A Retreat in my Mind

You know that place that the visualization gurus tell you to find.  Your happy place.  A place where you feel completely relaxed.  A place where you can close your eyes and imagine yourself there.  A place where your hunched up shoulders relax, the tension just melts away and for one brief moment, all is right in the world.

Sometimes those gurus forget to tell you that it’s got to be a place that’s written on your heart…it’s got to be carved into your DNA so you can feel it, smell it, truly be in it.

I have a place like that.  A place I slip away to when the kids are bouncing off the walls, the checkbook is missing and the bills are waiting to be paid.  A place where I feel totally accepted and happy and stress free.  A place that I can smell and see and feel when I close my eyes.

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It is a place carved into my heart.

It’s a retreat of my mind.

But this retreat wasn’t imagined into being.  It was once a real retreat.  A retreat where I walked barefoot and relished the native plants growing wild around me.

A retreat where the sun streamed in the windows and there was no pressure to do or to be, no expectation to meet.

A retreat where my kids’ eyes shone a little brighter with the immersion into a captivating summer world complete with jars of fireflies, bowls of freshly picked ripe black raspberries and adventures exploring a winding creek.

It was a home away from home.  Made possible by the thoughtfulness of one amazing vacation rental owner.

The details were attentive and deliberate.  We felt welcomed in as if the home had been waiting just for us to arrive.  The fluffed pillows, the soaps scented with essential oils, the throw over the back of the couch for the evenings when the sun had set and a chill settled over my feet.

The books on local flora and fauna just waiting to be looked through, the telescope aimed directly between the break in the trees so we could catch glimpses of stars far away.  It was all so incredibly thought-out, as if we were long-awaited guests not simply renters.

But it wasn’t just the property.  We were smack dab in the middle of a luscious valley that sparkled with waterfalls and blossomed with plants brought to the area many years ago by the Shawnee Indians.

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It was an adventure with medicinal flowers and edible plants and zip-lining through the tall trees.  It was quaint restaurants, long bike rides and the library of a nearby university lined with oft-coveted pre-1963 books.

It was lovely.  Absolutely lovely.

There is not a bad memory from that week.  Not a fight or an angry word.  Not a frustrated sigh or an impatient glance.  It was as if time stood still and we all remembered that kindness matters.  It was a moment to snuggle and whisper late into the summer evenings.  It was a moment to read with abandon, a moment to write with heart.  A moment to breathe.

And sometimes that’s what we need.  A moment to breathe.  A moment to re-live the happy moments.  A moment to escape our reality and find ourselves immersed in a peaceful memory.

There is value to visualization.  Value to remembering happy moments.  Value to imagining ourselves somewhere happy.  It gives us a moment to recenter ourselves.

It allows us to remember what that peace feels like and to find it again in this intentional moment.

 

 

 

Intention

I am overly aware of my incessant talking.  Even as I speak, I ask myself to stop.  The words spill forth regardless.  I am good at talking.

I wish I always had the right words to say.  The words to tell the world that nice matters and kindness is king.  But sometimes I don’t.  And so I just keep talking.

About stuff.

Homeschool and cooking and laundry.  The complications of raising children and balancing a marriage.  Living in South  Texas.  Things I know something about.  Because life?  I’m just not an expert on that topic.

Sometimes I try to just be still.  To sit and wait.  To listen.  I’m somewhat terrible at it.  If I stop momentarily then my mind begins racing with ideas of what I should be doing.

I remind myself that stillness and quiet matter.

Because it is in the stillness and quiet that I can connect to my actual thoughts.  Not the thoughts that spill out incessantly but the thoughts that form my soul.

And so I sit.  Quietly.  Often impatiently.  But persistently.  And my soul delights in the stillness.  I breathe in.  I breathe out.  I stop.  It is good.

We’re all busy distracting ourselves.  That’s the reality of a culture that lives with smart phones and overcrowded schedules.

It’s unintentional living at its worst. 

The way we wake up and our feet hit the floor and we’re slammed into the first moment of the day without any quiet, without any stillness.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We get to choose.  We can flow along with the mainstream culture and hide in busy, distracted ways from the thoughts that connect us to being human or we can choose to stop.  Breathe.  Be still.

It only takes intention.

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

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

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

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

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

piano-celebration-week

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.

A Glorious New Year Awaits

Yesterday was New Year’s Eve.  I had planned to sit down and reflect on the year that was and the year that is to come.  Instead I spent the day on the couch shielding my eyes from light and trying to block out the noise of my rambunctious children while I nursed myself back to health from an annoying virus.

I thought about the day.  It had been awful…not just because I felt miserable but because I let my misery drive my actions.  I had barked at my kids, shooed them away, and tried my best to ignore them.

Some days are like that.  There are good days and bad days and days in between.  There are days we reflect on as we lay in bed at night and wish we had done everything differently; there are days we look back upon with joy and gratitude; there are days that thankfully end when our heads hit the pillows; there are days that drag into the next.  There are wasted days and thoughtfully spent days.  Joyful days and sorrowful days.

Years can be that way, too.

Some years are amazing; some are rough.  Some start out rough and end beautifully.  Some years we claim to be our best ever while other years passed by uneventfully marked, but no less lived.

But the beauty is that just as each new day offers a new beginning, so does a new year. The new year brings us each a gift…a book with our name on the cover, followed by 365 pages.  365 blank pages just waiting to be filled by the way we choose to live.  365 opportunities.  365 pages just waiting to be written.

Some days, some years, they just seem less intentional.  Begun without a clear direction of where we’re headed.

I’ve never been a huge fan of resolutions but I do love the idea of living with intention.

The root word of resolution is resolve, which, by definition, means to decide firmly on a course of action. On the other hand, intend, by definition, means to design something for a particular purpose.

I delight in that thought…to design something for a particular purpose.  It sounds poetic and lofty without the weight of a firm decision.  My mindset morphs from something to struggle beneath to something to strive for just by changing a word.

When we choose to live with intention, we open up a whole new world to ourselves.  No longer do we get to the end of our days wondering where those 24 hours went or look back at the month and rack our brains wondering what we did this month.  When we live with intention, we live in this moment, with purpose.  And living with intention, at its simplest, is being an active participant in our own lives.

It’s about this moment right now and how this moment will set the path for our future days.  While the past tends to influence us, it doesn’t dictate a path for us, so don’t waste time wallowing.  We are only promised this moment right now and when we live it with intention, that intention helps us stay the path that we so desperately want our lives to follow.   Living intentionally isn’t the same as carpe diem.  Carpe diem is a Latin phrase meaning seize the day, but the meaning is meant to apply to the present only; to not be concerned about the future, whereas living with intention is living with a purpose.  Living with a purpose implies that it isn’t just about the here and now, but it’s about purpose for all things yet to come.  All 365 days yet unlived.

It’s January 1st.  I’ve managed to do the dishes, wash the clothes and take a nap.  I still feel miserable.  This certainly isn’t how I wanted to write the first day of 2019, but there’s still something intentional about using this time wisely, both to heal and to think.  I don’t want 2019 to be the year remembered for the shows I watched or the Facebook feed I scrolled through.  I don’t want to wake up this time next year and wonder where my 365 opportunities disappeared to.  I want this year to be remembered for the intentional moments.  The moments I lived with purpose.  What are your intentions for 2019?

Broken but Sorted

I once saw an Instagram post where the author implored her readers to allow their children to grieve. They had recently lost  a pet and she was allowing them the space to honor that loss.   I almost flicked right past it but instead I found myself just staring, reflecting on how we all need to be allowed time to grieve.  Not just for the obvious moments like death, but for all the changes that come our way…the big, the small, and the moments in between.

This life is ever-changing and sometimes, to appreciate this moment, we have to stop and grieve the loss of what we loved, what we hoped for, and what we held close to us…no matter how small the loss may be perceived by the world around us.

This time last year I was broken.  I was pregnant for the second time since Katie and there was no heartbeat.  Hope died with the 3rd ultrasound and I wept with the love only a mom can feel.  My heart was sad.  My kids were sad.  The days were dark, both literally and figuratively, and I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep the winter away.  But I pressed on.  I did not pause.

I dealt with the drama of knowing the baby was no longer viable but waiting for that sweet little soul to pass (all through the holidays) along with a trip to the ER for excessive bleeding in the midst of all the loss.  By the time that baby finally passed, school had started back up along with all of the extra-curricular activities and I did not pause.

I listened to my children, disappointed with the loss, scared that maybe we’d never be given the opportunity again.  They cried, they poured out their vulnerable little hearts and I stood strong.  I let them grieve.  But I did not.

Until I finally did.

Because you just can’t move forward when you haven’t accepted the past.

Because grieving is the balm that heals the soul.  It’s intentional.  It’s important.  It’s hope wrapped up with trust and love and vulnerability laid bare.

Because to allow myself to grieve allowed me to finally accept what was.  What is.  What may never be.

I was broken for a long time this year.  Without even realizing how broken I was.  I was sad and unsorted and not myself.  I stopped writing, I stopped thinking, I stopped hoping.  Until I grieved.  In my own ways, in my own time, in my own little corner of the world.  I settled my unsettled feelings and allowed myself to wallow in my sadness.  And only then did I begin to heal.

We laid that little baby to rest alongside my other little souls waiting in heaven, right beside my sister’s little babies and there was peace in my soul.  A peace that only comes from accepting what is.

A year ago I was broken, but now I’m sorted.

Fed by Bread: Intentionally Making a Difference {One Baked Good at a Time}

There are the people that talk and the people that do.

You know what I’m referring to, right?  I’m sure you’ve met folks of both kinds.  There are the people that dream big and talk big and make big plans and have a vision but somewhere along the way, they get lost in all the details of pulling it off.

And then there are the people that dream big and they just do it.  They jump in with intention and nothing stops them.  They’re persistent and passionate and unstoppable.

Those are the people that inspire me….the people that DO.

Take for instance, Hollie.  Her delicious line of bread and baked goods does more than put food on the table for the folks that purchase it.   “A South Texas bakery nourishing African youth,” is the opening line on her website.  And while that is exactly what she does, it’s about more than just food for Hollie.  It’s about relationships.

Born and bred on an Oklahoma wheat farm, making bread is just genetically programmed into Hollie’s hands.  So after traveling internationally throughout high school and college and witnessing poverty and its effects on women and children, Hollie knew that she wanted to do something that would give the people she had met through her travels a chance to break the cycle of poverty.  When the time came and she felt a calling to reach out and help with the world food crisis, it seemed only natural that she would do what she knew how to do: bake.

In his book Start Something that Matters, a book that inspired Hollie, Blake Mycoskie says, “Love your work, work for what you love, and change the world—all at the same time.”  And that is EXACTLY what Hollie began doing in 2009.

Fed by Bread began in Hollie’s own kitchen in 2009 (when she was 7 months pregnant!).  Folks began to spread the word about this bakery with a mission and a grassroots movement was born.  After a few years of using the proceeds from her baked goods to sponsor children with companies like Compassion and World Vision, she knew it was time to form a relationship on a deeper level with a company that shared her vision.

Enter Africa New Life, a ministry that “exists to transform lives and communities through Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Acts of Compassion.”  Africa New Life focuses their ministry on Rwanda, a country forever changed in 1994 by the Rwandan ethnic genocide that killed more than 800,000 people.  Hollie crossed paths with Africa New Life in 2014 and immediately felt that this was what she had been looking for.  She began to send the bulk of her Fed by Bread proceeds to them (with a small amount reserved for the children she sponsors through Compassion and World Vision).

That same year, Hollie was able to visit the village of Kageyo in Rwanda and actually meet the people behind Africa New Life along with the children that were benefiting from her baked goods.  She was met with an overwhelming display of gratitude and her heart was full.

She knew at that moment, without a doubt, that what she set out to do was truly being accomplished.  Her intention to feed the hungry and break the cycle of poverty was being accomplished, one baked good at a time.

Today Hollie enters the commercial kitchen at Annapolis Christian Academy where she does her baking and sets about her tasks with intention.  While her hands are immersed in dough, her heart is immersed in thoughts of the children this dough will provide for.  She has started something that matters.

It’s not just a bakery, it’s Intentional nourishment with a purpose.

*You can support Hollie in her mission by ordering online and either picking up goods locally or having them shipped to your door.  While most items are intended for local pickup, she has a selection of baked goods that can be shipped.  Regardless of whether you pick-up or have it shipped, I promise her baked goods will make your breakfast table a happier place.  Plus knowing you’ve spent your money to make a difference is an intentional thought all of its own.*

**All photos are courtesy of Kristine Endsley**

 

 

Shopping Locally: An Intentional Means to Support My Community

My childhood summer memories are filled with the smell of acrylic paint and ceramic shavings.  Even now I sometimes dream of bottles of paint and electrical wiring and kilns burning hot.  My fingers still ache to clean a piece of greenware, to feel the rough texture beneath my hands.  These things permeate my memories because of the summers I spent in the beautiful City of Oaks with my grandparents.

They were hardworking, self-employed folks who rose long before the sun came up.  Grandpa loaded his produce truck and drove off into the sunrise while Grandma headed down in the dark to her workshop.  She’d spend the first few hours pouring slip into molds and preparing her ceramics.  I’d stumble down hours after she’d awakened and joined her in her shop where she’d put me to work cleaning and painting all the ceramics I’d chosen to work on that summer.  Sometimes Grandpa would pop in during the afternoon to wire the lamps and make the music boxes sing beautiful songs.

I have beautiful memories of those summers.  Her shop was busy, her till was full, her ceramics were beautiful, her art and classes were therapeutic.

Now Grandma’s shop isn’t the bustling place it once was.  It could be said that Grandma aged and worked less, but that isn’t true.  Even at 86, she still gets up before the sun rises and heads to her workshop.  No, sadly, it isn’t the bustling place it used to be because of a number of reasons.

Maybe I could argue that ceramics are a dying art.  Or at least doing ceramics from start to finish the way she does, is a dying art.

Or maybe her shop is failing because of the giant shift to a bigger America from the small-town America it used to be.

Now we have the world at our fingertips.  Why go pop in to a local shop when I can just as easily order the same thing online (and probably for a cheaper price)? Or why shop small business when I can go into Mega-Mart and buy a cheaply made version of whatever it is I’m looking for?

Why indeed?

When we travel an hour and a half from home and visit Goliad, we are greeted as if we’re old friends, despite the fact that no one knows us there.  We pop into the local sandwich shop and in the fifteen minutes it takes for them to prepare my order, I listen to the lady behind the register chatting away with all of her customers on a PERSONAL level.  She calls out to the young people leaving, “Hey, tell both of your mamas I said hey,” and to the customer that just walked in, “Hey sweetie, how’s your granny feeling these days?”  The next guy walks in and she asks, “The usual? How’s life out at the Presidio today?”  Everyone is a friend and everyone is welcome.  They bake their bread fresh and take pride in their sandwiches.  I suppose I could chalk it up to amazing customer service, but the truth is, it is the EXACT same in every store we go into there.  There are eclectic shops filled to the brim with quaint, unique items.  No mass-produced China made products lingering about.  There’s salve made by a local herbalist using local plants.  There’s salsa made by a local mom who is able to stay home with her kids because of her sales.  There are clothes made by a talented, local seamstress.  There’s even a cookbook boasting of local recipes, gathered together by the people there.  And those are the products that are the first to be recommended.  There’s a sense of community.

It used to be that this city of mine boasted of a few locally owned book shops.  Now they’ve been run off by corporate America. So I grab my Starbucks and get lost between tall organized shelves of books at Barnes & Noble.  The booksellers don’t recognize me in the sea of faces that frequent their stores.  The employee turnover rate is high.  There’s no personal connection with the people there.  I miss the charming armchair shrouded with piles of books at the locally owned shop.  I miss the personalized recommendations.  I miss the community.  I miss the deeper purpose to all this buying and selling.

But that’s what happens when we stop supporting local.  Big business moves in.  Small business gets crowded out.

So why indeed?  Why shop local when the world is at our fingertips?  Why frequent the places close to our homes and get to know the folks behind the products, the goods and the services?  Why make a connection with the folks behind the register at the bank and the grocery store and all the other places we frequent?

Because people matter.

I miss the community.  I miss the idea that shopping and browsing are less about what I’m buying and more about who I’m buying from.

Aside from the necessity of food, most of our purchases are superfluous.  We have a choice about what to shop for and where to shop for those wanted items.

That’s why I first try to shop small business local.  I openly admit I don’t do it all the time.  I don’t have a bank vault with coins to swim in at my disposal and so I do have my budget and my bottom line to consider.  You’ll still see me grab my cart at our big chain grocery store and do some price comparison shopping.  And sadly, I have been known to haunt the aisles at some of the mega-stores in our area in an effort to buy cheap.  But when I can, I prefer to shop with the folks who are the backbone of this community of mine.

I think of my Grandma and her dwindling business and I want to support the folks like her who put themselves out there and try their best to do what they love.

I like knowing the process that my end product has gone through.  Whether it’s coffee beans or bread or lotion, I like knowing where the ingredients came from.  I like the idea that I’m supporting the American dream of entrepreneurship. I like supporting small-businesses with real people.  I like knowing the products were made ethically and sometimes even with a far reaching benefit.  I like knowing that I’m supporting that stay-at-home mom in her business or that my dollar goes to support that family I hold dear.  I like knowing that the product I hold in my hand is a labor of love.

The truth is, there are times I’d rather pay more and buy less because I like knowing the people I’m buying from.

I’d rather buy locally made than name brand.  I’d rather buy products with local ingredients than ingredients shipped from halfway across the globe.  I’d rather buy from the folks right here who exhibit talent and love in the form of stuff.  I’m rather proud of this country, even this city, of mine and I like knowing my dollars support that pride.

If I can’t shop small business local, I make an effort to chat in all the local places I visit.  I pick the same HEB every week and the same checkout clerk and now I know all about Maxine and her husband and his wretched fight with cancer.  I know all about RJ, my bagger, and his homeschooling family that he supports with this extra job.  I don’t drive to the next big city seeking fancy stores or better places because these people and these places…they are my community.  They are my people.

There is value in supporting what we believe in.  I believe in community and people and relationships so I intentionally shop to support those beliefs.  The farmer’s market, the local artisan, the coffee bean roaster hobbyist turned professional, the baker.

Sometimes money has more value than just it’s face value.  Spending intentionally helps me remember that.

Voting Twice – Spending Money Intentionally

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I love elections.  I love clicking the button to “cast my vote.”  It’s as if I have a say in all the things around me.  As if my thoughts could actually affect the culture of society around me and the future of my children.  I truly believe, as I’ve said before, that voting is a moral obligation but sometimes it feels like voting once every four years (or even every two years) isn’t enough to make my voice heard.

The good news is you and I don’t have to wait for a major election to roll around every four years to cast our vote. It’s so simple, the way we can make a difference, yet it’s something we don’t think about.  Something that doesn’t always land on our intentional radar.

It really is simple to make your voice heard often.  You probably do it weekly, maybe even daily.  You may do it out in town or possibly you do it while still in your pajamas, tucked in bed.  Maybe you do it with friends or you’re the brave sort that does it with your kids or maybe you use it as a way to get a little alone time.  Maybe you do it intentionally, with a list and a budget, or maybe you’re a bit more spontaneous.

However you do it, you do it.  It’s buying…aka shopping.  Yep, shopping.

Where we cast our dollars, we cast our voice.

Think of it as a second vote.  A chance to voice your opinion daily.  The companies you choose to spend your money with and the items you choose to buy become a reflection of your own thoughts.  You preach about ethical work conditions and American made products, yet chances are you’ve bought plastic China made toys and clothing made who knows where in what conditions and you haven’t thought twice about it.  Or, maybe, you have thought about it but then decided that saving a few dollars made it worth sacrificing your principles.  Is it really?  Because each of those little choices influences our culture on a much wider scale over time.  It’s like your financial professor told you, “every penny counts,” except here it’s not about counting every penny to build a nest egg, it’s about making your pennies count toward something much bigger.  A cultural tidal wave always starts small.

It really comes down to being intentional.  It’s about knowing your principles, deciding what you believe is important and then intentionally putting your money where your mouth is.

Maybe you gripe about the job market in America.  Maybe you gripe about customer service.  Maybe you gripe about ethical work conditions.  Maybe you gripe about not having a downtown filled with cute boutiques.  Maybe you gripe about not knowing the people you’re buying from.  Maybe you gripe about the quality of the products you bring home.

Stop griping.  Do something about it.  Be intentional.

Visit your local farmer’s market.  Shop locally.  If you tend to be conservative about major issues, visit 2nd Vote and shop accordingly.  If you’re fed up with customer service, then stop shopping there.  It’s that simple.  If you aren’t satisfied with the quality of the products you’re buying, maybe you need to consider who’s making them and where they’re coming from.

Nobody controls your wallet except you.  No one is going to force you to hand over those precious earned dollars (with the exception of the IRS).  You get to choose where those dollars are spent.  Choose to be intentional.

 

 

Living with Intention: Choosing to Finish the Race

I was a loser in high school.

No, literally.  A loser.

Track.  Golf.  Every sport required in PE.  I lost them all.  I was clearly NOT athletically inclined.

My sophomore year I ran on the track team (I’m pretty sure there were no try-outs).  I started out running the 800.  And I lost.  Then somehow I got thrown into hurdles which my school didn’t even have so my only practice was at the track meet itself.  I lost all of those meets, too.

But one thing I never did was quit.

At the beginning of the season, my dad had pulled me aside for a heart to heart right before my first meet.  And here’s what he said…

“Hey kid, good luck.  Just remember it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose.  All that matters is you do your best and you finish the race.”

Apparently I took him seriously.

And I lost every meet that season.  But I never quit.  Not once.  And I never gave it anything less than my best.  Not once.

Then we moved to Texas and I harbored no false illusions that I should run track again.  I still ran, but it was just for me.  Unfortunately, I did need one more p.e. credit so I signed up for golf.  And I was awful.  I mean really, really awful.  (My school even arranged for a private coach to come out and give me lessons for a few weeks.)  But my dad’s words echoed in my head and no matter how awful I was, I never quit.  I kept swinging with all my might.

These days I run purely for exercise and I NEVER pick up a golf club, but I still find myself in the midst of a race.  Every day.

finish-the-race

Mothering.

And there are days I want to quit.

Days I want to let everyone pass me by while I sit on the sidelines.

Days I want to throw in the towel and just give up.  On my own kids.  On my own mothering style.  On my own ideals and expectations.  On homeschooling and whole-food meals and patience.

There are days when I want to give less than my best.  Days when I wonder if it really matters if I put my all into school lessons and meal planning.  Days when I think I can’t possibly deal with one more issue or listen to one more complaint.

Weeks go by and I get lost in the forest and can no longer see the trees.  You know those weeks.  The ones where the one kid disrespects you every chance he gets, another complains wildly about the most insignificant things, everyone complains that they hate school (which you’ve poured your heart lovingly into preparing), no meal is complete without a dozen disgruntled comments, and you spend every free moment toting the ungrateful little people from one extra-curricular to the next.

And the thought to quit is so appealing.

I could just toss them all into school and sign them up for after-school care and every sport and extra-curricular known to man and spend my waking hours basking in well, whatever I feel like basking in.  Shoot, to make the dream complete, maybe I could even hire a personal chef and a maid so that no complaint ever directly involves me.  Yep, that plan crosses my mind often.

But then I remember Dad’s advice.

And I know he was right.  All that matters is I give it my best and I finish the race.

It’s that intention, to give it my best and not to give up, that drives me every day.  Every day that I want to pull the covers over my head and ignore the chaos.  Every day that I am assaulted with whining and complaining and snotty noses.

Those are the days I have to take a deep breath and remember that finishing a race is a choice.  And it is a choice meant to be made with intention. 

We don’t start a race intending to quit.  We start with the intention of finishing.  Sometimes we lose sight of that intention as we focus on winning (ie. being the most admired mom out there [“how does she do it?”] or maybe being the mom with the most well-behaved kids at the weekly playdate [“those kids are so amazing”] or just being the mom that has it all together [“her house is perfect, her kids are perfect, her life is perfect”]), but the reality is we forget that finishing, with our best effort, is really all that matters.

So tomorrow I’ll try again.  I’ll get up and I’ll give it my best.  And it might be a good day or it might be a rotten day, but I’ll be able to sleep peacefully knowing that I gave it my all and I didn’t quit.

It’s a long run, this mothering race, but I am quite sure that finishing this race might just be one of the most intentional things I ever do in my life.

 

Loving Where You Live

When I was a kid we moved around a bit.  My dad served in the Navy and where the Navy needed him, we moved.  I remember being little and complaining once about having to move again and my mom quoted a poem to me.  She said, “If you want to live in a kind of town, the kind of town you like, you needn’t pack your bags and go on a long, long hike.”  Of course her wisdom was completely lost on my six year old complaint.

love-where-you-live-Corpus-Christi-with-every-intention

I spent my college years traveling as often as I could.  I summered in cities far away from where I lived so that I could see what else was out there.  I dreamed of the places I’d live someday.  I dreamed of the streets I’d wander as I got to know a new place.  I dreamed of the people I’d meet, the restaurants I’d eat at, the eclectic places I’d find my groove in.  I fell in love with city after city.  Except, somehow, I managed to never fell in love with the city I actually lived in.

Until now. 

I have learned to follow Mom’s advice…”If you want to live in a kind of town, the kind of town you like, you needn’t pack your bags and go on a long, long hike.”

I CHOOSE to love where I live. 

It’s hot down here.  Really, really hot.  And it’s far from everything.  You have to have my city as your destination to come here…we aren’t on the way to anything and you don’t pass through us to get somewhere else…we ARE the endpoint.  (Although to a Texan this may not seem like a big deal as everything in Texas is far away.)  We’re a big city with this weird small town mentality, so we’re all stuck in limbo.  Living near the coast, there is an extremely laid back attitude…everybody worries about everything tomorrow.  And there’s basically one season.  Summer.

But still I have found the good.  I have intentionally found the good.

It’s so easy to complain.  To notice the worst of a situation.  To proclaim that the grass certainly is greener on the other side {or in the other city}.  Finding the negative in everything, well, It’s a terrible habit, but it is simply a mindset.  Something I can choose to change.

Finding something positive has to be an intentional choice.

It’s funny how we come to see our mindset and the poison it leaks into our everyday life.  It took four little people and their views for me to see that there is wonder everywhere.  Including this city.

If you want to live in a kind of town, the kind of town you like, you needn’t pack your bags and go on a long, long hike.”

I want a city that celebrates beauty.  There is beauty here.  Have you seen our bayfront?  Have you visited our Oso Preserve?  Have you looked out over the bay in the morning and watched the sun rise?  Have you gone out to Port Aransas and seen the dolphins and the sea turtles and the stingrays right at your fingertips?

I want a city that celebrates nature.  Nature abounds here.  Have you seen the bobcat babies out at the Oso Preserve rolling around?  Have you visited the Nueces Delta Preserve and watched the birds?  Have you spent a day on the Gulf and felt the summer breeze as your toes sunk in the sand or maybe gone out early enough to see the baby sea turtles make their way to the water?  Have you walked the trails at the Botanical Gardens and seen the natural beauty our deep southern city has to offer?

I want a city that celebrates intentional moments.  There is TIME for intentional moments here.  Remember how everyone is so relaxed?  If I choose to embrace that mentality, then I finally have a chance to slow down and actually live my life with intention.  I’m not sure the same could be said about a large city where the opportunities are endless.

I want a city that makes me happy.  Sunny days make me happy.  The beach makes me happy.  The breeze that makes the heat bearable makes me happy.  Knowing the people at the grocery store and the bank and my neighborhood makes me happy.  Not having to sit in traffic makes me happy.  A short drive to anywhere in my city makes me happy.

I want a city that celebrates education.  We have a gorgeous University here, as well as a community college, both full of bright young men and women.  We have the Texas State Aquarium with educated volunteers and staff that can answer any one of my kids’ millions of questions.  We have an annual Texas Outdoor Challenge that gives us the opportunity to embrace our local nature spots.  We have historical Goliad and San Antonio within driving distance to explore at our leisure.

I want a city that is charming.  That complaint about being a big city with a small town attitude?  Yeah, it turns out that there’s quite a bit of charm in that.  We haven’t become a big city with a big city attitude.  Somehow this city has preserved all its small town charm despite the growth.  Have you visited our downtown area?  Have you perused the fresh produce at our farmer’s market?  Have you walked along the seawall?

I want a city that celebrates goodness.  There is goodness here.  Have you met the people?  It’s the people that keep me here.  They’re kind and friendly and warm and interesting.  These people here are the most welcoming and inviting and accepting.  And I am grateful.

I may not have chosen to live here, but I do choose to LOVE where I liveIf you want to live in a kind of town, the kind of town you like, you needn’t pack your bags and go on a long, long hike.

Still not convinced that you can fall in love with your city?  Try being a tourist in your town.

If you’d like to live
in the kind of town
like the kind of town you’d like.
You needn’t slip
your clothes in a grip
and start on a long, long hike.

For you’ll only find
what you’ve left behind.
There’s nothing that’s really new.
You’re knocking yourself,
when you knock your town.
It isn’t your town – it’s you!

Real towns are not made
of people afraid
when somebody else gets ahead.
When everyone works
and nobody shirks,
you can raise a Town from the dead!

So, if while you make
your personal stake,
your neighbor can make his, too.
You can make a town
what you want it to be.
It isn’t the town – it’s you!

– Author unknown

 

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