“Ring The Bells” Giveaway


When I was in college, I would break out my cassette (YES. CASSETTE. AMEN.) of Amy Grant’s A Christmas Album just as soon as Halloween was over. It was my Official Soundtrack during November and December road trips, and “Heirlooms” was always a sure-fire recipe for Tender Introspection since I was a terribly sophisticated nineteen year-old and all.

A nineteen year-old driving a Buick Regal that would sputter to a dead stop if the accelerator wasn’t pressed at all times, and yes, that includes at red lights and stop signs.

Anyway, my point is that Amy Grant’s first Christmas CD is the gold standard of Christmas albums for me. Other Christmas albums have joined her in my Christmas music hall-o-fame over the years – like Harry Connick Jr.’s and James Taylor’s, for instance – but I’m a pretty discriminating Christmas music listener. I want worship and reverence and fun wrapped up in one musical package, and I don’t want want a hint of corny in the mix. But other than that I’m not picky at ALL.


Last year, not too long after Melanie and I dragged Travis Cottrell into the vortex of our lives by obsessing over his wife’s jeans, he mentioned that he was about to start working on a Christmas album. He also mentioned that his producer was going to be Brown Bannister, a name I immediately knew because I’d seen it printed on the top, right-hand corner of every piece of Amy Grant sheet music I tried to play on the piano when I was a teenager. Since I knew that Brown Bannister produced Amy Grant’s Christmas albums, I figured that Travis’ Christmas CD was bound to turn out pretty well.

However, I had no idea that when I heard Travis’ Christmas CD for the first time, I would get all teary-eyed and fan my face and feel so unbelievably proud of our friend. The CD is absolutely, positively, completely, stunningly beautiful. Christmas music perfection. We’ve been listening to it in our house since Labor Day (YES. LABOR DAY.), and on at least four different occasions David and I have had in-depth conversations about how great it is. Every single day the five year-old gets in the car when I pick him up from kindergarten and asks if he can hear “Frosty.” Every single morning I have some church with my iPod when I listen to “In The First Light.” It is, plain and simple, a wonderful CD.

Ring the Bells will be released next Tuesday, October 7, and there’s no question that you’re going to want to add it to your Christmas music collection. But if you’d like to try to win one of ten autographed copies of the CD before it’s released, then here’s what you need to do:

1. Leave a comment telling me your favorite Christmas song.

2. Pause and think for a moment about how this is pretty much the EASIEST GIVEAWAY EVER.

I’ll close this giveaway next Monday and announce the winners next Tuesday.

And just FYI: Travis is so stinkin’ humble and self-deprecating about this whole Christmas CD thing that it’s sort of unbelievable. In fact, we have debated for weeks about how many comments this giveaway will generate, and I have contended that we’re gonna hit the hundreds. Travis’ official prediction is 46.

I have a feeling y’all are going to prove him oh-so-wrong.

Make it a merry one, internets.

This giveaway is now closed.

And We Will Name Her Marriottina

Now before I tell you this story, I want you to know that while there are parts of my life that occasionally cause some Deep Angst, the size of our family is not one of them. The five year-old who sleeps down the hall has brought us more joy than we could have ever imagined, and as far as I’m concerned any additions to our family would be gravy. Or icing. Or the cherry on top. Or whatever food-themed metaphor you prefer, really.

Bottom line: I’m pretty much blessed beyond measure no matter how the rest of my baby future pans out – whether that means I’m the mama of one, I get pregnant again, or we adopt.


With that perspective firmly established.

When Melanie and I were in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, we had a mighty deep conversation one night at supper as we shared some exceedingly average beef fajitas. We thoroughly examined a variety of topics, including but not limited to Mistakes Of Our Twenties, Qualities We Enjoy In A Shoe, Can You Believe We Met On The Internet, and Being Married To Strong-Willed Men, aka Our Husbands, They Have Some Opinions.

Eventually our conversation turned to Will There Be More Children, because sometimes it’s fun to think about possibilities, sort of like I enjoy thinking about what I might sing on American Idol if, you know, I could actually sing and I weren’t about eight years past the age limit. Plus, it’s always fun to talk about hypothetical babies because RAWR RAWR SWEET SMOOSHY BABY YUM YUM I EAT YOUR CHEEKS.

I mean, just because I’m okay with whatever direction my baby future takes doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be way past overjoyed to have at least one more round of this-here level of adorableness:



So Mel and I talked about all the wonderfulness of babies – the wonderfulness of Caroline and Alex in particular – and by the time supper was over, I thought we might have to swing by Baby Gap “just to look.” Oh, our ovaries were all aflutter – I don’t know any other way to put it.

When we got back to our hotel, we were still talking about our young’uns as we walked down the hall to our room. The conversation continued as I tried to unlock the door (the pesky electronic key, it is my nemesis), and when I finally opened the door, this is what we saw, I’m not even kidding:


Y’all. We froze dead in our tracks.

And after a solid twenty second pause – during which we both tried to absorb the fact that THERE WAS A BABY BED IN OUR ROOM – Melanie screamed, “IT’S A SIGN!”

And then I screamed, “SOMEBODY’S GONNA GIVE US A BABY!”

Because, you know, that would be completely logical.

Mel called the front desk and explained that there had obviously been some sort of crib mix-up since we were not in fact traveling with any infants or toddlers, and about fifteen minutes later someone came to our room and took away the baby bed.

We stood in the center of the room all wistful-like for about three seconds.

Then we laughed until we cried.

And in keeping with the evening’s theme of pretend babies, we proceeded to have us some pretend cravings as we enjoyed a large bag of trail mix from the Walgreens along with a couple of packs of plain M&Ms.

We’re all about some realism, people.

And apparently, we’re all about some crazy as well.

I’m Over There


I have a new post over at AllAccess on unexpected friendships.

That’s all.

Christmas In (Almost) July

So Travis has a Christmas CD that’ll be out in October, and it is going to be incredible, my friends. I know this because 1) Travis can SANG 2) David and I have heard a couple of songs and have been blown away and 3) Travis can SANG.

And right now you can get a sneak peek for free by clicking here. You’ll have to enter your name, your email address, and the download code, which is 122508.

And within seconds, you’ll be able to hear Travis sing “O Holy Night.” I’ll ‘fess up and tell you that I totally cried the first time I heard it. So beautiful.

Enjoy, y’all!

Oh, They Rocked It, All Right

A couple of months ago, when David and I went to Los Angeles for his best friend Todd’s wedding, we were a little worried.

Or maybe “worried” is too strong of a word. “Concerned” is probably more accurate. Because for the two weeks leading up to the wedding, Todd was super-stressed out.

I’m not talking about pre-wedding jitters. That’s to be expected.

I’m talking about some full-on, full-out stress. Stress that was causing our mild-mannered, utterly kind, godfather-to-our-child friend Todd to use adjectives that were far more colorful and forceful than usual.

David kept trying to put his finger on what was going on, but ultimately we just decided that maybe the pre-wedding stuff was weighing a little heavier on Todd than it does most people. After all, he has been known to obsess over minutiae a time or sixty in the eighteen years that we’ve known him, and the details surrounding a wedding can make even the most laid-back person slap-dab crazy.

But still. We were concerned.

So we got to LA, and everything seemed fine except for the fact that Todd kept apologizing that he wasn’t getting to spend time with us. David assured him that while a wedding is good for many things, hammering out some quality time with your nearest and dearest is not one of them, and then Todd apologized and twitched some more.

We could not, for the life of us, figure out what was going on.

The day of the wedding we drove up to Palos Verdes, which has to be one of the most stunningly beautiful places I have ever visited. The scenery is so staggering that if you were to accidentally drive off the road and plunge straight into the Pacific Ocean, you might not even care because OH MY WORD AT LEAST YOU GOT TO SEE SO MUCH PRETTY.

The ceremony was at Wayfarers Chapel, a place that will absolutely take your breath away. After we arrived there, as we were walking up to the chapel, we noticed that there were a lot of cameras and microphones and clipboards with forms, but we just figured that wedding videographers out there are a little fayn-ci-er than what we’re used to here in the South. And based on our assumption, we bypassed all the people wearing headphones and walked inside.

The ceremony was absolutely lovely. Picture-perfect, in fact. And if I could, I would write an ode to Marti’s dress and then I would set the ode to music and sing it for you.

But, you know, I can’t.

I do apologize.

After the wedding we drove back to Redondo Beach for the reception (sidenote: on our way there, we passed a store that had a sign out front that said ALL SHOES: $20, and it took everything in me to stay firmly planted in my seat, because I totally wanted to pull a Bo Duke and roll down my window and hoist myself out of our moving vehicle so that I could check out ALL SHOES: $20. But I stayed in the car. It was a nuptial miracle). We finally found the reception site, where we were surprised to be greeted by even more people wearing headphones and holding forms.

Clearly something was afoot.

Then, when Marti showed up at the reception wearing a different dress than the aforementioned hypothetically-ode-inspiring dress that she wore in the wedding, I was Officially Suspicious.

Oh, I’m a quick one. Only took me THREE WHOLE HOURS to suspect anything at all.

As it turns out, Todd and Marti’s wedding was being filmed for a reality show on TLC called Rock the Reception (check out the video after the click), a show where three couples surprise their wedding guests by performing choreographed dance routines. And I’ve wanted to tell y’all all about it a thousand times, but I felt like I should watch the show before I posted about it in the event that some unfortunate editing caused me to be humiliated on national television.

Because on the way into the reception, as I was signing the release form for I-knew-not-what, I looked straight into the eyes of the assistant producer and said something along the lines of, “Gosh, we don’t have to sign forms like this at weddings in Alabama.”

And she said, “Really?”

And I said, “NAW.”

I SAID “NAW,” y’all.


And y’all know that if they HAD used that bit of footage on the show (which they didn’t, thank the Lord), they would’ve turned it into some repetitive loop of me saying, “We don’t have to sign forms like this in ALA-BAMMER, NAW!” while the banjos from “Deliverance” played in the background.

And they would have used CGI to make it look like I was picking my teeth with hay.

But fortunately my fears were unfounded. The show actually perfectly captured the low-key sweetness that is the very essence of Todd and the high-energy enthusiasm that is the very essence of Marti. They are so fun to watch.

And, I would add, even better to know in person.

So now, thanks to the wonder that is YouTube, you can see Todd and Marti’s dance right here. You may want to watch it before you share it with your kids, not because there’s anything distasteful, mind you, but because it is a playful little dance number between married folks who are fully entitled to be playful with each other, oh thank you Lord and amen.

So all of Todd’s excessive pre-wedding jitters? They were the result of having to learn and practice a choreographed dance routine – and, besides that, NOT TELL A SOUL about it – in the midst of all the last-minute wedding stuff.

The stress, it is understandable.

And I have to say that besides seeing seeing Marti and Todd perform, do you know what my favorite part of their whole reality television experience was? It was reading a review for Rock the Reception in Entertainment Weekly. Because the critic referred to Todd as “an introvert with two left feet.”

And then I wanted to email the reviewer and say, “BUT SIR, HE ROCKED THOSE TWO LEFT FEET WITH EVERYTHING HE HAD.”

That’s our boy, internets.

That’s our boy.

With the girl of his dreams.

And we are ever-so-proud.

This Is Practically, Like, Five Thousand Words

Now that I’m home again and have access to my camera’s USB cord, I thought I’d post some of my pictures from Nashville.

Which is pretty convenient since HEY, Y’ALL, I CAN’T THINK OF NO WORDS RIGHT NOW.

Here are my fun friends Keely and Chris when we met for coffee (and pie! and brownies!) in Franklin this past Tuesday.

Both of these sweet people were on the Compassion trip to Uganda. I heart them a whole bunch.

Chris’ husband Randy also met us for coffee. But he was late because he was trying to take a photograph of a mother robin feeding her newly-hatched baby bird in the nest outside his kitchen window.

And if you know Randy, you’ll recognize that this was really no different than any other day for him.

Because I think he could stare at All The Nature while saying the word “awesome” over and over again for pretty much the rest of his life.

So anyway. Where was I?

Oh yes.

Right here:

Say it with me, internets: “KEELY IS SASSY.”

So we went to an adorable restaurant and sat down and I got very, very tickled when I saw everyone texting and Twittering. Because my phone and I, we can barely text. In fact, we just te-.

I’ll give you one guess as to which phone is mine.

Oh, I am very techy.

I seriously think that my phone had developed an inferiority complex by the time our coffee (and pie! and brownies!) date was over.

Because I’m telling you: those iPhones and Blackberrys can do some TRICKS.

Anyway, coffee was so much fun that we followed it up with supper.

These boys make me laugh. And they LURVED it when I snapped their picture in the dimly-lit restaurant. Because they weren’t briefly blinded by the flash OR ANYTHING.

And you know, I wish I could rock a FundanaTM as effectively as Keely rocks her Funbeanie.TM

Perhaps that will be my fashion goal for spring.

Have a great weekend, everybody!