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I Am Thankful For {Opening Up Today}

Today’s ThanksBlogging topic at AWB is “I AM THANKFUL FOR”

I thought about giving you a numbered list, but it could go on so long it would actually be Thanksgiving before you finished reading it.

Then, I thought about referring you to old posts since my blog is a love letter to my husband and children, that list could get a bit crazy long  also.

If you know me, or read here, you know I am most thankful for God’s grace, His mercy, and the desire to know Him and love Him more each day.

With all that said, here we go……

See, it is hard some times being a gypsy. I love to move to and experience new places (which are usually very small towns) and am blessed that my hubby is my best friend and our kiddos rock so I have a strong core family.  But, with each move, I have to start anew meeting women/finding girlfriends. Sounds easy for someone outgoing and on the lookout for fun, right? Well, not so much actually.

Here goes some brutal honesty, opening up like I have not before on here.

I am in a strange situation. Yes, I homeschool our children and I LOVE the Lord…….

BUT……

We do not attend a bricks and mortar church, nope, He does not have us in organized religion right now. WAIT!! Breathe!! Stop the judging!!! Do not start planning your intervention nor planning your emails with scripture lined out on how wrong we are.

O.K., we can proceed.

So, if you are a homeschool mom and are not part of a church,  that takes out a huge group of potential friends in a new town (note: not because I have a problem with them being churchgoers). Plus,  I do not wear blue jean skirts or jumpers so I am considered immodest to one faction of homeschool women.  Yep, another group that does not want to hang with me. Oh, plus I like an occasional glass of  wine with a nice dinner, yep, there go people of certain religions.

Then there are the non-homeschooler women who think I have lost my mind to homeschool or think I have a problem with them sending their kids to school, which I DO NOT, at all. The numbers are dwindling.

But, over time, a few beautiful souls in these towns emerge who accept me. Yes, some are homeschool moms (that are churchgoers), some are grandmothers, some are just plain fun people that love beyond stereotypes.

This was part of the reason I started Arkansas Women Bloggers, I just knew that I was not the only woman out there like me. I was right! That little project has grown into a beautiful place of non-judgement, where over 300 women have come together to encourage, grow, and genuinely help other women tell their stories. We are launching a group in Oklahoma soon and I look forward to watching those women gather, grow, and connect with each other.

Photo by the beautiful Amy James of Our Everyday Dinners

Today, I am thankful for women bloggers who reach out beyond their computer screen to get to know me in real life, who accept me for who I am.

Fawn, Julie,  Beth,  Amy J., Stephanie Mc, Gina K,  Lyndi, oh the list goes on and on.

I love and am thankful for each and every one of you!
The Park Wife

 

CountryOutfitter.com Giveaway at The Park Wife

How excited would you be if you were planning a big ole’ blog conference and a super cool company said “we would like to give boots to all your fab women blogger attendees? Also, we would like to give them a $150 gift card so they can give away a pair on their blog.”

SERIOUSLY?

Well, there is this innovative company…what? Oh, you have seen them on Facebook? Um, that would be because they are rocking the social media world. Yea, from around 700 likes earlier this year to 3,714,296 likes (as of 11.8.12), thanks to great management, a cool staff, an extraordinary social media gal, and most importantly, wonderful products. Yes ma’am (or sir for all two of my male readers), it is CountryOutfitter.com

 Before this year’s Arkansas Women Bloggers Conference, I was sporting  some awesome Lucchese (I pronounce it “Loo-kay-see“, others that might not be from as Deep in the South as I am may say “Loo-chess“) boots. I totally lucked up on those babies. I like the toe, the color, the detail, and then after wearing them to farm and work at the farmers market for three years, the weathered look is beautiful! Yes, even with a skirt, no, especially with a skirt.

 

Then,  these comfy, square toe babies came into my life. They are like wearing your favorite tennis shoes, yes, that comfortable. They are Ariat’s. Like butter baby.

Now for the fun part, Country Outfitter is giving YOU a chance to win a $150 gift certificate to go shopping on them!

You could pick these lovely Women’s Quickdraw 11″ Boot – Brown Oiled Rowdy/Sapphire Blue or something completely different.

We are making it soooo simple for you to enter in just two little steps.

1. Click here & submit your email address to Country Outfitter (You’ll get occasional emails from Country Outfitters about new arrivals and sales, and MORE Giveaways.).

2. Leave a comment here on this blog post letting me know you submitted your email to Country Outfitter.

Oh wait, to give you a boot up…..

Extra entries for the following:

1. Like The Park Wife on Facebook (you’ll find a bunch more boot giveaways posted there because that is how I roll)

2. Follow me on Twitter.

Leave a separate comment for each of these entries.

This giveaway will end at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving (November 22, 2012), a random winner will be chosen and I will announce the lucky winner on Black Friday. Then, let the real shopping begin! Good Luck!

Riding the wave of Country Outfitter awesomeness in my Ariat boots! Yeehaw,
The Park Wife

 

Disclosure: Country Outfitter provided me with a pair of Ariat Boots during the Arkansas Women Bloggers Conference this year. I didn’t get jack for this post. I totally volunteered to do this giveaway because I love boots and my sweet friends at Countryoutfitter.com. Also,  I love you guys, the readers of my blog, and want to share! Ok, yeah, and of course Country Outfitter is awesome enough to let me do this giveaway, they love me, they really, really love me.  

 

My Time With Ree, The Pioneer Woman

I have gushed often on my blog about Ree, yes,  The Pioneer Woman.  Way back in 2007 (a long time ago in the blog world), I campaigned for her best friend spot, then I went to her book signing in Little Rock, oh, and my blog went crazy when in her recap post she added that I was her “old internet friend”. She has sent me P-Dub t-shirts and many signed cookbooks to giveaway over on that little thing I started that has kind of gone big Arkansas Women Bloggers.

So, when my new friends Stephanie at Evolved Mommy and Amy at Our Everyday Dinners said they were going to the Aiming Low Noncon Conference at Callaway Gardens in Georgia and Ree was the keynote speaker, I invited myself. I know, I know, Emily Post and my grandmother are flipping in their graves right now.  But, they said yes!

It was extraordinary. These girls are fabulous and ALERT THE MEDIA (well, or the state police), we are hatching some cool plans for the future together.

Amy, Me, & the other Stephanie

Yes, then there was Ree.

The three of us Arkansas gals and Ree were able to sit down and talk for about an hour together. There was talk of the Real Housewives, blogging, tattoos and plastic surgery, and other cool things like Country Outfitter boots.  Yes, she now is in possession of an Arkansas Women Bloggers t-shirt. She wanted to know if she could wear it if she was not an Arkansas blogger, ummm… of course, and hint, hint, I might just be working on some Oklahoma Women Bloggers organization right now. oooohhh… and Misouri Women Bloggers……

Ree is everything I imagined she would be. She is kind, smart, funny, just a sweet, beautiful soul. I could gush on and on, yes, like always.

And, my Arkansas gals I went with…..I might tear up thinking of my kindred spirits. Well, really “I want to cry, but I am a food blogger” bwaaaahahaha sorry Amy, had to go there.

Yet again, I am thankful and blessed by women that the blog world has brought to me,
The Park Wife

 

 

Charlie Daniels Band Inspiration

I know I often gush about the park where we live and our town that supports passing on the love of music to the next generation by giving FREE lessons and a loaner instrument to ANY child in our area that wants to learn. The Music Roots Program has 250 kids in it (we only have about 3,000 people in our town).Yes, that is pretty extraordinary.  Also, The Buckaroo’s are given opportunities to meet some really cool people since their daddy is the park superintendent.

This past weekend, they went to their very first concert and I can not think of a better one for it to have been than the legendary Charlie Daniels Band. We waited outside in the ‘meet and greet” line (yes, they got backstage meet and greet passes) with my friend and her daughter who is a fiddle sensation herself.  Charlie Daniels got out of the vehicle, smiled at the boys and said hello.

I was worried because people had told us of other music stars who have come here to do concerts and were not warm nor welcoming, not even to the kids carrying instruments around with them. Not Mr. Daniels. We walked into the green room and he was casual, relaxed, open, and kind.

 

He signed Little Buckaroo’s first fiddle.

He also signed photos for the boys and me. He did look at me a little funny when he asked who to sign it to and I said The Park Wife.  I thought about telling him I am a blogger and social media gal and that is my blog name, but I am almost positive he has had stranger requests.

Then, my sweet friend Clancey who has a band and is one of our main performers here at our park and all over this region, was up to meet him. He asked her if she played that fiddle and then told her to “rip one off” for him.  And, that she did.  Big things are going to happen for this young lady, she is only 14.

The intro music started,  the band began and out comes Charlie Daniels with fiddle in hand – and let me tell you for a man that I believe is 75 (or even for a 25 year-old), EXTRAORDINARY!  He tore that fiddle up, worked the crowd, and then a few songs into the show, they gave him a guitar and he played the heck out of that!

The Buckaroo Boys were in awe.

 

Wow, his band. I have never seen a drummer like that (thank you to CDB drummer Pat McDonald  for giving our boys your drum sticks after the show, yes, they were beat up pretty good). The keyboarder Shannon Wickline came out after the show and talked to Clancey, that meant a lot to a young lady interested in following in their footsteps. Good, kind people.

Now, seriously, this picture is blurry, but look at that bow, he was playing The Devil Went Down to Georgia, enough said.

Charlie Daniels loves the Lord, loves our country, and loves his wife that he celebrated 48 years of marriage the day before he performed here. Thankful that our boys were introduced to live music by such a fine man and his band.

Blessings and fiddles on fire,
The Park Wife

Our Second #AWBU Conference Is Here!

We have 70 of the coolest of the cool, best of the best women bloggers/social media mavens from across our state (plus one from Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma) descending upon the Ozark Folk Center State Park tomorrow! I am beyond excited to see all my gals and meet new ones.

We are providing an uplifting gathering for women to support and encourage each other in building blogs that fit their lives, personal goals and values.  It is a smaller conference where women feel they can make themselves at home, enjoy a rich weekend of blog-worthy experiences and deep connections with others in addition to learning opportunities, that is the whole reason behind why I started this group three years ago. This makes my heart happy.

The event’s keynote speaker is author and blogger Lela Davidson, who has built a multi-media platform with her lively, honest content and playful perspective on modern family life, marriage, our super social times,and the challenges of being over-40 in a Botox world. I am so excited to meet her, I think she might be my soul sistah!

New this year is our Foodie Friday pre-event where 30 of the state’s notable women food writers and bloggers will be led by the extraordinary Lyndi Fultz (nwaFoodie) and my go-to-gal Julie Kohl (EggsandHerbs and Arkansas Women Bloggers Editorial Board member). The Foodie Friday program is presented by Ziploc® VersaGlass Containers, Ziploc® Short Life Containers (www.Ziploc.com) who sent me 114 boxes of goodies, yes the Fed Ex man is still rolling his eyes at me.  And also, Arkansas Farm Bureau  (www.ARFB.com) who does a wonderful job supporting and promoting Arkansas farmers, oh yes, you know I love me some farmers!

Face it ladies (and my few male readers, um..my brothers and friend Taz), women bloggers are a significant force to be reckoned with in 2012 and beyond. We are the most powerful consumers in the world, and those who have harnessed the tools of social media are an especially important demographic. Many brands and businesses are using these effective influencers to build personality, loyalty, and sales for their product. For example, the conference is presented by:

  • Healthy Families (www.HealthyFamiliesNow.net/ebooks), an initiative of the Arkansas Department of Human Services that produces the free Happy Birthday Baby books to provide resources for healthy pregnancies, babies and families. I so wish I would have had this when I was pregnant, but these books will be in all of my baby shower presents from now on.
  • The Porch Swing Sponsor is Country Outfitter (www.CountryOutfitter.com), a Fayetteville-based online retailer of boots and Western wear. They are giving all our attendees a pair of boots, yes, you read that right. And, they are giving us all a pair to give away on our blogs. I will start taking bribes as of today, haha.

Additional conference sponsors include a number of Arkansas-based companies and innovative organizations that understand the value of social media and blogger marketing:

  • All You Magazine,
  • Petit Jean Meats (Morrilton),
  • Yarnell’s Ice Cream (Searcy), and
  •  Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (Little Rock)

Oh, and you do not want to get me started on the SWAG! Let me just say some thank you’s to nwaMotherlode.com, P. Allen Smith, The Pioneer Woman, Loco Ropes,  Glory Garden  Boxes, Microplane, Le Mystere, Mrs. Myers Clean Day, SYSCO, and MORE!!!!

Watch Facebook and Twitter this weekend for all the fun and no worries, there will be several re-caps in the weeks to come.

This is  kind of  a big deal,
The Park Wife

Country Outfitter’s Boots for my Blog Homies

So, I have this little thing, sort of a group, I started.  I am sure I have told you about it. You know how we Southern girls  are, we love a group, how do you think sororities began? We look for a place to belong, a soft place to fall in this crazy world. And, hey the blog world is not different.  Anyway, I started a group a few years ago for women bloggers in our state, hence the name Arkansas Women Bloggers, I am creative like that. I wrangled some other bloggity gals to help me, Fawn (who recently ran away, well, she moved to Missouri), Julie, and Beth.  We  provided a place online for bloggers to gather, grow, and connect, we even had a few organized meet-ups. Then, last year we had our first Arkansas Women Bloggers conference.  We hooted, we hollered, we bonded, we learned more about blogging, we even did a craft (after I stopped twitching when they handed me those scissors that cut decorative shapes). We unplugged our computers and plugged into nature and each other. It was a huge success.

So, we are preparing for our 2nd Arkansas Women Bloggers Conference August 24-26.  But, nothing prepared me for our incredible sponsors. My oh my, our little group is rockin’ the blog world ladies.

One of our sponsors is……

AND, sweet mercy, every registered conference attendee is eligible to receive TWO pairs of Country Outfitter boots valued at up to $150 each! One for them, and one as a giveaway for their blog! Yes ma’am, you read that right. That totals more than it even cost for our registration, food, and lodging combined.

So, I have spent 3 days trying to figure out which ones I want, they are all so fab!

See, I already have some Lucchese awesomeness.

I LOVE these boots. But, I want something different, what should I choose????

I am going crazy, I can not decide.

Please help a sistah out! Go over to Country Outfitters, and tell me what I should choose.  Oh, and we still have room at the conference, and no you do not have to be from Arkansas, we had a Kansas gal register yesterday. Hop over to Arkansas Women Bloggers to register.

Need some boots that are made for walkin’,
The Park Wife

Old Park Wife Had a Farm

It is Flashback Friday, so here is an oldie but a goodie. Now that we have moved to a new park where all we have is a fish (he jumped ship) and a kitten, I like to look back at our former farm life and dream of what is to come as we work on Rockwell,  our one day in the future, when the hubby retires, sustainable farm.

Never did I think when I was living in Memphis that I would ever, ever, ever, did I say EVER? have farm animals. If you asked anyone I grew up with, my college roommates, or my colleagues in Memphis if they thought The Park Wife would have any type of animal they would, after verifying the information because of disbelief, laugh hysterically. Actually, if you told them back then that I would live on a state park, they would have told you that you had me confused with some other girl. One that wore jeans, boots, and t-shirts that said things like “Buy Organic” or “Let’s Go Hiking”.

But, here I am……The Park Wife….with a house full of boys and a yard full of animals. You have met some of our brood through previous posts, but today, we have 2 new little friends to introduce you to. But first, let’s refresh your memory.


This is Tom, he has a surrey-pulling partner named Pete that also lives in our pasture. They got a little unruly, scared the surrey driver, so they have been “retired” to our pasture, they have been here for a couple of years now. SCRATCH THAT – Big Buckaroo just told me as he was reading over my shoulder that they were sold a couple of weeks ago and are not out there any more. People, I have so many animals that I did not even know they were gone.

This is Jill, the retired Civil War Reenactor horse that lives in one of our pastures. Yes, there is such a thing, I would not have believed it either before relocating to this historical park. She is so used to hearing gunfire and cannons that the noise the Little Buckaroo’s make out in the the yard all day does not bother her. Her owner works at the Park, but she has pretty much become our sweet ole gal.

Here are our laying hens, yes, FRESH eggs. Aside of the Rooster who gets night and day confused a lot (earplugs are on my next grocery list), they are not much trouble. Plus, they multi-task, we put them on our garden in early Spring to dig up weeds (although my garden is still covered in them) and to fertilize.

Here are our goats, Huck and Tom. They are very gentle and sweet. They really serve no purpose except we take them to the Park on “vacation” so that they can be seen and petted by tourist at the historical homesteads.

Speaking of no purpose animals, this is Lucky. And, let me tell you, he is lucky, lucky to be alive. His manners are horrible, he gets real excited and jumps on visitor’s often. The poor Dish Network guy was getting out of his truck and he jumped so high trying to get petted that the guy caught him in the air. Oh, and the electric meter reader was so “afraid” of him that he got a remote reader installed at our house so he does not have to come through our gate and be confronted by this BAD DOG. I find this hilarious, aside of licking you to death or knocking you over trying to get your attention to pet him, he is harmless.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to Frank and Lucy.


The picture is not great, but hey, it is my first time taking a picture of pigs. Well, unless you count that last Mississippi family reunion we went to where Uncle….. oh, never mind, that is just not nice. (Hey, I am kidding, I have not been to a family reunion in Mississippi in years.)

Anyway, welcome Frank and Lucy to the Old Park Wife’s Farm. Now, as you know, we raise our own pastured poultry, buy grass-fed beef from some friends, and now, there is Frank and Tom if you know what I mean. If you don’t, that means don’t get too attached they will be “going away” in a few months.

With an oink-oink here and and oink-oink there,
The Park Wife

Remembering Andy Griffith

Simplicity, kindness, love for your neighbor – that is what I think of when I think of The Andy Griffith Show.  When I heard Andy Griffith passed away this morning, it made me sad.

I lead somewhat of a Mayberry existence, but that is only due to our desire for it, the intentional pursuit of it, and most of all, the blessing of the life we have been given in small towns full of warm, sometimes eccentric people (yes, yes, there are crazy, mean people too, we try our best to avoid them).

We own all the season’s of TAGS and our boys love to watch them. Unlike most the horrendous stuff on television today, it was about man’s humanity toward one another. The characters did ordinary things, such as making pies, going to the movies, singing in the choir, and sitting on the porch on a summer night.  The show NEVER had a curse word, very little reference at all to sex, and about the extent of violence was Barney shooting his foot, it was a great show.

So, to Andy Griffith:
Every time our oldest boy does something so very Opie-like (which happens often) and when I  see our youngest who always seems to have one of the cuffs of his pants stuck in his boots, I will think of you.

When the boys play Boil Them Cabbage Down on their fiddle and banjo, I will think of you and the Darling family’s jam session at the jail. When we go to the soda fountain for ice cream, we will remember. And, during so many more wonderful, ordinary things and times, we will remember.

Thank you, Andy Griffith, for enriching our lives so much with your talent and your vision. And for letting us spend thirty minutes in your Mayberry.

Whistling TAGS theme,
The Park Wife

Enter As Friends, Leave As Family

Big Buckaroo is from Louisiana, I am from Mississippi, we met in Tennessee and live in Arkansas.  Yes, we have the South and its wonderful culture covered. But, that also means that we live in a state where we did not grow up, so we have no family around. That is tough at times (then there are the other times that it definitely is not,  just kidding, sort of). We are fortunate that my mother comes for a week about three times a year and always joins us on vacation. She is an extraordinary grandma, but lives too far away.

Big Buckaroo lived many years with his grandparents and I grew up next door to mine. Multi-generational families under one roof or next door to each other was common-place when we were growing up. Sadly, that is not as common these days.  At times, it seems sad that we do not have a family support system close, but on the flip side it has made our little family of four closer and stronger.   We love the vibe of our core family and thankfully at every place (three state parks now) we have been, God has brought people into our lives that have become like family. Our boys have an Arkansas Nana and Pa and many “Aunts” and Uncles”.

They also have a Ms G. who lives in the historic village that surrounds the state park we just moved from and she came to see us at our new park last week.

We did all the touristy stuff in our little touristy town. The old general store with the cool owner who brought his old truck out for the Buckaroos and Ms. G to see while drinking root beer, making memories people.

Of course, an impromptu jam session was in order.

And some ice cream at  the pharmacy/soda fountain.

Everyone should learn a new instrument when they come to our very musical town. Ms. G, who is very talented musically, chose the spoons.

Her favorite part, aside of just being with us, was spending the day at our park. Fun was had by all, we are already planning her next visit.

Family is built on love, trust, and experience, not always on DNA,
The Park Wife