Category Archives: Family

Broadway Always Wears a Smile.

Y’all. MY PEOPLE came to visit!

Last Thursday night, my Daddy and my brother arrived at my doorstep. I was deliriously excited–pretty much like THIS:
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In T-4 minutes, my Daddy was fixing my garbage disposal and Stephen was rearranging my furniture. I paid them in apple pie out of the sheer goodness of my heart, and not at all because I am still trying to hawk off hand-picked apples on unsuspecting visitors.
And sometimes strangers.
It had nothing to do with that.
Having them in Albany was bliss. I felt like a four year old asking my Dad to put her finger painting on the fridge as I showed them my apartment–do you like it? Do you like my candy apple red kitchen aid? What about my COUCH? Do you like that? What about these dessert plates? Do you? Do you?
In case you’re wondering, they loved everything because THEY’RE NOT DUMB.
Now, my apartment is the perfect size for two people, but once you begin scrunching others in, things become a bit tight. Dad and Stephen had brought an air mattress with them, and when bedtime rolled around Dad began to set it up, urging Stephen to take the bed in the guest room while he slept on the floor. And I was reminded all over again of why I think my Dad is the most wonderful Dad on the planet–because he’s the kind of man who without giving it a second thought, naturally gives other people the best thing.
Stephen and I did, of course, insist that he sleep on the bed.
Kellan arrived home the next day, and we did some of this:
photo (38)
Some exploring:
photo (40)And some totally natural pumpkin posing at a local farm:
photo (42)I bribed him with apple cider and apple cider donuts. He’s still single, ladies!
photo (43)He, however, is not. This one’s all mine. :)
That evening, to my unabashed delight, my Dad informed us that he was taking us to ANY SHOW that we wanted to see in NYC the next day! Be still my beating heart. While most American kids grew up watching Cartoon Network, my siblings and I were raised on Rogers and Hammerstein. Bugs Bunny and Scooby doo were all well and good, but paled next to Debbie Reynolds, Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. We may or may not have enthusiastically performed the entirety of Singing in the Rain in our living room on a regular basis. [Moses supposes his toeses are roses? Anybody?] As far as Stephen and I were concerned, tickets to Broadway were veritable tickets to happiness!
We embraced our inner tourists, and hit NYC the next day.
photo (44)The Toy Store from Home Alone! Buzz, your girlfriend…WOOF.
photo (46)
You can’t really tell, but the Chrysler building is perched in the background of this one. Stephen and I decided that we had to see it, given that our Mother used to channel her inner Miss Hannigan and tell us to make the kitchen “Shine like the top of the Chrysler building!” One look, and grins washed over our faces as understanding dawned. Ooooohhhhh.
photo (47)Our show of choice! Stephen and I knew every word to every song, but mercifully allowed the cast to do their jobs sans help from the peanut gallery.
photo (48)
We had a ball, and I am already begging them to come back. :)


Filed under Family

Remember When?

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So, I don’t want to brag, but I hit the in-law jackpot.

Exhibit A: several months ago, my sweet in-laws emailed me to take us up on our offer [read: plea] for them to come visit us. Casually, as though this sort of thing happens every day, they asked if Kellan and I might be interested in them taking us to a Bed and Breakfast for the weekend.

Well. Twist my arm.

I screeched, and hollered the good news across our little apartment to my unimpressed husband, who could not for the life of him understand why we would drive half an hour to sleep in a strange bed when we had a perfectly good mattress laying on our apartment floor.

Calmly, I looked him dead in the eyes, and informed that handsome man that if he needed me that weekend, he could find me at the Bed and Breakfast.

The whole plan was flawless, until I had a minor break with reality upon the startling realization that our upcoming staycation meant that my mother in law was going to see my house.


Y’all. I have spent TWO Thanksgivings at Gina Dickens’ house, and have never once seen even the teensiest mess in her kitchen. I can’t so much as pour a bowl of CEREAL without wreaking havoc in my kitchen, and when I get through with Thanksgiving it looks like some sort of natural disaster struck around the stove and the Red Cross failed to respond. Her house is immaculate, she is the sweetest human being that I have ever met AND shephoto (18) has a file for everything in life.

[Let’s just talk about the “conversation” that Kellan and I had when he asked me why I didn’t have a file for our house hunting adventures. OH NO YOU DIDN’T.]

Long story short? My mother in law is perfection personified, and I will never manage to be quite like her. As I pictured her walking through my front door, I broke into a cold sweat because DEAR HEAVENS WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME THAT I DUSTED?!


Horrified at the prospect of my husband’s mother finding her first-born son living in squalor and filth, I armed myself with a can of pledge and made every faux-wooden surface in my house SHINE.

Friday night found me in my kitchen covered from head to toe in powdered sugar as I made key lime pie, grinding my teeth to bloody stumps because KELLAN YOU CAN’T USE THAT BATHROOM. I may or may not have offered my saintly husband an extensive lecture on proper towel-folding etiquette, which I’m certain that he appreciated. Nevertheless, he scrubbed and folded and consoled like a champ, all the while knowing that his parents could care less whether or not our apartment is dusted.

But still. You marry a Mama’s little boy, and you kind of want her to know that you’re not going to kill him.

At least not on purpose.

photo (21)Of course, given that as we’ve already covered she is the SWEETEST HUMAN ON THE PLANET, Gina waltzed in on Saturday morning armed with a pumpkin candle and fall décor, and both she and Russ positively gushed over how very beautiful everything was.

Even our mattress on the floor.

And I love them forever for it.

After lunch [during which I served the aforementioned key lime pie garnished with just a SMIDGE of my grated thumb], the four of us took off for the most darling B&B of all time. We spent the weekend eating incredible food, wandering around an adorable historic town, and picking my real-estate savvy Father in law’s brain on what sort of house we should buy. Fall is out in splendid force in upstate New York, and the burned oranges and golden reds lacing the trees make it look like the world is on fire. We spent hours on the sweetest wraparound porch drinking wine and watching the sun set, and I found myself wishing that I could bottle it all up and store it forever. I just knew that one day, years from now, the four of us would find ourselves sitting around a kitchen table somewhere “remembering when”. You don’t always know when something is going to become a “remember when”, but somehow I knew this (17)

I’m so grateful for “remember when” moments, and for extravagantly generous parents-in-law that treat me just like another daughter.

Also, I am very confused as to why pancakes and eggs were not waiting for me when I got out of bed this morning…


Filed under Family, My favorite people, The daily grind

Life, According to my iPhone.

The past couple of weeks have been a straight-up WHIRLWIND.

I feel like Dorothy. One minute she’s flipping pancakes in Kansas, and the next thing she knows her house is spinning up into the sky until she is unceremoniously dumped in Oz.

What’s up, Oz?

In the spirit of it’s Monday and I haven’t had enough coffee, we’re going to ease back into this thing with some iPhone pictures. Starting with THIS little heartbreaker:

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This is my sister Emily. She’s starting her first day of high school today and I JUST CAN’T. She was a toddler when I was in high school, and when my Mom would roll up in our oversized white mini van to pick up my brothers and I, Em would hang her chubby little pig-tailed head out the window and excitedly shriek, “ASSSSSSSSSS! ASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!”  until I made it to the car.

To nobody’s surprise, my entire high school called me “Ass”.

The other day while picking out her first day of school outfit, Emily confided that last year on the first day of high school, the seniors pelted unsuspecting freshmen with water balloons. White-hot-RAGE welled up inside of me at the thought of someone dousing my little sister’s cute pink shirt with water, and I told her that if anyone so much as looks at her the wrong way, to just let me know.

In unrelated news, if you hear about seniors in North Carolina being duct-taped to the roof of a school bus, simply carry on. Nothing to see, here.

Also, this.

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Togetherfest 2013–my Africa team’s annual beach weekend. Y’ALL. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times over, if you move to a third world country with five other people you’ll emerge best friends, or not at all. There were days that we nearly killed each other, but these people are my family. Mostly because they have enough dirt on me to squelch any aspirations of running for political office I’ve ever had. ;)

And then this.

photo (13)Bless his heart, I arrived back in New York only to find these lovelies sitting in my SPARKLING CLEAN HOUSE. Sometimes love is a bouquet of flowers, and sometimes’s it’s a clean toilet. I  don’t hate it when it’s both! To my unabashed amusement, I opened the barren wasteland masquerading as our refrigerator and discovered mustard, four different kinds of beer and TWIZZLERS.

Kellan’s culinary existence is like an extended episode of Nine Year Olds Gone Wild when I’m gone. Happily, I always come back. :)

Happy Monday, friends!


Filed under Family, Marriage

The Pinterest Wives.

DSC_0203Kellan and I had a deliriously fun weekend at the beach. We spent two days sailing with my family—which was just heaven because SOMETHING WE BOTH LOVE TO DO. I naively waltzed into marriage with visions of sweet Saturday morning Farmers market dates dancing in my head. I mean, who doesn’t love the farmers market? Or the MORNING?! I just knew that Kellan and I would rise with the sun to cheerfully peruse locally grown fruits and veggies.

Probably holding hands, while small woodland creatures sang to us.

Cue Kellan Dickens. You can imagine my utter astonishment when my newly-minted husband was less than thrilled with my 8 AM Farmers Market proposition. My confusion was clearly evidenced by my general conviction that if I simply repeated myself enough times, slowly and with greater enthusiasm, he would surely come on board. I don’t think you understand. I said there is a S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Farmers market!

Locally grown peaches!


Meanwhile back at the ranch, my husband was trying to sell me on board games. And between the two of us, I think every marital issue we have can be traced back to one fateful game of Settlers of Catan, at the end of which I would have happily sentenced him to a lifetime of hawking Christmas tree shaped air fresheners at a stand in the mall.

[Let it never be said that I don’t employ a healthy amount of melodrama.]

Mo board games, mo problems.

I blame the Pinterest Wives. Somewhere, a group of truly sadistic women with WAY too much time on their hands are sitting around conspiring ways to make mere mortals like me eat their feelings. They’re the ones making wreaths out of acorns and churning their own butter and coming up with ELEVENTY BILLION ways to wear a scarf. Acorn wreaths? Are you KIDDING me?! I’m the girl chanting “righty-tighty-lefty-loosey” like some sort of deranged lunatic every time she can’t open a pickle jar—acorn wreaths are entirely out of my league.

Those insidious Pinterest Wives all play board games with their husbands every single night after a casual nine course dinner, because they’re perfect like that.   And somehow, this imperialist acorn-gluing, scarf-wearing game-playing propaganda finds its way onto the internet where I unsuspectingly come across it whilst desperately trying to  channel Houdini and conjure up dinner out of a can of french cut green beans, and the dregs of a bottle of brown mustard.  We may not eat enough coq au vin at our house, but we are getting PLENTY of soy lecithin and sodium acid pyrophosphate THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

The Pinterest Wives may love game night, but I just can’t. I CAN’T. In fact, these Pinterest expectations are spiraling so wildly out of control that I’m contemplating creating my own anti-Pinterest website, full of pictures of frozen Tombstone pizzas  and me in my yoga pants and a dirty pony tail. We’ll call it THISISMYREALLIFE.COM.

Happily, our weekend at the beach required neither board games nor early morning vegetables. Sailing offered the perfect middle ground, and we soaked up every second of it.

Clearly, the solution here is that we have to move to the beach and buy a sail boat.

You know, for our marriage.


Filed under Family, Marriage

The Cancer Playlist.

photo (10)Home is so good for my heart. There are familiar faces—so many faces that I dearly miss in Albany. There are long coffees with best friends and hours spent laughing over nothing. There are runs with my brother, back-to-school shopping with my sister, breakfasts with my Dad, morning coffees with my Mom. A myriad of things for which I am deeply and profoundly grateful.

And then, there is Ian’s room. The shoes that he wore on their closet-door hanger, the striped scarf he tossed around his neck as the weather chilled, the brown hat that sat atop his curly hair. I find the brightly patterned superman blanket that followed him from hospital room to hospital room, pictures that he drew, playbills from shows that he performed in, the cologne that he wore every day after I urged him not to underestimate the power of smell. I find notes that he scribbled—meaningless scraps that I scour and carefully catalog as though religious organization might somehow bring him back. But nowhere do I find my little brother.

My Mom asks me what I would like to keep to remember him by, before she goes through his room. And suddenly I can’t breathe because there is nothing Ian enough to ease the sting.

I see Ian everywhere. I see him standing beside the grand piano where we used to sing, bounding down the stairs towards the kitchen, laughing in the red chair. On most days, I still expect him to burst through the front door and laughingly wake us all up.

Trying to understand, several days ago a sweet friend asked me if I simply felt an ache all the time since Ian died. No. It’s like there’s a weight that’s crushing down on me every second. I imagine that one day this will evolve into an ache, and that will be an improvement. 

Ian was diagnosed with cancer on October 3rd. Shortly thereafter, I compiled a list of songs that I entitled “The Cancer Playlist”, and gave everyone in my family a copy. At the time, I imagined that these would be the songs that would remind us of truth as we fought and beat cancer. I had no idea that in fact, they would be the songs we would play on repeat in the ICU, as Ian slipped away and all of us forgot how to breathe.The thing about grief, with all of its wrestlings and longings, is that sometimes the little energy that you have left must be directed towards the exhausting work of reminding yourself to breathe in and out all day long. Hope feels like nothing more than a morphine induced hallucination on the days when you barely remember how to get out of bed in the morning.  Grief is many things, but she is always a teacher—and one of her primary lessons is that a shattered heart can always break just a little bit more.

It is on those days, the days when opening a Bible or speaking to God feels like a veritable Mt. Everest of the soul, that I need truth the most. And that is where the gift of music has proven to be invaluable. Those days are less frequent now, but I still have them. I could not always stomach a Psalm in the ICU, but I could push play and allow the Lord to remind me through music that He is good simply because He is God, and not because He writes happily ever after endings to my stories. Music reminds me that I can get out of bed when it feels impossible, because there is new grace every single morning. Believing truth in the midst of grief is a fierce battle—and music helps me to combat the lies my heart wants to believe.

I know a number of you reading are in the midst of your own battle. In hopes that music might help you fight, too, here are some highlights from my Cancer Playlist—and a few of the lines that I cling to.

It Is Well With My Soul: Chris Rice

Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and has shed his own blood for my soul.

Give Me Faith: Elevation Worship

Give me faith to trust what you say. That you’re good, and your love is great. I’m broken inside-I give you my life. I may be weak, but your spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God you never will.

The Search Is Over: Hank Murphy. [Hank is a good friend of mine—he wrote this song for his own brother. His music and his life point me to Jesus.]

The search is over, you are the answer. You are everything that satisfies, Jesus Christ.

No Sacrifice: Jason Upton [Ian and I used to sing this song together.]

To you, I give my life-not just the parts I want to. To you, I sacrifice these dreams that I hold on to. Your thoughts are higher than mine, your words are deeper than mine, your love is stronger than mine—this is no sacrifice, here’s my life.

Open Hands: Matt Papa [Matt is a friend of mine, and another musician that you need to check out!]

Free at last, I surrender all I am with open hands.

You are God Alone [Not a God]: Philips, Craig & Dean

Unchangable, unshakable, unstoppable, that’s what you are.

UnravelingShelly Moore [Shelly is a dear friend who got to spend some time with Ian while he was sick. While she’s never formally discipled me, the Lord has used her music to teach my heart to treasure Him and believe truth about Him. You need to check her out!]

I’ve heard You say ,wait for a better day. There is purpose even in the midst of this, and just as sure as the sun will rise, tomorrow I’ll get you through the night

Without Words: Shelly Moore

Hallelujah, you are worthy.

Jesus, I Come: Shelly Moore [This song became so meaningful to me that Kellan and I asked a dear friend to sing it at our wedding.]

Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus I come, Jesus I come. Into thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus I come to thee.

And finally, I would add this one:

I discovered this in the ICU waiting room, and it played on repeat.

May these songs help you fix your eyes on, and adore the God who is incapable of being anything but good to you.


Filed under Family, God's faithfulness, Grief, Home, Ian, Uncategorized

The Extravagant, Irrational Point.

JCP_3997My Mom tells me that when she was pregnant with me, my Daddy desperately wanted a girl from day one. She originally wanted a boy, but seeing how much my Dad hoped for a little girl made her hope for one too. I like to remind them that I fulfilled all of their pink tinted dreams simply by being born.

My Dad has long been the man I’ve looked up to the most in the world. I didn’t understand what a precious gift that was until high school, when I came to the startling realization that not every little girl grew up wanting to marry somebody like her Daddy. I watched friends reel with the sting of being overlooked and hurt by their Dads, and something in me just couldn’t understand it. Where other girls looked at their Dads and only saw pain, all I could ever see when I looked at mine were a thousand burned and rather salty chocolate chip cookies that he choked down over lemon-water tea parties with a smile. I saw a man who was reading his Bible when I woke up every morning. A man who determined when I was a very little girl that he would buy me more flowers than any other man on the planet—and thus far, no contender has even come CLOSE. I have an overflowing stack of dried flowers from my Dad sitting on top of a dresser in my old room, and the first time Kellan saw them he was so disheartened that  he didn’t buy me so much as a carnation for a solid year. [He’s rallied.]

As the years spun on, I looked at my Dad and saw a man who would take me out for overpriced lattes and let me rant or cry or float about whatever it was that was stirring the still waters of my world. I saw a man who would patiently, wisely counsel me when I had questions or was hurting. I saw a man who encouraged me to hop a plane to West Africa for two years, not because it was safe or he wanted me gone, but because he fervently believed that Jesus was better than being comfortable. It was a lesson I’d learned simply from observing his life over the course of mine. I looked at my Dad, and I saw a hero. Not perfect, but perfect to be mine.

The past year has revealed new things about my Dad. I look at him today, and see a man who fitfully slept in an uncomfortable recliner by his son’s hospital bed every single night that Ian was there so he would never be alone. [And over the course of a five month bout with cancer, there were many.]  A man who would switch off with my Mom during the day and instead of running home to sleep in an actual bed, would go to work or take my little sister Emily to ballet. I remember during the last week of Ian’s final three week stay in the ICU, I walked into my parent’s house one morning and saw my Dad sitting at the living room table. He hadn’t really slept in weeks, and in fact had barely left the ICU at all. Confused as to why he wasn’t taking a nap or at least eating a meal that hadn’t come wrapped in paper, I asked him what he was doing.

He was working on his sermon for my wedding. Honey, I really enjoy this. I’m really excited about your wedding! He said it with a smile.

It was the same man that left the hospital just long enough to buy me a bouquet of roses on Valentine’s day. The same man that insisted that we practice our waltz over and over again in the kitchen even JCP_3351though he was unspeakably exhausted, and the world outside of our front door was crumbling into a thousand irretrievable pieces. Our waltz was still important to him because I never stopped being important to him.

That’s just my Dad. I look at him today and see a man that confidently, brokenly, humbly reminded me in the whitewashed hallway outside of room 17 in the ICU that if God chose not to heal Ian, it would not be because He didn’t love us or hadn’t heard us. I knew that he meant it because he had spent his life teaching me that God is a good Father. It was a lesson that I never found hard to believe, because I already had one.

To you Daddies out there—especially y’all with little girls—buy her flowers. Buy her so many flowers that no other man will ever be able to compete. They are expensive and unnecessary and will die in a week and that is the extravagant, irrational point. It is through your extravagant, irrational love that she will begin to understand the way that Jesus loves her. Eat everything that she proudly hands you as she’s learning to bake, and every once in a while ask for seconds. Wear the feather boa AND the floppy hat, and cheers her stuffed bunny rabbit when she invites you to tea. Tell her that she looks just beautiful every single morning. Let her see you read your Bible, but more importantly, let her see you value the God that gave it to you. Value that God above all of his gifts—above her Mother, above a comfortable life, above keeping her safe. Push her to follow Jesus wherever He leads. Remind her that God is good no matter what it feels like—whether a boy hurts her feelings or her little brother is dying. God longs for your daughter to know how He treasures and adores her through you.

And if you have questions about any of this, feel free to give my Daddy a call. He’s pretty great at it.

Happy Father’s day to the greatest one that I have ever known!  I love you, Daddy.

JCP_4006 bw


Filed under Family, God's faithfulness, Joy

Fragments of my Imagination. [Of Deli Turkey and Dayquil.]

Today, there is not one cohesive thought. Today there are only fragments.

  1. Yesterday morning I woke up with a wicked cold. Knowing that he was going to have to jet off for a business trip at 4:30, Kellan surprised me by coming home early afternoon with bagels and a movie. The man gets me–if there is a way to this girl’s heart, it is an onion bagel from Breuggers. I would eat one every single morning if only all of my pants had elastic waistbands. Though truthfully, for a good onion bagel I might be enticed into throw away all of my jeans in favor of Kellan’s sweat pants. Yes, and amen. Husband for the win!
  2. My little black desk is scheduled to arrive today! Is it wrong to be this excited about a piece of furniture? All I know is that if it is, I don’t want to be right. Unfortunately, I am so high on Dayquil that it is anybody’s guess as to what will happen when those unsuspecting delivery men show up. I’m liable to introduce myself as “Je m’appelle le croissant”, and ask them to stay for a spot of espresso and coq au vin. Which might prove to be disappointing, given that the closest thing to coq au vin in my fridge is shaved honey roasted deli turkey that was on sale for $4.69.
  3. Since we’re making lists, I’m finally ready to talk about the fact that the last time I got home to North Carolina, my Mother impishly confessed that she has a growing list of baby names that she’s keeping “just in case you need them”. Actually, I’m not ready to talk about that. I’m not ready to talk about that at all.
  4. Let’s talk about Darrell’s dessert instead. It’s three layers of decadence topped with chocolate pudding. [It is also Paula Deen approved, as all good desserts ought to be. A proper dessert will always make you feel like you are doing something very, very wrong, and chocolate supreme certainly qualifies!] As I stood watching my candy-apple red kitchen aid whip chocolate pudding into submission on Tuesday morning, I started laughing alone in my kitchen remembering how Ian used to absolutely detest pudding when he was a little boy. [It was a texture thing, which my sage nine year old self disdainfully believed to be painfully idiotic.] Naturally, I used to chase Ian around the house with spoonfulls of the stuff because CONFRONT YOUR FEARS YOU WEAK TODDLER. It’s PUDDING, not Vietnam!  This is a technique that an abnormal psych class at UNC would later teach me is called immersion therapy, so really, I was ahead of my time. One fateful dinner, I coerced Ian into eating a bite of pudding by covering it in whipped cream and then confidently announcing that it was “a special new dessert that he’d never had”. He lit up like Christmas and asked for seconds, only to be shattered when I gleefully [and admittedly, a bit maniacally] told him that he’d just eaten PUDDING. Ha! You DO like it! Cue ugly cry. Totally worth it—I’ve never felt so righteously vindicated.

And with that, I’m off to make the delivery men a snack. Deli turkey with a side of Dayquil? That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.


Filed under Family, Ian, The daily grind