I have an amazing farm table my husband built (yes, he is quite the carpenter) from some wood that came from an old barn he took down in Louisiana, his home state. It makes me smile every time I look at it and eat on it.
If you know me or have been to my house, I do not have many pieces in my home that do not tell a story. I like to fill my world with things that remind me of the people who have been in the chapters of our lives.
So, let’s talk about the dining room chairs.
These chairs were stored in an old barn of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller’s. They were getting rid of some things and offered them for a sale. I swooped in, bought them, and then painted them black. It fit in that time of my life, not because they were dark and it reflected my mood, but because I was in a decor time with a lot of neutrals.
After moving back to our “home park”, I have felt lighter, more cheery. I thought my house should reflect that. So, I started with the chairs. I have wonderful friends like Jerusalem Greer who loves color and uses it all over her home. She inspires me.
So, I bought some paint.
I brush painted two chairs before I said, “sweet mercy, where is the spray paint?” I bought a high quality spray paint and got to work.
And, here is what happened.
I am still working on decorating this room, I need curtains and some other things, but for now, when I walk through there, my heartbeat quickens and a huge smile lights up my eyes and face.
How about you? Have you used a lot of color in your home?
So much sunshine and blessings,
The Park Wife
Aside of the amazing opportunity to live on a state park on a beautiful mountain, we also get to have some really cool neighbors. We are surrounded by a community of people who always stop what they are doing for anyone in need, band together on projects to make our mountain a better place to live, and share their wisdom, knowledge and expertise.
Many of our neighbors are retired and some had very interesting careers. We are extraordinarily blessed that our neighbor right up the road in an astronomer. Yes, an astronomer, with an observatory. He even has wide field astrographic telescope, which means it is super-duper awesome.
He is well-known in the science world with many books and papers published. Although retired, he is still an educator at heart and presents all around the world, and sends his data to Harvard. The Buckaroos just call him Dr. Clay, our nice neighbor that sits at the dinner table and answers a bazillion space questions and tells them no question is dumb.
So, when the blood moon lunar eclipse was going to happen, of course, he invited the boys to see what it was all about.
We woke up at 1:45 and walked up the road. I practiced my Mother of the Year acceptance speech the whole way.
The boys looked through one of his telescopes and then went into the Observatory.
Dr. Clay is always so patient and explains thing on a level for Little Buckaroo to understand, yet does not dumb it down. I believe this intrigues and motivates Little Buckaroo to read and study more so he can ask pertinent questions.
There was a lot of technical, cool things happening. Dr. Clay’s wife who is a dear friend of mine and I just sat and tried to warm up, seriously in the 30s in April. Winter, I told you I was DONE with you.
Dr. Clay moved this telescope (his super-duper one stayed focused on the moon turning red) so that Little Buckaroo could see Saturn, this was the highlight of his night. He loves Saturn and for him to see it so clear and “up close” was amazing.
And, here it is, the first total lunar eclipse in more than two years that turned the moon into a cosmic red ball. And, we had front row seats.
Thankful for kind neighbors, now I am going to take a nap,
The Park Wife
What an amazing 2013! I have so many wonderful moments, so many amazing memories made. Sure, there have been obstacles, but I have learned from them and no, I do not like to focus on them here because sweet mercy, I like to focus on happy.
A quick rundown:
Our boys are thriving in school and life, homeschooling is still right for our family. They constantly amaze me with their curiosity and cleverness. But, wow! it is going by way too fast. My husband was promoted to run the most amazing state park in our state (in our opinion). And, by golly, he EARNED it. I am still amazed that God made Big Buckaroo just for me and I for him. I know, sappy, but I am thankful and blessed to have my soul mate.
(this will make you happy, just listen and reflect on your blessings)
In the blog world, I, along with some AMAZING women, launched state-focused blog communities in six additional states under my company The Women Bloggers. What we have built in Arkansas is an amazing template and the other state gals get it! They are passing on the same kind of accepting, loving, helpful spirit to bloggers in their states. To date, we have 1525 bloggers part of The Women Bloggers communities. And, it is growing rapidly. In 2014, we will expand to more states, with New Jersey launching soon!
This only works because of our mission; to gather, grow, and connect women. We want to help and encourage each other and it has been amazing to watch it grow and take hold in people’s hearts and lives. I am such a better woman for having these amazing women in my life. Thank you to all who have worked hard to make this happen.
I am so grateful for all my friends and family, you are who God uses to make me a better person. And, I am so thankful for His grace and mercy.
Christmas in Dixie is pure magic! It is oranges, walnuts (really, why? Not sure, but they made great bombs to throw at my brothers, they could chip a tooth) and pecans in our stockings, sitting as a family reading the Christmas Story, dressing up for holiday meals, riding around and looking at Christmas lights that any other time would be gaudy, but in December becomes a spectacular spectacle of festive beauty.
One thing we do well in the South during the holidays is get seriously decked out, be it our front porches, mantles, oh sweet mercy, people even put wreaths and reindeer ears on their cars, bless them. Let’s not even talk about Christmas sweaters, oh no, really, crazy Aunt Bobbie does have a stellar collection! She is on my husband’s side. But seriously, as if we needed an excuse to fluff our world, we Southerners go all out at Christmas time.
Growing up, we lived next door to my great-grandparents and my grandparents, a thing so rare in this day and age where we leave the confines of our tribe after high school driving to our fancy colleges in search of that American Dream we were trained to seek. What I did not realize was that the true American Dream was right there on 45th Street (where I grew up, not to be confused with the Miracle that happened a few streets over) surrounded by family and friends. A place where everyone was welcome at our table and hospitality, charm, and style flowed from every strand of garland and boughs of holly that dressed our homes.
Oh the food! I loved sitting in the warm kitchen watching my grandmother and Ira (who worked for my family for 48 years and was another grandma to me) making delicious pans of “dressing” which is not something you put on salads, Divinity which has nothing to do with the Divine, and Ambrosia that does not reference the food of the Gods, but are all hallmarks of my Southern Christmas’. And, Karo syrup, I remember big bottles of Karo syrup.
We always had very formal holiday meals. As I look back, I do not remember my great-grandfather, a successful businessman, without a coat and tie on, ever. My Great- Grandmother and Grandmother were always dressed in the finest dresses, pearls, and had their hair set on the day before Christmas Eve (Little Buckaroo calls that “Christmas Adam”). Everything was planned to the “T”, because mercy no, we would not want to have flat hair people, nor serve store-bought anything. Sweetie, it was Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, I would receive my Christmas dress usually made of velvet and taffeta (oh, I still dream in Gunni Sax) to be worn with my black patent shoes and of course, white stockings to top it off. It did not matter that it was 94 degrees in Mississippi and I would roast like the holiday turkey, fa, la, la, la, la, I wore the dress for Christmas lunch at my grandparents.
The table was dressed in our finest linens, many hand embroidered by my great- grandmother, starched until it did not need a fancy napkin fold, they would stand up on their own. And, as crazy and hectic as it was, my family all showed up to sit together, even crazy Uncle Sonny who wore that powerful cologne, yea, I now know it is called Bourbon, and rejoice in the season…together. There really was not any question about “what are you doing for Christmas?” It was Christmas Eve, we would be at the grandparents to open presents from them and then show up in our finery the next day for the all-out food spectacular. Every. Single. Year.
There was the tragedy of 1984, also known as the handlebar bike wreck extravaganza. One of my brothers, I have 5 of them so yes, prayers accepted, made the amateur Christmas deck the kids mistake of wearing his new Christmas shirt while riding on the handlebars of my other brothers new bike. Down a huge hill. Very fast. Let’s just say that rip was not fixable before dinner. He wished he would have made it to 34th street and found that miracle before my grandmother, Bay, saw him.
I am blessed with amazing Christmas memories that are as deep as my seventh generation Mississippi roots. Where traditions were sacred in my world and my mother always went over and beyond to make it the most special Christmas ever for us. I will do my best to pass that on to our children.
Times have changed, we live on a state park far away from any family. And, even though I will be wearing my Lucchese boots (with a dress of course) and not patent Mary Jane’s, I will wear my strand of pearls and think back on my wonderful memories of new velvet dresses, formal dinners, and being surrounded by the warmth of family. I might even do a little twirl in the kitchen and ask Big Buckaroo how I look.
Angels we have heard on high (wearing Gunnie Sax, of course),
The Park Wife
Our park house is still under construction, I hope to be in it by Christmas….of 2014. Let me start by saying, I would have not been a great interior designer, not one of my gifts. Picking flooring, paint colors, appliances, drawer pulls, tile…oh, it is a daunting task for me. I was begging for design advice from a new homeschool mom friend of mine at the kids new homeschool co-op (her name is Stephanie, like all the cool Arkansas gals) and she pointed out the strand that ran though all the pictures of kitchens she loved was that they were all organized, clean, and no dishes in the sink. AHA! She was right, she voiced my crazy house design problem, well, one of them.
I look on Pinterest and see these beautiful homes with white furniture and think, “oh, how beautiful, I want my house to look like that”. Then, reality hits. In my world, two boys would run in plop down on that white slip-covered couch with at least two rocks and four roly polies in their pockets, a stick in one hand and some type of creature in the other (turtle, beetle, dead locust, you never know). There is not enough bleach in Arkansas for me to be able to have that beautiful white living room.
So, I then I have to choose flooring. No words. Where are all my decorator blog friends? We will have a meeting on the mountain soon, clear your calendars. My goal is just to have a comfortable place where our family can gather and the kids will one day have great memories of growing up on the mountain. A place they will call home.
We finished up flag football last night. We got involved it in the usual small town way. About a month ago, I was walking through a flea market, saw a gal I used to work with B.K. (before kids) and her son was with her. I left that conversation with the phone number of the guy who runs the flag football league in one of the small communities in our area. Even though they were in the midst of the season, they let the Buckaroos play. They had a blast. And, so did I. It brings back wonderful memories of my high school cheerleading days where Friday nights were spent at the football stadium, it was more than a game, it was an event. A place where a town comes together and rallies around its kids. Faith, family, and football runs deep in the South, I love it. It is all football, all the time, at our house right now. Of course, Littlest Buckaroo has already chosen LSU for college and on to the Saints as a first round draft pick. He will be eight in December. God love him.
Speaking of football and the South, let me tell you about one of the most wonderful things we have watched in a long time, “The Book of Manning” (I bet you were you expecting Duck Dynasty, that is right up there of course). The whole family was glued to the television as we watched the 90-minute documentary about football’s first family. It traced Archie Manning’s path from Mississippi prep phenom to Ole Miss standout to patriarch of a tight-knit Southern family that features two No. 1 draft picks and three Lombardi trophies. We Mississippi folks LOVE the Manning boys.
If you have not watched it, it will be replayed on ESPN I am sure. The footage from Archie’s days at Ole Miss is simply CAPTIVATING. But, it really was not a documentary about a former NFL quarterback and his quarterback sons, instead, we all got something more extraordinary…..it was a film about fatherhood, how he gave his kids unconditional support and love. It gave us a glimpse into the lives of good people trying to live productive lives, raise men of character, overcoming obstacles, and through it all, loving one another. Oh, and do not think I do not know that the matriarch Olivia is the glue that holds this family together. Set your DVRs, it is wonderful.
Football and interior design, I can not say I live a boring life here on the park.
Where has The Park Wife been? Well, aside of keeping busy with my state-focused blog communities (go check out Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi Women Bloggers), I packed every belonging we have in too many boxes and we moved!
Everything my husband has done for the past 15 years in state parks was to be where we are today, this was his first park, his first park love, and our Arkansas home. He has worked HARD, listened and learned from some very wise long-time park superintendents, kept his integrity through some very tough times, and established a reputation for being fair, honest, and a great leader. He started work yesterday as the Superintendent of THE premier park in our state. I am so proud of him. Of course, he could not have done it without such a supportive, encouraging wife who believes he is pretty awesome (yea, yea).
Our home at the last park was wonderful; somewhat new, big, spacious, very nice. Our house here is going to be renovated after the superintendent who just retired moves out. So, we are living in a small cabin for a few months (they say a few months, I am already deciding where to put the Christmas tree). Yes, a small cabin with two little boys and my husband. Help me now. Prayers accepted.
Sure, it is quaint, it is like being on vacation at a park for 3 or 4 months. Living simply, enjoying the park, and each other. It is kind of cool. We have hiked trails, rode bikes, fished, and more.
Now, before you go off thinking of how wonderful this is and you wish that you could do this, there is a downside, yes, we have boarders. They live in our attic and they are not welcome here.
Recently, I saw an article with the topic “do we ever leave high school”? This article made me think of how those three years (our freshman year was at a different school) had more impact on my personality and who I am than any other three years of my life (even those first few years with my babies, oh wait, I was so sleep deprived, I am not sure what impact those had, I am still trying to catch up on sleep). I think high school was this way for many people.
I have talked about growing up in my Mississippi town full of quirk, fun, and a lot of deep southern traditions. It was a great place to be from, a place where your bosoms can be fake, your smile can be fake, and your hair color fake, but your pearls and silver must always be real.
I have a story I was saving for my book, but good grief, I am a blogger, I can’t hold much back. Now, let me start by saying, I did not find out what my mother did that forever molded me into the woman I am until I was 35. Yes ma’am, my southern mama who says Bless Her Heart at least 5 times a day, works in the court where they do divorces and commit “crazy” people so she knows everyone’s business in town, kept a secret from me for 20 years! Amazing. But, as a mother now, I understand.
The Summer after your 9th grade year in my hometown is a big year for all girls. It is the year that you pledge for a high school sorority, well, they call it a social club, but let’s just call it what it is, a sorority. You usually know which group you will pledge, it is with the group you have been with since you were in first grade at Poplar Springs Elementary. So, here is where things got a little “off”. See, I made football cheerleader at THE high school. There were only two sophomore spots and I and a girl from the school across town earned those spots. (Thank you mom for all those years of gymnastics and time spent helping me learn to sparkle).
This pretty much ensured that I would be picked for the social club all the girls in my group wanted in, the one all the cheerleaders were in.
That is when things changed. A few of the girls I had been friends with since our finger-painting days started to leave me out. There were sleepovers that I was not invited to, even birthday parties whose invitations must have got lost in the mail. Weird. Then, a couple of the girls became real catty with me. This continued as we started our years of high school. Now, one of these girls knew how to work the social ladder, she talked behind my back, told lies about me to get others to like her more. It hurt my feelings, but I rolled with it (after many tears).
I became friends with girls that were not in “the” popular clique, some from the other social club in town, and of course, I had a few true friends in my social club group. When we graduated and the majority of the girls from my social club went off to Ole Miss, I chose University of Southern Mississippi and am so thankful God led me there. It allowed me to choose my path, not the one laid out for me at my mom’s baby shower for me.
So, here is the BIG SECRET that I learned 20 years later: right after I made cheerleader at THE high school, one of the catty girls mom from my “group” called my mother to tell her that her daughter and I needed to get together more, do more things together, and wanted me to spend the night that weekend. I had never spent the night at this girls house. She pretty much told my mom that she and my mom needed to form an alliance and get these girls into THE social club.
And……my mother told her NO.
My sweet mom who sacrificed everything to raise my brothers and I, to give me the opportunities like being in THE social club, knew that I would not find my way in life and to be truly who God created me to be if she forced me to be someone who I was not. (Plus, I think it made her mad at the audacity of this woman)
Of course, the social-climbing, busy body mom was only trying to do what she felt was best for her daughter. She then called another mom who gave into her pressure and those two girls were the ones who were so unkind to me throughout high school.
So, thank you mother for not yielding to MOM PEER PRESSURE and teaching me to seek out true friends based on their character, to find kindness, beauty, and love for myself.
My mom truly gave me roots and wings, and without those wings I would be grounded in a little box and missing out on this grand adventure.
The parades are in full swing, people are getting all decked out for the balls, and I am not in New Orleans.
So, to make myself feel better, I am going to make us some gumbo and a King Cake today and throw beads at the boys.
In honor of Carnival Season, a look back at a post from Mardi Gras three years ago.
Happy Mardi Gras!
I grew up in Mississippi and went to college only a hour and a half from New Orleans. Needless to say, it was way too close sometimes (when it came to studying for Statistics and I wanted to run away) and now it is way too far.
Our boys have never been there. All they know of the city is that my college roommate Olga lives there, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and of course, the triumph of the SAINTS (whew, you can tell this is an old post, our poor Saints). It was high time they “saw” some of New Orleans that I have experienced. So, last week the boys and I focused our homeschool work on everything New Orleans.
Hold on, don’t go there, I did not share the irreverence or debauchery that many associate with the city or in actuality with Mardi Gras, but all the things I think of when I think of NOLA -its rich history, the music, the food, the culture, the architecture. Oh, how I love the plantations and the garden district.
We planned our meals around our studies, with red beans and rice, shrimp po-boys and of course, King Cake. When I went to NOLA for my first Mardi Gras with Olga, her mom sent us to the bakery to pick up a King Cake. I was real confused, why in the world would her mom want a cake with Elvis on it? It was not until we got to the bakery and Olga explained it to me, that I understood it. That is a true story. Plenty of Southern culture, just not any NOLA culture. That was remedied.
We finished our week of studying New Orleans with a Superbowl party at some of our friends home. We had wonderful food, kids had a blast with two great friends and we cheered the Saints to victory.
Four precious boys yelling “throw me something mister!” Yes, they had WhoDat and a Fleur De Lis painted on their faces. So much FUN!
I love the charm of New Orleans. It is a laid back atmosphere where you can just sit back and enjoy, letting your surroundings filter through all your senses. One day I will sit with my boys in Uptown watching the streetcars while eating some crawfish etouffee and listening to some Louis Armstrong or Harry Connick Jr. so they can experience the New Orleans I love.
Laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll),
I am so out of the loop musically. After years of listening to Veggie Tales songs with toddlers, we moved to the Ozarks and our boys began playing old-time, folk, and bluegreass music. My life is filled with music, but I need some variety. I REALLY need some variety.
So, music recommendations please! Now, rap makes me cringe and any songs that have offensive language is not cool since I will be dancing crazily in my kitchen with my kids, plus that is just not my style. Oh! and no boy bands, NSYNC rocked my high school years (no judgement please), but no thanks in this season of life.