Thursday, October 8, 2015

2015 National Annual Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores, Alabama

Fall is my favorite time of the year along the Alabama Gulf Coast. This week we will celebrate the National Annual Shrimp Festival for four days. There will be music, arts & crafts, fine arts, a retail market, a children's village, an outdoor village, a sand sculpting contest, our very own "American Idol" contest, a 10K & 5 K run, and FOOD, lots and lots of food.

About 700,000 people came last year and it was much warmer than usual.  We may have the same amount of people, but the weather will be much cooler.

Since we live here, I have the advantage of knowing how to visit the festival as a local and a tourist. I'll be glad to share my insights.

Walking to and from the festival along West or East Beach isn't difficult and most of the roads along the T, where Gulf Shores Parkway/Hwy. 59 South and Hwy. 182 meet, are closed to through traffic. This makes it a little less hectic. But if you're walking, keep in mind that it is still very busy. There will be shuttles and a few rides on wheels, cash only, usually $5.00 per person. Several businesses are available for parking as well, also $5.00 per vehicle. Some residential areas will also offer paid parking. The worst thing you can do is to park on one of the shoulders of the neighboring roads, thinking you won't get stuck. Tow trucks make a killing, (I'm guessing), during this time. Happens every year with many, even the big 4-wheel drives, getting stuck in the sand. It's not worth it when it only costs $5 to park where you are safe.

Early mornings, the festival opens at 10 A.M. see schedule here, tends to be less crowded, getting food earlier rather than later will result in less wait time. Several booths selling drinks and water are located throughout the layout. But it is hard to eat and walk. Bringing a few chairs and setting up on the beach is an option. There are a few areas with tents and tables. Music at night is very entertaining and enjoyable, plan not to miss Dr. Zarr's Amazing Funk Monster.

If you skip eating at the festival there are many restaurants to chose from, but get there before or after the rush 4 P.M. - 6 P.M. Check out the shops and shopping centers, most have end of season sales going on. Expand to include those you haven't visited before, you may surprise yourself with a few deals. If you see something you want, better get it then. Don't put it off because if probably won't be there later. I've learned this the hard way. The festival T-shirts go fast too. If you want your size and color don't wait till the next day.

It takes half a day to walk through and look at all the booths and vendors. Some of my favorites are the bug people, the leather store, and the outdoor village.

Take your time to enjoy your visit. There's plenty of beach to walk on, food to eat, and shops to visit.

If you love visiting as much as I did, you may want to make the move, LIKE I DID. No regrets here. After 23 moves, it was and will be the best one ever. Talk to my friends at REALTY EXECUTIVES GULF COAST, 3479-B Gulf Shores Pkwy, right beside the new Gulf Shores Visitor's Center. Call to talk to someone at (251) 968-4300.

Who knows, you may can pick up a deal there too. Why not invest in a vacation home that you could possibly rent out. This year has been our busiest year yet.

Still have questions, see here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

How to OVERcome a Difficult Season in Life ~ The 4 D's to Avoid

Have you ever just dropped off the radar, gone into hiding, shrunk back into your shell?  I have.  The three D's can do that to you: Devastation, Disappointment, Discord.

Devastation can come in many forms; sickness, loss, or betrayal. Which often leads to the next two D's.  If you're not careful, all three of those can lead to the worst D of all, total Destruction.

Head of Woman by Leonardo da Vinci ~ Public Domain

No one wants that.

It can happen so fast.  

One moment I was on the top of a mountain.  Elated, I was getting back into writing, a great job landed square in my lap from the blue.  My husband came in one afternoon, "Great news, I got a raise!"  Our finances were looking better than ever. Our kids were moving into their new future. Things seems to be shaping up for for each one.

We felt great and after six months of sickness and overcoming injuries, my husband and I were back to our old selves, going and doing.  We were amazed at God's goodness.

"Thank you God, thank you Jesus, thank you for all your goodness.  I love you so much!" I was getting up each morning excited, happy, expectant.

Then out of no where, "BAM!"

Our mountain of euphoria came down hard.  Like an unexpected earthquake. There we lie in the rumble bewildered, wondering what just happened and why.

I found the joy that was only a day old, turned to anger, resentment, bitterness.  I found myself feeling like God abandoned us.  I couldn't understand why all the rich blessings, answers to prayers, healing after months of sickness, only to be back in the same place but worse.

Image credit: Pixabay (public domain)

"Why God?"  I would ask.  

That was followed by regret, feelings of despair.  Immediately I went into FIX-IT mode.

I'm the mom and wife, I'll fix it all.  But I couldn't.  I made myself sick, gave myself stomach ulcers, couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, ate too much, had headaches, cried, developed several personalities that changed from, "I'm a failure" to "I'm so mad!"

It was during these three months that God has taught me a list of things.

  1. Moms are not superheros, they have a limit but God doesn't. 
  2. Pride is very deceptive, feels great but what a let down afterwards. I learned, really learned, what God's Grace is all about.
  3. Mountain top experiences are few and they are awesome, but it's the valleys that equip you.
  4. In stillness and quietness strength is gained.  Worrying and trying to fix everything is exhausting.
  5. Committing everything to God is a minute by minute exercise. It's the one exercise that builds a strong muscle of faith.
  6. Being thankful defeats doubts.
  7. Praise is healing power to the mind, emotions, and spirit like antibiotics is to the body.
  8. God can turn your devastations into destinations of opportunities.
  9. Being pressured and pressed can also bring out the good stuff, (think oranges).
  10. The best lesson that God taught me was that He loved me! You see before I focused on how much I loved God, now I focus on how much God loves me.
I needed to realize that my life was merely changing not ending.  I needed to let go and let Jesus take the wheel.


It is when you are under the rubble of your mountain trying to find a way out, panic will strike your heart, thoughts will turn into the worst case scenario, faith begins to wobble, survival mode kicks in. You forget that only moments before you were standing on the mountain thinking about how much you love God, how awesome He is, all the wonderful things He's done.

How quickly that happens.  When it does, don't allow thoughts of failure or what-if's or I should haves come in and set up shop. Drive them away! Spend time in God's word, Read it out loud, turn some praise music on and fill yourself with excellent teachings. Don't turn it all off and simmer in your anger and lash out at God.  Sure, He has the power to do anything, but who are we to decide what's best?  We have such finite minds, God's is infinite.  Who are we to tell God what He should have done.  What if this terrible, horrible, no-good season is the beginning of something more wonderful than we could ever imagine?

"How can you even say something wonderful will come from this, I've lost my child, my spouse, my job, my home, my whole family?!"

I say it from faith, from loss in my own life, from knowing that God loves you. To tell you that believing this way is a much better alternative than believing the opposite that I've done so many times myself. I'm not downplaying your pain, I know it's not fair.

Don't stay stuck in the four D's, don't let your hurts, pains, losses, disappointments, devastations, discords, or anything else define your destiny. Your destiny lies in who you are. You are not a loser, not a failure, not too weak, not too hurt, you are not powerless or pitiful.  If you know and have accepted Jesus into your life, then you have everything you need.  He has come to live in you and through you. You have the power He has. He has not forsaken you, not let you down, not betrayed you, not forgotten or condemned you. Jesus is for you! He is the way, the truth, the light.

Let your destruction be a new destination into something more than you ever thought possible.  Don't give up, don't back down, don't let the rest of your life be stolen by your real enemy.

The lesson I want to leave with you is this.  When part of your life is no more, it opens up room for something new.  Don't let that something new be one of the four D's.

Be courageous and believe for something excellent.

If you've never accepted Christ as your savior, let today be your day of change. It's easy. And you can say something like this, 
"God I want and need you to change my life. I believe that Jesus died for me. I ask that you fill my heart, forgive me of my sins. Help me to know how to live. Help me to know you better and know how much you Love me. I commit my whole life to you from this day forward and ask that you lead me every step of the way into my destiny. In Jesus name I pray. Amen."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What's Cooking ~ Meal Ideas for the Busy Mom

Working, running errands, picking up the kids, blah,blah, blah. You get me. Never ending, going ninety-to-nothing. 

And then you have to cook.

Many may find this post offensive because it's not organic, it's not free of gluten, it's not sugar or fat or sodium free. But its full of taste!!!

You might have thought you saw a hotdog in the pic above. Look again. This is a buffalo chicken dog with cheese and ranch. So it's kind-of healthy. : )

I mean do we gotta give up all our taste for the sake of health? I do exercise, or at least try to 3-4 times a week, well during a good week when all the stars line up.

No guilt here. I'm all about good tasty food that I can fix within a 30 minute or less time frame after an extremely busy running everywhere day.

Sooooo... what I have here is two buffalo chicken dogs and some Oven Baked Cheetos. I mean if you gonna eat chips, they at least need to be baked. RIGHT?

Martin's Potato Rolls are my favorite and potatoes are vegetables, you see my logic here. I preheated the oven, threw in the TGI Friday's Chicken Bits, put the buffalo sauce in a bowl of warm water and VIOLA, a meal.

Now I don't do this very often. Wednesdays are my busiest so I tend to cheat a little on the health food for a quick meal. Besides, after a long day I don't want to miss what little time I have with my family for the evening by staying in the kitchen all night.

I've included some of my favorite food blogs. There's plenty of meal ideas, recipes, step by step instructions.

What works for me is planning 7 days at a time, Wednesday to Wednesday. I have a calendar and each day will include something similar for each week. 

Ex.  Mondays are Taco days ~ Loaded Nachos,Tacos,Taco Salad

Tuesdays are Meat & Potatoes
Wednesdays are Easy Peasy
Thursdays are Pasta & Salad
Saturdays are Seafood 

Check out these great food blogs for more ideas and recipes. 

If you have a easy peasy recipe, send it my way!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

16 Things to do while visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast and Writing for Roots Rated

Photo Courtesy of Diane Davis Photography.
Don't leave the beach without your picture perfect family memory.
Click here for more information.

My blog has taken a back seat to my new job for almost 6 months. But when a great freelance job comes around that you know it may be that once-in-a-lifetime chance, you gotta take it.  RootsRated.Com is a website and app filled to the brim and running over with local expert knowledge of the best and sometimes well-kept secrets of area outdoor recreation. 

In a day and age where less people are out and active, this app can save the day.  

Want to find the best places to walk your dog in say, Chattanooga, TN?  This site has it.  

Want to know where to go to walk off that delicious all-you-can-eat fried seafood platter?  They can help you with that too.  

Want to know where a few not-so-touristy places are while on vacation?  Guess what, they know that too.

When I was approached to help build the Gulf Shores site, I was ecstatic!  Writing about two of the things I love, Gulf Shores and the beautiful outdoors?  I couldn't believe it.  It has been a challenge.  But with the first few articles now published on the Roots Rated site, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment and appreciation to be a part of something promoting the great outdoors. 

My grandmother was the first to instill in me the importance of taking care of our environment and appreciating every part of it.  I hope to pass that along to my grandkids one day.  

Take some time and check out the site for yourself.  If you are a writer, there are opportunities for you as well to become part of the growing community of contributors.  For more information, click here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Investment ~ Be Someone That Makes Everybody Feel like a Somebody

Natalie was a new mom and finding her new role a bit lonely at times.  

She left the job she was great at, didn't have extra money for baby sitters, she felt stuck at home, and alone.  By the time her husband arrived each night, he was drained from the day and wanted to unwind watching TV.  

Most of her friends were still single, working, and their idea of fun was going out to places that Natalie no longer felt comfortable with.

I met Natalie at a church sponsored writing group. 

With more than two decades separating us in age, that didn't stop us from becoming friends. 

We found that we not only enjoyed writing but we enjoyed the same genre, enjoyed the same music, and fast food.  

Remembering what it once was like to be at home with small children, I decided to help Natalie.  I offered to pay for a babysitter so she and I could go to a new writing critique.  After her initial declines, I convinced her that I didn't want or need to drive in the dark.
She drove, I talked.
I drove, she hung on for dear life.

We shared our childhood hurts and pains and something amazing began to happen.  

I would give her advice on being a wife and mom; she would give me advice on being a wife and mom.  

Both of us had the same heart... what about that!  We both wanted to be the best we could possibly be.

We became each other’s accountability partner.  

When those ugly unforgiving or bitter feelings would show up, we would confide in each other and encourage each other.  

Natalie helped me to move past my feelings of resentment and inadequacies; I helped her to accept and embrace her uniqueness.  

I began to see past experiences as just that, experience that helped me to be better.  

I began to see that I wasn't alone in desperately wanting that story book relationship with my own mother.  I realized that though that relationship may never be possible; there were other people out in the world that I could invest my time in.  

People like Natalie, wanting to have a mother-daughter relationship and knowing it may never be possible as well.

You may be here reading this, tearing up, and thinking of your own circumstances.  God sees your tears, he knows your heart.  He tells us to come to him with all our hurts and pains and He himself will carry our burdens.

Ask him for direction, wisdom, discernment in finding or being a mentor.  

You may be at a place of giving up today.  You've prayed and asked God to restore that relationship, but so far, nothing.  Never give up on it but while you are waiting, why not invest in someone else… someone who needs a person in their life that will take the time to care.  

You’re never too old or too young to be a light in someone’s otherwise dark loneliness.   Ask God for direction right now. He wants you to invest your time in others, let him direct you to the right person or persons.  You may be surprised at how awesome it turns out. 

I moved a couple of years ago.  

Natalie and I are still close friends.  In fact we are online critique partners still trudging toward our dreams of becoming novelists. 

I thought the day God asked me to help Natalie, I was doing her a big favor.  Turns out God was doing me a favor... bigger than I ever imagined.