Author Archives: gilly

Advice and gentle rebuke. The first day of school.

I don’t want to forget some stuff about the last hours of Summer, 2014.

Liv is starting high school, and she’s getting a lot of advice. She is a heart-breakingly beautiful mix of staggering self confidence, and scared nearly to death. She is my best girlfriend I want to hang out with at a bar, and she is a little girl who wants me to paint her nails. She is getting a lot of advice, and blowing it off as teenagers do. But I told her yesterday, “Hey, you’ve never been you on the first day of high school before. So be nice to yourself.” And she got really still and looked at me and said, “Yeah,” like maybe I know something.

On the way to his first day of 3rd grade, Will is less than enthused. He requested several things:

1. That summer last for another year.
2. That I flip the school year so that school is the length of summer, and summer is the length of school.
3. That school be one day and summer be the rest of the days.
4. That I buy him a paper shredder for his homework.
5. That we pretend it’s the actual Shredder from TMNT.

I was trying to cheer him up on the too short drive to school.

Gilly: Hey Will, do you want me to walk you back to your classroom this morning?
Will (cautiously): No ma’am.
Gilly: Ok.

Gilly: Because I was really wanting to walk you back there and give you a really big hug and a smooch in front of alllll your friends.
Will (giggling): NO WAY.

Gilly: But..I had a song prepared and a DANCE and everything. This one– (I sing, loudly, impersonating his dad) I HAD A DREAM IN SIDE MY MIND, I HAD A DREAM THAT I WAS NAKED…
Will (quite seriously): GILLY. That song is not appropriate for school.

He has a future as a hall monitor, I just know it.



Two Yearniversary

Two years ago we got married under the oak tree in our backyard.


We did everything for our little wedding with our own hands (and lots of help from family!) and it was everything I hoped it would be. It also happened to be freezing that day, but I didn’t even notice.


We got the flowers the day before from Publix, dinnerware from Ikea, and set up one big table on our back porch.



My sweet neighbor and mother-in-law made home made apple and pumpkin pies.


We have been on a lot of adventures together.
Some include climbing roofs and looking out over the Tennessee river in North Alabama.

Lake Guntersville State Park in Alabama overlooks the Tennessee River.

Lake Guntersville State Park in Alabama overlooks the Tennessee River.

Some include hanging out in some really, really dirty bathhouses in campgrounds.

Believes there are spiders near.

Believes there are spiders near.


Fears no oil.

Fears no oil.

Fishing all the while. . .

Windcreek State Park

Windcreek State Park



Sometimes we worked outside until 4 am in a blizzard.



On a lift, freeze cold air flows all around your feet. The increased surface area leads to faster frostbite. In case you were wondering.

On a lift, freezing cold air flows all around your feet. The increased surface area leads to faster frostbite. In case you were wondering.


Also brr.

Also brr.

Sometimes we take road trips and come home with new family members.

Finley's first car ride.

Finley’s first car ride.

Some adventures are not so fun. Being jobless for months. Sick kids in the hospital. Inevitable family drama.


Did I mention we go fishing?

The club can't even handle me right now.

The club can’t even handle me right now.

Sometimes we go on dates to Taco Bell and see how much money we can spend, because it seems like no matter how hungry you are, you can’t spend more than $25 at Taco Bell.

Sometimes we sit in our car in a parking lot and talk and talk and talk. These conversations usually start with, “I have an idea for a business.” I roll my eyes and Travis continues. And we dream.
Always together.

Andy’s milkshakes. Dairy Queen runs. Come sit on the back porch with me. Let’s watch a West Wing. Wanna walk the dogs? I have an idea for a blog post. Trying new recipes. Wanna go garage-sale-ing?

In these recent weeks in a season of uncertainty when we have struggled so forcefully to survive, we held each other up and cried and prayed together. Literally holding each other up.

There’s no one else I’d rather do life with.

Me too, baby . . . me too . . .


Step Parent-ing: The best worst feeling you’ve ever had.

I think maybe the worst part of being a step-parent, with no biological kids of my own, is my delusion that I have a blood-bond with a child that leaves no doubt that this is a false impression.

I don’t bother making the “step-kid” distinction very often (usually only when someone looks puzzled as to how I managed to acquire a 13 year old daughter while appearing in my teens myself. I am, in fact, in my late 20’s and technically could be her mom…if I had pulled a Lorelai*). We’ve been told we look alike, share mannerisms, we have long lanky bodies and often finish each others sentences. Whether we are home or out and about, to me they are simply my son and daughter.

But to them, I am always their step-mom. As it should be.

Nothing could have prepared me for this season of my life. I read books (my favorite: Becoming a Step-Mother with Humor and Grace), had counseling, and read through support forums online (whatever you do, don’t read through the support forums online. They are horror stories.). But the reality of being completely invested in a child’s life, and having no real control of their day-to-day disciplines and routines, is a hard one to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, Travis wants my opinion and asks for it often, but the bottom line comes down to what he and their mother decide, and that is what we execute.

This week in particular,  we’ve all grabbed hands and run head first into a brick wall called “the teenage years.” I feel like I’m on the ground with little birds circling my head.

But, there are also small victories. Moments where we bond over music or Duck Dynasty. Moments where we meet as a family and talk about values. There are ‘I Love You’s’ exchanged with no hesitation, and hugs given, and cuddling on the couch. I pack lunches and help with homework, tutor Algebra and look up video game cheat codes. I dig poop out of underwear when there are accidents, and I bring forgotten homework to their mom’s when it’s left at our house. I bandage scraped knees and offer perspective when kids at school are cruel.  I pray for them everyday.

My kids call me Gilly, and I’m not even sure how it happened, but it stuck. And while I will never be their mom, no one else will ever be their Gilly.

That’s a good feeling.


Things I think. . .

Gilly, here. 

  • If you know Travis, you know this is his 3rd real blog, but I think it might be his best. I’ve had at least 3 people text me and say, “I am addicted to A Pack of Crackers.” Thanks, mom, dad, and Gram. Just kidding, Gram’s never been on the internet. 
  • Speaking of Gram, on Saturday, I listened to my 14 year old talk more than I’ve ever heard her talk at dinner, and she was doing all of her talkings to my 82 year old (I think) grandmother. They covered Fantasy Football, squirrel hunting, middle school band politics, Common Core practice in public schools and the Obama administration, the downfalls of the Accelerated Reader (AR) program at school, and pic-stitch and various other iPhone applications. It was hilarious and delightful. 
  • Gram has convinced all of the children in her neighborhood that she is some sort of ninja warrior hunter that always gets a head or a heart shot when hunting. Truth is, she is one of the best shots I know and she’s pretty darn fearless. Her recent kills include her neighbor’s prize rooster that wouldn’t stay out of her yard, and a water moccasin.
  • Speaking of wild animals, I owe you guys the coyote story. 
  • I was just informed that my daughter was negotiating with my grandmother to acquire a red rat snake from her property, so I’m going to go and…you know…make sure that doesn’t happen. Hopefully I don’t get a head or a heart shot for getting between my grandmother and her great-grandaughter. 

I have to tell you something.

“Gilly. I have to tell you something.

Uhhhhhh. I love you.”

That’s what Will says…probably 50 times a day. He does love me, and it’s very sweet that he tells me all the time, but…sometimes it’s also a place holder for what he says when he can’t remember what he was actually going to say.

It’s very endearing.

Sometimes I do that to God. Like. Am I the only person in the world that struggles with prayer? When I do pray, I see stuff happen. Crazy stuff. Like, immediate, insane things happen and I know that it was God answering my prayer. It’s kind of freaky sometimes. Especially lately.

But even knowing that, sometimes I go to pray and I’m like, “Hey God…Uhhhhh. I love you.” Which I’m sure He finds very endearing. And possibly annoying. But I love that He understands that sometimes my little, addled mind just can’t sum up any more than that.

My friend, Kaley, puts some good stuff on social media. Which makes me happy, because how many 20 year olds do you guys know that put like, HELPFUL things on social media? She put this on her FB recently and it really really really is awesome and changed my brain and I love stuff like that. Here’s what she said:

“Feel guilty falling asleep while praying? How do you feel when a child nods off in your lap? There. Feel better? You should!” -Scott Sauls

Ahhhh omg doesn’t that make you feel like you can BREATHE AGAIN?!

If you’re like me, and are way too hard on yourself, well. Stop it. God loves you. You have nothing to offer Him, and He loves you. You cannot make Him love you more, or less. He is good. And…He has to tell you something.


Fire Crackers

Gilly:  I have been sick for over a month with a stupid cough that will NOT go away. Antibiotics be darned, my body is resistant to everything and I may be solely responsible for whatever super-bug comes next. 

That’s not really where this story starts, but we will circle back to the cough. 

A few months back, our living room TV (the largest TV in our home by far) just stopped working. The screen went black. The audio worked well, but the picture just disappeared. This meant no Wii games, no family Duck Dynasty viewings, no NCIS, no baseball games. This was officially A Problem.

So we weighed our options, decided we could not live without a TV for even 1 day (yuppies?), and drove to Sams Club to buy a new Vizio. A few days later, Travis took the old TV to a repair shop to see what they could do. I had googled around on our problem and all indicators pointed to a fried motherboard, which would cost almost as much to replace as a new TV, so we did not have very high hopes. 

Travis:  Can we just note for a sec that it was not ME who was freaked out over the TV situation?  Picture this – a TV goes out.  A little googling showed the fix would likely be expensive . . . and who but the lovely Mrs. comes forward to suggest spending $700 on a new TV – who am I to argue?

But we were wrong.

The TV repair guy couldn’t find anything wrong (!). He replaced something on the system board, but the whole cost was only $40. The TV was working again. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe we got lucky. Either way you slice it, we now owned two giant TV’s, for our not-so-giant home. Travis looked at me with his big blue eyes: “Can we put one of them in our bedroom so I can watch sports and see the numbers?” Suuuuure, babe.

Can we pause here and note how, basically, I’m blind?  Like, legally.  So yeah, I couldn’t see the score on the 14″ Coby Black-Friday special from 1998.  So sue me!

Of course, our bedroom was not configured for a giant TV, so we decided to re-arrange everything (also Travis’ idea). We pulled all of the furniture out of our room and then put it all back in, just for this TV. I will not detail the pounds and pounds of dog hair we uncovered during this exercise. 

What’s not mentioned here is how awesome our room is now . . . Like, this may be the first time one of us comments on the other person’s editorial.  Because our room looks UH-mazing!  It looks huge!  The capeze (sp?) shell light fixture looks amazing.  There’s room everywhere.  Our bed is even bigger.  It’s crizzazlebeans.

So for about 2 weeks, we had this glorious, new, giant TV in our room, and the old TV was back in the living room where it belonged. All was right with the Wii the world. Until this one morning. 

I have been sick for over a month with a stupid cough that will NOT go away. So, in the spirit of letting my husband sleep without my rattling cough waking him up, I snuck out early one morning to get some coffee and watch the news in the living room. This is my routine: coffee, iPhone (to hit up news/blogs), and Bay News 9 for weather. So I got my medicine, my coffee, my phone, my Coleman, my blankie, and the remote, and I snuggled myself onto the couch to start my day. Coughing all the while. I get snuggled in and turn on Bay News 9, and about half way through the weather forecast, BOOM. 

Black, Pop, Sparks, Smoke. Boom.

I sat there in a half-asleep stupor. Did that just happen? I wasn’t sure. What I was sure about, was that I needed my husband’s assistance at this point. So I woke him up: “Travis. TRAVIS. The TV blew up. Can you come unplug it?” He did, ever so helpfully, come unplug the busted TV. 

Never good to be awakened by my whole name – normally it’d be “hey Baby” or “Trav” or “Pedro” but in this instance it was an imperative “Travis – wake up.”

So, since the TV blow up incident (it’s been retired officially, and the “new” TV is back in the living room), I’ve been heckled constantly by my family. 

Liv: “Gilly, I think maybe your cough is getting worse because you keep setting appliances on fire and inhaling the smoke.”
Will: “Gilly, don’t get near my Wii I don’t want you to set it on fire.”
Will: “Gilly, be careful with your iPhone you might set it on fire.”
Will: “Gilly, don’t get near the laptop, you might set it on fire.”

If you can’t tell, Will is getting the most mileage out of this so far. 

Liv is funny.  I am funny.  Will might be the funniest.

And now, my entire bedroom is rearranged and there is a giant TV sized area that is empty. I am filling that hole with dirty laundry. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to carefully start the washing machine, and hope that I don’t set it on fire.