The Elf on the Shelf is dead.

It's the second day of December and I know what some of my friends are wondering, where the hell is Ornery? Ornery is our Elf on the Shelf.

Usually by this time Ornery has already made at least two appearances on my social media. You know what I'm talking about. That small stuffed toy that seemed like such a fun idea when you first started setting him out every night and then quickly grows into a huge pain in the butt.

Ornery made his first appearance at our house back in December 2010. He brought them a special LEGO Advent Calendar straight from the North Pole.

Ornery's first appearance, December 2010

We read the book, we named him Ornery, and we anticipated all of the shenanigans that would soon be a regular part of our Christmas season.

For the last five years, Ornery has been quite the character. He has done all kinds of silly things. The first year I wasn't good about taking pictures of all of Ornery's escapades, but by 2011 I was flooding my social media with Ornery updates. With the first Ornery post of the Christmas season, friends and family were replying with messages like, "Yay! He's back!" and "I can't wait to see what kind of trouble Ornery gets into this year." The pressure I felt for Ornery to perform was real even though he wasn't.

My kids loved it. Loved waking up to see where Ornery was each morning. And our elf didn't just move to new locations. No, our elf moved to new locations and created havoc and chaos and fun wherever he was. And I was doing most of this pre-Pinterest, thank you very much. Here are a few of my favorites:

Using Mama's lipstick.

Elf golf.

Hugging on Baby Jesus.

Tape issues wrapping their Advent calendars.

That's a straw in the syrup. Because syrup is everyone's favorite. And For those of you wondering, yes, I misspelled sugar on purpose.

Elf movie love.

This one was a big hit.

Captured by Ugly Dolls.

Elf jokes.

Got into a special breakfast.

Bedlam with Purple Dinosaur.

Stuck trying to make himself a cocktail.

Pooping marshmallows. Side note: peppermints melt when left in the toilet overnight making it look like the elf might need to see a proctologist.

Minecraft elf.

Last year after Thanksgiving my husband asked me, "You aren't doing the whole elf again this year are you?"

What?!? Or course I was going to do the elf! Too many people would be disappointed if I didn't! My oldest had already given me the look that told me that he knew Ornery wasn't real. But his little brother seemed to believe. That was until this past summer when Palmer started to ask questions. Pressing questions about Santa and the elf.

Palmer: Mom, I know that the tooth fairy isn't real and the Easter Bunny isn't real. And leprechauns aren't real either. Santa is, right? But the elf. I really don't think the elf is real.

And I left it at that. I didn't respond. I didn't make a comment. Because even though it was June, I suddenly saw my out. I saw the possibility that I wouldn't have to spend 25 nights coming up with some elaborate elf creation. I wasn't going to ruin the moment by trying to convince him that he still needed to believe.

But how was I going to do it? Was the elf simply not going to show up? Just disappear forever? That didn't seem right. So what does a mom do when you are looking for these kinds of answers? You get on Pinterest. Unfortunately, Pinterest doesn't have anything about saying goodbye to an elf...forever. So I improvised.

Ornery arrived with a special LEGO Advent Calendar, so I decided he would go out the same way he came in. The boys are anxiously awaiting the new Star Wars movie (yes, we already have our tickets) so the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar seemed like the thing to do. Ornery has usually arrived with a letter and this year would be no different. I stayed up late writing a letter that I thought tied it all up nicely with a pretty little bow. Or so I thought.

Palmer: So his spirit is gone and his body is here?

Mom: That's right.

Palmer: Like when someone goes to Heaven. Their spirit is gone and there's just a dead body.

Mom: Well...yes...

Palmer: This is just a dead body.

(Bentley smirking the whole time, eye rolling included.)

Mom: He's not dead, he went to another family who needed some Christmas spirit.

Palmer: But his dead body is still here. So now we have a dead body in the house.

The next morning...

Palmer: I wonder what Ornery did!

Mom: Buddy, Ornery went to another family. Remember?

Palmer. Oh yeah. (Disappointed face.) The Fosters.

Mom: The Fosters? No...another foster family.

Palmer: What's a foster family? And who are the Fosters?

Oh good lord. All I wanted was for this damn thing to go away. This was much more involved than I wanted it to be. Now we had dead elf bodies in the house and a whole new discussion about foster families and adoption.

Later that morning as Palmer came down the stairs and passed the boys' Christmas tree...

Palmer: Mom, there's a dead body on the tree.

Mom: Yes, Palmer. Yes there is.


During my grief after losing Major,  I started searching for Golden Retriever breeders online. On the quiet drive home after saying goodbye to Major the first words I spoke to the boys were, "We'll get another Golden someday."

Through Major's illness, I learned a lot about the health of Golden Retrievers and what you wanted to look for when looking for breeders. My thought was that maybe I could find a breeder that was expecting a litter later in the summer. Maybe by then we'd be over our grieving and ready to welcome a new guy into our home.

After hours and hours spent looking, I found a breeder who checked off all of the boxes for all of the things we were looking for. She had an online questionnaire to complete for those interested in a puppy. I quickly filled it out, including the story of everything we had just gone through with Major. Yes, that's right. I was using the heart wrenching story of our dead dog to try to get a puppy.

Before I knew it, there was an email response from the breeder. She had read our application and was touched by our story. They actually just had a litter and had one male puppy left. She was going to keep him for herself, but after hearing our story knew that we would give him the loving home he deserved. He would be turning 8 weeks old the following week and after his next vet visit would be ready to come home with us. Then she attached this picture...

As if I'm going to open this picture and say, "Yeah, no thanks. I think we'll pass."

We took it as a sign. Of course, I immediately felt guilty. Like I was being disloyal to Major. But I also knew that this little guy would help us in our grieving process. Okay...he would help me in my grieving process. Truth is, I had woken up several nights in the middle of the night only to start crying a deep, ugly, it's dark and no one's looking, cry when I realized that Major wasn't in the room with us. Forget about the kids. I was the one who needed this little guy.

We made arrangements to pick him up on a Friday. We didn't tell the boys. We had surprised them with Major on Christmas, so we decided to continue the tradition minus the Christmas part. Driving down to Long Beach, I had butterflies in my stomach. It might have been March, but it felt like Christmas morning to me.

Our new puppy was ready and waiting for us, sitting on his blue blanket from the picture. We met the puppy's Mom and the Dad who weren't sure why we were holding their baby boy. He smelled like puppy shampoo, having just had a bath to meet his new parents. He whined as his mama strained to sniff him and I felt bad for them both. It suddenly seemed terrible that I was taking her baby away from her. She didn't know what a fantastic life this little boy was about to have.

With our puppy care package and new puppy wrapped up in his blue blanket, we pulled away to head home. He sat in my lap and snuggled me the whole way. I cherished the moment, knowing this puppy's time in my lap would be short lived. He looked just like his dad and his dad that weighed 90 pounds. The whole drive we talked about names. We were struggling. We wanted to honor Major in some way, but nothing was sounding right. We wanted to have some choices to give the boys, so they could feel like they were naming him. And also so we didn't end up with a horrible name like Vader or Lego.

By the time we got home, it was time to pick the boys up from school. Derek went to pick them up while I played with the new puppy in the backyard. When they got home, Derek would tell them to head to the backyard.

After the excitement died down and after vetoing the name Oswald (yes, that was one of the suggested names) we quickly decided to name him Bleu. Bleu the Golden. Very UCLA of us, blue and gold being UCLA's colors. But spelling it B-L-U-E was much too traditional for us. The boys thought the spelling B-L-E-U was much cooler. So it was settled. Bleu it was.

Bleu has been everything we needed to help us get over our loss. He is 8 months old now and is not so little any more. It was hard at first not to compare him to Major, but he has his own special personality. He loves swimming in our pool and often comes to the back door sopping wet. He sneaks up on our bed in the middle of the night and slowly snuggles up to us like a furry toddler. He loves to eat ice just like Major did, but doesn't carry around stuffed animals in his mouth like his big brother which actually makes me sad. Other than ripping out a patch of wool from my living room rug and eventually ripping holes in Purple Dinosaur, he has been a very good boy. 

This puppy's love has healed our hearts. We hope and pray he gets to live the long, healthy life that Major missed out on.

Goodbye Purple Dinosaur

Our #GoodBoyMajor with his beloved Purple Dinosaur

Purple Dinosaur is in pieces. Bleu and Bevie, our two puppies, had their way with him and now we must say goodbye. I know that he is just a stuffed dog toy, but having to put him in the trash was heartbreaking. Those of you who are my friends on social media, you have seen lots of pictures in the past of our sweet boy, Major, with his much loved Purple Dinosaur. Last March, after a long illness, we had to make the horrible decision to put him down.

I realize that some of you might still wonder what happened and how he got sick. There were times while it was happening that I considered blogging about the whole thing. I wasn't writing much of anything at the time. Emotionally I was too all over the place and my worry and concern for Major had zapped most of my creative juices.

It was a rough 8 months that started with a simple limp. Major had been limping for a couple of weeks and it only seemed to be getting worse. We headed to our vet who then referred us to a specialty vet. Little did we know we would get to know all of the doctors in multiple departments at Animal Speciality Group (ASG) very, very well.

First diagnosis was bilateral hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears (like an ACL tear in humans.) Both are common in Goldens and for Major his issues were with both of his hind legs. Surgery would be required. Multiple surgeries. We debated and worried. These surgeries would cost a small fortune. But Major was only 2 years old and these kind of issues were common and very fixable. The CCL issue was worse than the hip dysplasia, so we opted to go with that first. His first surgery was set for the end of August.

Surgery went well. I knew that the recovery of a 80 pound Golden Retriever wouldn't be easy, especially since once he recovered from the first it would be followed by a second. His recovery seemed to be going slow, but surely that was normal.

Then one Sunday night while we were eating dinner, I glanced over at Major laying on the living room rug. I noticed a big black spot on the carpet near his nose. I got up to check it out and sure enough, his nose was bleeding. I've owned dogs my entire life and this was a definite first. We couldn't get the bleeding to stop, so at 10PM I decided to head over to the 24 hour emergency vet.

Long story short, they couldn't find anything wrong. They shot a steroid up his nose to stop the bleeding and told us to come back if it started again. Went home somewhat relieved.

Two days later he was bleeding again. This time it was coming out of the other end. I panicked, not sure what was happening but knowing whatever it was, it wasn't good.

Long story even longer, we ended up back at ASG. Major was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Immune-mediated Thrombocytopedia (ITP). Basically, his immune system was attacking his platelets. If it isn't caught in time, dogs can bleed to death. Hopefully we had caught his in time. No one knows what causes ITP. It's just something that...happens. It had no relation to his knee and hip issues, by the way.

We battled his disease for months, traveling to ASG in Glendale (a 30 minute drive in L.A. without traffic, which of course in L.A. never happens) every other week for blood work and medication. It was getting extremely expensive and emotionally exhausting. At any minute, he could relapse and start to bleed again. And don't forget, we still had the hip and knee issues, but know with having an autoimmune disease he would never be able to have surgery. At least not easily. And we also discovered that the spot in his knee, where he had surgery, had not only developed an infection but the screw was actually in the wrong place. The whole thing was becoming a huge veterinary cluster you-know-what.

Side note: His surgery was not done at ASG, by the way. We opted for a cheaper surgeon, clearly a huge mistake on our part. A mistake that still hurts my heart to think about.

We were on such a daily up and down with his health. I had grown abnormally attached to this dog and his illness had only made that bond stronger. I was the one at every vet appointment. I was the only one who knew exactly what medications he needed and when. I have personally never fought a major illness, but I felt the responsibility to do all of the fighting for him. I was going to do whatever was needed to keep him alive so I spent a good amount of time researching online, trying to learn all I could about ITP. Really what I was searching for was hope.

Dogs can live a long life with ITP, but there would always be issues of one kind or another. We loved Major so much we would do anything for him and obviously we were. But there comes a time when you have to consider quality of life for everyone involved. And Major's quality of life and his future didn't look happy or healthy. He had a lot of different issues. I mean, a lot. Physically he was a total mess. It's hard on any dog to have hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia and CCL is really rough. Hip dysplasia, CCL and ITP? Forget it. But like any Golden, you'd never know it. We had to ask ourselves the hard question if we were fighting to keep him alive for his sake or for ours.

He was only getting worse. He had aged so much and the illness was wearing on him. He was miserable even though he would never, ever let you know it. After much discussion and tears and heartache, we decided to say goodbye.

We all went to ASG to say our goodbyes. He was on some good pain meds that made him pretty loopy which actually made it better on all of us. If he had been his happy Golden self, I'm not sure we could've made it though the whole thing. We took our time loving on him. Bentley wanted to take pictures with him. Palmer wanted us to all hold hands so he could say a prayer. Then Derek and the boys left the room and I stayed with my Major until it was all over. It was horrible and gut wrenching and so incredibly peaceful. And that is all I'm going to say about that.

But that's not the end of the story.

To be continued...

Post Script: I have to take a minute and mention how wonderful the entire staff at ASG was during our 8 months there. Even though it wasn't the outcome we had hoped for, I will always be grateful to them. They loved Major almost as much as we did and it showed. They were professional and loving and took the time both on the phone and in person to answer all of questions and concerns. And after it was all over, through my tears I smiled and said, "I mean this in the best way possible, but I hope I never have to see you guys again." They laughed and hugged us goodbye one last time.

Boring Halloween decor is my specialty.

When you live far away from the majority of your friends and all of your family, you tend to say "What's the point?" to a lot of things. Decorating for Halloween for example. I mean, no one but the four of us will ever see it. Well, I guess that's not entirely true. The UPS driver who comes to my house 2 to 3 times a week (give or take) gets to see them. And Derek's players who come over for a home cooked meal might notice them. But really...Derek doesn't care about Halloween decorations. The boys think our decorations should be a gigantic spider climbing over the roof of our home toward a humongous web blocking our front door and obviously that's not happening. They think my decorations are boring. So...what's the point?

But honestly, it's near impossible to have a major holiday like Halloween roll around and not put up a toothy pumpkin or two. I do have cute Halloween decorations that in the end serve no other purpose but to change up my regular decor. I guess that's reason enough to put them up.

I try to keep it simple. Nothing too fancy. Nothing too elaborate. Nothing bleeding. Nothing scary. No gigantic spiders. No humongous webs. Sorry kids. Mama ain't got time for that.

The two pictures below are a must every Halloween. The one on the left is of 2 year old Bentley, dressed as a Gap teddy bear at the McFarland pumpkin patch in Norman. This pic was snapped at the end of a photo shoot with my mom. The bear was totally over it.

The pic on the right was Palmer's first Halloween. Both boys spent their first Halloweens dressed up as Dalmatians (we had two Dalmatians at the time.) Bentley was a fireman to go with Palmer's Dalmatian. By this time the following year, we were living in Southern California and I was the one who was totally over it.

Just a classy, somewhat boring, Halloween display outside. The drought has done a number on the pumpkin crop this year. Normally, you would find large bins of pumpkins at every grocery store, making it quite easy to purchase a pumpkin or two. Not this year. Even our local, longstanding family owned pumpkin patch didn't open this year. This drought is now screwing with the holidays. This is a real problem, people.

Decorating with past holiday family pictures is my holiday decor fallback. This one is another favorite, featuring the cutest Storm Trooper and Yoda you've ever seen. And our sweet Freddie did such a good job posing for the picture when all he really wanted to do was get away from everyone and find a quiet place to lay down.

Let me reiterate, I like decorating with pictures. Wouldn't you if you had a picture like this one? I mean, look at how cute this little pumpkin was! His Aunt Gee had given him a pumpkin onesie from Gymboree for his first Halloween. He's so stoic, sitting there holding his little hands together, I can't get over it.

And that is the end of my Halloween home decorating tour. Short and sweet, just like me. (Although I'm not really that short, and very few if any would use the word sweet to describe me.) It's not much, but it is less to clean up. And as the queen of holiday decorating Martha Stewart would say, that is a very good thing.

Post Party Stress Disorder

thanksgiving feast (i.e., PPSD creator)

I have an issue I haven't talked about before. I have PPSD. Post Party Stress Disorder. It's real. I have the mental and emotional scars to prove it.

I spent the past couple of weeks getting ready to host a Halloween party for kids at our church. A small party, just for kids in the 5th and 6th grade. A 2-hour party with tacos, queso, cupcakes and games. Simple, easy and fun. No big deal.

I started stressing about planning this party early. I made lists. Multiple lists. Made lists of my lists. I took way too long creating a simple invitation. I spent hours on Pinterest looking for just the right games, fun party food and decor. I didn't get any of my regular responsibilities done for the week because I spent so much damn time planning this party. It was borderline ridiculous.

Finally last weekend, I woke up and realized that I was giving this simple party way too much time and attention. Our church has events for these kids every two weeks. It might sound like a lot, but it's meant to be a way for these to get together socially in fun and safe ways. Parents take turns hosting the outings. I chose the date closest to Halloween thinking a Halloween party would be an easy one to do. But I was being obsessive about making it perfect when it didn't need to be. These kids weren't going to care one bit about how cute the decor was or what the photo booth was like. (Yes, I was planning on having a photo booth.) I needed to stop caring so much.

I blame it on my PPSD. My Post Party Stress Disorder. I haven't always had this problem. I have hosted a lot of parties in my adult life and have always taken pride in throwing a great party. It is one of the many gifts that my mother has given me. But last year around Thanksgiving, something happened that changed the way I will approach a party forever.

Last year I served as homeroom mom for my youngest son's class. I had done it previously for my oldest son (twice actually) and I felt obligated to do it for my youngest even though after doing it the last time I had uttered the words to my husband, "I am NEVER doing that again." Mom guilt is a powerful thing and in the end I couldn't help myself. I was approached about being the homeroom mom and before I knew it, I was saying yes.

One of the responsibilities of the homeroom mom at our school is planning the Thanksgiving Feast. It is a half day of school with nothing but eating, crafting and partying. The school serves a huge feast and the homeroom moms have to plan a craft and for the older kids, a service project.

Last year, the administrators asked us to not serve a huge breakfast to the class because it keeps the kids from eating the feast that is served for lunch. In previous years, homeroom moms have served huge breakfasts (some actually catered from local restaurants, and no I'm not kidding) and the kids are so full they don't end up eating any of the lunch which, of course, ends up in the trash. It is a horrible waste, especially when there are so many in our own city who are hungry. We were asked to keep whatever we serve the classrooms for breakfast--if we serve breakfast at all--small and simple, something like milk boxes and donut holes. Which is exactly what I did.

Side note:  I had been communicating with these parents for weeks prior about the day's festivities. I had made it perfectly clear that we were only having donuts and milk when the kids got to school. Just needed to throw that out there.

The day of the feast was going great. The kids had enjoyed donuts and milk when they got to school. We made a cute Thanksgiving craft with terra-cotta pots, popsicle sticks, and leaves. We counted all of the cans that we had collected all week long for our local food pantry. The kids were enjoying the day and before we knew it, it was time to go outside and enjoy the Thanksgiving feast.

For the first time that day, I finally got to sit down. I purposely sat down next to another parent to thank her for some cute things she had made for our feast table. If I had known what was coming, I would never have sat down. After thanking her, she started to lay into me. She was PISSED OFF that I hadn't served a hot breakfast. She was angry that I had not provided her child a real breakfast, but only a snack. A sugary snack at that. She went on and on and on. I couldn't believe it. I tried my best to remain calm speaking to her with patience, but that didn't matter. She treated me like I was the shittiest homeroom mom ever. EVER. I was crushed.

My best friends now refer to her as Hot Breakfast.

Hot Breakfast gave me PPSD.

Unfortunately, I still had two more parties to plan for the year. And now, because of my PPSD I stressed out for WEEKS about planning the party perfectly as to not piss off anyone. Stressed out enough to give me diarrhea for weeks. HOW CRAZY IS THIS?!?! I mean, we are talking about parties for 10 year olds. Kids who are fired up just to have a party. Kids who could give two shits about having a hot breakfast.

When the last party of the year was finally over and started to come down from the stress induced adrenaline I had been experiencing all day, I breathed a sigh of total and complete relief that I would never have to plan a homeroom party ever again. But I now realize that even though my time serving as a homeroom mom is over, the effects of PPSD still remain. At least now I am aware that I have a problem. I'm dealing with my anger issues brought on by the feast incident, although I still find it hard to be friendly to Hot Breakfast.

I've come to realize that there are a lot of people out there who lack graciousness. They lack the ability to simply say thank you. Thank you for doing a job that no one else wants to do. Thank you for spending your own money and time to do something special and fun for my child. I appreciate you. Thank you for all you do.

Graciousness would help cure my PPSD, I'm almost certain.

In the meantime, so does wine.


We've lived in California for over 9 years now. That is 9 years longer than I ever thought I would live in California.

Don't misunderstand. We are happy here. California has become home. It took me 8 1/2 years to get there emotionally, but California feels like home.

Except when it doesn't.

There are so many things that differ from living in Oklahoma to living in California. Plenty of material to fill many a blog post. There are lots of times that I find myself homesick. OU game days are the worst. Social media is a blessing and a curse. I love seeing everyone's pictures on game days. I also hate seeing everyone's pictures on game days.

The Fridays of OU/Texas weekend suck. I want to be there, stuck on I-35, headed south to Big D with the rest of the Sooners. This year, I felt even worse when Bentley came home from school Friday informing me that a friend of his here in California was headed to Texas for the game.


"Yeah, his parents are Sooner fans so they are headed to the game. Why won't you and Dad take us to the game? When are we going to go?"

"Maybe next year, bud."

"Yeah. That's what you said last year."


So I spent most of last Friday feeling sorry for myself. While moping I discovered something. There's A LOT of Oklahoma in my house. My home state pride is evident throughout.

At my desk...

In our entry way...

In my utility room...

When I go to the local farmer's market...

Near the back door...

In the kitchen...

By the pool or in the car...

In the living room...

Yes, we've become Californians but we will always be Oklahomans. We are what I like to call Oklacalihomans. Just look around.

Pretty damn magical.

{photo credit here

Sometimes memories become so distant that you start to wonder if they were ever real in the first place. Was it really as magical as I remember? Did it really happen? When it comes to my early childhood, I no longer trust my own memory.

Many memories of my childhood seem idyllic. Unreal. The cynicism of adulthood has made me question the magic. My brain whispers that something that beautiful, that magical, couldn't possibly be true. Surely my little 7 year old mind made it up, but my little 7 year old mind wasn't that creative. I could never have thought up something this magical on my own.

And yet, maybe I did.

I was in the 2nd or maybe the 3rd grade. I'm not sure exactly what that day involved, there is nothing else about the day that I remember. Beyond the back of our school, beyond the playground, beyond the field was a grove of trees, trees that I'm sure look much smaller today than they did then. Through the trees lay a small park named for my great grandfather. Beyond the school and the trees and the park, next to a small creek was my home. My grandparents lived one block to the west. My aunt, uncle and cousins one block to the east. My life was in a 1-mile radius. A normal life that was simple, easy, protected.

I spent plenty of time at that park, playing amongst those trees. I have quiet memories there; memories with no sound like old silent movies. Memories of metal jungle gyms and tornado slides and best friends from the neighborhood. This particular memory, my magic-filled memory, included my classmates. Kids named Mitchell, Issac, Amy, Angela, Todd and Jodi. Kids that I haven't seen in over 30 years and wonder if they have this memory too.

Is it as real to them as it is to me? Do they remember?

I don't recall walking through the field or stepping into the grove of trees, but our teacher took us out there with clear intention. We stood amongst the trees, my classmates and I, all of us looking up into the afternoon sunlight streaming through the trees. Everywhere around us, on the trees and the leaves and in the air were thousands and thousands of monarch butterflies, the trees absolutely covered. They were migrating south I'm assuming, taking a rest in our part of the world before heading on their way to a fabulous winter vacation south of the border. For a little girl around 7 years old, thousands and thousands of butterflies covering everything around you is pretty damn magical. A memory that you never forget.

It wasn't long after seeing those butterflies that I left that school, that park, and that home, leaving me with little magic to hold onto. Parents divorcing and being moved away from your simple, easy and protected life tends to do that. My memories of living there are varied and vast--some painful, some joyful, even idyllic at times--but nothing compares to or can compete with my memory of the monarchs.

I believe in the magic of the memory. I believe that those butterflies were real, that God and Mother Nature were in that moment together, giving us a small taste of the beauty and wonder and magic that exists in the world. A perfect moment when everything was okay.

My youngest keeps asking me if Santa is real. Once or twice a week I get the question. He presses and looks at me hard, waiting for me to confess. Instead I respond with my own question:

"Do you believe in the magic of Santa?"

To which he replies, "Yes."

"Well then, that's all that really matters. Right?"

I never asked my mother if Santa was real. I wanted the magic. I needed it in my life. Santa and monarch butterflies were a way to believe that amongst heartache, there was still magic in the world. I still need magic in my life.

If my memory of the monarchs wasn't real, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

Sh*t's about to get real.

Reinventing the wheel: the All Week items on the bottom left have to be done throughout the week. The chore items listed next to their names are the "extra" chore that has to be done that day. And yes, brushing hair and teeth needed to be put on the list as reminders. A sad truth at our house.

I am starting to hate the sound of my own voice. Lately everything that is coming out of my mouth is a nagging demand of some kind. I feel like all I do is constantly ride my kids about what they aren't doing or what they should be doing or what they could have done better. With a husband that is gone before the boys wake up in the mornings, who often gets home late in the evenings, and travels a lot for work, I get to play Bitchy Mom 99.9% of the time. Sweet Mom rarely gets to make an appearance because Bitchy Mom has so much damn work to do.

I'm tired of having to be such a hard ass with my kids. I'm tired of nagging and demanding and bitching and complaining. I'm tired of hearing Bitchy Mom every time I open my mouth.

I am really good at complaining about how "no one else in this damn family helps clean this damn house." I talk a lot about responsibilities, about how we all have responsibilities at home and at school and in our community. I'm a BIG talker. I am especially good at dinner time speeches about how we all need to do a better job helping, about how allowances aren't given to children who don't take care of their responsibilities, about how in the real world you won't make it if you don't take care of your responsibilities. I give my big speech and the boys nod their heads and look at me and say, "Got it."

"Got it" is uttered by my children daily.

Go make your bed. Got it.

Watching You Tube videos all afternoon isn't good for you. Got it.

Quit leaving all of the lights on. Got it.

And NOTHING happens.

"Got it" is a reflex. A knee jerk reaction. It's said quickly, unthinking, with no emotion. It doesn't mean anything. I'm sick and tired of hearing "Got it." There's something about it that feels disrespectful and rude. Like I'm being blown off. Yeah, Mom, I've got it. After yelling at my oldest several times to please stop using that phrase, he now just stares at me when I telling him something, unsure of what to say.

So then you find yourself wondering what the hell you should do because, by damn, something's gotta change. Things came to a head for me one night recently and before going to bed I promised myself that the next day I was going to...I didn't have a clue what I was going to do but I had to do something before I lost my ever loving mind. Like all mothers, I didn't have the option to sit around moaning about how much I suck as a mother. So instead, I got on Voxer with my best girlfriends the next day and boldly declared that "shit's about to get real" at the Freeman's.

The next day I created chore charts and rule lists and calendars. If I was going to implement one change I might as well implement them all. No more here's your allowance for doing nothing all week.  No more getting away with stupid crap over and over again with no consequences. No more random responsibilities that have no name. No more asking me millions of times, "What are we doing this week?" Here it is all is in black and white. I'm done telling you. I'm done asking you. I'm done nagging you. I'm done being Bitchy Mom. Bitchy Mom needs a break.

That night, the hammer came down. The boys looked liked they'd been kicked in the teeth. What did we do, dear Mother and Father, to deserve such extreme punishment? Sadly, we had to explain that these weren't punishments. That a list of rules and chores were a normal part of a family and a normal part of life. And then I clarified everything for them: "Boys, I'm not raising husbands that expect a woman to do everything for them. I'm tired of nagging and I don't want your wives to have to nag at you either."

They both smiled at me and said, "Got it."

Renewal Vows

{image found here}

When we were in Napa this summer celebrating our 15th anniversary, I got an email from the pastor of our new church. A few weeks prior, we had Pastor Debbie and her family over for dinner. While serving a traditional southern dinner of fried chicken and sweet tea--fried chicken that I had slightly overcooked but sweet tea that was just right--Derek happened to mention that I was a writer (or at least something that used to resembled one.) I quickly tried to downplay the compliment, dismissing the accolades my husband was attempting to share with our new guests.

And then a few weeks later I opened the email that I mentioned. Pastor Debbie told me about a new series at our church called Framily that would be starting in the coming weeks and wondered if I could help write some renewal vows. One of the sermons in the series would be about marriage and she wanted to include them in the bulletin, sort of a take-a-way for couples to share with one another at their leisure. Something that would be fitting for couples married either one year or sixty. Something for couples who were married and couples not married but in long-term commitments. Something for couples of every shape and size.

I quickly replied that I would love to write the vows. Prior to hitting send, I put no thought into the difficulties that might come with such an assignment. I had blinders on. My pastor had asked for my help, my help with something that I feel God has gifted me with, and I wasn't about to say no.

But then I sat down to actually write them. I researched a little online, but everything was so specific, as personally written vows tend to be. I worked for several hours, fretting over each word, and finally came up with a draft that I was pleased with. I quickly sent them to Pastor Debbie for her to review, to request changes, etc. She replied that she liked the vows, but they were too...sweet. Too sugary. Too nice. They weren't edgy enough. Could I possibly add more humor and a little edge to the vows and take out some of the sweetness?

Oh boy, could I. She might not have realized it, but she was asking me to be more...myself. Writing something sweet had been a struggle for me, but writing something humorous and edgy? I could get all over that.

And with full permission, here is what I wrote:
With my whole heart, I take you again as my wife/husband/partner. I take you as you are, faults and all, continuing to love you even when it is hard or messy or uncomfortable. I promise to love you through the good and the bad: when we have money to burn or when we are struggling to make ends meet, when my favorite team wins or when they lose, when you gain weight or when you lose it, when you remember our anniversary or when you forget (as long as you buy me _____________ to make up for it.)
From this day forward, I will do my best not hold our relationship to unrealistic expectations like those found in sappy movies or chick lit novels. I know that our life together has been/will be far from a fairy tale, but I believe our relationship is worth the extra time, energy, and effort. I might forget to  ____________ or struggle to ____________, but I promise to work at being a better wife/husband/partner than I was yesterday. Neither of us is perfect and never will be. That thing I do that drives you crazy will probably never change, but that’s okay because you do things that drive me crazy too.
I promise to love you as much as I love [favorite hobby, sports team, TV show, etc.] I promise to let you choose the radio station when you are the one driving, and let you have control of the television remote as long as [favorite show, sport, movie] isn’t on. I understand that you can’t read my mind and therefore promise to always communicate to the best of my ability. I will try to compliment you more and criticize you less, and will listen to you with compassion and understanding even when I don’t agree with a word you are saying. 
The only thing that matters is this: I love you. Not only do I love you, but I like you. I like who you are and who we are together. I choose you again today and I will choose you again tomorrow. I will keep choosing you every day for the rest of our lives. You are my person, my love, today and always.

Pastor Debbie's reply was exactly what every writer wants to read. She said she loved the new vows and was laughing out loud while reading them. They were perfect and exactly what she had wanted. I had hit a home run and there would be no need for a third draft. The vows were printed on a handout and put inside the bulletins that Sunday.

Did anyone actually take them home and recite the words I had written for them? Who knows. In my heart I like to imagine couples giggling as they insert their own words into the blanks, reaching over the table to hold hands as they promise to continue to love each other through the crazy, through the struggles, through that thing the other one does that drives them to drink.

The Summer Camp Blues

b & p being dropped off at summer camp

I made them take this picture. It was the LAST thing they wanted to do. They had just arrived at camp and were ready for us to leave. But by damn I was getting a picture whether they liked it or not. It was one of those moments when I had to give my husband a "look" and he knew that was his cue to yell at the children. Just do this for your mother, please!

We were dropping them off at camp for a two week stay. They were fired up. We were fired up. Everyone was excited and the goodbyes were short. I prayed they'd figure out what to do with the self-addressed stamped envelopes that I included in their luggage. Hopefully we'd hear from them before the two weeks was up.

Then about five days later I was confused to see letters in the mailbox addressed to me and my husband in my own handwriting. Wait a minute...they had written us after all! I was so excited to open up their letters! And then this is what I read:

I was heartbroken. This was not what I wanted to be reading. He had been so excited all summer about going to camp! Not to mention (but I'm gonna) that we had spent a fortune sending him to this fantastic camp that he wanted to leave after being there for only one day. I stood there in my kitchen feeling helpless, my heart hurting at the thought of my little boy crying all alone in his bunk. I needed to give my boy a hug. I needed to hug him and tell him he was okay and to hang in there and that it would get better. But I couldn't so I moved on to the letter from our oldest.

Clearly older brother was having a much better time. He was surfing and shooting guns and loving camp life. That made me feel a little better at least.

We got a few more letters. Each one seemed to be less homesick than the one before. Derek and I decided to pass the time with friends in Napa Valley, drinking lots a fantastic wine. Even with our state's horrible drought, Napa was still beautiful. Dry, but beautiful. Every meal we ate was better than the one before and one night we had the pleasure of staying in a refurbished farm house in the middle of a vineyard. It didn't suck. If there was some way that I could still be there, I would. We quickly decided to create a new tradition: every summer we'd drop off the kids at camp and head straight to wine county. Done and done!

our amazing view one beautiful morning in wine country

While we were in Napa, my friend told me a story about she and her sister when they went to summer camp for a month as kids. My friend loved every second of it, but her sister struggled with home sickness the whole time. She wrote letters home to her parents saying things like, "If you loved me you'd come get me!" When it was finally time for pick up day, her sister ran across the camp into their mother's arm like a slow motion reunion scene from a sappy movie.

It might have been the bottles (not glasses, but bottles) of wine we had consumed, but the story was just what I needed to hear. My friend was cracking up telling it and I was cracking up listening. She asked if I thought I'd get the same dramatic, slow motion run from either of my boys when we went to pick them up. I laughed and said that I doubted it and that they would probably play it cool.

Then it was time to pick them up from camp. We saw older brother first. He played it VERY cool, but couldn't hide the huge smile on his face when he saw us. We didn't see little brother at first. Then, while I was still hugging Bentley, I felt a body blow from the back. There was nothing slow motion about it. Palmer saw us and ran as fast as he could into a full blown, take you down, tackle. Yeah, he really missed us.

Turns out we will probably have a little more cash in our pockets next summer. Later that afternoon on the drive home Palmer was quick to tell us that he liked camp alright, but doesn't really want to go back because they only feed you three times a day. Bentley said he liked it but didn't care that much about going back because the kids in his cabin were jerks. So there you go.

Now to figure out what to do with the children every summer while we head to wine country...

Yes, you're in the right place.

A southern gentleman always takes a lady's hand. Two if he's lucky.

I'm a big decorator. Actually, I'm a big RE-decorator. Come over to my house often enough and you will notice that nothing stays the same for long. Any time my mom comes out to visit she ask, "So what's new with your house this time?"

Same goes for this blog. I was ready for a change, a redecorating of the blog or a rebranding if you will. It is still somewhat under construction. Don't be surprised if it continues to change a little in the days to come. That's how I work. I mess and mess with something until it's exactly they way I like it. I like projects that take tweaking.

This is about the fourth name for my blog I started blogging in 2005 and honestly, I have no good reason as to why I keep changing it. I'm sure people who specialize in branding would tell me I'm continuously shooting myself in the foot. But I like change. I like to make something feel new. I like making something fit whatever stage of life I'm currently in.

I liked the old name, California Freemans, but it seemed dull to me. Didn't really tell you anything other than who we are and where we live. After nine years of living in California, I realize that I am still very Southern in many, many ways. I love my Southern roots and I have come to realize that even though we are raising Californians, we are also raising Southern Gentlemen. I kinda love the combo.

Welcome to West Coast Southern.

He's living in a box...He's living in a cardboard box.

You have goals as a family. You set expectations for your children. You hope that they will make the right choices and decisions based on examples that you've set. But for all of those goals and expectations and examples, let's face it, raising children is a crap shoot. It's hard. No matter how many books or blogs you read, you never really get it right. You get close, but never 100%. You never get to lay back with your full glass of wine and confidently say, "Yeah, I've got this." Each age you think, "How could parenting be any harder than this?" And then they grow up without permission and it does just that. It gets harder.

We have just passed through the threshold of teenagerhood. Our oldest is 13 and an 8th grader in junior high. He's moody. He has braces. He just recently started to roll his eyes at us. Talking about girls embarrasses him. He has an Instagram account that we have to monitor and occasionally tell him to take something down. He has a Facebook account that he never uses but a YouTube channel that he's very proud of and works hard on. He is every bit of a teenager. It's hard and this is just the beginning.

But for all of his moodiness and braces and eye rolling, underneath this boy has a heart for others. I'd like to take credit for it. I'd like to say that it has been through our encouragement and fostering the importance of giving to others. But I can't take credit. It is really who he is. He has volunteered at Special Olympic events and at their office. He has stood outside of grocery stores asking for donations for our local food bank. He has walked for Cystic Fibrosis, shot basketballs for orphans, and put together hygiene packages for kids in Uganda.

A couple of weeks ago I read in an email that our church youth group would be participating in something called Box City. Box City is a fundraiser that raises money for a non-profit called Family Promise that give support and shelter to local homeless families who are trying to get back on their feet. At Box City, hundreds of people raise money and sleep in cardboard boxes at one of our local parks for an evening. You're not only making a difference financially, but also getting a small sense of what it must be like to be homeless.

When I approached my teenager about participating with our church, I wasn't sure what his response would be. Even with all of his past volunteer work, a surely teenager is very temperamental, and asking someone if they'd like to spend the night outside in a cardboard box to support a good cause is kind of a big ask. I'm not sure I'd choose to do it, but I'm not a teenage boy with a huge heart for others.

On September 26, Bentley will be sleeping at the park on the ground instead of his soft bed at home. He's excited about it actually! He will hear from families who have been supported by Family Promise and what a difference it has made in their lives and I know will come home changed, even after one night.

So if you feel so inclined, Bentley would love to have your support in his efforts to raise money for such a great cause. We know there are so many (SO MANY!) great causes out there to give to, but any small amount to help this sweet boy help others would mean so much.

The one where I talk about fallen heroes.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” CreditUniversal Studios

When the news broke about Bill Cosby drugging women, I kept trying to ignore what I was hearing. If it came on the television news I wouldn't watch it. If I came across a news article online, I wouldn't read it. How could it possibly be true? Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable would never do such a thing! Well, maybe Dr. Huxtable wouldn't, but apparently Mr. Cosby would.

By trying to ignore it, I was simply trying to make it go away. Hear no evil, see no evil. I'll just burry my head in the sand and make it all disappear. But ignoring the facts didn't make it any less true.

Then yesterday, amongst all of the press coverage of Haper Lee's new novel releasing tomorrow I learned that yet another hero had fallen off his pedestal. If you haven't heard or have no idea what I am talking about, you can read more about it here. In a nutshell, in Go Set a Watchman Atticus Finch has become a racist. This is incredibly unsettling for LOTS of reasons, but mostly because Atticus is one of the greatest fictional heroes of all time.

I pre-ordered my copy of Lee's new book months ago. I wanted to be able to start reading it the day it was released. This was going to be history in the making and I was choosing be an active part of it. I even considered re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird out of excitement for the new novel, but considering my huge to-read pile staring me in the face thought better of it.

I've seen the social media comments about the Atticus revelation. Shock. Disappointment. Dismay. Even anger. Many are now refusing to read the new novel. They don't want to tarnish the original Atticus. They want to put their heads in the sand. Read no evil, see no evil. But refusing to read it isn't going to change what's been written. It's already out there. Harper Lee wrote the words and created the character and our choosing to not reading the book will do nothing to change the facts.

And sometimes the facts can hurt. Atticus is a racist. Mr. Cosby is a rapist. It pained me just to type those two sentences. I don't want to believe any of it. They are supposed to be heroes. Luckily, Atticus is only a work of fiction. For all of those women he rapped, Mr. Cosby, unfortunately, is not.

I will read the book when it arrives in my mailbox tomorrow. I'm sure it will be upsetting at times but in the end, it's just a novel. I'm not reading about a real person. I might have loved the character and what he stood for in Mockingbird, but he's still only a character in a book (all be it one of the the greatest and most beloved fictional characters ever.)

A few year ago I bought the complete series of "The Cosby Show." I loved that show and, honestly, will continue to love that show because, like the novel, is only a work of fiction. I won't deny that the shows will probably be hard to watch. So much of the man and the character are blended together. I might not be able to get through even one episode without Cosby's despicable acts clouding my enjoyment. And that really, REALLY pisses me off.

All I know is this: neither of these men are REAL heroes. I have met real heroes. Heroes that serve our country in the most selfless ways. Heroes that leaves their families for months and months at a time, putting themselves in harms way in the most dangerous parts of the world.

These individuals are REAL heroes. The heroes that deserve our time, our attention, our tweets, our blog posts.

The one where I talk about why I would buy this book just for the cover.

I almost bought this book just for the cover. Wouldn't you?

I have a serious book buying problem. It's bad. You know how most people make new year's resolutions about losing weight or forgiving someone or stopping smoking? Well, every new year I make a silent promise to myself:
I will not buy any new books until I read all of the books I already own.
And then I walk into an indie bookstore or I get on to buy beef jerky (seriously) and end up noticing new book that looks really good is silently screaming "read me!" and I immediately think to myself, "One book couldn't hurt."

Like any good junky, I need my fix. One books turns into twenty and before long my beside tables (yes, plural) where I keep all of my "to-read" books start to look like this:

It's really a table, a bench, and a stool holding the to-reads. Clearly this isn't enough space because you can see the stack that I have sitting on the floor and behind the dual picture frame of my boys hides another stack of books. This picture really doesn't do the whole thing justice because there are books, not just in my bedroom. I've tried to get rid of some. I sent a box of paperbacks to a dear friend who I knew would read and love and appreciate each one. I use some to decorate with, place lamps on top of, that sort of thing. Books are a part of my home and always will be...because I can't stop buying them.

I remember seeing my friend Kelly's beautiful home for the first time. It was beautiful for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it was filled with books. So many that she had to build built-in bookshelves in almost every room to accommodate them all. My favorites were some floor to ceiling bookshelves in her kitchen with her round kitchen table right next to it. You could eat your cereal next to your favorite authors. I loved everything about it. It was like living in a beautiful bookstore.

Nothing makes me happier than a bookstore. I've tried to go digital. I have the kindle app on my ipad and I've read a few books on it, but when it comes down to it I just like real books better. I like the whole experience. Especially the book buying experience. I love going on vacation and looking to see if there is an indie bookstore anywhere nearby. If I had a secret superpower it would be to save all of the indie bookstore single handedly so that no more bookstore would ever have to die.

Yesterday, Derek and I spent the day down in L.A. (which we rarely do even though he works down in L.A. and we live in a nearby suburb.) He asked me where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I thought of several things. We hadn't been to The Getty in a while and I've yet to visit MOCA, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Or we could have lunch down near the beach. All good options. Instead, I chose to go to Brentwood Country Mart because they have an indie bookstore, diesel, that I've never been to. Forget the fact that I had just been to our favorite indie bookstore and bought two new books that I didn't need. And what do you think happened after I arrived at diesel? I bought two MORE books. Because that is what I do.

The funny part of the story is, I told Derek before we went that I wanted to refrain from buying any more books. I was just going to look, I told him. He laughed at me and said, "Babe, for you only going to look at books is like saying that you're only going to look at a new puppy. You just can't do it."

He knows me so well. I also have a dog buying problem.

"One more dog couldn't hurt."

Creativity, Pod Casts, and Fears

I am what you call a person with good intensions and no follow through.  I said that I wanted to start writing again. I said that it was important to me and that I would make time for it in my daily routine. But I haven't. I've had lots of thoughts and ideas that I want to write about:
  • Why do so many people open their mouths when taking a selfie? Do we look better with our mouths open? Does it make us look younger? Because if that's the case, then I'm going to start doing it. All the time.
  • My mother recently informed me that I was almost named Wendy. After 42 years, this revelation was unsettling but I really can't tell you why.
  • I'm a dog person. At times I've been known to treat my dogs better than my family. My dogs are important to me. Naming my children was easier than naming my dog.
I was listening to a pod cast recently. I have discovered pod casts. They are perfect to listen to when you're getting ready in the morning or scrubbing bathrooms or fighting traffic on the 405. One of the pod casts I've discovered and really enjoy is The Rob Cast with Rob Bell. It was Rob Bell and author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) discussing Gilbert's new book coming out in the fall, Big Magic. Big Magic is all about allowing creativity to do it's thing and not letting our fears get in the way. Obviously I need to read it.

During the pod cast Gilbert shared a story of a promise that she made to her younger self before she became, well, Elizabeth Gilbert as we know her. She promised herself--and I'm paraphrasing here--that she would not put any pressure on her creativity. She wouldn't put pressure on her creativity to pay her bills, or fulfill her wildest dreams. She would just be creative because it was necessary for her to be fully herself. A necessity of life. A life that would be lacking without creating.

Fear is a bitch. I hate it. It gets in your head and hangs out. It creates a constant loop of negatives--no, you can't, you shouldn't, you're not good enough. Fear has been known to keep me from many a thing. Some legitimate that I'm grateful for. Fear has saved me from lots of bad choices I'm fairly certain. However, fear has also kept me from being my best self and that's not okay.

As I'm listening to Gilbert talk, I was somewhat liberated. I realized that there was no reason for me to be fearful when it came to my writing. Gilbert didn't allow fear to keep her from creating and in doing so, her writing took her to a place of greatness. I haven't been able to get this out of my head. What if? What if nothing ever comes of my writing EXCEPT for making me happy to have created it? How is that a bad thing? It's not. If my writing does nothing more than make me happy for having created it, that's all that really matters.

Is my writing going to explode into greatness one day? Well, that all depend on your definition of greatness. Having even one person read your work and say, "I loved it!" is pretty damn great. Being on the best-sellers list would be--I'm not gonna lie--pretty great too. Greatness, like a lot of things in life, is all relative.

Fear be damned, my quest for allowing room for creativity in my life will continue. For allowing creativity to be whatever it is meant to be. I mean, who doesn't like a good blog about the fascination with open-mouthed selfies?

Judy Blume told me to do it.

I don't know why I stopped writing. Okay, that's not true. I do know why.

I stopped writing because I thought no one cared. I was writing with the hopes of always having someone say, "I loved what you wrote yesterday!" That hardly ever happened. Did they think it? Maybe. How often do you read something and reach out to the author and let them know how much you loved what they wrote? Yeah, that's what I thought.

I stopped because the parts of my brain that are dominated by ego and low self-esteem were telling me, "Why go to all of that trouble if no one reads it? No one really cares if you write. I mean, you really aren't a writer."

I thought I always needed to be writing something profound, something that mattered, something that made people want to come back and read more. I was writing to please. Please others. I would sit down to write and found myself censoring my thoughts.

No, I can't write that subject. It might offend someone.

No, I can't write that word. People might judge me.

People think "bloggers" are self-absorbed. I shouldn't write about myself.

I better be sure to be relevant, current, politically correct.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

And then I turned 42. My best and closest friends know what I'm talking about. I turned 42 and discovered that I no longer cared. I discovered that I no longer gave a shit. See! Just like that I can type a bad word, a cuss word, and I really don't care if it is going to offend someone.

Because here's the deal. My writing isn't about you. I shouldn't write for you. I should write for me. Sure, that cuss word might offend some. But for others, reading that word might make them laugh. That word might make others say, "Me too!" And just the possibility that someone might have a positive reaction to my honesty, to my being who I really am, well that makes happy.

I walk through my days seeing things, reading things, hearing things and I catch myself thinking, That would make a great column. You see, for a brief glimmering moment in my life I was actually paid to be something that had always dreamed of. I was paid to be a newspaper columnist. It was a humor column that ran every Sunday in a newspaper in southwestern Oklahoma for about two years. My column ran in my hometown newspaper that just happened to be owned by my family. (Insert bashful emoji here.) This is something that I struggled with. Even though I rightfully earned my column (to answer your question: no, my father didn't force the editor to run my column) it still felt...half real. I had an easy in. I had connections. It made me feel like I hadn't fought hard enough. That it somehow didn't make me a legitimate writer.

But being 42 and not giving a shit what others think of me has made me realize something: I am a writer. Am I Erma Bombeck or Judy Blume--two writers whom I idolize and would give anything to be? Hell. No. But that's okay. I am still a writer because it's something I love to do and there are even some people out there who've said I'm really good at it.

And here's the thing, the most important part: if I'm not writing, I'm not even giving myself a fighting chance to ever become Erma or Judy. I have a feeling both of those women were standing in front of me today would fold their arms, shake their heads, and look at me and say, "Why the hell aren't you writing? Quit giving a shit what others think. Sit your ass down and get busy doing something you love."

Judy Blume would have no problem using a cuss word to make her point. I have a hard time picturing Erma cussing, but I know she'd be standing right next to Judy nodding her head in agreement.

Judy and Erma were real writers in every sense of the word. Judy and Erma both wrote about real things in an honest way. They weren't worried about what others thought. They were just putting it all out there so others could smile and say, "Me too!"