Category Archives: Marriage


Tomorrow is our eighth wedding anniversary.

When our anniversaries roll around, usually we’re out of gift ideas. Christmas just happened, then my birthday, and his is next, and so we Google the “traditional” anniversary gifts. And you know what we usually find out?

Traditional anniversary gifts suck.


Happy Saltaversary, honey.

(I read that list to Jack a while back and he said “Salt? Cheeto! I’m gonna get you French Fries!” Every girl’s dream.)

(We ended up buying patio furniture, high-fiving, and calling it good.)

I’m helping launch a site this week at work, which thusfar has been, shallwesay, a little intense, so there was little time for salt shopping anyway.

And here we are, eight years in. 13 years, really. A damn lifetime for, well, 13 year olds. And I’m trying to figure out what I’ve learned. How I’m wiser. What advice I would possibly have for the 22-year-old who is marrying that nice karate boy today.


And the truth is, the only thing in my head is, “it’s going to suck sometimes, and it’s going to be great sometimes.” It’s all I can assume about the rest of this life with or without him.

It’s going to suck sometimes, and it’s going to be great sometimes.

You won’t see each other a lot. You’ll get used to that. You’ll realize you got used to that. You’ll realize that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Getting back to not being used to that will take work.

It’s going to suck sometimes.

Your careers will be more fulfilling than you ever thought possible and you will cheer each other on in them, despite how very very different they are.

It’s going to be great sometimes.

You will stare out the window on a road trip because there’s just nothing more to say about that thing you can’t agree on. You consider the fact that there aren’t kids involved yet. Your brain decides how easy it would be to leave even though you know better, you always know better.

It’s going to suck sometimes.

He just won’t shut up even thought it’s 2am and you’re telling him you just want to go to sleep but he just wants to tell you one more thing one more thing one more thing! And you won’t be able to stop giggling which really won’t help convey just how very annoyed you are that he never ever shuts up.

It’s going to be great sometimes.

We have seen beauty. We have seen intense pain. We don’t pretend to know what we’re doing; we don’t. Our lives look different than we imagined. Worse than we imagined. Better than we imagined.

And the only thing I know about the next eight years is that it’s going to suck sometimes.

And it’s going to be great sometimes too.

The F-word and church

It started as a practical offer.

One of the guys who usually helps pass the plate with Jack and two other guys at church wasn’t there on Sunday. There are four aisles. There need to be four people.

“I’ll do it,” I said casually, hoping I wouldn’t hear what I was about to from the men I was standing with, but knowing I probably would.

“Wait,” our friend said, “is that allowed?”

It’s a question I have been afraid to ask about a lot of things inside my church’s four walls. I grew up in traditional baptist churches, where men lead, men teach, men deacon, and men decide.

What am I allowed to do here?

I have been on a journey over the last few years, one that has lead me to really study the Bible and what it says about issues that bothered me. To challenge the ideas that I grew up with and always accepted as truth because I had been told how certain scripture should be interpreted.

I have been learning what it means to be an adult Christian. One who decides to love Jesus because of who He is and not because my parents told me we do.

It started when I didn’t marry Ben Sisney.

Ben was the best-friend-boy I grew up with that my parents imagined me marrying. At least, they imagined me marrying a Ben Sisney. Someone who had also spent his childhood running around in a baptist church like I did. As I became a teenager, that’s exactly what I imagined too. He would know the Bible backwards and forwards, would probably be able to quote scripture, and would be able to make intelligent, witty jokes that referenced obscure Bible stories at (alcohol-free) dinner parties.

Sorry, Mom and Dad. We'll never have Bible-verse memorizing babies together.

Sorry, Mom and Dad. We’ll never have Bible-memorizing babies together.

The problem is, I didn’t fall in love with a Ben Sisney. I am confident that I was never meant to.

Instead, I fell in love with a boy who grew up in a Catholic church instead of a Baptist one. He hadn’t memorized scripture and his knowledge of basic Bible stories was fuzzy. He couldn’t open his Bible to just the right verse because they just didn’t have to do that in his church. His upbringing was different but the result was the same: he loved the same God I love.

So who cares? Well, I did at first. I spent a while trying to reconcile the fact that the person I had pictured being THE SPIRITUAL LEADER OF MY HOUSEHOLD would have to catch up to me in the “look how fast I can look up a Bible verse” department. And OMG(osh, obviously) did that mean that he couldn’t be THE SPIRITUAL LEADER OF MY HOUSEHOLD after all?

Turns out, Jack has led in a way I could have never planned or expected. He has shown me that serving and loving our God means more than being able to pray pretty or quote the entire Romans Road sequence on cue. He has shown me what kindness and humility mean. He has supported me and pushed me in ways that have grown me. And he has challenged me to lead when it time for me to lead.

If that isn’t a spiritual head of a household, I don’t know what is.

I think if I had kept my caps-lock version of that principle in my head, if I had married a Ben Sisney, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That husband might have allowed me to only follow instead of pushing me to become a leader in the right areas.*

*Dear THE Ben Sisney, I apologize for the bad rap you’re getting as my metaphorical good Christian husband. I’m confident that you’re a lovely, non-misogynistic husband to Marci.

And so, fast-forwarding through these years of becoming an adult Christian, of deciding what I would keep or reject from my accept-everything-I’m-told churchy upbringing, I have found myself in the often-confusing role of Christian feminist.

There are those reading this who will find that word dirty. I actually have a hard time stating this publicly because I am acutely aware of all the ways feminism gets misinterpreted. Also, I feel it’s more impactful to live out what you believe than to place a label on it.

I have had other Christians (men) warn me against making Christian feminists my role models, against accepting any of their ideas. I have had friends (and probably my mother) worry about my spiritual security when I mention that I’m not comfortable with ways certain scripture (especially scripture about women) has been interpreted. I have been surprised by blatant sexism in my career. I have noticed the disparity in women who lead vs. men who lead in this world.

I have been not allowed to do things in this life for the sole reason that I’m female. Things I would have been great at. And I can’t stop wondering whether my church will stop me from doing things for that reason too.

I have perpetually not fit into the typical church lady mold that seems to exist, even though some of my friends do fit into that mold and seem to be comfortable with it (and use that mold to be amazing servants of Christ).

I love the way Sarah Bessey puts it:

Women have more to offer the church than mad decorating skills or craft nights. I look around: I see women who can offer strategic leadership, wisdom, counsel, and teaching. Their whole lives are an offering, and sometimes, the best way to properly celebrate that offering is with a dozen cupcakes and a fashion show, and that’s okay, too.

Recently Jack and I have talked a lot about this. I can’t stop wondering if women aren’t leaders in our own church because it’s not allowed, or because we aren’t stepping up. Maybe the women are doing craft nights and teaching kids’ Sunday school and doing Bible studies about emotions because that’s what they want to do. But what if women are only doing craft nights and teaching kids’ Sunday school and doing Bible studies about emotions because we think we aren’t allowed to do anything else? If I’m being honest, that’s why I’m doing all of those things (except craft night because I can definitely rock a hot glue gun).

What if we are allowed to lead and just aren’t doing it?

I told him I feel like it’s important for me to be a part of changing that. To be that woman who volunteers for things that only men do when there’s a need for it. To see what they say when I do. And God bless him, he cheered me on.

(He always cheers me on.)

Honestly, I’m terrified about the follow-through here. What if I find out that this church I love, full of people I adore, this place where we finally feel at home, comes back and says I can’t, only because I’m a woman?

(This is how I know when God is telling me to do something, by the way. I never, ever want to do it.)

So I have been studying and praying about this for a while. I feel like this is both a “if anyone knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” thing and a “make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” thing.

I don’t want to challenge the status quo for the sake of causing trouble, but I don’t want to not challenge the status quo because it’s scary.

So I offered to pass the plate at church. And yeah, it annoyed me that it was even a debate, that anybody even questioned it. It reminded me of how far I feel the church needs to go. Because to be quite frank, unless these men are passing the offering plate with a part that God gave only men, there is no reason I or any other women can’t stand in the aisle and wait for an offering plate to get to the end of a row.

It was time to step up. It was time to know the good I ought to do and do it.

And you know what? It was allowed after all.

The Truth Is

People ask me about it all the time. That question that begins incessantly the moment you walk back down the aisle, a brand new “Mrs.”

When are you guys going to have a bayyyybeeeee?

I guess it’s a logical question, sort of. I have noticed a strong push toward the next thing, and the next next thing, and my goodness, when are you getting to the next next next thing!?

(I find this incredibly ironic considering that apparently average Americans don’t have the ability (!?) to be responsible enough plan for the next next next next thing, according to this news story, which left me livid, but that’s another story.)

I used to think that way too. I was obsessed with calendars in college. I had a dry erase one I updated religiously each week, erasing the whole thing and moving it all up, just so I could add that new week. And my planner – I LOVED my planner. I would get a new one at the beginning of each school year from the MSC Bookstore and fill in as much as I could, including countdowns to the next holiday or break or something, ANYTHING.

It’s not that I wasn’t happy, at least I thought. I just looked forward to things.

Then I married Jack.

I still keep a (now digital) calendar, but it’s only to keep up with a busy life. I don’t religiously count down to anything anymore. I still have plenty to look forward to, but it doesn’t hold the same appeal for me now. I am so incredibly content with my present role. I know it sounds boring, but I was born to be a wife. I adore my husband and I enjoy my work. I love cooking for him and watching TV with him and going out for cake with him and being boring together.

And that’s why the obsession with calendars suddenly ended after college. That’s when I married Jack. That was my next thing. The rest is just gravy.

So, I don’t ask people that question myself. Or usually any question having to do with their “next thing.” Not only because I feel like it’s an incredibly personal question that, if I were close enough to them to ask, I would already know the answer, but also because, when I am asked a question like that, it puts a strange sort of pressure on me to leave my contented state to either consider or communicate a theoretical state about my (very personal) next thing.

But of course, there’s no kind and tactful way to respond “none of your business.” That is truly the only response that applies, but seeing as how the question isn’t malicious, I don’t think a malicious response is appropriate either.

So, I tell them the parts of the truth that I am most comfortable sharing with not-close-enough-to-already-know-my-plans friends, usually in the form of a cliche.

“We’re waiting until we’re ready.”
“We’re waiting on God’s timing.”
“We’re waiting for the business to normalize – we only bought it a year two years ago!”
“We already have 350 kids at our karate school; isn’t that enough?”

But these days, I get the question most often when they see a photo or a sappy status update about how VERY VERY MUCH I adore my nephew.

And that’s the only time I really lie.

I tell them I like to visit this one, love on him, and give him back. NO RESPONSIBILITY AND ALL OF THE FUN!

But the truth is? This one, I’d keep.

Don’t give him any ideas

Last weekend, we went to the home of some lovely friends for dinner. They have two boys, ages 9-ish and 12-ish, I think? Maybe? I’m terrible with kids’ ages. They’re old enough to dress themselves and not old enough to pay rent.

Anyway, the younger boy, Lucas, who is an absolute hoot (yep, HOOT, because I am OLD now), was telling us all about the girls at school. Jack was teasing him about having to keep the girls away now that he had a new haircut (or something).

“Oh yeah, I have to fight them off,” Lucas beamed, confidently. “But I keep the pretty ones around.”

“That’s a really good plan,” said Jack glancing at me. “I did the same thing.”

(Cue: Awwwwwwwwwwww. Okay. That’s enough of that.)

“Yeah, I’ve got to make sure I keep my options open,” Lucas continued, “because someday I’m going to have to pick a wife, and she’s going to do everything I tell her to, or I’m going to TACKLE HER.

From then on, he’s been threatening to tackle me every time I tell him no.

As if I needed more motivation to tell him no.

And that’s how he wins arguments

“That’s the funny thing about marriage. You fall in love with this extraordinary person and over the years, they start to seem ordinary. I think it’s all the nagging.”

Said Phil on Modern Family.

Jack looked over at me.

“That’s the way I feel about you!”

I paused the TV and looked back at him.

“Um, what?”

He smiled the way boys do when they are sure they just earned some points with their wives.

“Which thing do you feel about me?” I asked, eyebrows raised. “That I’m ordinary or that I nag?”

He furrowed his brow.

“Um,” he stammered. “It was nice, because, see, you’re extraordinary.”

“But you think of me as ordinary?”

“Well, yeah,” he said. “I mean, no.”

“Because I nag you?” I continued, teasing him now.

“Cheetles!” he said, “I was saying that you are extraordinary, you know? EXTRAordinary? Well, I guess you don’t want to be extra-ordinary. Because it means a good thing, but actually if you think about it, it seems like it would mean ‘even more ordinary,’ you know? And so you don’t want to be ‘extra ordinary,’ so if I think you’re ‘ordinary,’ that’s even better. Right Cheetles? Cheetles. Are you listening to me?”

Ordinarily? No, I’m not.

I’m too busy laughing.




Oh hey! I moved the blog! I’m still working on it a bit, but I’m guessing if you saw this post (and all the others that inevitably re-posted to your RSS Reader – sorry about that. I guess it’s part of moving your feed). If you were already subscribed to – it should have automatically changed for you. You’ll still get the same type of content on this feed. But, if you want to add content, there are more feeds inside this blog! Basically I combined all my blogs to one at If you’d like to subscribe to any of them individually or the big bad main feed, feel free:

  • The Hornbuckle Mega-Feed – This one has all the categories in one (regular blogging, crafts, project 365, and recipes)
  • The Jack and Mandy Feed – This one just has the regular blogging and crafts feed (the one you found on before)
  • The Craft Feed – This one’s just crafts (it was at before)
  • The Hornbuckle 365 Feed – This one’s just our picture-a-day blog (formerly
  • The Recipe Feed – This one’s new. I had a blog where I kept track of my recipes at It’s just my cookbook. It’s where I can reference my favorite recipes. If you want to reference them too, feel free to subscribe.

In which somebody doesn’t get me

Traveling with Jack is… how shall I put this… a roller coaster of crazy.

This morning, we left for the airport about 15 minutes after he had wanted to leave, which incidentally was the exact time I had originally wanted to leave. If Jack had his way, we would be at THE GATE exactly 2 hours before BOARDING TIME, because like I said, roller coaster. Crazy.

(No, I did not sabotage the schedule.)

(Shut up, I didn’t.)

There are a couple of stages to traveling with Jack, especially if it’s a morning flight. First, there is exuberance upon waking. Because in Hornbuckle’s world, IT IS A BRAND NEW DAY TRALALALALA! Remember the “Morning’s here” guy on that one episode of Friends? Yeah, I married him.

This is the day that The Lord has made and HE WILL REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT AT ME.

Then, like a tornado suddenly changes direction and rips the roof of your house right off, Jack realizes that WE HAVE 10 MINUTES UNTIL WE HAVE TO LEAVE AND OMG WE ARE GOING TO MISS OUR PLANE AND ALSO PROBABLY DIE.

This leads to the “driving like a bat out of hell” stage, which is both uncharacteristic and terrifying of Jack. Also included in this stage is “REALLY”s and “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME”s every time traffic slows down a little bit, or if he happens to see, like, any other cars on the road at any time.

Once we reach the airport and he realizes that we aren’t going to miss our plane (and subsequently DIE) after all, the “Morning’s here” guy is back with a vengeance.

“Cheetles! We’re going to Florida!”

“Cheetles! I want Starbucks!”

“Cheetles! Did you see the pictures of our hotel?”


This morning on the shuttle from our parking space to the airport, as Jack was bouncing off the walls and asking why I wasn’t responding (CHEETLES!), I showed him the clock on my phone.

“It is still. Before. 8.”

(In case you were wondering, that explanation does not shut him up.)

The airport itself brings out the “grumpy old man who hates people” stage in Jack. Which is funny, because Jack usually looooooves people and I’m the grumpy old man in the relationship.

The TSA agent is too rude.

The Starbucks barista is too loud.

The people waiting for their coffee are pushing in front of us even though we ordered first.

The guy over there is standing right in front of the TV and nobody else can see it now.

Fortunately, this leads to the making sarcastic comments stage, which is where Jack and I come back together as one and I remember why I fell in love with him.

Nothing will bring you together as a couple faster than making fun of others.

So as we were finally boarding the plane, we saw that the door on the other side of the entrance was also open, I guess so they could load food things on as people boarded.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

The lady in front of us looked behind her and made a comment about how that was unusual, and I jokingly replied that I guess that we’re supposed to just go all the way through and get on the little Sky Chefs trailer.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I was still laughing at my little joke when I saw the lady ACTUALLY START WALKING ALL THE WAY THROUGH to the trailer. She got almost inside before the flight attendant stopped her and pointed her in the right direction, which was, you know, toward the actual plane.

Jack and I looked at each other wide-eyed, stifling a laugh.

“Way to go, Mandy,” he teased. “You almost put her on the food trailer.”

“I thought she knew I was kidding!”

Apparently she didn’t.

Maybe I should save my sarcasm for outside the secure areas.

I’m in love with a super-villain

It’s my work-from-home day.

Jack wakes up this morning, only slightly more wound-up than usual, chattering away as I drag myself to the dining room table and try to focus on the squiggly lines that make up my audio files. He leaves for a few minutes, then brings back Starbucks drinks for both of us.

He really doesn’t need the caffeine though.

Usually when he’s in this kind of a mood, I don’t respond to much of what he’s saying, because I’ve found that he doesn’t actually need me to complete these conversations of his. If there’s no answer, he simply keeps talking. And talking. And talking. And talking. And then singing a little. And then talking some more.

When I finally say “what’s up with you,” he begins singing the song from Kenan Thompson’s SNL skit, “What up with that.” And then he stops abruptly.

I gotta stop singing, Cheetles. My fro is about to pop out.

When I say “I don’t know what to do with you,” he raises both arms and sings “Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel” in an exaggerated falsetto. And that triggers a six-minute monologue about how he used to play that in church for midnight mass.

You know that song, Cheetles? It’s the song we sing at Christmas! And I used to play it on my trumpet for Midnight Mass. Remember how I played at Midnight Mass? I would play and I would be the only music. No other music. Just me. That’s kind of nerve-wracking, Cheetles. But it’s okay. Because I’m awesoommmmmeeeee. Remember the song, Cheetles? It goes “Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmaaaaanuel, hm hm hm hm hm hm hm hm hm hmmmmmm.”

And then he looks around the empty room and whispers like he has a big secret that’s just between us.

That’s the part where I don’t know the lyrics.

It’s like he gets extra words while he sleeps that he must use in the first two hours that he’s awake.

At one point, he emergs from the hallway, puts his arms and legs out in a running position, freezes, and makes a sound-effect.


Then he unfreezes and walks casually across the room. Just as he’s about to reach the kitchen on the other side, he looks over at me, then points at the trail behind him where he had just walked.

“See, that’s all just a blur,” he explains matter-of-factly as he continues his walk out of the room, and I realize what he was doing: he was being a super-hero, like the Flash or Superman, who had super-speed.

And maybe the super-speed was imagined, but I’m pretty sure that Jack does actually have super-morning-personness.

It’s a shame only villains have that super-power.

But it was the rat that carried the cane

Jack was in rare form when he got up yesterday morning.

Well, not really “rare.” As I have mentioned before, Jack is both a morning and night person, a true freak of nature.

So, yesterday morning, he was in “hyper-as-normal” form, chattering and skittering about as I was staring at the eyeliner pencil in my hand, trying to remember exactly what it was used for.

When he went to put on his polo shirt, he stuck just his face through the hole and let the collar form a frame around it.

“I’m a turtle!” he proclaimed, excitedly. “But I’m hiding in my shell!”

I smiled and nodded, humoring him, but didn’t say much back, because it was before 9am and nobody should be expected to interact coherently before 9am.

Slowly, Jack pulled his head through the hole in his shirt. Leaving it draped around his neck, he turned his head back and forth in exaggerated slow-motion, mimicking the head movements of a turtle.

I laughed at him a little, always willing to reward commitment to a joke, and suddenly Jack snapped his had back toward me and stared, wide-eyed.

“What?” I asked.

“I just realized!” he replied, excitedly. “I’m an actual NINJA TURTLE!”

Seven nice things he did lately

I like to order my meat in bulk from Zaycon foods, because it’s fresh, reasonably priced, and I always have some in my freezer. I had ordered a 40-pound case of ground beef, which comes in four 10-pound tubes that need to be packaged nicely into one-pound freezer bags. The night before it was to arrive, my sister-in-law went into labor and my mom and I left town. Not only did Jack pick up the meat for me, but he also split up and packaged ALL OF IT, which usually takes me about four hours.

Something in the toilet flushie tank thing wasn’t working right in our bathroom, so Jack got new parts for it and fixed it himself… Didn’t even have to call a plumber. I think he may be some sort of wizard.

While shopping a few weekends ago, Jack saw me admiring some clothes and gave me $100 to pick out a few pieces that I wanted.

He found and hired a financial advisor, who tells Jack all kinds of boring things about our money that I don’t have to be involved in of I don’t want to because he takes care of everything.

He also hired somebody to mow our lawn every week, and now it always looks awesome.

He also saved money until we could afford to have somebody come out to see about fixing our foundation, and when it didn’t need fixed (!!!!), he started the process of getting landscaping put in with that money instead. (!!!!!!!!!!!)

He ordered and sold taekwondo t-shirts at his school, with 100% of the profits benefitting my BikeMS ride. And donated another $500 from the school on top of that.

Evolution of a nickname

“Cletus” – This came from the Eddie Murphy version of “The Nutty Professor” where Eddie says “C’mon, Cletus!” Jack used to yell that at me in a silly voice when he was trying to get me out the door sometimes. This transitioned to everyday conversation, which led to…

“Cletus Nicole” – Nicole is my middle name

“Cletus Hole” – My brother said “Cletus Nicole” sounded like “Cletus Hole” and Jack loved it.

“Cheetles” – No idea why.

“Big Cheetles” – Because he calls Maggie “Little Cheetles.” This one is not my favorite.

“Cheetle Hole” – See also: “Cletus Hole.”

“Cheeto” – He insists this is the Spanish word for “Cheetles.” He often says “Me amo, Cheeto” in an exaggerated southern accent.

“Cheeto Hole” – See also: “Cletus Hole” and “Cheetle Hole.”

“Tito” – No idea why.

“Shittles” – Because it was like “Cheetles” and it made him laugh and laugh



Unrelated to Cletus:

“My little sausage.” – One time he said “I love you so much,” and I said “Did you just call me a little sausage?” That stuck.

So, “sweetheart” and “darling” and “pumpkin” aren’t really his thing, I guess.