How to Use Essential Oils: A Step-By-Step Guide.

1. You will receive your first (and second, third, and four hundredth) introduction to Essential Oils via your favorite social network – most likely Facebook. This glorious day in your life will occur when you happen to mention any form of personal discomfort. A headache, scabies, a sword wound, or split ends. If the stars shine down upon your confession, you will have commenters on your status. These commenters will bring you into The Age of Aquarius Oil.

“Have you heard of Essential Oils?”

“If you rub just one drop of Lavender Oil on that sword wound, it will clear right up!”

“Can I bring you over some samples really quick? I can rub that Scabies out the back door!”

You have begun to step out of your chrysalis and into REAL LIFE.

A Guide To Essential Oils

2. You will want to keep things quiet at first – after all, oils are kinda crunchy-hippy-kale-eatin’ stuff, and you might want to make sure they actually work before you say anything. So subtly sign up under another rep and receive your first shipment of oils.

Did I mention that they’ll make it significantly cheaper for you to sign up as a rep than to just buy the stinkin’ (and I do mean that literally) oils? That’s okay, you’ll tell yourself – I’m just doing it for the oils.

3. Receive your oils. You may find your nose hairs running for cover up into your sinus cavities upon the initial opening. Your children will hold their noses, screaming as they run from the Blessed Package. Don’t worry – the whole city won’t smell you when you start rubbing that stuff onto every square inch of your body – it will absorb and cure every ailment you didn’t know you had.

4. This will not stop your husband from routinely commenting “What is that SMELL?!” when you come to bed at night.

5. Everyone tells you that a capsule of Peppermint and Lemon Oil a day will make you a better person, a lighter person, a more detoxified person, and a more energetic person. You will stay home that first day because you will absolutely be energetically running to the bathroom all day long.

6. Just like Cloth-Diapering, CrossFit, and Eating Organic, Oil Success doesn’t really occur unless you share it on Facebook. So you will begin crafting your own statuses about these dews of the gods.

“This morning, my appendix burst and I went completely septic. But instead of emergency surgery, I just dabbed on a bit of Thieves Oil. In an hour, I was fine – and I got to keep my appendix. Because I believe in being WHOLE.”

“I quit using tampons and instead simply put a drop of Blood Orange Oil on my lower abdomen. No more periods!! It’s like God forgave The Curse when He gave us these oils.”

“My hair was falling out in handfuls every time I took a shower. But now I just rub a drop of peach oil on my scalp every morning and I have the most beautiful head of fuzz!”

“I had diarrhea all day yesterday, but at bedtime, I rubbed two drops of peppermint oil in the dimple at the top of my butt. I still have diarrhea, but now it smells fantastic!!”

7. You quickly realize that in order to succeed in this Status-Eats-Status World, you will need to know how to defend your position against those who challenge your oils as perhaps not being the most pure, most miraculous, and least witchcrafty oil out there. So you study every oil exposé blog pinned on Pinterest. With the precision of a politician in run-off season, you will now be able to discredit the other brands in 140 characters and with an air of authoritative finality.

8. Your friends and family will be amazed and overjoyed at your new life success. They will also want relief from their periods and cysts and diphtheria! So they will sign up under you and YOU WILL BEGIN MAKING MONEY.


9. You will begin looking for opportunities to rub oils on everyone and everything in your household (the recliner is looking frayed? No worries! All it needs is a touch of Myrrh!”), but be prepared for your husband to refuse even the smallest amount of oils to cure his post-run aches and pains.

He is a MAN. He will heal NATURALLY.

(Not naturally with oils.)

But don’t worry! Because there’s now an oil called Mister.

What man could refuse an oil specifically for Misters?

That’s right. Your man.

10. You have learned so much, but will want to know the full breadth of your new abilities to cure with these oils, so you will buy the manual. There, you will read about which oils to use for Aneurysms, accidental Anthrax poisonings, Halitosis, and Dysentery! This is when you proceed to your medicine cabinet and throw out everything, declaring yourself to be the epitome of naturally cured perfection. You then go shopping and buy a new wardrobe with the money you will save on doctor co-pays this year.

11. …Until you realize that your bottle of Peppermint oil is now empty. And oh – so is the lemon. And Frankincense is how much to replace?? You can’t live without Frankincense – Even Jesus didn’t have to suffer that!

12. So you log on and begin shopping. As you browse all of the oils available, you may have questions. Such as,

Why does “Into the Future” cost $22, but “Present Time” costs $82? I’d so pay four times more to skip a few days ahead, since Thieves did NOT keep these kids of mine from getting the stomach virus.

Does “Christmas Spirit” actually provide Christmas Spirit all year round, or only when seasonally appropriate? And if I rub it on my feet, am I going to look like a doofus yelling “MEEEERRRY CHRISTMAS!!” to everyone in the Food Court in the middle of May?

“Dragon Time.” No questions there – I know exactly when I need that.

Is “Lady Sclareol” a mermaid, a Madame, or a feminine itch?

If I order “Three Wise Men,” do I get to pick the three men I get? Because Ryan Gosling seems really wise…

But questions are good! Because all of them can be answered in the three dozen Essential Facebook Groups of which you are now a member.

Now that you’re informed, I promise to go study my manual and see which blend of Transformation, Envision, and Surrender I need to treat my sarcasm.

For the sequel to this post, click here.

35 Things to Do in Birmingham.

35 Things To Do In Birmingham Alabama

I’ve lived in Birmingham my entire life. Seriously – even college. The longest I’ve ever been away from this city was six weeks at the age of 16 when I went overseas.

As a kid, Birmingham was clearly a dying city. My parents told stories of what it once was, but it was impossible to imagine. Downtown was boarded up, everything happened in the suburbs, and we were all bored.

There was nothing to do.

In the past five years, my city has gone through a beautiful metamorphosis. Residents began having a new sense of optimism and burden to invest in the city. Things began to actually change, and all of a sudden, we had a vibrant, beautiful, exciting city.

(Did you know that we have the number one amount of green space per capita in the nation? A great deal of that has been created in my adulthood.)

It’s officially summertime, and it’s time to get out and explore the city – both the new and the old. If you’re not from Birmingham, you’re on your own. (And you should really consider moving here.) If you are from Birmingham, here are my suggestions.

1. Hike the trails at Red Mountain Park. [Free] They’re beautiful, have fascinating iron mining relics, and some pretty stunning views. Make a checklist of the major lookouts and treehouses and find them all.

Red Mountain Park Grace's Gap Overlook

Some of the trails even look like this. How much more magical could Birmingham get?

Red Mountain Park Railway Trails

2. Tour Birmingham’s Local Coffee Shops. [Cheap] My favorites are Seeds Coffee Company, Church Street Coffee and Books, Octane, Urban Standard, The Red Cat, Hart and Soul, and O’Henry’s. Tell me if you discover any more jewels.

Seeds Coffee Shop

3. Go shopping at The Grand River Outlet Mall. [Free to as much as you want to spend] – They have a great kid’s play area, fantastic shops, and even better deals. Make sure you stop by the welcome center in the food court and get a coupon book.

Grand River Outlet Mall

While you’re in the area…

4. Find the Leeds Memorial Park. [Free] The slides there are taller than any other slides in Birmingham. AND they still have a merry-go-round! If you have children who like thrills, it’s great. And if they don’t, there’s a little kid park, too. If you need lunch afterward, check out Rusty’s BBQ. Rusty will make you feel at home, and he has the best white sauce in the city.

Leeds Memorial Park

5. Eat a hamburger and enjoy the views at Tip Top Grill on Shades Crest Road. [Super Cheap] And while you’re there, walk down to Lover’s Leap. Just hold your kid’s hands well.

Tip Top Grill

6. Visit Aldridge Gardens in Hoover. [Free] Take a stale bag of bread to feed the fish, ducks, geese, and turtles – they’ll be expecting it. Also, find the totem pole on the other side of the lake – it’s pretty fantastic.

Aldridge Gardens

7. Eat an outdoor dinner (or lunch) at Chez LuLu. [Moderate] Leave the kids with someone else if you can – it’s quite romantic.

8. Go to a Movie in the Park at Avondale Park. [Free] The amphitheater there is fantastic, and they have a fantastic operation headed up by Marco of Silvertron Café, which is where you should eat before attending.

Avondale Park

9. Hike The Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. [Free] A largely forgotten jewel of Birmingham, this mountainside is fantastic. The views are well worth the hike, with or without kids – just don’t try to bring a jogging stroller.

Ruffner Mountain Overlook

While you’re in the area…

10. Eat lunch at The Irondale Café (of Fried Green Tomatoes fame – the food and the movie), then watch trains go by. [Cheap] Make sure you appreciate train graffiti – it’s quite magnificent.

Irondale Cafe

11. Take the kids to The McWane Center. [Moderate] It’s fun, sneakily educational, and is a great thing to do when it’s too hot to go outside.

12. Go to an ArcLight Stories night. [Cheap, not with kids] This is a unique and fascinating event where several people tell short stories from their lives. You will laugh, you will cry, you will learn to appreciate humanity.

ArcLight StoriesPhoto provided by ArcLight Stories

13. Cool down at Steel City Pops in Homewood. [Cheap] If you need lunch to boot, Nabeel’s is around the corner and Little Donkey is next door. Tip: If you have a popsicle aversion like I do (even thinking about the feeling of biting into a popsicle makes me cringe,) get a milk-based one. They’re soft and quite manageable.

14. Go to a movie at The Alabama Theatre. [Moderately Cheap] It’s unforgettable.

15. Plan a walk downtown. [Free] You’ll be amazed at the things you notice.

Downtown Finds

16. Go on a Scavenger Hunt at Crestline Park. [Free] The contest is closed, but you should still be able to find the clues!

Avondale Park Little Local Look N Find

17. Canoe the Cahaba River. [Moderate] I have very fond memories of doing this as a kid, and seriously want to do it as an adult. We did tube the Cahaba a few years ago, and I must say I was a fan of Lazy-Man’s’-Canoeing.

18. Go on a Sunset Walk along the Ridges of Red Mountain. [Free] You knew I was going to suggest this, right? I guarantee it will change your outlook on the city forever.

Birmingham Mist

19. Go to a Birmingham Barons game. [Moderately Cheap] Experience why this stadium is changing the face of Birmingham.

While you’re down there…

20. Visit the LightRails. [Free] It will make any night cheerier.


21. Take a short walk on the Irondale Furnace Trail. [Free] It’s a fun and easy view of some of Birmingham’s industrial history, as well as a gorgeous taste of nature.

Irondale Furnace Trail

22. Railroad Park. [Free] It’s one of our favorite places to hang out after dinner as the sun is setting. They have playgrounds, lakes, walking trails, and more.

140111 picturebirmingham - Shadows in the Sunset 7368

23. Discover the hidden trails at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. [Free] That place is GIANT. You have no idea.

24. Drive a little over an hour to Spring Valley Beach Water Park. [Moderate] It’s been a few years since we’ve visited, but we loved it. They have waterslides, a huge pool, and they allow you to bring in all of your own food.

Spring Valley Waterpark

25. Spend a day hiking, swimming, BMXing, or relaxing at Oak Mountain State Park. [Cheap]

26. Try out the Zip Lines at Red Mountain Park. [Moderate] We did this and it is fantastic. And although it makes a great date, kids can do it as well – that is, if your kids are braver than mine.

Red Mountain Park Zip Line

27. Visit Vulcan, of course. [Cheap] The free park is improved and better than ever, but it’s worth a few bucks to go to the top and see his view of the city. Also, those few bucks get you into the museum, which is always worth a walk-through.


28. Visit Tannehill State Park. [Cheap] I feel like half my childhood happened at Tannehill. And they’re all good memories.

29. Visit The Birmingham Zoo. [Moderate] Go in the mornings – the animals are always perkier, unlike me.

30. Walk along The Jemison Park Nature Trail. [Free] It’s beautiful, easy to manage, and shady. It also has a unique way of getting across the creek.

31. Learn in Downtown – visit The Birmingham Museum of Art and The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. [Free/Cheap]

32. Take a tour of Sloss Furnaces. [Cheap] Make sure you bring your camera – it’s more beautiful than you might think.

33. Head to the Gardendale Splash Pad. [Free] They also have an adjoining playground when it’s time to dry off.

34. Go on a drive through Mountain Brook and see who can spot the biggest house. [Free] Feel free to pretend that Birmingham’s royalty lives here.

35. Go to Bessemer and eat at The Bright Star. [Moderate] You’ll immediately feel like you’re stepping back into Birmingham’s past.

The Bright Star

Enjoy your summer. Explore. And let me know what you find.

And if you’re not in Birmingham, what do I need to come experience in your city?

You might also like 10 Best Hikes and Runs in Birmingham, Where to find Birmingham’s Sunsets, or 30 Hiking Destinations in Birmingham.

See more pictures of magnificent Birmingham sights at Picture Birmingham, my photo site that benefits The WellHouse, a local ministry that rescues victims of human trafficking.


Slightly Off Target.

Dear Target,

I love you. I really do. I adore your wide aisles, your children’s clothes and shoes, your lack of Walmartian bedlam, your maternity camisoles that actually go over a pregnant belly unlike Motherhood Maternity’s which don’t make it past a gestating ribcage, your pleasingly geometric notebooks and bedspreads and various other pretty things, your Starbucks in every store, and your selection of chocolate.


Even though all those rumors of you being a French company are false, it seems that you don’t understand the English Language. Or at least with the same breadth and detail as us consumers.

Clearance. What does the word mean to you? To us, and by us I mean all humans, we hear “clear” which means that you’re trying to get rid of an item – perhaps seasonal, perhaps not popular, perhaps discontinued.

Clearing out unwanted inventory is something we like being a part of. But only when properly motivated.

And so, “clearance” better mean “50% off or more.”

Target Clearance{Image by Dan Studnicky}

That’s right, Target. 15% off is NEVER clearance. It’s barely enough to make me consider getting something I do need, let alone something I don’t.

You need to take a moment to recognize that Publix routinely marks regular products down to “Buy One Get One Free”, or effectively 50% off, and doesn’t even make a big deal about it.

Every. Single. Day.

I know, right? I bet you need a diaper just thinking about it.

Too bad for you they’re not *really* on sale.

{Image by Queen Bee Coupons}

Publix has opened Oz’s curtain for us – we now know that you big retailers are capable of charging us half as much and still making money.

And you need to quit lying to us.

So. For you and for all of your retail friends, here is a helpful glossary.

Good Deal: You have my permission to use this term when your regular price beats over half of your competitor’s prices. I appreciate you letting me know about your good deals and I will reward you accordingly. However, you need to know that this term alerts me to the fact that you may never have this item on sale, so I might watch for it in your competitor’s sale papers.
Other acceptable terms: Everyday low price, everyday values.

Reduced: You may use this term when you’ve lowered your prices by ten cents or more. Don’t use it on a penny – we’ll see that and Instagram your ridiculousness in a hot second. And just so you know, 15% off definitely falls under the “Reduced” category – so invest in more Reduced signs and less Clearance signs.
Other acceptable terms: markdown, price reduction.

Coupon: DO NOT print me a coupon at the register for 25¢ off six cans of dog food. First of all I don’t have a dog and second of all if I did I wouldn’t, couldn’t, would rather die before keeping up with a piece of paper for two weeks that will save me 4.17 cents off of each item. I could pick up that much money in the parking lot if I needed it.

Here’s the coupon guideline. If it’s under a dollar, I won’t ever use it. And really if I’m being honest, if it’s under five dollars, I’ll probably forget I have it. Okay – if you really want me to use your stupid coupon it better be fifty dollars off a product that costs ten.

Sale: To be officially recognized as a sale, the item in question must be at least 25% off. NO EXCEPTIONS. 24% off is simply a markdown – don’t try to fleece us. Sale also inherently implies that it will be off-sale at some point in the future, so if that is not the case, you may call it a Permanent Markdown – just because the price is permanent does not a clearance make.

Clearance: Using the term “Clearance” for less than 50% off is like calling a bumblebee honey – it’s WRONG, and I get really upset if I accidentally bite. Half off is the absolute MINIMUM, guys. When you find yourselves starting to falter on this issue, just remember Publix. BOGO every day.

Speaking of,

BOGO: BOGO stands for “Buy one, get one free.” It does NOT stand for “Buy one, get one half off” or “Buy one, get one 25% off” or “Buy One Get this other random piece of crap for free.” If you break this sacred rule, then I will never be your friend.

Blowout: A blowout must be 75% off or more (unless we’re talking about the hair process, in which case it’s a stupid name.) Blowout implies “this is the best deal you’ll ever find on this product.” And, as I’m a good deal finder, you better work for it. 90% off is preferred.

Event: Ain’t nobody got time for events, unless you’re giving away free stuff. And it better be an entire cart of free stuff. So if you’re gonna have a Tampon Event and I read your fine print that tampons are 20% off and THAT’S what you’re calling an event, I’m gonna sic all my Event Planner friends on your PR people. And Event Planners are a group of humans that are not fun when they’re indignant – take my word for it.

There. That’s not too hard to follow, is it?


I’ll be practicing my calm breathing until you fix it.