Sunday, September 7, 2014

How's the No-Sugar thing going, you ask?

Well, its up and down.

Actually, it's definitely not a no-sugar thing anymore.
It's more a general-life-adjustment-dragged-out-over-a-much-longer-time-than-just-a-year.

I learned a few very valuable lessons from the earlier part of this year.  That no-shopping resolution in 2013?  I had no idea at the time, or even until half-way through this year, that it really wasn't me keeping that resolution.  That was the Spirit of the Lord inside of me, keeping me from spending money I would need so desperately at the end of that year, when I took the most giant, terrifying fall of faith (because it wasn't anything near as elegant or smooth as a leap).

It really was no surprise to me when I learned that I was just going to continue to fail at this self-control thing I thought I had mastered.  I should have known myself better than that.

For a while I sat in a corner and pouted because I was embarrassed by this huge proclamation I'd made to the world that I was going to be this awesome, totally put-together girl, who was going to do exactly what she said she would, because she was strong enough.

After pouting for a while, though, I realized that it's okay to fail, and we all go around proclaiming that we're cooler, stronger, wiser, more in control than we actually are.  The plain truth is that we aren't strong enough alone.  The Lord had a reason to help me with my 2013 resolution.  My 2014 resolution came from a deep-seated place of pride in my heart, and needed to be broken for so, so many reasons.

I made a decision when I started this blog, that I was never going to delete anything I wrote on it, no matter how much I may hate returning to those things.  So, as much as I hate to return to that incredibly prideful post from this January, it's staying, simply to remind me of what I've learned.

I did make a valiant effort to keep that resolution for the first few months, and, who knows?  I may eventually be able to transition to a life-style without processed sugar.  I would be so happy to do that one of these days, but I'm putting no prideful, legalistic time-limits on it this time around.

In fact, I'm slowly collecting recipes I come across that will be helpful when that time does arrive, because I do intend to do it one of these days.  Now is not that time, though.

An interesting side-effect has arisen from that failed resolution, though.  I've established a few significant, chemical-free habits, like my new hair and face washing routines.  I've also experimented with Oil Pulling, and been pleasantly surprised.  I still haven't fully converted to that from brushing my teeth, but I am so close to it.

I've also discovered that I like Agave nectar in my coffee better than sugar.  Definitely a surprise, but certainly a pleasant one.  So, I guess it wasn't completely a bust?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How Do I Look?

Right now, I'm wearing really mis-matched work-out clothes (complete with blue and orange argyle socks, and two different shades of lime green).  I feel gross and sweaty.  I also feel great, because I just finished a good workout.
You won't see me post a picture of myself in this state anywhere on social media.

This weekend, on Saturday, I was wearing a fantastic dress my mom made for herself shortly after she married my Dad.  I had the perfect jewelry to complement it.  I felt like a million bucks, as they say.
You didn't see me post a picture of myself in that state anywhere on social media either.

While I do post a lot, and I mean a LOT, of pictures of the world around me, I post "selfies" very rarely.  In fact, I used to joke about posting an "annual selfie."
I also rarely post pictures of myself in general - "group selfies," so to speak.

A friend recently shared this link on Facebook, and it resonated with me.

I don't know anything about this girl, or if I would agree with anything else she's ever said, but my heart responded to "I guess this is human nature to give feedback on our appearances..." and "Easiest way to [cater to the Facebook algorithm]?  Share pictures of my face, body and things based on my appearance."

I immediately knew she was right.  Despite the infrequency of selfies I post, I have noticed that I get considerably more likes on them than almost anything else I post.  This alone has been disturbing to me, so I decided to do a little research on my own Facebook profile:

Since March, the average amount of likes on any picture that I've posted, which features my face, body, and/or things based on my appearance is 19.
The average amount of likes on any other picture I've posted is 10.

There is something wrong with this.

I've never been sure how to put my thoughts on selfies into words, but this experience helped me to process through some of them at least.

I haven't struggled much at all with insecurity about my appearance, and I am so so so thankful for that.
I am just as affected by "likes" on my pictures as is the next person.  I'm not proud of that.
I find myself obsessively checking to see if anyone has liked the latest thing I posted, and I also find myself obsessively making every picture of anything "perfect" so as to appeal to the most people.

Let's just be honest, maybe there are a few people in the world who don't make their selfies "perfect" before posting them, but in reality, most of those nonchalant look-at-me-all-sweaty-and-smiling-after-a-great-workout pictures were taken from something like 12 slightly different angles and sent through at least 5 different filters before they were posted.  And the same goes for the perfectly posed look-at-me-all-gussied-up-and-celebrating-my-friend's-birthday pictures.

You guys!  If I analyzed pictures of myself as much as I analyze my other pictures, or even as much as other people presumably analyze their selfies, I'd go insane, and probably start having all those insecurities I just established that I am grateful to live without.

No thanks. I'd prefer not to open Pandora's Box.

It is indeed human nature to give feedback on our appearances, and I think (hope?) maybe a lot of the likes on selfies are simply an acknowledgement of bravery, because it is seriously brave to post a close-up picture of yourself on the internet for everyone to see, regardless of how many re-takes you took.

But we are so so so much more than just what we look like, and I personally kinda like who I actually am outside of my appearance.  I also kinda hate the idea of people deriving their worth from how much other people like the way they look.  I try to be careful about what I "like" from people, and what I complement them on in real life.  Yeah, I tell people when they look beautiful, or that I like their clothes, but I try to also tell them how beautiful their heart is, or how much I love the way they smile at strangers on the street.

Personally, I don't want to be known for how I look, but for how I look at the world around me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Something A Little Bit Different

So, lately, I've been wearing my hair like this.  And a goodly number of people are asking me how in the world I do it.  I always tell folks that it's super simple.

It really is!

But it is kind of hard to explain without actually doing the entire process in front of you, sooooo, I made a video.


Three things:

  1. At 0:28, I sound like this perfect little homemaker that just, you know, throws together a dress here and a headband there - no big deal.  Actually, no.  I am not one of those people.  Someday, I hope to be, but, as of today, I have one home-made dress and one home-made headband to my name.
  2. At 2:43 and 3:59, I did, in fact, continue to make one or two more loops, but I was just boring and quiet, so I cut those sections out for the final edit.
  3. Despite all appearances to the contrary, I am wearing shorts in the second section.  I promise.
Let me know what you think!  Do you want to see more videos around here?  Is it absolutely horrible and painful to sit through?  Did it help you learn something new?  Were you totally confuzzled by the end?  I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Tale of Three Tires

I have never been the kind of girl who is particularly comfortable with car maintenance, so, from the time that I knew my car needed new tires, it was at least a month, if not two months, as well as at least 4 phone calls to my dad, before I got it into the tire shop.

I'm sort of embarrassed to admit this, but I also pulled into the parking lot and sat in my car for about ten minutes, observing my surroundings, then left, at least twice before deciding to brave it.

I'm sure part if this has to do with the fact that I had really just gotten comfortable with my other mechanics before I decided to up and move, and now, here I was at a new place, and feeling very small and gullible, and insignificant.

However, I did finally make it into the tire shop one lovely friday.  I came in very confident, asked all the right questions, had a super-helpful-customer-service-guy assist me, and got my car in to replace the rear tires.

The paper-work at the end of my visit was a breeze, and I left feeling totally confident and much better about vehicle maintenance in the future.

Then, on the following Tuesday, I got into my car, and it gave me a low pressure warning for one of my tires.  I got out, checked on them, and found the culprit - the right rear tire - it was at 20 psi, while my tires were all supposed to be at 35 psi.  I assumed that the folks at the tire shop would have aired up the tires to the proper pressure when they first installed them, so there could be no reason the pressure in this one would be this low already, except that there was a problem of some sort.

Basking in my new-found confidence, I immediately called the tire shop, and explained the situation (including the fact that I had just purchased the tires) to the guy who answered the phone.  he said something along the lines of "No.  There shouldn't be any problems.  You can just take it anywhere and air up the tires, then keep an eye on them; but if you really want to, I guess you can come in and we'll air it up for you."

That was not exactly the answer I was looking for...

So, of course, I called my dad and asked him what he thought I should do.  I also mentioned a squeaky sound I'd been hearing, and he recommended I take it in and have them look at the tires and the belt.

So, of course, that's just what I did...

I walked in, and, when it was my turn (they were pretty busy) I began to explain my situation to the-man-at-the-counter.  He literally interrupted me mid-sentence and said "Are you the one that called earlier?" COMPLETE WITH AN EYE ROLL.

I maintained composure and said "Yes" in my sweetest voice, adding that there was also a squeaky belt I would love for them to look at if they had the time.

He said "Yeah, sure, just pull your car around to the back of that bay right there." Then turned to the next person in line and began talking to them.

That was that.  I was not very appreciative of his idea of customer service, and wished very much for super-helpful-customer-service-guy to come to my rescue.

There was nothing for me to do but pull my car around to where he had indicated, so I did, and waited, since I had received no further instructions.  After about 5 minutes of waiting, and being approached by absolutely no one, I went back into the tire shop, and waited in line for my turn.

When I got up to the counter, I said "Hi.  I pulled my car up, and didn't know what to do next."
He interrupted me again with "Just wait a minute," and again turned to the next customer in line.

At this point, I was beginning to feel very much not valued in this place, but I stepped to the side, and waited patiently.

A moment later, a man poked his head in the door and asked the-man-at-the-counter if he could help out in any way.  The-man-at-the-counter (looking very relieved) said "Yes!  Just go check the pressure in her tires over there," waving his hand in the general direction of my car.  The other man headed out the door, and I began to add that there was a squeaky belt situation, but he was already beyond ear-shot.  The-man-at-the-counter added, in a normal tone (without bothering to open, or even turn toward the door through which the other man was already completely gone) "Oh yeah, and check on her belt."  He completed this incredibly unhelpful addendum with a shake of his head, as if to indicate that I was being utterly ridiculous and demanding...

At this point, I may or may not have just stormed out of the door to take matters into my own hands, since the-man-at-the-counter was apparently not at all interested in actually being helpful to his customers.

I was so upset, I literally had to stop outside the door to compose myself before going around to the bay.

Fortunately the man who had offered to help was much more kind and helpful.  He even checked all of my tires to make sure they were at a uniform pressure, and was happy to look at the belt when I told him about it.

Of course, the belt didn't make a noise when I turned the car on for him, and fortunately it hasn't made a sound since.

The tire, on the other hand, was an entirely different story.

The real reason I had finally decided to get the new tires was because I was about to do a whole lot of driving: the following weekend, I home based at Camp Tejas (staying in a beautiful, newly re-modeled motel room, by the way), and travelled to Austin for a wedding on Friday, then to San Antonio for a graduation on Saturday.

Well, Friday was lovely, and Saturday was lovely, until we were leaving the graduation.  No sooner had I gotten settled into the far left lane of traffic on the San Antonio loop, than I suddenly saw the truck in the lane on my right run over something and send it toward my car.  I had no time to react, and before I knew it, I definitely had a flat on my right rear tire.

I'm truly thankful for three things:

  1. It wasn't a blow-out
  2. I was able to maintain my composure as I pulled across all three lanes of traffic, into the shoulder, and off onto a road which looked little-used
  3. Sarah's boyfriend was in the car, and was able to help us with changing the tire

Also, Baby Sister (who's learning to drive) and another friend of hers who is also learning to drive were in the car, so we got to have a little tire-changing lesson, which was fun, apparently...

As Sarah's boyfriend was putting on the spare, Sarah and I inspected the damage.

There was a good-sized gash in the side-wall, where, presumably whatever-it-was had just hit the tire.  And, wouldn't you know, there was also a screw imbedded in the tread of that tire.  As you may recall, this was the tire that was lower than all my other new tires, and which the tire shop so begrudgingly aired up for me, without inspecting it at all...

Once we were set with the spare, which was in desperate need of some air, we hobbled to the nearest gas station for air, and onward to the nearest branch of my tire store, which was actually something like the swankier, higher-end version, owned by the same corporation.

At this point, I was (understandably?) more than a little upset, and stormed into the store with slightly less confidence than last time, and much more need to feel vindicated.

I was almost immediately greeted kindly by a man behind a counter.  Before he even greeted me, though, I noticed three things:

  1. This store smelled nice
  2. People smiled here
  3. There was prominent signage indicating everything you could need while you were waiting for your car

I began explaining our situation to the kind man behind the counter, perhaps too eagerly, as he kept calmly asking me to wait until his computer could catch up with the information I was giving him.

The tire was, unfortunately, clearly beyond repair, and was definitely going to have to be replaced.  The first thing he said to me when we realized this was, "It appears that you did not purchase a warranty on this tire..."

You guys.  My jaw probably hit the floor, and this is why:

Back when I was originally purchasing the tires, during the "breezy" paper-work process at the end, I had paused to question a section where the super-helpful-customer-service-guy asked for my initials.  I don't remember what it said, but I distinctly remember asking him something along the lines of "This says something about discussing a warranty with you, and I don't remember doing that..." and him responding with something like "Oh, that isn't really related to your purchase today."

Turns out, I had initialed a spot that said that I had been given paper-work regarding a warranty, and made an informed decision not to purchase it, when really, none of that had happened, and I certainly would have purchased that warranty if given the chance.

That warranty being an eleven dollar purchase that meant they would cover the entire cost of a new tire if mine was damaged as a result of road hazards.

Yes.  You read that right.  No wonder they weren't particularly interested in selling it to me.  You can imagine my thoughts at this moment were not particularly kind toward previously-considered-super-helpful-customer-service-guy.

Well, the current, kind man behind the counter gave me one look, without actually hearing any of that story, and said he would cover the cost of a new tire for me, just because.

I'd like to think this was because I looked like a customer-demanding-vindication-for-wrong-doing, but Sarah's boyfriend said it was because the kind man behind the counter had a crush on me...

Either way, I felt a little bit better about my life, and made sure I got a warranty on my new right rear tire.

And friends, the saga continues...

The first chance I got after coming back into town, I went to my tire store to demand nicely ask that they warranty my tires as atonement for their past wrong-doing since there had been some sort of glitch in the process of informing me about the warranty at the time of my original purchase.

I hope you guys believe me that I really was on my best behavior in the tire shop, regardless of how really indignant I was on the inside.  I'm a Southern girl.  We don't lose our cool in public...

Anyway, I went in, and who should be inside but previously-considered-super-helpful-customer-service-guy and the-man-at-the-counter?  Yes.  They were both right there.

The-man-at-the-counter was apparently busy, so previously-considered-super-helpful-customer-service-guy, who seemed to not remember me, asked how he could help.  I began to tell the nicest version of my story that was possible while not excluding any important details (including the screw in the tire), ending with the request to go ahead and have a warranty for the tire, which I had already driven around for a week and a half or so.

At about the point in my story where I came back with low pressure in one of my tires, the-man-behind-the-counter began edging toward us, evidently remembering me.

Next thing I know, previously-considered-super-helpful-customer-service-guy turns to the-man-behind-the-counter and asks if it's possible to do what I'm asking.  And before previously-considered-super-helpful-customer-service-guy is even done with his question, the-man-behind-the-counter says "Of course we will.  I am so sorry that happened, ma'am."

You guys.  The-man-behind-the-counter was the manager of this store.  The MANAGER!

I'm telling you, it was all I could do to keep a straight face.

I mean, what?

He promptly took over the conversation and was SO polite and helpful, but, by this point, I was totally over everything about this store.  Of course, I was polite in return, and gave positive one-word-answers to his attempted small-talk instead of glaring daggers, but, really, I was truly done.

When he was almost done processing the warranty, he started telling me excitedly that they were soon upgrading to a store like the one I went to in San Antonio, and by the time I needed my next tires, the upgrade would be finished.

Guys, I'm super ashamed of this, but my first thought was "Well, I hope they'll upgrade the management too!"

Of course, being a sweet, Southern girl, I gave him two true words - "That's wonderful!"

Well, if the upgrade is indeed done by then, maybe I'll give them a second chance...

Friday, May 9, 2014

She Shares Truth: Commissioned Moments

I love that She Reads Truth has asked us to talk about "Commissioned Moments" (rather than big mission trips or other such things) based on the verses in Matthew 28:16-20, which are often called The Great Commission.

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There was a time when I was in college, when I suddenly noticed that the Christians I'd been around talked almost exclusively about The Great Commission as if it meant to go away from where you were to spread the gospel.  Suddenly, after encountering teenagers here in the US who had never even heard the name of Jesus, I realized it is absolutely not just about going elsewhere.  It's also about staying right here (we are part of "all nations") and listening for that still, small voice that says "Speak now, here, my child."

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During my last two years of college, I was taking full-time classes, and working two part-time jobs, which added up to almost full-time hours - we're talking full schedule from 8am-8pm every day.  I was busy.  It was not necessarily easy or fun, but I did it, and mostly successfully with a smile on my face.  I loved my major and both of my jobs.

One afternoon, a girl from my major, with whom I had taken multiple classes, walked up to my desk at work and said something along the lines of "Esther, I've decided that I need to get a job, because you are always so happy, and I'm just sure it's because you have this job."

Would you believe, friends, that I just looked at her and said "I think that's a great idea!"
My job, after all, was to connect students who wanted jobs with employers who wanted to hire them...

I didn't even say anything about the true source of joy in my life - Christ and his Helper within me.

When she left my office, I was devastated.  I knew I had missed out on a fantastically clear calling from the Lord.

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To a certain extent, I still carry regret from that experience, but ever since that day, I have tried to live more with an open ear and eye on what the Lord would have me do.

I have tried to bring him into every conversation I have.

"Tried," of course, is the operative word here.  I fail more times than I succeed, but I am continually encouraged by the multiple scriptures which tell me that God is more powerful than I, and He will accomplish His purposes, whether or not I listen to every little command He gives.

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But oh, the pay-off when I do listen.  He is a wonderfully giving and loving Father through our obedience, and even our disobedience.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Small Town Saturday: Picnic Edition

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My family and I recently decided to try out a new picnic spot.  We headed out to Lake Naconiche, which has been in the works for as long as I can remember.  It is now a thriving fishing destination, but picnicking?  Not so much.

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When we discovered that was not going to work out, we headed up to the ever-reliable arboretum at the University.  This is a trusty spot we've frequented for many years, which boasts plenty of seating spots and spring blooms.  In fact, the arboretum is in bloom practically all year round, but I'm particularly partial to it in the Spring.

The arboretum is generously populated with pines to give shade to the plants that live there, and the humans who visit.  This makes me quite happy.

One of my favorite things about East Texas is the gorgeous forest full of Pines.

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One of my least favorite things about East Texas is the gorgeous forests full of Pines.

Yep.  You read that right.  I love 'em and I hate 'em.  They are by far one of the most beautiful species of tree I have ever come across, but I am so so so allergic to the pollen, and I'm just miserable for most of the Spring time as a result.  I clearly haven't tried too hard to escape the misery, though...

Nacogdoches is pretty proud of it's plant life, and I can't say that I blame it.  Azaleas are the undisputed favorite, and I can say that I blame that.  Wait, it doesn't work very well to turn that phrase around like that, but you know what I mean.

Azaleas have just never been my personal favorite flower, though they probably should be since they're apparently impossible to kill, and I pretty much have the opposite of a green thumb...

I just really like more delicate, less in-your-face plants.  Take. for example, the plant commonly called the "Wild Azalea" around here.

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I may be wrong, but I don't think it's actually related to what we call an azalea at all.  Sort of like how we call a "Tulip Tree" by that name, even though it's not related to a Tulip at all.  Somebody *ahem* maybe an Abt? *ahem* correct me if I'm wrong, please.

The Wild Azalea is really a diminutive tree with tons of blossoms in little circular sprays all over it.  They are just lovely plants, and come in a great array of colors.  Someday I'd like to have them all over my backyard.

Well, let's get back to the subject at hand - the Arboretum.  Our arboretum has an entire section called the Azalea Garden which really has much more than just Azaleas, and is truly wonderful all throughout the year, but imagine my joy when I discovered that the section across the street from the Azalea Garden is populated by wild azaleas, and other such woodland plants that suit my fancy much better than the big, showy ones of the Azalea Garden.

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I took the opportunity to practice with Manual focus on my camera, and am feeling a little better about my photography skills again.  Every photo on this post is completely unedited, and I am semi-happy with all of them.

Also?  If you're lucky enough, upon arriving at the Arboretum, you may get to park next to one of these...

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Probably the closest I'll ever get to one.

Any suggestions for Small-Town Saturday?  Anything locals or non-locals are interested in seeing featured here?  I welcome your input.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Going Crunchy

Back in early February, or maybe even late January, a friend posted this link on facebook, and I decided to check it out.

A few years ago, my mom started to follow the "no-poo" method of washing her hair, and seemed quite satisfied with it.  I, on the other hand, was not.  I tried it as a way of being supportive, but I just could not stand the way my hair felt while I was washing it.  I've always felt the need to have my shampoo lather dramatically in order to feel like my hair is really clean.

Turns out, this link was a new method of doing the same thing - washing your hair with baking soda and conditioning with apple cider vinegar - which looked like it might actually work for me...

Wait, what?
Did I just say that washing my hair with baking soda and conditioning with apple cider vinegar might work for me?

Either I was turning into a crazy person, or her way of presenting evidence was actually convincing.
Seriously.  You should go check out what she said, because I'm not about to try to one-up her by explaining it all again.

Also, while I was busy being convinced about natural hair care, I decided I might as well jump into the natural skin care world as well, so I clicked on her "beauty" tag and found this.

I was immediately interested in the idea of exfoliating with coffee grounds, since I've always felt like there must be something else to do with them other than just throwing them away after one use.

One thing led to another, and I wound up devoting almost an entire day to looking into natural skin care ideas, especially the one known as "Oil Cleansing."

Again, I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores and with whats of oil cleansing, because so many people have already done that before me.  What I will tell you about is my own process with the natural hair and skin care I have settled on, and how those decisions have affected my body.  If you're interested in more info, I found quite a few things which appeared reputable (and more which did not, of course) by googling and

Two disclaimers before we really get going on this discussion:

1)  Throughout the whole process, I kept coming across people describing themselves and their lifestyle as "crunchy."
I eventually went and looked it up on Urban Dictionary.  While I would not, by any means, call myself "crunchy" to the same extent as most of those other folks, I do have a bit of that back-to-basics attitude built into my personality, and I welcome any chance to work something less processed and more natural into my life.
Also?  It just made me laugh, because, when Baby Sister was small, she said "crunchy" instead of "country."  Ever since then, I've loved the word.

2)  I am not advocating anything that particular girl I've linked to has to say in general.  I don't follow her blog or anything, but I do feel like what she had to say about natural hair and skin care was spot on (not to mention easy and entertaining to read), so I've linked to those posts.

When I first read her baking soda and apple cider vinegar method, it really resonated with me for some reason, and I just knew it was going to work.  Don't ask me how.  I just knew.

And boy, was I right.

You guys!  Let's talk about my hair before this change.  I've always had slightly thin, pretty oily hair with some texture.  I've never dyed or permed my hair, nor do I use a large amount of products in it.  (In fact, I probably use hairspray an average of once every six or eight months).  I've tried quite a few products over the years - mostly ones that say they'll "add volume"- but I never can seem to get any of them to do what they say they're going to do.  I've used the same treatment on my ends since I was 16 or so, and have no interest in ever doing anything different, but I was never able to find any other product that I was interested in using consistently.  I even flitted around to different shampoos very regularly, never settling on one favorite.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with my hair's texture.  It just wasn't consistent - generally coarser and wavier on one side, and limp on the other.  Also, it tended to curl out on my right side, and in on my left.  I place a very high value on symmetry and consistency, so this incongruity threw me off all the time.

Then, when I started this baking soda and apple cider vinegar method, all of that went out the door.  I had no idea how much natural body and uniformity my hair could have without all the gunk from shampoos and conditioners full of extra chemicals.

Now, I'm not saying that I naturally look like a southern beauty queen every morning.
In the first place, I'm not blonde...

But really?  I'm in love with my hair lately.  I would venture to say that I haven't had a bad hair day since February.  My hair is fuller than it has ever been, and the texture is so even!  Also, it just obeys me better in general.  I'm happy, and don't intend to change anything any time soon.

The thing I'm still trying to figure out is the deep conditioning with coconut oil.  I think last time around was my first "good" turnout.  But only "good," not "excellent" or anything.  I took a teeny amount (like maybe a teaspoon and a half) and just put it on the ends, then washed with regular shampoo and conditioner.  I'm not in love with that, though, because I feel like my hair misbehaves whenever I wash it with that stuff now.  It seems, though, that theres no other way to get coconut oil out of hair.

That's the only thing I'm not entirely satisfied with about this baking soda and apple cider vinegar thing - it sort of dries my hair out on the ends so that it does need a deep condition at least once a month.  Other than that, though, I couldn't be happier.  In fact, I'm so happy with how my hair dries naturally, I rarely even blow-dry it anymore.  It's incredibly low-maintenance!

***UPDATE - I eventually became very unsatisfied with how dry my hair was after months of this method.  My current hair routine can be found here.

Now, about that oil cleansing I started.  It's been quite the journey, and not nearly as simple as the hair care.

I really started it on a whim.  The very day that I did all that research, I got a bottle of castor oil and one of jojoba oil, as that was what I'd seen touted as good for sufferers of acne.  I started out with equal parts castor and jojoba, knowing full well that it was probably too strong (castor oil is very drying), but wanting to find my own blend.

The first night and following day, I loved it!  I discovered, about a week in, that I needed to increase to two parts Jojoba and one Castor Oil, because i was drying out my skin more than I would have liked it to.  It's kind of crazy to think of oil as drying, huh?  But it sure can be.

My process was as follows:
  1. Wet my face with warm water
  2. Pour a quarter sized drop of the oil blend in my palm
  3. Rub my palms together
  4. Massage the oil into my entire face (sidenote:  It doubles as an excellent make-up remover, so no need to do that first!)
  5. Wet a washcloth with HOT water so that it will steam, wring it out, and lay it over my face 2 or 3 times in a row. DON'T BURN YOURSELF!
  6. Wash oil off with rag and warm water
This whole process is so luxurious with the steam and the smooth oil, and it leaves my skin feeling super soft and moisturized - not at all oily like you would imagine.  I know it seems intimidating, and possibly gross, at first, but I would recommend it to anyone!  Also, it's kind of a long process, but the good news is you only have to do it once a day (some people do it even less than that, but I think once a day is best for me).

It's the perfect relaxing night-time ritual.  In the morning, I just get up, put on a little moisturizer, and sometimes makeup, and I'm ready to go!

Everything that I read said things would get worse before they got better but my skin was immediately better than it had ever been before!  I'm not a terrible sufferer of acne.  I'd say mine is mild to medium, and I've never considered taking medication or anything, but I'd be lying if I said having it consistently from my teens into my mid-to-late twenties hasn't been pretty discouraging.  So, to find something this simple that actually worked was beyond exciting.  I even had friends and family making comments about how fantastic my skin was looking.

I think I went through a little honeymoon phase, then reality hit:
Jojoba oil is not cheap.  It's not necessarily expensive, but it is not, by any means, cheap.  So, when I ran out of my bottle of jojoba, I decided to try sweet almond oil, which I had seen listed as a substitute for people who are allergic to jojoba.  It was literally less than half the price, so I thought I had hit the jack-pot.

*Spoiler Alert*  I had not, in fact hit anything like a jack-pot.

As soon as I started using the sweet almond oil, my skin went back to it's original condition, if not getting a little worse.  Also? Sweet almond oil smells strange - not sweet - almost bitter, actually.

I gave sweet almond the benefit of the doubt, and decided to use up the bottle, then see if I needed to switch back to Jojoba - maybe my skin was reacting to the change, and would straighten out (hopefully sooner, rather than later).

Well, sooner and later both came, and no dice.  My skin was still breaking out pretty consistently.  I wasn't to the end of the bottle, but I had HAD IT with this stuff.

Finally, yesterday, I went into my local natural foods store, and...


I may or may not have acted like a 14-year-old drama queen, but they took my name and phone number so they could notify me as soon as the shipment comes in.

Now you may all proceed to wait expectantly on your tip-toes with me.

SO, verdict is:  I love oil cleansing, but only with a very specific blend of oils.

Strangely enough, Baby Sister (who tried it right along with me, like a doll) found that she liked sweet almond better...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Small Town Saturday: Kite Festival Edition

Sorry for my recent disappearance!  The combination of a mini-vacation/reunion/birthday event with dear friends, and some mean shoulder tension, and, you know, life, meant that, once again, this little blog was left behind for a little while.  I'm working on some life adjustments right now, that hopefully will lead to somewhat "regularly scheduled programming" around here.  I'll let y'all in on the details soon(ish)...

In the meantime, enjoy Small Town Saturday, c/o the Kite Festival, which was not this past Saturday, but the Saturday before:

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There were rows of these guys around the field to show when the wind was blowing - such a cute little detail!

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Yep, that's me, flying kites with the best of 'em.

You guys, there were so many people there!  I know these pictures don't really express that, but, trust me, there were.

Mostly, it was young families and grandparents, but there were a few adults who were serious about their kite-flying, and even a few people who got their kites up in the air, then tied the strings to camp chairs and disappeared.
I did not understand those people, especially since, when there's only a chair there, and no human beings, you don't automatically assume you're going to have to tangle with a kite string, so you run blindly into near catastrophe... or maybe that was just me.

There were a few "special" kites flying around, i.e. a giant caterpillar, and his flying friends much higher above the ground.

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The kiddos had such fun running around under that thing.  I wished the two little guys I nanny could have been there to join in the fun.  There had been a huge storm the night before, though, that had done some significant damage to their property, so they were at home.

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Actually, the majority of people there named the storm as their reason for coming out - about half the county was out of power, and when it's sunny outside and there's a kite festival going on, why stay in a house with no electricity?
My family had long planned this as an intentional outing - (Why yes, I did just say "outing"...) - when you have all the sisters in town, why not go to the Kite festival even though you do have electricity?

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Even Grandma enjoyed watching everyone's kites from under her parasol.

Of course quite a few of Baby Sister's friends were there, and I got a chance to have freak out moments over the fact that people I used to baby-sit are in their late teens, and some even 20 years old...

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Not to mention interacting like grown up people (and looking like them too)!

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Seriously.  Look at these people.
Not to embarrass her, but I started baby-sitting that girl on the left when she was being potty-trained.  POTTY-TRAINED, people.
Please tell me I'm not that old.
How did they get to be these beautiful, grown up people giving me thumbs-up after a good run with a kite?
I. Do. Not. Understand.

Speaking of a good run with the kite, I was pretty proud of myself.  I probably hadn't flown a kite since I was 7 or something, but it came right back to me as soon as I got it in my hands.  It was almost all the way to the end of its reel at one point...

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Yep, these are the kind of accomplishments, I'm proud of lately.  Maybe you call that perspective? Five years ago, I might have been embarrassed to be seen flying a kite, now I run madly through the public with one...

As did my sisters.

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So casual and relaxed as she flies her kite with one hand like a pro...

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We literally stayed in an open field for 4 hours before we decided to go home.

Well, with a small break to rest on our picnic blanket and stare at the kite(s) in the sky...

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... and get thoroughly sun-burned.  Yep.  It was painful, my friends.  Someday, I'll learn to apply sunscreen, I hope.

Oh, and a few trips to the food trucks.

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It was lovely.

Friday, March 28, 2014

She Shares Truth: Jonah 3 & 4

Wow.  So many thoughts.  The part of this section that I keep returning to is Jonah 3:10-4:4.  I think I'll just write it out here, because it really isn't that long, and it always does me good to "interact," so to speak, with what I'm reading.

10. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed His mind about the calamity that He had said He would bring upon them; and He did not do it.
1. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.  2. He prayed to the Lord and said, "O Lord!  Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?  That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.  3. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."  4. And the Lord said "Is it right for you to be angry?"
Wow.  Again wow.  Jonah is basically reproaching the Lord for being "gracious ... merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love."

Uh, what?

Jonah, in case you've already forgotten, the grace, mercy and steadfast love of God are the only reason you are alive right now.

Bu no, in fact, Jonah doesn't even want to be alive at this point.

This phrase - "Our God is a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love" - is one I heard many times, growing up, from my parents and my church.  I had no idea it was originally spoken out of deep disappointment and anger.

It is very hard for me to relate to Jonah at this point in the story.  Or rather it always was, until I read this. Whew.  So true, and now I can totally relate to Jonah.

I'm this childish way too often.  How many times have I acted like I knew better than the Lord about what He "should have done" in a particular situation?

More than I would like to admit, I'm sure.

It's so easy for us to think of God as our own personal God, concerned with our own personal affairs, ready to do what we want Him to do.  Now don't get me wrong.  God is intimately concerned with our own personal affairs, but He is far far far from being at our beck and command.  The thing that is so difficult for us to understand and wrap our heads around is that our God is equally intimately concerned with the personal affairs of our friends, our co-workers, our teachers, our students, our neighbors, even our enemies!

This kind of one-sided thinking and misunderstanding is what caused most of Israel to miss the fact that Jesus, the redeemer, was in their midst.  They were busy looking for the Messiah who would come and rescue them from Roman rule, and couldn't see that the true Messiah was so much bigger and loved the Romans just as much as He loved them.

He loves His entire creation impartially, because He looks at our hearts, rather than our actions.  He knew that Jonah's heart was just as wicked as those in Nineveh.  And yet He loved Jonah and chose to use him to fulfill His purposes.

This post was written as part of the "She Shares Truth" experiment over at

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Small Town Saturday: Volkswagen Edition

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My mom grew up in a family that always drove at least one Volkswagen, so she has a special place in her heart for them, and they figure in almost every story she tells us of her youth and college years.

Maybe as a result of that, or maybe just as a result of the fact that they are ridiculously cute little cars, I wanted one so bad when I first had the opportunity to buy my own car.  Well, one thing led to another, and I wound up not driving a Volkswagen.  But I'm not mad about it, and I am still absolutely in love with the little car that practically fell into my lap.

And now Baby Sister is barking up the same tree I did, and we'll just have to see where it gets her...

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Mom tells us the smaller the tail-lights, the older the Volkswagen.  This one was from the late '50s.

Needless to say, when Mom, Grandma, Baby, and I got the chance to check out the local Volkswagen festival, we were all pretty happy about it.  Mom reminisced about "Things," "Rabbits," "Doon-buggies," and "Bugs," and Grandma reminisced about the Volkswagen van she and Grandpa used to drive, where they just threw a play-pen in back for the kids while they were going on long road-trips.

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We all enjoyed the vans most, I think.  They all had such personality!  Most of them were out-fitted like campers, some with themes (Peace signs & Tie-dye, Coca-Cola, Flower Power, and Jamaica, to name a few), but the one I liked best was this little Country Chic one.  Seriously, I could probably live in it and be happy.

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In fact, there were some folks who looked kind of like they did just that - lived in their VWs, and travelled all over to these shows.  Several people brought their pets, and, evidenced by this dog snoozing away, this wasn't much out of the ordinary for them.

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What a life!

I'm pretty sure that my little town has more "festivals" than anywhere else.  Some are big, and others are not so big.  This was a small one, but there were people from far and wide (Even as far a Nevada!), because it was tailored to such a specific demographic.  There were lots of fancy restored cars, as well as people doing a booming business in selling parts for Volkswagens of all descriptions.

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This is the interior of the purple one Baby was posing with earlier.  It looks brand new, right?  Somebody definitely treasures that car.  Also, can we talk about this completely uncluttered dash?  I was sort of in awe of it.

There was even a short row of Porsches.

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Were they a Volkswagen product at some point?  I was really confused as to why they were there...

Basically, there was every type of VW you can imagine.  It was lots of fun.

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Stay tuned for the Kite Festival next week!

Yep.  I'm serious.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Small Town Saturday: Farmers' Market Edition

This weekend was crazy.  I had no idea, when I moved back home, that I would have so many plans pop up!  On Friday night, I went to an event on campus, called Pen and Pigment.  It's a wonderful collaboration between the Creative Writing department (a division of Liberal Arts) and the Art department (a division of Fine Arts).  I had the privilege of participating in this event twice during my time at SFA, and loved it both times, so, of course when I heard that it was happening this Friday, I wanted to go.

Well, then a good friend decided to come through, and wanted to have dinner on Friday night, then another friend invited me to Movie Night at her house to watch Frozen (ummmm, YES), then my college basketball team became the Cinderella team of the NCAA championships and had their second round game on that very night...

Yeah, I had to sort of laugh at myself, as I dressed up and went to an art event, while everyone else on campus was going crazy in the Student Center, where the game was being shown on every screen...

Somehow, though, I managed to fit everything into the night including watching our crazy over-time win and screaming with the best of them about it.

And then I fell into bed at something like 1:30 am, with plans to get up for the Farmers' Market at 9 am...

I waffled significantly the next morning about whether or not I should go, but I did, and, boy am I glad I did.  There is nothing like a small town on a Spring Saturday morning.

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Be aware, I'm testing out larger pictures to see if they'll fit in my template, so things my be a bit wonky for a little while...

You guys, It's been so long since I picked up my camera, I'm afraid I may be losing my touch!  My two favorite pictures from the farmers' market were blurry, and I wasn't particularly impressed with the ones that were focused either.

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I guess this means I'd better pick up my camera more often.

I ended up getting to the market toward the end of the time that it was open, so most of the booths were closing down by the time I got there, but there was still quite a bit of fun stuff to check out.  We got to chat with a local peach farmer, and he told us this year was shaping up to be a bumper crop because of the crazy long winter, and there was a man selling home-made cheese.

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Also, someone was selling Kale.  I've never actually used fresh Kale in anything, so I had no idea it was such a lovely little plant.  I love the contrast of the yellow against the green.

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Also, did I mention this was the "Spring Fling", so there were added attractions, like american flag themed pony rides...

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My favorite part about living in a small town?  Views like this, even in the middle of town (literally two blocks from Downtown...)

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Then, as we were leaving the Farmers' Market, we realized the Volkswagen festival was happening just down the road.

Nope.  You can't make this stuff up...

Photos from that event coming soon.

Friday, March 21, 2014

She Shares Truth: Jonah 1&2

Hello friends,  first of all, let me apologize for falling off the face of the earth, but when you move, and get a new job, and your best childhood friend gets engaged all at the same time, suddenly people and life become a little more important than the internet.

But, I'm back now, and hoping to continue somewhat consistent posting on here.  We shall see what happens.  As a kick-start, I'm bringing in a new Friday tradition.  (I've enjoyed High Five for Friday, and it may return, but for the meantime, I'm thrilled about this new link-up!)

Back in January, I joined a fantastic online community called She Reads Truth.  I cannot begin to tell you what a blessing this little space has been in my life - it is so loving and uplifting!  About two weeks ago (conveniently coinciding with the new job, my aunt's wedding, and the afore-mentioned engagement and ensuing dress-shopping/planning flurry), She Reads Truth started a new thing called She Shares Truth.  Basically, every Monday, we are assigned certain scripture to reflect on over the week, and write about on Friday.

Friends, I'm a writer.  Can you imagine my joy at hearing about this new plan?  Honestly, I hope it stays forever.  Obviously, I've already missed out on two weeks worth of writing, but that doesn't dampen my excitement about it by any means.  I'm thrilled to be able to join in today!

Currently, we're reading (and sharing) about Jonah.  Yep. you heard that right.
I'm sure I've read through Jonah in my adulthood, but I've certainly never paid attention to it as an adult.  I mean, really, it's a story about a man who gets swallowed by a fish and then regurgitated three days later.  Good material for Sunday School, and keeping the kids' attention, but not really that important for my spiritual journey now... Or so I thought

Our study basically started out with this sentence: "It's not about the fish."
So true.
It is not about the fish.  Did you know there are only three verses in Jonah that even talk about "the fish"?  This is actually a story about a man who thought he could out-smart God, and had to learn his lesson multiple times. (One of those times just happened to involve a fish swallowing him - minor details, really.)
Sound familiar?  Oh yeah.  Only like what I've been doing for years...

The thing that really struck me in my reading through Jonah 1&2 (and which I remember noticing as a child, too) is that the sailors cast lots to find out whose fault it is that they have this giant storm on their hands, and the lot happens to fall on Jonah. Hmmmmmm.

Casting lots was a pretty common form of divination, as well as a way to make a fair selection for any job that nobody (or everybody) wanted to do.  It was not only prevalent in Israel.  This was a widely known practice throughout ancient cultures.  It was similar (in principle, not necessarily in practice) to drawing straws.

Now, in summary, so far, Jonah has made a decision to "get away from the presence of the Lord," and boarded a ship going as far West as he can go.  This sort of makes me wonder if he is at all familiar with Psalm 139:7&8...
Maybe that was after his time.  I'm not entirely sure where Jonah falls chronologically.

So Jonah thinks he's gotten away, then a huge storm comes, and the sailors cast lots, etc.

You guys.  I'm pretty sure that lot-falling-on-Jonah thing was not accidental, or luck, or what-have-you.  God came right down and put that lot exactly where he wanted it.

Yeah, Jonah.  You thought you could get away from ME?  Well, here I am, in the middle of a storm, on a boat which is swaying and tossing on the waves like crazy, totally in control of not only the storm and the boat, but even this lot-casting.

In my Study Bible, there are a lot of C.S. Lewis quotes sprinkled about, and one of them in Jonah (which he wrote regarding Jonah) says this - "We misread much of the Old Testament because we start with the assumption that its sacred character excludes humour."

Honestly, though, the whole situation Jonah got himself into must have been kind of comical to God, don't you think?  I can imagine God shaking his head and chuckling, knowing how this is going to turn out, thinking "Really, Jonah?  You're really going to make me throw you into a fish before you learn that you can't get away, because I am everywhere, not just in Israel?"

It's comical to me, until I start realizing how many times God has probably had that same inner dialogue about me and my stubborn will.  I can assure you that it's been more times than appear in the book of Jonah.  I am so grateful, though that, no matter what sort of predicament I will myself into, He is still in control and will provide a way out for me, even if I seem to be drowned in a storm at sea.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Reviving a Lost Art

I've always been a letter-writer.  Really, I've just always been a writer, and letters were one of many ways that the writer inside of me chose to manifest herself.

Of course, some seasons of life lend themselves to letter writing, and some don't.  Lately, I've been a terrible correspondent.  Every time I receive a letter or card, I file it away to respond to it.  All the cards I need to respond to are in plain sight, but, unfortunately they've just been piling up lately.  Finally, in the midst of my move, I decided enough was enough, and these dear friends were all valuable enough to me to warrant a good size slice of an afternoon spent writing to them.

Turns out there are more than just one afternoon's worth of folks to write.  But, you know what?  I'm not sad about that.

There was something so lovely about sitting in a patch of sun in the living room, surrounded by the tools of my trade (paper and pen, of course), with a big mug of tea on the table next to me.

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I don't know exactly what is happening to me, but this Longhorn mug is seriously my favorite right now...

I frequently ask for stationery as a Christmas or Birthday gift.  Through that habit, I've built up quite the collection.  I love being able to always choose just exactly the paper I think a friend would like, and writing them a letter on it.

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When I was in high school, I went to a little leadership seminar thing, and met a friend who was just as excited about writing letters as I was.  We exchanged addresses, and the first letter he wrote me was addressed to Queen Esther.  By then, that was such an old joke, so I addressed his to the Prime Minister.  We spent a few years shooting letters back and forth to people like the Dali Lhama, etc.

When I was about 16, some dear friends moved to Indiana, and we wrote letters back and forth addressed to Jane Austen and Shakespeare characters.

Sometimes I wonder why we lose that sort of frivolity when we become adults.  Why don't I ever send a letter to Colonel Brandon or the Overseer of the Board of Regents?

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Why shouldn't we have a little foolishness in our lives?  I mean, really.  I have a Nancy Drew themed address book, for goodness' sake.  Yes, the cover is the cover of Nancy's Mysterious Letter, which also happens to be my favorite Nancy Drew book...

I guess the point of all this rambling is that I miss writing to people, and I hadn't even realized I missed it until I started again.

The season of life that I'm in right now has lent itself very nicely to loving on old friends via the written word (whether that be Facebook messages, emails, or letters) and I am thoroughly enjoying it!

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Would you like to be pen pals?  Send me your address, and I'll write you a letter!
I am being totally serious here.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

That time I went to New York and back in 10 days.

If you follow me on Instagram, this trip is old news (It happened in November).
However, if you follow me on Instagram, you didn't get the whole scoop or all the pictures, so here is (in the words of Paul Harvey) "the rest of the story."

As I've mentioned in the past, my dad did the same thing for all of my growing up years, then changed careers just recently.  I really can't remember a time when I didn't have a pretty solid idea of what he was doing at any given point in a day, even if he was far away.
Our family was always very close, and having a good idea of what Dad was up to at work helped to tighten that bond, I think.

Then he threw us all for a loop, and decided to become a truck driver - an over-the-road truck driver, no less.  That means he could be anywhere in the U.S. at any given time. (Within the first six months or so of his career, he had been in 47 of the 48 Continental United States!)
Not to mention that he was now driving an 18-wheeler, and hauling who knows what (anything from copper wire to New York City's trash - literally).

I hadn't expected this, but it felt downright strange to not know what he was doing day in and day out.

So, of course, when the opportunity arose, I jumped on his truck with him to find out.

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Oh, did I mention that I stayed on that truck with him for 10 days?

Do you see the size of that cab, ladies and gentlemen?

Let me just say, I have a hero in disguise as a dad.  That wonderful man slept on a mattress topper (not a mattress - just a topper!) on the floor for 10 nights so I could have the bed, bought me coffee every morning (I'd brought a coffee maker and coffee with me, but it turned out his power converter wouldn't support the amount of amps or something required by my coffee maker), and generally treated me like a princess.

We had a fantastic time, just driving down the road, sometimes talking, sometimes listening to music (his good old southern rock that Mom doesn't really listen to, some folksy stuff, and my Needtobreathe and Coldplay), and sometimes enjoying silence and pointing out interesting things along the road to each other:

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"Look, Es" he said, "it's a coffee truck!"
And "Man, those poor horses without the blankets sure must feel discriminated against..."

Dad is a "moderator" on a truck-driving forum for new truckers, or people who are interested in getting into the career, and it just so happened that he had committed to write a "journal" of his time on the road that coincided with our time together.  He really enjoyed having me along as a "photographer" to record various parts of his job that he could share on the forum.  I had fun helping him understand a little more about blogging/getting photos on his blog and the forum.

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As a flat-bed driver, as opposed to a dry-van driver, Dad has the responsibility of securing his own loads.  He says this is one of his favorite parts of the job as it keeps him active.  From what I've observed, this love for securement is pretty rare among truck-drivers.  It totally makes sense to me that he would love it, though.  There's a certain satisfaction that comes from doing something yourself and knowing that it's done right.
Every once in a while, I'd help him with securing one of the loads (and, of course, he went back over everything I did to make sure it was correct) and it was pretty cool to know that I'd had a little part in making sure that load stayed on the back of his truck through wind, snow, and high speeds.

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Our first stop on this crazy journey was in Vidor, Texas, where we picked up a load of steel coils headed for Cincinnati, Ohio.
(Cincinnati, by the way, is one of the few words that I can NEVER remember how to spell...)

We spent the weekend at a truck stop on the border of Kentucky and Ohio.
That was quite the experience.  A truck stop is like it's own little world.  It was actually much cleaner and pleasanter than I expected it to be.  Our weekend consisted mainly of doing laundry in the truck stop, watching movies in the truck, and taking lots of walks to enjoy the Fall foliage.

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When Dad stopped in Cincinnati to unload, I was still asleep.  I woke up and looked out the window to find this charming old brick building with various international flags hung along the roofline and a beautiful Holly full of red berries.

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After this stop, we headed across the border into rural Southern Indiana to pick up some sheetrock bound for Syracuse, New York.

While driving through Indiana, we saw lots of these lovely, bare, almost wraith-like, white trees - Sycamores, right, Indiana friends?

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On our way to New York, we started seeing a bit of snow.  I was so impressed at the way they know how to maintain roads in the North! (In Texas, or the South in general, I guess, everything would have been closed for even this tiny amount of snow.)

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Now, before we go any further, let me acknowledge that these are not really the quality of photos you are used to seeing on this blog, but please keep in mind, I'm taking a lot of these through the windows of a truck moving at approximately 65 MPH...

This particular day was a long, long, long one.  By the end of it, we had dropped off one load, and were picking up the next at about 11 PM.  I was sitting in the truck and feeling very sleepy, and possibly a bit delirious if I'm honest.  I looked out of the windshield and saw this little fork-lift staring right at me:

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I may or may not have taken way too much time trying to decide if he was friendly or not...

I was so tired that I decided to sleep in the next morning while Dad got on the road, but he wisely woke me up, knowing I would want to take pictures of the snow-covered houses in this precious little town that we drove through.

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Let's just be honest and say that I was FREAKING OUT the entire time I was taking these pictures, because this was The Most Snow I'd Ever Seen.
I know.  I'm a little bit pitiful...

I don't remember the name of this town, but I remember thinking how really it wasn't that much different than being in the South.  That house looks like it could be my next door neighbor's, in fact.

Well, that thought quickly changed when we made a stop in Walmart.

We walked into this New York state Walmart like the normal Southerners that we are, me chattering to Dad about something and him laughing at something funny I said, and slowly it dawned on me that no one, NO ONE, else in this store was talking.
No one smiled back at us as we passed them in the aisles.
Someone looked at me like I might be an alien when I said "excuse me" because I had to walk in between them and the shelf they were perusing.
Everyone just kind of walked around in their own little worlds and totally ignored each other.

You guys.  That was one of the weirdest experiences I've ever had.  Come to think of it, I have a long list of weird experiences in Walmart, and I guess we can just go ahead and add this one to it.  Maybe I should just never go to Walmart again?  It always seems to unnerve me.

I have to admit that I was a little sad we ended up in New York and I didn't even get a chance the see The City.  Honestly, though, I wasn't too sad.
Seeing New York City has never been on my bucket list.
I mean, I always figured if I was ever anywhere near it, I would at least look at it a little bit...
But who am I kidding?  I was more than comforted by those adorable snow-covered houses, and the best peppermint mocha ever (Trust me.  I'm a peppermint mocha connoisseur.) - at a random little chain in a rest stop!

You did good, New York.

That load we picked up in the middle of the night was headed down to Alabama, so I bid the snow goodbye a little sadly, and we headed back the way we'd come - through Cincinnati.  On our way there, we saw the most fantastic sunset graced with an "airplane spaghetti bowl" as Dad said.

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I'd kind of wanted to photograph Downtown Cincinnati (it was the only city we drove through - we skirted around all the rest), but it was dark by the time we got there.  I got one semi-good shot, but that was it.

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Dad warned me before we got into the city to be prepared for a tunnel.  In other words, he told me I should have my camera ready.  Unfortunately, I was too busy trying to get night skyline pictures to really prepare my camera for the tunnel, so all in all, it wasn't the most rewarding night for the little perfectionistic photographer that hides inside of me...

It was lovely going through that tunnel, though.  Tunnels always make me think of my Pop.  I don't have too many clear, specific memories of him.  I have lots of everyday knowledge, but as far as particular memories outside the norm, I only have a few.  One, though, involves the tunnel that crossed the Ship Channel in Houston before the Fred Hartman Bridge was built.  I think of him every time I go through a tunnel now, because of that one memory.

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At our stop in Alabama, I sat in the truck and knitted.  I did, however, take a moment to enjoy the lovely fall foliage that was beginning to appear here in the South.

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After that stop, we wound our way home through the Smoky Mountains.
Now, the Smoky Mountains are another thing that I have never had any great desire to see.
I know, I know.  I'm probably crazy.  But, honestly?  Mountains just aren't my thing.  Give me an ocean and a coastline, and I will sit and stare and take it in all day.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Smoky Mountains, though.  They really were "smoky" - sort of veiled in a constant blue haze - and so peaceful.  I did take pictures, but none of them turned out very well (65 MPH, remember?).  So, mostly, I just sat back and enjoyed the scenery.

When I saw these bridges coming up, though, you can bet I whipped out my camera and took as many pictures as I could, hoping I'd get at least one good one.

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There's just something I really love about bridges.  I probably wouldn't make any sense if I tried to explain it.

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Sometimes there are just things that you love for no good reason.

I have to admit, by the time we got home, I was really grateful to be back in Texas and on solid ground.  A tiny part of me had gone on this adventure thinking how crazy cool it would be if I could team-drive with Dad, so I'd been analyzing whether this would be a good idea or not.


I know you're laughing right now, so I'll just give you a minute to laugh.

There.  Are you back with me?  I am being perfectly serious here.  From about the time I was 18, I've had secret thoughts that I might enjoy the truck-driving life - exploring all over the country, and seeing the sights.  However, the fact is, I'm a girly girl, and ten days out on the road was enough to convince me that, no matter how pleasant and clean they are, I don't want to spend any majority of my time taking truck stop showers.  Nor do I want to be always getting my hands dirty doing load securement.
I'll stick with my pencil skirts and phone etiquette, thank you.

Another thing?  It was so hard to drive past these three things and not beg Dad to stop.

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Clockwise from left:
1. Poplar Avenue - the road in Memphis that Mom travelled down every year of her childhood to visit her Grandmother
2. Elizabethtown and 61 - Need I say more? (It's one of my favorite movies.)

I cannot imagine all the other things around the U.S. that I would get this close to and just miss.
For a short jaunt, I was fine - quite happy, in fact - but I now know for sure that truck driving is not the life for me.

I have to say, though, it was the best decision to go with Dad and learn more about what he does.  I feel so much more educated now about his daily life, and, just the other day, he was able to call me and tell me that he'd stopped in a spot that I remembered from our trip.  How wonderful is that?!