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Intrigue

I am sitting in my yoga pants as I write this, reflecting on a certain article I read this morning.

Who knew that at seventeen I’d have been lucky enough to find a guy who respected me, who loved me for who I was, who nurtured personal growth and motivated me in ways only he knew?  I certainly didn’t think it possible. My previous job working with teens, would tell me it was impossible because they seemed so unsure of themselves; so immature. As I look at my own three girls, I think that when they turn seventeen, I’d try to steer them completely clear of such a serious relationship. But, it worked for us…..because we found God together.

We were young, made mistakes, had our break ups. But, there was always something that kept us bound together.  Creating memories together, saturated our relationship with tons of familiarity and understanding that paved way the desire to make more. What challenges we did have, only made us stronger; creating a relationship that was honest with the intent for strong communication.

What first led me to him, was purely physical.  As I am sure, was the same for him. I was attracted to his style, his tanned skin, long blond hair, and the fact he drove a “hot boy” red pick-up truck.  He on the other hand, loved me best in my train conductor striped baggy overalls and baseball cap. Was I being alluring by wearing this?  No.

There is a certain woman who is in the media because she blogged about her desire to stop wearing yoga pants or leggings in public because she and her husband find that those articles of clothing draw unnecessary attention to her sexually.  I have to say, as a Christian woman, it has never crossed my mind that an item I wear for comfort to exercise in, would create a stir from the opposite gender.  It was a bit eyebrow raising on my part, reading this article, “really?”  But, I honestly think what one person feels convicted for, the next does not.  Do I think she’s ridiculous for feeling this way? Not at all. I really feel that God places things on each of our hearts that we can choose to listen to and obey, or to ignore and continue to feel convicted for.

I also feel that a woman can be completely covered up, and an intrigue can come simply by her stunning eyes displayed amongst a drapery of attire. Think back to the iconic National Geographic woman who is completely robed and her stunning green eyes grace the cover.  She is completely gorgeous. While it is only natural to feel attracted to others, and find beauty in them, I do agree that dressing provocatively cheapens the package.  But, then comes the argument of what is provocative and what is not? Besides, isn’t it our hearts God wants us to work on?

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In a world where we are constantly sending the message to girls to be alluring, accept their bodies, cover up because we will attract the wrong type of attention, ….we send mixed messages.  A child who grows up with a moral foundation and a parent modeling good choices, hopefully helps shape the way for their young minds. And, I mean this for BOTH sexes.  Why is it solely the responsiblity of a woman to cover up?  Temptation has been there since the beginning; The Garden of Eden.  Raising both sexes to respect the other is the responsiblity of a parent. You’re not going to find support in the media or in pop culture.

In an age where there is so much pressure to grow up, to be cool, to fit in…..I really hope to raise my children to focus on intelligence, sense of humor, adventure, and exploration.  I hope they find someone as wonderful as their dad. I know those teen years are right around the corner, and my window of time to instill wholesomeness in them is greater than me. It seems that age of innocence is getting more and more narrow.  I try not to put God in a box for what he is capable of doing and where he leads each of us. We all have our own paths to take in life, we all have our own agendas, and what leads one person to stumble does not lead the next.

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Author Book Signing/Reading.

If you’re in the San Francisco (Noe Valley location) on January 22nd, please come by Rare Device.  At 10:30 a.m. my wonderful husband, Kevin Gard, will be reading his book “Oh, Sully!” aloud and signing copies available for purchase at Rare Device. He is both the author and illustrator of this book. His second book, “Sully and His Bike”, will be available for purchase at the end of spring 2015.

Currently, on a month long author’s tour, Kevin will be presenting his book at elementary schools, at book stores/boutique shops, blessing children in need through his book-for-book campaign, and presenting/attending an annual Author’s Festival in Southern California.

Don’t miss out on visiting Rare Device. This store is incredibly cute with workshops available and carries some pretty wonderful items.  http://raredevice.net/blogs/blog

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Laughter. Indeed, the Best Medicine.

I have anxiously awaited these last few weeks where I have longed to pour my soul into a recipe, yet the desire was absent.   Sometimes my passion for cooking is directly related to my eagerness to spread my love around through food; to create atmosphere and social outlets.  Since we’ve distanced ourselves from such a steady flow of that because of our move, my creative outlet seems caught in a storm of busy.

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(Mt. Rainier, Washington)

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(stuffed family orchard apples roasted on an open fire)

We’ve been taking these last few weeks to pour ourselves into each daylight minute.  Being in the northwest, it is commonplace that the sun sets around 4:30. By 6 pm that evening fatigue sets in and all ambitions are lost to the dusk and the cry of nighttime critters. Sitting ringside around a fire to keep the chill from your nape, is the only thing worthy of unspent energy while sipping on Adagio tea.

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(Lake Cushman, Washington State)

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Nothing is sweeter than the blessings of time for the wonderful company that we have been graced over this holiday season.  When your soul aches for the companionship of family and friends, it is in every effort one minimizes time spent on chores and instead calculates promoting self indulging activities with others; be it kayaking bay side or simply preparing meals together while embracing table side conversation with utter delight that fills oneself with complacency.  Each laugh noted; memories engrained.

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Coping

Why a photo of my daughter with electrodes? I used to drive with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I left work early some days knowing my epileptic 5-month old was having more seizures. If you read this true but little story about life, the photo will make more sense.

Working at a coffee joint, I suppose, is quite like being a hair dresser.  You are in the service business, so you’re completely surrounded by regular customers whom you end up getting to know in the short time span you’re providing a service to them. Nothing new. I know we all know this.

But, those minutes you spend with each customer can provide a positive or a negative impression, and can lend to a good or bad day.

11/17/14 scenario 5:45 a.m.  Customer A drives through the drive-through to order her regular coffee. Nothing new, except she apparently cut off the gal behind her and the gal behind her has made it quite obvious that she is completely ticked off.  Customer A expresses her guilt and pays for Customer B whom she cut off.  Paying if forward, changing customer B’s start to the day; or so she hopes.

Customer B drives forward as customer A drives off.  Customer B is completely fuming and with expletives flying, arrogantly says, “well, that B**th cut me off, she SHOULD pay for my drink”, and continues to express rage, regardless of the free drink.

11/18/14 follow-up 6:30 a.m. I learn that the customer A, who paid for her road error, was driving in tears, hence the cut off. Apparently she had just come from radiation from her cancer treatment.  She felt horrible and in an emotional state at her circumstances, ACCIDENTLY cut off customer B.

I was 17 when I experienced road rage, that ended in murder.  Murder. Murder over getting cut off.  I was managing a restaurant. I had just closed up shop, and it was around 10 p.m. I got in my car, and pulled out onto the main road.  I was directly behind two vehicles who were weaving back and forth.  My first thought was that they were friends messing around, so I was careful to keep my distance.  As I saw my opportunity to pass by them, I could feel the error I made in thinking they were buddies.  It was apparent to me as I began to pass them both, that it was clearly road rage.  As I began to drive downhill with them in the right lane, 2 car lengths behind me, a couple of gunshots pierced the air. A chill went up my spine, as I rapidly ducked, hoping to avoid any cross fire; and swerved into the left turn lane.  As it was just the three of us in this experience together, I think I was in disbelief as I glanced in my rear view mirror in time to see the first car swerve off the road, and the last car make a sharp U-turn and go speeding back up the hill.  I was in complete shock, scared, and did not stick around.  I must’ve looked ghostly as I drove up to my home and repeated the scenario to my parents; who decided we should go together to check in on the car that swerved off the road.

A possible 15 minutes passed by, with the sound of sirens in the air. As we left our residential track, there was one street that was packed with emergency personnel.  We proceeded to the area of the shooting, and the car was gone. Thinking the two were related incidents, we drove back to the chaotic scene and I was apparently sole witness to a murder; caused by road rage.  Stupid road rage. This person destroyed a man’s life; an entire families life. This man was in his 30’s, and engaged.  It was around Christmas time and his fiancée was in the passenger seat as her husband to be was shot and killed; over stupid road rage.

I learned my lesson that day, and it’s carried with me to this day, as I get on the road.  You never know what someone is capable of during road rage. You never know what someone is dealing with.  You never know how short life can be.  It’s best not to tailgate. It’s best to let someone who has cut you off, just drive by without following them; chasing them down to teach them a lesson.  It’s best to drive as safely as you can.

Moral of the story, we are surrounded by SO many people in this world. Some times our paths cross and sometimes they don’t. While we are in a car, we have a relationship with everyone else on the road.  That relationship is confined by a cars length, sometimes more.  We do not know what each person is dealing with inside; their life experiences, or their trials or tribulations.  When someone cuts you off, maybe they are dealing with cancer, a passing of a loved one, rushing to get their ill child from school…..so many scenarios.  Regardless, we are all in this life together, and we best try to realize we are all coping with something.  Drive responsibly, pay it forward, and accept that people make errors.

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Time

Four months ago we left all we knew behind to give our family a fresh start with a slower pace; in hopes to focus on dreams instead of living as robots.  This adventure has taken the wind from my sails at times, at the hardships and challenges and the financial struggle. But, with this move we have gained so much more than what a dollar could pay for.  My girls have become the best of friends. They have never gotten along as well as they do now.  Time that was once spent commuting is now used for family time; soccer scrimmages, visiting with family, sitting by an open fire.  This change has slowed me down in ways that were necessary.

The constant chase to beat the clock and fit in as much as I could in the hour between picking up children, is gone. I was always strung up so tight that I didn’t feel like I could fart sideways.  Even as hectic as we lived, we still fit in valuable family time, but it was often so rushed.  It feels so good to slow down.  So good.

I’ve sat in traffic twice in four months.  Twice.  Something to be said from my daily commute of 15 minutes to work, that actually took 40 minutes due to bumper to bumper obnoxiousness.  Racing the clock.  Heart beating and face aglow with rage due to stress; no longer there.

Yes, we miss our friends. We miss sidewalks. We miss the beach.  We miss our church.

What is lost is also gained.  We have been meeting new friends. We have the rugged climate a hiker dreams of. We have lakes upon lakes upon lakes to explore. We found a new church that has been feeding us the word just as the one we left; challenging us the way we desire to live.

Taking the risk to continue the pursuit of what truly matters.

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Sully and His Bike

As a parent, my time is super valuable in everything I choose to fit into all the minutes in the day.  The time invested in my children is such a huge deal, that I often times put myself last in order for getting personal time or taking care of my own needs. If you are a parent, I am sure you can relate.  Not to sound cheesy, but our children are our future scientists, our doctors, our teachers, our engineers, etc. The time you put into motivating your children, building their character, or even challenging them to grow in other ways, is worth more than anything.  It is one of their basic necessities, in my mind.

My husband, author of “Oh, Sully!” is currently raising funds through a social campaign network called Kickstarter. In his first book, his moral based story addressed self acceptance and acceptance in others. With this book, Sully and His Bike, his aim is to motivate kids to never give up.  His illustrations are so profoundly entertaining, and his story so emotionally connective.  I just ask that you please take a look at the video in hopes that he can be funded for his new book. Even sharing the link helps more than you can understand; it gets the word out to people we have yet to connect with on a personal level.  This world runs better when we help strangers, friends, family.  It is our goal to share these wonderful stories with children outside of our own.

This cute new book also meets a personal/business goal of ours.  Through our business Tree Swing Press (http://www.treeswingpress.com), we recently started a campaign to give back to the community; to children in need.  For every book sold online, a book is donated to a child in need.  This campaign is called Book-for-Book. His first donation will be in January while he is on a month-long tour visiting schools, stores, and an annual author’s event.  Additionally, he is currently training for our second campaign we call Border-to-Border. In the spring, he will be running from the Canada border to the Mexico border in hopes to promote literacy.  So your help allows Sully and His Bike to created, along with bigger aspirations of donating to kids, and spreading literacy.

We are hoping that your enthusiasm towards this book is contagious and your willingness to share the link helps us to meet our goals.

Please help us spread literacy.

Kindly,

Sommer Gard and Tree Swing Press

Sully and His Bike

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What Do You Love Most About Our Move?

Today was a bit of a rough one for me.  I miss my friends.  To be honest, I think the kids have adapted more easily then I have.  They have not complained once about the move. Nor should they. I’ve never seen them so happy running around and exploring, out in nature, & hanging out with their cousins.

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Each morning, they dash out of bed to eat quickly, and then rush off to visit with nano and papa. It’s a joy to have them free to run and play at the crack of dawn while I prepare fresh-baked sourdough,  home-made granola, and a farm fresh fruit smoothie.  With six acres to run around on, they are pooped by the end of the day after tending to chickens and playing with their cousins.

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This place has so much glorious charm: kayaking the bay across the road, running hills, partaking of fresh food (we have our own live-in co-op), and all of the wildlife right at our fingertips, not to mention the hiking.  But when you say the grass is always greener, that is not true.  There is always a trade-off.  We traded convenience, for rural. We traded social chaos for leisure. We traded rushing ourselves crazy to calming the storm. The trade-off is positive, but different.  The thing I miss most is our friends, and our church.

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When we moved, our cell service did not move with us. We have to drive 6 miles to town just for reception. Our catching up with friends, has been minimal. So when we split from our jobs, and all we have ever known, we also severed any socializing we knew.  It’s been super limited, and at times sad.  Yes, we have family. For that I am super thankful.  I cannot imagine moving to a new setting not having those comforts.

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As we look towards the start of school next week, knowing we are trying homeschooling for the first time, I only hope that I can settle in socially for the kids through extracurricular along with a 4-H club.  I look forward to being their teacher, and being able to build their interests individually. This is my first time ever being a stay at home mom. I have really wanted this opportunity to be a bigger part of their days; to influence them whole-heartedly.

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So today when my heart was heavy with “What the hell did we do!”, I was gently reminded why we did what we did.  Ever since Thanksgiving last year, our nightly routine at dinner is to go around and each give thanks with a direct compliment, and for something we are thankful for in general.  Tonight as I proposed the question, “What do you love most about our move?”, the responses settled my heart.  Mallory replied, “I love how much time we have together as a family”. Margeux said, “I love seeing Nano and Papa”. Lastly, Matilda chimed in with, “I love my family”.

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I know the things I don’t miss at all.  I don’t miss my job. I don’t miss the traffic. I don’t miss the anxiety of rushing about.  Spending time with those you love, is absolutely what is important!

 

 

 

 

 

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CONTEST!!! “Oh, Sully!”, an Adventurous Whale, by author Kevin Gard

 

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I met my husband when I was 17.  At the time, I had no clue we’d end up marrying 9 years later.  He has been my rock.  He has seen my good sides, my bad sides, and helped to keep me motivated with personal endeavors during the 20+ years we have been best of friends.

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Kevin is truly one extremely talented guy; and so wonderfully grounded as a person with a gift of humor that keeps giving.  From diaper bags, to mommy-and-me apron sets, to quilts, to inventing Mattress Masseuse, re-doing our entire “fixer” home, and making time to write & illustrate a children’s book, and still maintain his deep commitment to our daughters & I, I’d say he is quite the catch!

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This catch of mine, is doing a wonderful collaborative book give-away with Sue  (blog.sueparke.com)

Sue’s blog is wonderfully written.  I thoroughly enjoy her honest approach and  feel I can relate to her as a reader. Please visit her site and explore her stories. If you get a chance, please help by voting for her as one of the best Mommy blogs of 2014.  You can vote several times.

 

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This Friday, tune into Tree Swing Press @ Facebook to enter to win an autographed copy of “Oh, Sully!”, free of charge.

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Kevin and I are such huge advocates of literacy and truly want children to be inspired to create their own books, and to enjoy reading.  Please share this contest with your friends.  This contest starts this Friday, August 15th and ends in one week.  Winners will be announced Friday, August 22nd. at blog.sueparke.com, on Facebook, http://treeswingpress.com

 

Giveaway Terms & Conditions

* You must be awesome!

* You must be 5 or older to enter the contest

* Only one submission per person

* Publisher agrees to pay for the cost of shipping the autographed book

* To submit your entry for the contest, please draw/paint/or use other art media of your interpretation of an amazing whale on a grand adventure, and post to the Tree Swing Press FB  page, by liking the page and posting your comment.

* Two winners will be chosen by a strict panel of children ranging from ages 4-9.

* Winner will be notified on http://www.slparke.com,  http://www.treeswingpress.com, and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tree-Swing-Press

* No purchase necessary, unless you want an extra signed copy by an incredible author/illustrator and all around good guy.

 

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Beer Sale

This pretty much sums up what our running loop looks like.  Trees. Trees. Oh, and more trees.

It’s a bit hairy in sections, as the pedestrian area is not more than a whisp hairs away from the road; a mere foot at best. A woman’s foot, that is.

You constantly run defensively with traffic, playing leap-frog from side to side when the path gets too narrow to be safe.

I often look at the ditch or gully alongside that gap that’s covered in thickets and blackberry bushes to see where my escape plan leads me if I need to urgently duck and roll my way into the brush to avoid collision with the semi trucks noisily gushing past and pulling you into them with their gusts of wind.

It’s less handsome of a run, when the strip is littered with beer cans.  I think beer must be on sale somewhere locally. Which makes us figure the best time to go out for the 6 mile arduous stretch of forest run, is from 7am-12 noon. Hopefully the drunks slept in and it’s before their lunchtime beer fill.

As lovely as I describe it, the first day on our loop, as we began our incline, I was busy huffing and puffing behind Kevin when he exclaimed, “look at that!”

As I stop (mostly to get my wind mind you.  I’ve been doing roller derby, not running… different muscles), I glance over and see what I believe to be taxidermy deer on someone’s lush emerald-green front lawn.  They are less than 12 feet away. I think to myself, “what kind of asshole weirdo country bumpkin thinks it’s okay to stuff deer and decorate their lawn with them?!?!?!? They are not plastic flamingos!”

So, as we stood in awe, my breath finally caught, the stuffed deer entrapped in their pose, startled.  Yes, they startled.  They took off bouncing away into the thick forest. I was never more relieved.

A bit further along, this time walking to catch up to this gazelle of a husband running in lead and barely perspiring up an almost 90 degree hill, (okay, so a bit exaggerated, but that is what my chest and calves told me), we hear a woodpecker and stopped to admire its beautiful red feathers and woodworking. I was very much entranced by this pecker; more rest for the weary!

Finally, we got to the ridge over looking the bay, Kevin still prodding me along like a champ. It is mostly downhill from that point. I can do downhill like nobodies business. Snagged by a berry bush and bleeding along my thigh, did not stop me.

Relieved that I see that light at the tunnel when we turn off the beaten path and onto the safer stretch (well, until winter comes and brings icy roads), I feel I can relax a bit and take in the scenery with more appreciation.

It’s at this point that I remember I’m more of a swimmer.  But I seriously love the ass kicking run, and know though I hate it, I love it too. Good thing I have a great coach. Each time gets easier.