Nature Study: Poison Ivy

There are just some things you should be able to recognize in nature.

Even if you’re not an outdoorsy, naturey person.

Like rattlesnakes.  And black widows.  Brown recluses.  Serial killers.

Just kidding about the serial killers.  Sort of.  Just making sure you’re taking note of what you should really know out there.  And anyway, we all know that serial killers aren’t always easily identifiable.  I mean, even the people closest to Ted Bundy didn’t recognize him as a serial killer (don’t believe me?  Read Ann Rule’s book The Stranger Beside Me…that’ll give you nightmares to sufficiently last a lifetime).  I’m not even sure I should count crazy people as part of nature anyway.  But I digress.

Ooh, hemlock.  And water moccasins.  Rabid dogs.  Adders, if you’re in Europe.  And poison ivy.  You should definitely be able to recognize that.

Now that I’m thinking about it, poison ivy is a bit like Ted Bundy.  Looking like a harmless little thing, but just waiting to rub its toxic oil all over you.

Sometimes you’re standing there looking at a mulberry tree thinking the berries will be good come spring and then you notice a weird leaf and suddenly you’re all, “Oh my gosh…that’s not a mulberry tree leaf…there’s something vining around this tree and is that…oh yep, that’s poison ivy.  Forget those berries…they’re not worth tangling with the ivy.”  Other times you’re unsuspecting of the tiny plant growing at your feet only to discover, yep, it’s poison ivy, too, and oh, great, your dog has just rolled through it.  And then fall comes and the leaves change color and now you’re thrown off its trail once again.  It’s a tricky one, that poison ivy (although personally, I think some of the other venomous and poisonous things are tricky, too…I’m pretty sure I once told my kids to steer clear of the hognose snake we ran across because I was sure it was a rattlesnake…they kindly reminded me that it was missing the triangle shaped head and the rattle, but still).

So…because knowing how to identify common poisonous plants can be life-saving, when I saw some poison ivy out at Pollywog Pond, I figured it warranted a visit and an object lesson.

{An object lesson, part of Charlotte Mason’s nature study philosophy, is a perfect opportunity to allow our children to become more observant.  We call upon them to carefully observe and examine an object using their five senses.  Object lessons should appear to be by-the-way, somewhat spontaneous discoveries where we are out and about and come across something fascinating.  Considering the fact that I am not well-versed in nature study and I am learning alongside my children, I tend to keep an eye out when we’re on a nature walk for items that I can use in our next lesson and then I prepare my object lesson before we head out.  I aim for one object lesson a week so my kids have time to absorb what they learned and to notice it in future nature walks.  I do require them to make a drawing and write down a few notable facts in their nature journals to help cement the object in their minds.  You can read more about object lessons here and here.}

Off we went (with plenty of warnings to stay on the trail and to not touch anything unless you are 100% sure you know what it is).  We dressed in long pants, long sleeve shirts, closed toed shoes…we were, after all, entering a bit of a war zone.

*I may be exaggerating just a bit.  Nature should never be seen as a war zone.  It is, after all, a place where we should find peace and refuge.  But it has its dangers…and we are its visitors.  Be smart.  Be educated.  Be mindful.  Tread lightly.  Then find the peace and beauty that is waiting.*

Our walk started out harmless enough.  About midway down the path, we started noticing little patches of poison ivy off to the side.  Then it just got crazier the further we walked (a bit like following the drama of Ted Bundy from Washington to Colorado to Florida…he just got crazier and more unbelievable as he went…as did the poison ivy).  One minute, it was easy to spot the poison ivy.  Textbook perfect.  Leaves of three.  Little mitten thumbprints.  Glossy, obvious. The next minute, it was all a tangle, mixed in with other plants we love.

Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, is a plant that strikes fear into the heart of most people.  And with good reason.  Its leaves (and every other part of it) contain a substance called urushiol and, with even the slightest contact, can adhere to the skin as well as to clothing (and to animal fur, too…animals aren’t affected by the poison, but if your dog rolls around in it, covering himself in the oil, and then you come along and pet him, well, consider yourself a candidate for its miserable rash).  Reactions to the oil vary…some folks have no reaction at all while others require hospitalization.

So how do you identify poison ivy?  “Leaves of three, let it be” is a good place to start, but you should know more otherwise you might miss out on some other incredible three leaved plants like wild strawberries, blackberries and wood sorrel.   And, for the record, it’s not actually three-leaved.  It is a leaf consisting of three leaflets attached to a single leaf stem.

The tricky part about identifying poison ivy is knowing all of its characteristics and how it changes because it does change through the seasons and as it grows (which is eerily similar to identifying serial killers apparently…that’s my last serial killer comparison, I promise.  I also promise to never watch another Netflix movie based on a serial killer or read another true crime book).  Poison ivy can be a shrub or it can be a vine.  Its leaves can be glossy or dull, hairless or slightly hairy, smooth edged, lobed or toothed.  The leaves change to a beautiful red in the fall.  When the leaves fall off in late fall or winter, the stems, branches and roots still carry the oil.  The vines are covered with rough, dark brown hairs….poison ivy is an amazing climber thanks to all the rootlets that attach themselves to anything as they grow.  The plant produces small, insignificant flowers in the summer, followed by berries (also toxic) which go from a green to white.  The berries are loved by some birds who then scatter the seeds so new plants can pop up where you least expect them.  Lovely how nature protects itself.

Down here in South Texas, we really don’t see a whole lot of poison ivy on our trails or in our yards so controlling it isn’t really our issue, only identifying and knowing it (because it is still out there).  Of course, if you travel to other parts of the country (even up into other parts of Texas like the Hill Country and the Piney Woods), you may find it much more prevalent, sometimes even growing along with the grass.  When we visited California this past fall, we saw literal carpets of Poison Oak growing…vining and trailing right along the ground, covering everything, as if it were grass.  While I realize Poison Oak is a completely different plant, poison ivy can do the same thing.  Proceed with caution.

{Being intentional is so much easier done when we slow down and really look around us.  Personally, we spend a lot of time in nature, partly because we follow a Charlotte Mason education, but mostly because it keeps us intentional in our thoughts and actions.  I invite you, in these Nature Study posts, to join us in our intentional journey…to train your eye to be observant, to relish the intricacies of the amazing world we live in and to spend more time with the people you love stopping to smell the roses, so to speak.  If you are in the South Texas area (Corpus Christi and the surrounding cities), then you’ll find these nature lessons tailored perfectly to you and your family…see if you can find what we’re finding!  If you live somewhere beyond our beautiful little corner of the world then use these lessons as a springboard…see what we’re observing, allow yourself to be inspired and then just get out there and be intentional, observant, and grateful for all the little surprises right outside your back door.}

A Fraud

I don’t actually know what I’m doing.

Not in mothering.  Not in marriage.  Not in relationships, in general.

Not in educating.  Not in domestic responsibilities.  Not in business.

Certainly not in humaning.

I am not an expert.  In anything.  I hold multiple degrees.  I am well trained in various areas from accounting to herbalism.  I have taught myself how to cook and clean and do laundry.  I have learned to make medicines and file taxes and follow an educational philosophy that respects children as born persons.  I have studied and read and learned.  I have traveled and I have loved and I have birthed babies.  Yet I am not an expert at anything.

Sometimes I feel inadequate.  Like I’m a perpetual student over here, never quite achieving competency.  Other times, I’m just resigned to the idea that I am not an expert.  I think of myself more as a jack-of-all trades.

Other days I try to convince myself that surely I must be an expert at something.  I know so much about herbs and healing and alternative health care.  Until I am humbly reminded that for all I know, there’s still so much I don’t know.  I tell myself I’m an expert at educating my children.  Until I see a hole in their learning or hear a criticism that makes me rethink our methods.

Most days I go to bed reminded that I’m really not an expert at anything.

Except being broken.

I’m good at that.  Really good.  Expert level good.

Being broken doesn’t require a degree.  Or years of study.  It doesn’t require a paycheck or a certain household income.  It doesn’t matter my skin color or my weight or my religion.  All it requires is a quick look in the mirror and the humility to admit that I’m a mess.

And I promise.  I’m a mess.


Being an expert at being broken might not be a bad thing.  It certainly makes me more compassionate.  Because I know how you’re feeling.  My road might look different than yours, but it’s all still a rubbled mess.  And I get how that mess distracts us and deters us and sometimes defines us.

Being broken leaves lots of room for growth and fixing.  And that might just be the point of this long journey we call life…a chance to change and be the better person, the kinder person, the person I’d want in my life.

The best thing about being broken might just be that it keeps me humble.  It helps me journey alongside those in my life (even my kids…no, especially, my kids).  ‘Cause I don’t really know what I’m doing either.  And sometimes having somebody that’s there in the trenches with you is way better than having someone preach from outside the arena.

So there it is.  I’m a fraud at most everything I do.  Except being broken.  And I’m okay with that.

Wishing You an Intentional New Year

Dear friends,

As the darkest day of the year approaches, I find myself looking forward to a new year filled with light and love.   It’s so exciting to face a blank slate of 365 days.  365 new chances.  365 blank pages for me to intentionally live and write.  But I do wonder, how will I choose to live this next year?

I look back at the year that is coming to a close and I think about how I lived the past 365 days.  I wonder if I used this year wisely.  Did I make the most of each day?  Was I helpful?  Was I kind?  Did I make a difference?  Did I live the year with intention?

Because let’s face it…some days, some years, well they can just seem less intentional than others.  Begun without a clear direction of where we’re headed.  And when we head into the unknown without a thought of intention, we typically find ourselves lost somewhere down the road.  For better or worse.

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 we 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.

For us, 2019 was a year of intention.  It was 365 days of living with purpose.

365 days full of so many extra-ordinary moments.  Birthdays celebrated.  Teeth lost.  Recitals sung, played and danced.  Stories shared.  Moments lived.

Joseph joined Katie in the world of dance.  Dancing truly brings joy to their hearts and I delight in watching them share the experience together.  Joseph spent a lot of time writing and drawing and dreaming of the day he will become President.  William spent his days swinging his tennis racket and soaking up all the time he could get on the court, stopping only occasionally to create something delicious in the kitchen.  Andrew spent the year still happily marching to the beat of his own drum, some days creating beauty out of clay, other days dreaming up a world of dragons inside his mind.  Katie spent the year conquering her world one determined step at a time, mastering rollerblading, taking off in reading and delighting in finally being able to sing “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” and actually meaning it.

The children and I continued to bask in our educational journey, relishing each book we read, joyfully greeting each bit of nature we met and basking in the various art forms that fed our souls.  We spent many hours soaking up the richness and serenity of the Gulf and many more hours walking trails, discovering flora and fauna we had not yet met (this year we managed to encounter two rattlesnakes along our journeys).  Dax continued to make this amazing life of ours possible through his dedication and hard work with Daxsells, his realty and management company.  On my own journey, I finished my herbal studies through Sage Mountain Herbal Center, started a small herbal consulting business and enrolled myself in the East West School of Planetary Herbology.

In February, we camped beneath the stars where the Hill Country meets West Texas and marveled at the beauty that Texas holds.  In March, we joined my parents in the woods (and again in October and again for Thanksgiving)…us in a tent, Mom and Dad in their 5th wheel.  In June, Dax and I traveled, sans kids, to Fredericksburg and basked in the glory of being alone together and remembering why we fell in love so many years ago.  In September, we traveled, with kids, to California to stand in awe at the base of the Redwoods, climb a volcano and peek into the tidepools of the Pacific Ocean.  All of those journeys gave us a moment to press the reset button.  To remember that this life is precious.

Soon it will be January 1st.  I don’t want 2020 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.  So here’s my wish for you…may you set aside the New Year’s resolutions, may you look around you and delight in the present and may you choose to live these next 365 days with intention. 

Blessings to you and yours from all of us,

Daxson, Stacie, Joey (12), William (10), Andrew (8) and Katie (6)

December Daybook

Outside my window…it’s cold.  It’s a temporary coldness, though…by Friday, we’ll be back up to 80.  One day we’re bundled up, the next we’re back in shorts and ready for the beach.  Oh the joy of the constant flux in temperature in South Texas.

I am remembering…Christmas 3 years ago.

Mom had just returned from a long, unplanned stay at the hospital, we were dealing with water issues in our city (again) and my children were miniature versions of their current selves.  I’m still incredibly grateful for Mom’s recovery.  I’m in awe of how quickly my children have grown.  And I’m still giggling over this note left for Santa…

I am thankful for…recitals and performances that allow these budding musicians to shine.  In the past month, the children played for the local Music Club, performed in the hymn festival (and all earned gold stars) and joyfully performed Christmas carols (mostly) for family (and friends) at the Christmas recital.

I am watching…children grow.  Nature unfold.  Life through others’ eyes.  I am learning to be still.

I am wondering…how some people seriously make it look so easy.

I am hoping…if you’re local, you’ll join me next week at the Oso Preserve where I will attempt to squeeze a million amazing facts about local medicinal herbs into a one hour presentation. 

I am pondering…the upcoming Winter Solstice.

I am laughing…at this ridiculously accurate depiction of how my kids felt about their gingerbread houses.

I am planting…nothing new right now.  Just keeping the medicinal herbs I planted in the summer alive and reaping the benefits of having medicine at my fingertips in my own backyard.

I am reflecting…on this quote from Charlotte Mason…”We all have need to be trained to see, and to have our eyes opened before we can take in the joy that is meant for us in this beautiful life.”

Around the house…beautiful decorations, twinkling lights and Advent stories to fill our souls.

I am wearing…a fluffy robe.  Because it’s actually cold enough today for one.

We are preparing for…a visit from Granny, a whole bunch of Nutcracker madness, and a Savior to be born on Christmas Day.

Someday I am going to miss…this.

I am reading…The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton for book club and a whole lot of books about Chinese medicine for my herbal studies.

One of my favorite things…the puppies over at The Puppy House.

A peek into my day

Please visit The Simple Woman’s Daybook for more daybook entries.

Chihuahua Syndrome

**This is pulled from the dusty archives (circa 2017)…kind of a second chance for old words…so if it looks familiar, it’s because it is.  Here’s hoping that it inspires you to live a little richer, breathe a little deeper, and appreciate a little more fully.**

You know that whole idea that little dogs that hang out with big dogs think they’re big dogs because they look at the other dogs and just assume they’re the same size?  We call that the Chihuahua Syndrome over here.  And Katie has it.

She hangs out with the boys all week long and while (luckily!) she doesn’t think she’s a boy, she does think she’s much bigger and much more capable than she is.  Case in point:  A few months ago the boys climbed up on top of the air conditioning unit and were jumping off with wild abandon.  Katie followed, thinking she was quite capable of the same dangerous feat and ended up spraining her wrist in the process.

Sometimes it works to her benefit.  She learned to swim at two, well and without fear, because her 4, 6 and 8 year old brothers were doing it.  She “does” school and eagerly “writes” letters alongside the boys.  She’s quite capable of self-care, never realizing that she’s got a two year gap between herself and the next brother.  She demands equality, telling us that she can stay up as late as the boys, she can go on that ride at the fun park.  Doggone it, she can DO whatever the boys can do.  And it’s not about gender to her.  It’s about a fuzzy view of self.

She looks at them as if it’s a mirror that reflects her while completely avoiding the fact that she is, in essence, nothing like them.  She’s her own unique little being and she’s not meant to live her life as a reflection of someone else.

One day recently we were out bike riding and I was explaining to William about Katie and her chihuahua syndrome and, while the essence of the topic completely escaped Katie’s thoughts, it did manage to kick her imagination into gear and she said to me, “I’m the baby chihuahua and you’re the mama chihuahua.”  After which she completely dissolved in a fit of giggles and “arfs.”

But her casual thought got me thinking.  “…you’re the mama chihuahua.”

It’s true.  So true.

I look at other moms and I treat them as a reflection of me and I begin to think that I must do what they do because, after all, I need to keep up with the big dogs.  I click from Pinterest project to Pinterest project and scan beautiful blogs with beautiful stories and I actually allow myself to see me reflected in them.  I meet a mom at playgroup and I see how calm and together she is and I think that’s what I should look like.  I gather with friends and I am sure that their ideas are the answer to everything wrong in my life and I must do things just as they do.  I allow myself to actually think that I must do whatever they do because, doggone it, even if it kills me, I must keep up with them.

I see the perfect cupcakes, the clean house, the adorably dressed children, the impeccable yard and I just keep trying to keep up.

But this is wrong.  All wrong.

Because I am bound to fall and sprain my wrist if I continue to try to keep up with the big dogs.

How can I possibly read that beautiful post that reflects the journey of that family and allow myself to think that perhaps my journey is meant to look just like that?  How can I see those Pinterest projects and think that doing something like that defines me as a mom?  How can I continue to fall into the comparison trap knowing that I’ll always find myself lacking?  How can I keep trying my best to be a big dog when I’m really just a little dog with my own little puppies?

I can try and try all I want but I’m NOT that mom.  I’m me.

See my little family over here.  We’re completely different than that family over there.  Our house looks different.  Our schooling looks different.  Our meals look different.  Our conversations sound different.  Our journey is different.

I am my own unique little being and I’m not meant to live my life as a reflection of someone else.


We live under a false illusion that we are safe.  We put cameras on our doorbells.  Locks on our doors.  Bars on our windows.  But as my wise old man says, “All locks do is keep honest folks honest.”

It turns out that thieves sometimes manage to find a way in despite our best efforts to be safe.

We were recently returning from a few weeks in the Redwoods when we received a phone call from our security company that our alarm had been triggered.  Despite opposing reports from police and neighbors, we returned home in the middle of the night to discover that we had, in fact, been broken into.

The garage and the office were a mess.  Torn apart.  Items of value were gone.  Things were broken, carelessly tossed about in the rush to search every inch of our space.  It looked as if a whirlwind had come in through the window and left through the door leaving destruction in its wake.

We marveled at how much could be taken in such a brief period before the alarm was triggered.  We laughed at how disappointing it must have been to break into our house (we have a lot of books and Legos…not a lot of electronics or valuables…things of value to us maybe, but not to the market of thieves).  We puzzled over how they’d gotten in and how they’d chosen us.   We were surprised that someone could come into our house in the middle of the afternoon and manage to walk out with guns, a dirtbike, and so much more.

We felt angry, sad, confused, scared.

Because it was our space.  And now it wasn’t quite feeling like our space anymore.

Somehow our precious space had become a community hot-spot for a group of worthless thieves for but a moment.  It doesn’t matter how brief that moment was, though, because that intrusion has forever changed the way I see our home.

My illusion of feeling safe has been shattered.

Normally I spend the first few days after traveling processing our trip, unpacking and slowly folding ourselves back into the daily grind.  But this <inconvenience> robbed me of that transition.

Instead, the days following the break-in were annoyingly spent fixing what the thieves had broken, stolen and destroyed.  We invested hundreds of dollars in cameras and doorbells and extra security.  We closed bank accounts, rekeyed every access point, put fraud alerts on our credit reports, filled out police reports, fixed broken shelves.   We talked to neighbors with the hope that someone had seen something.  We spent far more time making reparations than what they took in destroying our home.

The reality is that at the end of the day what really matters are the ones we love.  The people in our lives.  It’s not the stuff we’ve accumulated.  It’s not the things we collect along this journey.

I know that.  I get that.  But still I feel violated.  As if my once safe haven is no longer safe or a haven.  And that’s a terrible feeling to have.

I suppose I should be thankful that we weren’t home when it happened.  That would have made a scary situation much scarier.  I should be thankful that the alarm worked as intended and scared the intruders away.  I should be glad that in the end they only got away with a small fraction of valuable things.  I should be grateful that each of my people are safe and accounted for and, that in the grand scheme of things, everything is going to be okay.

Except that I don’t feel thankful, glad, or grateful.  I feel violated.  I feel mistrusting.  I feel hurt and angry.  I imagine someday my home will once again feel like a comforting place to walk into, not a prison to lock myself into.  I know that one day I won’t be suspicious of every car that drives down my street.  I trust that one day I will feel safe and my dreams won’t reflect the fears in my heart.

But in the meantime, I walk into a store and I look into each person’s eyes that I pass and I wonder how broken they are and I wonder how desperate they’ve ever been and I wonder if they’ve ever crossed that imaginary line that exists that keeps the world relatively good.  And, of course, I can’t help but wonder if they were in my home just days ago.

I know this feeling will pass.  I know that.  And I know that the world is mostly good.  That people are mostly good.  And I know that one day I’ll look back at this without a seething anger.  But for now I’m basking in my anger.  I’ve let go of the notion of ever finding these petty criminals and I’ve accepted the idea that bad exists even in this beautiful city of mine.  I’m trying my best not to sound bitter, but it’s hard.  My view of the world through rose-colored glasses has been shattered and I’m over here trying to put those glasses back together, the best I can.  In the meantime, please take note that my doors and windows are locked and clamped, the videos are rolling and the lights are motion triggered.

**I began this post back in September immediately after the event occurred.  It’s taken me a few months to re-write it so facetious anger isn’t dripping out of every sentence.  Being a bit more removed from the event, I can say that life has gone on, as it should, but I am still haunted by the idea that safety is such a fragile feeling that can be shattered so easily.  Please be smart and cautious.  Be conscious that while we hope for a safe and sheltered life, the reality is that evil exists.  Tend to the ones you love, protect the things you’ve worked for, trust in the goodness that exists, but remember to lock your doors, turn on your alarms and be a nosy neighbor.  Samantha’s neighbor in Bewitched, Mrs. Kravitz, probably prevented many break-ins.**


Cardinal Days

There’s a cardinal outside my window.  I have been hearing his voice each morning for the last few days.  The incessant “pew” of his laser.  This morning I went out to spot him.  And I couldn’t.  Despite his loud red coloring, I failed to see him hidden among the leaves.

I feel like that cardinal some days.

Bright red.  Loud.  Incessantly talking.  Yet still unseen.

I always say that mothering is a hard journey.  We’re surrounded by people all day long yet we feel lonely and unseen.  But I’m beginning to think it’s more than just mothering that’s hard…it’s humaning that’s so hard.  Because despite our need to be seen and heard, we manage to hide ourselves amongst the leaves, afraid of being seen and heard.  It’s a catch 22.

And sometimes we finally summon up the courage and we put ourselves out there, with all of our vulnerability and shame as Brene Brown encourages us to do, and we’re just not noticed.  Like the female cardinal, we blend into our surroundings, overshadowed by the vibrant beings around us.

All of the business of being human and being broken is hard. The need to be seen and heard, acknowledged and loved often overpowers rational thinking.

Sometimes all we can do is get out there, sing our little hearts out and not worry so much about being noticed.


{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

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.


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.


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.