Tag Archives: Texas

Fostering a sense of community

Most of you know about the journey we are currently taking as a family of four traveling in our RV.  Before leaving, we thought a lot about the things we wanted to gain from traveling.  One of the topics that always seemed to come up was giving back.  We really wanted to immerse ourselves in the communities that we were visiting and search for ways to contribute.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

Even though our kids are only toddlers, we have a strong desire to foster in them a feeling of compassion and empathy toward others as well as cultural sensitivity.  One of the ways we were hoping to do this was through various volunteer opportunities.

These opportunities where much easier to find in the communities we grew up in, where as, life on the road has made it more difficult.  My first two jobs took us to small, rural towns in Texas with fewer resources, making it harder to find volunteer opportunities.  We had the chance to take some time off between work assignments, which lead us to a much bigger city in Texas…Austin.  Tim and I had heard from several people that, “you do not want to go to Austin, they’re weird there.”  Believe it or not, we actually fit in with weird right now.  And after researching Austin, we knew we had to make the trip.

Many Austin locals don this shirt.  Photo credit: Pinterest

Many Austin locals don this shirt. Photo credit: Pinterest

One thing that drew us to this fantastic city was how different it was from nearly all of the rest of Texas.  It seemed to be a city on the forefront of the “Go Green” movement, with multiple levels of promoting sustainability and providing ways to encourage the environmentally conscious person.

Photo credit: my photo edited in photo grid app

Photo credit: my photo edited in photo grid app

While researching volunteer opportunities, we stumbled across this great organization, Keep Austin Beautiful (www.keepaustinbeautiful.org).  We happened to be in Austin during their Clean Sweep event, where the Austin community comes together to clean-up multiple locations throughout the city.  According to their website, the event had 4,200 volunteers contributing 8,300 hours of service to remove 27 tons of trash from the city.

Helping out at the KAB Clean Sweep!  We helped clean at the Texas River School.

Helping out at the KAB Clean Sweep! We helped clean at the Texas River School.

After a lot of kid-centered volunteer research, we found an organization called Little Helping Hands (www.littlehelpinghands.org), which focuses on community service opportunities for children.  We participated in a “garden day” at a local church’s community garden, where they have volunteers come and manage small garden plots, and then harvest their goods for a local food pantry.

Planting beans.

Planting beans.

Working hard at Garden Day!

Working hard at Garden Day!

Through Little Helping Hands, we were also able to help out another worthwhile Austin organization, Meals on Wheels and More (www.mealsonwheelsandmore.org).  The kids made cards for the five clients we were delivering meals to that day.  Griff was eager to help deliver the meals along our route.  It was so neat to see the interaction between Griff and the people we were serving meals to, he is coming out of his shell more and more every day!

Proud of his card!

Proud of his card!

Our time off also gave Tim a break from his role as stay-at-home-dad, which he had been embracing over the last four months.  He was able to spend Tuesday and Thursday mornings volunteering at Urban Roots (www.urbanrootsatx.org), which is an amazing organization that helps to empower youth as leaders, and hopes to instill in them a love of vegetables and an appreciation for the earth along the way.

The 4 acre garden at Urban Roots

The 4 acre garden at Urban Roots

Over Easter weekend we were lucky enough to be able to witness an unconventional Easter church service.  This church happily and humbly takes their role of “being the hands and feet of Jesus,” to literally serve their homeless brothers and sisters.  It was a moving experience to be part of an event that served meals and shoes to hundreds of Austin’s homeless.

We were first introduced to this church via my “obsession” with Jen Hatmaker (check her out on Facebook) and how much respect I have for her books “Interrupted” and “7”!  She and her husband, along with their friends, planted the Austin New Church (www.austinnewchurch.org), and how they do church is inspiring.

ANC church service and music under the 6th Street bridge in Austin

ANC church service and music under the 6th Street bridge in Austin

Serving our homeless brothers and sisters with food donated from Hatcreek Burgers and donated shoes.

Serving our homeless brothers and sisters with food donated from Hatcreek Burgers and donated shoes.

These were just some of the ways we were able to give back while in Austin.  During our travels, we have lost that secure feeling of a community, and volunteering is one way we feel we can gain that sense of community while on the road.

I would highly encourage you to find various ways you can make a difference in your “community”, no matter where you are.

Photo credit: my photo edited with photo grid app.

Photo credit: my photo edited with photo grid app.

Shifting our Perception of Happiness

Most of you know that in December we began our life on the road.  We sold nearly all of our belongings, put our house up for sale, and moved into our newly purchased 5th wheel RV with our two kids and two dogs.  Life as we knew it would be changed and hopefully for the better.

 

Our old home

Our old home

Our new home

Our new home

The conversations that Tim and I had over the last 5 years had evolved greatly.  Talks went from “material must-haves” to “how can we live a greener, simpler, more full-filled life.”  Things got deep in the Hine household!

Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

We did our part to lessen our carbon foot print with dreams of becoming more self-sustaining.  Growing, canning, and freezing from our garden, recycling everything we could, upgrades to the house to make it more efficient, buying second hand.  Working toward the “Laura Ingalls times,” but with 21st century perks of TV, Internet and cell phones, of course.

Our beautiful garden my husband worked so hard on at our former stick and brick house!

Our beautiful garden my husband worked so hard on at our former stick and brick house!

Even with these things and the conversations we had about simple living, we were surrounded by stuff, and time seemed to be a limited commodity.  We both worked a combine of at least 70 hours a week outside the home, two kids, two dogs, a “too big for us” house that was filled with stuff, which all required  time.  Clearly not everything was getting sufficient attention.  I believe they call this the “American Dream.”

Photo credit:  Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

Many people live this lifestyle and love it, we did for over 30 years.  However, recent events in our lives (you can read about those in past blog posts), removed the blinders, so to speak.  We were oblivious to how the rest of the world lives and how our first world problems were and are so, so very small.

Photo credit:  Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

So we embarked on a journey to follow a dream, see the country, embrace cultures, give back, live simply, and have quality family time while doing it!

Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

First stop, Texas!  We new this journey would make it difficult to achieve a self-sustaining lifestyle.  However, Texas has made this far more challenging than we thought.  Let’s face it, we end up in a grocery store about every three days.  Our dependence on conventional food sources was not what we had in mind.  We have found no farmer’s markets during this Texas winter and health food stores are scarce, let alone the two grocery store options we have within 30 miles.  Mind you, we’ve only lived in rural Texas, so this may not apply everywhere.

Our main food source options…our current location does not have an HEB and I sure do miss it!  Photo credit:  Pinterest

Our main food source options…our current location does not have an HEB and I sure do miss it! Photo credit: Pinterest

We were fortunate to have resources available to us in Indiana that allowed us to recycle or donate everything we possibly could.  This is not the case for the places we’ve stayed in Texas.  Not only has it been hard to find places to recycle, it’s even more frustrating how many people don’t give a second thought to recycling, including the Texas State parks we’ve visited.  Sorry for the rant, but I hate throwing away things that can be recycled.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

However, what we have lost in green living, we have more than made up for in simple, clutter-free living and I’m not just referring to less stuff.  I’m talking about the freedom that comes with literally disconnecting from technology.

This tech-free living was not exactly by choice, rural Texas had a hand in that one.  The two different parks we’ve lived in, had little to no cell phone service, no wi-fi, no 4G hot spot capabilities and at best, 5 digital television channels.

While I was teetering on a tragedy to live without these things, my husband who was born without the “tech loving” gene thought it merely an occasional inconvenience.  I went from having an iPhone where I had access to anything at my fingertips to a phone that could barely text or make phone calls.  Fortunately, my work was located in a prime 4G location!  Tim went from a flip phone he rarely used to a flip phone he was rarely able to use.  We went from 15 digital TV channels in Indiana down to 5 channels, which were sadly not PBS.

We love PBS and going through withdraw…photo credit: Pinterest

We love PBS and going through withdraw…photo credit: Pinterest

Because of our lack of technology, we no longer had the TV on just because, I was no longer checking my phone for Facebook updates far too often, and the computer was rarely turned on.  We were definitely not getting our money’s worth from our Verizon data plan!

It really is amazing how many books you can read, and thought-provoking conversations you can have with your husband, without all of the outside world distractions.  We were living in a beautiful 3,000 acre State Park that aside from us and the park hosts, was nearly empty.  We caught the most beautiful sunset at Cooper Lake during one of our evening walks.  We have seen countless Texas wildlife and were able to “enjoy” the quiet beauty of the park following a heavy Texas snowfall.

The beauty of snow in Texas.  Photo credit: my hubby

The beauty of snow in Texas. Photo credit: my hubby

Footprints in the snow!  Photo credit: my hubby

Footprints in the snow! Photo credit: my hubby

Even though we had to drive to the highest point in the park to make a phone call, try four times to send a text, and not being able to catch my favorite show, the Blacklist, on NBC, we not only survived; we realized we can thrive in this environment once we changed our perception.  Hopefully this new found mindset will carry over to other aspects of our journey.

P.S. My husband, Tim, was my chief editor on this post.  Still talking him into a guest post on the blog about his adventures as Mr. Mom…stay tuned!

Life in Texas from a Hoosier perspective

Life in Texas from a Hoosier perspective

Let me preface with, this post ended up longer than I imagined due to the insufficient Internet we have around here resulting in far less frequent updates than I had planned.

We have officially been “Texans” for a little over two months now, so an expert on Texas I am not!  But I have made some observations about this particular part of Texas that we are currently parked.

First…the roads…most lead to nowhere!  It is nothing like Indiana, where you can just take the next county road if you miss your turn.  If you miss your road in Texas, then you better just turn around and go back because the next road will not take you anywhere near where you wanted to go.  Many of the county roads are “farm to market” roads and they literally go from someone’s farm to the nearest town. The roads here tend to move with the land and not through it (cars movie reference…you can thank Griffin for that!).  So, if there is a railroad, river or bayou, then the road will just “wind” around rather than cross over it.  Google maps can be either your ally or your enemy around here :)

This is how directions are around here.  Google puts roads where there are none and end roads before you reach your destination.

This is how directions are around here. Google puts roads where there are none and end roads before you reach your destination.

Let’s talk basketball!  I know Texas football is way more popular, but we decided to take the kids to a Friday night local high school basketball game because it’s not football season here.  Let’s just say, when we got there, we weren’t even sure we had the right night.  It did not hold a candle to Hoosier high school basketball games.  There were no cheerleaders, no big production at the start of the game, the whole town wasn’t there to watch.  It was definitely different.

Food in Texas…some of the best brisket and BBQ sandwiches around and one of those sandwiches was from a little roadside stand…it was excellent.  And beef is probably never in short demand around here, because everywhere you drive you see pastures and pastures of cows.

Cows, cows and more cows!

Cows, cows and more cows!

While we’re on the topic of food, I’d like to give a shout out to the late Dick Freeland and his Pizza Hut franchise in Northeast Indiana! None will compare, not even here in the Lone Star State ;). It has got to be their breadsticks…we will definitely be making a trip (or maybe two) when we make it back up north this summer!

Ahh..”The Texas cold front,” says the meteorologist…makes me laugh every time and quite happy during winter! A cold front in Texas means lows may be in the 40’s and highs in the 50’s.

Here is an example of a TX cold front!

Here is an example of a TX cold front!

The landscape around here is nothing to get excited about between the oil refineries and various chemical and nuclear plants, it leaves much to be desired.  However, a short drive south will bring you to the coast…and it is quite refreshing!  Not sure I would swim in the water (note the chemical plants I mentioned earlier), but the beach in Matagorda is natural and somewhat untouched by tourists!  At least this time of year (“winter” season).  It makes for a secluded walk on the beach and sandcastle building wherever you like!

These not so beautiful and smelly refineries are everywhere around here.

These not so beautiful and smelly refineries are everywhere around here.

Matagorda beach

Matagorda beach

The kids and Tim building sandcastles!

The kids and Tim building sandcastles!

Another beauty around here are the pin/live oak trees with branches full of Spanish moss.  There are silvopastures filled with them, which is much different than the pastures you see in Indiana.

 

The beauty of trees and moss!

The beauty of trees and moss!

And last, but certainly not least (also Griffin’s favorite part about our park)…the wildlife!  The park we are staying at is home to an extremely large herd of rather small Texas deer (they do not compare to the size of Indiana deer, but then again they only have to survive the Texas “cold fronts”).

 

Deer in Texas

Deer in Texas

The turtles and their ‘master’, the alligator can be caught sun bathing in the area swamp/bayou/creek?  Griffin loves walking to see if the alligator is out!

 

The "friendly to turtles" alligator of Riverside Park!

The “friendly to turtles” alligator of Riverside Park!

Image 14


We have also caught the local armadillo scurrying around at night.  They are quite elusive creatures and rarely caught on camera (at least not by me anyway).

And I can not forget to mention the famed bird of Indiana…the vulture…that flies south for the winter.  According to our park ranger they followed us here to perch on the tall cottonwood trees they have in our park.  Vultures by the masses can scare the crap out of you at night.  When they’re perched and something startles them=me high-tailing it back inside. :)

Oh the vultures…the cottonwood trees here are filled with them...

Oh the vultures…the cottonwood trees here are filled with them…

A side note: Matagorda county (our current residence) has one of the most variety of species and number of migratory birds in the south.

I’m sure after a few more months in this state, I will gain a much greater perspective!