It’s Time, Girl, For GIRL TIME!!!

Hey you… Super Girl! Yeah, YOU!!! I know you are busy out there getting er’ done, rockin’ out like the BOSS that you are. On top of ALL the things you do every day, you are also going to church, working out, reading and serving, and doing all the things to help keep your awesome self, awesome. However, I have yet ANOTHER way to help extend the life of your awesomeness…You already know what it is, GOOD OLD GIRL TIME!!!!! YEEEESSSSSSS MA’AM!!!!

I don’t know about you, but I am fortunate enough to have been surrounded by amazing gals my entire life. Whether in high school, college, during my career, at church and even as a stay at home mom, I have been blessed with some GREAT girlfriends! Though life can get super busy and seasons change, friends move away, the benefit of time with friends never changes.

I’m not talking about any old gals. I’m not talking about getting together to gossip. To compare titles and status.  I’m talking about those equally-yoked friends. Those ones that challenge you to be great. Ones that celebrate with you. Ones that can pray for you in times of need and talk you off the cliff. Ones that will come to your baby shower and share their parenting experiences for extra support. And YES, ones you can, eat, shop and enjoy life with.

As we get older, our schedules and calendars are bombarded with so many tasks. We wear so many hats and are responsible for so much. Of course, the grace of God is sufficient to get it all done in excellence. But sometimes, we don’t allow time in our schedule to breathe. Our lives are out of balance. We don’t make time for ourselves and we don’t make time for our friends. Sometimes we even go into an isolation phase, where girlfriends or anything else becomes yet another item to check off. I GET IT!!!!! However, we were created for fellowship. Sometimes a couple hours with some amazing gals, is just what we need for some rejuvenation, redirection, recharging and some REAL laughs out loud!

For the last few months I have been intentional about making time for the beautiful women God has blessed me to know. I know they are not in my life by accident and we don’t even talk every day. But whether enjoying a girls’ night out, brunch, shopping, dinner and movie, massages, vision parties, morning walks, or even road trips, my life would not be as rich without them and our amazing time together. They inspire me. They push me past my comfort zones. They celebrate me and love me right where I am and I am better because of it.

I also realize my friends are not here to just benefit me. I am careful to bring my supply to my crew as well. Whether an encouraging text, a kind gift or gesture, a thoughtful act, a love exchange or time together, my girls know I got their back and am here for them too. Sometimes we can underestimate our role in a friend’s life. We think they seem to have it all together and don’t need us. Quite the contrary, there are gifts, talents, knowledge, wisdom, experience and other goodies we have that add so much value to the lives of people in our circle.

Anyone that knows me, knows I LOOOOVE my kids. I make time for my husband, take care of our home and maintain a busy schedule. However, over the years, I am FULLY aware of how rich my life is with the women God has strategically placed in my path. They add SO much color to my life. Our time together is so valuable to me. I look forward to it and am so replenished after each encounter. I pray that you cultivate relationships with gals that brighten your life. That you know how much your light brightens theirs and that you allow those relationships to add amazing experiences to your awesome journey.

I meet with these AWESOME gals every month (ish) 🙂 for dinner and great times. We all “Mom So Hard” yet make time to get together for some much needed girl time… I am so grateful they all live close by. They are SUCH a blessing to me!!!!

This awesome gal and I have been friends for 10+ years. We used to teach together, but since I have retired, we are sure to meet monthly for girl time, brunch, shopping, movies, family celebrations and even road trips. She makes EVERYTHING a BLAST!!!

I don’t get to see these awesome ladies often, so when we are all in town together, we are sure to connect for great fellowship. We love and laugh and share our dreams and hold each other accountable. They are such an inspiration to me…

I was recently able to enjoy another great day with this awesome gal!!! Though she is younger than me, we are able to share our experiences and celebrate the various milestones on our journey. She is a major talent on the rise. I love sharing adventures with her…

At the beginning of the year, I enjoyed a vision board slumber party with these amazing gals from my church. It was a great time of food, fellowship, shopping, movies, girl talk, and creating and sharing vision boards. Though we see each other in church, we also celebrate on holidays and other major dates. I love doing life with these gals…

An AMAZING friend, whom I’ve loved and admired for 20+ years came down for a weekend. We enjoyed great conversation, eating, shopping, massages and just unfiltered time together. We don’t get to see each other often, but when we do, it is so refreshing. We had a BLAST and I look forward to another getaway soon!!!!

SEASONS CHANGE…

By now, we are all ready for Spring to hurry up and grace us with her presence. We’ve enjoyed our dose of snow and cool boots and sweet scarves. It is time for some sun shining, birds chirping and buds blooming. Interestingly, we all forget how we embraced the idea of November and December and Christmas and snow and holidays and family gatherings and all the great things that make winter a beautiful wonderland of sorts. We are now filled with the hopes of what a new season will bring. Nevertheless, by the time summer rolls around, temperatures rise to 90+ degrees, we will once again find ourselves crying the blues and looking ahead to what’s next.

How often do we have these same reflections in our daily lives? While single, we can’t WAIT for God to bless us with the perfect partner to share our lives with. We are thrilled about the new promotion we just got. We celebrate the monumental experience of buying our first home. And can’t even contain the joy of our first child. However, as the days go on, the tasks pile up, or even boredom sets in, we find ourselves looking forward to what’s next.

I certainly understand and subscribe to the idea of moving forward.  The future forecast always seems to bring about hope and growth and newness. However, where do these hopes of promise leave us in our current season? How do we not grow stale? Bored? Frustrated with the “right now”? How can we maintain our contentment and appreciation while we wait on the next season?

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child. I was SOOOO happy at the thought of carrying a life inside me. How miraculous!!! As time went on, I got bigger, well let’s say, HUGER and HUGER and tired and grumpy and when I tell you I couldn’t WAIT to deliver the baby… I COULDN’T WAIT!!! Speed along to his arrival, I was ELATED!!!! OMG!!! Happiest days of my life, right? OF COURSE. Then the real work began. The real commitment. I soon looked forward to toddler time… at least then he could walk and talk and do things on his own, right? UUUUGGGGHHH. That season brought about a whole new slew of challenges. Speed this along 17 years… As I sit here and consider that this same child is now a senior in high school, that he will be graduating in a few short months, and moving onto college to start a life of independence… What I wouldn’t give to see him walking around with drool running from his mouth, hobbling in his overalls with a saggy diaper…

Moral of the story is that as we look to brighter days and new seasons, whatever season of life we are in, good or bad, we have to know that the season WILL change, that things get better, that tough times don’t last always, that people grow, that increase will come, and spring is indeed on the way! We must know that every single day and every moment of our journey, good or bad is one to embrace, learn, and grow from, but most importantly, to enjoy.

This may be tough because some of us reading this right now are in the hardest of winters. Perhaps you are enduring a season of illness, a tough marriage, a financial hardship, a job you don’t like. I get it. However, you have to dig deep, and for some of us REAL DEEP, to see the lesson, the beauty, the growth and opportunities that lie in the moments of this part of our journey. How can we get better here? What tools will I gather for my next season? What can I do to enjoy this season right where I am?

As we look on with great expectation to the next chapter, it is so important that we not just endure this undesirable time in our life. We can’t fill our mind with thoughts of stress, depression, doubt, boredom, and gloom. Life is about seasons. While every day won’t be one on the mountain top, we can do our best to maintain a mountaintop outlook. We can see the beauty in the moment and focus on the good times we have. We can learn and grow during these seasons, so we can carry our new insight into our next season and share with others. If we are too busy focusing on the spring, we can miss out on the beauty of winter we were so excited about in the beginning. If you are single and desperately waiting to get married, ENJOY your freedom and not having to cater to or be responsible for another human. If you are a stay at home mom looking forward to getting back to work, though it is a challenging right now, ENJOY not having to get up every day and report to an office. If you are living in a tiny apartment and can’t wait to get your first home, ENJOY not cutting grass or having to heat such a large area. Or a new graduate, eager to start your first job, ENJOY not having to pay student loans and living with your parents during this last stretch of time…

As I look forward to my son graduating from high school, I realize these days won’t be here for long. I can only imagine how much I would miss if I wasn’t intentional about making every moment of this season count. While I am driving him to yet another senior obligation, early morning SAT exam, academic banquet, athletic event, I am careful to embrace the beauty of our time together. As you go about your season, I pray you can squeeze out moments that make you smile. Times to help you grow. Lessons you can take into your next season. That while you look forward to the what’s to come, you enjoy every drip drop of the portion of the journey you are on right now. This season will not last forever. Enjoy it while it’s here! Spring is on the way… 😊 🙂 🙂

OUR VEGAN(ish) LIFE: The How’s, Why’s and What’s of Our Decision to Live a Vegan Lifestyle…

So, if you know me, you know that for a few years now, my family and I have committed to a vegan-ish lifestyle. I say “vegan-ish” because, we are not ALL the way vegan. As a matter of fact, I don’t even like the label itself as it is very specified and leaves little room for variation. Nonetheless, we often lean on this title as it is the closest to describing our eating habits. Interestingly enough, I find more and more when I explain to people that we are a vegan, it elicits a host of questions and even frustrations that ultimately lead to confusion. And for this reason, I am writing about our journey as veganists. 😊

What: What is your practice? Overall, my husband, two teenagers and I eat as clean, natural and healthy as possible. That means we see food as medicine, or nutrition our body needs to perform the many tasks we all do. Though we love our food to taste good, (and we see to it that it does 😊) we try to view food as source of fuel vs. a substance of pleasure. Therefore, the things we eat are generally fresh, whole (unprocessed/unrefined), natural, locally grown (when possible) and mostly plant based.

Why: Why have you chosen a vegan(ish) lifestyle? Though there are many diets and eating trends people currently follow, our decision was not based on a fad, weight-loss goal, or even illness. Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I have been healthy eaters and have always benefited from that way of life. However, over time, we noticed the increasing level of negative news regarding the unnatural processing of the animals we generally consumed, their poor treatment and the affects it was having on our country. After extensive prayer and research, we further investigated our concerns and concluded that our family could live without the consumption of animal products. We discussed it together and decided to move forward with our decision to eat what we call, a whole food, plant-based diet.

How: How have you maintained this lifestyle? As a homemaker one of my major responsibilities has been preparing meals that nourish our family as well as teaching our children how to make healthy choices. This decision required a ton of research. We have all come to lean on the nutrients provided in meat and dairy, such as protein, iron, zinc and magnesium. It was important that I included substitutions and even additions for some of the vitamins and minerals they would not consume while eating a plant-based diet.  I have been careful in the planning of meals and snacks to ensure we are not just checking off a box that says we don’t eat meat, but that we are intentional about providing sources of true nutrition to sustain overall health and wellness. We create a menu each week and grocery shop to prepare those specific meals accordingly.

What don’t you eat? We generally don’t consume foods made by animals, including meat, eggs, or dairy products. We don’t eat fast or highly processed foods. We don’t use the microwave or eat pre-cooked foods or dairy/meat substitutes. As a rule of thumb, we try to assess the origin of the food and determine if it came from the ground or if it was made in a factory. Can we recognize or even pronounce the main ingredients? If not, we generally do not eat it. Though this seems to be strict criteria, we have found that it works for US. Our decision comes with no judgement or sanctimony, only a measuring tool for maintaining our goals.

What do you eat? Many people assume vegans eat celery and lettuce for breakfast and run around all day feeling weak and depleted. On the contrary, like most people, we eat 3 meals per day and snacks throughout.

A typical breakfast in our house could be steel-cut oatmeal, stone-ground grits, avocado/cinnamon/garlic toast, fruit/veggie smoothies, buckwheat pancakes, fried potatoes and even an all-natural cereal with almond milk.

Lunch for my husband is generally leftovers from the prior night’s dinner, but for my kids, they pack a lunch that consists of an entrée, fruit, vegetable, starchy snack and desert item. Which generally means a pb&j sandwich, peanuts/almonds, carrots, raisins, avocados, apples, oranges, grapes, chips/pretzels, granola bars, cookies, dark chocolate, popcorn etc.

Dinner changes all the time. Vegetables are the main staple and we generally form each entrée around a large variety of them including veggie soup, chili, sushi, burritos, pizza, tacos, pastas etc. We eat from a large selection of beans as well and use them as a great source of protein, iron and fiber. Many times, we have beans and rice coupled with collard greens or some other main vegetable. We also enjoy various salads and sometimes a simple loaded baked potato.

Why do you say vegan “ish” instead of vegan? Most true vegans do not use animal products at all. They don’t even wear leather. That is not us. The greatest part of the “ish” in my description comes from the fact that we do include a small amount of fish in our diet a couple times a month. We try to buy local or at least wild-caught fish when possible, but this decision allows for a bit of balance for us all. However, we are strongly opposed to the harmful/unethical treatment of animals and do not support any form of it.

Do you eat out? Of course. At least once a week, we either get take-out or dine at a restaurant. You would be surprised how many establishments cater to vegan/vegetarian diets. We especially enjoy Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, even Indian and Vietnamese restaurants. They tend to provide vegetable rich options and use herbs and spices as a means to add flavor. However, I can generally find acceptable meal selections at typical mainstream establishments like Chipotle, Cheesecake Factory, and the like.

Effects: How has a vegan(ish) lifestyle impacted your life? First of all, though it wasn’t the goal, I personally lost 25+lbs immediately, while my husband and children maintain a healthy weight overall. We have not missed a day of work or school due to sickness. We have energy and stamina to maintain a very active lifestyle. Both my kids are in year-round sports, while my husband and I are avid hikers and enjoy outdoor activities on a regular basis. I have experienced a major balance in my hormones and have overcome challenges with acne, thinning hair, migraine headaches and other nutritional/hormonal imbalance related issues. Overall, I feel full of energy and my body and mind are strong and alive.

I am fully aware of the various diets and trends many follow today. For some, veganism is just that. I am careful never to push our beliefs on anyone or look down on people for the choices they make for themselves or their family. I fully believe we have to be led and must do what works BEST for us individually. However, it is so important that we do our diligence when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many of the methods of production of the products we consume are unclean and unethical.  It is up to us to make informed and sometimes uncomfortable choices that will benefit us for the long haul. God has called us all to do amazing things in this life. I am prayerful that though many of the producers continue to create harmful food options, that other ethical farmers and producers will continue to create ways to grow and sell foods that give life and wellness so that we may enjoy a long, healthy, happy, amazing journey… 0000000





Cover photo cred: greenermums

NO RECEPTION…


If you are anywhere near my age, you remember, or at least have heard of a day when after a certain time of night, the TV screen turned dark and was covered with various colored lines… when all the streets were still, the stores were closed… When dinner was served sometime around 6pm and after about 10pm, there was nothing left to do but sleep…
I’m not quite sure when exactly it began, but somewhere along the timeline in the last few years, stores and restaurants began staying open until 10/11pm, TV and all other forms of media stayed on all night and cellphones allowed people a 24-hour all access pass to anything and anyone… WOW!!!! Times have surely changed. Seems like a total maximization of 24 hours!!!! Sounds AMAZING right????
Last month, I celebrated my 42nd birthday (HEEEEEEEEEY!!!! 😊). Because it falls on the Christmas holiday, my family and I were on our Christmas family vacation in Phoenix. What a BEAUTIFUL place, during an AMAZING time of year, with my FAVORITE people on the planet!!! We had a wonderful time together. However, my birthday was EXTRA SPECIAL. My husband took me to the Grand Canyon. And though we had lived in Arizona a few years back, I had never been. I guess I just never had the desire to see a giant hole in the earth?????? Nevertheless, we grabbed our coats, put on our sweats and hiking shoes and made the 3 ½ hour drive to Flagstaff.
The ride itself was BEAUTIFUL!!! But I must say, when I arrived at the Canyon, I WAS SPEECHLESS. The sight of it literally took my breath away. I was overcome by awe and cried instantly. What an unbelievable wonder to behold!!! Every step I took allowed for a different view of this monument of gloriousness!!! But what was equally as amazing as the sight, was the nothingness that happened during our time there…
It was EVERYTHING!!!! My husband and I did what we do often in our moments like these. We vision casted. We reflected. We reminisced. We laughed. We held hands. We talked. And talked. We were present in every moment together and we weren’t distracted by calls or text messages or agendas or requests or social media or ANYTHING!!!! It was MAGICAL!!!
I find that though I am present and active as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, volunteer, mentor etc. I have to be intentional about making time to go “offline.” This time that my husband and I spent was SO necessary. It was a perfect time to reflect on all that happened in 2018 and our goals and dreams for 2019. It was great to laugh at our mistakes yet reflect on God’s goodness. There were even moments of silence, when we just inhaled and rested in bliss.
I could go on and on about my short time at the Canyon a few days ago. It was truly one of the best days of my life. However, I have to be honest, after 42 years of life, I have come to understand how necessary these experiences are. I, on purpose, make plans to regularly dwell in places where I have no reception. If only for a couple hours a week or even for an hour a day, I retreat. I unplug. I “out of office.” Of course, it is not always at the amazing Grand Canyon, but perhaps on other hikes, or baths, or quiet drives, or star gazes, or the library or lake or whatever. I find it so therapeutic to take time to turn off the noise. To cancel the “all access pass” for a little while.
This year, I will be even more intentional about insuring a bit of quiet time. Though our days have been filled with what seems to be maximum productivity, we need to unwind. To unplug. To turn it off. I am SO much more productive when I get that period of peace. I hear God’s voice SO clearly. I am less agitated and so much more creative. I pray that while you are out conquering all the amazing adventures put before you, that you take time to exhale. That you embrace moments of beauty, rest and solitude. That you take time to dwell in places with no reception. During these moments, may your peace, joy and love be renewed and restored… HAPPY 2019 TO YOU!!!!


OFF THE WALL…

When I was in 6th grade, I remember our middle school having a big dance. Though it was held in our gymnasium, and the teachers were our chaperones, somehow, to us, it was considered a MAJOR event. I knew most of the kids in my grade and even the upper classmen. We had been going to school together since elementary. I was actually considered decently popular (if there is such a thing in 6th grade… 😊) And though the DJ was BLASTING some of that year’s greatest JAMS, it did not stop my tremendous fear of getting on the dance floor. I literally sat there the entire time watching all the kids dance wishing I had the guts to get out there and jam right along with them. Instead, I played it safe, and stayed my butt on the wall the entire night overcome with great envy and fear. I was so disappointed in myself. Over time I matured. I gained a bit of confidence and by the time I was in the 8th grade, I was not only helping to organize the dances, but I had choreographed routines to Bobby Brown and Janet Jackson’s greatest hits in order to show off my dance skills with my friends!!! Lol!

Speed this up to 2018, 30+ years later, recently, I have been listening to Michael Jackson’s awesome hit song, “Off the Wall.” If you get a chance you should check it out. But the lyrics made me remember that 6th grade experience. I wonder how many of us get stuck in that same “wall” rut. We get caught up in our mundane routines of life. At one time they may have seemed thrilling, but as we get up, go to work, take the kids to school, come home, eat, sleep, and then repeat… we find ourselves slipping into a bit of boredom and even despair. We are frustrated with the monotony, but don’t really know any other way. The kids HAVE to go to practice. We HAVE to work, do laundry, cook, clean, etc… and it becomes too easy to lean up against that wall and watch everyone else enjoying themselves. Because, for us, the thrill is gone…Yep. I get it.

HOWEVER. There is SO much more to life than a job. Than taking kids back and forth to practice. Than sitting in traffic. Than living that predictable, controlled, mundane life. Life is supposed to be ENJOYED!!! Full of adventure and love and zest and FUN!!!!!! It can seem a bit intimidating to step outside our comfort zones and try new ideas, travel new terrain, explore unfamiliar scenes. I mean, who has time or energy or even money for all that???? But getting off the wall doesn’t mean we have to go do a solo dance routine. Doesn’t mean we have to purchase a tuxedo and meet with a dance instructor or to audition for Julliard…

It could mean getting up and watching the sunrise. Committing to a new hiking destination once a month. Making a dish inspired by various countries all over the world. Road tripping twice a year. Getting that new pixie cut you’ve been too scared to try, renting a convertible for the weekend, buying silver boots to wear to the concert of your favorite band, learning a new language online, saving up to see a new country each year. Renting a pontoon for the family vacay. Taking dance lessons. You get the idea. Whatever the case, YOU GOT TO GET OFF THAT WALL!!!! The safe route is a road that leads to stagnation. Boredom. And Despair. Yes, you have a job. You have to be a responsible adult, spouse, parent, employee, homeowner etc… But we MUST commit to doing things on a REGULAR basis that, though may be uncomfortable, or cost a little money, or require a little planning, force us to get off the wall and enjoy this life.

As it stands right now, I have two teenagers, a husband and a dog. All of them require my time, energy, love and commitment. I am FULLY devoted to them. However, I understand that in order to live a balanced life, in order to be 100% for them, I HAVE TO do things that stimulate my joy, stir up my excitement, put thrill back on the scene. Some of the things I do/have done in the past have been simple, free, inexpensive, or sometimes not so much, but I am committed to doing something carefree and fun at least once a week and if possible once a day!

It is so cliché’ to say life is short, but it is so true. When we leave this beautiful place, we can’t take our jobs, our cars, our houses or clothing with us. It won’t matter what items or titles we’ve acquired. What will matter, are the experiences we enjoyed and how much LIFE we lived and the amazing memories and lessons we gained along the way. We must be intentional about squeezing every drip drop of this awesome journey.

I pray that you don’t get on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc… and look at everyone else on the dance floor. That you don’t scroll through their pictures of trips to the ocean, but that right where you are, you make those moments for yourself.  Get so good at living off the wall, you have choreographed dance numbers for every song that is played. You are jammin’ so hard, you inspire others to jam as well… And in the words of the great Michael Jackson, you will be sure to find, “Life ain’t so bad at all… if you live it off the wall!!!!” 😊

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DIY: How to Decorate a Teen Boy’s Bedroom: A Space of Inspiration

Every child wants a place where they have ownership. A place of belonging. A place that has their distinct signature that says “ME.” It should be a place of freedom, where they can let go of their inhibitions. It should stimulate creativity and inspiration. A place where they can always feel welcomed and celebrated.

As parents, we may not be able to provide this kind of space in their classrooms, on the bus, in the locker room or even at church, but we CAN give them that space in a little corner of their world… their bedroom.

I have 2 teenagers. I recently redecorated their rooms to fit a more age appropriate palate. As they develop and evolve into the awesome young man and woman they will become, I want their décor to reflect some of the attributes I mentioned earlier; to create a place to help make their journey memorable and special for them. I was able to accomplish all of this by applying one simple rule:

CELEBRATE THEM!!! Use colors, materials, signage, posters, fabrics, bedding, rugs, pictures, initials, lights, art, trophies, medals, furniture, and ANYTHING else you can find to honor and inspire THEM!!!! THAT’S IT!!!!! I will share with you just how I did that for my daughter and my son.

Creating the perfect setting for my son was quite easy. Since he was little, we knew he loved all things logic. Including math, science, chess, robotics, technology, information, etc… The challenge was bringing this all together in a digestible and functional way, that would keep him interested, yet not distracted. This is a place where he not only does his homework, but he designs robots, plays games of chess, reads books, but also sleeps!!!

I found prints of the patents of the chess game and board right on eBay. I framed them with a rustic wood frame I got from Hobby Lobby. This served as a perfect focus point for his room above his bed. I used it as the anchor of my designs and built everything else around it.

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I think a display of their name is a staple piece to add signature to one’s room. Shoot, the average adult likes to see their name on their office door, desk etc… Kids aren’t much different. I found extra-large size wooden letters on Etsy and created a neat arrangement next to his bed.

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Above the window, I added my signature sign to reveal a message specific to him. though I “borrowed” the idea from The North Face, I find it to be super fitting for my son. 😊 I nailed the words “Never Stop Exploring” into a slab of old barn wood that I painted black, with hopes that he would be reminded of this very important message each day.

On each side of his window, I added a couple basic pieces I found in various stores. One is a simple arrow that points up, while the other is a picture of the planets in order of their arrangement. Both pictures light up. I find that most kids like the same ambient lighting we adults enjoy, just in a more age appropriate form.

Though the highlight of every room to me is the headboard or the bed itself, the owner of the room will spend a large portion of their time lying in the bed. Their focus will be on the space adjacent to the bed. So, this space is very important. Here I added a hanging solar system I found on Amazon. The planets spin in orbit similarly to the way they do in space. It is such a neat focal point and my son seems to love it. I also added a world map and a mirror and cleared an area for a spinning chair to create a place for him to read, do homework, relax, or even stargaze through the telescope that sits in front of his window. To fill the large wall across from his bed, I added a huge blackboard tapestry filled with physics and other scientific formulas. Though this language is COMPLETELY foreign to me, my son LOVES it and it gives him a little something to configure when he feels up to the challenge.

On the side wall between the door and his closet, I added a bench for extra seating and storage. I also hung a metal bin for his awards, certificates, and college letters. I love to see that he is filling this space quickly. The display of his success is a great reminder of his accomplishments. Finally, above the end table of his bed, I added a small reading lamp. Above it is a shelf for additional storage and a print of the periodic table.

Overall, I was thrilled to see this room come together. Teenagers are very complex. It can be challenging to capture all the beauty of their heart and mind. However, I took my time, and worked hand in hand with him to create depth and breadth that represented the essence of his spirit. When I see my son in his special space, it makes my heart happy that we could create a place for him to feel free and comfortable and celebrated and respected and loved. Ideally all this energy will transfer to his heart. It will follow him into the corners of his world and every place he dwells. And he will have a bit more confidence to share that beautiful heart, mind, and spirit with the rest of his world…

Whatever the age, or gender of your child, may you capitalize on their strengths and interests and showcase all the elements that celebrate them. You don’t need a huge budget, just a way to fill their room with everything that makes them sparkle and shine!!!

Catalogue Your Journey… Capturing the Moments that Count.

Ok. So when we hear the word “souvenir” we all think of the 3 for $10 trinkets we buy when on vacation to let people know we were thinking of them, or perhaps an artifact to remind ourselves of the time we enjoyed while there. Unfortunately, most times, those items are bought without real thought and they ultimately collect dust for a few weeks before winding up in the garbage. I mean, how can we keep up with all that “junk” over the years anyway? Great point. However, I started looking at this souvenir thing in a different way. I had a desire to capture a bit of the joy, peace and memories that were happening throughout this awesome journey. And even though I carry them in my heart and mind all the time, there is something about the nostalgia of bringing your mind right back to that space in time which you held so dear.

Maybe because I have very few pictures or artifacts from when I was a child, but mostly because I am amazed with how the time is flying and how many miracles happen every single day, I just have the desire to catalogue my journey. I found that it is simply a way to bottle up that moment, that feeling, that memory, so that it can be relived in some small way. You can do this in so many ways. Perhaps by journaling, taking pictures and videos of the “highlights”, making playlists, marking your child’s growth progress on a wall, stamping their hands and feet, saving medals and trophies, making 1st day of school signs and pics for every year, collecting a pen for every hotel you visit, etc. Whatever the case, one of the greatest ways to keep gratitude in your heart is to recount the many blessings you experience on a day to day basis. A great way to slow down the time is to catalogue and take stock. Be intentional about it and customize it to make it meaningful to you.

One of the ways my family and I catalogue is by collecting a Starbucks coffee mug on every place we travel. Over the last 5 years or so, we have been successful. It was pretty cool when my husband and I added our collection to a space on our wall a couple weeks back. What a super conversation piece. What a great motivation to travel more. What a super way to enjoy and capture the journey and even share with others. I hope you find a way to capture the awesome moments during your adventures. And that you intentionally discover meaningful ways to recount the joy you experienced while there…

Christmas Family Road Trip : 1400 Miles to the Mile-High City… Experience is the Greatest Gift…

I just had another birthday a few weeks back. Traditionally, I use this time to capitalize on a super travel experience with my husband, at which he and I whisk away to a fun destination and enjoy a few kid-less days of rest, rejuvenation, and reflection in preparation for another awesome year. We set a budget and GO!!!! Though I generally enjoy this time IMMENSELY, this year, I kinda didn’t want to be away from the kids!!! WHAAAATTTTT????!!!! Turn down a once a year getaway??!!!!!… I KNOW… I KNOW!!! They are getting older so fast… and I kinda just wanted to be with them. SO, I forfeited my 2 person trip, and turned it into a 4 person trip. HOWEVER, I STILL had to stick with the same budget. YIKES!! This made things kind of tricky. I had to stretch this budget, yet still come up with an AWESOME vacation plan.

After careful consideration and research, I decided DENVER would be the PERFECT spot. Neither of us had ever been there, and we’ve seen and heard amazing things about it. The only problem was, the flight from Atlanta to Denver x 4 consumed 90% of the budget. So, I had to again get creative… And that’s when the family road trip idea was born.

The trip would be 1400 miles which would take about approximately 21 hours by car one way!!! WHAAATTT!!!???!! That’s a total of 40+ hours on the road (not even including the driving once we got there)!!!! YIKES!!! We’ve done a 4-6 hour trip before and even broken up a 10 hour trip over 2 days… but 21 HOURS!!! OMG!!! I talked it over with my husband and then carefully presented it to the kids. They were BEYOND thrilled to not only be considered for the trip, but SO up for the ride!!!!! YAAAY!!! It was settled.

Over the next several days, we calculated gas, time, places to stop (on the way there and on the way back), and of course our anchor spot in Denver. We decided to drive our own car vs. renting one, which created so much wiggle room in the budget and gave us tons of financial flexibility. We stayed in great hotels, ate super food, shopped at great malls and boutiques, explored new terrain and enjoyed awesome adventures. We bonded. Talked. Read. Thought. Slept. And sometimes just sat in silence. Overall, we had the time of our lives. Here are some pics and details of our 10-day cross country family road trip from Georgia to Denver and all the great stops in between.

Day 1: Friday December 22, 2017: Today was the kids’ last day of school and my daughter had a basketball game that evening, so we planned to leave at night and make the most of the trip while everyone was sleeping. After the game, we shut down and secured the house, loaded up the truck, said our family prayer, and FINALLY, at nearly 11:00pm, we took off for the first 12 hours of driving.

Day 2: Saturday December 23, 2017: After 10 hours of driving, we made it to our first stop: St. Louis, Missouri. The kids woke up, we all stretched our legs and ate a nice breakfast before our 4 hour drive to Kansas City, where we stayed for the night.

Day 3: Sunday December 24, 2017: We woke up the next morning and enjoyed a nice (free) breakfast at the hotel, and a quick family walk. We then picked up some snacks, filled up the tank, and grabbed a souvenir Starbucks mug to add to my collection before starting our next 9 hours on the road. The drive was beautiful. We talked, laughed, listened to music, and reflected on the birth of Christ on our Christmas Eve drive. The kids read their books and even watched a couple Redbox movies to help the time fly by. We stopped at a Chinese Buffet to stretch our legs and fill our bellies before all the restaurants shut down for the holiday. We FINALLY made it to Denver that evening. WE WERE THRILLED the room and the area was as beautiful as it was online when we booked it. ANOTHER SCORE!!!

Day 4: Monday December 25, 2017… CHRISTMAS DAY!!!!! What a great day it was. Of course we began the day with reflection on the birth of Christ. We then enjoyed another great free breakfast and relaxing time around the hotel.

Day 5: Tuesday December 26, 2017: Today was our first real day out in Colorado. After recommendations from some of the locals, we decided to make the 30 minute trip to Boulder. We had an AWESOME time.

Day 6: Wednesday December 27, 2017… MY 41st BIRTHDAY!!!! Today, we decided to paint the town RED!!! We didn’t have a set agenda (which sometimes is the best) but we knew we were going to take the 1 1/2 ride to Breckenridge. What a super day!

Day 7: Thursday December 28, 2017: This was our last full day in Colorado and probably my FAVORITE day of the entire trip. We ventured back to Boulder to hike the Flatirons, which is are huge rock formations just east of the Rocky Mountains. The trails have the most BEAUTIFUL views of the city and are surrounded by mountains.

Day 8: Friday December 29, 2017: We packed up the truck and began the 12 hour drive to Branson, Missouri. Though it may have been a little tough to leave this awesome place, I was full from the rich experiences we had while here and happy that though we were departing, we still had a few goodies left on our journey.

Day 9: Saturday December 30, 2017: Today is officially our last day of fun off the road. We ate a super breakfast, let the kids swim a bit, and even went on a small hike while checking out the sites in Branson. It was a lite day, in preparation for an amazing night…

Day 10: Sunday December 31, 2017: It was the last day of the year and the last day on the road. We woke up early the next morning and headed back for Atlanta. I know this was a super long post, but I can’t reflect enough on the amazing time we had together. Over the years we have done the theme parks, visited beaches, lakes and mountains, voyaged on cruises, and other super destinations, however, I have to say this may just be my absolute favorite trip of them all. We bonded. We loved. We adventured. Many people that knew of our trip asked if we had family in Denver? Was there a reason for such extensive travel? The answer is no. We had a desire to see new terrain, a plan and a budget. We were fueled by the excitement of the unknown and we have memories to last a lifetime. My kids are getting older. I want to take every opportunity possible to make these moments count. While I love the idea of giving gifts and buying presents, I will cherish this amazing experience, it was my greatest gift of all…

TIME DOES NOT HAVE TO FLY… A Back to School Reflection.

Ok, so both my kids are in high school!!!!! 😲😲😔 WHAATTT???!!! This blew me away!!! I mean, it seems like YESTERDAY I was nursing them and teaching them how to use the bathroom!!!! I remember waking up in the middle of the night to feed them, or getting them bundled in alllll their layers of clothing in order to weather the cold, and carrying them in their car seat and wondering “how in the world was I going to get through this????” I mean, it seemed SOOOOO hard and because they were only 19 months apart, it seemed there was no relief. Something as simple as getting ready for bed meant individual baths, and getting them dressed and keeping one entertained while the other was being attended to… it was literally EXHAUSTING!!!!

I remember some of the elders, (ie. WISE, BRILLIANT people we tend to ignore because they just don’t understand our specific situation) used to tell me, “enjoy these moments because they fly right by…” I remember WISHING they would… 😂😂lolol!!! Now that those beautiful babies have grown into amazing 14/16-year old’s right before my eyes, I’ve learned that time does indeed FLY by and I have come to appreciate allllll those tough times as fond moments in this AMAZING journey. Because I have come to value each phase of parenthood, I have also learned how to seize the moments and literally slow down the time.

How in the world can you slow down time, you say? It is actually quite simple: Make each moment count. BE PRESENT. Adjust your perspective and see the joy in that perfect place of the journey. Especially you new moms, or moms of toddlers, or moms of those goofy pre-teens, and OMG… MOMS OF TEENAGERS!!!! YIKES!!! Know that each phase brings about a new terrain. It can be tough, especially when you haven’t tread that path before. It completely sucks when they learn the word “no”, or when they THINK about talking back, driving, dating, or wanting to go on field trips, or getting a new cell phone, or starting HIGH SCHOOL!!!! OMG!!!! IT’S A LOT I KNOW!!!! Each phase brings new challenges indeed, but they are times you will never get back. Ask any empty-nester what they wouldn’t give to put that perfect part in their daughter’s hair with pigtails for the first day of school. How they wish they could sit through just ONE more basketball game. How they wish they could watch one more Disney movie together…

I remember my daughter being rushed to the hospital because her appendix ruptured. We had no idea, but it actually ruptured days before she was admitted, which put her in a critical position. Infection had spread through her body and we were in the hospital for several days. I was still working during that time. I remember actually wrestling with the idea that I had 150 final exams to grade and report cards to post while my daughter had a tube sticking out the middle of her stomach!!! 😦😦😦 It dawned on me then, that my job was taking WAAAAY too much of my attention. That it hindered me from fully focusing on the monumental moments of my children’s lives. I considered how much of my attention COULDN’T be on them, because I was trying to be excellent at my career. That was my last year of teaching. We downsized our lives, I retired from my job and am at home to fully serve my family. Now, I am by NO means suggesting anyone quit their job. For me, I HAD to, and it has made all the difference. But there is surely a way you can slow down the time in your life right now. Whatever way God leads you specifically to enjoy your journey, be sure to adhere. Realize that though we have our entire lives to indulge, chase after dreams, seek promotion, gain advanced education, get overtime hours, one thing we can’t get back is the time that passes and the events that happen throughout. Figure out how YOU can be present for your kids and get to it ASAP.

It doesn’t even have to be super deep. Being present in the moment looks like this: Attuning fully when they show you their 7,456th completed page from their coloring book, listening like you are at a concert when they ask you to hear that song they learned on the flute in band class today, sitting with them while they struggle through that English project, putting your phone down and talking to them in the car on the way to EVERY WHERE, turning off the TV and listening to them during dinner, helping them make that sign for their student council election and the like.

Parents have a tough job. We seem to constantly need relief from the weight it bears. However, if we adjust our perspective a bit and see each phase as a once in a lifetime moment on an amazing journey, we are sure to savor the time. When we purpose to enjoy each day of their childhood, we will never have to answer that horrible question, “Where did the time go?” Because we were right there in the middle of each one of those precious moments with them. Today is tomorrow’s “good old days…” so get out there and Carpe Diem!!!!

You’re Going to Poop the Rest of Your Life… What’s the Rush????

Ok, so I am currently smack dab in the middle of one of the most challenging experiences of my life… I am teaching my 15-year-old son how to drive!!!!!! OOOMMMGGGG!!!! For the most part, I am a pretty calm kinda gal. However, this adventure has required a level of patience like I’ve never experienced before.

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Forget the fact that I am still in awe that I have a child who is old enough to drive anyway! I mean, it feels like we were watching episodes of Little Bill, playing Beyblades and building Lego figures just yesterday!!!! Nevertheless, of course when he told me he was enrolled in Driver’s Ed, had to get his learner’s permit, and actually start operating a real motor vehicle, I had to rise to the challenge and help teach him the simple art of driving, right????? UUUUUUMMMM…. NO!!! This thing is INTENSE!!!! Like most people, I’m sure, we started off in the parking lot, moved to dirt roads, and have now advanced to two lane streets; however, it has taken several weeks (and a few missed stop signs) to get here!!!

Though we have been practicing about 3-5 times weekly, it occurred to me, that unfortunately my son is nowhere near the place where he can have his driver’s license and operate a vehicle on his own any time soon. Now that doesn’t mean I will stop working with him. I plan to work with him almost every day until he reaches his goals, however, rather than risk his, ours, or others’ lives, I have come to accept the fact that he needs A LOT more practice and it will probably be much longer than the 2 months he has left until he completes his driver’s training and turns 16.

For some, automatically this would spell failure. I have to admit, my determination for him being successful was what drove my anxiety and frustration. How could we (ultimately, I) fail to meet such a huge milestone? Then it occurred to me, so many of us are governed by the “milestone timeline.” The idea that things must be done according to the majority of the population. That timeline looks like this: You should graduate college by 21, get married by 24-26, pregnant by 30. Baby should be walking by 1, potty-trained by 2, reading by 4. They should be in the gifted and talented group, they should be in 3-5 different athletic or fine arts activities to prepare for scholarships (in 10 years!!!) and the list goes on and on. And OH MY GOSH!!!! YOU ARE 33 AND NOT MARRIED????? What is wrong with you???? We measure ourselves and our successes by our ability to meet these timelines. But I have an important question: WHO set the timelines? What substance or weight do they really hold in the big grand scheme?

I mean, think about it: does it really matter if your baby walks at 14 months instead of 12? Or for heaven sakes, they are SUPER SUPER special if they start walking at 9 months!!! I mean they would qualify for the “Baby Who Walked First Award” right???? Is that any indication of their intellect? Their ability or lack thereof? Or is it merely a source of pride for parents to brag and post that their AMAZING child has passed the test and is READING A BOOK AT AGE 1!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!! Really????? WHO CARES????

Trust me. I am not making light of us achieving goals for our lives or our children’s lives. However, we must make sure they don’t govern our happiness or reflection of our success. We can’t be filled with feelings of failure if our lives don’t line up with the world’s timeline. You, me, our children were fearfully and wonderfully made. One of a kind. God broke the mold when he made you! Don’t look to the left or the right to determine where you should fit on the marker. RUN YOUR RACE! In all things, we have to seek God for His direction and His timing for the purpose and plan for our life. His ways are so much higher than ours. While we are rushing to marry this man because “I’m getting old and pretty soon I won’t be able to have kids” we settle for less than what He has for us because we are on some crazy time schedule! Because everyone else has a house by “this age,” we go into ridiculous amounts of debt to stay on top of it. We become overly anxious because our kid may not be ready to drive until he is 17…or even 18 and we lose sight of such a great learning experience.

Whatever the case, don’t allow this undo pressure to force a speed race in any area of your life. Slow down and enjoy the journey that is necessary for full completion. Lean not unto your own understanding… let God direct and order your steps and you will always end up on top, finishing at a time suitable for YOU based on HIS timeline.  Ultimately, you/your child will drive, walk, read, talk, poop, for the rest of their life… No need to rush this awesome process!!!

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YOU MAKE ME SICK!!!!

Last week our district had to close school because there were too many kids absent due to various illness such as the flu, strep throat, sinus infections and the like. In all my days, I have never seen this happen, yet recently this was the case in several parts of the country. It was sad to think so many children were at home feeling miserable and fighting for their health. Regardless of their age, most kids are pretty much helpless in this situation because they are unable to make the informed decisions necessary to maintaining their health.  However, we, as their parents can play a more proactive role in keeping them well. I know, I know… we are all super busy, we are on tight budgets, and viruses are highly contagious…we are ALL susceptible. Right? I TOTALLY get it. However, it IS possible for our kids to be in such great health that they are more immune to various illnesses and don’t get sick. Now, this may be difficult to do if our cupboards are filled with Oreos, our menus consist of fried chicken wings from KFC and our schedules are booked to the max, but perhaps we can step up our game on ways to build up a better immunity for them by making some minor adjustments.  Here are 5 ways to help keep our kids virus-free.

  1. Get adequate rest. Kids need to sleep. Though it seems like school is a light-weight job that requires minimal effort, it is only a small portion of their day. Many kids participate in extra-curricular activities, work, sports, church, chores and other things that keep them busy most parts of their day. They need to rest their bodies and minds so they can perform at their highest level. They are still growing and developing and need at least 8 hours to restore, rejuvenate, repair and develop. You will find once they are rested they will be more attentive, can function at a greater capacity and will resist illness. My kids are 14 and 15 and STILL go to bed at 9:00pm! 😨😨😨 (TV’s off, lights out, computers, video games and phones powered down!!!) ☺☺
  1. Eat nutritional meals: I get it, we are on the go, go, go… cooking???? “Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!” lol! 😬😬 However, the purpose of food is not to fill our bellies, but to nourish our bodies. Our children need nutrients for their mind and body to function. It is imperative they get at least 5/6 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Start them as early as possible to develop an appetite for healthy options. That will be impossible if tomatoes are in competition with Cheetos. Remember, YOU buy the groceries. They can only eat what you buy. Of course, they can enjoy snacks, desserts and fast food periodically, but if it has become a regular part of their eating plan, their bodies are not getting the nutrients necessary to fight off illness, let alone perform the tasks they need to do each day.
  1. Get that body moving: This can be a challenge I know, as many of our kids are strapped to some sort of device that only requires movement of the fingers, however, we must help keep them active. At least 3 times per week, they should get that heart rate up and get that blood pumping. Consider options such as walking the dog each day, going to the rec center a couple times a week, getting into a local sports team, gardening, or regular household chores. Whatever the case, when that blood is circulating through the body, it can adequately combat various symptoms.
  1. Take a daily vitamin: It can be tough to get in all the necessary vitamins, nutrients and minerals each day through food alone. However, while their brains, bones and muscles are developing, it is important they not lack the essentials. Taking a good (preferably whole food) 1 a day multivitamin, will help pick up where their diet leaves off.
  1. Joyful living: Many of our children are plagued with a stressful existence.  This can greatly impair their defense against illness. They are juggling several tasks before, during and after school and are already starting a life of busyness and stress. We must help them add balance to their daily regimen so they can enjoy their days to the fullest. Each day should somehow include elements of fun, peace, and joy. Their home environment should be a place of safety. Not one where they are overwhelmed with our stresses (bills, money, car trouble, divorce, etc..) each night. When they can live in a place that is consistently peaceful, they can rest knowing they are safe and can enjoy themselves.

I know this is not easy. However, as adults, we can make informed decisions. We are charged with the duty of training our children and helping them develop habits they will take into adulthood. I realize our lives are difficult as well, however, children are innocent bystanders of the life we serve them. Show them early how to defend against illness so they can live long, peaceable, happy, healthy lives. They have a whole world to go impact. No time for being sick! ☺☺☺

WordPress is SO Much Better Than Facebook Right Now…

Ok. Many of you can agree that social media has gotten RIDICULOUS with all the political rants, conspiracy theories, social injustices and just divisive, opinionated vent sessions that actually resemble elements of virtual bullying. It is sad to see some of your “friends” (who are understandably frustrated) behave in ways that are foreign to their regular demeanor.  While I wait for the temporary adult temper tantrums to settle, I have recently taken a bit of a break from what was otherwise a great spot to reflect and share experiences, celebrations, pictures and great ideas. In the meantime, I have greatly enjoyed scrolling through my WordPress feed to read various blog posts. I have to admit, I find myself enthralled with the thoughtful, insight I am finding through various blogs. There are beautiful reflections of life experiences, helpful tips, recipes, DIY’s, poems, short stories and points of wisdom and motivation; actual depth. As a former English teacher, I am already accustomed to reading various forms of literature, so I feel right at home. If you find yourself needing a bit of a breather from your typical scroll through FB, Instagram or the like, scroll through your WordPress feed and check out all the goodies that lie in wait of great reflection. Don’t just “like” it. Give some feedback. Just as you love for others to stop by your page and reflect, they love for you to do the same. In the meantime, if you are looking for someone to read your awesome post, attach a link in the comment section. I will be sure to take some time to read and reflect!!! Blessings to you! #sharingthelove

On Turning 40… A Few Truths… And an Awesome Birthday Vacation!!!!

SO… Um…. When I was a teenager, I think I thought 40 was like “OLD.” And though my husband crossed the burning sands of 40 about 4 years ago, I have prided myself on still being in my 30’s… at least until about a month ago… 😨😨😨

So now I am 40. I’m 40. And things are indeed a bit different. Surely, I have the stubborn strands of grey that tend to crown (the most obvious) parts of my face… And the occasional chin hair… (Yikes!!) I have somehow, also become a natural fan of the skirt/shorts bathing suits, reading books opposed to TV, long walks, theatre, tea vs. coffee; occasional wearing of Spanx, kale smoothies for breakfast, old school music, flats over heels (and other logical beauty regimes vs. the more time consuming/expensive alternatives). It is amazing the insight and wisdom that comes over time. But I think there are a few ways my perspective has changed as well. And these are the changes I am super excited about:

  1. I have a desire to be more and more like Christ. Who cares what the rest of the world thinks about the decisions I make, or the marks of achievement I attain. At the end of the day, I want God to be pleased. And I am committed to that goal daily.
  2. My husband is my best friend. Though times are not always perfect, he has been by my side for 20+ years. We have built something so great together and our relationship is top priority to me.
  3. I have the great privilege and responsibility of raising my children. This time is so short yet so monumental. I am committed to not only teaching and telling them of the ways of God, but modeling and surrounding them with other examples of His goodness. It has never been the popular route, but I am SO ok with that.
  4. I do not govern my decisions or perspective by the status quo, what everyone else is doing, or what appears to be the majority vote. In most cases, the route the rest of the world is taking, I end up heading the 180 degree opposite direction and I love the fruit it is producing.
  5. Our bodies were built to last. If we take care of them, they will perform. Healthy food choices, full rest, regular physical activity and non-stressful days trump hospital visits, medication and surgeries ANY DAY. I am committed to a healthy lifestyle and I feel good.
  6. Beauty is not defined by a size, number on a scale, great outfit or hair length. We are made in the image of God. The love that fills my heart has permeated to the outside of my physical being. I am more beautiful now than ever and I feel radiant.
  7. And finally, FUN. Life is to be enjoyed!!! I do and will continue to incorporate fun and enjoyment in every single day of my life. No matter how great or small, I will enjoy the moments of this journey on purpose.

My husband knows all these things about me. In order to kick off my 40th birthday with a BANG, he took me on a surprise trip that included all of my favorite people, places and things. See pics below of the amazing time we had together!!! In the meantime, whether 20, 35, 55, or 100. I pray you regularly take stock of your awesome journey and enjoy every drip drop of it!!!!!

Here are a few pics from the 40th surprise birthday vacation:

(Las Vegas: Lionel Richie Concert at Planet Hollywood, Dinner at Caesars Palace, shopping at Fashion Show Mall, movies to see Fences)

(San Francisco: Rented a Mustang, drove the coast, walked the Golden Gate Bridge, shopping at Westfield Mall, Golden State Warriors Game… Steph Curry live!!!! Food, food and food…AWESOME!!!)

(Dallas: We went to the Cotton Bowl to watch my Alma Mater -Western Michigan University play!!! SO AWESOME!!! Stopped by Magnolia Market in Waco -AWESOME!!!! Met up with family and friends for dinner. Took the kids to see Hidden Figures – AWESOME!!!)

Had the time of my life!!!! I am super blessed!!!

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