Wednesday, April 4, 2018

It Doesn't Matter, Right?

This past week, I was browsing through Facebook when I noticed that Robin, my cousin Steven’s wife, posted a photo of their home. Steven and Robin live on the north side of Fort Worth near my Aunt Muggs, Steven’s mom. We often talk about how we need to get together, but after living here for two years? Well, it hasn’t happened yet. It’s the classic story.

Anyway, I made a comment on Robin’s photo that they had a beautiful home and she immediately responded: We should get together! How about if we come by on Easter Sunday just to visit - no food involved. 

But of course…we’re American. And it was Easter! So food was a must.

Roy recently learned how to smoke a brisket, and so between the many of us, we concocted a menu of brisket, a whole bunch of other stuff, and pies (when really all we cared about was the pies made by Robin), decided on a time, and it was a Go.

When I was a kid growing up on the western Oklahoma plains, some of my favorite memories include family gatherings with Grandma’s pies, apple salad, and laughter. It’s all just so cozy in my head. And so I eagerly anticipated Easter and everything our little get-together symbolized.

Family.

Apple salad.

Pies.

It did not disappoint.

Steven and Robin, Muggs, and my other cousin Tracy and her husband Calvin and daughter Sarah all piled into Lori’s home. (Tami’s family was there too - the entire clan minus Jared). We laughed and talked and ate (of course), and then we just hung out at the table, all 11 of us, swapping stories and wishing time would just stand still for a bit longer.

At one point, Robin and Lori brought out the desserts and lined them up in the middle of the table.

Tracy looked at me and, laughing, said, “We could just grab our forks and dive in. We’re all family. It doesn’t matter, right?”

It seemed the evening was over before it had time to get started. Everyone piled back into their cars and we waved goodbye until…well, until there was nothing.

And then Lori and I cleaned up her kitchen — drying every last dish in the drain, wiping off the counters, stacking too many leftovers in bowls in the fridg — until all that was left was quiet.

When I was in junior high, Dad and I drove in the pickup every single weekend to my grandparents’ house that was a couple of hours away from where we lived. It offered a lot of talking time for Dad and me, and though I’m sure we had our share of being alone with our thoughts, we also spent quite a bit of time talking. One particular day, as the miles rolled by on our drive out west, I said, “You know, Dad, I’ve realized something. When something fun is going to happen, we dream about it and look forward to it and anticipate it…and then it’s over. And once it’s over? It’s over forever. All you have is the memory.”

Dad laughed. “That’s right,” he said. “And you just get to do it again and again and again until life is over. That’s how it goes.”

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of all of those memories, the importance of being purposeful in doing the things one enjoys or being with the people who are, well, one’s people. I’m not so sure I’m successful at being as purposeful as I believe I should be. Life as it is in America gets in the way far too often and our days blur together as one…

But in the words of Jacque, the most important things to me? Family and food.

I’m not sure I appreciate the food piece…but…well, Jacque is on point. That is where it’s at for me.

Today is Wednesday and I have a full day ahead of me. I’m in the throes of preparing for Homecoming which happens one week from today. My life is comprised of knocking off items on a multitude of lists and emails and organizing and meetings. I don’t have a minute to spare and I can feel in my chest a wee bit of stress where before there was only ease and peace.

I’m not the girl that thrives on stress. And so, I am finding myself retreating in my head throughout the day — hanging out the table, looking at Aunt Muggs, my word she looks like Grandma…, hugging my cousin Steven who is big bear of a man, laughing with Tracy who looks exactly the same as she did when we were kids (that should be illegal), and just relishing every moment. Again.

As life rolls by, the years get shorter. I was reminded this past weekend that we need to spend less time letting the days roll and more time doing and being with the those we love. More hanging out at the table, forks in hand, pies lining the center, ready to dive in…because, you know…

We’re all family. It doesn’t matter, right?






Thursday, March 29, 2018

How Lucky Am I

Spring has officially sprung in Texas. It’s simply beautiful here. Green everywhere, Wildflowers blooming. Trees bursting. And as I do with every season (with the exception of the months of July and August which are simply abysmal in Texas), I find myself stopping quite a lot and saying, Ah. I adore spring. I’m pretty sure it’s most favorite season.

This week it has rained. A lot. We spent Tuesday evening inside as thunder rolled and rain pummeled down through the wee hours of Wednesday morning. It was wonderful. Roy watched tv while I hung out with my iPad and caught up on American Idol. I’m not sure why I like that show, but…I do. I enjoy listening to young talent, and I love the stories of the individuals they explore a bit more personally. 

But while that life of doing absolutely nothing is fabulous for a bit of time, it’s a temporary wonderful. By Wednesday evening, I was ready to get out. And so, Tami and I loaded up into her van with her cutest puppy Koda (who is only about ten weeks old now) and headed to Lori’s on the other side of Keene. Ryan - a high school senior who is pretty much family - was hanging out at Lori’s house, and so Ryan, Lori, Tami and I (with Lori’s five month old puppy Bex and Koda) went on a walk around the neighborhood in the drizzling rain. 

It was oodles of fun.

And then we headed back home.

I have an app on my phone that pops up a reminder every morning and again in the evening to stop for a moment and be grateful. Each morning is…What are you thankful for?

…that I have this amazing job that lets me travel some and work with great people who make me smile from the inside out 
…that I live in Texas where winters are mild and springs are alive with life
…that my sisters live close by and provide so much friendship and support 
…that the view out my kitchen window makes me stop for a moment and breathe
…that I am alive

And then in the evening, what was amazing about your day?
that my cutest husband went with me to Sam’s Club so that he could load up 60 gallons of water for Homecoming Weekend into the back of the van so that I didn’t have to lift all of that by myself
…that Jacquelyn posts on Instagram for SWAU Alumni (a job I’m supposed to do but every time I try to post I experience brain freeze) and makes me look like a rockstar
…that Roy worked on the kitchen and it’s getting so close to getting done
…that Savana called, in her typical silly way, and made me laugh with her typical goofy stories
…that my sisters, Ryan and I walked the neighborhood, laughing at Ryan’s ridiculous antics and off the cuff comments because he is 18 and all of it.

How lucky am I.

How lucky am I.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Master

I am in the midst of attending a CASE conference in Fort Worth. This is a conference for those in Advancement - the fundraisers, marketing directors, and alumni peeps of the world. On the first day of the conference, during one of the sessions, I chose a seat on the very back row in the very last chair — the closest to the back corner of the room. This is my typical seat of choice as I deem it the most inconspicuous chair in the room.

I like it that way.

When I attend conventions or fly on airplanes, it is the way I roll. I’m not too interested in forging new friendships or swapping personal information with someone I will never see again.

I know. It’s not the friendliest way of living. But I usually have my book, some sort of journal, and my headspace. And that’s quite enough for me.

Anyway, on this particular day and at this particular session, I was quietly hanging out in my seat, an empty chair beside me, as the meeting was about to begin. The room was filled sporadically - lots of empty chairs in the front and such. However, with the exception of the chair beside me, my row was totally full. Clearly lots of people prefer the back row.

Just as the doors closed and the session began, I spied a man out of the corner of my eye heading my direction.

And I instantly knew: despite the plethora of empty seats in front of me, he was headed my way: for the seat next to me.

I was instantly annoyed.

Clearly he wasn’t interested in the abundance of seats that offered elbow room and space to breathe. 

And then, just that quickly, he was beside me, offering a smile and a nod at the coveted chair, squeezing by as I turned my legs to provide a little extra room, and then settling in beside me. And as I figured would happen, once he leaned back he was all up in my business. I grabbed the edges of my chair, and not so subtly, shifted my seat so that I could at least lean back without my elbows directly hanging out with his. And then, as he quickly engaged with the presentation happening at the front of the room, I took a moment to scope him out. He was older - possibly in his 70’s, and reminded me a bit of a mouse. He was slightly hunched over, balding…but when he glanced over at me, he tossed me a rather engaging smile.

And despite the fact he forced me to give up my personal space, I liked him immediately.

The next morning, I hustled into one of the breakout rooms deemed for alumni directors and quickly found my seat - the same one in the back corner. I pulled out my moleskin - my all-time favorite notebook that I am never without - and my black pen - the one with gel that writes smoothly - and settled back for an hour of how to engage alumni that aren’t engaged and don’t care to be

And then I saw him.

There, at the very front of the room, waiting patiently in the presenter’s chair, sat my seat partner of the day before.

I chuckled to myself.
And sure enough - as he was introduced, it was clear that my seat partner was a hair bit more accomplished than I will ever be. 

Clearly he was the rockstar of alumni directors.

I should have been offering my own seat rather than feeling chagrin that he sat next to me.

I should have been seeking pearls of wisdom from the master.

Naturally.

Because isn’t that the way it goes? 


Monday, March 12, 2018

The Rose Bush

When I was in seventh grade, my dad and I planted a rose bush. We watered it faithfully and watched it grow, admiring it with delight when it first began to bloom—vibrant pink popping out amidst emerald leaves.

Ever since, I have wanted a rose bush. But, for whatever reason, I have never ventured beyond the “wanted one” to the “purchased one” phase.

Until this past Friday.

On the side of the garage, we had a beautiful rose of sharon bush. However, since we’ve moved in, it has been declining. A few days ago, Roy grabbed its trunk and gently tugged upwards, pulling the entire bush up by its roots.

Deader than a doornail.

Darian flew home Thursday morning. When she’s around, I have a “partner in crime” for all of my projects, and so…the two of us headed to the Garden Center to pick up some plants for the front flower bed. It’s been sorely bare since we moved in but my goal for this spring is to bring some life to it. 

As we perused the selection of bushes, we happened upon the roses - all kinds of available colors. Together Darian and I chose a pink and white hybrid rose bush. And as I stood in line to purchase it (along with a few other flowering bushes), I couldn’t help but picture my seventh grade self, hair pulled back into a ponytail, posing in front of our beloved rose bush.

When I was in high school, I fell in love with an author named June Strong. She wrote a few books (I devoured each one) and wrote faithfully for a small magazine that was published monthly. I eagerly awaited each month’s article - though I doubt I read much more of the material in the magazine. Her writings, simple in nature, inspired me, and I longed to write like her. One time, she was the featured speaker at a series of meetings I attended and my mom set up a meeting for me with her. I well-remember the butterflies I had in my stomach as I sat in that small room, June across from me, and asked her questions about her life story and such. She encouraged me to keep writing, to make it a daily habit. Her calm, soothing presence will forever be etched in my memory.

Anyway, one of the things that June Strong often wrote about was her flower beds. She loved working in the garden, her hands buried in the moist dirt. And though I’ve never been much of a success as a gardener (tragically), I, too, love the feel of dirt on my hands, the wonder of life buried within each seed. Each spring when I plant flowers, I think of June and I am grateful for her tender, encouraging words to a teenage girl struggling to find her way. 

This past weekend, Roy and I worked together to plant the hydrangeas, the peonies, and the rose bush. We dug up the soil, laid down black plastic to keep the weeds at bay, covered the plastic with more dirt, then dug a hole for each bush. I carefully planted each one, reading the instructions with fierce determination. And then we stood back, admiring our handiwork.

The rose bush stands by itself in the corner of the driveway. And though it’s really just a rose bush, it reminds me of a time…

…when life was simple
…when I was on the cusp of teenage-hood
…when Dad and I forged a special bond

…when I discovered the wonder of life, sprouting up from clods of red dirt



Friday, January 26, 2018

Our Kitchen Remodel

My life is in total disarray.

We are currently in the throes of remodeling my kitchen.

It is not a job for the faint of heart.

We have practically gutted it as this kitchen was in pretty big need of a facelift. Our house was built in 1977, and I'm pretty sure that it hasn't been touched since then -- hence the wallpaper that looks like the same wallpaper on the walls of my grandmother's upstairs bedroom. And the bar. And the cupboard placed above the bar that impedes all sight into the living room. And the handles on the cupboards...

Yeah. Pretty much everything.

Initially, we were just going to take down the cupboard above the bar and paint over the wallpaper. And then Gina and Eric came to visit.

Now let me just say...Eric and Gina flip houses on the side. Their minds explode with ideas and then they turn those ideas into reality. It's a beautiful thing - an art form really. And so when they came to visit? They threw out a million ideas: You should move this cupboard over here! And put the bar here! And then you could paint the cupboard like this. And how about adding a subfloor to the dining room so that you just have a sunken living room instead of a sunken living/dining room?

And on and on. Of course, all of their ideas sounded fabulous, and so by the time they left? Well, I had visions of a brand new kitchen dancing around in my head. Initially, Roy balked. So much work! Eric did this for a living - he was fast! And even though Roy is very capable and can pretty much do anything that involves his hands, it would take a bit more research and time. But over time, he became a bit more accustomed to the idea and finally, little by little, he acquiesced.

And so on Monday, January 8, we began.

Roy's first  calculations were that this remodel job would take 3 weeks, start to finish. Snap of the fingers. But we are now three weeks in and ... well, it's going to take a bit more time than originally anticipated.

That's just the way life rolls sometimes.

And it's ok. My kitchen will be something to behold once it's done. I'm so excited. In the meantime, let me give you a glimpse of life in the Seals' home over the past few weeks:

This is my kitchen before it all began. This was actually taken just before we bought the house. But note the uneven flooring, the bar, and the cupboard above the bar. Also, see how there is this "boxing" above all the cupboards? Yeah - all of that is gone.


Job #1? Move everything out of the kitchen....and into the living room. 


And then? Tear out the cupboard above the bar.

Eric came over to share some of his knowledge and help Roy take off the popcorn from the ceilings.


And then we started on the subfloor in the dining room.


And this is me in beast-mode. Let's take a moment to be impressed:

Subfloor complete! (This took at least 4 days...maybe more...)


And this is how my kitchen has looked as Roy worked on sheet rocking, and electrical, and creating doors for cupboards that didn't have doors...and so on. Pretty much everything - and by himself as I don't know how to do any of it...And all without complaining. He's a trooper.


But yesterday? Well, yesterday we were able to hang the cupboard that was originally above the bar...(This is how Roy is feeling about this project right about now...)

So, we still have a ways to go. But we've made a lot of progress! Once we've finished it, I'll post some photos so that everyone can enjoy the final product.

I can't wait.

In the meantime, Roy and I are heading off to a cruise to the western Caribbean  this coming Sunday. We're cruising with Tami and Chas, and our good friends Debbie and Carlos. We're pretty danged excited.

Happy weekend, Friends!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2017 Wrap-Up

I have been thinking the past few days about the highlights of 2017. As the years pass, it seems they roll by faster and faster, blurring together as one. So, I want to take a moment to outline my top 10 highlights of 2017. Here they are (in no particular order):

  1. Our family vacation. Roy worked nights the entire summer which was definitely not a highlight. And so, we went on a family vacation the first week of August when his night shifts were finally over and just before the kids headed back to school. It was an amazing week touring Texas - the beach, Sea World, fabulous restaurants, swimming and laughter proved to be some highlights from the week. It was a grand time.
  2. Trips to Oklahoma - as in plural. For years and years, I have only been home once a year as I have always lived at least a thousand miles away. But now? Well now I can go home at a moment’s notice. And anyone who knows me knows that Oklahoma with its red dirt, grazing cattle, golden sunsets, and my precious parents holds my heart. And so, I was able to head to Oklahoma in the spring, in the summer, in the fall, and then again, of course, at Christmas. Four times. That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
  3. Roy’s job. In September 2016, Roy started working as a Quality Acceptance for an engineering firm called Lamb-Star. This past November, Roy got a call from a company called LJA and was offered a job doing the same thing with a few more perks. It made our heads swim. I am so grateful for a job where Roy is appreciated and applauded. It has made all the difference.
  4. One of the perks of my job is traveling to places across the USA where I host alumni events. During 2017, I was able to see Jacque in California and Estee Marie in Albuquerque. I spent a splendid weekend with Savana and Guerin while hosting in Orlando, and, at my event in Denver, Tami Condon and I explored Estes Park while I reminisced about Roy’s and my time in Colorado during our early years of marriage. I saw so many friends at my event in Oklahoma City, and when I served shortcake at the Arkansas campmeeting, my sisters traveled along to help. It was an overnight trip filled with so much laughter as we sang along with the radio and chattered the miles away. 
  5. My sister Tami and her cute fam moved next door, and my other sister Lori moved two miles away. If someone told me ten years ago that this would be my reality, I would never have believed it. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself that Jace has a math tutor and a piano teacher; that many weekday lunches are spent with my two closest friends who happen to be my sisters; that Saturday night activities are a given; that looking out my back window and seeing Chas with his Farmer Jones hat and riding his tractor would be a normal scene. Yes, my life is sweet.
  6. Our Family Christmas. This is always a highlight of each year, but this year? It was just something special. Darian was home for about three weeks, and Savana and Guerin were here for nine blissful days. DJ joined the crazy for about a week as well. Seven of us were squeezed into our little home, but we were cozy and happy and warm. We ate out at some fabulous restaurants, kept a fire crackling in the fireplace, played some rousing games that brought the fire out in all of us, dined on Savana’s delectable dishes (she made a seafood dinner for those of us who like that sort of thing, and a homemade lasagna (made with her sauce simmered from tomatoes, garlic, and fresh basil) for those of us who don’t. We jumped on the trampoline, watched movies, told stories, and laughed. Mainly? We laughed. And loved. And lived. It was perfect.
  7. My back porch. We only live a few blocks outside of city limits but this place of ours? It’s the best kept secret in town. When I’m sitting on my back porch, it’s like we live in the middle of nowhere as the view out back is just country and trees and skyline. It’s the perfect way to begin each morning and to end each day. And so, even though it’s not a specific memory, it’s one of the greatest joys of my life.
  8. Friends coming to visit. This year we’ve had the privilege of having Jacque, Debbie & Carlos, Ed Pelto (though his visit was like lightning), the Condon's, and Pamela Kay at our home. These people? They are the stuff that make life worth living. I am grateful.
  9. My parents in my home. Dad and Jo came up for a couple of days and we spent hours hanging out on the back porch. Having Dad and Jo in our home is a rare treat and I soaked up every moment. Mom came down several times as well. And of course, having Mom here is a little piece of heaven as well. She is so kind, so giving - she makes life easy when she’s around.
  10. Gina and Eric and their amazing kids. There’s nothing like family and these peeps? Well, they are Family. We’ve learned how to smoke the best brisket from Eric and we’ve dined around their table at pretty much every major occasion. We are so grateful for the Johannessen's and the joy and love they bring to our lives.

2017? You’ve been good to me and my family.

I am grateful.

And? 

Arms open wide, I’m eager to see what 2018 holds.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

It is December 31, the very last day of 2017.

And I haven't even considered New Year's Resolutions. Normally? have them carefully outlined. But this year? Nothing. I honestly have barely even thought about it. I'm not entirely sure why I've been negligent in this arena. Maybe it's because I am surrounded by so much family at the moment -- which, of course is a beautiful thing. Currently in my living room I have a couple of nephews, my girls and their boys, and Jace. My home is relatively small and yet we are all cohabiting in a rather peaceful, fun-filled manner.

I can't even think about the fact that they will all be heading back to their respective homes in a few short days. I prefer to just stay present, living in the moment, so that I don't have to deal with that reality.

Or...maybe I haven't thought about it because I am hanging onto 2017 for as long as possible. 2017 has been good to me, to my family. I am deeply deeply grateful.

Or maybe it is because I don't trust myself. I am really gifted when it comes to having great intentions and then life gets in the way, or I settle back into the comfort of my old bad habits and such.

Regardless, I am taking a moment to really think about what I want for 2018. I have about an hour before we are all heading out the door (despite the fact that it's 24 degrees out) for my sister Lori's home for a New Year's Eve party. We will wrap up 2017 with a bang - Martinelli's, games, chips and dip, and laughter.

And then tomorrow? Well tomorrow we will begin anew.

So here we go. Here are my Intentions (not Resolutions as the word itself just resonates failure in my head) for 2018:

*I want to choose health. Recently I watched some videos put out my Susan Pierson Thompson who heads up Bright Line Eating. She outlines the addictive properties of sugar and flour and, inspired by the studies she presents, I gave up both for several weeks. Naturally, the holidays have wreaked havoc on my eating habits but I am determined to get back to whole-foods dining.

*I want to faithfully write in my gratitude journal. I've heard that there is some sort of benefit in actually writing out the things we are grateful for each day. I'm going to give it a shot.

*I'm going to continue making progress on my house. Roy is taking a few weeks off work during January and intends to remodel our kitchen during this time. Ah - I can't wait. But beyond that, I need to update so many things around my home: pot holders, towels, photo frames with updated photos in them, and the list continues. I want to make small improvements every month.

*I want to live intentionally by planning fun into our lives. Roy and I are so good at status quo. But I want more. I want to explore where we live, find fun things to do, and actually do them. You know - things that don't involve a screen. So my intention is to find one thing to do each month that is out of the ordinary.

And of course...I hope to be present in my life, to put down my phone, to write more, to read great books, to have inspiring conversations, to live simply, and to laugh.

A lot.

Nothing too profound exists in that simple list. But it's enough.

Happy New Year, Friends.





It Doesn't Matter, Right?

This past week, I was browsing through Facebook when I noticed that Robin, my cousin Steven’s wife, posted a photo of their home. Steven an...