Category Archives: Family

Do What Love Requires

mom-and-meSix years ago, my Mother died. Just two days before that, we had celebrated her 64th birthday. She had been on Hospice for a couple of weeks, and we knew her death was imminent. Even when you know your loved one is dying, it’s painful and difficult to be prepared for it on this side of heaven. Prayer, my family, friends, Hospice, and my parent’s Parish community were instrumental in preparing me as best I could be.

Do the best that you can was what my Mother often told me. As a perfectionist (recovering now), she was the positive voice in my life that would remind me it’s OK to make mistakes, and that when I did, not to beat myself up over them. And there I was, trying to do the best I could through one of the greatest trials in my life. The word that the Lord gave me to hold onto during this time was, “Do what love requires.”

I had never been present when someone took their last breath, and that was something I was trying not fear, along with the grief of losing Mom. With several of us taking turns staying next to her bedside 24-hrs, I didn’t know if I would be there or not. But, “Do what love requires.”

The night of her last earthly birthday, we had an impromptu prayer meeting around my mother’s bedside. We felt that was her birthday wish. Having grown up in a Catholic Charismatic Community and later attending the Franciscan University of Steubenville, prayer meetings were very familiar to me. With my husband, brother, and Dad, we read to her from her Bible – her most highlighted, favorite passages. We sang the old praise and worship songs that she loved from back in the day. It was beautiful, and as I reflect on it now, I think that somehow we were preparing my Mother’s soul for the throne room of God. I’m humbled greatly by that, and honored.

You see, there is something transformative about worship, and I hope that more people (especially in a world full of anguish) will come to understand and truly experience it. Worship is the gift that we can give back to God, from our heart to His. Anyone can be grateful and express praise when our hearts are full of it; but when we are in the valley, when we are fearful, anxious, sick, exhausted or whatever we are going through – it is then when worship is an act of the will. We must will to thank and praise God, and rise above our temporary feelings, into a humble posture amidst our sufferings.

In worshipping God at that time, and taking the focus off of myself and my fear and grief – I placed it all where it needed to be; and afterwards, I realized that those things had been diminished. What grew was peace, love, strength, and acceptance. Fear is not of God, but rather it is a powerful tool of the Devil. It’s rampant in our culture, and the media stokes it. And if we’re not afraid, we’re too busy or distracted. Or trying so hard to self-help ourselves out of whatever pain or problem we’re facing. Our lives are so full and busy, that it very easy to become self-centered, allowing our feelings and fears take primacy.

While self-reflection is important, if we become too focused inward, we can become overly critical and more readily judge others. What they’re doing, not doing, or should be doing. We’re so quick to want to change others, but how about ourselves? By changing ourselves through prayer, humility, and perseverance – we WILL change others.

This is one of the most important things that my Mother taught me, in her daily example, and even through her stumbling. She was a woman of prayer, and her faithfulness to her family and prayer — reading the scriptures, fasting, going to Mass, praying the Rosary —  were the steadfast example that we needed. It was the foundation that her and my Dad laid that carried our family through good times, as well as times of great suffering.

Mom showed me to be faithful to whatever you are called to at that time in your life. For her, that included Cancer – twice. Be yourself, and allow others to be who they are; yet, call each other on to be good and give your best. And while she didn’t go to college and have advanced degrees, she wasn’t a high-powered CEO of a corporation or a movie star with a platform, she did make an impact by who she was, where she was, and how she lived.

That is the power of one. One life that touches others, shapes and molds them daily, by word and action. To do what love requires of you, right where God has placed you. It may not always be fun or feel fulfilling, and it may even feel like drudgery at times; but you have the power to choose joy or not. Mom’s joy was a magnet. It was what drew people to her and made them feel at ease, and drew them into relationship with her, and to experience God through her.

Mom loved many people, and many people loved her. By just being herself, she allowed others to be themselves, and feel loved and accepted. That’s the greatest gift you can give another, truly – as it’s what we all desire most deeply. We don’t have to understand each other, but we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Love is greater than tolerance. Mom showed us that love can remain, even when we don’t agree with each other, or the other’s life choices. She didn’t berate or belittle someone else for who they were or what they believed, yet she held respectfully to her own opinions and beliefs. More importantly, she lived them. If someone needed help, she was always wiling, as it wasn’t “to each his own” – but that we are the Body of Christ. And as such, if you needed correction, she would give that too. Out of love.

moms-prayer-card

On this anniversary of her death, I am thankful for the strong and nurturing example of womanhood that she was. She did what love required in her family, in her community — with joy, and that is how she changed others.

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A Sketch of my Lifelong Companion: Happy Birthday Hubby!

A spouse, a lifelong companion and path to holiness, is not something stumbled upon. It is a hard won quest for unconditional love, and once discovered, it becomes the work of a lifetime to nurture and grow with each other.

We certainly aren’t perfect, as like every couple we have our challenges; but, I have never encountered another heart filled with such a deep love and a desire to do good for God, Our Lady, family, friends, and me – as humbling as that is. I am a better version of myself today because of you, and even amidst the moments where the dying-to-selves part of life may become palpable, always know that I am thankful for the gift that I, and many people for many years, prayed for — YOU.

So, in honor of your 40-something Birthday today, drumroll please… a poem for my beloved husband.

A Sketch of my Lifelong Companion

As I am pensive, he is dreaming.

As I am eager, he is enduring.

As I am consumed, he is consuming.

As I am riotous, he is calming.

As I am solid, he is bending.

As I am abrupt, he is deliberating.

As I am spicy, he is moderating.

As I am strategic, he is improvising.

As I am trustful, he is protecting.

As I am witty, he is conjoining.

As I am sentimental, he is romanticizing.

As I am cheerful, he is reveling.

As I am creating, he is supporting.

As I am beloved, he is loving.

As I am blessed, he is blessing.

©Lisa Martinez, August 13, 2015

 

A little photo montage of our earlier days, moments where you found your way deeper into my heart…

Mike + Lisa CanoingTiger Stadium DetroitRose Mike LisaBack CameraBack CameraIMG_2060Mike + Lisa Kissing at SunsetMike + Lopez'sMike Lisa + San ParentsProposalMike + AnnaIMG_3418IMG_4850Mike + TimIMG_4036IMG_4055IMG_4103211437IMG_4472IMG_4009IMG_5076Love One Another

 

 

Merry Martinez Christmas Card & Annual Letter

With the passing of another year, it’s my favorite time to reflect and capture some the highlights of the year.

Sharing blessings begets more blessings – so since my mailing list has limits, but my blog does not, l’d love to share our Merry Martinez Christmas Card and Annual Letter.

So, from our heart and home to yours…. 

Martinez Christmas Card

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
– Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Dear friends, family, and CDOW community,

This time we ushered in the New Year differently. Coming from a South Texas Christmas enjoyed with Mike’s family, we took a couple of days for a planning retreat in a place we had talked about for years, Fredericksburg. The Old Rectory was the name of our Texas Hill Country B&B, which served as the inspiring ambiance for partners in life and business to begin the work of 2014. Enchanted Rock was the perfect nature escape on our way back to Dallas, right before some Cooper’s BBQ. Yes, Texans love old time pit barbecue.

We whisper prayers, some for years and others only once, never knowing what form the outcome will actually take. “Expand our territory, Lord,” Lisa prayed. Within a couple of weeks, by no effort on our part, our small business was in discussions with two international organizations — one in Rome and one in Southern Arabia. With only illuvint’s logo stuck on our landing page, in February we submitted our first international bid to work with the Catholic Church in Oman, Yemen, and UAE. In April, we were officially awarded the bid for their rebranding project! This has also fulfilled Lisa’s (Tolkien geek) dream to speak to a Gandalf in real life, as that is the name of the Capuchin Priest that serves as the Bishop’s Secretary.

Another great blessing came on the feast of the Assumption, March 25th, in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Nicole, a dear Canadian friend and former roomie from Lisa’s Ave Maria College working days, married her long-awaited Helpmate, Brian. With a rescheduled business trip planned in Virginia a few days later, Lisa trekked solo to the Nuptials in the Great White North; but was warmly welcomed by gracious friends of the couple. The wedding was a beautiful celebration, born out of the community truly pulling together for the Newlyweds. Thankfully, new friends Mark, Maria, and Luke did not mind their houseguest crashing for a few extra days when Lisa’s flight got cancelled on account of getting snowed in.

It was rough…eating Lobster and making Snow Angels with little Luke, but such is life. What a joy, to celebrate marriage and make new friends!

illuvint’s team went through an expansion this year as well. We brought on new partners to collaborate with us, and are grateful for the ways that Monica Hildebrand, John Clem, Erika Higgins, Gerry Whitney, and our first intern — Maddie Stigler, enriched our lives and business. Joining with a startup is not an easy task, so we are grateful for them, and our original partners who have labored alongside us in this digital effort. We were particularly tickled to finally launch our company website in June, illuvint.com!

June brought our 3rd Wedding Anniversary and a few Graduation celebrations – including Simon, Mike’s Godson. His parents, our dear friends Trish and Joseph, had been planning his Graduation present for 3 years, and we were honored to be a part of it. A small group of us hiked up Pike’s Peak in August, inspired by the transformation – physical and otherwise – of our friends. You can read all about this amazing journey at: Joseph’s blog, www.fourteenthousandonehundredten.com, and at CatholicTourist.com where Lisa Hendey featured Lisa Martinez’s travel blogs. That incredible three-week trip included Pike’s Peak, Telluride, Las Cruces (NM), Alpine + other West Texas towns with great friends.

Back in July, Lisa traveled to be with her Dad in Florida during the first of what turned out to be a series of leg surgeries to clean out his veins. That gave a great excuse to leave a day early to spend the night with her brother, Jeff, Annette & kids — vacationing at Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando. Dad pulled through the surgery like a champ, and Lisa was grateful to visit with two of her Uncles who had been very ill. Congrats to Mike who started a new position at Experian at that time, in Information Risk Management. We also enjoyed a visit from our old friend, Sugar, and crew.

After 7-years in Texas, Lisa finally attended the State Fair of Texas with Mike in September. They enjoyed all things fried (including the renown Corny Dog), watching the Hog Races, and Mike nailed the Ford Fusion car simulator like a boss. The following week, Mike was thrilled that one of his favorite musicians, Scottish singer/songwriter Justin Currie’s tour brought him here, so we enjoyed that intimate show at the Kessler Theater.

October was busy. A highlight of that month was to reconnect with some good friends back in Dallas at the UD Ministry Conference. Some important brainstorming meetings happened there, and there are some grand future visions that we’re drilling down behind the scenes. As partners in life and work, we’ve been deeply discerning some big next steps in life and business – 2015 should be quite a ride!

November brought more road tripping. Lisa joined colleague/friend, Monica, at a Healing Retreat in Georgetown; Mike joined buddies, Tim and Bill, for a guys weekend in Austin. Afterwards we relished a few days with our cousins, Thomas and Claudia, and met with an Austin realtor to discuss possible surrounding areas to relocate next year, God-willing.

From Austin, we roadtripped to New Orleans. There, we finally met Holly & John, our clients/friends, and their fab group of San Diegans for two great celebrations: The launch of Holly’s new company wickednot.com, that we’ve supported since meeting through mutual friend/Co-Founder Tim Foley; AND John Carney’s (a 23-year NFL kicker) induction in the Saints Hall of Fame. The spectacular events, fun, and new friendships formed will always be remembered fondly. From NOLA we trekked 11 hours to San Benito, Texas, to spend Thanksgiving with family and visit Mike’s Uncle, in critical condition in the ICU. Thankfully we were able to share time with family during very precious hours.

WOW, what a year 2014 has been!

Thanks, and a special blessing to all of you who have been a part of it in one way or another! Merry Christmas!

Love,

Mike & Lisa

The magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His Presence.” (unknown)

©2014 Lisa Martinez, Christmas card design + letter, which appeared first here at closeddoorsopenwindows.wordpress.com

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A Celebration of Fathers

My Mom always said that I was a Daddy’s girl. And I was his Princess.

As a little girl, I can remember our daily routine when he’d get home from work: I’d run to the side door to meet him, outstretch my arms as far as I could across me and pull them behind, while exclaiming, “I love you THIS MUCH!”

I loved the songs Dad would sing, and when I was afraid, his song about the name of Jesus would calm me. He and my Mom instilled a reverence and faith that has formed, guided, and carried me through life.

During the times of struggle, and to this day, my Dad redirects my focus:

“What do you think God is trying to teach you? Because if you don’t get it this time, he’s going to bring you back to this place – only harder.”

A lot a like, there were certainly time when we have collided – particularly as a know-it-all-teenager. Heck, if I had been a boy, my name would’ve even been Richard Jr! But our similarities have also created this comfort of being known and loved deeply, where I can safely be myself.

Also, I’m grateful for the good examples of Fatherhood that I’ve been so fortunate to be surrounded by: My Grandfather, my Father-in-law, my brothers, Uncles, Priest friends, and friends that have loved and cared for me like a daughter.

In a time where there is such an attack on the family, and so much confusion, I want my heart to remain grateful. Some people I love have lost their Dads, never really knew them, or had Fathers who just aren’t a part of their life. How much the world has suffered on account of the wounds of an absent or hurtful Father. I’m pausing to pray for those right now who need it most, on account of their own situations with their Fathers.

The blessing of a good Father is a treasure. What gifts I’ve been given…

Dancing_Dad

dad_and_boy

 

BabyShowerDad

QuinceneraDance

 

 

GrandpaChristmas

CFR Fort Worth

Sanchez Family

 

“God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him” (Gn 1:27)

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Celebrating Birthdays in Heaven?

My Mom would have been 67 today. I’m sure her sunny Florida day would’ve involved something kind of like this, with her delicious frozen Margaritas, going to dinner with my Dad and their retired pals.

frozen margaritas

lady lake floridaThis is Mom’s 3rd birthday in Heaven, which has me pondering, “Do they celebrate birthdays in Heaven?”

Hmmm….I can’t quite wrap my mind around it, because it’s Heaven and well, I’m not there (yet!). I mean if you’re in Heaven, you’re infinitely joyful and there are only memories of your time on Earth, right? Standing in the Beatific Vision, seriously, would it even occur to you to celebrate something from another lifetime?

Perhaps they celebrate their birth into new life, into Heaven? In which case, that’s only 2 days away for my Mom…

At any rate, I’m going to do my very best this week to try and celebrate the life we shared with Mom. I’ve made a few plans with friends to keep people close to me who know and love me. I also have some professional development seminars that we’ll be attending, and I’m sure they’ll keep my brain active and occupied. Three years later, the emotions and that missing ache are still real, but so is the love and gratitude for a life well lived.

Do you think they celebrate birthdays in heaven? Let me know what you think…

Christmas Card & 2013 Year in Review

Taking this 5th day of Christmas, and the Feast of the Holy Family, to share our Christmas letter and card from our family to yours…

2013 Christmas Card

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

If we could only use three words to describe this past year, explore, dream, and discover would be a pretty reliable synopsis. There are times in life where everything lines up to take you in a new direction: Passion to pursue a dream, ripe circumstances, formation through experience, a window of opportunity, solid discernment, a supportive spouse, a willing spirit seeking God’s will, and just enough faith to leap into the great unknown. After this alignment occurred at the end of 2012, in January, Lisa plunged into our entrepreneurial endeavor full-time. Ever since, our noses have been to the grindstone, busy in the process of laying the groundwork for illuvint (e-LOO-vint), our small business.

It’s humbling to see how the trust walk of 2013 has remarkably unfolded. There was no colossal launch filled with fanfare, as it just was not what our CEO (GOD) wanted – but rather a lean and deliberate process of showing up and speaking with the right people at the right times, and taking each of the steps laid out bit-by-bit before us.  We are convinced that if you never want to be bored or complacent again, start your own small business – especially one focused on serving the needs of other start-ups, small businesses, and ministries – those often faced with the challenges of limited resources. At the same time, what an honor to collaborate with some of the most passionate, creative, inventive, and scrappy go-getters we’ve come to know!

Eager to collaborate with other entrepreneurs, we were thrilled when our Lafayette, LA friends, Ann and Julie, came to visit in early February. It was a weekend devoted to brainstorm, share about dreams and small business endeavors, and seek growth and healing. Reunited the following weekend, but in Lafayette this time, Lisa and Julie, co-hosted one helluva Mardi Gras themed Bridal Shower for dear friend, Kelli, as her “Matrii”, or Matron and Maid of Honor.

The end of February brought an exciting business trip: We both went to Anaheim, CA, for the Los Angeles Religious Educators Congress (40,000+ attendees) to manage Social Media, and capture photos/videos of the event for our friend, Curtis Stephan, the singer/songwriter commissioned to write the conference theme-song.  What an incredible event and time to reconnect with, as well as meet, many amazing people involved in various ministries. We even enjoyed a little side trip to beautiful Santa Barbara before we returned home (upper right 2 photos above were taken on the Pier there).

After the Congress, in March, with the help of some trusted, incredibly generous friends, our professional team really started to take shape: A 1st-Class team of web designers/web developers, graphic designers, English + Bi-lingual marketers, copywriters, speaker/blogger folks began assembling. It was phenomenal to begin to discover our network and collaborations, which we are continually seeking more of, but it all began falling into place with very little effort!

At the end of March, Mike got away for a guys weekend and some fishing on the Lake when he hosted a Bachelor Party for Marcelo. A month later, we got to stand up in our 1st wedding together for Kelli & Marcelo, during the lively Festival International weekend in Lafayette. After returning home, Lisa went to Florida to be with her Dad during his Heart procedure. Dad fared well, and is doing better, and Lisa enjoyed a bit of time to also visit with her brother, Jeff, too.

At the end of May, we took a trip down to South Texas to visit Mike’s family.  Mike was honored that our nephew, Dustin, asked him to be his Confirmation Sponsor.  We also took some time to celebrate our 2nd Anniversary a bit early, as well as Rose’s (Mike’s sister) birthday, by renting a condo near the beach on South Padre Island, not far from where our Wedding reception was. There’s nothing like the beach to unwind a bit.

We ventured over to Austin in mid-July. A nice visit with cousins, Thomas & Claudia, we attended the Tech Symposium that Thomas moderated, and saw old college friends, Aaron & Kate.  A long-time dream of Mike’s to live in Austin, we spent time talking with locals, scouting neighborhoods, partaking in the sights, sounds, and flavors, as well as praying about where we’re supposed to be. We’ll see what happens!

At the end of August, Mike went to Costa Mesa, CA on business. When the trip got extended, Lisa joined him, continuing to enjoy the mobile, flexibility of running our own business!

We heard some sweet music and enjoyed the company of a couple of dear old friends in September. Lisa was front and center at the Audrey Assad concert (one of her favorite female artists), debuting her new album.  Fr. Joe O’Connor, our long-time friend + the Priest who married us, visited, and on a whim, shone the light of Christ on us by replacing our burned out fluorescent kitchen lighting with fancy track lighting.  The next day, we saw Mike’s favorite musician, Josh Rouse, in concert. To ice the cake, our Best Man, Tim, drove in and pulled off a killer surprise on Mike when he sat down at our table right before the show. Well played.

Mike was back in California for work in October, which was extended out to 3-weeks. Ouch. Lisa was really grateful for a girls night/sleepover at Kelli’s house when Julie came back to visit during that time!

Omar, our nephew arrived, in mid-November. Never really having traveled outside of Texas, we surprised him with a Thanksgiving Road-trip to Florida! In 8-days, we spanned over 3,000 miles, from New Orleans, to Dad’s in the Villages, to Jeff’s in Hollywood, to the Summer Estates of Henry Ford/Thomas Edison in Ft. Myers, back to Dad’s, stopping in Jackson, MS, and home again on Dec 1st. Whew – what a great whirlwind!

Currently, we are down in South Texas – the Rio Grand Valley – enjoying the holidays with Mike’s family. Undergoing surgery on December 18th (all went well, thank God), it’s been good for Lisa to heal and recover while taking a couple of weeks of downtime all at once.

2013 sure was packed, and we’re so grateful for all the opportunities to explore, dream, and discover! We’re especially thankful for all our family and friends – this of course includes our clients and illuvint team members.  Our lives are blessed and better because of your love, support, prayer, and belief in us!!

Our goal is to have our company website up for January 1st, www.illuvint.com. All visitors, feedback, and sharing is appreciated!

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Road Trip Tales and Tips

Traveling together is a very bonding experience, especially on a road trip. This Thanksgiving, with our nephew visiting from South Texas, we made a last minute decision to surprise him with a roughly 3,000 mile road trip over 8-days to spend the holidays with my Florida family.

Road Trip

Here’s some Road Trip highlights and travel tips from Texas to Florida:

On November 23rd, we departed Dallas towards our first stop — New Orleans, Louisiana.
It’s always a challenge to get out the door at a reasonable time, so it was a bit after noon before the wheels (which we had to fill with air) started to roll towards the Big Easy.

From road trips of long ago with my Cajun friends, we always stop at the French Market Express, on University Pkwy, in Natchitoches for Gas and a little fried treat or sweet.

Travel tip: Natchitoches is known for their Meat Pies, which you can pick up at this stop while getting a fill up and making a potty stop.

We arrived in NOLA after about 8 1/2 hours of travel. Our accommodations were at the Hilton Garden Inn on South St. Peter’s Street.

Travel tip: Staying downtown New Orleans is always more expensive, so I use Hotwire to get a better deal. I check all the travel sites, and usually Hotwire is the best – although you never know exactly where you are staying until you book it. But this Hilton ended up in a pretty good location and is nice – even has Sleep Number Beds – but the parking stinks (like always is my experience anywhere in New Orleans). There’s no self-parking, so they have Valet parking for a whopping $30/night (+ tax & tip). But, another hot tip, you can opt for the garage a block over for $10/night.

Our nephew wanted to see the Pay-Preview Boxing match that night. It was really hard to find it playing anywhere, let alone a place with good Gumbo like my Hubs wanted. So we decided to eat somewhere first, then the guys could go catch the fight somewhere and my weary bones could relax back in the room.

My husband loves Poutine, Canadian “gravy fries”, a delicacy we’ve not had in the States before. I found a restaurant there that actually serves it — Capdeville, which must be named after the street where it is located. We went there for dinner, but alas they don’t serve traditional Cajun/Creole food like the Hubs was craving.

poutine capdeville

A Burger connoisseur, I urged him to try one of their beef patty entrees. Set on Gumbo he almost didn’t, but reluctantly ordered the Capdeville Burger –with just lettuce, fried onions, and pickles. Surprised at how incredible it ended up being, it now sits at his highly ranked #2 all-time Burgers.

Capdeville Burger

They dropped me back at the Hotel after dinner and the guys headed out to Rick’s Saloon for the fight. Unfortunately, by the time they got there, the fight was just ending. So they watched the highlights and headed down to Bourbon Street for the experience of it.

Since a road trip two years ago, my Hubby loves his Corned Beef Hash, Eggs, & Grits breakfast at the Gumbo Pot restaurant. Here’s a shot of my breakfast a la Gumbo Pot.

Gumbo Pot Breakfast

After that, he goes to get his coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde. The to-go line was really long that Sunday morning, so while we waited, my Nephew and I tooled around.

Cafe du Monde Beignets

In the courtyard of St. Charles Cathedral, we met some girls from Austin that wanted their picture taken mid-air while jumping in front of the beautiful Church. Afterwards they told us we needed to do the same. When in Rome…

St Charles Cathedral New Orleans

While waiting we caught a little show of entertaining guys. One of them even flip-jumped over 6 people kneeling on the ground! See him mid-air here:

New Orleans Entertainment

We got an even later start from NOLA, (which, I’ll admit, I was expressive about my dislike of that) and we still had about 10 more hours until we reached my Dad’s. But, traveling with others does require give-and-take, right?!

Travel Tip: Using Smart phone apps is very helpful when on the road. I almost always look up “nearby” restaurants on Urbanspoon. This time I found a “Five Guys” coming up in Killearn, FL, and with the Five Guys App I was able to order and pay for our dinner before we even arrived – talk about convenient when traveling!!

Five Guys Burger App

We arrived after midnight at my Dad’s Florida home, tucked away in a gated Retirement community. We had traveled 2 days and 1,086 miles by that point.

At my Dad’s, my Hubs still had 2 days of work to put in remotely. I also did work (see my office with a view below), while my Nephew got to ride around with my Dad to see the area and later drove Dad’s Golf Cart around himself.

The Villages Florida

I loaded up on 2 days worth of groceries. We ate well: Day #1: Tacos; Day #2: My Nephew grilled Marinaded Chicken and Corn on the Cob, with baked Sweet Potatoes.

Grilling in the Villages

We departed around noon from mid Florida to go further south, past Miami, to my brother’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving. Florida has some really nice rest areas, so when we stopped for a bathroom break, we grabbed some Wendy’s.

Since we tried Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza in Ft. Lauderdale a year and a half ago, my Hubs has searched high and low for something similar – to no avail. So that’s where we ended up for a delicious family-style dinner with 8 of us now in tow.

Anthony Coal Fired Pizza Ft Lauderdale

Thanksgiving was that perfect mix of all good holiday things: Savory dishes that many hands lovingly prepared, desserts, thankfulness expressed while holding hands in prayer, Tropical Sanchez’s (my bro’s signature drink), calls to out-of-state family, Basketball, movies, cigars, and memory-making with family.

Turkey Cooked With Bacon

Pumpkin Pies Pumpkin Log RollsThanksgiving Dinner Hollywood FloridaBasketballCigar smoking outdoorsIMG_9302

On Friday the 29th we set out for a change of scenery. But before leaving the Hollywood area, my Nephew needed to experience some good Cuban food. We went to Las Vegas for a big old lunch.

Las Vegas Hollywood Florida

We also couldn’t leave without him getting an eyeful of the daytime Atlantic Ocean view – even if it was windy and cool for South Florida.

Dad Omar Mike Beach Sanchez Kids Beach Hollywood Florida Beach

Then we were off across “Alligator Alley” to Ft. Myers. We showed up early evening at the Edison & Henry Ford Summer Estates for the Christmas tree lighting. Growing up in Dearborn, Michigan with the Henry Ford, it was interesting to see the summer recreation side of such geniuses.

Palm Trees with Christmas LightsFlorida Sunset BeachEdison Summer EstateHenry Ford Summer EstateMike and Lisa

Afterwards, we enjoyed a hot meal at Cracker Barrel. It’s always fun to shop in their little country store as well – we all walked out of there with a little something.

It took 3 hours and 15 minutes to get back to Dad’s home. There we grabbed a quick night’s sleep, before our morning departure.

Family in the Villages Florida

Trip home, Day #1: Lady Lake, Florida to Jackson, Mississippi.

We ate a steady artery-hardening fast-food diet that day; but, might I add that the Whataburger in Crestview, Florida was the nicest one I’ve ever been to, and very friendly too.

Travel tip: The Country Inn & Suites in Jackson, MS was a disappointment. They are undergoing a renovation – so the pool, hot tub & exercise room were all under construction simultaneously. The carpet in our room looked like a tractor had parked there, and there was a bug in the Bathroom. I wouldn’t consider that property 3 stars; but it was quiet, and we slept OK, so we made it through.

Trip home, Day #2: Jackson, Mississippi to Dallas, Texas.

Driving to Mass, we saw one of the oddest post-accident car scenes ever. One of the hit cars was stuck in reverse, looping around backwards in a perfect circle with no one driving or even in the car. Bizarro.

We started Advent with 10:30 am Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral – a beautiful Church, rich in history. For my stained-glass loving Hubby, he snapped a bunch of pictures at this Church.

St Peters Cathedral Jackson

Travel tip: I use my Mass Time App, by theCatholicDirectory.com, to find nearby Churches, check their Mass schedule, and get directions.

We asked some of the locals where to find a proper lunch. A friendly local directed us to the Piccadilly Cafe, but that seemed to be everyone’s idea as well – the line was tremendous. So, I got on my Urbanspoon and found the Broadstreet Baking Company & Cafe. They had fresh baked breads, a tempting dessert counter, and many locals enjoying a Sunday brunch there. My Hubs loves his Espresso, so I was glad to hear that their coffee was delicious, as I savored delving into my first Croque Monsieur.

Croque Monsieur

We were on the last stretch of road home around 1:00 pm. Things were smooth sailing until we hit the final 2 hours on I-20. There were 3 car accidents during that time, but my Hubby used smart navigating to save us some time.

Travel tip: My Hubs loves the “Waze” Social GPS, Maps, & Traffic App. Drivers keep other drivers informed on the roads, from accidents to speed traps, it gives you some useful info to help make your trip go smoother.

Our last stop before home was in Canton, Texas. We like to Gas up and grab some grub in the final stretch.

Travel tip: Duke’s Travel Plaza in Canton, just off I-20, is a nice stop. The Bar-B-Q is pretty good, and you can get a family dinner there with 2 lbs of meat and some sides for around $25.00.

We spent about 7 1/2 hours on the road today, and are finally enjoying the comfort of home. This Texas to Florida road trip was about 3,000 miles, filled with family, and more memories than calories if that is possible. Glad we got to surprise our Nephew, who has never really left Texas, with such a great adventure. Most of the time, he had no idea where we were going. Great fun, but as always, nothing like being home!

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90 Years: Celebrating The Life of Our Matriarch

The head of our Hungarian clan, my Grandmother, Helen, is NINETY years old today!!! WOO HOO! My Aunts have said that they couldn’t let this major accomplishment slide by quietly, and so have planned a nice celebration in her honor back near my hometown in Michigan.

90 year old Grandma

As we’ve grown and married, most of her Grandchildren have moved away from Michigan. Knowing how difficult it is for all of us to make the trip, besides Grandma never wanting to cause a fuss, my Auntie approached me with a request: Could I compile and edit a video of Birthday wishes from the out-of-state family members that would do it? I accepted, under the condition that I’d get all the videos a month out to be able to work at it as time allowed — yeah right! I did get Grandma’s DVD finalized in time – never you mind if I was burning the disc on my laptop (which had conveniently crashed) in the passenger seat as I slid into UPS, 2 minutes to close with the truck leaving. That’s what they designed 2nd-Day Air for people!

There’s a good cross-section of us out-of-staters represented in the final production. One of the things that I loved while working on the editing is that each clip so classically embodies each family. The beginning always makes me laugh, as it just so Grandma. Shortly after her 89th birthday, my Hubs and I visited and shot some home movies where we interviewed her for posterity’s sake. Good thing about Grandma – you never have to guess what she’s thinking, she’ll let you know. For real. She used to tell me:

I hope you get married before I die.

And I would respond,

I’m purposely holding out so that you will live longer.

Suffice it to say she lived to see me dance at my wedding, which not even my Mom (her daughter) had been able to do. Some may say she’s a tough ol’ Bird, but she’ll tell you that God must still have some mission for her.

Here’s a snapshot into my wonderfully talented and quirky family – wishing a happy 90th Birthday to our Matriarch! For those who hold out, there’s a bonus at the end.

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This One Goes Out To the One I Love

It’s not just an REM song, it’s also the expression of birthday lovin’ for my Hubby!

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I always ask him what he wants to do for his Birthday, and he just loves to spend quality time together. So we’ve both taken the day off tomorrow and surprises and new adventures await.

I’ll add some pics as we progress throughout the birthday ballyhoo, so check back later.

UPDATE:

Quality time was on the agenda for Mike’s birthday, especially considering how hard we’ve both working. A lot of people post birthday party pics from their kids; well, here’s a peak into the birthday festivities:

SURPRISE #1: Mike’s favorite dessert = Apple Pie. I went the extra a la mode step, with Butter Pecan Ice Cream. Ohhhhh wow. Unfortunately it wasn’t a complete surprise, as I had him stay in the back office while I made it, but come on folks, how can you not smell homemade Apple Pie bubbling up in the oven just the room over!

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SURPRISE #2: Kayaking White Rock Lake! Kayaking was one of my favorite excursions when Mike and I were dating. We haven’t really been since, so it was overdue. We’d never kayaked White Rock Lake, and with it right in our backyard, it worked perfectly with the other plans for the day. The amazing part was that it had rained in the morning before we got up, and there was unseasonably cool weather Friday morning. It was overcast but not raining, cool but not cold at an unreal 72 degrees for Dallas in August!

IMG_8594There even was a rainbow!!!

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Surprise #3: Picnic at Klyde Warren Park, Downtown Dallas. Since before this urban green space opened in the heart of downtown, Mike & I have wanted to go there. So glad we finally did. What a cool space — lined with food trucks, a Children’s park with sweet water features, reading and games areas, people tossing footballs in the open areas, others walking dogs, a Performance pavilion, trails, etc — definitely add it to your list if you haven’t gone already.

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The kids were having a blast playing in the water!
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Surprise #4: The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, new to Richardson! How perfect that the night before his birthday, Mike suggests that we try out the newly opened Alamo Drafthouse to see a movie (his favorite past time for certain). Little did he know that I had already purchase a TravelZoo voucher for dinner and movie there 🙂  It was a beautiful facility, the burgers were great, the Popcorn had real butter, and the picture & sound quality excellent. They did a great job working around the fact that their computer servers were down, and manually had to write out our tickets, take our vouchers, as well as write out our meal tickets. We saw “Jobs” – the story of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, as played by Ashton Kutcher – who I thought was very convincing in the role.

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Surprise #5: Has yet to arrive yet, due to an eBay delay…but it is the thing that Mike was most excited about. We’ve invested in the Vitamix 750 Professional Series, as part of our plan to get more healthy. This bad boy has presets, a complete cookbook & DVD, a tamper to push everything down into the blade, a 7-year warranty, and actually liquifies whole fruits and vegetables – so not extracting the juice and leaving the fibrous good stuff as refuse.

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Our new Vitamix 750 will be arriving in the next couple of days, and we’re excited to have a plethora of ways to use it: from smoothies, to soups (it even cooks in the blender), to grains, purees, etc. There are 5 pre-programmed settings “to ensure simple cleaning, walk-away convenience, and consistent results for smoothie, frozen dessert, soup, and purée recipes.” We can’t wait to test our new machine out and share with you some of the great ways we’re utilizing it. So stay tuned for that!

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Fifty Years of Marriage

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“In this entire world there is not a more perfect, more complete image of God, Unity and Community. There is no other human reality which corresponds more, humanly speaking, to that divine mystery.” – Blessed Pope John Paul II on Marriage & Family

Today my in-laws celebrate FIFTY years, as in 5-0 or 5 decades, of marriage, life, love, and family — an incredible milestone, and certainly an inspiration!!! Wanting to pray for them and honor them in a special way this day, I found this beautiful “Blessing for a Golden Wedding Anniversary: Traditional Rite” (for full version, follow link).

Allocution

Beloved of Christ: “Wedlock is a holy thing and it should be dealt with in a holy manner.” This is the teaching of the Council of Trent. Evidently you subscribe wholeheartedly to this solemn pronouncement, because you begin the festivities of your golden wedding anniversary in the house of God. You are come to render thanksgiving to Him for His benevolent favors of the past fifty years, and to entreat His benediction upon you for the years that remain. You return as devout pilgrims today to the altar of God, where in your youth you were made joyful and glad with the marriage sacrament. You were married in Christ, and the Lord has continued these many years to be your portion in happiness and your chalice in sorrow, just as you live in hope that He will bequeath an everlasting inheritance when the journey comes to an end.

On the day of your wedding, so long past, grace was laid up in your souls through the sacrament which you administered to each other. Today you stand before the world as a striking testimony of what God’s grace, conferred in matrimony, can effect in the husband and wife who will work along with the divine treasure that is in them. Our world has great need of the living sermon which your example of fidelity and loyalty dins into its ears. All who validly receive the sacrament of matrimony are meant to be sanctified and strengthened for the duties and for the dignity of their state, but sad to say not all use the powers of grace laid up in the soul by this sacrament. Because so many married folks have gone astray from the living God and turned to the false gods of their own inordinate whims and desires, we are confronted on all sides by the spectacle of overwhelming unhappiness and frustration that plagues our present society. Hatred between spouses, adultery, divorce, race suicide, unbridled selfishness, broken homes, forsaken children — these are the accursed fruits resulting when the grace of matrimony lies unused and its duties neglected. But now that we have mentioned these evils in protest and warning for the ears that can benefit from the Church’s solemn admonition, let us turn quickly from these unpleasant considerations, so offensive to the devout people of God, and instead take inspiration and courage from the lessons afforded by this happy occasion.

We are inclined to believe that you have lived the years of wedlock in imitation of the chaste nuptials of Christ with His Church, that your love for each other has resembled Christ’s love for His spotless Bride, and that as Christ is the Savior of the Church, so you have been to each other a savior, helping each other to grow in holiness and in true love for God and neighbor. Thus it has come about that now there is found in your marriage peace, dignity, happiness, and security. Of course, it is no secret that your way has not been easy at all times. You have had to endure suffering together. You have often been nailed to the cross of sacrifice. There have been temptations to overcome. You have been put to the test of heroic generosity and unselfishness, so that you might patiently bear each other’s weaknesses and imperfections. But because you have been subject to God, you have subdued the rebellion of the flesh. With God’s help you have been enabled to accomplish what of yourselves you would not have been able.

In the name of Christ, of the Church and all her children who are present, as well as in my priestly office, I extend heartiest congratulations to you and all good wishes for your future years together. Shortly we shall offer the Holy Sacrifice in praise and thanksgiving to our heavenly Father for the great work He has wrought in you. In the course of the Mass let us also beseech the Most High to be ever at your side in His full power and glory, assisting you to continue and to persevere unto the end, so that the wedlock kept holy on earth may adorn you for the hour in which the heavenly messenger comes to conduct you to the divine nuptials of the Lamb of God.

Happy Golden Anniversary, Mom & Dad! We wish you many more years of love, joy, health, and blessings.

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