Getaway To Austin, Texas: Part One

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

We picked up our kids straight from school at 3pm and hit the road for our local Groupon getaway.

It’s a little less than a 3 hour drive to Austin and our son was shooting the Texas Indoor Archery Championship at University of Texas at 6pm.

That’s how we roll.

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We  sat in the collegiate range for a couple of hours and he shot his personal best! A couple of people down from Olympian Vick Wunderlee. It was awesome.

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While the boys shot day 2 of the tournament, the girls and I explored this beauty in Austin. The Omni Barton Resort we found on the Groupon Getaway site is a sight to behold:

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We explored the vast and spacious property, ate delicious breakfast burritos and drank cappuccinos in the quaint on-property coffee shop. It was the perfect leisure morning.

When the guys returned by noon, we were ready to explore more of Austin. We found a food truck park and everyone split up and tried something new. I had spicy thai noodles, Terrell and Madi ate different versions of tacos, our youngest had a hamburger and the archer ate his fill of wieners. It was a breezy day and perfect outside eating weather.

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We spent the rest of the day exploring local thrift stores. There are dozens in the city and they definitely add to the funky feel of the city. We were hunting for some small fixtures for our new Mercy House warehouse and found a couple of good deals. But the antique chicken coop wouldn’t fit in our car. But we tried.

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We also visited the cool Tom’s store on the main drag and got a lot of great display ideas, including this huge chalkboard wall map. We spent a lot of time on South Congress, one of the main roads in Austin. One of our favorite stores was Ten Thousand Villages, which offers fair trade product from all over the world…right up my alley. We also enjoyed Uncommon Objects. Talk about weird.

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We ended the night eating at a local hotspot and ate fancy. It was a restaurant featured on the Food Network. We always check the app in whatever city we’re in and try to discover delicious unique food.

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We might have even cropped our kids out of the picture and pretended we were on a date. Don’t all moms and dads do that on Groupon Getaways?

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And The Destinations Are . . .

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

 

After dinner one night, our family did something spontaneous. We made a list of all the places we wanted to travel to before our kids leave home.

That was four years ago.

We debated and narrowed down and the final list was amazing and crazy. It was audacious. We didn’t talk about how our family would travel to Paris, Hawaii, Colorado, New York City, Washington DC, the Grand Canyon and other amazing places.

But that didn’t stop us from dreaming. Since we started Mercy House in 2010, we’ve had the opportunity to travel to Africa periodically and we fell in love with traveling and exploring together.

One by one, we are marking destinations off the list. We won’t see them all, but we will see a few. (One way we save? We label empty water bottles with destinations and tuck every extra (and unexpected) dollar we can spare into the bottles. It’s taken years for some trips, but it’s slowly working).

When Groupon asked if we wanted to take a local and an out-of-state getaway, we jumped at the chance.

For our local getaway, we scoured the Groupon Getaways choices and tried to narrow down them down. Texas is not only huge, there’s so much to see and do. We’ve spent time in Galveston and we love the hills of San Antonio and the plains of West Texas.  Sometimes the most beautiful places are right under our noses. We just have to get in the car and go find them.

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We ended up picking Austin, Texas. There’s so much to see and do there and we’ve never taken the time to fully explore it, even though it’s only three hours from us. We also wanted to do our part to help keep it weird.

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Our son had a chance to compete in the Texas Archery Championship at University of Texas, so we thought it would be a great family getaway. On our list for the weekend: hunting down great thrift shopping and eating at out-of-the-way local restaurants.

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Plus, food trucks.

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Groupon makes it super easy to book a getaway with just a few clicks. You can just add your location and dates of travel and search dozens of destinations. The easy-to-understand layout of the pages allows users to easily clock on calendar dates for the vacation that you want. Plus, Groupon’s discounts can’t be beat.

For our out-of-state trip, the choice (and debate) was extensive. Our kids saw snow last year for the first time (yes, poor Texas children) and a restful snowy mountain getaway sounded appealing. But we also wanted the chance to see, explore and learn about a new city.

Our second grader has been studying US history and she said, “I need to see this.”

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Washington DC won!

Besides getting as close to the White House as possible, we can’t wait to explore the Smithsonian, all the government buildings and Eastern Market. We’ve also heard there are some amazing places to eat and trying new places is always an adventure.

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I can’t wait tell you more about our trips for #MyGrouponGetaway!

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That Thing You Can’t Let Go Of

Four years ago, we sat in a warehouse-turned-coffee shop and had a heart to heart. Terrell and I were visiting one of our favorite Texas towns and we stumbled upon the quaint shop. The walls had pallets hanging on them, holding fair trade product from around the world. I bought a few Christmas gifts and we sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee.

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This is what I want to do, he said.

I looked at my husband like he was crazy. Mercy House was only a year old, he was working 50+ hours a week as a sales rep and I was juggling family, writing and the new non-profit. We were overwhelmed.

Even with all these reasons, I heard something in his voice I will never forget: It was the sound of a dream being spoken aloud. And I know how much courage that takes.

Yeah, it was a cool place, but it was more than a global marketplace and a great cup of coffee. It was hope and opportunity for the countless women it empowered.

Fast forward a couple of years.

I was having a hard to sleeping. Again. What is it God? I whispered in the middle of the night. That was the first night I was burdened to create jobs for impoverished women. It didn’t make sense-this tangible intangible, this whisper in the night. I argued How am I supposed to provide jobs for women? I’m in over my head with my yes already. But I held onto the words.

Because I couldn’t let them go.

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You may know the rest of the story. A few months later, I visited an apartment complex in the heart of my city and started helping refugee women make product. I didn’t really relate it to creating jobs for women at the time. It just felt like obedience. But then Fair Trade Friday was born out of our vision for Mercy House and now with over 1200 members a month, we are providing jobs for many, many impoverished women all over the globe.

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The tiny building on our backyard that has housed Mercy House product and an office quickly filled and we added more shelves and volunteers actually had to move boxes into my yard just to fill orders. Product began to fill our garage and dining room. For months we carried thousands of fair trade items to my church every month for volunteers to pack monthly boxes because we needed the space.

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On the way home from my parents house one night a few weeks ago, I was feeling a little discouraged about our space problem and I passed a sign for a building lease. I picked up my phone and called the number. It was a Sunday night and the owner answered. He just happened to have a warehouse space for a rental rate so low I had to have him repeat it a couple of times. The building isn’t fancy (at all), but it has enough room for us to pack our boxes, house volunteers, have an office or two and a retail space.

Sometimes signs really are a sign from God.

As we scrubbed and painted and prepped our warehouse last week, Terrell stopped and pulled me close.

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This is what I saw all those years ago.

I hadn’t thought of that little coffee shop in the middle of  Texas in years. But I knew immediately what he was referring to. I nodded my head yes.

It was this place.

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I don’t know what you can’t let go of today. But can I encourage you to hold onto it?

God speaks in the dark of the night. He whispers a word, maybe two. He gives us a glimpse. He plants hope in our heart. And it may take months or years or a lifetime, but when God speaks, he will make a way. We might not know when or how or who, but He is faithful.

Don’t let go.

 

[If you’re local to North Houston and want to come  volunteer or help pack our monthly boxes, we’d love to have you! You can learn more here. Or if you’re just in the neighborhood and want to come shop, we’d love that too!]

 

What They Don’t Tell You About Raising Kids

I spent five long years trying to become a mother.

And I’ve spent the last fifteen trying to be a good one.

Raising kids is probably the most important thing I will ever do. But I didn’t get educated in a classroom or with a how-to manual; I learned on the job and mostly by making mistakes. When they wheeled me and my new baby girl out of the hospital to join my husband who was pulling up the car, I remember hesitating and looking at the nurse nervously. She patted my back and whispered, “You will do fine.”

For our first hour at home as a family, we sat across the room and stared at her, while she slept in her carseat.

We were terrified she would wake up.

We were terrified she wouldn’t.

That sort of sums up my parenting experience so far–What if they do? What if they don’t? Will they? Should they?

I have second-guessed and been given second chances. I have marveled at all I didn’t know and been amazed at what I learn every day.

They didn’t tell me the sleepless nights of pregnancy were a foreshadowing of the next 18 years.

They didn’t tell me the deep-breathing was for more than birth.

They didn’t tell me about the first set of stitches or the second. Or that I would get woozy every time.

They didn’t tell me that I would want to give my kids everything, but that I mustn’t.

They didn’t tell me how hard it would be to say no, but I must.

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They didn’t tell me I would watch my heart get on a school bus.

They didn’t tell me I would long for school to start as much as I long for it to end.

They didn’t tell me there would be math. Lots of math.

They didn’t tell me about the first time my child would hurt my feelings.

Or how angry I would feel when someone hurt my child’s.

They didn’t tell me how I would ache to fix their problems.

They didn’t tell me I would fall into bed physically exhausted when they were little and emotionally drained when they were older.

They didn’t tell me I would give up something I love, so they could figure out something to love.

They didn’t tell me I would yell.

They didn’t tell me I would laugh until my sides ache.

They didn’t tell me I would cry myself to sleep because of something they said or worse, because of something I said.

They didn’t tell me my son would call me in the middle of school today and ask to go home early because he is grieving his beloved archery coach’s terminal diagnosis.

They didn’t tell me I couldn’t make some things better. Or how badly I would hurt when my children do.

They didn’t tell me how hard some days would be.

They didn’t tell me how fast it would go…

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They didm’ tell me how much I would love being their mom.

They didn’t tell me all these milestone and phases for one reason:

There is joy in discovering motherhood –the beautiful and broken days– for ourselves.

One day at a time.

For the Days (And Weeks) When Everything’s A Mess (Including You)

How is everything? 

It was a sincere question from a dear friend.

We stood in the small Mercy House building that sits in my backyard and there was barely room to turn around, as we unpacked product from around the world.

I immediately thought about my filthy floors just a few steps away in my kitchen begging to be swept.

And the laundry in various stages throughout the house and the dirty dishes in the sink and the clean ones in the dishwasher.

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I thought about the bills that needed to be paid and the taxes that needed to be filed and my cluttered closets and the boxes of stuff still waiting to be donated. I needed to go the grocery store, I thought, before I tackle the rest. But we have after school practice and Fair Trade Friday packing and . . . I don’t even want to think about upstairs. My mental To Do list grew by the second and I took a deep breath.

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I assumed she was really asking about the crazy-busy week I was living, but all I could think about was the chaos and my first world problems.

I tugged on the headband covering my graying roots and I said, “Everything is a mess.”

She smiled, relieved to hear honesty, I think.

“Yeah, everything is a mess,” I continued. “My house, my car, my pantry, my garage, my hair, my life.  Do you ever feel that way? Like some days you’re on top of the ball and other days you’re under it?” I asked.

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She nodded her head, “Yes! I totally get it. I have entire weeks like that”

I immediately felt better. Honesty will do that for you. So will community.

And then she added, “How can I help you?”

Oh, friends.

When we let down our guard, we can let others in.

When we let people into our mess, they don’t point and judge at our disorganization or dissatisfaction, they help us clean it up.

We talked awhile about what I could to catch up and mostly rest.

Because it wasn’t so much my surroundings that were messy (although they were), it was the mess in me. The unsettled I can’t do everything, but I need to do everything vortex I get sucked into.

When I got home, I didn’t tackle one thing on my list. Instead I went and got a massage.

And I let my friend do my dishes.

I thought about my time, how to best use it, what was sucking it. I shared my thoughts with my husband later and we formed a plan to tackle some of the chaos.

But mostly, the messes are still here and there. (The sink does looks better and I made a hair appointment).

What really changed was me.

I realized all the other things in our home and life piled up because we were focusing on what really mattered more: people. 

Because really all those untidy places are just proof that we are living.

So, I’m determined to tackle a pile when I can, but I won’t hate the mess. I’ll try to look for the beauty in it.