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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Mini Bump in the Road (RV Series #3)

Mini Bump in the Road

Speed Bump

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

We learned the Key Thing about RVing on day ONE of our journey (Jan 18, 2014). These are the days following (Jan 19 & 20):

With tasks reassigned and our sights set on the Bronco game, we were determined to get our campsite set up and the TV antenna searching for local channels pronto. Our drive from Las Cruces, NM to Phoenix, AZ was great. John and I had hammered out our differences, refocused our priorities, and we were looking forward to getting settled, i.e., NFL and draft beer.

John made our park reservations over a month ago as the snowbirds start flocking toward Arizona this time of year and we needed a space for five weeks. The registration hostess presented us with a tote bag and name tags, and was so welcoming until she realized that we had KIDS. Apparently the reservationist failed to mention that this park is for persons 55+ and the park is ‘kid-friendly’ two weeks at a time. Our form clearly stated that we were traveling with kids and dogs. Furry friends welcome without length of stay restrictions. These 55+ folks may be on to something here. I digress. Continue reading

The Key Thing We Learned in Las Cruces, NM (RV Series #2)

Our journey began on Saturday morning, January 18th at 4am, less than 48 hours after taking possession of the RV. No practice drives or testing the systems, we’d be doing that on the road. We were hoping to methodically organize and stow all of our belongings onto the moving house over several days and then meander our way from Dallas across the panhandle of Texas and parts of New Mexico on our way to Arizona. But the ice storm that hit the eastern part of the US in early January grounded our rig at the manufacturing plant in Indiana forcing us to shove clothes in drawers and hit the road in record time. There were golf tournaments scheduled within seven days of our arrival into Phoenix, AZ. All this rush for golf?

You see, our oldest son, Blake, opted not to return to Baylor after his freshman year. He didn’t flunk out but his grades prevented him from receiving his scholarship and the lack of funds caused some soul-searching. His heart was fixed on golf and our West Coast RV trip seemed the perfect fit for swinging clubs during the winter months. He was determined to play an amateur tour and see if he had what it took. We supported his decision.

That makes the official count at two adults sleeping in the master bedroom and sharing the master bath. One adult man-child, one teenaged boy child, and one teenaged girl child, sleeping on two bunk beds and a sleeper sofa, and sharing the second full bath. Oh, and don’t forget Dixie, the white Maltese, and Cookie, the brown Yorkie, sharing a kennel.

Our course was set: 12 hour drive from Dallas, TX to Las Cruces, NM for an overnight and then another 7 hours from Las Cruces to Phoenix, AZ. We had RV park reservations and our destinations were entered into the RV Trip Wizard app. With iPhone alarms set for 3:15am, we collapsed into bed at 11pm.

The drive was smooth. 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

Things I’ve Learned on the Ranch

Dream of owning a ranch? Wish you lived amidst a picturesque setting with 360 degree mountain views? Know what it takes to maintain 99 acres? Here’s what I’ve learned seven months into our ranch ownership journey:

  1. 99 acres seem small when you’re driving but much larger when walking.
  2. My kids hate when community members tell them that ranch work builds character.
  3. Bats are black, creepy, milking mammals, live 20+ years, migrate south in August.
  4. Critter guy that eradicates bats, mice, and cluster flies is my new bestie. 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.

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.