Low Key Travel

I can cross San Antonio of the list of places I've never visited because there I went.  And what's there is a River Walk and the Alamo and food and margaritas which are bigger than my head, which turns out is precisely how I like my margaritas.

But really, I should clarify and explain that I just might have become a little old lady somewhere in these twenty-nine years of mine because what was really fun to me was to have one or two cocktails after taking in a full day of learning and then make the way back to the hotel to either sleep or visit with strangers in the lobby.  Because visiting with strangers in the lobby of a hotel is something I believe in, especially when I have my friend Karen along because that girl can make friends with a brick. 

A rather low key trip it was.  Well I guess there was the time we set out with the goal of being the worst dancers in the world at the dueling piano bar Howl at the Moon; I think the interpretive style ballet dance to the song from The Little Mermaid sealed the deal.  Neither one of us are ballerinas nor even graceful so it was something.  At one point, I looked out into the crowd with my hand raised above my head and saw iPhones recording so I'm sure it's on the YouTube. 

Oh, then there was the other time Karen and I ended up in a cab in the wrong side of town with a cab driver named Hythem from Lebanon who wouldn't actually let us out of the cab for fear the Midwest blinking red light we had on our foreheads would be a signal for trouble.  He was a good egg that Hythem, delivered us safely back to our hotel.  For more visiting with strangers of course.

Wait.  Also there was the time Karen ended up with food poisoning on our last night there; we ate at the top of the tower and is was stunningly beautiful.  On our walk back to the hotel, we caught the tail end of the River Walk Fiesta Parade and high fived for a rather excellent evening to cap off the trip.

Although, I'm not sure if you asked Karen now if she'd agree after she had to travel the next day on airplanes while battling FP.  As in food poisoning.    

So yeah.  A low key trip to San Antonio, Karen and Amy style.    


Birthday Toes

For the love of all things birthday.

The balloons and the crowns and the castles and the color coordinated polka dots and the cake pops which almost look like something else which we won't mention and the homemade cake lovingly made by my friend named Danae, also known as the Supermom.  Yes, for the love all things birthday.  Including the dramatic antics of the birthday girl named Emma who turned four right after she turned sixteen in her storytelling abilities.  I'm also including love for toes because birthday toes just might be my new favorite ever.  

Go on with your dramatic self little Emma Bean.  I get you.  Pretty soon your almost thirty year old self will be snacking on memory cards instead of the birthday cake your momma made.    

One more for the birthday toes.  An odd combination indeed but then again, I'm all about odd combinations.     


For Boston and For All

The tears streamed down my face along with the sweat as I ran this morning with thoughts of yesterday's runners, both those who ran the race and those who will be training for the hardest marathon of all...healing.  And I believe that falls on all of our shoulders.  To be better in our every day.  To love.  To be a champion of and for our society.  "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.  The second best time is now."  African Proverb  


Another Grocery Store Man

"You must love someone.  You're buying them flowers." 
I turned to look back as I pulled my card from my purse to pay for the groceries and I smiled as my eyes met those of an elderly man with gray hair and a flat brimmed farm machinery cap pulled down. 
"Yes, myself."  I said with a laugh thrown in. 
"That's good.  You must love yourself." 
I stopped, not simply trying to shrug the conversation off anymore.  Turned again, to make eye contact with both this gentleman and his wife because well, anytime someone says that kind of powerful wisdom within five seconds of an encounter is worth a few moments. 
My smile grew wider, "I couldn't agree more." 
"Isn't that just the trouble these days, everyone looking for love in all the wrong places." 
At that point, I actually wanted to hug that man's slightly stooped shoulders.  Because there he was.  I would put money on his being a retired farmer who had been married to the lovely lady standing next to him for at least fifty years.  There he was.  A man who had undoubtedly worked his entire life through hard times and through laughter and tears and he got it.  And was willing to dole it out in snippets of conversation while in line at the grocery store.   
This life. 
Is something. 
Moments of shared beauty around every corner if we are willing to turn to look back and engage.  Engagement is the key. 
I often worry about where our society is headed.  Do we have the guts and the where with all to make it as that gentlemen and his wife who I met earlier this afternoon have?  Do we get it?  Do we know what matters?  Are we engaged in the right ways with the right things? 
I can only hope as long as there are pockets of people trying to do it right that our society will rise.  Rise one tiny fraction at a time by grocery store line visits about love with the generation who lived simply and who worked hard and who believed in the deepest parts of their souls quitting was not an option.  In any aspect of life, including love. 
The flowers I bought myself on this yet again snowy day are sitting in a mason jar on my table and my heart was filled yet again by an elderly man with gray hair and a flat brimmed farm machinery cap pulled down grocery shopping with his wife. 
"You must love yourself." 



It's late Wednesday night, nearing early Thursday morning, and so far this week...

My parents sat at my dining room table and we had a Sunday evening meal together.  I said to Billy when they left, "Do you know there was a time in my life where I only dreamed I'd be to where I could do that."  He looked at me and replied, "Ummmm, do what?"  I looked back, "Throw together a real meal without going to the store and be able to say why don't you just stay for supper and have my people around my table and well, you know...that."  A smile and a nod is what I got back.  We had chili and warm from the oven cornbread and deviled eggs and a Sunday meal happened.  The stuff of dreams I tell you.  Billy made the chile so really I just made cornbread and the eggs and I laughed when my dad said, "The last of the Easter eggs?"  

The last literacy event as the president of this region's reading council happened on Monday evening.  A "Get in the Game" book swap for all ages with one of our district's elementary school's choir singing as entertainment and a silent auction and the college hockey team signing autographs and college athletes volunteering at the game stations and kids excited about booksKids excited about reading.  Success.  While I was looking around the room at all of the amazing teacher volunteers and co-chairs and co-planners, I couldn't help but breathe a sigh of something.  Not sure if it was relief, but it was something.  It's been a full year.  Now I just attend our NDRA state conference and then the International Reading Conference to accept the Merit and Honor Council awards and enjoy learning more along with the people who were by my side helping all year.  Again, a sigh of something.  

After the event, I stopped by Brittany's to visit.  It had been too long and my cup of Britt was filled with pre-bedtime visits with her and nightgown wearing girls.  I need that filling from time to time because it's not often you have a friend who thinks like you and makes decisions like you. 

Last night I had a hair appointment and then we went for a glass of wine and the cheese plate at 10 N. Main.  The cheese plate, yes it was my meal.  Why would there be a need to order other food when that is on the menu?  To say it was a heart happy evening is the understatement of the year.  These next couple weeks feel like a combination between crazy push of last minute busy with celebratory moments of bliss.  Not a shabby combo, not at all. 

Today, I smell like garlic.  Like so much.  From that cheese plate I straight up devoured last night.  I feel bad for the people who were around my treadmill this morning.  When I turned my head, even I could smell it permeating off as I ran and don't even get me started about having a job which requires you to talk to people all day long.  The mints from the office were my best friend and I explained to my sixth graders why I was chomping on mints and not sharing because I believe in explaining to kids.  They nodded their heads right along with me because well, you know, they could tell.  But then it was green peppers for the kids' snack today here too and so what happened was, the kids all smelled like green peppers and it made me feel better about smelling like garlic.  

After school, I went to Danae's to catch up with her and her littles.  She was making homemade chocolate chip cookies and pulling them from the oven as I sat with a hot cup of coffee and my will power.  I love her just like a sister.  Just like one.  Because we can talk about anything and everything while she bakes cookies for her husband's lunch and I sit with my legs crossed with a polka dot mug in my hands.    

After Danae's, I went to the farm to pick up the handmade quilt my mom made to donate for the state reading conference silent auction.  Because you know, I texted her last week with a, "Do you think you could make a quilt for me by...next Thursday."  And that mom of mine did.  She texted me today with a, "Do you want me to send the quilt with Summer to save you some miles tonight?"  I texted her back with a, "No.  I'll come get it."  Because really I just wanted to look at it with her and give her a squeeze hug and see her face.  To let her know I'm eternally grateful for her, not just that she makes me quilts in less than a week but for who she is all the way around.  Grateful.  

After the farm, I went to Sil and Brother's to smush the crew.  Except by the time I made it there, Punky was the only one still left awake.  She told me quite the stories with her footie jammers on and her blanket slung over her shoulder.  Sil and I had a few quiet moments to visit and that's a rarity so maybe it was all meant to be. 

When I got home awhile ago, I packed up some cheese, fruit, almonds, puffed rice cereal, cinnamon, and peanut butter because peanut butter is a must.  I then texted Karen a picture of it all, along with the pretty plates and silverware, "I have a feeling the food at this thing will be not our thing so I packed us up some goodies."  Then I told her to make sure she packs enough cute clothes and jewelry so we can swap and share because that's just what we do.

Now I'm sitting here eating air popped popcorn with raisins because it helps with my trail mix obsession and I'm going over the chapter for tomorrow morning's book study at the administration building.  This is a quote from the first page of chapter seven of Small Steps, Big Changes by Confer & Ramirez.  Chapter seven is mine to lead by the way, a coincidence? 
  • "However, ineffective patterns of instruction can easily be the norm.  We continue those patterns until, usually by chance, another teacher or a coach or a principal-or even a student-draws our attention to them.  At that moment, we have received a gift.  We are awakened to a choice.  We can choose to confront our own patterns-or not.  Once we make a choice to question our patterns, we are in the realm of possibility."  
And then it continues on to discuss how we all have patterns for everything, like the way we pour our coffee in the morning.  And then this girl said an AMEN because I get that.  I just call them traditions is all.  I read the words from "At that moment, we have received a gift" on about six times.  Beautiful words for a beautiful belief which is applicable to all arenas of life.    

It's late Wednesday night, nearing early Thursday morning, and that's been this week so far.   

Next up on the agenda before it really is morning is to pack clothes for the first of the trips.  Packing clothes and I do not get along.  Fruit and nuts, now that I can handle.    

Maybe I should tell you a story instead.  A story about what the one sixth grade boy said to me today...

I'm procrastinating.  

Or maybe I should tell you about how I forgot how delicious warm cornbread with honey is...

I'm procrastinating.  

Or maybe I should tell you about how I constantly am assessing whether I'm doing the right thing with life...

Alright closet, I'm coming for you now.  Right after I finish this popcorn and raisins and chapter seven that is.  
Here's the less than a week from start to completion quilt by Momma Debi folded up and ready to go in all its chevron prettiness.  Thank you to my mom for once again being up for anything and there for everything.     


Becoming Real

I was sent this from a friend one night awhile ago, and I remember vividly pulling it up and reading through.  The first time skimming quickly not sure what I was seeing.  The second time with a sense of I need this right now, how did she know?  Because that one night awhile ago, I did need these words.  Needed them to resonate in my bones...

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." 

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have been carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to those people who don't understand." 

It's from the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco and it's devastatingly beautiful.

Real.  We are on a journey to becoming Real. 

And as I sat with one leg tucked underneath me and my Easter dress, I looked around at the scene unfolding around me. My family and my people, all in one place. With the nuances of bits and pieces of stories told here and there with laughter ebbing while birthdays were celebrated and socks were opened like they were the best gift ever. 

I took the scene in.  Deeply.  With my one mustard color tight wearing leg tucked underneath me and my Easter dress, I thought to myself - might have even closed my eyes for a brief moment - this is Real. 
It's Easter Sunday and this is my mine. 
Life is not perfect and there are minor curves in the road along with major road blocks thrown on random mile markers occasionally to make sure strength still shines, but "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become." 
Slowly but surely, we become.  Into who we are when we are being the people we are meant to be.  Not the people we think we should be.  A pesky discrepancy. 
The best gifts ever might be socks wrapped tootsie roll style in yellow tissue paper, but the best times ever are the moments of rising.  When the living with the can be rough and the not fair isn't met with sharp edges, but rather is taken in and molded to fit into us.  To make us one step closer to better yet...to keep us being the ones our souls are meant to be. 
Devastatingly beautiful. 
This whole becoming Real is. 


You Can

"If you can organize your kitchen, you can organize your life."
Louis Parrish

If you can successfully boil eggs without having to ask your mom every single time about water boiling first or cool-cover on or off-how long should timer be set, you can... 

Make deviled eggs Easter morning. 
Deep huh? 
But here's where the secret comes into play, you can still successfully make deviled eggs on Easter morning even if you did call your mom late the night before asking the aforementioned questions.  Love a duck, if I could ever simply remember how to boil an egg!
Love the kitchen wisdom as well, I strongly believe an organized environment leads to organized mind.  
Ignore the notion my mind can't remember the routines for simple tasks such as boiling eggs.  I stand by it's organized.  How else could it handle over packing for airports and traveling and really everything? 
If you can send up one Dear Jesus and give a farm girl heave-ho and lift the suitcase into the overhead bin still, you have not packed too much. 
Wisdom from ME


But Hey!

This afternoon I texted Sister Pister, "I just ate a carrot with peanut butter.  Therefore, I thought of you."  

My little sister does crazy things like dipping carrots in peanut butter and now I've followed suit.  So call me crazy too, I guess.  

Also, this leads me to saying a little nugget of truth about peanut butter; it becomes not a staple in your lunch bag every single day when your dishwasher is out of commission because washing the gunky peanut butter out of the container by hand is for the birds.  That business is sticky even after soaking and besides, who really has the patience for soaking?

First world problems these are I know, but the dishwasher out of commission was a funny situation around these parts.  Especially when it was the kind which is called the washer works just dandy but the door won't open without a tricky maneuver of jig, pull, cross your fingers, pry with a spoon, and then maybe it'll pop.  The morning of the Glitter Brunch, my clothes washing machine leaked sudsy water all over hell, including down to the basement below, because the pillow I was washing became jammed in the wrong spot.  Then right before friends arrived, the dishwasher door was closed by my hip in a moment of NOOOOOOOO followed by the jig mentioned earlier.  The jig coupled with my stubborn streak of I will not text Billy to leave work to get this door open after he already went to pick up the coffee for me, I will not.  Stubborn streak won.  Party on right?  Behind every glitter party is a leaking washing maching and a broken dishwashwer door. 

But hey!  Drinking water out of a mason jar with a stripey straw and a slice of lemon is still fun.  Yes it is.  

And now I have a new dishwasher and am feeling thankful I don't have to send up a fist pump when I can get it open.  

And I eat carrots with peanut butter in the afternoon which makes me think of my little sister who I love more than new lip gloss and square gum. 

Are you feeling like some more spring randomness?  Oh good.  So am I. 

This morning was the first morning I did not have to wear a scarf to the YMCA at o'dark thirty and then on my way to work the actual sunshine was hitting my arm. 

Flowers on my table and a cup with a letter which does not start my name will always be worth a smile. 

Here's why this spring feeling is so important around here.  This is a morning last week.  Not January. 

I decided the Easter Bunny deserves a glass of wine. 

And again, any sign of spring was cherished and celebrated around here the past couple weeks.  Oranges with sun beams in the morning counts. 

There was a get out of this cold quick trip to the land of sun. 

With a fast run to the Charming Charlie with my mom in tow because that is simply a must when in AZ.  The store is coordinated in sections by color; I do not need to say more.   

Followed by what appears as awkward dance type things with Sister Pister. 

And please tell me your family does things like this.  This would be myself, then Momma Debi, and then Dad-o having ourselves a little handstand in the pool contest.  Classy all the way.   

If you hung on for that ride, kudos to you.  Because let's remember this all started with carrots and peanut butter.
Wait!  How could I not let you in on this gem.  For all of you people out there who think you want curly hair, please see Exhibit A.  The one titled Laying on the Couch Gets You Every Single Time



The day before Easter my sister-in-law and I did the final meal preparations and finished off the details for our celebration. 

Sometimes for us what that looks like is Sil doing slicing and dicing and other kitchen type things while I hot glue graham crackers together in an effort to see a hair brained idea come to fruition. 

Peep Houses 

Now looking at them I realize the icing would have been much more appropriate in a shade of green, as in grass.  Instead of the white I used, as in in snow.  But in all fairness to myself, I blame my environment.  You see this lovely nook of North Dakota I call home still has feet of snow blessing its landscape.  So snowy peep houses it was for us. 

At any spring or not springish rate, the littles were decorating machines and that is what matters the most.  Dinosaur attacking included. 

Then what happens next is I try to stay on task and whip up some banana Nutella muffins while Sil colors eggs with the crew. 

But I can't help but snap some memories between teaspoons of baking soda and powder because goodness those kids are full of it and you better not even try and tell Punky that she is too little to do anything much less handle the care of an egg all on her own thank you very much.

I'd like to think Sil and I make a good team when it comes to celebration meal planning and party executing but I know deep down she's really the force behind the spatula.  While I'm more of the flitterer.  It's a win for me as she lets me come along for the ride to see the fruition of her labors which tend to be much more delicious and far less hair brained than mine.

Although I did boil some eggs late that night to be deviled the next morning.  Boiling eggs.  Culinary difficulty at its finest.