May 8, 2012

San Francisco

As the name of my blog suggest, we Smiths are not home much.  We like to get out and do.  And when we can we like to travel.  Back in February we got the opportunity to take a trip to San Francisco a week before my birthday (week before since one of my besties babies was born the day before my b-day).

It was a dual purpose trip.  Not only were we there for a mini vacay, we were also there to give our friends and my boss a chance to scout out the area some more and get a feel for where they want to live when they move out there this summer.  It is crazy to see the cost of living out there as compared to what we pay here on the Gulf.  The option is still open for my family to move out there also for my job, but with the exception of the days that I just feel the need to leave it all behind, I am happy with where i am at the moment.

For the trip we rented an amazing house in Walnut Creek that we found on HomeAway.  Sorry I didn't get any pictures, but we were too busy enjoying the spa on the 40 degree evenings.

I am surprised just how much we fit into 4 days (including travel days).  We ate at amazing places like Johnny Garlics in Dublin, Sushi Ran in Sausalito and Sailor Jack's in Benecia.

The first day we spent the morning in Muir Woods hiking through the Red Woods.  I could spend days at a time hiking, running and exploring in this place.  It was still pretty cool out during the day and the tree canopy kept it even cooler.  We even saw a woodpecker in action, but he wouldn't be still for the photo.  Someone please remind me in the future not to put all my stuff in a kangaroo pouch on my sweatshirt when I am trying to loose weight.

After our hike and lunch, we headed in to San Fran since we had no plans for the afternoon.  We walked around Pier 39, saw the Sea Lions, checked out the Rodney Lough, Jr Gallery where we fell in love with several of his photographs.  Went to eat dinner at an upscale restraunt, but after crappy appetizers and even crappier service decided a meal there wasn't worth it.  We headed back to the gallery and after a few hours of haggling and choosing framing options, purchased 2 prints:  Three Graces and Wilderness H2O.

The second morning started early, especially considering CA is 2 hours behind our normal time zone and I have an internal alarm for 6 am Texas time, and we stayed up till 2:30 CA time.  We took the long way around into San Francisco since the bridge that was close to us was closed going into the city and got there right on time for our Alcatraz tour.  I was really surprised by the gardens there and the fact that the dirt was brought in specifically for that purpose since the prison was built on a rock.  The tour was really informative and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would wearing the little speaker set.  The only problem we had was the 4 of us never seemed to by synced up on the recordings.

The guys wanted to soap up and belly slide across the showers, something about reliving high school football memories.  The view of the San Francisco bridge was amazing.  What was really amazing to see was how strong the current was.  You could actually see the pull of the water fighting directions.  It gave real credence to the thought that though a few may have escaped, it was very unlikely they survived.

Back on the mainland we at crab and clam chowder from street vendors and took a twisted walk through the city in search of cool places to hang out and drink.  We had one rule to determine our direction.  We would continue our path until the crosswalk signs changed, and then we would change direction.  If we saw an interesting place, we would go in and have a glass of wine.  Our first stop was to a combo Indian restaurant/Irish Pub.  We sat in the pub and watched part of Kill Bill until our drinks were gone and it was time to move on.  We stopped in an old American decor wine bar, then walked through China town.  When we hit an unsavory area where a guy in the door way of a strip club asked my husband "Can I smoke your beard?", we turned around and made our way through the Italian part of town and stopped again to have some Italian wine.  We were almost back at the bay when we encountered a group of guys playing street hockey and rollerblading uphill.  We were in awe and agreed that would be impossible for any one of us to attempt.  We ended our days expedition and headed back to the house for yet more wine and more spa time.

Our final day we went to eat and drove by the office in Benecia before heading back to the airport and home to our kiddos.  I had an amazing trip and would love to visit again.  Still not certain I could live there though.

Apr 27, 2012

Time to Face It

I previously said that I would push myself to write the fluff in an effort to write something again when really there are bigger things on my mind.  I was full of crap.  Apparently, I cannot get past the louder noises in my head to write something light or fun.  So, I guess that means it's time to get some stuff off my chest so I can get back to the enjoyment of writing.  The most prominent topic on my mind at the moment is my biological mother, so I will start with that one.  I have mentioned her before here and here if you want to check them out.

I have seen my biological mother only a handful of times since I was 19 (most of which were mentioned in the linked post) and no contact in the 14 years prior.  I saw her once more after that occasion and actually spent most of two days in her company.  I finally was able to get to the point where, while I will never understand her actions, I forgave her for not being there while I was growing up.  Honestly, while it was still hard, I very likely was better off growing up without her influence.  I came to the point of forgiving her when I knew it was poisoning my life to hold onto all that animosity.  Over the course of the two years following those 2 visits, she called 3 more times to say she was coming to visit.  The first two of those I got my house cleaned up and cleared my schedule to accommodate her.  Both times resulted in a no show with a text message a few days later with an excuse.  The last one early last fall I didn't bother even picking up my house.  She didn't show up then either.  After much introspection and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that while I have forgiven her, I don't have to have a relationship with someone who brings up feelings of being not worthy of the time to keep a commitment to (or even calling prior to missing it).

I occasionally receive random texts from her (usually of the chain-mail variety), unless they are referring to how great her life has been because of know since she has spent so much time in it.  I typically ignore them unless they are general holiday sentiments in which I typically return the same.

  • Feb 17th: Hello daughter I know that your birthday is around the corner.  I will never forget the first when a beautiful precious girl came into my life.  Being your mom has always been a blessing.
  • Feb 24th: Happy Birthday You stole my heart the day you were born.  I have been blessed everyday since.  Even the days I mourned because we were separated.  The day you stepped off the plane in 1999 I felt the same elation as the day you were born 32 years ago.
  • April 8th: Happy Easter and God Bless
While I felt the birthday ones were off base, not really a big deal and I just shrugged it off and went on with my day.  No problem with the Easter text and all was good, until I got a phone message later in the day.  We were out on the boat so I didn't get the call directly.
  • The gist of it was Happy Easter, it's good to hear your voice even if it is in a message.  I know I'm not good at staying in touch, but I really do love you and Clint and the kids.  The guy I'm seeing and may marry (#6) we may be moving to Texas soon.  If it's meant to be it will happen.
I was with my best friend, who is also my boss' wife when I got the call.  My boss/friend and their family are moving to California this summer for at least 2 years and initially was thought we might go to, but we have too much tying us here since Dave passed away to go.  Her opinion is bio mom moving to Texas is just the thing to get my family to California with them.  Hmmm, tempting, but not likely.  Unfortunately, this does not end with this message.  Bio mom had requested to be my friend on Facebook months ago and I have ignored it (my profile is private).  I have way too many members of the family that raised me on there to subject them to the things she is likely to post, and I will not disrespect them in that way.  I am however "friends" with my half sisters step-mom.  She was around a lot before I was removed from bio mom's custody and it was a way to get in touch with a sister who was treated much the same way I was.

This was the message I got on Facebook Easter evening:
  • Cara Why is (sister's step mom) a friend and not me? That hurts, are you ashamed of me? Hate me? I do the best I can with what I have. I never put anyone down, I trust the Lord to lead me in life. I have prayed everyday that you and (sister) would be back in my life, I got tired of struggling to find a way to get you girls back. I was never going to have the amount of money that it was going to take, to get you girls back. You can ask anyone how broken my heart was and still is. I will continue to pray for God's guidance. I love you and never ever stopped.
I know I have to respond to this and put and end to her passive aggressive contacts.  I haven't yet because I can't stand confrontation.  Still I know it needs to be done and that I will never be able to maintain a peaceful relationship with her.  Her excuses keep changing and I don't think I can handle another one.  I grew up wishing that I had a mom that wanted me.  As an adult I realized I had one the whole time, but it wasn't the one that gave birth to me.  That one wants me now that there is no responsibility and regrets to be faced.

Apr 2, 2012


I used to love this space.  Love to write and pour out the details of my life that were either weighing on me or that I just wanted to share.  I never wanted to be too serious. What is life without humor?

I think that is why I have been avoiding writing for so long.  The things life has had for us in the past year and really before that have really added a heaviness to my thoughts.  I will have something fun or even exciting to write about and then talk myself out of it since it is so trivial in comparison.  It would be fluff.  Not even touching what I am truly feeling or experiencing.  I think I may have to just quit psyching myself out and write the fluff.  How else am I too get comfortable enough to write about the real stuff if I cannot even organize my thoughts on things I am enjoying or happy about?

I am not one to talk about my feelings, or what is bothering me (until I have a drink or two - then you can't shut me up).  Just ask my husband.  It drives him nuts.  I hear, "What's wrong" way too many times to count. Which drives me nuts.  He asked me yesterday if I had blogged recently.  I think he misses being able to come here and have insight into my convoluted brain.

I have found other outlets for my stress, anxiety and unease.  I started seeing a personal trainer in January, because really, I needed a kick in the ass to get myself focused on my health again.  But I found the intense sessions twice a week (except for most of the month of February when everyone in my house took turns being sick or injured) really made me feel more relaxed.  I have also recently started running again.  People look at me strange when I say I enjoy it.  I am also in that boat when I am groaning Sunday morning at myself to get out of bed and put on my running shoes.  I have shin splints and sore muscles.  But there is something about letting go and just feeling the rhythm of feet pounding on pavement that makes you feel free.  Free from the negativity that we feed our own minds about our abilities, or bodies, or place in life.

To be completely honest, I suck at running.  But, I am getting better.  It may also be the reason I feel compelled to write again.  I now have the time or organize those thoughts that have been too jumbled to make sense of.  My new go to method of release is returning me to this one.

I am excited!

Mar 30, 2012

Music for my Mood

I love music.

My iTunes library should prove that.  It is full of a completely random collection of genres and songs that one would never think could never belong on one person's collection.  It includes alternative, Celtic, Christian and Gospel, Latin, Classic Rock, Classical, Electronic, Rap, Oldies, Texas/Red Dirt and many others inbetween.

I often choose my music based on the mood I am currently in.  Even with all my options, I have days I can't place that mood and don't turn it on at all.  I can definitely feel that something is missing on those days. 

I have been feeling a bit melancholy lately.  That coupled with my father in law being in the forefront of my thoughts recently through life events (his partner's retirement party, one of my team member's mother passing from cancer, and finally getting the electrical polls run to the house he was building that will now be ours) I decided to listen to his playlist this morning.

We created this playlist before he passed.  When at the end of August he decided he was done fighting, my husband and our best friends went through our collections and put together a list of the songs that would bring him to life in our hearts when we heard it.  Dave even had some request for the list.  We used songs from this list when we created the slide show for his memorial service two months later.

This is what is making me smile through my mood this morning:

Cowboys and Sailor - Roger Creager
Going Up the Country - Canned Heat
Lavender Blue - Sammy Turner
In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
London Homesick Blues - Jerry Jeff Walker
I'm Alright - Kenny Loggins
Never Alone - Barlow Girl
Even If It Breaks Your Heart - Will Hodge
Come Away With Me - Norah Jones
Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground - Willie Nelson
Down to the River to Pray - Alison Kraus
Oh Yeah - Yello
Quarter to Three - Gary U.S. Bonds
A Pirate Looks at Forty - Jimmy Buffett
Prodigal Son's Prayer - Dierks Bently
Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding
Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughan
Unchained Melody - Righteous Brothers
Where the Boat Leave From - Zac Brown Band
Word of God Speak - Mercy Me

Mar 13, 2012

Bucket List

The last year or so has held a lot of lessons for me and my family.  Sometimes it seemed too many to take at once.  The most important of them all though was to embrace life and those you love while you have time.  My husband often says, "I don't want to look back at the end of my life and say, I was able to put a lot of money in the bank.  I want to say I had a f*&%ing blast!"  There are so many things that I want to do (or start doing again).  The things that tug at my heart when I think about them.  I think a bucket list is a living thing.  It changes as life progresses and priorities change.  But for now, these are the things on mine.

Bring my blog back to life
Run a half marathon

If that is successful - run a marathon

See the Northern Lights

Hiking in the Grand Canyon

Reunite with siblings raised by different parents

Go on a mission trip

Read the Bible

Start drawing again

Start sewing again

Make a Thanksgiving Dinner

Get a tattoo

New Years Eve in Times Square for Angelique's birthday

Learn to take good pictures

Finish College

Live on a boat

Do some stuff I have pinned on Pinterest

Take a spontaneous trip (I am a planner)

Watch my children fall in love

Watch my husband cry when he gives our daughter away

Hold my grandchildren

Oct 28, 2011

Model Behavior

I consider myself the anti "stage mom".  I have never had any intention to push my kids to doing anything in the spot light.

My kids are in karate.  Angelique has tried  a multitude of other things, and both have a list a mile long of other things they want to try.  Both have things on their list that I find worrisome.  For Christian, it's football.  Mainly because Clint played and the likelihood of injury (and ones that can follow you though life) are not uncommon.  Clint can't even tell you how many times he dislocated his jaw playing.

The one that I am struggling with the most, however, is Angelique's desire to model.  It is not an uncommon occurrence for us to be stopped and a stranger to tell me how beautiful she is.  We were even stopped in the mall once to see if she wanted to model.  She was only 4 at the time and had clothing issues and really didn't want to.  See me doing a sigh of relief at that.

Lately we have had several people tell us that we should get her into modeling.  That she would be great at it, etc.  This list includes the professional photographer that we use.  Only now, she wants to.

This has me breaking out in cold sweats.

I don't want to be the parent that tells their kids that any thing they desire is out of their reach, to dangerous, or anything like that.  I even had Christian on a dirt bike at 4.  Anything is possible if they work hard and apply themselves.

But modeling?  Scares me!  Not just the disappointments I know that will come, or some jerks telling her she is not (blank) enough, but that it is an industry that is know to take advantage of people desperate to get into it.

The little research that my husband has done has found that the companies around us that specialize in modeling are money pits that require you to go to their classes, use their photographer for head shots, use their makeup, us their makeup artist, etc.  In other words, they require you to pay for all these things while building you up to believe they can get you a job they don't ever deliver on.

Another concern is the attitude that some (a lot) in the industry have.  The Beautiful People.  I am not saying that everyone in the modeling industry is stuck up and holier than though for having the good graces to be born with an appealing face and body, but it is also not uncommon.  I really don't want any of that rubbing off on my daughter.  It is already difficult enough trying to teach children to be humble and non judgement of others when they grow up in an area where nearly everyone is privileged.

Does anyone have any advice?  Am I worrying over nothing?  Should I just ignore this pursuit all together or bite the bullet and let my little girl follow this dream?

Sep 12, 2011

10 Months

It amazes me the changes that can occur in such a short amount of time.  I can't tell you how many times within less than 1 year my life has seemed like I've known what my future holds, only to have everything turned on it head.  Even when logic has told me, this is too good to be true, I wouldn't allow myself to go there.

The last time I posted to my blog, my son was in preschool and my daughter in 2nd grade.  It was the 8th anniversary of my marriage.  We had been in our home for almost 5 years and while we knew we were in a place too small for us, we had no plans for making a change. 

In that time my son started school (for me was wonderful having both of my kids in the same place rather than sad that I had passed a milestone for the last time).  We picked out a piece of property and started negotiations to buy and build our dream home.  My father-in-law purchased property and began building the home of his dreams.

This is a home he saved for.  A house he waited for retirement to build.  Is paying cash to have built.  A house he will likely not see finished. 

On December 29, 2006 he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.  It had been caught too late and was give 6 months without treatment. 5 years (if he was lucky) with the best medical treatment available.  If you do the math, apparently luck has been on our side.  We are just 4 months shy of the maximum life expectancy given.  Other odds have been beaten.  In 2008 he spent 6 weeks in the hospital to have 1/2 of his liver removed to remove a tumor that could not be treated in a traditional sense.  This surgery on its own only had a max life expectancy of 2 years.  However, it does not appear we will beat the initial prognosis.

Well, it appears after 4 years, 8-1/2 months, time is drawing to a close.  We live close enough that my husband can spend time with him daily.  There has been a lot of stress involved since my FIL is a planner and one who takes care of others.  A month ago, we were given a time line of 2 to 6 months.  That started a planning session.  Wills have been revised, conversations about taking care of Grandma had, plans made, photographs scanned, video cameras purchased so he can give his own statement at his funeral, acceptance of Christ in his heart. 

I am in a place that I don't know what to do.  I work a full day (and sometimes after I get home) and take care of our children, while my husband spends as much time with his father as he can before he dies from the horrible disease.  I am glad for the time he was give to fulfill his dreams knowing the end was coming and knowing that these last years we have spent some amazing time together as a family.

I know we don't have a choice in life.  But, I would rather not know when the end will come.