Four Spring Days on the Farm

In an effort to clear one’s head from the cares of the world, sometimes one must distance oneself from regular life, leave your home behind and get your hands a little grimy. Whether it’s a life rift, grief of any kind or an earthquake of the heart, one can always count on some days in the dirt to heal your mind, body and soul.

And from this space, I sought out an organic farm where I could volunteer my vacation time and my energy (a true bucket list item I literally found on an old list after this adventure at my parents’ house – yes, what they say about writing it down really is true!).

After some research, I settled on a Texas farm in the hill country called VRDNT farms. It was a woman owned and operated organic farm, that for this particular Spring 2022 season was also completely female staffed. So to this fearless sisterhood, I yoked myself for four days and thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. 

My first task after meeting Becky, the farm owner, and Giovanna, the planting manager, was to pull weeds amongst the onions. I learned very quickly that speed did not come naturally to me. Looking back at where I’d begun after 15, 30, 45 minutes only made the task seem daunting and feel like I would never be done. I also had a short run-in with a fire-ant before promptly putting my gardening gloves back on my hands. 

One of the lessons I learned in my short time at the farm was that throughout your farm duties, you regularly have to reposition your body. You may start on your knees, move to a squat and then eventually just sit on your backside, while turning to complete your task. After 8 hours of this, when I arrived the 2nd day on the farm when I crouched down and stood back up, I thought, “I do not know if I can do this another full day.” But somehow you make it. And you don’t complain because the people around you aren’t complaining either. Knowing others are doing it helps you press on yourself underneath the sun. One gal told me, “yeah, it took a few weeks but your body eventually gets used to it.”

Despite the physically taxing nature of the work, every morning I loved hearing the birds chirp away, the faint growl of the tractor in the fields that Giovanna was plowing, the kiss of the cool spring wind across my face and the feel of dirt underneath my fingernails. 

At night, I made my way back to the airstream trailer I called home for my travels. It was a quiet place in the woods I mostly had to myself until one other guest showed up the last night I was there. An open barn kitchen was at my disposal and donkeys were there to admire and evene interact with when they were out. In fact, they were a perfect replacement for roosters to wake me each morning as I roused from heavy sleep to another day of farming.

The work was hard. My muscles ached from lack of use. But each night, I sunk into the incredibly sweet sleep of someone who has earned their keep doing something worthwhile for the day. I knew the release of energy expended. And I felt the lift of the Vitamin D that the sun bestowed on my skin for those glorious four days on the farm. 

Friday was harvest day. We cleaned root vegetables and used the former washing machine turned lettuce dryer to wash and package it for the customers purchasing CSA boxes. Packaging produce was the task, but it was authentic conversation that was cultivated from this day’s experience. The women I worked with that day pulled back the curtains and opened windows into their inner worlds with me. From our thoughts and musings on life, to processing trauma, I was blessed by more that what physically grew on the farm. As we packaged root vegetables, a deep connection and conversation grew between these kindred spirits. 

Prone to overthinking, even while working on the farm, I began to realize even that was less wasted on a farm. As I worked through a task and through some thoughts in my mind, I could look back and see a row of bok choy I had planted, a section of earth I had weedeated or plenty of garlic I had harvested in an afternoon. There was production in the painful process. 

The four days on the farm were a healing rite of passage for me. A post-experience manifestation like a drastic haircut after a first heartbreak. It created in me a peace and thankfulness, head lifted upward and hands outstretched to the sky in a worship position to the Maker who created healing through nature.

While it may sound unconventional to some and strange to others, that short escape from reality was the perfect puzzle piece to what I was needing, a salve for a wound and a balm for my soul. In fact, it was the first solo vacation I ever took, and I reveled in it. And may more reveling of its kind commence in future days. 



Atop Mt. Rose – Nevada

When the world is heavy with lows, go high on a mountain.

The year of the pandemic will not soon be forgotten. 2020 – Clear vision for some. Intense grief for others. Nothing short of confusion and doubt layered with a significant dose of anxiety. And while a virus out of our control like wildfire across the world, one Friday in October stood out from the others. And the three of us decided unanimously, albeit impulsively, to tackle the 2000 foot elevation gain to the summit of Mt. Rose. 

Mt. Rose, boasting a height of 10,785 feet, is a towering beauty. She unashamedly guards the nearby city of Reno and all of Washoe County. This particular season had been a dry one for this area and the landscape was nearly as parched as the spirit of each and every American.

We started our ascent mid-day and upward, still upward, we eagerly walked. Out West, the scenery changes from every angle you turn your head. It creates for one a new perspective in more ways than one. And as my father shared when we told him our plans for the day, “That’ll clear the cobwebs in your mind.” He was correct, and that it did. 

I believe it’s a natural human tendency to long for escape. Many will and have debated the cause of such feeling, but my belief is that our spirit longs to leave our body as it will do someday for eternity. Because of this, some of us are driven to our own personal “elsewheres” from renovating houses to writing songs to climbing the sheer, rugged face of El Capitan. But whatever your elsewhere is, feeling that pull is just one part of being human. 

While nature provides a sense of escape and thrill from our present circumstances, it is juxtaposed by an ever-present, delicate touch to humanity’s ache for nurture. I can’t explain it. I only believe it’s just the way He created it. The human healer in our group, my brother-in-law, the nurse practitioner, was our trusted guide as he was the only one who had formally completed this hike. As we meandered up the side of the mountain and passed the meadow area, a peaceful portion with the still waters of Psalms, we arrived at a partially-frozen waterfall.

We stopped to admire the falls that were delicately transitioning from one season to another, not shocked or worried because of the change around them, but rather accepting the reality of what always comes to be. This focal point of nature was merely following suit along with the shorter days, the hibernation of life around it and the quiet hush of winter that was enveloping it slowly. 

And from there, we began the most challenging portion of the 11.5 mile hike. My breath was labored, my muscles fatigued, and many rests accompanied me along the way. I believe humanity longs to thrive, not just merely survive like the last remaining flowers of the season, shivering alone at the mercy of the wind. We long to trek upward, toward something yet unseen to tackle a not-yet-realized goal. Despite hopeless moments and discouragement, we each desire to live. We wind our own way up metaphoric mountains, lungs gasping for air and a heart pumping blood to every portion of our bodies. The difficulty of it all cultivates the mentality that as we trek upward, despite our falls or stops, we still press onward. After seasons of disappointment, missed opportunities, broken relationships and grief over loss in the world around us humanity continues to arise and unearth new levels of tenacity. Although we stop to rest when we feel we have nothing left to give, we once again pick up our pack and continue onward. We don’t quit. We refuse to let the mountain have its way or steal the strength we have left to give. We press on. 

This is a driving force for my love of outdoor adventure: the cultivation of the spirit that presses on, no matter how hard the journey, how steep the grade and how dark the night may be. The spirit that refuses to give up, no matter how gut-wrenching the pain, and sometimes, with the acceptance that some pathways must be traveled alone. But we press on. 

Mt. Rose looks down from her tower on those who come closer, rewarding those who are willing to risk something for the reward of her summit. She tried and tested us, a faithful tutor instructing us in the duality of courage and humility in one afternoon adventure there and back. The intense incline, in the middle of the hike, was the portion that humbled my bold spirit and reminded me how much work I have yet to do. 

The harsh, naked, and awe-inspiring reality of nature is intoxicating, and once you’ve tasted the wild, you’re drawn to follow with each step. Various experiences on the trail have taught me that as I venture into a future yet unknown, I continue to learn lessons on the mountain. Lessons of survival, preparation, trust, of my God-bestowed capabilities and the determination to not let fear be my master. An ascent slowly unravels my addictions, my insecurities and acceptance of my imperfections. Time on the mountain teaches one to move forward at just the right pace, heed the call of the “elsewhere” and trust in the promise of who we can become. And all the while, we remember that hope and faith reside in the promise of another spring.

Toast, a poem

I am toast

Under the broiler

baking under the

judgment of condescending coils

who question me

for details outside my control

Waiting for

someone to come take. me. out.

Set me gently

on the front, i said on the front. burner.

And cover me with perfectly sweet toppings

And celebrate my simplicity

who brings out my truest flavor

and if I am forgotten?

I am toast


A Write of Passage

I don’t need permission

From Anyone but me

To create a world inside my head

Permission to be free

My brother’s not my keeper

But it took some time to see

That I don’t need permission

For he doesn’t hold my key

I don’t need permission

From those who disagree

They’re merely standing stones

Down my river that runs free

There’s no need to make them

View life just how I do

I’ll let them walk their own path

While setting in my own life true.


Outdoor options in Bell County

The newest issue of Bell County Living was just recently released from the presses. I had the pleasure of having an article on the Nolan Creek Project featured in their outdoor section of the publication. Feel free to check out several spreads and the full article below! And if you’re looking for some great outdoor activities, check out some of the ones I’ve mentioned toward the end of the article:

As an avid outdoor adventurist, the Nolan Creek Project is a pretty exciting addition to local Bell County. The Nolan Creek Project expansion was completed September 2016 after construction originally began in 2014. Outdoor adventurists in Bell County now have something to look forward to this summer season.

The Nolan Creek area of Belton has always been a popular social spot in Belton for many generations, especially during 4th of July festivities. The modern Nolan Creek project was conceptualized by Belton City Council, and the first leg of the Nolan Creek Hike & Bike Trail through the downtown area was a catalyst. This project brought more people downtown, and with the completion of the Gin complex, momentum picked up.

This project was prepped for completion after help from donors such as Texas Parks & Wildlife, CGI Group, HEB and several other small donors. Even the former Belton Mayor, Jim Covington, was excited when the state grant was awarded to the project. With several phases to finalize the project, the end result cost $521,000. The cascades, which provide rolling water behind The Gin, now called Creekside Park, were put into place by January 2015. Once these features were completed, the city saw tubing and kayaking activity increase along the creek with more waders taking advantage of spending time on the river. The second phase included a put-in location, complete with parking, near Chisholm Trail Senior Village on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. That particular area of the project could not begin until the new MLK bridge over Nolan Creek was finished in July 2016. By mid-September, the put-in location was completed around the same time as the new Nolan Creek Nature Trail.

The project’s completion in September 2016 was celebrated with a day of festivities that included tubing down the river with both local citizens and current Belton Mayor, Marion Grayson. She creatively coined the term, the Mayor’s Floatilla, for the experience. The unique ribbon-cutting event made history with Mayor Grayson lifting her “golf club paddle” into the air and slicing it through the ribbon strung across the creek by the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce. Once the Mayor and her floating crew arrived on land, inner tubes were passed out to the public for their own tubing experience. The city spent a couple hours taking people through the drops, and families enjoyed their time spent on the water.

Fun things to experience along Nolan Creek

There are now various activities visitors can experience along Nolan Creek since the expansion project has been completed. These include wading, tubing, kayaking, picnicking, bird watching, fishing, hiking, and biking.

Fishing: Twice a year, the creek is stocked with trout, and families are invited to come fish them out. Family, Fishin’, Fun is one of the best events of the year. Many residents and visitors gather at the creek in hopes of of catching a big trout.

Hiking, tubing and kayaking: Most people are aware of the Hike & Bike Trail with its fabulous 10-foot sidewalks. The new Nolan Creek Nature Trail is one of the best-kept secrets in Belton. Located on the UMHB side of the MLK bridge over Nolan Creek, it provides an ideal location for a picnic as well as a quarter-mile nature trail. To unload tubes and kayaks, visitors can use the small parking lot there as well. From this spot on Nolan Creek, it takes about two hours to float to the cascades downtown in Creekside Park, which is behind the Gin.

Picnicking: Picnic tables are located in Harris Park and Yettie Polk Park and both offer access to the creek.

Swimming– Some people prefer not to swim, while others are totally comfortable with it. It is recommended not to ingest the water as it is rated for kayaking, wading and tubing. If people want to make an informed decision about recreating in Nolan Creek, it is recommended to begin with visiting

Places to eat and shop near the Gin at Nolan Creek: Not only are there outdoor activities in Belton in this area, but for those who aren’t so in love with nature can definitely spend the day having their own version of fun. Visitors can eat at The Gin at Nolan Creek, grab some coffee at Amor Ciego coffee company, browse to their heart’s content at The Mercantile or My Giving Tree Gift Shop and Gallery, book a spa day at Woodhouse Spa and even have dinner at Coronas de Oro.

I personally enjoy my own walks along the Hike and Bike Trail which feeds into the campus of the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. For families looking for summer fun, there’s also a Splash pad along the Hike & Bike trail located across from the Harris Community Center. Picnic tables, restroom facilities, fishing spots, playgrounds, basketball courts and horseshoe pits provide some great Saturday activities.
For more information, please feel free to contact Matt Bates, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Belton at or call at 254-933-4862.

The Creative side of Central Texas

Locals shop at Ten Thousand Villages and admire local art

After I relocated back to my home state of Texas during the holidays, I have had the opportunity to write for our local newspaper, The Belton Journal. My first assignment was the perfect fit for me. I covered an Artist event at The Hub in Temple, Texas. Imagine my surprise when I saw that The Hub was also home to one of my former volunteering efforts, Ten Thousand Villages.

It is such a great thing to have a fair-trade and ethical shopping opportunity right near my home town. If the words fair-trade sound foreign to you… go here for some more info! If you’re in the Central Texas area, you should definitely check it out. I have included the article I wrote for the Belton Journal below if you want to read about the event earlier this year:


The Hub in Temple hosted the first Artist Meet & Greet on Friday, January 13. Eighteen local artisans shared their creative work with the community. This included watercolors, acrylic and oil paintings, metal work, photography, custom leather handbags, art glass, sculpture, pottery, quilts and jewelry. Artists involved hailed from Belton, Temple, Waco, Salado, Troy, College Station and surrounding areas.  

In addition, a variety of central Texas arts organizations were represented such as Central Texas Art League, Temple Cultural Arts District, Waco Cultural Arts Fest, Bell Fine Arts Association and the Brazos Valley Art League.

While art lovers were treated to wine and food, they mingled amidst the booths as the artists shared the inspiration behind their pieces. One of the artists featured was a local veterinarian, Beau Whitaker, who specializes in western graphite pencil art.

“My inspiration comes from my everyday job,” says Beau. “I am an equine veterinarian, so I work all day, every day with horses and the western subjects I draw. Living and working on the Four Sixes Ranch also had an impact on my art.”

Another artist, Darrell Crisp, a wildlife photographer who focuses on endangered animal species as his subject, donates a portion of his proceeds to Habitat for Humanity, The Nature Conservancy and Land trusts in Molokai, Hawaii.  

His wife and supporter of this event, Karen Crisp, remarked, “We are excited because now there is a venue in the Temple/Belton area for artists to showcase their work in a synergistic creative explosion. These types of events are helping to revitalize Temple like Waco has done, and there is now a creative hub within The Hub.”

Joe and Pam Shepperd are the visionaries behind the Hub concept and construction. They approached Bonnie Chapa, President and Founder of Central Texas Art League, about organizing an event after seeing her artwork in The Belton Journal.

“The Temple Cultural Arts District is beginning a movement, and the Hub has joined in this endeavor,” said Bonnie Chapa. “People begged for more art events, and we listened.”

The Hub in Temple resides in a turn of the century building that was once a harness shop. It opened December 1, 2016 and houses 22,000 square feet of retail space, including an event rental space and Sweet Eileen’s vintage cafe and ice cream shop. For upcoming events with the Hub, visit their website at or call 254-598-2293.

So if you’re in the Central Texas area, check out The Hub in downtown Temple, Texas!


20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase

Here is an article I had the opportunity to write on the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase that was published this spring in the Belton Journal:

Photo Credit: C.A. Cash at Shot-in-Texas

Photo Caption: Krysten Harris plays live onstage with Bobby Flores

Just a Swingin’ at the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase

Texas heritage came alive as feet shuffled on the dance floor while performers entertained at the 20th annual Texas Western Swing Showcase at the Bell County Expo Center on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4. Bobby Flores and Judy Rountree co-produced the event for the first time this year. The musical lineup featured Jeff Woolsey & the Dancehall Kings, Bobby Flores & the Yellow Rose Band, Future Stars of Tomorrow Showcase and Coby Carter & 5 Miles West.  

“If we are going to preserve the music, we have to get young people involved,” said Judy Rountree, the Marketing, Promotions and Publicity contact for Bobby Flores and co-organizer of the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase. “We don’t want to lose it. It’s a part of history. We need to preserve the history of music as well. This music is jazz on cornbread.”

The Future Stars of Tomorrow showcase on Saturday afternoon featured young musicians ranging from age 11 to 30.  They hailed from various locations across the state of Texas. All but one of the young performers in the showcase has attended Bobby Flores’s Annual Summer Music Camp Retreat for traditional country & western swing music held in Eastland, Texas. This camp is connected to his music school, the Bulverde Academy of Music.

“Most of it’s upbeat and it’s just the type of music you wanna dance to,” said Caroline Grace Wiseman, guitar student, performer and singer, 11 years old.

Another future star of tomorrow was Krysten Harris, the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Awards Western Swing Female Artist of the year.  Krysten was also named 2016 Western Music Association Entertainer of the Year, Two time Western Music Association Female Performer of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and the 2015 Western Music Association Western Album of the Year for “Down the Trail.” She currently performs in the United States and abroad.

“I love Western Swing, and it’s a sound not everybody is doing,” said Krysten Harris backstage a few acts before her set.

Photo Credit: C.A. Cash at Shot-in-Texas

Photo Caption:R.J. Smith, fiddler in the Bobby Flores and the
Yellow Rose Band, coaches and mentors Max Ryan Cook before he goes
onstage at the 20th Annual Texas Western Swing Showcase

Vendors included musician merchandise tables and Wildorado Silverworks, a jewelry company based in Amarillo, Texas.

“This whole Western Swing is like a big family,” said Norma Jean Leigh, co-owner of Wilderado Silverworks. “Everybody looks out for everybody.  We all pray for everybody.”

Texas Western Swing is the official music of Texas. Not only did the event showcase the official music of Texas, but attendees frequented the dance floor to partake in Texas dance favorites including the two-step, waltz and more. One highlight of the event included a drawing for a cabin for two on the 8th Annual Bobby Flores’ Western Swing Caribbean Cruise.  Lorenda Baldwin of Angleton, Texas, was the winner for the cruise setting sail on January 13, 2018, for seven days from San Juan, Puerto Rico to five ports in the Virgin Islands on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Bobby Flores, a 47 year veteran of the music industry, is a 2002 Grammy Award winning musician.  He is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, arranger, composer and first call session musician.  Bobby has been featured on over four hundred albums, singles and CDs, including performances with numerous, major label artists.  Bobby also composes music for radio and television commercials airing throughout the U.S., Australia and Europe.
To learn more about the Texas Western Swing Showcase as well as performers and upcoming events, feel free to visit  To learn more about Bobby’s Bulverde Academy of Music and other events, visit the school’s website at, and visit Bobby’s band site at

Observations and Music Merchandise

DeathtoStock_NotStock10Photo Credit: Death to Stock Photos

I had the privilege of working the merchandise booth recently for a friend, and I observed some aspects that made me a think a little deeper about the realm of sales and the point of purchase. I wanted to share what I was able to procure from this experience:

  1. Presentation is important. People are drawn to things that look good. That’s just a pretty obvious point to most things in life in general. Attractive people, attractive homes, attractive clothing- you name it. So make it pleasing to the eye. Even small touches like how it’s arranged or the orderliness could go a long way.  So give some thought to placement and the “how” behind it all.
  2. Sales can be low, so make it easy for people to purchase. People seem to be purchasing more online these days, so music merchandise tables are no different. With comments like “oh yeah, I can just buy this online,” there’s a definite sign that the times of purchasing have changed. With the ability to purchase later online, there’s no sense of urgency. I mean, I can worry about this later so no need to whip out cash or card now, right? Another thing to consider is making your price points visible. People who might be willing to give 5 or 25 should all be made to feel welcome. Create a legible sign. Let your sign show that this is the 5 dollar price point, this is the 10, this is the 20 and on to the package deal at 25-30. Oftentimes, people already have their spending limit in their mind. If you had something at their particular price level, they could purchase on the spot. Whether it’s an online store or a brick and mortar, make pricing easy to read and available. There’s nothing more unsettling than not knowing price and having to ask. No one likes to think- If I have to ask, then I must not be able to afford it. That’s isolating and arrogant on the part of the seller. Be proud of your product and be confident enough to know that it’s worth every penny.  
  3. Interaction is imperative. Be friendly and engage with all people who may come your way. Ask people how they are doing and engage them. People may want to chat for a bit. If so, they may linger and purchase something. It is important that you have someone work your merchandise table while you play. If people decide to purchase any merchandise during your set and your table is vacant, they may move on and not come back later in the evening. If your music is strictly online, then make yourself accessible somehow. People sometimes need help, so be around when they need it.  

So, consider the details, because they are important. Don’t minimize the preparation and attention you give to your merchandise and your merchandise table. If you actually take care about the tiny things, the larger things in your career and life may just take of themselves.

Be faithful in the small things 🙂


Ambrosia Tea Room

Tea for two was the theme for a lazy, late lunch one Saturday afternoon on the first of April 2017. My mom and I visited Ambrosia Tea Room in Salado, Texas for our midday meal. Upon entering the tea house, one can quickly observe the care and attention to detail that has been placed into the creation of the tea room. Each room has relics of days gone by, of a sweeter time, menus don feminine fonts and shabby chic adequately describes some of the final touches. One of the decorative highlights is the glass tea cup chandelier hanging above the register in the main dining room.

Lunch was unique and delicious. We both drank the sweetened cranberry tea, and it reminded mom of wassail. A springtime wassail if you will. I had the turkey, cream cheese, avocado and cranberry spread on a croissant while mom had the same on wheat and a side of zucchini soup. The sandwich was the ideal pairing of sweet cranberry, rich cream and a little salt with the turkey. The perfect touch was what they call the “Ambrosia Salad,” which came in a little dish on our plates. It’s the amazing mixture of heavenly fluff composed of strawberry yogurt, whipping cream, cheesecake mix and probably some kind of magic 🙂

If you haven’t been to this place, you definitely need to check it out on a shopping day out in Salado, Texas.  They have also been the recipients of the KWTX Clean Plate Award! Ambrosia Tea Room is located at 102 N. Main Street, Salado, Texas 76571.

A Comman Case of the Shoulds


Photo Credit: DeathtoStock Photos

We spend a considerable amount of mental time and energy in the world of the “shoulds.” I should have been farther by now. I should be married. I should look like him or her. I should not still be struggling with this. This should not bother me. I should have gotten so much more accomplished today.  I should, I should, I should…. let’s breathe. And consider a few things about the should thoughts that tend to float into our minds or rather attack our minds…

  1.  You are where you are today. And that’s ok. One powerful thing a therapist once told me was- “you’re exactly where you need to be.” There’s purpose in that. There’s power in the process, in learning how to gradually grow. There’s beauty in realizing how vulnerable and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. No matter what the struggle, no matter how deep, no matter the pain, or how big that heap….. every mountain can be conquered step by step if you keep moving forward.
  2. How much of the “shoulds” are actually imposed perceptions by others OR supposedly imposed perceptions by others? Begin to ask yourself questions when a should pops up suddenly. Do you honestly want the things others want for you? Do you have the same worldview as them? Do you care about the same things they do? How much should their opinion affect you like the ankle weight they are? What if we began to challenge what others decided for our lives and decided to consider what was truly best, healthy and balanced for ourselves.
  3. Let the “should” only be used as a short emotional spurt of inspiration to spur you onto greater accomplishments. Want to conquer a goal and say I “Should” be here in my career? Then turn that statement quickly into a “how could I accomplish that” or “how might I find that purpose or enjoyment in another area of my life if I can’t be there today?” Then begin to map out small steps for improvement in that area. Even the tiniest incremental changes are STILL CHANGE 🙂

All in all, the “should” statements and thoughts focus on what we lack in our being. What if we were less harsh to ourselves and encouraging of the growth, gifts and goodness we did see in ourselves. Lovingkindness should be directed not only to others, but also to ourselves. And THAT is a “should” statement I think we can all get behind.