An Artful Life

I grew up in a small Midwestern town, a farming community to be exact.  My days were filled with school, after-school activities and friends.  Saturdays were spent hanging out with friends and Sundays were set aside for family.  I was free to roam around our small community spending many hours with friends.  We were rarely at a loss of what to do.  Much time was spent perfect our bowling skills at the local bowling alley.  We walked across town many times during the spring and summer for a drink or ice cream at the local ice cream shop.  As I got older I earned my own money at various jobs and that was probably the time when my life began to change.  I became more independent and the closer it got to high school graduation, the more my life went in a different direction.

My parents seemed to re-create the life they knew growing up, I did not.  Maybe it was growing up in the same small town all those years, but I longed to move away and experience life in ways I only imagined.  I didn’t want to be tied down in the same place for years on end.  I wanted to experience as much as life had to offer.

I did move away from home after high school.  I got married and moved two towns away.  Not far at all, but away none-the-less.  I experienced motherhood two times and with two babies in tow, I moved away again to a bigger town, in a bigger house and thought life would be grand.

A short time later, my life really changed.  My husband left me and the boys for greener pastures and I was soon in the new category of single working mom.  Before I knew it, I was back in that same small town I so wanted to escape just a few year earlier.  With two small boys, (one with autism, although I wouldn’t have the official diagnosis until a few years later), I needed the help of my family nearby.

A few years later my life changed again as I moved to California, got engaged, got married and then moved once again to the State of Washington.  Hubby was stationed in the Army at the time and we would spend the next 13 – 14 months there.  Within a few short years, I had gone thru more adventure in my life than I ever dreamed.  Not all of it good, but all of it an adventure none-the-less.

Later this year, hubby and I will celebrate 32 years of marriage.  We started our life in Washington before moving back to Illinois.  A few months later we were back in Washington where we stayed for a few years before heading back to Illinois.  We stayed in in that same small town I grew up in for almost 20 years (something I never wanted to do) before we landed in Texas where we have been for the last 14 months.  During all of this we raised three boys and are now raising two little girls.  We will once again become foster parents, bringing more children in our lives.  We have had the luxury of traveling to some fabulous parts of the world.  We have laughed, loved, and lost.

For some, this would be more than enough adventure to last a lifetime, yet I still long for more.  What does that say about me?  Okay, maybe I don’t really want to know the answer to that, but I do feel strongly that life is to be lived.  Not lived by simply waking up each morning, but lived through those experiences that cause me to think, to feel and to see all the wonderful things life has to offer.

Danny Kaye once said, “Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”

That’s what I’m trying to do.  I’m trying to throw all the paint I can find on my canvas with hope that the outcome will be one of the most wonderfully beautiful paintings ever created.

Here’s to an artful life.

 

In Hindsight

We all look back and wish we would have made different choices at some point in our lives.  It doesn’t mean the choices we made are bad (although I’ve made some of those), but it’s the realization that different choices may have been better.

For example, in high school, I chose not to take a foreign language class.  I went to a high school, out in the middle of corn field (literally) and really didn’t envision myself ever needing to speak Spanish or German, which were the only two languages offered.

Fast forward all these years and I realize how knowing a second language would have provided more opportunity.  I also realize that being able to speak Spanish would have come in helpful many times.  Especially since we adopted our oldest daughter from a Spanish speaking country.

So hubby and I are trying to learn now.  Which also makes me realize how much easier it would have been to learn another language in my teens.  Seriously, how many times do I have to hear the same word over and over before I remember it?!!!  Certainly I should be much further along in a week 🙂  LOL!!!

Then there is travel.

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I wish I would have done more travel in my life.  Instead, I made other choices, like having babies.  I’m able to do more travel now, but I feel like I’m playing catch up and don’t really see a way to visit all the places I would like in my lifetime.  But really, can anyone truly see everything?!!! Plus, I wouldn’t trade my children in for travel.  However, in hindsight, I wish I would have saved more money so I could travel more now.

I also think I would have enjoyed living outside the U.S. for a little while.

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I wasn’t raised by dreamers.  I was raised by parents who were much more content to stay in one place.  Honestly, I can’t say I understood that really.  I had a pen pal from Belgium which gave me a little taste of what life might be like outside the U.S.  I was not afraid of moving away from the little town that had been the only home I knew.  Although my first move away was to another small town in the same state.  Still, I found moving away exciting.  It was a new adventure.  It was the opportunity to experience a different life.  I was also able to experience life living in California and Washington.  Not quite the same as living abroad.

Hubby was in the Army and was able to experience living abroad for two years.  I don’t know if he would agree or not, but I believe that experience changed him in positive ways.  I think there is something to be said about moving away from the comfort of your home and being able to experience a life unlike the only one you’ve ever known.  It changes a person and gives a new perspective on life.

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My list of things I could have or should have done differently could go on and on and on I suppose, but I don’t want to live a life of regret.  Instead, I want to take what I’ve learned, move forward and experience new adventures.

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Where In The World

Is Carmen Sandiego?

It was a show on PBS and is also a series of computer games and books teaching kids geography.

However, this post is not about Carmen Sandiego, but it is about geography, learning more about other countries, and exploring the possibilities.

At the moment, Lili’s favorite subjects are art, history, science and geography.  It makes sense as these subjects are intertwined.

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Naomi has some interest in these subjects as well and as a child, I had limited interest in any of them.  My interest developed in my adult years and these are some of my favorite subjects in our home school program.  It’s partially why I was drawn to the “Build Your Library” curriculum.

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My family has had the opportunity to do some traveling across the U.S. and I love taking the girls on trips.  I want to provide them opportunity to learn outside a classroom setting, including the classroom that is also known as our dining room.

Although the girls haven’t been with us on every trip (after all, they are only 7 & 9) we have visited well over half the states in the U.S.  We’ve also had the privilege of visiting a few countries.  Guatemala and Ethiopia are near and dear to our hearts, since those countries gave us our beautiful daughters.  We’ve been able to travel back to Guatemala a few times since and hope to return to Ethiopia (once things calm down there).  Our cruises have taken us to The Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Jamaica, Grand Caymans and Cozumel.  Next month the ship will take us to two new countries – Honduras and Belize.

Travel is definitely one of my passions.  I enjoy seeing new places, meeting new people, seeing the diverse landscapes, learning the history of the places we visit, and seeing how others live.  It’s one of the reasons I have demanded that each of our cruises include stops to places we have not been before.

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My interest in learning about and exploring different places around the world is continually growing and changing.  On a blog post a few weeks ago I asked the question, “If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?”  I received a couple of responses that caused me to check out some places I hadn’t considered visiting before.  One I didn’t even know existed.  Now I’m looking for participation from my readers once again and have three questions.

  1.  How many different cities, states and/or countries have you lived in?
  2.  Of those places, which was your favorite and why?
  3.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?

I think it’s fascinating to not only know where people have lived, but what draws them to a certain places.  Is it the landscape?  The culture?  The people?  Jobs?

Since I’m asking you to answer these questions, the least I can do is answer them too.  So here is goes.

  1.  I have lived in 9 different cities (although, a few of them are not actually cities, but villages or small towns).  I have lived in 4 different states and I have never lived outside the U.S.
  2.  Of all the places I’ve lived, Tacoma, WA would probably be my favorite.  I loved being sandwiched between the ocean and mountains.  I appreciated the beauty and diversity of the area.
  3.  Hubby lived in Germany for two years while in the Army.  The girls started their lives in other countries.  I’ve only lived in the U.S. , but I think I would love the opportunity and experience of one day living elsewhere.  Where, I don’t know.  But I’m quite sure gypsy blood runs thru my veins and the thought of a new adventure in another country is certainly appealing to me 🙂

What about you?  Are you living in your perfect corner of the world?  Is there a place you would rather be?

Please share!

 

 

 

 

Traveling the World

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?

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This wasn’t the exact wording hubby used when he asked me this question earlier, but it’s something I’ve thought about off and on for years.

When I was younger, I had a small list of places I hoped to visit one day and I’ve been able to cross those places off my list.  Now that I’m older, I find myself thinking about other countries that I really hadn’t considered before.  Countries, that quite honestly, I had no interest in visiting.

Like Switzerland or Italy.

Belgium, even though I had a pen pal in elementary school who lived in Antwerp..

Germany, where hubby lived for two years while serving in the Army.

Spain and Italy

And  more

While I feel I’ve done a fair amount of travel in my adult life, I also know that I’ve barely skimmed the surface.  There are so many countries in this world with great beauty and intrigue.  I just needed to open my mind a little more and allow myself to find that intrigue.

So while I continue to ponder hubby’s question, I’ll ask each of you reading this post to answer these questions.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Is there any place you’ve visited that you would love to see again?

And for both of these question, why?

 

 

 

 

 

Full Circle

Last year we celebrated our last Thanksgiving in our Illinois home.  Most everything was packed, so we ordered our Thanksgiving meal from our favorite grocery store.  Hubby picked it up and we sat down with our middle son, my SIL and her daughter for our feast.

Two days later,  hubby got in his car and headed south to Texas, ready to report to his new job.  The girls and I stayed behind to finish packing and get things ready for our big move a couple of weeks later.

One year later and we have celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Texas.  This time I prepared the meal and we gathered around the table with my other SIL, her husband, granddaughter, our nephew and my SIL’s dear friend.  We ate, we laughed and we remembered.  Then we ate some more, because that’s what Thanksgiving is all about 🙂

Tonight it hit me.  We have come full circle.

Hubby is celebrating his one year anniversary in Texas.  We have each celebrated a birthday.  Hubby and I celebrated our anniversary here.  We have celebrated every holiday in Texas.  The arrival of Christmas will mark seconds for us.  Our second Christmas.  Our second birthday celebrations.  Our second holidays celebrated in Texas.

Year one was exciting, but more than that, it was challenging in so many ways.

I must admit that I’m happy to put year one behind us and am excited to see what year two has in store.

 

Plans Change

We have had a lot of plans for our future and as is true for most of us in life, those plans sometimes need to change.

One thing our move to Texas has made me realize, is that I need to let go of some of those things I really had hoped to do in life. Like farming. Yes, I’ve had to let go of the farming dream. For a number of reasons, it’s just not feasible for us in the future.

Why?

For those of us who may not be familiar with the Dallas area, it’s a very large city that is growing in leaps and bounds right now.

Hubby recently heard that there were approximately 1000 people per day moving into the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area. Texas has made it easy and lucrative for businesses to move here and that is exactly what they are doing. Many large companies have pulled roots from other states and move or are moving to Texas. Dallas is a magnet for many of these companies who are building their offices here. This, of course, means building more houses, apartments, roads, schools, etc.   This also means buying up more farm land to expand and build on. Every day I pass fields with farm animals roaming around as shopping centers are being built across the street and roads expanded to carry the additional traffic thru that area.  The land that those buildings and road are now sitting on used to pasture for these farm animals, so there is less farm land available now.

While roads are being expanded and probably beyond, traffic becomes a problem. We’re fortunate to enjoy some farm scenery around the RV park, but this also means hubby is commuting to work. His commute can vary from 40 minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic. While this is doable for the time being, it’s not something he wants to do his entire working career here and I don’t want him to. After all, any additional time he spends on the road is time he isn’t here with his family. That’s not a good trade-off.

The additional influx of businesses means the job market here is outstanding!!! It also means the real estate market is booming. As I’ve looked at real estate have discovered three things.

  1. The cost of buying land we can build on is more than we can afford.
  2. The cost of buying an existing farm is even more cost prohibitive.
  3. Hubby’s commute would be as far as, or possibly further than it is now.

Aside from the cost and commute, we have had to decide what is most important. Specifically, what are our priorities now that we live in the DFW area?

Ultimately, we decided that getting a farm down here is out of the question.  My hope is that we are able to find a home that sits on a large enough piece of property that I can do some gardening. That will be the extent of our farm life. A home with a pool and nice outdoor living space is what we will look for in our home down here. More travel seeing other parts of Texas, the U.S. and the world is what we desire.

Some of that travel will need to include visits to other’s farms so I can get my fill of the farm life I’m leaving behind.

Sometimes our priorities in life change and even though I would love to do all those things my heart desires, I have to pick and choose those things that are most important – spending time with family, seeing the world, enjoying life – those are the biggest desires of my heart so that is what I need to do.

We close on our home in Illinois next week and some have asked when we’ll be buying a house down here.

Unfortunately, because the housing market hasn’t bounced back in Central Illinois like it has here in the DFW area, we won’t be putting any money in the bank from the sale of our house. We refinanced our house when the market was really good and used the additional funds toward the adoption of our girls. In essence, we received the proceeds several years ago and now we’ll be in the position of trying to save enough money to buy a house down here.

All the changes in our life are good though. These changes are life experiences and life experiences are what keeps life interesting.

So we’ll continue to enjoy RV living. We’ll enjoy some travel. We’ll spend time with family. Hopefully one day we’ll buy a house. Along the way, we’ll do our best to enjoy life and make memories.

 

 

More Cruise Photos

I finally got the photo situation resolved.

Here are more pictures from our cruise.

Our Little Mermaid
Our Little Mermaid

 

Approaching our Dolphin Encounter excursion at Blue Lagoon in the Bahamas.
Approaching our Dolphin Encounter excursion at Blue Lagoon in the Bahamas.

 

This is Cacique. We were able to get in the water with him. It was an awesome experience.
This is Cacique. We were able to get in the water with him. It was an awesome experience.
I love the towel origami our state room attendant left for us.
I love the towel origami our state-room attendant left for us.

 

More towel origami.
More towel origami.

 

Okay, I am a bit obsessed with the towel origami.
Okay, I am a bit obsessed with the towel origami.
Naomi really wanted to get her picture taken next to this car. It was parked on the ship.
Naomi really wanted to get her picture taken next to this car. It was parked on the ship.

 

Royal Caribbean has a program for the kids called Adventure Ocean. The girls loved it and one day they decorated bandanas and did a Pirate Parade. Naomi was in character.
Royal Caribbean has a program for the kids called Adventure Ocean. The girls loved it and one day they decorated bandanas and did a Pirate Parade. Naomi was in character.

 

Hubby forgot about the time difference and his alarm ended up going off much earlier than we needed to rise. Even though we were all tired, Lili was happy to give me smiles.
Hubby forgot about the time difference and his alarm ended up going off much earlier than we needed to rise. Even though we were all tired, Lili was happy to give me smiles.

 

Perfect princess chairs.
Perfect princess chairs.
Some of the cruises on Royal Caribbean have DreamWorks characters. So we did a character breakfast one morning. This was on the wall in the dining room. Each state is made from license plates in that state.
Some of the cruises on Royal Caribbean have DreamWorks characters. So we did a character breakfast one morning. This was on the wall in the dining room. Each state is made from license plates in that state.
The menu from our character breakfast.
The menu from our character breakfast.
Gloria joined the World of Weeks for a photo op.
Gloria joined the World of Weeks for a photo-op.

 

And Alex joined us for a photo op.
And Alex joined us for a photo-op.

 

King Julian needed to get in on the action.
King Julian needed to get in on the action.

 

Later that day we caught up with Mort on the Boardwalk.
Later that day we caught up with Mort on the Boardwalk.

 

Tableside Junkboxes. So fun!
Tableside Jukeboxes. So fun!

 

What's better than a Rootbeer Float? Sharing a Rootbeer Float.
What’s better than a root beer float? Sharing a root beer float.

 

Then getting up to dance with some of the crew at Johnny Rockets.
Then getting up to dance with some of the crew at Johnny Rockets.

 

My beautiful girls in Central Park on Allure of the Seas.
My beautiful girls in Central Park on Allure of the Seas.

 

Snorkling at St. Thomas
Snorkling at St. Thomas

 

Once Lili got the hang of it, she was all about snorkeling.
Once Lili got the hang of it, she was all about snorkeling.
Like I said, she loved snorkeling.
Like I said, she loved snorkeling.
Naomi was all about looking for shells.
Naomi was all about looking for shells.
There's our ship.
There’s our ship.
Daddy and daughter.
Daddy and daughter.
Our last stop before heading back to the U.S.
Our last stop before heading back to the U.S.

 

Hubby and I bought new wedding rings. After all, this was a 30-yr anniversary cruise, so why not get new wedding rings.
Hubby and I bought new wedding rings. After all, this was a 30-yr anniversary cruise, so why not get new wedding rings.
Even with the clouds, St. Maarten was beautiful.
Even with the clouds, St. Maarten was beautiful.

 

Our St. Maarten lunch spot. The girls stayed on board enjoying time in Adventure Ocean while hubby and I spent our day together.
Our St. Maarten lunch spot. The girls stayed on board enjoying time in Adventure Ocean while hubby and I spent our day together.

 

Great name for a restaurant.
Great name for a restaurant.
Look at all those ships! We were on Allure of the Seas. She was the largest of them all.
Look at all those ships! We were on Allure of the Seas. She was the largest of them all.
Pirate ship!
Pirate ship!
Lili and her cupcake creation.
Lili and her cupcake creation.
Naomi and her cupcake creation.
Naomi and her cupcake creation.
Hubby was imitating the way his octopus looked on his cupcake.
Hubby was imitating the way his octopus looked on his cupcake.

 

My cupcake creation.
My cupcake creation.

 

These are just a few highlights from our cruise.  Hope you enjoyed them.