Sweet summertime

Sweet summertime

I was sitting in church this morning when a memory of summer came flashing to the forefront of my mind. Running barefoot through the warm, green grass under the bright sunshine. 

When I see posts about driving on the backroads I giggle cause I lived on a backroad. We kept the front windows closed or barely cracked because we didn’t want all the dust coming in from people driving by and most seemed to think they were on a nascar track. I grew up living in the country with hayfields all around and neighbors that were down the road not next door. No air conditioning but boxed fans in the window. The sweet scents of the mimosa tree that grew next to the house and the old fashioned pink roses that overwhelmed the mailbox. We really did have sun tea or cold well water on those long hot summer days.

I can remember when we got air conditioning it was HEAVEN! Pretty sure I can’t live without it now except for when I head out to Albuquerque in October. This last year I left the windows open on the little airbnb place I stayed…it was fantastic!

In the summer we were outside everyday either riding our bikes, mopeds (we had them before they were cool), motorcycle, or two legs depending on where we were going. For us distance was a relative thing. A few miles or 10 miles was nothing depending on what mode of transportation. 

We would head to the creek so we could wade in to cool off and have some fun. Not quite the scene from ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’. If you don’t know what I’m talking about click here. We watched for snakes but the water was so cold I never really worried too much – they were probably all along the banks waiting for us to get out of the water. I remember chewing on the mint that grew in the creek and its sweet spearmint flavor. Now I’d get whiplash from trying to keep a lookout for creepy crawly things.

As we got older our transportation changed to an old Chevy truck and by old I mean 1963. There was no power steering, it still took regular gas, and the gear shift would come out of the floor. Even better it had a canoe rack on it that rattled non-stop. There were plenty of fun times in that old truck. Our first trip onto the blacktop heading to softball practice the gear shift came out. Can’t lose your calm in the face of adversity. I had my sister grab the wheel and try to keep it straight on a curvy road while I got in the floor board and put the shifter back in. Good times! You would think that would be it for the day, but no. Once the gear shift was in, we got about a quarter of a mile up the road to discover a cow had gotten out and was standing in the road. I didn’t want to hurt her so I slowed way down. Well this was too slow because she stuck her head in the passenger side window. I then had two sisters up in my grill as I’m screaming at them to get the cow out. My leadership and parenting skills obviously were off to a rough start because I was bossy as hell since I was the oldest. I think I’ve made some improvement over the years.

As summer is approaching here in the Ozarks I’m just reminded of my youth. You know you lived in the country when directions included at the end of the pavement turn left onto the dirt road. Now the pavement doesn’t end and the dirt road is completely different from when I was a kid. My grandparents live at the end of the pavement that doesn’t end now, so I’ve been able to see the changes over the years when I would visit.

I always hated it when the road graders came through because it was guaranteed, when I went around the curve on my bike a rock would catch on the tire and I’d go flying. I did that once right into a fence and it hurt like the devil. Thank goodness that wasn’t a barbed wire fence but I’ve crawled through many of them. 

Not the old home place but close! Credit to kingcats-fence.com

I just don’t remember watching tv like I do now. I was always outside. We had a street light of all things right across from the house, which was in the middle of nowhere. The bats loved us because the light attracted bugs for them to snack on. I could watch them for hours and if I wasn’t doing that I was practicing for softball by throwing rocks at the pole. I’m astounded I never had one come back and nail me in the head. I had a good aim that’s for sure.

Lots of good memories from my time in the country. It’s funny how now I really enjoy the comforts of town living. Probably because I can come home everyday at lunch and take a little breather from work. In the spring and summer I work on my tan by sitting on the back deck. Ginger, my rat terrier, is happy to have some yard time. Her life sentence of living with this human is hard…real hard. Eye roll with me.

Today was a great day to be out enjoying the warmth and before too long summer will be here. For me that means bringing out the boat and heading for the lake rather than going to the creek. Times have definitely changed not necessarily for the better just different. We all mature and the boat is the mature version of me wading in the creek. 

Enjoy some sunshine and before too long it will be summertime! 

-G.

Food = Love

Food = Love

An appropriate topic with Valentine’s Day looming this week. All about some LOVE! ❤ I’ve spent several days watching Food Network while I’ve been sick and confined to the house. I enjoy watching all the cooking because I like to cook. As I was watching a particular episode of Chopped, I was reminded why I love cooking so much. For me it’s a way to show my family and friends how important they are to me by feeding them.

Food = Love 

Creating a meal is my way of nurturing and feeling like I’m meeting a need at the same time. I’m sure there is some psychology behind why, but really I don’t need to know why because I’ll just continue to cook because I can.

Cooking is a skill that I’ve developed over the years. I can remember some beginning meals that make me cringe. I’m pretty sure there were some things that should’ve gone straight to the trashcan. Can’t even tell you how many years it took me to figure out gravy from scratch and not the package variety. It was my Achilles for years. I mean really I’m a southern woman,  holy crap, I should be able to make gravy. I was beyond proud when it all finally came together. I made breakfast for just about every meal for a solid month!

Over the years I’ve tackled all kinds of styles and flavors of food. If I ate something in a restaurant that I loved but knew I’d never be able to get that where I lived, I’d figure out how to make it myself. Helps that have a pretty decent palate. Despite having this ability my son is a picky eater. Lord help me. Slowly but surely he’s coming along. I love it when he tries something new and he loves it. When he’s home I fix his favorites. Chicken and dumplings are top of his list followed by homemade fish fingers. At Christmas I made chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate ganache topping for the first time. He loves chocolate cheesecake so I made it. I’m sure I’ll make it again and again. A mother’s love knows no bounds when it comes to school projects. My son and I took on some Greek recipes for an English class. We made Tiropitakia. If you like feta you’ll like these. And gyros – he loves those. Plus it makes me feel good when he tells me I’m spoiling him by cooking his favorites and spending time teaching him how to cook some of them as well.

I’ve learned to cook a lot of things in the name of love. Italian…the amount of pasta I’ve made is ridiculous! I can whip out a homemade Alfredo sauce like nobodies business. Tex-Mex….well that was mostly for myself and so was the Indian. I learned to grill for my little carnivore baby. Oh the burned meat I served was outrageous, but now I’m skilled with a gas grill, charcoal or even over an open fire. I’m the official grill master for Father’s Day. I get teased by my grandfather but he still eats my food. It’s an opportunity for me to do the work and for the men to kick back and enjoy. Except it never fails that dad’s gas grill runs out of propane. No lie. Two years in a row this has happened to me.

If you don’t have a crockpot you need one. It’s so awesome to walk into my home at the end of the work day and smell the yummiest scents emanating from that crockpot. Pulled pork is divine but I can do an amazing barbacoa just as easily. Talk about feeding the soul and some folks good food! Makes my mouth water thinking about it and really I haven’t felt like eating anything except soup for DAYS!

I learned to home can food for the love of family tradition. It’s something that transcends the generations and connects me to the women and the men that gardened and canned the fruits of their labor. Really a labor of love because the food was stored up for a whole family or families. I love eating fresh food and staying away from overly processed, so I do a mixture of canning and freezing. I’m grateful to have family that provides me with home grown veggies and a fantastic farmers market to shop for all the rest. Before too long it will be time to order strawberries and blueberries…yummy deliciousness!

I’ve taken on gluten free and vegan as well. All for the love of friends and family. Can’t say I’ve always been successful at everything I’ve tried but I think it’s the effort that counts. I definitely put a lot of love and caring into the food I prepare. There have been a few less than deserving individuals that I’ve poured time and energy into cooking for in the past. There were the blueberry white chocolate scones – that was a mistake. The man not the scones. Oh Lord how about the pie…let’s skip that part not worth the time.

Really it’s a bit disturbing now that I think about how important cooking is for me. Good thing I don’t freak when a dish isn’t loved. It’s more about the satisfaction of fixing the meal and the care that goes into tasty goodness. If I think back to Gary Chapman’s book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ it would probably fall under service or maybe quality time. I do enjoy gabbing while I’m in the kitchen or standing over a grill.

Valentine’s Day is one time a year, but showing the people you love how much you care can be done everyday in many ways. For me, one way is through cooking. I know there are more dishes to try, more cuisine to share, and lots of fun and love to spread around.

-G.

*Photos are from Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR.

Let’s go for a ride

Let’s go for a ride

Last week, I was in Florida working and extended my trip through the weekend to spend time with my friends. Taking a mini-vacation! Like super mini. We had things planned out pretty much, but a ride on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle to the beach totally turned my head. 

It has been so long since I’ve ridden I can’t even recall the year. I just know it was with my dad. When I was a little bitty thing my parents put me on a bike in a diaper and a dew rag…favorite picture ever! The picture is gone thanks to a house fire when I was 15, but the memory lives on. That last time riding with my dad I remember I was finally tall enough and strong enough to hold his bike up. Well I still had to lean heavily to one side. Those short legs of mine and that Yamaha didn’t go together. He had more than one so he took one sister and I took the other! I was excited because I’d finally earned the right to ride by myself on one of his bikes. Dad would normally take two of us or one at a time. Off we went for a ride down the back roads enjoying our time together. As a kid of divorced parents sometimes it was tough, so I loved those times with him. I miss the opportunity to spend time with him but cancer is a real bastard. 

I didn’t realize until we were tooling down the road how much I would be reminded of those times and would miss him in that moment. It about brought tears to my eyes and I didn’t want to ruin a happy time with sadness. I sucked it up and knew that it was going to be another awesome experience to go along with the times I spent riding with my dad. There was a huge grin that could NOT be wiped off my face…my joy was apparent cause my dimples were showing! 

I’m on the controlling side so it says a lot when I have trust in the driver because I never worried or got anxious. There are people I’ve ridden with that I never wanted to get behind again, or I wanted to take over! He wasn’t one of those – because I got on that bike any time there was an opportunity. Cold as hell that last time out but totally worth it. Too bad for him I spent most of my time sight seeing, so I didn’t say a whole lot. I know my head was on a swivel. I had never been to the Tampa area and I was taking it all in. Lots of farm country – more than I expected. Well I did give notice to be prepared for my cold hands cause I tucked them anywhere I could. Lol No shame my fingers were freezing!

The tiki bar was fun and the music was interesting. Karaoke would’ve been way more entertaining. The views of Tampa Bay were exceptional. There was a cruise ship coming out of Port so the sun was an amazing backdrop. Food was good…my shrimp tacos were delicious. On another day we saw the manatees. I had never seen them in person or mangroves so that was fun. Check out the video of the manatees swimming around by the coal plant. They like the warm water this time of year…it’s about 20 degrees warmer. 

The horticulturalist in me was excited to see and touch the mangroves. I did not remove any since that’s against the law fyi. I’m a bird watching enthusiast – my nerdiness knows no bounds. Really. Did a little bird watching, saw a sea turtle and some huge redfish. Ummm just hand me a rod and reel cause redfish are good eating! I’ll just need someone to bait it and remove the fish. Yes I have high expectations when it comes to fishing, but I will catch a ton if they’re biting! After some wildlife adventures we were off to the Hot Tomato. Holy cow the BLT has 10 pieces of bacon on it. Excellent little hole in the wall. Highly recommend that place. Sorry I ate the sandwich and never thought about taking a pic. Just trust me on this one.

Cruise ship in the distance

Mangrove roots
Brown Pelican

So the weekend didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was what I needed and didn’t even know it. It was relaxing and I enjoyed the people I was with and the places we went. Obviously I need to do this more often – find that work/life balance. Don’t get me wrong I would’ve had a great time with the original plan this was a fabulous alternative. Go for a ride on a Harley with a fantastic person or just tool down the road on your own!

HAVE FUN! Enjoy life’s little moments!

-G.

Sparks start fires

Sparks start fires

True statement – I don’t think I have the power to tell anyone what to do, but if I can spark a thought, a change in attitude or even make you wonder I’m doing the job I set out to do with this blog. Ok maybe that wasn’t my orginial purpose but I like the idea. 

I know I can’t get everyone on board with Star Wars…Lord love ya! I do want to spread some positivity. Am I positive all the time…ummm no. I have my moments of being in the pit of negativity, but it’s all about how we pull ourselves out and move on. I did say I would try to keep it real. I’ve held to that even when it’s a bit on the personal side, and feels very much like I’m exposing parts of myself I’d rather keep hidden. This is a journey, an experience, a voyage possibly to a new frontier…well maybe not space but in a direction inspiration takes me. 

I’ve been inundated with Star Wars memes this evening and they’ve obviously gone to my head. Along with the Stars Trek movie I watched. As for travel I’m about to hit the road some more. In some cases to places I’ve been and other times it will all be new. With the new year I plan to incorporate both blogs into this one. Just easier to keep up with. Plus I’m sure a little travel, food and adventure will interest a few. 

Adventures come in all shapes and sizes…my roll as a parent and mother gives me plenty, work has its own set, and then there’s my personal decision to make new choices or take the road less traveled because I can. As I start this new year I hope to continue in those choices. I realized as I started writing the travel blog that I had to do more than just travel. I needed a plan or idea of what I would like to see or do in the places I visited or else nothing would be seen or experienced. Yes it’s tiring and requires some serious motivation when you’re working and putting in the hours but it’s worth it. Go with some places or ideas in mind, ask locals for suggestions, be willing to get in the car and drive till you see something interesting or take a walk. 

This year includes some bucket list states for my son and I. A pirate adventure….for real I’m going to Gasparilla. Got a wedding in Colorado in the mountains to attend…omg you know there will be pictures galore. Plus so much more!

So fire up your inspiration and find your inner spark and light it up! Let’s start 2017 off with a flourish and finish with a bang!

Continuing to keep it as real as possible.

-G.

Finding the right acorn

Finding the right acorn

Recently I was re-reading a book that I enjoy. It’s real life practicality stands out to me. This is my second time to read it and new items stand out like never before. Probably due to where I am in my life and what I want from it. Expectations! They play a huge part in our lives. We expect one thing and get something completely different. It can be good, bad, ugly or indifferent. 

I read a line that compared our lives to a weekend. An eternity is a significant amount of time but when you stack up a lifetime it’s a weekend. I’d like to say my weekend is sunny and bright. Full of love and fun….oh please you know there’s a thunderstorm up in the middle of that day along with a big freaking fight somewhere. That’s real life or the reality of “the weekend”. 

How do you weather the storms? How do you come back from a fight, especially with someone you love? If you read my last blog you know I talk about my thoughts on a Proverbs 31 woman. As I study and mature in the word I’ve realized that you have to love that person more than yourself. That’s a big deal because self likes to pop up in a fight and win! 

I’m the competitive sort and that goes for about anything. A fight with words…oh I got this. Got it so well that the other person walks away wounded and annihilated. I’m talking about people I care about! Just think how I deal with those I don’t. Not pretty but true. God says I’m supposed to treat everyone with love. Ep 3:17 being rooted and established in love. This is an area for me to work on obviously and I have been for a long time. I’ve struggled through dealing with anger since I was a kid. Although it took until I was an adult to get a true grip on it. Not saying I don’t get mad because I do. Many times what we mistake as anger is really disappointment. Got to be able to recognize the difference. 

One of the things I decided for myself after my divorce was to make the decision to get back in church. Partly for myself but also for my son. I had not been raising him with any of the fundamental knowledge that I grew up knowing. I felt like I was failing in my duty as a parent to raise my child to know God and to know the word. Finding a church is like finding a prized acorn in the middle of the forest! 

Some may think I’m odd or maybe you’ve never had this kind of experience, but I listen with my inner self to know when I’m in the right place. I’m talking about church still. We attended my grandparents church for awhile but it wasn’t the one God was calling me to. Finally after a series of events I came to be in my current church one Sunday morning. The pastor was on a mission trip, the person preaching wasn’t really my style but you know what that’s where I was called. I came back the next weekend and heard the pastor. My son loved the church AND this wasn’t his idea of fun – we kept attending. Finally I prayed ‘if I’m supposed to join this church God just make it clear so I know’…fyi I can be slow to pick up his clues. Preacher starts preaching and it’s about being a part of the church – hello got the message loud and clear. 

What I didn’t expect was that when I went to join that my son would decide that he would too. I was saved and baptized at 8 years old, but I had neglected my duties as a parent. I didn’t think my son was saved. I got a surprise that day because he was making a public profession of faith, because he’d asked God into his heart well before that day. My feelings of failing fell by the wayside. I was ecstatic that somehow God had taken care of my son even when I felt like a failure. Even when I felt like the crappiest parent in the world! To some this may not even rank on your list of bad parenting but to me it was huge. Fortunately he grants me Grace and mercy even when I don’t deserve it. Romans 10:9 

Now that I ponder on this: finding a church, the person to have a lasting relationship with, meaning to life, satisfying career – it’s all like finding that one prized acorn. The odds of getting it right are staggering! Especially if you think you can do it all on your own. I know for a fact I need my posse, friends, family and faith if I’m ever going to get anything right. That could be a depressing thought but I swing the other way – full of positivity! I’d rather have people alongside me supporting and cheering me on than to have nothing. They can also act as a voice of reason if I get a little too crazy! Just keepin’ it real.

-G.

*Photo by Tim Ernst

Be the exception 

Be the exception 

Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception. -Carl Sagan

I’m reading a James Rollins book and this quote jumped out at me. It reminded me of my personal motto that I completely ripped off from the US Marines. Improvise – Adapt – Overcome.

Over the years there have been many times when I’ve had to look at my life or situation and decide: How can I make this happen? What can I do for things to go in the direction I want or need? Sometimes those decisions are made on the fly….what am I saying they are always on the fly. That’s why I have this motto!

When I ponder on this quote it really drives home that we are all doomed to extinction of some sort, but it’s up to each of us to decide if we’re going to survive or not. Trial by fire seems to be the rule. How do you survive those challenging times?

Just because we go through trials doesn’t mean there isn’t a purpose or a learning opportunity. I don’t want to say all challenges are bad because ultimately that experience might be the force that drives us to greatness. Do we like living through the experience? Probably not…never. I don’t wake up saying oh yeah another miserable day, or is there an obstacle I can throw in my path that I missed all the other days…yeah not doing that. I try to find something positive throughout the day.

How does a positive attitude make a difference? Well everything is about your attitude. A positive mindset allows you to tap into a more productive and creative self. Being able to have a great perspective means you are able to increase your intuitive capabilities, wisdom, and common sense. Something we could all use more of I’m sure!

My goal is to always be the exception – so far so good – had a few moments where I thought I might check out early and make it on the extinct list. Nope. God seems to have a plan for me so I dig deep, plug in, and charge up to survive. Living up to that ripped off motto…or maybe it’s in spite of it. Could be a combo – I’m just stubborn like that.

156517-charles-darwin-survival-quote

Charles Darwin is misquoted all the time about survival of the fittest…true story. This quote really pairs well with Carl Sagan’s I think. Surviving boils down to being adaptable to change otherwise you will become extinct. There are many organisms that haven’t survived the ages due to that fact. In today’s times it’s more than likely due to humans but in the past it was other types of pressures, disease, or lack of forage. Whatever the case as we make our way through life it’s up to us to be able to survive. No one can do it for you.

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine, and she was telling me a story about a lady she knows that was put into a nursing home/rehab facility. Basically her family dumped her there. So here comes someone that isn’t a relation and looking at the situation aghast with disblief because this lady had deteriorated to a naked woman wearing a nasty, dirty diaper in a chair that appeared absolutely crazy and out of her head. That was the show because she didn’t know what else to do because her family left her there, and they weren’t coming back other than to take care of the bill each month. She makes the connection that it’s my friend and then says ‘well sure it’s you – who else would it be, so get me cleaned up and dressed.’ My friend had a tough love talk with her and said ‘if you are ever going to get out of this place you are going to have to do it for yourself – NO ONE is going to do it for you.’ That’s what she did. It was a long and hard road out of that facility, but she’s back in her own home, living her life, almost the same as before she went into the facility.

What does that tell me? Same thing I’ve known for a long time. That I have to be willing to survive on my own. I can’t rely on other people to do it for me. Fortunately I have a really strong faith and family that I fall back on or it would be a lonely survival. God has pulled me through several tough ones. If you have a significant other that you can rely on that is fantastic I don’t, but I’m not going to dwell on it either. Life is for living and looking towards the future, not for regretting the things in the past. 

Be the exception in life! Survive in spite of the odds.

-G.

 

 

 

 

Time

Time

I’m watching the movie Lucy – Morgan Freeman has the best voice. There are two concepts that I find intriguing in this movie. Time and Predator-Prey relationships. I’m going to focus on Time in this particular blog. I’ll get to predator-prey another day.

When we are young it feels like time is endless. It takes forever, we feel, before we’re old enough to wear make-up, stay home without a babysitter, date, drive, or not have a curfew. I’m sure I missed some milestones, but I hit the big ones. Wait…I left off drinking but that really varies in age.

I just celebrated a birthday, and I’m telling you time is flying by at a rapid rate. You think you’ll have time for everything even the things you put off in life. You don’t! Children grow up so fast that I want to make sure I don’t regret not spending enough quality time with my son. Same for friendships – there are some I don’t see for periods of time, but when we do have an opportunity to get together you would never guess we’d spent a day apart.

Back to the discussion of Time – One book I find fascinating and I’ll tell you now it’s not a quick read. It’s definitely one of those you sit and ponder on is Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. Back in the my teacher days and specifically when I taught Physics this was one of the books I assigned. Nerds-R-Us right here!

[Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly.] In the book it goes on to say that for the most part the people don’t even realize they are reliving their lives over and over. That would completely suck!  There are parts I would rather not repeat on a regular basis. As the book states ‘precisely, endlessly’….that makes me cringe thinking about it. If I had an option I’d rather it be a do-over not a repeat. On the other hand I would miss out on some pretty spectacular things. If you imagine changing one aspect of your life how does that ripple through the rest. I’ll take what I’ve got and live with it because there have been some amazing moments.

For us time isn’t circular but when you think about your past are there parts that keep repeating themselves. If so, is it worth repeating? Reflecting on our own history and having a goal or direction you would like to see your life is important. It doesn’t have to be a five year plan maybe you start with 6 months or a year. Stretch it out as you see success or determine that adjustments need to be made. I think goals are important. I create a list for myself that has personal, professional, financial and anything else I think needs a plan. Serious planner right here….I didn’t start off like that it was something I had to develop. Really anyone can grow this skill.

[Imagine a world in which there is no time. Only images.] I like taking pictures but they are one dimension compared to real life that is multidimensional. No day or night just an image of a moment in time. Seems kind of limiting. Think of how much you would miss out on. Things happen in an instant that you can never capture only experience. An image would never do it justice. I like looking at pictures, but I would never want that to be my existence.

This does make me think of the times that I’ve taken photos with me to visit my grandmother at the nursing home. She has Alzheimer’s. My thought at the time was that the pictures would help her to possibly remember the event or trigger the memory of the person, but isn’t that the same as this description in the book. Only living via images. My grandmother is more than images. She may have this horrible disease but she is a blessing to those around her. She’s a vibrant human being with memories, life experiences, hope and dreams that are trapped in her mind.  I stopped bringing the photos because it confused her and I’d rather be in the moment with her. Maybe that moment includes talking about her babydoll or talking about God. That’s okay with me because we are having a conversation and spending that time together.

My point is live life to the fullest and be in the moment, so you don’t miss the good stuff.

-G.

*Image credit: http://www.themindtrap.com/img/rooms/time-machine-5.jpg