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Sunrise photo by Louellen S. Coker with quote from novel.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a classic novel that is subtly powerful.
Photo by Louellen S. Coker

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but I’m glad I did. Written in 1943, the book became an Academy Award winning movie in 1945 and was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1951.

An often overlooked American literature classic, Smith takes the reader on a journey that handles many difficult topics (poverty, alcoholism, man vs. his environment, education, coming of age, family, exploitation, love, and the American Dream). We follow Frances, Francie, Nolan through 5 different stages of her early life (spanning 17 years from 1900 until 1917) that take her from abject poverty at birth to relative wealth as a young adult.

When you ask me (or Duane) where we’re from, we’ll tell you Texas.


Duane and Louellen overlooking Palo Duro Canyon.

And if you ask further, what heritage we are, we will again tell you that we are Texan. In the melting pot that is America, it is rare for someone not to proudly state they are from another region of the world. However, with the ability to trace my lineage back to the Cherokee Indians and Davy Crockett (who fought at the Alamo) and Duane’s known heritage being firmly planted in Texas, we are among the few, the proud, the native Texans.

We think Texas is one of the greatest places on Earth. (Except maybe in August and into September when it is so darn hot!) In fact, we’ve lived and traveled in different states and countries and ended up settling down and making Texas our home base.

March 2 is Texas Independence Day and Texans are known to take a moment to reflect on their heritage. Today seemed the perfect day to share a bit about the state I love with all my heart.  I like to say you can take the girl out of Texas, but can’t take Texas out of the girl.

This is why:

  • Texas is the only state that can withdraw from the United States and/or divide itself into up to 4 states. Don’t worry that’s not likely going to happen.
  • When we joined the United States, we did not give up our public lands.
  • Baylor University, our alma mater, is the only Texas university founded when Texas was its own country.
  • Six flags have flown over Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, Texas, Confederate States, and United States.
  • We are the largest and most populous state in the continental United States. (Alaska is the largest of all 50 states.)
  • Texans are downright friendly. We’ll look you in the eye and say hello, give you a courtesy wave or smile, and help you out if you need it. Even the name Texas means “friendly.”
  • Our land formations are wide and varied and include coastal, plains, forest, mountain, and desert lands.
  • Major industries in our state include cattle, oil, and technology. We are among the last to feel the pains of recession and are among the first to feel the joy of recovery.
  • While we are technically part of the southwest and are sometimes considered part of the south, we really have our own culture.
  • At the tip of tornado alley, we have more tornadoes touch down than any other state. (Not necessarily a good thing, but interesting nonetheless.)
  • We have the second largest canyon in the United States. (Read our post about Palo Duro Canyon.)
  • Every spring our highways and byways are blanketed by the most beautiful bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, and whole host of wildflowers.
  • We have some world-class professional sports teams: Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, Dallas Mavericks, and the Houston Texans.

Texans are feisty, tough, and incredibly loyal. We are proud but not (overly) boastful. We’re not afraid to tell it like it is and will roll up our shirtsleeves and do what needs to be done to make things the way we want them. We’re a rough and tumble lot that will find the good in everything.


Bluebonnets, cactus, and rugged rocks are just a few of the things that will make any native Texan smile.
Photo by Louellen Coker

Want to learn more about Texas, come on down and enjoy the beauty that is uniquely ours. Not sure you can get here, pick up a copy of James Michner’s Texas. Yes, it’s a loooong book; but this historical fiction paints a picture of our state that is generally accurate and detailed. By then end of the tome, you’ll have a good idea of what makes Texas Texas and why Texans are so proud of our state.

This post is part of my 52 week Living with Gratitude journey.

Photo by Louellen Coker. Las Flores Surf Resort, El Salvador

Life is hectic and often stressful. Overlooking great things that happen in our lives is easy because they get lost in the shuffle as we rush to meet deadlines, get kids shuttled to wherever they need to be, dinner on the table, dishes washed, or even running to catch that airplane to your next adventure. It’s easy to overlook the things that make us happy.

A few years ago, I began a 365 day photo challenge to capture one thing every day that I am/was grateful for. And for 5 years, I’ve captured one thing every day that made that day a good day. Some days the best I could muster was a nice cup of coffee or a snuggle of a kitty, others were more epic like completing my first Ironman or a successful moment at work. Mundane or not, looking back at those moments bring me happiness and remind me to be grateful. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I recently discovered a series of blog posts over at the Local Adventurer website and was intrigued. As part of that blog post, they talked about doing a 52-week challenge and provided 52 topics that make you stop and think about your everyday life.

My intention for 2017 is to live with heart, or coeur. One aspect of that intent is to share with others how to bring the joy of travel and adventure into their lives. This challenge is a perfect way to ingrain the habit of publishing at least one blog post a week. So, over the next 52 weeks I’ll be doing my best to hit all of the topics listed in the gratitude challenge. I don’t promise that I’ll do them in the exact order they were presented and reserve the right to change a topic here and there; but I am committing to the challenge of sharing my gratitude over the next 52 weeks.

Let the journey begin! Here is a list of the topics I’ll be exploring. I reserve the right to change the order or the topic as I go.

  • Why start this challenge? (This one!)
  • Your Heritage: Texas, my Texas!
  • The City You Live In: Little Elm: A Town with a Lake Attitude
  • Spouse/Significant Other
  • Things you like about spring
  • A Family Member
  • Something Someone Gave You
  • A Friend 1
  • Express Gratitude to Three People
  • How Did You Do and Feel
  • List 5 things you like about you
  • Someone who inspires you
  • Your favorite personality trait
  • A challenge you’ve overcome
  • A talent you have
  • Family
  • Things you like about summer
  • Something you take for granted
  • The weather
  • Health
  • A friend, 2
  • Simple things in life
  • Something you use every day
  • Favorite physical trait
  • A book you learned from
  • Education
  • Someone you got to meet
  • Favorite spot in your city
  • Your past
  • Your favorite memory
  • Your current age
  • Core value
  • A city you’ve visited
  • Something you look forward to
  • Things you like about fall
  • Your neighborhood
  • Your home
  • Something you’ve created
  • Music you love
  • Greatest accomplishment
  • Hobbies
  • Your favorite possession
  • A mentor/teacher
  • Your favorite holiday
  • What you do for fun
  • Technology
  • Opportunities you’ve been given
  • Your job
  • Things you like about winter
  • Lessons learned this year
  • 100 things to be thankful for
  • Did this challenge change you
Rocking KAST Reflections Capris at the Rock-N-Roll NOLA 10K. Can’t help but feel good after a race when the lively photographer loves your tights! 😉

There’s no better feeling than to cross the finish line and hear the photographer call out, “Giiirrrl, look at you rocking those adorable tights. I’ve just gotta get a photo of you!” Especially when you’ve been crossing finish lines for 20 years and it’s the first time for that to happen. I’ve recently stumbled upon KAST Fitness Wear and I couldn’t be more tickled to have the opportunity to share these fun and functional fitness capris and leggings.

I purchased my first pair of KAST authentic Brazilian capris last fall shortly before heading out for a weeklong women’s only surf and yoga camp in El Salvador with SwellWomen. I had never surfed in tights, so I was a bit dubious. To be honest, I had visions of all sorts of funny stories about wardrobe malfunctions resulting from the purchase.

After the first couple of waves I regretted that I had only the one pair for the week. These tights not only look good, they’re uber comfortable, have built-in spf 50, and they stay in place! Not once did the waistband roll down. Not once did a wave wash them askance. Not once did I need to fiddle or even think about any sort of wardrobe malfunction. All I had to think about was catching that wave.

I ended up wearing those tights every moment I was chasing waves that week. It will take some convincing, or wetsuit worthy cold water, for me not to wear them when surfing. They’re like a second skin!

I’ve since purchased two pairs of brightly colored tights and have worn them for running and yoga. Again, extremely comfortable and fit so well that I never had to give them a second thought. Even better, I’ve gotten compliments every time I’ve worn them.

I am thrilled with the opportunity to be a brand ambassador for KAST Fitness Wear. KAST capris and leggings are not only fun and functional, they make you look and feel good as you’re chasing that wave, running that extra mile, or nailing that new yoga pose.

If you’ve not obtained a pair, you’re missing out! Pop on over to the KAST Fitness Wear website to learn more about their product, see their fun designs, and consider giving them a try.