Friday, December 4, 2015

Sea Turtle Nests

We had spent 8 exciting days surrounded by all things theme park.  Smiling, perky cast members, thrilling rides, tantalizing food (that I did not have to prepare or clean up after), and whatever a person could possibly want or need available with a simple swipe.

The end of our vacation was spent on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.  It was like night and day.  

On the first morning we were there, my husband, our two sons, and I went for a walk along the beach.  About a mile into the trek, a jeep with the words "Sea Turtle Patrol" on it's side, drove by.

My mind flashed back to an audio book we had listened to that summer, The View from Saturday" by E.L. Konigsburg.
(Each of the five characters in the book give an account of how they came to form a group and a portion of their experiences tells about rescuing sea turtle hatchlings.)

There were sea turtle nests on the beach!

We continued walking, not sure what we were looking for.  The jeep could no longer be seen, and the boys began to realize that we hadn't had breakfast yet.

Our search incomplete, we turned back to get ready for a trip to Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

The aquarium is a non-profit organization where they rescue, rehabilitate, and if possible, release marine life.  While we were there, we spoke with a marine biologist and got some information about sea turtle nests.

That evening, I grabbed my camera and set off to find some nests.  If I found any, I would be able to bring the family back the following day.

About a mile down the beach, I found two nests.  Surrounded by safety orange tape, with a sign explaining that this nest was protected under federal law.

Giddy with excitement, I returned back to the condo, and shared with the boys what I had found.

The next morning, we set out to look at the nests.  We stood back and wondered  how the sea turtle patrol found the nests.  Inside the tape looked just like the rest of the beach. 

We noticed the date on the sign, and figured out approximately when these eggs would be hatching.  (45-55 days from the day the eggs were laid.)

Then a pickup truck from the marine aquarium pulled up to check on the nests, and we were able to ask them all of our questions.  I couldn't have planned it any better.

They told us that there are teams that search for nests during the nesting season.  (May through October). The sea turtle will leave tracks going to and from the ocean.  The neat is very visible at first, then nature smooths it out so that it looks like the rest of the beach.

What we do impacts the lives of sea turtles.  You can find out how to help sea turtles by clicking on the link below.

I've also included a link to the book that sparked our interest in sea turtles, and a link to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mistakes Will Not Define Me

It was a beautiful fall day.  The air was warm, there were a few leaves still clinging to their branches, and it smelled like autumn.  Schools had not yet let out for the day, and our small town was peaceful as we walked home from the park.

Liam's fifth birthday was fast approaching, and he was following the unwritten rule by jumping in every leaf pile we passed.  About halfway home, he started kicking and throwing the leaves.  The neat piles our neighbors had so diligently placed by the road began to look like a huge gust of wind had destroyed them.

"You have to keep them in the piles." I said.  "Our neighbors worked hard to get the leaves ready for the town to remove."

Then my oldest, Matthew, who was nine, piped in.  "You're a jerk, Liam."

This switched my focus from Liam to Matt.  "Your brother IS NOT a jerk.  He just made a mistake.  Mistakes do not define who he is."

An apology was given, leaves were (mostly) put back, and our day continued in the normal fashion.  Busy, loud, and chaotic.

Mistakes do not define him.  Mistakes do not define you.  Mistakes do not define me.

A misstep, a progression of neglect, even a lifetime of misjudgment, can not tell us who we are.

It's important to me that my children understand that they have a choice.  No matter how bad it is.  No matter how long it's been going on.  No matter who is involved.  They can choose to turn a different direction.

The desire to impress this principle upon my children makes me wonder.  What mistakes, bad habits, or character flaws I have resigned myself to accept who I am?

Mistakes will not define me.
Mistakes will not tell me who I am.
Mistakes will not take away my value.
Mistakes will not change that I am deeply and profoundly loved.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Don't Let Fear Stand in Your Way

The The edge of my comfort zone is a scary place.  Putting myself in a place were rejection is possible makes me want to run and hide.

I was talking with our two sons about a singing engagement I had agreed to do.  It's simple enough to get with a group of children to sing, play, dance, and learn, but there would be parents and other educators there.  That's what made me nervous.

I told the boys what I was having a hard time with, and Matthew looked shocked.  "But, mom!  You are the most mature person I know."

I guess being mature is a big deal for a nine year old.

I did the event.  Smiled and greeted everyone.  Sang my heart out, and engaged children, parents and teachers alike.

Then I came home and told my family about the moment I stood outside the building and thought about backing out. 

How I chose to walk inside. 

How friendly everyone was.

That I made some new friends. 
I told them about my (dramatic) chewing of the imaginary bubble gum and how it had the parents more amused than the children.

This is what I want my children to see and to understand.

Being an adult doesn't mean you stop being afraid.

Growing up doesn't make everything come easy.

You will have to work hard for your dreams and goals.

We must choose to not let fear stand in our way.

A clip from a class I did last night with an Early Head Start Group, their siblings, parents, and teachers.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Simple Question

"How are you?"  It's a simple question.  Sometimes I am the one asking.  Other times it is asked of me.

I attempt to make eye contact, turn my body towards the person.  As a highly distractable person, it's not always  simple.  Especially while I try to keep track of our two children.  As a mother whose business is mainly based from the home, who manages the daily running of the family, and who does the majority of the homeschooling, I am rarely ever alone.  Distracted is putting it mildly.

The response to the question is brief. 

Fine, good, well, tired, busy, can't complain, etc.

 Most of the time the other person asks as they are walking by.  Walking away.  

What connection there could have been is lost.

And so it goes...

The polite, well meaning, brief interactions that can leave a lonely person to feel even more isolated.

I see the problem.  At times, I am part of the problem.

We should ask a question when we care enough to take the time to listen and we should answer the question with more authenticity.  

Give the gift of acknowledging the person as important.

Give the gift of reaching out and sharing yourself with someone who may need to hear what you have to say.

Be real.  Slow down.  Connect.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


She was beautiful, funny, talented, and obviously comfortable with who she was as a person.  Accomplished.

I have been pushing myself lately.  Making choices and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.  Put on a smile, and pretend you not only know what you're doing, but that you have complete confidence in yourself.

Fake it 'til you make it.

I sat there, studying her, and felt insignificant. There were voices in the back of my mind that reminded me not to compare myself.  They whispered words of encouragement about the unique journey I was on.

But the other voices were louder.  I couldn't sing like that.  My voice was not strong.  Dreams I have had since I was young were locked in a box that was covered with layers of dust.  I could never make it because I wasn't pretty enough.  It wasn't enough.  I wasn't enough.

Hours later, I read these words in the book "Hands Free Life" by Rachel Macy Stafford. 

"And that's when I leaned forward and lowered my voice to almost a whisper.  "Maybe you don't make it to The Voice.  Maybe you don't make the pros or land a book deal.  That doesn't mean you didn't succeed.  Maybe sharing your journey, your dream, or what excites your heart is the achievement.  Maybe inspiring someone else to see his or her life differently is the success."

Page 182 and 183

When I first committed to moving towards being "Hands Free," I thought it would be for my children.

I didn't understand that I needed it, too.

It's easy to get caught up in a culture where being famous is idolized.  We forget that the people in our home and in our community can be deeply impacted by how we choose to live our lives.

Find your gift, your purpose, your passion, and live it without fear.

Friday, November 13, 2015


It was only his third basketball practice.  

It was only my third time taking someone to basketball practice.  

It was a forgetful moment that could damage or strengthen our relationship.

We finished the twenty minute drive to practice when he realized he didn't have his basketball shoes.

"But, I asked you if you had them.  You said you did."

A frantic search in the minivan confirmed that the shoes were not there.

I took a deep breath as the words formed inside my mind.  The lecture I could give my nine year old son on being responsible, how much time and money we were using up to support his desire to play, why this could never, ever happen again.  I exhaled and decided that I would focus on our relationship and work with him to learn responsibility.

I would choose to not behave like a superior.  Dictating, lecturing, shaming, and guilting.

I would be his mentor.  Guiding, explaining, giving him tools, and creating habits that empower him.

Not above him.

With him.

He had to tell his coach and find out what he should do.  He took two steps toward him and turned around to look at me.  His face was pale.  "I can't tell him."

"You can tell him.  You just made a mistake and we don't know if you should stay, or go home, or what."

So, he did. He walked over and told his coach, who was kind enough to tell him to stay.  They would figure out how to let him get some practice in.

My son took steps that day that were more than just the movement of his feet.  They were the movements of him growing up to be a brave and responsible man.

Living hands free helped crystallize that moment in time.

A beautiful gift.

"Maybe second chances are not given to us but instead are something we offer to ourselves by using new words and actions.  And maybe the undesirable traits that were passed on to us and passed on to our children don't have to stick like permanent tattoos.  Maybe they can be birthmarks instead- beautiful reminders that we don't have to live perfectly, but rather with small, positive steps and daily doses of God's grace."

Page 92 of "Hands Free Life" by 
Rachel Macy Stafford

Friday, November 6, 2015

Can I live a "Hands Free Life?"

If you had asked me while I was working outside of the home what I would do if I had more time, I would have said "Exercise, play with my children more, be more patient, enjoy living life, and read."  

It's been two years since I left my job.  My youngest was about to turn three, my oldest was seven, and my husband and I were in the process of purchasing a house.

Fast forward to now...
Where has life taken me?  Am I being as intentional as I could be?  Can I do better?  Feel more at peace?  Live with the purpose intended for me?

My brain automatically goes to the negative.  I'm not doing enough.  I can try harder.  I can be better.  It's up to me to make my family, my life and the positive impact I leave behind better.

I stop.  

Of course, it could be better, but it could also be worse.

I have seen changes.  

I'm learning to pray before I make a decision.

My husband doesn't need me to tell him what to do, or how to feel.  He just needs me to listen and be his biggest fan.

Our children don't need a hassled, rushed, frustrated mommy.  They need for me to be able to just sit with them, enjoying their company.

The house doesn't need to look perfect.  Since there are not any magazine editors contacting me for a photo shoot of our home, there really is no pressure.

There is no pressure.

In the book, "Hands Free Life" by Rachel Macy Stafford, she describes her journey towards living life instead of simply managing it.

I'm going to do it.  

I'm going to let go and travel towards living hands free.  

It's a beautiful world and I am thankful that I have a beautiful life to live.