One Perfect Spot for Kids- Lehnis Train Museum, Brownwood, Texas

When thinking of perfect places to tote a trio of grandkids on a road trip, Brownwood, Texas might not be the first place that pops in your head. However, Brownwood does have a lot to offer. One of those cool offerings is the Lehnis Train Museum. Daughter #3 is in her last semester at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. She also just celebrated her 22nd birthday, so on a whim, Tony and I decided to take a road trip with the trio.

We were super impressed with the space and scale of this museum. The kids loved all the model trains and watching them speed along the tracts. The volunteers are fantastic. The fellow running the model trains was also building new cars and engines as he spoke to us. We learned a lot and will avoid a lot of mistakes when we start building a set of our own.

The museum offers a lot of interactive exhibits. The play area is quite large and offered a lot for the kids to build and interact with, the trio spent about an hour and a half in this area and cried when we said it was time to go. The time spent here was so fun. You could see their brains working as they manipulated the levers, latches, and physics demonstrations. No one asked for a video all day!

But, the highlight of the day was the mini train that we got to ride. The cost is $2.00 per person (4 and under are free) in addition to the entrance fee which is $4.00 per person (4 and under are free). And this was the best spent $2.00 ever! The conductors were fun and let the kids blow the horn at the end of the ride.

Brownwood, Texas offers a lot of fun, low key family fun. The train museum is not the only attraction in Brownwood. You can learn more about Brownwood and other great places in Texas if you look in the Texas Travels category over on the sidebar. I have been traveling with kids for almost 30 years, and simple is a good thing.

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Where to Eat in Galveston- Darlene’s Shrimp Shack

If you are driving down 61st street along Offats Bayou, you will see Darlene’s Shrimp Shack (a food truck) sitting pretty next to Aunt Margie’s Bait Shop and a shrimp boat named Darlene.  If you are thinking that a shrimp shack next to a bait shop with shrimping boats means that the shrimp in that shrimp shack is fresh- you would be correct!

The shrimp is fresh and locally caught (when possible) and battered as it is ordered.  You can get your shrimp battered or “naked” and choose from twelve different seasoning options.  The baskets come with 10 shrimp and 2 hushpuppies for about $12.00.  The shrimp are huge so reasonably you could share but I am not reasonable when it comes to sharing my food.

These shrimp are contenders for best shrimp on the island.  I have eaten there multiple times and have loved each and every bite.  Everyone in my office loves this place. The batter is on the light side, so you really taste the shrimp.  My favorite flavors are Cajun or Garlic Parmesan.  Other flavor options are lemon pepper, buffalo, plain, and more.

If the weather is pretty you can sit out at the picnic tables and watch the sail boats on the Bayou or watch the sea birds come and go.

From the family history I have picked up from talking with the folks who run the bait shop, Margie and Darlene were sisters.  Margie was the aunt who kept most of the kids when they were little.  When she passed, the family decided to name the bait camp after her.  Aunt Margie’s bait camp is a popular spot for bait AND they sell “eating” shrimp in there as well.  We have been buying shrimp, squid, flounder and more in there for years.  If the seafood is fresh, you don’t have to be a great cook to make great seafood.

Aunt Margie’s bait camp and Darlene’s Shrimp Shack are BOI (born on the island) and as local as you can get.  Give them a try, you will be glad you did!

What To Do With A Critic?

I have known for a good many years that you had to have thick skin when raising children. You know the saying, “Three things don’t lie: drunks, children, and yoga pants.” Kids will speak out the truth as painful as the listener may find it.

Then I became a writer and published my first book. I KNEW I would not be everybody’s cup of tea. I like strong southern women who love Jesus but cuss a little. I also believe that sex is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated. I do not write about premarital sex or glamorize sleeping around. And I knew, having spent my entire life in the Bible Belt, that plenty of people believe that even mentioning sex or sexual attraction makes your book smut. I would like to point out that by this definition the Bible is smut. But, I digress- that is another post.

By and large, the reviews I have had have been very favorable. But a few, have stung! Its funny how the one bad review sticks in my head so much faster and securely than the ten good reviews I read before it. I talk to myself a lot. I have had many conversations explaining how I can’t believe my own press, good or bad. Those bad reviews should be taken, improvements made on parts I can, and then flushed. I am not everyone’s cup of tea and that is okay. As a matter of fact, my peeps probably don’t drink cups of tea. They, more than likely, drink sweet tea by the gallon or Jack and Coke.

Then I ran across this quote:

“The only just literary critic,” he concluded, “is Christ, who admires more than does any man the gifts He Himself has bestowed.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien

http://www.goodreads.com

This man wrote the book that has defined the world of fantasy ever since. I should hope to write something so spectacular and deep in my life time. And, by the way, it did take him a life time to write Lord of the Rings. And even he dealt with critics.

So, on this day I remind myself of what Tolkien said and let Christ be the only critic that matters.

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It’s National Homemade Soup Day- Recipe!

I am a huge fan of soup. It is the first meal I made solo at the age of five. Yes, I was five- you can read all about it here. My mom made this soup frequently and she taught me how.

Soup comes in so many forms ranging from extremely difficult to super simple. What we called homemade soup is super simple. Because I only know how to make soup in a large quantity, I often freeze portions in quart size freezer bags. This soup reheats well making it a great option for daily lunches. This recipe is very flexible making a great way to repurpose leftovers such as pot roast or pinto beans.

Recipe for Homemade Soup

1 lb. of ground meat or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
2-3 cups of mixed veggies- any kind you like
1- 13 once can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium skillet, brown the ground met with the onions. 

In an  8 quart stock pot or Dutch oven (you can use a larger stock pot- then you don’t have to worry about over-filling) bring water and potatoes to a boil.  Add enough water to boil the potatoes, but not so much that you have to pour a lot off, because the water does have lots of nutrients in it.  If you are using fresh or frozen veggies, add them now.  Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.  Add the ground meat, stewed tomatoes  and veggies- if you are using canned or leftovers.  Add seasonings and more water or broth as needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes then let  cool a bit.  This soup is great with cornbread or crackers.

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The Garden That Love Planted

We all want someone who loves us this way.

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What is a Home?

What is a home?

What makes a house a home?  That question may be slightly different for each family, but it is the family that is essential to the home.  The structure could burn down, but the home would survive in the family that took it with them to the new location.

Home is much more than bricks, wood, or mortgage payments.  It is atmosphere, memories, unspoken or unwritten rules, it is essential.  Think about what you remember about your home growing up- you may have concrete memories of activities but those memories are wrapped in emotions.  That is the crucial key- emotions, atmosphere, the spirit of the place.  Was it a loving home, a home filled with fear, a home filled with laughter?  If your home was not a happy one, the good news it that you get a second chance.  You did not get to choose the home your were born in to, but you do get to choose the home you have now.  Now, you get to make your house a home and choose what you want to fill it with- laughter, happiness, good food, warm aromas and certainly the Spirit and peace of God.

To help women understand and to encourage them to make their house a home has been a long time passion for me.  Not that I have all the answers or make no mistakes, but I was fortunate to have a full time mother in my home growing up and she taught me many invaluable lessons.  I took those and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  improved upon them and set out to create a home in which my children could hear God speak, could be safe and free to be themselves, and would make many happy memories to look back on when they left home.  Not every home has children in it. Children are not what makes a house a home; however, if they are in the home they become a huge focus for as long as they are in your care.  The most essential element in the making of a home is the marriage.  If the marriage is not healthy, the home will not be, either.

Beginning with the end in mind is probably my mantra. If you want a marriage that stood the test of time, you must begin that journey with the mind set necessary to last the journey. If you want your children to leave home with a certain skill set or mind set or both, you have to begin parenting them when they are toddlers with those attributes that you desire in mind.  So that is what I did, I sought God and what he had in mind for my children and that is where I began.  Now, my four kids are 21, 19, 13, & 11.  I am seeing the fruit of all of our hard work- my husband is most certainly very involved- and it is good.  So, I desire to share what worked for me, what did not, & the lessons I learned as we have been on this journey.

Today, I am updating this post as I turn it from a page to a post. I love what I wrote 6 years ago. Those four kids are now 27, 25, 21, & 19. Two are fantastic mothers and business owners, one is about to graduate and go on to law school and one is currently beginning boot camp to become a United States Marine. What I have written is standing the test of time.

I pray that you will find the information in the pages and articles helpful, informative, and inspiring and I also hope you will laugh at the funny parts!  Without a sense of humor- life, marriage, & parenting will eat you up and spit you out!

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Is There Any Good Thing Left? Absolutely!

Words are swirling around us and have been for months. Most of these words are predictions of death, despair, desolation. There is a reason for this- a fearful person is easy to manipulate.

All this talk may make you think that there is nothing good left in this world, nothing good left to look forward, and nothing good to celebrate.

This is not the truth.

Here is the truth:

Whoever seeks good finds favor,

but evil comes to one who searches for it.

Proverbs 11:27

Yes, there is evil in the world, and death, and destruction but there ALWAYS has been. There are NO good old days, evil walked the earth in 1950, 1850, 850 and even 210 B.C. Evil has been lurking on the earth since God hurled Satan out of heaven and he landed here.

BUT, and it is a BIG BUT- Jesus also came to the earth, righted the wrongs of the first man, Adam, and restored us to right fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit walks with us, fills us, and speaks to us.

There is good, plenty of it, all around us but we have to look for it. When you find the good, SHARE it. Fill your social media feed with the good in the world, your city, your life. Fill your mouth with good reports of what is happening in your life. Find the good and spread it around like sprinkles on a doughnut.

Regardless of what is going on in D.C. or Austin, Texas, my life is bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ and EVERY promise made in the Bible is MINE because of Jesus. There is nothing a man or woman can do to change that fact.

So, take heart to day. You are not hopeless you have the power to live a good life, you just have to look for it and put your HOPE in Jesus Christ.

Getting More of What You REALLY Want- Intentionality

Since Jonathan swore an oath and joined the United Sates Marines the day before Thanksgiving, I have been living intentionally. The intention was to make the most memories, accomplish what really mattered to each of us, and to feel like we had properly closed this chapter in our lives.

We had the best time! I cooked the things he requested, planned the parties, the baptism and whatever else any of us wanted to do “one more time” before he shipped out and the schedule was not our own.

We hung out on the couch and watched our favorite movies or shows. This might be considered by some to be a waste of time. Not for us, this is how we bond. We pile up on one couch and laugh together then later we communicate in movie quotes. Movie quotes for us is like a secret language. This was an intentional waste of time and it was the best use of that time. I got to feel him resting his head on me one more time just like he did when he was little.

The last two weeks were especially perfect. It all happened because we were intentional about how we spent our time and what we did.

I came away from this time with a renewed desire to live intentionally. This is not new for me or us, but life got really intense for a couple of years and the intention of the day was to survive. That, my friend, is not living.

All of our married life we have asked ourselves what we wanted to have in 20 years or 50 years. What did we want our kids to look back and remember about home? What kind of marriage did we want? Then, every action or decision we made was based on those answers. Dose what we are doing move us toward that end goal? We haven’t been as intentional as I would like us to be.

So, Tony and I are having conversations about how we want to schedule our time and what memories we want to create. We are now living with intentionality again. You do have to schedule the important things or at least schedule time that gives enough space that the important things can happen.

intentionality

Pronunciation /ɪˈntɛnʃ(ə)nalɪti/ 

NOUN

mass noun

1The fact of being deliberate or purposive.

‘Therefore, intentionality and deliberate programming done in camps often resulted in positive youth development.’

More example sentences

Synonyms

1.1Philosophy The quality of mental states (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes) which consists in their being directed towards some object or state of affairs.

‘The latter, it will be recalled, is characterized by intentionality, directedness towards an object.’

http://www.lexico.com

Time goes by quickly. I want to look back as see a full life with the best memories.

Some of the things we are intentionally scheduling:

  • Sunrise fishing
  • sunrise kayaking
  • full moon gazing on the beach
  • family dinners
  • day trips with the grands
  • emails to family friends
  • hand-written letters
  • texts to friends and family
  • dinner with new friends
  • monthly hiking trips
  • weekly business meetings for us
  • regular fasting
  • prayer
  • and whatever else we think of.

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Happily Ever After

This guy- I don’t know what I would do without him.

Four babies have come and gone. They are building careers and families of their own.

We are back to the two of us. We loved the years of raising our chaotic zoo and it hurts to know that we are officially done with that season. But, we are excited to be a couple again.

We started young and it wasn’t the easy way (I don’t think an easy way exists when it come to raising a family) but I wouldn’t change a thing.

When we look at our crew, we are SO FREAKING PROUD!

Happily Ever After is a way of life for us.

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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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