My Mamaw

I loved my Mamaw so much. She was such a big part of my life. I’m so grateful I got to spend so much time at her house when I was a kid (thank you, Mom, for taking us!), and that my children got to be with her over these last 10 years.


I remember when I was expecting Madilyn. Papaw would email me about how excited he was to meet her. They held up a picture of her when he was in the hospital. He would have loved both the girls so much.

What a gift to have Mamaw for as long as we did. I watched Mom and her siblings dutifully care for her as long as they could, and so did many others like Cathy Ball, who Mom calls an earth angel.

Everyone loved my Mamaw. She claimed so many as her own that I’m not sure who all I’m actually related to! She made everyone feel so special. But you knew you were one of the favorites if your picture was regularly featured on her fridge.

Summers and school breaks were always spent at Mamaw’s house. I treasured those evening games of Yahtzee when she would erupt in an enthusiastic “Oh! I Yahtzeed all over myself!” – and we would crack up laughing.


Holidays were filled with family and food. But no matter what time of year it was, if you stepped foot in her house, you were offered something to eat. No one left Mamaw’s house hungry. In fact, you probably left with a covered dish and a bag of cookies.

She grew up in a different era, one in which you broke beans, shucked corn, and canned anything that would fit in a mason jar. But she gladly converted to canned biscuits. She cleaned constantly and never let anything go to waste. She worked circles around all of us. I don’t know how she had that much energy.

She wasn’t afraid of much of anything from what I could tell. I never forget the day she whacked a big blue racer snake in half with a hoe in the yard where we were playing.

mamaw 2

She was tough as nails but always put together. She looked her best wherever she went, but especially for church, with her amazing collection of shoes, suits, pins, purses and of course, wigs.

I’ll never forget the day she took a spill down the stairs at home, and I called 911. She had a concussion and needed to be taken to the hospital to be checked out, but she absolutely refused to budge an inch until her wig was brought to her and put on properly. And what she said went.

She gave me two pieces of advice as a teenager: one was to never pay retail and the other was about boys. “Like them all,” she said. “I did!”

Of course, Papaw was her sweetheart. They married so young! And had mom when she was only 17. She served him his entire life. I’ll never forget how she waited on him hand and foot it seemed! She even packed his suitcases.


She was royal. I always felt such pride in being her granddaughter. I always will. She carried herself with the authority of someone who knew she was the daughter of a king.

Jesus was her lifelong companion. She would talk to him like he was in the room with her.

Whenever we left her house to head home, she sent angels to travel on all sides of our car. And to this day, I’ve never known anyone to say, “Now, Lord, you know we need a good parking place,” and have a spot open right up.

Anyone who knows my grandmother would describe her as a worshipper and a prayer warrior. She prayed with such fervor and compassion. She just cared so much. If you needed prayer, you knew to call Mamaw Lou. Praying was the only thing she could still do when her mind and body began to fail.


I can’t imagine a world without my Mamaw in it. But she gave us so much. So much love. We loved her because of the love she heaped upon us–bushels and bushels, as she would say.

Love is her legacy.

The Story of Our Home

We moved to Nashville in the summer of 2012, and signed a 2-year lease on a rental house in East Nashville. We weren’t planning to buy a house anytime soon. It was an adorable house in a great location, but it was just 1400 square feet, and we quickly felt the lack of space.

2012-12-16 08.33.06House in the background…the story (if I remember it correctly) was this brick Madilyn is standing on was from Hank Williams’ home.

Jeff kept looking at houses online and telling me about how the prices were really rising in this area. I said I’d start looking just to keep tabs on the market in the event we wanted to buy when our lease was up.

I drove by a few houses just to compare what they looked like online to in person.

Then I saw it.

I turned the corner and entered one of the most beautiful streets I’ve ever seen, and there was this house … I just had this “moment” with it and knew it was going to be our next home … or “forever” home. (I blogged about it here.)

20121219-060314.jpgThe Cedarwood House

I shouldn’t shake the feeling. I didn’t even think it was going to be possible. I called Jeff at work and said, “I just found our house.”

I shot an email off to our landlord just to test the waters on if it would be feasible at all. She said, “I think we can work something out.” She actually said she supported us investing in East Nashville. What a community!

So we moved forward. The sellers accepted our offer November 4. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. Everything went so smoothly – and fast!

2012-11-07-06.01_2Turkeys in the front yard


2012-11-07 06.11.29I adore the floor length windows – so much lightIS-1hjgnf963w8d9

Two weeks later, I lost my job. The company I had worked for the past five years had been sold.

Since I worked remotely, I began seeking out other freelance work. There were stretches when I had regular income, and others that I didn’t.

Over the next two and a half years, we made a lot of wonderful memories in our home.



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2015-03-06-01.07.00Our besties Jaya and Andre

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2013-06-15 22.15.51


10580268_10154490143940386_3668997264973513863_n10641171_10154511149905386_6570911614484839484_nBut we were not in a good place financially. No savings and credit cards maxed out.

Panic set in. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I began to experience major anxiety.

By the summer of 2015, we didn’t have money for extra expenses, like fixing our brakes or the AC that had gone out in our family car, or our fridge.

We also didn’t have enough to travel to Florida to see our family (or go anywhere for that matter), and that also meant we had to pull out of a friend’s wedding that the girls were going to be in. I absolutely hated letting them down.

It was tough, and I realize that a lot of other people have it much, much worse. We are privileged. Our situation was not dire. We just weren’t making enough to support our lifestyle. I completely acknowledge that.

Knowing how much the value of homes had risen in the area, I realized that by selling our house, we could alleviate our financial discomfort, pay off our credit cards and start fresh. So we did.


We desperately wanted to stay in the neighborhood as we had just spent the last three years planting roots, building friendships and working in the community. To do that, we bought a house that was considerably smaller and older (about 1600 square feet and built in 1949) and 2 miles away. And even that was the top of our budget.


Still, we were lucky. It had tons of character and a great big fenced in back yard. Best of all, we hit the “neighbor jackpot,” I would say. We met some dear friends in all directions of the house, and some of them have kids in the school. They each invited us into their tribe — and I truly believe and hope they’ll be friends for life.

At the same time as the move, my longtime friend had started a company and asked me to work for him. It was part-time but he believed it wouldn’t be long until it transitioned into full-time work. It was steady income and allowed me to work from home.

But the smaller house was quite an adjustment. Over the next two years, Jeff and I had ongoing conversations about how to make the house work for us. We were grateful to be recovering financially and making better decisions. We didn’t want to keep accruing debt by adding on or building out.

2016-07-19 08.40.08

2016-05-07 15.23.44

It was a constant exercise in learning to be content.

I began coming to terms with my anxiety and began doing a lot of emotional work, including going to counseling. I even told a friend, “I have learned so much about myself in the past two years i feel like i’m a different person (thank you enneagram and counseling!). if i had known what i do now, i think i would have handled things differently two years ago.”

I realized that my anxiety blinded me from believing I had options. I did what I thought was best at the time (selling the house), but I still dealt with major regret … (what if we had waited a bit longer?) But now I also realize the changes forced me to deal with my anxiety head-on. I’m grateful for that.

el and madilyn halloween

My kids also asked us often, “Why did we move?”

Little Ellenor would refer to the old house as the “sunny house.”

It was painful knowing the instability we had created. But I was glad that Madilyn had stayed in the same elementary school since we moved here. And they had lots of neighbor friends to play with.

Then, late this summer, Jeff got the itch to move. Nearly two years to the day that we’d moved in, he began talking to me about moving (again) so we’d have more space for our family. He pointed out how anxious I had been since we moved in.

He was right. I knew the house would not be a long-term fit for us, but the timing seemed awful. Terrible, in fact.

It was the end of summer break, and school was about to start back. Ellenor was going into Kindergarten! I had just started working full-time, and I knew a move would be an enormous time-suck.

Yet, Jeff was motivated unlike I had ever seen him. He tackled about three pages’ worth of home repair projects in two weekends.

I reluctantly began to declutter and pack and look for houses. We wanted to stay in the area, after all, Jeff still worked in the neighborhood middle school. Madilyn was now going there, too. But I knew this time we probably wouldn’t be able to. And honestly, I was crushed.

It seemed inevitable we would end up with different schools for the kids.

We found one house we liked in Hendersonville, but we couldn’t get an offer on it fast enough. Then another we were able to put an offer on but were outbid. Finally, we found a third one and finally had an offer accepted.

Still, I was grieving. I went back to counseling after taking a break over the summer, and I began prepping the kids as I prepped the house. We kept playing up the benefits of the move, and we kept telling ourselves that this was it. We wouldn’t be moving again for a long time.

We were grateful the new house would still be close enough to maintain some of our existing connections, but I also knew we’d have to completely rebuild our social life in the new area. New schools, new friends — all of it.

A couple weeks later, I ran into a neighbor from the other side of the old house (Rick), and he told me the people who had bought our old house had moved out and were going to sell it.

My heart started racing …. What were the chances? I threw a couple things in my cart and checked out. My head was spinning.

We were under contract with the other house, so there wasn’t anything we could do about it. It seemed crazy to even think about it. I told Jeff and then just tried to let it go.

We moved forward with the inspection at new house, but things were going really badly — and had been since the start. I don’t even feel comfortable going into details here. Feel free to ask me about it.

It got to the point I couldn’t help but think this wasn’t meant to be and that we should walk away. We couldn’t come to a reasonable agreement over the repairs, so we terminated the contract during the resolution period — just a week and a half before we needed to move in.

I started looking for other houses and even rental houses in the event we couldn’t find a house that was right for us. I kept feeling regret for selling the Cedarwood house, knowing if we could have somehow made it work back then, we wouldn’t be in this situation today.

I kind of sheepishly asked Jeff what we thought about messaging the owner of our old house — just to see what she’s planning to sell the house for.

He said, “Give it a shot.”

I wrote her a message on Facebook, but felt so embarrassed by it that I DELETED it — I mean, what a crazy idea, right?! Who does this?

BUT she had already seen it, and she responded later that night. They too, had moved back into their old house! But they had not made any concrete plans to sell it just yet. But if we were interested, she said she could tell us about the half-plans she’d made so far.

My real estate agent knew her, so he called and talked to her as well. She told him for some reason the house just never really felt it like was theirs and even referred to the house as ours. The next morning, she she decided she willing to sell it back to us.

Jeff and the girls were in the room when our realtor told us over speaker phone.

In that moment, the floodgates opened, and I began like hard core ugly crying. The kids were jumping up and down screaming with delight.

I cried off and on all day — I was feeling waves of relief and joy. I could not believe it. We had a chance to get our old house back! Maybe this really was the house that we were meant to have.

Last week, the sellers signed our offer, so we are officially under contract and are set to close later this month. Less than 24 hours ago, we moved into the house. The sellers weren’t ready or prepared to move the rest of their stuff out of their house, but they made it happen just so we could move in when we needed to before our other closing date.

They’ve been so generous, and I am so grateful.

I’m in awe, really.

I think back to the chain of events that brought us to this place. There is no way we could have ever orchestrated it.

What if I hadn’t seen Rick in the grocery store?

What if I pushed back on Jeff when he wanted to sell?

What if someone different had bought the house when we sold it?

What if our first landlord hadn’t let us out of our contract?

It’s all just CRAZY!

I can’t help but think it’s miraculous. Even the seller, whom I had a good chat with over the weekend, called it a “God thing.” We talked about how strange and wonderful it is to have a sense of place, of home.

It feels like such a gift.

And we are overjoyed to be home.

So I guess this is the story of three wonderful homes during our time in Nashville, one of which we have a second chance to love again.

madilyn lucky cup

One more little story…The seller (who is a real estate agent herself) texted this to me the day we moved in about Madilyn’s lucky cup. I thought it was sweet: “You left the lucky dish at the house when we moved in. Since then, it has been in several of my listings for luck. I happened to have it in my car today and left it for you. I truly believe it is lucky.”

perfectly imperfect

perfectly imperfect

by mama


Is your nose too big? Are your freckles too small?

Do you smack your food loudly? Do you feel too tall?


You, my friend, are perfectly imperfect.


Take, for instance, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

It’s a crooked work of art – just like the smile on the Mona Lisa!


Everything about you is rare, valuable and prized.

You, my dear, don’t ever need a disguise.


You are never too much. You are never too little.

You are just right. Hey – that even goes for your giggle.


“A beautiful thing is never perfect,” a old proverb goes.

Scars tell stories. Just ask Dad – he knows!


Perfect things are a bore.

It’s your birthmarks and googily parts that I adore.


Forgetful, shy, loud or clumsy …

We all do things that are sometimes funny.


You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed.

We are all perfectly imperfect, just like this.



We’re moved in!

We’re officially moved in! It’ll take a while to get situated but the hard part is over. The washer/dryer was delivered yesterday & we now have Internet. Yay! I love being close to Madilyn’s school. Jeff is closer to his now as well. The house is beautiful & wonderful & big and we’re feeling exceptionally blessed.









Cara for hire (aka I lost my job!)

The news is finally public that Halogen TV, the company I helped launch & worked for during the past five years, has been sold. I got the call a week before Thanksgiving that my services were no longer needed.

I’m so grateful to have been part of that team, and for the financial blessing the job has been, as it allowed me to set up my freelance services as an LLC & work from home.

So now I’m truly freelance as my main contract is no more… I’m wide open and ready for business! Check out my website and forward my info to anyone you know needing someone who’s a pro with online content & publishing.

Thanks! And much love you you this holiday season!

We bought a zoo!

Just kidding. We bought a house! And it does have a lot of wild turkeys roaming the property, so that’s kind of like a zoo. Or wildlife preserve.

So we moved to Nashville in June and signed a 2-year lease on a house in East Nashville. We weren’t planning to buy a house anytime soon.

Jeff kept looking at houses online and telling me about how the prices were really rising in this area. I said I’d start looking just to keep tabs on the market in the event we wanted to buy when our lease was up.

I drove by a few houses just to compare what they looked like online to in person.

Then I saw it.

I turned the corner and entered one of the most beautiful streets I’ve ever seen, and there was this house … I just had this “moment” with it and knew it was going to be our next home … or “forever” home (relatively speaking).

I shouldn’t shake the feeling. I didn’t even think it was going to be possible. I called Jeff at work and said, “I just found our house.”

I fired off an email to our landlord just to test the waters on if it would be feasible at all. She said, “I think we can work something out.”

So we moved forward, using Jeff’s VA loan option. We worked with the landlord to find new renters … which happened in like a week! The sellers accepted our offer Nov. 4. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. Everything went so smoothly – and fast!

Today we close on the house and begin what will be our THIRD move this year! Thankfully it should be the last for a long time.

This is a great house in a great area where we’re beginning to plant some roots. I look forward to living, working and sharing this house and our lives here in East Nashville.

The house is close to Madilyn’s school & Jeff’s work in Inglewood. It was built in 89 and has been owned by one family. It’s been well cared for.



UPDATE – Spread Some Love – Buy a $5 Polo

UPDATE: Thanks to all who have donated to provide some needs for students at Jeff’s school. Here’s an update after just two days:

We’ve received $274.72 in donations or pledges to be mailed. We’ve spent:

  • ($181.73) 40 shirts
  • ($56.68) 4 jackets

We’ve got $36.31 left to buy some toiletries with … or more jackets. We’ll see how we can best stretch that money.

There’s still time! If you’d like to donate, please do so by Wednesday so we can get the items to the students before Christmas break. Thanks so much! God bless each of you for having giving hearts.

Jeff works at a high needs school just outside downtown Nashville. While East Nashville has certainly diversified its socio-economic demographic over the past 15 years or so, there are still many people in need in the area.

Jeff encounters them every day.

Did you know there are kids who on days they’re expelled from school, will sneak back on campus during lunch so they can eat that day?

They. Sneak. Back. On. Campus. Because. They. Have. No. Food.

How do you look a kid in the eyes and punish him for that?

There are several homeless kids and students in serious need that social workers have identified to the staff at the school. Teachers and admin are “adopting” these students for Christmas. When they were asked what would be on their wish list, many if not most say, “Maybe a shirt or a pair of shoes?”

Jeff & the teachers he oversees at the school’s Freshman Academy are “adopting” a freshman girl. You know what she asked for? Underwear. We’re giving her that, outfitting her in new school clothes, giving her a perfume set and some gift cards.

But I want to do more. And I want to invite you to do it with me.

At Nashville public schools, there is a dress code where students must wear a solid color shirt with a collar … like a polo shirt. At Stratford specifically they must wear a white or black collared shirt. At a school with a majority of kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch, a new shirt is a luxury. Some kids might only have one or two they will wear all year.

So … bargain hunter that I am, I found these discontinued shirts from Men’s Warehouse for less than $5 each. I bought up 34 of them, spending $153.34.

Will you help us cover the cost? $5 buys one shirt for one student. Here are the breakdown in sizes I bought.

  • Small: 2
  • Medium: 14
  • Large: 12
  • XL: 6

Use this PayPal link, or send us a check … however you want to do it. I’m looking for 30 people to send $5/ea. After that, I’ll continue to buy them until they’re all gone, and after that, I’ll look for another good deal until there are no more good deals to be had.

If you aren’t involved in giving back this holiday season yet and are looking for an opportunity, consider giving a shirt to a student where Jeff is working to make a difference in lives every day.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in November

Since we’ll be going to Florida for Christmas, Nana wanted Madilyn & Ellenor to open their presents over Thanksgiving break when we came for a visit. Two words: spoiled rotten. Beyond repair.

On our way to Nana’s we stayed a night at the Wilderness Resort in Pigeon Forge & had a great time. Madilyn & Jeff swam in the indoor water park, then she & I painted pottery that night. Madilyn painted a firetruck with quite the detail, and I painted an ornament using mint & coral colors. We had a lot of snacky food & she picked out a chocolate Tyrannosaurus Rex to give to Uncle Chris as an early birthday present.

But perhaps the most exciting thing was running into Santa in the hotel lobby just before we left! Ellenor gave his beard a tug to make sure he was legit. She learns fast! Madilyn asked Santa for Tinkerbell’s Secret of the Wings DVD. He also quizzed her on the princesses’ names.


On Thanksgiving Day we went to my Uncle David & Aunt Cindy’s house. She prepared quite the “feast” as Madilyn calls it. Everything was perfect. We had a great afternoon … Then afterward Aunt Cindy & I hit up Walmart for the pre-Black Friday sales. It was crazy! And fun. We got some good deals and Christmas shopping is officially done! Here are the girls in their matching Turkey Day shirts.

Madilyn took this pic 😉

The look on Madilyn’s face when we told her there were presents to open:

Out of all her gifts, her favorite was a little stuffed Chihuahua named Skippy John Jones – or Skippy for short.

She got a stack of bills from her Mamaw Lou, which she quickly spent at the toy store.

Ellenor was just happy to be here, but she got her first baby doll as a gift from Nana.

Madilyn opened it for her. I love that their expressions are the same in this pic:


Sunday we asked Uncle David to dedicate baby Ellenor to the Lord. He spoke wonderful words of promise over our little one.

Madilyn asked if she could stand next to Uncle David, as it would be her “first time on stage.” I have a feeling it won’t be the last!

Being dedicated is tiring business!

How We Raised $401 for Our Daughter’s School by Selling eBooks


Madilyn poses next to her $100 bill with her face on it as part of the 100-day $100 PTO challenge. She also got to attend a pizza party with her principals!

We wanted to offer a behind-the-scenes look at how we successfully fundraised for Madilyn’s school this fall so other families might be inspired to do their own take on it. What I like about creating a digital asset is there’s no money out-of-pocket. The idea came serendipitously; my daughter was playing with a new app I downloaded on our iPad for free called My Story. It allows you to create an eBook. Madilyn did a series of drawings and asked me if I could type the words in that went with it (she’s 5). The app also had the ability to record so we recorded her reading her creation. It was a priceless memento – especially to hear her as an early reader. I was so impressed by her ideas and hard work I knew I had to share it with family and friends.

Since her school’s PTO recently announced a fundraiser, asking each child’s family for $100 toward technology in the classroom, I thought perhaps we could sell copies of the download to help offset this donation for us. We would sell copies for .99/download in hopes of making $50, and we would match it. A week and $351 later, we were blown away by the generosity. We matched the initial $50 as planned, and also paid to have copies of the book printed (approx. $40)  as a thank-you to those who donated $20 or more.

We had a blast seeing how far we could take this, and I was overjoyed for Madilyn to experience how fun it is to give. Below is a more detailed description of how we did this. Please contact me with any questions you might have, and let me know if you have similar success! (For instance, Madilyn’s cousin Jorah recently did a school fundraiser by selling copies of a kid-friendly cookbook she and her Nana put together. A great idea!)

1. Create an eBook with My Story App – My Story is the simplest story maker and book creator in the App Store. Children can draw, use photos, record voice, type, and then send their finished creations to family and friends.

2. Export via link or PDF – Share your story book via email to anyone with an iPhone or iPad. The format of the book (.epub) will be viewable in iBooks on the iPad or iPhone, so make sure your recipients have iBooks installed. This version will have audio if you included it. My Story will house the asset on their website, so all you have to share is a link.

3. Create a PDF version For those who don’t use iBooks or another e-reader you might want to create a PDF version. A PDF version will be universally viewable, and can be printed. So whether or not you choose to have a hard copy printed, a PDF version will allow your recipients to print on their home computer. There might be an easier way to do this but I created screenshots of each page in the My Story app and imported them into a desktop publishing software and exported as a PDF. You could use Microsoft Word or any program similar if you don’t have Adobe Photoshop or the like. I also redid the typography, and included a page on the back “about the author” along with a photo. We used a printer I found online for the printing: They were super friendly, helpful, fast and did a great job printing. It cost about $40 to print 20 5.5×8.5″ copies.

4. Create a PayPal donation link – Most people already have a PayPal account, and it’s probably the easiest way to send and receive money online. However, you will get hit with PayPal fees. We chose to cover these fees ourselves to keep the donations easy to tally. But you do what’s best for you. We also accepted cash & checks. The only downfall is that these donations were not tax-deductible since they went through our hands, but because the donations are low, this didn’t seem to be a determining factor for most. To create a donation link, log on to PayPal, click “Merchant Services” in the navigation, then “Create buttons for your website.” Under “choose button for your website,” select “donations.” Write in a description of your fundraiser under organization name, then hit “create button.” Select the “email” tab and copy the link to share. You could use a link shortening service to make it shorter & email friendly:

5. Make the pitch! – I crafted a blog post to explain what we were doing and to offer the downloads. I also included three screenshots to show them what they were getting. Then I shared it like crazy over social media: email, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Facebook is proven to have a much higher donation rate than other platforms so if that’s all you use, you’ll be fine. I’ve also heard you’ll have a higher success rate if you email people directly instead of in a group email (if you’re doing a group email, people always appreciate when you BCC them instead of showing everyone your address).

6. Update like crazy. It’s important to post updates about how you’re doing as you go along. It often takes three exposures to a pitch before people respond. And, the more people get engaged with the story of what’s happening, the more they want to play a part. Make sure people feel included and appreciated in this process. Let them know exactly what they’re donating to, how your little one feels about all this, and how much time is left to donate. Some people use social media intermittently so we had some folks donating right at the end of our campaign. A side note – I think the shorter the campaign, the more urgency there is to give & the greater success you’ll have.  After all, we raised 4x the amount we aimed for in a single week!

7. Deliver the goods. There are services out there that will allow you to automatically send a digital asset once someone pays for it, but to keep it simple, I personally emailed the files. I simply used the email address through which the donation was given in PayPal. I chose to email as donations came in, but it would probably be easier to do it at the end of the campaign. The printed books came in about a week after the campaign ended. Madilyn signed each copy and we covered the cost to mail them. Again, these printed books were a thank-you, but I believe having them incentivized people to give much more than the requested donation (which we never imagined at the beginning of the campaign!).

Finally, there are services popping up that are making fundraising (or “crowdfunding” as the kids call it these days) easier. Here’s a list of a few, plus I’ve had friendly successful use Fundly and IndieGoGo.

Now go raise some money! We hope we can do a fundraiser each fall for her school so we’d love additional ideas. Share them here!