Keeping It Real

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Snow, not road dust.

I want to be totally honest…

I hate negativity.

I am a Midwest/Great Plains, proud, independent, gal. I was born and raised in a moderately large town, for us country folks. I strive to keep a positive outlook. I focus on the silver linings of situations. I consider myself a nice person. I immediately fall into the standard finger wave when my tires touch gravel roads. I can drive a sports car, a 4×4 pickup truck, a John Deere tractor, an all terrain 4-wheeler, a massive Case combine, plus a myriad of farm implements and city toys. I sail, jet-ski, even tried my hand at steering a speed boat on the Missouri River. Heck if you let me I can drive a riding lawn mower, maneuver a horse down a tree lined trail or peddle my bike on one of the many bike paths in Nebraska.

I have experienced all sorts of road conditions, snow, mud, gravel, ice, and even the destructive tendencies of “white rock”. The roads department version of speed bumps. These small boulders of white death are spread along the gravel back roads of Nebraska. For miles at a time it seems a truck loaded with them has seemingly opened its back gate, dumped them while driving, and forgot to spread them around. You will be cruising along on an unsuspecting gravel road, then BAM! Your tires slip. Your once forward momentum stalls, feeling like you’ve entered quicksand with the added benefit of sharp meteors striking the underneath of your vehicle.  I am sure there is scientific evidence that this plague of large marble sized, (the shooters, not the mibs~but that’s a whole other post) rough edged, chalky rocks is a better alternative to the tiny gravel stones of my youth, but I am failing to see it’s merits.

I believe in road trips, country drives, business commutes, luxury leisure travel, your basic ‘point A to point B’ transportation. I love the freedom of being in charge of my own mode of travel. I embrace driving to see the world around me. Yet sometimes it is time to let go. Turn over the proverbial reins to someone else.

Which is why I will drive for hours to reach a large airport just to fly Spirit Airlines. Not the airline you thought I would say, huh? Spirit Airlines is a low-cost, 2 star rated*, controversial airline. Their current ad campaign is ‘It’s the age of Aquarius’. The slogan for the company is ‘Less Money. More Go.’ They are the ‘Home of the Bare Fare’. It seems their marketing department has yet to graduate high school.

Yet, in my sunshine attitude, I can look at all of those aforementioned reasons not to fly and fly with them over and over again. I have never had a bad experience with this airline. For all the negative hype around this carrier, I have yet to encounter it. I look with a critical eye at all my travel adventures. I report straight back to you, I refuse to lead you astray. I can’t even stay in a hotel anymore without critiquing every little detail.

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Ready for take off!

So when I book my air travel I am very serious about who I turn those reins over to. I know exactly what I am getting each time I fly with them. My inexpensive seats will have little to no leg room for my almost 6 foot frame. The width of my seat will accommodate my former 16 year old self. The drinks, snacks, bags and check-in will cost more, if I choose to open my wallet.

I know those things. They spell it out on all of their connections with me. I am responsible for my own self (see this is where that ‘independent gal’ comes in). I know I will have a seat on the flight, I chose it. I know I will have my boarding pass, I printed it. I know my bag is small enough to be a personal item to avoid baggage fees, I packed it.

I have been fortunate enough to fly the Red-Eye to Vegas (both ways). I have enjoyed stretching my legs in my own row for a flight. I loved arriving at my destination almost 45 minutes early, due to a tail-wind and an excellent flight crew, much to the stress of my greeting party. Now I will have the opportunity to fly with Spirit Airlines for my teenagers first ever flight. Yep that’s right, my teenagers have never flown. Your travel guru, road trip maven, adventure seeking, Soul Experiencing Guide, has never taken her teenagers on an airplane. Once again, that is a whole other post. 🙂

I personally would recommend Spirit Airlines any time you need to fly a short distance, unexpectedly, or inexpensively. The flight staff is friendly, they live up to their slogan, and most of all they safely get me to where I need to go, when I don’t want to drive.

Travel well, my friends.

*Skytrax 2015 rating. Retrieved July 25, 2015

Inevitability Of Time

Okay I wear many hats. Some of you know them. I am a friend, a daughter, a writer, a sister, a traveler plus many others but above all I am a mother.  I love being a mom. Once I held my first born son I wanted nothing more than to be a mom! I mean I wanted to be a “super mom”! If you have experienced that magical time of snuggling, nuzzling, and yes even that ‘deep-inhalation-smelling-of-their-soft-sweet-head’ you completely believe you can take on the world!  There were sleepless nights and tears, it was not all sweet baby fun. In fact most of it was the hardest time of my life!

Then they became teenagers and my world shifted so severely on it’s axis I almost fell off! Teenagers are not for the faint of heart!  Living with teenage boys is like living in a bee hive.  Picture this, a cup of tea, cozy blanket, comfy spot on the couch with my favorite book (okay any book will do) 🙂 Then the boys get home from school….the noise volume ratchets up 100 decibels, backpacks thud, shoes kicked off at the door, quick hugs hello from 3 giants that resemble those adorable babies I used to tote around on a hip, and then the inevitable question erupts “Mom is there anything to eat?” The question muffled by the sound of it echoing off the back of the open refrigerator.  Those are the moments no one shared with you as your tummy grew to the size of a beach ball.  Yet that instant of near chaos transcends to normal because if it didn’t happen my life would be empty.  It is the day of another birthday that I look with pure joy on those beloved teenagers and it reminds me of how blessed I am.  I have books on raising boys, twins, children, etc.,  nothing can prepare you for the inevitability of time. It is the fact that I am calmer, like a seasoned pro.  I guess I am learning, I hope they are too.

Happy Birthday, my son!

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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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25

His calm demeanor spoke of his excitement.  He averted his eyes from mine.  Slowly he walked towards me, taking his time, picking at the  invisible fuzz on his shirt, throwing trash away.  His head was down, reminding me of one short year ago when his hair was long and his eyes would hide beneath.  Still averting his eyes, but within ear shot of me, I asked.  “How did you do?”  It is the same simple question I have been asking my 16-year-old son for the past 5 years as he leaves the shooting line.  His eyes flicked for the briefest of moments, it was enough.  The eye contact was made.  His grin overcame his poise to be a somber teenager interacting with his mom. “25”, his only verbal response.  “I know” I said.  I did not hide my excitement nor would I ever.  I threatened a hug if he didn’t give me a high-five.  My enthusiasm for this sport has grown over the years.  I know the dedication the youth and their families must make.  Financially it is a wealthy man’s sport.  Time wise it is a sport for a buddhist monk.  Commitments to the enjoyment of the outdoors rivals a farmers need to sustain his livestock.  I have attended 90% of his practices, 100% of his competitions and I know the dedication my small 12-year-old had to have to accomplish his goal of a perfect round of Trap.  I sat perfectly still through the full 25 shots he took at the bright orange rocks flying from the trap house.  Breathlessly counting each shattering rock.  As the last rock shattered their was no stopping my pride for my son.  Congratulations Jason!Image 

Thank You Snow People

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Nebraska is notorious for harsh winters.  We experience arctic cold air, piles of snow and wind that cuts across this land unchecked for miles.  The people who live in Nebraska know our weather is extreme (don’t even get me started on the summers around here).  Yet here we all are.

I personally love living in Nebraska, extreme weather and all.  This winter season has been marked by erratic weather patterns of high temperatures of 50º (F) one day and the next day 10° (F) or less.  Right now in Nebraska we are frigid.  Twice area schools have been canceled due to temps dropping to -11º (F).  We haven’t seen the snow piles of the past two winters but the cold is still reminding us of the season.  It has been so cold the polar bears are going to start migrating down here.

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Two days ago we got our first major snowstorm of 2014.  Schools got canceled due to the snow and temperatures once again falling below zero.  So yesterday was a wonderful stay at home day to enjoy the warmth and love of an extra day off together.  I love snuggling down to watch movies in the middle of the day with my teenagers, eating junk food and laughing together.  It feels like the world is standing still just for us.

Today was a normal schedule of out the door, fight the traffic and take my boys to their respective schools.  What I found was snow cleared away from the roads.  Yes of course the snow plows were out working but I mean the lesser used side streets were cleared, the parking lots were almost flake free and the sidewalks looked unscathed by mother nature’s wrath.  The hard work of the people, to remove the snow for others, so they have safe travels made me smile.

Thank you Snow People for all of your hard work.

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Exuberant

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Nothing in this world compares to the excitement of a child on Christmas!  Teenagers are no exception.  The only difference between the excitement of a child and a teenager is the amount of sleep they require.  It is almost 9:30 am and I have yet to hear the stirrings of my teenage “children”.  Without a doubt five years ago I would have been roused out of bed before the sun was up!  I do enjoy my new-found slumbers.  I will relax and have another cup of tea before the whirlwind of christmas day begins.  Merry Christmas to all! 

Real Boys?

Okay I wear many hats. Some of you know them. I am a friend, a daughter, a writer, a sister, a traveler plus many others but above all I am a mother.  I love being a mom. Once I held my first born son I wanted nothing more than to be a mom! I mean I wanted to be a “super mom”! If you have experienced that magical time of snuggling, nuzzling, and yes even that ‘deep-inhalation-smelling-of-their-soft-sweet-head’ you completely believe you can take on the world!  There were sleepless nights and tears, it was not all sweet baby fun. In fact most of it was the hardest time of my life!

Then they became teenagers and my world shifted so severely on it’s axis I almost fell off! Teenagers are not for the faint of heart!  Living with teenage boys is like living in a bee hive.  Picture this, a cup of tea, cozy blanket, comfy spot on the couch with my favorite book (okay any book will do) 🙂 Then the boys get home from school….the noise volume ratchets up 100 decibels, backpacks thud, shoes kicked off at the door, quick hugs hello from 3 giants that resemble those adorable babies you used to tote around on a hip, and then the inevitable question erupts “Mom is there anything to eat?” The question muffled by the sound of it echoing off the back of the open refrigerator.  Those are the moments no one shared with you as your tummy grew to the size of a beach ball.  Yet that instant of near chaos transcends to normal because if it didn’t happen my life would be empty.  It is in the stress and chaos of a injury to one of those beloved teenagers that makes me aware of how blessed I am.  I have books on raising boys, twins, children, etc.,  nothing can prepare you for seeing them so vulnerable.  It is not the severity of the injury.  Today was not a first injury.  It was the fact that I was calmer, like a seasoned pro.  I guess I am learning, I hope they are too.

Perspective

Yesterday I mentioned perspective in my blog.  Perspective can relate to many different aspects of ones life.  I loved slowing down a little to really appreciate all the different ways I can view my life, my community, my relationships, and my travels. I experienced small children giggling, wind chimes making their music in the breeze, leaves crunching under my feet, the last of the insects attempting to survive the chilly weather, the pride in a project completed, and the energy of my teenage boys (they come into our home like a whirlwind, eat and are gone just as fast!). I love the perspective of this photo.  I love that the small yellow leaf adhered itself to the tinted window of my truck.  My intention was capturing a fallen leaf no longer blowing in the wind but securely stuck to a window. What I actually captured was a different perspective of a quiet neighborhood.    image