day 18 // the elusive box turtle.

It feels like Christmas Eve around here. The town is buzzing. The flags are flying. The streamers are carefully being strung through bike spokes for the parade. The community theater is having final dress rehearsals for the musical. There is a shortage of hot dog buns at Dillons. And of course, everyone is scaling the dirt roads at sunset for the elusive box turtle. 

Because the show pony, per say, of Sterling’s Christmas — is the turtle race. 80 years ago someone took the meaning behind The Tortoise & The Hare to heart in a big way and started a small town revolution. Where turtles battle it out. And isn’t it just like a small town to still believe that the slowest and the steadiest wins the race? 

The reality of the turtle race for our family is that it’s really more about the acquisition and less about performance. Can’t tell you how many years we make a big to-do about finding one, decorating one, and then by the time 10:30 am on 7/4 comes around, a child is inevitably crying in their corndog in the blazing heat and we tote that bucket of turtle back to the house.

Maybe this year will be different. Her name is Gummy. She’s been deemed a unicorn with a pink+purple color palette. And my kids refuse to touch her. Off to the races.

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day 16 + 17 // generation bff.

Once upon a time, Brenna and I both wanted new bikes. Both our parents said we couldn’t have them. So Brenna purposely left hers behind her parents car so they would inevitably run over it. Brenna got a new bike. One with gears and hand brakes. I, on the other hand, am still afraid of my parents. 

Once upon a time, Brenna’s mom wouldn’t let her come play with me until she cleaned her room. So I would show up on her doorstep with a trash bag and we’d clean her room together so we could play. I am still, today, afraid of a room that isn’t clean.

Once upon another time, Brenna taught me how to drive stick shift in her white Honda on a dirt road before I had even taken drivers ed. I am, in fact, still afraid of driving stick.

And once upon this weekend, Brenna brought her husband and their girls to spend the weekend with us overnight at Glinda It just so happens that our daughters are now the same age as we were when we learned to clean our rooms and get new bikes. I watched Brenna’s daughter try to hold her bike upright trying to teach Charlie how to ride without training wheels. And it made me emotional thinking about Brenna teaching me to drive stick out on a dirt road. And I watched Charlie go down the water slide purely because Morgan did. 

I’m not afraid of nearly as many things as I used to be. And it’s cool to see a 2nd generation of Brenna teach a 2nd generation of Nicolle how to not be as scared of things.

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day 15 // non-fiction fairytale.

 I guess this is a good time to acknowledge that today marks the halfway mark of our Summer in Sterling. I’m in the exact middle of it, but I’m strangely already sad that we will blink and be gone. I guess like they say, how lucky to have something so dear you get to miss.

I’ve noticed a lot lately that when I hear myself recount the happenings of our day, it sounds almost fiction. Like an overwritten country song. By someone from LA. As if Mayberry isn’t a real place.

For. Example.

This morning after we had grandma’s homemade English muffin toast on the patio in our pajamas - we rode bikes down Main Street to the barber shop - where Aunt Vivian welcomed us with Smarties. A couple of kind-hearted farmers who were waiting for buzz cuts - under a wall full of taxidermy - offered to let us cut in line (because 3 year old). And the blue and white stripes spun outside the window while the local news played on a tube tv in the corner. And we paid our $14 and took the change next door to the Cafe to get sodas and fried chicken. I told the kids if they were good and ate their food, they could get gum balls out of the machine. And wouldn’t it be just like this town to give you two gum balls for each quarter. The kids squealed the whole ride home - or I guess at least until the park - where we played on the swings until the 1:00 whistle blew and we crawled back on the bikes and went home for naps.

It’s when I hear myself say that that’s what we did today that I am so glad this is actually a non-fiction fairytale I’m living.

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day 14 // the wide lens.

My camera doesn’t have a zoom on it. I kinda like that about it. If I want to get closer to the heart of the picture, I have to literally just walk closer to the action. Usually, squat walking like a penguin with one eye glued to the back of the thing. I would one day love (to hate) to see B-roll of me trying to get the right shots. 

But this morning I wasn’t “camera waddling” TOWARD the picture. I was backing up from it. We were in Little River visiting Great Grandma Galyon. You know, the one that has 7 kids and 53 grandkids and still gets everyone of them a gift at Christmas. And at 89 still drives herself to hit the Dillards Clearance Rack. There was a moment where she was sitting on a park bench talking to my husband - deep in conversation. While in the background, the kids were literally frolicking in the splash pad. I couldn’t decide what to take a picture of, so I walked across the park and just took a picture of ALL of it together. 

It got me thinking about how there is such beauty in the lenses through which we choose to see life. There are the moments for zooming in - on the laugh lines around the eyes of a woman as she cries and holds her baby for the first time. Or the wrinkles on the hand that grips another in the hospital bed. But today, I needed a wide lens. One from 30,000 feet. The one that shows you the magnitude of blessings at one time. Ala the 89 year old matriarch telling stories of Grandpa when he was young. While your 3 year old dumps a bucket of water over the head of the 5 year old. While the husband seems to be thriving in the town you were raised.

Just thankful today that God gave us all eyes that came with a built-in super zoom, panoramic, and wide lens all in one. Just depends what we choose to see and how we choose to see it..

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day 13 // the lemonade (I don't under)stand.

About a month ago, one of my co-writers asked me what I would do if I ever lived in Kansas full time again. My response without even thinking about it was “oh, I’d just build something else”.  A lot of people think that to be successful in music, you have to have no Plan B. Fortunately for me, music was my Plan B, so that illusion was shattered for me years ago. Music is just one small way I get to Build. Build a story. Build a memory. Build a family. Build a home. Build a song. Build a friendship. Build something. 

And yesterday we built a lemonade stand. I hope the kids remember picking out lemons at the grocery store, going to town with a helium tank in the kitchen, painting stencils on the signs, taking orders and putting the dollars in the mason jar. But what they might remember is that it was 100 degrees when the 6:00 whistle blew and told us we were opened. And how the frosting on the cookies melted as their sibling tried to steal our one umbrella. And they might only remember the wind blowing the napkins across the yard more than 20 times. Or how we didn’t have any customers for the first 20 minutes and it felt like an eternity. 

I can’t be held responsible for the story they choose to tell themselves about yesterday. Ford might call it THE LEMONADE (I Don’t under)STAND - a funny look at how boys don't care about stuff like lemonade signs. Charlie could likely call it Of Life & Lemonade - a fabulous look at how you can learn to be fabulous in even the most miserable of weather.

But me - I’m gonna title yesterday When Life Gives You A Lemonade Stand. It’ll be all about how the greatest of intentions are only intentions, not reality. I can’t INTEND for the weather to cool off. I can’t intend for my daughter to not have a meltdown when she gets hot. I can’t intend for more than 10 customers.

I can only build a lemonade stand. The rest I don’t have to understand.

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day 11 + 12 // camp cousin.

There are a lot of moments when you’re building a house from across the country where it just gets so stressful and clustered that you need to just close your eyes and envision something beautiful. Something that is gonna make the logistical nightmare of this process more than worth it.

So I would imagine a night when my kids’ cousins would come over and we’d all go ride bikes to the swimming pool. And then eat pizza on the side porch while the fan blew. And then ride scooters to the Dairy Dump for milkshakes as big as our faces. And then they’d make a town out of sidewalk chalk on the driveway for their bikes and scooters. And then they’d wash said driveway and each other off with the hose sprayer. And then they’d take turns showering in shifts. And then they’d all end up in the playroom watching a movie eating popcorn. And then they’d all jump in their bunks in the bunk room and giggle until I went up and told them it was bedtime.

That’s what I would imagine.

And last night, that’s what we did.

First annual Camp Cousin: established 2018.

 

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day 10 // botox + balayage.

Today I went to a beauty conference that my cousin hosted called beYOUtiful. there were a lot of donuts. and awesome drinks that were Champagne and other things mixed together. Except I asked them to leave out the other things. Because champagne is everything I need always.

Anyway, I am lucky to get makeup on anymore. In fact, I've even gotten down to where dry shampoo and a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen qualifies as being "put together". But I learned a lot today. First of which is that it's already too late for me. I'm a lost cause. But for all you 15 year olds getting Botox, the future is still in your hands -- and between your eyebrows. ;)

I had the best time learning about things I will never have time to do -- like cool sculpt the fat off the back of my arms. And the difference between balayage and hair painting. I am not feminine enough for most female things. But I DO always have time to hang with my gorgeous cousins and aunts and mom. So here's us...being beYOUtiful.

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Nicolle Galyon
day 9 // little miss low dive.

I have a scar on the inside of my left ankle from sometime around 4th grade when I was flirting with (aka trying to show off to) Derek Schneider on the diving board at the pool. And instead I slid off the side and scraped the absolute s-h-i-t out of my ankle. It bled a lot. Like made a huge scene and yuck. No one besides me probably remembers that it happened. And I probably would have forgotten by now too - except for that 2 inch mark on my ankle reminds me every time I go to tie my shoes or shave my legs. Thank you, diving board. Thank you humility. Thank you God for giving us scars - because motherhood has all but deleted my entire memory hard drive. Which brings me to the pool…

The pool here is very “Sandlot meets Sirius Ch. 56 The Highway”. I've definitely deemed a few girls the token Wendy Peffercorns. The lifeguards are beautifully sun kissed sixteen. Well-tanned and are all probably kissing each other in the bath house after hours. And my Charlie is the resident Little Miss Sunshine for the month. Freely rocking one piece wedgies and bedazzled goggles every day that ends in Y. And today, Little Miss Low Dive stepped right up that very diving board that got my ankle back in early 90's, and jumped off and doggy paddled her little booty to the side.

And then she did it again.

And then she did it 50 more times.

Same diving board that gave me a scar gave her wings.

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day 8 // a glinda for glinda.

The joke has always been that I’m Glinda because I magically appear in Kansas all the time. As if there aren’t planes, trains and automobiles involved. I would just POOF! show up a brother’s football game or an Easter sunday. So when we started planning this house, we needed something to call her because “the house in Kansas” just didn’t have a ring to it. Now, Glinda is a house. A refuge. A symbol of the goodness in coming home. And there are a few Wizard of Oz inspired details that are in the works to give a touch of meaning to why we’re here & who we are. 

Speaking of who we are, my husband’s daughter (yes, that is technically step-daughter, but that makes me sound old and mean. so, my husband’s daughter…) Sydney is one of the most sought after rising artists in Nashville right now. And she made my crazy idea of hanging a nine foot princess in a house that will house a LOT of hunters look natural and genius.  

Long after my kids' enamor with Oz wears off, I hope she looks after one of my granddaughters in a nursery someday. But for now she is the first face my kiddos see when they run down the stairs in Kansas. Day 1 and Fordy already walks by saying “Good morning Glinda!” For me, she a symbol of the goodness of coming home and a daily reminder that there is magic in a place called Kansas.

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 “It’s not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we're always home, anywhere.”-

GLINDA

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day 7 // the babiest brother.

A friend messaged me today that it seems that it’s a birthday everyday here. And the truth is, everyday I have woken up here so far feels like it’s my birthday. Because when I wake up on my birthday I feel like no one expects anything from me. I feel like there are no rules. I feel like I should soak up every second of the day. I feel like celebrating the life I’ve been given. I feel lighter. I feel older. I feel better. 

Yep, that’s how I feel here.

But today it actually was my brother’s birthday. Seven-freakin’-teen. The significance of seventeen here isn’t that it’s the best year ever for most everyone. The freedom-to-responsibility ratio is really unparalleled by any other year on planet earth, IMO. But, no, the significance of seventeen here is that that’s how old I was when I got my brother Cooper. I remember I was working on the maintenance crew at Sterling College that summer (where my painters and weed killers at?!). My friends Colin and Carrie had been at our house the night before, and it was very common for my friends to want to hang out with my parents more than me when they were at our house. (My mom’s a babe and my dad’s hilarious.) So we were hanging in the living room with my parents and my mom kept saying “there’a another contraction…” and I didn’t think anything of it. Until I woke up the next morning for work and my parents were gone. 

(Editor’s note: they had woken me up in the middle of the night saying they were going to hospital. But I’m a phenomenally hard sleeper. Once slept through a tornado knocking an actual oak tree through the roof into my bedroom. That’s Kansas Nicolle, thankuverymuch.)

So I woke up and came to and drove my other brothers Taylor & Riley over to the hospital. I remember we hit a Burger King drive through on the way. Beyond that, that day was a blur. But the meaning of having a brother 17 years younger than me is clear as day. 

He showed ME what it really meant to be a mom years before I was one. I remember mom up late nursing and dragging the carseat to volleyball tournaments. Maybe that’s why I was realistic about what having a newborn looked like. He kept me coming home every six weeks when I went to college - bc I was so afraid if I didn’t, he would never know me. Maybe that’s why I never fell out of love with this town. And when he is up in his room practicing drums at approximately 8 million decibels, I remember trying to practice the piano while my brothers watched the tv too loud. And maybe that’s why I could play through the  gigs where no one was listening in the early years. 

Maybe it’s the babiest brother that taught me how to grow up the most. I don’t know. All I know is he was there when I turned 17. In diapers. In mom’s arms. And I was there when he turned 17. In pajamas. In the house next door. 

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day 6 // leftover monster cookie dough.

I said this month was a dream. But I never said it was going to be perfect.

 For instance, who knew that after ordering a trailer to pull the kids months in advance, making a special trip to Hutch to get a bike, having them put special tubes in, getting the kids bike helmets, and even getting the bell installed — that I’d get a flat tire on my ride. (In case you’ve ever wondered, walking a bike with a trailer of two kids behind it is a really solid workout.)

Also, who knew that our son would all of a sudden be afraid of the dark and would become an actual night terror himself. (Isn’t there an article that says 4.5 hours is the optimum amount of sleep for adults?)

Also, who knew that our irrigation system would have a crack in it and create a geyser in the yard and flood the street? (Feeling good about digging that well right about now.)  

And who knew that after meticulously curating the perfect instastory of the baking of the most  delicious double batch of monster cookies, they would literally melt in the oven like a pancake and taste like actual shit once baked? (I might be in a little house on the prairie - but turns out I’m not the pioneer woman.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been reminded that perfection is not the secret to success this week. And that leftover monster cookie dough is a freakin’ delicacy.

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day 5 // the bath house acoustics.

Tonight my mom was watching a video of my daughter Charlie singing on my instastory. We were at the pool today and she was GET.TING.IT. I mean, wow. No matter how much everything in the world changes, the acoustics in that bathhouse at the Sterling Pool are still booming like they did in ’92. They make you want to sing The Greatest Showman soundtrack from top to bottom. And they make you want to scream your name just to hear it echo. And they make you want to have a crush on the lifeguard when you’re in 3rd grade (oh wait. Off topic.)

Anyway, we were watching the video and Charlie said “hey! That was a secret.” And I probably didn’t know what to say so I just told her she was an awesome singer. To which she said without blinking an eye “I know I am, but that makes me nervous.”

I think one of the coolest things about Charlie is how much she honors her feelings. It’s like there’s no barrier between what’s going on inside and what she gives to everyone around her. I want to protect that the best I can because it is those feelings that are going to teach her survival and passion and protection and instinct and mother loving LOVE.

So, you heard it here folks. June 19, 2018 was the last time I posted anything without my daughter’s approval. I knew this day was coming and in a way it feels like a beautiful coming of age. Where she decided she wanted to choose some boundaries for her life and, girlfriend, it is YOUR life.

Here’s one of the last pictures I ever took of her without her approval.

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day 4 // the bed tent.

A few months ago, I was a guest on a friend’s podcast called “So Tell Me About Your Father”. And I did. I told them all about my father. (If you want to hear it, you can go find it on iTunes - but that’s not the point.) The point is, I had semi-high blood pressure anxiously waiting for the call from my dad. Would he feel vulnerable t that I shared too much? Would he feel violated by my transparency about our relationship? Men are funny like that - super hard shell, super soft soul.So for decades (actually, just days that felt like decades) I waited for the phone to ring.

And finally it did.

And he was crying. (Uh-oh.)

And then he said:

“I wish we could just go back in time. Back when you were little….Because you were perfect….And it all went too fast…I wanna go back to when we could all fit in the same bed again and make a tent…..”

There was more, but all seems insignificant after hearing the words “you were perfect”. I know so many people that have lived their whole lives just waiting for their parent to say they’re merely proud of them. Or that they’re sorry. And mine just told me that I was perfect. It was one of those conversations that made me think if it all ended tomorrow, we both know each other. And of all the unfinished business in this world, ITEM # “Chris Galyon & his daughter telling each other what they mean to each other” was swiftly crossed off the list. 

So, that’s my dad. Chris Galyon. The Italian Stallion as we call him around here. And it’s always sucked that we aren’t together on his birthday. But this year - thanks to Glinda - we were. And it just so happens that a little girl that looks exactly like I did - and acts a lot like I did - back when we could all fit in the same bed - was running around singing Happy Birthday to her Papa and kissing him all over the face all evening. And I’m pretty sure he thinks she’s perfect. And I’m pretty sure that if only for a second here and there, he probably felt like it was back in time…when we could all fit in the same bed and make a tent.

That’s the really cool thing about life. Time runs in a straight line. But family runs in full circles.

 

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day 3 // á la mode.

I’m exhuasted. 

It could be from the wine.

Or the father’s day brunch I hosted.

Or the church charade with the little monsters.

Or the loading bags of rock into a truck bed for my grandpa.

Or the 5 hours of sleep Ford is letting me get these days.

Or the 100 degree heat.

Lets be honest, it’s the wine.

But what few brain cells I have left are wondering:  When was the last time you watched a kid eat an ice cream cone? It’s really unbelievable. How there is no method. No preventative measures taken to keeping it from melting. It’s really just one impulsive bite after another. Until it’s all over their face. And slowly trickling down their fingers and their arms until it literally drops like a bead of sweat off their elbow onto grandma’s patio furniture. To which all the adults jump to their feet immediately and call 911.

I think about the level of order to which I live my life. I mean, before I even get coffee I make my bed, use an overpriced 3 step facial system, brush my teeth, open all the blinds, put on my house shoes, check my calendar, comb my hair, turn the dimmers on the night time kitchen lights off, disarm the alarm system, empty the dishwasher if needed, pour drinks in sippy cups, set my dairy-free creamer right to the left of the coffee machine and make sure the tv is on in time to see the first 15 minutes of the Today show (should the kids have not already taken command of every screen within a 5 mile radius of our house already).

That all happens before I pour a cup of coffee. Yet, a child can eat an ice cream cone half-naked in the street with his feet burning on the asphalt while it drips INTO his swim trunks with mulch stuck to his shoulder and that is enough.

I think I’ll take an order of adulthood á la mode.

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day 2 // training the tracks.

I walked out of a movie tonight. It was only 30 minutes in. And my date was holding my hand crying. (Sounds like a horrible night if you’re sixteen.) 

But if you’re a 33 y.o. mom and your date is a 3 year old man child who just happened to have ice cream at dinner and just couldn’t swing the whole “sit in one spot for more than 6 seconds” thing - pretty much par for the course. I wasn’t even frustrated with him. I just felt responsible for the ticket payers sitting around us who were surely distracted by the up-down of a blonde head scaling the aisles. 

Instead of getting upset with him that he couldn’t make his personality and energy fit in the box of a movie theater - I found myself looking to make some new fun in a place that had no fences. And that’s the beauty about this place. There aren’t many fences or no trespassing signs - or really anything to make you feel small. You just kinda feel like you’re OUT here - not stuck IN here

Before I knew it, I had driven 20 miles to pull off the side of the road into a flat dirt spot, so that we could stand next to the railroad tracks and listen for a choo choo. I watched him pretend to be a train at the top of his lungs as the wind nearly took his breath away. And it took my breath away to watch him. I think tonight Ford reminded me to not try to change the train — but to make some tracks that take the train places they can really rock and roll. And this train does not thrive in a movie theater. He thrives when his mama takes him into the great wide open.

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day 1 // summer of sterling.

Today we got here. Today we got here. Today we got here. I keep saying it over and over because I’m not talking about the plane, train and automobile it took to get here. I’m talking about the literal thousands of  emails  and texts titled “placement of door stoppers” and “budget for irrigation well” it took to get here. We got here. Through there.

Tonight I walked down the sidewalk and stared at the moon. It was a skinny sliver. It was exquisite. Like it was propped up at a 45 degree angle on top of the neighbor’s house. Funny, I haven’t stared at the moon in awhile. It’s been there every night of my almost 34 years. So where have been? I stood there barefoot for a few seconds and sighed. Wish I could say the slightest breeze rustled through the trees. But it was more of a 40 mph gust like a blow dryer in the face. But even through that I breathed deeper. And then I walked back inside and ate 20 bites of cookies + cream straight out of the carton.

No fireworks show. No grandiose ceremony or welcome committee.  In the silence of my kids sleeping at Mimi & Papa’s I thought to myself “if this is all just to stop and see the moon a little more…” and the tone has been set.

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Day 1 down.

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30 days of sterling.

It’s always fascinating to see the unfiltered look on people’s faces when I tell them that we built a house in my hometown. Of 2000 people. 15 feet from my parents. An hour and a half from a Target. Where real estate virtually only depreciates. And the travel takes approximately 8 hours. And after 2 flights you still have to drive an hour.

The looks thus far have ranged as follows:

  • The BUT WHY: This is a pure look of confusion. Usually paired with a  furrowed brow & general disdain for one’s hometown.
  • The I COULD NEVER: This is knee jerk expression of  shock. Immediate eyes widened. Generally ollowed with the phrase “wow”.
  • The OH WOW: This is mother condescension . If this look could talk it would likely say “they will eventually regret this”. 
  • The AWWWW: This is one part appreciation for our choice, zero parts desire to do it themselves. Categorized by how one’s face looks calm and excited for us, but you can tell behind their eyes they are applying their own family into this equation and know that this is nothing they would ever want to do.
  • The AHHHHHHHH: This is a rare reaction of pure jealousy. Usually followed with phrases like “what a dream” & “what a gift to your kids”. Usually someone who has toddlers and lives nowhere near family. 

I know these looks all too well because I’ve given all of them to myself over the years as we were hashing out the decision to execute the heart estate known as Glinda. And as it turns out, this plan has left me in a general state of AHHHHHHH. So after 2 years of planning and building — a decade of dreaming — and a lifetime of God intricately weaving little details like giving me a husband who wants to be here + providing a lot big enough for everyone in our family  + blessing our careers so we could have the resources to build — here we are.

We’ll be here 30 days this summer. Every summer. And I’m going to write a little something everyday. Some of it will be for therapy (because I don’t have a therapist here). Some of it will be for my memory (so I never forget the moments). Some of it will be for an outlet (because I’m used to writing everyday). But all of it will be mine. 

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(And all God’s people said “AHHHHHHHHH”.)

acceptance speech.

“And the 2015 ACM Song of the Year is 'Automatic', Miranda Lambert.“

My body is covered in needles. I put my head in my palms. I let go of my husband’s death grip. I wipe the sweat off my hands on the sides of my out-of-budget dress. I kiss said husband. Awkwardly. Cuz like, cameras. I look for Natalie (my-co-writer). I nervously walk through a blur of sincere eyes to a stage in front of 70,000 people. The room and the congratulatory pats on the back move in extreme slo-mo in contrast to the rapid fire flashbacks of childhood piano lessons & a Nashville-bound packed-up mini-van. And then right when the movie called “Your Whole Life Lead To This Moment” playing in my head gets to the part where I’m crying & swearing I’m quitting the music business… that’s when I take my first step onto the stage. And I breathe. Adjust the train of dress. Take next step. Forget to breathe. Take another step. Take four more steps. Turn around to see the faces of the voices I used to sing to on my way home from volleyball practice. I use every ounce of will power to swallow the lump in my throat that is hormonally tied to my tear ducts. Because if that switch gets flipped, this thing turns into a meme. And not a good one. Nervously readjust parts of dress that got disheveled on the treacherous journey up those six steps. And then the applause goes dead as I walk to the microphone and say:

This is for my daughter. So that she can know anything is possible. So that she can know why I’m not always there when she wakes up from a nap. And why sometimes we eat breakfast for breakfast - and then breakfast for supper. Because THIS is what I was doing during the day.

Yeah, that’s what I probably would’ve said.

But I didn’t.

Because I wasn’t there.

Instead, on the night we won Song Of The Year at the ACM’s in 2015 - I was on my couch in an XL sweatshirt holding my 4 day old son. Speechless. No really, speechless. Cuz they don’t Skype you in from remote locations unless you’re Reba. 

So I cried. And my phone started melting from the texts. And about 4 minutes later Miranda & Natalie actually did Skype me from backstage in tears, but I couldn’t hear a word they said. Because approximately 2 seconds before they called, my 1 year old fell and hit her head on the coffee table and thought she was actually dying at 1 million decibals. It was a real rush, I tell ya. Kind of  like the same rush as back in elementary school when one of my friends made me drink a “suicide” from the convenient store. (For lesser rednecks, a suicide is where you put a little bit of every single fountain drink in the same 32 oz cup and just see what happens.) Except in this situation, I felt like I had just taken a strong shot of ecstasy and FOMO and gratitude and WTF and  OMG and sadness and confusion all at the same time. Side effects included occasional floating sensations and inability to complete full sentences. Not to be paired with postpartum hormones.

So the show ended, I called my mom crying, I nursed again, I put the baby to sleep, yada yada yada…and decided to run a bath. Behind our bath tub is a massive floor-to-ceiling mirror. And I don’t remember drawing the bath or grabbing a towel. I just remember being lost in my thoughts until I looked up and saw myself naked for the first time after having a baby in that mirror. And it felt like I instantly sobered up from whatever buzz I was still riding from the ACM win. And with the passion of a drunk sorority girl - and the depth of a grown ass woman - and the disappointment of a child - I locked eyes with the reflection in the mirror and we sobbed. Over the years, as I’ve told this story, my husband thinks it was whelm. My friends think it was hormones. The twenty-somethings go “whoa. That’s heavy.” (and nervously go back to looking at their phones.) I just know that as confused as I felt, I was exactly where I made to be in that moment. And I felt like I had two hearts in one body. One for my son, who will always know he is worth more than an award. And one for me, who knows how bad I wanted that once-in-a-lifetime moment. 

So this year that once-in-a-lifetime moment turned into a twice-in-a-lifetime moment. And tomorrow morning, I fly to Vegas as we are nominated for a song I co-wrote called FEMALE. I don’t expect to win. And if we do, I don’t expect the microphone. But I have felt the tears try to resurface a dozen times this week as I have had frequent visions of that vulnerable, naked girl in the mirror 4 days postpartum. The one crying in her bath water while everyone else was drinking champagne with Reese Witherspoon at an after party. And I can’t not thank her. No matter what happens Sunday, she has given this weekend value for me in a way that no award ever could. So SHE is my new acceptance speech.

This is for the girl who just had a baby. The one whose heart and body are still in stitches. This is so you can know that you are always just getting started. Every day. The mountain top moments will keep coming. And that you can do hard things, because you are so much more than an extra 25 pounds of baby weight. You are gritty. And in a couple years you’ll be able to run circles around your 21 year old self. And you’ll do it all while still breathing life into 2 children that now can speak and they use those voices to tell their teachers that “their mama is a songwriter”. So girl that just had a baby, accept where you are in this exact moment. Accept crying in the bath water. Accept the reflection you don’t recognize. Accept the award you didn’t accept. Accept your limitations. Accept your vulnerabilities. Accept your emotions. Because a few years later it will be ALL those things that will help you write a song that will take you back to the party you once missed. And this year, your dress fits like a mother effing glove, girl. So I accept you and on behalf of you.

#FEMALE.

 

dream house.

Let me tell you about my dream house. 

It’s not the Pinterest-worthy, Chip & Joanna, monochromatic modern farmhouse we just spent the weekend moving into.  It’s the not the cliche small-town-girl-moves-to-Nashville-says-if-she-ever-has-a-hit-she’ll-build-a-house-in-her-hometown-and-then-does one. It’s not the one where we actually share a lot with my parents. It’s not where my kids wake up everyday and run next door in their jammies to Mimi & Papa’s while my husband and I sip coffee across the street from where I learned to play softball. And it’s definitely not the one where everything is perfectly black and white with a kiss of gold and sprinkled with fireworks every 4th of July. Nope. That house is all things dreamy. But it’s NOT my dream house. 

A lot of people have graciously followed along for the last year as I’ve attempted to build a 2nd home in my hometown I’ve appropriately named Glinda (in light of how I magically & quite frequently appear  in Kansas - and how building a house from across the country is a witch. But the good kind, of course). And we did it. It’s done. We slept there Friday night. About 25 yards from my parents back porch.  It’s straight out of a scene from This Is Us. And everyone has been hitting me up because they want to see the pictures & the perfectly curated profile of styled shelves. And I will share all that. But for some reason, it’s not the story tonight.  

This story is about finding myself on the way to post office yesterday - automatically turning onto Main Street even though that’s not where Glinda is. And in an act of auto-pilot, I found myself taking the long way past the house I lived in in grade school. And in another act of auto-pilot, I found myself replaying the night before Christmas in what was probably 1993. That was the year that I had begged Santa for a Clavinova - the most beautiful stage piano an 8 or 9-year-old pianist who had never really played a nice piano before could ask for. 

Just for context, at this time, I definitely knew Santa wasn’t real (thanks to my Aunt Audra who asked my mom what Santa got me right in front of me the previous Christmas! Wha wha.). But when you’re the oldest child not only are you the best… (insert wink emoji), but you have the incredible joy of playing along with the whole Santa charade for your younger sibling’s sakes for a solid decade. So, that night, in that house on Main, in the room I shared with my brother, I laid there wide awake wondering where Dad Santa hid the Clavinova he got me. I knew the logistics of 545 E. Main left very few hiding spots for something of that size, so I peeked out my bedroom window at my dad’s work truck. And sure enough, in the trailer behind, was the perfect silhouette of an electric stage piano underneath a work tarp. I squinted at it in the dark for so long, I’m pretty sure I went cross-eyed. Just imagining what it would look like in daylight. Then I jumped back in bed under the covers (bc oldest child, also big rule follower). And preceded to imagine my hands on the keys, pushing the volume slider up and down, feeling the shiny silver pedal under my bare feet in the morning.) This went on til the sun came up, when I ran out to living room Christmas morning to find…

A new coat. (insert head in hands emoji)

I’m sure I put it on and pretended that it was all I ever wanted…. and hugged my parents….And then ran over to see in broad daylight a saw horse peeking out from underneath the end of that tarp in the back of dad’s truck. 

I’ll never forget that. And I’ll never forget it because I think it was right about then I was learning to think big. To long for something bigger than I could physically attain at the time. And thus began the years of recording the country countdown in that bedroom --  thousands of hours playing a piano that was NOT a Clavinova. Dreaming of who I would marry. Daydreaming if I ever  would be a mom? Would I live in a big city someday? What would it be like to be a grown up?  

So if that house holds my dreams. Then this new one holds my destiny. The answer to all those questions. It has the husband’s truck in the driveway. It has the 4 bare feet running up and down the hard woods. It has mirrors with the reflection of a 30-something singer/songwriter. And it has a PO Box bc, guess what, girl - you still spend most of your time in the big city you somehow made it in. 

So for everyone who’s been asking, let me introduce you to my dream house: 

It’s a solid two bedroom, one bath, 800 square feet with questionable mustard yellow paint. My dream house has a washer and dryer about 4 feet from the bathroom sink. And the linoleum in the kitchen peels back in the corners. And the not-a-Smeg-but-looks-like-one freezer freezes over like once a week. And so mom has to take knives and chip away the ice to make room for a frozen pizza. My dream house crams 5 people into a 2 bedroom like it ain’t no thang. And my dream house rents for about $250 a month. Yes that one. That is my dream house.

My learn to dream house. 

IMG_9759.JPG
Nicolle Galyon
1200 oz.

So I have this friend. For the sake of this blog, lets call her Lyndsay. Because her name actually is Lindsey. (And I’m not good at disclosure.) So Lyndsay. She’s the kind of friend you meet when you’re nervous at college orientation. And at the ripe age of 19, Lyndsay has the ability to recognize that you desperately need her to calmly weave through a crowd of incoming freshmen, introduce herself, ask you if you’re gonna be in Heron Hall - and good Lord save you from the treachery of the “freshman relays”.  Lyndsay pretends like it’s not 100% apparent you’re the fish out of water. Fish being me. Water being Sterling, Kansas. “Lyndsay” being the first friend I ever made at college.  And 16 years later here we are.

This year Lyndsay had a baby. The second one. The one that makes you think that one felt like none. But you can’t say that to people with just one. You can only say that when you’re half lit on Veuve at 11am on a trip with your college friends. Just for reference, here is a list of other things you can only say half lit on Veuve at 11am on a trip with your college friends:

• “If I only had $300 left, I would definitely use it for botox instead of therapy.”

• “I feel like one tampon at a time just isn’t getting the job done anymore.”

• “I feel like I’m probably much better in bed than my husband’s trainer ever would be.” 

• Or in Lyndsay’s case: “Guys, I’m totally pissed about the 1200 ounces of breast milk I have in my deep freeze.”

Hold up. 1200 ounces of breast milk? That’s like saying a truck bed of caviar. I remember one particular Tuesday I was running out the door to work in a hurry and spilled 4 ounces of milk I had defrosted on the counter. I vividly remember it slow motion teetering to the left and slipping through the hand that already held a Diet Coke and car keys - and tragically landed like a dead soldier on the counter. I cried. For approximately forever. Over 4 ounces. Because in mom math, that’s 30 minutes of being hooked up to a machine. 4 ounces. And Lyndsay’s talking about 1200 ounces. Do the math. Carry the 6. That’s 100 hours, folks.

Long story long. Lyndsay’s son won’t take the milk anymore. And she has a lump in her throat telling us she’s feeling torn about donating versus selling it. And it all comes to a head when she gets a tear in the corner of her eye and says “I don’t know. I guess I just kinda want something for it, ya know?” And I’m all over here like “girl, cash IN! Getchu top dollar for that magic milk. I ain’t ever worked harder at nothin’ than nursing.” She’s tried donating it. Something got weird. She tried donating it again. Then some creepy old guy infiltrated the mom website and tried to buy it. So now she’s in witness protection and scarred for life. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. It begins to expire soon. And I’m imagining the visual of Lyndsay standing over the sink watching her throw 100 strenuous hours of her life down the actual, physical, freakin’ drain. 

It really got me thinking about what my 1200 ounces are. What is it that I’ve killed myself to pull off - but maybe wouldn’t have had I known it would all be ok if I didn’t? What is it that I’ve poured my heart into because I thought that it was expected - only later to find out that maybe the whole world somehow magically kept turning without it? For me, my 1200 ounces was dropping my son off at school. No one ever audibly told me “that’s what a good mother does”. But that’s what I heard. So for the first year of him being in school, I all but ran over 4-5 small children, broke the speed limit 487 times & prayed my way through just-turned-red lights so that I - queen yes you can - could be the one to watch him run 25 feet in front of me and act like he didn’t even know I was there. I won’t go into the logistics of our schedule, but I will tell you that it was borderline insane (and based on my driving, probably illegal) for me to be trying to pull that off  between another school dropoff, a workout and work. But I did it. And I kinda despised it, to be honest. Not the dropping off. Not the time with him. But the trying to do something because I told myself I would.

So this year, I let my husband do it. Almost every damn day. And you know who cares? No one. Ok, maybe there are a few moms that think my son has a handsome, single dad because I’m never there in the mornings. But beyond that, no one cares. Not even my son. He thinks getting to ride in dad’s truck is the shit. And watching them drive away so peacefully in the mornings makes me feel like Lyndsay standing over a trash can with her 1200 ounces. Like, ok. I tried really effing hard at that. And I did it for my kid. And my heart was in the right place. But maybe I wouldn’t do all that again had I known that it was okay if I didn’t. So, boom, imma watch that expectation of myself just circle the drain.

For those wondering - at the time this went to press - Lyndsay’s 1200 ounces were one month from expiring. And I still don’t know any of the other mom’s names in my son’s class.