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

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.

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Healing Waters in Vegas (RV Series #5)

(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.)

Two weeks into our five-week RV stay in Phoenix, we left the fifth-wheel at the RV Park and drove northwest to Las Vegas opting to stay in a hotel for a week. Look, I was desperate for a bathtub. The RV shower closet isn’t cutting it. Seriously, a girl needs a soak. There’s something about warm water and time alone with my thoughts that’s healing to my body and soul. I usually gain clarity, a fresh perspective, and shaved legs.

Oh, and John had customers to see so the Vegas plan was set into motion. He drove separately and visited customers along the way. I was most excited to take the kids around the city we’ve spent so much time visiting over the years. We’ve made lots of memories in Vegas:

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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.

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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.

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.”

Type A Procrastinator

The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”

Simple quote that stirs up questions in my mind. Can I read books for the rest of my life? Study my Bible? Feed my brain with new information from YouTube? Travel the world? Learn for fun? This list describes how I spend my time procrastinating the things I should be doing.

Today’s task list glared at me from the laptop screen: unpack from Puerto Vallarta, schedule kids’ physicals, deadhead geraniums, hit the gym, organize the whole house, alphabetize books on organization and procrastination, grocery shop, cook for the month, reduce the national debt. If your task list reads like mine, it couldn’t be accomplished in a President’s term much less crossed off in a day!

After reviewing the looming list, predictably, I spent my morning in bed procrastinating everything before me. Alongside my kids. We read books, studied the Bible and, yes, fed our brains with YouTube videos.  It’s our version of a lazy, summer home school morning. We read about Samuel Champlain and his diligence to settle in Quebec, Canada with his fellow Frenchmen. We raced against each other looking up our memorized Bible verses among the 66 God inspired books. After reading about how spiders hunt their prey, we searched YouTube to discover a spider spinning a web to catch his prey and survive another day. Then we did some mental math calculations, read about the fall of the Phoenicians, and reviewed the different types of land and water forms that we will no doubt see firsthand on our cruise next month.

When I declared to a friend that I was going to home school my two youngest kids beginning after spring break, her response was, “A-type personalities have a hard time homeschooling because you’re list makers and homeschooling requires flexibility.” She knows me well. I am a type-A list maker. I measure my productivity by crossing tasks and errands off my list.

What she doesn’t know about me is that I’m also a bona fide procrastinator, a trait I’ve never bragged about. For the first time in my life, I consider it a positive attribute. Procrastination might be God’s way of keeping me focused on His list, the work that I should be doing.