Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Yesterday in Florida...

Yesterday was the most incredibly wonderful day of this whole road trip.
The biggest reason why was because it was the most spontaneous non-agenda day of the past week. We've pretty much not had an agenda this whole trip, other than during the Plexus Leaders Retreat where we had several activities mapped out for us, and it's been fun just striking out each day without so much as a hotel reservation. We've been driving until we felt like stopping, and had great luck finding nice 3 or 3 1/2 star hotels at the last minute from the comfort of our car.
But yesterday, even though we didn't really have an official agenda, we sort of did; we were going to wake up and drive halfway home and probably end up in new Orleans and find a place to stay somewhere in the Louisiana. And we decided, at breakfast, that since we were in Destin, we needed to just go to the beach to take a few pictures before we left town.
And then we got out there and it was so completely gorgeous and the weather could NOT have been more perfect and the sand was all white and powdery and we couldn't bring ourselves to leave, so we said "the heck with New Orleans," dragged our swimsuits out of the trunk of the car, and stayed at the beach ALL DAY LONG.
It's going to mean driving ten or eleven hours today to get home by tonight, but that's ok. And it also means that the Caucasian half of this couple is REALLY SUNBURNED today, and that's ok too because I have Plexus Body Cream to take care of that (and on a related note, I hope Susie inherited her dad's part-Indian genetics and pigmentation and not my lack thereof).
It was oh, so worth it.
We probably said, "OH MY GOSH THIS IS SO GREAT," at least 172 times, and made a promise to come back to Destin again next year but DEFINITELY bring the kids. And I. Can't. Wait.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Seven Qualities of a Good Travel Companion.

In case you didn't know, Michael and I have been on vacation the past few days. I had earned a trip to the Plexus Leaders Retreat AND tickets to Disney AND Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, courtesy of my amazing job as a Plexus Ambassador. We decided to make it a road trip to Orlando and back since we'd never taken a vacation together before, and also to stretch our 3-day trip into a whole week of fun and togetherness.

So here we are in the car on our way out of Orlando, and I just had this thought that you can tell a lot about a person by what it's like to travel with them, and also that I've really, really liked traveling with Michael. He's been pretty much fun this entire time, and given me about twelve different memories that I can't stop laughing about. Seriously. Well be driving along in silence, and I can't help it, I'll think about the Peoplemover escalator back at Magic Kingdom (you had to be there) and crack up laughing all over again. After this trip, I LIKE him more than I did before.

And that got me thinking of some other trips I've taken in my life with not-so-pleasant people and the vast difference between the two experiences, and then my mind went to thinking about when my girls grow up and get married and the kind of person I want THEM to take road trips with.

Because --- and I just had this revelation, riding along in the car heading North on I-75 --- the qualities that make someone a good travel companion also make them a good LIFE companion, so lest you think I'm just bragging shamelessly on my husband, there's a purpose in this list... Consider it an open letter to my daughters regarding all the qualities I want them to look for in the person they travel with in life someday. Dear daughters, please choose a guy like this one...

1. He's always, always friendly to everyone. He treats the parking valet like he's the most interesting and important person he's met all day. Waitresses, bellhops, random strangers on the elevator? He smiles and says hi to them all, then always tells them to have a good day when we part ways. From my experience as a waitress during college, I know that MOST people aren't that nice, and NICE words from a NICE person go a long, long way.

2. He always tips well. It goes along with being friendly and respectful to everyone. If someone serves you, show your gratitude. And if they serve you really well, bless them with a handshake and a 'thank you' and a couple of extra dollars. I was a waitress and I know that two extra dollars might not mean much to you, but it does to them after an hours-long shift spent serving cranky, rude, self-centered people. I love good tippers.

3. He always lets other people go first. This just happened... We were pulling out of the Waffle House parking lot, and he let a Tahoe turn in front of him with a wave. So. Nice. He always lets others on or off the elevator first, and on or off the Disney shuttle first. I love people who put others ahead of themselves.

4. And speaking of putting others ahead of themselves, he's let me choose the Pandora station this entire trip. It helps that we agree that 80s music makes the best road trip soundtrack, but still, I appreciate that he made a point of telling me I could choose the music, the a/c temperature, and where to eat breakfast in the mornings, among other things. Of course I try not to demand my own way ALL the time and to usually consider his feelings, but it's just nice to travel with a courteous person who cares about making this a pleasant trip for all involved.

5. He stood up to let older ladies have his seat on the Disney shuttle, every single time. Every. other. man. on every other shuttle SAT THERE and let the grandmothers ride standing up. Not MY husband. And that made me so incredibly proud. And also? I never opened a door this entire trip, or carried a heavy bag. I really love gentlemen with manners; they're so few and far between these days.

6. He's gone out of his way to let me do what I want to do on this trip. There were a couple of silly, frivolous stops I wanted to make (Orient Expressed in New Orleans, for one, and what man wants to go there?) and pictures I wanted to take that involved a detour and much time and walking and effort, and it was silly, really, but I wanted to do it, and he just LET ME without one single complaint or snarky comment. And if there was anything he wanted to do, I happily went along with it (his requests mostly involved roller coasters and steak, so it wasn't too painful) because in this family we treat each other like we want to be treated.

And last but not least,

7. He always wakes up happy. I'll be the first to admit that I do not, especially those mornings after we stayed up well past midnight and then had to get up early the next morning. He ACTED happy and cheerful and pleasant, even when he didn't feel that way, because he knows that moods are contagious. It's something I have to work on, myself, not letting my sleep-deprived grumpiness rub off on everyone around me, but I do so appreciate that HE makes the effort, and I'll try to do better. Thank goodness there's Plexus on those mornings.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to crank up the 80s on Pandora and enjoy the drive.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Honeymoon Road Trip, Day One.

We had the most wonderful day ever yesterday. Everything was perfect, from the weather to the food to finding front row parking places every single place we went, as if we were God's favorite children and He made all the paths straight just for us.

You know, I've always heard that you should always take a vacation with your spouse every year whether you can afford it or not, and after day one of this trip I'd say I wholeheartedly support that idea. We laughed so much all day long. We had a blast stopping everywhere we wanted to stop, and had so much fun taking pictures. Being on this trip together has reminded me how much fun we have together and how we love doing all the same things. We just travel real well together, turns out, and I had no idea since we'd never done this before.

At home we get so caught up in all those children (I think we have three, maybe four? I can't even remember now... Seems like their names all end with '-ie' ... Maggie? Frannie? Bunkie? Bethie? It doesn't matter... They're alive and well, I assume, with their grandparents and that's all that's important right now...) that we don't take the time to do all the things we're doing on this trip like laughing, eating good food in fun places, and wandering around taking pictures.

Not to mention staying in hotels.

A few of my favorite scenes from Natchitoches and Baton Rouge yesterday...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Middle-aged and Unsupervised: the Road Trip.

Well today is pretty much the best day of my whole life.

We're one hour into the first day of our honeymoon, that's why. Yeah, I know we've been married almost three years, but when we got married on Christmas Eve 2011 neither of us could take time off work, so we just went to Dallas for the weekend and consoled ourselves with plans to go to a warm and tropical island paradise the next summer.

And then Susie happened.

And you just canNOT have a honeymoon when you look like a sofa in a gigantic maternity swimsuit you bought from Slipcovers R Us. And then we had a newborn, who turned into a toddler, and yada yada yada, it's been three years and we've never taken our honeymoon or even stayed in a hotel alone at all since Susie was born.

So when Plexus invited me to go to the Leaders Retreat in Orlando OH MY WORD I was so excited. For oh so MANY reasons. But mostly because I GET TO GO ON A TRIP WITH MY LOML. I GET TO GO ON A TRIP WITH MY LOML!

We've been just giddy about it.... Making plans to DRIVE THERE because road trips are freaking fun, and we can stop so many cool places and sleep in hotels and take pictures and make a road trip mix CD  and eat sugar plums and make snow angels. Or whatever. I don't even care. I just get to go on a road trip with Michael for the first time and I'm so excited about it that I don't even CARE what we do.

So we planned to leave at 6am and probably drive all the way to Destin because it's only around ten hours, and we're all free and unburdened and without children to slow us down. And for whatever reason, it's not important now, it was about 10am when we were pulling out of town. There is no 'late' on this trip. We're free. And because we're us, and we crack each other up, we laughed and laughed the ENTIRE way to Kilgore, so giddy about this road trip that is REALLY FREAKING HAPPENING. WE REALLY ARE GETTING TO DO THIS.

We realized we were hungry and had driven twenty-two miles already and needed a break from all the driving, and we saw an exit sign for Denny's, so naturally, PUMPKIN PANCAKES. We exited, tires squealing.

And here we are. Michael got the pumpkin pancakes (and I think it's evident on his face how awesome they were... He was STUNNED by their awesomeness) and I got blueberry pancakes because calories and carbs don't count on vacation.

Now we're a little full. And kind of have a carb hangover. I think we'll pull over in Longview and find a hotel room and sleep this off.

We've made it almost thirty miles, and just whatever about it. We're grown ups and we can do what we want, gosh.

Maybe we'll get to Destin sometime tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Letter to My Daughter: What I Want You to Know About Friends.

Dear Daughter,

I know that middle school can be a total beating. I remember ever so clearly, and I still have very vivid scars from my OWN middle school experience. I wish we could skip right over these years and get to the fun part (aka college), but the hard years are the ones that make you into a better person, I know for a fact, so we have to grit our teeth and endure them.

But I want you to know how wonderful you are, and that I'm really proud of how you've always been sweet to people, always included people who didn't have anyone to sit with in the cafeteria, always thought about the feelings of others. THOSE are the kinds of behaviors that make me proud. YOU are a valuable treasure, you've always been a GOOD FRIEND to people, ALWAYS, and you deserve the best of everything in life, INCLUDING REALLY GOOD FRIENDS who will love you and be there for you and make you feel GOOD to be around them.

And REALLY GOOD FRIENDS treat each other like they want to be treated.

And REALLY GOOD FRIENDS save you a seat in the cafeteria.

And REALLY GOOD FRIENDS include you, and don't exclude you.

And REALLY GOOD FRIENDS aren't jealous when a boy has a crush on you.

REALLY GOOD FRIENDS are happy when good things happen for you.

REALLY GOOD FRIENDS would NEVER say words that are carefully chosen to HURT you; really good friends make you feel BETTER when they're around. Bullies hide behind "just kidding" a lot, but if everyone isn't laughing, it's not funny.

You should NEVER feel BAD after being around someone who you call 'friend,' and if someone constantly makes you feel inferior, KICK THEM TO THE CURB. Really good friends NEVER, EVER make you feel inferior.

And oh, my sweet, precious daughter, THIS is what you deserve. I don't expect EVERYONE to treat you like the priceless treasure that you are, but at the very minimum, if someone can't be a good friend to you, it's time to say NEXT and move on.

THIS is what I want you to know: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU; it's about how they see themselves, and the REALLY insecure ones will thrive on making you feel bad so they can feel good about themselves. They'll be quick to let you know where they went when you weren't invited. They'll feel smug about excluding some so that THEY can feel 'in.' They'll flaunt their 'stuff' to make you feel bad about your own.

(Come to think of it, I know a few grown women who act like seventh graders...)

You should never, ever let the insecure people steal ONE MINUTE of your joy. You're sweet, kind, smart, pretty, and wonderful, and God has huge plans for you. Keep making every effort to be one of the good ones, and know that I'm incredibly proud of you. 

If you liked this post PLEASE share it with your friends! ~ Melissa Beene Taylor
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Our Camping Adventure {and a Tiny Baby Goat}.

One of our FAVORITE things to do is to go camping at Michael's parents' place. Of course, with Texas being so close to the equator there are only about two weekends a year that you can sleep outside and not die, and this past weekend was one of them. 


We're RIGHT THERE! Just a hop, skip, and a jump from our very own private lake! 

That's us, right there...

Our campfire during the daylight hours... 

And some scenes around the campfire Friday night. 

She REALLY didn't have a Seventh Grade Attitude in this picture, I promise. We just snapped the picture at the wrong second.

Sometimes a fire on the end of a stick can be a really exciting thing.

THIS is what we woke up to... a sunrise over this lake. All my Plexus friends who are in Hawaii right now, just WHATEVER about it. I have this lake. 

Campout tradition = breakfast burritos with sausage and eggs cooked over the fire. There is NOTHING tastier. 

My kids have a blast on this golf cart every time we visit the ranch. And this is the reason one of Susie's first words was 'golfcart.' It's true.

This rooster is a new addition to the farm. At one point Susie felt like he needed a hug, and it didn't end well. Susie got a little banged up, but it's all ok. Farm kids are tough kids.

See? That's the face of mental toughness gained by going blow for blow with a rooster who just THOUGHT he was bad. Probably didn't hurt that she stole my morning beverage.... 

Don't let the hair fool you. She's tough. 

And... kind of a clown. Wonder where she gets that. 

Michael and his dad.

So... don't let the big smile fool you. Just F your I, my husband is TOTALLY rugged and dangerous.

I SAW him cut the head off a copperhead with a pocketknife. "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU JUST DID THAT," I said, like, seven times in a row, because I was kind of shocked. That was a little too close to a deadly snake for my comfort level, even IF my husband is THE most bad-to-the-bone guy in the state of Texas. "You just have to be faster than the snake," he said, because, you know, NO BIG DEAL. Don't mess with Michael, is all I'm saying. 

I didn't take a picture of the snake because I had the heebie-jeebies about the whole scene (it's making the hair on my arms stand up EVEN NOW, just typing about it), and besides, DID YOU KNOW THEIR HEAD STAYS ALIVE FOR A LONG TIME? We poked him with a stick ten minutes after he'd been decapitated and he SNAPPED HIS COLD, DEAD JAWS. And his headless body SLITHERED. #nightmaresaremadeofthis

The bad-to-the-bone snake killa... 

But on to something more pleasant. Did I show you this lake? Let's look at this lake one more time... 

Two of the newest ranch residents. They have names. Don't ask me what they are. 

At the ranch, we let Susie play in her pajamas, and/or a tshirt of her cousins, and/or whatever. Shoes are optional. 

Dirty fingernails = a day well-spent.

This is when she spotted her sisters coming over the hill in the golf cart... So. Exciting.

OH. And something so exciting happened while we were there... this tiny fella was born Friday night. He was just there Saturday morning out of nowhere... SURPRISE! And OH my word... the cuteness. I can't even stand it. His name? Skippy, because Katie picked it, that's why.

The future goat-herder... 

And the wee one.

Mama and baby... 

Digging in the dirt, barefooted. It's good for you.

If you liked this post PLEASE share it with your friends! ~ Melissa Beene Taylor
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