I Am Proud To Celebrate And Protect The Future

Add heading (7)

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”-Matthew 25:21

Twenty-three miles.  Three days.  No, I did not participate in an official running marathon, but this was all the miles I walked in preparing and producing our high school’s Project Graduation party for the 2018 seniors.  Project Graduation started in Maine in 1980 through a state initiative to protect the lives of graduating seniors.  Unfortunately, the statistics for accidents and deaths of seniors as a result of partying on graduation night happen way too often.  Our community adopted Project Graduation to help keep our seniors safe and offer a night they can live to remember.

Our plan is to entertain over three hundred seniors who graduated at 7PM and arrived at the party facility around 10:30PM.  We check them in, store all of their valuables (no money or phones necessary!) and lock the doors.  Once inside, they stop momentarily and take it all in.  There is a DJ playing tunes, lights, a dance floor, inflatables, money machines, food, drinks, and prizes.  All night long they eat, play, win raffle tickets to put in the prize buckets to win refrigerators, TV’s, computers, gift cards, a bike, a kayak, and so much more!

I am the party director and it takes our board of directors all year long to prepare, fundraise, advertise, register, plan, and pull off a fun night for our seniors to remember forever.  The blood, sweat, tears, frustration, and excitement is all well worth it to see their faces and celebrate their successes for the night.

In reflecting on the last year of meetings, e-mails, announcements, follow-ups, and negotiations, I realize how I am a small part of this big production.  Because of the faithfulness to this cause which is important to parents, teachers, the school board, and businesses in our community, we can provide a safe environment for our children.  These same children, who are almost adults, can experience childlike fun safely and grow up and go forth and be the future of our world.

Faithful are the volunteers who give of their money, time, and talents to plan and execute the event.

Faithful are the businesses in our community who support financially with donations of items or discounts for services rendered.

Faithful is the high school which assists with promoting and communicating with the seniors and their parents.

Faithful are the seniors who work hard to complete assignments and tests in order to graduate.

Because of the faithful acts of so many contributors, we are able to protect our seniors from the dangers of wrong choices and bad decisions even if it is only for one night.  I hope the seniors realize how much we have faith in them.  Congratulations to all of the 2018 seniors!

Everyone Loves a Parade

Add heading (1)

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

For the month of February, I am focusing on the word, enthusiasm, a synonym which supports my 2018 word “Devotion”.  The definitions of enthusiasm are:

1a : strong excitement of feeling : ardor

b : something inspiring zeal or fervor*

Mardi Gras season is a perfect example of enthusiasm here in Southeast Louisiana.  When I moved here from Texas nine years ago, I had no concept of Mardi Gras.  It is not a one-day celebration but a seasonal festival.   Carnival season starts with the selection of the Royalty for each Krewe’s ball and the majority of the parades run in the final two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day (also known as Fat Tuesday).

Most people love a parade; the music, floats, and dance teams all melding together to form the celebration which takes Mardi Gras to a whole other level.  Some of the bigger parades can have up to thirty floats, with well-known celebrities riding in the parade.  There are the high school and college bands from all over the country who march, play and have the crowds dancing on their feet.  And of course, there are the throws.  What is a throw?  To be honest, it is cheap plastic trinkets from beads to stuffed animals, which are tossed from the floats to the crowds.  And people act like they are precious and rare commodities, scrambling to catch or pick up the items off the ground.  I am a little amused at the enthusiastic parade goers and the lengths they will go in order to capture throws during Mardi Gras season.

As I move through my tenth Mardi Gras season, I have come to realize there are similarities to attending a parade and living life.  What if I approached every day with a strong feeling of excitement like going to a parade?

Anticipation-There is preparation and planning needed when attending a parade.  Where will I set up, what do I bring, how long will I stay, and do I have a plan for my physical needs (food, water, bathroom, elements, etc)?  Next is the excitement factor.  I know what to expect and look forward to the sights, sounds, and smells on the parade route.  Oh, how I long for some good Jambalaya and King Cake!  Another key component is location, location, location.  Who wants to be ten deep in a shoulder to shoulder crowd?  My husband is a seasoned pro at parading and has the contacts for locations on the parade route, how to get around the crowds by using back roads, and knowing when streets close down for the festivities.

I find living my life is like the anticipation of a parade.  I find myself preparing and planning for my daily agenda starting with prayer and journaling.  It helps me focus on what I need mentally and spiritually to face the day.  I plan for my family’s physical needs and try and keep our home a safe refuge from the ugliness of the world.  I find a well thought out plan lays a good foundation to face the day to day hurdles and activities.

Being present-When I hear the sirens from the police and fire trucks (who generally lead the parade and alert the crowd it is about to commence) I focus on the moment.  The sounds of the piped in music from the floats and the reverberation of the marching bands gives me goosebumps and fills my heart with joy.  I watch the children on the shoulders of dads and big brothers trying to catch a trinket or beads to put in their goody bags.   The smiles, laughter, and screams of delight coming from the crowd make me smile.  The atmosphere is full of excitement and positive vibes.  Then the last float goes by and it is over.  A little sadness fills the air as I want there to be one more float.  A deep sigh escapes my lips and I start to remember the excitement I recently experienced.

I am reminded I should also be present in my life.  There will be joy, excitement, laughter, and delight which I should embrace and soak into my soul.  I should not worry what could be around the corner; fear, sadness, grief, and disappointment.  Life is made up of all these emotions and in order to be present, I have to face and live through the good as well as the bad.

Fellowship-A parade consists of a diverse crowd of people.  We generally meet some of our friends, or family will come into town and join us, and it is a great way to get away from technology and focus on relationships.  We generally arrive several hours before the parade starts in order to set up and avoid street closures.  While waiting for the parade it is custom to get to know the people around you, find out if they are local or out of town, what did they bring to eat, and what has been their favorite parade.  It is not uncommon by the time the parade rolls; we are sharing food, helping each other catch throws, and hosting our own dance party.

God is about relationships and so is life.   God made us social in order to interact and take care of one another.  This is why I am involved in a church and volunteer so I can fellowship with others.  I am amazed how moving to Louisiana nine years ago has afforded me new friends and relationships I would have not developed if I had not followed God’s lead.  I look forward to how my community will continue to grow in the future due to new connections with others.

Life is like a parade.  It is totally worth the anticipation, enthusiasm, the relationships, and the making of memories.  If you ever have the opportunity to come down to Southeast Louisiana and experience Mardi Gras, I highly recommend it.  There are many family-friendly parades all over the area and you can learn the history of the parades and get more details at http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades.html.   Blessings and Happy Mardi Gras!

mardi-gras-mask

*https://www.merriam-webster.com/

 

A Definitive Moment

A Definitive Moment

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”-Proverbs 3:5-6*

We were on the road by 7:45 am to make the four and half hour trip.  Excitement, nervousness, and an unknown reality filled the car.  My youngest and I were taking a road trip for his first college campus visit.  I was giddy.

My son, Braeden, is a junior in high school and has known exactly what he wants to be when he grows up since the seventh grade.  An architect.  Oh, I admire his decisiveness in knowing where to head in his future.  I did not have the forethought when I was his age.  All I knew was everyone else was going to college, so I guess I should too.  My primary goal was to meet the man of my dreams, get married, and raise a family.  I know, lofty goals, but it was my reality.

Braeden asked me questions about what to expect on a campus visit.  I told him to have some questions in mind to ask, listen to what is presented to him, and take in the surroundings of where he could possibly live for the next four years (five years if he follows the path of bachelor/masters in architectural design).

We arrived in Ruston, Louisiana about an hour early before the scheduled tour.  We walked into the Admissions hall and were greeted by some friendly students who checked us in.  They gave Braeden a welcome bag with all kinds of freebies and told us since we had some time, to walk over to the student center and have some lunch.  So, began our journey.

I have always described Braeden as an old soul.  In so many ways he thinks like an adult, can self-entertain, and looks forward to the goals he has set for himself.  We started walking on the campus and he seemed so natural in the setting.  I could visualize him as a student on this campus.  It was exciting, terrifying, and weepy all in one big breath.  I knew he was ALMOST ready for the next step in life.

We ate lunch and walked around before heading back for our tour.   Our guide was awesome and took us around the campus pointing out various places where classes were held, reciting the traditions on this campus, and sharing his experiences as a student at the university.  I could see Braeden was interested but not sure what he should ask.  I was the one who kept a conversation going with the guide as no one else was speaking up!

Taking the tour flooded me with memories as a freshman at college.  I was clueless as to what to expect when I arrived my first fall semester; not visiting the campus prior to showing up to move in.  I do remember the freedom to come and go as I please, becoming disciplined in achieving good grades without being told and meeting my future husband, Braeden’s dad.  Walking around this particular campus brought back the sweet memories of being young and carefree.

After the campus tour, we had a presentation of the different living choices and met with the admissions personnel.  The last part of the day was for Braeden to meet with a representative from the architectural program and ask questions relative to the curriculum.  We met with the assistant professor of the program and initially I was not impressed.  He was shy and mumbled to himself as we did introductions.  He handed us some paperwork which explained the bachelor’s and master’s program and asked us to follow him.  He took us in a gallery and he stated this was the best way to visually see what Braeden could expect of the program.  As we walked into the gallery, the professor’s demeanor changed and he became quite animated as he showed us projects, designs, plans, budgets, and proposals for each year of the program.  I turned to Braeden and his face had changed as well.  For over half an hour, the two of them engaged in questions, answers, explanations, and experiences.  At one point I could see how much they had in common.  Braeden was in his element, he knew it, and I witnessed it.

What a definitive moment.

After leaving the college and heading back home, Braeden and I reminisced about the day as he made a list of positive and negatives about the experience (there were multiple positives and only one negative).  It was in this moment I knew Braeden would be ready for the transition from high school to college, from teenager to manhood, and from dependence to responsibility.  This was such a grown-up moment for him and me, and I loved every minute of it.  No regrets, but excitement for his future.

This school set a high bar for a great campus visit, and we will be attending a few more before he graduates.  It comforts my heart to know he is pursuing his passion and learning what it will take to achieve his goals.  This mama is going to enjoy the journey of my youngest child who will in a couple of years make us officially empty nesters.   Who would have thought a simple road trip would result in a beautiful blessing for the two of us?

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

The Parade of Life

the-parade-of-life

“ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”-John 10:10

We are in the middle of Mardi Gras season here in Southeast Louisiana.  When I moved here from Texas eight years ago, I had no concept of Mardi Gras.  It is not a one-day celebration, but a seasonal festival.   Carnival season starts with the selection of the Royalty for each parade (there are currently over eighty Krewes on the North Shore and South Shore which have their own parades) and the majority of the parades run in the final two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day (also known as Fat Tuesday).

Most people love a parade.  The music, the floats, and the dance teams all melding together to form the celebration and Mardi Gras takes it to a whole other level.  Some of the bigger parades can have up to thirty floats, with well-known celebrities riding in the parade.  There are the high school and college bands from all over the country who march, play and have the crowds dancing on their feet.  And of course, there are the throws.  What is a throw?  To be honest, it is cheap plastic trinkets from beads to stuffed animals, which are tossed from the floats to the crowds.  And people act like they are precious and rare commodities, scrambling to catch or pick up the items off the ground.  I am a little amused at the passion some parade goers exhibit in order to obtain throws during Mardi Gras season.

As I move through my ninth Mardi Gras season, I have come to realize there are similarities to attending a parade and living life.  What if I approached every day as if I was going to a parade?

Anticipation-There is preparation and planning needed when going to a parade.  Where will I set up, what do I bring, how long will I stay, and do I have a plan for my physical needs (food, water, bathroom, elements, etc)?  Next is the excitement factor.  I know what to expect and look forward to the sights, sounds, and smells on the parade route.  Oh, how I look forward to some good Jambalaya and King Cake!  Another key component is location, location, location.  Who wants to be ten deep in a shoulder to shoulder crowd?  My husband is a seasoned pro at parading and he has the contacts for locations on the parade route and how to get around the crowds by using back roads and knowing when streets are closed down for the festivities.

I find living my life is like the anticipation of a parade.  I find myself preparing and planning for my daily agenda starting with prayer and journaling.  It helps me focus on what I need mentally and spiritually to face the day.  I plan for my family’s physical needs and try and keep our home a safe refuge from the ugliness in the world.  I find planning ahead lays a good foundation to face the day to day hurdles and activities.

Being present-When I hear the sirens from the police and fire trucks (who generally lead the parade and alert the crowd it is about to commence) I focus on the moment.  The sounds of the piped in music from the floats and the reverberation of the marching bands gives me goosebumps and fills my heart with joy.  I watch the children on the shoulders of dad’s and big brothers trying to catch a trinket or beads to put in their goody bags.   The smiles, laughter, and screams of delight coming from the crowd make me smile.  The atmosphere is full of excitement and positive vibes.  Then the last float goes by and it is over.  A little sadness fills the air as I want there to be one more float.  A deep sigh escapes my lips and I start to remember the excitement I recently experienced.

I am reminded I should also be present in my life.  There will be joy, excitement, laughter, and delight which I should embrace and soak into my soul.  I should not worry what could be around the corner; fear, sadness, grief, and disappointment.  Life is made up of all these emotions and in order to be present, I have to face and live through the good as well as the bad.

Fellowship-A parade consists of a crowd of people.  We generally meet some of our friends or family will come into town and join us, and it is a great way to get away from technology and focus on relationships.  We generally have to arrive several hours before the parade starts in order to get set up and avoid street closures.  While waiting for the parade it is custom to get to know the people around you, find out if they are local or out of town, what did they bring to eat, and what has been their favorite parade.  It is not uncommon by the time the parade rolls; we are sharing food, helping each other catch throws, and hosting our own dance party.

God is about relationships and so is life.   God made us social in order to interact and take care of one another.  This is why I am involved in a church and volunteer so I can fellowship with others.  I am amazed how moving to Louisiana eight years ago has afforded me new friends and relationships I would have not developed if I had not followed God’s lead.  I look forward to how my community will continue to grow in the future due to new connections with others.

Life is like a parade.  It is totally worth the anticipation, the experience, the relationships, and the memories.  If you ever have the opportunity to come down to Southeast Louisiana and experience Mardi Gras, I highly recommend it.  There are many family friendly parades all over the area and you can learn the history of the parades and get more details at http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades.html.   Blessings and Happy Mardi Gras!

mardi-gras-mask

Budget Foodie

EAT-5MFW-e1475106446788.png

Today’s prompt is “eat.” My mouth is watering right now as I imagine some smoked brisket, hearty gumbo, or a ginormous pizza.  But I digress and instead will share my thoughts around food and family.

//Food.  God did it perfect when He blessed us with this delicacy.  I could be referred to as a “foodie” because  I love to try new recipes, restaurants, and flavors.  But I am definitely a “foodie” on a budget.  So we cook A LOT.

I love fresh ingredients and watching the cooking channels to learn new concepts, mixtures of flavors, and of course, PRESENTATION!  Who does not like a pretty plate of food?

When I sit down to a meal, I love to take a big bite and savor the taste.  Another big part of eating for our family is sitting down together.  Most of the enjoyment of a good meal is the company.  Presently it is three of us for dinner, and it is a great way to take a break from the hectic world (even if it is only thirty minutes) to say grace, enjoy the food, and connect with one another.

Eating together is not only nourishment for the body but it is also nourishment for the soul.  We will talk about current events, our busy agendas, and funny experiences which happened to us when we are not together.  I remember growing up and mom generally had dinner ready on the table when dad came home and we sat down as a family to eat and talk.   It was a way to re-connect with each other, especially as we grew up and were involved in more outside activities.

It is such a simple gesture  but I believe family style eating is a way to build relationships and traditions to be passed on to the next generation.  It warms my heart to eat a big bowl of gumbo and re-connect with the ones I love.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”-Acts 2:46-47

Exit Here

sign-5mfw-e1475106479169

The prompt for today is “sign.”  It would have been easy to write about signs I have received in my walk with God.  So I decided to share one of my “areas of opportunity.”  Blessings!

//One might describe me as directionally challenged.  Okay, I just heard my husband laugh.  Yes, I admit it.  Road signs and I don’t mesh.  I remember one of my first times driving from Houston to Dallas on I45, I was told to look for the BIG sign which said exit for DFW airport.  I saw it but figured there would be another exit after this one for those of us who were cautious in taking the first exit seen.

Driving to my parents’ house in Brenham from Grapevine Texas was always a story in the making.  Dad would generally ask me “Which way did you take this time?”  I was not lost, but chose a different scenic route each trip and guess what?  I always made it to their doorstep.

Not sure why I don’t do well with street signs either.  It is best to give me the visual landmarks such as “turn right at the McDonald’s and make a left once you pass the big purple shrub.”  I can guarantee I will be there pronto with no turnarounds.

I am so thankful for the legal U-turns.  Generally, there is a U-turn in most of my daily trips.  Inevitably, I pass up where I need to go and need to work my way back to my destination.  You know what?  There must be a lot more of us out there who drive similar, otherwise, why would they make so many legal U-turn options?  Things that make you go HMMMMMMM!//

The Ultimate Party

blowout-5mfw-e1475106157875

The prompt for this Sunday is “blowout”.  I had to look up the word and went with the definition from Merriam-Webster dictionary, “an informal social gathering, a big party.”  Let me share a big party we had on Super Bowl Sunday 1996.  Blessings!

I was speechless.  The voice on the other end of the phone was asking me how I felt about winning the big Super bowl Party from Mix 102.9 and my head was swimming.  I won?

A week prior, my husband was calling and begging me to enter into the Super Bowl sweepstakes.  The winner would receive a big screen TV, catered dinner for friends and family, a dishwasher, and maid service to clean up after.  For entertainment, we would have bleachers set up in our front yard to enjoy a local high school band march and play before the game started.

Wow.  Up until this moment, the only other time I had won anything was a handsaw for my dad when I was fifteen.  But this win was a blowout.  And my husband was in hog heaven.

I literally filled out the entry form and faxed it in (yes this was 1996, so it was old school), days before the winner was to be drawn.  I had completely forgotten about it and then the big announcement.  My daughter answered the phone as I was trying to get dressed for work.  She was actually on the air and my husband heard it on the car radio and had to pull over.  Thank goodness Taryn was so polite to the DJ asking to speak to me.  I get on the phone and the man starts rambling off the drawing and all the prizes and says “Congrats, you are the winner!”  I was dumbfounded and sounded like a complete moron on the air.  Who cares, it was a big win!

Our friends, neighbors, and family enjoyed the Super Bowl party.  Oh, did I mention we are Dallas Cowboys fans and guess who was playing in the big game?  Dallas was playing the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The local television station came out to interview me and I predicted the Cowboys would win 35-17.  I was close; the final score was 27-17. How ‘bout them Cowboys!

 

 

Prime Time!

weekend-5mfw-e1475106187550

//Thank Goodness It Is Friday!  How many times have I used this phrase while making plans for  the weekend?  I love music and thought it would be interesting to find out how many songs dealt with playing on the weekend.  The most obvious choice is “Working For The Weekend” by Loverboy.  Now try and read the rest of this blog without humming the eighty’s tune in your mind.

I am so glad God made music and created talented people who can write, play, and sing songs.  I personally do not have a voice but I grew up dancing so I know how to count music and move to it.   There are a variety of genres which I love from blues, jazz, Broadway musical, country, hard rock, pop, and Christian.  When I hear a certain song it can take me back to a specific time in my life and let me reminisce in the memory.  Music allows me to be creative intellectually, emotionally, and physically in my actions.

My husband and I love to attend concerts or music festivals during a weekend.   Great memories have been made by us as we sing and sway to the music.  Music is also a great way to bond with others who have similar taste in tunes.

I leave you now with a few of my favorite songs which sing about Friday or Saturday which we all know, is the prime time of the weekend!//

I Gotta Feeling-Black Eyed Peas

Friday I ‘m In Love-The Cure

Rapper’s Delight-The Sugar Hill Gang

Friday Night-Lady Antebellum

Friday-Rascal Flatts

Dancing Queen-Abba

Saturday Night Fever-BeeGees