Deep in the Heart of TX

Straight Talk About Transitioning to Modest Dressing

IMG_3322Every once in awhile, you come across a moment that makes you rethink the way you are living. At the beginning of this year I was sitting down, listening to my Rabbi talk about how important it is for us, as parents, to walk the walk. To change at least ONE thing that makes us more observant during this time that our children prepare for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It was in that moment, I looked over at my eldest who had just FINISHED her bat mitzvah when I realized what I needed to do. There she was, in tight skinny jeans that hanged off her waist and a see through t-shirt with a camisole underneath. She looked like something out of a fashion magazine but being in the synagogue she looked out of place. She looked obscene. Then I took stock of myself. I too looked out of place with my v-neck t-shirt exposing my cleavage., my hair up in a messy bun and my jean pants ripped at the knees.

This was me just 10 months ago. 

How could I tell my own daughter to not dress inappropriately when I myself was dressed inappropriate? That’s when I decided to take the plunge and being to practice Jewish Modesty, Tzniut.

During my transition to a more modest lifestyle, I ended up affecting other people unknowingly. One of those people was my good friend Kristi. Kristi had come to the conclusion that she too also wanted to dress more modestly. I decided to go ahead and sit down with her and find out why she would decide to make this change despite not being married or having any kids.

Gin: Why did you decide to make a change and try to dress more modestly?IMG_4962

Kristi: Um, a few reasons actually. I saw the style and actually really liked it. We had googled it in (conversion) class one night and a saw a few and I said to myself, “yeah I could wear that!”  Also, I had been dressing very immodestly and felt like it was time to grow up with my clothes, working in office and all. 

Finally, I wanted to do something different with my Judaism. I wanted something that pushed me out of my comfort zone. 

Now, all of the rituals (of Judaism) came naturally to me then finally once I started doing dressing modestly I fell in love. I was going to just do it until my adult bat mitzvah and then reassess, but I think I will stick with it.

Now I know you had some difficulties with dressing modestly. Can you describe your biggest from when you first started?

Oh well, I still have them! There’s two. One is I started when it was hot in Texas. LOL Not only that but there were no modest clothes so I had to wear the same thing every day. It was hot. Also I have not fully transitioned and still own a lot of immodest clothes. So the temptation to wear short sleeve shirt on a hot day instead of doing laundry is so strong.

Have you heard of modest clothing companies like Shelly Shelly? And kosher casual? If so, what has prevented you from purchasing them?

Okay, yeah Kosher casual ! Yes, I think that might’ve been one I googled. But I’m nervous to purchase online clothes.

How do you feel when you dress modest?

I feel like I’m on a personal level with G-d out of everything I’ve done that is Jewish. Dressing modestly is the most meaningful thing I have done vs. everything else that I have done. Like lighting candles for Shabbat, going to service, and praying, It’s obvious to the world what I’m doing because I’m Jewish but when I dress modestly, it’s truly between me and God. No one sees me cover my elbows or put on a skirt and says, “Well, she must be Jewish.” If that makes sense.

Would you say you don’t feel like you stand out when you dress modestly?

I did at first. I felt like I stood out. But now I don’t know if I got used to it or what but I don’t think I stand out anymore.

Did current fashions have any influence on your decision to dress more modestly or  would you say it was purely for religious reason?

Um, I would say fashion had about a 20% influence.

Any advice for those transitioning based on your experience?IMG_4975

Like I said, we pulled up Google images and saw the modest clothing. LOL. Make your journey your own. Don’t beat yourself up if you ever struggle because you will. Just have fun with it.

Okay. Would’ve helped if there was someone who guided you? Like a how-to video or someone personally raiding your closet?

I think the how-to would have definitely helped. Anything that I try to find on the subject involved hair. I learned everything I know from Google images of women dressing modestly. Having a person in my closet, not so much, because like I said I wanted it private and personal and I wanted to make it my own. Something as simple as “these are the basic rules, Here are some fun examples,” Would have been amazing! And not something designed to be like, “okay now you’re married so now you do this.”

Has anything stopped you from asking someone you know who already practices modesty? And if so, why?

Definitely. Being single and stay modestly by choice, not because it’s how I was raised, was definitely hard. Having something new and kind of overwhelming is bad enough, but I felt surrounded by people who meant well but we’re telling me how unnecessary it was, how they could never do it, and how it wasn’t like I was married or anything. At my lowest, it made me feel like I had less value as a Jewish woman unless I was married. That was the absolute lowest it got. Like I wanted to give up. Ironically, I felt like my biggest support and the person who kept me focused on the spiritual reason I am doing this was my very non-Jewish mom.

Thank you for answering these questions.

You’re welcome. Thank you for listening.

Like Kristi,  I found my transition difficult mostly because I am a Conservative Jew and not Orthodox. I had no help either. I did find some inspiration from people online like Jew in the City and Wrapunzel who had style ideas from a more modern jewish orthodox point of view. Since then I’ve shared my knowledge with Kristi and all those who wish to put a little more observance in their life. In fact, I’ve made a video to help those, like Kristi, who need just a couple of ideas.

As a result of my transition, I have found that my daughter has become more conscious of what she is wearing and dresses just a LITTLE less revealing than she was. She knows the “rules” on modesty and for the most part, she covers at least one of the items. Because of that I am happy.

My daughter was not the only reason I have done this journey. I too wanted to improve my relationship with G-d and my husband. Dressing this way, acting this way, and living this way has given my relationship with G-d and my relationship with my husband greater meaning than I could ever imagine.

Right now, I’m inviting you to sign up online to join me and receive updates and tips on Jewish Life here in Texas. A free pocket-book on Modest dressing will be yours once you subscribe. Join now!

5 Reasons to Rent a Screen Shelter at Lake Livingston State Park

The setup of our shelter #4

The weather in our area has been crazy to say the least so we got a “screened shelter”. My eldest daughter is a bit of a princess and I could just see how this camping trip would go if it rained on our tent. So here are the top 5 reasons why I think you should do what I did, and rent a screened shelter for your next camping trip at Lake Livingston State Park in Livingston, TX. (For reference, we stayed in shelter #4)

1. It really does keep the bugs out. Ok, maybe not spiders, but by being mindful of the door it did a good job in limiting the flying bugs from invading our space. That was nice as we were sleeping. Plus the shelters are raised so it seemed like there was very little issues with ants as well. You can also eat bug free and in the shade.(sorta) There is a picnic table inside that you can sit at and so you can eat without having to worry about the sun hitting you. Just move the sides, if needed. Plus, if everyone is shutting the door, you don’t have to worry about ants crawling up in your food and any other flying insects. We tried to eat at the table by the firepit one time and a squirel came up and stole a piece of one of my daughters gram cracker. He had no fear. We were even at elbow length to it!

2. It comes with electricity. There is one light outside by the door and one inside. Both have switches that you can turn on and off. There is a also a GFCI outlet inside as well. This was nice to keep my cellphone charged and on the super wet days, I was able to plug in my electric skillet to make pancakes. (Don’t laugh! It worked!) My only suggestion is that you bring a surge protector as there were times when the rain would hit that area and it made me a bit nervous to plug stuff in, but we never had an issue.

4. The sides adjust for privacy. Each side has a large block of wood that you can roll back and forth to cover parts of the shelter. This was really nice if we wanted to get dressed. Although you can stand up in the middle of the loft and get dressed assuming your under 6ft. Plus this worked well when we had rain coming in. I was able to keep at least HALF of the bottom of the shelter from getting too wet.

3. You can sleep in a loft. You can climb the stairs and sleep in the loft. There are rails at both ends so you don’t have to worry about rolling off in your sleep. I would say two adults and two children could sleep up there. There is also a screen window up top to help ventilate so depending on the direction of the wind you could keep cool. The way the wind went in our shelter, the bottom was very chilly from the wind and my kids were toasty uptop. Plus, when the storm came pounding through, they were dry as a bone and I ended up getting soaked from the spray of wind. (yah. not fun) If you really want to make it a treat, there are strong beams that you can hang a hammock from. I did this to give my kids more room in the loft. It was great in the cool breeze and even for being lazy in the middle of the day. Some sites will allow you to pitch a tent if you still want to tent camp and just use the shelter for eating and storing your goods. There is a latch on the outside so you can padlock it. Most of the time thought I never saw anyone and it was always quite.

5. It’s the closest you can camp to the lake in the park. Each shelter is right off the lake so you can fish, cook, and eat all from right at your campsite. Some shelters where in areas that had their tables close to the shore line that you could even swim a little. Not to mention wonderful views of the lake. Very cool!

As of this writing they were only $30 a night which I thought was a pretty good deal vs the local KOA. Be sure to check their website for the most up to date information.







Wolf Creek Park -Livingston, TX Review

wolf creek park livingston lakeSo I will start off with saying that we enjoyed this park. There is a playground, showers, clean restrooms, full RV hookups, and a friendly staff. I would recommend that you do not come down without a reservation though. This place is popular! You can call or make reservations on their website. I would recommend calling as sometimes their website can glitch in terms of availabilty. They also post last minute openings on their facebook page, too, so I would follow them if you are interested. They have sites that are both next to the lake and even nearby the lake so youu still get a nice view. They have them for both tent camping, as well as full hook ups for RVs. There is swimming, however, it does appear to be seasonal as it was closed during spring break in early March when we went. (Although that could of been mostly due to the gloomy weather we were having that weekend.)

wolf creek park livingstone storewolf creek park livingston campsite viewYou can catch fish here in the lake and many people near us did. (We didn’t have any luck, but we are terrible fishers.) You can buy bait, tackle, and even all different kinds of fishing licenses at the store. I was even surprised that they had RV supplies! The kinds of fish you can expect seemed to be the Crappies, bass, and catfish. Catfish seems to be the predominate fish, but you can check the TX fishing website for more info on that.

For the kiddies

There is a playground and even mini golf for those who don’t feel like fishing. I saw many kids riding their bikes around the park as well. I have to say the playground was really popluar, even with our kids. We were lucky enough that our campsite was nearby enough that they could easily play while I stayed by the fire and watched them. Next to the Playground is a volleyball court and basketball court. This appeared to be another popular spot but for teens.

wolf creek park livingstone campsiteThe sites

At this time I can’t speak about the tent sites as we stayed in a RV site. My only annoyance was that the water was in the front of the site and the electric was in the back. For our 30′ this required us to park it in a position that they would both reach, only to find that the sewage hose just barely reached. However, we found them all to be paved and leveled. A MAJOR plus and they were all CLEAN! Another plus. I’m sure this has to do with site trash pick up in the morning. canopy

They are set up with 50/30/20. So that was nice so that we could plug our lights for the dining canopy as well and not take away from the 30amps were were using for the RV. Speaking of dining, each site had a picnic table, with a grill very close by, and a fire ring pit.

camping with dadFinal thoughts…

I can’t wait to go back and maybe even stay longer. The staff was SO nice. At first we were going to be on a hill pretty far from the action, but I called back a little closer to our time and found out a cancelation opened us up to site 13 which ,even though it was not next to the water, we still got a good view of the lake from our campsite and the lake looked BEAUTIFUL at night by the fire with all the lights by the lake in the distance. ::sigh:: Plus there was a wide enough space behind and around us so we weren’t cramped by other campers. If I were to do it again, I would choose the same or similar sites 11-13 as they seem to have the best distance.

~Gin Nixon

lomo cruise america pinwheel

Space Center Houston

Front of Space center

“Houston, we’ve had a problem”- Jack Swigert, Apollo  Mission 13

That has to be the most famous lines in NASA history AFTER Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon. Swigert’s. In fact, when many people think of NASA they think of Houston. Why? Well, for a long time this is where Mission control was for many missions and the home base and training center for astronauts. Today, they still are the mission control for the International Space Center and continue to train astronauts in addition to developing new operations for the space program.

So do we get to see mission control?Mission Control

Well, yes, and no. Space Center Houston is the ‘tourist’ attractions for all things NASA in Houston. The Space Center is located just off of the Johnson Space Center (which is where NASA really is). You can get a limited tour on their tram from the Space Center. Some days they will offer you two different tours and others I will see they combine them. Usually one tour will take you only to the training facility. While the other will take you to Mission Control. It’s nice when you get to do it all at once, however, I’ve only seen them do this during non-peak seasons.

What’s the difference between the tours?

Ok. Besides the obvious? Here is what you get. On the TRAINING facility tour, you At the Training CenterJUST go to the training facility. At the time of this writing, this was where the astronauts in training would get familiar with the layout of the International Space Center. Its RARE you will ever see an anyone in training as they usually space their rotations about 6 months to a year depending on their job function. Plus, they will typically send in the same people each time so there is no need to train new people. Bummer. However, on my first trip with the kids we were privilege enough to see the Mars rover BEFORE it went into space. SUPER COOL!

Now Mission Control has been different a few times I have gone. You have a chance of seeing the OLD mission Control from the 60s/70s era OR they will show you the In Front of the REAL Mission Control!!NEWish Mission Control from where they speak with the International Space Center. What is neat about that is there are REAL people in the bubble and you can see what they are doing on the ISC! Everyone sits in the “media” room so you can’t talk directly to them without permission from your guide. THIS IS WHERE I WOULD TAKE THAT GROUP PHOTO!!! Just MAKE SURE YOU TURN YOUR FLASH OFF! I took one of the kids here and I like this MUCH better than that cheezy photo they take of you when you get on the tram. (Plus, this was free!) Just be sure to ask your guide first as sometimes they are pressed on time.

With all the tours you will end at the Rocket Musuem to see Saturn 5.rocket

Ok, tour is done? NOW what do we do???

OMG! There is SOOOO much for kids to do here. For kids under the age of 8 there is the Kids Space Place. This is a giant jungle gym for space center houstonthem and from what I’ve seen, very clean. At this time I haven’t seen where the kids were overly violent or anything. It seems to be controlled fairly well. There is a metal bleacher for the parents to sit and read or socialize while the kids run their hearts out. Also, there are a few exhibits about space that the kids would like. Such as landing your space rocket, moving your Mars rover, and also finding out what your weight is on other planets.weight

Next, there is the Blastoff Theater. This is where they talk about what is going on in the NASA space program right this instance. Many times you find out things just as they release them. My recommendation tell your kids to stay REAL close to the screens when your first enter. They will get a kick out of the ‘blast off’!

The Astronaut Gallery is honestly only enjoyable if you have that audio tour guide. The first time my kids went through that, they were not too impressed. I found that my kids ages 9-16 really enjoyed this as they were learning a bunch about not only space, but about history as well. (and I have X-box Kids so that says a lot!)

Control your own roverThe Feel of Space has recently been updated, but it’s still a presentation. Its set on afeel of space small stage, where someone comes and talks about what its like to ‘live’ in space by picking someone in the audience to demonstrate. We were lucky that on a recent trip my youngest, David, got picked. He still has the present they gave him at the end, a small bottle of water labeled “recycled urine”. I’ll leave it at that, as I don’t want to spoil it for you. I do recommend you going to see it though.

The SCH also has a theater, similar to IMAX. Various documentaries and videos are shown. I saw their DVD-The Planets (musical score) and was so impressed I bought the DVD and watch it at home. Again, it’s all educational stuff typically. Two things about it. For some reason it is ALWAYS cold in that room and  two, my 9year old never seems to stay awake during it? Judge for yourself if the feature showings are something you would see. Recently, we saw the movies on the shuttle programs. This was good for the kids as they did not know much about the shuttle programs at all and I have found them repeating information they have learned when they see something in the news or on TV.

Looks like we will be there for awhile. Can we bring food or buy food?

You cannot bring outside food. There is a food court and I’ll be honest, it gets VERY expensive. Expect to spend about $10 per person for lunch. There IS a little known fact that you CAN leave the Space Center and come back the same day and guess what is across the street. McDonald’s. So to save some money, get a stamp on your hand on the way out. Go hit up the dollar menu and then come on back.

Where should we get tickets??

Ok. I will tell you that buying online is the BEST thing to do because not only do you get a discount you also just have to show that ticket to get in. No need to wait in line outside. The only exception to that is if you are showing up for the first time with your City Pass receipt, however, if you already have your City Pass book, just walk on in. Easy and Cheaper. Also, if you plan to come again in the year or live near by to frequent it, like we do. For just a few bucks more you can make it an annual pass. (i.e. we spent $4 per person more to get an annual pass when we got our tickets)

Why to get annual passes?

Discount on food and purchases in the gift shop. Free entry year round. That includes when they have new exhibits or events  (like the recent Home and Garden Show!). We live in the area so this works for our family. When the kids want to get out and I’m looking for a free thing for them to do, I will take them here.

It’s safe, clean, educational, fun.iphone 385

Overnighting in Houston

David and Me

Ok. So my boyfriend is buying a home in Houston, but had to make a last minute trip to Malaysia for work. SO we are filling in for him at the home inspection. I left all the kiddies home except little David. He’s my seven year old son and can be quite a handful. I know the girls are excited that they get some “David-free” time, my teenager could care less, and that David is super excited he gets mom to himself. When he was in preschool we use to take short day trips while the other kids were in school, on a plane just to do something “adventurous”. It was our little secret. Working for an airline has its little perks. 😉

So tonight we whisped away to Houston, took my boyfriends car out of the airport parking lot, and are crashing at his place. (I’m so glad I have a key to these things! Otherwise, ACKWARD! lol) David is fully enjoying not to have to fight over the TV and watch all he can watch of Cartoon Network. (We don’t have cable at home.) The little guy fell asleep with the remote in his hand on the couch. 🙂

I look forward to seeing the house tomorrow. The pictures look amazing and the house is close to many many thing. I’m super excited to see it.

I better get some sleep. Have to get up early.

Until then!