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. 

ground rules.

So if I’m gonna do this we’re gonna need some ground rules. And by “this”, I mean, write words that aren’t to music. And by “write”, I mean, occasionally. And by “occasionally”, I mean as often as my heart & ego & my big little everything called family will allow. But we’re gonna need some ground rules. 

Tom Petty was a genius. But forgive me for saying it’s not the waiting. It’s the starting that’s the hardest part. So the fact that you’re reading this means that I’ve already slayed the green-with-envy demon called expectation. And the red-headed step-monkey on my back called logic. And most importantly, the “oh my god is that me?” reflection in the warped, carnival mirror I have lovingly named fear. Those little assholes that kept me staring at a blinking cursor in a blank document no less than a hundred times these last few months — yeah, I just kicked their asses. Because I just started a thing. 

That thing. What to call that thing. And as luck (ie. God orchestrating the whole friggin universe so meticulously that sometimes I look like a wizard at life..) should have it - right at this moment, across the room, my kids are watching a show called Word Party. So for now, the working title of this THING is a word party. But as every therapist under the sun will tell you, where 3 are more are gathered…there must be boundaries. Or did I just make that up? Doesn’t matter. 

I WILL…

  1. Tell my truth.
  2. Have no agenda.
  3. Quit writing if I can’t do 1 & 2. 

IF YOU WILL….

  1. Be kind.
  2. Don’t judge.
  3. Quit following if you can’t do 1 & 2.

Well that was easy.