Leopard Print Tall T-Shirt Dress: I’m Seeing Spots!

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

T-Shirt Dress // Vest (similar) // Shoes // Necklace (Similar)

I love a comfy t-shirt dress, especially when it is actually long enough to cover my 6-foot frame! 

As such a tall lady, it’s often hard for me to wear dresses that are supposed to hit average height people above the knee. Above the knee on a 5’4 woman is halfway up the booty on me! 

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

So when brands like Old Navy sell cute clothes in Talls (or longs… some brands name them differently!), I always do a little cheer. 

I have this exact dress in several other colors (grey, black, navy+polka dots, and flame red stripe) and they make up a significant portion of my mid-week semi-casual wardrobe. 

Bonus: I think I only paid about $15 for each of these dresses. For real.

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

I also love this outfit as a “transition” look. 

But let’s be real, transition outfits are code for “I really want it to be fall, but I live in the deep south and it’s still hot as blue blazes here.” 

This sleeveless blazer/long vest thing I got last summer at Marshall’s is just the ticket for adding a layer of dimension, breaking up the wall of Leopard print, and providing pockets! 

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

Back on the Bookshelf: What I read in September

What I read in September

What I read in September

Work slowed back down a little bit, particularly in the second half of September, and that’s definitely reflected in my reading pace. 

This month I was able to read 7 (!) books, to bring my total for the year so far to 49 (!)!!!

Now I’m only 11 books away from my goal for 2017 🙂 

So, here’s what I read in September:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Completed: 9/4/17 
Format: eBook through Overdrive

Y’all, this is one of the best books I’ve read all year. Told in the narrative non-fiction style, it documents the illness of the African American woman Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells have been used to test develop scores of cures and treatments to other diseases. HeLa cells, as they are known, are used every day all over the world, and are famous for their ability to continue multiplying, despite the fact that their “donor” died 66 years ago.

In fact, the slice of Henrietta’s cervical tumor that birthed the cells was taken from her without her permission, and her family has never seen a penny of the proceeds from all the medicines they enabled. Instead, the Lacks family continues (at least at the time of the book’s writing) to live in poverty in rural Maryland. This book was heartbreaking and inspiring, and really made me think. 
Recommended for: Everyone. Just read it.

The Space Between

Completed: 9/7/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This Outlander Novella (because it’s a novella if Gabaldon only writes 200 pages!) follows  Michael Murray, the second son of Ian and Jenny Murray, and Joan MacKimmie, Jamie’s step daughter, through a journey to France.  Oh, and the infamous Comte St. Germain makes a significant appearance. We learn a lot more about his… powers… It was good! Well, at least it got me through the last few days of #Droughtlander!
Recommended for: Outlander fans

The Girl who Played With Fire

Completed: 9/9/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This is the second book in the Millennium Series (the first is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I read last month). It continued in the tradition of its dark thriller predecessor. We learn a lot more about Lisbeth Salander’s history, and why she became the damaged genius she is today. The book ends dead in the middle of the plot, so you definitely have to read the third book in the series! 

Recommended for: those who enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Mapmaker’s Daughter

Completed: 9/12/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

Oh wow, another great one! This novel follows a young Jewish girl living under persecution in 15th century Spain (the birthplace of the inquisition, which tried thousands of Jewish families). I will never cease to be amazed and humbled by the resilience of the Jewish people and faith. I also loved the reminder of how important women really are in Judaism! In a day when tolerance is waning on every side of the aisle, it was a stark reminder of what oppression looks like and why we must fight it. 

Recommended for: Lovers of historical fiction with strong female characters.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Completed: 9/20/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This is the last book in the Millennium Series that was actually written by Stieg Larsson, who passed away suddenly in 2004. There have been others written after the original trilogy, but I’m not sure I’m going to read those. This continues to be dark and action packed. A necessary read if you made it through the 2nd book!

Recommended for: people who read books 1 & 2!

Devil in the White City

Completed: 9/23/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This was another interesting narrative non-fiction book! I put it on my list because my favorite podcast, No Dumb Questions, is discussing it in an upcoming episode, and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun! These two side-by-side stories follow the creators of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. It was a good reminder that there’s a lot more history in our nation than we learn in school, and lots of it isn’t pretty!

Recommended for: people who enjoy narrative non-fiction and really interesting American history. 

Tuesdays with Morrie

Completed 9/25/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

I really enjoyed this short but emotional read about a college professor who reunites with a former student while he is (spoiler alert) dying from ALS. Having lost several significant people in my life over the last year and a half, several of Morrie’s aphorisms really resonated with me. Parts were a little trite, but at the end of the day so many people say the same things about the end of life not because it’s easy to say, but because it’s true. 

Recommended for anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one.

Hot as Blue Blazers

Blue Blazers Red Lipstick

Blue Blazers//Jeans//Clutch (Similar)//Shoes (Similar)//Earrings//Sunglasses//Lipstick

It’s officially that time of year where I am willing it to be cooler via my fashion choices. 

Is it working yet? 

I tell you what, I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, and somehow every year I get fooled into thinking September is fall. Silly me! 

I love this Blue Blazer from J.Crew Factory. I believe I got it for about $60 after keeping my eyes on their sales. It’s light enough to wear now with a silk or cotton top underneath, but later when it’s cooler I’ll layer it over a cashmere sweater or with a cozy blanket scarf. 

I’ve been wearing A LOT of navy and white with pops of red lately. It’s such a classic color pairing, and I feel like I can easily adopt it into one of those “uniforms” you read about bosses wearing to make their mornings easier. 

Blue Blazers Red Lipstick

Maybe my favorite pop of red is this Chanel Double Intensité in Daring Red. It’s long lasting formula that I have in four different colors (Check out my review of their Milky Blueberry color from last year). 


I’ve been searching for both the perfect blue blazers and the perfect red lip for quite a while, and I’m glad I’ve found them both just in time for my favorite season!

Back on the Bookshelf: What I read in July and August

What I read in June

So I’m running a little bit behind on these, so what? 😉 

Work has been absolutely loco the last couple of months, but I’m excited about moving into this next season of my life and career where things might just be a little bit less hectic. 

Keep a look out for some fun content to come soon!

But in the meantime, here’s what I read in July and August:

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

Completed: 7/6/17
Format: Hardback from the library

This one was recommended to me for people who like Outlander. It was similarish in that there’s a time traveling heroine, an unconventional love story, and some very sad undertones, but it was a VERY different type of time traveling story. I enjoyed it, and it was short enough to read in just a day or two (unlike Outlander novels, which are HUGE). In a brief synopsis, Greta Wells undergoes an experimental treatment for depression after her twin brother dies of AIDS. The treatment sends her to other timelines where she and her loved ones are living their lives in other eras. In two of the timelines her brother, who is gay, is still alive but living in the closet. Every time she travels so do her counterparts in the other timelines, and each of them finds something they love about their new place in time. 
Recommended for: People who enjoy unconventional love stories. 

Rumsfeld’s Rules

Completed: 7/12/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Donald Rumsfeld is controversial in some circles, but it’s hard to deny that in terms of civil service, he’s seen more than most. During his decades in the public and private sectors he became known for collecting witticisms and words of wisdom in a folder along the way. There were too many good ones to count. Regardless of how you feel about Rumsfeld you should read this book if you’re interested in American politics.
Recommended for: People who aspire to have any type of career in politics, the military, or the public sector. 

Valkyrie: the Plot to Kill Hitler, by Its Last Member

Completed 7/13/17
Format: Hardback borrowed from the library

This is the story of Philipp von Boeselager, one of the participants in the most famous assassination attempt on Hitler. It follows him and his brother through their childhoods, the early portions of WWII, and the formation of the plot. I think it’s really easy to see the people of Germany in that era, particularly those in the military, as a monolith. But this true story shows that there were people there from the very beginning asking questions and doing everything they could to stop one of the most evil men in world history.
Recommended for: Those who are interested in WWII history, and who want an authentic look into heroism in the face of long odds. 

French Women Don’t Get Fat

Completed: 7/14/17 
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This was an interesting one… The title caught my eye while I was browsing Overdrive for something to listen to while I was driving for work. This highly unscientific self-help book written by Mireille Guiliano, the CEO of Vueve Cliquot, had some good advice about savoring your food, finding the elusive joie de vivre, and not overindulging in junk. There were a few good recipes, and lots of fun anecdotes about how Mireille struggled with her weight when she first moved to the United States. As someone who has always 1. loved food, and 2. wished she could look more like a European waif, I’ve found some success in implementing her strategies! 
Recommended for: Women who want to embrace a more French way of eating.

Ok, so now you might notice that despite my strong pace in July, I didn’t complete a book again until midway through August. Life happens,  y’all. This slow down means I’ll have to read at least 4 books each month until the end of the year to reach my goal of 60 books in 2017. (Spoiler alert, I’ve already read 6 in September, so I’m feeling pretty good about it). 

Ok, now on to August:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Completed: 8/11/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This book/series has been on my list for a long long time. I love thriller mysteries, and this one pretty much defines an entire genre (Scandinavian Crime Fiction). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was published in 2005 and has been adapted into film twice once with Daniel Craig playing protagonist Mikael Blomkvist. It is full of some very dark themes, so if you’re uncomfortable with depictions of abuse, rape, and murder, this probably isn’t the one for you. 
Recommended for: Thriller fans or people who have seen the movie.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Completed: 8/23/17 
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This memoire by funny lady Mindy Kaling resonated with me for so many reasons. She is smart and nerdy and hilarious, but never quite feels like she fits in. Mindy plays Kelly Kapoor in the Office, one of my favorite minor characters ever, but that’s not who she is… even though she wrote the part for herself. I loved getting to know the real woman! I also loved learning more about the process behind writing my favorite sit-com of all time. This was a fun and easy diversion from one of the busiest months of my life so far.
Recommended for: Fans of Mindy and The Office, or just young women who need some help being themselves in a world that doesn’t always reward women who march to their own beat.

The Circle

Completed: 8/20/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

I read this book because I thought the trailer for the movie looked really compelling, and is chock full of HUGE name actors and actresses. I mean come on, Emma Watson and Tom Hanks in the same movie? Sign me up! But the movie flopped, more or less, and I understand why. I *liked* the book, but it read like someone’s first novel (as an aspiring novelist, I can’t hate too much… but I was hoping for more). There were some weird jumpy places, and things that just didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I was left feeling like the story could have benefitted greatly from a really good editor. Still, there was a good message about how oversharing on social media can change your brain, and what that could mean for our society. 
Recommended for: people who want a reality check on the potential consequences of social media. 

Well, there’s what I read in July and August! What should I put on my list next?


What I read in June

What I read in June

Whew, July was crazy. 

So this is a little late. We’re just going to move on. OK? ok. 

So, without further ado, here’s what I read in June:

The Imperial Wife

Completed: 6/3/17
Format: Hardback from the library

For some reason we learn a relatively large amount about French and British royalty, we don’t talk much about the extents of the Russian empire and how its emperors and empresses influenced western culture. Likewise with art! This historical fiction book goes back and forth between a modern-day Russian art expert and the young Catherine the Great of Russia. Learning more about Catherine the Great was extremely interesting, and the book was well written and original. 

Recommended for Phillippa Gregory fans.

Being a Dog

Completed 6/13/17
Format: Hardback from the library

Oh this book! It was so full of interesting facts about dogs and how they use their incredible sense of smell to explore, interpret, and enjoy the world around them. It gave me so much insight into my own two pups! I really really enjoyed it and have added some of Alexandra Horowitz’s other books to my to-read list.

Recommended for: Dog lovers and people who enjoy narrative non-fiction.



Completed 6/17/17
Format: Audiobook from Overdrive

Do you love Downton Abbey? Then you’ll love this book! It has all the intrigue, class tension, and historical fascination of the hit PBS series. It was a pleasure to listen to on audiobook, too!

Recommended for: lovers of Downton Abbey, duh. 

The Underground Railroad

Completed 6/20/17
Format: Hardback from the library

Phew. This was a tough one. Anyone with a romanticized view of slavery or the pre-Civil War south should really read this. It was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for a reason. 

Recommended for: everyone.

Forty Autumns 

Completed 6/29/17
Format: Hardback from the library

This might have been my favorite book in June. Another thing we don’t really talk about anymore in the US is just how shut off East Germany was for forty years. This is the true story a young woman who escaped from the communist regime and made a life in the West, as well as the story of the family she left behind. Two sisters and their daughters separated by an oppressive government. Heartbreaking, but with a happy ending, and so well written!

Recommended for: Cold War history buffs and lovers of narrative non-fiction.


In Thankfulness for my Grandmother

On Monday July 31st, 2017 for the first time in 96 years, 9 months, and 11 days the sun rose over the Earth and my maternal grandmother Ruth didn’t live here. 

And I once again find myself praying for peace for my family in a time of loss. 

But this time around it’s different. This time I feel an abiding sense of thankfulness. 

My last and longest living grandparent, whom we called Dew, was born in 1920, went through middle and high school in rural North Carolina in the height of the Great Depression, and graduated from college in the middle of WWII.

She didn’t get married until she was almost 30, and didn’t have her first baby until she was 31 in an age when women just didn’t have their first babies at 31. Her youngest, my own mom, was born when Dew was 36.

She was a working mother, in an age when most moms gave up their careers when baby was born, teaching high school English for decades. So beloved by her students was she that one of them sewed a quilt for her, embroidering her name and a note of thanks into the corner. We still have that quilt today. 

Just a few months ago we were wheeling her around Deerfield, the retirement community in North Carolina where she spent her last 17 years, when a gentleman who also lives there began telling us about how Mrs. Smith had been his teacher in high school. “Mrs. Smith was the most beautiful woman in the world,” he told us. “Imagine my surprise when I saw her again here. She’s still the most beautiful woman, you know.”

Dew was widowed at 58 when my granddaddy died. She never remarried, and she wore her platinum engagement and wedding rings until her last day. 

She was one of those people who instantly commanded respect and affection from the moment she walked in the door. Had she chosen to enter politics she would have been a force to be reckoned with. 

Which reminds me—she was a liberal democrat in an age when “nice” southern ladies might have been democrats, but they certainly weren’t liberals. The first time I heard the term “bleeding heart liberal,” was when my mama used it in reference to her. 

She was one of those folks you really really didn’t want to disappoint. 

In short, she was a little bit of a hardass. 

And I have no doubt that she’s a big, stiff-upper-lipped part of why I am the woman I am today. 

And that’s why the prevailing emotion I’m experiencing in the wake of her passing is thankfulness. 

When my dad and father-in-law both died last year one of the biggest sources of grief and anger was the feeling that something had been stolen from me. Stolen from my husband. Stolen from our future children. Stolen from our moms and siblings. 

But from Dew we wrung out every drop of wisdom and guidance, every witticism and every criticism. All 96 years, 9 months, and 11 days’ worth. 

For my siblings and me Thanksgiving and Dew are synonymous.

Every year of our childhood she and my great-aunt Nancy would spend the holiday with the rowdy and rambunctious Robinson clan. 

Mom would scrub our faces and remind us of our manners, and (probably) pray to God we wouldn’t do anything too embarrassing in front of her mother. Even my notoriously-rebellious-brother-who-shall-remain-nameless always did his best to put his napkin in his lap, take small bites, and refrain from cursing at the dinner table when Dew was there. 

We’d set the table with fine linen and wedding china, dress in our Sunday best, and daintily sip sparkling grape juice out of mom’s precious crystal, all the time hoping we were making her proud. 

At her memorial service over the weekend—a service she planned to a letter several years ago—we were given even more insight into who our grandmother was. 

It was a wonderful surprise to hear that the same high standards and stubborn grace she imparted on her children and grandchildren throughout our lives she also expected from those in her community. 

“Ruth was someone who had a deep conviction of how things ought to be,” her longtime pastor and friend Rev. Susan Sherard shared in her homily. “And if something wasn’t as it ought to be, she let you know.”

We heard stories about the radical generosity and hospitality she showed hikers along the Appalachian Trail, and the efforts she went to to strengthen her small community and church. 

There was no waiting around for someone else to do it. If there was a need, she filled it. She set the bar high, and people around her rose to meet it. 

Universally loved, respected, and just a little feared, Dew was the matriarch. 

Strength and grace. 

Steel and magnolia. 

And God, am I thankful she was my matriarch. 

What I read in May

Well, June is almost over, but I don’t care, I have a mission!

Last month I read/listened to 5 books! As of the end of May I’ve read 30 total, putting me an entire month ahead of my 60-Books-in-2017 goal 😀 

On this May’s list are several recommended books from friends and fellow bloggers, as well as the odd picked-it-at-the-library-because-I-liked-its-cover choice. AND as a bonus, this month comes with a podcast recommendation! 

Hallelujah Anyway – Anne Lamott

Completed: 5/2/2017
Format: Hardback from the Library
Anne Lamott is one of those writers who knows how to weave words into knives that cut you to the bone. In a good way. A recovering alcoholic and non-traditional progressive Christian, her essays are always a joy to read. Hallelujah Anyway was very very good. BUT if you want to get the flavor of the book without having to read it, please watch her TED Talk “12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.” It’s funny and honest, just like Anne. Even if you do want to read the book I highly recommend the TED Talk. Just be prepared to get sucked down into the rabbit hole that is TED.
Recommended for people who love Jesus but cuss a little.

Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

Completed: 5/4/2017 
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

From the author of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects is dark and captivating. There are several twists and turns, and it’s not exactly a happy ending kind of book, but it was immensely entertaining. As a fan of murder mysteries in general, I really liked it.    

I can’t say much more without giving away some things, but those who have read/seen Gone Girl will be happy with this story!

Recommended for lovers of really dark murder mysteries and other Gillian Flynn books.

How the Irish Saved Civilization 

Completed: 5/21/2017
Format: Hardback from the library

While all of western civilization was crumbling during the fall of Rome, a group of monks in Ireland originally established by Saint Patrick worked to copy and preserve the learning of the Roman Empire. Without those monks we might not have Plato or Aristotle, or Homer, or Euripides.

In short, without those humble monks, we wouldn’t have the classics. We wouldn’t have the academic basis for the Declaration of Independence, or for modern republics and democracies.

Saved the civilization, indeed.

Recommended for history nerds.

Ready Player One

Completed: 5/24/2017
Format: eBook through Overdrive

SO. NERDY. But very very good! This was 100% my favorite read of May. Set in 2044 when the world has gone to crap and everyone takes refuge in the OASIS (think virtual reality on steroids), a billionaire’s death leads the whole world on a massive digital treasure hunt. The designer of the hunt was raised in the 1980s, and the book is riddled with 80’s trivia and memorabilia. 

There were several things that were a tad over my head, but over all it was fantastic, and made all the more fun by a TWO AND A HALF HOUR LONG EPISODE OF MY FAVORITE PODCAST!!!

No Dumb Questions is hosted by Smarter Every Day’s Destin Sandlin (who happens to be from Huntsville, AL) and Matt Whittman who runs an excellent YouTube channel called The 10 Minute Bible Hour.

They are where I originally heard about the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed their chapter-by-chapter analysis.

Recommended for fans of geeky dystopian novels.

The Summer Before the War

Completed: 5/31/2017
Format: Audiobook via Overdrive

This book was really very good, but WWI stories always make me a little sad. So much loss over basically nothing! Set in the English countryside in the months before the launch of the Great War, The Summer Before the War is laced with Downton Abbey-esque intrigue and interclass conflict. It was a good reminder of how far society has come in so many ways in the last century. 

Recommended for fans of Downton Abbey and Belgravia.

That’s it for what I read in May. I’ll be back in just a few days with June’s list. 

Unclaimed Baggage and Coming Back Home: Part 2

This is what happens to your lost luggage!

Have you ever wondered what happens to your lost or unclaimed baggage?

For the first part of my trip around my old stomping grounds in North Alabama with Unclaimed Baggage click here! 

After a beautiful morning on the river we packed up and went over to Unclaimed Baggage’s huge retail facility. 

Growing up less than a half hour away from Unclaimed Baggage, I thought I knew more or less how it worked. But it’s so much more detailed than you’d think! Cayla and Brenda did an amazing job of walking us through how they process all the lost, mishandled, and unclaimed baggage they receive from airlines and bus lines across the country.

Photo by Matt Pittman

Approximately 99.5% of airline customers’ bags make it to their intended destination, but that other .5% goes through a months-long process. The airline first tries to get it back to its owner, and in most cases they are successful! But for that other small percentage, a claim is paid to the owner, and the baggage itself gets sold to Unclaimed Baggage. 

Once UB has its hands on it their expert processors  sort through it all, and all sellable clothes and accessories are laundered and/or dry cleaned. Some items are donated, and some (think used toiletries) are trashed. Only the best makes it out to the retail floor!

This is what happens to your lost and unclaimed baggage!
Photo by Matt Pittman

Unclaimed Baggage was merely a local treasure until 1995 when it was featured on Oprah, and since then it has become a travel destination.

One of the things I learned about Unclaimed Baggage that makes me love it even more is how big of a steward of the community they are. They donate lots and lots of bags, unused toiletries, and merchandise not designated for the retail floor. 

So you want to know about my haul, right? 

After LOTS and lots of deliberation and help from the awesome guys at the electronics counter I purchased my new carry everywhere camera! This Olympus OM-D E-M10II does replace my beloved Nikon D7000, but it is a LOT smaller and lighter, making it perfect for throwing in my purse. I got it used, but in great shape with a GREAT lens for less than I would have been able to buy it used on eBay, which is saying something.

My other awesome purchase was this pair of incredibly cute Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses. Millennial pink with gold??? Yes, please. 


Like I showed in the first post, there is so much in northeast Alabama to see and do during your trip, but I hope next time you’re up that way you’ll stop in at Unclaimed Baggage! They know how to do southern hospitality right! 

This is what happens to your lost luggage!
Photo by Matt Pittman

Thank you Unclaimed Baggage for the great shopping trip and tour around northeast Alabama!

All of the photos on this post are by Matt Pittman, Unclaimed Baggage’s awesome content marketing manager. Check out some of his great work at his website, http://www.matt-pittman.com/

Unclaimed Baggage and Coming Back Home: Part 1

Why you need to visit Northeast Alabama this summer

Last month after a fantastic three days of learning more about the travel writing community at TBEX, I was invited by Unclaimed Baggage to come spend a day and a half in northeast Alabama exploring the beautiful area and learning all about how Unclaimed Baggage works. 

(Click here if you want to read my story about our day at Unclaimed Baggage!)

One of the fun things about this particular trip is that it was really a trip through my own backyard; I grew up 20 minutes away from Scottsboro, where Unclaimed Baggage resides. 

The beauty of northeast Alabama is the of kind people should write about much more often. The foothills of Appalachia intertwine with the wide Tennessee River, dammed up in the 1930s to bring electricity to the area and creating the happy byproduct of a large lake swimming with bass and boaters.  

Tiny mountain towns like Mentone and Valley Head have become artisan enclaves, while state parks and national preserves have ensured the region’s rare, precious, and in some cases, endangered species of flora and fauna. 

Alabama has a range of beauty, from the sugar sand shores of the Gulf to river-laced shoals, but this little corner of it will always have my heart. 

We were treated to lunch at the Wildflower Cafe (tomato pie, y’all) before a quick stop in a Kamama art gallery, incidentally where my sister-in-law’s father-in-law’s (John Miller) beautiful abstract paintings are sold! 

Wildflower Cafe in Mentone Alabama

Tomato Pie from the Wildflower Cafe in Mentone Alabama
Tomato Pie

An unimpressive picture of three impressive paintings by John Miller

Next we drove up the mountain a little bit to stop in on Valinda Miracle at Miracle Pottery in Valley Head. She shared with us her incredible story while she did a quick pot-throwing demonstration. 

Photo by Matt Pittman

More than thirty years ago Valinda was in a devastating car wreck, not only nearly killing her, but causing severe damage to her short-term memory function. No longer able to continue her previous career of commercial real estate, she threw herself into art. In pottery she found not only calm and focus, but also a form of creative expression she could do without worrying about her memory loss—the wheel keeps going ’round and ’round. 

Today Valinda and her husband sell her beautiful stoneware all over the world, and her injuries have healed far beyond where her doctors ever said they would. 

A piece Valinda made depicting the artist coming out of her. (Photo by Matt Pittman)

Next it was time to go chasing waterfalls! We went to DeSoto Falls in DeSoto State Park and Little River Falls in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. 


After dinner at the Preserve’s lodge we took the drive back down from the mountains to Scottsboro for a night on the river at Goose Pond Colony. It was already dark by the time we got there, but that didn’t stop me from going down to the water and trying my hand at a few long exposure shots. I didn’t have my tripod, so my only option was setting it on the dock. 

I held the shutter open while I moved the camera in front of the moon in this heart shape <3
A car moving across the causeway

The next morning I woke up early to catch the sun’s earliest rays, and while the direction of my cabin (facing west over the water) was not conducive to a stunning sunrise shot, I did get to catch the perfect pastels of this temperate Spring morning. 

A Grey Heron was out on the dock with me the entire time, one eye on my and one on the large fish swimming lazily in the shadow of the pier. 

The fresh air and calming ambiance of the wide, lazy river woke me up gradually, but more completely than a cup of coffee ever could, and by 7 it was time to load up in the van and head over to Unclaimed Baggage. 

Read the rest of my story in Part 2!

Thank you to Unclaimed Baggage for hosting our TBEX group!

This Moment

April Stanley Photography

This picture. This moment. 

This moment was when any doubt I’d ever had about marrying my husband James vanished. 
This is the moment he began his vows to me—the vows that hang framed beside our bed today. He didn’t know it yet, but he and I had written the same first line in those vows. He would share in my laughter a minute later when I began reading my own vows to him.
April Stanley Photography
This moment four years ago today, our souls became irrevocably intwined. 
God made us for that moment, and for every one we’ve experienced since then. 
Four years really isn’t very many, certainly not compared to the 36 years my parents were married, or the 41 his parents were. But dang, this last year has felt like a lifetime. Through the sorrow of losing our dads we’ve leaned on each other and learned even more about the ties that will bind us together forever on earth and in heaven. 
Making my marriage vows to James Michael Reuben BeShears is the smartest thing I’ve ever done, and working every day to fulfill them is the most joyful task I can imagine. 
Happy Anniversary, Buck. I think you’re the coolest.