Minnie Pearl once told me, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
Well then, I’m a bona fide comedian.
Toward the end of 1996, I had a long run of shows scheduled. Our show in Salt Lake City, Utah, was just after Thanksgiving, so we based ourselves there for the next few shows. It was the perfect time of year for skiing. After our show in Salt Lake City, we had Tuesday off. Now keep in mind, we’d done several shows the weekend before. The show I was doing at the time was one of the most elaborate and theatrical we’d ever produced, complete with fifteen costume changes, ten dancers, more lights than Michael Jackson or Madonna had on their tours, and even a portion of the stage that we could raise and lower. It’s one of my absolute favorite shows I’ve ever done, but it was so physically demanding that I was worn out.
Well, skiing and performing finally caught up with me. I should have listened to my gut when it told me I needed to take a break. Instead, I went for one more run down the mountain. My ski hit an edge, and I went down. Unfortunately, my bindings didn’t release like they were supposed to, and I heard a loud pop! Turns out I had broken the spine of my tibia bone. After they transported me down the mountain and cut off my ski boot, Narvel drove me to the hospital in Salt Lake City. I had surgery on my knee and had to cancel four of the eight shows we had left for the year.
I probably should have canceled the rest of the shows so I could recover, but we never considered that. Every day I’d try to get up and get ready to fly to the next show, but back to bed, I went. I hated letting my fans and my team down. I rested until the next weekend, and then we flew to California for the next four shows.
That night I tried to be flexible. I sat on my rigged-up barstool with my left leg straight out in front of me, using my right leg to turn myself around in circles so I could see the entire audience, and sang my heart out with as much passion as I could. I couldn’t do anything about making things theatrical and exciting, so I chose to focus on the music.
(Performing onstage on a barstool after my unexpected injury, 1996)
After a few songs, the mechanism that my barstool was sitting on pulled me back into a little garage quick-change area where my costume designer, Sandi Spika, was waiting to change my jacket before the next number. I realized I was crying. Sandi asked me what was wrong.
“They didn’t leave!” I said.
Sandi said, “They came to hear you sing!”
My fans didn’t seem to care a lick about me not dancing or the costume changes and fancy effects. They were happy just to sit and listen to me sing.
- God’s plans for me are always better than my plans, even if they do take me by surprise. And most of the time, they do.
Rex Linn and I met in 1991 while filming Kenny Rogers’s movie The Gambler Returns. I was playing Burgundy Jones, and Rex had a bit part riding a horse into the saloon yelling “Yeehaw!” We kept in touch after realizing we had a mutual friend, Ed Gaylord. We instantly bonded over living in Oklahoma and our love for horses and acting. He made me laugh, and we became good buddies.
We kept in touch occasionally. When Ed told me Rex’s mom passed away in 1998, I called him to offer my condolences and to see how he was doing. We talked for about twenty-five or thirty minutes, and again, we went on our way.
(Rex and me out on our first date at the restaurant Mistral, Los Angeles, California.)
We reconnected in 2020 when I went out to film the role of June on Young Sheldon, where Rex plays Principal Petersen. We went out to dinner in 2020 with Steve Molaro, the show-runner; Marne McLyman, my tour manager; and Melissa Peterman, who y’all will know as Barbra Jean from our show, Reba. That night I started seeing Rex in a whole new light.
After we finished our dinner, Steve asked if we’d like to go down to his wine bar for an after-dinner drink. Once we got there, the waitress said they had a few appetizers. She started listing off options from the menu, including tater tots. I stopped her right there and said, “Let’s have those!” I love tater tots. Rex is famous for giving people nicknames. When he heard me say “tater tots,” he said, “That’s your nickname.” And that’s what he still calls me today.
We texted a lot after that dinner. One night I told Rex in a text that we had just found out Mama had bladder cancer.
“Hey, if you ever want to talk, just let me know,” he said.
I called him immediately. From that moment on, we kept calling and texting every day. Before we could see each other again, Covid-19 hit, and the world went into lockdown. I was in Oklahoma processing Mama’s passing, and Rex was in L.A. with his life companion Riddler.
We talked for hours every day. All we could do was talk! But that wasn’t a bad thing. It gave us a chance to get to know each other better. From the very first call, I was just my honest self with him — never any pretense or performance. We were just “us,” and it worked.
It was on one of those calls when Susie overheard Rex calling me Tater Tot, and she thought it was a good idea for me to call Rex “Sugar Tot.” The nickname stuck, just like good nicknames do, and now that’s what I call him.
So we’re the tots — Sugar and Tater!
(A gift from Cindy Owen)
We have a “Coffee Camp” together every morning. Whether we’re together in person or far apart talking on the phone, we make sure we spend quality time together before we start our day. Sometimes when I have early-morning TV shows and I’m in Nashville and he’s in L.A., those coffee calls are more like pre-dawn calls for Rex. But he never complains. He’s always happy to hear from me, and starting my day with Rex always sets me on a path toward a great mood. He’s the first person I talk to when I get up each morning and the last person I talk to before I go to sleep each night.
I’m having fun being in love again. Romantic relationships should be fun—I don’t care how old you are. Love should bring you joy and laughter and make you feel good, and I’m never going to settle for anything less.
Sunday Kind of Love
I’m all about a not-that-fancy date. Here are some of my favorite date-night ideas that guarantee a good time for you and your bank account:
- At-Home Dinner and a Movie. Plan a fun dinner menu from this book, and serve it by candlelight! Afterward, snuggle up on the couch under a cozy blanket and watch an old classic or a new-to-you movie.
- Picnic in the Park. We love going on a hike. Here in Nashville, Percy Warner Park offers great trails with the prettiest views. For lunch, pack your own basket or pick up sandwiches from your favorite spot. Just make sure to pack cold drinks and bug spray!
- Get Competitive. Break out a set of cards or your favorite board games and play a few rounds. Make it even more interesting by placing bets.
- Hit the Road. Nothing makes you feel like a teenager again like driving around with no destination in mind. Blast the music, roll down the windows, and pull off on the side of the road to take a look at the stars.
Excerpted with permission from Not That Fancy by Reba McEntire, copyright Reba McEntire.
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How often do your plans get hijacked by God and things go His way instead?.. That’s what I thought! Let’s lean on God and understand that whatever He leads us to is for our good and that those bends in the road aren’t such a bad thing! ~ Laurie McClure