Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day: Like It? Love it? Could skip it?

For about a month now, I’ve been thinking about writing a blog about “love”. Since having been part of such a wonderful journey with Patti’s kidney donation, I have come to meet so many people like Patti; people that spend their lives loving and being the good, faithful servant we all strive to be. In my entire life, I don’t think I’ve witnessed love like I did during those few weeks. I have definitely felt loved by my family and friends but seeing what I saw at that hospital made me feel totally different about love.  I now have hope for love, I believe it exists and is real, I’m no longer afraid of it, and I want to experience it first hand! 

I watched as Patti showed such an unselfish love by giving John the gift of life, her kidney. She was willing to risk her own life to save his life. I think that kind of love is hard to find. But, as I sat at the hospital with Patti, I began to see that kind of love more and more.  Maybe my eyes were just more open to it, but as her friends visited her throughout her stay there, I came to see so many people with that kind of love. It was undeniable that love like that exists and that so many people in the world are capable of exuding it.

One particular couple came to the hospital several times during Patti’s stay there. The very first time they walked in the room I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I was drawn to the energy they gave off. I believe they have been married for almost 30 years and they have two beautiful, grown daughters. Every time the wife spoke to Patti, her husband would just stare at her and take in every word she said.  He didn’t want to miss seeing one breath she took.  As he spoke, I noticed she did the same thing.  
It was one of the most beautiful loves I have seen in my entire life.  They made each other laugh and you could just tell they were truly each other’s soul mate. They live to be in love with each other.

After they left the hospital one day, I asked Patti how someone could still be so in love after being married for almost 30 years.  She said she has asked them that before and their answer was that “they have the same best friend…Jesus.” They keep Him in the center of their life and He guides their marriage and the life they share with one another.

For weeks, I have thought about this particular couple over and over again.  Last night, I was invited to a valentine dinner at their house and I watched them some more.  He was by her side in the kitchen the entire time.  They NEVER stopped smiling at one another.  I left last night thinking about them some more. I bet every single day of their life is like Valentine’s Day.  That kind of love is a gift from God.

Since I wanted to write about love, and Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I thought why not make this blog about Valentine’s Day!!!

When I think about Valentine's Day, I think about my Grandfather...we called him PawPaw. PawPaw went to heaven a few years ago but for 20-something years he made an impression on me every Valentine’s Day!

Growing up, I spent lots of time at MawMaw and PawPaw's house. From the time I can remember, PawPaw would come home from work on every Valentine’s Day and give MawMaw a big heart-shaped candy box with an assortment of chocolates in it. You know what I'm talking about don't you? The ones where you never know what you're eating until you actually bite into the piece of candy?!  MawMaw's face would always light up when he handed it to her.  Her heart-shaped candy box was never plain looking; there was always something special about her box. It might have gold glitter writing on it or maybe even a raised, silk surface on it. It always looked beautiful to me!

Then, he would give my Mama and her two sisters a medium-sized heart candy box with assorted chocolates in it. Finally, he would give my two sisters and me a small heart-shaped candy box with an assortment of chocolates in it. So, before he came home on every Valentine’s Day, he would buy 7 assorted chocolate heart candy boxes! Can you imagine how expensive Valentines Day was for him?!  It' was something I always looked forward to. We couldn't wait to open our boxes. My sisters and I would open them and squeeze each piece of candy to see what was inside of it. If it happened to be a flavor we didn’t think we'd like, we'd trade with one another! Those were fun times!!

Another fond Valentine’s Day memory was taking valentine cards to all my classmates when I was in elementary school.  Mama would buy me a box of little cards and I would fill them out for everyone in my class. But first, I would pick out my favorite card and write it to the boy in class that I wanted to be my boyfriend.  Then, after all the cards in class were distributed, I would look through all of mine and find the card he gave me and hope that he wrote something special on it. That is too funny!! 

As an adult, it seems like I'm always single on Valentines Day! I remember two times actually having a dinner on Valentine's Day with a guy I was dating!  I wonder why that is? I like Valentine's Day but I just haven’t really celebrated it that much. It’s not that I don’t want to celebrate it because I am truly a romantic.  I would LOVE to celebrate it, but I’m just always single on February 14! I’ve decided that God has so many exciting Valentine Days planned for my future and He’s just saving them for me!!  :)

I've asked some of my friends what they think about Valentine’s Day and their opinions go from one end of the spectrum to another. Here are some of the things they have said to me:

"I love Valentines Day! I have a new dress to wear out for my dinner! I can't wait!" (Obviously, a girl said this)

"It's such a commercial holiday. Shouldn't you act like you love someone all year round?" (One of my guy friends said this).

“I have to buy something else?  I spent all my money on Christmas gifts for him.  It’s a girl holiday anyway, right?” (A girlfriend said this)

“I stay at home on Valentine’s weekend.  It makes me sad watching all these couple out having fun and I don’t have anyone.” (A few friends thought this)

“Oh, I think it’s so sweet! I have been ready for Valentine’s Day since last Valentine’s Day!” (A girl said this)

“It’s SO EXPENSIVE! Roses are triple the price!” (A guy said this)

“I go all out. I have a hair appointment, a new outfit, and I’m going to cook for him!” (A very excited girlfriend)

“It’s so stressful. I don’t know what to do. I want to do something she’d like but I have no idea!” (A really sweet guy said this)

“If I’m in a relationship, I love this day! If I’m not in a relationship, I get a little sad so I go out and buy myself a valentine’s card or candy!”  (A girlfriend of mine)

So, as you can see, everyone has a different opinion about the day set aside each year to celebrate your love for someone.  I’m sure that each person has different opinions about Valentine’s Day depending on their life that year.  So many factors can influence how you feel about that day.  Some of those are: finances, whether you’re single or not, in a new relationship or in a committed long-term relationship, etc.

Like I said before, I actually like the holiday!  I like to buy Mama something and also my nieces a gift (if only I could remember to get it in the mail to them).

Y’all know I love the Bachelor show! I think I love it because I love all the fun dates they seem to go on. I would LOVE to go on fun trips or do fun things like they do with someone I love. Every date on the Bachelor (unless there’s drama) seems like it’s on Valentine’s Day. I am definitely a hopeless romantic.  I look forward to the day when I can plan a trip on Valentine’s Day with someone I am totally in love with!  Good things come to those who wait!! 

While I wait, I will spend my Valentine’s Day like I do every other day of my life. On Valentine’s Day this year, I have booked a writing appointment and at dinnertime, I will do a kickboxing class! I’m not gonna sit at home wishing I was at a romantic, candlelit dinner!  I’m going to do something for me!! I hope that all of my other single friends find something to do and that all of my friends that are in relationships (dating or married) have the best night ever! 

I feel so lucky to have seen such beautiful love this year. I can honestly say I used to be a little bit cynical about love. The songs I love the most are songs about falling out of love. That will probably never change; it’s just in my makeup and who I am. Coming from a very broken home has something to do with that I’m sure. But, I do think I am a different person now.  I believe in LOVE and I want to love. I want to spend my life with someone that doesn’t look beyond me to see what’s waiting in the wings.  I want him to watch every syllable that I say and believe that I am God’s gift to him.  I now know that’s not living in a fantasy world...  It exists and I am going to have that one day!! 

Monday, February 7, 2011


Saturday February 5th
I said to the girls of Lewis County....  
Just be who you are girls.  Don’t try to be like anyone else.  God made you special and He made you the size He wants you to be.  He doesn’t want you to harm your body because you think you need to look like the girl on the cover of a magazine or on your favorite television show. You are beautiful and please promise me you will always follow your dreams.  Don’t ever give up on your dreams! You Promise?

We promise!” said the group of 130 girls aged 10-14 in Lewis County, TN this past Saturday……….

Monday February 7th
I woke up this morning, just two days after that speech to the Lewis County girls. I started my day like usual, did my gym routine, came back home, opened my computer to check emails, and realized I was kind of sad today. I thought maybe it’s the dreary weather, but I don’t think it’s the weather at all.

Last night, I went to a Super Bowl Party and had a great time but also had a very definitive moment for my life there.  At the party, a very successful songwriter was talking to me, and he said,
 “Are you singing at all anymore?”
“Yeah!  I’m singing!  Making a new record,” I quickly said.
“Oh great, I can’t wait to hear it,” he said.

Now, to most all of you, that probably sounds like a very nice conversation and it was.  But truthfully, it killed me inside and I was pretty embarrassed.  I don’t ever want to be asked if I’m still singing.  Singing is my purpose and what makes me happy.  If someone asks me that question, what does that mean? It means I’m not doing what I was born to do!  I’ve thought about this since I left last night and I haven’t been able to get it off of my mind.  My conclusion is I need to get my stuff together and get back out there.  This transition time for me has taken long enough and now it’s time to move forward.  No more excuses about the flood or anything else for that matter.  Those things happened and I need to learn from them and move on!!  

Some days I get so overwhelmed at trying to figure out this path I chose for myself when I was a little girl.  It seems so easy right? Just get booked and play shows.  The reality is, it’s not always that easy and as I’ve been searching for ways this morning to make it all happen, I got a little down. 

I talked to Patti this morning about all of it and she reminded me that I shouldn't take that question so personally.  Simply because one person did not know what was going on in my life doesn't mean I'm not on the right road. Just because I am not where someone else thinks I need to be doesn't mean that I'm not exactly where God wants me to be. Then she reminded me of one of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11 which says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  I've said it a million times about my conversations with Patti...I am little bit wiser now!!!

I also talked to God this morning and pleaded with Him to show me where to go next and what to do to get back on the scene singing my songs. I don’t want anyone to ever ask me if I’m still singing.  As I thought about these things, it occurred to be that on Saturday ( just two days ago), I was standing in front of 130 young girls begging them to not give up on their dreams.  Why is it so easy for me to tell someone that?  I need to take my own words and live by them.  I gotta tell you, I will NEVER give up on my dreams, but like most people, I have days where I beg for a miracle or I beg for a sign or I beg for another break to get me back out there.  Today was that day for me.  Mama always says, “Nothing worth having ever comes easy.”  And like always, Mama is right.  I know one day I will look back on this period of time in my life and see how much stronger I am because of it.  I will see how much my faith grew and I will see that God was always there.  He never leaves my side and He is walking with me every step of the way on my journey to figure out how to get where I want to be. 

I had to get that out there today.  It was on my mind and that’s exactly why I started this blog…so I could tell you everything about my journey.

Now, I want to finish telling you about my trip to Lewis County.... 
I was asked by 'Get Fit Tennessee' to visit a few counties in the state and speak with girls between the ages of 10-14 (5th-8th grade).  My focus for these girls is explaining to them why living a healthy lifestyle is important to me.  I am very passionate about this subject (as you know from my bikini blog) and I believe sharing my story with them is something I’m supposed to do.  I want them to have a chance to hear about eating healthy and exercising before they even have a chance to develop an eating disorder or poor self-image.  If someone had spoken to me on this subject matter when I was growing up, I would’ve probably done things a lot different as far as diet/exercise goes.

Here's me talking to the girls!
I introduced myself to the sweet girls and told them that I remembered being their age. I don’t remember everything about being 10 years old, but I do remember knowing that I wanted to sing country music.  I knew I wanted to get to Nashville and that I was going to make records one day!  I followed every move my idols made and tried to be just like them.  I’d watch music videos or read articles about my favorite artists just so I could see how to dress or how to wear my hair.  I would also notice their shapes and sizes.  They all had perfect bodies in my eyes and I wanted to be just like them. 

I did everything I could to be just like them!  The reason I chose Belmont University was because Trisha Yearwood went there.  And when I was at Belmont, I chose to stop eating so that I could be like my other favorite female singers on television.  I told these girls about how I starved myself and would run miles just to be skinny.  God gave me my voice and my drive to achieve my goals, and I wanted to give myself a skinny body.  I thought starving myself is what I had to do to get a record deal.  I’d come home from Belmont on holidays and Mama would look at me and tell me I wasn’t going back to Nashville until I ate some food.  So, I would eat at home just so I could go back to Nashville. When I’d get back to school, I would stop eating again.  I would make it through my day on a small can of green beans and a few pretzels every now and then.  I was so skinny and so unhealthy. 

I came back home a second time from school and Mama was serious when she said I was not going back to school.  How could I not go back to Nashville?  I have to be in Nashville to get a record deal!  I PROMISED Mama I would start eating and I did.  I knew if I didn’t, she would come and get me and I’d be back home wishing I had done things different.  It wasn’t always easy to stay on the right track because it became such a mental struggle for me. I constantly looked at myself in the mirror and thought I wasn’t good enough. 

Despite those mental battles, I continued to eat so I could stay in school and get my degree and that also allowed me to stay in Nashville and search for a record deal.  After I got a record deal, Mercury hired a trainer for me and it was the first time in my life that I knew what foods were good for me to eat and what exercises I should be doing for myself.

I told that story about myself as honest and as carefully as I could to the girls in Lewis County in hopes to convey to them how beautiful they each are and how much they have to offer the world. I wanted them to know that there are no perfect bodies and there is no perfect person on the entire earth.  God made us each different for a reason.  If we were all just alike, the world would be a boring place. 

I talked about my struggles now as an adult with trying to maintain a healthy weight because I mistreated my body as a young girl.  I totally messed up my metabolism and it has taken me years to get it all back on track. I told them how I still struggle sometimes when I look in the mirror and see things I don’t like about myself. Most importantly, I told them that I didn’t want them to go through all of that too. 

I loved coming off the stage to talk to the girls!

Finally, I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up.  Surprisingly, many of them said SINGERS!!!!  Some want to be actresses, teachers, doctors, veterinarians, and one sweet angel wants to open up a dog shelter!!  These girls reminded me of me.  I got tears in my eyes several times as they shouted their dreams to me.  I want so much for all their dreams to come true.  I told them they needed to keep their dreams alive and NEVER give up.  The road is not always easy but God will guide them and they should NEVER give up.  I told all of the girls who wanted to be singers that I wanted to see their buses pull up next to mine one day at a festival or fair! 

Then, it was time for me to sing a few songs for them. 

I started with “You Aint Down Home” and then went into “Mama Said Don’t”. They really loved “Mama Said Don’t”!!  Some of the girl’s mothers were there so they were laughing with each other at some of the lyrics.  My last song was “Break Down Here.”  I remembered which girls told me they wanted to be singers so I invited them all up to sing the choruses with me.  The girls were SO EXCITED TO BE UP THERE and I just handed them the microphone every time the chorus came around.  Thank goodness they could sing it because I was getting a little choked up listening to them.  They were so beautiful and it just melted my heart. My hope for them is that they never stop believing in themselves, I hope that someone in their life is constantly reaffirming to them how beautiful they are, and I hope that NO ONE ever tells them they can’t do what they want to do!  Most important, I want them to always be who they are and not try to be anyone else.  If you know who you are and where you want to be in life and someone tries to discourage you, you keep going and say to yourself, “you wait, I will show you!” 

Here are the girls right before they sang "Break Down Here"

Thank you Lewis County for giving me some time to spend with your girls.  I had fun getting to meet them all after the show and I am a better person because of my time there.  Saturday was such an awesome day!  I can’t wait to travel to the next school!

Signing autographs for each girl!! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Although I've been celebrating for a few days now, yesterday was my actual birthday!  I cannot believe all of the wishes I received from you guys. You really know how to make a girl feel special.

After my previous two blog entries, it was hard to know what to write about next. The Patti/John experience was so powerful, it kinda just wrote itself.  So, I decided to just be simple and tell you all about my birthday in this post!!!!!  It was such a special birthday so I want you all to know about it!! 

February 1, 2011
I woke up super early!  My alarm went off at 4:58am.  I normally get up around 5:15am and head to the gym but I wanted to get up a few minutes early to pray and reflect on my life. I am so blessed to have another year of my life to continue on this journey of mine.

I wake up every single day excited to do my work. That in itself is a huge blessing.  I mean sure, there are days when I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels and things aren't moving, but I am still focused on getting them moving and that is fun too!  

Taking these few minutes to focus on where I've been and where I want to go started my birthday off right.  For every single birthday from the time I was a little girl, I’d blow out my candles and wish for a record deal. I’d wish for a bus and to be playing shows.  I prayed for that every day of my life but especially on my birthday. I think it's so funny looking back on that now because it was always the same wish!

And even now, 20-something years later, I still want the same things for my birthday! God has given me these desires in my heart and I know they are coming back around to me...In His Time.

At 5:30am, I headed to the gym for my chains class.  I love starting my day with fitness and working out. It helps me to stay focused throughout the day!!!  After leaving the gym, I headed home and waited by my phone for the one call I get every birthday. My birthday wouldn’t be the same without this call.
Finally, my phone rang and South Carolina came up on the caller ID. I answered it and immediately heard...

"Happy Birthday to You, Happy birthday to you, you look like a monkey and smell like one too!"

We both laughed and I said, "Thank you MawMaw".
Mawmaw has been singing that version of ‘Happy Birthday’ to me since I was teeny tiny! She has never missed a birthday!!

After I talked to MawMaw I got ready to meet Patti and her sister for lunch at Rotiers in Nashville.  Rotiers is a famous cheeseburger place that Patti loves. Patti eats at Rotiers often and when she does, it’s an event!   She’s been telling me what she orders there for almost a year.  She’d say, when you are not on a diet one day, let’s go there for lunch!  And since I’m never NOT watching what I eat, I made it ok to go there on my birthday!  After all, I can have what I want to eat on my birthday!  You are not going to believe what we ordered!  Fried pickles, fried cheese sticks, cheeseburgers, onion rings, and French fries!!!!!!!  And A BIG OLD GLASS OF ICED WATER!!

Let me tell you, if you’ve never been to Rotiers and you have a chance to visit Nashville, please eat there!  Get the greasiest things on the menu like we did and I promise you, you will have an awesome meal!  I ate more than anyone at the table!  I’m sure Patti was surprised because all she ever sees me eat are salads and almonds!  The food was so greasy and GOOD that I left feeling like my face was greasy and shiny and of course my jeans felt tight!
Despite my tight britches (I LOVE SAYING THAT), on my way home from Rotiers, I started thinking about my cake sitting on the stove at home.  Mama made me an 'earthquake cake' on Sunday and I have had at least 2 pieces every day since! I didn’t want to skip a day of cake, so after I got home I had another piece! Then, I took off my jeans and put on sweatpants. I scooped up Lucie and Cosmo and went to bed to take a nap!   I WAS SO TIRED ALL OF A SUDDEN!  Maybe all those calories I had just consumed drained me!! 

I had dinner plans with my family and a few friends but knew that I needed to sleep a little so I would be awake and could enjoy my time with them.  For the past few weeks, Michelle had been telling me that she wanted to take my family and me to a restaurant I’d never been to in Nashville for my birthday.  I had no idea where we were going, but I knew I needed that nap. 

We were supposed to leave the house at 7pm. At 6:35pm, my sister Lorie came into my room and told me I needed to get up and get ready for dinner.  At 6:45pm she came back in and told me the same thing.  I knew what I was going to wear so I didn’t feel like I needed much time getting dressed, as I needed to sleep!  Finally, at 6:50pm, Mama came in to get me out of the bed!  I got dressed and then went into to the bathroom to check out my hair.  I’ve mentioned to you all before that I get 'bed-head' pretty bad so I was just going to brush down whatever mess may have been made during my nap. 
(Here’s a picture of one of my bed-head mornings!)

I left this picture blurry on purpose.

In a matter of 5 minutes, I was dressed and my hair was brushed.  I just had to put on lipstick and go!  I went into Mama’s bedroom and told her I was ready to go whenever they were.  
She looked at me and said, “Are you going to brush your hair?”
I said, “I already did, does it not look like it?”
“No, I think you need to do it again.” She said.

So, I went back and brushed it again and asked her if it looked better. She said, “No, just pull it back in a ponytail.”  I go out to eat with my family all the time and they never care how my hair looks. I couldn’t figure out why she was so stressed about how messy my hair looked.  So, I finally asked her why she was so worried about my hair. 
She said, “Michelle asked a photographer to come take a picture of all of us on your birthday so you need to look good for it.” 
So, I put my hair in a ponytail and we were finally ready to go.

On the way there I was sitting in the passenger seat just texting with some of my friends.  One girlfriend said, “Y’all having margaritas yet?”  I said, “No, we are on the way there. Come by and have one with us if you want to.” 
She said, “I might do that.”

Patti also texted me on the drive to dinner. She asked,
 “Do you know where your family is taking you yet?”
I said, “Yes, we are pulling into Morton’s right now!”  She said, “Have fun and let me know how dinner goes.” Everyone was waiting to hear where I was going to have my birthday dinner!!

Michelle was waiting outside Morton’s steakhouse on us to arrive.  Morton’s is SO NICE and A VERY SPECIAL PLACE!  I’ve only been there one or two other times and it’s always been for a celebratory occasion.  Michelle walked us inside and said, “I got them to reserve us our own small, private room so you can have fun with your family and y’all can be as loud as you want to!”
“That’s great Michelle!” I said.
Then, a host walked up to me and said, “Right this way.” He opened the door to the small, private room and when he did, all I heard was “SURPRISE!!!” Kazoos were blowing and it was SO LOUD!  Here's a picture of my reaction!!

This is me walking in the party room!

I'm So Surprised!

I Can't Believe It!!

The room wasn’t small or private, it was HUGE AND PACKED WITH ALL OF MY CLOSEST FRIENDS!!!  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  I didn’t know what to say.  So, as the kazoos quieted down, all the attention was on me.  I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to say!
I finally said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t fix my hair good for y’all.  I had no idea. Actually, I just woke up!!!”
Then I looked over and saw Patti and all of the friends that had been texting me on my way there!!  They were texting me to throw me off!  They got me good!  I kept looking around the room at these beautiful faces staring back at me.   All of my friends came out on this rainy Tuesday night to surprise me for my birthday. This was the first surprise party I’ve ever had in my life!  I was overwhelmed and SO EXCITED!  I started greeting everyone and began noticing all the details Michelle had done for the party.  The menu place cards had my name on them, there were balloons and other decorations, and there was a big tour bus cake! The bus was beautiful and had my name written on the side of it.  It was driving down a road and on both sides of the road there were cupcakes that were made to resemble beautiful flowers.  Here’s a picture of my cake!

My Birthday Cake - I'm ready to be on that bus!

We all ate, drank, and just had so much fun for a few hours.  Towards the end of the night, Marcus Hummon, Eddie Heinzelman, Kent Blazy, Joe Cook, & Mike Bush all grabbed their guitars and sang happy birthday to me mariachi style! They held their guitars up high and for a moment, I thought I was celebrating in Mexico!  IT WAS SO FUNNY!  That was one of my favorite parts of the entire night.  Here’s a picture of them singing to me!

My Mariachi Birthday Band!

After the singing, I blew out my candles, I made my same wish, and everyone began to slowly head home, except for me! My sister Lorie convinced me to go out and sing karaoke with her! That is a whole other story!

It was such an amazing night for me! I still can’t wipe the smile off of my face.  I am blessed with such good friends.  Thank you Michelle for all you did to give me the best birthday I’ve ever had in my life! Thank you Mama and Lorie for all you did to help Michelle! I love you all to pieces.  To all of my friends that have been lying to me the past 6 weeks so I wouldn’t find out, THANK YOU!  (That might be the only time I ever thank someone for lying to me!)  I was truly surprised and it was all because of each of you!!!

In closing, I read a devotional today from Joel Osteen.  The scripture focused on Psalm 118:23. 

The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”  

I believe with all my heart that last night was my birthday present from God. Every good and perfect gift comes from our Father above.  He has given me such an amazing Mama, awesome sister, and wonderful friends.  I got to celebrate my life and my journey with all of them and that’s so special. 

I will never forget February 1, 2011!! 

Here I am Celebrating! I'm So Happy!