryan and recently watched Dallas Buyers Club and the image of Jared Leto’s character was the first thing that came to mind.  I wanted to give an honest answer, but also keep it age appropriate.  How do explain transgender to a six year old? Where was that in the parent manual?

So my mind was scrambling, trying to figure out the best response when Ryan started to answer. “Phew.” I thought. “So glad he’s taking this one for the team. Can’t wait to hear how he tackles this subject…”

Then he simply answered, “Of course girls can deliver the mail.”

Molly nodded, satisfied.

Oh.

I chuckled to myself. A mail girl, not a male girl. Nice.

Smiling, I wondered how my frame of reference influenced my thoughts. Had I not just seen Dallas Buyer’s Club would I have immediately thought “male” girl? Or, had we just passed a post office, then I bet “mail” definitely would have been my first thought. But here I was, stressing about how to give justice for Rayon.

Still chuckling, I couldn’t help thinking there’s got to be some transferable lesson in there somewhere. Perhaps, when communicating, our thoughts are influenced by outside factors far more than we think? Or maybe it’s that we spend entirely too much time worrying about all the wrong things, when a simple answer is all that’s needed. Or it could possibly be a lesson in male vs. female communication styles. Isn’t it typical that the girl would ponder and over-think things and the guy would give a quick answer and move on?

Who knows. Whatever the takeaway, it gave me a laugh and reminded me that we all communicate a bit differently. Two people can hear the exact same thing have two completely different thoughts and responses. You never know peoples’ backgrounds and different experiences shaped their thoughts and communication style.

But it’s late and that’s way too much thinking for me. The bottom line is this: you can have a male girl, a mail girl, or even – how about this — a transgender mail carrier.

Signed, sealed, delivered.

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Crazy Texas Weather

by Emily on January 27, 2014

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You gotta love Texas weather. Friday it froze, giving us a small blanket of snow (er, ice). But around here that’s a big deal. So we scraped together enough for a teeny tiny snowman – who is still in our freezer, by the way.

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The rest of the weekend was in the 60s and 70s and we wore shorts. But they tell us there’ s another round of ice heading our way Tuesday. Go figure.

So we took advantage of the gorgeous weather to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It’s free all month, and they had a special “tree talk” event that promised fun activities for the kids. We didn’t know what to expect but figured we’d pop by for a bit. We ended up staying for hours.

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We climbed trees (that’s Molly at the top!), built forts, roasted marshmallows, went on a scavenger hunt and swung on wooden tree swings. It was a really cool, unexpectedly fun day and just another example of all this city has to offer.

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And speaking of free fun, earlier in the week we hiked the trails around Bull Creek and had a picnic on the 360 Overlook. Soaking in as much outdoor fun before the next cold front rolls in. Don’t put those winter jackets in storage yet!

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 “Undecorating” a Christmas tree on the 360 Overlook.

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Crazy Bunny Lady

by Emily on January 15, 2014

We’ve all heard of the – and probably know at least one – infamous crazy cat lady.  The nut that posts pictures and videos of her cat doing typical boring cat things. Dresses the cat in costumes and talks (and sings!) to it. Bores friends with tales of the unbelievable thing the cat did that day.  Wants to introduce her friends and neighbors to the cat, and is absolutely sure it’s mutual and that her friends want to meet said cat. Why wouldn’t they? After all, it’s the cutest darn thing ever.

Well that’s not me. I don’t like cats.

But uh oh. Crap. Just realized something alarming. Change the word “cat” to “bunny” and it appears I’m pretty darn close to earning the “crazy” label. Somehow over the last five days I’ve turned into a CRAAAAZZZY BUNNY LADY (said like Adam Sandler as in, “I’m crazy bunny lady, now give me some candy!”)

Can’t help it. I love this little thing. Meet Clover:

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Technically, Clover is the kids’ bunny. Allie REALLY wanted a puppy for Christmas, but one dog is plenty and that wasn’t gonna happen. But she’s been enamored with bunnies for almost a year, and we decided that was doable. So we got the brilliant idea for Santa to bring the girls a bunny instead. Except the bunny wasn’t ready yet, so Santa left her a bunny book and a note explaining that she would come live with us in a couple weeks.

Oh, the anticipation!! That was half the fun. The girls told anyone and everyone that we were getting a bunny.  The pizza delivery guy, the grocery store clerk, the stranger at the park – everyone. Allie’s teacher said she wrote about Clover every day in her journal. We got the cage, food, litter and all accessories. We were ready.

Finally, last weekend while M&A were at a birthday party, Santa made good on his promise and left this precious little thing:

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My family had a bunny when I was young and I have fond memories of Daisy, but as far as raising one Ryan and I are clueless. Just like having a new baby, we’ve read the books and researched online but we still feel like new parents again. We’re asking each other questions neither of us knows the answer to (how do you littler train her? What type of hay? Water in a bottle or bowl? Do we clip her nails?). I’ve vacuumed the house a gazillion times because the hay and wood chips in her cage get everywhere. I’m constantly on alert, making sure the girls are gentle and keeping Nugget away (we don’t trust her yet).

But with all this work, I have to say it’s totally worth it. She’s already brought so much joy to our children and family that I don’t regret her for a second. After church on Sunday nobody wanted to go out to eat, they all wanted to come straight home and see Clover. After school they sprint inside and take turns holding her. Clover has been pushed in a doll stroller wearing a tiara. She’s met every doll we own. And she’s taken it all like a champ.

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Molly commented the other day that we have to get Clover a stocking. By golly, she was right. And because they’re now on sale, I figured we might as well order it now. So Clover now has a Pottery Barn stocking to match all of ours for next Christmas. Pathetic, I know. Like I said, crazy bunny lady.

Plenty of people warned us and tried to talk us out of getting a bunny. They told us how they scratch, claw and chew on furniture and electrical cords. We listened and considered it all, and this wasn’t an impromptu decision. After a lot of thought we decided it would be a good move for our family. And so far it’s proven that way.

So I say, if you’re considering getting a bunny, do it! Granted, it’s only been five days and she’s still a baby. She might get mean and start biting and scratching. She might chew furniture or other objects. We may end up regretting it. But I don’t think so. After all, how could I regret these happy faces?

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Happy New Year!

by Emily on January 5, 2014

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Happy New Year! I hope your 2014 is off to a great start.  Being the impatient people that we are, we celebrated the occasion at noon on New Years’ Eve. The party was mainly for the kids, because so many of the little ones don’t make it ‘til midnight, but us big people managed to go through plenty of “real” champagne as well. Our house is still recovering from the bags of confetti we dropped from the second floor but it was totally worth it. The kids had noisemakers, confetti poppers, hats, etc. Ryan even played the Kidz Bop version of Auld Lang Syne (yep, such a thing really exists). The best part was that we didn’t feel guilty at all about putting the girls to bed at normal time that night so we could watch the Duke bowl game. Everyone knows how that one ended thanks to Johnny Football – not the outcome we wanted but a great game nonetheless. Here are the girls – and Nugget – in Ryan’s old football sweatshirts…

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On New Year’s day we made sure to eat our black-eyed peas (for luck) and cabbage (for wealth). But I guess we forgot whatever it is you’re supposed to eat for health, because that night 2 of the 3 kids got a stomach bug. So we kicked off the year doing laundry and holding our daughters’ hair back. Awesome. But we’re back to full speed now and ready to see what the new year brings.

So I guess it’s a time for reflection and resolutions. I’d like to think I’ll blog here more in 2014, but we’ll see. I guess my personal blog is sort of like the cobblers kid who has no shoes. I now contribute several bogs a week to other sites, so my prime writing time is taken with that. But I get paid for those, and no one is paying me to write about my random thoughts or things my kids do on Lucky Emily, so you understand why there’s been less and less updates here….

However, just because I haven’t been posting about interesting things lately doesn’t mean we’ve been sitting around the house bored. Nope, just the opposite. To give you a cliff notes version, here are some recent family highlights, in no particular order:

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1). I bought a paper mâché Rhino on Craigslist that now proudly hangs in our house. He wore antlers and a Christmas scarf in December, and now has a “Happy New Year” headband and boa. I plan to decorate him for every holiday. Stay tuned for Valentine’s day. Ryan is thrilled.

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2). I hosted a ladies’ Tacky Christmas Sweater party with my friend Alana. It was awesomely tacky and I’m already pumped for the 2nd annual shindig.

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3). Allie lost her first tooth! It was the tooth fairy’s first trip to our house.

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4). Took the kids to visit Santa – he was great! Allie saved him half of her chocolate chip cookie for lunch, and he actually seemed thrilled to get a warm, melted bit of cookie. He promised to save it and eat it later.

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5). Matching cousin Christmas jammies complete with butt flaps!

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6). Christmas! Yep, Christmas is my favorite holiday so it’s hard to sum into a little highlight reel, but it was pretty magical. We celebrated at the farm in Abilene but got home Christmas Eve so Santa could come to our house. The girls made Santa’s reindeer individually labeled snack packs of carrots. I started to say something about wasting ziplocs, but decided Christmas Eve was not the time for practicality. They worked so hard and it was pretty darn cute – and I’m sure “Rudoff” enjoyed his treat. Santa took the carrots and the big jolly man delivered. The girls were thrilled. Especially with the fact that Santa promised them a bunny in mid January (because it wasn’t quite old enough to leave the North Pole yet). What was Santa thinking? So in a couple of weeks I’ll post some pics of “Clover,” the soon to be newest member of our family.

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7). Elizabeth gave herself a makeover.

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8). Went to the Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade, one of my fav Austin traditions. Elizabeth was much better about parting with her toy than last year

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9). Ryan built us a swing! I’ve always wanted a wooden swing in my yard, so while Ryan was doing some woodwork on the deck he took the time to build us a swing, too. It’s hanging from a tree in the front and has already provided hours of entertainment.

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10). First family selfie of 2014.

BTW, Lately I’ve been posting more of my pics on Instagram, so if you want to follow along – because I’m not the best at updating pics here – you can follow me here. And if you already do follow, my apologies — you’ve probably seen most of these pics before:)

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XMAS JAMMIES

by Emily on December 19, 2013

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It would be hard to miss the XMAS JAMMIES video of the Holderness family that’s gone viral the last few days. I loved it not only because it was clever and hilarious, but because my girls have the same jammies. And yep, we also call them jammies (not sure “pajamas” has ever been uttered in this house – sounds way too formal and much less cozy).

Anyway, that the Holdernesses seem so cool my kids want to join their family. Actually, so do I. How does that mom manage to look so damn good in red and green striped pajamas? That’s not easy to pull off, but she does it well. I look more like the neighbor in the video (who is also charming in her own, unique way, right?).

For the fun of it, the girls put on their Christmas jammies and skipped to the park today, where I took this cell phone video of Molly and Allie. Clearly they got those stellar dance moves from me.

Oh and I bet Chasing Fireflies is loving that video. Those jammies aren’t cheap, and their sales are bound to go through the roof!

Merry Christmas – I hope your family has matching jammies to sport on Christmas Eve.

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Random Facebook Facts

by Emily on November 17, 2013

So there’s yet another game trending on Facebook, where someone gives you a number and you have to write that many random facts about yourself. I typically steer clear of these types of things, partly because they’re a little too chain letter-ish for me, but also because I’m pretty darn lazy. Plus I already sort of resemble a giraffe, I don’t need to change my profile picture to one (and if you have no idea what I’m talking about then good for you!). But this time around I got the number 9 from my friend Alana and thought it would be fun. I wrote my nine facts while watching football last night (hooray, Duke!).

But clearly brevity is not one of my strong suits. When I finished I decided it was way too long for a FB post. Still, I’d already taken the time to write them so figured I might as well post them somewhere. So here they are. Nine random facts about me:

1). I collect PEZ dispensers. I started when I was a kid and have hundreds of the little guys. Confession – I actually can’t stand the candy.

2). In middle school I got an asymmetrical haircut.  It was short – practically shaved – on the left side while much longer on the right. It took years to grow out and is probably the reason I’ve had the same boring haircut ever since.

3). I love old country music. Merle Haggard, Don Williams, Willie, Waylon & the boys…  I’ve seen my fair share of them in concert. Multiple times. In addition to the music, the people-watching at those things is stellar.

4). I read the paper every day. I have all the apps, but I’m a dying breed that prefers the old school, actual newsprint on my fingers. In college I would “borrow” the paper from the fraternity house next door and put it back in its plastic sleeve after I’d read it. My first job out of college was for USA Today.

5). I was voted funniest girl in my high school senior class. I would have preferred “sexiest” or “most likely to be on TV” but took the consolation prize.

6). I love thrifting. Tons of our home décor and plenty of my clothes came from a Goodwill, Savers or similar. I love the thrill of finding a hidden gem sandwiched between a pleated denim skirt and a plaid blouse with shoulder pads. Score!

7). Once at a party I called Taco Bell with an order for delivery.  Naturally they informed me they don’t deliver, but I asked to speak to the manager. After a bit of sweet-talking I somehow convinced him – a total stranger – to bring my hungry friends and I our food. 30 minutes later he arrived at the door with 6 bags of tacos, nachos and cinnamon twists in hand, then took a shot of Jack Daniels before heading back to work! I’m sure Taco Bell corporate wouldn’t be thrilled with this story, but we were grateful and gave him a generous tip. And I learned an important lesson that day – it never hurts to ask.

8). I love a good theme party, festival or any excuse to put on a costume or dress in something other than regular clothes. Occasionally I’ll make up my own reason just to humor myself. Like this time.

9) I was supposed to get married in New Orleans 6 days after Hurricane Katrina. Obviously we didn’t have the wedding we planned, but as it turns out we ended up with an amazing and memorable ceremony in Texas. The Woodlands United Methodist Church threw us a wedding on 36 hours notice. It was beautiful and a good reminder about what’s truly important in life. You can read about the wedding and the lessons learned in a previous post.

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