Throwback to when we met Jackson

To say we had little time to prepare for Jackson’s arrival would be an understatement. We found out about his impending birth and potential adoption on Saturday, June 10. He was born on Sunday, June 11, and we saw him for the first time through the nursery window that afternoon around 5 p.m. He was 16 hours old. He wasn’t legally ours yet, but in my heart, he was mine all mine.

The first time we saw Jackson

It wasn’t until Monday afternoon, June 12, that I got to hold him and kiss him and call him by his name.

TBT to June 11

Over an unsuspecting weekend in mid-June 2006, we became a family of four. Adoption is the coolest thing ever.

Throwback to Recess in 2012

Last night, as the boys and I said goodnight to one another, Jackson asked if he could wear his Star-Lord costume to co-op. It’s the last day, he said. It would be so cool.

I really, really wanted to say yes. I nearly did. But logistically, especially for P.E. class, it doesn’t make sense. Instead, I told him, you can wear it to Jeremy’s soccer game. His face lit up, he smiled. That would suffice.

As they trotted off to bed, memories flooded to my mind of Jackson spending nearly four years in costume. Iron Man, Captain American, Thor, myriad Star Wars characters…

Iron Man in second grade

The last superhero costume we bought for him was Star-Lord, circa 2014, so it’s probably the only one that still fits. After all, Jackson made a significant shift in interest this year. He is all sports, all the time.

I admit that I’m a little sad to see this phase fade away. Dressing up for make believe is the essence of childhood. It embraces possibility in the best way. Yes, you can do anything. Yes, you can be anyone. Yes, the world is at your fingertips. 

Below is one of my favorite photos of all time. It was taken in February 2012, the second semester of our first year as homeschoolers. Jackson was a kindergartener, Jeremy was in second grade, and this, my friends, was recess.


A big throwback to 20 years ago

This weekend is my twenty-year high school reunion. Mathematically, it’s accurate, but in my brain, it feels as though the years have been miscalculated, like we still have another decade to go.

My high school experience was unique from a lot of my peers because I attended an all-girls college prep school. In keeping with the mishmash that was my entire educational experience, I went from being a freshman at a large, predominantly African-American high school on the south side of Atlanta to being a sophomore at a small, predominantly Caucasian, all-girls school in the Scenic City. Before that, I attended a Dept. of Defense school on a military base in West Germany, and before that… you get the picture. If anything, I knew how to adapt.

I will never forget the day Dad told me I was going to GPS. He had retired from the military and had just come home from a long contract job at Guantanamo Bay. We were supposed to move there, or somewhere near there, or something. I can’t recall the specifics, but I remember talking to Corey about what it might be like to live near Jamaica. Then, when I wasn’t paying attention, the plans changed. Dad got a job at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, an all-boys college prep school. We weren’t moving to Cuba after all. We were moving to Tennessee, and guess what? I could attend the sister school at a little discount. Doesn’t that sound great?

Um, pardon? 

No, it didn’t sound great, but it didn’t sound horrible either. Like every other move during my childhood, I would have to adapt and make friends, which is exactly what I did.

(Below: That time we made our rats Milli Vanilli…)

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It wasn’t easy though, and it was mainly due to the coursework. GPS was hard. Crazy hard. I wasn’t used to the academic demands, even though I was an honor roll student at my previous school. The “college prep” part was no joke.

That sophomore year? No, it wasn’t easy. I cried almost every day after lunch in Mr. Tumelaire’s Western Civ class, where I consistently earned straight C’s. Geometry was terrible, and the research papers nearly killed me. Plus, at more than 200 lbs., I could barely fit into the weird, potato-sack uniform. Sophomore year was nothing special.

(Below: Jenny and Jennie)

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My grades turned a corner the next year, as did my social life, and by the time I was senior, I’d clawed my way back to being an A/B student and I felt like a significant part of the school at large. I was vice president of the school’s literary group, a solid debate team member, and a teen staff writer for the city paper. To top things off, I met my future husband. 

I was also in the throes of terrible eating disorder, but that’s another story for another day.

(Below: The future President/CEO of United Way of Greater Chattanooga… Way to go, Lesley!)

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Though I wasn’t there from the beginning, I’m pretty sure senior year at Girls Preparatory School is the best year of all. May Day, Chapel Talks, Disney World, and all those wonderful free periods. Senior prank, Cat/Rat, the senior lounge, and leaving campus for lunch. The perks helped ease the course load and make me a little less stressed when walking into Madame Sutton’s Honors French III class, where no English was allowed. En Français, s’il vous plaît! 

(In the May Day photo below, I’m in the front row, left side, first girl from the center.)

Class of 1996 May Day

I’ve yet to attend a high school reunion. The five-year was too soon, as was the ten-year. Was there a fifteen-year? If so, I was probably in Texas. The twenty-year feels just right. We’ve grown into a our personalities and experienced real life. There have been marriages, divorces, and children. Some of us have lost parents and siblings, and some of us have survived cancer. Some of us are in the careers of our dreams, and some of us are still searching. A couple of us have already passed away.

(Below: I dearly loved my May Day dress. It was made of a linen-type drapery fabric that gave it a vintage feel. It was a dress I could’ve pulled from my mom’s closet when she was in high school.)

May Day 1996

I’m not sure how many ladies are attending the reunion this weekend, and I have no idea what my classmates remember about me in the three short years I attended GPS, but my memories are fond and full. Though I had serious reservations about continuing after my sophomore year, I graduated with gratitude over the experiences I gained there. I was fully prepared for college and I was privy to experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, like traveling to Key West to study Ernest Hemingway, becoming a Peer AIDS Educator, and getting an early start on my career as a journalist. 

(In the class photo below, I’m standing on the far left in a long, flowery skirt.)

Class of 1996 photo

To prepare for the weekend, I’ve uploaded a few playlists that instantly take me back to 1996. Tori Amos, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Dave Matthews Band, Bush… The boys are suffering for it. They especially didn’t know what to make of Tori. (“It’s kinda creepy,” said Jack.) I’ve showed them photos from my high school years and they’ve made a few sweet remarks. It’s a funny thing about photos – this was the pre-digital age. Most of the pictures I took were event-driven, with few everyday photos in the collection.

The largest chunk of photos are of Chuck and me in our sweetest, mushiest phase of dating. It’s not lost on me the significance of going to my high school reunion with my high school sweetheart. Though he had little to do with my GPS experience, he had much to do with my life at 17 years old. 

I’m not taking my camera to the reunion, but there will be no shortage of photos. I’ll be sure to share them. 

Throwback Thursday: Sister time in Chicago, 2009

Wasn’t this 2009, Becky? The week I flew in for the half marathon?

me and becky at table 52

It all runs together now. I believe this was when we had dinner at Table 52 and stole some time away in the Windy City, just the two of us. I’m missing my sister but a visit is coming soon. (Thanksgiving is with Chuck’s family, so Christmas is with mine.) I’m looking forward to cooking together and going for long walks so we can commiserate on what life is like raising our four boys. More than ever, I’m so glad she’s going through everything first.

Throwback to when I trained for races

I’m running a half marathon on Saturday and this is pretty much the most unprepared I’ve ever been for a race. The summer was blazing hot and humid, so I hardly ran, and when I did start running outside, life got busy. School started, obligations got heavy, and the last two weekends went in a way no one expected.

So I have 13 miles to run and I’ve not run more than 8 or 9 in the last month. Some might say it’s no big deal and I’ll do fine, and that may be true, but if you’ve ever run a race before then you know the challenge is mostly in the mind. My body may have the muscle memory, but my brain is saying, “You’ve eaten too many cupcakes.”

This Throwback Thursday is my own kick in the pants. I can totally do this. I may not have the most stellar time and I might have to do more walk/run intervals than I’d normally prefer, but I can do this.

Right? Three cheers for Lucky No. 13.

medals 2007-2009medals 2009-2014

In order: Country Music Half Marathon (2007), Louisville Half (2007), Scenic City Half (2008), Country Music Marathon (2008), Oklahoma City Memorial Half (2009), New Mexico Half (2009), Chicago Half (2009), Rock ‘n Roll Half in Dallas (2010), Knoxville Half (2012), Georgia Half (2012), Secret City Half (2013), and The Middle Half (2014). 

Throwback to 2009 when Jackson fell out of the toddler bed

In August 2009 we were living in Amarillo. Even though we had a three-bedroom house we made the boys share a room so we could have an office/guest room/treadmill space. Jeremy, nearly six, was in a twin bed and Jackson, at three, had just recently moved to a toddler bed (the crib, minus one wall).

From infancy, Jackson was a tummy sleeper. I know, I KNOW, that’s illegal in this country. But as soon as he could make the choice, he’d flip over onto his stomach, pull up his knees, and sleep in a crouching position. For years he did this.

So on a late night in August, on my own way to bed, I peeked in their room to make sure they were still alive. (We only stopped doing this a couple of years ago, by the way.) Jeremy was sound asleep, and so was Jackson, in his crouched up position on the floor. 

I honestly can’t remember if I left him like that or if I moved him back to the bed.

jack fell out of bed august 2009

Me in College, circa 1998

For me, college was primarily about two things: writing and exercise. I was so in love with both that I couldn’t decide which one should be the major and which one should be the minor. I started out as a journalism major with a minor in physiology (with the goal to work in cardiac rehab), but then I switched halfway through and left it that way.

There’s a piece of trivia for you. My bachelor’s degree is in physiology. Looking back, I should have done a double major. It wouldn’t have been hard. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Today, not much as changed. I still love writing and much of what I write is concocted while exercising. Both culminate in the mind. They are the methods of exertion I use when I need to burn energy, be it physical or creative. They give me such satisfaction that when I’m done with either I feel as if I’ve accomplished something magnificent, something only I could achieve.

Looking at this photo, I can tell you exactly where I was and where I had just been (or perhaps where I was about to go). It was taken in the hallway outside the Sidelines newsroom in the James Union Building. I had stopped by either after exercising or just beforehand. You know how women walk around in workout clothes all the time now? Whether they are going to yoga or not going to yoga, whether or not they even exercise at all? That was pretty much how I looked throughout my four-year college career, because in between editorial meetings and Kinesiology class, I was at the Rec Center or logging miles down Main Street.

So yeah, this is me in college. Totally. Writer and runner. I’m nothing if not consistent.

jennie in college 1998

Throwback to 1997 when we were adults and ran off to Key West

God bless our parents and their incredible restraint to not wring our necks.

In the summer of 1997, just after Chuck graduated high school and I had finished my freshman year of college, we took a trip – by ourselves – to Key West. Because, you know, we were adults and could make adult decisions.

Eye roll.

It was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken as a couple. Truly. And no matter how much I cringe when I think of what our parents must have thought at the time, I remember having a fabulous time with my boyfriend, walking up and down Duval Street, watching the sideshow acts on Mallory Square, and touring Hemingway’s house for the second time. We ate at Sloppy Joe’s and watched the sunset at the Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.A.

This photo is one of my favorites of us: We rented a moped and looped the island without a care in the world. At some point during our ride, I whipped out my 35mm camera, held it at arm’s length, and snapped a picture – a selfie in a pre-selfie era. (The time stamp in the righthand corner is incorrect as I could not figure out how to change the date internally. It was indeed 1997, not 1994.)

TBT 1997 Key West

God help me if Jeremy or Jackson do what we did when they are 18. Remind me to hide this post when they hit puberty.

Throwback to a bestie weekend in March 2012

Corey and Alex are coming to visit for a long weekend and I’ve been counting the days until their arrival. I haven’t lived in the same city as my oldest, dearest friend since 1993, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about friendships it’s that distance doesn’t matter. If you want the relationship to last, then you make it work. Loyalty is everything.

This photo was taken on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012 when we spend a long weekend in Atlanta. Clearly I’d forgotten to pack a green shirt, but I made up for it with a four-leaf clover necklace.

TBT to March 2012

In previous years, our get-togethers were punctuated by nap times, keeping young kids busy and happy, and tucking little boys into bed at a decent hour. We scarcely carried on a conversation that wasn’t spoken in code or chopped up into pieces because there was always someone who needed to use the potty.

This was in 2005, well before Jackson was born:

With Corey and Alex in 2005

Now our visits are more relaxed since the boys can occupy themselves and we all give each other mutual respect and space. When we say to them, “Go play,” we are saying, “Leave us alone unless one of you is bleeding or on fire.” We feed them, then send them off, because that’s how you nurture a 24-year-old friendship that functions mainly through telephone calls and emails. Weekends like these are sacred.

Throwback to last week’s tattoo

I’m just now able to sit comfortably and wear regular clothes. I’ve felt like a Duggar girl all week wearing dresses, but pants and shorts don’t wear well with an open wound on my backside. The magnolia bloom is situated on my lower left back/upper left cheek (ahem) and runs perfectly along my waistline. So yeah, no tight clothing in that area this past week.

Tattoo Day May 2015

Every time I see it I feel a rush of delight. It’s beautiful on its own but what it represents makes it even more special. I’ll take a proper picture once it’s healed. I’m that itchy, scabby phase, so we’re nearly there.

And then I’ll do it all over again in August. 

Throwback to my last tattoo

It’s been three years since my last tattoo, so that tells me it’s time for another. (Tomorrow!)

Integrity Tattoo

The quill was an obvious choice – a nod to my passion, imprinted on my writing arm. In hindsight, I wish it was bigger, but that means I have space for other things.


Throwback Thursday: When I grew bagels in 2007

Every once in a while I get a hankering for the earliest days with my boys. It usually happens when Jeremy is asking me for an iPhone or growing out of his shoes or inquiring about girls. That’s when I start reminiscing about his toddlerhood and preschool years, when his curiosities were limited to his very small three-year-old world.

A few days ago we got caught up watching home videos. The boys giggled at their baby voices and got embarrassed at the video of them in the bathtub together, but I beamed. I soaked in their big blue eyes and wide smiles. How different parenting was then – the daily work of doing everything for them. It was mostly physical and, therefore, exhausting. Now we’re in the transition of parenting being more emotionally and mentally taxing, and from what I hear, it continues down this path indefinitely.

So for now, today, I’m remembering this three year old, when our conversations had nothing to do with Minecraft or computer privileges or being trusted to stay home alone. Our talks were sweet and simple and involved clarifying that bagel was indeed basil.

TBT April 2013: When I took charge of my own hair

It’s gotten worse over the years, the Miller Men dominance over my hair. It started when Jeremy was a toddler, when he insisted I not wear a ponytail but instead, “wear it down.” I always did as he asked because it was adorable to have a two-year-old consult me on my hairstyle, but now I realize I set the standard for every man in this house to have a vote on what happens to my hair. Go lighter? No! Leave it dark? Yes! Cut it shorter? NEVER!

Two years ago I rebelled against the system and cropped it.

Two inches off

I loved it like this – the color, the cut, the ease of it all – but no one else in the house liked it. Not one bit. There was confusion, pursed lips, and silence. Saying nothing was better than saying, “It’s too short.”

Right now, my hair is longish. It settles somewhere around my shoulder blades. I can wrap it in a high bun or curl it or straighten it or even do that Katniss Everdeen side-braid-thing. Most of the time, it’s fun. Occasionally, it’s smothering. ALL three boys love it, compliment it, and tell me regularly, “Grow it longer!”

Am I the boss of me or what? 

My birthday is in August. I may or may not treat myself to the haircut of my choice. Miller Men, you’ve been warned.

Throwback Thursday: Matching Dresses with the Captain

I’m probably four years old here, if I’m going off the haircut and overall impression of innocence. Where were we living, Mom? Mississippi? Virginia? It’s all a blur, because at this age I had no idea about the world outside my own imagination. I dressed up my pets and climbed magnolia trees.

I dug up this photo in honor of my father’s birthday week. Cheers to you, Dad. I’m sure you don’t miss that uniform.

Dad and us in the 80s

Throwback to April 2008

We were nine months away from our move to Texas and we’d embraced an adventurous attitude for good measure. The first house we bought as a married couple was on the market and about to be sold, a house that Jackson now says he doesn’t remember. The life we lived there seems well out of my grasp, but I remember this moment perfectly. Jeremy was four and a half and Jack was nearly two.

TBT April 2008

TBT March 2007: When Jeremy gave me a weed

Spring had finally arrived in our little corner of North Georgia and Jeremy, my three-and-a-half-year-old outdoorsman, couldn’t wait to pick me a flower.

Even though it was a weed. Bless him.

TBT March 2007

Spring is on the verge right now (or so my sinuses tell me), and we couldn’t be happier. It’s time to go back outside.

TBT December 2010, when I was important

I recently agreed to serve on two unrelated committees and realized I needed to unearth my old day planner to stay organized. I knew exactly where it was – thrown into a Rubbermaid container, my personal archive of Amarillo Magazines. I didn’t want leave my job as the features writer and editor. I didn’t want to leave Michele or remove myself from the community that so graciously welcomed me. I didn’t want to leave a position that made me feel important.

I found the day planner in the exact state I left it on December 17, 2010, my last day.

TBT December calendar 2010

Back story: We moved to Amarillo in December 2008 for Chuck’s new job and I landed a position at the city magazine in February 2009. Career-wise, we were golden. In every other area of life, we were miserable. Chuck’s mother had just been diagnosed with brain cancer, Jackson was entering early intervention because he wasn’t speaking, and our “Life is an Adventure!” attitude tanked by the end of the first month when we realized how badly we missed the mountains. The high plains, with its wide open spaces and vast horizons, felt suffocating.

Still, we made do. I loved every part of my job, Jackson started talking and learning to read, and Jeremy loved his school, his teachers, and our church. However, Chuck, who traveled nearly non-stop, was quietly burdened by his inability to help care for his mother, and by the end of 2009, we knew our life in Amarillo was going to be cut short. By July 2010, our house was back on the market and Chuck was moving back to Tennessee. The boys and I stayed in Texas to await the sale of our house. We entered a geographical separation that ended up lasting eight months.

Our dog passed away in August 2010, followed by Chuck’s mom in October. I told Michele I needed to resign by December, even if our house hadn’t sold, mainly because the emotional and physical load I was carrying was too much. We spent Christmas with Chuck’s family in Santa Fe because a traditional Christmas was out of the question. Brenda was gone, our house had not sold. No one was in the mood. We rallied around one another in a beautiful city and enjoyed the snow.

I flipped through my day planner recalling our two years in Amarillo. So much good for me happened there, even though it was hard on our family. The day Chuck picked me up from work on my last day, I slipped into the car with my box of stuff and said, “I hope it’s worth it.”

Let me assure you: It’s been worth it. Though I miss feeling important in a professional way, I know what I’m doing now is just as meaningful. I’m not conducting interviews nor writing all the content for an entire magazine. I’m not helping on photo shoots or brainstorming with one of my favorite people. I’m not logging miles on the car, not proofing pages, not racing from one appointment to the next.

Instead, I’m teaching Jeremy fractions, showing Jackson how use proper punctuation, and taking them to volunteer opportunities on a weekly basis. I’m writing a second novel and keeping my fingers crossed for the first one. I’m taking photographs of lovely people. I completed a graduate degree and am looking for another race to run, lucky number thirteen. I manage this household, cook from scratch, and play hide and seek.

That’s all important too.

After a bout of reminiscing, I took out the old calendar and notes from the day planner – all of 2009 and 2010 – and threw them in the trash. It’s time to use that binder for something else and reconcile that even though my life looks very different now than it did five years ago, I’m no less valuable. 

Remind me of this next time I’m folding eight million loads of laundry.

Throwback to Glamour Shots

I was a senior in high school and one of Chuck’s sister’s friends ran the Glamour Shots studio in town. She was in need of a model so I agreed to do it.

TBT Glamour Shots

You have to know that I was anything but a model in high school. I didn’t wear makeup, rarely styled my hair, and wore baggy, rugged clothes (as you can see in the photo). Chuck and I spent our weekends hiking, and if we dressed up to go to dinner, then it must have been for prom.

I have an entire collection of Glamour Shots photos from this experience and I’d show them to you if I could. Unfortunately, Chuck was the second model in that session and I’d be a single woman if I put them on the internet.

Throwback Thursday: First Snow in Amarillo

Our Amarillo friends are posting Facebook photos of the big snow they got last night. When we moved to Amarillo I had no idea that our weather would be less like Texas and more like Colorado, and sure enough it snowed during our first few weeks. The boys, age five and two and a half at the time, were thrilled. Little did they know that this dusting in 2009 was nothing compared to the blizzards they would experience in the two years we lived there.

TBT First Snow in Amarillo