Nature’s Bounty

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We take our food for granted.

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Not just the food itself.  But the whole idea of food.  Growing it.  Harvesting it.  Sometimes even preparing it.

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I love gardening (please note I did not claim to be good at gardening).  Ever since my kids were little, we’ve always had a patch of the yard dedicated to growing food (or at least attempting to grow food).

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I have always wanted my kids to feel the dirt beneath their fingers.  To understand that food comes from somewhere much more complex than the grocery store.  To see that some foods we eat grow underground, others above.  To watch a tiny seed sprout into a gigantic plant.  To see how much water it takes to keep plants thriving.  To see how long and how patient we must be to reap the harvest (in a world of instant gratification where we can have anything we want at any given moment, this lesson is crucial…some things really are worth waiting for).  To see that nature has a balance and sometimes destruction is beyond our control (like the year all of our pomegranates molded from too much rain).

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Life’s lessons are often just waiting behind the garden gate.

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But sometimes life is messy.  It’s not in organized rows like our garden.  It’s helter skelter with wild grapevines twisting around the trunks of willow trees.  It’s hemlock growing alongside black raspberries.  It’s poison ivy slowly creeping up a mulberry tree.  It’s a tiny patch of lamb’s quarter mixed in a field of wildflowers.

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Sometimes we have to step out of the garden and into the wild to teach our children valuable lessons.

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Today was one of those wild days.

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A life lesson hidden amidst mosquitoes and humidity.  A lesson that sometimes the sweaty work is worth the sweet jelly waiting at the end of the day.  A lesson that nature provides if we just know where to look.  A lesson that sometimes the sweetest things are a little out of our reach and we just have to get creative in our attempt to capture them.

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If you’d like to learn more about these incredible wild Mustang Grapes, please see my previous Nature Study: Wild Grapes post.  If you happen to be in the South Texas area, these grapes were found out at Pollywog Pond. 

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If you do decide to brave the mosquitoes and forage for your own delicious grapes, I recommend Jennifer’s recipe (I did use the butter but left out the lemon juice)…it really turned out delicious.

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Vision and Action make Little Dreams Come True

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There is a quote I like from Joel Barker who is a popular speaker and was the first person to popularize the concept of paradigm shifts for the corporate world.  He said,

“Vision without action is merely a dream.  Action without vision merely passes the time.  Vision with action can change the world.”

The world has plenty of people who are dreamers and plenty of people who take action, but it’s a little more rare to meet people who combine the two and make real changes in the world.  It takes passion and commitment to make a difference and it is a lovely treat when someone like that runs across your path.  It’s inspiration at its finest.

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photo credit: Sebastian Rodriguez

Recently, for the second year in a row, thanks to the vision and action of Dr. Dino Mulic and his wife, Dr. Sangmi Lim, my kids had the opportunity to play on the grand piano on the Performing Arts Center’s stage at Texas A & M University – Corpus Christi and Joseph was invited to sing along with the Corpus Christi Youth Chorale in the final performance of the week.  A & M – CC boasts an incredible performing arts center – one of the top 35 in the United States so this was a pretty big deal.  The stage and piano look massive to me; I can only imagine what it looks like to a child.

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I took William and Joseph on Thursday night to watch Drs. Mulic and Lim perform in a duo concert and listened in awe as their fingers swept over the keys.  After the performance, Joseph commented to Dr. Mulic, “Sometimes I’m nervous when I play because I worry that I’ll make mistakes,”  Dr. Mulic kindly responded, “Oh it’s fine, we’re human.”  Joseph said, “But I didn’t hear you make any.”  Dr. Mulic said, “I actually did.”  Those simple words…”I actually did”…caused a massive shift in my kids’ anxiety about playing onstage.  Dr. Mulic’s words made a huge impact on my boys that day…the struggle to perform is real and Dr. Mulic never made it seem any less.  It’s those kind of people…passionate, kind, determined and driven, yet fully human, with mistakes and struggles, that I want to be around to inspire my kids.

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

piano-celebration-week

photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

piano-celebration-week

photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

piano-celebration-week

photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

piano-celebration-week

photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

Saturday morning, my boys donned their suits and Katie dressed in her fanciest dress and we were off for the big performance.  It was such a delightful experience for each of them (even the one that bowed backwards and the other who had a rough time getting started).  Daxson once asked me why the kids have to participate in recitals…this is why.  They were so confident, so proud to play for an audience.  The recital was the culmination of all their time spent studying and practicing.  We are incredibly thankful to our talented (and patient!) piano instructor, Margaret Jonker.  She has been guiding my children in their piano studies for 2 years now (Andrew and Katie for 1 year) and we have loved watching them grow and blossom as musicians.

We returned on Sunday afternoon and received the treat of a lifetime.  8 grand pianos on stage, 8 professional pianists (plus a sextet and a quartet of community musicians who each played a few pieces), the Youth Chorale, and all of our favorite songs from The Sound of Music.  It. was. AMAZING.  I have never had the opportunity to hear multiple pianos played at once…when I closed my eyes, I swore the music was being made by more than just pianos!

Joseph joined the Corpus Christi Youth Chorale this last fall.  This is the first city-wide youth choir Corpus Christi has ever had and it is directed by the talented Nan Borden along with Lorri Dow, Alexis Garcia, Katie King and Nick Lopez.  Joseph was a bit hesitant to join, as he didn’t know many people in it, but this has turned out to be a highlight of his year.  He loves all of his directors and he LOVES singing (as is evident in the performance).

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

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photo credit: Sebastian G Rodriguez

The most remarkable thing about this entire celebration was the level of passion that was present.  From our piano instructor and choir directors to the founders of the program, the center hummed with passion and enthusiasm.  Sebastian Rodriguez, a music student at A & M, did an amazing job with the photography and Matt Perez, owner of The Piano Gallery, was kind enough to lend the celebration all of the beautiful pianos that you see pictured.

Next year, 2020, Piano Celebration Week is scheduled for March 27th thru April 4th.  We already have our calendar marked…won’t you please mark yours, too?  And if you believe in the vision and actions of Drs. Mulic and Sim, please consider making a donation by contacting Dr. Mulic at dino.mulic@tamucc.edu.

2018 Coastal Bend Nature Challenge

Many years ago, in a faraway land, my kids were uninspired by nature study (?!) and I knew next to NOTHING about natural history. I was a frustrated mama, eager to embrace the idea of observation and love of all things in nature but the methods I was using just weren’t touching the hearts of this crew (it didn’t help that I didn’t have a firm grasp on how Charlotte Mason actually did nature study).

Then we signed up for the Coastal Bend Texas Nature Challenge – Texas A&M Forest Service and while it’s not CM inspired, it opened our eyes to all of the tiny details in nature around us…it was a welcome help for inspiring us! We spent a few months exploring sites we’d never known about (and that was after living in Corpus Christi for almost 20 years!) and discovering all kinds of amazing nature facts as we did scavenger hunts, learned to fish, and journaled all of our journeys (one year we participated we kept a blog instead of a paper scrapbook…you can read about that year here.)

Tomorrow is the Opening Ceremony for 2018. It’s out at Camp Aranzazu and will feature many of the vendors who will be issuing challenges. If you’re local, I urge you to attend…it’s a come and go event so you don’t have to be there for the full two hours and it’s hands-on, family centered, nature related fun! 

As for the challenge, you can read more about it here.  Basically you sign up as a team (which can just be your family or you could grab a few other families and form a team that way), then you check out all the challenges when they are posted tomorrow and choose what your team is interested in participating in. From there, you complete the challenges and keep some kind of record…a scrapbook, a journal, a blog, a nature notebook…to turn in at the end of the challenge. You must complete 2 challenges to be eligible for prizes.

And, finally, if the nature challenge just isn’t your thing (or maybe you aren’t local), then check out my Nature Study posts over on With Every Intention and join us every week as I feature nature around our area…grab your kids, your nature journals and art medium of choice (my personal favorite is watercolors) and head out to any of the beautiful trails around you!

Hope to bump into you out in nature sometime soon 

Day of the Dead

I love All Souls Day.

Well the truth is, I love everything about All Hallows Tide.  But of the entire celebration, All Souls Day is my favorite.  I love that All Souls Day is the culmination of the entire feast with All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day preceding it.  And for the record, I’m not a morbid, death obsessed soul either. 

A few years ago, I wrestled over my internal conflict of secular versus sacred celebration in a blog when it comes to Halloween and I gave a tid-bit of history on All Hallows Tide…

Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is the night before All Saints Day (“Hallow” meaning “holy” or in this case, “saint”).  As Meredith Gould points out in The Catholic Home, “Although Halloween has been secularized since the nineteenth century, Catholics have a long history of observing evening vigil before the Feast of All Saints.”  All Hallows’ Eve marks the beginning of the triduum of All Hallows Tide, which is the time when the church remembers the dead…saints, martyrs, and all the faithfully departed.  Many of the traditions (trick-or-treating, included!) stem from ancient traditions, some rooted in Christianity, some rooted in paganism.  For an excellent read, refer to Mary Reed Newland’s The Year and Our Children or read an excerpt from her book by heading over to CatholicCulture.org.  The issue isn’t so much that Christianity and Halloween are in opposition to one anther, the issue is more one of education and understanding what the focus of All Hallows Eve should be and then making that connection for our children.

As you can see from that blog post, we really like to celebrate all three days of the triduum.  Then this year happened and our October was a busy month filled with extra-curricular commitments, our annual nature challenge and a family trip to Big Bend.  All of those events kind of crowded out our usual pagan preparations.

We did visit the pumpkin patch but of all the pumpkins we brought home, only one of those pumpkins ended up getting carved.  Our costumes were thrown together at the last minute and our normally huge pile of pagan Halloween books were mostly left unread.

For a moment when I woke up on October 31st, I was rather sad, thinking I had let the entire celebration pass us by.

But then I regained my vision. The celebration had not passed us by!  It was only just beginning.

I love All Hallows Tide because it’s a huge celebration of life.  Yep, life.  It’s often described as solemn as we are reminded of death and it’s been twisted into secular scariness with ghouls and skeletons and monsters, but that’s not what it’s about.  I maintain the idea that it’s really about life.  Because we remember and celebrate all of those who have passed before us…into new life.

See as a Christian, I can do that.  I can celebrate death because it’s the beginning of a promise.  The beginning of eternity.  I reflected on the beautiful mystery of death awhile back and I am still in love with the idea that sometimes my prayer here on Earth is a powerful thing for a soul who has been caught in Purgatory.

As a Catholic we believe that when we die many of us will spend time in Purgatory.  Purgatory is defined as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It notes that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).

The idea of praying for the souls who haven’t made it to Heaven (because clearly those in Heaven do not need our humble prayers!) or haven’t been condemned to Hell (our prayers cannot save those that have been damned) comes from the 2nd Book of Maccabees 12:38-46.

Expiation for the Dead.  Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the seventh day was approaching, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his companions went to gather up the bodies of the fallen and bury them with their kindred in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen.  He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind;  for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. (emphasis mine)

So there’s Judas with his army of soldiers and they go out to collect the dead who have fallen so they can bury them.  And they realize that those soldiers who had died were wearing amulets taken from pagan temples.  And so Judas asks his soldiers to pray for the souls of the dead and he takes up a collection for a sacrifice.  And the statement is made, “for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.”  And then it is said that Judas made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. “Freed from this sin”?  But they’re dead…surely they’ve already been judged and are either on their way to Heaven or Hell.  Unless, of course, there’s a third option.

Jesus himself refers to the idea that something beyond this life exists (aside from the obvious Heaven and Hell) when He says in Matthew 12:32, “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (emphasis mine)  “Either in this age or in the age to come?”  If a man is seeking forgiveness, he wouldn’t be doing it in Heaven (as those who enter the gate must be purified) and clearly he wouldn’t be seeking forgiveness in Hell as he’s condemned for all eternity and he’s beyond saving.  So where is “this age to come” that Jesus refers to?  There must be a third option…some type of Purgatory.  (If you’re still unconvinced about Purgatory, read this or this or this.)

So the question now becomes, how do the souls get released from Purgatory?   As Catholics we are taught that the souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves.  They rely on our prayers.  Our prayers here on Earth have the power to expedite the time souls spend in Purgatory.  If that’s true, that’s powerful.  And if it’s not true, well then there’s no harm done if I spend every day of my life here on Earth praying for the souls of the deceased.  I have faith, though.  Faith that my prayers do help those souls.  Faith that someday when I’m stewing in Purgatory, undergoing a major purification process, someone here will remember me and pray for my soul to be released.  At least I hope someone remembers me.

And that is why I love All Souls Day.  It’s a day to celebrate all the souls who are departed.  To pray for them.  To recall each and every one of our loved ones who have passed before us and to spend time in prayer for their souls.  To attend Mass, the highest form of prayer, in remembrance of their souls.  To visit the grave sites and to pray for so many of them by name.  To believe that my prayer might just be what releases that precious soul into the beautiful, purified Heaven.  I like that thought.

This year we celebrated All Hallows Eve with pagan traditions.  We dressed up, trick-or-treated and even tested out the idea that a Halloween fairy exists (according to my kids she does…they left out most of their candy for the fairy and in return, the fairy visited and left them each one toy).

Then we celebrated All Saints Day with a Litany of the Saints and stories about some of our favorite saints.  We basked in the glorious thought that we have an entire army of friends already in Heaven praying for our souls and our Heaven bound journeys.  And as a part of our rich Catholic faith, we attend Mass on All Saints Day as it is considered a holy day of obligation…that’s how much importance the Church places on those folks who have made it to Heaven…we are “obligated” to attend Mass in their honor.  (Personally, I love envisioning that entire army of saints in Heaven ready to pray on my behalf if I BUT ASK.)

And then All Souls Day arrived.  We visited the cemetery and prayed for as many souls as we could.  Then, inspired by our recent visit to Terlingua (a West Texas town that is big on celebrating All Hallows Tide as a Day of the Dead celebration), we embraced our close proximity to the Mexican and Latin American influence and celebrated the day with some Day of the Dead traditions…face painting, decorating skulls, and making an ofrenda (an altar).  We made a “cemetery dessert” and ate empanadas for dinner.  And all the while, we prayed.  For the souls of the dearly departed…the saints, the sinners and those in-between.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

A few months ago Joey and I went to see a group of local actors, part of an acting group called Dead Creek Theatre Company, perform Romeo and Juliet.  It was a lovely performance, one that inspired Joey and (if possible) made him love Shakespeare even more as it was his first opportunity to see a Shakespeare play, in its entirety, performed live.

That performance, however, pales in comparison to Dead Creek Theatre’s most recent performance: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

While the Theatre Company changed the setting from Athens to New Orleans and cut a few lines for the sake of time they kept Shakespeare mostly intact.  As they moved the scene to New Orleans, Oberon and Puck took on a more voodoo look but it did not detract from the essence of the play.

The play was performed outdoors in Heritage Park as a promenade, where the audience followed the actors from scene to scene.  It was brilliantly executed.  A cast member pulled a little red wagon with speakers in it and as we moved from scene to scene, jazz music played.

We were invited to sit as close to the actors as we wanted, provided we didn’t block any lighting, which was a nice accommodation as there were no microphones. My biggest complaint about their performance of Romeo and Juliet was that I had a hard time hearing all the actors and actresses as the stage stretched wide and when the action moved to the end opposite of where I sat, I could not hear the lines.  On the contrary, last night, I heard every line, loud and clear.

Puck remained a family favorite character despite the voodoo costume.  She was convincing as her character, very mischievous and clever.

Personally, Flute’s performance was my favorite.  He did a stellar job acting as Thisbe in the play within the play (read your Shakespeare if I’m confusing you!)  The kids and I were giggling uncontrollably at Flute’s attempt to perform as Thisbe.  All of the Rude Mechanicals were so entertaining to watch…literally laugh out loud humor.

It cannot go without noting that this performance was originally meant to debut on August 31st, a week ago.  Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey ripped through nearby towns of Rockport, Aransas Pass and Port Aransas on August 25th.  Corpus Christi received high winds and rain and a large portion of the city went without electricity for almost a week.  The towns directly hit are still dealing with the horrific aftermath of the storm including the loss of homes, personal property and water and electricity issues.

Unfortunately, some of the original actors and crew lived in the areas hit worst by the storm and were unable to participate in the performance…which means lots of last minute changes were made.  Folks took parts that weren’t originally theirs and within six days they were ready to perform.  You wouldn’t know that just watching the performance.  I’m still not sure who took on parts at the last minute…it was all so well acted and performed.  It was introduced as a reader’s theater, but aside from the music stands a few of the actors used to hold their lines, I would have had no idea that these people hadn’t been preparing for months.  This was far beyond a typical reader’s theater.

My only caveat:  for some odd reason the director chose Work Song by Dan Reeder as one of the in-between-scenes, promenade songs.  If it weren’t for that song (with the *f* word repeatedly being sung), I would have lauded this performance in every bit of social media I possibly could have.  Unfortunately, adding a song with an inappropriate word (used not once but repeatedly) bumps this out of the completely family friendly entertainment category.  Personally, my boys didn’t even notice the rude language, but I’d hesitate to advertise this as a performance for all ages as some kids might notice that word and some parents might find themselves offended.  Honestly, Shakespeare himself tends to make tons of sexual innuendos but they often get lost in the language and unless acted out inappropriately, they become a bit of adult humor lost to the imaginations of children.  I loved that this performance was very kid-friendly without any explicit acting of any of those innuendos, but that song?  It makes me pause in making a blanket recommendation…now I feel inclined to recommend with reservations.

That being said, I do strongly encourage all of you (if you can just ignore that one offensive song) to go out and watch it next weekend.  It really was an inspiring performance, made so by the clear love of Shakespeare and acting by all the actors and actresses.  Director Daniel Anderson should give himself a huge pat on the back…he’s managed to brilliantly cast, imaginatively set the scene and invisibly direct the entire performance all while taking on the role of two characters at the last minute.  I am impressed.  And I think you will be, too.

I guarantee, if nothing else, you’ll be highly entertained by Puck and Flute.

There will be performances again next weekend:  Thursday, Friday and Saturday (September 14th thru the 16th) beginning at 7:30 at Heritage Park.

(By the way, some of these pictures are a bit misleading making us look as if we’re the only ones in the audience…the crowd was behind us…with kids, we liked being up close and personal which made the park setting so ideal!)

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Partial Solar Eclipse

I may not be an official astronomer, but I’d have to be living under a rock to not know that today was a big day in the USA for anyone looking up at the sky.  My favorite description of what took place came from Eclipse2017.org, “No human action can disrupt the incessant dance of the cosmos, and the Moon’s shadow will not wait on you if you’re not ready. Like a mindless juggernaut, it plows its way through space toward a collision course with Earth. As predicted by the astronomers decades in advance, the shadow arrives with perfect accuracy, and touches down in the north Pacific Ocean at 16:48:33 UT*, at local sunrise.”  And it’s true.  It did exactly that.

Down here in the deep part of Texas, we were not on the path of totality.  But we still had the chance to view a partial solar eclipse which was still quite a special event.

We headed out to the Oso Preserve and were treated with all kinds of educational fun.   There was a hands-on, move around station where the kids were able to learn exactly how an eclipse happens.

There was a Viewing Station where we could all safely view the eclipse.  And then there was a craft station where the kids got to make a model of the eclipse and answer some trivia questions.  Katie and Joey grabbed their nature notebooks as were were getting ready to head out to journal their experience. 

The kids learned so much and it was nice to experience it with friends.  The staff at the Preserve did an awesome job (as always!) of engaging all of us and helping us to understand the eclipse a little better.

Leave me a comment…I’d love to hear where you were for the Solar Eclipse 2017.

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A Tea Party

Once upon a time (way back in May) there was a sweet little princess who, more than anything in the world, wanted to celebrate her 4th birthday with a tea party.

A tea party with fancy hats, fancy necklaces and a teapot all of her own.

She wanted people she loved to celebrate with her.

Granny and Pappy.

Auntie and Alex.

Brothers.

She wanted glittery gifts and a fancy cake.

And she dreamed of riding off into the sunset…on her own pink bike, frills and all (which was made possible by Granny and Pappy).

Unlike other fairy tales, this is a true story.  With a very happy ending.

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A Week of Deliberate Moments

We traveled by train to Missouri in October.  My parents joined us which made the trip so much more magical in the hearts of my children.  It was a beautiful trip in many ways.  I apologize for the delayed post but I had much to process and I wanted to be sure my words did justice to the amazing week we had.    missouri-october-2016-400_2_1 

The sun rises and nature awakens us with birds chirping and leaves rustling.  We wake earlier than usual, much to our delight.  The kids wipe the sleep out of their eyes and have stumbled out the back door, onto the patio and into the wide open field before I even have a moment to whisper, “Good morning.”  This isn’t the life we lead back home.  But this is the life I dream about.  missouri-october-2016-591_5_1

Our afternoons are spent with new friends down at the creek, dipping nets into the cold spring water, chasing after crawdads, catching them only to release them shortly after.  Little ones spend their time throwing rocks and watching the water splash into the air.  Delighted giggles fill the air.  The temperatures hover in the low 80s but no one complains of heat as they are all too busy splashing, exploring, playing.missouri-october-2016-227_1_1 missouri-october-2016-313_1_1 missouri-october-2016-389_1_1 missouri-october-2016-419_3_1

Our evenings allow us the luxury to star gaze; to see the sky as He intended with thousands of stars glittering and twinkling before our eyes.  There are no street lights, no city lights to interfere with our view.  The boys help Dax build a fire where we all gather round.  In the dark of night, my kids all look like wild Indians as they dance around the fire waving sticks in the air, dancing with hearts full of joy.  missouri-october-2016-1659_4_1

For an entire week we live as if this is our life.  We make it the whole week without toys or electronic devices or TV.  Their world has suddenly become ruled by sticks and rocks, bugs and critters, flowers and trees.  For an entire week, I don’t worry if my kids let out Indian war whoops or holler at one another through the cool night air…there are no neighbors to disturb, no rules of civility to follow.  My kids can be kids.  missouri-october-2016-488_1_1

The view from the kitchen window is one of a dirt paved path, curving ever so slightly as it rounds the bend.  Further along that path there is a fork in the road.  The left leads us through the woods and on to the creek.  The right leads toward town.  A peek out from the front porch and there are woods to my right with a path beckoning us to follow.  A cup of hot tea on the back patio and I can imagine spring here, birds filling the trees, stopping in for a quick bite at one of the many feeders.  missouri-october-2016-663_7_1

There is peace here.  Peace that isn’t found in the city.  Peace that isn’t found in the suburbs.  Peace that isn’t even found when you’re camping at a state park. You have to stretch a little to find this kind of peace. missouri-october-2016-574_4_1  missouri-october-2016-677_6_1

This is not a vacation in the traditional sense.  It’s not jam packed with sight-seeing trips or fancy dinners in fancy restaurants.  It’s not maid service and mints on the pillow (although fortunately for us, we chose a beautiful property with attention to every little detail).  It’s not a house on the beach or skiing in the mountains.  But it’s peaceful.  And it’s beautiful. And it’s more refreshing than a vacation jam packed with sight-seeing trips and fancy dinners in fancy restaurants could ever hope to be.missouri-october-2016-805_1_1 missouri-october-2016-807_2_1 missouri-october-2016-865_3_1 missouri-october-2016-1514_1_1

However, regardless of what we planned this to be, which initially was just a trip out of Texas, it has become more than just a trip for us.  Somewhere along the way, it became a moment to appreciate what we didn’t even realize we were missing back home where we are buried beneath to-dos and rules of civility in the midst of suburban life.  It’s the longing for a different way of life.  It’s a chance to allow our kids the freedom to roam freely.  The chance to explore and relax and just be.missouri-october-2016-964_3_1 missouri-october-2016-1002_1_1 missouri-october-2016-1007_2_1

I am so overwhelmingly thankful for this moment.  Or rather this week of moments all built one on top of the other.  This moment to be with my husband, my children and my parents.  This moment to fill our memory buckets full of goodness, beauty and truth.  This moment to appreciate the natural world.  This moment to slow down and remember that a life rushed through is no life at all.  This moment to stop and savor the riches of my own little world, this little family I hold near and dear.  This moment to live deliberately.missouri-october-2016-1617_1_1 missouri-october-2016-1620_2_1

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Thinking About Skipping Out on Election Day? Here’s why you can’t…

It’s easy to think that voting is just about the here and now.  And the here and now feels like it’s more about me raising babies than me being political.  But the truth is, voting is about the here, the now, and the tomorrow, the future.  My vote affects the future of my children.  The future of my grandchildren.

See, that guy (or gal) you voted for (or maybe voted against)?  He starts to change things.  Sometimes monumental things that have lasting effects.

Take, for instance, Abraham Lincoln.  He forever changed the slavery status in our country.  Bet there’s a mighty big number of folks who are grateful to the folks who voted in that election.

Does that feel too far removed to relate to?  A more relevant topic might be where a presidential candidate stands on abortion.  Maria Gallagher, a pro-life supporter, tells how she once voted for Bill Clinton never realizing that his Supreme Court nomination of Stephen Breyer would one day affect the women of Texas in a way she couldn’t morally support.

Really, if for no other reason, you should vote because the future of our Supreme Court lies in this election.  Pop  on over to Corpus Christi Moms Blog to finish reading my thoughts on why THIS election year is so very important…

A World Apart

(This post may look familiar, but it’s been updated and finished…there was a bit of a WordPress mishap last time and it was published before it was ready…now my thoughts are all accurately reflected!)

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I remember, as a kid, planning my future with my sister and all of our plans always included us together…we’d raise our kids together; we’d take them to the beach together; we’d go on vacation together.  As kids, we spent hours on the beach making future plans.  Our husbands would grill together and golf together while we’d spend our day at the spa (not sure if that’s really what we imagined…it may have just been a day of painting our nails, but a day at the spa sure sounds dreamy right now).  Our kids would be the best of friends.  I’m pretty sure we even planned to have our houses built next to each other.

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Life has proved to be less accommodating to our plans than our imaginations and while I only live three and a half hours away there are times when I notice that whether it’s three and a half hours or 30 hours, distance makes a difference. I see it when we visit and there are certain traditions that my mom and my sister have together like nights at the opera and quick trips to the bookstore together.  There are certain things that my nephew experiences with my parents that my kids don’t and probably never will. Weekly rituals like Sunday dinner and daily rituals like summer visits to the pool; surprise visits from Granny when they’re in the middle of school and trips to the library with her; dinner out with Pappy.  Things that are just a part of their normal routine.  Sure we get to experience those as we visit and they willingly accept us into the fold of their flock when we’re there but it’s never quite the same as what I imagined.

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Growing up, I was a military brat and so we moved around and we didn’t have extended family around.  No cousins at our birthday parties; no aunts to turn to during the teenage years when I declared my mom to be my enemy; no giant family gatherings.  Just an occasional visit to my parents’ hometown where we were readily welcomed but never quite comfortable with the intimacy of large family gatherings.  My mom’s side of the family was always quick to include us, but it still never felt exactly right.  My little immediate family felt right. That’s what I knew.  I knew my mom, my dad, and my sister.  And I just always assumed that would be my life.  I assumed it would always be the four of us in some variation. Throw in a husband for each of us and a handful of kids, but the four of us would remain steady.

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When my mom was raising us, she was far from her family.  Sometimes really far.  I know she knows how I feel…wishing the visit from Granny wasn’t such a huge occasion that we can’t do the normal stuff so she’ll never get to experience any degree of normalcy with us.  Wishing that we could all be a part of the everyday seams of one another’s lives.  But unlike my mom, I’m not married to a military man.  There is no promise of a maybe we’ll move back home someday (and I have no idea if my mom thrived on that idea…I just know that I would).  We’re here.  They are there.  I don’t see that changing.  Ever.  I have to find peace with the circumstances.  Even though sometimes my heart breaks because I miss their physical presence in my everyday life.

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My peace comes in little ways.  Sometimes I call my dad with a cooking question that I can easily look up online because I just want to hear his voice. Sometimes I call my sister just to chat because it makes it feel like she’s here and she could just bring over a cup of sugar if I needed it but, of course, she can’t.  I call and ask my mom’s opinion about something so simple just because I want to feel like she’s a part everyday life. Thank God for modern technology and free long-distance phone calls.

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However, life away from my family has offered me a different perspective.  I cherish the time that we do spend together.  There’s no time for us to argue or quibble over the insignificant…we’re too busy soaking up the moments together.  A conversation with my parents is rarely a quick mindless task, but rather, a moment I take to soak up their proverbial wisdom.  I tend to cram our days at my parents with events…we hop from place to place with my sister and nephew in tow and we make beautiful memories.  Really, my cup is full of lovely afternoons spent hiking with Leslie and Alex and mornings exploring the nooks and cranny of the city my family calls home.  Even the end of the meal dinner with everyone gathered around the table is marked with significance…it’s a chance for all of us to be together and because it isn’t an everyday occurrence, it is extremely special.  Would it be so special if we did it more often?  Seems that the more often we do things, the more we take it for granted, so I can’t pretend that this turn of events…me living away from my family…is a bad thing.  In fact, I think it might just be a good thing.  Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side…life is about learning to appreciate the grass on our own side.  And I am learning to do that.

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I remember once, when Dax and I first got married, I insisted that we go “on vacation” to visit his family.  He laughed.  Why would we do that, he wondered…they literally only lived 5 minutes down the road.  Because, I insisted, when you’re thrown together in one house and are committed to spending a weekend together, relationships happen.  He went along with my crazy scheme (as did my in-laws) and that is still one of the most memorable weekends with his family that I have.  We did things together that we don’t normally do.  It was a chance to be shoved together in a way that enforces bonding.  Which is the exact thing that happens every time I visit with my family.  While we may never be a part of each others’ every day, the times we spend together are marked with a unique code…one that makes each moment special and memorable.  A blessing in disguise.

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Moving around and lacking extended family nearby offered us, as a military family, an opportunity to establish bonds more closely within our immediate family and I think being raised that way made me think it would always be that way.  We had a lot of opportunities as military kids that other kids didn’t have and while I’m eternally grateful for those opportunities, sometimes I think I’d trade those opportunities for roots. Deep real roots. Relationships with my grandparents. Sunday dinner with extended family. Play dates and sleepovers with my cousins.  Stories about what this town was like when I was a kid.  Random run-ins with kids I played with in grade school.  Instead I have beautiful stories about the places I’ve visited, the people I’ve met and the experience of having a sister who was, not only, my constant playmate, but also (and still is) my best friend.  Hmm, when I put it like that, the lack of roots seems less important because I guess I had my own form of roots.  But the roots that I know and built my life upon have been yanked out.  And maybe that’s where this deep longing comes from…I’m still a girl without roots.  No roots to this town.  No roots to family here.  But, despite marrying into a welcoming new family and finding my groove in a town I timidly call home, I can’t just grow new roots overnight.  But I can keep trying.  And isn’t that what gives our lives meaning?  The choice to try and adapt.  The choice to allow ourselves the opportunity to grow.  Growth breeds happiness, as long as we embrace that growth with open arms.

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My life is full.  I have women close by that have become like surrogate moms to me and I have my sister-in-law who is my dear friend and feels like a sister and while its not the same, it is fulfilling and beautiful, if I choose to see it that way.  And I do choose.

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I am thankful that my kids have the roots I so desperately crave.  And they have extended family here.  While it’s not mine by blood, it is theirs.  I like that they have cousins who are best friends and we see them often.  I like that they have grandparents nearby.

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I am thankful that when I crave a large family gathering, there’s a large family here to gather with.  And that my in-laws have accepted me as one of their own and I’m welcomed as a daughter and a sister anytime I’m willing to embrace them.  And while all of that doesn’t lessen the craving for my family, it certainly softens the blow.

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I miss my family being a part of my everyday.  I am thankful for all the ways that they are present…the visits and the phone calls and the occasional note sent via snail mail.  While my sister and I may not live next door to each other, I’m thankful that it’s only three and a half hours.  Our kids are still best friends despite the distance.  Our husbands do golf together and we do sometimes take our kids to the beach together, so all is not lost.  It’s just not quite what I imagined.  And while some days, it still feels like we’re a world apart, I’m thankful for the days when our worlds collide and memories are made.  The grass on my side of the fence really is quite green indeed.

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