What Equals An Extraordinary Life?

Dead Poets Society- I love this movie. I find it inspiring and heartbreaking in equal parts. John Keating (played by Robin Williams) is attempting to open the eyes of his students to the idea that life can be more than what they have been told or what they have seen. Now, this causes problems but no one is left the same. Anytime someone challenges the status quo, there will be opposition.

Obviously, what some desired for their extraordinary lives others thought was wrong. So what makes for an extraordinary life?

Money? Huge House? Travel? Power?

I would wager that ,while those things above are out of the ordinary, these will not truely be extraordinary.

What I see people hungry for are those things that are not tangible. I feel I have an extraordinary life. What defines that for me is the relationships in my life mainly along with where I live and what I do for work and career.

Can I say that to have a relationship that is healthy and vibrant takes intentional work? These things do not happen by accident. Compatability is key, but compatablility is based largely on your perspective and reactions.

For example, Tony (my husband) is cautious and likes a book’s worth of information and time to think before he makes a decision. I lean towards risk and need only about a page of information and thirty seconds to make a decision. Tony does not love routine and scheduling or budgets. I adore routine and schedules and budgets make me feel secure. As you can see, our approach to just about everything is different. I looked at this as a positive, we balanced each other- and we do.

One evening while headed home from a Pampered Chef Party (about 20 years ago I was a Pampered Chef Lady) I turned on the radio and heard a program on marriage from Focus on the Family. Listening to the guests talk, I thought, “Wow, they sound just like me and Tony.” Because I jumped in the middle, I had not heard the title. Imagine my surprise when the title was announced, “How To Build a Marriage When You Are Not Compatible.”

Not Compatible?

What a shock, all this time I thought we were balanced. Actually, I did then and still think that is what we are- balanced. This is where perspective and reactions come in. I didn’t react to Tony’s need for more information as if he was wrong. He wasn’t wrong, he was just different. He doesn’t consider my tendency to jump before I look as a weakness. We balance. Our marriage is extraordinary.

I live in Galveston, Texas. I can walk to the beach daily, I watch the waves when I commute to work. Some may not really care about that, the beach doesn’t do anything for them. I find this VERY odd but you know- each to his own. Where I live is something and somewhere I consider extraordinary. Now, I could change my perspective. I could focus on the crazy traffic rules, the tourist that come here and act the fool, or the constant humidity of about 143%. But, I do not. I love this island and all its quirks.

Experiences- from buying ice cream from the ice cream truck on the BEACH (yes, that is a thing) with my grandbabies to snorkeling in Key West with my younger two kids and handsome husband is what makes life extraordinary. God has blessed me and I KNOW it!

What makes a life extraordinary? That is for you to answer. I hope you will pursue those things with all your heart.

These people make my life extraordinary. Thanks be to God in Heaven for the blessings.

Leave what makes your life extraordinary in the comments below- I want to know what it is for you!

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See You Later- What A Wonderful Thought

This past weekend, we traveled back to Canton, TX and celebrated Jonathan as he embarks on his new life.

He has chosen to serve and departs for boot camp in less than a week. It was time to say, “See You Later.” Watching him interact with his friends and family was such a gift. Knowing that there wouldn’t be another moment like this was sobering. All of his friends will be very different when Jonathan sees them again. As it stands, we won’t see him again before August. One set of newly married friends will have welcomed their first child, his sister will be in law school and who knows what that much time will bring to the rest of their lives.

So, we soaked it all up. Laughter was in abundance as were smiles. He won’t look the same when he gets back. He will not be the same when he gets back. But, that is a thing to be celebrated, not grieved. Nothing stays the same, he is choosing to become more.

See you later, Big Boy! We could not possibly be more proud of you!

Hope and Encouragement for Today

But blessed is the man who

trust in the Lord

whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted

by the water

that sends out its roots by the steam.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17-7-8

I can’t recommend Jesus enough.

When the news reels play or the social media feeds fill up with doom, despair, disrespect and every other negative thing- I wield this scripture like a sword to slay the anxiety and fear that threatens to over take me. This promise and every other promise in the Bible are without condition. It does not say in Jerimiah that if the Republicans are in power that I will be like a tree planted by the water. It doesn’t even specify which country I should live in to experience the promises of God. The only requirement is that I trust in the Lord.

Trust in the Lord= I do not need to fear difficult times.

I will take that deal. Notice that this scriptures does not say that drought never came to this tree. It says the tree has no worries in a drought. Not only does it not worry, but it never misses a year of production. Friend, this is a no brainer.

The world can keep their fear and fighting, hating and destruction- I will go with God. Regardless of what comes in this world, I will be like a tree planted by the water. God is my hope, my trust is in HIM. He has proven himself to me time and again.

Make no mistake, we are in a world at war. This war is between good and evil. It rages everyday. Battles can be bloody and I may take a hit, but my hope is in the Lord, I trust in the Lord to bring his promises to bear. So, turn off the television and internet feed and turn to the One who is able to save your soul and drench you with so much love that it drives out all fear.

Jesus Christ came and died for you and for me. He restored us to a perfect relationship with God. He didn’t come to steal all your fun and wrap you in chains of shame and guild. Jesus came to give you life. The only thing that Jesus want to take from you is fear and death. Give your life to Christ, you will be glad you did!

Where to Eat in Galveston- The Mosquito Café

To name a restaurant the Mosquito Café may seem a bit odd, but when you’re in Galveston, odd is pretty common.  And usually, odd is tied to a bit of history.  This holds true with the tasty local favorite, The Mosquito Café.  You will still find the Mosquito Fleet docked in Galveston.  These are the local shrimp boats.  They were named this because the rigging makes them look like mosquitos.


Your taste buds will thank you for seeing past an odd name because the food that is served at the corner of Winnie and 14th street is out of this world.  As you might have guessed, the seafood is local.  The breads, including the hamburger buns, are baked locally across the street.  Patty Cakes bakery is another perfect spot but that is a subject for another day.  You really can’t go wrong when choosing off the menu.


There are many healthy choices that are not lacking in flavor and textures.  If you are traveling, finding healthy options is sometimes a challenge, so put the Mosquito Cafe on your itinerary.


Now, if you aren’t so committed to a low carb diet, you really need to get the bacon cheeseburger.  It is the best on the island- trust me, I have done my research.  You will also like the Island Jammer, made with the above-mentioned shrimp and a freshly baked hoagie roll.  On the lighter side, the salmon cooked whichever way you choose is perfect. The turkey chili is fantastic and even better served over the top of a baked potato.  There are several pasta dishes as well as comfort food like meatloaf.  Really, you can’t go wrong.


Breakfast is something that the Mosquito has down to an art.  The cheesy shrimp and grits are 100% southern.  Again, best grits on the island.  The breakfast bowl is one of the many excellent dishes that will start your day the right way.  We usually eat breakfast when we go.

Shrimp and Grits
Breakfast Bowl

My Mile Marker Zero

Many of you may recognize this as Mile Marker Zero in Key West, Florida. Which might make you think that this is a travel blog post and it could be. We traveled there this summer, yes in 2020. It was my son’s senior trip, the handsome fellow you see in this picture. All he wanted was to go somewhere where he could snorkel. The Keys it was. What I did not anticipate was this picture.

God like to surprise us with little things that make our hearts happy. When we planned the trip, I know He was like, “This is gonna be so cool. You are gonna love this picture I have planned.” The reason it is so cool is that Jonathan is my fourth and final kid. I am officially done- he is my mile marker zero. It didn’t even occur to me when I took it. It was just a cool picture on a family vacation. But later, when we got home and I was looking at pictures, it hit me. Wow, what a way to wrap it up.

You would think that hitting such a milestone would feel so great. And it does feel great but at the exact same moment, it feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. When the older two left home, I comforted myself with the fact that I had two more kids at home. Then the baby girl left home and that hurt like a mother. But, I still had J. Now, it’s mile marker zero.

So, here I sit. I can’t say I don’t have any regrets. I firmly believe that if you get to the end of your parenting run and don’t have any regrets, you didn’t take the job seriously enough. I may have some regrets, things I would do differently but I have no guilt or remorse. I know that I did the absolute best that I could with the tools that I had. Yes, 48 year-old me could do a few things better than 28 year-old me- I should hope so! But, I gave it my all and I am very proud of the humans I turned lose on the world.

Jonathan has joined the Marines and ships out January 19th. Talk about an abrupt ending. I am going from having full control (that is different from being controlling) to having NO control over anything in his life. I am not going to lie, this is a difficult curve to navigate. I mean, if anyone else talked to him they will talk to him, I would have gone OFF on them. You do NOT mess with my kids.

I realized that I had this narrative in my head that the Core was intentionally going to destroy all that I had built. While talking to my family at Christmas, this came out of my mouth. Thankfully, my dad is a former Marine. He said, “No Honey, its not like that.” On the long drive back to my island, I processed through all of this. I decided to change the narrative. I chose to look at it from a different perspective. I raised a young man who knows his mind, knows himself, above all knows Jesus, and is so strong that no matter was the Marines throw at him, they won’t break him.

It is amazing how a human heart can feel so many big emotions fully at the same time.

I am incredibly PROUD of him.

I am so SAD I won’t get to hear his voice everyday.

I am so HAPPY he is moving into adulthood and following his passion.

I am AFRAID of where that path will take him.

I am so EXCITED to see where that path will take him.

The list goes on. I am so grateful to have been given the gift of raising this boy. So, I will focus on the positive and celebrate my Mile Marker Zero.

A Recipe for Christmas Fun

Way back when when I was a Pampered Chef Lady, I earned a stoneware gingerbread house mold. My oldest two daughters, the only kids at that time, were 2 years old and 4 years old. That was the first year we made a gingerbread house. We have made one every year since- with the exception of last year.

This year was the first with the grands. The grands are 4, 3, and 2 years old. Their mamas, the two toddlers from the beginning of this story, are 27 and 25 years old. That is a lot of gingerbread houses! That is a lot of really great memories.

Traditions can be a tricky thing. There can be a lot of pressure to continue traditions handed down to you and they can feel like a yoke. Those same traditions can also make you feel grounded, like you know who you are and where you came from. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like the things we do every year are a yoke. If we outgrow certain things, I don’t want them to feel guilty that things needed to change. But, I also want them to have a thread to hang on to that runs all the way back through their history.

The gingerbread house is one of those. It is also my tradition. They can develop new things with their own children, but this gingerbread house mold and this tradition belongs to me and Tony. Mostly me, he was usually at the station when the house was made. My family that I grew up in never made a gingerbread house, we have lots of other traditions. So this is a “new” thing. If someone wants to carry on the gingerbread house when I am gone, that is fantastic. If they don’t want to, that is okay, too. I will have made all the memories that I am going to make by that point and it will be their turn to make the memories they want. But, they will be able to look back at this blog and see pictures and know who I was- at least a little bit. I think that is the best part of traditions- the imprint it makes on family history.

I have included the recipe for the gingerbread just in case you wanted to create a new tradition.

A LITTLE EXTRA FLOUR MAKES THIS DOUGH STURDY ENOUGH TO MAKE GINGERBREAD HOUSES, BUT ALSO WORKS GREAT FOR COOKIES. PLUS, THE SMELL OF GINGERBREAD BAKING IS DELIGHTFUL. (pamperedchef.com)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
  • ½ cup (125 mL) vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup (125 mL) sugar
  • ½ cup (125 mL) molasses
  • 1   egg

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, and cloves together in a medium bowl.
  2. Use a hand mixer to beat the shortening and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the molasses and egg and beat until smooth.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until fully combined.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball and divide it into 2 portions. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 30 minutes. Use the dough to make cookies with cookie cutters or press into mold.

Strong Women

This last Saturday, my family celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday. I am 48 and I still have my grandmother. Not only is she still alive, but she is LIVING. She works in her garden, goes to church, mows her yard- she is still living. We share a lot of interests- gardening, reading, and cooking. I am her oldest grandchild.

She has a sister who also lives around the corner from her. We call her Auntie (said Ain-tee). She makes the best cakes and pies of anyone I know. She also loves to read and for several decades was the librarian at the Junior High School in our small town.

I am her oldest great-niece. I have learned a lot from these two ladies. Mostly, I learned what it looks like to be strong. Both have suffered loss and faced difficulties in their lives. They both raised a large family and loved hard. My Auntie had four boys and my grandmother had 3 girls, 1 boy, and 1 more girl. I had 3 girls and 1 boy- had I had one more I am certain it would have been a girl. My mother and all my aunts showed me what strong looked like, as well. We are all Texan born and raised.

Not only did they live examples of strength but they told stories of the women in our family that handled their stuff. One great-aunt got tired of a drunk and abusive husband. She waited till he passed out, sewed him in a sheet, and took a broom handle to him. Things greatly improved in their marriage. As a kid I thought, “Oh, this is how you handle that situation.” Another great-aunt got tired of her husband running around on her. He woke up with this petite lady sitting on his chest and a .45 aimed at his face. He straightened up. Again, I was taking notes.

Now, I have never had to use any of these particular lessons. I married a great guy who is a faithful man. However, I have tools in my toolbox and this is empowering. As a matter of fact, Tony worked with a guy who didn’t see anything wrong with a little “extra” on the side. He had a very sweet wife who just kept paying for all his toys and putting up with his behavior. One day while they were on duty at the fire station this guy looks at Tony and says, “You mean you would never sleep around on your wife. Why?”

Tony replied, ” Because its wrong. AND because my wife isn’t as nice as your wife.”

Guy, “What do you mean?”

Tony “I mean my wife isn’t a nice as yours. She’ll take a sledge hammer to my knees while I sleep.”

He was not wrong, I am not that kind of “nice”. I come from a long line of women who don’t put up with that kind of mess. Boundaries matter, it’s also good to understand what happens when lines are crossed.

Now, some of you are having issues with my words. I mean how can a decent person advocate such violence. I am a God-fearing Christian, how can I advocate such violence? All I can say is that sometimes, violence is the answer. I know this just seems wrong, but how many times have people needed to get out of an abusive situation and had no help from law enforcement because a crime had not been committed or there was a crime and the abuser paid bail and was back on the doorstep within hours?

Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

Here’s the thing- I have never had to get physical in defense of myself or my family. I even tried once and the girl wouldn’t engage. Some punk beat up my younger sister on the bus. I wasn’t there and the girl, who was close to my age, jumped my sister who was 4 years younger. That would not stand. I chose to ride the bus to school the next morning. We exchanged nothing but words, however she did not hit on my sister again. Bullies know who to target. They target those they can attack without any repercussions. I am not one of those people. I may wear an orange jumpsuit for a time, but there will be repercussions if you mess with one of mine.

This cute little lady in the pictures above drove a school bus for a couple of decades. She drove a bus in the more “questionable” parts of Dallas. When my grandmother married my granddad, she was 5’4″ and weighed 105 lbs. By the time I was riding along on her bus routes, she weighed a little more but was still a small woman. This particular day, she was running a route that was predominately high school kids from a rough part of town. One boy mouthed off at her and I was like “uh-oh”, where I come from you do NOT mouth off to the women. I was also scared because she was going to need back-up and at around 10 years old (when I married I also weighed 105 lbs. and was 5’4″), I wasn’t going to be much help. So she looks up in her mirror at this kid and says, “You think you’re bad? You ain’t bad. I’m bad, now turn around and shut up.” I was in awe. He did it, too. The whole ride was calm and no-one gave her any trouble. Again, I was taking notes in my head and I thought “That is how you handle your stuff.”

So, now here I am at 48 and I write books with strong lead females. I don’t know how to write anything else. The women handle their stuff, they love hard and value their husbands and their families.

I am so grateful to have had my grandmother in my life this long. I am grateful to have been raised by a strong woman and been in the company of strong women my whole life. I am also grateful to have raised strong women, as well. Pictured below is five generations of the oldest daughter having an oldest daughter. The line goes back for seven generations.

Where To Eat In Galveston- The Gypsy Joynt

If you like off-beat and funky, Galveston is the place for you.  If you love good food served with a funky vibe, the Gypsy Joynt is the place for you. It’s not surprising to learn that the Gypsy Joynt got its start in Austin.  It’s still one of the best-kept secrets in Galveston. 

Located off the Strand in downtown Galveston, this jewel is tucked away a little further down Market Street than most people go.  And this is okay with us locals because we like not having to wait for hours to get our food!


The great folks are run a wonderful restaurant and really give back to the people of Galveston.  They also source their seafood locally which is very cool.


Speaking of seafood, my favorite dish is the Oscar Ocean. This sandwich has a homemade bun, pesto, balsamic vinegar dressing, veggies, and grilled fish.  the menu consists of a mix of traditional foods like chicken strips and mac and cheese along with crazy combinations of seafood and veggies.  The pizzas are the things dreams are made of- if you dream about food, which I do.  The deserts are AMAZING!


We love this spot!

Growing Lettuce!

It’s time to grow lettuce. It has been since September, actually. The thing about lettuce and other similar greens is that they need to be planted in succession. One planting is never enough! If you plant one crop and then follow it with another crop then you always have lettuce in the prime picking stage (succession planting). The weather may have turned cool, but the soil temperatures are plenty warm enough to cause Lettuce seed to germinate.

Now, you may be thinking, “Why bother?”

There are some nasty rumors going around about lettuce.  I hear that it is really hard to grow with lots of insect problems.  It has also been said that lettuce grown in Texas tastes bitter because of the heat.  Lies, all of them.

The misinformation comes from the fact that  the instructions on the back of seed packets and those great little farming magazines are written for folks living in the areas of the country that actually have four seasons and one growing season.  Now do not misunderstand me, I love my gardening magazines, but the time lines do not line up. Well, welcome to Texas Gardening.  There is a rhythm to gardening in Texas that is as unique as our Texas spirit.  Once you learn the rhythm you will be amazed at what you can grow.

However, for now we will focus on lettuce and its cousins.  It perturbs me to no end to have to purchase greens of any kind in the grocery store.  Homegrown greens are so easy and tasty!  Also, it is so much easier to have a bed of lettuce and just go pick you some whenever you want, than to have to go to the store when you want a salad.  If you are like me, lots of times what’s for dinner is not something planned very far in advance.  So, having items growing in the garden to have on hand is just the ticket.

One of the perks about lettuce and all the other greens, such as arugula, chard, spinach, etc. is that they can by eaten at all stages.  Baby greens make for a scrumptious salad or sandwich.  Many people, like my children, do not like mature spinach but love baby spinach.  So, while the plants are growing you can pick the outer leaves and enjoy the garden abundance for many weeks.  The greens( the term greens refers to all types of lettuce, herbs, kale, greens, spinach etc.)  do not take a lot of space.  One 5X12  foot bed of greens will keep a family of 6 in fresh greens. If there is only one or two of you, then a container that can hold 3-4 mature plants at a time is sufficient.

Now to dispel the lies.

First, that lettuce is hard to grow.  Not so, you just have to know when to plant it.  If you read many of the labels on lettuce sold in Texas, the labels  say to plant after all danger of frost has passed.  The problem with this is that if you wait that long in Texas you can have as little as 2 weeks until the temps are consistently in the mid- 80′s.  The proper planting times in Texas are February- April and September- December.  Lettuce is a cool season crop.  When most areas of the country are having dead of winter, we are having our cool season.   When we have had a mild winter, I harvest greens from September until June.  That is only 2 months of store-bought greens in a year.  That makes my heart happy!

The second lie is that lettuce has many insect problems. Now there are certain worms- Cabbage Loppers for example- that do like lettuce.  However, these are easily dispatched with Bt.  Bt- (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring bacterial disease that only attacks caterpillars.  Bt is organic and you can eat the produce with no worries that synthetic pesticides bring.  There are other insects that can be a problem at times, but I have found in my gardens that Bt is all I need to keep things in balance.  Also, there are other methods of insect control, but again the Bt is simple, easy and effective so that is what I use.  You can find it at most hardware and garden supply stores.

Lastly, lettuce grown in Texas tastes bitter- hogwash.  Again, you just need to know when to plant and what varieties to plant.  The types that are considered “slow to bolt” are the best for planting in the spring.  Bolting refers to sending up a conical shaft with blooms that will produce seeds.  Warm weather signifies to the lettuce that it is time to make seeds.  So, those lettuces that are slow to bolt will be the most tolerant of warm weather.  While you are looking in seed catalogs for heirloom selections (heirloom refers to varieties that will reproduce consistently if the seeds are saved) look for ones that were developed in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas- of course- or Israel.  These areas have climates similar to ours and those varieties will usually do well here for the summer planting.  Look for varieties labeled “Cool season” or “cold tolerant” on the lettuces, these will be the one for planting in the fall.  When it comes to the spinach, swiss chard, and kale- these are not even stopped by a freeze so they will grow all winter.

Some of my favorite varieties are:
For Fall Planting: Black Seeded Simpson, Drunken Woman, Tom Thumb, Oakleaf
For Spring Planting:  Oakleaf, Jericho- awesome, Tom Thumb
Spinach- Longstanding Bloomsdale is great year round.

Most of your annual herbs like dill, Salad Burnett, chives are best planted on the same schedule as lettuce.
I like to sow the seeds in wide beds.  I thin the seedlings and use them in salads as baby greens.  Keep the lettuce or greens watered one inch once per week and a little shade is very helpful for extending the growing season in the summer.  The seeds usually germinate and emerge in 7-10 days.

So there you have it- the truth about lettuce.  Now what are you waiting for?  September is coming to a close and October is upon us,  I can just taste the homegrown lettuce now.