The Not So Perfect Mom and her Baby

I've been telling this story on stage lately. Last week, upon reaching our room at the Holiday Inn Express in Nashville Annie let out a great big ole,

"HOOOOMMMMEEEE."

Ryan started dying laughing but my stomach dropped and I immediately started to cry tears of embarrassment.

I am the most ghetto fabulous mom in the world.

My baby thinks Holiday Inn Express is her home.

With tears streaming down my face I asked an all too familiar question...

What kind of mom am I???

It all became very clear to me last night...

***

Annie is getting her molars in. All four of them at once. That, or she has been possessed by a Tickle Me Elmo gone terribly wrong. She has been screaming bloody murder every night this week and last night I yelled back at her. Well, ok, I didn't yell but it was mean and loud and completely uncalled for.

"Annie PLEASE stop crying Mommy cannot take it anymore baby. Please. You HAVE to stop CRYING."

She started crying louder and scratching herself in frustration.

Awesome.  My kid scratches herself. That cannot be a good reflection of her anger management skills.

Then I started crying partly because my kid has anger issues and she's only 18 months and party because my horrible response only made her feel more scared and frustrated and hurt and partly because I was so freaking tired and defeated that I actually considered drawing a bath in the Clarion Inn bathtub.

And y'all. That's desperation.

She cried louder. I cried louder. She cried louder. I cried louder.

And in that moment I realized... she beat me.

She beat my spirit and my will into defeated smithereens and I am pretty sure I gave up on life for a brief moment. After she cried inconsolably for two hours straight at the hotel- and I had no idea what else to do- I opted for the only thing I had to make life more bearable.

A rice krispy treat, pintos and cheese from Taco Bell, and Jimmy Fallon.

Not for me.

For her.

At 11:30 last night Annie sat on the hotel bed happy as a lark eating her refried beans, rice krispy treat, and laughing with Jimmy Fallon.

And once again, there was that voice,"Oh my gosh, what sort of mother does this???"

To which I replied, the sort of mother who was about to take a bath in the skank-nasty Clarion Inn bathtub. No offense to Clarion. But come on, can you imagine how many hairy feet have been on that bathtub floor? I already offer penance every time I put Annie in those things to bathe her... so to voluntarily give myself up to one... well, that is the kind of thing only a desperate woman does.

It all became very clear to me last night...

***

Yesterday a girl saw me and Annie in the lobby of the church we were performing at and she invited me to come to their MOPS meeting. "There's homemade food and a speaker and free childcare...

(Can you just see the angels dancing around those words?  ~*Free Childcare *~)

Say no more.

I would not have cared if I had to sit through a lizard convention or Star Trek memorial service.

Free childcare will get me to do crazy, crazy things.

So I went to my first MOPS meeting. And it all became very clear to me...

***

I have finally discovered my calling in life. Not a professional whistler or friend or even singer lady. Nope. It has all become quite clear. I will be a professional speaker to MOPS conventions and other mother events and I will be billed,

Jenny Simmons, in comparison, she WILL make you feel like a better mom!

If those ladies had any idea what kind of company they were keeping yesterday at MOPS. What kind of mother was in their midst. What kind of things I have done to my poor baby this week... I would have been in the corner.

The "example corner."

And it would have said, "Look at this mom! She WILL make you feel better about yourself as a mom!"

***

Awe. The joys and deep guilt of motherhood. The joys and deep guilt of life. How else would we be humble if we didn't end up giving our kids fake pinto beans, pure sugar, and late night television? If I didn't let my kid sleep on the floor of a bus on top of a vibrating engine? If I didn't bathe her at the Clarion Inn? I might think I was a totally awesome mom who had conquered and perfected the art of being an awesome mom if it weren't for the many, many things that keep me very humble.

And there's something to living in humility. Isn't there?

Thank God there is grace in our shortcomings. I haven't lost too much sleep over the Jimmy Fallon and I have asked Annie several times if she remembers mommy yelling at her and she puts her nose on my little face and in the most perfect voice I have ever heard she says, "NUUU-OH" and then kisses me.

All of a sudden I forget that I'm not a perfect mom and remember that my little girl gives me kisses so it can't be all that bad.

***

I say all of that today because I am launching a brand new website that is SO CUTE!  And I thought it would be the perfect time to show the CUTEST pictures of Annie and I from our fall fun day at Northwestern College in St.Paul this past Sunday! And it would be so easy to put all this new flashy stuff up and lead you to believe that we are the cutest, most perfect, happy little family in the world.

So I thought I'd remind you first...

we are not.

If you've ever thought, "That mom is so cute," her kids will "save the world" and my little girl might not "make it to second grade" because she has "severe anger issues" and if I have to see another cute mom walk into MOPS that "looks like a skinny 16 year old" I will puke because for once I just want everyone else "to suffer four molars coming in and a bad hair day" the way I am.

Well, we might be able to be best friends.

So enjoy these perfect pictures from a not so perfect family and if you feel the need to compare yourself to me, just remember...

I gave her a rice krispy treat at 11:30 p.m. last night...

And I yelled at her and then cried like a nut-job...

And she scratches herself...

And she's so dang cute...

but most babies are cute when they are sitting in the leaves, aren't they?

Love you friends! Have a perfect weekend and welcome to our new blog!

Sleuth or Worm Farmer... or just plain ole' singer?

photo-19.jpg

It is 5:34 a.m. and I am sitting at IHOP. The International House of Pancakes- for my international readers who may not be familiar with this is amazing 24 hour a day establishment of pancakery bliss.

I have not been able to sleep a wink. At 1:57 I woke up with a million thoughts streaming through my mind. I tried everything to shoo them away. Counting sheep. Counting backwards. Breathing deeply. Relaxing all the muscles in my body. Reciting the sinners prayer, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” And I even tried sleeping in my closet. When that didn’t work, I took out my computer, in the closet, and planned out our set list for the fall tour. It ends with an acoustic jam session and an impromptu choir wearing white robes that have sunshines painted all over them coming on stage with candles, handing out cupcakes to the audience while singing “This Little Light of Mine” with the band.

You’re welcome Addison Road.

Obviously my best moments of creative brilliance comes somewhere between two and three a.m.

Did I mention I’m at IHOP now and my waiter is singing the words to the 80’s power ballad, “Can’t we try just a little bit harder...” I’m trying not to smile, but seeing a guy with dreads and a gold tooth sing this song is really making my groggy morning quite delightful.

Montana One

I have spent the last two weekends in Montana. The first weekend was for a show that didn’t happen. It fell a part in a million pieces and the promoter wasn’t able to honor the contract and pay us. We lost thousands of dollars on the airlines tickets we paid for and the anticipated income that never came in. Am I allowed to tell you that? Well, I just did.

Sometimes people ask how we stay “grounded” and “humble.” That’s when we say, “You remember that time we paid $2,000 to fly to Montana and no one showed up and the promoter didn’t pay us and the ‘chicken dinner’ was a partly-deboned rotisserie chicken with a butcher knife stuck into it and no plates to eat off of?”

It happens to every one in our industry and it’s cheaper not to fight it legally. And, truly, the promoter doesn’t have the money. How can you force a brother or sister to give you what they do not have? Grace must abound. Even in business. At least that is what I keep repeating to myself.

There was some good that weekend though, because I met my first real live worm farmer. Well, he was a worm farmer. Now he’s just a worm poop farmer. He realized that once he and his buddies invested into a worm farm, the grass and makeshift gardens around their land started growing exponentially. It took him a while to figure out it was the worm poop, but when it occurred to him, he started to save the stuff and sent it to a lab to be tested. Sure enough, a little dime bag of his worm poop was more potent than three bags of miracle grow. And so, there he was, at the not-so-music-festival in a tent sifting through worm poop that he would try and sell for four dollars a bag. A fantastic bargain if you ask me.

“Feel of it. I tell you Jenny, just feel the stuff, feel of it, it feels like silk.” I tried to just look with big eyes and say, “Wow, that does look soft!”

“No, really, just run your fingers through it.” He picked up a mound of silky poop in his dry, cracked hands and poured it all over my hands. I had no choice. I was feeling this dude’s worm poop whether I wanted to or not.

So, as a storm blew in and the guys took cover in a dingy, un-air-conditioned RV, I sat and talked to worm farmers. And I felt so much smarter. Like a green, energy efficient, organic scientist that is against all corporate farming; just chatting it up with the other fellas about the evils of mass production, harsh chemicals, and the lack of good worm poop in the world. I looked out over a vast expanse of beautiful land and thought, “What in the world am I doing here?”

What a strange life.

We passed on the sort-of chicken dinner and went down the road to an old green building with no windows and cracked paint. The door was thickly padded, like a football player might want to practice running into it. And an old sign hanging above the door said, “Bar. Food.” So we went in. Two sisters were running the joint. We sat in a room with dear heads and box fans. At a picnic table. And I watched as one sister stirred away at three different pots on a normal white stove in plain site of the dinning room. It was truly bizarre. A bizarre weekend from start to finish. Started with Tiger the day before and ended with worm poop farmers and dear heads in a dark bar on Saturday.

proof

Montana Two

This past weekend we were in Great Falls, Montana and it was quite the redemptive Montana experience.

High of 67, low of 43. I went straight to Ross and bought a jacket. No sales tax in Montana. Gotta love it. Our hotel was in an old downtown area and on Saturday morning they had a farmers market and a crepe-mobile. How cute is that? Quaint stores and a beautiful river. A huge turn-out for the festival and a paycheck in hand before we even played! I was in love with Great Falls, Montana. The people were amazing, the show felt special, and the trip was undramatic. Always a plus in my book these days.

Yes, I was in love with all those things, but to be perfectly honest, I was mostly in love with my mission while I was there.

My mission? I’m glad you asked. My personal mission was to find the escaped Arizona convicts.

Seriously.

They were last spotted in Billings, Montana and I knew they were still in the area. I could feel it. Our hotel was by a homeless shelter, a bus stop, and the river... there were lots of suspicious characters. So, I went to the river one morning. By myself. With a picture of the fugitives pulled up on my phone. And as people slept under the morning sun, I inched up as close as I could to examine their identity. Every car that passed by got a complete stare down. I even found myself on stage that day scanning the audience for persons of interest...

Y’all, I read one too many Nancy Drew books as a kid.

I really believed in my little heart that I would crack the case while I was in Montana. I was being so vigilant. While everyone else went about their normal day, they had no idea I was there for one reason and one reason alone: a citizens arrest.

When I woke up this morning at 1:57 a.m., after reciting the Sinner’s Prayer and trying to count backwards from 100, I crept into my closet and read the news. The Arizona convicts were apprehended.

All kinds of things are plaguing the world this morning. Flooding and a massive humanitarian emergency in Pakistan. A debate over whether our President is a Muslim or not. The indictment of Roger Clemens, the baseball star who may have lied about drug use. North Korea threatening the United States with unseen retaliation. Iran and Israel perhaps blowing each other to smithereens. All kinds of craziness in the world that usually stirs my heart to prayer or urges me to write a congressman about signing off on this or that bit of legislation....

But today I am just eating my whole grain harvest pancakes at IHOP and mourning the fact that I was not the one to find the escaped convicts while they were traipsing around Montana.

I really thought that case was going to be my big detective break. I would make Nancy and Bess and George so proud. But maybe I should pay more attention to my music career. Or worm farming.

Worm farming seems pretty promising.

Not dead, but barely alive.

Don't worry, I'm not dead.
And if I do die (I think about these things which is weird, I know) I have a contingency plan for letting you all know. I hate to make light of it, but you will simply get an e-vite to come to my life celebration party. If such an email arrives, please don't be sad, just bring a cupcake and have a party and sprinkle me all around the country in my favorite places! I expect my memorial service to be a party with lots and lots of food, a gospel choir, a slide show with pictures (please, only put cute pictures of me in this slide show), cupcakes, and a few people can talk... hopefully they will say that I loved them well with a love that was never my own. It's going to be a really fun party. Everyone gets a bean burrito on the way into the service and a cupcake on the way out. I expect a pot luck dinner afterwords that puts a Baptist church to shame. And then a dance party! I expect a few tears... but mostly smiles and stories. Tell good stories. (Like the time we got stuck in the snow on the top of the mountain and you peed your snow pants because we were laughing so hard. Remember that, Brandi?)
And, most importantly, on the way out, I want to be handed out as a party favor.
I'm being serious.
In cute little purple silk sachets.
And then I want everyone who takes a little piece of me to bring me to one of the most beautiful places they know and let me go there. And don't tell anyone, but someone should definitely sprinkle some of my ashes in my favorite Mexican food restaurant, Ninfas. And my favorite coffee shop. And my favorite cupcake joint. And maybe leave a little bit of me up at my church. And, creepy, but maybe in one of Annie's teddy bears. And give some of me to my mom. She will probably set me in the windowsill or in the prayer garden by her little stone saints. My sister Melissa will probably keep me around somewhere and talk to me. Maybe Sarah will plant me in her garden. My dad? Well, he won't think this is funny or even proper to talk about. But I think he will probably bring me on a hiking trip and leave me there. And Ryan... well, we've had this conversation, to which he replies,
"You do not get to plan your own funeral and we are NOT handing you out as a party favor. You are really, really weird Jen."
He doesn't like to think about the fact that I might die sooner than later.
I don't like thinking about it either. But it's there. It hovers. It's a real possibility. So I want to make it easy on everyone. I want a party. And I want it to be sponsored by Sprinkles Cupcakes and I'd like for there to be really good music for the after party. Toby Mac? What What! Yes! That's perfect! And then I want my sister to teach a yoga class so everyone can calm down and finally learn how to stretch properly... and then everyone can head home.
And now I have to stop and ask myself... what in the world are you talking about Jen???

Here's the deal:

I started this blog by saying I'm not dead. I have been quiet for over a week now and I didn't want you to be worried. So I started with saying I'm not dead. But now that we have cleared that up, I can move on.

I saw a real live water moccasin swim right past my feet yesterday morning and I almost peed my pants.
Church Camp
I'm at church camp.
I am in Leakey, Texas.
Population: 387.
What an unfortunate name for a blip on the map.
Leakey.
Makes me think of a moldy roof or those spas in New York that are puttin leaches on people to eat away their nasty dead skin. Or leaky gut syndrome. Look it up. It's real and it's unfortunate as well.
Leakey, Texas.
I've been a Texan since the third grade and have never heard of this place. And with good cause. It is both a hidden treasure and a modernists worst nightmare.
No coffee shops. No Internet. And the only cell reception I can get is down by the river... with the water moccasin who almost made me pee my pants.
There are bugs in my camp room. Ryan killed a spider crawling above Annie's bed last night and I have single handedly expelled twenty bugs back into the wilderness. I woke up from a nap the first day covered in mosquito bites; there was one sucking my blood as I came to.
It's been in the high 90's here and we are playing OUTSIDE. Never have I loathed the outdoors the way I have loathed them this week. Who decides that playing outside in the middle of July in Texas is a good idea? It's cruel and unusual punishment. That's the nightmare part.
The hidden treasure part? The kids. They are great kids. The hometown restaurants that have saved us from the camp's cafeteria food. The pecan groves and the beautiful Texas Hill Country houses that back up to the river. The river that's fed by twenty or so natural springs. It's crystal clear and as cold as water flowing right out of the Rockies. It's full of catfish, and I've seen a five deer come to the banks of the river to drink early in the morning.
Poor deer. I hear the echo of rifle shots booming in the thicket and I want to hide them. Dress them up like horses or ponies. I want to tell them to go home a different way. Like the wise men tell Mary to bring Jesus home a different way. I want to warn them. But they scamper off to their deaths and this ruins the beautiful moment I am sharing with them.
Listen, while we are talking about the woes of camp, could we make a universal decision that all the Baptist camps out there that end with "baptist ENCAMPMENT" be changed to something that sounds a little less prison-like? What about just 'Baptist Camp' or 'Baptist Church Camp' or "Really Bad food and Mosquito's- Turn Here?" Every time I pull into an encampment, I think I might as well turn over my wallet and get ready for my strip search. And don't even think about leaving at night time, cause they got the old man volunteer shutting the gate by 9:00 pm.
Update
I am not at church camp anymore. I am home. And thank God because on the final night of camp Ryan Gregg pulled down his covers to get into bed and a great big ole' huge cockroach came scampering out of the sheets.
If I had known this, I would've faked an illness, and driven home.
I failed to mention that the first night we arrived to camp, I had a break down. I begged Ryan to let us go find a bed and breakfast.
We slinked out of camp without even telling the guys.
Let me back track.
The week before we had six flights. That's a lot with a 15 month old.
At one point we flew into Minneapolis, played in Wilmer, Minnesota, and then drove to South Dakota. Drove. Nine hours. With a 15 month old who has just flown twice and spent the day outside with babysitters she had never seen before.
We are driving and somewhere, in the midst of cornfields, the road in front of us disappears into dirt and tractors. The guys turned around and went back to the nearest city... but not my dear, sweet, adventurous husband. He took this as a sign that we should drive through the gravel roads that go through the cornfields. And for a little over an hour, we drove through bumpy, gravel roads weaving in and out of cornfields pretending to chase tornado's. Men.
We played at Hills Alive festival in South Dakota (the perfect family vacation for next summer if I do say so myself) and flew home Sunday night. Landed at 8 pm. Home by 9 pm. And had to leave Monday morning at 9 am.
This gave me about twelve hours to bath the smelly child, do four loads of laundry, repack our suitcases, and shift gears from playing for festivals in civilization to going to camp in a city with a population of 300. That's right. The number gets smaller each time. There is no way there are more than 300 people in that place.
But I'm home? Did I say that? Did I tell you we finished camp yesterday morning and drove six hours to get back home and that I didn't change Annie's diaper the entire time?
Did I mention that I fed her a dinner of champions... guilty that all week long I stuffed her face with crackers and bread and macaroni and very little fruit; I fed her every fruit in the fruit family for dinner last night. And some cheese. And bread with olive oil. And a vanilla wafer. And two whole sippy cups full of apple juice. And I am telling you each food because when someone pukes and the chunks are in your hair and dripping down your arms you very quickly remember each and every food in slow motion. You smell, in a rancid torrent of nastiness, each distinct fruit, and you wonder, why Lord? Why did I give her dinner in the first place? Why?
Annie threw up all night last night. We changed her sheets three times. There are huge strawberry-blueberry fruit stains in her carpet now. I bathed her in the dark at 2:30 am and 3:30 am while Ryan disinfected and started laundry and lit candles and picked chunks of food out of the carpet.
I laid her on my chest where she threw up a third time around 4:00 a.m.
And this morning?
Well, she woke up next to me on the couch at 7:00 a.m. Sits straight up. Eyes still closed. Hair splayed all over the place. And with vomit breath she says...
"Momma. Booberry."
Blueberry? She slid off the couch and walked, eyes half open, straight to the kitchen.
I've given birth to and raised a small food monster.
It's 8:26 am on Saturday morning.
I have the week off.
I need a pedicure and a massage and a babysitter and a date night.
Sorry Dave Ramsey... the budget... the very, very small budget, cannot be maintained this week. I am in recovery mode. Recovery from roaches and cornfields and puke and spiders and water moccasins and cannot afford any guilt over using money from savings or credit cards or wherever it must come from... I can't! So stop staring at me! I feel your eyes!
I am in recovery. Recovering.
Here's to being home and not being dead and not being thrown up on anymore and blowing the little money I have saved...

Cell Block D and Other Craziness

It has been quite a bizarre week.

The Slammer
On Saturday we played our first ever Sea World gig. There is something magical about playing across the street from Shamu and across the way from sea lions who can clap their hands and dial numbers on the telephone. To take a deep breath before you hold out a long note and swallow the stench of baby fish, Shamu's dinner, is just... special.
So one of my family member's came out to the show and we spent some time catching up. She told me her husband loves reading my blog. I was flattered. I love knowing that men read this thing. Cause seriously this isn't a mommy lovin'- cupcakey-girly-pedicure blog. This is serious business for all kinds of people. So, men unite, don't be ashamed that you read a blog called "Cupcakes, Sprinkles, and Other Happy Things."
"He's in prison."
"Did something really stupid and he's there till the end of the year. And I send him your blogs and he loves them. So do his cell mates. They crack up reading them. Then they showed them to some other guys in there. And now, the guard prints the blog and puts in on the community bulletin board for everyone to read."
OH MY GOSH if I had a dollar for every time I heard that I'd be a freaking millionaire :). Y'all, congratulations, this blog has real street cred' (credit) now! I'm so stinking excited to have real live prisoners reading the blog! Welcome!
So I asked her if I could give Kevin and the guys a shout out. And she said sure. So here it goes:
What's up "Cell Block D boys!" That's my name for you. My cell block D boys. Hi! What the heck are you doing in prison? Seriously? One life, that's all we've got. And you're spending it in matching outfits? That's what my grandma did to me and my sisters growing up and I know it's God awful. Matching outfits= social suicide.
You gotta get out of there and be a good dad to your little girls and little boys. Be a good man for your wife or your mom. Do something for yourself that inspires you and makes you happy. Something that makes the world more beautiful. And while you're waiting to do all that, be good to yourself now. Read a book. Go to chapel. Pray. Work hard. Don't fight. Seek peace. Eat your vegetables (Do they give you good veggies in the slammer or do I need to bring you some?). Don't give up on yourself. Keep trying. Don't make me come down there...
You don't need a sermon from me. I just want you to know I believe in you. I believe in who you can be and I believe in the goodness that is within you. I believe God knows you, loves you, forgives you, and wants good things for your life. Me and Him (I'm speaking for God now :)) we believe in you. And maybe you need to be reminded of that today.
I'd kill to be in prison for a few weeks. OK, I would not actually kill, so please don't actually kill, but you know what I mean. To have some down time. Time to think. Re-asses. Read. Pray. Write. Time to learn discipline and to figure myself out and to seek forgiveness for all the ways I've screwed up and to dream about my future, to remember what I love about myself and about the world. Sometimes I wish for a bit of a standstill so I can go there... that place you can only go when you are alone and have everything taken away that distracts you.
So in a way, whether you want it or not, you are there. In that place where dreams spring up and the past is laid to rest. You are there. Don't take your gift for granted.
Bonzo the Bird
So for years now I've gotten Christmas cards from Aunt Betty. They are always signed, "Love Aunt Betty, Uncle David, Bonzo the Bird, and Wally (the dog)."
Stop right there. If you know me, you know I detest pets. I just do. I know that makes me hated by PETA and by mostly everyone in my family who treasures their pets more than they do most of my cousins. But, I don't know, I just have never loved having a dog lick me or a cat leave hairballs on my bed. We had a cat growing up. We named her Kitty Baby. I gagged for an entire hour after having to clean her cat litter. And while I liked her little rough tongue licking my hand and her deep purr, those did not outweigh the animal hair, cat litter, and general upkeep that I detested so much about her. And dogs? Well, they just steal my thunder. They are way too smart and emotional and needy. I'm the girl... I get to be emotional and needy. Not them. But there they are licking and smelling like Shamu's dinner and getting their nasty dog drool all over me; and I swear there are people in my family who'd stop to question who to save first in a fire: me or the dog?
Anyways, I come from a family of pet lovers and I am quite sure God put me in this group of pet lovers to teach me a lesson about acceptance and patience and some other profound things that I haven't figured out yet.
So after we play for Shamu and his peeps we make our way to Mobile, Alabama for a show and after the show I spend a few days with my aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, and mom. And I should've figured it out by now. I mean, if Bonzo the bird makes the Christmas card, then he is a bonified member of the family, right? But how much of a pet can a bird really be?
Let me tell you people, a bird can be a very amazing pet. That thing flew all over the place like a little rabid monkey and I thought my mom and I might have a heart attack as he grazed the area where Annie was sitting. Bonzo drinks milk from the glass. He eats people food. He gets zurbers on his belly from my Aunt Betty. And he sits on my uncle David's shoulder as he works from home. He has nap time. And if you leave him in his room for too long, he gets mad, and starts jabbering away until you pay him some attention. He needs more attention than the dog.
And really, there is no point to this story except to say that I always assumed Bonzo was a poised, quiet, shy little bird who stayed in a cage in a corner looking quite exotic.
Nope.
That thing gets out. It FLYS across the living room. It cuddles. And drinks milk from the glass. And oh my Lord that bird scared me to death. I spent two days with a bird and a dog who are more human than animal. For a non-animal lover, that adds up to a bizarre week.
The flight home
The flight home for Annie and I was just a nightmare. I've become an American Airlines Platinum snob. I'm used to getting whatever seat I want and being bumped to first class. I'm not a diva about much in this world, but I have flying with a baby down to an art form (instead of a torture routine that tortures me and everyone else around me) and that all depends on getting the good seats in the front of the plane. But this time we were in a little prop plane and got moved to seat 16b. Two rows away from the bathroom at the back of the plane. I was disgusted and reveling in my airplane snobbery and true shock that people had to live this way at the back of the plane with the nasty smelling bathrooms, when Old Man River walked on the plane.
He looked like he was straight from the Appalachian Mountains. With denim overalls, a long sleeve button down flannel shirt, a straw hat, a silver beard so long and overgrown that there were probably birds nesting inside it; and with his oxygen tank in one hand and a cane in the other, he started hobbling our way. "Great, I'm gonna get stuck next to old man river back here," I thought to myself.
Note to self: when you are being a snobby diva you should never think those things because they always come true.
Annie was still running a fever from the day before (though the doc said she could not have gotten the fever from the bird, I had all sorts of theories about the safety of her sharing air space with the bird and now with old man river) and she was battling yet another ear infection. I was already dreading the flight.
Mountain man, who must've been 90 years old and flying to his own funeral, sits down directly in front of us and promptly turns on his oxygen machine. It beeps the entire flight. And I'm no "worst case scenario" type person, but there is something about a constant beeping on an airplane that makes a crash feel immanent. Like the beeping at the hospital. I don't care if your just there to have an appendix taken out, that little beeping that happens next to the bed stirs up all sorts of dread. When I had my tonsils out, I came to hearing that thing beeping fast, and I was sure something had gone terribly wrong and that I was in the process of dying. Turns out I was just about to throw up and rip the stitches in my throat all out... still, the beeping didn't help.
So old man river beeps through the whole flight and when the pilot announces 30 minutes till we land he starts getting restless. Nervous like. Twitching his fingers and rocking back and forth and I wanted to tell him, "Look buddy, this is not the proper way to handle your anxiety, you are making things way worse on yourself." But there was no time. He was already throwing up. And it was getting all in his poor little beard. And for the next thirty minutes he pukes and pukes and pukes until we touch down in Dallas.
Those poor birds.
Starbucks
I'm having quite a time trying to narrow down the bizarre stories from this week, but I think I will end with this.
As a former Starbucks employee I know that the companies goal is for Starbucks to be "Your third home" Family. Work. Starbucks. You are supposed to learn customer's names, memorize their drink orders, and welcome them like your little sister, big brother, or wise grandpa every time they walk through the door. This, Starbucks says, should feel like a place of warmth and community.
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And their always glad you came... you wanna go where everybody knows your name.
That kind of deal. Cheers for the masses.
The thing is, I've started going to a new Starbucks and the customers take that invitation a little too far for me and I am left wondering, "Do I commit or do I stay far away from you people?"
I ended up there two mornings ago at 6:00 as I found it impossible to sleep after feeding Annie that morning. So at 5:45 I made myself get out of bed, get dressed, and go to Starbucks. The first thirty minutes or so, I was all alone and the world was perfect. But then a man came in and plopped down next to me. Pet peeve. If there is a whole empty store or theatre or whatever, please don't come sit right next to me. But there he was, about 60 years old and 400 pounds, breathing very heavily, and right up in my space. Then 3 girls come in after a run. They are sweaty and way too giddy for 6:30 in the morning. The man next to me says hello to the girls by name. They get their drinks and pull up a table right next to him and start to chit-chat.
My perfect morning was slowly slipping away.
Then come in three young police officers. They don't even have to order their drinks. The barista has them ready and sitting on the counter. They pull up next to the girls and start asking about their 5K from the previous weekend. Now there are seven of them, completely opposite groups of people, huddled together like they're about to have church. Then a few business guys come in, and sit across from the group... but not without first saying hello to everyone by name and inquiring about whether the police officers are going to be doing their motorcycle training today. Then three old men come in and take over the last table. They say hey to everyone and start laughing so loud as they talk about movies with one another that I can't hear myself think.
I have officially been ousted out of my personal space and thrown into this hodge-podge group of people who apparently are related some how. I feel like I am at an early morning family reunion.
And all of a sudden I thought, "Oh my gosh. Starbucks won. This is home. They all know each other. This is really creepy. Their families are all at home, still getting ready for the day, and they are here, they are members of a neighborhood Starbucks fraternity."
Just then one of the cops turned around and said to me, "Hey! We don't know your name. And look, if you're gonna come in the mornings you're going to have to contribute a whole lot more to these conversations."
I sat there with my blurry eyes, bad hair, and coffee breath and laughed a very awkward laugh. "You guys are here every morning?"
They all laughed. Some sort of internal laugh that I was not privy to. And I wondered... do I want you to love me or do I want to run far away from you? Their faces were so sweet and the randomness of the group so unique... but I couldn't help but think that it felt like a creepy movie about a secret society who ends up stealing people's minds or something else crazy.
I'm writing from a different Starbucks today. As of now, I'm not sure what to do with those people. Part of me wants to be there... where everybody knows my name.
Part of me thinks it's a bit insane.
But what would a bizarre week be without a classic run-in with Starbuckians?

Week One of the Tour

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Monday: Annie and I are with my parents in Albuquerque. The guys are supposed to leave Dallas at 9:00 a.m. on the RV. We rented the RV from an amazing couple who saw that we were in need of a vehicle for this tour and offered to let us rent theirs for a ridiculously low price.
The RV won't start. The guys don't leave Dallas until 6 p.m. The RV might not like us. They drive to the border of Texas and New Mexico.
Tuesday: The guys cross the border and the RV starts acting up. By late morning the RV has broken down again.
Tuesday afternoon: The RV is up and running, only a short circuit. They are in Albuquerque by late afternoon and we practice with our tour drummer, Richard. Tuesday night after dinner the RV won't start for the second time that day. We wiggle a wire around, and it starts.
Wednesday: We play the first show in Albuquerque!
Thursday: Leave for Phoenix. Somewhere in the straight desert the RV starts topping off at 40 mph and the whole interior reeks of diesel fuel. Annie is coughing. We are all feeling gross and fumy. Makes you a little nauseous after a while. We make it to Flagstaff. We need to get this thing checked out. A guy comes out to fix our RV. I call a local church and explain that because we are all Christians they are morally obligated to please come pick us up from this truck stop and give us a place in their church to crash for a few hours :). Not quick thinking... I saw my mom do this on youth trips when we were broken down with 300 students. I stole the idea. They promise to get us as soon as we need them.
Thursday afternoon: We head to Cracker Barrel for lunch. The RV man will fix it in their parking lot. Gotta love Cracker Barrel parking lots. We finish lunch. RV is fixed. We think. But as our driver Brandon begins his test drive the entire RV stops running on the side of the road. It is dead, dead. 1:oo p.m. We play in Phoenix at 8. This won't be fixed in time for the show, we need to rent cars and drive to Phoenix. The bus can meet us tomorrow. The random church, Christ's Church of Flagstaff, comes to pick up the boys and bring them to the airport.
Thank you Thank you Thank you Kathy and Christ's Church!
Me and Annie crash at Cracker Barrel. She is getting bugs and diseases from the floor... I am sure of it. We are on this floor for over an hour. She never cries once. She is a trooper.

The guys get back with the rental cars. We pack just enough clothes to get us through the night. We leave everything else we own on the RV and travel to Phoenix. We get there at 6pm. The show starts at 8 pm. This was a crazy long day but a great time with our Phoenix fans. And, I got to meet Stacey, a faithful blog reader who showed up with a bag full of girl gifts... she is perhaps my soul mate!

Friday morning: The RV is still in Flagstaff. It will not be ready in time to pick us up in Phoenix and drive us to Las Vegas. So we keep the rental cars and start driving. We have a show at 8 pm and a five hour drive. The drive is beautiful. We take time to stop and let Annie stretch and see her first cactus. She loves it. We get to Las Vegas without any hiccups. A welcome relief after two entire days of exhausting break downs and car trips with a ten month old. Brandon calls to say that they have fixed the RV, he is headed to Vegas and we will have our stuff and our vehicle back in a few hours. Whew... the worst is behind us.
Never say that people. It's like a challenge for the negative forces of the world to come after you. Brandon calls...
"Ryan the RV is on fire. I've tried two fire extinguishers. I can't contain it. Oh *&$# (expletive) it's exploding. There are explosions. I have to go."
The initial picture. The final picture. I guess it takes the fire department a while when you are in the freaking desert.
Friday night: Ryan breaks the news as soon as he gets it at dinner. The RV is on fire. The details continue to pour in. This isn't a grease fire. Not a small fire. This is huge. A huge fire. We get the call that everything is destroyed.
Mind you, I packed the entire contents of our apartment (besides furniture and appliances) and moved into this RV. Every piece of clothes Annie owns. All her toys. Her DVDS. Enough diapers and formula for two months. Every piece of clothing Ryan and I owned. Our shoes. Undies. Toiletries. Most of the new make-up :(. All of the new clothes we just got for free from our photo shoot. Books. Bibles. Food. New appliances for the RV. Vacuum cleaner. Coffee pot. Humidifiers. Baby Monitors. And then everything in the trailer. Sound board. the 4,000 t-shirts we just ordered (basically the only way we make money on the road...) all of our merchandise, new hats, new bags, suitcases, guitars, amps... everything.
We have lost everything.
As it rushes through my head, I have what I think is as close to a clinical breakdown as I have ever had :) I am on my face crying in a dark nursery. I am going to go home now. really. Truly. Tonight will be my last show Lord. I will not live like this and put my daughter through this and my husband through this kind of living anymore. I cannot take another blow. Another rapid. I can't do this. I call my pastor. Jackie, tell me what to do. Please. I don't even know what to do anymore. I cannot stand up under the weight of this. She prays. She says get up and bring honor to God by fulfilling my obligation for tonight and then we will figure out our next step after that.
The unfolding of events over the next 24 hours is another blog or two in itself.
For now you should just know: I did not quit. And you can't quit either. You can make it. Whatever the blow is, you can make it. You are not alone. Voice your burdens, share your struggles and ask God's children, the Big C church as my friend Christy calls it, for prayer. For help. Allow them to walk with you. And know that someone has come for you. You are not by yourself.
I will thank a host of people who have stepped in to take care of us later this week. But for now, that is my little Annie Boo in an outfit that we were given by a mom who insisted we take her daughter's clothes. I woke up this morning and I was able to put an outfit on Annie. I was able to dress her. Watch her squeal and kick and laugh.
She was not in her bed in the RV where she played and slept and talked.
The bed that erupted into flames out of no where.
The bed that sits right on top of the engine where all the electrical wires that were shorting out resided.
She was not on that bed when the flames erupted of nowhere. She was not in that RV when the fire quickly spread. When the explosions pierced the quiet of the desert. When the sun set on a smouldering bus that held our livelihood.
She was not there.
I dressed her this morning. I fed her. I held her in my arms. And watched as she chased squirrels in the park this afternoon. I will tuck her in tonight.
My stuff is gone... but my baby is safe.
The miracle this week is that the RV practically forced us to get off of it before it caught fire.
I've never been more grateful for a miracle in my life.
If you want to help Ryan and I replace our things, please feel free to make an on-line donation to our personal Paypal account: [email protected]
If you want to help the band replace gear you can make a donation at AddisonRoad.com.