Austin, Texas

You know that saying, “I live here, I give here”? We’ve managed to give two pair of glasses to two bodies of central Texas water. Ever the eternal optimist, my son –who lost those glasses–remarked that, so far, he’s lost glasses in a lake, and in a river, but has yet to lose them in a stream. I will throw him in that stream, should it come to that…

Aside from losing glasses, we had an incredible time experiencing the outdoors practically outside our own back door.

I’m not what you’d exactly describe as an outdoor girl, however, I do like the outdoors. But, I’m not tall, not tiny, not strong, not limber, and not coordinated. In fact, way back in my late teens, my husband’s stepfather aptly titled me with the made-up Indian name Unsure-footed. A little history: We were in Lake Powell when it became obvious that I tend to fall off everything. Going hiking up a cliff side? Great. Make sure there’s open air to the water below. I will, at some point, be taking a more direct route to the bottom… And age didn’t do me any favors.

So now that I’ve set an accurate picture of what I can’t do, you’ll understand me when I say what I CAN do.

I can paddle board. Wasn’t sure ’til yesterday. So, if YOU are wondering if you could paddle board, let me tell you what you’ll need to know:

You will transfer from the platform to the board on your knees for better balance and safety (so you can’t fall over and hurt yourself on the platform–I first had visions of myself falling forward and cracking off my front teeth, but it was actually very easy to do because the board is quite sturdy).

If you can’t get up off your knees, you can paddle the entire time on your knees, which many people do, but I would think that could get uncomfortable.

I don’t get up off my knees too easily these days, either, and was concerned that my trying to stand would cause me to fall, but you get up gradually, and I was able to do it just fine like this: begin kneeling. place your hands down on the board in front of you holding the paddle. With your hands on the board along with your knees, you place one foot in the place your knee was resting. Then do the other leg. Then, you carefully stand up straight.

If you can do that, you can easily paddle board. Both my son and husband had a couple falls off the board, I, incredibly, never did. It’s not difficult to stay up on it, you just have to be mindful to keep your legs rooted in their spot, especially while turning. You can paddle forward and take a wide turn, or drag your paddle behind you, which causes the board to pivot around making a sharper turn. That’s how they fell. Easily done without falling, but that’s where you are most at risk.

While paddle boarding, we noticed fun little bike-like platforms that one can ride on the lake. So when we returned our boards, we promptly rented bikes.

I can water bike. In fact, almost anyone can water bike! These bikes are incredibly sturdy. You walk onto the  pontoon to get on the seat. There’s a little cubby in front of the handlebars to stow your  purse, camera, etc. It’s so sturdy, you can easily take all the pictures you want of Austin’s beautiful skyline.

I will definitely take my parents on the lake using the bikes. Anyone who can safely walk and peddle will have a blast.

The cost for us:

paddle board 15$ per person per hour.

water bike 17$ per person per hour. (there’s a nifty little stopwatch fastened to the bike to help you keep track of time)

We used Capital Cruises for the paddle boards. EASY parking and access. Parked in the parking garage of the Hyatt, walk through the lobby, down a short staircase and you are there. Parking costs 4$ an hour.

The water bikes were adjacent to Capital Cruises.

Easy-peasy, and fun, fun, fun!
Let me know what you think!

Blown and Tossed by the Wind

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In James 1:5-7, James, known as the “brother of Jesus” declares, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

There are two main areas I’ve been pleading for wisdom for what seems like a lifetime; in career and in raising children—now young adults. Much of the time I feel as lost as I did a decade, or so, ago.

While flipping to this verse in James (highlighted in blue from years gone by—why am I always surprised by that?) it seems to stand out as if new to me (and that’s probably why).
Not a day goes by that something doesn’t happen, or some worrisome thought doesn’t pass by my mind where I’m saying something like, “Oh Lord! Please show me the direction I should take with ____.” I am ALWAYS asking for wisdom, it seems.

It’s the next two verses, James 1:6-7, that humble, chastise, and disciplines me.

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

If ever there was a simile I could best use to describe my life lately, it would be exactly that, like a wave being blown and tossed in all directions by the wind. Yup. EXACTLY. Up, down, left, right. I come up for air looking for some direction on which to grab hold. “Unstable”. Yes, that also seems to fit a bit too comfortably, at times. I call it “Life ADD”, but really, it’s just not having a firm foothold on direction.

Why is this so?

Do you know people who seem to not struggle with doubt? I do. Not coincidentally, unlike me, they seem to stay the course and not whine or worry nearly as much as I do about a lack of direction. (In fact, they often are the ones who remind me of what direction should be mine.When I will start writing on my blog again? Have I been doing any speaking lately? When will I start a Bible study again?)
Instead, I avoid pursuing these highly gratifying tasks by constantly looking for, and being frustrated by other moving parts in my life, as if they can’t exist simultaneously, which they can. Yes, I find worrying is a bit easier than risk, work, and discomfort. And do you know why? Fear. I fear I’ll fail, or even worse, I fear if I fail I’ll give up, and I fear sacrifice. I fear the unknown.
And where there’s fear, there’s doubt.

Today, unlike ever before, I zeroed in, not only on the concept of doubt that James is discussing, but also about James, himself. If there was anyone who could teach me a lesson on doubt, beside Doubting Thomas (with whom I feel a kinship, I cannot lie), it would be James.

James, known as “brother of Jesus”, is understood to be either Jesus’s actual brother, half- brother, or possibly cousin. All these descriptions could be considered brother in ancient tradition.
Now, I have two sons. As an only child, I’ve always wanted peace, understanding, and harmony between my children. As many of you know who have multiple children, or have siblings yourselves, you also understand on a personal level those underlying misgivings that are often held by siblings toward each other. It’s judgement, plain and simple. These judgments are conceived at early ages, and tend to become more justified throughout all the years and circumstances, to the point it’s very difficult for a sibling to break free from those chains, despite having grown up and done everything possible to be something other than the label they were given. Like it or not, these judgements fuel our personal perspectives of our siblings and tend to always color how the relationship works. I’ve seen this play out over and over, and over. Love each other, yes. Admit one is God, hardly.

I’m rather confident the same was for James. The Bible says that the family of Jesus were some of the biggest critics of his claims. Understandably so. Can you imagine what circumstances would have had to take place for James, who knew Jesus for a lifetime, to say that his brother is the Messiah? I don’t know about your family, but I can’t begin to imagine what would have transpired to bring my strong willed, capable eldest son into believing that his gentler younger brother is God With Us. Nope. Too much water under that bridge. I can’t even imagine. Be it jealousy, birth order, personality, having known each other their entire lives, but that kind of 180 degree turn where one sibling is pronouncing the other as greater than himself —his LORD—,that would have to have happened by incredible means. It happened to James, and he became a prominent member in the fledgling church because of his faith. And such faith can only come from having battled and won over doubt.
If James can rise above, not only general doubt, but also doubt galvanized by natural sibling rivalry, I wonder what excuse I have for my apparent doubt?

Dear Lord, Thank you for providing wisdom, generously, without fault for those who ask. I pray that you help me increase my faith and patience, and decrease my doubt, as I learn to hold tight to the mooring of your Word, keeping me from being tossed to and fro from the winds of life. Amen.

Washington DC / Philadelphia

A trip to Washington DC and Philadelphia is a pilgrimage I hope every American has an opportunity to take. After having been there, it also seemed like every other nationality seems to share the same sentiment.

At one point, I had to giggle over the literal bottle neck/traffic jam that happened in front of the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It was almost comical.   Every one, and I mean everyone, wanted a picture in front of that bell.  And one picture wasn’t enough, selfies from the left, from the right, with one friend, then with another, in the front of bell, back of bell….by the time one person was satisfied, 25 more tried to crowd into the tiny space their body once occupied. I hadn’t seen this at any other artifact. I heard Russian, Chinese (I think) German (I know) and even a little English.

I’m not a lover of crowds as I’d rather miss out than jostle for optimal placement. In fact, I was willing to forfeit the bell altogether had there been a long line to see it. The line was doable. However, the spectacle in front of the bell made me wonder why so many non-Americans were so obviously determined to get pictures with it. Any wait-your-turn method flew out the window when it came to the spot surrounding the actual bell. Apparently the bell’s allure isn’t isolated to our current decade, either. As you walk past the pictures displayed on the way to the bell, you can’t help but be struck by how many dignitaries from other cultures, countries, and decades also held the bell as an incredible important and valuable symbol.

This symbolism was not lost on those who could hear, yet not fully celebrate, freedom’s chime during colonial and revolutionary times. African Americans and women were overjoyed for American’s freedom; in their own way, they fought and sacrificed for it, after all.  But, they were still painfully aware the ringing in of freedom wasn’t ringing for all; there was still more freedom-work needing to be done. Even as early as 1820, Susan B. Anthony, who was barred from participating in the Centennial ceremonies, on July 4, 1876, read the Women’s Declaration of Rights (I didn’t know such a thing even existed) with the liberty bell as her purposefully-chosen backdrop. At that moment, I actually felt a solidarity with Susan, as well as with Betsy Ross, who risked her life by sewing our first flag in precarious secrecy while living in British-occupied Philadelphia, quite possibly with soldiers in her own home. I felt a solidarity with all women of that time; white and of color, who I’m sure were aware of the irony that freedom had been won, but not for her. How far away that must have felt for them from ever being realized. And it was.  What would they say now if we could hold the hands of our sister and say, “There will come a day when our vote counts!”? “When our opinions are heard. When, although not yet consistently equal with men in our country, there are many situations where we are and we are so very much farther to getting there than they could have ever imagined confined as they were to the oppressive society for women they knew so well then.

After visiting the Vietnam Memorial, World War II memorial (there isn’t a WWI, unfortunately), Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Lincoln’s memorial, the idea of FREEDOM, what it means for those who do not have it…and how it is so often taken for granted by those who do (I include myself) , made a mark on me in a way I really hadn’t expected. As an American, I was proud that so many people who hail from around the globe seem to hold equal impression of the magnitude of what that bell represents. Although I’m back home now and settled into our typical day-to-day, the awe-inspiring gratitude for all of those who gave what they had of life and family to achieve what we hardly stop to consider in our everyday lives so many years later, still lingers in such close emotional reach to me that I can take but a second to find tears.  And I’m very grateful for that. Being able to access that place of overwhelming appreciativeness is a gift I never want to lose.

If you plan to go, let me share some tips I wish I had known beforehand:

*The Metrocard and the Smithsonian:

The subway in D.C. is very convenient and the reloadable Metro card is also linked to the bus system.  We pretty much parked the car and hardly used it. You purchase and reload tickets at all the subway entrances but, there is a security measure that declines your card after using it for more than three transactions in one day. This became a little inconvenient while we were reloading tickets for a group. Reloading many tickets on one transaction isn’t possible so we were doing them separately with the same credit card. Then the card was declined so we pulled out the next card, and so on and so forth. It’s best to plan all your destinations for that day and purchase accordingly all at once.

We learned the hard way that it’s the “Smithsonian” stop that actually gets you right in the center of the mall; you come out in that long grassy strip that sits between the Castle and the Natural History Museum.  We had stopped at earlier stops several times, which provides the opportunity to see many other fascinating buildings, but, after walking 24,000 steps the first day (says my Fitbit), every step begins to hurt in a most agonizing sort of way so that I would have sold my soul in exchange for less steps. Just sayin’.

*Arlington Cemetery:

The changing of the guard begins about ten minutes to the hour and half hour. The walk to the tomb can be a little challenging for elderly, out of shape, or disabled, or lazy. I was three out of four of those descriptions.  Took us about 25 minutes walking at a decent pace, but it’s all uphill. Worth it, but I just wanted you to know it’s not some short, little, easy trek. You can buy a tour, they drive you in an open air cart that takes 45 minutes and $12 per person. Which can be very worth it if the day is hot.

*The Pentagon:

They mean it when they say “NO PICTURES”. You can take pictures of the 9-11 memorial but nothing on the walk from parking lot over to the memorial.  I chatted with the guard as to why. He said pictures of the building, or any portion of the building beyond the side where the memorial is situated is prohibited. I had taken a pic of my hubby and showed it to the guard (um..because he asked to see it). Because there was the corner of the building, he asked that I delete it, which I did (sorry, hon). He said no gates or building can be in pictures with the concern that others with nefarious goals (my words, not his) can identify cars and use that info in some manner.

*OH—let me also clarify why some memorials are set facing alternate directions. We were puzzled over this until my son offered a completely reasonable—but incorrect—explanation (note: if you sound very confident with a fact, even when you aren’t sure, others are more likely to believe it). If you stand facing the engraved name at the edge of the bench and look up,  if you see sky, they came in the plane, if you see building, the person was in the building. The benches are oriented with regard to year of birth and month. All benches are located somewhere between what looks like narrow  railroad tracks, depending on their year and month of birth is where the bench is located.

Interesting, beautiful,  and sobering.

Now What Blog (which was named by my husband as I wasn’t clever enough to come up with it :)

There’s not better place to begin than at the beginning. But, I’m actually beginning quite far into the middle. In fact, for this reason, I’ve continually delayed the start, which is not a recommended way to actually finish anything. I kept thinking, “Who ever wants to start in the middle…of a movie? of a book? Of LIFE?” No one, that’s who.

Confusing? That’s what its like finding yourself in the middle of life asking, “now what?”.

Welcome to my “Now What Blog”. It is the unpacking, evaluating, and repurposing of a life- long acquisition of E X P E R I E N C E.  It is also my- children are almost grown- I’m longing for a more fulfilling career- should I go back to school?- should I spend that kind of  money??- aren’t I just about at retirement age, anyway-yikes! and my body isn’t getting any younger- now what blog. If you’re nodding your head, that means you relate. I LOVE it when people relate. It makes me like people more…because they are more like me. Which is a selfish, narcissistic way of looking at it, but…well, you relate. 😉

Come along with me, I invite you. In fact, I believe I need you. We all need each other, whether we are at a place we feel ok to admit it, or a place we want to hide away for a while.  I’ve learned so much from so many, and yearn to share it, to connect, and continue to learn.

So, as I told each of my kids when they entered middle school, “Just settle in. It’s going to be a wild ride”.

~TB

In pursuit of contentment.

In pursuit of contentment.

I recently told my husband I felt like a greyhound who has been chasing the wrong rabbit.

I hear it. I read it. Contentment is found within.  But I struggle with “getting” it. Sure, I have  moments of contentment—and when it strikes, it’s very blissful, to be sure—but I’m currently in a pattern where  these moments feel woefully rare. I’m in a futz and need to find my way out. But, I have confidence I’ll figure it out, soon enough, because I’m old(er), and this is not my first rodeo.

I’m a hyper-analyzer and over thinker. This combination can make me a glass-half-empty-girl pretty quickly. I combat this by trying to get to the heart of the matter of what I really need. So, I already know that I’ve got some drilled-down, no compromise, gotta-have-it-or-I’m-outta-here qualities that must be found in my work (and life, for that matter) for my soul to be at peace.

I can try, and have tried,  to talk myself out of needing these qualities when I’ve been in particular hot pursuit of what looks to be an incredible income, but I’ve learned that, no matter how good it looks, money is NOT a major motivator of mine.  Don’t get me wrong, I can spend money with the best of them. I’ve redone my floors, gone on a trip to Europe, and paid off debt, all in 5 minutes—in my mind—long before my first paycheck. But, I’ve also learned that if I don’t have my particular non-financial needs met, I won’t last, no matter how tempting the salary.

Pursuit of joy, enjoyment, and contentment eventually overtake greed. And if I don’t act on it, then resentment, misplaced anger, and depression sets in until I do.

Aging can have some advantages (although, word finding capabilities would not be one of them). I’ve now lived long enough to quickly identify malcontent, and can just as quickly tap into perspective that youth often lacks.

For instance, I know I need variety, personal space, communication, and autonomy. I no longer compromise on these items. Both good and bad jobs have told me something about myself. How unfortunate it would be to not learn from both successful career situations, as well as career flops!

Here are some prompts that I’ve used to narrow down what situations are important, even necessary, for me, in any work situation.

  1. I was most happy when I worked at _______ and did ________.
  2. I prefer/can’t tolerate sitting in the same environment daily (cubical, office, counter).
  3. Do I like to work with a few of the same people (coworkers) daily?
  4. Do I like to work with a wide variety of people (the public) daily?
  5. Does being with people energize or exhaust me?
  6. What would I like to see myself doing in the future?
  7. what would I do if money needn’t be a consideration?
  8. Describe an environment that brings me peace and one that stresses me out.
  9. Identify a time when I got chills over what I was doing.
  10. What topic or action would my friends/family say I would light up over?

If I had a dollar for every time a friend, or even stranger, for that matter, told me I should be a speaker for a living, well, I don’t want to be cliche, but I’d have a little bit of money in my pocket. I finally realized I was made to be a communicator. It’s what I love. It’s where I get great validation. It has provided me moments of overwhelming joy. I finally put 2 plus 2 together after turning 40.

Here’s my bottom line. Life is short. Time is precious, more precious than money. You can make more money but can’t increase your 24 hour daily allotment. Choose wisely. Spend it well. We spend A LOT of life working. Go Big or Go Home! Ok, I got a little carried away there, but it’s only because I am VERY passionate about this issue.

As a nurse, I am always reminded about the fleeting nature of life and how we all take this time we have for granted.When you’ve narrowed down the aspects of life you NEED to be content, decided what actions need to be taken to get you here. And then step out of your confidence zone and do it (I know comfort zone is the typical description, but  I think it truly boils down to confidence vs comfort. I’m not sure why that distinction is even important to me, but I’m still going to stick with it.)

I recently met a lovely young woman in a new job. She reminds me of myself 20 years ago on so many levels. I helped her orchestrate getting a job she really wanted simply because I encouraged her to step out of her confidence zone and chase what she really wanted. Not only are they creating a position just for her, she has also expanded the situations in which she has more confidence. She was in a futz, and now she’s found contentment. I’m inspired and invigorated to find mine.

Moving forward!

TRB