"Not all those who wander are lost" J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Near Miss!

I really believe being in labor all night (both times) was easier than last night.  I used to fall dead asleep and stay that way until dawn.  Not any more.  In my old age of 37 I fall dead asleep and if anything wakes me, regardless of the hour, I am awake the rest of the night.  Last night my ten year old scared the heck out of me.  The conversation went something like this:
10 year old:  "Merry Christmas Mama."
Me:  "Merry Christmas, what time is it?"
10 year old:  "1:02."
Me:  "Get your bum back back in bed!"
10 year old:  "BUT I CAN'T SLEEP!"
Donald:  "Turn your light on and read!"

I tossed and turned for an hour, at which point I decided to give up the ghost and read my own book (Stoker's "Dracula").  Donald woke up and turned on a movie (Albert Finney's "Scrooge").  The Ten Year Old kept opening his door thinking that it was time to get up.  I drifted off to sleep at 3 ish and woke up again at 3:30, very crankily, yelling at my ten year old to turn off the light and go to sleep.  His lippy reply was "Nice Christmas Spirit!"  Donald, being much more pleasant in the middle of the night than I, patted me calmly on the back and went to the Ten Year Old's bed with a book while the Ten Year Old put together Harry Potter lego's on the floor.  At some point they both fell asleep together, only to wake up every hour or so, just checking for daylight.  By 4 I was sound asleep, just in time (it seemed) to hear little boys whispering "Santa came, is Mama up?"  It was almost 6 so I sensibly decided, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  I stumbled, bleary eyed, to my tooth brush and tea pot while the younger generation ransacked stockings.  I made my way back to my bed with the intent of snuggling my caffeine and my dog.  It was interesting to listen to their conversation.

Ten Year Old:  "You have NO idea how long my night was last night!"  Oh, really - what about my night?
Nine Year Old:  "I slept really well."  Well, bully for you!  My eyes are bleeding!
Ten Year Old:  "I thought you were going to stay awake and try to catch Santa."  Good thing I'm Ninja quiet!
Nine Year Old:  "I tried to stay awake as long as I could and I kept my hand on my B.B. gun."  Grandma and Grandpa bought both boys Red Rider's this year.  So far, no blood.  But then, it's only been 24 hours.
Ten Year Old:  "Why?"
Nine Year Old:  "I wanted to shoot Santa and take all his presents!"  Holy cow!  Not only did I not get any sleep last night, I almost took a B.B. in the backside!  I decided on the spot that Donald really needs to take more share in this Santa business!

Beyond sleeplessness and dodging B.B.'s, we are having a lovely, if snowless, Christmas.  I hope you are too!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas

Today I'm rifling through my Christmas Eve memories as I mentally prepare my day.  When I was very small we had Christmas at my grandparent's in Iowa.  There was always snow and with nine aunts and uncles the tree always seemed to have a million presents, the house filled with noise and laughter.  I am ten years older than my little brother and nearly every Christmas Eve he "spent the night" with me in my room.  That, of course, ended when Donald and I got married!  I remember the Christmas when Donald came home from the Navy after a six month absence.  I had strep throat, his brother was arriving imminently and we ended up watching "A Christmas Story" on tv half a dozen times.  That was also the year I received my best Christmas gift ever.  Donald put a large bonus check and a note in my stocking, saying that he was taking me to England for my first time!  Then there was the Christmas that my youngest son was born.  He came home from the hospital on the 23rd and, let me tell you, it is incredible to hold a brand new infant while you ponder Mary and her infant Son.  I also remember a Christmas Eve in Iceland when I had an allergic reaction to something and I had to get a large shot of Benedryl in my backside.  When I got back to my apartment, well after midnight, everyone was still there, playing cards!  In Virginia we lived in a ten block historical pocket that looked like an English village.  We often took bike rides because the weather was so nice.  We would walk to our 200 year old church for the service and afterward we would walk to the Chinese buffet before going home to open packages.

This brings me to my one constant Christmas Eve memory.  In all my Christmas', all around the world, I only recall one or two without or Christmas Eve service.  The Eve just isn't the Eve without the quiet beauty of hearing the Christmas Story and singing "Silent Night" by candlelight.  As a child, that beauty vied with the agony of knowing there were packages waiting, and I'm sure this will be true tonight for my own boys.  Christmas Eve service puts things in perspective; first things first, if you will.  I've had years where I had no Christmas spirit until Christmas Eve service and then, suddenly, my heart is lightened and at peace.  The rush and madness of the season is behind me and my focus is suddenly sharp and clear.  "Joy to the World, the Lord has come.  Let earth receive her King!"

May your day be filled with peace and Joy!  Gledileg Jol!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Of Mice and Men

So I went to get something out of the RV the other day.  As I was innocuously gathering the needed items I discovered that we had squatters.  You know the term:  someone unwanted, living in a space not their own and definitely not paying rent.  Unless you call hundreds of mouse droppings "rent."  Silly me, I had left a box of oatmeal and a roll of paper towels under the sink.  Apparently these are two very desirable items to mice since they happily chewed the heck out of both. 

Now our RV has a fully sealed underbottom.  We have no idea how the little suckers moved in but they brought their friends and neighbors.  Of course, the fact that the RV is parked in the middle of the prairie means that there are only about 5 million field mice all around.  Vigilance is now our watchword.  We drove the 30 miles to town and the only mouse trap the feed store had was a large, plastic box containing a sticky, attractively-scented-to-mice pad.  We bought it and put it under the sink.  The next morning I thought Donald and I were going to have to play "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to determine who was going to check it.  As I was already dressed, I bravely made the trip. 

Those of you who know me well know that I like things like gutting fish, skinning rabbits and killing chickens.  Blood is not a big problem for me and neither is the death of God's creatures.  This makes living with three men much easier.  However, I was not prepared for what met me inside the gray box.  Stephen King could not have created such carnage.  We aren't sure if all the blood smeared around the inside of the box was flung from the mouse in his death throes or if he had a partner who tried to a) eat him or b) free him.  It was truly horrible.  We couldn't even see the dead mouse's head.  We think maybe it was twisted backward and broken under him.  We could see jutting teeth from where his head should have been.  His legs were twisted stiffly in the air, a sympton of rigor mortis or the freezing temperature.  Maybe both.  I left the box and went to report to the untraumatized troops back in the warm house.  My story was greeted with gleefully bloodthirsty yells of "Can we see, Mama?  Can we see??"  I let Donald do the honors because I certainly didn't want to look again.

The next morning there was still evidence of the enemy having set up camp in the RV so we went to my parents and begged some regular mousetraps and steel wool with which to plug any opening we could find.  Oddly enough, as I entered the building where my step dad was working he was pulling a mouse out a trap!  After emptying the RV of anything the mice had possibly touched (and spending about an hour washing all the dishes) we baited the traps with peanut butter and oatmeal.  Then we waited.  Just before bedtime I heard a crazy tapping at the window and when I looked out, Donald was standing there in the dark, wildly waving two traps in the air, grinning dementedly.  A dead mouse hung from each one.  He disposed of the mice and rebaited (rebated?!!) the traps.  Within an hour he caught another one.  Having successfully launched the war, we went to bed in hopes of eliminating the enemy.

Two days have passed and I think it safe to say we won the battle.  There is no evidence of reinforcements. The war isn't over but we can't let up our vigilance; we are keeping the traps baited just in case the enemy thinks they are taking back the RV.  So far, so good!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vulnerability Ahead!

I think of myself as a realist.  I don't like the terms optimist or pessimist; they make me think of Patty, the cheerleader in "Grease" or Eeyore.  Now, I spent most of high school and college as a cheerleader and Eeyore happens to be my favorite Milne character so I'm not down on them.  Realism just fits me best.  I may see obstacles in the way and am good at pointing them out but they don't stop me in my path.  Rather like speed bumps.

Nearly seventeen years ago I married my complete opposite.  Donald was the ultimate, optimistic, full speed ahead, the Lord will make a way, dreamer compared to my being a "bubble burster."  His term, not mine!  When we met, Donald was a Pastoral Ministries major with the dream of being a motivational speaker.  He wanted to change hearts around the world.  The fact that he was only 23 with no life experience didn't phase him!  Sometime during graduate school he dreamed up turning his grandparent's North Dakota farm into a spiritual retreat center for ministers with hurting hearts.  He drew plans and prayed for years for a specific dollar amount.  I never knew the amount; I did know that 65% of our combined income went to pay for our tiny, cinder block, New York apartment. 

Then one day he announced he wanted to seek a commission as a military chaplain.  He had spoken with chaplains from all four branches but felt called to the Navy.  By now I didn't bat an eyelash at his change of life plans but casually mentioned that his two knee reconstructions (college football) might be a small hiccup.  It's a great story, his military acceptance and the ride that followed, but that's for another time.

Life is different now.  I am certainly still a realist (as a homeschool mom of two boys with a retired husband, how can I not be?) but I'm no longer married to a hair-on-fire dreamer.  Partly because he started shaving his head sixteen years ago but mostly because of PTSD.

I wake up thinking about brushing my teeth and my first cup of tea.  I don't wake up thinking about PTSD.  Living with PTSD is like breathing - it's just there.  I don't let it rule my life.  And yet, it does.  Some days more than others.  For Donald, one of the biggest changes caused by his PTSD and its partner, acute depression, is a paralyzing inability to dream.  So after years of either bursting bubbles or devising plans of actions for my dreamer, I find myself trying on a hat that doesn't fit well and definitely is not my style.  I'm trying to dream.  Mostly this comes as a "Hey, what do you think about buying an RV," "How about being dorm parents at an overseas school for missionary kids," and "Want to run a pub in an English village?"  I try to throw out ideas but even as I do my brain whirls with dozens of "speed bumps."  Donald's response?  Perhaps deservedly, it's usually a bit of my own, back at me, only heavy on the pessimism.  Every time it happens I get a jolt of sadness at the loss of my dreamer and I feel a little bit alone, wearing an uncomfortable hat.

Donald does have hope, though.  He didn't for two and a half years after his injury but in the last six months his Hope has returned.  He knows he has a purpose and God has a unique ministry for us.  Our biggest prayer, together and alone, as we traipse around the country this year is that God would give him a dream and me a plan.  I, for one, would like my old hat back!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Still Smells the Same

On the first day of fourth grade I was handed a small, red, hardback Wyoming history book.  It was an ancient text when I used it; I shudder now to think about how the "facts" were represented but that crisp fall day I took it home and read the entire 300 pages.  I was so fascinated by the lives of the Indians and the Trappers, of Lewis and Clark's journey with Sacajawea, of the westward expansion and of the cowboys and of the hearty men and women who settled this huge and sometimes harsh land.  Did you know that Wyoming was the first state to allow women voters?  That's why we are the Equality State.  My theory is that the women outlived the men (something about those drunken gunfights, rodeos and Indian wars) so who was left to run the ranches?  Cowgirl up, I say!

For years I have been looking for that little red history book with no luck on Ebay or used book stores.  I've had my mom hunt for it.  Today, she did better than hunt for it.  Mom arranged for the boys and I to visit my two room country school house so the boys could see the place and so I could poke around for the history book.  The current teacher was kind enough to let us take any books we could find because she is pretty sure the school will be closing after this year.  Having only three pupils may have something to do with it!  When we walked in the first thing that hit me was the smell.  How can a school smell exactly the same after all these years (something like 22 if we are being honest)?  Not a bad smell, just old wood, paste and ancient books.  Quite comforting, really.  I showed the boys the gymnasium where we used to blast Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on a tape player, the kitchen where we made green cornflake Christmas wreaths and the stage where I sang my first solo.  Back in the fifties when Lance Creek was something of an oil boom town the school was quite large.  When I was in fourth grade the old building (with gym, library and stage) was falling apart so the county supplied a two room modular building rather like a double wide trailer but more utilitarian.  I was one of the first kids to use the current building.  My favorite part was the small wood paneled library where I learned about Anne Shirley and ants who lived under the back steps.  Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. The boys and I had a great time looking at all the old books today and checking the library cards for my name.  We didn't find any but we found lots with names that I recognized.  And best of all, I now have in my possession my very own dilapidated copy of "Wyoming's People," my fourth grade history book.  Yes, I plan on reading the entire thing but probably not in one night.  I have to be responsible and feed my children.  But hey, I'm a Wyoming girl.  I can read and cook!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Of outhouses and mountain goats, of vertebrae and speed

Lewis Carroll mastered stringing together unrelated objects and calling it poetry.  He became quite famous for it in his own time but is most well known for "Alice and Wonderland."  I doubt this blog will make me famous but it is my attempt at stringing unrelated objects together in order to catch you up on the last weeks events.  My title is a play on Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter," should anyone care!

One month ago yesterday we left Virginia and it feels more like six, according to Donald!  We've traveled nearly 4,000 miles already.  We have two stamps in our National Parks Passport.  Shakespeare (the dog) is still as neurotic as ever.  We've scrapped this years carefully planned history program and we are going to focus, instead, on the history of the places we visit.  Yesterday it was Mt. Rushmore.  Growing up practically in its shadow, I've been there dozens of times.  It is still majestic.  We didn't have nearly as much time as we wanted so we will go back in order for the boys to become Jr. Park Rangers.  This is an excellent, free educational program available at every national park or monument.  And, they get a badge!  We waved at the six mountain goats wandering in the parking lot (virtually empty) and went on to Rapid City for lunch with my brother and shopping at the commissary.

I've attended three major social functions since arriving:  a Christmas tea, a Christmas bazaar at the county fairgrounds and Sunday church.  The tea was nice but I'm pretty sure the pastor's daughters and granddaughters outnumbered the rest of the attendees.  Still, I won a prize for getting the most words out of "Christmas."  86, by the way and if you can do better I'll mail you my prize - a green and red hotpad.  The Bazaar is an annual event and I had a great time running into friends from highschool.  19 years since I've seen them!  Sunday church is always social and more so when you return after a long absence.  Everyone wants a hug and to talk about how I'm doing.

Donald has taken up using the outhouse on a regular basis.  Yes, my parent's have outhouses, one at each house.  This is NOT the main form of plumbing.  Just extra in case the inside loo is occupied.  Or you are outside and there is an emergency.  Anyway, Donald likes to go out there, with the dogs, and he leaves the door wide open so he can "watch nature."  I do have his permission to write this, by the way!  I never use the outhouse - I'm a squat-on-the-ground- kind of girl as my aunt Jackie can confirm.  My boys like to pee anywhere.  At any rate, there is never a good time of year for outhouse usage, in my opinion.  In summer you share the space with spiders and in winter, you could freeze your, well, everything!

My next topic is an example of how WY is perfect for boys to be wild and dirty.  I walked to the edge of the creek bank two days ago to call the boys home.  They had been down there playing for hours.  After a minute their stocking-hatted heads bobbed into view and I burst out laughing.  One had an entire spinal column hanging off his neck like some macbre neck tie!  The other had several different bones draped around his neck; he resembled an druidic priest.  They were wielding various bones in their hands as well, and pretending the bones were armor.  After I recovered from laughing I took a moment to be thoroughly grossed out!  I ask you, who puts dead animal bones (likely deer or antelope) around their body? Little boys with excellent imaginations!

I leave you with this last item.  My parents now have high speed internet!  After 25 dial up minutes just to pay my cell phone bill (for which I have no service) I looked up hughes.net.  This is an internet service specifically designed for folks like my parents who live in the middle of nowhere.  It's actually cheaper than what I paid in Virginia for Cox and now I can check my email without taking half a day.  Which I'm going to do, now!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

After navigating several treacherous Montana mountain passes and driving in snow nearly the entire 18 hours we successfully arrived in Wyoming yesterday afternoon.  It is sunny here and 52 degrees!  We haven't seen sunshine since we left Virginia.  The boys are heartily disappointed in the lack of snow and I, personally, do not require much sun to be happy but we are enjoying ourselves anyway.  We went for a long walk this afternoon, enjoying the fresh air and the fact that we aren't driving 10 hours today!

I can't guarantee how often I'll be blogging this month; it took about 10 minutes to get blogspot up and running with my parent's dial up internet.  Donald keeps checking his iPhone to see how many bars of service he has and the answer is always none.  He was going to check the news on the internet until he realized how long it would take him.  The boys asked today about checking out a Wii game in town and when we informed them there would be no place to find a Wii game they were astonished to learn there was no Walmart.  I'm pretty sure a town needs more than 1,200 people to qualify for a Walmart!  This will be a good experience for all four of us to slow down and savor a different lifestyle for a bit.  We'll check back in with you when we can but if you don't hear from us for a bit, don't worry and don't forget about us.  You'll hear from us eventually!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On the Move

Today we head south.  Not south enough, however, to live in the RV yet.  The boys have never had Christmas at my parents in Wyoming so we thought it would be nice to make that happen before they start college.  My parents run a small cattle ranch and they have an extra house where we will stay.  I know, who has an extra house?  Out there, in the middle of nowhere, it's not uncommon and it comes in handy for hunters and long term guests you don't want live with.  They are also renovating it for themselves as a sort of pre-retirement project.  Since we've been living in 300 square feet since June it will be nice to have a bit of space.  Did I mention there is no cell phone service, no telephone, no computer access and no television? My parents do have phone, tv and computer in their own home but, are you ready, it's dial up!  They literally cannot get anything else because they are so remote.  And forget about cell phone.  My mom has called me from her cell phone by standing in the back of the truck.  One time Donald made a call in the dead of winter and he had to find a hill, in a snowstorm, surrounded by cattle.  If Donald's iPhone functions there, I think
AT&T should do a commercial!

Let me paint a geographic picture of how remote we will be for the next month.  60 miles to the nearest Happy Meal.  110 miles to the nearest mall.  Shoot, it's 30 miles to the nearest gallon of milk, which can be found in the town where I went to high school.  Go Tigers!  We will be a mile from my parent's house and about seven miles from Grandma Ruth, the closest neighbor.  There is a small town 10 miles away but it only has one bar, one church, one post office and one tiny, two room school where I attended from 3rd-6th grade.  You can get educated, drunk, churched and post a letter but that's it! 

Inconvenient?  If you run out of milk, definitely.  Disadvantages?  Nope.  It is a beautifully barren countryside that is so quiet you can hear the grass blow in the breeze.  Not kidding.  Deer and antelope come into the yard frequently, along with the odd bobcat, porcupine, raccoon and other critters.  The coyotes will put a chill down your spine if you are fortunate enough to hear one howl.  The natural land formations are striking along the skyline, some resembling distant castles and towers.  I have never seen a more open sky, especially at night when the moon and stars are so close you can reach out your hand and almost touch them.  It is a place where boys can be boys, the way God intended.  Dirty, wild, noisy and happy.

It's a place where people know me and where change is slow.  I may run into my Sunday school teacher in the grocery store and a friend's mom in the hardware store.  They will coo and cluck over my boys and they will be reminded of me, at the same age.  I will see children I used to babysit with children of their own.  I will read the once-a-week paper, all 10 pages, and I will inadvertently proofread it because it will be awful!  My family will eat in the diner that has changed owners many times but still has the best chicken-fried steak in town. 

This where we will be for the next month, in the middle of nowhere but among family and friends and all that is familiarly "home."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

My eyes popped open at 3:30 this morning.  I tried convincing them to close again but they didn't agree.  I gave up at 4:15 and decided to join the rest of the crazy people for a little Black Friday madness.  I've never really participated in Black Friday so I thought I would see what all the fuss is about.  Well, in truth, I think my aunt and I ventured out when I was a poor college kid but it was probably looking rather than shopping.  Doesn't really count.

I put my furry hat on, brushed my teeth, made a portable cup of coffee and stealthily tried to avoid six dogs.  Once outside I took a deep breath of the silent mountain air, filled with falling snow, and I smiled.  The world just felt right!  What could be better than sneaky Christmas shopping in the middle of the night when it's snowing?  The answer:  John Denver and the Muppets wishing me a merry Christmas on the radio when I started up the truck!

The first two stores had people lined up outside and I saw no reason to stand outside with a bunch of cold strangers.  I drove on to Target where I found a very organized madhouse.  I actually saw people with walkie talkies and many people had been shopping since midnight!  As a general rule I don't really like shopping, whether it's Good Friday or Black Friday; I'm sort of a "have a list, bag it and bring it home" kind of girl.  I had the boys' wish lists but I wasn't really aiming for anything in particular which seems the best way to avoid the stress and disappointment that many shoppers seemed to be experiencing.  Of course, their lack of sleep was likely a contributing factor.  I found a few things, moved through the ridiculously long line fairly quickly and made my way to K-Mart and Shopko, finding a few items at each store.  All in all it was relatively inexpensive, definitely painless and sort of fun.  I enjoy being totally alone and I really like it when I am anonymously surrounded by strangers who don't know me and want nothing from me.  I enjoyed smiling at clerks and telling them "Good Morning."  Most people seemed in good cheer and the whole experience left me feeling full of Christmas spirit, singing my fool head off in the truck on the way home.

I can't say that I am a Black Friday convert and that I'll do it every year; I didn't really see a huge amount of price difference to make the early hour worth it.  It was fun, though, to have most of my shopping done before my family was even out of bed!  Now I just have to get it all wrapped before anyone sees it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good news to report - there was no damage to any of our water lines and the dealer was able to winterize the RV.  Donald's parents have graciously allowed us to stay longer so we don't have to worry about our heat running out in the middle of the night.  This means I have resumed sleeping; there is something soporific about knowing I will wake up warm when it is minus 8, as it was this morning!  We will probably leave it winterized until we head south to a warmer climate.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my RV, even with its crazy learning curve, because it represents our Big Adventure.  I am thankful for warmth and running water.  I am thankful that my family is still whole; it has been a long year but we have seen God's hand upon our lives and we remain confident that He has a plan for us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The morning began well; we had both heat and water.  I know because I have been awake since 3:30 this morning, listening to the beautiful sound of my furnace cycling on and off.  I was able to brush my teeth inside the RV for a change and I had plenty of water for tea.  It was shaping up to be a wonderful day.

The blow came after Donald did his morning round of checking the outside affairs of the RV.  He came inside, cheeks red and glasses fogged, and announced, "We have two choices.  We either head south or we winterize."  There was four inches of new snow, with more falling, and a mountain pass to cross; the choice seemed pretty obvious.  Everything seemed frost free inside the heated underbelly but the tank drain (which hangs outside the heated area) was frozen solid.  Pretty big problem when you have black and gray tanks that need to be drained every few days.

If you've never had to help your husband hitch up your house in a 10 degree snow storm, well, you're just missing out on all kinds of fun!  Welcome to life in the Twist family!  The RV is currently at the dealer, thawing out so they can winterize it.  Apparently we did have a couple of frozen lines; we are crossing our fingers there is no damage.  We are currently at my in-laws for the night.  This is no small favor as we bring two dogs and children to add to their four English Setters.  The worst part of the day was going back to the campground and discovering the boys bikes were gone.  Somebody probably thought we forgot them since our site was empty.  Hopefully when we bring the RV back tomorrow they will return them but until then we have a fairly distraught 8 year old on our hands.  He actually cried when hearing the news because his bike had been a birthday present a couple of years ago. 

I'm pretty excited that I might actually sleep tonight since freezing is no longer an imminent threat.  I'd sleep really well if my Broncos actually beat the Chargers but it's not looking so well for them.  Tomorrow I have to figure out how to live in an RV without water.  I will look to the Pioneers for inspiration.  And maybe keep an eye out for some chamber pots!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Surprise Reprise

I'm beginning to take warmth and running water a little less for granted these days.  I woke this morning fully expecting all our problems to have vanished as a result of our efforts yesterday.  My morning pot of tea makes my world go 'round and at 6 am I discovered that once again, we had no water. No water = No tea.  Second day in a row.  I really think my husband is going to get tired of me waking him at ridiculous hours to deal with heating and plumbing issues simply because I can't see straight without tea. 

The hose that we so lovingly wrapped twice yesterday did not do its job.  After pondering the problem, which probably took longer given my lack of liquid stimulation, I realized that the heat tape works on a thermostat which was placed on the end of the hose that is inside the heated RV chamber; the heat tape didn't come on and our hose was hosed, as the Canadians would say.  The quick answer was to obtain a short length of hose to fit inside the heated area and attach the heated hose to it, outside the RV.  After driving around to multiple stores with no luck we procured a four foot hose from my father in law.  We now have running water again but we are tentatively holding our breath. 

I feel a little nervous because the temperature is supposed to be 14 below on Tuesday night.  Our RV is only tested to 0.  We are plenty warm inside but we are speeding through propane at about a tank every couple of days which is a large, unforseen expense.  We really have no choice because it is the only thing keeping the tanks from freezing; we just hope it is enough in the coming days. 

On a lighter note, I forgot to mention another surprise from yesterday.  When we were retracting our slide outs in preparation to take the rig to the dealer a huge chunk of ice fell off the top and landed squarely on our black water drain hoses.  The drain hoses are made of plastic which is terribly brittle in this cold so they cracked in multiple places.  Frozen sewage, resembling a root beer slushie, fell on the ground.  Boy, was that fun to try to deal with!

Oh, the learning curve with owning an RV!  This weekend's lessons are:  never leave your black water hoses out in freezing weather and you will do everything at least twice before you get it right.   It boggles my mind when I think of all the wisdom we will glean from this experience concerning things I never knew I would want to know!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Surprises

I suspect I am not alone in the universe when I reveal that I prefer life when all goes according to plan.  When curve balls are thrown, one after another, I tend to get a bit rattled.  Today was supposed to be a relaxing Saturday; Donald making pancakes, boys in their underwear watching cartoons and jumping horses with my father in law. 

After spending two hours awake in the middle of the night for no real reason I slept in until about 7 when I realized the RV was quite chilly, a sure symptom of an empty propane bottle.  I did the wise thing and woke my loving spouse to deal with the problem.  It was, after all, 17 degrees outside.  I set to making coffee and tea and very quickly realized we had no water.  And our water pump was making very sickly sounding noises.  The only thing we could do was spend two caffeine-less hours waiting for the RV to warm up and for the Flathead Valley to open up shop so someone could tell us what our problem was.  I brushed my teeth outside in the cold and we ate yogurt so we didn't have dishes.  Luckily, our first call found us a Heartland dealer.

When normal families have plumbing issues they call a plumber, right?  Not us.  We have to pack everything, hitch our house to a truck and haul the house to the plumber.  The dealer told us that our water pump went bad but is under warranty.  Hooray!  The bad news was that our water tank was frozen.  They recommended that we build a Tyvek skirting around the RV to keep out the wind.  We do have a sealed, heated underbelly but with all this cold weather they wanted us to stay unfrozen.  So we trooped to Home Depot and bought heat tape and insulation to keep our hose warm and four huge sheets of Tyvek with which to wrap the RV.  By 2 pm we had our house parked back in its spot and everything unpacked and back in place.  By 3 we were fighting the 19 degree wind and whipping snow in order to measure and cut the Tyvek.  We were also fighting each other.  I will freely admit that I don't do so well when I am cold and by this time I had lost all feeling in my fingers, even in their gloves.  There is also something quite harrowing about the idea of my house freezing and I was near tears.  The Tyvek wouldn't stay in place and, by the way, duct tape doesn't stick in sub-freezing temps.  We gave it up, shoved the supplies in the RV and went back to Home Depot. 

Home Depot offered several suggestions which sent us to two other stores, fighting the wind and snow all the while.  On a positive note, I did find a Dyson vacuum on an amazing sale!  I'll be hauling it to Wyoming for my mom!  After visiting the last two stores and comparing advice we went with the path of least resistance:  use the heat tape on a specialized hose covered in insulation, drain any unneeded tanks and pray our heated underbelly does the job!

We got back to the RV at 4 with the temperature dropping and the snow still blowing.  It took twenty minutes to wrap the hose and then we realized we started at the wrong end and had to cut all the tape off and start over.  At this point it was almost humorous that we had to start over on the hose; it seemed about par for the day.  After everything was taped and wrapped, the tanks drained and the end in sight, I managed to walk straight into an overhanging edge of the RV.  I was knocked to my knees, my teeth were rattled and I literally saw stars.  The only thing that saved me from stitches was the goofy fur hat I'd been wearing since 9 am. 

We managed to get to my inlaws by 6 pm, only 11 hours after the day began.  The boys barely blinked when we walked in; they'd been watching cartoons with Grandma all day so they were happy as clams.  Better that than being dragged by their parents to every store in the Flathead Valley that had anything to do with RV parts.  The best part of the day was hot, crispy, gooey lasagna that I didn't have to make.  God Bless mothers in law!  For now the RV is warm and thawed but the temperature is supposed to be sub zero by Tuesday.  Everyone out there say a warm prayer for us.  And if you decide to live in an RV full time, go to Florida.  Or Arizona.  This is not the time of year to visit the Rocky Mountains, no matter how magical they look in the snow! 

By the way, does anyone need four sheets of Tyvek?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Face(book)ing Rejection

I am not a techy girl.  I didn't have email until after the turn of the century and I refused to order online until I moved to a remote island overseas and it became a necessity.  I have sent approximately 15 texts in my life; 12 in the last two weeks.  I can barely find my phone because I think it is a nuisance.  I wrote my dissertation entirely in pencil before I ever sat down to type.  I ignored all Facebook friend requests for years until last December when, kicking and screaming, my friend Kellianna handed me my big girl panties and made me a Facebook account.  I sort of got into it, meaning, I checked it every few days and posted something once or twice a week.  Maybe. 

I'm slowly getting into the turn of the century with this blog and then, a couple of days ago, I tried to access my Facebook account only to find that my account has been cancelled.  No warning.  No polite email with an explanation.  As best as I can figure, Facebook doesn't like pseudonyms.  How do they know Jane Austen wasn't my real name?  I have very legitimate reasons for not using my real name.  This is like the digital equivalent of being flipped the bird.  I'm confident I can withstand the rejection and I'm not going to re-do my account.  To my whopping total of 29 Facebook friends, this is your explanation as to why I no longer exist.  I didn't drop of a mountain cliff or fall into Flathead Lake.  I've just been rejected by the world's largest social networking site.  After I'm done crying perhaps I'll figure out a way to write my blog with a pencil!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

English Riding

Back in (a different) Saddle Again

Today I am saddle sore.  The muscles between my lower back and my knees have that pleasantly sore sensation that tells me I got a good workout yesterday by using muscles that I don't always use.  I grew up on a ranch and had a horse of my own but haven't actually been on one since college.  Everyone I knew was involved in 4-H and we showed our horses at the county fair every year, not to mention riding for regular ranch work and sometimes just for fun. 

My father-in-law, who has been crafting western saddles by hand for nearly 50 years, has recently taken up English riding and he invited me to go along yesterday.  Of course, I knew right away the saddles would be different.  No saddle horn, for one.  Different stirrups and leg position.  How hard can that be? 

It was different enough that I almost felt like I'd never been on a horse!  First let's talk about the horse itself.  Madeline was HUGE!  I've been on American Quarter Horses which lend themselves to being really tall sometimes but they are also sleek and slim.  Madeline had a back end that needed a wide load sign.  When we put the saddle on her it looked as ridiculous as a party hat on an elephant.  Her neck is broad and her face is wide and the muscle definition in her hind quarters is massive.  She's about the equine equivalent of a body builder.  Earl, my father-in-law, told me that Madeline will jump higher than I am brave enough to try!  I was a bit nervous. 

Getting in the saddle was pretty familiar.  It felt pretty good and there is nothing like the smell of a horse to lift your spirits.  Once Earl began to instruct me all familiarity ended.  With English riding the reins are held in two hands and need to be kept tight and all direction is done with applying pressure with your knees.  I grew up with holding reins loosely in the left hand and my horse would move with barely any movement. Getting used to an entirely different reining technique was the hardest part for me!  I'm amazed that I haven't ridden in about 18 years and yet I can't get my brain wrapped around a new reining technique.  After many laps of walking, trotting, and some cantering (loping in the western world) and lots of instruction, Earl asked me if I wanted to jump.  My palms immediately began sweating.  The only thing I ever jumped was an occasional creek or ditch, nothing that was raised off the ground.  Being highly competitive I asked him if he jumped on his first day.  Being highly competitive as well he replied in the affirmative.  So I knew I had to give it a try.

Fortunately, Madeline knows what she's doing.  It was also clear that she knew that I didn't.  I was pretty nervous because Earl fired off another string of instructions specific to jumping.  It's not like you can do a jump in slow motion and practice each step.  Either you apply them all or you fall off.  At a good stiff trot we took all three jumps in the middle of the arena.  My foot came out of the stirrup somewhere between the first and second jump and when the third jump came I really thought I was going over her head.  Madeline isn't all that tall but I certainly wouldn't want to land under her considerable weight.  I squeezed with all the thigh muscles I could find and stayed on.  I'm sure it wasn't pretty but completing the three jumps was an amazing feeling; I can see why Earl got hooked and keeps going back, despite having broken his pelvis this summer and his arm this fall.  I get nervous thinking about jumping again; trying to remember everything is nerve wracking.  However, I have a good teacher and at least he'll know what to do if I get hurt!

Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Big Sky Country

Montana is one of the most beautiful places I have been.  Donald's parents live in the Flathead Valley, not far from Flathead Lake, the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi.  The valley and lake are named for the Flathead Indians who once called this area home.  Being a valley, the Rocky Mountains surround us and from our RV we can see the Big Mountain in Whitefish, a world class ski resort where our boys are itching to try snowboarding.  In the summer those mountains are visible long into the fading twilight, resplendently purple and blue.  In the winter they look just like Christmas should look, evergreen and covered with snow. 

The boys had a blast playing with the inch or so of ground cover when we arrived in Bozeman on Saturday. We left Bozeman on Sunday morning in a light snow. We traveled through several mountain passes and encountered light snow most of the way, nothing hazardous, just pure magic.  If you have never seen snow falling in the Rocky Mountains you are missing something something almost indescribable.  As we were driving along on Sunday the boys and I took turns breaking into the song from White Christmas:  "Snow, snow, snow, snow!"  Donald spent a lot of time rolling his eyes but he is still twitching from having to listen to the State Fair soundtrack at 6 am when we drove across Iowa.  We just ignore him!

Upon arrival we settled the RV and headed over to my in-laws.  Again, there is just something slightly magical about arriving at grandma and grandpa's house near the holiday season when there is snow in the mountains.  We were greeted with the particular Twist family scent of something delicious in the oven and the tang of Grandpa's leather shop.  Mmmmmm.  Home. 

Yesterday saw us moving our household goods for the third time in six months.  We have got to be crazy people!  This time the grandparents helped us and, despite general complaints about working conditions and a really late lunch at Charlie Wong's, we emptied our truck in about three hours.  There were a few casualties to our furniture but mostly just some friction burns on some of the antique pieces.  I can rub them out and refinish them.  The saddest casualty was a broken leg on an antique barley twist legged buffet.  When it is time to settle down and unpack I am confident it can be mended.

We finished the unpacking just in time for some really nasty weather to set in.  We only saw the mountains yesterday for a little bit because heavy, gray clouds covered the valley.  While there is beauty in living in the Valley it is a bit unnerving for those gigantic mountains to completely disappear in clouds.  My mind knows I am surrounded by mountains and covered by clouds and I feel just a tad bit claustrophobic.  Especially so by the extreme quiet that accompanies the clouds.  We went to bed, exhausted and listening to cold rain. 

This morning I write this in the pitch dark, listening to sleet and howling wind.  It is 33 degrees.  The RV is rocking slightly.  This will be our first bit of truly inclement weather in an RV.  I've had my oatmeal and a half pot of tea and I feel snug because I don't have to drive my house anywhere today.  Bring it on!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Graphic Warning: If you don't like Vomit, don't read this Post!

I am blessed to have a family that does not get the stomach flu.  Honestly.  No kidding.  I've never, ever had one.  My husband of 16 1/2 years has not had one in the 18 years I've known him.  In ten years of parenting neither of my boys has had a stomach flu.  The only member of the family to regularly throw up is neurotic Shakespeare and he almost always does it, considerately, near the door.  I know, I know, let the disbelief and the hissing begin. 

My youngest son gets carsick when he reads in a hot car.  That's an easy fix.  No books, lots of A/C.  As a baby he obligatorily drenched me in spit up frequently but grew out of that.  My oldest son?  Beyond mild spitting up he has never thrown up in ten years.  Here is an example of his cast iron stomach.  When we were stationed in Iceland we went on a whale watching tour.  The only two people not puking in agony were him and me and I only held it in out of sheer force of will.  When we got off the extremely smelly boat, #1 had the cheerful nerve to say, "That was fun, can we go again sometime?" 

This lengthy preface is to say that last night #1 threw up.  Okay, about time right?  Picture my life though.  I live in an RV.  We were at the self serve campground that had no laundry facility.  I don't even have extra bedding because of limited space.  And this kid saved ten years of vomit for one night.  It was on the wall, cooked to the radiator (oh, that one was fun to clean), all over the top bunk, dripping down to the bottom bunk and all over the carpet.  Did I mention we don't have a carpet cleaner?

Did I mention my parents and my sister spent the night with us?  Or that my sister was sleeping under #1 and ended up looking like a Jackson Pollock painting?  Or that we apparently ran out of water in our tank and there was no way to shower?  Or that the smell absolutely took over my 316 square feet of living space?  Being unused to such occurrences, I literally stood paralyzed in the middle of the bedroom just wondering where to begin. 

We solved all immediate problems by throwing all the nasty laundry out the door into the sub-freezing weather.  Frozen vomit won't smell as bad, right?  I attacked everything with paper towels and Method's Lavender scented cleaner which worked really well.  Thank goodness the bottom bunk is a leather couch and was the easiest to clean.  Baking soda on the carpet to absorb odor, a damp paper towel to wipe down the kid and my sister, a waterless toothbrush, some Coca Cola syrup that's been around since my last pregnancy and everyone went back to sleep.  Except me.  I was awake for another hour, thinking about my next blog and also about how the Pioneers would deal with the problem.  At least they didn't have to clean cooked vomit off the radiator!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Menfolk in front of the Corn Palace

The Pioneering Spirit

Growing up in Wyoming I was immersed in the history of the great migration of Pioneers to the wild, wild West.  I know all about the hardships of Conestoga wagon trains, traveling 20-30 miles a day in good weather, over miles of empty prairie facing down cold, Canadian winds.  Not to mention illness, predatorial animals, broken wheels and hostile Indians.  What astounds me is that the Pioneers continued on, day after day, month after month.  The women rose every morning before first light and made coffee on a campfire.  They didn't have North Face jackets and good shoes.  Maybe a quilt wrapped around their shoulders.  Yet most of them freely chose to join their husbands and make the life changing journey, knowing they were leaving behind many comforts and, nearly always, their extended families and friends.

Donald and I pondered the Pioneers yesterday at some length.  We left the Quad Cities at six am, showered and fueled by caffeine not made on a campfire.  Three or four hours into our trek across Iowa (a golden-pink sunrise over an Iowa cornfield is a truly spectacular sight) we realized we were making decent time and that our intended destination of Sioux Falls, SD seemed rather weak.  The Pioneering Spirit gripped us with both hands and caused us to brashly say, "let's go all the way to Rapid City!" 

Get out your map.  We were east of Council Bluffs and it was about 10 in the morning.  Rapid City is at the west end of SD, another 8 hours away.  8 hours if you aren't hauling a 40 foot RV.  Have you ever driven across SD in the winter?  While beautiful in its wide open starkness, it gets really, really, really long.  Really.  The Pioneering Spirit began to fade by 4 in the afternoon and we were nowhere near Rapid City.  We did stop in Mitchell to see the World's Only Corn Palace (as listed in the 1,000 Places to See before You Die book).  The Corn Palace has been completely redesigned every year since its birth in 1892 and is made of the native grains and grasses of SD.  Donald's response was, "I'm glad it was free."  William's response was, "THAT was one of the 1,000 places to see before I die?"  I cheerfully told him that he could at least check it off!

After 15 hours we finally arrived, late last night, in the dark and, in the freezing cold.    How did the Pioneers manage the gumption to do that same sort of thing over and over again for months?  We faced no real hardships other than arriving at a KOA that is closed for the winter and is basically self serve right down to the honor system of putting cash in an envelope and slipping through the slot.  Having no lights and being unsure of where to park caused Donald no small panic.  Remember, we are basically the length of a semi-truck.  The first casualty of the Big Adventure was taking out a small picket fence surrounding a propane tank, causing massive scratching to the RV and jacking up the protective fender along the bottom.  We woke up this morning at 4:30 (Mountain Time) to 19 degrees, heavy frost on the ground and a frozen water hose which is now thawing in the shower.  But I don't have to wear a quilt or stoke a fire so I'm feeling pretty good about life in general.  We covered more ground yesterday than the Pioneers covered in 6 months.  We are staying here today and my parents and sister are driving up from WY to see us.  My brother is stationed at the Air Force base here so I get to see my whole family by tonight.  Tomorrow, after being fed, watered and well-rested, we will take up the Pioneering Spirit once more and begin the two day trek to northwest Montana.  I'm sure Donald and I will ponder the Pioneers even further as we cross the Rocky Mountain passes that will take us to his childhood home.  As we ponder I will be pleased to make coffee and tea by electric means, pleased to have heat in my bedroom and pleased to not wear a quilt.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Challenges from the Road

I write this from Rock Island, Illinois, which makes up 1/4 of the Quad Cities situated on the Mississippi River bordering Illinois and Iowa.  Aaaaaahhhh.  Iowa.  Just the thought brings up lovely childhood memories of visiting my mother's extended family and, of course, the Iowa State Fair.  Mmmmmm - corndogs, funnel cakes, and sculptures made of butter.  But I digress.

At the close of our second day on the road we have realized that other than superb vehicular performance, nothing has gone according to plan.  First of all, when you pull 14,000 pounds you just can't make the sort of time a normal car would make.  We left yesterday at 5:30 am and hoped to make Pittsburgh by lunch.  Nope.  We crossed into Ohio about 4:30 in the afternoon with hopes of finding a campground.  Snag number two:  most campgrounds in a northern climate apparently all close after Halloween.  We drove an hour and half south (out of our way!) to Canton in order to find a year round KOA.  After getting completely lost on the way (translation:  huge fight in the car) it was pitch dark and cold and I had grand intentions of making a big supper, only to find that we were completely out of propane.  Supper ended up being microwaved soup and a stiff drink.  Me, not the boys.  Donald trooped out for propane so we could have heat while we slept, God bless him! 

Today began with waking at 4:30 to find frost on the ground.  FROST!!!  I've been living in VA where we don't see frost until February and only a few times then!  It was 25 degrees!  We got on the road at 6 and I spent several hours with my maps and my KOA guidebook in the realization that our travel route would have to be revised.  We intended to go to Minneapolis to visit Don's brother but with the current temperatures and with campgrounds being closed for the winter we opted to go a bit more southerly.  Thus, the Quad Cities.  And it is beautiful weather here!  Warmer than Virginia when we left.  We have the windows open and we went for a long walk with the dogs. 

Speaking of dogs, let's discuss my highly neurotic 4 year old Weimaraner.  Shakespeare will not sit in a car.  12 1/2 hours yesterday and 9 hours today and he stood, quivering from head to toe, the entire time.  I tell him to sit about every 15 minutes because he won't stay put.  When we slow down, to get gas for instance, he begins to really freak out because he thinks he is getting out.  Honestly, I've never seen anything like it.  And this isn't new behavior.  He has been doing long car rides since he was 11 weeks old and we moved with him for the first time.  I'm inclined to think he is just an idiot.  The great thing is that when we do stop for the day he sleeps like a log because he is so exhausted.  And before anyone suggest tranquilizers, we've tried.  They don't work.  Any other ideas out there?  It's going to be a long year for him if we don't come up with something!

Our route tomorrow is straight across Iowa and then up to South Dakota.  Across SD to Rapid City on Friday where my parents are coming to meet us for the night.  Then on Saturday to Bozeman, Montana and Kalispell on Sunday.  Where we get to celebrate by moving our household goods.  Again.  But who knows.  With all the pinch hitting we are doing we could be traveling to MT by way of Texas for all I can predict!  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 8, 2010

"On the Road Again"

Well, almost anyway.  Tomorrow morning we pull chocks (good Navy aviation lingo there!) and say farewell to Virginia.  We've been hard at work tying up all our loose ends.  The biggest loose end was spending 9 hours, just the two of us, loading our household goods into a truck.  Hopefully we will see it all successfully in Montana!  The second biggest loose end was completely emptying the RV in order to get an empty weight and then putting all our stuff away again so we can obtain a full weight.  Ugh!  Since the military pays us according to how much poundage we move it is well worth the effort because it is money in our pocket.  However, we have spent most of this week sore as a couple of old dogs!

Necessity is not only the mother of invention but apparently the decider of our first destination on the the Big Adventure.  The trucking company is insisting we meet them in Montana by the 15th of November.  Because of an appointment this afternoon we can't leave until tomorrow, leaving only six driving days. Even taking the most direct route possible  it is barely enough time to drive 3/4 of the way across the country, so Montana it is!  We'll stay through Thanksgiving and we are all excited to see family.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is on hold for now but we promised the boys we will get there. I'm sure Florida will look very appealing around January or February!

We had the grand realization yesterday that our children just may need winter coats for the first time in two years.  We all manage with light jackets, sweaters or hoodies in southern Virginia but it finally occurred to me that something a bit heavier will be needed in Montana and Wyoming.  Bring on the snow because we are now ready!

We'll post again from the road so keep checking on our progress!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Retirement Photos

Closing Ceremonies

The military does many things to support its servicemembers.  Sometimes we raise our eyebrows in question or frustration but other times we applaud and feel proud.  One thing all the military services do well is ceremony.  It has been my honor and pleasure as a Navy wife to participate in weddings, funerals, commissionings, re-enlistments and retirements and I almost always find them moving.  As an officer, Donald oversaw many of those types of ceremonies as well as burials at sea and other, private affairs that civilians would not be permitted to attend.  Donald did not technically rate a full retirement ceremony since it is a medical retirement but his command determined that the occasion warranted a ceremony anyway.  On Monday the Navy said goodbye to our family in military style. Donald received a retirement certificate signed by the Commander in Chief.  The boys and I also received certificates retiring them as Navy kids and me as a Navy wife.  Donald gave each of us gifts and the chaplain staff gathered round us to pray for us and send us off into a new adventure, each of them assuring us that God's plan for us is not finished and pleading God's blessing upon us as we depart.

Our family had a small, private celebration last Friday evening to mark the end of Donald's career.  Having the Navy mark the occasion with a public event to honor nearly 13 years of service helped to bring Donald's career full circle and provide a measure of closure.  After all, his commissioning service was full of joy and excitement and we had food and cake to celebrate.  It is fitting, therefore, that a retirement service should be sad and yet still full of excitement at whatever comes next.  And, of course, there was food and cake to celebrate!  Many thanks to Chaplain Tate and the Pastoral Staff at NMCP for your support during the last two years.  Thank you, Tremblay, for driving down from DC!  Thank you, US Navy, for providing a career of wonderful duty stations and lifelong friends.  We are a family abundantly blessed by God!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat at the Hospital

Happy Halloween!

When a family lives in an RV full time, as we have done since mid-June, how and where do you trick or treat?  Since there are two young men of my immediate acquaintance who have not yet outgrown trick or treating and since the question is plaguing them, they are plaguing me! We are currently staying at a military RV park on a military base in southern Virginia but have been uncertain of the Halloween protocol in such a situation since most of the RV'ers here haven't had to worry about trick or treating since the 1980's! 

Uncle Sam has saved the holiday.  One of the perks of being retired military is that we still get to participate in all the cool military benefits:  staying at military campgrounds, commissary and exchange privileges, discounts, getting in free at Busch Gardens and a fun, safe atmosphere for trick or treating!  Last night we took the boys to the Naval hospital, from where Donald just retired, to go trick or treating.  They had a great time and so did the 1,000 or so other people who were there.  We actually ran into two families that we knew and were invited for drinks after the candy-satiated melee was over.  All in all a very pleasant evening.  We did a cursory check over the candy to look for razor blades and cocaine but since the event was sanctioned by an admiral we mostly checked just so we could filch some peanut butter cups and hot tamales.

Today, after running some errands, we were entering the base and we were nearly through the guard shack when we were yelled at to STOP!  Generally speaking this is terrifying because these guys are armed with high powered weapons.  Turns out nothing was wrong; the guys in the shack wanted to hand a bag of candy to each of the boys who, in turn, were thinking they struck gold.  I was thinking I need to invest in more toothpaste.  On top of this sugary excess there is a fire truck going around the base delivering 1200 sacks of candy to kids today.  Furthermore, there is a military housing development next door to the base that is hosting trick or treating tonight.  So, yes, costumes will be donned once more and the orange plastic pumpkins will come home bursting with more sugar than two small boys could possibly need.  As a health conscious mom I have to realize this isn't about need.  It's about fun.  How often do two kids get a chance to trick or treat twice during the holiday?   I certainly never did.  And because it is all in a fairly controlled environment the parents don't have to worry overmuch about razor blades and cocaine.  But rest assured, we will do our part to "responsibly check!"

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Now?

Yesterday we were a Navy family.  Today we are a retired Navy family.  Interesting word, retirement.  It conjures up images of old people, golf carts, pinochle, free coffee at McDonalds and RV travel.  We are not old (40, 37, 10 and almost 9), we don't own a golf cart, we have no idea how to play pinochle and while not opposed to free coffee, we still have many full price years left.  RV travel, on the other hand, is something we can blog about. 

Nearly a year ago we unexpectedly found out we would be medically retiring due to severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) caused by a near drowning experience during a Naval training known as the "helo-dunk.".  Since finding out about the retirement we kept asking ourselves and each other "What Now?" over and over.  Being a Navy Chaplain is a highly specialized job, requiring a bachelor's degree and a four year Master of Divinity.  You can't just switch jobs.  The obvious answer to "What Now?" would seem to be "take a civilian pastorate."  Great idea but not an option because of the severe PTSD.  So, we began to think outside the box and came up with the idea of buying an RV and traveling the US for a year with our two boys and our two dogs, a neurotic Weimaraner named Shakespeare and a certified Service Dog named Holly.  In taking a year off to travel as a family we hope to arrive at the answer to "What Now."  Our immediate goals are to live authentically, to love each other, and enjoy each day as it comes.

Where are we headed first, you ask?  The answer is, we don't know yet!  We send our household goods to storage in Montana this week and then we will decide.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is running at the top of the list but please, we invite you to travel vicariously with us and follow where the road takes us!