Oregon (RV Series #15)

(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.)

I say Oregon, you say _________. Oregon, ________. Oregon, ________. Did you say rain? Ducks? Weird? Bridges? Beautiful? Scratch ‘n Dent? Any or all fit the bill and all are reasons to visit:

• Rain. Crossing the border into Oregon from California, we officially traded our beach towels for umbrellas. Continue reading

Napa Know-You-All (RV Series #13)

(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.)

On our last full day in San Francisco, John called the RV repair shop to verify that the rig would be ready for pickup the following day. When I saw John’s shoulders fall during the phone call, I knew it wasn’t good news. The manufacturer sent the WRONG part?!? And no one called to tell us?!?

If you’re a Bob Newhart fan and watched his spinoff show, picture the eccentric neighbor brothers who introduce themselves the same way every time they make an appearance at Bob’s Vermont Inn. The older, wiser brother does all the talking, “Hi, I’m Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.” We were dealing with them in real life.

The correct, driver-side axle was to be overnighted to the RV repair shop. With the weekend days and their backlog of rigs awaiting repair, we had another week to wait. My patience was wearing thin. Continue reading

Yosemite Blues (RV Series #10)

(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.)

Relieved from leaving the Malibu cliffs, we pulled into Oakhurst, CA, a mere forty-seven miles from Yosemite Village. It’s the closest town with RV hook-ups to the national park’s southern entrance. Don’t read between the lines and think that closest means nicest and full of amenities. Nope, none of that.

Fond memories of the Oakhurst, CA RV Park

Fond memories of the Oakhurst, CA RV Park

Our site was decent. Large enough for our two vehicles and our forty-three foot rolling house. Unlike Malibu, we could enjoy campfires, but only if we were willing to share space with stray cats, less than desirable neighbors, and views of metal carports and storage buildings. Fortunately, our plans include driving into Yosemite National Park most days, which means I won’t spend many daylight hours in the landfill RV Park. Continue reading

Bird Attack Detours us to CO (RV Series #6)

(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.)

After a great week in Las Vegas, we moved out of the hotel and drove back to the Phoenix RV Park having devised a plan to retrieve my vehicle from Denver. We considered shipping it via long-haul truck but opted, instead, to fly out ourselves and drive it back.

The trip to Colorado would also give us a chance to check on our house remodel at the ranch thus killing two birds with one stone. Now, with the burst water pipe and ensuing floodwaters at our South Denver suburban home, we had another remodeling project on our hands. This stone had better be big, as we need to kill many more than two birds during our brief visit.

Continue reading

A Toolbox for Christmas

I eased up on the gas pedal as I approached the stoplight. A choice lay before me. Turn left and drive north toward the airport where I could board a flight to anywhere. Turn right and follow my husband and son south toward home where I’d be forced to deal with the horrors dealt to me.

Her words were grinding in my head like oil and vinegar swirling about in a food processor, mixing together but not blending, and separating again due to their inability to stay conjoined. It’s December twenty-third and Christmas shopping isn’t on the agenda today. Or wasn’t until the doctor suggested it while sitting on the bench outside the elevators.

She spoke matter-of–fact after the grueling six-hour mental health evaluation, “On your way home today, stop by the department store and buy one of those heavy-duty, red, metal toolboxes. Keep it on your kitchen counter. Lock up everything you consider a weapon. Wear the key on a long string around your neck twenty-four hours a day so you can control its access.”

Gripped in fear, I clung to the steering wheel, systematically considering the weapons in our home. 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.

Missing buttons

Each night in preparation for bed, we fold back the heavy, floral king-sized duvet cover and gently place it on the floor at the foot of our bed. Each morning, or rather some mornings, we hoist the duvet back on the bed and spread its folds allowing it to rest atop its lesser counterparts for 12 hours until we return to repeat the process. After years of tugging and pulling the comforter’s cotton fibers, the red fabric-covered buttons had wriggled free from their threads and resided in my nightstand, no longer performing their duty along the open seam at one end.

For whatever reason this morning, I decided to pull red thread through the eye of the needle and stitch the missing buttons back on the plaid trimmed duvet cover. Halfway through the task, it came. It. Overwhelming sadness. A longing to see the woman who taught me how to hand sew a button back on the material beckoning its help.

Today my mom turns 65 years old and she is celebrating in Heaven as she has for the past three years. I miss her birthday celebration. I miss dinner and the seasonal performance at the Country Dinner Playhouse. I miss driving through neighborhoods gazing at Christmas lights and singing carols, especially Winter Wonderland, her favorite. I miss her laugh, her voice, her touch.

I miss sewing together. Creating, learning, ripping out and re-doing, basking, admiring, loving. Words best describing Mom’s testimony, her love relationship with Jesus. She often referred to her weakness and God’s strength, her failures and God’s successes, her misgivings and God’s love.

My mother affixed buttons of faith into my mind, threading scripture from her red-lettered, King James Bible into my very fibers. Armed with the sword of the spirit, she sewed a patchwork of verses and doctrine that, as a mantle, have covered me. I, too, have failures and many misgivings, but in the years matching the age of my duvet cover, God has shored up the weak threads of my faith and stitched his love buttons onto my heart.

December 19th brings overwhelming sadness, yes, but good news of great joy. For today, I boast of God’s strength, successes and love. He outdoes me, out-gives me, and out-loves me. There are no missing buttons.

Great Crepe Caper

This past week, our house was filled with unfamiliar sights and sounds. Diapers, pacifiers, new-fangled bouncy seats, scampering feet beneath the eldest niece and nephews, ages 2, 3, and 5 and the giggles and coos from the youngest niece, four months. These adored and adorable, well-behaved children are happy, content beings teamed together with their cousins, my youngest two children, 11 and 12. Whether they’re hiding and seeking, building architectural LEGO marvels, competing on Wii sports, or scootering down the incline of the circle driveway, they’re happy. Yay, right? What else could mom and dad, aunt and uncle wish for?

We felt the need to reduce our cabin fever and their happiness and loaded everyone into two cars and four car seats to experience our local county fair. I don’t recall attending many county fairs even though my high school sweetheart was in FFA and raised a pork product named, Bosephus, the nickname of famous country singer, Hank Williams, Jr. Nonetheless, we strapped the underlings into the limo-sized jogging stroller and were assigned the ‘Great Crepe Caper’ at the fair entrance. Each child’s keeper was given a plastic zipped baggie in which we were to gather contents for making crepes. The map designated the barns where each ingredient could be found in hopes of teaching the children that food doesn’t originate shrink-wrapped at the grocery store.

We scampered about, six children and baggies, from barn to barn gathering our ingredients, petting the barn animals, and sneezing along the way. My brother-in-love, former Ag student and rabbit breeder, took a teaching opportunity in the lamb barn while the FFA students busily prepared their lambs for the upcoming show ring. He asked one of the students to demonstrate how they make the lamb’s neck ‘press into’ the student’s upper thigh to flex the lamb’s muscles making its health more apparent to the judges. Most of these lambs were less than six months old and yet fully trusted their young trainer. Such a small gesture, pressing into, created a flex of the will to trust.

We exited our final stop, the cow barn, with our butter, the last ingredient for our crepes. As murphy would have it, thunderstorms broke overhead forcing us to head home before we could receive our delicious french reward for completing the caper. Instead, we opted to make pancakes, a thicker version of crepes, for dinner and collapsed afterward from fair exhaustion while the cousins returned to a state of bliss.

After the young cousins waved goodbye making their way back to the Dallas heat wave, I found some quiet time with God and began praying for the upcoming school year. I was reflecting on the previous week and our time in the lamb barn. “God, my shepherd, I want to press into you daily so as to flex my will to trust you in all circumstances. Not just in the show ring, judged. I want to be empty of self so I can be full of your spirit, fully flexed.” Finding God as I pass through the barns of life gathering together all ingredients necessary to fulfill His purpose. Now that’s a great caper.

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.”