Memorial Day Memories

Memorial Day Memories

Memorial Day week-end is officially the start of summer for most of us, especially for kids.  I have so many fond memories of this relaxing three-day week-end including some that I am sure I share with you. Here goes!

  • Boating and water skiing on a nearby lake.  Our favorite was Lake Perry outside of Topeka, Kansas.  One time I camped there with a childhood friend and nearly drowned in our tent from a torrential thunderstorm and a nearby tornado.  We barely escaped to sleep the night away on higher ground.
  • Swimming at the Holton public swimming pool, trying to learn to do a one-and-half, and listening to the radio always set to V100.
  • Working as a grocery clerk and thinking everyone else was outdoors having so much fun without ME!
  • Visiting graves of relatives and leaving bouquets of peonies.
  • Churning homemade ice cream and brain freezes.
  • Visiting my grandmother in the assisted living apartment in Newton – taking her out to lunch at the local truck stop.
  • Spending the entire day at the Lockheed pool, catching my girls off the side, over and over again.  Remember the concrete turtle in the wading pool?  Remember my sore arms the next day?
  • Playing my flute in the city’s  memorial park to honor our veterans.
  • Flying the flag and decorating the house in red, white and blue.
  • Hoping I will one day attend the Memorial Day Concert in D.C.  But we often watch it on the telly.
  • Working in the garden.
  • Making Texas sheet cake.
  • Spending quality time with family.

This year, RM’s older brother and his wife are visiting us and we plan to vacation in Fort Worth enjoying the Botanic Gardens, our great museums and restaurants, and walking along the Trinity River.  What are your plans?  Be safe, use bug spray, and wear sunscreen.  Happy beginning of summer 2016.  What adventures will it bring?

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Products I Love to Give and Get

Products I Love to Give and Get

Today, I am blogging about products I love that I have recently added to my growing collection of eclectic tastes here on Ashland or gifted to a friend.  First up, is the white enamel tiffin carrier or cool lunch box by Riess made in Austria.  I found these functional beauties in a little shop in Oak Cliff called Set and Co.  Mine is two layers but they make this model in three layers and more.  These are used widely in south Asia to deliver lunch to workers.  I use mine for serving stir fry dishes.  The rice goes in the bottom container and the veggies go up top.  It would be fun to take to a friend for dinner or to your next pot luck.

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Grantmaking is a Prize Contest

Grantmaking is a Prize Contest

 

creativity

As a person working in the field of grant writing, we have participated in several experimental competitions this year that are very different from the more traditional grantmaking process. National foundations are offering up prizes of millions of dollars for innovative solutions to complex problems.  In the most recent case, we are vying for five prizes totally $50 million to rethink high schools.  In their press release they write “XQ Institute is launching XQ: The Super School Project, a challenge to reimagine and design the next American high school. Harnessing the best of American ingenuity in cities and towns across the country, XQ aims to help spark a movement to rethink the American high school—an institution that was designed to meet the needs of the Industrial Revolution and hasn’t changed in more than a century.

The democratic spirit of the prize, many believe, make this an especially powerful tool. Unlike traditional grant making, these foundations kept the bar of entry low, asking for a brief description of applicants’ ideas, not a complex proposal that few start-up entrepreneurs could manage. They seek out people with visionary ideas who weren’t necessarily plugged into philanthropic networks. In the case of Project XQ, high school students could form a team and apply.  They don’t care whether they had decades of nonprofit experience or were a budding innovator — as long as their ideas have transformative potential.

In case of XQ, the first round included thousands of team applicants starting the online process.  Over 700 applications were actually completed and received from 49 states. Less than half of these proposals were invited to continue on to the next step for the final award of just 5 schools.  The proposal we are working on for the new FWISD STEM/VPA High School is one of them.  The process requires us as grant writers to use a whole new set of skills.  We have always used facilitation skills to bring people together to develop an innovative project design.  But this process, requires us to develop short videos, diagrams, infographics, charts and graphs and very little written narrative.  It is a flipped approach to the traditional grant format that had pages (sometimes over 75) of written narrative and just a few charts and graphs.  Project XQ requires many attachments while traditional grantmakers in the past request few attachments which were generally not scored as part of the award process.

Yesterday, our grant design team came together for a required timed project as part of the final stage of competition for Project XQ.  We met in a conference room, equipped with laptops, projector and the all important healthy snacks.  We connected to the website and agreed to start the timer.  We were given four hours to complete the test which included responses to two scenarios and allowed for a total of 850 words and requested three attachments. Our team quickly went to work and uploaded our responses to the exercise with 14 minutes to spare on the computer timer.  We designed a Powerpoint, a RACI Chart and a Canva 5 Why?, Root Cause Analysis Diagram in less than 3 hours. Collectively, with our lead writer, we drafted and edited the 850 word responses to the two scenarios.  We didn’t even stop for lunch as we had sandwiches delivered.

The team felt great about the experience and our products and each person had a vital role to play in getting the responses and work products submitted. Whatever the outcome, we have come together even stronger than before in our planning for this innovative school and as a team. And we had fun!  I get paid to do this and all for a great cause of public education in Fort Worth.

 

 

 

 

Road Trip to Coleman, TX

Road Trip to Coleman, TX

 

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If you are itching for a road trip from Fort Worth consider a week-end drive to Coleman just about 150 miles west from Cowtown.  We departed around 9 a.m. on a beautiful and sunny Saturday morning and headed to Abilene for lunch and some sight-seeing.  We dined at a local restaurant called Abi-Haus probably more known for their adult beverages than food, it was bit cramped and noisy, but we enjoyed the fresh house baked bread very much and the hipster vibe in an unexpected place.  Next door is a cute little retail shop called Betty and June, named after the owner’s grandmothers.  We all have a Betty or June in our lives, right?  We shopped a bit while we waited for an available table next door.  I succumbed to a silver necklace with a pink crystal at BJ’s at just the right price point before our reservation was called.

After lunch we strolled the empty downtown of Abilene so quiet and unadorned with life form it reminded us of that creepy sci-fi movie from the 70’s, Andromeda Strain.  In this retro flick the entire town in New Mexico was wiped out by an interterresterial life form leaving behind only a wino and a little baby.  Seriously, we were not sure where Abilenites were that sunny day but they too must have left town for a road trip of their own.  We did stumble upon a unique museum, titled, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL or nickle as our attentive tour guide explained).  The original illustrations were splendid, lush with detail and color, and the building clean and well-designed.  We enjoyed viewing nearly 50 or so illustrations by John Muth.  You might remember him from Stone Soup fame?

http://nccil.org/experience/artists/Muth/index.htm

We left around 2 p.m. and drove another 40 minutes to Coleman.  We explored all the quaint little shops and especially loved Bonneville.  This unique vintage store specializes in mid-century modern furniture and accessories.  The female owner is an accountant and muralist before opening this store.  She has a great eye for design, great taste and the prices are affordable.  So much cheaper than anything you can find in Dallas or Fort Worth.  Worth the drive just to browse this shop.  Check her products out on Facebook and plan accordingly as the store is only open Thursday through Sunday.  I regret not buying more.

bonnevilleOur final leg of our journey was to Rancho Loma just 20 minutes south of Coleman offering a rest and a dining experience unique to this part of west Texas.  Please remember to print out the directions before leaving Coleman as there is no cell service in this part of rural Texas. This part of the of the journey brought us day trippers together.  It reminded us of the quote, “sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.”  We took a couple of misturns before eventually stumbling onto the country road that led to Rancho Loma. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the proud owner on-site and super hands-on offering us a bit of history of the homestead built in the late 1800’s and abandoned for thirty years or more before he purchased it with his wife originally just for them to live in.  He took us on a short tour of the working ranch sprinkled with a few longhorns, cows, goats, a lush spring garden, friendly chickens, and plenty of fresh air and big sky country. And the care of the owners is everywhere in the details, the staging and the beautiful photography and landscaping that surrounds you on the property.

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We had reservations for dinner that night so we relaxed poolside for a bit before tidying up for a much-anticipated dinner that did not disappoint.  The menu is low in carbs which I appreciate with my renewed focus on healthy lifestyle and choices.  We started with a demi cup of corn chowder followed by a healthy green salad with toasted cashews.  Fish course was fresh and I remember I wanted a piece of bread to mop up the sauce.  The main course was perfectly seared steak and Yukon gold roasted potatoes.  We couldn’t finish the generous serving of steak for two and asked for a doggy bag. We guarded our bag carefully as there are two friendly family dogs on property who know how to stealthily enter through the side door of the restaurants for treats from enabling guests.

Dessert was flourless chocolate cake — perfection with espresso.  The food fit the place perfectly and the service was on point even with the house, full of couples and a large party on a Saturday night.  The restaurant doesn’t serve wine so be sure to pack a couple of bottles of your favorite bubbly before leaving Fort Worth.

After our dinner, we sat around the fire pit visiting with the owner and other guests, remarking on the clear view of the Milky Way, the beautiful night, sharing stories, before succumbing to a food coma and a comfy bed.

Our hotel reservation included breakfast the next morning which was fresh and perfectly prepared. Again, no options, as you take what is on the menu.  “Yes, please,” says this foodie to the menu selections but not sure how this jives for guests with less of an adventuresome pallet and food restrictions.  I couldn’t believe I was hungry again after such a feast the night before but I cleaned my plate.  Sunday is sleepy in Coleman so we dawdled around the Rancho Loma property, sipping coffee, before departing for home.

 

 

Raising Mindful Girls

Raising Mindful Girls

 

my girls
Marshall Girls at Hauck home site

My girls are grown and in their 20s. I no longer have to worry if we were good parents, now I can look at the girls and see the results. Our goal was to raise happy and well-adjusted kids with good hearts and giving souls. And we achieved our goal twice over. Their stories are still being written but so far they are all working in non-profit fields in social services and education; giving back to others.  People keep telling us that our daughters are amazing. They’re just regular people but we agree, they are amazing. They’re not curing cancer in the basement, they’re not star athletes, they’ve never won lots of fabulous prizes (well a few!), they’re just living their lives, seeking joy and fulfillment in life’s simple pleasures. They are very mindful to how fast lives go by even if they are only in your 20’s.

The three C’s are planning their second “sister trip” in June.  The last trip was to explore Gettysburg and home sites back east to document family history on both sides of our family. This second trip, they are camping across the southwest with the final destination the Grand Canyon.  Camping for the first time, together,  will either bring them even closer or totally destroy their sisterhood bond.

my girls 2
Niagara Falls

My girls, while similar in values, are so different in personalities and interests.They broke the mold after each one was born. I think they did this to carve out their unique place in our family tree and to avoid too much comparison or maybe just to survive.  But they all have the following traits:

  • Emotional Intelligence — they know how to communicate and express their feelings in a positive manner.
  • Resiliency – they are problem-solvers and understand consequences.
  • Curiosity – they ask questions, so many when they were young, and they are good at finding out how things work.
  • Positivity – while they make mistakes, they understand that mistakes are a part of life and try again.
  • Confidence – they believe they can do it, whatever IT is.  And they grow more confident every day.

So after a week full of protests about bathroom rights, civil liberties, politics at its worst, I reflect on my daughters and how AMAZING they are each and every day living on planet Earth.  From me, they caught the travel bug which plays out in detailed action steps to always, I mean ALWAYS,  have a trip on the horizon and a bag packed for an unexpected opportunity to explore the world or our own backyard. To the girls.

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They are funny too

 

 

Dice Game

Dice Game

 

dice gameSince August when I made the Blue Zone Pledge to get active, one of my commitments was to hire a personal trainer. Since then, the Mindful Mule, Jenny, has me on the move three times a week.  This last week, we played the dice game for 20 minutes during our 45 minute session.

Here is how it works.  You need two regular dice. Write two columns on a piece of paper of possible exercises to complete and the duration of each.  Example:  50 mountain climbers or 20 kettle ball swings.  She wrote six exercises in each column for a total of 12.  We then placed all the equipment around the gym so it was ready for me to use immediately.  If you don’t have equipment, just pick exercises that require stuff you have around the house like canned goods or a chair or just you and your incredible body.

Then it was my turn to roll the dice.  The first dice is for column 1 and the second one is for column two.  Whatever number comes up on the dice it is then associated with the number and exercise on the paper. Then, you complete the exercises, and roll the dice again.  You repeat this pattern for whatever time you can commit.  After 20 minutes, I was good and sweaty and I didn’t realize the time had passed so quickly.  For some reason, I kept getting high rollers so I did lots of mountain climbers (150 to be exact) and burpees (40).  Why can’t I roll like that when I play Yahtzee? This would be a fun game to play with kids.  You could list items like 20 jump rope crossovers, 10 hops, 5 cartwheels, 25 basketball tosses just for examples to help get your kids active too.  Play along with them. Have you tried to jump rope, hop, or do jumping jacks lately?  Harder to do when you are over 50 than you think especially if you have been inactive recently.  Recently, I just tried to walk on a low beam and found it challenging.  I whipped up on that in 3rd grade but now, I can get across it with a lot of concentration.

Working out is paying off in so many ways.  On Saturday and Sunday, I worked in my garden getting it spruced up a bit and didn’t get tired at all.  I hauled 40 pound bags of dirt and potting soil back and forth from the front of the house to the back, weeded five flower beds, used the weed wacker to edge around all the beds, planted $150 worth of new plants, repotted 3 large Boston ferns, watered everything in time for the rain Sunday night, without any residual soreness this morning. Regular core, arm and leg training combined with cardio has been truly transformational for my body, spirit and peace of mind.

Hands

Hands

My earliest memory of my mother are of her hands not her eyes as you might imagine. Hands taking care of me, patting me, bathing me and combing my hair. Cooking hands, chopping onions and carrots and kneading bread as well as hands at rest at home reading a book, at work typing a report, and in our small community striving to make our home town a better place.  At the Methodist church of my upbringing, my mom taught vacation bible school, even though she confessed she wasn’t sure she was a true believer,  and made sure we had the proper, clean and ironed clothes to attend church. She sewed them with her own hands. As a young child, I found the Sunday sermon hour restless and she would distract me with her hands.  We intertwined fingers, made steeples, exchanged gentle rubs, traced veins to quiet my energy until I was released to the fellowship hall and the feast of store-bought cookies, Kool-Aid and hopscotch.

I look at my hands today and they are the same hands of my mother, weathered by a life well-traveled, loved and  filled with the joy and the sacrifice of motherhood, the toughness of a road not easily passed but hands full of the surprises, joy, a few scars, but hope for the future of our children —  all destined to have the same hands as us.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of us who mother every day whether a child, a friend, a spouse, a colleague, a boss, a canine, a feline or a reptile.  The definition of mothering is to bring up with care and affection so let’s broaden the term of mothering to include all of us with helping hands and loving hearts.  To the mother in each of us.

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My mother, my father, my three brothers.  Gpa and Gma Hovorka in the background. I was yet to come.  Love you, Mom.