"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!