When Taylor and I were a young married couple we met Charlie and Emily Lansdell at church. It did not take long to figure out I wanted to become Emily's friend. I was in need of friends who were in my same life stage and was on the hunt for down-to-earth real people.
Take note because some of you may want to try this line...I literally called her up and (remember I was a grown woman) said, "Hey Emily! This is Betsy Pendergrass. I need some new friends and was wondering if we could be friends."
You know what? She said yes. And we became friends. Emily is literally one of the funniest people I have EVER known. Things happen to her that don't happen to other people. She is a gifted writer and if she ever writes about the time she gave mouth-to-mouth to her cat I will share it. I have laughed so hard at her stories that I have literally cried.
I hounded her unmercifully to write for this series because I know how well she writes. (She could go on stage as a storyteller as well.) Charlie is a football coach and they have two sons Rush and Cannon who play. They are a football loving family!
Emily is truly a delight. Enjoy!
Embrace the Sun
The word is packed with so much potential! The idea of summer always holds the possibility for special moments. When I reflect back on the summer memories I cherish, they range from the mundane to the spectacular.
Just this morning, my husband and I were planning the “last summer vacation” with our soon-to-be high school senior son and his younger brother. Really? Has it come to this? It sounds so final as if we’ll never have another summer together again, but it really won’t be exactly the same. And I guess it’s not supposed to be as hard as that is to accept.
Over the years we’ve spent together as a family unit of four, I’ve been dedicated to making every summer special. I inherited this charge from my parents, who took my brother and me on a variety of memorable trips without ever getting on a plane. I recall a cross-country trip when we literally had a “California or Bust” sign in the back window of a large, yellow Buick bearing a ROLL TIDE bumper sticker. Clearly we weren’t trying to blend in on our journey West. On this trip, I somehow became the only witness to a shooting in South Central L.A. We were lost. There was no GPS. There were no cell phones. These were simpler times. Thankfully God had plans to keep me around to create equally terrifying and terrific memories for another generation.
Even with the way technology has changed the way we travel today, my family unit has enjoyed and endured many similar adventures. We’ve packed a lot into the 18 years since my oldest was born. We’ve done the tourist traps at the beach and the mountains, we’ve been to a Yankees game, we’ve eaten Chicago deep-dish pizza, we’ve done the theme parks, and we’ve sailed on a Caribbean cruise. We’ve overspent and perhaps overcompensated for who knows what, but I still wouldn’t change a thing.
As awesome and photo-worthy as those memories are, I’ve found that some of the sweetest memories have been much simpler, closer to home, and cheaper. When I was blessed to be a work-at-home mom and the boys were little, our summer days were magic. After they slept late, we would eat Cream of Wheat for breakfast, fill up the baby pool, and read stories at night before bedtime. We rode bikes, went to storytime at the library, and slathered hydrocortisone on mosquito bites. It wasn’t fancy, but it was good.
Years later, summers started filling up with sports and activities, but I still purposed to capture something special. We would go swimming with friends, enjoy longer visits with their grandparents, and stay up late every night to watch movies and make popcorn.
As the years raced by and the boys naturally started gravitating toward more time with friends and their strange teenage interests (Fortnite --- need I say more?), I’ve found myself sometimes feeling lost. Where do I really fit in anymore? In a true “Hail Mary” attempt to keep our evolving relationships intact, we bought a small, used camper last year. It was my desperate effort to make the most of what was left of our dwindling summer family time.
As possibly the least outdoorsy family to go camping EVER, we went for it and never looked back. Fast forward almost two years later and I’m proud to say we’ve enjoyed several camping trips together. They were not without challenges such as getting locked outside the camper, toilet problems, rainy campsites, no heat, an incessant smoke alarm, and grumpy hiking treks. I also should mention that my family does not even fit comfortably in this camper that barely sleeps four. To call us “happy campers” all the time would be a stretch.
But regardless of how imperfect our summer memories may be, they are OURS and ours alone. For me, summer is perhaps the most defining part of childhood. It’s a condensed version of the highs and lows that define every family dynamic and it’s deeply personal. The point of summer isn’t to make it Facebook worthy or spend the most money, it’s just to make it uniquely YOURS and embrace every second. Make precious family memories while you can in this brief ray of sun. It only shines for a season, but its warmth will stay with you forever.
Want more on the great ideas for the outdoors? Check out Jen Howell's article How Summer Road Trips Harvest Family Friendships.
Hillary Treat also wrote Outdoors in the Summer and it includes one of the best corn recipes!
And if you need some encouragement, check out How to Keep Going Even When It's Hard. It is about a day when a hike got hard and I didn't give up. I am so glad I didn't.