But I Wasn't Alone



Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash


My mind did not initially register what I saw.

I walked toward where my car was parked and saw a white car with random parts on the ground in front of it, the bumper hanging partially off, the headlight busted. What happened to that car, I wondered. How did that even happen?


"You guys," I yelled to my friends, trying to keep the note of hysteria from creeping in. "Look at what happened to my car!" 

Melissa and Danielle rushed over from where they'd been headed and we gaped at the destruction. 

This was not how the weekend was supposed to go.

We had picked a random town in Wisconsin to meet up at the end of July. I hadn't seen Melissa and Danielle since before I moved to San Francisco but now that we lived in adjoining states, it was time to catch up. 

We've been friends for almost 20 years now and it's easy to feel like we're still in college when we're together, no matter how much has changed since then. Saturday evening  we'd visited a brewery and then found a restaurant serving our beloved fried pickles. We all agreed: these were as good as the ones at La Grotto's. No small feat. Sunday morning we'd planned on checking out a cute coffee shop we'd passed on the way to the brewery.

That plan was put on hold as it became clear my car had been the victim of a hit and run. While a few hotel guests had witnessed it happen late the night before, they had been unable to catch the license plate. 

On any given day, my mind is a wild cacophony of thoughts. Put me in some sort of difficult situation and those thoughts take a hyperbolic and/or fatalistic direction. Welcome to the jungle.

I needed to drive home that afternoon. Was my car even drivable? If it wasn't, how would I get back to the Twin Cities? I didn't know any mechanics there. How soon could it be fixed? What would I do if I had to stay in Wisconsin? What about work? 

Then looming behind all that: the knowledge my temp job would be ending soon without any good prospects on the horizon. I was about to be unemployed again while having to pay my deductible and a portion of the rental car for something that wasn't my fault. Stressed was an understatement.

This all passed through my mind in seconds.

Then I took a deep breath. If I'd been there on my own, I might have fallen apart. The last straw and all that.

But I wasn't alone.

I looked at Danielle and Melissa and this zen state came over me. Unlike most things in my life, I didn't have to go through this on my own.

Sure, there was still strong language but the hysteria that tried to take hold quickly ebbed away. Everything rolled off my back. I focused on one thing at a time: talking to the sheriff's department, calling insurance, determining if my car was drivable.

Emotional equanimity is the gift of the healthy Four and that day it was on display in full force. I am convinced my friends were a big part of that. Their presence kept me present. They kept checking on me because they were ready for the breakdown. I was upset but I held it together because what else can you do?

Instead, I focused on what I did have.

My friends stayed by my side while I made phone calls and waited for the police. They waited with me and took me out for tea while we waited for a mechanic and drove to get  gorilla tape and took my mind off of the weight of this new disaster. 

Unless you have been single for many years, I'm not sure you'll understand how much this means.

I wasn't alone.

Let me repeat that: I wasn't alone.

I'm in charge of everything in my life. Whether it's chores around the house or everything that comes with moving out of state, it all comes down to me. It can be exhausting but I'm used to it. I don't have a choice. Either I take care of things or they don't get done. Full stop.

When it came to this car debacle, I still had to make all the phone calls and deal with the car rental company and the mechanic. But I had two dear friends by my side and that made all the difference. Having Melissa and Danielle there to bear witness and help out in tangible ways was a balm. I didn't know how much I needed that balm. 

The gift of presence goes farther than any of us ever know.

What I'm Into (December Edition)

Dave Barnes Christmas showTPAC stage for the Dave Barnes Christmas show

How is it time for 2013 already? December flew by amidst Christmas parties and get togethers and family celebrations and shows. Love. It.


Read and Reading: 

I have so many thoughts about Overdressed (Cline). I bring it up in most conversations these days. Post to follow.

How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp (Smucker) features gorgeous prose and a call to adventure and a guide on navigating the unexpected. I loved the way Shawn and Maile shared their family's 4 month RV trip across the US. I highly, highly recommend you read it.

Readers may be split when it comes to Gone Girl but I loved it. Even the ending. The story centers on a marriage gone wrong, as the wife disappears the day of their 5th anniversary. A psychological thriller, I diagnosed characters as I read. The author forces you to view True Crime from a whole other angle. She did a great job depicting personality disorders and I LOVE how she didn't take the expected route. Fascinating read.

I read Girl Meets God (Winner) a year or so after it came out. I don't remember it, other than being less than impressed. This second time around? WOW. Beautifully written memoir of Winner's conversion from Judaism to Christianity.  Great insights about faith from both perspectives.

Currently reading: The Omnivore's Dilemma (Pollan), Happier At Home (Rubin), Everything (DeMuth), The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse  (Gungor), Walking on Water (L'Engle),  When Helping Hurts (Corbett and Fikkert).

(I read 10 books this month.) (Oh, and 101 books this year and counting.)

TV: Must-see TV: Once Upon a Time,  Revenge, Parenthood, Vampire Diaries, The New Girl, The Mindy Project, Parks & Rec

I had to put Parenthood on a time out. I haven't been able to watch the last few episodes because the Kristina storyline hits too close to home but also because the Bravermans have so many boundary and codependency issues.

Did the midseason finale of Once Upon a Time not kill you? I was so surprised they wrapped up one of the main storylines as quickly as they did but I am thrilled to see where they're going with good ol' sexy Captain Hook.

Great news about Arrested Development!


I'm going to see Les Mis tonight and will probably leave the theater singing. And brushing away tears, let's be honest.

Update: words fail me for how amazing this movie is. So worth seeing.



New discovery: The Wombats

For the second year in a row, I saw the Dave Barnes Christmas show and Andrew Peterson presents Behold the Lamb of God. Great annual traditions.



As a woman who appreciates a man with good facial hair, Decembeard cracks me up.




I baked Grandma's Coffee Cake to give to a few kind souls for Christmas. I love how good my kitchen smells while they're in the oven. 

The fried pickles at 417 Union are quite lovely- lightly breaded and seasoned, which highlights the pickle itself. Definitely worth trying.


New Shop:

The Swap Shop in Glen Ellyn, IL has been my favorite Christmas discovery. It's a high-end consignment shop. Not necessarily cheap but still a great deal compared to how much designer clothing normally costs. Hello, Tory Burch tunic, DVF wrap cardigan, and Juicy Couture sweater!


New Business:

I am so proud of my friend Abby. She recently launched Abby Leigh Creative, which focuses on branding, consulting, and general wordsmithery. Abby wrote my About and New Here pages, which absolutely blew me away. I wanted to be friends with myself by the time she was through. Please go check her out!



In the Blogosphere:

Some of the best pieces I read on the Newtown tragedy:



What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh


What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay up for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Wednesday January 30.

2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up to What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

4. Share your post and read and comment on those who link up.



What have you been into this month?

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

This Is How We Met: A Fried Pickle Love Story

We should have known better. Nine 19 year olds planning a camping trip? Not the best idea. Only a few of us had camping experience, after all, and we'd never planned an entire trip before.

My aunt and uncle recommended a camp site in central Illinois, not too far from where three of my friends grew up. We thought it would be the best of both worlds. We did not consider what the camp site offered compared to our camping intentions.

Camping2Camping professionals, year 2

And so one weekend in the summer of 1999, we arrived from our respective corners. Giddy, drunk on freedom and promise. Only to be confronted with a series of rules, regulations, and the tiniest plots known to mankind.

Strange people up in our grill? We had to be quiet at night? Copious swarms of mosquitos? We looked at each other. This would never do.

Ignoring the money we'd plunked down on deposit, we set up camp in Danielle's grandparents' backyard. OK, it was on the other side of the lake in their backyard. Still, we slept in tents, blazed campfires each night, and lived it up.

As much as anyone can live it up in central Illinois.

Camping1Hiking at Starved Rock

The locals, Melissa, Danielle, and Sara, raved about a certain pizza place. They'd long talked of Nuggets and Fried Pickles. While we might have looked bug-eyed at their enthusiasm for strange dishes, no one could resist the allure of pizza. We decided to give ourselves a break from camp fare for one night.

Thus, we headed to La Grotto's and life has never been the same.

The pizza place read as a typical hole in the wall. It fit its small town surroundings but would easily be overlooked in a city. I didn't think my friends would steer us wrong. Still, I kept my expectations low.

The garlicky Nuggets- fried bread dough- were an instant hit. Then it was on to the fried pickles. I liked pickles but fried? I wasn't sure what to think.

I lifted a spear to my mouth for the first hot bite. Perfectly seasoned batter complemented by the dill of the pickles. And then ranch dressing for dipping purposes.

They're freaking fried pickles!

Euphoria entered the building. 

Camping4Friends let friends eat fried pickles.

We made quick work of those pickles before moving on to deep dish pizza. For me, the star of that evening has and always will be the fried pickles.

Who knew central Illinois housed such fried perfection?

Who knew I would one day become known for my fried pickle obsession?

A tradition was born, along with this new long-distance relationship. We set up camp the next summer and headed to La Grotto's for the usual. The fried pickles didn't disappoint.

And yet, they remained in Peru, IL while I did not. I couldn't find fried pickles in Chicagoland. I didn't want to be a whiny fried pickle aficionado but I needed a fix more than once a year.

Luckily, it became easier to find fried pickles near my hometown. Plus, they're ever prevalent in Nashville.

Even so, dear friends. The fried pickles at La Grotto's will forever be my first love. The standard against which all other fried pickles are measured. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Do you like fried pickles?