All The Answers: Staring at my Innards.

You guys have so many questions. Good questions. Piercing questions. Fun questions. Thank God not a single political question. Let’s continue where we left off yesterday, and be sure to hang around until the end of the post to see visual evidence of my shortcomings.

Aadrw (Darcy) asked,

Are blog conferences worth attending?

It totally depends on your personality and what you want out of it. I never got too much out of the sessions, so was really going for the relationships. I attended BlogHer for four years in a row and struggled to interact, but did gain a handful of new friends. I went to a local conference, Y’all Connect, for the next two years and highly enjoyed interacting. Turns out, I’m more outgoing when engaging with local people than I am with national people that I’m not connected to on an ongoing basis. At the national conference, there were just too many people, and of those people, very few that I was already connected to. At the local one, we all knew who each other were so it was like a big party.

But if you’re the rare unicorn that is an Extroverted Blogger, by all means go to a national conference – you’ll have the time of your life.

You’ve done wonderful work with your local ministry via photography – any updates on how all that’s going in Birmingham?

Thanks! It’s going well. Picture Birmingham has been able to donate over $8,000 to The WellHouse, along with another $1,200 to Mission Birmingham through our joint calendar project (2016 calendars are newly available, by the way.) I would LOVE to be able to donate more and am working on different angles and products so that I can raise more money to rescue victims of human trafficking.

The WellHouse is growing tremendously and can now house more women than ever. They have rescued over 40 young ladies this year, and have assisted law enforcement officials in arresting at least three of the traffickers. They have helped these women regain their identification, get health care, spiritual and emotional healing, GED and college educations, and job and life skills training. They also rescue women nationally – not just locally. They have a hotline 800 number that they spread far and wide, and have rescued as far away as Washington.

The trafficking industry is a 32 BILLION dollar industry, and is staggering in its reach and deceptiveness – especially to our children and teens. There is so much more fighting that needs to be done. But every woman that The WellHouse rescues is one person’s horror story that is finally over.

The current products I’m offering are Prints, Calendars, Note Cards, Postcards, curated collections, a black and white collection, and gallery wrap canvases. I can also do privately labeled note cards or postcards for businesses (or individuals), and am always willing to get by-request photographs of specific places, along with helping to create advertising products for corporations. My products are for sale online at my website, along with several stores in town – Naked Art Gallery, Urban Standard, Smith’s Variety, and Alabama Goods. I would also love to get my products into more stores to continue spreading the opportunities to provide hope for the women that The WellHouse rescues. As always, 100% of Picture Birmingham profits go to The WellHouse.

Jen asked,

What does your average day look like? Seriously, how do you get so much done? (Please don’t answer that parenting/wifing (I’m pretty sure that’s a word), running crazy mileage, blogging, photography, and homeschooling are so effortless for you, you wish you had more accounting clients to fill the gaps.)

Uh, NO. I typically exist in a panic because of all of the things I’m not getting done that desperately need to get done. I also ignore many things that shouldn’t be ignored, like cooking regularly and dishes and decluttering and not letting my children leave crap all over the house and the car and the front yard. My life is a mess. I promise. Sometimes I clean up that mess, sometimes I don’t. Most of the time I don’t.

But, my typical day, on a school day:

– Ali wakes me up at 8am, then wakes up her brother (I am blessed with children that sleep late and I never squander that blessing by rising early.)

– Ali helps me get breakfast together (maybe my secret is that Ali does all the work. SHE’S the efficient one. She typically has already read two books and written in her diary before she wakes me up.)

– At about 9am, we start school. And surprise, Ali is efficient and gets her school done very quickly. We’re usually done by noon. I do school with Noah intermittently while Ali is doing independent work.

– After lunch, we sometimes go on a hike or errands, depending on if we’re feeling like it and what we need to get done.We also have several neighbors that we’re close to and often play with.

– Historically, we’ve started nap and quiet time around 2pm, and it lasts till 4:30 or 5. Noah is newly no longer napping and isn’t great at quiet time (Ali adores her quiet time, being the truest introvert), so I’m looking into possibly restructuring this, but it hurts me to think about. Between 2-5 is my time to blog, answer emails (also terrible at that lately), get Chris’ company’s accounting done (there’s really not much), and update Picture Birmingham. I prefer these activities to be quiet and uninterrupted. Noah does not.

– Chris comes home around 5:30-6pm, and we eat at home or go out to eat. He also often sends me to run or catch a sunset before dinner.

– The kids go to bed around 8:30.

– Chris and I sit together like slugs, talking, watching TV, listening to podcasts, and looking at our phones until nearly midnight. Unless Chris has work to do, we rarely do anything industrious after the children are in bed.

(Notice there’s really just no time for chores.)

aroe02 asked,

What does your husband do for work? I need to send mine back to school, eventually, and it appears (through blog-land eyes) that it was a good career choice. Not his company/salary, but more like what was his degree in, and did he stay in that field kind of info. Thanks :)

He has a degree in Civil Engineering and does Structural Steel Detailing. But for the record, Birmingham is one of the top most affordable cities to live in (and most beautiful and wonderful all the way around), and we live in the county (outside of “good” school districts), so we’re able to be efficient with our resources.

Kyla asked,

How do you find the time to blog? I recently had my 3rd kid and can’t imagine a day when the laundry and dishes were all done and I had time to sit and write. I am not efficient apparently.

It has become much, much harder over the past couple of years. My brain doesn’t work as efficiently or creatively as it used to (thanks, Dysautonomia), and life is just busier. The best moments of blogging for me is when I have a great story to tell and it just flows. I am able to write and edit very quickly. But other times it’s like pulling glue out of my brain to type a single word. And also, as stated before, laundry and dishes get the boot so that I have time to write.

While I’m on the subject of my housekeeping failures, Sarah asked as a follow-up question on the first questions post for a house tour. After chuckling to myself how my house tour would look compared to most blogger’s house tours, I snapped a couple pictures for her – #nofilter, y’all.

Here’s my office. Epicenter of blogging, Picture Birmingham, random kid’s art projects, and voluminous amounts of crap.


My kitchen table has the remains of some random craft project Ali embarked on and either didn’t finish or clean up after herself or both.


The “catch-all” counter in my kitchen – a stack of magazines I’ll probably never read, a few butt-ends of bread loaves, apples, finger paints my kids have been begging me to let them use, and iPhone chargers – of course. Oh and a completely well-placed beach shovel. Because why not.


And the dining room table is the school table. Sometimes I clean it off for the weekend. But definitely not during the week.


So now you know from where I steal all my time. From being a responsible, neat adult.

I have one more day of questions left to answer, so if you want anything added to the last post of ever-unimportant opinions, ask quickly.

The Fruits of Laziness.

I am not the best at adulting.

My office looks like The Room of Requirement, my dishes are never completely done, and the other day I looked up from bed and saw a pile of clean diapers on our dresser – and Noah has been potty-trained for at least two years.

Chris joins me in admitting to not being the best adulter.

Light bulbs take weeks to get changed, we shove garbage down into the bag with greater pressure than a car crusher, and yard work is right out.

(My Mother, who is an actual Master Gardener by certification, often drops by and plants things out of pity – but only things that she has researched and ensured cannot be killed.)

We manage to cover over segments of our bad adulting by paying for lawn service and having a cleaning crew of angels come every other week. But they know all of our secrets of bad adulting. If my cleaning ladies weren’t so adorable and understanding, I’m sure they’d have conversations like,

“I wonder if she ever plans on moving that pile of diapers. Isn’t Noah almost five?”

“I know right?? And how about this junk mail that’s been on her end table for six months? You think she even sees it anymore?”

“I’m sure she doesn’t. Ew! I just found another moldy sippy cup! I wonder how long this one’s been here…”

So yeah. Don’t look for me to be featured in Better Homes and Gardens anytime soon.

One area of our general life maintenance that we often let slip is the back of our backyard. We play in our front yard, and the back-backyard desperately desires to be a natural area, boasting weeds that can grow faster than those old ladies in the grocery store claim children grow (“Enjoy every second because in a blink they’ll be married!” <BLINK BLINK BLINK> “YOU ARE A LIAR, Old Lady!!”), and a natural ecosystem that begs us to let it be. For instance, if we didn’t let our back-backyard go wild the summer of 2011, where would Yard Bunny have raised her beautiful babies? We provided a home for a family AND the perfect observational Science lesson for Ali. All by not doing yard work.


So, although some years we’ve fought it back better than others, 2015 was not one of those years. Between sickness and surgery and house flooding and all the other blessings this year has brought us, the back-backyard was not high on the priority list, so it reverted back into natural ecosystem mode – perhaps thicker than it has ever been.

For reference, this Dandelion-like plant in comparison to my 5’5” self – make sure you note the top of the plant by its white fronds:

IMG_2719 copy

I told you it can GROW SOME SERIOUS STUFF, y’all.

But the other day, as I was driving into the garage, I caught sight of something out of place in the back-backyard. I walked out there, thinking that SURELY it wasn’t what I thought it was, then eagerly yelled for the children to come see.


We. Had our own pumpkin patch.


Growing around and encircling a large tree branch that had fallen during our mini-tornado (that we’d never bothered to remove because ADULTING) was a giant Pumpkin vine, sprawling in every direction.


It boasted of one perfect, medium-sized white pumpkin on the outside, two more equally-sized white pumpkins behind the branch, many large flowers giving the hope of future pumpkins, and Fred the Cat as a guard for our Secret Garden.


My first thought was one of Great Relief…

We are growing our own pumpkin patch this year so there is NO WAY I will find myself in another Pumpkin Patch Disaster! When we are ready for pumpkining there will be no lines, no hot hay ride, and no interminable waiting. We will walk out to our backyard and pluck a pumpkin! Maybe we should offer a pumpkin patch field trip for our equally-traumatized friends…

My second thought was one of curiosity. How exactly had we ended up with a pumpkin patch? They’re not exactly a common weed indigenous to these parts…

I discussed this mystery with Chris the evening after our discovery, and slowly, we were both able to piece together how this little yard miracle had occurred.

Last year, we had bought some pumpkins. Said pumpkins got moldy (much like these 2010 pumpkins) and for some reason, instead of throwing them in the trash like normal people, we threw them out into our natural area…

(Because ADULTING.)

And those said pumpkins made babies like bunnies. Because clearly, our natural area is an aphrodisiac for pumpkins and rabbits alike.


So the moral of this story is: when you let things go, fantastically surprising things come back to you. So quit adulting and let life grow how it wants.

Epic Camping: The Origins

So I went camping last weekend.

Camping at Lake Lurleen

This camping trip, as you will come to understand, deserves a three-part series.

Part one, the origin – how it came to be that I tent camped for the first time with children. Oh and did I mention – without my husband. In part two, I will share with you the beautiful moments of the trip – the happy kids, the photographical magic, and the reasons that one should absolutely go tent camping. And in part three, I will share the…other parts of the trip. Because there were definitely two distinct trips jumbled up all together, and to properly document them, I had to first detangle them.

You will not want to miss the third post. Because you all have told me many times – your favorite posts are the ones where you get to watch me suffer. All in good fun, of course.

But first, the origins.

The entire shebang started with an unfortunate accidental roofying of myself.

A few weeks ago, we went to the beach to visit Chris’ aunt and uncle. I had taken some Benadryl in the early evening for an allergic reaction – two pills, in fact – and Benadryl is not usually a medication I frequent unless I’m extremely close to being horizontal for the remainder of the night.

Then we went to dinner. And I ordered one cocktail with my meal. A girly, beachy cocktail. Very fruity. Very little alcohol. At least I thought so – but perhaps the fact that the drink was called “Love Potion Number Nine” should have been a clue that it might have been hiding more Love than I suspected.

The mixture of Benadryl and Love Potion Number Nine very quickly made me feel like I’d been slipped something in my drink.

Because I had forgotten about the pre-dinner medication and did not understand why a few sips were making me feel this way, I glanced suspiciously at our waiter. Then slid my 90%-still-full drink away from me and attempted to focus on the conversation at hand. Chris’ Aunt Kitty was saying that she hadn’t been feeling good and wasn’t really up for joining Leo on a trip to the season opening football game in Dallas.

My mind, working in stranger ways than usual and with a bit of a happy topspin, blurted out, “Well that’s easy to solve! Why doesn’t Chris just go with Leo?”

The other three adults at the table lit up at this fantastic suggestion. It was perfection for all of them – Kitty wouldn’t have to travel when she wasn’t feeling well, Leo would have an excited football companion, and Chris would get to go to another football game.

But. Hmmm. I just. What?

The opening game was Labor Day weekend. The fact that the game was in Dallas meant that Chris would be gone for multiple nights. On a holiday weekend.

Being Daddyless on a weekend already feels like double overtime.

Being Daddyless on a holiday weekend – a weekend that’s supposed to feel more relaxing than usual – felt like it was definitely violating a labor law or ten.

Last time Chris was gone over a holiday weekend, I greeted his return with a full-on breakdown that included many tears.

What had I done.

This was not good.

But my mental state was deteriorating fast so there was no time to process. And they were already happily talking about the trip to come.

We arrived back at Kitty and Leo’s and I literally fell across the end of our bed and passed out. Chris checked on me later and I remember mumbling that someone had roofied me – and I was not joking please call the restaurant and report the bartender. Chris reminded me of the Benadryl and tried to coax me into pajamas which I bluntly refused, so he put me under the covers in my clothes and I didn’t move until morning.

No one mentioned my brilliant plan for the rest of the weekend. On Tuesday, Chris emailed me from work.

“Are you serious about me going to the game? I told Leo it might have been the Benadryl and Love Potion Number Nine talking.”

“Oh, it was definitely the roofie and I can’t believe I said it, but I did say it, so yes, go. I’ll find somewhere to go with someone so I’m not home alone all weekend.”

And so began the search for Labor Day plans. Plans which ended up being the most epic camping trip of my life.