An Exercise of Faith

I quit my job last week.

No. I’m not joking.

I have been agonizing about this decision since the day I got my masters. That’s a lot of agony, y’all.

Over the last couple of months, though, God has been truly stirring things in my heart. And making me take a serious look at what I say I believe about Him and what I actually believe about Him.

And there is something terrifying to me about admitting out loud and to a religiously-mixed audience that I believe God told me to do this. That God told me to take His word seriously. That He told me to take His promises seriously. That He told me to take Him seriously.

I know you think I’m nuts. It’s ok.

Can I tell you that I asked Him to shut up? Nicely (of course). But I did. I was like, “I get it. Trust you. But can I do that next year when we have a little more money saved and this whole leap of faith is a little bit safer?”

Because the last thing I want is to have to raise money on Go Fund Me so that my kid can eat lunch:

otis eating

Because this extravagant faith thing? It isn’t like me. At all. I mean, I’m weird and I take “risks” but I have always had a job. Always. What can I say? There is nothing better than a paycheck. I love paychecks.

But here I am. Saying goodbye to paychecks because I believe there is a God that made me in a very unique way. And He wants to see those unique gifts and talents used. And He tells us to look at the birds and that He cares for them, so why wouldn’t He do the same for you us?

And I’m not going to lie. Every time I think about birds being taken care of this comes to mind:

I love chicken nuggets, but I did not want to BECOME a chicken nugget.

But I think God is wanting to show me that He doesn’t want me to be a chicken nugget, either. Or a chicken for that matter.

So we are headed full time into marriage coaching and book writing. And we are excited. Some of us more than others (Mark, meet Blog World. Blog World, meet Mark).

And with this exercise of faith and jumping into the great unknown, I’d like to ask for your help. No, you can’t sponsor Otis for $1 a day (yet). But you can do one of these things:

  • We’ve had some success with marriage workshops, but we’d like to get some feedback about what people think about them. We have a survey up right now to get your thoughts, and I’d love you forever if you’d take some time to answer the questions. Click here to take the survey.
  • Write an Amazon review of This Bleep is Hard if you’ve read it. I don’t even care if it’s a positive review. I mean, obviously a positive review will make me smile and a negative one will make me vomit, but ALL reviews are golden/much appreciated in my book. And if you want to tell your pregnant/new mom friends about it that would be very cool, too.
  • Tell your friends to check us out. You can learn more about what we do at Nashville Marriage Studio, but basically Mark and I are marriage coaches and we help couples walk through conversations that are normally tough for them (in-laws, household duties, parenting styles, love languages, etc.). I don’t know that there is anything more rewarding than helping a struggling couple regain hope in their marriage and in each other. If you have any friends or family members that could use some guidance, we’d love to chat.

That’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods, what about you? Jumping into any scary endeavors and want a shoulder to cry on? Let me know. Scaredy cats love company.


Feliz Dia Del Padre!

The Dollar Shave Club, a fun, new subscription razor service, is running a blog campaign about Father’s Day gifts of yore, and wondered if I had any stories to share about funny Father’s Day presents I’ve given to my dad or to Mark. And I totally would have a funny story to share IF my family did gifts. But we don’t. But we’re trying! Ok, not really. But we think about trying to care about holidays every single year. Every single one. But it never happens.

Anyways, I was at the store last week and I noticed that there were reminders all over the place about Father’s Day. Here I was. At the store weeks before The Big Day. I could pick something up now and not have to worry about it at 3 P.M. on Sunday, June 15th. This is what grown ups do, right? Plan ahead and take care of business? Dizzy with excitement from the idea of being on top of things, I headed straight for the card aisle.

I stood there for a good 15 minutes trying to find the perfect card because there was so much to choose from. This is not the case when you wait til the Day Of when everything is picked over and your only options are Sympathy cards and ones in Spanish. It was a greeting card smorgasbord.

Otis and I picked out an adorable card that I think perfectly captured Mark and Otis’s relationship:
(Preview shot only because I don’t want to ruin any surprises)

We continued our way around the grocery store, and headed for the register. I don’t know what day of the week it was, but the Kroger’s was surprisingly busy. The only short line was the Express-No-More-Than-15-Items line.

I looked in my cart. It was barely full. Surely this is less than 15 items! I started to count…

16 items. Dang. (I just need to interrupt myself and tell you why I strictly follow the number of items rule. One time during a Milk and Egg Sandwich run before an impending winter storm, my mom split up her groceries between the two of us so that we’d both have 10 items and could go through the express lane. The lady behind us saw what we were doing and she seriously told me that we were going to hell because of what we were doing. I was, like, 9! Who says that to a little kid? Anyways, her reprimand stuck and I refuse to be eternally damned by finding loopholes in express lane laws.)

I did another inventory. What did I need? Like, really need?

Milk and juice and goldfish crackers. All musts.

Stuff to make tacos and spaghetti. Yes.

Deodorant and body wash. For the sake of my co-workers.

I just needed to ditch one item. Just one.

The Father’s Day Card.

I mean, it was, like 2 weeks away! I didn’t need it now. And, if necessary, I could make a Sympathy card work (“My condolences for your loss of time, money, and sex. Love, Otis.”).

But I didn’t do it. I went to the long line with my 16 items and established myself, at the ripe age of 31, as a grown up. And that, my friends, is the true gift to my husband/baby daddy. I chose your card over my convenience. You. are. welcome.

Now the only question is where did I put it…

This post is part of a campaign with the Dollar Shave Club, a fun new razor subscription service. Every month dad can get razors delivered straight to the house which saves time and money. What dad doesn’t love that? They have also just added an After Shave Solution that any man could appreciate.

A Psalm 23 Parent

I always think it’s funny when someone complains that an advertising message makes them feel bad about themselves. That the bikini models don’t look like real people, and the moms in the diaper commercials look like they had time to shower and find clean pants. That the couples in the Viagra commercials look too emotionally connected, and teeth will never be that white.

Am I nuts or does this baby look photoshopped in?
Also, no dad looks like this when he gets home from work :p

It’s funny because the whole point of every advertising campaign in the history of the world IS to make us feel bad about ourselves. If we felt good about the way we looked, where we lived, how clean our floors were, the kind of man we married after watching a commercial then we wouldn’t buy their product which is the entire point! That’s the formula: Feel Bad —> Buy Stuff

The thing is we get a bajillion advertising messages a day. So all day long we are bombarded with images and words desperate to convince us that we are not enough.

And when you consider that moms are one of the most marketed to demographics in the entire world I have to think they know exactly where our “not enough” buttons are located.

Am I good mom?
Is he eating enough?
How many cookies can I give them before DCS gets involved?
Will she be ok if her clothes aren’t monogrammed?
Why isn’t she walking/talking/jumping yet?
If I take time out to clean the kitchen will I miss out on his entire childhood?
If I sit and play instead of fold laundry will he become a drain on society because he never saw responsibility in action?
If I go to work will she think the nanny is her mom?
If I stay home and get bored will he think I don’t love him completely?

And some of us are drowning in the anxiety that comes with a mixture of being the perfect mom as defined by Pinterest and being thoroughly convinced, no matter what decision you’ve made, that you’re screwing up all day, every day.

We try to relieve the anxiety. We put down other moms because that helps the focus on ourselves go away for a little bit. We get caught up in proving to an imaginary audience that we’re having the time of our lives with status updates and Facebook photo albums. We read books and blogs and forums looking for someone to validate our instincts. We pin things like 52 Crafts Every Child Should Have Made Before Entering Kindergarten. We drink, we smoke, we obsess over the baseboards.

And we’re doing all of this because we love our children. We want to give them the best, and we want to be the best. But all day long we’re hearing that nothing is enough. Nothing. Keep trying. But it isn’t enough.

(This is precisely why I believe any mom whose children were loved, fed, clothed, and not misplaced for long deserves truckloads of grace. It’s why I can’t be mad at my mom for her any of her failures because I know she was doing her best. I know this because I’m failing every day despite my desire to be my best. And just like one day I hope Otis has grace on all the ways I screwed up, I am extending the same grace to my own mom.)

I don’t think God wants us to live in this bondage to images that aren’t from Him so I started praying. God, what does parenthood look like to you?

I was scared of His answer. Because in my experience there aren’t many places more consumed by the desire to fit in/look like everyone else/have what everyone else has than the church. What if God laid down Proverbs 31 woman level standards? What if He showed me another image of a woman that has her life together in a way that simply reminded me that I am not enough?

The Lord is my Shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to His name.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23 is one of the famous verses. You don’t even have to be a Christian to be familiar with it. Obviously I believe all of Scripture is from God, but this passage has some kind of supernatural power punch. Any anxiety I carry around melts away quickly when I consider that God is my shepherd and it’s all going to be ok.

But what if we applied that verse to parenthood? What if we are called to be our children’s shepherds?

Can I be a constant and stable presence in Otis’s life?
Can I let him rest and enjoy his childhood?
Can I lead him by streams that nourish him and give him strength?
Can I guide him towards obedience and travelling along paths that were made for him?
Can I stick close by him when he is afraid or going through a difficult time?
Can I remind him during the scary times that I am there and ready to protect him from anyone trying to harm him?
Can I encourage him when his mind or his peers or the devil want to convince him that he isn’t enough?
Can I let him live in my house forever?

Just kidding about the last one. Heh.

So this is my new parenting guide. Not Pinterest, not a Babycenter advice column, not a book about the happiest child in the neighborhood.  I’m going to focus on my Shepherd and how He walks through life with me so that I can be a shepherd to the little lamb given to me.

Five on Friday: They call me Kingmaker

1. Yesterday it was brought to my attention that Abner Ramirez has made it in the music business as the husband part of the married couple duo, JohnnySwim. Unless you’ve been reading my blog since 2004 (my Xanga days), you probably don’t know that I blogged about Abner. I fell in love with his music and then happened to see him while out with some friends downtown and I geeked out and treated just-a-Belmont-student-totally-not-yet-a-celebrity Abner like he was Justin Freakin’ Timberlake. I think I shook his hand. I’m fairly certain I terrified him.

Well, now he is married to Amanda Sudano, Donna Summer’s daughter, and they are playing little gigs like the Late Show with David Letterman. I guess she can have my handshake sloppy seconds, and get in line behind Olivia Wilde for beautiful girls that want to be me.



This also made me realize that it’s the SECOND time that I’ve launched a hipster’s career. Remember Otis James? Yeah he was in GQ and is making bowties for the Real Justin Timberlake.

otis james


I’m a king maker.

2. For some reason, this morning I remembered the first time that I got dressed up after having Otis. I took a shower, straightened my hair, put on makeup and a dress. Then I headed over to my mom’s to hangout feeling like, well, a baller. Shot caller. If I had a girl I would call her.

And then Otis wanted food. From my boobs. That were under my dress.

Yeah. #momlogicfail

3. We watched the entire season of Lindsay on OWN. Because I’m a sick person, and I really believed in Oprah’s powers.

But no one seems to be able to help sweet Lindsay, so I basically wrapped up the season like this…

4. A friend just asked on FB if people know what the periodic table is. I do. Because in a lot of ways I’m really smart. But a couple of month’s ago my brother was talking about a trivia night he goes to, and he said the question was something like, “What’s the lightest element on the periodic table?” (or something like that). And I blurt out “Copper!” (or some other insane answer).

And he looked at me like

So I knew I had gotten it wrong. Think quick, Marie. Lighter than copper, lighter than copper….

“Air! I’m going with air!”

And he was all…

Because air is not on the periodic table. Or something like that.

But here’s the thing. Ask most anyone that has only a superficial knowledge about our family which McKinney kid got the brains, and you’ll find out…

5. I really shouldn’t even be writing this blog post, but it’s essential for my sanity. I should be editing my book or blogging about Southeast Nashville or TEDxAntioch or about marriage in general. Yet, here I am laughing about gems like these

Kate Middleton, the original kingmaker.

Five on Friday: My Mommy Friend is Olivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde named her son Otis. Which basically means I’m being Single White Femaled by one of the funniest AND hottest celebs of our time.

It is so hard being my level of cool.

Now that our relationship (me and Olivia… keep up, People) has progressed to sharing a brain when it comes to baby naming, I’ve taken time out of my schedule to imagine how our first play date would go down…

1. The Ask

Hey, Olivia. It’s me. Marie. That blogger you love and named your kid after my kid. You wanna hang out? Go on a mommy date?

Yeah. I thought so.

2. The Place

I was thinking we could go to this little place around the corner. They serve all kinds of food and have a place for the kids to play. Your 2-day old will love it. Have you heard of the McDonald’s Play Place?

3. The Conversation

So how is breastfeeding going? Are your boobs full?

(No, seriously, you can’t talk about breastfeeding on a mommy date with out touching your boobs. It’s impossible.)

How are you and Jason doing? Everyone sleeping ok?

Is your Otis circumcised? Because I have an opinion that I think you need to consider…

Got it. Touchy subject. #pregnancyhormones

4. The Food

So, how’s your Big Mac?

Yeah, the food here is legit. And totally great for nursing.

5. The Goodbye

Well, I had a great time, but I must bounce. I’m meeting up with Drew Barrymore for Mommy-and-Me Yoga. But quick question, how much fun was this mommy date? Please use a dance move to express your joy because there really aren’t a lot of GIFs of you that aren’t simply displaying your unfair amount of hotness.

Aw! Me, too! See you and Little-er O later!

Every Praise

A little boy was kidnapped. Snatched from his driveway. Driven around for 3 hours by a stranger.

Do you know what he did?

He sang. He sang a gospel song. He sang Every Praise.

For 3 hours he sang. The abductor told him to shut up. He kept singing.


And the abductor kicked him out of the car. Let him go.

I don’t know how I came across this story, but I’ve been thinking about it all day.

If I was him I would have felt hopeless. I’m 10-years old, in a stranger’s car, and I have no clue where I’m going or how I’m going to out of this situation. I’m sure all I would do is cry. Sob my little heart out about the situation I was in.

This little boy? He annoyed the devil with praise. I love it.

And then the little boy met the man that wrote the song, Hezekiah Walker.

Walker was so moved by the story because what if he was given this song for this moment? What if this was all orchestrated by God? To write a song to save a boy?

Then I thought about Pharrell and his song “Happy”, and how the entire world is literally a better place because of it. How Pharrell sobbed when he saw people all over the world dancing to his music.

We think our praises are petty. We think our art is petty. We think it doesn’t matter if we sit on the sidelines of life because, well, I’m just one person. It was just one song. It was just one blog post. It was just one necklace. It was just one store. It was just one recipe. It was just one photograph. It was just one diagnosis. It was just one case. It was just one audit. It was just one potty-trained toddler.

But the stuff we create matters. The stuff we put into the world really does matter.

And I feel like the devil is always asking us to shut up. Stop creating. Be ashamed. Nobody needs what you have to give. You’re worthless.

Praise anyway. Sing anyway. Create anyway.

Because we have no idea who we are going to touch or save or help when we start being brave.

Five on Friday: I have issues.

1) What just happened?
Otis was happily playing in his bed (that is in our room) while I got ready in the bathroom. He was talking about monsters and telling the cats to get off the bed. Standard conversation. By the time I walked back in the room I heard snoring. Legitimate, I’m-asleep-for-the-night, toddler snores.

2) Celebrate good times! Come on!
Be for real. We have been sleeping with a little person for over 3 years. When it occurred to us that this might be our first night of sleep without getting pushed off a pillow or kicked in the head we were all…

Because this wasn’t just a win, this was a win that came without blood, sweat, or tears. I don’t care what your personal trainer yells at you while you’re doing those burpees, results CAN come with little to no effort on your part.

3) Realization
But then it hit me. This isn’t wonderful. This is horrible. This is the passage of time. These milestones don’t remind us of how far we’ve come. No, they remind us how close we are to death and the finality of it all. This small freedom just means I’m closer to the ultimate freedom of having no one to make chicken nuggets for, no plastic lawn mowers to move before I pull out of the driveway, no boo-boos to kiss, no dancing to songs no one else can hear. And this pit in my stomach that tells me that it’s true, that this whole ride goes way faster than you could ever really want it to? It’s going to keep coming back. The first day of kindergarten. The last day of kindergarten. Riding a bike by himself. Sleepovers. First dates. A baby.

MY BABY IS (possibly) GOING TO HAVE A BABY (one day).

4) Middle of the Night Decision Making 
I went to bed feeling like I had been dumped without an explanation. Left without anything other than a comforter and a husband to keep me warm. I cried myself to sleep.

Here’s where things get fuzzy.

I remember talking to Mark in the middle of the night. I remember him saying something about how if we wanted Otis in the bed he should be in the bed because we’re the grownups. Or maybe it was all a dream? I don’t know. But I remember getting out of bed, getting Otis (he was calling for me… I think?), and feeling like this was a really good decision.

Feelings of loneliness? Check.
After 1 AM? Check.
Hazy to non-existent decision making skills? Check.
Feeling really confident in a really bad decision? Check.

I basically drunk dialed my 3-year old.

5) It’s all going to be ok.
Yes, I know I’m insane. Yes, I do want Otis in his own bed. Yes, I do want to eventually have my life back.

Ok. Last one was a lie. I love my life the way it is right this very second. I seriously cry every time I think about there not being toys in the driveway and legos in my purse.

And tonight we’ll make sure his bed is proper (he didn’t even have sheets! And I was using his bed as a 2nd hamper!), and he’ll sleep in it like the big kid he is.

But not that night. That night it was all about the toddler cuddles at 3 in the morning…

Reunited. And it feels so good.

Five on Friday: Donate to the Diaper Fund

We tried to potty train Otis this week.


About that…

Even if it didn’t work out, I still learned a lot about myself in the process.

1. You’ll ignore everyone.
When I told Mark about my plan to potty train he was basically like:

And when I asked Google and Pinterest if little man was ready, they were both like:

But, I’m me and was all:

2. You’ll make up songs.
Potty training is all about making this basic human function FUN! and ENTERTAINING! Except you’re up against non-stop episodes of Caillou and more toys than the eye can see. You must bring your A-game. Even if you aren’t a songwriter, you’ll become one. You’ll sing songs about peeing being fun and the rush of the release.

My finest moment was calling out for everyone to board the Potty Train… Poo-Poo!

No. Really. I said that.

3. Your 90’s will show.
On Day 2 of potty training you’ll name the potty Peter and tell your son that Peter eats pee pee and poo poo. And he’ll freak out. And then you’ll realize that the 90’s had a bigger influence on your parenting style than you care to admit.

4. You’ll be in awe of parents.
You’ll be delusional from going to the bathroom every 15 minutes, and you’ll begin to seriously wonder how anyone gets potty trained at all. Then you’ll be in awe because without parents taking time to make sure people poo and pee in the toilet who knows what this world would look like. Would we have iPhones? Would we have cars? Would we have democracy? Would we have freedom?

If you’ve ever successfully trained a human to excrete into a porcelain jug, this is for you:

5. You’ll give up with grace.
You’ll realize that this little experiment was a disaster, and that you now need to deep clean the carpet.

Basically, The Internet is right and there’s no use in training an uninterested toddler, and if there’s any core value to my parenting style it’s this:

Never work harder than you have to.

Five on Friday: The Birthday Recap

1. When we got to the park where we had his birthday party a motorcycle drove by, and it was like God giving Otis a sign that today? Today would be a good day.

2. When my mom saw I’d only brought 3 bags of chips…

3. When everyone sang Happy Birthday to Otis he was basically like…

Because Happy Birthday is his jam.

otis tractor cake clapping
Otis while we sang.

(Required reading: If you haven’t seen Kristen Bell lose it over a sloth, you must.)

4. When the dudes ate the 1/4 pound all-beef hotdogs…

5. How I felt when I showed off my Pinterest craft…

What my friends thought when I showed them my Pinterest craft*…

The Pinterest craft…
pinterest craft train

Train wheels taped to aluminum trays. Choo choo!

Thanks to everyone that came out to celebrate! Happy Birthday, Nugget/Baby Boo/Little Man/Little Buddy!



Five on Friday: The Ron Swanson Edition

1. Everywhere I turn people insist that 3 is THE year. They are talking in full sentences and pooping in the toilet and are so close to being legitimate people.

But here’s what I think. I think 3 is the year that parents fully accept that they’re a mediocre parent at best AND EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK. It’s like the first time you fart in front of your significant other and you don’t even panic because you know they love you and a little stink isn’t going to scare anyone. That’s why 3 is awesome. Because everyone quits caring and starts relaxing.

And if not caring had a spirit animal I’m pretty sure it would be Ron Swanson.

2. The not caring goes both ways. When Otis first sang “A, B, C, C, C…” while sitting at the piano you’d think I’d be ecstatic, right? My kid busts out his letters IN THE RIGHT ORDER and I’m pretty sure I should have been giving him a standing ovation or something.
Do you know what I did? I said, “D, E, F, G.” Because I’m a Tiger Mom on the inside.
Anyways, Otis looked at me and was basically like…

3. I once heard that you should wean your kid from The Boob once they can say, “Hey, give me The Boob.” Well, I have another rule to add. You should seriously start potty training when they request scratch time before you put the new diaper on. And you’re probably all, “He is still in diapers! He is 3! OF COURSE you should potty train him by now!”

To which Otis and I are all…

4. Speaking of the diaper vicinity, Otis watches a lot of Caillou. Caillou has introduced him to the world of hockey and hockey sticks. When Otis sees his area he calls it a hockey stick. Or just stick. But his “s” sound still isn’t great so it sounds like… well, you know what it sounds like. When I try to tell Otis that maybe Hockey Stick isn’t the best name, he’s basically like…

5. I’m kind of terrified about Otis’s birthday because it could go in so many directions.

He could be overwhelmed by all of the people.

He could think the whole thing is plain dumb and ask to go home.

Or he could recognize that it’s all of his favorite people in one place and it’ll be a Tiger Woods kind of day.

But none of this really matters because the weather is supposed to be perfect so I’m simply gonna be like this…



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