Wheel of Misfortune (RV Series #11)

(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)

Well our Yosemite revival didn’t last long. Halfway to San Francisco, stranded on the side of the highway, I considered tying our master sheet to the broom handle and waving it from the roof of the fifth-wheel. Two hours ago I resolved not to surrender. What happened?

We were merging back into highway traffic from a fuel stop when the center of the fifth-wheel’s three rear axles gave way partially releasing its tire. Smoke streamed from the back of the rig. Continue reading

Cliff Diving in Malibu (RV Series #9)

(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)

Malibu, CA: The city on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Malibu RV Park: A higher cliff overlooking the city that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

Malibu RV Park on a cliff

Our rig at the Malibu RV Park on a cliff

Oh yeah, there are gorgeous views to enjoy if your brain ever relaxes from the imminent danger of sliding or shaking off the cliff. Before we ever left Dallas in mid-January, I had a dream (nightmare) that an earthquake tore most of California’s coastline away from the continent and our RV slid into the ocean. I’m not prophetic and I’m not a Nervous-Nelly, but this “dreamare” nagged at me.

So when we awoke on the second morning to what felt like an Alaskan black bear vigorously shaking our rig to empty it of its contents, I was alarmed. I nearly threw John out the front door in his underwear to assess the situation. Within seconds of realizing that the skies were calm, and hungry, wild animals weren’t attacking, it hit me. An earthquake!

I’d never before experienced the earth quaking beneath me. I didn’t want to ever again. I clamored for idevices checking reliable sources on Twitter and Facebook for confirmation that we were about to pull away from the continent and be dumped into the ocean. Continue reading

No Boundaries in Newport Beach (RV Series #8)

(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)

If there were something to complain about our site in San Diego, it would be the six-foot chain link fence between Mission Bay and us. Apparently the fence was to keep us out of the wildlife reserve (a.k.a. the murky duck habitat). Whatever. Anyway, I didn’t care for it.

San Diego fence view

San Diego fence view

What the San Diego site lacked, Newport Dunes made up for it in spades. WOW. We fell in love with this RV Park the moment we arrived. Once again, our site backed up to a bay but this time, without barriers. No fence. No murky duck area. Just paved walking paths, mature trees, and green grass. Just ten steps from my door, I squished soft sand between my toes. Little slice of heaven to be sure.

Bay view in Newport Beach

Bay view in Newport Beach

While the sky boasted the most brilliant blue in Newport Beach, a dark cloud hovered over my heart. Continue reading

Rockin’ around Arizona (RV Series #4)

(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)

We survived the Mini bump in the road just three days into our trip. We wallowed in self-pity for a few moments. The insurance company replaced our sporty Mini Cooper with a rental Toyota sedan and we didn’t have a plan for acquiring a second vehicle. But these rental wheels couldn’t deter our plan to explore some Arizona sights in our shorts and flip-flops. In January!

First up, the Heard Museum, and off we galloped to learn all about the Indian heritage and culture of the first settlers in Arizona. Now hear me loud and clear on this museum thing. They’re not my favorite activity. I just feel peer pressure, in my mind, about visiting museums with my kids. Great moms take their kids to museums, you know, when they’re not challenging their kids’ minds to a game of scrabble or chess. It’s especially what homeschooling moms schedule to enhance their students’ learning.

I’m a people-person. I prefer trolley tours around cities. I like tour guides talking and interacting with a group. I like people watching. But by golly, I can pay my admission and walk through a museum with the great moms. Out of sheer guilt, mind you.

Indian boarding school exhibit - by far the most interesting part of the museum

Referring to Indian families forced to send their children to boarding schools

So we spent an afternoon at the museum, and thankfully, they offered a crafty hands-on section, another favorite pastime of mine. Not! Continue reading

Living in Never Land (RV Series #1)

“I’ll never make my kids go camping.” Words I uttered as a 14 year-old girl after spending two weeks with my family in a pop up camper without electricity or running water. “Never!” I said. Well, you know where this story is going.

In the summer of 2013, we felt God prompting us to tour the USA…with our kids…in an RV. Really God? We like our spacious home with walls and doors. “We will never camp,” I repeated, pleading for options:

  • Maybe, instead, we could raise money for a new church in our neighborhood.         We will never camp.
  • Maybe, instead, I could coordinate Vacation Bible School for all protestants.               We will never camp.
  • Maybe, instead, we could proofread algebra books, solve for X without pay.          We will never camp.
  • Maybe, instead, this RV trip wasn’t about camping at all? And all-in we went.

Actually the RV trip could solve a dilemma. Continue reading

Finding Myself at a Book Signing

Sometimes, you just gotta indulge yourself. And I did. One Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, while watching The Pioneer Woman cook before me on The Food Network, appeared a TV commercial advertising her book signing appearance that afternoon in Denver. No Way, I thought. Today? I had no plans. Why not?

Frankly, I didn’t know a lot about her, this Pioneer Woman. I’d recently begun taping her cooking show on Saturday mornings but didn’t visit her blog/website until that morning. I browsed through her blog posts providing myself the necessary information to call myself a fan. Turns out, Ree Drummond and I have a lot in common: we both live on a ranch, we both have four kids, we both blog, we both homeschool, we’re both married, we’re both women. We are soul sisters, soon-to-be best friends.

I hit the shower, mapped the location, and insisted that my own two homeschool kids tag along for the adventure. We drove 30 minutes to the West side of Littleton and entered the bookstore 1 1/2 hours before her appearance. The organized bookstore staff assigned me a group number and line number upon my arrival. Group ONE, number 78.

“How many people are y’all expecting today,” I asked, looking around the store.

“Several hundred,” the clerk replied.

The 77 place holders before me gathered around the two large screens set up in the center of the store, each holding hardbound books. I was empty-handed. Heart racing, I grabbed one of her cookbooks, her real-life romance story, and her recently released children’s book, Charlie the Ranch Dog, and scooted into the crowd facing the screens. With nothing but time on my hands, I sat on the cold, concrete floor and thumbed through the cookbook making small talk with ladies around me. As I flipped the full-color cookbook pages, one particular woman beside me reviewed each recipe aloud over my shoulder often referring to yummy concoctions in Ree’s other cookbook. With time on my side, I switched out the children’s book for the other cookbook and returned to my concrete seat, thankful I had arrived early as newcomers held numbers in the 600’s.

Continue reading

Learning Connection

We began homeschooling, or as I like to think, learning at home, one year ago today. We skied Beaver Creek during Spring break last year, came home, unpacked, and went to bed unsure of what our first morning learning together would look like. I, the fearful teacher, only had two and a half weeks to prepare the curriculum and the classroom for my two students, 11 and 12.

A classroom. We needed one. My husband and I walked around the house looking for a room that met the specifications: sunlight, shelves, and silence. We found it. His poker room was the one room in our home that fit the bill. Nice round table. Comfy, height-adjustable chairs. Fireplace. Shelving for books. Sunlight peeking in through the garden level window. Silently tucked away in a cozy, basement corner.

Our basement poker/game room. To make it feel super cozy, we wallpapered the walls and ceiling.

Monday, March 28, 2011, the students and I met in my husband’s basement poker room and learned together. We met in the sunny, shelved, silent room each morning for a series of days, weeks, months until I realized what was missing from our learning room. We were missing sounds, a connection to the rest of the house, the world around us. Sounds.

No poker room is complete without 2 mounted tv’s and 2 refreshment fridges to satisfy the sight and palette.

With good intention, I sought a room offering silence but this quiet was deafening at times. Continue reading

Robed Greetings

In full Southern fashion, I grew up with the women in my life wearing robes, or housecoats. In case you’re not familiar with the housecoat, let me enlighten you. It’s made of lightweight cotton fabric, unstructured, knee-length, usually short-sleeved, brightly patterned or striped, with buttons or a zipper right down the front. When purchased in the correct size, it doesn’t touch any part of the body except the shoulders, suitable for the Texas summer heat.

Growing up in Dallas, we’d often visit my parents’ extended families in the Texas Panhandle to escape the nine months of summer heat. The state of Texas is so large that we could drive seven hours north of Dallas to the Panhandle to escape the heat and humidity. Evenings up north cool off and humidity levels are less suffocating. In case you’re not familiar with Dallas heat and summer humidity, let me enlighten you. A shower is the only time your skin is intentionally wet. You spend the rest of the day toweling off. Even in the Panhandle, daytime temperatures are warm and air conditioning wasn’t common in the homes we visited.

Mom’s side of the family didn’t wear pants, for religious reasons, making the housecoat an invaluable wardrobe asset. It was bad enough getting out of the shower in the summer and putting on anything with a waistband, but imagine pulling on a fitted, belted dress to tackle the days’ chores. My maw-maw, aunts, and cousins cooked three meals a day using fresh ingredients from their gardens. Everything cooked or baked from scratch. Pie crusts, bread, berry fillings, jams and jellies, gravy, all southern-style meals homemade with love. Cooking, gardening, canning, and cleaning house in their fitted dresses wasn’t practical. So each morning, these women would bathe, put on their undergarments, and don a housecoat. It was their house-dress. They would’ve never worn their housecoat to the grocery store, but they welcomed neighbors’ visits unashamed. For me, the housecoat has always been a symbol of home, comfort, and modesty.

My weekend mornings, as an adult, have always included wearing a robe. I no longer suffer from the stifling Texas heat and humidity, but I prefer the modesty of a robe while cooking breakfast and sipping coffee. I like the soft cotton, unstructured ease it offers after a shower. Two years ago, my husband replaced my robe for Christmas, even including a fresh tissue in each front pocket, just the way he remembered his grandmother wearing and using her robe. Yes, he was mocking me but all in good fun. The following picture isn’t me, but an idea of what he bought me.

Since buying the ranch in Steamboat Springs, we’ve spent a fair amount of time up there with an unscheduled routine. We’re often up early in the morning, but I prefer milling around in my robe and not getting dressed for the day right away. After all, we’re 25 minutes away from the closest ski run and don’t know anyone. Or didn’t. We have welcomed more drop-in visitors on the ranch than I’ve experienced at the doorstep of our city dwelling in the past 19 years. And yes, you guessed it, I’ve answered the door in my robe each time. Who knew that I should get showered and dressed everyday at our getaway ranch? But each knock at the door has brought wonderful, new friends and comfort to my soul.

But how do they know when to visit. No one knows we’re coming. We don’t even schedule our visits. Last Friday morning, my husband’s schedule included picking up his brand-spanking new truck, as every ranch owner must drive a truck. He was bouncing off the walls with excitement to drive the vehicle and suggested we drive three and a half hours up to the ranch for a spontaneous overnight visit. I succumbed. We arrived around dinner time on Friday night. We went to bed early and awoke Saturday morning when our bodies alerted us that ten hours was enough sleep.

Heaven, right? It gets better. John decided to take the kids snowshoeing to the back of the property where it joins the national forest. He wanted to situate his new infrared cameras amidst the trees to capture unique photos of moose, elk, deer, fox, and other wildlife wandering near the camera lens. That left me, alone in the house, drinking coffee in bed, no agenda for the morning. I know better, uh-huh, a knock at the door. I slipped my arms into the dark red sleeves of my robe and zipped it up the middle. Thirteen stair steps down and I answered my front door, in my robe. A young couple in their 30’s stood before me, smiling, hands extended to welcome me to Routt County, referring to our off-the-beaten path area.

As the three of us stood in the modest foyer, I in my robe, they told me how she’d been the head wrangler of this previously-run guest ranch and the two of them had met at a mutual friend’s wedding at the ranch. Her beloved sheep-herding dog was even buried on our newly acquired property. Their memories were heart-felt and sincere. I apologized for answering the door in my robe, having not gotten ready for my surprise visitors. They didn’t seem to mind and I wasn’t ashamed. I was glad for my lazy morning interruption and introduction to more friends, more shared memories and history of the landmark guest ranch. I was glad I answered the door. In my robe.

My Little House on the Prairie

In the summer of 2011, about four months into our homeschooling journey, I declared a thought aloud to my husband. “I think I’m ready for my little house on the prairie.” Yep, the one in your mind’s eye; where the land takes precedence over the understated house. He wasn’t surprised by my comment, but understand, we mostly gravitate to beach destinations. In fact, we had recently returned from Mexico, and were searching for a second home in Tybee Island, GA. But something was stirring inside of me and our internet house hunting search quickly changed to zip codes beginning with eight.

In the Fall of 2003, we set our sights on a storybook-esque, three-bedroom, rolled-log cabin set on 16 rolling acres just outside of Breckenridge, CO.

We envisioned weekends away from our primary residence in south Denver hunting, fishing, boating on the nearby lake, driving ATV’s or snowmobiles, and sitting out on the small deck basking in God’s creation. We thumbed through the novel-sized HOA regulations and all the aforementioned activities were illegal on the property except basking. Ugh. At the time we couldn’t afford more land and less rules, so we closed the storybook cover on the dream.

Shortly afterwards, God planted adoption into our hearts and we soon understood why He steered us away from the cabin in the woods.

Fast forward seven years, our thoughts turning back to that adorable cabin but hoping to find it on more land with no HOA and within driving distance from our primary residence. I’m still a beach girl at heart but, with no plans of buying a private jet, spontaneous weekends a car ride away fit the bill while keeping our home in the city, close to the mall.

After some day-long car trips, due diligence, and prayer, we signed the closing papers on my little house on the prairie. Well, little houses, plural. The previous owners ran a commercial guest ranch, but 16+ years of painstakingly hard work and the depressed economy forced their exit.

We fell in love with the land, 99 rolling acres 25 minutes outside of Steamboat Springs, CO, surrounded by 360 degree mountain peak views. Across the street, we can enjoy summer water sports on Steamboat Lake or ice fishing in the winter.

The main house, a three-bedroom, rough-sewn wood house is a simple abode, however, in addition to my little house, the purchase also included a rolled-log lodge complete with a commercial kitchen, a two-car detached garage, a tack shed and loafing shed for horses, and nine, yes nine, fully furnished cabins along with four apartments to house the ranch hands.

We have no intentions of operating a guest ranch but rather hosting family, friends and community events from time to time.

Freed by our homeschooling schedule, we’ve enjoyed a significant amount of time on the ranch after having just closed on it two months ago. Last weekend, we went for an overnight to check on the fireplace renovations in the main house. Saturday morning was perfect. Blue skies. Forty degrees. Snow covered ground. Perfect for my husband to take the kids on their first snowshoeing expedition. Perfect for me to drink coffee in bed while watching chef’s cook on TV. Perfect for praising God for his provisions, faithfulness, for keeping promises. He has repaid us for the years the locusts have eaten. (Joel 2:25)

Often times, I’ve resented the sacrifices we’ve made adopting/raising three kids. I’ve never sugar-coated the truth. It’s been hard. I recently shared coffee with a prospective adoptive mother and my advice to her: it’s the best thing if it’s God’s will for your life and you’re willing to yield yourself to Him daily. Yielding. That’s the hard work and sacrifice. I faced the fact that I’ve called myself a christian for years but didn’t walk my talk. I wanted a savior, not a Lord over my life.

In my selfishness, I considered the past seven years of our adoption journey as the years the locusts have eaten. But no. The years the locusts have eaten were, for me, the christian years spent with one foot in the world; missing out on the true freedom Jesus Christ offers. Since having adopted these kids, I’ve jumped into God’s arms with both feet. The trials, suffering, difficulties, valleys that made me seek Him alone; that’s the repayment, the grace, the mercy. Adoption is the vehicle that God has used to draw me to Him in intimate friendship. The work continues. Thankfully, I’m still making forward progress. He has my whole heart and I praise the name of the LORD my God (Joel 2:26), basking in His creation in my little house on the prairie, without rules or restrictions.

This is the plan

three ring binder

Image via Wikipedia

“So, what’s the plan?” Most summer mornings begin with one of my children posing this question to me. I’ve trained them to think in terms of a plan. What is a plan? My definition: waking hours of the day broken down into increments of time spent fueling our body, mind, soul, and spirit to attain feelings of wholeness, fullness, satisfaction, and contentment in life’s journey.

Yes, I’m a planner. I have goals for my life: I want to intimately know Christ. I want to serve. I want to teach, coach, mentor. I want to have energy to accomplish these things. To reach these goals, I need a strategy. A plan. I plan to pray. I plan to read and study the Bible. I plan to shower and get dressed. I plan to take a walk each evening. I plan to blog. I plan to make dinner. I think about my days. I make a plan and, yes, I enter the plan into my Outlook calendar, complete with reminders.

I’m intentional about the way I spend my time even if my plan includes: watching a movie with my high school senior, reading a book alone, hanging out at the pool with the younger kids and their posse of peeps, enjoying coffee with a friend. Sometimes, on a Saturday morning, amidst the Golf Channel blaring on the television, Lego wars taking place in the hallway, and paper plates holding freshly baked blueberry muffins slathered with butter, I answer my kids’ question, “This is the plan.” Doesn’t seem to meet a goal or have any intention but it’s still a plan.

As a child of God, I pose this same question to Him, “So, what’s the plan?” I ask in the form of conversational prayer. I pose the question and then I wait as He speaks to me through His word, my family, friends, nature, the checker at the grocery store, His spirit that lives within me.

Lately, I’ve asked this question aloud, louder, almost screaming. My 14-year-old son was just found incompetent by our county’s juvenile court to stand trial for his criminal charges against his younger siblings. Due to a restraining order, and our family’s safety and protection, he cannot return home. At his social worker’s request, he will stay in the treatment program, status quo, even though his negative behavior reports outnumber his steps toward positive treatment progress. He needs help beyond our capabilities. His mind is that of an 8-year old and his mental health fails him. “God, what’s the plan?”

Amidst enough legal documents to fill a three-ring binder, therapy sessions to aid in the healing process, and frequent sleepless nights, God responded, “This is the plan.” Not exactly the answer I was hoping for. Doesn’t seem to meet a goal or have any intention. What I realized is that even if I don’t agree with the plan, it’s a plan all the same. It may not seem intentional. It may not fit one of my goals. It might not make me feel whole, full, content or satisfied but God has a sovereign plan.

God’s definition: to take me on the path that fosters a deeper relationship with Him. To strip from me any pride and create oneness with the Father. He wants me to desire Him more than heaven. God’s not as interested in mapping out the most convenient route for me as He is in cementing and growing our relationship. Peace. “This is the plan.”