Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Meet Me in St. Louis

This past weekend was such a blast! I found out last week that my dear friend and college roomie Jill, who was also a bridesmaid in our wedding, was going to be in St. Louis with her new boyfriend, Adam, for a quick weekend trip Thursday-Saturday, and, on the spur of the moment, I had the idea for David and I to take a spontaneous weekend trip to the Lou. So, Jill and I (happily!) planned "Operation Meet Me in St. Louis." We had the best time! David and I headed out after his work day ended on Thursday and got to STL around 11:30 p.m. My sweet bestie, Tom, (the man of honor in our wedding) and his boyfriend, Jason, let us stay with them, which was great. They are renting this fabulous old house that they've decorated SO adorably, and they have the most precious 4 lb. teacup chihuahua, JJ (my "nephew," since Tom's my "brother"). They were the most wonderful hosts. When we got there, they had transformed Tom's top floor office into the perfect guest suite complete with a fully dressed king sized air mattress, extra pillows, blankets, and fans, a water pitcher, Advil, snacks, etc. They greeted us the next morning with bagels and coffee for breakfast, after which they headed to work and Dave and I headed out for the day. Our first stop was the Missouri Botanical Gardens (our very favorite St. Louis attraction), where we walked through all the grounds (it was a beautiful, breezy, 75 degree day) and then picked out orchids and orchid books for my orchid-obsessed Mama in the gift shop. We then grabbed some midday Crater Copernicuses at Ted Drewes (because we can never resist) and headed over to Wash. U. campus. We had lunch on the patio at Ibby's, the on-campus restaurant that opened my senior year (but I'd never been), and it was delicious! We walked around campus and browsed the bookstores, and then Jill and her boyfriend Adam met us in the student center, and we all hung out and talked for a while. After T and J finished work, we headed back to their place and got cute, and then the four of us met Jill and Adam at Drunken Fish in the Central West End for dinner: sushi and martinis, absolutely delish! All six of us then headed over to Sasha's in Clayton, where Jill's old roomie Mary later joined us, for wine, beer, catching up, and the opportunity to relive memories of many evenings spent there in college. We wrapped up around 11pm and told Jill and Adam goodbye--it was SUCH a treat getting to see Jill and meet Adam. Visiting with her is tricky since she's in North Carolina for law school, which is a little far to be driving distance from Nashville. After Sasha's, Tom, Jason, David and I headed to Rehab, a gay bar in Tower Grove, to round out the night with more cocktails and conversations. Tom and I had our usual great talks about everything from men's clothing to sibling relationships to raising children to best friends to how I "don't fit" in the South but want to be an advocate by living there. Like I always say, he's my brother and I'm so lucky I've got him. I love that kid to pieces, and we've pulled through a lot together. It was late by the time we got back to T and J's place, so we all slept in Saturday morning. Tom and Jason headed to their neighborhood kickball game, while Dave and I opted for a late brunch at City Coffeehouse and Creperie (one of my all time faves) in downtown Clayton. It was SO good! Afterwards, we drove by our old apartment in Brentwood Forest and then headed back to Tom and Jason's to get our stuff and tell the boys goodbye. I insisted on a spin through Webster Groves and learned, much to my dismay, that my all time favorite gift shop, The Empty Nest, has gone out of business! Sad. We finished our shopping at the outdoor mall in Brentwood by browsing Soft Surroundings and Crate & Barrel, two of my other favorite stores that we don't have in Nashville. We hit the road for what ended up being a late night--my engine overheated in Grand Rivers, KY around 8:30 p.m., and we rode the remaining 130 miles to Franklin, TN in a tow truck! What an experience. All in all, though, it was a fabulous weekend of reconnecting with friends, memories, and, most importantly, myself. Whenever I start to forget who I am, who I want to be, and what matters to me, returning to St. Louis helps me reclaim those precious pieces of myself that I first discovered and nurtured in college. Getting to hang out with my college besties at this fun phase of life, where we're all coupled up, living on our own, and either in first jobs or grad school, is priceless. I'm reminded of just how blessed I was to make some lifelong friends at dear old WUSTL. One of these days, I know Uncle Tom and Uncle Jason will contribute so many wonderful things to Miss Emma's life, and I will be so grateful for their wisdom and positive influence on her! Not to mention, I'm counting on them to give our baby girl some cousins :).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Past Week and a Half...

...has been a wonderful, exciting, fun, busy blur. About a week and a half ago (not this past Wednesday, but the Wednesday before), the girls from the Sunday School class Dave and I have recently joined (which we love, by the way!) met at Sopapilla's in Brentwood for a girls' night out and baby shower for two of the girls in our class, Whitney and Becca, who are each about to welcome Baby #3, both boys. They are brave gals! Also in attendance was Elizabeth, who at that point was expecting little Miss Caroline three short days later (although unfortunately for Elizabeth, she'd made baby Caroline such a nice home that the wee one had no intentions of entering the big wide world in a timely fashion...they finally induced yesterday, so many congrats to the Saffle family on Baby #1!). It is truly "baby season" in our little class and makes David and me look forward to jumping on the baby train with the others in a couple of short years. I think we're one of only two couples who doesn't have children (or isn't expecting), but our time will come (I can't wait!). It was so fun to catch up with these ladies over sangria and yummy Mexican. Sopapilla's is one of our favorite spots, and a highlight that night was Carrie Underwood and crew dining at the table behind us (!!!!). They are a great, fun group of women and are awesome wives and mamas, and I look forward to getting to know them better in the coming months and years. In spite of the fact that most of them have seven to ten years on Dave and me age wise, we feel like we connect with them in a lot of ways, probably because our "stage" (selling house #1, buying house #2, almost done with grad school, in a career, married for a year, thinking towards kiddos) is ahead of our ages.

That Friday night, Dave and I went out to celebrate! He received an unexpected, unscheduled, merit-based raise that Friday (April 22), which definitely deserved a celebration, and to top it off, he was turning 24 that Sunday (Easter Sunday, the 24th!). Guess where he wanted to go? Sopapilla's, of course. Good thing they have lots of options on that menu and I was able to change it up from Wednesday.

Sunday, April 24 was Easter. It's always one of my favorite holidays, especially since my daddy has been in Heaven--what could be better than the promise of eternal life, which assures that we will be reunited with those we love who have gone before us? David, Mom, and me were up bright and early for the sunrise service at Brentwood United Methodist, which took place outside in the garden adjacent to the Columbarium, where my dad is buried. Kaye Harvey, the minister who married us, did the service. Oddly enough, she and my mama are about to be neighbors when mom moves to Westhaven next week. After the service, Dave and I got the lily that we had bought in memory of our dads from the sanctuary and put it on my daddy's grave. Dave was such a good sport, donning a lime green silk tie and pink and white paisley handkerchief (not his favorite, hah!) with his tan suit to match my Lilly Pulitzer dress (aqua with pink and green roses--such fun!). I wish we had taken pictures, but I think we're recycling those outfits for our church directory photos this week, so you'll get to see them then. After church, Dave, mama, and me had coffee at Panera. Later in the afternoon, we all re-convened at Boxwood Bistro for Easter/birthday brunch, which was INCREDIBLE (especially the fresh mimosas--yum!). I gave Dave his little gifts, which included two pretty ties and a hanky (NOT pink, hah) from J. McLaughlin and the Vineyard Vines flip flops he'd been lusting after for a year. I also told him about his big gift--I broke down and decided to grant his wish for a DSLR camera. I'm thinking it will be an investment in our family's future, as a great camera will allow us to get wonderful pictures of the little ones down the road. He was shocked and SO excited. Mama had given him her gift a week early--a Smart Pen that he'd been wanting for work. Oh, boys and their gadgets :).

This weekend was even more fantastic than the last one! I had a rare treat: my college bestie, Tom, was in town! He has been like a brother to me for years now, and I hate hate hate that we don't live closer (he's still in STL), but we try to see each other at least a couple of times a year (last year I think it was three--he came up to Nashville for my bachelorette/shower weekend and again for the wedding, and we were in STL for my one year college reunion). He brings out a side of me that absolutely no one else has or does, and I always rediscover a part of myself when I'm with him, a part that I first discovered when we became close in college. Friday night, we had dinner at Cabana with him, his boyfriend, and another couple of friends of theirs, John and Jeff. We then hit the bars for a late night that lasted till around 2 a.m. Although I don't remember dropping them back off at Opryland Hotel, Dave tells me that Tom and I were both asleep in the car--go fig. Because Tom had failed to mention that he was bringing along two friends in addition to his bf, we were not prepared with sufficient vehicle space, and, as a result had six people crammed into my little Ford Escape, with one in the trunk at all times. I sort of thought we'd moved past that stage of life when I graduated college, but then again, being with Tom does a lot to turn me back into a college girl. We had the best time catching up and talking about EVERYTHING, as we always do. Aside from Dave, he's the one other person in my life with whom I feel like there are "no holds barred," even more so than with my mom. At one point in the night, a frank discussion of a problem I'd had and my determination to seek help for it as opposed to accepting the status quo led to an immediate hug from him to which, when questioned by the others (given the content of our conversation), he responded, "Hey, she's my sister. I want this for her." And it reminded me for the ten millionth time of why I love him like I do. We went through a lot of emotional turmoil together in college and have since emerged from it all to develop healthy, stable relationships, successful careers, and happy lives. I think hanging on to one another through all of that and getting the joy of experiencing each other's success and stability at this point in life bonded us in a way that I am not bonded to anyone else in my life. He will always be my "bestie," my "lovie," and my "Thomasina," and I can't wait until David and I make him Uncle Tom with the arrival of Miss Emma in a couple of years. We woke up late on Saturday, as you might could have imagined, had a lazy morning around the house, and then met Tom and crew (including Tiina, who was in Nashville for the half marathon and is another college friend I hadn't seen in ages) in downtown Franklin for the Main Street Festival. I hadn't made it to the festival in five or six years, and I'd forgotten how much I loved it. Much to Tom and Jason's chagrin, the rest of their crew didn't want to stay as long as they did, so Dave and I stuck around after everyone else took off, and Dave indulged my need to move through festivals slowly, seeing every. single. booth. (let's just say I'm no one's favorite person to attend festivals with, hah!). We picked some great things, including a puzzle, a Titans dress, and a St. Louis Cardinals bib and burp cloth for Miss Emma (I'm starting her football/baseball season collections early!), Franklin Theater re-opening t-shirts, a couple of cute signs for the new house, and an amazing Mother's Day gift for mama (a big stone fountain with a bunny for her new backyard). We also bumped into Callan, my good friend from high school, whom I hadn't seen since the wedding. After heading home to get cute (because the initial plan was to hit the town with the boys again last night), we grabbed a quick bite of dinner at Nick's (our favorite, cheap, hole-in-the-wall Italian place that's just a mile from our house), followed by fro yo (yes, I know that's not how Southerners refer to it, but I refuse to let go of all my midwestern ways!) at Sweet CeCe's in downtown Franklin. As it turned out, several members of the boy posse were sick, so they had decided to stay in for the night (which, of course, broke my heart). Dave and I then stopped by mom's to take her Sweet CeCe's and a small Mother's Day gift (a little sign for her office about starting a new chapter in life that we also picked up at the festival). We didn't get home till around 11, and I was badly sunburnt from the festival and exhausted, so we crashed and skipped Sunday School this morning, refusing to crawl out of bed until an absurdly late hour (around 11:30). All in all, this weekend was so healing for my soul. I've been wading through an identity crisis of sorts lately, trying to figure out what direction to take with my career post-grad school and my place in this big wide world. It's nothing that the counselor in me doesn't believe to be totally developmentally appropriate, but it's emotionally draining nonetheless. Being back with the person who was instrumental in my "finding myself" in college helps remind me of who I am and of all I have to be proud of, which does wonders for my self-esteem and somehow allows me to take comfort in the fact that however life shapes up, it's going to be just lovely.

Now I'm off to finish this semester, which has probably been my most difficult one in my education thus far. Two more assignments and one more day stand between me and summer. And a fabulous weekend gave me just the boost I needed to get there!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chords of Hope--Band Against MS!

It seems like we've been in charity benefit mode lately! Last night was another fantastic event for an even better cause. We spent our evening here...


As a venue, Wildhorse Saloon can't be beat. Although it tends to become a tourist trap on the weekends (don't all of the honky tonks on Broadway?!), the food is delicious (we dined on fried pickles, my favorite, and I had a philly steak sandwich on a pita, while Dave went with a tequila chicken sandwich), the cocktail menu is fabulous (I went with a hurricane and a Blue Moon; Dave chose a Lynchburg Lemonade and a Yazoo), and it's big and comfortable and there's plenty of seating. Last night's event was the 2nd annual Chords of Hope benefit concert put on by Band Against MS, a charity founded by country star Clay Walker, who was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 1996, to raise money for MS research at Vanderbilt. This cause is super close to my heart, as my mom has suffered from MS since I was little, and I was diagnosed almost exactly two years ago myself (my diagnosaversary, if you can call it that, is coming up on March 11--I plan on posting my thoughts on that later). I love that Clay Walker is using his celebrity status to affect positive change for himself and all of us who battle with MS every day of our lives. The entertainment was top notch. In addition to Clay, there was Rivers Rutherford, an amazing songwriter who performed "These Are My People" and Tim McGraw's "Real Good Man," Chuck Wicks (who sang his song, "Stealing Cinderella," that always makes me teary thanks to being a newlywed and a daughter who lost her daddy), Rio Grande, Steve Holy (who did "Good Morning Beautiful" and "Brand New Girlfriend," among others), and a few others. It was an amazing concert for an even more amazing cause, and I'm grateful to all the stars who gave of their time and talent to benefit MS research. In the words of Rivers Rutherford, "I'm not making a cent for being here tonight, I just think somebody ought to cure this damn disease!" Amen! Dave and I had a great time, and it was the perfect midweek date night in honor of a great cause.

Weekend Fun

This post is SO delayed (what can I say, it's midterms week!), but I couldn't let the opportunity pass to blog about our fun weekend. Friday night, we attended Three Blind Vines at the Factory. It's an annual wine tasting put on by Next Gen, the 20s/30s branch of the Heritage Foundation, to raise money for preservation projects in downtown Franklin. It was SO fun! The theme was 1920s speakeasy, so all the ladies (including myself!) wore cocktail flapper-style dresses (I repurposed an old BCBG fave that I used for New Year's Eve in New York City in 2008) and the guys all had on fedoras. There was a silent auction, live music, food from Franklin Mercantile, Battle Ground Brewery, Stoveworks, and McDougal's, and way too much delicious wine. Each couple brought one bottle of malbec, one bottle of sauvignon blanc, and a repeat of one of the bottles. The winner of the malbec category took home half of the repeat bottles, and the sauv blanc winner got the other half. We sat at a fun table full of mamas having a girls' night out (love that!) and enjoyed great wine and great company.

Saturday was mama's 59th birthday! We spent most of the day getting ready to host her birthday dinner at our house Saturday night. I made spinach/grapefruit/avocado salad, a pasta dish with artichokes, sundried tomatoes, pesto, chicken, and parmesean, and yellow cupcakes with homemade pineapple frosting (her request). It all turned out well and we had such a fun evening being together as a family and celebrating with her. Next year will be an even bigger celebration for the big 60!

Sunday we slept in and took it easy, and I spent most of the day studying for my big midterm on Monday. Thankfully, it was my only exam this semester.

Hope you all enjoyed your weekends!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Show Us Your Singles: My mom!

When I saw that Kelly over at Kelly's Korner was doing another addition of Show Us Your Life Singles, which was apparently quite successful last summer, I knew that I had to enter my mom. The above picture of her was taken at my wedding in August of last year.

My mom is 58 years old and had an incredible 23 year marriage to my dad, who passed away in August 2008 at the age of 60 due to dementia and liver disease. His passing rocked her world, and she has since mourned deeply for the love of her life. She would love to find someone else to share her life with but hasn't come into contact with the right man yet. My mom is retired and lives in Nashville, TN. She is one of the kindest, most selfless, and most compassionate people you'll ever meet. She loves life and lives every day to the fullest. She is a Christian and is involved in our church. My mom loves sports (especially college football), gardening, her two cats, being with friends and family, and spending time outdoors. She lives for the day when my husband and I will make her a "Nana." She does have Multiple Sclerosis and uses a walker, but her medical issues do not impact her quality of life, as she is incredibly persistent and has worked hard to overcome all obstacles in her path. She has a great sense of humor and is outgoing, loving, and easy to be with. I can honestly say that in my unbiased opinion, my mom is the most amazing person I've ever known, and I'd be so happy if she could find someone to share this phase of her life--all I want is the best for her and for her to find someone else with whom she could be as happy as she was with my dad. If you or someone you know might be interested in learning more about my mom, please feel free to email me at mackenzie.l.leonard@vanderbilt.edu. Thanks for looking, and good luck!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Emma Kathryn Lober's Nursery

Okay, so this post is WAY ahead of schedule ;) (give us four to five years and a new house before our Emma Kathryn comes into the picture!), but since I'm the only one who reads this and I have an adorable idea for her nursery design, this is just for meLink to remember. The furniture will be white, the walls will be light pink, and the colors will be pale pink, sage green, chocolate brown, and white. The room will have a bunny theme.

Here is her bedding, which I designed myself on babybedding.com--$431 total (not too too bad!)

And here is the art I want for the wall that was the inspiration behind this whole room! Thank you, Etsy. $18


Cute PB Kids frame to put her Emma print in, $17.50


Her furniture will be as follows:

The Catalina Crib from PB Kids in White, $499


The Dollhouse Bookcase by PB Kids, which happens to match PERFECTLY! $299


The Catalina Dresser from PB Kids in White, $399 (we'll use the top as her changing table)


Flower Accent Table from PB Kids in Pink, $69 (to go beside the glider and hold books/picture frames/bottles!)


Bunny Critter Chair in Pink from PB Kids, $99


Dream Swivel Glider and Ottoman in White Dot Matelasse from PB Kids, $1550 (oops--at least it's pretty!)


White Ella Chandelier by PB Kids, $129


Ribbon Shade in Green with Madison Touch Base Lamp in White from PB Kids, $89


A Baby Be Blessed Bunny! It will be the pink chenille with ivory minky one, and her scripture will be "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." $45


Her drapes will be out of the pink and taupe damask with a large band of the green at the bottom and chocolate brown ties to the rods. I'll probably also do a pillow for the glider in the green with damask piping and her monogram in pale pink. Finally, I want someone to paint a mural of a momma, daddy, and baby bunny on the wall. The PERFECT little baby girl room, don't you think?!?!?! Too bad it will be SO expensive...better start saving now, for a grand total of $3,644.50 , plus drapes, the pillow, and the mural (oh, and painting!).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Back Where I Come From

Today's the day!!! The one I've been waiting for for months on end. Finally, when we finish loading down 2 (!!!) UHAULS and my SUV and hop in the car, we'll be headed to Tennessee with no return trip to Texas. It almost feels too good to be true. After five years living several states away from my family, my home, and everything I've always known, it feels (please note that I NEVER thought I'd say this) SO good to be coming back...back to where I come from. Back to where my precious mama has toiled for days, despite two excruciatingly painful knees, to get our new house sparkly clean. Where she and our family friend Jeanette have lined cabinets like it's their job. Where there's pumpkin bread, banana bread, avocadoes, tomatoes, and a fresh garden salad waiting in our new fridge. But most of all, where there's OPEN ARMS and LOVE waiting for us. It's such a humbling feeling, and such a blessing, to know that so many people...friends, neighbors, family...are on pins and needles waiting for the chance to love on us when we finally reach our destination. After eleven months of living you-know-what in Texas, with no support system, and being constantly berated and beat down by David's family, we are so in need of love, support, compassion...people to let us know that we're not in this alone. The good thing is, we've learned this year that, when push comes to shove, as a couple, we can go it alone, and we can survive, if not thrive. I'm reassured to know that we are able to be that emotionally, financially, physically independent. However, as a therapist-in-training, I, of all people, know that "no man is an island"...we are meant to live in community with one another, to care for each other as well as ourselves, to carry each other when it's too hard to walk. And that is exactly what our massive, incredible support network in Nashville will do for us, just as they have for my twenty-three years of life. I'm thrilled about setting up our new home. I'm so excited to start Vanderbilt. I can't wait to be back in a beautiful, sleepy, southern town, where football, church, sweet tea, pearls, rocking chairs, front porches, and relationships dominate. But most of all, I'm looking forward to knowing that the ones who are in our corner are not halfway across the country. I needed to get away. College was an amazingly powerful, formative time for me, and I'll be forever grateful to Wash. U., St. Louis, and the precious friends I made there for helping me find myself, get my legs under me, and embark upon my adult journey. It's great knowing I can make it on my own in an unfamiliar place, even through almost unbearable trials like my dad's illness and death and my own diagnosis with MS. But, it's even better knowing that I don't have to. It took a lot of growing up for me to realize that desiring to return to your roots isn't a sign of weakness or dependence. After all, when "back where I come from" is a place overflowing with love, support, laughter, joy, happiness, family, friends, opportunities, and beauty, why would a girl turn her back on it? After the year we've had, David and I need, above anything else, a clean slate. A chance to erase the mistakes of the year, to put the trials of family problems and his dad's death and a grad school we both hated behind us, to start anew, and to carve out for ourselves a simple, beautiful newly wed life that will make us smile when we look back on it at 80. I, for one, can't wait. In the words of my beloved Kenny Chesney, "Back where I come from, I'm a TENNESSEAN, I'm proud as anyone, that's where I come from!"