I have to admit I’ve been looking backwards lately. Thoughts of “what if I had done” and “why did I” coupled with “if only’s” seem to wreak havoc in my mind.
Holidays, and in my case, a birthday tend to stir the pot of memories, blending truth with fiction and facts with blurs.
I’ve been on the back of the train for a while. I’ve been waving at the people, reliving the scenery of the past, hoping to come back to places that are long gone.
As fun as it is to reminisce about the past, those times when laughter filled the train car, the train track was smooth and seemingly endless, and the luggage bursting with all the basic necessities perched above our heads in the rack, it’s just as easy to dwell on the opposite.
I remember the time the luggage jiggled out, spilling its contents onto the floor.
I feel the shaking and rattling of past trips where the tracks were misaligned in places and the trip was uncomfortable.
Thoughts of taking the train together one way and coming back alone on the return trip tend to clutter my mind and overshadow the good times.
The train has taken me to a thousand places over the years—places that have left me breathless, places that have introduced me to lifelong friends, places that have roared with laughter, places that have scooped me up in their magic, places that have snatched my words and left me speechless.
The train has also let me pass through places that were barren, landscapes that were so desolate they seemed to go on for an eternity. These were stops on the journey that I didn’t buy a ticket for and certainly wouldn’t choose to travel to again. And yet, I find myself...sometimes...traveling to them again in my mind. Standing at the back of the caboose experiencing the pain again.
I haven’t taken the time to ask the Conductor where we are headed or even more importantly, where we are NOW.
I have forgotten about the exciting possibilities of everyday, the connections that are waiting at the train stop, the differences I can make today.
I hear the whistle, the slowing of the wheels, the countryside moves past me at a slower rate.
I step inside, gather my belongings, and make a choice.
Today. Today. I’ll step off the train today and just be present.
Paula Estelle Jackson
Written in March 23, 2021
Photo taken on a backroad between Whiteface, Texas and Tatum, New Mexico
I admit it...Brussels Sprouts are one of my favorite things!
And this fresh salad is no exception to the rule. Fresh ingredients and a wonderful blend of flavors makes for the perfect side dish or main dish.
I opt for nitrate-free bacon, Beelers is my bacon of choice, but not always available. It crisps up nicely in the oven (which is how I cook bacon for less mess) but also has a nice texture and taste.
I paired this with smoked chicken thighs in my Trager smoker. Took them about 2.5 hours on 220 to get to the perfect temp of 165.
My little piece of chicken had a funny little piece of skin hanging off of it--which I left for this picture because it reminded me of my own sagging skin in places. I like the imperfect. I celebrate differences. It is what makes us unique.
This meal was delicious.
Try the salad recipe and let me know what you think!
Lavender petals dot my countertops and float lazily in dishwater. I've just finished steeping the delicate petals for about an hour. My anticipation of my first ever London Fog is building.
There is actually snow on the ground today. The sound of dripping water from the rooftop, spilling over the tops of my rain gutters that need desperately to be cleaned is methodical and random all at the same time.
Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Dribble, dribble dribble. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.
Typically, on a day like today, I would prefer a warm drink, but I've been up working and my body is warm. But don't think for a second that this perfect cup of comfort has to be enjoyed over ice. You can choose what delights you.
Today, it was iced for me.
I'll share a little secret though; this recipe made enough for my husband and I to enjoy it several times. So tomorrow, I may serve myself self a cup of comfort in a warmed mug.
Time will tell.
The first clue I had that this cozy afternoon tea was going to be heavenly, was the minute I opened this bag of lavender flowers. The fragrance overwhelmed my senses, the kitchen transformed into an almost spa-like environment, and I felt an immediate sense of calm fall over my mind.
Lavender has a way of soothing the nervous system naturally. Some of the other benefits include reducing anxiety, relieving pain, improving sleep, promoting relaxation, and freshening linens, laundry, and entire rooms.
The particular flowers I purchased were not only food grade, but organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and highly recommended.
My recipe only called for 1/4 cup, this left quite a bit of dried flowers for other projects in the future. For the actual infusion, I used the purple package of flowers, but for the final product and garnish, I also purchased the dried bundles. They did not say they were food grade, but I used them in my tea. It was beautiful and I will definitely serve it this way for company in the future. Before bedtime tonight, I plan to place a small amount by my bed to offer an extra dose of relaxation as I drift off into La La Land.
Speaking of La La Land...it happens to be one of my all-time favorite movies. No, I didn't love the ending, but geez Louise, the singing, the dancing, the flirting, the magic. Sigh...it might be what we stream later on tonight. If you are in need of some "feel good" in your life, click here and indulge yourself for two hours.
Now, for the main ingredient, my London Fog Latte called for a good Earl Grey tea. I happened to have the pretty little sachet tin from Harney & Sons, but I've included several links here for you to choose from. To be honest, the sachet bags are easy, but I do love the process of using loose leaf as well. And if you have the patience and time, it just adds to the relaxing process.
While waiting on my lavender infusion to take place, I actually snuck in a few minutes to do a little bit of writing in my gratitude journal.
I find that journaling is one of the best ways to stay grounded, thankful, looking up, and living more in the moment than in the past or future.
This has been instrumental for me in not only keeping my head grounded during uncertain and stressful times, but it has also been vital for me to lose over one-hundred pounds and keep it off for almost three years.
Journaling is magical. I have hand-made journals here in my shop. Each one is unique and made upon order, so it takes a few days, but it is well worth it. If you don't have one you love, check them out here.
The background to my recipe photo hints of a few of my favorite things. I have had these canisters for years, but they still make me smile. Many times they are holding onto my favorite coffee beans, dog treats, or a half-eaten bag of Cheez-Its. Their happy black and white pattern seems to accent everything in my kitchen.
And this onion. Oh this onion! It has been in my life since my children were young. It has lived in Post, Texas, and then in Lubbock, Texas. It made the journey to our stint in St. Augustine, Florida for a year, and travelled back to good ole West Texas again. She has been broken, glued, dropped, and used. I've looked on our travels for a replacement, though a new one has evaded my searches. Maybe she doesn't want to be replaced. Maybe she is a reminder that the good ones in our lives stick with us through the good times and the bad times.
You might just want to add a little black and white to your decor, and if so, here is a link to these canisters. You won't regret the amount of joy they bring to a space. Especially to one little black and white doggy who knows her favorite biscuit is waiting inside one of them.
Speaking of dog biscuits, this little dumpling is tuckered out. She spent the last six days at the pet hotel while Benny and I went to market. It was rough on her and rough on us.
We don't like boarding her anymore than she likes being boarded, but sometimes, duty calls.
So, as I'm writing these words, she is snoring at my feet, snuggled in her little donut bed, and sporting her new little pink jacket.
Looks like life is all good again.
I will say she loves this fluffy bed. It was a bit smelly when I picked her up from "camp" today, but it washed beautifully, and she is snoozing quite regally. I hesitated about purchasing this bed due to the price tag (after all, she is a dog,) but we both love it. She loves its comfort and I love the ease of care. Please don't tell her I said she was "just a dog." She absolutely doesn't know this.
Now for the good stuff. This recipe was simple and delicious. If you have never tried a
London Fog Latte
treat yourself to its comforting, yet subtle flavors. The Earl Grey gave me a boost of caffeine for the afternoon, but the lavender kept me grounded and relaxed. It truly was the best of both worlds.
Let me know what you think!
The rhythmic sounds of snoring lap the cold air of the yurt like waves on the beach. One after another methodically escapes Piper’s stopped up nose.
I love the sound. It means the beautiful soul I was given to love is close by.
We found ourselves navigating the backroads of New Mexico yesterday, following explicit written directions from our AirBNB hostess on how to find our weekend adventure lodging.
There is no cell phone service out here, so our GPS is useless.
The roads were narrow and curvy as we drove deeper and deeper into the mountains. The smell of pine mixed with a cold rain was what heaven must smell like.
It’s a good thing we packed layers of clothing and coats for our weekend adventure trip. There is snow on the mountains around us and the temperature is around 40°. As night approaches it will dip even lower. ￼
We turned off the paved road onto a private dirt road and down a steep, muddy path leading to our primitive accommodations. We had no idea what to expect, and as we were greeted by our hostess, we were immediately put at ease. She was very natural. She was warm and friendly. Like an old friend, she offered her hand to me...seemingly unaware of the health crisis in the country. I reached for it and grasped it tightly.
Connection. It is at my very core and she met me there with a single gesture. I was at total peace.
She began the tour with showing us the outdoor kitchen. I had absolutely no intentions of cooking while I was here. But in the slight case I did, we were told that one section was rodent free because it is built completely off the ground, and one section of cupboards “needed to be wiped out before using” due to the fact that rodents share the space at their leisure.
Next to the outdoor kitchen was the privy. When I booked this hidden gem I did not realize we would be facing the wild rodents and coyotes if we needed a restroom during the night. Truth is, that might have made me choose differently, so I am glad I missed that fact. I feel this place is a Divine Appointment.
For those of you who are not familiar with a compost toilet, you would be joining the club with me. But the fact that there is a bucket of moss and a handy scoop nestled in the top of it to “cover your business” is a clue on how this works. It brings a whole new meaning of “back to nature” for me.
Next to the compost toilet was an antique cast-iron claw foot tub and I immediately noticed the floor of the makeshift bathroom was dirt, covered with pebbles and a few slabs of limestone. It was primitive, yet sufficient, and all wrapped up in a heavenly package of serene.
The chickens and roosters were already tucked into their safe beds for the night. Sitting on the porch steps was a metal bucket filled with all colors and sizes of eggs. Breakfast, she told us.
We entered the circular living quarters with its wooden plank floors and old wood burning stove off to the left. A pile of kindling and split wood waited for the Girl Scout skills that neither Piper or I possess. We better learn fast or we are in for a cold night.
After many attempts and almost using up all the kindling, the fire roared and the cold air turned toasty. The sound of thunder rumbled over the mountaintops and the rain splattering on the plastic roof was mesmerizing.
We giggled. We got a bit silly. Piper headed to the bathtub and I drifted off to sleep, waiting for the coyotes to begin their evening song.
I think the rain must have had them hunkered down somewhere because the night was quiet other than the weather.
Somewhere in the night, the fire extinguished and the thought of getting out from under the down comforter seemed impossible. I pulled the cover over my head and let my breath warm my cold cheeks. I hope Piper is warm enough. I uncover myself and pull the blankets up to her chin. That’s better.
Mustering up the courage to escape the warmth of the bed, I again attempt to find the fire starting skills I never learned, and after about twenty minutes of crumpling papers and building kindling “teepees” I hear the popping and crackling of sustained fire. Warmth is coming.
The roosters say a cock-a-doodle-doo to my stirring. And though it’s still dark outside, I know morning is close by and I will have another opportunity to live, love, laugh and explore this thing called “life.”
I am reaching for it.
All of it.
Life, that is.
And just like my hostess reached for my hand and connected our souls together in a brief moment in time, I’m stretching mine out towards this moment.
This moment is all I am guaranteed.
Paula Estelle Jackson. Written 3-14-2020 somewhere between Santa Fe and Taos in a little yurt on a slice of heaven.
Small town west Texas.
That's what's on my mind.
Last night, I spent the evening on a dirt and rock clearing literally in the middle of nowhere.
Thirty miles south of Post, in a little spot in the road, toes were tapping to the timeless sounds of The Bellamy Brothers, only to be outdone by the shuffling of boots in sync with the drumbeat. Cowboy hats, concho belts with flecks of turquoise and gaudy belt buckles proudly announcing past trophies in some distant arena, the simple existence of the best people in the world was displayed.
I watched as the sky turned shades of pink and purple, camouflage for me since that matches my hair, and the sun went to bed behind the hills and radio towers in the west. A chill blanketed the air and a storm lurking just miles away provided a backdrop of lightening as the smell of rain mixed with pit barbecue.
It was truly surreal.
A step back in time.
Simpler times to be sure.
Children ran and played with no ties to social media or phones, but a simple desire to run, dance and explore with no security concerns.
Yep. Small town west Texas got in my soul last night. I felt a bit overwhelmed at its perfection.
Recently, Benny and I took a leisure weekend trip to Taos, New Mexico, and stopped by an old abandoned church on the way home. We've passed it in a hurry before, never taking the time to stop and pay her a visit. But this time she beckoned us to stop and hear her story.
Driving up the patchy road, her old wooden frame came into focus. Peeling paint, missing steps on the porch, and hollow window frames where once glass filled the empty space provided an "open air" feel.
The space was sacred.
We stepped over missing floor boards and the ones that were present creaked under the weight of our feet.
We were silent as we stood and read the walls. She had a tale to tell.
Travelers had stopped to pour their hearts onto her white walls.
Lovers professed their undying passions for one another.
Religious sentiments were scribbled out with ink and answered by the atheist.
And secrets were brought to the light as visitors felt release upon writing deepest parts on her walls.
We pondered the magnitude of the talking walls. And we questioned what our own walls at home would say.
And we began to listen.
We listened in the living room while we watched our favorite shows. We listened to the guest rooms that had just entertained loved ones. We listened in the kitchen, the dining room and yes, even the bathroom...awkward!
If you listen closely, your walls are talking, too.
There is something magical about blending JOY and FREEDOM together.
If there had been an order form with mother nature Saturday evening, it would have included 80° weather, no wind, twinkling stars and a bright quarter moon.
If there had been an order form for being surrounded by 50 of your closest friends and new acquaintances— all people of excellent character, giving hearts, and a spice for life, that order would have been fulfilled.
If the musical fairy could have ordered the perfect local musician playing oldies to sing and dance along with, this was the night.
If Cupid could have pulled his bow and shot an arrow into two people who have loved each other for 26 years, and captured them on the dance floor without a care in the world, this would have been the night.
Little did this dancing couple know that someone special, celebrating her 70th level of life was taking a candid snapshot of them, twirling, spinning, laughing on a makeshift patio dance floor.
Little did the people watching know that this dancing couple had no rhythm, no dance experience, four left feet between them, but just enough courage to get out there anyway.
And THAT is where the JOY comes from.
Now, about FREEDOM.
When a person has released some things in their lives that have caused heaviness, there is a sense of FREEDOM that cannot be explained with words. There is a lightness, a flowing, and energy that happens.
It has been said that if you want to fly, you have to let go of everything that holds you down.
Unless you truly know this couple, you might not know that the last few years they have gone through some of the hardest things in their lives... and lived to tell about them.
You might not know that they have lost everything and are working to rebuild their lives one brick at a time.
You might not know that they started a new business this year and, like most small businesses, it takes a long time before it works and most days you are left feeling unsupported and questioning if you did the right thing.
You might not know that their family has been torn apart by unforeseen circumstances and that their lives look nothing like what they planned or dreamed it would look like.
You might not know that they have been on a journey in pursuit of FREEDOM in the last year.
They have been running hard after FREEDOM from sadness, grief, worry, financial stress, excess weight, excess belongings, the pressure of caring what others think about them.
The FREEDOM captured in this candid shot is of wild abandonment.
It is the essence of living life despite what’s going on outside of the dance floor.
It is the culmination of two people choosing to love each other, to not give up, to go on when there are days it would be easier to quit.
It is the unbelievable feeling of dancing in a body that has released one hundred pounds over the course of a year, and knowing the intense amount of effort and dedication that has taken.
It is the feeling of knowing you are safe and unconditionally loved by the people around you in that exact moment.
It is the blessing of non-judgement.
This moment is what we have.
This moment is where we can find JOY and FREEDOM if we simply look for it.
In this moment...we danced.
I’m not sure how it happened.
Somewhere between a blue cheese martini and fried olives and pecans, MAGIC unfolded.
Maybe it was the extra salt of the olive juice, possibly the high back chairs that made us feel as though we were in our own private world. It could have been the road trip filled with singing oldies together as we traveled for a decorating job. It is possible that the lighting was just right as we looked across the table at each other and a spark was re-ignited.
But MAGIC happened.
We had just finished a day of delivering floral arrangements, helping out of town clients solve some decorating dilemmas, and crossing state lines to pick up some antiques for display at the store.
Our favorite little Speakeasy in Amarillo called our names.
As we pulled into a front parking space we were thankful that our faithful, nine year old, paid-for vehicle that sports almost 160,000 miles had once again brought us safely to our destination.
We did not have a reservation, so we were surprised to be seated in what we would consider “the best seat in the house.”
The sun was still high in the sky and it beamed through the west facing windows.
We took a selfie. I mean, isn’t that what we do in the year 2019, and we texted it to our friends who originally introduced us to this place. “Wishing you were here” we said...or at least it went something like that.
But as we sat, just the two of us, the conversation unfolded in a way neither of us expected it to. We went from toasting a new angel in our lives, to discussing business, to talking about our individual strengths and ultimately our private lockbox.
“You hold the MAGIC,” I told Benny. “You always have.”
He smiled and lifted his martini glass towards me.
“No. You hold the MAGIC.”
It was that moment. The moment that brought a lump to our throats. It made our hearts beat a little faster. Our eyes became moist and glassy.
WE have the MAGIC.
Together we bring pendulum to balanced.
Our lockbox had been rented twenty-six years ago. We were both given a key and we began placing valuables inside.
We placed two beautiful daughters inside.
We placed memories from vacations.
We tucked away leaps of faith that worked out and some that did not.
We inserted painful past choices, hurts, heartaches, rejections and even deaths.
We spent a lifetime adding treasures to our lockbox.
But somewhere in time, we misplaced the keys. Lucky for us, we never lost them. We just never seemed to have them out at the same time.
In the hustle and bustle of raising our children, starting new business ventures, trying to keep up with the Jones’s (which is futile, ridiculous and we gave up on years ago,) and paying the bills, the keys were buried under a pile of “must-do’s and have-to’s.”
As the local musician strummed his guitar in the corner, the words echoed as if he was sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon. “Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna work out fine if you only will.”
The sun had long since moved to the other side of the earth, the last fried olive left the bowl, and when it did, we saw something beautiful. It was there all along.
The other key.
The key that opens the box.
The key to the valuables.
The key to possibilities.
The key to love.
And love is where MAGIC resides.
I have never been a numbers person.
But if you had driven by our cul-de-sac around dusk last night you would have witnessed some beautiful math.
It has been years since I have seen those kinds of lawn chairs. The kind from my childhood. You remember the ones...metal arms, stiff, poly material strips woven together to form an uncomfortable seat, and if you are unlucky enough to be wearing shorts, scratch your legs on all the exposed edges. These are the kind of old fashioned chairs that remind you of easy summers as a child at grandma’s house or in my case—my mother.
My Mother was an antique dealer, a “junker,” if you will. She would drag my Sweet Daddy all around town looking for treasures like the ones we sat in last night.
Rusty old watering cans, wheel barrows, pie safes with peeling paint, red wooden benches with hidden stories from times past...these were the things she found.
Oh, and anything garden. She had quite the green thumb.
So when she happened upon metal patio chairs from the fifties and sixties in good condition, my Daddy knew his job was to load them up in their white cargo van while she made the deal happen with the seller.
I sat there, under the stars last night, in a large circle of about twenty folding chairs, some old, some new, some folding, some even rocking, but all of them filled with a unique soul, and I remembered her.
It is funny how a simple chair can stir up memories.
I did not know any of these people. And they did not know me. We are new to the neighborhood.
But just like a colony of ants, every person who lives on our block descended onto the driveway of our neighbor. Each of us bringing a covered dish and, yes, a lawn chair.
But we also brought more.
Twenty neighbors. Twenty opinions. Twenty professions. Twenty mindsets. Twenty religions. Twenty political parties. Twenty life philosophies. Twenty people with pasts and futures. Twenty people with histories of divorce, spouse deaths, successful careers, failed businesses, triumphs and defeats. Twenty people who have survived cancer, the death of a child, the rejection of a child. Twenty people who have been touched by suicide, failing bodies, disease. Twenty people who either drink or abstain. Twenty people who are either for CNN or Fox. Twenty people who either support same-sex marriage or not. Twenty people who love meat or think it is murder. Twenty people who think bell bottom pants should make a come back or think they should stay in the vault.
Twenty people sitting in a circle.
Twenty people with paper plates full of green chili rice, cheese grits, pasta salad, grilled German sausage, baked beans, cantaloupe salad, hummus and broccoli, chocolate cake, and Mexican cornbread.
Twenty artists, professors, ministers, dairy owners, decorators, architects, authors, painters, sculptors, counselors.
One hour turned to two. And two hours turned to three.
One glass of wine turned to two. And when the red ran out, the white was just as good.
Rich. I felt rich last night. Sitting in my hot pink camping chair, on what felt like the perfect West Texas evening, I was surrounded by the cream of the crop.
Our common denominator was our private neighborhood block. Our uncommon denominator was our uniqueness.
Our answer to the long division was love.
PJ (9-28-19 and as she writes this, she smiles as she sees her bell-bottom pants😉)
HUMOR-IST (is that a word?) I can find and expel (the word expel makes me think of passing gas) humor in most moments of life