Category Archives: Marriage

Nesting or Adulting?

Our kitchen is a disaster. There’s empty cartons here, spilled something there. Every appliance we own is on the limited counter space. We have two pieces of tupperware not being used for leftovers no one will eat, the little one for dipping sauce (?) and the gigantic one for marinating small turkeys. The dishes are clean. I think. Maybe? It doesn’t really matter because we’re getting take out.

I know I bragged on our daddy-stays-home situation, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its own set of issues. The kitchen is Mark’s domain. And part of my sanity rests in letting it be as clean or as messy as he wants it to be because mama doesn’t have time, energy, or mental resources to harass him about keeping his workstation clean. And that’s precisely how Mark’s kitchen looks, like a dude’s work bench in the garage. All the tools out, projects half done, and an empty pizza box.

True story? If it doesn’t bother him, it doesn’t bother me. If it were my kitchen, my workplace, it would probably be a leetle bit more organized, but not much. Our messiness threshold is pretty similar. And, one more time for those in the back of the room, not my kitchen, not my problem.

And then I got pregnant.

The other day I sat at work all day antsy to get home. Every fiber in my body needed to get home to clean that kitchen.

Mark: Are you mad?

Me: Nope, just looking around…

Mark: Are you sure?

Me: I’m positive. I’m about to clean this kitchen. And it isn’t a passive message to you. It’s just every cell in my body needs these crumbs from Christmas 2013 off my floor.

Mark: Ooooookaaaayyyyy…..

I do all the normal things that normal people do to make a kitchen look normal. This wasn’t like some deep cleaning where I’m cleaning the inside of cupboards or moving cereal from its perfectly good box into clear glass containers labeled “morning nibbles” or something. I just wiped down counters, threw away leftovers, hid appliances that we never used (I’m looking at you, Toaster), and swept the floor (see ya later, Christmas Crumbs of 2013).

Mark: So…. is this nesting?

Me: I’m not sure.

Mark: Did you nest with Otis?

Me: Yes. I made you find us an apartment so we could move out. Tweet, tweet.

Mark: Hahahahaha. Oh. Wait. You’re not joking. Well, I like it. You should nest more often. Well, I mean not more nesting. Nesting twice is enough. We’re done after this, right?

My face: 

Me: A ‘thanks’ is a perfectly acceptable response to this pregnancy-induced awesomeness.

Mark: Thank you for cleaning. And your hair looks really pretty.

Tomorrow I’ll do the laundry AND fold it. Maybe.

On Stay At Home Dads and Working Moms

Deciding to do the the stay-at-home-dad and sole-breadwinner-mom thing was hard. It is hard to not conform to society’s gender roles. It is hard to think you’re not being who you are ‘supposed’ to be. And, yes, gender roles exist. And I’d say Mark has suffered far more than I have.

Because no one straight up asks a sole-breadwinner-dad, “So… she’s just not going to work?” or “Yeah, but…what’s she going to do to make money?” or “You should tell him to get a job.”

Neighbors don’t openly laugh at a stay-at-home-mom and talk about how ‘lucky’ she is because wow, that’s the life, right?

Nope we don’t talk to breadwinning-dads and stay-at-home-moms this way because it’s incredibly rude to voice the idea that the person making sure the littlest person in your home is alive and taken care of is “doing nothing.” It’s ugly to hint at the idea that the SAHM is in some way ‘taking advantage’ of a working dad.

And the worst part? None of this came from conservative men who thought women needed to be barefoot and in the kitchen. They all came from women who love them some feminism…

It’s hard being a stay-at-home-dad. It’s hard not to ‘provide’ for your family the way a ‘real man’ should. It’s hard to have almost no one to relate to. It’s hard to wonder what everyone thinks about your role, to wonder if there is any way your dad and son could possibly be proud of the man you are.

It’s hard being a working mom. It’s hard wondering if every way your kid isn’t excelling is because you aren’t around enough, that you aren’t “mom” enough. It’s hard feeling guilty about all the things, all the time.

The thing is… Mark is my biggest cheerleader. I would have been happy to giggle away every insane idea I’ve ever had, but Mark has always been behind me whispering, “Take yourself seriously.” Every single time I wanted to make myself small and sneak away from the conversation, Mark said, “No. Take your seat at the table.”

It has been easy to become a working mom chasing down insane ideas because the man standing beside me refused to let me believe the lie that my voice didn’t deserve to be heard. He refused to believe that my calling wasn’t worth action. I would not be the woman I am today without him.

And in the same way he watched me chase dreams, I watched him protect and provide for us.

I watched him learn to use cloth diapers and figure out formula. I watched him pack diaper bags with detail. I watched him learn Otis so well that getting him ready for a day out almost always went smoothly (for him). I watched him make peanut butter and honey sandwiches so perfectly that I don’t even bother trying because they are sure to get sent back to the kitchen. I watched him make sure sunscreen and bug spray is always applied. I have absolutely no clue what it’s like to worry if Mark can handle being a parent to Otis. I watched him put me and our little bear first in every conceivable way over and over and over again.

The reason I went to work and he stayed home? Because it’s the kind of life we wanted for us and Otis, and I’m not sure I could have chased my dreams if I didn’t know that my little bear wasn’t completely loved and taken care of at home. Simple.

Mark apologizes to me often. Sorry that he gets to be home. Sorry that I have to work. Sorry that he doesn’t make money.

I won’t listen to any of it.

I have no illusions about who got the good end of the deal. I have a beautiful family and we have a beautiful home. We have food and bills get paid and I fill up my gas tank every time I need to. My husband loves me and my little boy makes me laugh. I have written books and created programs and built a neat little web presence in my “spare time.” I go to a job that I love, and am regularly told that I’m doing good work. My ideas are listened to and taken seriously by men that hired me to answer phones 10 years ago.

He’s the behind the scenes guy. The wind beneath my proverbial wings. He’s the one making sure all the bases are covered at home without little to any recognition for a good day’s work. He’s got the hard job, not me.

To say that we aren’t both holding our breath a little bit as we prepare for Margaret is a lie. Today our roles feel right and comfortable in a way they didn’t 5 years ago. Time does that. But that doesn’t mean we have forgotten how hard the whole role swap thing is. That doesn’t mean we aren’t a little bit terrified.


To Fifty More

When you’re young and you hear a couple has been married for 50 years you think, “OMG! That is so adorable! Fifty years of hanging out with your best friend? Marriage and love are so cool!”

When you’re a little bit wiser older you and you hear a couple has been married for 50 years you think, “Wow. They didn’t kill each other. Bravo to everyone involved!”

My in-loves are celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss today. Bravo!

Aren’t they adorable?

These two are a lot like Mark and I. Very different.

One is the head, the other is the heart.

One says “Sure!”, the other says “Let’s think about it a little more.”

One says “Toss it, it’s junk,” the other says “But we might need it…”

Fifty years of this, y’all. Fifty. Years.

The remarkable thing isn’t that they had the differences, but that they didn’t let the differences tear them apart. That they didn’t give up.

And I’m so thankful that they didn’t give up.

Because not giving up taught my husband what real love looks like, day in and day out. They taught him commitment and loyalty. They taught him not to talk when you’re mad. They taught him how to serve someone even when you maybe don’t always like someone. They gave him an understanding of love and marriage that a romantic comedy could never touch (well, Up probably got close).

If they were writing this blog they would probably mention that they got here because of Him. They would tell you all the stories about how they almost screwed it all up, but God. They wouldn’t call theirs the greatest love story, they’d call it their greatest testimony.

A testimony to a God that redeems.

A testimony to a God that forgives.

A testimony to a God that provides.

A testimony to a God that showers blessings.

A testimony to a God that is good, even if nothing looks the way you thought it would 50 years ago.

The Lord is good. His love endures forever, His faithfulness continues through all generations.Psalm 100:5:

This family you two have built is beautiful. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us and taught us!

Love you both!

The Toast I Would Have Given

These girls have been friends since Apollo Middle School.

Junior high.

Who does that? Who keeps in touch with and likes hanging out with people who know what you looked like in that awkward stage where your hair was so big because you didn’t understand mousse and you wore the same wide-legged jeans every single day because they were the only pants that you knew wouldn’t be mistaken for ::gasp:: highwaters #horror

We do, but only because of Shelly “The Glue” Nickerson.

That’s right. Shelly P just became Shelly N (this nickname will probably not stick #allgoodthingscometoanend).

My best and longtime friend got married this weekend. We didn’t do toasts because I’m pretty sure that Shelly and Matt were done being in the spotlight as soon as the ceremony was over, and I’m never going to volunteer to public speak, but public write? I will public write all over the place. So here’s what I would have said…

“May I have everyone’s attention? I’d like to toast the happy couple!

Shelly, there really aren’t enough words to tell you how much I, and probably every person in this room, love you.

This week I was in charge of “planning” the bachelorette party. Y’all know this because I didn’t shut up about how hard it was, and how drained I was, and how OMG I’M NEVER PLANNING ANYTHING EVER AGAIN!

And I thought about how Shelly has been thinking about me, and probably every person in this room, for years. FOR DECADES! She’s been thinking about what we like to do and what we like to eat. When it’s been too long since the last get together. She’s been thinking about what the easiest route is for everyone. She’s been thinking about us and showing up for us and helping us calm down when we want to be dramatic for many, many years.

She’s been an anchor during crazy times. She’s been a compass when things feel crazy. She’s been the first text when we want to share the good news. She’s been the opinion that made the most sense. She’s been the encourager when you’re pretty sure you suck at life.

And I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know this. I have not said thank you enough. There’s no way I could. You’ve done too much for too long and too consistently. You win at friendship.

And friendship? That’s the key to this marriage thing. Showing up when it’s hard. Being kind when you want to be mean. Making sure it hasn’t been too long since the last Hint, Hint, errr, I mean, get together.

Matt, I know you know you’ve found a winner. And as your pretend marriage coach, here’s what I’m going to need you to do:

Tell her thank you. Every morning. Every night. At the end of every text message. Before every “I love you.”

Tell her thank you because she’s your glue. She’s holding things together that you didn’t even know were falling apart. And she does it all with grace and kindness and beauty.

Shelly, thank you for being my best friend since before text messaging.  Matt, thank you for making Shelly so happy, and congratulations on finding the very best wife on earth. I love you both! Congratulations!”

Thursdays It Is

Mark and I were having a conversation about Hint, Hint the other day. Because after we became parents we conversate about Hint, Hint rather than, well, Hint, Hinting.

We’re veering dangerously close to becoming that couple that Hint, Hints based on the calendar. Now, listen, I don’t judge those couples at all, but you know how you have those ‘things’ you think you’ll never do or be? I never thought we’d be them, so I offered up a suggestion…

Me: Why don’t you just wake me up when you want to Hint, Hint? (Because part of our issue is that while getting Otis down for bed I always, always, ALWAYS fall asleep)


Me: What? It’s a perfect solution!!!

Mark: Do you know what you’re like when you’re woken up in the middle of the night?

Me: Um? Awesome?

Mark: You’re this weird, angry, delirious drunk.

Me: Take that back. I’m adorable. All day. Erry day.

Mark: Like the other day. You just start asking really demanding questions. “Does my mom need to pick him up? DOES MY MOM NEED TO PICK HIM UP?” And I’m, like, scared. How do I answer her? Does she want an answer? What am I supposed to do?!?

Me: Overruled!

Mark: And that’s not even the weird stuff you say. (Starts impression of just woken up Marie) “The slippery sidewalk! Turn left forty seven eight. The sidewalk! THE SIDEWALK!!! WHERE IS THE BEAR?!???!”


Mark: So, no I will not be waking you up to ask if you want to Hint, Hint.

Me: *Gets out calendar* What do Thursdays look like for you?

This also made me think about this post #ICrackMyselfUp

Married Conversations

A commercial for a pad that promises ‘super fast absorption’ is on.

Mark: Ha. How on earth do you define ‘super fast absorption’? Are they timing it?

Me: Yeah. I guess my real question is why are they using that liquid to represent period blood?

Mark: Please stop.

Me: I mean, it’s not even really very liquid like, ya know?

Mark: Stop.

Me: There’s like tissue and blobs and it’s just not very realistic to compare it to liquid.

Mark: I’m sorry for bringing it up. I just wanted to talk about absorption. I’m sorry.



Being the Magi

I was in the shower yesterday looking at my belly thinking, “What if I’m pregnant?”

I haven’t missed a period. Mark and I are practicing a fairly effective form of birth control.

But what if?

I mean, I’m pudgy. Is there any reason other than pregnancy that would explain my pudginess? I don’t think so. And I am noticing lots of smells lately. That’s definitely pregnancy.

But still there’s that whole birth control thing. But what if I’ve prayed so hard and so well that God was like, “Hey. Here’s a baby. No sperm required.”


I start writing a fantasy trilogy about a virgin birth to a great wizard that is forced to fight to the death in a sick government tournament against other virgin born wizards in my head, and totally forget that I wanted a baby.


I’m mad, and I need to take it out on someone.

“You don’t want a baby. But I want another baby. And we have to decide. We have to decide right now.”

I have to be somewhere in 10 minutes.

“Why do we have to decide right now?”

“Because I can’t have babies forever. And if we’re going to do this we have to decide now.”

Mark is very smart. He knows he is in trouble, and he starts speaking very slowly.


“Don’t toy with me, man! Give me a baby or give me death!”

The drama has begun, Ladies and Gentlemen.

There is weeping and gnashing of husbands for the next hour. I don’t make it to the thing I was supposed to go to.


After hours of conversation I realize that I don’t want a baby. Not entirely. I mean, I would rather this unexplained pudginess be more baby, less Oreos, but I’m not all the way convinced that another baby will make me happy.

More than anything, I want Otis to have siblings. I want Otis to  have a family that grows up with him.

Otis loves his family. I don’t know that there’s anything that gives him more joy than being with his family. And it scares me because the youngest member of his family is 20 years old. In my head all I can think is that Otis will be absolutely alone for the last 20 years of his life, that everyone will die before him.

I want another baby because I don’t want my baby to be alone.


My siblings and I have this game we play, I’ll call it “2 versus 1.” On every single topic we seem to be split 2 vs 1:

2 of us were born in Hawaii, 1 of us was not.

2 of us will eat almost anything, 1 of us will not.

2 of us are legally blind, 1 of us is not.

2 of us can run like a normal human being, 1 of us cannot.

We play this game whenever we’re together. We recently agreed that it wasn’t really that fascinating, but we continue to look for how one of these things is not like the other because the DNA lottery is fascinating.

Otis might never play this game. That makes me want to cry.


I remember the man I made promises to. He is an artist. He is a thinker. He is a loner. He is a perfectionist. He is a protector.

On our wedding day I knew that I wasn’t marrying a suburban dad with 2.5 kids and a dog. I knew, from the very beginning, our life was going to be weird and strange. I knew I had fallen in love with an ‘odd bird.’

And my odd bird is asking me to help him. My odd bird is asking me to be grateful for where we are today, for what we have, for who we have. He needs something right now, and a new baby doesn’t make achieving that something easier. It makes it harder.

We’re both asking each other to sacrifice dreams. To sacrifice a part of ourselves. I am asking him to put down his career. He is asking that I put down the pregnancy test.

We are the modern day Magis trying to find ways to say ‘I love you’ without letting go of, what feels like, an essential part of our beings.

This is hard.


Sometimes I daydream about having twins.



I don’t know how marriages work without sacrifice. Every member of the team needs to at least be willing to give up what they want for the other one. I mean, if you aren’t willing to give up your dreams then are you really on a team? Or was our wedding day just a casting call? Did I get married so that I’d have all of the roles filled for the show titled ‘Life’ starring, produced, and directed by me.

Sacrifice is not a fun part of marriage, but it’s essential.

I don’t want to sacrifice. I don’t want to hear Mark say, “Maybe we should have had another kid” when I’m 45 and too old to even dream about holding little babies in my arms.

But I also don’t want Mark to look back and wonder if he used his gifts as fully as he could have.

What a pickle.


“Fine! I’ll have your baby!” I yell in a lame attempt at reverse psychology. We laugh. Together. In the middle of this we’re still together.


We are in the middle of the questions. There aren’t neat and tidy answers yet. I probably shouldn’t even be writing this.

His dream is still alive. My dream is still alive. We are doing the dance of marriage and figuring out how to put each other first without losing ourselves. We are figuring out how to stay on the same team, even when it feels like our goal lines are in completely opposite directions.

Even if I don’t get ‘my way,’ I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that this season has made me fall even more in love with the man I chose to be on my team because in some weird way we were able to almost always fight for each other. And that’s a gift in itself, isn’t it?


This weekend we will celebrate our 7th anniversary.

When we got married we chose vows that sound like they could be used in an episode of Game of Thrones:

You cannot possess me for I belong to myself
But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give
You cannot command me, for I am a free person
But I shall serve you in those ways you require
and the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand

I pledge to you that yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night and
the eyes into which I smile in the morning
I pledge to you the first bite of my meat and the first drink from my cup
I pledge to you my living and my dying, each equally in your care
I shall be a shield for your back and you for mine
I shall not slander you, nor you me
I shall honor you above all others, and when we quarrel we shall do so in
private and tell no strangers our grievances

This is my wedding vow to you
This is the marriage of equals.

There is no way we could have known it in 2008, but these vows perfectly capture the marriage we have built are building. Every year I understand these promises we made to each other more fully.

We don’t own each other. We are two completely separate human beings with separate wants, thoughts, and feelings. But we serve each other. We look out for each other. We choose to sacrifice out of love, not obligation or placation.

Every year Mark becomes more and more the person I run to when I need help. This has been a process for me, Doer of All Things Alone. But he is becoming the person I trust with my entire heart and being.

“The eyes into which I smile in the morning.” This line brings tears to my eyes because that image captures how I feel about Mark, our marriage, our life. There is a peaceful contentedness that exists between us. It is a gift to wake up every morning knowing that I am enough, and that I love the one laying down next to me. I love that no matter what went down the night before today is fresh.

We don’t share our grievances. Um. Yeah… We both enjoy sharing how our marriage forces us to grow (that’s a euphemism for “I have to figure out how to not kill this person while he sleeps”). But the reality is that rarely, if ever, do we talk about anything with others before we’ve talked about it with each other. I don’t process how I feel about Mark with anyone but him. If I feel disconnected from him I tell him, not my mom/sister/best friend. If he thinks I’m being mean to him for no reason he tells me, not his mom/sister/best friend. And once we’ve sorted it out with each other we blog about it. Heh.

Thank you, Mark Oates, for 7 years of standing by my side and building this really beautiful life with me.

(One. Two. Three. And then I quit writing anniversary posts because lazy.)

The Perfect Weekend

Ever have one of those weekends that you wish you could capture in a bottle and relive forever and ever amen?

Yes. Me, too. I actually have lots of them, but this one is getting put in the blogging time capsule because I’m fairly confident 89-year old Marie will be so glad I took the time to jot this weekend down. Don’t worry, 89-year old Marie, I got your back.

It started with an all out delightful day with our little guy shopping and going to the park and this weather. This weather is heaven. Here is Otis walking the bases in reverse order because that’s how my little homey rolls.

Then Mark and I went to a wedding and had the very best time. Mark never goes to weddings, and we didn’t know anyone except the bride and groom so we were pretty sure we’d stay for an hour tops but we ended up having the best time ever with a group of complete strangers. Seriously, I am fairly confident that I’ve met my sister from another mister and it is talking all of my self control not to try to find her via Facebook and beg her to move to Nashville.

Every time the groom said amazingly wonderful things about his bride Mark would squeeze my hand or give me a hug which is the international sign for “I feel that way, too, Gurl” or “Ditto” and I was so happy that I deemed it an acceptable form of communicating his love for me.

Also, we had a very serious/hilarious conversation about how to make wedding crashing a regular thing. #LookOutNashvilleCouples #YouJustGotCrashed

The next day I put on a dress and when Otis saw me he exclaimed, “Mommy a ballerina!”

Do I really need to tell you how much this filled my heart?

I’m the queen of filling in gaps, and I’m pretty sure his ballerina comparison is meant to tell me I looked pretty, especially since my dress (a green maxi) looked nothing like a ballerina costume (pink tutu). I don’t have a daughter so I’m not sure if it feels the same, but his little comment truly made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the entire universe.

Otis and I then spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with my mom and sister. Other than a few completely rational ‘fits’ (hunger/thirst), Otis was a complete gentleman the entire day. Like, if this were a first date I’d totally be screeching to my girls that I’d found The One.

This weekend was amazingly simple, and so perfect. And it’s so easy to get caught up in chasing after things or wanting to create ‘magical’ moments that we completely miss or forget these simple weekends that make life, well, beautiful.

You’re welcome, 89-year old Marie. You’re welcome.


Top Poor Mommy Blog Picks for the New Year

So a couple of months ago ChatterBlock contacted me about a writeup they were doing on Nashville Mommy Bloggers. I was happy to talk to them, and gave them a description of my blog:

The Poor Mom is a blog that features humorous insights, DIY projects, and recipes that are more relatable to the average (ahem, poor) mom than what is currently seen on more mainstream mommy blogs or Pinterest. This blog is low on cash, but big on love.

L ook! They even gave me a badge to put on my blog!
Obviously that description is filled with lies. Because this blog is really about the drama, intrigue, and hilariousness of being a mom that is kinda-almost a grownup. Oh, and if I can’t say it with a gif it probably isn’t worth saying.

When they did the writeup they included me on a list of Top 2014 Mommy Bloggers in Nashville, and you know what that did to my ego, right? Of course you do:

Who cares that I’m at the bottom of the list and most people probably clicked away before they saw my blog? Not this girl! I was ecstatic to be on a list, any list.

And because I know how good it feels to be on a list, I thought I’d put together my own list.

As you can tell from the name of this blog, I am a poor mom. We don’t have money, and sometimes I read other blogs and I’m like, “Seriously? You’re blogging about money trouble while you pack for your month-long vacation to the Cayman Islands?”

No, we are normal people poor. Like, we pay our mortgage on time, but we laugh heartily at the idea of spending the full retail price for clothing (hello, Target clearance rack!)

But poor people want better lives! And we especially want better lives during the New Year because that’s what people do in January, we dream of the Me I Want to Be. So I have put together a list of ways to make this year better without going into piles of debt!

Top Poor MOm

Barre3 – Workout Like a Rich Person

I had heard people talk about barre workouts for a couple of years, and have always had dreams of being a short and slightly chubby ballerina. Everyone said barre workouts were the bomb dot com, and would get you in shape in no time for the estimated price of a gabillion dollars per month.
Then I found Barre3 and it’s so wonderful. I have full access to their online workouts, they have some suggested 28-day challenges, and I love the instructors. My goal in 2015 is balance, don’t kill yourself but still push yourself. And these instructors are constantly talking about finding “your truth.” So when I have felt like sweating I do the hard version of a workout, and when I am doing a workout just to cross it off the to-do list I do the easy. I am committed to my truth, and everyone (me and the instructors) is totally cool with that.

Revelation Wellness Podcast – Get Your Spirituality On

Ever since I went to a Revelation Wellness workout class I’ve been obsessed with praying/meditating while working out. So while I hop around during a Barre3 workout I play one of Megan’s podcasts. This isn’t exactly the Revelation Wellness way, but her thoughts are powerful and convicting and I like listening while I’m trying to hold the plank for one… more… second.

eMeals – Basically Like Having a Personal Chef

Y’all know how I feel about meal planning and cooking and eating food that isn’t McDonald’s. Not a fan. I’ve done the eMeals thing before and loved it, but then slid back into my ways. Not completely sure that I’ll be better this time around, but I’m giving it a try!

Nashville Marriage Studio – Better Than a Date Night

Membership Pay Attention
What? I’m on another list? I don’t care if I’m putting the list together, it’s still a list, right?

We aren’t paying enough attention to our marriages. There. I said it. We aren’t paying attention and then we’re getting side-swiped by The News or uncontrollable resentment or loneliness. And us poor people? We are particularly susceptible to crappy marriages and crappy communication and crappy divorces. So I thought I’d open up Nashville Marriage Studio as a $10/month membership site so that anyone can get affordable help for their marriage. This membership is designed to help mostly happy couples start paying attention to their marriage before it’s on life support.

So that’s how this Poor Mom is going to change 2015 one section of my life at a time: Heart, Body, Wallet, & Spirit.

I’m Listening, Poor Moms of the World:

How are you investing in yourself without going into massive amounts of debt?