Christmas Thoughts of 2014

In the quiet, contemplative, moments of my life, it crossed my mind, how did I become the older generation of my family? We are enjoying a cozy day in our home.  I being the crazy mom decided we should have full on Christmas dinner just the five of us.  As I was setting the table it occurred to me I have not completed this task, on my own, for years. I remember when I was delegated this chore, by the elder women of my family, attempting to keep me busy and out from under their feet.  The kitchen was a flurry of family members orchestrating the perfect meal. I was the youngest during these gatherings, with too much energy and usually “starving”.  My mom would guide me to the table with a handful of silverware, instructing me to ‘help get dinner ready’.  I, in my childhood memories, would carefully set each piece of silver in its proper place.  My little hands only able to carry a few spoons, forks, or knives at a time. Round and round the huge table I would walk, my mission clear. Now time has passed over me, blessing me with my own home, my own children, and a wisdom that only aging graces us with.  As I laid each utensil next to each plate I remembered those precious moments of my youth.  Embrace your yesterdays and live in your present.  Merry Christmas eve, eve!

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Traveling Within

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Grey veils of clouds blotted out the sun.  The rain hesitated with its exit.  I drove on.  The road is familiar, the terrain unchanged.  I maneuvered my car around slower trucks.  The radio was off, so in the quiet I could focus my rambling thoughts.  The butterflies in my stomach fluttered once again.  The closer I got to my destination the further away I wanted to be.  Hours passed.  I looked out over the horizon to see the patches of sunlight illuminating the hillsides.  The car rocketed up and over each hill.  For as much as I did not want to take this journey I also knew I needed to.

So many times in our lives we look back with regret.  Regret we didn’t say the right words, take the leap of faith or just physically be near someone.  I speak of travel often as a movement, “point A to point B” yet travel is so much more than moving yourself to another location.  Your inner thoughts travel as well.  Look back at an event in your life and see each stop in your mind’s eye.  You did not simply move in one linear direction.  Your thoughts on the event begin, then a process of decisions are consciously or sub-consciously made, which usually changes the course of your physical path, and maybe after some time the thought becomes reality within the outer event. Our thoughts are traveling just as our bodies travel.

At the conclusion of my day, I looked back with fondness at the journey my thoughts had been on and although my wants could not match my needs, I felt a weight lifted to make room for some much-needed peace.  My traveling thoughts were home again.

Travel well my friends!

Bring Home Travel

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“Every step we take is a step closer to discovering who we are meant to be.”

Our travels with Soul Experiences takes us all over this vast world.  It is sheer joy to experience new destinations with fellow travelers.  Immersing yourself in another culture with patience and understanding feels easier to accomplish when you are not alone.  While we journey to our next discovery our feet trod across any number of surfaces.  Who walked here before us?  What did this road look like before it was paved?  Where will this path lead?  Our feet kiss the earth with determination, taking with them every place we have graced.

It is a soulful moment when you arrive home only to find you have brought a little of the foreign land with you.  As you wash your travel worn clothes, unpacking all your treasures, settling back into your ‘real’ life, you reveal to yourself the magic of a smear of mud.  Not just the grime of the place you call home but the smudge from half a world away.  

The rejuvenation of travel feeds our spirits, our souls, the part of us that makes us…us.  Bringing home the experiences of our travels reminds we must move forward everyday.  Moving ever toward the person we are meant to become.

Travel well my friends.  

Off The Beaten Path

TRAVEL UPDATE!

North Central Kansas was reviewed last week.  I will showcase Iowa highlights this week.  It was a great weekend, albeit speedy, in Iowa!  Below is the original post that kicked off my Great Plains “off the beaten path” reviews.  We have only just begun with Kansas and Iowa.  Stay tuned, more to come!

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I use the phrase, “off the beaten path” often.  I value the adventure of discovery.  I enjoy finding new, seldom explored areas.  I venture away from the norm and I love sharing my explorations with anyone who will listen to my exuberance.

I am a native Nebraskan.  I have lived in this state my whole life.  It is a perfect location for this wandering traveler.  I am centrally located in the United States, I enjoy white Christmases and hot summers, that remind me of my love of winter.  The cost of living in Nebraska is low, owning an acreage is a reasonable goal.  I have wide open vistas in my backyard, trees that tower over my neighborhood and history that is as boundless as the open skies above us.

I feel The Great Plains are the most overlooked travel destination in the continental US.  It is my favorite “off the beaten path” area.  For the next few weeks I will be highlighting some of  my top picks for fun travel adventures in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Colorado.  I hope to share with you insights to unexplored or seldom explored areas with the intention of sparking travel desires for you.  Most of the highlights will also be sneak peeks of 2015 for Soul Experiences.  So if have not traveled with us yet or haven’t traveled with a group, this may be the preview you need to embrace a new form of traveling.  Come along with us as we search The Great Plains and beyond for “off the beaten path” journeys.

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Childhood Memories

Memories flood in like waves rushing to kiss sandy toes.

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The stage looks the same.  Towers of concrete and metal, sturdy.  Then the art designers are unleashed upon their ‘canvas’.  The soaring metal trusses are adorned with colorful lights.  The pillars of man made stone are converted into a lush growing forest then transformed into a majestic castle, then back to a forest again.  Scenes played out from stories written ages ago.  A different world emerging with each minute that passes by. 

The orchestra is warming up in the pit.  Melodic sounds emanating from the depths below the crowd.  I remember, as a child, wondering why the musicians were confined to performing under the stage.  It seemed like a moat in front of the stage that held the audience back from the performers. 

The sun is still shining over the age old pine trees.  It is warm but it has been worse.  We spread our blanket in front of wood slatted bench.  The benches are the same, many are missing, replaced by open grass areas where patrons place their camp chairs with cup holders and reclining backs.  The benches have been painted the same shade of green over and over again.  Some things never change.

My teenagers flop onto the bench unimpressed by the lack of cell service and country music playing over the loud speakers.  I gleefully chatter on about my past experiences here at Lincoln’s outdoor amphitheater, Pinewood Bowl.  This is the 65th year of productions at Pioneer’s Park Pinewood Bowl.  I don’t think my father has missed more than half a dozen performances.  This was the big summer family event for our family.  Mom would pop bags of popcorn (not microwave style, that wasn’t mainstream yet, air-popped corn, then transferred to plastic bags).  The large Coleman cooler would get filled with water and each of us kids would be asked if we had a plastic cup ready to take with us, because, “We are not buying anything while we are there.”  I still begged.

My first memory of Pinewood Bowl was Annie, Get Your Gun!   I remember the strength of the characters, amazingly rough costumes, and the blank fired from a stage-gun into the metal rafters where a fake bird was then dropped onto the stage.  Creating the illusion, to this small girl, of a true huntress displaying her skill with a weapon.

The list of plays I have witnessed is a long introduction to stage theater for me.  The King and I, Guys and Dolls, Cats, Beauty and The Beast, Annie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers…..the list goes on and on.  And now I can add Shrek to my viewing memories.  This is an especially meaningful musical for me.

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My teenagers were just small little ones when Shrek burst on to the big screen in all it’s green glory, toting a furry donkey with it.  I was unsure as a new mother if a movie, even a children’s cartoon, with Eddie Murphy as a voice character would be appropriate for my young impressionable children (enter new mom scorn).  I admit to viewing this particular movie more times than I can count.  We treated ourselves to seeing it in the theater then buying not one but both the soundtracks and keeping those in the minivan, always.  When the VHS (yes I wrote that right) was released we plunked down our hard earned cash for a copy.  This was the movie that just never wore out.  We enjoyed it as a family, often.  So when I heard Pinewood Bowl would be doing the musical version of Shrek I couldn’t resist the opportunity to stroll down memory lane with my offspring once again.

As intermission approached I turned to my teenage boys, who were still sprawled on the bench, sandwiching their grandparents between them, and saw each of their faces in the fading light, remembering their childlike features molded now into young men.  They were watching intently.  I knew the memories of one of their favorite movies were flashing through their minds.  Connections from childhood to young adulthood melding their memories.

The moon began it’s rise over the pine trees, fireflies graced us with their tiny lights as the sky faded from blue to black.  The actors kept the energy of the second half rising till the big finish of the final song.  The standing ovation for the cast was well earned.  This was not an easy production to pull off and the whole cast made it look simple.  Farquaad was on his knees for his entire performance.  Donkey is of course covered in fur, on a balmy summer night in Nebraska.  Green is not the natural skin tone of any human I know and Shrek was covered in green makeup with a huge head piece to achieve his ogre like look.  Not to mention the rest of the cast in fairy dresses, long noses, armor, full body skeleton suits, and so much more.  I give many thanks to all the performers for a wonderful night of entertainment and reviving childhood memories that spark smiles in my family and I.

“Now we need to watch the movie again” was the first response as we left the amphitheater.  My smile is still glowing on my face.  Their childhood memories and mine all intertwined in my heart.

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Celebration Preparations

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This day marks the beginning of the only ten days of summer I love!  I am a snow-bunny at heart.  So when the days stretch longer and the sun over heats the earth I run for cover, better known as indoor air conditioning.  The activities of summer are fun, the vistas are brighter but the heat melts me, which in turn, makes me cranky.  I was born during one of Nebraska’s infamous heat waves.  My mother tells of how she thought it was far too hot in our house when I came home from the hospital and she promptly moved my bassinet to a prime location, in front of the window air conditioner, where I would slumber peacefully with nary a bead of sweat on my soft baby skin.  I believe my love affair with A/C started right then and there.  So from my first moments till now I have had a tumultuous relationship with warm weather.  Back to why I love these next ten days of summer…. 

Nebraska has some very strict laws about fireworks, what we can and cannot light off.  So we also have a time frame of when we can send fireballs of sparks soaring to the heavens.  Today marks the beginning of the selling season for fireworks!  Little tents have popped up all over the state.  Most of these temporary houses of splendor are decked out in red, white and blue.  With banners beckoning you to stop and spend all of your hard earned money on piles of sparklers, fountains of bursting lights and screaming smoke balls.  Parents slink by the stands praying their beloved little ones don’t notice the new structures that hold untold curiosities.  Teenagers flock to spend their fortunes on five second displays.  I, will spend time investigating the new fun just like every year.  I go into numerous tents, comparing prices, comparing quality, talking with the vendors.  This is the holiday that helps me “survive” the summer, one magical evening of fireworks.

The Fourth of July was the pinnacle of the summer for me as a child.  Our family always spent the holiday in the country with family.  Our families’ Independence Day celebrations were known across the community as the best gathering in a tri county area.  Neighbors would start gathering just after the children got up from their naps.  The farmers would come in early from the fields to scrub up and join in for the picnic.  I remember us kids running off to plan skits to perform for the “older” adults.  The food would sway the rows of tables.  It was a the start of a seemingly unending night.  Everyone brought fireworks to share and display.  We took turns lighting one spectacular explosion after another until the smallest of the children fell asleep in a grandparents arms and had to be carried to bed.  Memories like those can not be imagined they must be experienced.

So to gleefully mark the beginning of 2014 fireworks season I will stop in to the first open tent I see and let my sense of smell take me down memory lane to my favorite 2nd favorite holiday!

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The Best Nest

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Creative minds will be distracted.

I sat down with my laptop to write.  A cup of hot tea steeping next to me.  As I snuggled in I caught movement outside the window of my sunroom.  Just a flash of dusty red.  Looking closer I saw the industriousness of a small robin.  The evening before from a little different vantage point of my front porch I saw this same robin stuffing beaks full of fluff into the crook of the tree.  The leaves are just beginning to unfurl for the season, so the gray skeleton branches are still very visible.  Time after time the little bird would stuff and the fluff would fall.  Yet this morning I see that all that hard work did pay off.  For he has the start of his summer home, which I am sure he, with his she, will be very happy to raise their offspring.

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Even as a little girl I loved books.  I would beg the adults in my life to read story after story to me.  I loved being transported to another world just by a few simple pictures and words strung together.  One book in particular was read to me over and over again.  It was about two little birds who loved to sing and loved each other.  The only problem in their world was one of them wanted a new nest.  So off they flew to find the perfect place to settle in and raise their family.  They flew from location to location never finding just the right perch, something was always wrong with where they chose.  During a storm they are separated.  From the perspective of the male he is devastated.  You don’t know where she is.  He searches high and low for her trying to find his love.

***SPOILER ALERT*** 🙂

Finally after searching everywhere he thinks, he returns to the old, run, down nest he shared so many happy songs with his love only to find, she had come home to ‘The Best Nest’!  And they lived happily ever after, thankful for what they do have, each other.  Okay the words weren’t actually written that way but that is what I remember the moral of the story being.

So today as you go about your daily activities, be thankful for what you do have.  Even if it is not the fanciest, biggest or best of whatever, It is worth being thankful for.

Travel well my friends.

Blessed

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My life took a huge turn for the better a few years ago.  I do not focus on what I survived, I focus on my future.  Every now and again I stop, like I am at the crest of a hill and turn back to see where I was.  Behind me is a huge dark valley with small patches of light.  Light that I would travel to, needing to move forward with my life, but knowing I would need to trudge through the dark to get to the next tiny hill bathed in light. As I slogged through the darkness my path grew ever wider, the brambles that would snag at me, were further back from the trail I walked.  Then my path began an upward ascent, like a rock climber with no gear I scrambled ever up. I was wounded, exhausted, and raw.  I reached the top of that ridge only to be standing on the edge of a cliff, bottomless and darker than anything I have ever seen.  The winds pushed at my back encouraging me, not forcing me, to take a leap of faith.  It was a sea of black, the unknown, ready to swallow me up.  Yet something inside me reassured my soul,  ‘Just take the first step’.  So I did.  I found the moment I stepped off of the cliff I could find my feet with every step.  I was not lost in the blackness.  I was the light.  Most of the time I only had a fuzzy grey outline of the path.  But with every step it becomes clearer and clearer.  I feel I am at the crest of yet another hill.  The vantage point is vast.  The difference this time is I am not exhausted, I am energized!  On either side of me I see the people who have supported me, sometimes carrying me.  In front of me I see the wide open expanse of possibilities.  I will continue to move forward on my path and I hope we meet along the way.

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Today marks the public beginning of my business!  It is with great pride and thankfulness I, with my mother/business partner, launch Soul Experiences!  We will celebrate the “fuzzy path” with friends and family tonight.  People who have lifted us up and helped us to be what we are today.

I am blessed.  I have food to eat, a place to sleep, friends to laugh with, children to hug, parents who forgive my teenage angst, siblings to connect with over the miles, the support of the man I love and so much more!  The blessings I have outnumber the hardships and that alone is my biggest blessing.  My hope for each of you is that continue to travel to your ‘light’, counting all of your blessings along the way.

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Travel well my friends!

Community Setbacks

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While traveling through a small town I was shocked and saddened to see a shell of an old building.  The building had been gutted by fire.  The evident age of the building presents its historical significance.  A history that was erased for the next generation by an all-consuming fire, a history now only preserved in photos and recollection.

The structure was once a local watering hole.  People gathering to share stories with each other, mixing in their laughter with the friend or stranger next to them.  Now this once bustling building stands empty.  Void of life.  Surrounded by a safety fence.  What will become of it now?  Torn down I suppose, to be forgotten in time.

What does a building really signify to a community?  It is just mortar and bricks, not a living breathing organism.  Yet our memories are tied directly to tactile objects that stir in us those repressed feelings, thoughts, and senses.  Recalling a special event in our lives or even just a quick hide away from the day-to-day of our lives.  Physical items serve as anchors for our memories.

Embrace what is here and now but be ready to let go of the “things” that tether us to this world.  Life is out there, happening every day.  Enjoy all your life has to offer!

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‘Cuz I’m Weird Like That

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No! I am standing in rebellion! My fists are balled at my sides and I might even stomp my feet! I love change but this is too soon!  I don’t want winter to be over.

I know, I know, everyone is sick and tired of the cold, the snow and the basically depressing weather outside their doors. But hear me out…When those first light flakes fall to the earth in an icy dance, I feel peace.  An all-encompassing quiet in my heart that makes me smile.

Think of your favorite childhood toy.   Think of how it felt in your hands, not your hands of adulthood but your tiny, uncoordinated child sized fingers.  Is it soft?  Does it make noise?  Maybe it was an item that fit perfectly in your little palm.  Think of the way you felt when you had your favorite toy…

That joyous, peaceful, “I’m in my own world” feeling is exactly how I feel when it snows.

Goodbye winter, I will miss you.
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