Thursday, November 26, 2015

Where am I now?

IMG_5253If your family is like mine, you probably have some Thanksgiving traditions that are considered key to a complete holiday. Traditions may involve food, football games, parade watching or 1500 piece puzzles. Traditions are a way of keeping you connected with people with whom you share bonds. My favorite tradition is canned cranberry sauce. If it doesn't have the tin can rings, don't serve it to me! I don't want any of that stinkin' freshly made stuff. 
IMG_5238.JPGTraditions aren't always long standing. Last year while in the midst of the big Thanksgiving day activities, my aunt brought out a box and announced we were going to open the family time capsule. I couldn't remember this being a tradition and I wasn't even sure that I had contributed, but it seemed like a fun idea. We all gathered around to see what might be in the box that had been packed away ten years prior. 
FullSizeRender.jpgOut of the box came personal mementos, stories, and silly items that may have been last minute thoughts from members of my family. My 22-year-old son's contribution was a turkey headband made by his 12-year-old self. It was quite entertaining to see him sporting the homemade craft. When it came to my item of entry, I was presented with a folded handwritten note. On the note was a memory that I had written about always feeling inferior in family trivia games. Why in the world would I care about how well I fared in trivia? It seems that I could have put a better representation of myself in a time capsule. That made me start thinking about where I was ten years earlier. Apparently, I was pissed off about losing at trivia. 
IMG_5245.JPG   IMG_5241
When the message came to start planning to make a contribution to the new time capsule I wanted it to be more meaningful. What would I want people to know about me if I die before the next ten years? After pondering the question for a month or so, I've decided that anything I put in the capsule is just fine. Worries about trivia ability? Sure, that's ok. A 5K race bib? Absolutely. In ten years, those items won't be a representation of the person I will be then. I tend to get caught up in the idea that how I am now is how I will always be. I beat myself up because I messed up, didn't do a job a certain way or just feel inadequate. What really matters to me is where I am now. Where I am now is at a place of confused understanding. I'd like to explain that, but I have no words that will convey what I mean. I applaud you if that makes sense.
This blog post will serve as my contribution to my family time capsule. I'm assuming it will be opened in the year 2025.  

Where am I now?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

You said you were a Christian, you are nothing but a joke

If you have ever heard me say "I'm a Christian" consider yourself one of the rare few. While it may be true, I do not subscribe to the thought or need to say those three words out loud. In our society, I find that those words are used too loosely. They are often used to prove a point, defend a position or create fear or feelings of superiority. What you may have heard me say is "I'm a Methodist". I sometimes say those words to express my flavor of Christianity. Even so, I don't use it as a means to prove that I am anything but a sinner. Oh have you heard? Christians sin too!
You said you were a Christian, you are nothing but a joke
This week I received a barrage of text messages from my ex-husband aimed to tear me down because I had the gall to file for child support. There was one in particular that struck me as quite funny. I was accused of saying I was a Christian. It took me a day or so to process this. Like I said, I don't say this out loud very often. It was an accusation that I use my Christianity as a cover. At first my instinct was to text back some snarky remark, but it dawned on me that these terrible text messages were being sent to instigate a fight and I wasn't going to fight. After not responding to over 15 or so text messages, I got the final text meant to really "get me".

I laughed out loud at this comment. I am not a loser and I am not a *****.  The only thing anyone can find out about what kind of person I really am is that I truly love and care for people. No foolin'! Even this person who is trying to tear me down. I love him too. No, not the kind of romantic love that is shared between a husband and a wife. A kind of love that extends to the father of your child. A kind of love shared between family. That kind of love that sometimes makes you dislike someone so much, at the same time loving them. I don't care that we aren't married anymore. He will always be part of my family.

Now let's put this into perspective . . .

  • Yes, I'm a Christian (you heard me say it) but I prefer for it to show in my actions instead of my words.
  • Yes, I have done some terrible things in the past. Big sins. The kind of things that you don't want yo' mamma to know about. (Thank God for Grace)
  • Yes, sometimes I'm a joke. (Aren't we all?)
  • Yes, on some days I am a loser, but on most days, I am a WINNER!
  • I live my life everyday trying to improve myself and the lives of those around me.
So, as an open announcement to my ex-husband. Keep sending those ugly texts. They make me laugh. They make me appreciate that I have moved on. They make me realize now more than ever that I can be a Christian, even though I sin every day. Your threats don't scare me.

And to the rest of you who might be reading this, sorry for blog-vomiting all over you. :) 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happiness Happens in my world

Happiness doesn't just happen . . . or does it? I've recently been on a journey to answer that question. If you'd like to save time reading this entire blog, I'll answer the question for you right now. Yes, yes it does just happen. I could stop right there, but you know I won't.

A few months ago, I was in a very sad and dark place. I didn't really understand why I couldn't get happy. I didn't like how I was feeling, yet I didn't know how to get out of it. Sometimes we all fall into ruts. I'm so fortunate to have two friends that recently pushed me and made me understand that I get what I put out into the world. In my darkness, I was putting out darkness. One day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and ran across a post calling for people to sign up to be Happiness Happens Ambassadors for the Secret Society of Happy People for the month of August. Ooooh, that sounded fun. I immediately went to the website and signed up, not thinking about the responsibilities that might ensue. Within a few days, I had committed to hosting a Happiness Happens Celebration at Holiday Lanes. I didn't even know what that looked like, but I set out to make it happen.
After only a week I was pushing happiness. Every thought, every action, every breath was happiness and take a guess  . .. happiness happened in my world. Instantly happy things started happening in my life. Just the shear energy that I was pushing was filling my mind and soul with joy and enthusiasm.  The celebration ended up being a success and far exceeded anything that I imagined.

Happiness is happening more in my world now that I've embraced the power of how I think and do. The words that I say and think really do have power. Power to create darkness or power to create happiness. As a Secret Society of Happy People Happiness Happens Ambassador I have committed to follow this simple way of thinking:
  • Recognize my happy moments with the same enthusiasm as I recognize my unhappy moments.
  • Encourage others to talk about their happy moments too.
  • Don’t unnecessarily rain on other people’s parades.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I live in this dream world where I am happy everyday. I'm saying that I choose to see the positive side of things and that in-turn creates the ability for my world to be happy. My new friend Pamela says it best, "Sometimes, we need to feel our unhappiness, which ironically makes room for us to feel happiness too." There are a few things in my life that I have found to help me create happy personal moments.

For me, Happiness Happens when:
  1. I smile - Smiling is a fun thing to do. I'm not sure why but walking around with a smile makes me feel happy. It makes people smile back. Wow! Have you tried that? It really works. I often wonder if they smile back because it makes them happy or if they are trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with me.
  2. I wave at people - My daughter and I like to wave at random people. Her step-mom shared a game called "Sweet or Sour". When you wave at someone and they wave back they are "sweet", no wave - "sour". It's great for a laugh. It's also fun to see the looks on faces. Often you can see the look of "do I know that person?". 
  3. I write handwritten notes - In this electronic age, handwritten notes are almost a thing of the past. I try to write several notes every month. Just random notes to let people know that I'm thinking of them. Thank you notes are a must in my household. My grandmother is a stickler for this and I hope to continue that tradition in my kids. Writing the note creates happiness for me and my hope is that the person receiving the note gains a bit of happiness too.
  4. I give help, but allow help - I'm a giver by nature. I love to help people, groups and organization by giving of my time and sometimes resources.  Many times, I will give when I have nothing to give. (Not usually a good thing to do). In times of my own need, I rarely will let anyone help me or even know I need help. I would much rather suffer. Those two friends I was talking about earlier have helped me GET that allowing people to help me gives them the gift of happiness. Pride gets in our way. I have learned that helping is good, but allowing someone to help me can sometimes be even better. I'm still working on this one because I have a hard time letting go.

Ok, so there is this one thing. With this happiness came a realization that I had some responsibility. I'm an over-sharer on social media. I know it, everyone knows it. Within a few days of posting about happiness, I came to understand that in the past I may have unnecessarily rained on people's parade. I am hoping to be more conscious when I post. Don't judge me too harshly if I occasionally fail.

So at the end of this rant, I just want you to know that happiness happens in my world and it is possible to have happiness in yours. Share happiness. Celebrate happiness. Be happiness.

TOOMASOOBA: Happiness Happens Day

TOOMASOOBA: Happiness Happens Day: With coloring sheets and t-shirts in tow, I headed out to Happiness Happens Celebration Day in Bossier City this past Saturday. The event wa...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Two Dads

Happy Father's Day to all those amazing men who pretend to love the ugly ties, soap-on-a-ropes, FroggToggs and photo coffee mugs. I am so blessed to have had two.

For many years I was too afraid to speak about my two Dad's in a sentence together for fear of hurting the feelings of not only them, but other family members who might think I love one more than the other.

My biological Dad and my Mom divorced when I was very young and then he died in a car wreck when I was 10 years old. Although I have few memories, the ones I do have are sweet. I remember his love for books, animals and nature. I often wonder what it would be like today if he were still alive. To Bill Rials I send Happy Father's Day wishes to heaven, I think of you often with love.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I was so fortunate to have a super awesome guy who stepped in and became my Dad. It's a rare kind of guy who can be a DAD to another man's children, but that's just what I got when Mike Labry married my Mom, Kathy. I can't bring myself and will never call him my step-dad because that seems so disrespectful. He is the most loyal and honorable man I know. My DAD would lay down his life, not only for me, but for my children, Chase and Laura. I am so grateful and send love this Father's Day!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Butterflies for Mother's Day

This year for Mother's Day, my son is out of the country and my daughter is fifteen. I wasn't sure I could get either of them to do anything fun with me for Mother's Day. When I saw on Facebook that Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park was having a Butterfly Hike for Mother's Day, I took a chance and asked my daughter to join me. She said "yes" and for a week or so, my excitement was building. I've never gone on a butterfly hike and thought that it sounded like an excellent way to spend the day. My gift this year was Butterflies for Mother's Day.

Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park is about 30 minutes from my town of Bossier City, Louisiana. The 160 acre park is dedicated to helping citizens of Northwest Louisiana connect with nature by conserving a pine-oak-hickory forest for interpretation and recreation.

big headed bones
As my daughter, Laura, and I arrived at the park, we first sat down at the picnic area and had lunch. We had never been to this park and were immediately struck by the surrounding nature and bird sounds. After eating, we went inside the Interpretive Building and explored the exhibits. We found examples of the many species of plant and animal life found in the Northwest Louisiana area. There was a working bee hive, a live soft shelled turtle, several varieties of reptiles and many preserved models of wildlife.

Laura and I were excitedly waiting for about 45 minutes for our hike to begin. John is the former park naturalist who would be leading our Butterfly Hike, he was filing in for the day. Along with John was Kim, the Park Ranger and Naturalist. There were several families who also came out to experience the nature walk. Each of the children were given butterfly nets to assist in our search for butterflies for Mother's Day. John started the walk by explaining to us that there were three things that we might see on the hike: butterflies, moths and skippers. We would focus just on butterflies for the day. We learned that butterflies usually held their wings straight up and together when they landed. We were told that because butterflies don't get very much salt in their diet that they would often land on humans to lick the sweat for salt.

So off we went in search of butterflies. John told us many ways to look for butterflies. He told us to always look for the flowers. Not just any flowers, but the types of flowers that are made specifically for butterflies. Flowers that are fragrant, have nectar and also have petals that are flat for landing. Butterflies are cold-blooded, so like to sometimes lay their wings in the sun to get warm. He also said that butterflies have scales on them to protect from getting caught in spider webs. Very interesting stuff. We saw several butterflies and caught a moth or two along the way.  

Is it a Butterfly, a Moth or a Skipper?

In addition to the search for butterflies, we were exposed to many of the beautiful plant life found in the woods of the park. We were shown the milkweed, the may apple, thistle and the sassafras. John (with permission from the park ranger) pulled a sassafras root and let us smell it. ROOTBEER!! It smelled like rootbeer. In fact, sassafras makes rootbeer and gumbo file'. But my favorite plant in the woods was the honeysuckle. It's been many years since I pulled the stem from a honeysuckle and licked the nectar. That sure brought back memories. It was fun watching all the kids licking their honeysuckle stems.

If you haven't had a chance to visit this park, I recommend that you make plans to do so. It's a great place to take a hike and reflect on nature. There are five miles of hiking trails with wayside exhibits, a picnic pavilion, an herb garden, an outdoor area with captive raptors and deer. Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park is located at 8012 Blanchard Furrh Road, Shreveport, Louisiana and is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. (answer to the video is:  Goat weed leaf wing butterfly)

I've scanned the brochure of upcoming events for Summer 2013, check it out!

Keep on livin' it up!
Robin Rials Williams

Soft Shelled Turtle

Friday, May 10, 2013

Zippin' Right Along

Gators and Friends Zip-lining Adventure
Who says there is nothing to do in Shreveport-Bossier? Whoever it was, doesn't know what they are talking about. Besides the awesome bowling facility that is Holiday Lanes (shameless plug), there's an awesome attraction just west of our area: Gators and Friends. If you haven't been to Gators and Friends, it's an exotic haven for alligators, camels, llama's and other animals that you may not have ever seen. But, I don't want to really talk about the animals right now.

Today I experienced the newest addition at their outdoor adventures: Zip-lining! This adventure has been officially insured and open to the public since yesterday, so I felt like I was one of the lucky firsts in our area to experience an adventure over alligators.

I serve on the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau Attractions Association with Jim, the proprietor of Gator and Friends. I knew the zip-line adventure was coming to our area. I also knew that the zip-line would go over alligators, which created a thrill and a bit of fear in me.What I didn't know was how cool the actual venue would be. I drove out thinking there would be one cable that simply allowed you to zip over a couple of gators. Oh my, no! There are seven, count them, seven towers that whiz over alligators, Claude the Camel, frolicking ponies and a massive Scottish cow.

Arriving at Gators and Friends, I kind of pushed my fear down into my belly. I have decided that I want to start doing the things that scare me. As I was suiting up in the safety gear, I actually didn't feel any fear, but before starting I still asked my guide, Kent, the question "if I'm too scared after the first zip, can I climb down and walk back to base?". The answer was "yes", but I could tell it really was "no". It's only when I began climbing the first tower that I started feeling a little queasy. Kent assured me that I would have a blast and in the end, he was right. Safety is a top priority with Gators and Friends and at no time did I ever feel concerned. Before you knew it we were all zippin' right along.

The seven zip-line towers are strategically placed throughout the park to give you a glimpse of both the menagerie and the wooded scenery. Each tower seems to get a little higher than the last and it is an exhilarating feeling as you glide from one to the next. Although, I will admit that a few foul words escaped my mouth as I hurtled toward the approaching towers. Amazingly, I had no feelings of fear, even at the heights that we climbed. Scaling the tower steps was probably more frightening than the whole adventure, but moderate overall. Imagine a spiraling staircase as tall as a pine tree - a tad wobbly, to say the least.

My Zip-Lining Gang
There were three other tourists from the Fort Worth area that were in my zip-lining gang. We became instant friends. We had so much fun, singing and joking along the way. Encouraging each other and whooping it up. The last tower (#7) is a double cable that allows two people to race over the alligator pit. This was too much fun. We noticed bubbles in the pond below and joked that it might be the last zip-liners being eaten by the gators. Our guides, Kent, Summer and Olga were super awesome and kept us safe and sound. In fact, Kent was so sweet and kept telling me how excited he was that I came out and faced my fear. He was a fabulous guide and made me feel proud of myself. The only way the adventure could have been better is to have a video or photo of myself actually zippin' right along, as proof that I did it. Jim says this may be a feature added at a later time.

Since it's only been open since yesterday, my guess is that most of you haven't been yet. Get your booty over there now! It's really an amazing adventure that you don't want to miss. Gators and Friends is located 10 miles west of Shreveport, just off of Interstate 20 at 11441 Hwy 80, Greenwood, Louisiana.  

(Zipline Pricing: Regular price is $70 but have an introductory reduced price special on weekdays (Mon-Fri) of "half-price" $35 through May 31, 2013. Call (318) 938-1199 to schedule a tour.)

Keep on livin' it up!
Robin Rials Williams

UPDATE - I went back again on May 24 with my daughter and friend (my new favorite activity). Not only was I a first customer, but I was the first repeat customer. How cool is that? Here's a video of my second adventure. (sorry about the portrait video orientation)

View from the top!