The Proposal

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(Laura)

After 8 years of dating, there wasn’t really a question of “if,” but when John Sizemore would get down on one knee and ask that life-changing question. There wasn’t any pressure from Valerie (who is the only girl in the world that would feel no need to “rush into an engagement” after just 8 years of dating.) Just an expectation that of course, one day, they would get married.

There was some speculation (our oldest sister, Tressa, called it right away) over Thanksgiving when John snuck away for a 6:30am coffee date with our dad. She suggested that perhaps he was asking for Valerie’s hand in marriage now because he planned to ask before they saw each other for Christmas just a few weeks away. While this sort of made sense, I thought not because even if he asked our dad, he hadn’t asked me yet. Surely he would ask me, the faithful third wheel of our relationship tricycle. He would ask me, right?

 

Tuesday, December 1

Following a job interview with his company, John graciously walked me out; past the front door, all the way to my car. He climbed into the passenger seat and closed the door. He asked how the meeting had gone, how I liked the team. I didn’t notice anything until there was a pause, and his eyes got a little misty.

“I have something to tell you, it’s a big secret actually.” Now my eyes were watering too. He was going to ask! I was so prepared, but shocked when he told me that he planned to do it on Saturday. FOUR DAYS AWAY Saturday.

            He kept it all a secret — his excitement, his plan, the ring — quiet for WEEKS.

            “Laura, my heart is so full I want to tell the world!!!!!”

The only hiccup in his marvelous plan was that Valerie already had plans on Saturday night. Our friends, Jill and Kate were hosting their annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party, and it is too fantastic to miss out on purposely. She’d have to believe it was canceled.

Thus, operation “Get Valerie to Opryland” began.

Wednesday, December 2

It’s only been one day but my hair is full of secrets and my brain is swimming with ideas. John has the (most beautiful) ring, the place, time, and speech. He thought everything through and did the planning long before he looped me in. Now I was brought on to be his second in command; behind the scenes planner, agent, recruiter, publicist, and of course sister.

Armed with the most talented, resourceful and generous friends in the world, I was confident this long awaited proposal would be everything John planned and Valerie dreamt of. She would indeed look beautiful and a wonderful photographer would be present to capture the moment (thank you SO much, Kyle!!!)

 

Saturday, December 5

(Valerie)

9:31 AM Change of Plans

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LAURA 9:41 AM

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VALERIE 9:43 AM
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Despite the party cancelation, there were still all the makings of a wonderful Saturday in Nashville. John took me to a leisurely brunch at Marche, hunting for forest creatures on our nature walk, and off to get a christmas tree. (They didn’t ask me to chop the tree down, even though I was ready.)

11:40 AM Brunch at Marche 
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1:30 PM nature walk at Cheekwood

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3:00 PM Cheekwood Botanical Gardens

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In the midst of our date, Laura text me about a double date she was planning with one of our best friends, Meegan. They invited me to join their beauty producing pow-wow and I happily obliged. As one of the best celebrity hair and make up artists around, we feel all the security in the world to plop down in front of her, close our eyes and wait to be transformed. What a treat! She insisted that I be the first, because their dinner reservation was at 8:30 PM, much later than mine.

 

6:18 Getting Ready

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At the time I was so distracted with the brush strokes tickling my face, I failed to realize how vague this date plan happened to be. They weren’t sure where they were going to dinner, and the details on the actual guys petered out pretty quickly. (It’s possible all she said to describe her date was “the one with the tattoos! You remember.)

Meegan and Laura got me dressed, fixed my hair and sent me on my way.

 

 

7:00 PM Dinner at Margot

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9:31 PM THE JIG IS UP! (Valerie’s realization)

Dinner was delicious, unhurried and topped off with a plate of cookies and mugs of rich coffee. Next we headed to Opryland to see the lights, apparently with everyone else in the greater Nashville area. The traffic was tremendous, and we were barely inching along.

My earlier text to Laura asking about dinner had gone unanswered, but she was on a date so…wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. I saw her name come up on John’s phone. “ETA?” He tilted the phone away from me.

Suddenly everything stopped. Time became as slow as the traffic. What was happening? I looked down at my freshly manicured hands. No. Way. I am so moldable! I played into the hands of all of my friends as easily as silly putty! My mind raced over the events of the past few days.
Basak insisted that we get manicures, Libby took me shopping and somehow I ended up with a new outfit, my hair and make up was done…I even had a spray tan for pete’s sake. Jill and Kate’s party was cancelled – wait, I bet it wasn’t cancelled at all! Laura wasn’t even on a date!

My stomach was in knots and I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t ready to be engaged. We had only been dating for 8 years…we didn’t have to rush into anything! I felt like everything was about to change. But maybe it didn’t have to change that much. Maybe we could have an 8 year long engagement and… probably not.

9:56 PM Countdown is on

The rest of the car ride was silent. I spent the next twenty minutes in my own head, following along behind John as we parked the car, strolled across the lot and headed into the gloriously lit up Opryland hotel. As afraid as I felt to take that next step, that I feared would turn me into a real adult, I knew that John was the one for me. Since the first week of dating, I’ve had no doubts about John. I want to be with him forever.

IMG_4622John marched through the maze of lights with such purpose, and I followed behind in a daze. I don’t think I saw a single light. The first thing I really did see was Laura, standing in front of the gazebo. Her eyes were huge, realizing we’d made eye contact, she turned quickly and practically dove into the bushes.

Somehow having Laura there in the bushes made me feel so much better. Some things would stay the same. At the end of the day we still have the best friends imaginable, we live in an incredible city, and there is so much excitement to come.
10:14 PM the proposal

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All of this was reassured by the surprise after party where many of our friends gathered for congratulations. I am by far the luckiest girl in the world. I can’t express how grateful I am for my family, friends and my fiancé, John Sizemore.

 

 

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Tale of Two Pots

IMG_1727“Is something burning?” Valerie asked.

“I don’t smell anything.” And I didn’t. I was just far enough away from the kitchen to smell the aromas of lunch mixing and mingling, leaking from the room.

“It might be the rice, you should check on it,” I told her, calculating that the rice was the only part of the meal in danger of mismanagement. I returned my attention to my iPhone screen. I’d like to put in that I was working on a project, or even doing something cool that required my attention. I wasn’t. We were all idly passing the time with entertainment on our cell phones rather than each other. We had just returned from church and were having a delightfully lazy Sunday afternoon.

We were playing that game that stretched back to the beginning of sisterhood. The one that usually reared its competitive head at bedtime while sharing a room. The “who’s going to turn off the light” question, that was always answered by “you’re closer, you deal with it” — even if closure meant two feet over. Back then we’d battle it out to the bitter end. Valerie would usually win, throwing the covers over her head and smugly saying, “I can sleep just like this.” An exhausted huff from little Laura as I jumped out of bed, traveled the expanse to the door, flipped off the light and practically flew back to the safety of my bed.

Yes, she usually won…but not every time. The score was even enough to give me hope that in the present, as mature adults, she’d recognize her responsibility to check on the rice because she was closer to the kitchen. Within the course of the next five to ten minutes, I nonchalantly mentioned a few more times that she should check on the rice. Finally she got up and disappeared into the kitchen. The inner little Laura smiled smugly. Winning. 

After a few minutes Valerie returned, settling back into her seat and picking up her phone. “Was it the rice?”

She looked up at me, blinked, and then responded. “Oh, yes. I just added more water.”

“To the rice? Was the water gone? It’s supposed to simmer for 40 minutes.”

“Yes. So I just added more water. It’s fine.”

It wasn’t fine. That’s not how rice cooked. Why had the water evaporated so quickly? I doubted adding more water would fix our problem.

Our roommate in college had a rice problem too. For years she battled the pot, adding rice cooking to her higher education and having sorrowful results. After many attempts she figure it out, and though she may not have a Masters degree in rice cooking, it’s surely edible now.

My better senses told me to check on the rice, but I ignored them. Inner Laura was ignoring them – because she loved winning too much, and she sensed we’d gone on to round 2. I did mention that this was not the right way to cook rice, and we needed to just use the instant package we had hiding away in the freezer. We may not wait for a full 40 minutes to eat lunch just to wait for burnt rice. Valerie said that it was up to me, but there were just 14 more minutes. A stalemate. We both fell silent.

About ten minutes later I did smell smoke. The rice was most certainly burning. I jumped up, abandoned my entertainment and competitiveness and rushed to the pot. But it was far too late. It was the worst cooking mishap of my nonexistent cooking career. Though the rice on top looked fine and ready, it had suffered far too much from the smoke rising beneath. There was nothing to do but toss it. And by it, I mean what we were able to recover. There was a thick, black layer fused onto the bottom of the pot. We would perform surgery of course, but the chance of survival was slim, I thought grimly.

The instant rice was cooked in haste and we enjoyed our meal, trying to put the poor pot out of our minds. There was nothing we could do for it — not at the moment anyway. I was careful not to lecture Valerie on her rice cooking mistakes, because I easily could have handled the situation had I jumped in. But I hadn’t, so we were both to blame — rather no one was to blame. That’s the perspective I prefer.

Several hours later the sun had set and we decided to close our wonderful lazy Sunday with the classic, Casablanca. Valerie mentioned making popcorn (which was an offhanded wish because we don’t have a microwave). Remembering that I had kernels stored away for just an occasion, I excitedly said that we could. Google produced step by step instructions that seemed simple enough, and Valerie asked John (her boyfriend) to do the honors. Our dad always made the popcorn at our house, she told him. I want to carry on the tradition.

“No thanks. I don’t really need any popcorn anyway.”

We looked at him, and then each other. What? He refused, and it was over just like that. Apparently he was much better at the game than we were.

“It’s ok, I’ll make it,” I said, still slightly distrustful of Valerie in the kitchen. The rice pot hadn’t even come out of surgery yet. I told them to go ahead and start the movie.

I followed the instructions carefully, but adjusted for the size of my popcorn pot. The measurements of kernels and oil just seemed high — so I decreased both. I dropped test kernels into the pot and put on the lid. Just wait for them to pop and add the rest. The hardest part actually seemed to be cleaning up the mess I made trying to measure out the rest of my kernels. The hole I poked in the bag was small, but the kernels were so much smaller. They flooded out and my measuring cup was instantly overwhelmed. Kernels for days. I hastily retrieved them, especially from the floor. With two little pups running around I couldn’t chance a minute of mess.

My senses perked up suddenly. My nose was tingling, and not from a delicious aroma. Something was burning. I didn’t have to ask anyone, I was right up and personal with the problem. Had my popcorn popped without making a sound? I took off the lid, expecting to see three charred kernels at the bottom of the pot. But I couldn’t see the kernels. I couldn’t see anything but a thick cloud of smoke swirling around. It was so thick it looked like fog. It was fascinating — and terrifying when the fog came out of the pot. It was such a small pot — but the fog was growing, filling our entire apartment. I ran outside with the pot, but the wind was still blowing the smoke back in.

“You have to go downstairs!” Valerie called, vacating the apartment with a pup under each arm.

John was trying to beat the smoke out with a dishtowel.

Good gracious, what had I done?

I abandon the pot, still producing the dark fog and puffing it into the air. I heard sirens wailing nearby and thought for sure they were coming to us.

Relieved to hear the sirens heading off into the distance, I climbed the stairs back to our apartment. The windows were open now, the smoke slowly thinning out. Only time could fix the air. I turned my attention to my still-present mess of kernels on the countertop, and the measuring cup filled to the brim. I considered dumping them into a Tupperware container, but those were precious and in short supply — and would be a complete sacrifice seeing that I’d never make popcorn again in my lifetime. I decided against it.

Return to the home from whence they came. Considering the flood that had come from the little hole in the bag, I couldn’t imagine the catastrophe that a larger opening would produce. By twos and threes I dropped the never-to-be-popped kernels back into the bag.

The rice pot made it through surgery just fine. It’s too soon to tell about the popcorn smoke pot.

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Breaking Through Brick Walls

FullSizeRenderWe knock down doors and overcome opposition. We are true go-getters. Do we win every time? No.

Let us share a time we (but really Valerie) failed.

Nashville wasn’t a random destination. It was strategically chosen, to fit into a grand sure-fire plan. Valerie was going for gold. She was going to become a music artist manager. She wouldn’t start out at the top, of course. She wasn’t disillusioned. She’d start small and prove herself as a reliable asset in the music industry. Perhaps she’d start in touring. That would give her a real in-depth view of how things fit together. Merchandise sales sounded simple enough.

Knowing her strengths, she found a natural starting place in friendships. Valerie has the ability to befriend anyone and everyone. Generally people like to do business with friends. Who would pass up a chance to bring a good friend, intelligent and hard working, and of course a good hang, out on the road? Apparently everyone.

FullSizeRenderShe learned a lot about rejection. It came in a lot of forms. From questionable excuses, subtle laughter and intentional conversation changes to more honest answers. “You don’t have the right personality for it.” “You’d lose interest fast.” “Maybe you should explore other options.” “I don’t think so.” “No.”

It was utterly baffling that she couldn’t get her foot in the door. She knew the right people. She was certainly capable enough. She was willing to work for free! She’d go for a year or for an hour. She just needed something.

Impossible. Not going to happen. We might never know why. And that’s okay.

FullSizeRenderThe important thing is that we eventually realized this isn’t happening for a reason. If that wasn’t going to work, we had to find a better fit.

Refocusing her career goals was the right thing to do. All of the affirmation in the world came a few years down the road when our younger brother moved to town. Within 3 weeks of hanging around and meeting our friends (who were indeed the right contacts) he was invited to join an international tour with a big-name country artist.

 

IMG_2729Amazed, yet not surprised by the ease at which he hopped on board, we were so incredibly grateful that we had long since moved on to other opportunities.

We did find a better fit. We’ve grown exponentially as individuals and as business women. We are in a place now that we didn’t even know existed before.

It’s important to know the difference between a jammed door and a brick wall. Pushing through a brick wall will do a lot of damage. There are a lot of opportunities for breakthrough without breaking yourself.

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Sweet Motherhood

Written from the perspective of Laura HowardMap room nail paintingHome for the holidays, we cherish the moments with family. Especially time with our brother’s three sweet kids. While home we launch into full-on aunt mode. Loving, cuddling, feeding, laughing, playing, kissing, fingernail painting, (more) feeding, picture taking…the list goes on. It’s a blast! On this particular visit, we got just a taste beyond the aunt role.

After a long day of activities when things were winding down, I slipped upstairs to get ready for bed. Taking a hot shower after a long day is one of the best feelings ever. But when something unexpected happens while in the shower, it becomes the worst feeling ever. Shower time is so vulnerable, because you’re alone, unclothed, unarmed, all wet with only a thin plastic curtain of separation. I Abigail & Laura make a personal decision to avoid watching horror films—but I don’t have to watch them to know that the shower scene exists. In the midst of rinsing the shampoo from my hair, I heard the door open. Our family is, by some standards, gigantic, so this isn’t the first time the bathroom for one has been turned into a duplex. Still, no one announced themselves. Strange. Then the door closed. False alarm, no one came in.

There was no audible noise coming over the sound of the water, but then the shower curtain was moving. Alarm, alarm! I was not alone. The duplex wall was being torn down! Gripping the edge of the curtain as a covering, I poked my head out to see my miniature intruder, standing about two feet tall. She communicated with me in toddler dialect that she wanted me to invite her in. I replied in grownup english that I would come out instead. I asked her for two minutes, but she gave me about fifteen seconds before making her second attempt to bulldoze the curtain. That was it, my shower was over. So this is what motherhood felt like. It was not all smiles and hugs and sugary snacks. It was abolishment of privacy and decrease in hygiene.

IMG_8930Valerie also had a parental awakening on this trip. During an outing with six-year-old Charlotte, they strolled up and down the aisles of the craft store looking for fun activities. Our niece was proudly proclaiming they are on a very special date, to which the other customers replied that she had a very special mommy. Why yes she does, but do they know her? Oh, no. They were looking appreciatively at special-mommy-Valerie. No no, no no no. I’m the cool aunt, not the mom. This was true.

She showed her true aunt Abigail & Valeriecolors when she allowed the two year old some chewing gum that was consequently swallowed. Genuinely shocked, Valerie tried to defend herself. “We had a long conversation about it. She agreed and said she would not swallow the gum!” That’s when we learned that “swallow” might not be in her vocabulary yet.

Someday we are going to be great mothers. However, we may not be quite ready yet. Returning to Nashville and sharing these experiences with our close girlfriends, they had some input of their own. When referring to children, one friend consistently, without fail, used the word “it”. No he or she, just “it”. Another friend commented that raising a creature was a huge responsibility. We all agreed that we were not yet ready for motherhood.

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“Age is just a number” … and you, sir, are creepy.

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The context in which you hear this statement makes all the difference in the world.

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Back when we were little nuggets (though we haven’t grown much in height since then) we went on a little vacation to the beach. At 10 and 12 years old we were pretty independent. We left our dad holed up in a beachfront coffeeshop typing away on his laptop and ventured out on our own. Splashing around in the water, we found that a large wave carried a large man over to us (or possibly the other way around). This specimen was approximately thirty years old, bald, and built like a biker. He struck up casual conversation, as most normal people do while treading water and ducking under waves. We learned that his name was “D”. No “ee”, just “D”. To confirm this, he turned to show us the tattoo scrawled across his back in bold ink “HEAVY D”. That made sense. D was heavy. He knew his identity, and as long as he remained shirtless, everyone else would too.
This man was impossibly creepy. Our minds were too young to process the extent of the grossness that was Heavy D. However young and naive we were, our street smarts were slick enough to raise the internal alarm when he uttered those words: “Age is just a number”. Suddenly we were sick. A wave of nausea came over us. Too much salt water. Too much Heavy D. Time to go back to dad.

David & Valerie

 

This past Thanksgiving break we returned home for the holiday. We went to visit our youngest brother at Starbucks one evening to hang out and potentially solicit free beverages. Seeing that we had arrived, his wonderful boss suggested that he take a short break. This was the first time we had really seen him since getting in town, so he took the time to catch us up.

 

David

In ten minutes he told us that in the midst of finishing high school, he was taking a few college classes, learning three new instruments, writing songs, starting a business, supporting and educating other young entrepreneurs, and dominating social media with a motivational Instagram account encouraging people to discover and pursue their dreams. He wasn’t telling us what he hoped to do. He was letting us know exactly what he was doing. And for him, it wasn’t enough to just do things for himself. He wanted to motivate others to act too. With his drive, ambition and mindset, absolutely anything is possible. We applauded him for his hard work, strong character and confidence to travel such a unique path in his teenage years. Here’s what he said: age is just a number.

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One statement of fact, multiple meanings. Sometimes the appropriateness correlates directly with the size and creep-status of the individual it’s coming from. For David to recognize that age is in fact just a number, it is empowering. It enables him to do seemingly impossible things and opens up so many doors. In contrast, Heavy D’s statement was only opening one potential door – with iron bars and a heavy lock. 

 

 

Status Update::

We were embarrassed that our 17 year old brother is motivating others through instagram and we weren’t, so follow TheTwentiesCrisis for pictures like this:

Instagram Plunger

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