Johnston County, Let’s Get Wasted…


Kidding. We are already there.

Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, low median income levels, and hunger all plague Southeastern Oklahoma in such a horrendous, Biblical fashion that it is almost enough to make me sick. It’s a poor, uneducated wasteland…according to statistics. While there is plenty to love – beautiful scenery, warm, southern hospitality and a rich sense of community –  the numbers do not lie. Facts are irrefutable. The statistics have spoken.

So when my very dry county proposed a vote on liquor by the drink, I could not imagine the citizens saying no to that type of economic activity and opportunity. No more driving 30 minutes to give other counties – other small businesses –  our commerce. We could keep it right here at home, grow tax revenue and reap the economic benefits of liquor by the drink.

So when my father commissioned me to write a letter to the editor of the  local paper, pleaing for a vote of yes by citizens, I was all in. I researched, I wrote. And at the risk of pissing off every church deacon in a 25 mile radius, I wrote the following, which was published in today’s Capital-Democrat:

Dear Editor:

America’s growing gap in classes is the “rising crisis of our time.” The middle class is melting away, and here in Johnston County, it is almost non-existent. The result is devastating across the county: from educational performance to employment and food insecurity. According to, the nation’s leading domestic hunger relief charity, Oklahoma was the sixth ranked state for unemployment in 2012.  Rural communities and households are at greater risk compared to our urban counterparts. Within Johnston County alone, 22.3 percent of citizens live below the poverty line – a rise above the state level of 16.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s sickening, it’s embarrassing and it’s detrimental to the future of our community and our state.

 Creating jobs and tackling hunger within Oklahoma is a cause most recently noticed by federal government. The Choctaw Nation is among the first five organizations chosen to roll out the government’s campaign against poverty. The message is clear: when it comes to eliminating poverty in this country, southeastern Oklahoma has the longest road ahead. No one is going to help us but us: the citizens of Johnston County.

 Allowing the sale of liquor by the drink within Johnston County by voting “yes” on the controlled drinking proposition on February 11 is regarded as a moral issue, and I would agree with that sentiment. But while many rage on about the religious implications of liquor by the drink in Johnston County, a greater cause is forgotten: the cause of unemployment, poverty and hunger. Exacerbating these existing issues within Johnston County by stunting economic growth…where is the morality in that?

 Liquor by the drink sales would grow tax revenue, funneling money back into the county’s general fund– money we desperately need for aging community infrastructure. Building that infrastructure creates jobs.

 Boutique businesses, from the Lucky Rose to the Pink Pistol and restaurants like Guerros and Latte Da, fill the spaces on Tishomingo Main Street where empty buildings once sat. Within a short time, and thanks to a handful of visionary business owners like Miranda Lambert, Lisa Rose and Kristie Cannon, Tishomingo Main Street has transformed from a ghost town to a center for economic growth within Johnston County. We’ve grown, but I also believed we’ve peaked: the success of Tishomingo Main Street cannot bleed out into the rest of Johnston County without the sales tax revenue, and economic opportunity, of liquor by the drink. Without a vote of “yes” by the citizens of Johnston County, we reach the end of our economic road.

 With a yes, we can at least hope for existing businesses to expand on their successes: a Hotel by the Chickasaw Nation, a bar by Miranda Lambert, existing spas offering wine with services, a margarita at the local restaurant. It all promises more customers, more business, more employees and increased sales tax revenue.

 Right now, we say come visit Johnston County. With liquor by the drink, we say come stay, eat, play and do business in Johnston County. We say come work and live in Johnston County – and live well.


Mark Canaday

Jessica Willingham

While I do hope this article sways some voters in the affirmative, I also hopes it ignites a larger conversation about the quality of life in our community and state, and what we all can do to better it.



photo credit: Pete Zarria via photopin cc


Weekend in Golden, CO


If you made it to our wedding, chances are you participated in the late night search party for one intoxicated, missing guest: Colorado. His real name is Jonathan, & he became one of our best friends during our time in College Station, TX. Once a coworker of Cory’s, Jonathan is now living in his home state and attending Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

The three of us together is a little reminiscent of Ferris Buler’s Day Off. Just like in the movie, the boys are pretty unlikely friends: Jon grew up in Denver’s wealthy suburbia. Cory grew up in rural America. Jon’s dad is white collar, Cory’s dad is blue collar. Cory is calm & collected, Jon is more temperamental. Jon’s traveled the world, Cory has traveled to…Texas. But for all the ways they differ, they do have some things in common: both are insanely smart. Like, I-can’t-follow-thier-conversations smart. Both are mama’s boys (&, arguably, mama’s favorites). Both are  extremely patient with my sassy nature.


Because we missed him so much, and needed a break, we flew out to CO for the weekend. We toured the campus, Coors brewery and went tubing in Winter Park.

I drank more beer this weekend than I probably have all year, and that’s still not much. I’ve hung out with girls who drink Natty Light & girls who love IPAs…I’m really not a beer drinker and under no circumstance pretend to be. But the tasting post-tour at Coors had me feeling adventurous. I tasted everything from the tried-and-true brews to recipes dating back to 1919.


We also got to visit with Jon’s new friends…One is a wealthy black man from Ghana and the other, a  Kurdish muslim from Iran. They’re both students with Jon at CSM. Over beers, we all talked about how important travel is to us. But even more importantly, befriending people who are different from us, with different experiences and ways of thinking.

Michael, from Ghana, said it perfectly.

“People who do not travel…their view of the world is so microscopic. They’re the kind of people who believe everyone gets three square meals a day.” 

Then Michael went into the story of his own birth. His mother, a fugitive for smuggling gold across borders, was fleeing from the police while heavily pregnant (a strategic move on her part, as leverage against harsher imprisonment). She hid on his grandfather’s farm, birthed Michael without assistance & proceeded to sever his umbilical cord with a machete.

Whoa. There’s a woman I’d like to meet.

Overall, the weekend was everything I needed. I saw new things, met new people and slid down a hill at 30 mph. Every time I visit the mountains, I begin mental justifications for quitting my job and blowing all my money on a life in the mountains. I could be an excellent ski bum. Who needs retirement savings, anyway?



Baby Vibes

Major confession: lately, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a baby.

Not actually raising a child, per se, but pregnancy & birth itself. I watched the Business of Being Born on Netflix, I announced my desire to birth a baby at home to pretty much everyone (to the horror of my Safety Professional of a husband), I ferociously combed through these preggo posts, I nearly cried over this photo project and I went mega crazy pinning all things baby on my Wee Willingham Pinterest board.

A couple weeks ago, I had an internal come-to-Jesus conversation with myself about this freakish obsession. What the eff is wrong with me?  I drank seven vodka & monsters at the bar last weekend…I can’t nurse a hangover and a baby. Plus, Mack shits in the floor at least once a month because I’m too lazy/forgetful to let him out. I sleep until 2:30 IN THE AFTERNOON on Saturdays. I am, in no way, shape, or form, ready to have a kid.


After much contemplation, it hit me: I am now the same age my mother was when she became pregnant with me, her first child.


I think it’s some sort of cosmic energy force field that just comes over women when we hit the age our mothers were when they became pregnant with us. Maybe it’s instincts, encoded into our subconscious. Maybe it’s just this sleeping thing inside us that wakes up when that layer of life has finally come full circle. Whatever it is, recognizing it helped me feel a lot less weirded out.

So you guys can stop texting me now. I don’t want a baby. At all.

I do, however, want a kitten. But that’s another story.

Anyway, my ferocious journey into all things baby has been interesting. I’ve asked lots of questions, even the awkward ones, and moms everywhere have been gracious enough to share with me. After realizing where all this interest & energy was coming from, I embraced the “obsession” as research: I’m taking time to soak up and process TONS of information way prior to being pregnant. I hope that translates to well made decisions that I can be confident of and take comfort in.




Cozy Home


Making the transition from college student to full-time, for real “adult” requires taking your style with you along for the ride. I’ve already blogged about transitioning your wardrobe, but now that that is (mostly) accomplished, I’m onto transitioning my home into a place full of beautiful things.

Our teeny, two-bedroom, 800 sq. ft. apartment is best described as primitive cottage meets cozy coffee house. Every room is marked by dark, warm colors, funky textures and pictures of us. Quilts top every soft surface and candles flicker from every tabletop (always pumpkin, pine or cinnamon scented!). Some mismatched, handed down furniture still has real estate here, but with some little additions, we’ve morphed it into something we are happy to come home to.

We wanted to share with you what makes our house a cozy home.

1. Texture, texture, texture.  I feel about texture like some people feel about color: there can never be enough. Ruffled throw pillows on the couch, ruffled shower curtains, faux furr throws and rugs and quilts stacked in an otherwise empty chair give the place a homey feel.

The great thing about incorporating texture into your home is that it. is. so. easy. And  cheap! Instead of revamping an entire room, switch out your current throw pillows for something of a different texture. Or find a rug (like this faux furr favorite of mine, from TJ Maxx) that is completely different in texture from anything else in your room. Things suddenly become more interesting with one new & different piece.


2. Keep it Primitive & Proper My mother is the master of decorating with primitive charm. She was sweet enough, as I was moving away from home, to gift me some of her favorite pieces. But now I’m taking her primitive charm & adding my own spin on it: handcrafted pottery – like this bowl from Austin artists  – and decor made from tin & wood make this apartment in a smoldering Texas college town feel like a cottage tucked away in the woodsy northwest. I fill my favorite bowl with potpourri…so like my mother. A touch of nostalgia makes a house a home.


3. Display memories What I love about our home is that it is a living museum of sorts…a warehouse of our memories. The key to keeping memories fun & not freaky weird (like, say, keeping your grandma’s ashes in a vase on the mantle or something) is getting outside the box with your decor choices. For example –  there is not a single picture of my grandparents in my house. But when I found this 1920’s-inspired, gold lined Bingo dish, I had to have it: it reminds me of my Bingo fanatic grandparents, and spending Christmas morning playing Bingo with them and our family.

Similarly, these atlas letters hanging in our spare room reminds me of our great travel memories, and keeps me mindful of how important traveling is to our lives. Whatever your favorite memories or mantras are, find decor that reflects that.


I keep a moodboard of my house & home inspirations here.

Is your life in transition? How does your home reflect where you’ve been, & where you’re going? Tell me! Give me your tips in the comments!



Wishes for 2014


New Year’s is finally here…2014. A fresh start. A new chapter. Yadda yadda.

The blogosphere is full of posts about resolutions and goal setting for 2014. I never make resolutions, and the word “goal” makes me feel kinda sleazy and insinscere.

But when I came across this post, I kind of liked the idea of briefly reflecting on the old year & scheming for the new. And then taking that brainstorm on paper & burning it. Because the past isn’t any more real than the future…All that’s real is right now. And what matters more than goals or resolutions are feelings – those very real things that drive us.

After a little mind mapping I realized I want to feel three things in the new year: brave, bare & brazen.

Being & feeling brave happens when I decide to show up. Brave happens when I ask, shamelessly, for what I want & need from others: my family, my husband, my job & from myself. Brave is booking a weekend trip on a whim, or wearing whatever I feel like. Brave is trying something new. Brave is traveling, exploring, adventuring & being relentlessly curious. Staying hungry & asking for more – from my body, my marriage, my job –  is brave.

Being bare is about being vulnerable & being seen. I feel bare when I’m creating: designing and writing, putting everything into it and not knowing if anyone will even like it. Bare says “here I am.”

I love the word BRAZEN. It means 1. bold and without shame, or 2. endure an embarrassing or difficult situation with apparent confidence and lack of shame, or even 3. marked by flagrant or insolent audacity. See, you would think brazen would be a positive way of handling something. But confidence & shamelessness often offends the cowardice & shameful. As an old boss of mine used to say: if you aren’t pissing someone off, you aren’t doing your job right. In 2014, I want to be brazen.

My favorite reads of 2013 helped shape my words for 2014, including Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I have recommended them to everyone & gifted them to friends over the holidays. Must reads!

What are your words & wishes for 2014?