We took a family vacation to Santa Rosa Island (Pensacola Beach) last week. It was long overdue. I am a beach person and we hadn't been to the beach in FOUR LONG YEARS!! We used to travel a lot more, but as the business and the farm and raising kids have kept us busy, we have vacationed less and less. We took our honeymoon on the east coast in October 2006. We flew into Boston, MA; drove to Cape Cod for a few days; then over to Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, and finally back to Boston for another day. We stayed in nearly all bed and breakfasts (our favorite!), biked in Vermont and hiked part of the AT in Maine. That was fun. We've twice been to Denver, CO, where Brian and Allie snowboarded, but both times I was pregnant and didn't feel that pregnancy was a good time to learn to snowboard. I still enjoyed the city of Denver and the beautiful snow white mountains. We've camped with friends by the Nantahala, where we mountain biked the Tsali; we've been to various conferences in Washington D.C., New Orleans, Orlando, and Greensboro. My favorite conference city was by far New Orleans. I love the culture and the music and the food. We stayed in a bed and breakfast there as well, and instead of making breakfast at the house they gave us vouchers to eat at a local dive just a few blocks away. It was messy and greasy and had tons of character and chicory coffee. I LOVED it. :) But the last time we had been to the beach was when Penelope was just six weeks old. We visited friends who live in Jacksonville Beach and I watched my surfer husband surf the waves. I wore a bikini and still had a tan and some swagger, even with a 6 week old baby. At least some of my parts were still tight at that point. Four years later, this beach trip was entirely different.
Here we were on the first day, sand in our toes, salty air filling our lungs, the vast ocean rolling in and out before us, and I was hit head on with the reality that, I no longer, turn heads. Like, not at all. And it was bothering me more than it should. I know that I'm a blessed momma of six and I have a rich, wonderful life and I am abundantly blessed. But it was hitting me that that time of my life when everything is tight and tanned and cute, is pretty much over. I am moving into a different kind of life. One that is less about me and yet, more about me, if that makes sense. More about who I am and less about what I look like.
The last few weeks for me have been amazing. A few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon we visited Rosita's Farm in Hartselle, where we met Karen Wynne and her family. She is smart and talented and I learned so much from visiting her farm and talking with her. She and her husband are building a brick oven on their 25 acres, where they also raise crops and chickens and cows. I learned how to hand-pollinate squash and identify garden pests. A few days later we ate dinner with our new friends the Lermas, who recently moved to Lacey's Spring and are looking at starting a CSA. They still had lots of boxes to unpack, but most of their books were already on shelves, and I was inspired by the amount of rich literature they are surrounding their children with. They taught us about Ethiopian food, showed me some new classical homeschool resources, and showed us what great hospitality looked like. Two days before our trip, the kids and I had lunch at Graves Grocery, where I talked to owner Pam Graves for a long time. She has such a heart for moms in our community. Her passion was beautiful. The next day, the kids and I had lunch (we were anticipating long days with Daddy working all night :)) at Missouri Jane's, a local Mexican food place where we always learn so much from talking with the owner, Beth. She lived in Honduras for four years with her husband who spoke no English, she no Spanish. :) She gave birth to her first baby, a ten pounder, in a hospital in Honduras with no medication! That day I also learned that she is a translator for Hispanics in the area who are trying to establish citizenship and she has such a passion! She taught me a lot about the immigration process and the difficulties for Hispanics in our area. She has courage and passion and it is just lovely. She also makes the best guacamole in the world!!! :)
So I began to think about these women and how insignificant their size or weight is. They are radiant and noble. They are wise. They have so much more to offer than their looks, although they are also each very beautiful.
The day after we returned from our trip, we attended The BAKE (Baby and Kids Expo), presented by my dear friend Jessica, AKA Chatty Claire. She has been my friend, sister, confidante, La Leche League cheerleader, even my unofficial doula/birth coach. Now she put together the absolute best expo I had ever attended. It was everything I love: natural products, Montessori, essential oils, baby wearing, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, natural birthing, with all these people I love in attendance. :) Many of her passions are also my passions, so it was like a mecca or someone like me. :) I could see her heart and her vision everywhere I looked, and it was exhilirating. As I was sitting in the nursing area nursing Bethany, I did some people watching and observed that REAL WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL. We have flabby arms and stretch marks and bags under our eyes from sleep deprivation and a few wrinkles from laughing and crying and living a whole lot. We also have big, amazing hearts. And we are beautiful, all of us.
Today I got the privilege of attending a birthday party for the daughter of a mom I love a whole lot, Shannon King. She brews Clover Coffee, only the best coffee ever. I laughed with her and learned from her and knew that once again, here was a beautiful momma with passion and courage and skill and a great big heart.
I only had my head-on collision with reality for a short while at the beach before I thought of all these people and experiences that make my life so rich. And I thought, I am crazy abundantly richly blessed. And I had an awesome beach trip with my little Rodgers family. I enjoyed every moment.
I am beautiful too, just like my friends.