Last week, I had my first radio interview as the Taste Arkansas blog gal. They wanted to talk holiday food, gifts, and Arkansas. So, I went a step further and curated a huge list of Arkansas products, producers, craftsmen, Etsy gals, authors, and more. I love to buy local and want others to see the beautiful things we are producing right here in the Natural State.
It has been a busy holiday season and well, I can not wait for even more. Spending time with good people, celebrating our Savior’s birth, making friends delicious food, and a lot of dirty dishes (o.k. that I could live without the dishes).
After years of avoiding it, I finally mastered the pecan pie. Hop over to my post on Taste Arkansas where I talk about what I call Candy with a Crust. One note: I made another one yesterday in my cast iron skillet, so much better than a pie plate.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” -Psalm 34:8
The Park Wife
I have some wonderful women in my real life brought to me through the blog world. They are women that are there for each other in good times and bad. And, during the holidays, we make sure to lift each other up and celebrate the season. This is my tribe.
For the third year, Arkansas Women Bloggers had an ornament exchange. I always love to see whose name I get, it brings another lady into my world up close and personal. This year I got my new friend Brittney, AKA Razorback Britt. Now, bless her heart, I am not crafty, those fancy shaped scissors freak me out and you do not want to get me started on glitter. It has been banned in our home.
So, I did the best I could. I know Britt’s favorite color is leopard. She is so trendy and cute, so I went with trying to make a leopard purse.
I had to “borrow” this pic from Britt’s blog because in true The Park Wife fashion, I forgot to take a picture before I sent it off.
Full disclosure: Britt is also a Zumba gal. I tried making her a Zumba ornament. It got ugly. No, seriously ugly. I stepped out of my “no glitter rule” and bought glitter glue. It ran, did not dry over a two-day period. Sorry Britt, I did not send you that monstrosity (because it was STILL wet and would have stuck to everything).
****The winners of the Georgia Pellegrini books are Jeanetta and Teresa Stout. Please email me your address to firstname.lastname@example.org.****
A post where I will gush about people I love and give away TWO of Georgia Pellegrini’s books.
One of the many benefits of being a talent agency for bloggers is that I get to meet some wonderful people from great companies. As I have scaled back from blogger/influencer world domination, I have focused on working with people who make my heart happy, companies that are doing great things, companies that I can help because we have built a deeply-connected COMMUNITY of highly creative individuals that help each other, build one another up, and we use those true relationships to work with companies to help them tell their stories.
I was very excited last year when Riceland signed on as a sponsor of the 2014 Arkansas Women Bloggers University (AWBU) conference. They were one of my missing pieces of companies in Arkansas that I personally wanted to work with and one that I thought the Arkansas Women Bloggers could impact and be the social media megaphone for. It was a great conference where Riceland saw the power of our community.
So then, they invited us to the Delta.
The day after Thanksgiving, I packed my camo, some plaid, a Y’all sweatshirt (of course), my camera and my family and we headed to Stuttgart for the World Championship Duck Calling Contest.
It was my first adventure to Stuttgart, the “Rice and Duck Capital of the World”, and it was so much fun. On Friday night, Riceland President Danny Kennedy hosted a small gathering of some Riceland employees and their families, champion angler Scott Rook and his family, and two of my bloggers came in early with their families. (Sidenote: I love that blogger families are meeting up and becoming friends.)
The food was amazing thanks to Riceland’s Barbecue King Louis Cole, people laughed, talked, and enjoyed each others company. Here is what I took away from my inside look that evening ~ Riceland employees are a family, they genuinely like to be around one another and support one another. They are a company run by farm families and I believe that atmosphere is cultivated and promoted from the top, Danny Kennedy, and I am not saying that just because he is a Mississippi State guy, well it helps.
Riceland provides marketing services for rice, soybeans and wheat grown by its 5,500 farmer-members in Arkansas and Missouri. They are the world’s largest miller and marketer of rice. The WORLDS! Right here in Arkansas. Yes, they make me even more proud to be an Arkansan.
It is no surprise to me that they hired Robin Devore as their Director of Marketing Communications last year. When we met at AWBU, I knew she and I were going to be friends, not just work related talk, but true, in my life friends. Sometimes you just connect with people, and her heart for what she does and for people is contageous. She did an amazing job putting together Riceland’s presence at the festival and she is getting the hang of this social media stuff. As is her boss Bill, who is now a Twitter expert after hanging with us for a day.
And, then there was Georgia Pellegrini.
It is no secret that I stalk her on social media, we are similar in our love for the outdoors, good food, and opening ourselves up to hear and then tell people’s stories. She is doing some amazing things and I continually follow along as if I am at one of her Girls Adventure Weekends.
Look at her cute apron made by the amazing Debbie Arnold. Yes, she made us ALL one.
Here is some of Georgia’s liquid gold (stock) in the making.
Yes, I was giddy. I helped her make pumpkin rice pudding. YUM! Oh, and the girl does not take a bad picture, if she was not so sweet and kind, this would upset me.
We even received a duck calling lesson from Pat Peacock who has won multiple women’s division World Duck Calling Championships (1951-’55). She took the time to come teach our families the correct way to call ducks. Pat is the only woman in history to win the men’s division not only once, but twice, in 1955 and 1956, and also reigned in the 1960 men’s Champion of Champions competition.
Kat and Heather had just left and missed this picture.
Arkansas cultivates nearly 2 million acres in rice and exports a billion dollars’ worth of rice to other countries each year. Riceland is a company that is run by the farmers that are growing the food that feeds your family. Next time you are at the grocery store, grab that bag of Riceland rice. The farmers thank you.
Because it is a rainy day on the mountain and I want to spread a little sunshine, I am giving away a copy of Georgia Pellegrini’s book, Food Heroes and one of her newest book, Modern Pioneering.
To enter, tell me your favorite rice recipe in the Comments section of this post.
One entry per person, please.
Winner will be selected at random and announced next FRIDAY evening.
December has arrived and I am ready for a month of celebrating the birthdays of both of the Buckaroos and THE main guy, Jesus.
There is dancing happening to Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, cookies baking, and gifts being made and bought. I feel quiet jolly. Next week is slammed packed with holiday parties and events, and I am ready. I am going into the week prepared, well, as prepared as I get, focusing on memories, not trying to put on a show of being perfect or “put together”. Not worrying that my gifts are not enough or my decor is not Pinterest worthy.
I came across this recently and thought y’all might enjoy it as much as I do. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is one of my all-time favorites. You need a little focus and encouragement, listen to it over and over.
We had our first snow on the mountain last week. The boys were up EARLY ready to go out and play and of course, they wanted me to go out with them. My first thoughts were NOOOO….warm bed…more coffee. And, then I looked in the eyes of our baby who will be 9 years old in a few days and saw how fast it is going by.
“And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.” —IAIN THOMAS”
My life is full of thousands of demands, the majority of them resulting from choices I have made. Sometimes I feel yanked this way and that way and this way again. I get totally off-balance. Of course, as I tip the scale to completely off balanced, I always wonder how it happened. I know, it is silly, as if it was not building with every time I said the word “YES” . Y-E-S, the three-letter word that I said one too many times that week is the culprit.
I read in James 1:8 where is says “A doubleminded man (or woman) is unstable in all he does.”
There are women who always say yes to the Lord and no to the world. I am always in awe of them. Others say yes to the world, but no to the Lord. But the doubleminded woman says yes to everything. Yep, this is me.
Consequently, I am off-balance like a high wire artist that has not had enough sleep and loaded up on coffee teetering dangerously on the wire, leaning one way, then the other. Her arms flailing, yelling out for help, a cataclysmic fall waiting to happen. Oh, just a hot mess.
I do not want to be doubleminded, and I bet most of you do not either. But, how do we know when to say yes and when to say no. Oh, the question of my life sistahs. How do I say NO when it is the better answer? Should I spend more time using Evernote so I am more organized, I know that Rescuetime has highlighted my time online in a way that is not pretty. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not disciplined enough.
What I am learning as a people pleaser: If I’m always trying to meet other people’s expectations, I’m not living life for God’s priorities, but for other people’s priorities. All of my yeses are, by default, forcing me to say nos to better things.
So, I have been weeding them out.
Choosing the things that I want to do, businesses I want to work with who are morally sound, focused on people, not fame and money. Surrounding myself with people that are fountains and not drains. It is a daily battle. But, one that I am actively fighting now rather than waiting until I am so bombarded that I can not take a swing.
As we launch ourselves into holiday season hoopla, I am striving to be conscious of the things fighting for my attention. And, as I snuggle every morning with our boys and hug my husband before he leaves for work, I send up a praise for my life, place my hand over my heart and remember, this is what is important.
Staying off Pinterest until next year,
The Park Wife
My hand shook a little, I hesitated, and then signed the paperwork for Littlest Buckaroo to play pee wee tackle football.
Fear, a companion of mine, came for a long visit. I feared for his safety, feared that my baby would be scared out on the field with those big, tough 8, 9, and 10-year-olds that are twice his weight running after him, but most of all, I was worried that I’d cry and charge the field the first time he got knocked over (with my husband rushing to pull me back).
The first day of practice I hovered nervously, Big Buckaroo kept giving me “the look”, y’all know the one ladies, let him go and grow up, yea, that one. So, I parked my chair on the sidelines and watched helplessly as most of the boys were turned into little men before my very eyes. They worked those boys hard. The coaches sounded a lot like my college soccer coach; they yelled, they growled, they pushed, they barked—they got results. I have been amazed at the quality of coaching in the town of less than 1500, and the fact that these men who give so freely of their time to coach these boys, also truly care about them.
Then, the equipment came in. The first time he suited up in his bulging shoulder pads and helmet, a lump formed in my throat. It was precious and terrifying all at the same time. Only identifiable by his practice jersey number, all of them had little chicken legs coming out of those bulky football pants, my little boy instantly transformed into a fun-size NFL running back. He took to the practice field with a determined trot and within moments the first crack of a tackle resonated around the sidelines, sending chills up my spine.
Littlest Buckaroo was in hog heaven. This is what he dreams about, trains for, and talks about all. the. time.
The first game day arrived, it was a “football jamboree” with all the teams in our region coming together to play some mini-games. We traveled the 1 1/2 hours to the host town and realized we had left Littlest Buckaroo’s pads and helmet at home. Sigh… The head coach was prepared, it was evidently not his first time to deal with this type of thing. Thank goodness.
Parents filled the stands wearing their team colors, some with their sons’ jersey number (I was not that fancy, I am learning the pee wee game day style), hot dogs were roasting at the concession stand and play-by-plays were announced over the loud-speaker amid music (very loud music, I am getting old) to rile up an already excited crowd. As the new gal in town and a homeschooler, I did not know any of the other moms, so I found our team color and just plopped down by them. Some of them immediately took me in, welcomed me, and yelled for our little guy as if he were their own. (Shout out to Buffy, Kelly, Ashley, Rhonda, Jennifer)
Our boys solemnly took the field, they were focused, chanting COLTS with puffed up chests as they went through their stretching ritual. There was anxiety, a little fear, and a lot of energy. The first game, Littlest Buckaroo went out and rocked it.
And then, it happened. Littlest Buckaroo was running the ball and got slammed. He was on the ground for way too long, I was panicked. He got up, ran off the field, one of the coaches helped get his helmet off and I saw it: fear, panic, and pain on my babies face.
This marks the day that Littlest Buckaroo had his first major life challenge. Things have always come easy to him, and now he had to conquer something he felt he couldn’t, the thing I struggle with and did not want him to have to wrestle with …fear. He has had some good games and some not so good. One game he ran over 60 yards and then the next he ran out-of-bounds as soon as he was given the ball so he would not be hit. It has been a struggle, but through it all, the one thing that has prevailed is that he loves the game, he gives 100 % , and is actively working to overcome his fear.
He truly has become a warrior.
He has bonded with some of his teammates in a manner that is only achievable by going through the rigors of conditioning together, and he adores his coaches—the ones who have pushed, guided and supported him through this tough time. It has been an amazing first year experience for us.
It’s not for every kid and it’s not for every parent, but our son is a football player.
Call Bruno, I finally had my moment, yes, I am amazing.
I watched Oprah for years. I even read Ekart Tolle’s book “A New Earth” where I learned ways to break through the vanity and pride of the ego. I have heard many well-known social media superstars talk about drawing healthy boundaries. And, I know all the scriptures.
From the beginning, I knew I needed to be diligent and to protect my heart and mind from measuring my self-worth according to my number of followers or likes in this social media driven world.
I was blogging back in 2006 when I had to explain to people what a blog was. Have mercy, there are still times I do, but only once in a while. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and on and on, the pageantry of vanity is detrimental to truth, to the core of who I am. So, I have guarded myself.
Every once in a while after I worked hard on something like a conference, had Harry Connick Jr posting my blog on his Facebook, Chelsea Clinton spending the day with my family, or being published on a cover of a magazine, I would get excited for a minute and then stop myself and squelch the celebration. Fear would take hold. Watch out for haughtiness, it is so unbecoming.
I would remind myself: Wait The Park Wife! remember, you can walk in Wal-Mart and not one person knows your social media power, they have no idea of how you have gathered a group of amazing women doing amazing things in this online world, or that the Junk Gypsy’s commented on your Instagram again today.
And, I accepted my self defeat talk.
See, I was trying to be so diligent in not celebrating my successes in fear of the ego becoming a problem, that I went to the other end of the spectrum and always felt it was never good enough. That I had to talk myself down off the social media high horse.
Until the day at the bathroom at the steakhouse in Hattiesburg, MS.
We had just finished an amazing Arkansas Women Bloggers Conference, I signed a big deal with a huge marketing company to provide social media infleuncers/talent to help on campaigns, the boys were rocking on their school, hubby and I were in one of our lovey dovey stages, dang, life was good.
We were headed to the beach for a week and had stopped in Hattiesburg to have lunch with two of my brothers who live there. We all hugged, then I went to wash up in the bathroom. And, that is when it happened. KAPOW! BAM! BRUNO!
Bruno Mars song You Are Amazing, Just the Way you are was on. I listened a minute, and said heck yea man, I am freakin’ amazing. I have a husband I take great care of, I even starch his uniform shirts (not with a happy heart, but I do it), I am a great mother to two healthy, smart children who I get to homeschool and be an active part of their childhood, and then there is the group of amazing women in my life, many I have met through a blog community I founded and built. Oh wait, there are eight of those communities now. And, yes it is AMAZING. All day long sistahs.
I returned to the table, looked at my husband and said ” I am amazing”.
He looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes that spoke truth right through them and said, “well yes you are honey”. I finally got what he always tries to tell me.
It has always meant more to me that I am well thought of than well-known in this social media world. I am at heart an encourager of dreams and supporter of women. And, by golly, I think I am doing a pretty good job with that. From now on, I will celebrate it all. Rejoice in the amazing of who I am and the things He has used me to do.
For those of you struggling today about your self-worth, your weight, your inability to do it all, that you are not enough, or whatever it may be, take it from me (with a little help from Bruno), you are amazing just the way you are.
I have a little social media company that is kind of like a talent agency for bloggers. It did not start out as a business though. It began in the most authentic and beautiful way, as a community. And, it works because our primary focus is not about business, but about the mission of it being a true community.
It all started on a brisk morning over five years ago when I quickly put up a site called Arkansas Women Bloggers. I had been blogging for several years, in those days if you asked people if they knew what a blog was they looked at you with a weird look and then after you told them, they just shook their heads and said, hmmmm…o.k. Mainstream it was not.
I was sitting in rural Arkansas, had just stood in line to get Ree to sign my cookbook the night before. I wanted to connect with other bloggers, writers, anyone that I did not have to wipe their noses or tie their shoes. Ba-da-boo…ba-da-bing, three minutes later, I was on Blogspot putting up a site with the oh-so-clever name, Arkansas Women Bloggers. I really spent a lot of time deciding on the name (about 1 1/2 minutes). I was not very tech savvy, did not have a business plan nor branding plan. I just needed connections. I like flying by the seat of my pants.
One of my dearest, most supportive friends in this journey, Debbie Arnold.
Over the next year, amazing women joined. We held our first conference. It was in the woods at a retreat type of place. We bonded. Shared our stories, and helped one another to tell those stories on our blogs.
The second weekend of September of this year, we gathered for our 4th annual Arkansas Women Bloggers University Conference in Rogers. And, yes, it was amazing.
I try to explain how amazing (I use that word a lot when I describe ARWB) this group is, how the women show up, I mean really show up with open hearts and minds, they are truly there to gather, grow, and connect. In the four years of the conference, I have only had a couple of gals who did not get it. And, one was not even from Arkansas (that had more to do with her agenda and personality than the conference, oh well). Everyone is welcomed, EVERYONE. Yes, we even allowed dudes this year.
The blog world has brought many amazing women from the online world and turned them into my real life relationships. I have known @alli since we were blogging pals back in 2006, that is a long time ago in the blog world, ancient, like dinosaurs. Not that I am saying we are old Alli. Nor are we like T-Rex’s. No, just that we have been in this space a long time. O.K. I better stop now.
So, I could gush on and on about the amazingness (yes, I used tht word again) of this community, but instead, I will share with you excerpts from some of the attendees, my friends, re-cap posts:
“I’m a full fledged introvert so being around a lot of people can be very draining for me, but I found this event much less stressful than many others I’ve been to. The ARWB ladies were so open & supportive I didn’t feel like I had to perform or pretend to be someone that I was not.” ~Sarah Shotts
“You gave me inspiration, you gave me courage, and you gave me acceptance. I can’t tell you how much I needed all three.” ~Jessica Bauer
“From the moment I arrived in Rogers, Arkansas, despite having never met any of these 100 or so women (and a few men) in person, there was a spirit of support, of camaraderie, and even of accountability.” ~ Jenny Mac of Mississippi Women Bloggers
“Who knew that this conference would be life-changing? I was afforded the opportunity to be part of the opening session. During this time I introduced myself and my blog. I also told the crowd what being a member of the Arkansas Women Bloggers group means to me. As I held back the tears, I thanked the women in the room for their resources, support and abundance of information. Arkansas Women Bloggers know a lot of stuff!” Ramona Collins
“One of the best aspects of Arkansas Women Bloggers University is the people. Bloggers come from diverse backgrounds, cultures and belief systems. But there’s just something about each other that we just “get.” ~ Jamie Smith