The Big Green Monster Machine

 

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What a whirlwind!  We’ve been on a 3 week going and coming and going again.  Reconnecting with long time friends, seeing great sights, chilling, revisiting old haunts and just living it up.  The five of us going in different directions, coming together and hitting the ground running.  To me, it feels like summer has come and gone, even though our homeschool doesn’t really start for another couple weeks.

We’ve experienced great firsts and made many memories.  After visiting my brother and his family in Michigan, and my guys hanging in Florida for a week at a conference, we all met back home just in time to pack my oldest off for his Sophomore year at university.  Not much of a breather and not a lot of time to get too emotional!

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I’m so grateful for a positive experience for him.  It is true.  A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.  And, a mom is truly happiest when her’s are thriving and doing well.  My goodness!  I couldn’t have dreamed or hoped for better for this child!  Anyway, life doesn’t have to be free of challenge and struggle to be joyous.

We did experience a first.  Not my favorite of firsts, by any means.  We had to say goodbye to my oldest and leave him behind as the rest of us flew off to Cali.  It was a work trip with a hefty dose of vacation fun thrown in.  Not our usual type of vacationing, but this hasn’t been a usual sort of summer, either.  We’ve NEVER not vacationed together!  We do family vacations.  I’m not sure a mom is ever really ready to have an MIA on vacation (unless, of course, you think vacation is only a vacation without the kiddos!).  This momma doesn’t, and this wasn’t my original plan.  But, I have to say, I did okay….but please, don’t make me do it again any time soon!  This child had to move in early due to some new responsibilities on campus and it just couldn’t be helped this time around.  Anyway, we all missed him, and were glad to see him and our much loved fur baby when we returned.

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I did learn something along the way!  What’s better than having fun and learning something along the way?  Sometimes, you just have to throw caution to the wind and ride the big, green monster machine!

Visiting my brother isn’t something I’ve been able to do in quite some time.  Visiting his home and family earlier this month was great fun!  He and his beautiful wife live in a bucolic setting in Michigan and showed me the very best time!  Now, his approach to fun (he is a guy, after all) is on a different scale than mine.  I’ll get to that in a moment!

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Growing up he and I saved our money to buy a go kart.  It was red and had a bright orange safety flag—my favorite feature as a kid—that flapped in the breeze the faster we went.  We lived in a subdivision, and I know we didn’t go too terribly fast.  It felt great as a kid.  Keep in mind, it has been a few years since I’ve plopped myself down in anything that resembles a kart.  My brother has gone big on the karting action.  He and his boys have a big, lime green dune buggy.

On, a small side note, he let my 11 year old daughter drive the big green dune buggy.  The only driving experience she has ever had is driving the motor cars at the Magic Kingdom.  You have to press the gas pedal all the way to the metal to get that sucker to move.  Yeah.  You see where I’m headed with this!  You know, hearing his recounting of zooming off over the hills and the terror it struck in him, brought some crazy sisterly happiness and satisfaction to my heart.  Sheer awesomeness!

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Somehow, I managed to not make it onto the passenger manifest until the very end of our stay.  I wasn’t in any need of speed, whatsoever.  But, when your younger brother says, “Sis, please ride it,”  gosh, golly.  I stepped on and made him swear not to do any daredevil stunts or endanger my life.  We hit the trail and rounded the lake.  Bugs flying and sun setting.  And, what a thrill!  It felt like being a kid again.  I’m good at being sewn up and walking straight.  I do serious and responsible well.  I manage my life and make calculated risks.  (Is that really risk?)

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And, you know, gosh darn it!  Everybody needs a spin on a big green monster dune buggy at some point in their life!  Let the wind fly, eat the bugs, jump the hills and make the wild turns.  Watch the sun set and realize the amazingness of it all!  Let your hair down and abandon some of that adultish reserve.  Maybe you don’t have that problem.  Good for you!  Me?  I needed the reminder from that big green dune buggy.

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Thanks, baby brother, for helping me to free up a bit!  You’ll never guess!  The next morning before leaving, I asked for another spin on the ‘ol green monster!  That twilight ride was amazing.  I needed another fix before hitting the road in more sensible transportation.

I’m so glad I did it.  Sometimes, baby brothers can know best!  Really.  Just sometimes!  Here’s what I think!  You need to go find a big green monster of some sort.  Not literally….unless you just want to, of course.  Take some time to bring back the wonder and the child-likeness of letting go and letting your hair down.  Occasionally, we need the reminder that life is dull if we don’t open up to adventure.  Try something new.  Get out of your same every day rut.  Go live!

Here’s to great summer memories and adventures.  There is some time left before the days get shorter and the rush hits fast.  Go out and make the most of this one beautiful life!

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Sweet, Simple Life

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I am thankful for the small graces in my every day.

Sometimes, it seems as if a whole host of things can go wrong at the same time.  You know, you’ve had it happen to you.   You’re busy running around marking off your to-do list, trying to go out of town and the lawnmower and trimmer break down and the yard police are watching.  The equipment is new, mind you!  Or maybe your child (or as they blame the sibling) has lost their phone.  Thorough searching has gone on without success, but it is imperative for the child to have one, since they are going on a trip without you.  So, the race is on to find a replacement that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. (Because, of course, the child is not due for an upgrade.)

Sometimes, there is just so much to do.  Just do the normal day to day responsibilities, but throw in some hiccups and you feel up to your eyeballs trying to squeeze it all in.  But, I’m thankful.

I’ll be candid with you.  I deal with some anxiety issues.  I’m well aware of what it feels like for me and some of my triggers.  So, today, amid all the running and preparing for the five of us to travel, and make sure our four-legged fur baby is taken care of, I was feeling the effects of anxiety.  I usually call my husband and clue him in on my anxiety.  Instead of trying to ignore it, hoping it will go away, I recognize it at the start and have learned to handle it head on, right at the beginning.  I knew he would pray for me.

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I also had to remind myself that this life is beautiful.  While the responsibilities sometimes feel overwhelming, compared to what others are facing, this is simply life.  One important lesson I learned in counseling is to learn the difference between a crisis and everyday glitches in life.

Broken lawnmowers and lost phones aren’t crises, just life to be managed.  I’m blessed to have a family of my own to care for and nurture.  I remind myself these days are truly short.  While I taxi and run errands, I am caring for my family.  All of this is life.  Beautiful life.

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It takes careful mindfulness to control our thoughts and harness them for power.  I’m learning to not spin into sidewise energy, by not focusing on the glitches and hiccups along the way.  Yikes!  I am not always so good, so I am talking to me today, too.  But, amid the shopping and working through my list of to-do’s, my anxiety disappeared.  (I also think my Honey’s prayers made a difference, too.)  About an hour later, my husband called to check in on me, and I realized my anxiety was gone.  I didn’t let it derail me or steal my joy.

Here are a few ideas for dealing with anxiety:

  1. Stop and look for the source of the anxiety.  See if there is any merit to it. 
  2. Invite someone you trust into your moment.
  3. Pray.
  4. Remind yourself to slow down and enjoy the process.
  5. Be mindful of your thoughts and words.

Life runs at breakneck speeds and sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that all is well.  Remember what is truly a crisis and what is an annoyance or mere, every day stuff.  This is what life is about.  It isn’t all the big, splashy moments.  Most of our days are made up of ordinary life stuff.

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I am learning to appreciate the simpleness of everyday living.   At this point in my life, I am thankful to  just live normal, everyday life.  It is beautiful–complete with bumps and hiccups.  Finding beauty in the simple, and even in the middle of challenging annoyances, is the key to living more fully and peacefully in the everyday.

 

 

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Oh! Say Can You See?

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I think I have gypsy blood.

I always love a good road trip.  I have to admit, living in Virginia makes it possible to have some grand road trips!  What better time to head out than the Fourth of July.  So much history and beauty surrounds us, right here in America.  Living near the historical triangle and all points north and up the east coast, we have more opportunities to see and do epically cool stuff than we have time for.

My kids have “done” the DC tourist thing for the last 7 years quite faithfully.  So, they are a little tired of the museums.  Monuments and the White House are always cool.  But, in a quest to find more chill sights, we relaxed and explored our way through this weekend.

Our first stop was our favorite local DC restaurant—Tortilla Coast.  It is situated near-ish to the Capital. We usually stop there for lunch when we first hit town.  Such amazing Tex-Mex.  Nothing really beats it for two thumbs up!  We couldn’t help ourselves and stopped by The Supreme Court and The Library of Congress buildings.  Thought we would just say hello!  They are just up the street from Tortilla Coast.

Tortilla Coast - June 13, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO)

Tortilla Coast – June 13, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO)

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The US Supreme Court building

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The Library of Congress building

This time around we opted to stay outside DC and at the National Harbor.  This was a great choice for us.  Being we aren’t the “rough it” type, and I have never met a tent I liked, the hotel had the requisite pool and jacuzzi and plenty of room to roam and relax.  We had a great view of the Potomac and plenty of restaurants and shops to choose from.  We even stopped for ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s.

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National Harbor

It was nice to sleep in and move at a leisurely pace.  We did some swimming and reading and chilling in the jacuzzi.  We rented bikes in Georgetown and road the Crescent Trail.  We are finally at the age with the kids where we can all ride safely and at the same pace.  This was a definite do-again for us!  We would like to take advantage of some trails closer to home—where we don’t have to rent bikes, but use our own.  It is always fun to experience something together as a family and realize we all would like to do it again.  The trail gave us opportunity to take some fun photos and enjoy the natural beauty of the Potomac.  We biked six miles and returned just in time to avoid the downpour that held off for us!

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Crescent Trail, DC

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Crescent Trail rest stop

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Sunday morning, after sleeping in, we had our Starbucks and loaded up.  We saved Annapolis for the end of the trip….some of the best for last!  What a beautiful old city!  Historic Annapolis is a gem.  I am in love with historic towns and their uneven, imperfect streets and houses.  This was a first for us and we  loved this place.  And, what greater time to visit such a place than the Fourth of July weekend.  Flags and bunting waved proudly from front porches and street lights.  We experienced First Sunday, which is a local arts festival held on the first Sunday of each month during the summer and into the fall—live music and artisans lined the old brick paved street.  Note to self:  it isn’t a Farmers Market.  I was kindly disabused of that notion by one artsy artist.

Anyway, we ate lunch….the children dined on hamburgers from each restaurant this weekend, except for the italian meal…they had pizza!  For a local feel, we ate at the Rams Head Tavern.  Very nice people; great food!

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Lunch stop in Annapolis (TripAdvisor, photo cred)

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Stroll through Annapolis

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I’m a sucker for historic homes, so my Honey found one for us to tour.  Apparently, several signers of the Declaration of Independence called Annapolis home.  We visited The William Paca House and Gardens and enjoyed the walk around the neighborhoods.  The stories these old brick paved streets and generations-old trees have witnessed and could tell!  The families and their stories fill these homes.  I am in love with Annapolis; it deserves another trip.  I think I will!

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Photo cred: Joshua McKerrow, The Capital Gazette

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The William Paca House and Gardens

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Some natural beauty, The William Paca House and Gardens

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Governor’s Mansion, Annapolis

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Life is made up of moments.  We live far from family and so we make moments with our little family.  I looked on Facebook and Instagram and saw the family get-togethers and the fun memories being made.   Make the memories and have the experiences!  And, they don’t have to be Pinterest worthy to be amazing!!  People seem to be happier with experiences more than stuff.  Take time to create that timeless bond with those you love.  One of our favorite ways is through road-tripping.  And honestly, you don’t have to go far or blow wads of money to make it happen.  Find what works for your family.

My two youngest kiddos have discovered a love for photography.  That was a fun addition to this trip.  These pictures (except for the pics of the restaurants and William Paca house) were taken by them.  It made for a fun, new way of discovering the world (aside from the squabbling over the camera!!).

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We were missing our oldest this time around.  I guess those days are coming.  I’m not feeling like I’m very good at sharing, but I will keep working on it.  Thank goodness for Face Time, because Mommas don’t like having any of their loves out of pocket!  But, I know, the memories we have made over the years will hold him tight.  Here’s to the next road trip and gypsy blood–I’m already plotting one!

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Green, Green Grass

 

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I can feel it coming!  Can you?

Days are getting longer and spring rains are bringing life support for the flora and fauna.  The chill gives way to warm breezes.  And, if you live anywhere near here, a yellowy film covers every outdoor surface.

One of my favorite signs of the coming season, though, is the green grass and creative, ardent gardeners prepping their plot of earth for summer beauty.  Life bursts on the scene after the dead of winter.

Summer is a unique time for me. 

I look forward to it.  I think I still have a schoolgirl’s mindset.  After all, with homeschoolers in the house, I live to the special rhythm of the school year clock.

Days, weeks, months.  Semesters and curriculum.

Books completed and boxes checked off.

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And here we are.  We are not year-round homeschoolers.  I definitely need the summer break!  Summer break is mainly for me and my sanity!  I know my kids would rebel if I even thought about year-round schooling, though.

I need the leisurely mornings and unhurried schedules.  But as much as I love lazy days by the pool, I start to get antsy about a month in.  There is only so much laundry, straightening and organizing a soul can do before losing her mind!  I start to slowly morph into a discontented, unhappy woman.

I lose all perspective and basically, I get bored with my life! I don’t know how to cope with all the down time.  Crazy, I know.

So, I have made a plan for my summer.  I decided to be proactive this summer and save us all from my mid-life crisis.  I figure this is a great way to recharge my creative and intellectual self.   I am calling it the Creative Summer Immersive—CSI.  (Well, I just decided to call it that since I’m writing my blog post about it and it needs to sound official.)

In a nutshell, I am going to immerse myself in a summer of creativity that will stretch and grow me.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

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I’m rather pleased with myself.  Here is my plan:

  1.  Find 2-3 artistic/creative projects where I can learn a new artistic skill. (Probably going to hit up Pinterest.)
  2. Continue studying about and working on my writing. (I have a membership to a training/mentoring group I will continue working with.)
  3. Explore enrolling in a free online university class (MOOC) and learn something new and interesting. (Going to check out mooc-list.com.)
  4. Explore drawing techniques I want to learn. (I will probably purchase books on drawing flowers.)
  5. Read enriching and enjoyable novels and non-fiction.  (Of course, the library is one of my very favorite places.)

So, there you have it.  Not overly complicated or grueling.  But, it does allow me to grow and thrive.  Can’t really ask for much more that that!

Here’s the deal.  I am going to be full of grace towards myself.  If I don’t hit everyone of these goals, or maybe focus and become immersed in just one particular goal, then so be it.  My thoughts for this are to give myself a plan to work from.

If you don’t aim for something, you’ll hit it.  

Anyway, I’m sharing this with you for a simple reason.

Summer is a great time to explore and try something new.

I realize not everyone’s schedule reflects mine.  In fact, summertime may not really mean anything new or different for your world.  But, you can’t help but notice the new life and fresh growth all around you.  Nature shouts out the beauty of new creation.  It’s everywhere.

So, why not challenge yourself to try something new, learn a new hobby, or take up something you’ve always wanted to do.  Make this a summer of dedication to your well-being.  You never know what you just might find out about yourself.

Maybe your need isn’t even about creativity.

Maybe it is taking the time to broaden your world and practice a new service to others.

Maybe there is something innovative you can do for your neighborhood.  What does this look like for you?

Maybe you need to purposefully enlarge your circle of friends this summer.  Live it up!

Maybe there is some learning you have put off for another time.  Go do it!

Just imagine how much richer your life will be by the time summer is winding down.  Maybe, just maybe, it won’t be wasted.

 

We all want richer,

fuller

and

more meaningful lives in this world gone mad.

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What are you going to do with this one beautiful life you have been given?

For this, it doesn’t have to be super spiritual, mega-watted or compare to mine or any other’s summer.

You do you! 

Just set a goal and be intentional.

In other words, number your days.  Give meaning and purpose to each day.

 

   “So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

I am excited.  Perhaps it won’t all go as planned.  This is not a problem.  I am just excited to see what I can find out about myself.  Who’s gonna join me?

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Here’s your assignment for this week.  Start thinking about some new insights, hobbies or endeavors you might be interested in.

How do you want to grow in the three months of summer?  Write it down.

Research how to move forward towards these new projects.

Hit the ground running as soon as your schedule allows you to do so–if it is sooner that June, go for it!

I want to hear what you are planning.  I will give periodic updates on my summer adventure.  I want updates from you, too.  Let’s help each other.  Pull up a chair and let’s chat….comment below!