An Evergreen Christmas (Part Two)

Hello, good reader! If you’ve just stumbled upon this page, you can find the first part of today’s story here. Once you’ve read that, you will then be allowed to proceed to the story below. Okay, so you can see the story below no matter what, but…just read part one. You’ll almost for sure not regret it.


I hadn’t given up on our evergreen tree painting, really.

I had just sort of shelved it, that’s all, hoping that someday…somehow…it would happen.

“Someday and somehow” can mean so many things, can it not?

In the worst case, it can mean NEVER.

In the not-great-but-not-the-worst case it can mean 80 years.

In the BEST case, it can mean exactly NOW.

(But that’s not really good for your character, is it?)

And then, in a really-g0od-I’ve-got-no-reason-to-complain case, it can mean…let’s see…approximately two or three months.

Which is, as I’m sure you’ve guessed already, just when my “someday and somehow” came along!

I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram of a morning, when an illustration caught my eye.

It was actually the cover of a book that Story Warren was recommending, and though the book itself sounded pretty amazing, it was the artwork that stole my breath. Here it is, just so you’ll know I’m not being dramatic (this time)…

See what I mean?


I left a comment about it, and next thing I knew, S.D. Smith (the author of the Green Ember series and the founder of Story Warren) had sent me a message introducing me to Jamin Still, the artist behind the illustration.

By the way, this is just another reason you should be a subscriber to Story Warren; when they say that they are your “allies in imagination” and are on your side, they really mean it.

Anyhow, I immediately hopped over to Jamin’s Instagram page and, once a follower of his work, found myself repeatedly impressed by the magic he was able to bring to life with a paintbrush.

“If Tolkien or Lewis had used paints rather than words”…I thought, delighting in the vibrant and imaginative creations that filled up his Instagram feed.

And I cannot seem to recall what triggered it (pregnancy brain, much?), but I eventually saw something in Jamin’s work that caused the memory of Hosea to resurface, and with it, the painting my husband and I had hoped for.

It was a total lightbulb moment, and this bolt of hope shot through me…

but it was a hope that I quickly squelched.

Because there was no way, right?

Artists have their own stuff going on in their heads, right?

They’ve got things to do and people to see, right?

And you especially can’t just up and ask someone who has beautiful illustrations on the cover of a book to paint a TREE for you, right? Right???

Or…can you?

This is the internet, you know. Magical things happen!!!

With this in mind, not feeling SO very optimistic but determined to at least give it a try, I shot Jamin an email asking if he ever did custom paintings.

Imagine my surprise when he messaged me back, completely open to the idea!

And long story short (because this blog story hasn’t been long at ALL), we started discussing my husband’s journey with Hosea, and the probability that a painting of our favorite passage was actually something that could happen before Christmas 2017.

Turns out, it was very probable. 

In fact, the entire process came about with such ease and such success that I couldn’t help but feel that the Lord was directing this, and had been all along.

Does God only concern himself with the big things, like our health scares, or who we marry?

Is He confined to a pattern with which to declare His glory and power?

Is He limited in the ways He chooses to care for His children?

HA!! Excuse me while I quote my friend, Cher Horowitz.

Pity the Christian who believes that God is too big for the small stuff; in fact, I think He delights in the small stuff, even, by golly, over the paintings we have on our walls! And when we invite him into the minutiae of our lives, He is more than capable of displaying His glory in every single corner of our hearts and homes.

The most touching thing to me about this part of the process was that Jamin, once entrusted with this gift, took it upon himself to really understand the story we wanted to tell.

Stunning in his professionalism, he listened to my husband’s sermon, and with his tools, he brought it to life.

When he sent me a picture of the painting for my approval, tears burned my eyes.

There it was…

our evergreen tree.

And not just any evergreen tree, but one whose life flowed out rather than in. The greenness of the tree in the painting was extending, taking over the dry, cracked ground of the barren wilderness surrounding it, and, well, we KNOW that greenness very well, don’t we? Because it has spread and it has spread and it has spread until it has crossed oceans, finding us and redeeming us and making us green, too.

Us! The people who were NEVER green!

And this greenness will continue to spread until every tribe, tongue, and nation will know of its life-giving fame.

So the painting felt living to me, in a way. This was no inanimate gift that I had retrieved from the mailbox and had hiding in my closet. It was a story, throbbing from behind cardboard packaging with memories of a church changed by the Word and through the Spirit, with Christian brotherhood that reaches across miles and Instagram accounts, and with wild affection for a husband who loves the Scriptures more than life.

Ah! It’s no wonder that I had a hard time waiting to give my husband this gift! It was basically begging me to every time I walked by its hiding place between my boxes of boots in the closet!

But the wait was totally worth it.

For the most amazing thing happened on Christmas Eve.

Gathering our children around him before bed, he opened up the Bible to read to them one of his favorite Christmas passages, not from the book of Luke, but from the book of Isaiah, where God promises to judge the proud.

How exciting this decree of doom must have been to the Israelites. Finally, the Assyrians were going to GET it! God was going to destroy all their enemies!

But then, in what must have been a horrifying twist, those words of judgement swing right back around to the Israelites, themselves. Their own idolatry and pride had found them out, and a great purging was on their horizon: “Behold, the Lord God of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low. He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe, and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.”

Israel’s deserved future was a landscape of stumps, dead, lifeless, and hopeless. 

Sounds like someone we know, doesn’t it?

(cough, cough, GOMER)

“But wait…” my husband told the kids. “There is good news!”

He then took them to the next chapter of Isaiah, where the story takes a truly amazing turn: from one of those dead old stumps, “the stump of Jesse”, to be exact, a shoot was going to spring forth! And this tree…this tree that was dead…this tree that was a STUMP…it would bear fruit.

What a beautiful prelude to the Christmas story!

And what a beautiful way to start our own Christmas that evening; if you find it striking that my husband was talking about TREES two hours before I was going to give him our TREE PAINTING, you are not alone.

I was struck.

But wait, it gets better. For he then proceeded to sum it all up with these exact words to our family…

 “And the tree that grows forth from that stump? It’s going to be EVERGREEN! For a people like us who are never green…Jesus, the promised Savior, will be evergreen

My friends, I was just quietly sitting across the room from him with our baby asleep on my lap, and I was thinking that I might could just die on the spot.

Is this really happening?” I thought.

I mean, it had been such a long time since he had mentioned that tree!

And now with the painting in the box under the wrapping paper right there next to us he’s basically quoting his sermon from Hosea?



And so the belated Christmas gift that I want to send your way this January morning is a testimony from a pastor’s wife in Oklahoma who has done more faith wrestling than she cares to admit: God is real.

And this God who is real declares His glory in millions of ways in millions of homes every single day, and the testimonies of His work could stack up and reach the sky where His glory is already declared ‘round the clock.

Was this painting really a gift for my husband, then?

Or was it a gift for me?

Funny how that all gets blurry sometimes.

Our Christmas Eve devotional concluded and, sending the children off to bed, we began getting the house and presents ready for the next morning. And as we worked, my heart was thumping in anticipation, along with a fair amount of trepidation.

I thought the painting was perfect, but what if it didn’t translate to my husband? What if he had wanted something different? What if he didn’t know what it was?

But when the time finally came and we were sitting by the light of the Christmas tree and he tore off the wrapping paper and he pulled out that small but mighty painting, his eyes landed on the tree, and he looked immediately over at me in speechless wonder…

“This is Hosea…” he whispered.

If I had worried before that the gift wouldn’t be as special to him as I hoped, I’d wasted my time, and if I had wondered at all whether this gift truly was Spirit-led or not, I’d been wondering in vain. Our living room, so often a scene of disorder and Cheerios and video games, had turned sacred all of a sudden, and the man that I love held the painting that we’d wanted and he stared at it, shaking his head in amazement.

I don’t have any compunction at ALL saying out loud that God wanted us to have this painting.

He wanted this tree to be on our wall.

And I don’t know how He will use it or how it will impact our family, but I do know without a doubt that one of the best things that happened to me this Christmas was seeing first-hand YET AGAIN, in this world full of sin and suffering that can reduce faith to a flicker, that God is near.

That He cares.

That He writes our desires and hears our prayers for them, even the smallest ones about paintings of trees that make us think of Him.

Ah, He truly is evergreen.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that now.

But if I do…


I can’t thank you enough for sticking around to hear my Christmas story! I thank God for you. And I also thank God for the brothers He used in this story. If you’d like to see more of Jamin’s work (which is truly incredible – I already have my eye on another painting for my eldest’s upcoming birthday!), follow him on Instagram and then be sure to check out his website. You’ll get lost there, in a good way. And if you’d like to find an amazing new resource for your family, look no further than Story Warren (and follow them on Facebook and Instagram, too!). I could write a completely different two-part blog post about the ways they have impacted our family, but I guess I’ll have to save that for another day. Lastly, if you’ve not read the Green Ember series by S.D. Smith, you are missing out! Find them at Amazon here (affiliated link), and keep up with Sam and his family on Facebook and Instagram; they are sure to bless you! 

An Evergreen Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas…

and all I could think about was the gift I had waiting for him under the tree.

It had been in my possession for months, and I’d almost cheated and given it to him on a couple of those occasions when, as a doting wife, my sentiments were especially high.

But we had somehow arrived at Christmas with the intended surprise still intact, and I was so glad that I’d mustered up the self-control to wait. Our own gift exchange was tentatively scheduled for midnight, after the kids were asleep and the Christmas morning preparations were completed, and as the time drew nearer, my antsiness grew, this long-awaited surprise bubbling up inside of me like the coffee in my percolator.

And when I say “long-awaited”, I really mean it. The story of this gift actually began the previous year, in the summer of 2016…

and, well, you know the drill around here. I’m going to need to tell you the whole story.

It’s what I DO.

(And you are so sweet about listening!)

So my husband is an expository preacher, and the choosing of a book to preach through is quite a big deal to him; once he begins expositing a new book, he’s more or less committed to finishing it so that our congregation can understand the entirety of the message as it was written, in context.

We’ve been through the Psalms together…almost all of them!…we’ve been through Habakkuk, we’ve been through John, we’ve been through 1st and 2nd Corinthians…

and after much prayer and discussion with our other pastor, he had settled on our next book, which just so happened to be one of his favorite books, the book of Hosea.

After the practicality of Corinthians, rife with applicable instruction for how to live and how to treat one another, the book of Hosea was quite a departure. Hosea is a heavy book. It’s a grave book. But he insisted from the get-go that it is one of the most beautiful books in the Bible, and our congregation soon found this to be true. As we labored through the pages of that ancient text, studying the story of the prophet Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer, our understanding quickly grew of the gravity of our sin and the depravity that we would choose to live in were it not for the astounding grace of God.

For we all know it, don’t we? Without His keeping, “Gomer” we would most certainly be, not just prone to wander and leave the God we love, but prone to happily return to the filth and vomit from which we were rescued.

It’s sickening and sobering and sad.

But wait!…

then you get to the REALLY GOOD news.

After months and months and months of highlighting the despicable whoredom of the Israelites and the much-deserved consequences they were facing for their sin, we finally reached the beautiful and shocking climax of the book found in chapter 14, made all the more beautiful and shocking by all that time we’d spent walking through the gutter.

Rather than trying to explain this climax in my own words, I’m just going to pop over to my husband’s podcast, if you don’t mind, and type out the final words he shared with us from the pulpit that day:

“…And I love how (Hosea) ends.

‘I am like a evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit.’

Listen, if there’s a section in Hosea that you can memorize to know what Hosea is about, it would be Hosea 2:14-23.

But if there was a verse to remember what Hosea teaches us about God in Hosea, it would be this one — ‘I am like an evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit.’

God has remained ever faithful, ever green, to a people who have been faithless over and over.

He has been evergreen to a people that have been never green.

And what does this evergreen provide?

From me comes your fruit.’

Israel fell when they forgot where their fruit came from…but not anymore. They will know that from God alone comes their fruit.

So look again at the picture of what God is going to do as he fulfills what he said in Hosea 2: Israel is going to sit in a wasteland, sit in a desert, and yet, in the midst of that wilderness there will stand one tree, and it will still be green.

Imagine how shocking that would be…how stark…to be in a desert and find a tree, and not just any tree, but to find, like, a pine tree!…to find a tree that is always green! It’s like something out of the Chronicles of Narnia here! And what is even more shocking isn’t that this tree is green so that it survives. What’s shocking is that it is a tree that is so flourishing in the midst of the desert that it doesn’t just survive…it provides. ‘I am a tree that is evergreen and a tree that can still give you fruit.’

God is not just an evergreen tree, he is an evergreen tree for us.

And again, I can’t help but see how this would point us to Christ.

Our life is like that of Hosea 13 and 14: The weight of our sin dragging us to death, the wrath of God looming over us. Our lives are JUST like that desert…hopeless…empty…and in the desert of this world, what hope would a bunch of sinners like us have?

But in the midst of our desert, we hear this whisper.



Return to me.

And when we lift up our eyes to that whisper, in the midst of our desert, we see there, on a hill shaped like a skull, such a tree.

A tree that will ever be green, a tree that is alive and that will give us life.


Yes!! Did you hear that, Gomers of the world? There is hope for you yet! There is hope for us.

Our church rejoiced that Sunday as we contemplated this incredible grace that would bring miraculous, undeserved LIFE to a people who had nothing but the shame they had heaped upon their own heads.

And our pastor…my husband…rejoiced alongside us.

He’d spent so many hours that year pouring over the words of Hosea, researching them, praying over them, and asking God to help him clearly exposite the text, and as he worked, that good news of the cypress tree rooted itself deeper into his heart than ever before; this beautiful portrait of God had reached him, and it had changed him, just like it was changing our church body.

In fact, it was all so very impactful that, somehow, both of us came to a rather surprising conclusion that day.

We needed a painting of this tree.

Which is sort of weird, right? I mean, we’ve heard a lot of touching sermons in our day, and never once have we both decided that we needed a painting of said sermon.

And yet that’s exactly what happened after this finale of Hosea.

“I’d like to have a painting done of that tree,” he mentioned out of the blue. “An evergreen tree that would be common to our area like the cypress tree was to those hearing Hosea’s message…”

“I’ve been thinking this exact same thing!” I gasped.

We looked at each other in a “curiouser and curiouser” sort of way, and then, probably because we live in a lively house where grown-up conversations are interrupted before they can even really get started, we didn’t speak of it again.

I didn’t forget it, though.

Occasionally, I would search through the seemingly endless annals of Etsy, looking for an artist or a graphic designer, even, who could bring this passage to life for us.

But it was a totally overwhelming quest. I didn’t even know where to start, really!

That’s perfectly okay, though, because I learned something important this year…

the God who creates artists (and we know He does that from the book of Exodus) is more than able to help you find the one you need.


Oh golly, I love Christmas surprises, don’t you? Thank you for reading today, and please come back tomorrow to hear the conclusion of this special story. Did we find an artist? Did we get a painting of that cypress tree? Will I show it to you??? Stay tuned…


(and until then, you can always find us at Facebook where I tell most of our stories!)




A Veritable Smorgasbord (or the time the Gore Family went to the fair)

My mom asked me a couple of weeks ago if I’m ready for the baby to get here.

“I am…” I said, instinctively placing my hand to my belly.

“Has it really even sunk in yet?” she asked, guessing the direction of my thoughts.

“It HASN’T!” I exclaimed, glad to know she understood. I went on to explain to her how numb and dumb I have felt this entire year. “It’s like nothing in sinking in anymore,” I said. “And I don’t just mean the baby. I mean NOTHING. And it all feels so funny, like I’ve found myself in a story and I’m just watching it all happen with no real comprehension of what’s going on…”

And I have the perfect example to help display what I’m talking about.

We went to the fair the other day.

All of us.

My mom.

My dad.

My husband.

Our four kids.

Our wagon and our trusty insulated food hamper.

And, most notably, ME.

At the time, almost 8 months pregnant.

Going to the FAIR.

Did you know that, with my heightened senses and a proneness to anxiety attacks, I have been mostly avoiding crowded places during this pregnancy? And I’ve tried to not put myself in situations where there is a lot of speed and a lot of traffic? And I’ve tried to stay away from venues that are very, very noisy?

Until the day we decided to go to the FAIR.

During rush hour.

In the middle of downtown Tulsa.

With all the people and all the animals and all the noise IN Tulsa.

In all honesty, I only said ‘yes’, at all, because my dad is the one who first brought it up. Even more of a homebody than I am, it is a rarity for him to want to go anywhere besides church or work or the farm; however, about once a decade, he has this inexplicable itch to go to the fair…of all places!…and though the “why” is beyond us, we wouldn’t miss going with him for anything.

For when he is at the fair, the man transforms into a totally different person. Mr. Hates Crowds, Mr. Hates Loud Restaurants, Mr. Grumbles at the Prices and Just Wants to Go Back Home and Eat my Mom’s Good Cookin’ turns into this dollar-dropping, fun-having, food-tasting phenomenon that just cracks. us. up.

What’s that? Chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick? Let’s try it! Who wants a footlong corndog? Here, have two! The FERRIS WHEEL?? I’ve got to get in on that action, pronto!

It’s like landing in some sort of bizarro land, and when Mr. Gore and I accompanied him…seriously, almost a decade ago!…with our little firstborn in tow and watched in shock as he morphed into this fair-loving eccentric, we knew we’d stumbled upon something truly remarkable, something that should be observed and remembered and nurtured.

So, yeah, there really was no question about going or not.

I mean, who CARES if I’m starting to waddle and I have to take bathroom breaks every fifteen minutes? My dad’s going to the FAIR and I need to be there to watch him eat cotton candy like it’s his last day on earth!!!!

And then there’s my mom, who loves to go to places other than church or the farm, and is always up for a trip to well…anywhere! The more noise, the more people to watch, the more excitement, the more music, the better!

I wanted to go to the fair with her, too!

And then, of course, there’s that thing I already told you about where things just aren’t sinking in quite so much. I’m numb. I’m dumb. I have absolutely lost control of all the thinking and the reasoning and the logic-ing, not that I ever had much of any of those to begin with.

So, yes, from all possible sides, my reaction was just…

Sure thing! Let’s go to the fair! Thumbs UP!


WHY, by the way, is my belly so big??

Where did all my normal pants go?…

Why am I going to the doctor every month and peeing in a cup?

WHAT is HAPPENING, you guys?!?!

I don’t even KNOW.

Anyhow, our kids were 100% super duper excited about this news.

Still at a young enough age where things are awesomely fresh and new, they’re mostly unspoiled about outings, and our house was completely abuzz for days leading up to our fair trip.

And I have to admit, I was a tiny bit abuzz, too. This is what happens when you’re a mom…even if something is out of your wheelhouse, even if you would rather stay home and watch British crime dramas, even if you could think of a hundred things you’d personally rather do than go to the fair…you’re happy. Because they’re happy.

Well, Fair Day arrived before we knew it, and to make the trip extra fun and memorable, we decided we should all ride together in the minivan. It felt like a real slice of Americana, loading up with all my kids and my husband and my parents to drive to the big city and see all the latest inventions from big cities like Chicag-y and Kansas City and Paree. I couldn’t WAIT to taste all the homemade pies and pickles and take a picture with a real bearded lady!

(Or…something like that…)

But it was about twenty minutes into our drive when something deep inside of me started shaking its head most vehemently about this whole adventure and saying “no…no…no…this is not a good idea…go HOME, Mrs. Gore. Go home to your chair! Go home to your silence! Go home to your air conditioning!”

But…then again…there were all those smiling faces in the seats behind me…I could see them in the rearview mirror looking like a smiling scene out of “Meet Me in St. Louis”!…and we’d already packed the kids’ sandwiches and insulated water bottles…

it was really “Fair or Bust” by this point.

And so I did what is totally normal and acceptable and run-of-the-mill in our car these days, I put my fingers in my ears, slumped down in my seat, and squeezed my eyes shut so I could pretend like we weren’t on a busy highway with a bunch of insane city people who were either desperate to get home after a long work day or were, like us, desperate to get to the fair. So they could trample us in line and shock us with their immodesty and make us remember why we only leave our house for places like Silver Dollar City and Colonial Williamsburg.

Do I sound grumpy? I do, don’t I? I’m sorry. The fair will do that to ya when you’re almost eight months pregnant.

But THEN, my friends, we saw it…

The World’s Exposition.

Or, as most folks call it, the Tulsa State Fair.

Wow. There IS something kind of magical about it, is there not? That giant ferris wheel…the carnival music…the smell of a thousand unhealthy foods??

I couldn’t help myself. I started grinning like the rest of them.

And then we got out of our van.

What’s that noise?!” our four-year old whimpered from his wagon, his hands over his ears as he took in the distant screams of fair-goers on carnival rides.

“That’s the sound of people dying, Shep,” his big brother soberly replied.

Ah, I do so love taking my little morbid family to town.

Now, before we really get started with the night’s activities, I have to show you the man who squired us about during our evening at the fair.

Mr. Gore bought this shirt especially FOR the fair a few years ago when he was going to attend with friends, and he wears it to most ‘Merica-type gatherings. We are a patriotic family, no doubt, but this was a tongue-in-cheek purchase what with the George Washington and the gun and the eagle with laser eyes and the fire and the whatnot. It’s just a true spectacle. That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t receive loads of compliments on it…

especially when he wears it to the fair.

I have no words.

For our first stop of the evening, we went straight to the animal birthing center.

Of all the things we saw and did, I think this attraction was the most amazing. There was this long row of animals who had either given birth since the fair began, or who were “due” any minute. Our kids loved seeing the fresh-out-of-the-oven farm babies with their mamas, and I used the opportunity to share lots of commiserating glances with the poor dears who were still waiting for their labor and delivery to happen, while also thanking God that I wasn’t in a pen at the fair for educational research. How embarrassing.

But look at these cute babies!!

After getting our fill of farm life and petting zoos, we exited that building and starting immediately scoping out the food.

Want to see my dad in action?

The signs boasted popcorn, cotton candy, and chocolate-covered cheesecake-on-a-stick, and we had all three of them. And this was only the first stop in what would be dozens. I realized in this moment how fortuitous it truly is to bring a big group of people to the fair, because you really can try everything, and everyone can get a taste or two of the goodness.

Shep decided right off the bat that he really likes the fair. Almost as much as Granddaddy.

This girl liked it, too.

And look at these two being darling.

Oh! Here goes Dad again…

Foot long corndogs for everybody!

And indulge me for a sec while I share a great picture of my parents. I love these two. I’ve told my mom that they both look so eternally young that it has tricked me into thinking they’re still in their fifties and that, when they die of old age, I will be totally shocked. “What happened???” I’ll ask, assuming it was a terrible tragedy. “They were 99 years old, dear,” the doctor will tell me.

And this is when things got serious.

Introducing the bacon bomb burger, this year’s #1 new food at the Tulsa State Fair.

It was good.

It was really, really good.

We all liked that burger.

See? It made us happy.

We also all shared some fries, since we were sitting there with nothin’ else to do.

And a $6 Coca-Cola with $3 refills.

The fair is evil.

So after getting our tummies a little bit full (HA!), we moved on to the things the kids had been asking about since we pulled into the parking lot.

Shep was dead-set on doing this “jumping thing”.

Seven dollars.


But he got a ten-cent medal from Oriental Trading Company for participating, so that’s good.

Next up…


How beautiful.


Let me ask you fair fans a question about fair rides…


I spent most of our time in this section of the fair ducking, flinching, and feeling responsible for the lives of all you crazies who were loading up into sky-high instruments of death that had just been set up yesterday.

These feelings only intensified when my most precious loved ones were in a creaking metal basket at the top of that monstrosity of a ferris wheel.

It was at this point in our fair excursion that I felt most inclined to have one of those anxiety attacks. The walls…even though there WERE no walls…started closing in on me and the noises got noisier and the people were bumping into my pregnancy girth and the ferris wheel started growing taller and taller in my imagination and…I just had to get out of dodge.

Retreating quickly to a picnic table far away from the rides, I took deep breaths and looked down at the concrete while telling myself that my dad and my husband and my two eldest children and my dearest, darlingest four-year old were not about to crash to their untimely deaths on the concrete floor of the Tulsa State Fair.


But they were so high up in the air!!!

OH the horror!!!

Thankfully, I had one child too afraid to ride this ride.

At least I’d still have her.

Two nice ladies had asked if they could give her this blue dog thing that they had won and didn’t want, and, being so distracted and sickened by the ferris wheel, I said “Sure!”, not even giving myself time to worry if it had drugs or needles in it.

That stuffed animal was the highlight of her night!

And THAT, my friends, is why you shouldn’t ride ferris wheels.

You get free stuffed animals, and you get to live.

By the way, my mom had also chosen survival over the ferris wheel, and that brought me another bit of comfort.

Once the funerals were over, the three of us would move to Nantucket and start a new life. Nantucket probably doesn’t have fairs, and if they do, their rides probably wouldn’t break because Martha Stewart would have designed them, so…we’d be safe there. And maybe eventually happy.

Ahhh!! Look! They’re all waving at me! And they’re close to the ground again! PHEW!!

Maybe my life as I knew it could go on, after all.

And here they are! The brave (reckless) five!

I asked my firstborn (usually a landlubber, himself) how he liked it, and this was his response.

That last picture means “not a thumbs down, totally, but NOT a thumbs up.”

I’m glad at least one of that group had some sense!

And now comes my very favorite memory from our night at the fair.

While my husband rode the merry-go-round with the little ones (this was little sister’s much safer ride of choice)…

my mom said “Hey, why don’t you let me take the big kids walking around for just a little bit so they don’t have to stand here and wait?”

“That would be great!” I said, thankful they’d have a diversion.

And the next thing I heard, slicing through the thousands of fair sounds that were surrounding us, were the familiar happy shrieks of my eldest daughter when she is about-to-lose-her-mind excited.

I wheeled around in curiosity and…

this is what I saw.

I stared at my mom in disbelief.

“How did?…What did you?…Who dee what?…IS THAT A GOLDFISH???”

She flashed her most endearing shrug/smile combo and had to stop right there to put her hands on her knees and start helplessly laughing.

“I never thought she’d WIN!” she explained. “Her ping pong ball just went straight into the first cup!”

I stared at this fishy new family member, wreathed all around by the smiles and exclamations of our oldest kids, and I just tried to imagine how my husband would react to this…er…turn of events. With our two bunnies, our two dogs, and our rescue cat under his delegation, I couldn’t imagine him being thrilled to add another animal to the line-up.

Yeah, I was right.

He was initially not the happiest, and the kids knew it.

I feel like the events and emotions summed up in the following photo are a true rite of passage in the life of an American family…

“Of ALL the games?…” he laughed to my mom, “with ALL the prizes you could win…you picked the GOLDFISH game??”

She shrugged/smiled/laughed again in response.

“But it’s really okay, Papa!” our eldest daughter assured him, “the man said we could buy a bowl for him right here, and it’s only $12!!!”

The fair.

It’s EVIL!

“That fish isn’t even going to survive the drive HOME!” Mr. Gore informed our children.

But then…

being the major softy that he is…

and seeing the dejected looks on our children’s faces…

he quickly changed his tune…

and said, “You know what guys? It’ll be fine! We’ll make it work. This will be FUN! WE WON A GOLDFISH!!!!”

And just like that, the fair was a magical place once more.

A goldfish. You just never know what a day is going to bring, do you? After this most amazing and chortle-worthy experience, we took in a few more attractions…

enjoyed one more “ride”…

and did one last round of fooding.

You’ve got yer Dip n Dots…

You’ve got yer funnel cake parfaits…

You’ve got your…succotash?!…(Weird, right? But actually my favorite food of the night!)…

And then you’ve got ONE more corndog, for everyone to share…

and then…

the GRAND finale…

you’ve got yer deep-fried bacon-wrapped pecan pie.


I feel the same way as my daughter there.

Not because it wasn’t delicious…it was!…but because I’M FULL!!!

My stomach’s full of food, my feet are full of walkin’, my ears are full of noises, my senses are full of total overload, my heart is full of family and fair and fun, and, yes, my fish tank is very full of a FISH.

A goldfish.

The kids named him Zac after our other pastor.

Would you BELIEVE that crazy fish has lived for a full two weeks?

Well, it WAS living…

More on that soon. Stay tuned!

The Rescue Cat that Rescued Us (from getting a Dog) – Part Two

Continued from Part One


It was just a random weekday.

I doubt I had any plans for even our meals that day, let alone rescuing someone.

But that’s the thing about rescues.

They’re not really planned.

It’s just that someone needs saving and…whatdoyaknow?…you’re nearby.

Early that afternoon, our neighbor shared a photo on Facebook of the tiniest kitten that had stumbled its way onto her back porch. “Anyone know whose kitten this is?” she asked. It was starving and scared and, since she is very allergic to cats, she was hoping to find its home quickly or get it to a place where someone could care for it without sneezing all the way to their death.

Seeing that tiny little furball on my screen, I dashed out of my chair like a lunatic, thinking…


What WAS I thinking?

I don’t even know.

It was something like…


Looking back, it’s like the 6-year old girl in me took over, even though, if you had me in an interrogating room with a lie-detector test today, it would probably come out that I don’t reallllly like cats.

That 6-year old girl in me, however?


She loves them.

And so, if you’ll remember, does my 6-year old daughter.

And speaking of her, I immediately called out her name…again, I don’t know WHY…with a mixture of panic and excitement in my voice.

“Get your shoes on!!” I urged her.

“Why?” she asked.

“I just need you!!” I said. “Hurry!!!!

Frantically throwing shoes on our feet, we dashed onto the front porch where my husband was visiting with a friend. Leaning down to where he was sitting in the rocking chair, I murmured something in his ear, explaining where we were going and why.

Do you know what I said?

I said “KITTEN!!!”

I just wanted to see it, really. To let my kitten-loving daughter see it. We’d just look at it and maybe…well, there was no maybe, because there was no PLAN. We were just going, blindingly, toward KITTEN.

My husband seemed to interpret my thoughts…he’s really good at that…and gave me to the go-ahead to see what we could do to help. At the very least, we could bring the little baby over to our non-cat-allergic house and take care of it until its owner could be found.

We were quickly met with a big problem, though.

When our neighbor went out onto the back porch with us to show us the kitten…

the kitten was no longer there.

“KITTEN!” I inwardly yelled. “Where are you??”

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “It’s been meowing back here since 6:00 this morning! I mean, it was just here! But it was extremely skittish, it might be hiding somewhere…”

We started snooping around the porch and backyard, but to no avail.

“Kitten” was GONE.

My girl and I shrugged in disappointment and had just picked up the turtle we found on our way over to head back home (did I forget to mention a turtle? We also brought home a turtle that day…) when our neighbor, miracle of miracles, spotted a flash of fur in one of their ricks of wood.

Putting the turtle back down, the three of us surrounded the wood pile, trying to coax the kitten to come out.

And our brave friend was just sticking her hand into the wood pile to snatch it when her husband yelled at us from the garage across the yard, “Hey!!! The cat’s over here!!!”

We all slowly looked at each other with wide eyes.

We STILL don’t know what sort of animal she was about to drag out of the woodpile, but we don’t really care to know!

Leaving that mystery critter behind, we high-tailed it to the garage only to discover that the kitten was…oh the drama and excitement!!…in the hood of their car!!

Now we were in a real predicament.

I had to call in the troops.

I waved down my husband and his friend, and soon, our entire family was over there. Have you ever been surrounded by five adults and four children who are about to save a kitten? It is VERY exciting. And also very loud, what with all the ideas and opinions about how to save the kitten and “can we keep the kitten??” and so on and so forth.

Carefully, so as not to frighten the skittish kitten away, the menfolk opened the hood of the SUV, and there she was. The most frightened little kitten you ever did see.

SO frightened, in fact, that when my husband tried to slowly reach for her, she lunged deeper into the engine.

But quick as a whip, our visiting friend caught her by one paw.

The surrounding congregation broke out into cheers! We had a foot!

He dragged her gently out, and soon she was clawing onto his hand like…

well, like a scaredy-cat.

The rest, my friends, is a TOTAL blur.

I don’t know how…

I don’t know when…

I don’t know WHY…

I don’t know what was said and who agreed to what…

but by nightfall…

this was pretty much OUR cat.

Well, HER cat.

Said cat lives in our house now.

Her name is Chloe.

And she has a giant litter box in our tiny laundry room.

And a special, magical trashcan for cat poo.

And toys and jingly balls and tiny stuffed animals and all KINDS of stuff that I never really planned on having in my house.

But our kids are obsessed with her. And she’s insanely weird and hilarious. And, somehow, even though she drives me mad when I’m trying to clean the house, she reminds me of this beautiful picture of being helpless and marching hopelessly toward death and having someone big and kind and powerful reach down and pluck you up and give you a home where you are safe and loved. It’s kind of really, really beautiful to behold.

But mostly…

she’s not a dog.

So that’s really, really good.


Ah, cats. I have more Chloe stories to tell, and hope to do so soon. Until then, find us on Facebook and Instagram!

Gabbie, Pioneer Woman and Ridiculous Me: a Trilogy (Part Three)

Part 3: Ridiculous Me

(continued from parts one and two)


So what I had expected on our excursion to the Pioneer Woman’s holiday cookbook signing was for Gabbie to become shy and tongue-tied in front of her childhood hero. No surprises there.

What I hadn’t expected was that I would do the same thing.

In retrospect, it all makes sense…

1. In my excitement about Gabbie and her costume, and in the frenzied nature of our day, I had forgotten to dwell on the fact that I, too, am a huge fan of Ree Drummond’s.

I might have been a bit slow to the Pioneer Woman party, but once I arrived, I was a goner. I love her blog, her cookbooks, her show, and I am so proud of the way she represents Oklahoma. I genuinely admire her and…so what?…sometimes I pretend like I’m her sister.

2. It is just in my nature to get goofy around celebrities. It must be the Lucy Ricardo in me, and so it wouldn’t have really mattered whether I was a true fan of Ree’s or not; I am eternally doomed to act like a nut-job in front of anyone who has been on television or had a book published or even walked on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I think all of this probably reveals something about my spiritual life but I don’t want to identify it yet.

3. I just had a baby and am still nursing every three hours or so. I cannot be held responsible for anything I do or say until I get a note from my doctor and, by the way, it is nothing short of a miracle that I have been able to recount this story in anything close to intelligiblistical words.

All that to say, when it came to striking up a lifelong friendship with P-Dub that night, the odds were not in my favor a’tall.

And here’s how it all went down…

We walked into the bookstore to line up and, after I snapped some photos of the girls peering at Ree, a young and clean-shaven employee approached us and asked if we were having books signed. When we responded in the affirmative, he handed each of us a small piece of paper, instructing us to write down what we wanted Ree to sign in our books.

It was quite simple; we needed to write something like “Merry Christmas to Kelly!” or “Happy Cooking, Mee-Maw!” and any normal lady would have just done what she was supposed to do to make the signing run efficiently and to make sure that her name was spelled correctly in the cookbook she was giving herself for Christmas.

But no.

Ms. Funny-pants had a brilliant idea.

Instead of just writing a simple felicitation and my name on my piece of paper, I decided it would be so knee-slapping hilarious to compose a short letter; after all, the young man had TOLD me to write what I wanted Ree to say…

and I wanted Ree to say the following:


Dear sweet, Mrs. Gore,

I love you.

I love your pretty hair and your infinity scarf.

Your blog is my favoritest on the internets (

Your bestie,



I just crack myself up sometimes.

Especially when I’m in the back of a long line after standing outside with 5 children for 3 1/2 hours and am giddy about the prospect of meeting a red-headed national treasure.

My plan was to lay down the long note, have a laugh with PW (who would hug me and say “You DO have beautiful hair! Now what do you really want me to write in this cookbook, ya knucklehead?), and then show her the other side of my paper that said “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Gore!” (I thought it would be meaningful if Ree used my pen name since we were going to be best blogging friends after this night).

Sounds like a plan, right?


So after finishing my note and laughing about it with my Mom and Megan, I put it aside and went on to other things…tending to Rebekah, putting on lipgloss, getting my camera ready, picking out a coloring book for my son (who, though also a fan of PW, obligingly stayed home so his sister could accompany me to the signing)…

and before I knew it, I was standing in front of the cash register, snapping photo after photo of Gabbie meeting Ree. I was caught up in the moment, focused on getting good snapshots for Megan, and it was such a big, beautiful jumble of laughter and fun and excitement, but then…


it was over.

Gabbie was waving goodbye to Ree on her way out the door and Megan was saying one more “thank you” before following behind her and I was grinning at them and waving…

and sighing happily, I turned back around…

I fiddled with something on my camera…

I looked up…

I blinked…

And I realized that everyone was looking at me.

Including THE Pioneer Woman of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

And this is where I mentally blacked out.

I only have a vague idea of what I said from this point forward and will be embellishing my responses to reflect what was going on in my head and what I might (or pray to God might not) have said:

“Did you have a book, too?” Ree’s assistant asked.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, making my way back to the side of the table, “Yes! A book. A bookcook…er, a cookbook. I bought a cookbook….”

“And do you know what you want Ree to write?…” the assistant asked.

“Oh!” I said, “I wrote on a paper thingy (followed by a nervous hahahahahahahahahaha)…”

My paper…I thought.


The paper with the stupid note on it!…

And although I was mentally vacant, I do remember realizing in this moment that I very much wished I had left my jokes at home with Mr. Gore and Gid and Betsie and Jake.

But I couldn’t.

I had just confessed that I had a piece of paper. It was too late to back out.

So, wearing the expression of a 5-year old, I pulled out my note…


and handed it to Ree. “Here you go (nervous laughter)…uhhh…you don’t have to write all that…it’s just a…it’s a…I was…joke. Funny. It’s not. You don’t need to write all that. Just…other side. Merry Christmas.”

Poor The Pioneer Woman must be used to this sort of thing, for she never skipped a beat and, probably courtesy smiling, flipped the paper over and quickly scrawled the normal message onto my cookbook before signing her name.

I just thank God my little spitfire of a daughter was there beside me to cover over my awkwardness…


“And how old are you?” Ree questioned her, probably sensing that I was about to expire on the spot and needed a distraction.

“Four,” she boldly replied, “but I’ll be five on my next birthday.”

“When is your birthday?” Ree asked.

“Ummm…” Rebekah replied, looking to me for the answer.

“Oh!” I said, brightly, crawling back out from under the rock where I was hiding, “ummmm…uhhhhh….hahahahahahaha…when IS your birthday?”

I stared at my daughter quizzically for what felt like 5 minutes while trying to will myself to remember the day of her birth. Was it January? July? Is Halloween a month? Halloween the 14th?


“June!” I finally replied, exultantly. “June the 8th!”

“You have more than one child, don’t you?” Ree asked with a chuckle.

“Oh yes,” I replied, “I have four.” (Cha-ching! Look who got an answer right).

“Is the baby one of yours, too?” she asked, pointing at the stroller where Shep continued to sleep.

“Yes,” I answered, “He’s a…baby. Like you just said. Hahahahahahahaha…”

And then Ree asked me a question that made me want to die on the spot: “Do you mind if I hold on to this?” she asked, picking up my love-note paper once more. “For your blog address?”

My blog address…



She thinks I’m self-promoting.

And maybe I WAS self-promoting!

And now I look like a self-promoter!

And she had to keep my paper so she wouldn’t hurt my feelings! She probably does that for all the pathetic self-promoting bloggers who slip her their address!!


And since I promised to spare no details in the retelling of this story, I have to admit that I very much remember this particular response better than the others and it went exactly like this: “Oh, no, no, no, no, you dont have to do that…I was just kidd-…or…I…actually that would…that’d be great, hahaha…I mean, if you want to, thanks…but…you don’t…hahahahahahaha…”

As I continued to stammer and babble like an idiot, she leaned down to put the paper in her bag and, looking back at the pictures, I…

think I might have tried to touch her hair?…


I don’t even know.

When my husband saw this photo, he said “…Did you touch her??”

“I don’t know!!!” I wailed, laughing and hiding my face. Then I peeked at him through my fingers before confessing, “actually, I do know that I patted her on the arm.”

“You touched her arm?” he exclaimed, delighting in my misery.

“I did! I touched her arm!!” I squealed. “I don’t know why! I just wanted to pat her because I felt so bad for giving her my blog address! I was consoling her for having to meet me!”

It was awesome awful. But mostly awesome awful.

After posing for a quick photo with Ree, I gathered my cookbook and my daughter (who continued to talk loudly to her all the way out the door) and, hanging on to my giant, t00-big-for-this-store stroller for dear life, I attempted to bust out of there like a girl who was literally on fire…

but I was driving too fast and, hitting the threshold of the door, my stroller bounced and we kind of crashed into the doorjamb. I was trying to straighten up my wheels so I could exit when a lady on the other side of us, right outside the door, said “Oh! Something fell out of your stroller!”

Reaching down, she stood back up and handed me a book.

Oh no.

The coloring book I meant to buy for my son…

Licking my lips, I took in my surroundings.

I was standing IN the doorway of the bookstore, and approximately 200 waiting PW fans were facing me from the surrounding sidewalk and street, staring. These folks had been standing in line for hours and they were hungry for a spectacle.

Enter, me.

“Oopsie!” I said to the lady.

And then, for some reason beyond my comprehension, as I reached for the book, I took my eyes off of her and surveyed the entire crowd before loudly proclaiming, “I was going to buy that!”

It gets better.

Just in case they didn’t all hear me, I said (yelled) even louder, “I almost STOLE a coloring book! Hahahahahahahaha…”

We backed up out of the teensy doorway and I crawled back to the cash register, (you know, the one that was right in front of the Pioneer Woman), where I fumbled around for my wallet and continued to hem and haw and laugh like the dweeb-of-the-year. “I promise I’m not a klepto…” I assured the cashier, who probably could have cared less.

As far as endings go, it was a grand finale.

Do you want to know how I knew it was really bad? My Mom – who thinks I am perfect – was even like, “Yeah, um, what was that all about?…”

Coming down from this experience was like waking up from anesthesia; at first, I was so numb and giddy, I couldn’t grasp the depth of my ridiculousness, but with each ten or so minutes that passed, another memory would surface of my behavior and I would sink lower in my seat; it was somewhere between Tulsa and our home that I realized that I didn’t even introduce myself to her….

Nor did I tell her that I was the lady who posted Gabbie’s picture…

I told her nothing about our day or how excited we were to meet her…

I didn’t tell her how much I love her blog…

I didn’t inform her that hardly a gathering goes by that her name or one of her recipes is not mentioned by me or one of my friends….

I didn’t commend her for making a wholesome and educational television show that our entire family can watch together…

I didn’t mention that she has taught me so much about cooking and homeschooling and that her orange marmalade muffins have become one of my favorite things about Christmas…

I don’t think I even said “hi”…

I just blinked at her.

Then I sort-of-accidentally gave her my blog address.

And then I stole a coloring book.

I’d say I made an impression, don’t you, and that if she doesn’t invite me to her ranch, she’ll at least get me a restraining order.

But regardless, although it wasn’t my best moment, one thing is certain: I’ll never forget my five minutes with the Pioneer Woman…

I only pray that she has forgotten hers with “Mrs. Gore.”



Delivered, as promised. And now it’s your turn! Ever acted a fool in front of a celebrity? Or just have an embarrassing moment to share?…

Gabbie, Pioneer Woman and Ridiculous Me: a Trilogy (Part Two)

Part 2: Pioneer Woman

(Read part one here)


It isn’t every morning that you’re sitting there like a deadbeat in your bamboo lounging clothes and, in between your 14th and 15th sip of coffee, you get a facebook notification from Ree Drummond, THE Pioneer Woman.

That’s right. Ree had seen Gabbie’s photograph, and she had responded:

“Oh my gosh…absolutely adorable. I might want to borrow that wig sometime. ;)”

In the span of 4 seconds, our quiet house and our uneventful day erupted like a super-happy volcano. I felt like Anne Hathaway in the Princess Diaries when she finds out she is princess of Genovia and Julie Andrews is her Grandmother…

Ree had seen Gabbie’s picture?!!

Gabbie had received a message from Ree?!!

Shut. UP!

Things only escalated from there as something phenomenal happened; once Ree commented on the photo, her droves of fans began to see it, and the ‘likes’ and comments started flying. It reminded me of that scene from Harry Potter where the letters from Hogwarts start shooting into the Dursley’s house, and Harry is dancing around, trying to catch them…

But I was Harry, and I was only mentally dancing around the room (because you know I wasn’t getting out of bed), and the notifications weren’t for me, they were for a starry-eyed little girl who likes to cook with her Mama…

and I could only think one thing: Gabbie and her mom and dad (Megan and Brian) are going to DIE.

For the rest of the morning, my husband and I were held captive by our computer screen, watching the ‘likes’ on Gabbie’s photo rise, reading all the comments, feverishly messaging Brian and Megan (both of whom were at work) with updates….

we were atwitter and my goal to catch up on homeschool was kicked to the curb. Classes were cancelled!

And if I wasn’t thrilled enough for Gabbie, my joy tripled when Mr. Gore got this text from Megan: “Gabbie is going to be so excited. She was so distraught that she didn’t win the costume contest yesterday…”

I pictured our quiet little friend, dressing up as her hero; donning her PW costume, she probably expected to be recognized by every person she passed, and would have excitedly lined up for the contest, sure that she would win because, duh…she looked like Ree Drummond! How could she not win?

I well remember those types of bitter childhood disappointments, and it made me hurt for Gabbie.

But even for little girls with childish dreams, joy comes in the morning. Any disappoinment she had felt on Halloween night was sure to be forgotten once her Mama told her the good news!

And that alone would have been a very happy ending to Gabbie’s tale…

but as it turns out, her very special day was just beginning.


“You know what?” I asked my husband as we continued to hang out in bed, “I think Ree Drummond is doing a book signing in Tulsa in November…”

He immediately hopped online and started looking.

“She is!” he exclaimed. “For the release of her new cookbook…”

“When?” I asked.

“Tonight.” he replied, grinning. “5:00.”

Shut. UP!

Our texts with Megan went into sonic-speed, and Megan was thinking what we were thinking, and no, it wouldn’t be weird at all, and pretty soon it was official. We were going to the signing…

and mini-Ree was going with us, red, shiny wig and all.

This day was so bizarre it was beginning to seem providential!

I decided to take Rebekah Sunday along, who, though too young to be a superfan of PW, really, really likes her cooking show and all those horses she has.

When I broke the news to her, her face lit up and she exclaimed “Are we going to bake with her?”

“No, it won’t be like that…” I informed her.

“Well then can I play with the boys?” she asked, clapping her hands.

“I doubt if they’ll be there…” I replied.

But she decided to be excited anyway, and by 3:00 that afteroon, we were all on our way to Steve’s Books in Tulsa to purchase a cookbook and meet the Pioneer Woman, Megan and her three following behind me and my Mom, Baby Shep and Rebekah.

After a slight glitch upon our 4:00 arrival when Rebekah woke up from her nap, looked out her window and, seeing a Dollar Tree rather than a sprawling ranch, began to wail “I thought we were going to her house!!”, we began unloading and scurrying toward the bookstore to get in line.

And here’s how popular Ree Drummond is. Arriving an hour early, we were still in the 9th group of 25 people to meet her.

Let’s see…that meant we had approximately 16 more hours to wait. With 5 children between us.


But we were determined to stay, and I assured my very sweet and docile friend, Megan, that I would storm the castle before Gabbie went home without meeting PW.

The next several hours were spent in various pursuits as I mentally kicked myself for not bringing one snack, drink or distraction. (As far as celebrity book signings go, we were definitely amateurs).

First, we sat on the curb and I played guessing games with the big kids while Megan wrangled her toddler boy and my Mom kept an eye on sleeping Shep.

Then we played some more games.

Then we took pictures of our shoes.

Then we flipped through Ree’s new cookbook.

Then Rebekah started getting hungry and begging me for food…


then I told her I didn’t have any and she started hanging on my scarf and begging harder…


Then I started fanning myself. It was 5:00 and an ever-growing crowd was starting to swell around us, hemming me and my hormones in.

We escaped to an empty portion of the sidewalk far from the bookstore and spread out a bit. Here’s me and my Mama and Rebekah, definitely loitering in front this boutique.


Once we had some wiggling room though (and thanks to Megan’s amazing sister, Jill, who drove over straight from work to help us with the kids), time went by a little faster, and we stayed happy and amused…

mostly by the fact that we had a little Pioneer Woman with us. Similar to the costume contest, no one really knew who Gabbie was or why she was wearing a bright red wig; it was fairly obvious from the constant sympathetic glances she received that many assumed she had a serious illness. The entire situation reminded me of my night out with Peter Pan.

And I’m sure it didn’t hurt that our giddiness about all that had happened that day made everything reach a new level of hilarity…

especially when an elderly woman stopped by Gabbie and said “Oh, there you are! That girl with the beautiful red hair.” She reached down to finger Gabbie’s obviously fake tresses. “That color!” she exclaimed, “and it is just so thick!”

We were loathe to embarass her by explaining that it was a wig, plus the backstory would have been so long, so we just thanked her, all while Rebekah was piping up “It’s fake! Her hair is fake!”

I clamped my hand over her mouth and continued to beam at the effusive woman. “It’s fake!” her words muffled against my hand.

And speaking of Rebekah, it was pretty cute…

while Gabbie is the superfan of Ree, it soon became apparent that Rebekah was the superfan of Gabbie dressed as Ree.


“I’m taking a picture with The Pioneer Woman!” she chirped, laughing.


By 7:00, after the kids started running in circles and we were becoming far too bold with the food truck (PW had provided snacks from her new cookbook!), I knew something had to be done. Grabbing Rebekah’s hand, I decided to go ask if we could look at children’s books in the store where Ree was signing.

Surprisingly, the answer was ‘yes’ and I was reminded of why my husband always gets good deals and free shipping: he’s not afraid to ask.

I walked tentatively in to the small store carrying Rebekah on my hip, and I couldn’t help but feel like a trespasser. It was as quiet as a library in there!

And there, at a table near the cash register at the front of the store, in all her red-headed glory, sat Ree. I stopped for a minute to look at her and, in a whisper, pointed her out to Rebekah…

big mistake. I must have forgotten who I was holding and, before I could stop her, my little girl started waving frantically and broke the silence of the store by yelling “hi!!!” to Ree.

Like a ninja, I jumped forward and ducked behind a shelf before whisking her to the back of the store where she sat happily on a stool and perused the books. It was a good distraction for both of us, tucked away into the corner, right behind the snaking line of fans. But I was antsy and needed to converse with someone.

I made eye contact with one of the ladies waiting in line.

“Do you remember what group you are in?” I asked, probably a bit pathetically.

“575-600…” she replied.

“Oh…” I sighed, “Well, we’re getting closer…”

“What number are you?” a second woman asked.

“660,” I reponded, forlornly. “And we just have so many kids here! They’re so hungry…”

I couldn’t really comprehend what I was doing as this sob story involuntarily rolled off my tongue, but this, too, seemed providential as it apparently worked in my favor. The second lady held up a ticket. “I’m not using this one,” she said, “it will help you get in a little faster.”

610. Gasp! That was the next group!

I kissed her feet (in my mind) and Rebekah and I took off to get everyone packed up. Within minutes, our group was called into the store. T’was a gloriously fun and unexpected frenzy, and a blessed turn of events.

But even in our haste, my heart stopped to recognize that this was it: Gabbie was about to have the moment of a lifetime, one she would never forget.

The little girls entered the store on our heels and I watched with glee as Gabbie craned her neck to get her first glimpse…


and although we were at the back of the line that wound through the store, it wasn’t long at all before our turn came up. Gabbie was next!


Ree had been notified that Gabbie was coming (apparently some nutcase had tracked her Mom down on facebook and paid a dollar to send her a private message? People these days!), and was SO sweet and welcoming to her little twinkie.


and Gabbie was precious to watch. So tongue-tied…


so bashful…


but so very happy.


I was just taking it all in, snapping pictures for Megan when I heard Rebekah’s chirpy voice once more: “I saw you on TV!” It was at this moment that I realized Miss Sunday needed to take a hike so Gabbie could have her moment with Ree.


and here they are, Ree Drummond and her mini-me…


matching hair, matching tunics, matching earrings, and would you look at this, even matching cheeks, chins and smiles.


The fondest dream of Gabbie’s young heart had come true…


and you know who it really all comes back to?


A loving mama who made mountains of Pioneer Woman food for a 6-year old’s birthday party…

who was running all over Tulsa with 3 kids the Tuesday before Halloween looking for a red wig and a tunic…

who scrambled home during her lunchbreak to get Gabbie’s costume to wear to the signing…

who left work at 3:00 with those same 3 kids and drove staight to Tulsa to stand in line for 4 hours…

who loves her daughter, with all her heart, and lays down her life for her happiness.

Pioneer Woman might be Gabbie’s hero…


but Gabbie’s Mama is most definitely one of mine.



and, as it turns out, Pioneer Woman is ALSO one of my heroes. Stay tuned to hear the spectacle that happened when Gabbie left the store and I realized it was MY turn to meet Ree. I promise to spare no details. Go ahead and kill me now.

(Read Part Three here)

Gabbie, Pioneer Woman and Ridiculous Me: a Trilogy

Part 1: Gabbie


When I woke up on the morning of November 1st, I had simple goals for the day:

1. Recover from Halloween by drinking my coffee in bed and keeping my pajamas on all day.

2. Catch up on homeschool.

3. That’s it.

But life takes awfully funny twists and turns, and few have been quite so twisty or turny as the ones mine took today…

It all started back in August. My friend, Megan, was planning her daughter, Gabbie’s, 6th birthday, and Gabbie had made an unusual request for one so young: the dearest, darlingest desire of her little heart was to have a Pioneer Woman party. And not like, Little-House-on-the-Prairie-cowboys-and-indians-pioneer-woman-party, but Gabbie’s-favorite-person-on-the-planet-Ree-Drummond-THE-Pioneer-Woman-party.

You don’t see a lot of those on Pinterest…

But here’s what I love about Megan. While I would have taken that theme and secretly planned all the details while my daughter slept, turning it into a sunflower and basset hound affair where all the boys had to wear ranch clothes and all the girls had to wear tunics, Megan actually sat down and planned this party with her little girl.

Flipping through cookbooks, Gabbie picked out several Pioneer Woman recipes that she wanted to make with her friends, and as usual, Megan set the stage for a genuinely lovely and laidback party wherein both her daughter and her guests (and their Mamas!) would leave feeling happy and appreciated.

For Gabbie’s present, I decided to aim really high and, sitting down one afternoon, I sent a long and gushing e-mail to The Pioneer Woman herself, telling her about Gabbie and her party theme, and asking rather pathetically if a small token might be procured in time for her birthday…nothing much, just an autograph, or a video shout-out, or a spatula…a Kitchenaid mixer perhaps (or two? One for me, one for Gabbie?)…anything, really, that the Pioneer Woman had signed, touched or breathed on.

Knowing it was a major shot in the dark, I worked hard to keep my expectations in the “it-never-hurts-to-try” category rather than the oh-my-gosh-I’m-going-to-become-BFF’s-with-PW-while-making-Gabbie’s-party-the-best-ever category…

for I knew it was very unlikely that PW would even see that message, and if she did, would have her hands tied; it is common blogging knowledge, is it not, that if you send a gift to one “biggest fan ever”, you leave out 1,158,935?

Yes, Ree Drummond has that many followers on facebook.

Still yet, it was worth an attempt for our Gabbie-girl.

But as her birthday party drew near, it became apparent that my message had probably been swallowed up into a sea of PW fanmail, perhaps read, perhaps even appreciated, but understandably unanswered. My disappointment was not too keenly felt, and I had to take a minute to feel sorry for Ree Drummond who probably receives thousands upon thousands of requests from people like me who just want this “one tiny thing” from her.

And it was great; even though my dreams of the present-of-a-lifetime didn’t materialize, Gabbie’s party was a precious affair.

The children arrived to a table stacked with miniature pizza boxes that they got to decorate with fun stickers and markers before moving to another table where they put together their own pizza using PW’s homemade crust recipe.

Then, while their pizzas baked in the oven, they moved to another table and put together a Pioneer Woman fruit pizza. There was also PW’s lasagna for the grownups, as well as her beautiful (and towering!) Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake that served as Gabbie’s birthday cake.


I was just so touched by that sweet party, and left that day not only realizing what an amazing woman and mother Megan is, but that Gabbie is more than your typical fan of Pioneer Woman…

She’s a superfan!

All that to say, when my friends and I were sitting around in early October discussing Halloween costumes, and Megan mentioned that she had nothing planned, I offhandedly mentioned that Gabbie should dress as Pioneer Woman, remembering her birthday party and her unprecedented adoration for Ree Drummond.

I was joking.

But apparently Gabbie heard the idea and was like, YEAH, baby.

From that night on, she was determined to wear a Pioneer Woman costume for Halloween.

(You don’t see a lot of those on Pinterest, either…)

But over the next couple of weeks, I watched in wonder and amusement as Megan did it again. Where I would have said, “You know, sweetie, that doesn’t really match Mommy’s costume”, Megan found a way to make her little girl’s dream come true and, although she was still clueless on the Sunday before Halloween about how to make this costume materalize, by the time I saw Gabbie at our town’s Trunk or Treat on Halloween night, she had been transformed into none other than Ree Drummond…


I cracked up.

The best part of all? When Gabbie approached our “trunk” to recieve her treats, she first handed ME a treat of prettily wrapped homemade cookies. Because that’s what Pioneer Woman would do.

(Let’s all take a moment to ponder the cute/sweet/preciousness of that idea and give Gabbie and her mama a round of applause).

When our troop returned home later that night and all the sugar-laced children had been strapped into their beds, I did what every American mother does on Halloween night, edited and uploaded photographs onto facebook. It was so much fun to peruse the snapshots of what had been a truly special evening (more on that next week), and I loved looking again at the different costumes our little churchkids had come up with this year. They were all so precious.

But when I came across Gabbie’s picture in the hundreds I had taken that night, I stopped for a minute.

I smiled.

I said “eureka!”

And I decided it was worth another shot.

Going straight to Pioneer Woman’s facebook page, I posted Gabbie’s photo and left Ree a quick caption: “At our town’s trunk-or-treat, I was so happy to be visited by a little Ree Drummond. This is 6-year old Gabbie, your biggest fan!”

It took no more than a minute and, assuming it, too, had been swallowed into the blackhole of internet posts, I gave it little thought and went on to tweak and edit some more of our photos before finally calling it a night and going to sleep…

And that leads us back to the morning of November the 1st.

When I woke up, I set out to accomplish my first post-Halloween goal of staying in bed with my caffeine and pajamas. Leisurely sipping on my first cup of coffee, I opened my laptop and was perusing facebook when I got a notification.

Clicking on it, I saw with bug-eyes that this was not my typical notification.

And that’s when our day went twisty…


Click here to read part 2!

(and here to read part 3).