I'm Gonna Have a Piggly Wiggly Hissy Fit!

October 23, 2014

Do you ever have one of those days when you know that you should probably just wake up, roll out, and immediately take some kind of calmative?  Today was one of those days.  When I was growing up, I remember this one family with a house coat wearing, lazy mama and three dirty kids.  It seems like every time we ever went to the old Piggy Wiggly where Homer Douglas's feed store used to be, they were there.  I remember them having fits- boy dog fits!  These kids became known at our house as "The Piggly Wigglies".

The Mama was always dragging the littlest one by her arm, and every one of them was barefooted as a cat.  All three of them had dirty faces with crusty boogers and dried milk on them and they had grocery store feet, just filthy.  Every now and then, the littlest one would run away from the Mama screaming at the top of her lungs. She would then find a spot front and center in front of the checkout aisles and start spinning on her back in the middle of the floor acting like a crazy person.  I just thought they weren't right, but my mother always sighed heavily and would say under her breath with gritted teeth "I cant believe that woman lets those children just crawl around on this nasty floor and act like fools, I would whip their butts!" A trip to the Piggly Wiggly was always a show.

Today, I was so frustrated.  This entire week I've been so frustrated. Ever have one of those weeks when nothing goes right, not even your order at Waffle House?  Blame it on Mercury Retrograde, or whatever you want to blame it on, but the universe has been out of kilter.  Today, I had a moment and I was just beyond mad.  I  wanted to go full-on Piggly Wiggly in the doctor's office and it took all I could do not to just lie down in the middle of the floor and start screaming and spinning on my back until I was as dirty as the three spinning Piggly Wigglies.

Moral of the story- when Mercury is retrograde, go to yoga, have some good wine on hand, and don't sign up for anything new, because it will be a train wreck.

Love y'all, I'm going to spin on my back now and scream!

Bill Ingram and Godwinks

October 20, 2014

In 1992, I picked up a copy of Southern Accents that would forever more change my life.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Southern Accents was a beautiful shelter magazine that was the Southern superlative version of Architectural Digest.  Before the internet, it was my outlet to the world outside of my small town.  Its pages were filled with stories of places that I had never been in the Deep South, and traditions that were unfamiliar to me.  And homes, it was full of the most beautiful homes that I had ever seen!

This magazine began my love of interior design.  I was 20, and was remodeling a 1926 bungalow home in Brewton, Alabama.  I had ripped down cheesecloth wallpaper, painted, refinished floors, and installed mouldings by myself.  I knew that this was what I wanted to do- I knew that I wanted to design.

Friends, relatives, and one very elegant real estate agent came to my home and told me "You shouldn't be majoring in English, you should go to school to become an interior designer."  I had no idea what design might entail, but I wanted to read more. I took in every word from the pages of Southern Accents and Architectural Digest and I tried to read the philosophies of every architect and designer featured-  philosophies that were crammed into a few columns of copy.  Imagine reducing the philosophy of your life's work to a few columns- it's not an easy thing to do, especially not when you are being interviewed live.

There in the pages of Southern Accents, in one of their very first issues, was the home of Birmingham, Alabama architect, Bill Ingram.  I fell in love with everything that he did- the simplicity and elegance of his designs were flawless.  Through the thick, glossy pages, you could feel the warmth in the homes he designed.  I will never forget the leather upholstered portal door to his kitchen; I could almost smell the leather.  That door won me over- I was a fan! I read that issue cover to cover a thousand times and I still have it somewhere in my box of things that really matter to me. The next year, I sold the home that I had worked so hard on, and went back to design school.

I became a licensed interior designer and moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to secure work.  I have worked in commercial and residential interior design over the last 20 years, and no matter what kind of successes or failures I have had along the way, I always remembered that my goal was to be featured in Southern Living and Southern Accents- it was on my list.  I had no idea how I would do it, but I knew that one day, it would happen- after all, I had written it down.

Birmingham became home to me and I settled into a church family and became involved in our outreach ministry. My job was to coordinate volunteers for the women's Homeless Shelter for our church. And there, in my out-reach group, I met a man named Bill Ingram.  I didn't connect him at the time with the article that changed my life, but I knew that I really liked him.  His signature round glasses and dashing Southern style were out of a movie;  he truly is extraordinary in every way.

A few months later, I took some food over to Bill's house because a mutual friend of ours had been ill. When I arrived at his home, we stood in his kitchen unpacking the meal. I looked around and there was the door from Southern Accents, my door, my LIFE CHANGING door.  I realized at that moment that he was THAT Bill Ingram, my hero architect Bill Ingram. It was sort of like meeting Elvis or Elton John, except that  I realized I was at Elvis's house in the equivalent of a house coat. All I could think of was that I was wearing Birkenstocks and dressed like a hippie in the kitchen of my inspirational style guru.  I can't begin to explain how excited I was all the way home and how I kept trying to get it across to my husband, who just didn't quite seem to share my joy over the portal door.  But, I knew that I was where God wanted me to be.  The door was a sign.

Today, I saw an article that popped up in my news feed on Facebook, it was a lake house that Bill designed recently- absolutely stunning!  Lately, I have questioned where I am on my path- whether I am where I am supposed to be, whether I am where God wants me to be, whether I am fulfilling my true calling. And there, once again, was Bill Ingram.

Seeing his work today reminded me that if I hadn't seen his work in 1992, I would have never gone back to design school.  If I hadn't gone to design school, I would have never moved to Birmingham. If I hadn't moved to Birmingham, I would have never opened a design shop there and met the incredible people who are some of my best friends- friends who have helped me so much along my journey. As fate would have it, our shop was featured in Southern Accents before the magazine folded.

Without having the experience of owning my own shop,  I would have never learned so many hard lessons about success and failure.  If I hadn't closed the shop due to the crash of the economy in 2009, I wouldn't have been home working on a website to market my design business online when the tornadoes hit Alabama in 2011.  The tornadoes threw me into an entirely different outreach ministry that has changed my life, saved my marriage, and transformed me as a human being.  If I had never heeded the call to get involved in the outreach ministry with disaster relief, I would have never been featured in Southern Living. Although I wasn't featured as a designer, it was even better- I was featured as a disaster relief coordinator working with the most incredible group of humans to ever come together.  And once again, to reinforce that I was on the path, my other hero, Rick Bragg, wrote the article and sent me a special copy. The other writer who worked on the Southern Living story, Kim Cross, became my friend through all of this and is a sister from another mother.  Because of all of these things-  I find myself, however inadequately, writing the story of my 4-27 journey.

When you think that what you do doesn't matter to others, know that you will never fully comprehend the impact your work may have on the life of another person until some time has passed- maybe twenty years?  Maybe they will send you a blog post to let you know that by you walking your divinely ordained path, they found theirs. Being recognized for doing great work is validation, and we all need to know that our work is appreciated, but know this- know that no matter how unstoppable and validated you feel some days, or how insignificant you may feel on others, your contribution to this planet makes a difference.

Thank you, Bill Ingram. This has been one hell of a ride and I am grateful for the journey.


Here is some of his amazing work  Bill Ingram Lake House

How do we Erase the Negative Recordings in our Heads?

October 8, 2014

I have become a huge fan of Jaime Primak Sullivan, the star of Bravo's Jersey Belle and Birmingham/ Hollywood PR gal. Our paths crossed in 2011, and although we never met in person, we spent a few days back and forth on the phone trying to find one of her clients a place to volunteer after the tornadoes.  She's a little rough around the edges, she doesn't believe in monogramming, and she speaks from her heart and swears a LOT.  But, she speaks her truth, from her heart.  Her morning video blog, CawfeeTawk (that has recently been picked up and sponsored by Keurig) has touched my heart more than one morning lately. She and my grandmother really got me thinking today...

How many of us live our lives saying "When I'm 80, I can say anything I want."  Why wait?  When you strip down all of your material possessions and you are left alone, your truth is all you have.

We know our own truth. Other than God, we are really the only ones who were there when it became our truth- whatever the situation.  We know when we failed, when we helped a friend, when we told a white lie, when we were kind until it hurt and no one saw it, when we failed our marriages, when we supported our husbands when they might or might not have deserved it, when we loved our children who were breaking our hearts, only we know these things about ourselves.  Only we know our truth- every detail of our character- all of the things that we have to work out within our souls, with our Creator,or the Universe, or whatever your version of a higher power is.  No one has to tell us our shortcomings, because most people wake up with those things in the forefront of our minds, and spend the day trying to overcome them to become a better version of ourselves.

So why do we surround ourselves with people who don't support our growth?  And even after we have gotten negative people out of our lives, why do we keep playing their tape recordings over and over in our heads?  Tape recordings that are filled with negative messages that we don't want or need to hear. Tape recordings that negate our truth.  Why do we befriend people with negative, nasty energy because we feel sorry for them and then we aren't honest with them because we don't want to hurt their feelings.  And then, then, we let them linger in our lives for way too long while they suck the life out of us?

Why do we go on a diet or try to change our lifestyle and the first thing we hear is our mother or grandmother or ex or skinny "friend"  in our minds saying "You know you'll never be a size 6 again, just do the best you can." Or..."Do you really think that you can make a go out of writing?  I mean, is that even a real job? You didn't major in journalism or creative writing.  What will you write about?"
Or..my favorite one from my size 2 Bible study pal, whose surgeon husband is always at the 'golf course',  she actually said to me "You sure are lucky that your husband loves you just like you are." JUST LIKE I AM?  Did she really SAY that?  Can you say this out loud to someone and think that they will still speak to you? I certainly wouldn't say that to anyone, especially not a woman holding a wine glass!

From the above comments, what will stick in most women's minds to be repeated in our heads, is the following:   1.  I'm a fatty and will never be thin again  2.  I'm a failure and suck as a writer and I have failed at everything else 3.  I have totally out-kicked my coverage in the marriage department. THESE ARE ALL LIES.

These recordings are usually from people that we love or care about , or people whose opinion we were taught to value, or worse, women whom we have believed to be our FRIENDS!  We KNOW that these things aren't true, because we've had success during the course of our lives, some HUGE successes, things that some of these recording people cannot even comprehend accomplishing. And deep down, we know that if we weighed 500 pounds, our husbands would be damned lucky to be with us because we know what we have survived with them and how we've come through it all, together.

So, my new course of action is not to be nasty back to the tape recorder people, because that is my first instinctive response that I always suppress.  My second instinct, and usually my course of action, is to smile and rationalize their comments back to them, which is what cements these thoughts into my head.  My new course of action is to say "I hate that you have those limitations and feelings about yourself, but please don't impose them on me."  I have to realize that each of us is on our own journey and I don't know why people do or say the things that they do. I can take constructive criticism about anything and welcome it with the best of them, but for the people whose hearts need blessing, I have a new answer beginning tomorrow.

I'm shredding these tapes.  I refuse to make myself a victim to this stinking thinking.  I am very fortunate to have a wonderful group of female friends who support one another and are always there no matter what. So the next time that this happens, and I have to respond with  "Check that comment at the door and pick it up on your way out",  I am going to immediately pick up the phone and call one of my awesome, positive, supportive girlfriends and tell her something awesome about herself and ask her to tell me something positive about myself.

One comment at a time, I will record over this tape until I can listen to the whole tape again without crying and it is going to sound like a parent holding a new born baby, sort of like this:

"Look, she's so beautiful! Wow, she's so smart.  Look at those strong legs, she's going to be an athlete!  Doesn't she have the prettiest hair you've ever seen?  Those are the brightest eyes- you can tell she's going to have a kind soul and a sweet heart. Look at that precious little hiney!  She has perfect toes and those hands, they are gorgeous!  Those are the fingers of a pianist.  I bet she will change the world."

Love y'all-
Now go change those tapes!

Orange and Blue Velvet Cake

October 8, 2014

Driving in from Orlando to Auburn, I always enjoy the afternoon Georgia sunsets behind farmhouses, pecan orchards, and gigantic rolled bales of hay.  This past weekend, the sunset was the most beautiful blue and orange that I have ever seen.  I was heading to the Auburn/ LSU game and I believed that it was an omen of things to come.  When I posted this photo, Auburn people began posting pictures of their orange and blue sunsets from all over the country.  We all saw and we all believed.  Auburn rolled over LSU 41-7.

This year, I have been tailgating with a group of FANatics, who are the most dedicated and AUsome Auburn fans that I've ever known.  Most serious tailgaters have a theme of the week and prepare food for that theme and go all out!  In honor of Les Miles (aka the mad hatter) coming to town, we had a Mad Hatter party.  My contribution was an orange and blue velvet cake.  I've been asked by several people for the recipe, so here goes:

Holly's Orange and Blue Velvet Cake:

1T cocoa
1 T white vinegar
1 C salted butter
2 C sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 C Swan's Down Cake Flour- Sifted
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 C buttermilk
1 t vanilla
Gel Food coloring: I used AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste from Hobby Lobby
                               134 Navy and 113 Orange

1 stick of salted butter
8 oz cream cheese
1 box confectioner's sugar
1 C nuts- I use walnuts, but some people prefer pecans
1 t vanilla 
If I am doing three layers instead of two, I will make this recipe with another half recipe added to it.
I use a small mixing cup and make a paste out of the vinegar and the cocoa.  You can use a toothpick to mix it or a cocktail fork works equally well.  Set the paste aside.

Cream the 2 sticks (1C) of softened butter with 2 C of sugar  Add 2 eggs and beat until fluffy. Mix in the cocoa/ vinegar paste.  Make sure that you get every bit of the paste.

Sift the cake flour, soda, and salt all together.  Gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter/ sugar/ egg mixture to make a batter.  Add in the buttermilk and vanilla.  

Depending on how many layers you want to do, divide the cake batter mixture into either 2 or 3 equal parts.  I ended up making one layer thicker and splitting it in half so that I had two smaller blue layers and one orange layer.  I wouldn't recommend that headache.  

For the navy, I used about 1/3 of the bottle gel coloring to the get the navy that I wanted...and the batter looked sort of like the cookie monster:

The orange, I didn't photograph, but I used about 1/4 of the gel coloring for a little more than a layer. Just play with it until it looks like you want it to look. 

Make sure that you butter and flour your pans so that the cake doesn't stick.  I use standard 9" round pans.

Bake at 350 until cake springs back and starts to separate from the pans.

Once cooled, frost the layers.  They should look like this... (probably shouldn't have as many air bubbles, but..the color)

And finally, it should look like this:

This cake freezes really well for transport.  You can tell this one was wrapped with plastic wrap and frozen for game day.  I hauled it with dry ice on a 7 hour trip and it did great!

War Eagle!  And happy baking.  Let me know if you make it and how it turns out for you.

Love y'all,

Why you Don't Want to be a First Round Draft Pick in the NFL

October 6, 2014

Grandmother and her best friend and cousin, Jody, at Grand's 85th birthday

I just got off of the phone with Grandmother and my Aunt Jody and I have laughed so hard that I have tear stains on my face.  Everyone should have a pair like these two in their lives.  First cousins and best friends who are 18 months apart, they have been inseparable since birth. Grandmother has always been the conservative one of the two (on the exterior anyway), while Jody puts it all on the table and holds nothing back- she has no filter and I absolutely love that about her!  She is flashy and wears wild shoes and funky clothes and she always has the best accessories. They talk about anything and everything and  I am often blushing from some of the stories that they tell- there is NO TELLING what topic of conversation might come up when they get together.

Like any two little old ladies who have been best friends since they were born, they fight and bicker like sisters, but they love each other.  Their adventures have taken them all over the world- from plastic surgery to A&R parties in Nashville.  When they were driving home after their first face-lift, they were caught speeding.  When the officer came up to the window to write the ticket, they took off their gigantic movie star sunglasses and told him that they'd been beaten by their husbands (who were in the mob) and that they were on the run. The officer gave them a police escort  all the way out of town.  They almost lose it telling that story.

Jody drove today from Daytona Beach to south Alabama just to take my Grandmother to a doctor's appointment, so that Grandmother wouldn't have to go alone. Their friendship is probably the most loyal and dedicated one that I have ever witnessed in my life.

Their conversations are hysterical.  The more that I hear them carry on, the more that I realize where I get my insanely accurate memory.  Tonight, they were discussing Chester somebody, who sent Grandmother a Valentine in the eighth grade.  One by one, the two of them went through every boy that they dated before they married.  Chester, the Valentine sender, triggered a memory of a guy who had come back from the war with a stiff leg and subsequently walked like Chester from Gunsmoke. On their date, he tried to get fresh with my Grandmother.  Lucky for her, her nosy brother was following them home and jumped out of the bushes, scaring ole stiff legged Chester away for good.

As they carried on and laughed, they talked about their cousins who dated some of the same boys AFTER they'd dated them, and they made it very clear that those boys were their boyfriends first. Jody laughed uncontrollably and said, "Hell, Lenis, do you realize that they're all dead? All of those boys are dead! We're the only ones left. Good thing it's Monday Night Football tonight, because we are officially in the NFL:  No Friends Left."  

I couldn't help but laugh with them as they faced their mortality and the fact that their friends have almost all died.  What I did take away from their conversation with me tonight, as they shared a bottle of wine and some laughs over the speaker phone, is that regardless of your age, you can't become a slave to a number, a label, a stereotype, or anyone else's imposing idea of who you should be at any point in your life. Tomorrow, I am going to rock 42 like I haven't rocked it since my odometer rolled from 41.

Before you become a member of the NFL, go by and see an old friend, schedule an unexpected lunch, call them on the phone and reminisce about old times.  Maybe you can carve out some time to create the memories that will carry you through the NFL draft.  Take care of yourselves, you don't want to make the first round.

Love y'all,
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