When everything around you is falling, and all else fails, eat chips and salsa

chips and salsa
chips and salsa

Today I made a mini-escape from hurts this week and I drove to Harrisonville, Missouri, which is a bigger city north of my tiny, rural town (meaning out in the sticks!) of Butler, and ate Mexican. 

I posted the pic on Instagram and Twitter with the title, “When everything is falling apart around you, and all else fails, eat chips and salsa. I could eat it every single day!” I love them so much, and my husband Ray jokes that when the Mexican waiters see me coming, they hide the salsa because I always ask for two bottles. I add salt to the salsa, because I seem to crave the salt.  Today’s seemed especially satisfying.

Afterward, I went to the Harrisonville Lake and park, where I often took our children when I homeschooled them to play, for picnics, and to walk the nature trail. Today was a beautiful, sunny, spring day. It was peaceful and relaxing.

Harrisonville Lake
Harrisonville Lake

A man was fishing at the lake, and it reminded me of my hard-working husband Ray, who loves to fish and who desperately needs to fish sometimes.

“And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19, AKJV)

Two geese were near the fisherman and I saw numerous geese at the park.

Fisherman and geese
Fisherman and geese

Going to the lake and walking the nature trail was a much needed, healing balm to my soul. God spoke to my heart in many ways while I was there. Some of this I will share about here,  and some I will continue to reflect on and ponder.

The first thing I noticed as I entered the park were the beautiful flowers. Our beautiful daughters Heather and Leah especially love fresh flowers, and I thought of them.

beautiful flowers
beautiful flowers at park entrance
daisies
daisies
fuschia colored flowers
fuschia colored flowers
flower garden
flower garden

As I got out of my car to admire the lake, I noticed an older woman sitting at a bench with a dog on a leash. I wondered about her, and thought I could write about her in a future fiction book. For writers, anything is fodder. My family knows by now that anything they say or do may wind up as content for one of my speaking presentations, books, or blog posts!

woman with dog at park
woman with dog at park

Who was she? Why was she alone at the lake, except with her dog? Had her husband of many years died and she was a lonely widow? Had her children forgotten her or no longer wanted her involved much in her lives any more?

Was she a bitter, sad, depressed person, or was she simply happy and content being alone, being with her dog who was her best friend? (Maybe she was glad her husband was dead as they had a terrible marriage, and that her kids were all grown; it was time for a new chapter and do other things now!)

I watched as a grandpa who was wearing  a jacket with a veterans logo showed his granddaughter the lake and pointed to the geese, and her daddy skipped stones across the lake with her. What a precious memory. After awhile, they started to go to their car and asked the little girl, “Are you ready to go and eat now? Want a hot dog?”

The hot dog remark reminded me of my mother’s eyes lighting up when she saw me and asking me that same question many years ago, when I visited her in my college years. My mom and I weren’t close, so this is a happy memory for me. I don’t eat them much now, but kids love ’em.

The veteran grandpa reminded me of my husband Ray, who is “Papa” to our four precious grandchildren, with one on the way.  I prayed that Ray would be able to do things like this for many years with our grandchildren.

Our kids and grandkids
Our precious 3 daughters and 4 grandkids

Next, I drove over to where the nature trail was. Perfect day for a walk. I noticed the staff had put up something new on the Natural Trail sign: “Watch out for snakes.” That was almost enough to make me turn around, but I put my brave on.  If I hadn’t gone on the trail, I would have missed God’s blessings–the beauty and how He spoke to me personally.

sign about snakes
sign about snakes

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I watched carefully for snakes, because I am terrified of them. However, I did think seeing one (from a very safe distance) might make a good picture for my blog. That didn’t happen, although I did see what I thought might be a “snake track” (a big S on the dirt trail) a couple of times.

I did notice right away in the lake what seemed to be a family of turtles sunbathing on a log.  One was swimming in the water nearby. Two bigger ones were on one side of the log, and seven others were on the other. It reminded me of our family, who has this exact number of people right now–with one grandbaby on the way in November.

turtles
turtles

The nature trail is so beautiful. I felt refreshed, while at the same time my heart was still hurting about some things that happened this week. I know healing is a process and takes time. The good news is that we are all walking on this journey of life, and God will never leave us or forsake us.  He is our healer, including our family’s. 

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”—Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

nature trail

I soon came to a fork in the road on the trail. We all have a choice as to how we will live our lives–to follow Jesus and God’s loving, good ways, or not. Which path will you choose today?

The fork spoke loudly to me about how I needed to change some things in my life and choose a different path…as well as others I love. 

fork in the trail
fork in the trail

I felt myself relax as I walked the trail. I intentionally breathed in the fresh air, tried to fully use my senses, and paid attention  all around me to the beauty of God’s creation.

I stopped when I saw two bees drinking nectar from a white flower bush. I wish I knew the name of the flowers; they resembled azaleas in south Georgia, where I grew up.

“One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees…”–Leo Tolstoy

I tried to capture a picture of them, but they were flying too fast. Probably a good thing that I went on, as I”m highly allergic to bees! As a child, I was stung by one on the bare foot, and my foot swelled up twice its size! However, I think bees are cute (when they aren’t stinging!)

bees
bees

This fork on the trail led to a bridge over the lake into a more remote part of the woods. A mom and her daughter were having a picnic in the middle of the bridge! It was so cute.  Another sweet memory. I remembered picnics Ray and I had with each other and our kids.

I didn’t want to interrupt their fun, or make them have to move by crossing the bridge, so I turned around and walked on the other path. When I saw the bridge, I thought again of the fork on the trail and the choices we have in life, and took my pic by it as  a good reminder…also of the eventual, eternal bridge we’ll have to cross one day when we die.

bridge
bridge

Later I saw the mom and the little girl, and chatted a minute with them.

She apologized for being on the bridge having the picnic, blocking my access to it, but I said, “Oh no, you were fine! That looked really fun. They grow up fast,” I said to her, and we looked at her child together, smiling.

The mom said, “Oh, I know! I have a teen now!” she said that her little girl had been a “surprise baby,” and was now 5 years old.  I said I hoped they enjoyed their picnic and to have fun. To my amusement, as I walked off, the little girl said, “I want to go with her!” and started following me. Her mom called her back to look at the turtles again.

This spoke to me about how we are to follow Jesus, and make disciples. 

As I continued on the trail, I looked up hearing birds singing, and the sunlight shone through the tall trees. The canopy of trees, their emerald green leaves dipped in sunlight, made beautiful pictures.

sun through the trees
sun through the trees

 

canopy
canopy

I was disappointed to not see a deer, rabbit, fox or other wildlife, but Harrisonville isn’t a rural town, so the animals are either not there or they hide well. I did see a couple and their child with a dog on the trail, who they said was a service dog in training for the man’s dad who was in the Army and now has PTSD. I stopped a minute to pet the dog, smile at the little girl, and tell them that service dogs are a good thing and I hope he helps his dad.

When I came to the end of the trail, I thought, “At the end of the trail. Now what?” I felt it applied to my current situation, kind of at a loss as to what to do or say.  I would have to turn back around. I also feel it applies to the end of our journey here on earth.

end of trail
end of trail

I looked around and saw a set of steps on a hill. I’d never seen them before.  Curious, I went up the stairs to see what was up there. It was a different lake, or perhaps the same lake, divided by the road. But you couldn’t see it until you went up the stairs. This reminded me of heaven.

The lake where the stairs were
The lake where the stairs were

When I turned around and walked back, this is when I saw the mom and her daughter, who had the picnic on the bridge. A few minutes later, as I went to my car, I saw them crossing the road, hand in hand. The little girl was carrying a walking stick in the other hand. I looked at them, thinking again how quickly time flies and that my children are now grown. 

The mom and the daughter went to the park area, where the little girl got on the slides, and her mom sat on a bench watching her. 

mom & child
mom & child

As I drove home, I noticed a truck in front of me with this sign: “You’re needed.” That was a great note to go home on.

You're needed
You’re needed
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Ceviche, cheesecake, and coffee

Recently my husband Ray shocked me when he texted me from work, “Don’t make plans for tomorrow night.” It was payday and he intended to take me out somewhere new to eat for Saint Patrick’s Day.

I  prayed before going into a cute little shop on the square in town called What To Wear, which has beautiful clothes but is very expensive. I asked God for a bargain, thinking I’d be doing good if I could find a new shirt for $30.

God gave me favor and I found an olive green and black striped shirt on the winter clothes rack for 80% off–it was only $10! I wore it on our date.

The green brings out the green in my hazel eyes. I felt very Scarlett O’Hara-like, pretty, and happy.

Me in green shirt for Saint Patrick's Day date
Me in green shirt for Saint Patrick’s Day date

Ray doesn’t usually offer to take me out on dates; he’s usually tired after his work shift and just wants to rest and relax at home. I often have to be the one to suggest a date, so I was excited when he texted me. I had no idea where he was taking me, which made it even more fun.

You have to understand that normally, I don’t like secrets. At Christmas time, I always shake my gift boxes, trying to guess what is inside! Usually I would’ve hounded him to tell me where we were going. But I decided to just be patient and let him surprise me.

He knows I love Mexican so he took me to a contemporary Mexican restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas called Frida’s. Here he ordered a dish he loved but I’d never tried called ceviche, a seafood dish popular in the coastal islands of Latin America. 

ceviche and sweet potato fries
ceviche and sweet potato fries

Ceviche is usually made from raw fish cured in citrus juices, and spiced with chili peppers, chopped onions, cilantro, and salt. It’s often accompanied by other foods to complement its flavors like sweet potatoes, lettuce, corn, plaintain, or avocado.

Ours came with avocado and apple slices, which sounds like an odd combination but is very tasty. Ray ordered sweet potato fries to go with it. It was very unusual tasting and delicious. 

He ordered pork tacos seasoned with achiote paste, sliced purple onion with red beans, and their specialty drink, a cilantro-jalapeno margarita, which he’d never had before. He thought it was okay.  

pork tacos, beans, and cilantro-jalapeno margarita
pork tacos, beans, and cilantro-jalapeno margarita

I ordered chicken flour tacos with cilantro and chopped onions. I’d say the ceviche was best and highly recommend it. Their chips and salsa (always my favorite part and I could eat them every day) were delicious. 

Chips and salsa
Chips and salsa

 

chicken tacos
chicken tacos

The waitress had seated Ray and me at a table near the bar. I noticed there was a young man with a scraggly beard in a leather jacket, blue jeans, and boots, sitting at the bar with a beer, eating chips, and thought instantly of my sister Maria.

My precious sis Maria
My precious sis Maria

She went through a painful divorce and she really wants a godly husband, although she now has a huge crush on Australian actor Dominic Purcell, star of Prison Break. She posts pics of him all the time on Instagram. (You can follow her there @manibraka.)

Dominic Purcell in PRISON BREAK ©2006 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jeremy Cowart/FOX   
Dominic Purcell in PRISON BREAK
©2006 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jeremy Cowart/FOX

I wanted to snap the leather jacket guy’s pic and text it to Maria, but Ray probably would have objected–just as I’d protest if he went around taking random pics of pretty women with his phone. 

When Ray and I walked outside, we noticed the Harley beside our car and we both decided that it must belong to the guy in the leather jacket at the bar. It’s the kind of bike Ray has always wanted, a Harley-Davidson Softail Classic. I did take a pic of this just for Maria. (She’d probably prefer the guy!)

Harley-Davidson Softail Classic
Harley-Davidson Softail Classic

Ray and I were going to go to a movie after we ate, but the theater didn’t have one we wanted to see, so we walked around the shopping center. Ray spotted a coffee and dessert shop called Decadent, and we were both drawn like a magnet in there. Ray commented that our middle daughter Eden should work in a place like this, since she loves coffee and baking cupcakes. 

cupcakes at Decadent
cupcakes at Decadent

Ray was the one who originally wanted to go in there, and when I asked what he was ordering, he said, “Just an espresso.”

I looked at him like he was crazy! He was NOT taking me into a shop with coffee and dessert, and just getting me a drink! Naturally I ordered a frappe and the calorie-laden, rich, chocolate cheesecake, with caramel syrup drizzled on top. Heavenly!

chocolate cheesecake with caramel syrup
chocolate cheesecake with caramel syrup

I winded up only drinking a little and throwing away the frappe’, much to Ray’s chagrin. Honestly, McDonald’s is even better! I’ll definitely be going back for the cheesecake, though!

frappe
frappe

Next we went into a toy store that Ray wanted to see. The children’s books, counting bears, and fun science experiments like a rock tumbler reminded me of our homeschooling days.

I looked at everything wistfully and said, “Leah sure grew up fast.” Ray sighed deeply and said,  “Yes, she did.”

Rock Tumbler
Rock Tumbler

 

Giant yellow crayon
Giant yellow crayon

Finally we found a charming place to sit outside with rocking chairs by a fireplace with beautiful, colored stones. It was very relaxing. The cheesecake and the fireplace–looking at the stones–were my favorite parts of the evening. 

fire
fire
Ray by the fire
Ray by the fire
me by the fire
me by the fire

As we sat there, Ray jokingly commented about all the yuppies. Just then a young couple came by us, walking their adorable black, lab puppy. I wish I could have taken its pic because the puppy was so cute. but I didn’t want to violate the gray line of stalkerism.

The puppy peed on the sidewalk as we chatted with them and the couple seemed humiliated and apologized profusely, while the woman sprayed the urine with a cleaning mixture in a spray bottle, dabbing it with paper towels. I was shocked she had to do this, and for the moment I was glad we didn’t have a puppy. As they walked off, I told Ray I didn’t know there was an ordinance that you had to clean up after your pet.

puppy pee
puppy pee

This reminded me of the funny scene in the movie Kate and Leopold, when the female police officer ordered Leopold to clean up his room mate’s dog poop on New York City’s sidewalk and he disgustingly refused, because he was royalty (a baron) from the 19th century. 

We sat by the fireplace awhile, talking some more. Ray then wanted to stop by a sushi bar, but unfortunately it was closed. The last place we visited at the shopping center was another restaurant just to see their menu. We were stuffed, so we didn’t order anything. I loved their giant coffee cup decoration. This would get you going in the morning!

coffee cup deco
coffee cup deco

Overall, it was a very fun Saint Patrick’s Day date. I hope you had a great holiday. 

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First draft of my 1st fiction book done, woot!

Storm Tossed

I’m so excited! 

Woot! Above is the beautiful cover. I chose the image at Istock and then had a graphic designer create the ecover for Amazon.

My  husband Ray loves to read fiction books and has been encouraging me, a non-fiction author, to write fiction for years! Today he told me he is very proud of me for finally doing this.

Of course, I still have to edit (and edit, and edit) and do the re-writing; do keyword and category research on Amazon; hire the formatter; and get it uploaded to Amazon. My goal is to have all this done by July 1, 2015. You can hold me accountable! 🙂

But this was a HUGE accomplishment. At lunchtime, I went out to celebrate, eating Mexican lunch (chicken fajitas with queso cheese sauce). The chips and salsa were especially delicious today.

Celebrating with chips and salsa!
Celebrating with chips and salsa!
Chicken fajitas
Chicken fajitas

I still have lots to do before the eBook launch at Amazon, but I’m so pumped about this!

Be sure to celebrate your accomplishments, big and small!

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