Friday, August 10, 2018

30A FAMILY VACATION


There are few places on earth, that I hold in my heart & think about on a daily basis.  One of those places happens to be 30A which is a stretch of 35 MPH road, hugging Blue Mountain, Santa Rosa, Rosemary, Watercolor and Seaside beaches. Our family has roots here now, seeing that we just completed our second annual trip. We are pretty much experts, right?! Okay, okay. Maybe not quite yet, but our kids call it “the new house” and a few folks have asked for our recommendations, so I thought I would package them up in a cute little blog post. Ready? Here we go…
We booked our rental about six months ahead of our trip so that we had our pick of best houses and best availability. Before our first trip last year, I actually thought we would go somewhere a little closer and a little cheaper, like the gulf in Alabama (which we also love and adore). But after researching 30A, we decided that a few extra dollars and a few more hours on the road were probably worth it. We were right. While I can sometimes tolerate the touristy destinations (I love a good t-shirt), we deeply desire a different kind of escape -- one that truly feels serene and relaxing, and that’s exactly what 30A is.

The tree-lined paths throughout area offer some escape from the Florida heat and the consistent coastal architecture provides a beautiful view everywhere you look. Everything new looks established – like it’s been there forever, but it still feels crisp and clean. It’s a small town, allowing you to walk or bike anywhere you want to go. And if you want a little more Florida-flare in your vacation, just wander down to Seacrest or a little farther to Seaside. Families in particular flock to Seaside, an 80-acre, unincorporated beach town, where all activities are clustered in this pristine walking community, filled with gorgeous pastel cottages and brick-lined streets. You might remember the picket-fence yards and idyllic pastel colored homes from the movie, “The Truman Show.” It’s that, but a lot more. Must-dos include the famous shaved ice stand in an airstream: Frost Bites, dinner at Bud & Alley’s waterfront restaurant and rooftop bar, and Modica Market. There’s plenty of shopping, outdoor patios, art, and of course the white-sand beach.


One of my favorite aspects of this place is that are no chain restaurants whatsoever; no Starbucks, no McDonalds, nothing but hard working, independent entrepreneurs & restaurateurs in this small iconic town. In the heart of the town is an outdoor amphitheater, which is a whole separate, wonderful asset that Seaside has to offer.  Outdoor concerts playing jazz music, outdoor movie nights, and my kids’ personal favorite a “free for all, play with all” night underneath the stars & lights of Seaside.  It’s where your kids will play with other kids from other states & unite you all as part of the wonderful Seaside community.
As for food in the area, aside from picking up a few things from the local grocery, we ate out about half the time. The biggest drawback to this, of course, was the expense. When you travel to the 30A area, be prepared to spend about twice what you normally do on a meal. The other drawback (and I hate to admit this) is that we didn’t really love most of the meals on our trip. We’re not fancy. We’re not even very picky. But for some reason, most of the food we’ve had in 30A was average. Despite some real doozies, I suggest Cowgirl Kitchen, Basmati’s Asian Cuisine, Great Southern Café.



Overall, the best fun was found at the beach or swimming pool. You really don’t need much more than that, but alas here are a few things that I recommend:

You have to let your kids’ experience Pecan Jacks at least once on the trip. It’s packed to the brim of every candy you can imagine and is good for an ice cream pit-stop.



If you’re in Seaside, don’t miss Modica Market, a favorite of mine jam-packed from floor to ceiling with everything you might need: groceries, grab-n-go food, local beer on tap, and 32 oz. mimosas to go! If I'm in town, you can probably find me at the Art of Simple, picking up a new seashell for my decor back home in Texas, or filling my nostalgic hunger for vinyl at Central Square Records. Every one of our family vacations morph into sugar tours, sometimes we eat ice cream twice a day. I know, I know, but it’s vacation! Anyway, be sure to b-line to Heavenly’s Shortcakes & Ice Cream or Frost Bites. With a cute little row of permanent food trucks lining the street, Seaside has a lot of cheaper food options.

On your way back from Seaside, swing by Goat Feathers in Seagrove. The “steamed and seasoned” shrimp by the pound is amazing.
We are already plotting our return back next year. Even though it’s a 10-hour trip (12 hours with stops) in the car, it’s worth every “are we there yet.” I would love to hear if you have any tips or recommendations for me. If so, leave them in the comments below.





Tuesday, July 17, 2018

AT PEACE WITH BEING AVERAGE

Recently I sat among thousands of on-lookers, sweating under a blistering Texas sun watching high school graduates thankfully receive their diplomas. I will tell you more about it in another post soon. However, my son was among the sea of pointy, tasseled hats, and I, of course, beamed with pride. He’s done good work- flipping through pages of textbooks, sitting for difficult exams, and prioritizing his academics- and he deserved to enjoy that moment. I know I certainly felt a visceral happiness when I walked across the stage, toting my hard-earned diploma, soaking in all the praise and recognition that came with that piece of paper.

Around campuses everywhere every spring, people are obtaining diplomas and degrees, mapping out professional lives, starting jobs, and entering the supposed real world. Enamored with inspirational language and both intrinsic and external pressures, most of these individuals have their eyes on achieving impressive professional endeavors, and many of them will likely work very hard to reach those goals.

These individuals deserve our recognition. Their persistence and grit is admirable and ambitious. However, they are not the only ones who deserve praise, recognition, and attention.
In this, I advocate for the individuals who may not be walking across their university stages, who may not be climbing the proverbial corporate ladders, who may not aspire to be the manager, leader, or boss of their workplaces. I advocate for the good people who often fall in the cracks- for the people who want to do “good enough” and exert their mental energy on other hobbies, relationships, or caveats. I advocate for the people who may not have the luxury, privilege, or capacity to pursue certain achievements- but who are worthy and amazing people nonetheless. I advocate for this demographic of people, because I am this demographic of people.

I advocate for the person who needs someone to tell them you don’t have to want to be the best, and that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It’s the scariest thing to openly admit to your boss that your job is not your #1 priority, for fear of being overlooked for growth or opportunities. I know, because I’ve done this. But what kind of person would I be if my family didn’t trump all else in my life?! I’ve personally chosen to diversify my success and achievements in all the important areas of my life.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with the desire to be successful, there is also nothing inherently wrong with not having the desire to be successful in the corporate world. The societal bias preferring the achievers and the accomplished implies that something is “wrong” with people who do not necessarily fit in these norms. They are “not reaching their full potentials.” They are “in denial, lazy, or otherwise broken.”

At best, this is ignorant thinking, and at worst, it represents a black-and-white expectation of perfectionism and the vicious race towards achieving it. Some people enjoy that kind of race, that kind of challenge. Others prefer a different pace- a different challenge. But friend, listen up, we have room for all of the above, and we have room to acknowledge and even celebrate everyone’s individual paths towards well-being.

Rather than focusing on external value- through the job titles and resumes and annual salaries- I advocate celebrating different kinds of successes. The father or mother who chooses to stay at home to raise a child. The full-time employee who feels content with where he or she is, even if (gasp), it means they aren’t necessarily striving towards a leadership or management role. The non-committal individual who works at a job simply to make a paycheck and a living.

It’s okay to have big dreams, and it’s okay to have small dreams, and it’s okay to have changing dreams. You aren’t any less important if you don’t feel the burning need to have a flashy, demanding career or mouthwatering paycheck. Climb ladders if you want to- don’t climb them if you don’t want to. Simple as that. You aren’t less intelligent, less ambitious, or even less attractive. Your priorities are just different, and THAT IS OKAY. 

It is okay to just want to do “good enough.” It is okay to even feel at peace with being average or right-in-the-middle. It is okay if your dreams don’t revolve around work, school, or external success.
Give your dreams some credit! They don’t have to fit any cookie-cutter mold. They don’t have to conform to anybody else’s expectations! And like I tell my kids, you are only a failure if you decide you are a failure. When you let society define you, you let society shackle you.

Success feels great-I think we can all agree on that-but YOU decide what that success feels like. And it’s okay if not everyone agrees with that definition.



Thursday, July 5, 2018

OBSESSED WITH OUR NEXT MEAL


Image result for keto diet

I’m on the sixth day of testing a diet you might be familiar with – ketogenic – in attempt of preventing and remedying disease and various health issues. I want to get that information out of the way up front, just in case this post comes across a little “hangry.”
Just kidding! I am literally quite content with my predominantly plant-based diet. However, the more I learn about health and nutrition since my cancer diagnosis in 2016, the more I find myself tweaking my diet.
As I’ve been dealing with cutting things from my diet and adding in new things to try to figure out why I’m having my current health issues, it has occurred to me how much time I’ve had to spend thinking about food that I used to spend being productive. It’s not just the actual food prep (which can be a lot more extensive when you’re cutting out all the fast food and processed food options), it’s the time I just spend THINKING about food that is sucking the energy out of me and giving me less available brain space for the things that truly matter.
This awareness hit me yesterday, when I realized I spent 2.5 hours of my 4th of July holiday, perusing Pinterest for ketogenic recipes and the whys people choose this lifestyle over others.
2 hours felt like such a waste. I know I’m doing it now to try to be a good steward of my body and I believe that’s important and noble, but it’s made me think about other times I’ve spent engrossed in the subject, and how much we are a dieting culture in general. How much world-changing power have we women given up because we were thinking about the brownies in the break room we aren’t “allowed” to eat?
I know there’s a balance. Obesity is a real problem and many of us have diet constraints that we didn’t choose, but we have to respect because of the quirks of our bodies. We can’t avoid thinking about food. Especially as mothers, much of our time may be devoted to shopping for food, meal planning, prepping food, serving food and cleaning up the food that was left. Food is essential to life. But having a healthy relationship with food is more complicated than I used to imagine.
What I’m finding is that you can eat a healthy diet and still have an unhealthy relationship with food. If food is consuming your thoughts, you’ve got a problem. Whether you’re daydreaming about potato chips or kale chips, I’m not sure it matters. I’m well aware this is a #firstworld problem, but I think it’s one we need to look at. How much of our lives have we devoted to thinking about food? What could we have done with that time instead? Have we sacrificed our ability to make positive change in the world around us because we were either hungry, consumed with thoughts about our next meal, or wracked with guilt about we’ve already eaten?
Developing a healthy relationship with food needs to be about putting it in the place it deserves. It can’t be the only place we find our joy or our reason for living. I can feel in my own hunger today a feeling less like friendship with food and more like an unhealthy, lustful, stalker relationship. I may be eating “clean” but my thoughts about food are a little dirty (metaphorically speaking).
I want to get my body healthy. I also don’t want to lose my passion for the things outside of my body. I want to find the healthy balance—not just a healthy diet, but a healthy soul, and a healthy pursuit of the work in front of me.



Friday, June 1, 2018

FRIDAY RE-INTRODUCTION



I'm Mandi, not Amanda, 
Lover of old things, a story, and hand written letters.
Character etched out by age, hardship and trials and maturing gracefully.
I love the color green and being in nature.
The sun setting over the sea, a completely genuine smile, and a good ol belly laugh,
Clean sheets, holding hands, and accounts of God's grace,
The greatest gift is to fully known by another, and loved in spite of my flaws.
We have 4 wild children
Keegan Alexander 18, Bailey Genevieve 16, Reef William 6, Ripley Glenn 4
They are most at home when we're at the edge of the ocean,
And we wouldn't have it any other way.
They are my heart, my days and hours poured into these years, into their fleeting childhood, and the joy of watching them grow as my hair turns grey.
Until next time
xoxo

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA




Things I'm teaching my teens about social media:
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It’s not a competition // when those feelings of competition and comparison come up, it’s your duty to squash them like bugs. You’ve got to dig deep and ask yourself, “Okay… what am I really not happy with? What, in my own life, do I have the power to change?” Other people’s snippets of their life can stir jealousy and envy inside of you but that’s up to you to deal with those feelings and either unfollow or stop allowing your brain to go into such a negative space. You control that, no one else.
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It’s not the whole story // The thing is: you don't know the real story. Even when a person shares a part of their mess from the Internet, it's usually not the full story. And likely, you don’t need the full story. What would you do with it anyway? Instead of always thinking you have the whole story, or wanting the whole story, maybe you can focus more on the stories that surround you. Maybe you can focus on your story and how it's being written right now. If we don’t want people to be fake on the internet it has to start with the person in the mirror.
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It’s not everything // the studies are starting to come out now with real data that explains what social media (too much of it) is doing to our brains and emotions. It’s reason to take caution and learn better boundaries. We are allowing these platforms to steal from us the one thing we get in this life, the one fleeting resource: time. But I believe we can learn to use it wisely and bring it back to connection over comparison. Focus on your people. Focus on living your real life. Focus on the fleeting goodness all around you. There’s so much of it but our eyes have to be open & our heads have to be up to see it.
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Parents, what else am I missing? Is there anything you’ve learned lately about social media?



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

YOU GOT THIS


There is no expectation on you that it needs to be the best day or the most productive day. Script out the things you need to get done. Get to work. Breathe. Look for the good. You’ve got this.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

WORDS


Before chemotherapy, I was quick with words. I get frustrated many days, with my new cognitive deficits. There have been moments where I've wished that I was quicker and more accurate with articulation, in the heat of it. But those moments pass quickly.

And realize in the cooling, that I'm more at peace with my silence and slow words, stretching out in the places where too many words would have hung.

Don't get me wrong, I've never been more sure of my place, my passions, and just where my soapbox is located. But as I age, I've become more aware of the gift of silence, to truly listen. To not feel the need to wrestle your words, opinion and cents into everything.



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

WHAT YOU ARE




I want to remind you this day,
You are lovely,
You are beautiful,
What you are is NEEDED here-
You-
Your own brand,
Your own freak flag-
Just like flowers, and Christmas lights are beautiful-
But look nothing like each other.
So are you.
Here I am-
All 40 of my years worn in my skin, my hair (the silver is undeniable now) and the way I hold my body.
I daily encourage my mind to give this body grace-
For within it, it's grown 4 babies-
Through it they've come, and from it I've nourished them.
Skin sags, and silver lion stripes mark the path of their coming and going.
I'm deeply flawed, and broken-
But I've been given grace- daily.
And yet, at times- I'm quick to frustration, to judge, to raise my voice-
To forget- all about grace.
And get caught up in the way others perceive me (queue the unfollowing now)
Perfection does not reside within these bones. But a strong back, and a soft heart-
Today let's embrace the soft, and strong-
And all the bits in between 💜



Monday, May 14, 2018

WRITING. OR A LACK THEREOF.



I used to be a drama queen when it came to writing. I would claim I couldn’t write until “inspiration hit.” And you know where that got me? Missing out on a lot of writing that would have just happened naturally if I’d been so inclined to just quit being dramatic and get my butt in the chair. I had to stop telling myself these lofty lies about my writer dreams and just say, “Okay, I want to write as much as possible. I want to see what comes out of me when I sit down to write. I want to do this thing and love this craft with everything I’ve got.” Change your mindset and you end up changing the whole story.



Tuesday, March 27, 2018

FORTY.


I still have a couple of days to go, but this week, I turn 40. I have forty years of life stories to tell, but most importantly, I have the courage to tell them because I realize my life so far is the sum of all those parts. Even the chapters that are cringe-inducing or heartbreaking, from this side of the ill, are obviously part of what God has used to get me here. As my friend once said, “The things that I’d remove are the things that make the story mine.”

After decades of discovery/trying to find out what I stand for, I’m finally far enough down the road to ‘declare.’ Aware of who I am and more importantly, who I am not. I’m more comfortable in my (aging) skin to be me and walk my road without always feeling like it means the way you are doing your thing and walking your road makes me right or wrong. Other people’s choices no longer feel like personal affronts or indictments of mine. I absolutely have my moments, but they increasingly end with peace that my lines have fallen in pleasant places.

I no longer hear song lyrics, but I comprehend them more deeply – the ones about searching, knowing, loving and losing. I’ve been in each of those places with allows for greater grace as I walk through this broken world.

I enjoy being mature enough to realize how cleansing it is to simply admit when I'm wrong. Knowing I don’t have to be perfect or even completely understood to be loved. This deep security of mine is incredible.

I like being old enough to realize that no one has it all figured out. There is no longer the elusive dream that one day I will have my crap together and be a walking self-help book. This has released me to ask questions instead of faking competence, which as it turns out, allows me to learn a great deal. It has also allowed me to take myself a LOT less seriously.

I am sure there are people out there who don’t like me or get me, and it’s okay. As long as I am being loving and pursuing the Lord, I don’t need their vote. Life is not a popularity contest, but rather a grand adventure where it is never too late to try and learn new things.

If there are any Annie fans out there, “I really think I’m gonna like it here.”


TWO TOMORROWS


He tells me he wants to have two tomorrows. One for what he wants to do, and the other for the things I’m saying we need to do.

Reef William. That boy. To think he can demand a double day. Gah, I love him and his vigor.

On the threshold of forty, I feel it all in my bones, the beginnings and the ends. All the trauma and the joy of having been so young, it is leaving me a little bit, maybe. Just think of it all–the bumpiest sledding hills, the sunburn after floating all day on the lake, and the nights of partying, eating too much processed food, not wearing glasses while staring at the computer, keeping the mittens off in the winter. I remember the long sleepless road trips, or the even more sleepless newborn baby years, and the hours spent outside or in, bending down, reaching up, hauling and lifting. Over and over like machines, we use up our only bodies, living like we have two tomorrows.

Most of all, our wear and tear comes from the inside out–the avoidance of feeling too much but feeling it anyway, somewhere in the deepest parts. The stress hormones rushing through. The adrenaline biting at our organs. The anxiety building up to depression sometimes. The grief, the heartbreak, the roller coaster of loving other humans.

Standing in the middle, the temptation is to feel defeated. My shoulder hurts, and really, so does everything else, on a bad day. My babies are growing too fast. The oldest generation is fading, dropping, at their end, with so little dignity.

At least once an hour, Ripley Glenn blurts out, loudly, I love you, Mommy! He’ll say it while grabbing my legs for a hug, or while seemingly otherwise occupied. He says it over and over at bedtime, and right away when he wakes up. At some point, he added more, totally catching my heart off guard.

I love you, Mommy….just the way you are. 

He is not looking for perfection, which is good, because I am only their middle-aged mother.

I carry those words with me when I go to work every day. I am wilting a little, and all the drooping and sagging began quite a while ago. The kids point out the lines on my face, and the swagger under my arms. And they love me just how I am. And I try to remember to be embrace exactly where I am, exactly as I am, like my Reef William.



A NOTE ON MOTHERHOOD



I might not embrace (or be good at) all of Motherhood but I love being their mama. And they know it. 

Go be proud of the mom you are today. Treasure her. Pluses, minuses, & all that lies in-between because the way you are shapes your kids FOR THE BETTER. And don’t use this space to gauge how you are measuring up. And don’t believe the nonsense that you need more of ______ to show you care. And please don’t write #goals on another stranger’s filtered picture of their perfect kitchen or flexed abs. Seriously. Stop scrolling, if you start feeling icky. Take inventory of who you’re following too - as what goes in must come out. Let your heart be your daily guideline, not social media. Acknowledge that stuff is just stuff. And yes, IG can be so inspiring but it can also be a giant magnify glass to what you’re lacking. And lastly, be your own purpose of action to the life you already have...and to the person you already claim...and to the children you already cherish. Without anyone watching.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

MY ORDINARY LIFE


I could give two hoots about the algorithm or trolls or monetizing. I can’t be bothered with making sure everyone see my posts or likes them or, even better, likes me. Or if my following is increasing/declining or if my filters are all in-sync or if my feed is maintaining the same look or theme or vibe. Blah. I don't have the energy for it. Because it means very little to me but this community is still my chorus.
 
Life feels fragile. My kids are growing at lightening speed, as I am -- so I just wanna document my ordinary here & write from my heart's riverbank & love the ones at my table well & invite you all in along the way. 







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