Odessa, Texas – My Father’s Hometown

I wasn’t really sure why I added #8: Visit my father’s hometown, until we were actually pulling closer to Odessa, Texas. It had always been he and my brother who spoke about visiting. But as we were driving down the 20 it suddenly became very clear.

From 1953

There were quite a few gaps in our relationship, some as wide as three years of silence. Others were smaller, missing pieces that you only come to miss when someone’s gone. It is the history, the connection to his past that I crave.

Based on what he spoke about I know exactly four things about his childhood:

  1. That any good dentist could tell where he was raised, because the water there was known for the stains on his teeth.
  2. That he moved away from his hometown and to Las Vegas when he was about 12 or 13.
  3. That he developed diabetes when he was 13 years old.
  4. That he and his friends used to cruise Fremont St before it became the “Experience”.

After he passed away, I found that he was born in Odessa, a bit of history he never really spoke about (he always just bragged about being Texan). I also found I had an uncle I never knew about (I searched all the Harold’s I could find and ended up meeting him and my beautiful cousin a day before the funeral; they never stayed in touch though). I also found a letter from his biological father just after he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and a photo of him that I still own that looks eerily like my dad.


Odessa Directory

How strange is it to know so little of my dad before he was My Dad? My mom used to tell me stories about her and her siblings. I would visit her childhood home every summer until my grandparents finally moved. And I’ve watched home videos of her growing up. There is a history there, an ancestry I understand. I know my mother’s mother and grandmother and great-grandmother and their stories. But for my dad it’s almost as if he sprang into existence sometime in his 20′s.

So I went to Odessa, in hopes of drawing some map in my mind of who my father The Baby or The Toddler might have been. I guess in the back of my mind I was hoping to stumble across someone who had known my grandparents before they were grandparents, when they were still young and wide-eyed and bringing home a newborn baby boy. I was hoping to sit beside some old lady and hear stories of how my dad, The Baby, would cry or laugh or play with a toy truck while the adults ate together and drank ice tea in the heat.

The Archives

Sept 16 1953 Headline

Birth Announcement

Instead we found a directory that told me my grandfather was a truck driver, an address of where they lived when my dad would have been two, and a birth announcement with the address of his first home.

That home was gone, replaced with a concrete slab. The neighbors said it was a boarding house torn down in the 70′s, giving me more questions than answers.

The second home was there, though, and I tried to imagine my dad, The Toddler, playing in the yard. I tried to hear some child laughing or see some ghost of history there, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t picture what he looked like before the age of 29 or a grandmother who wasn’t in her 70′s.

1121 Texas Ave


Did I mention my grandmother died in June? No one called me to tell me. My other grandma found the obituary and my mom broke the news to me. And all I could do was sigh with the sadness of it all as that ancestral gap widen in my heart.

I didn’t know until now that I didn’t know the man I called Dad. I loved him and he loved me. But there was always something missing. Connection. History. Maybe he couldn’t give what he didn’t have.

But I can. I can love my dad for who he was, even if I’m not sure who that is. I can love the family I didn’t understand. And I can take what he didn’t give me as a gift, one of understanding just how important it is for your child to walk through the streets of your hometown and know where you once stood.

They all did the best they could with what they had. I have the chance to do better.

Rethinking Everything (And Being On Stage)

The Rethinking Everything Conference was amazing. This was our 3rd “unschooling” conference, but this one was so much more than unschooling. It’s that whole-life unschooling thing we were talking about, applying these principles to every area of your life.

There were workshops, talks and discussions on everything from parenting and education to health, work, sustainable housing, travel, barefooting and more. There were funshops for shaving cream sculptures, taking apart electronics, gaming, wand making, Lego, copeira, fencing, salsa dancing and hooping. We even took part in a documentary!

But the best part of any conference is the community. For five days we took over the conference center; we created our own village in the middle of Fort Worth. And we thrived in the atmosphere of love, acceptance, authenticity and cooperation. It was amazing and difficult to leave.

I can’t even begin to describe to you what we took away from the weekend: so many self-realizations, new friendships and amazing levels of awareness. Our minds and hearts expanded so many times that we were practically vibratingat the end of each day. It’s something you must experience to understand, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Instead I’m going to share just one small moment of the weekend. Three short minutes in which I pushed myself to do something completely outside my comfort zone.

26. Be on stage.

I have a really hard time under a spot light. Whether it’s calling into a radio show or being called on in class, I always feel the same jittering, stomach-flopping, heart-racing nerves threatening to twist me up. And I am ready to get over that.

Yeah, I freaking did it. I hooped on stage. And I learned a few things about myself too.

  1. When I’m nervous I have to pee. Like 17 times. In an hour.
  2. I take things way too seriously.
  3. I’m incredibly hard on myself.

I worked myself up until I was positively jittering. Which of course means I dropped my hoop twice (one of them hitting my own child in the head). And then I forgot at least half of what I wanted to actually do. And then I proceeded to tear myself down afterward.

But if you’re going to push yourself to do something new and challenging that scares the piss out of you, there is no better crowd than that loving, accepting one I mentioned above. While I was busy watching my taped performance, criticizing myself and feeling like crap, no less than 5 people walked up to tell me how amazing it was. And over the next two days I heard the same from a dozen more. I had somehow amazed and inspired them, adults and kids. It didn’t mattered that I had dropped the hoop or forgotten my moves or shook from nerves. I had still had fun and inspired others to do the same.

Okay, so are you ready to see it? Promise not to laugh? Alright, here goes….5 months of hooping and a really fun song (I Don’t Mind by Imagine Dragons) and this is what you get:

First Hooping “Performance” from Tara Wagner on Vimeo.

No, I’m not satisfied. And I won’t be until I can get up there and not feel nervous. I’m going to keep doing this; pushing myself. Because even when it doesn’t, it still feels so amazing. I may not hoop next time, but you will see me up there again.

Off The Beaten Track in Jefferson, Texas

We’re heading up to Nashville to visit with family for a few weeks. On our way we needed to find a printer and a fax machine for some business of ours. Thankfully, we were tipped off to check the local library.

We travel with a GPS gifted to us by my mama and it is a serious godsend. We searched for nearby libraries and it gave us the ones along our route and a phone number to call and check their services.

Had it not been for the tips and gifts we’ve received, we would never have discovered this tiny little town tucked off Hwy 59 in east Texas and the quaint library I’m blogging from now.

Jefferson Carnegie Library

The library is small and the selection tiny, but it’s air conditioned and the librarian knows her patron’s names and their favorite genres and happily peruses the shelves with them in search of novels or references. While Zeb plays a game and Justin blogs, I’m reading about this town’s first settlers.

Jefferson History Book
Found an old photo of the library, then a museum.

The book is called Jefferson: Riverport to the Southwest by Fred Tarpley (the name, author and call number known by heart by the elderly woman at the desk) and I’ve just finished reading of some of the first settlers to Jefferson (a city that isn’t sure the year it was founded).

Among them were Robert and Harriet Potter, who have quite a story. He was a congressman, released from jail for coining the term Potterizing (criminal emasculation!!) in a jealous fit, just in time to win reelection to the North Carolina House of Commons. Apparently castration doesn’t deem a man unfit of politicking!

Robert Potter was killed by a political rival and vigilante named Rose after Rose heard of his imminent arrest by Potter. But the real scandal came after his will (which had just been written in Austin 3 weeks prior) was read. Potter left his wife a few livestock, household goods and servants, while bequeathing the rest to a married mistress in Austin, Texas!

Yikes! Who knew a history book could read like a novel? I’ve made note of Harriet’s memoirs, Love Is a Wild Assault.* It sounds like a good read already. :)

*This is an affiliate link to Amazon. Anything you order from this link will send a small portion of the price to us at no additional cost to you. Using this link helps me to support my family and continue my blog and I thank you for it!

Friends and Photos

We’ve flown the coop and left Louisiana. Our original plan was to head south to New Orleans, but the heat and humidity is proving to be too much for any enjoyment to be had. We’re hoping to make our way down again when the weather is kinder.

Instead we headed west, just over the Texas state line to camp for the weekend with Chris and Sarah Parent. Chris was recently laid off and they just purchased their RV and are planning to hit the road full-time very soon. We truly needed this weekend to relax, reconnect and commune with our friends and with each other.

And we swam in it

Sadie Hooping

RV Planning

Closet Recon

Number of photos taken: 4

Justin has been giving me a hard time about my lack of photos lately. I still love photography, but I realized this weekend my focus is changing.

For such a long time I took massive amounts of photos as a way for me to focus on what I love or am inspired by. I found it hard to see these things at times, so photography almost became my personal means of remaining in the moment, connecting to the beauty around me and reminding me to seek it when I couldn’t easily see it.

But since being on the road I’ve had little difficulty remaining in the moment. Our moments are mostly joyful and interesting. I feel more connected and more in tune and whole than I’ve ever felt.

I can see the beauty all around me without needing the lens of a camera to filter life for me.

I don’t really find that to be a bad thing. But I do miss having those visual memories to look back on or show others.

I like the few key moments I captured of this weekend…us hanging out in their bedroom, talking plans and making jokes and tearing down those ugly padded valances from the window; Sadie hooping when the heat stopped us mamas; that crazy lake we swam in (!!). Those are the highlights; the rest is captured in memories.

Maybe I’ll continue in that manner, capturing the highlights, enjoying the moments and even handing over the camera to the guys every now and then. Zeb has even been expressing interest in a camera of his own.

Playing, Parents and Podcasts (On My!)

It seems like everywhere we go is better than the last…or maybe our excitement is simply renewed with each turn of the key?

We’ve been chilling in DFW since last week and despite the humidity (can I overstate how much it sucks?) we’ve had a blast with the unschoolers in this area. If you’re looking for a hoppin’ mindful parenting community, this is the place!

We were told of the Whole Life Unschooling Meetup and planned our arrival to coincide with their park day last Thursday. I’m SO glad we did! The whole tribe was amazing and we enjoyed the discussion group as much as we enjoyed swinging like monkeys.

Zeb Swinging 2

Tara Swinging

We met LeeAnn and her kids there and Zeb and Seth hit it off immediately. We made plans for ice skating with them on Tuesday. That lasted about 20 minutes before the boys had other plans. They all set up their laptops and played Age of Mythology for the rest of the afternoon. :) I wish we had had more time with them!

Starbucks Gamers

Thursday night we boondocked with Sarah and Chris Parent and their kiddos. (Yup, the same Parent’s from Discovery Health’s Radical Parenting!)

Parachute Bouncing

Sadie and Sarah

We totally clicked with them. They are getting ready to hit the road full-time this summer, so we talked non-stop about transitioning and deworking and RVing. Then we talked some more about unschooling and family and neighbors and on and on…Then they joined us for not one, but TWO potluck dinners at our campsite where we met up again with the Happy Janssens (they can’t get enough of us). And we hooped and laughed and chatted and played.

Seriously, I think I’m in love with this family. Sarah and Chris are such inspirational parents, and just wicked cool people. (Wah! I didn’t get any photos of us together!)

I can’t wait for them to get on the road so we can see each other again. There has been talk of a gypsy caravan. ;)

Sarah also does a rockin’ podcast over at Humans Being and we had so much fun doing a live interview with her! Be sure to check it out!


Current Location: Hanging out in a campground outside Dallas and watching the weather. We’ll either head into Louisiana tomorrow or hunker down and wait until the rain blows over us this weekend. Until then I’ll be plenty busy practicing my new hooping tricks! :D