Sometimes, you just gotta indulge yourself. And I did. One Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, while watching The Pioneer Woman cook before me on The Food Network, appeared a TV commercial advertising her book signing appearance that afternoon in Denver. No Way, I thought. Today? I had no plans. Why not?
Frankly, I didn’t know a lot about her, this Pioneer Woman. I’d recently begun taping her cooking show on Saturday mornings but didn’t visit her blog/website until that morning. I browsed through her blog posts providing myself the necessary information to call myself a fan. Turns out, Ree Drummond and I have a lot in common: we both live on a ranch, we both have four kids, we both blog, we both homeschool, we’re both married, we’re both women. We are soul sisters, soon-to-be best friends.
I hit the shower, mapped the location, and insisted that my own two homeschool kids tag along for the adventure. We drove 30 minutes to the West side of Littleton and entered the bookstore 1 1/2 hours before her appearance. The organized bookstore staff assigned me a group number and line number upon my arrival. Group ONE, number 78.
“How many people are y’all expecting today,” I asked, looking around the store.
“Several hundred,” the clerk replied.
The 77 place holders before me gathered around the two large screens set up in the center of the store, each holding hardbound books. I was empty-handed. Heart racing, I grabbed one of her cookbooks, her real-life romance story, and her recently released children’s book, Charlie the Ranch Dog, and scooted into the crowd facing the screens. With nothing but time on my hands, I sat on the cold, concrete floor and thumbed through the cookbook making small talk with ladies around me. As I flipped the full-color cookbook pages, one particular woman beside me reviewed each recipe aloud over my shoulder often referring to yummy concoctions in Ree’s other cookbook. With time on my side, I switched out the children’s book for the other cookbook and returned to my concrete seat, thankful I had arrived early as newcomers held numbers in the 600’s.
Moments later, after a few procedural announcements from bookstore staff, Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, stepped onto the raised platform between the two large screens.
The shoulder-to-shoulder standing crowd clapped and screamed. Nervous and apologetic for her public speaking skills, Ree welcomed us and began narrating her 20 minute autobiography via Power Point slide presentation. She about broke every rule of public speaking. She wasn’t polished, didn’t memorize her presentation, and pressed a tissue to her forehead and upper lip multiple times removing sweat beads. I was nervous for her. Part of me wanted to pass along a couple of speakers’ trainings she could benefit from.
Then I looked around the room. Every one of her cult followers were smiling, laughing at her jokes, feeling welcomed, relating to her life prior to New York Times Bestseller’s status. The Pioneer Woman was real, authentic, imperfect, just like all of us. She recounted meeting her strapping cowboy husband, affectionately called Marlboro Man, and told how she ended up becoming a rancher’s wife.
In 2006, Ree began writing her blog to pass time on the ranch, a far cry from her golf country club upbringing. Her web-log, online journal, began as a series of photos depicting ranch life then soon evolved into a cooking blog.
She wrapped up her slide show with pictures of her beloved ranch dog, Charlie, the basset hound. Unable to put her true feelings into words, she broke out into song: Endless Love. We laughed hysterically. We all loved her.
I couldn’t wait to meet her in person. And 1 1/2 hours later, I did. She graciously signed my newly purchased hardbound books and smiled for a photo. I told her how much we have in common. She liked my shirt. I’m certain the next 672 people in line behind me didn’t make the same connection. (insert sarcasm)
Our family left for our mountain ranch the following day, Sunday, for a week of spring break skiing and chilling. I read her real-life love story, I cooked from her cookbooks, and I relished having met her in person. Not because she’s everything I want to be, but because she reminded me of who I am. Imperfect, unscripted, and sweating through life, as a wife, mother, teacher, on our ranch or otherwise.