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



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finally!

The signing was delayed until 2:30.  Then it was pushed to 4 pm and they still weren't ready for us.  However, we are happy to finally announce that, as of 5 pm this evening, we are first time homeowners.  My first car and my first house all in a weeks time - what a grown up I'm becoming!  We went out for supper to celebrate not getting writer's cramp from all the pages we signed but it was actually kind of a downer.  See, the catch is that while while everything is signed, we can't officially take possession until the money clears the bank.  Of course, no one is really sure when that will happen but we are crossing our fingers it will happen by Thursday.

That still leaves me 9 whole days to repaint, tear out carpet, move, unpack, plan a birthday and then get ready for Christmas.  Did I mention that half the family is sick?  Or that Donald is also writing papers and working crazy, holiday hours?  No problem for this retired Navy wife.

Right?

I think all I want for Christmas this year is a replenishing stock of sticky notes and a glass of wine.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My First Car!

Every kid dreams of turning sixteen and getting their own car.  Birthday, driver's license and car.  They go together like peanut butter, jelly and milk.  I did the birthday and got the license; as the old Meatloaf song says, "Two out three ain't bad."  I had to be content with first driving my parent's beige, huge, early 80's, Chrysler New Yorker.  Keep in mind, I got my license in the summer of 1989.  My boyfriend called it the One-Eyed Beast because it had headlights that popped up but only one of them worked, giving the appearance of a wink.  The next year my parents "upgraded" to an even bigger, 70's something, Ford LTD station wagon.  Yes, complete with wood panelling down the side and the extra seats that folded down in the "way back" as my mom termed it.  My friends called that one the Party Wagon because you could pack, well, let's just say A Lot Of People in it.  The exact number will remain a secret because my mother reads this blog!  She's too young for a heart attack!  Love you, Mom!

I went off to college and never bought a car.  Didn't need one.  My school had everything I needed on campus.  Besides, my mother mailed me a care package every single week freshman year.  Her cookies made me a big hit with the football team!  My roommate had a car and I borrowed it if I needed it.

Then I got married.  Donald had a baby blue, two door Subaru which eventually gave out on a deserted highway in Montana on our way home for Christmas break.  We were obliged to wait in a strangers house for five hours while my father in law came to save us.  I was sick as a dog and there were ferrets.  That's about all I remember.  I do know the car sat in the same spot for nearly a decade before someone got rid of it.

Donald and I have had numerous vehicles since then.  The coolest was a tiny Honda Prelude his dad gave us after the Subaru fiasco.  The worst was a short stint with a Dodge Caravan mini van; we swore off mini vans forever after that experience.  With all the cars we've owned, I've never had one that was just mine.  Shoot, I don't even think my name has ever been on a title.

Today, I went for three out of three.  At 38, I now have my very first car.  Her name is Penny (as in "Mini Penny"- come on 007 fans!) and she is a 1983 Austin Mini, which makes her the exact age of my little brother.  6,100 original miles!  She is even a Right Side Drive, a true British import!  I fell in love with Minis on my first trip to England.  Donald photographed me standing next to random Minis all over the country!  The fact that her heater needs some work and her wipers gave out on the 60 mile drive home in a thick blanket of fog does not tarnish my excitement.  The boys are pretty stoked too; they can't wait to be old enough to drive her!  They can drive her but I already let them know that they, too, may be 38 before they get a car of their own!








Saturday, December 3, 2011

Closing Update

I don't mind nit picking when I am the nit picker.  I thrive on nit picky, especially when it involves spotting spelling errors on public signage.  When I am on the receiving end of nit picky, it's not so fun.  Must be what my husband feels like, living with me!

We finally got word of the VA appraisal on late on Thursday.  The appraiser noticed some peeling paint on a couple of windows.  He is requiring that all the paint be scraped, repainted and all paint chips removed.

This  is all that is preventing me from moving out of my RV.  Seems like an easy fix, right?  I'd go do it myself if they would let me.  Except that it has to be a contractor.  And then an order has to be sent to get the appraiser to go back, for another fee, of course, and verify that the work has been done.  Then three or four more days, minimum, for the appraiser to file his report.  Then, maybe, just maybe, the loan processor will produce all the needed closing paperwork.

Have I mentioned how much I love it when my life's details are being handled by invisible, unreachable, anonymous people?  Since we have nothing solid to go on, we don't have a new closing date yet.  Probably just as well, for my mental well-being!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm Overdue!

My eldest was born promptly on his due date, which, due to my proclivities toward punctuality and tidiness, caused no end of merriment among my friends and co-workers.  My youngest, thankfully, arrived a few days early rather than on his predicted date of Christmas Eve.  Better early than late, I always say.  If I ever felt smug over my punctual and early babies, I send abject apologies out into the universe to anyone who has ever been overdue.  All this to say, I don't know what being overdue actually feels like.  But today, I have Pretty Good Idea.

Today is our Closing On the House Day.  Except that we aren't.  We've done all that's required.  The seller has already moved out and has rented a place in Nevada.  This whole process has gone so quickly and smoothly that I'm a bit surprised at this last minute hiccup.  No one really knows what is holding up the process.  The appraisal went to some mystical underwriting department over a week ago but no one knows why it hasn't come back yet.  No one has any idea when it will come back either.  Emails have been sent with no responses.  This falls into the category of Things That Make You Go, Hmmmmm.

So here I sit, in my 250 ft of space.  It's been raining pretty much nonstop for several weeks now.  Every time there is a 45 second break in the weather I herd my children and dogs outside because fresh is good for them.  Having them out of my space is good for me.  I send them outside so often their shoes are probably going to mildew because they never get a chance to dry out!  Today has mostly been dry.  Correspondingly, the boys have mostly been outside!

This must be a little like being overdue.  I'm both excited and grumpy.  I've been patient but now I'm Done.  The long awaited date has arrived and is nearly over with no sign of activity.  Will it be tomorrow?  Will it be Friday?  Next week?  Please, Please not another month.  I've been awake since 3 and I'm definitely tired because I haven't slept well in days.  Yet, like the advent of a newborn, I know I won't sleep after the closing because I'll be too busy painting, tearing out carpet and unpacking.  Oh, let's not forget about the upcoming birthday as well as Christmas.  I plan on sleeping sometime in January.

Keep an eye out for the final announcement.  Just like pregnancy, it has to end sometime.  Right?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why I'm Thankful for Harry Potter

I consider myself an Accidental Homeschooler.  Teaching my children at home, abandoning any hope of personal free time, wearing the mother hat at the same time as the teacher hat.  None of these ever factored into my vision as I contemplated the educational future of my boys.  In fact, I distinctly recall having a fairly heated discussion with a parishioner in small town, conservative Nebraska when #1 was the ripe old age of about six months.  Still fairly new to the church, I guess not everyone had figured me out yet.  So the parishioner, a homeschooling parent, asks me if I intend to homeschool.

My first thought was:  "Good Lord, I'd just like to get him out of diapers!"  However, instead of a smart aleck remark, I sensibly responded, "Oh, gosh No!  I have a teaching degree and I'm a firm believer in public school."

What I thought was a conversation between me and one other person turned out to involve half the room as heads swung in my direction like I'd just announced that I intended to drop my kid out a window.  There was a fair amount of gasping, as I recall.  Well, the conversation was pretty much over from my end as the gaspers tried to convince me I was wrong.  Having an infant is a really good excuse to get out of a lot of things and I'm pretty sure I decided that #1 needed an immediate diaper change.  Or feeding.  Or a kindergarten enrollment form.

Being blessed with stick-to-it-iveness, I happily sent my kids off to kindergarten when the time came.  By the time #1 was in third grade, it was his third school, in two different countries, two different states.  Six weeks into the school year he was miserable because of a bullying situation.  Crying every night, "Please, Mama, don't make me go back tomorrow."  I was enjoying my first year of having both kids out of the house full time.  I had a dissertation to write, half marathons to run and I planned on making full use of all my child free hours.  Meanwhile, #2 was in first grade and he was coming home every night with quite a shocking vocabulary and many in depth questions about sex.  Not to mention getting kicked off the bus because an older boy punched him and he punched him back.  And getting pink slips for jumping in the rain puddle.  And pink slips for not sitting quietly with his hands folded during music.

I was re-reading Dobson's Bringing Up Boys at the time.  It's hugely informative regarding male mental and physical development and firmly establishes, the feminist movement notwithstanding, the differences between boys and girls.  Dobson addresses school in a particularly useful chapter and the basic idea is that school is not designed for boys.  At all.  Dobson also addresses bullying.  He doesn't denigrate public school but simply thinks that if you can educate your kids at home, it's probably best.  As I read the chapter I began thinking, "Well, we are only stationed here for a year.  Maybe I could give it a try.  After all, I do have a degree in this stuff and I'm not using it."

I mulled it over for three weeks until I mentioned it to Donald, whose jaw, very predictably, dropped.  Later that afternoon he agreed it might be worth a try.  With that, we were off.  Three years later we are still attending the School of the Kitchen Table, even though that table is presently in an RV.

Most of the time school goes really well.  The boys get everything done in a few hours and usually by lunch time they are free to play, which, in my opinion, is a huge advantage.  My kids get to still be kids.  They have extracurricular activities but it doesn't all have to be squeezed in between 4 and 7 every night.    They also get to study what interests them.  They don't always want to do their arithmetic but they are both a year ahead of their actual grade so it can't be all bad.  They insisted on learning German so we worked that into the curriculum.  I'm slowly teaching them Latin because I think it has huge value on their grammar skills.  We are doing a pretty in depth anatomy course this year.  Being an English teacher to my soul, I throw in poetry memorization but give them some choice in the poems.  We go through history chronologically, linking events from all over the world in the same time period.  We are up to the mid 1600's and are studying the Plague and the Great Fire of London.  I'll probably show them the Monty Python clip:  "Bring out Yer Dead!"  We also do about an hour and a half a day of required reading.  I decide what is read during this time as it usually pertains to our history.  They spend a lot of time reading on their own too.

Both boys have read their way through the seven book Harry Potter series.  #2 is on his second time through.  #1 did not learn to read easily but when he did, he took off and flew through reading levels like crazy.  His reading level is early college but his love of comic books does not often reflect this.  #2 learned to read easily (I'll never forget his excitement about sounding out B-O-O-K from a Cheerio's box one morning) but has, until Harry Potter, been a reluctant reader because reading requires that you sit still.  Reading through the Harry Potter series has given him the confidence he needs to sit through the required reading that I hand him.  He knows from experience that even if he wouldn't have checked it out from the library, it will probably be interesting and he really does have the ability to sit still long enough to digest it.

Because of the whole sitting still requirement, #2 is also a reluctant writer.  Last week he had to write, Oh Horrors, two informative paragraphs for language arts.  Best handwriting, capital letters, punctuation, no run-ons or fragments, subject/predicate in every sentence.  You'll remember that type of thing.  The text book offered four topic sentences.  He discarded every one with much complaining.  "It's boring, it will take too long, I don't know how to do it."  Blah, Blah, Blah.  Suddenly his eyes perked up.  "Can I write about Harry Potter?"  My first inclination, which I quickly reigned in, was to say, "No, just do what the book says."  It's the curse of being an inveterate rule follower.  Instead of squashing his inspiration (which I do enough as it is) I calmly asked him to walk me through what he wanted to write.  That child beautifully, eloquently, intently wrote two descriptive paragraphs about how to play Quidditch.  It took him a good thirty minutes.  If I had previously told him he would be writing for thirty minutes he would have called Child Protective Services.  Giving him the chance to write about something "interesting" has shown us both that not only is he merely capable of writing, he can do a excellent job.

I'm not always thankful for homeschooling.  Lots of days have me searching the internet to see what schooling options are available.  Moments like the Quidditch essay help me recall why I am thankful for homeschooling.  I don't always, but I can, bend and flex to make school more palatable for the boys.  I am thankful for Harry Potter not only being such a creative and entertaining series for me and my children but because it is has proved such a beneficial vehicle for bringing out the best in a reluctant reader/writer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Chance to Dream

Do you know anyone who has made a dream come true?  Or perhaps someone in the process of making a dream come true?  I'm talking about the kind of soul changing dream that no one but the dreamer could possibly imagine.  It's fairly well established that personally speaking, I'm not much of a dreamer.  I get too wrapped up in the practicalities.  My longest term dream is to have a publisher pay me obscene amounts of money to live in a quiet village in England, not too far from the local pub, and write best sellers.  I won't even start on the practicalities of that scenario.

I know someone who dreams big.  Not only does she dream bigger than anyone I know, she has moved the hearts of many, many people to jump in her dream, actually making it happen.  Let me tell you about my friend Tana and her dream. 

Within five minutes of meeting Tana, back in 2006, I figured out that we are polar opposites but that she is someone I really wanted to be friends with.  Tana is an incredibly artsy, free spirited, fun loving woman who has the most amazing head of long, naturally curly hair.  When the opportunity came for a bunch of us to run a 15K race, her idea of a training plan was a few deep knee bends, a wad of chew and a can of Rock Star about 30 minutes before the starting gun.  She ran the whole dang thing!  She also makes a mean margarita.  Oh, wait, I make the mean margarita and she drinks them, while free spiritedly lounging in my hammock!  But let's get back on track.  A former policewoman, Tana fronts a combination tough cop/surfer girl exterior but she is a quiet giver at heart.  When a good friend of ours was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40, Tana put her jewelry making skills in action and designed necklaces for us all to wear in support.  Tana doesn't just smile, she has these amazing crinkly lines around her eyes that make her sparkle.  

As further evidence of her giving spirit, Tana has three gorgeous children, all adopted from Guatemala before that country so sadly shut down its adoptions.  She has worked with several organizations over the years, previously assisting with international adoptions, translation and now, flying to Guatemala twice a year to take medical and school supplies and teach English.  In the last couple of years Tana's heart has become overwhelmed with all the kids she meets whose own dream is to simply attend school.

Think about that for a minute.  When was the last time you met a kid who just wanted to go to school?  Shoot, my kids are home schooled and all they can talk about is the weekend!  I don't know about you but I have never met a kid who just wanted to go to school.  Even harder to contemplate is a country where school isn't compulsory.  Guatemala provides school only through the sixth grade.  Middle school is often too cost prohibitive because most families can barely afford to eat.  If there is more than one child in the family, forget it.

Being a giver and dreamer is dangerous; things get done.  Tana started a non profit organization a year or so ago called The Chance to Dream which provides exactly that:  a chance for Guatemalan kids to dream of going to school.  However, the ability to make those dreams happen cannot come from Tana alone.  I have no doubt that she would eat PB&J every day if it would help each Guatemalan kid get to school but that's neither wise nor practical (much like her 15K training program).  There I go again!  

Giving Guatemalan kids a chance comes from those of us who have jumped into Tana's dream.  The cost of sending a kid to school in Guatemala is ridiculously low compared to what it costs an American kid.  Recall what you may have spent the last time you outfitted an American kid for a year of school with clothes, supplies and lunch money.  Even though I don't buy back-to-school clothes or provide lunch money, home schooling is still expensive.  The grand total of $210 is all it takes to give a Guatemalan kid The Chance to Dream.  Tana knows nearly everyone of the kids in the program and she did a bang up job this year of personally taking their photos and writing up a bio to send to each sponsor.  This is not a non profit with dozens of staff.  It's mostly Tana, her computer, her telephone and couple of other volunteers.  The overhead is not that great (translation:  Tana doesn't get paid) so all the money goes directly to support the students and the only teacher, Pedro.  Pedro not only teaches full time but also is the sole administrator for the "kind of hammered together" wooden school.  Pedro's administrative duties include trekking through the mountains and fields to locate students who should be in school and to meet with parents.  He also has successfully coordinated the parents and the students with regular meetings so that everyone feels like they are on the same team, sharing the same goal.  Not an easy task when the parents are terribly intimidated by the idea of education.

One of the best stories Tana shared with me last summer is about Sebastian.  Tana's uncle supported Sebastian all through high school, long before The Chance to Dream was a reality.  Sebastian is now a university student and next year he will pay it forward by working for The Chance to Dream as a part time teacher in Pedro's school, thereby utilizing his education while at the same time allowing Pedro to focus more on administratively running the school and trekking the hills.

This is the heart of The Chance To Dream.  Sense Tana's passion:  "If these kids don't get an education it is highly likely they will never get past just making enough money to eat.  Giving them an education gives them the choice to do something other than use a machete or have a baby.  Everyone deserves to be able to pick up a book and enrich their lives.  If you can't read, you can't do that."

My family proudly believes in Tana's dream by supporting two boys, one of whom is graduating middle school this week and moving on to high school.  The other, at age 18, is technically too old for middle school but so desperately wanted to attend.  This shy, 18 year old man is sitting in a classroom with far younger kids because he sees it as a chance to change his stars. There are many other Guatemalan kids wanting an education.  If you need further inspiration, check out The Chance to Dream at the link provided below.  There are many stories on the site as well as opportunities for giving.  Perhaps you can give a kid The Chance to Dream.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Chance-to-Dream/203392046346997

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Today, I have a free Saturday yawning ahead of me.  I haven't had one since the first week of September.  Because of the rain my boss at the orchard told me, and I quote, "stay home and party."  I sensibly went for a run instead.  Lest you think me either truly dedicated or just plain crazy, I managed to squeeze the run in during a mist, rather than a downpour.

Since living in Washington, Saturday mornings have always been my inviolable running time.  Saturdays have always been the one day in the week I can count on for whatever mileage I need.  Working in the orchard has put a crimp in my running schedule but as apples are thinning out on the trees and the rain is coming like clockwork, I sense my working days are shortly numbered, indeed.  Which is great for my brain.

No, I didn't lose the thread of this blog.  Running is as good for my brain as it is for the rest of me.  Probably better, actually.  I don't run because I love to sweat and breathe hard.  There are other, er, more pleasant activities for that.  Ahem.  I don't run because I need to lose 20 pounds.  I don't run because I need to say that I'm a runner.  I run because it is the one thing I can do to really empty my brain, my heart, my soul.  There is a huge freedom in letting my legs go on autopilot as my lungs fill and empty with clean air and my brain is left to take a mental bubble bath.

I can't think of one crisis in my life that wasn't made a little easier by going for a run.  Generally speaking, the bigger the crisis the longer the run.  I'm completely aware that my taking up half marathons has a direct correlation to Donald's PTSD.  I am comfortable in my own skin and with my own silence.  I don't need to come back from a run with all my problems solved; that rarely happens to me.  I just need to come home with my brain unfogged, ready to face the problem that remains.  My family is fully aware and supportive of my need.  One day last summer, during what I've affectionately come to think of as the Summer from Hell, on a particularly awful morning, my husband held me as I sobbed and his only words were, "You need to go running."  With various bodily fluids dripping from the holes in my face, I took his advice.  I came home with all the moisture evaporated.   Several nights ago my youngest came in the bedroom where I was tucked in bed, reading, and said, "Mama, I encourage you to get up early tomorrow and go for a run."  Must have been a worse day than even I thought!

Sometimes when I run I do get flashes of brilliance that I often turn into a blog.  The mental bubble bath becomes more like mental speech bubbles.  Little blips and fragments of semi-schizo conversation.  Take this morning, for instance.  There I was, three miles in, and feeling blissfully relaxed and empty.  Suddenly a little bubble floated up and popped.

"Six months."  Okay, I give up.  Six months what?

Another floaty bubble.  "Your typical six month time frame."

Ahhhh, yes.  My six months.  Now I knew what I was talking about.  (See what I mean by semi-schizo?)  Years ago I noticed a pattern in my life.  I now call it the Six Month Time Frame.  Six months is typically how long it takes me to settle in to a new location and really begin to make it my own.  Six months is about how long it takes me to decide where I want to invest my friendship, where I want to be involved in at church, where I want my kids to hang out, where my runs will take me on a regular basis, where I prefer to shop and when.  Six months is about how long it takes me to assume something like a normal life after the upheaval of another move, which, if you total all the moves in my life they nearly equal my age; at 38 that number seems utterly ridiculous.  This pattern reestablishes itself time and time again, so I feel confident that it's just my own personality design.  I do know plenty of people who jump straight in, eyes shut, and arms open.  A shaker and mover in this area, I am not.

We've been in Salem 7 months.  It's just been since September that I sense we are building what passes for a normal American life.  We moved to Salem with two sets of friends in place and between them they have succeeded in introducing us to people who are becoming not only our small group but also our community.  The house we are buying is located just blocks away from most of them.  Our church is the first thing we established here and the people there have been so welcoming.  There is even one older lady who has "adopted" our boys because she only has granddaughters and she doesn't get to see them very often.  Having jobs has further established our sense of belonging and having a house of our own, one that doesn't rock with the wind, will be the icing on the settling-in cake.

I'm often surprised by where my running will mentally take me.  An innocent speech bubble catalyzed a tremendous sense of calm and well being, a sense of "I belong."  I also find that well being is accompanied simultaneously with gratitude.  Now, armed with those dual pistols, I must figure out what to do with the rest of the day!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Man's Best Friend - HA!!

When a dog is properly loved, fed, walked and allowed to sleep in my bed, why does it repay me by disappearing into the 28 degree fog and then eating and rolling around in the nastiest thing it can find?

Both our dogs disappeared this morning while the person who was supposed to be watching them got sidetracked with getting ready to bike to work.  He shall, of course, remain unnamed.  When he sauntered into the house, casually asking where the dogs were, everyone sprang into action because we know how quickly they can move.  My spring was slower than everyone else because my children had taken both my pairs of suitable dog-finding shoes (the curse of the three of us wearing the same shoe size!) leaving me to clomp through the RV park in my wood soled Swedish clogs.  After fifteen minutes of trying to jog across a frozen field in the clogs I heard the blessed tinkle of a dog tag against a collar.  Shakespeare was happily on the other side of the 6 foot privacy fence.  Realizing that he could escape before I ever made it back inside the park I took the only course of action that instantly sprang to mind.  I scaled the fence in the Swedish clogs and then dropped like a ninja to the other side.

Okay, I did scale the fence.  I did drop to the other side but I was madly trying not to twist an ankle in the process.  I'm sure I looked nothing like a ninja and the jolt through my calcaneus was anything but stealthy.  And there was my dog, happily covered in what I thought was poo but merely turned out to be someone's vomit.

#1 came running toward us, open armed with joy at finding the dog, until I found myself screaming across the park (at 8 am, I might add), "Don't touch him.  He's disgusting!"  Between the two of us, we managed to herd him toward the RV where I did my best to leash him without touching him and haul his repulsive body to the shower.  #2 was thrilled to announce that he found Holly patiently waiting for us on top of the picnic table and that he had put her inside.  Where I discovered that she, too, had cavorted in vomit and had so thoughtfully expressed her joy at being found by rolling through my bed.

Why?  Why?  WHY???

Before 9 o'clock I had both dogs showered, couch scrubbed, floor scrubbed and sheets stripped and in the wash.  Oh, yes, and I squeezed in a shower of my own.  I haven't stopped glaring at the dogs and I keep thinking I can smell vomit somewhere in the RV.  It may just be their breath.  I guess my next task is brushing their teeth.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reflections

Tomorrow marks the one year birthday of the blog.  Which means today is the one year anniversary of Donald's retirement from the Navy, an event that still deeply saddens me.  I'm not sure if that's pathetic or not.  You decide.

I look back over the year and I think, "Whoa - what a ride!"  We galloped, walked and trotted.  We went around in circles and occasionally went off the beaten path.  We got bucked off a few times.  We got back on.  The view was incredible, except for that dodgy campground in Louisiana and parts of west Texas.  The end of the ride did not bring us back to where we got on, as we had originally supposed.  Instead, we've made an extended stop somewhere we never even dreamed.

Here are a few things I've learned in the last 365 days:

1.  The journey will always take longer than you expect.  Make frequent and unscheduled stops and prepare to be surprised.  Don't bother with an itinerary.

2.  Don't have regrets.  If you, or a family member, wants to see/do something, make it happen.  We went to the Florida Keys solely because Donald wanted to.  I was the one who fell in love with salt, ocean breezes and fiery sunsets.   Yes, also sunbathing in February.

3.  When you go to Harry Potter World, pretend to be a kid.  I guarantee you will have as much fun as your children.

4.  If you live in an RV with boys, dogs and a husband with PTSD, there is no such thing as too much time out of doors.

5.  There is a reason for a savings account.  Even if it is nearly gone by the time your husband gets a job, be grateful if was there to serve its purpose.  Then start refilling it immediately.

6.  If you get the chance to travel for an extended length of time with your kids, do not, for one minute, think it is a crazy idea.  Just Go!  Besides, you'll quickly find out you aren't the only family doing it.

7.  To avoid the anguish of hoping and losing, make certain you aren't waiting on a government agency when you decide to buy a house.

8.  No matter how good you are at planning, no matter how much you love planning, it is always better to wait and see what God's plan is first.  Trust me on this.

9.  When raw sewage comes gushing out of a tank and drenches your spouse, it is way worse than you could ever imagine.  Again, trust me.

We set out on the road as a means of healing our broken family.  Are we healed?  Maybe so and maybe no.  A better question is, "was it worth it?"

Yes.

Some people thought we were a little crazy but many folks were envious.  Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, said, "If you want to improve be content to be thought foolish and stupid."

The point?

10.  It doesn't always have to be conventional, rational or fit into a tidy box.  You have to determine what is best for your family.  Others may argue or call you foolish.  Sometimes that may be how you know you are doing the right thing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Big News (Again)

So we've been here before and not that long ago.  Somehow, this time seems different.  Let me back up and explain.

Friday evening I received a call from our realtor letting us know that the owner of the house we really liked was about to receive an offer from another family.  Up till Friday I had not really felt 100% convinced that we were meant to buy a house.  We'd only been looking to check out our options and, let's face it, I'm nosy and it's fun to look at other people's houses!  I explained to the realtor that I could not possibly make a split decision to offer on a house with my husband gone.  Donald and I had already agreed that we would pray about it while he was gone and then make an offer when he returned home, if we were so led.  Not to mention that my Saturday was jam-packed with one thing after another from 8 am-6:30 pm and there was no way to squeeze in a visit with a realtor.  With some sadness (because there aren't a lot of houses in our price range in the area we like) I informed Hope (yes, that's her name) that we wish the owner the best and will just have to keep looking.

When I awakened yesterday morning I felt slightly sad but quite peaceful.  As I walked through the gorgeously quiet orchard I prayed, like Gideon with his fleece, if we were meant to make an offer that Michelle, the owner, would not accept the other family's offer.  When I returned from a very long day the realtor called me and said that Michelle did not accept the first family's offer because she really wanted us to have the house.  Michelle and I had a lengthy conversation earlier in the week and I guess I wasn't the only one to think we had a real connection.  She is a relatively new and quite young widow with kids in high school, has lived in the house for 20 years and would like to live closer to her family in Nevada.  After letting Donald know the recent developments we agreed that I should meet with Hope today to make an offer on the house.

Hope let me know that Michelle was meeting with her realtor to discuss both offers at 5 pm today and I would know something by tomorrow.  At 4 pm this afternoon, standing in line with my milk at Safeway, my cell phone rang and Hope practically shouted that we got the house because Michelle "really, really wants us to have it!"

I don't feel stressed at all.  I haven't been losing sleep.  More prayer has gone into this process than any other time we've made offers on houses.  This will still be our first home purchase so you can see how well the other times went.  Thus far, it seems like God is confirming what we are doing and it feels right. There are still hurdles to cross.  Hurdles like home inspections and financing.  However, the house is completely in our price range, even without selling the RV.  I can't imagine finances being an issue especially since this time we aren't waiting on the VA and Donald is gainfully employed and about to be promoted.  Barring anything structurally wrong with the house, which is a renovated, cute, 1930's bungalow, we should be having one whopper of a Christmas house warming.

You are all invited!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

General News

This may be the longest I have gone without a post, including my five weeks of limited digital communication in Wyoming last Christmas!  Honestly, it feels like I am continuously composing a blog, a letter or a book but actually transferring all my wondrously brilliant thoughts from my brain to my fingertips just doesn't seem to happen.  I could blame it on having a job.  It's only ten hours a week but let's face it, I haven't been employed since the Clinton administration and I'm not used to outside demands on my time.  Better placed blame would be that we finally have a "normal" American schedule.  Husband with a job (more on that later), children in school and extracurricular activities, me working part time.  Gone are those horrible days of last summer when retirement nearly killed the Twist family.  Lest you think I complain, let me just say:  HOORAY!

We've slowly started looking at houses again, speaking of normal Americans.  We saw a few last weekend and quickly ruled out most of them as dumps requiring way too much time and money to bring them out of their 1964 prison.  Shoot, forget gold countertops.  One of the houses needed ceilings and walls!  We've since given our realtor clarity on exactly what we want.  The good news is that it is a buyer's market and mortgages are way low so we can probably get a house for about the same as what we pay to rent the 45 x 15 chunk of concrete the RV sits on.  We found a really good possibility with an incredibly attractive price tag near a pocket of our friends.  And it has walls and ceilings!  As soon as Donald returns home we'll decide if we want to make an offer.

And where is Donald?  Off suffering in an exquisitely lovely,  seaside town called Cannon Beach.  We dropped him on Monday with some pangs of jealousy at his surroundings.  It was my first time to see the Oregon coast and I know why it is so renowned!  Sunshine set the red and gold haze of leaves on fire and the ocean was spectacular.  It was the type of exhilarating October day that makes you happy to be alive.  Donald is there for ten days with the rest of his cohort for his doctoral program as part of his semester requirements.

He called after the first night to tell me about his prime rib supper and the sunset over the ocean.  I told him about my glass of wine with a cheerios chaser.  Truthfully, I'm glad he is there and not just because I get the bed to myself.  This is a excellent opportunity for him to be challenged in his educational pursuit and also to relax a bit.  He has been working a lot of hours at Target.  In fact, Target has not only turned out to be full time but they are also in the process of promoting him.  He has worked there almost a month but apparently he has impressed somebody.  Possibly by the fact that he, with his higher education and experience as a Naval officer, is far outside the general demographic of an hourly Target worker.  The question is, "to what is he being promoted?"  Answer:  No idea!  He underwent a series of interviews at the regional level, passed them all, and has been told he will be promoted but was not given any further information.  It's all very strange but nice to know.

The big news of my profession as Apple Girl was being a semi-celebrity two weekends ago.  A group of 15, twenty-something, Japanese pilots here on an exchange program came to tour the orchard.  I guess they don't have orchards in Japan because they had the time of their lives!  They took photos of me driving the John Deere gator.  They took photos of themselves posing on the John Deere gator.  They may have taken photos of every single apple in the orchard.  The grand finale was me, in my crazy cowboy hat, getting my photo taken with each of them.  Individually.  My face hurt from smiling; it reminded me of wedding photos.  I chuckle when I think of all the Japanese scrapbooks I will appear in and they don't even know my name!

One of the great things about the orchard are the folks who have become my "regulars!"  Yes, they come back every few weeks for a bucket.  Or ten.  Depends on if they are Russian or American.  One American couple came in September right before they went on vacation to Hawaii.  When they came back to the orchard, post vacation, they brought Hawaiian cookies for me and the boys!  How sweet of them to even think of three strangers on vacation!  There are more Russians, Ukrainians and Romanians than any other people groups that visit the orchard.  One young family, with five kids, has come several times and they pick about ten buckets each visit.  Another Russian family with ten kids picked 36 buckets!  Last Saturday I had a conversation with quite an elderly Russian gentleman.  His only words were "no English."  I felt so helpless but we both managed to use our hands and reach an understanding.  I think.  The experience made me bemoan the fact that Americans are so used to having only one language.

There's all my news, for now.  I'll be sure to let you know about any house buying and job promotions !

Friday, October 7, 2011

Teacher for an Hour

I get to be a teacher to my boys every day.  Some days it goes well and some days involve tears.  I won't say whose.  Generally speaking, I don't often feel like a "real" teacher but more like a mom, doing homework with her kids.  Occasionally I get to wax on about the beauty of a well placed prepositional phrase, the intricate construction of a sonnet or make linkages between the invention of the printing press and the steady rise of literacy in the 1400's.  When my boys' eyes glaze over I know it is time to move on.

I have taught other people's fifth, seventh and eleventh graders and there is something so amazing at being given a group of blank slates and watching them respond, discover and grow.  I really love teaching and today I got to be a teacher again, just for an hour.  I led about fifty rain coat clad third graders on a soggy tour of the apple orchard at Beilke Family Farm.

First of all, until yesterday afternoon I had no real concept of growing an apple tree.  I was in a bit of a panic, not at leading the tour but because the only real thing I knew about apples was which variety tastes the best out of hand (Honey Crisp) and which makes the best pie (a mix of 2 or more).  Between my boss, his daughter and youtube videos, I now possess a decent working knowledge of grafting, pruning, thinning, spraying, coddling moths, and pollination.  Actually, I came equipped with pollination information because I used to raise bees in 4-H but that's another story.  I now know that you can't plant an appleseed and get an exact reproduction of the original apple.  All the Johnny Appleseed stuff is sort of hooey because even if he existed, his trees may or not have produced apples worthy of eating.  I now know that the Chinese have been grafting fruit trees onto root stock for 3,000 years and it is essentially a type of cloning necessary to produce an exact apple variety.  Just give me a little information and I'm dangerous!

Like ants at a picnic the kids arrived in a never ending stream from the elementary school next door.  My group had a ratio of 10 kids per adult.  Boy, if the kids had figured out the odds the five adults in my group could have been left to moulder alongside the trampled windfalls.  Good thing grown ups have such a presence of power!  Actually, other than an abundance of exuberance my kids were very sweet and asked a lot of really good questions.  They were mostly well behaved, if not always quiet, as we plodded through the mud in order to look at fifty year old trees and moth traps.  One sweet little girl with sparkly purple hearing aids held my hand and told me she liked having me as a teacher.  If that doesn't just make you melt and want to return to teaching full time I don't know what will!  Then there was a little boy who had a story to go with every single thing I talked about.  His stories were so far fetched that I just nodded my head and smiled at him.  When I talked about coddling moths and the pheromones used to attract them to the traps he told me about the time he had apple juice on his hand and a coddling moth smelled it, landed on his hand and bit him.  When I talked about pollination he told me he used a screen to catch bees and they made honey on it.  One could take the case that he is a pathological liar in the making but I choose to believe he is highly creative and will make a very good blogger some day!

The culmination of the tour was each child picking two apples, one to eat immediately and one to take back to school to make applesauce.  What fun to watch fifty children RACE through the orchard because each wanted the biggest, reddest/greenest, ripest, oldest apple!  The teachers were good natured and quite patient as they let their charges run amuck and then they cheerfully herded them back into line for the trek home.

As the children waved goodbye they were full of thanks for letting them eat apples.  I'm pretty sure I didn't bestow vast amounts of knowledge to their impressionable brains; most had never been to an orchard so picking and eating an apple will stick with them longer than my words.   It doesn't matter.  I loved being with them and in two weeks I get a whole new group!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

10,000 +

It has been a week or so since my last post because I really haven't been inspired to write much.  We are settling into a normal (as normal as life in an RV can be) routine with school, piano, sports and job schedules.  Donald now has regular working hours and seems to be doing well with juggling work and school.  The boys and I keep a fairly strict school schedule which I find works well for us.  Other homeschool families are a lot more relaxed but for us,  there is less gnashing of teeth if the work gets done straightaway rather than interrupting sacred playtime hours.

Fall is my favorite time of year which only adds to my pleasure of working in the apple orchard.  I love that I have something to force me outside, even on days when the weather is less than perfect and I would otherwise be inclined to stay in with a good book.  Living in an RV, because there is no yard work or home maintenance, allows you to stay in more than is probably good.  I kick the boys outside regularly but then find myself using those moments to tidy up or to relax for a few minutes.  Since I'm not training for any lengthy races my runs are not terribly long these days; all reasons to be thankful for an outdoor job this time of year.  Breathing in the crisp and fresh air is nearly intoxicating.

My latest intoxicant was logging on this morning and discovering that my blog has now received more than 10,000 hits since launching it last Halloween.  Obviously this is not a blog that has gone viral.  It's not taking the world by storm.  I'm still waiting for that call from the Today Show.  Or a famous agent.  Either would be great!  Still, it's heady stuff to know that someone out there thinks what I have to say is worth reading.  Headier still is looking at my audience map and realizing that people from every continent in the world have contributed to my 10,000+ hits.  Complete strangers.  I'm used to my mom reading the blog.  And my A.J.  My friend Emily scolds me if I go too long between posts.  But strangers?  In Moldova?  I possess no knowledge of the internet's fine points so I chalk it up to serendipity that someone could actually find me.  Or even be interested.  Especially if there is a language barrier requiring translation.  I shake my head in amazement.

I also say thank you, whether you are a reader from the beginning of my crazy story or whether you've just logged on for the first time.  No matter the audience's size, a writer is gratified to have a reader, whether it is her mother or someone in Egypt.  Even more gratifying would be to find out that one of those strangers has a book deal . . .

And Mom, if 9,500 of the blog hits are yours, let me remain in ignorance!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Poo!

When tea isn't enough and the longing to be on the other side of the Atlantic gets too strong I haunt the Anglotopia website to get my fix of English news blurbs, interesting articles and British Airways advertisements.  Oddly, it increases rather than assuages my longings.  My need to be in England drove to me to the website last week where I discovered that they sometimes take articles from other bloggers.

Well, hmmm.  I'm a blogger.  I have all sorts of things to say about England.  No brainer!  I wrote to the Head Guy and he welcomed a few of my ideas with the caveat that they don't pay anything.  Who cares?  No one pays me to write for you, loyal reader.  It's a huge website with all sorts of advertising.  The pay off is that if my posts are popular then I could be asked to submit things regularly.  I would be able to claim an official byline!!!  My blog would be advertised on their site and vice versa.  I love to write and how cool is it to get a bigger readership?  All the better for me to get hired somewhere!

Yesterday I spent a joyous hour or two sketching out all my ideas for Anglotopia.  A full page of notes.  I began writing my first article with my trusty paper and pencil.  Today I took my notes outside to work, hoping, perhaps, to be inspired by a beautiful fall day.  I set my notes in my chair and then got sidetracked with a small task.  When I turned around to pick up my work I noticed, with great dismay that a bird had pooped blackberry seeds all over my notes!

Everybody is a critic.

I hope it is not a sign of what the Head Guy at Anglotopia will think.  I've already carefully recopied what I could read of my soggy, purple page.  From now on I think I will admire nature, at least while writing, from the safety of my kitchen table!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pre-Pubescent Pangs

It's an intriguing privilege to watch someone grow up, right before your eyes.  I'm not talking about physical growth; often my boys are running around with jeans several inches too short before I've realized they are taller.  Since last night I've had something of a goofy, half smile when I look at my eldest son.   He is at the beginning of that generally awful stage, puberty.

Last night he came in the house after dark, with his hands rammed deeply into the pockets of his camouflage pants, quite a serious look on his face.

"Mama, you know the girl with the glasses?  Well, I told her that I liked her.  Not loved but liked.  We had a really intense debate.  She said she like me too.  Then she said she needed a moment and she flung herself on the ground.  Why would she do that?"

Amid trying to stifle my giggles he said, "Her friends all giggled like that too!  Why do girls do that?"

Once I composed myself I asked #1 if he even knew this girl's name.  "Uh, Sheila, I think?"  Again, I failed at stifling my giggles but at least had the good grace to cover my mouth with my hand.  He just stared me down, waiting for me to explain womankind.  Keep waiting, buddy, it's a secret we've been keeping since Eve first batted her eyes at Adam!

I loved this conversation for several reasons.  First, #1 has never really acknowledged the existence of the gentle sex.  Girls, previously, have just been another form of creation.  Nothing more, nothing less.  In the last couple of months I've seen a slow shift, first into awareness of their presence and lately, classification into pretty or not.  The shift seems to have coincided with a great deal of hair on his legs and the occasional pimple.  Hmmmmm.  Coincidence?  I think not, my good Watson.

The second reason I loved this conversation is that despite 90% of the rest of his obnoxious behaviour it shows me that not only is he physically changing but that he is maturing emotionally.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  He is learning that girls are different and he is questioning the best way to handle them.  I stress the world "gentleman" all the time.  As long as he's a gentleman, he can't fail.

Another reason the chat was so significant is that even though he made a huge entrance into a more grownup world, he still needs me.  He stood in front of me, on the cusp of adolescence, yet very much needing guidance, understanding, and reassurance.  I did manage to control myself and ask several leading questions that helped him understand that even though he may like at girl at age 11.5, nothing really changes.  He still treats her the same because it's not like he's going to pick her up in his car and go to the movies.

I won't tease him because he is such a serious man/child.  He came to me wanting to know if he had done the right thing and if there was anything else to be done.  I gave him kudos for the courage and confidence to be forthright.  I'm not sure I ever had a boy actually say, "I like you."  Usually it was a friend of a friend saying, "so and so likes you."  Or a handwritten note with a "check yes or no."  He is concerned about what she will do today which required reminding him that he is only responsible for his own actions/reactions, not hers.  I did tell him it might be good to actually find out her name!

Right now he is outside playing with her (and her 7 siblings).  They are playing tag, the old stand by game if you want to chase someone in a benign way!  Am I concerned he is too young?

Not at all.

Partly because I know she is leaving soon and partly because I know he will continue to practice the male/female falling-in-and-out-of-like game for many years.  Hopefully he will keep asking questions and we can guide him appropriately.  We've already talked about physical limitations and cautioned about not being free with his kisses.  Or anything else.  Of course, he was aghast at the idea of Actually Kissing A Girl but I expect that will change soon.

Just like everything else!

Monday, September 12, 2011

For My Boys, Who Don't Remember



"Mama, tell me again about September 11th," whispered #1 during a moment of commemorative silence at church yesterday.  Conflicted by disturbing memories and sadness, all I could whisper back was, "Remember, it was when terrorists flew planes into the twin towers in NY and thousands of people were killed."

Such a simplistic answer to an overwhelmingly un-simplistic event.  Born in NY, he was only one on the sparkling blue autumn morning when his world changed.  He will never know anything other than long security lines at airports, exorbitant taxes on plane fares, meeting people who are terrified of flying and even more terrified of Muslims.  I was seven months pregnant with #2 and he definitely won't know anything other than a country at war for all but his first year of life.  

How do you describe the horror of that day to children just barely old enough to understand?  I can tell them that I was vacuuming and watching the Today Show when Matt and Katie announced a plane crash into the North Tower. I can tell them I was glued to the tv, like the rest of the nation, when the South Tower was hit.  I can tell them that their father was several states away at a conference and since we were planning a two hour drive to my grandparents to celebrate their anniversary I packed in a hurry and got 30 minutes down the road when the transmission went out of our decrepit mini van.  I can tell them that the sky was eerily silent, so unusual for living near an Air Force base, while I waited for a tow truck.  

I can't tell them, not yet, of watching, tearfully and mouth agape, as people plummeted to their deaths rather than be burned alive in the towers.  I can't describe to them what it was like to stand under the Twin Towers and gaze at their dizzying heights, as we did one Christmas when we lived in New York.  I also can't describe the fear gripping my heart as I sent dozens of emails to friends working in the City on 9/11, praying they would all be okay.  One friend had a job interview in the South Tower that morning but it had been cancelled at the last minute.  How do you describe the uncomfortable brew of joy in knowing your friends are safe and the grief for those who still weep?  How do you describe the impromptu prayer meetings where strangers held hands or the lines of people waiting patiently for hours to donate blood, donate food, donate time? How can I ever explain America's naive belief that we thought we were safe from that which had only been seen on television, in other countries?  How can I tell them, without passing on concerns, that while I'm not afraid to fly, I never get on a plane anymore without  remembering 9/11.

My sons will always remember because we will talk about it.  We will look at their baby books and read the newspaper articles.  They will see the smoke, the anguished looks, the rubble.  They will remember because they will see the Flag at Ground Zero.  We will visit memorials, as we did yesterday evening.  Salem created a Field of Flags in its Riverfront Park.  It was a stunning numeric visual to see nearly 3,000 flags, one flag for one life.  Somber yet beautiful, it was, once again, a sparkling blue autumn day and, as our nation has moved forward since 9/11, seeking joy and healing, our military family was honored with free rides on the park carousel. 



The Bridge over the Willamette




The flags were created from the names of those who died on 9/11.










Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Country Girl at Heart



Donald and I recently picked blackberries while the shadows lengthened on a particularly warm day.  As we approached the canes, the purple smell of sun-warmed berries hung heavily on cooling air, every bite a gentle ooze of summer sweetness.  Plink, plinks and then, soft thud, thuds as the ripe fruit fills our blackberry bucket.  Since most things serve double duty in an RV, its alternate life is my pasta pot.

I have picked so many berries in the last week that I fear my cuticles may permanently stay a sickly blue-gray.  Himalayan blackberries grow wild everywhere here and most folk work diligently to keep the invasive vines out of their yards.  I, on the other hand, see them as a free and delicious food source.  We've made several cobblers (enjoyed piping hot with cream for breakfast or stone cold with cream for lunch - it doesn't last long enough to become dessert!), muffins, pancakes and last night, I made jam.

Picking fruit, baking and homemade jam make me happy.  It's what you do when you grow up in the country; it's as annual as Christmas and nearly as important.  Whenever I hear the distinctively tinny "Pop" of a jar sealing itself I hear my Mom's canning motto:  "There's the most satisfying sound in the world!"   Because this simplicity warms my country girl heart it will come as no surprise to you that I am now employed, part time and just for the harvest, at a local apple orchard.

The job sort of fell into my lap through my friend Becky, who has worked at Beilke Family Farms for the last four harvests.  When the Beilke's asked her if she knew anyone crazy enough to want a temporary, part time job, she immediately thought of her friend Denise, who immediately said yes!  92 year old Grandpa Beilke keeps the farm immaculate, driving his Gator everywhere, but not always in a straight line, due to failing eyes, and crooking his finger at me for help with a job.  The orchard is already pungent with the pong of fallen apples and will be resplendent when the colours begin to change.  And I get to roam freely, happily munching Honey Crisps and Pink Ladies while helping the Russians stock up for winter.  I'm a lucky girl to work outside in such a place of beauty where I get paid to walk and eat apples!  I'll feel even luckier when I make applesauce!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mating bees and Swinging through Trees

The crucial cord for loading photos on the computer went missing the three months we were in the house.  It's a good thing we moved back into the RV because we found the cord in the moving process.  What follows is a photo montage representing our first summer in Salem, including two campouts last month.  A personal family note:  this summer is the first time our boys have done sparklers.  We lived in Iceland for four summers and because of the 24 hours of daylight there were no fireworks.  After moving back we spent the 4th in different ways but never got around to doing the sparkler thing until the boys asked this year, "What are sparklers?"  I was immediately appalled at my inattentive parenting (after all, they are 11 and 9) and I purchased sparklers, snakes and smoke bombs straightaway.

Rub a dub dub, four guys in a tub!
Donald and I, just hanging out.
Look Mom, I'm upside down!

It really is me.  I had as much fun as the boys!


Hanging out with #1.




#2 and I hanging out.

Flowers from the house.





#1.  The headband is made of Lamb's Ears and he is being Legolas from Lord of the Rings.

Three men and some fireworks.

We got tired of lighting snakes individually so we lit the whole box!

What's more American than cowboys on the 4th of July?

Seriously, it's a menage a trois of bumblebees.  We researched it and yes, they are mating.  Not sure how.  The boys and I watched them for about 15 minutes and took a dozen photos.  Craziest thing!

Their favorite spot in the house.

#1, miming at the neighborhood campout talent show.

3 Ex-Cheerleaders, dusting off ancient skills for the Talent Show.







Pool duty is tough.
The Pool at the RV park.






Hiking Silver Falls at the annual St. Timothy's Parrish Campout.
Climbing up a chimney hole.
Almost there . . .



Made it!
This little guy took up residency on the chapel ceiling.




Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Timing is everything in the success of a rain dance."

I don't believe this is original to my father-in-law but he quotes it often and I'm always amused by its truth.  I was reminded, again, of this quote last week when, after looking over our rather tight-but-doable-without-any-fun budget, Donald left the RV to go for a walk.

Remember me blogging about the Target security job that was all but promised to him?  Six weeks ago?  Target called while he was out walking and asked him for a second interview.  He interviewed on Friday morning and starts training for his part time security job tomorrow.  Six weeks without a word and then they hired him, just like that!

Timing.

If Donald had been hired back in July when he was feverishly looking for a job to keep the house he would never have considered school.  Even if he had called George Fox he would have been told the program was full.

Timing.

Once we figured out that graduate school, and not a house or full time work, is the Next Thing we were filled with such peace, knowing we were on the right track.  Having the semi-depressing budget discussion was a bummer but it was calm and accompanied by a sense that all manner of things would be well.  And they will.

Because timing is everything in the success of a rain dance!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Observations and Snapshots

Most people enjoy watching other people.  Not in a lecherous or voyeuristic manner but just observationally.   Have you ever sat on a mall or park bench and just watched people?  Sure, we can cast petty judgment on bare midriffs, blue hair and multiple piercings but I'm talking about watching, with great curiosity, behaviors and mannerisms.  We've all seen TV shows and movies where urban dwellers use their stoops as a window to the world.  I was contemplating the vagaries of human nature this morning, oops, I mean watching a couple have an argument from my window when I realized again how unique it is to live in the microcosm that is RV life.  This post is my sharing with you the view from my "stoop."

Yesterday we switched RV spots because our dogs hate cats.  There is a cat that lives behind our previous spot and every evening its owner lets it out to wander freely, very much against park rules.  Thinking it an accidental escapee, we returned the cat several times early on.  Then we actually saw the owner let it out on purpose.  Keep in mind my neurotic, prey-driven, hunting dog absolutely goes BANANAS when he sees a cat.  And this cat clearly is not afraid of barking, frothing, hysterical dogs as it perches itself on my picnic table night after night, all the while calmly watching my dog work himself into a coronary.  Several nights ago Shakespeare nearly went through our screen, which now needs replacing.  We needed to pay for another month yesterday so Donald explained our situation to the management and they agreed to let us move.  My point is this:  the owner can hear our dogs freaking out because she has talked to us about it; she's aware of the situation but why is she unwilling to obey the rules?  I'm dead certain I would get a million complaints if I let my dogs wander around the park, sitting on picnic tables and taunting other animals.  I'm curious about what makes her tick.  She clearly likes rules because we watched her use sidewalk chalk to write 5 MPH in huge letters on the road in front of her RV.  Maybe she just likes to pick and choose which rules to follow.  By the way, she also, along with several other long term residents, waters her own chunk of grass even though there is an in-ground sprinkler system.  Why do they do this?

There is an Italian American stay-at-home dad who literally walks his two year old son every afternoon.  Seriously.  On a leash/harness system.  While I can see the benefit of a harness at a crowded carnival, zoo, or shopping mall I have to wonder if it is really necessary in a quiet RV park.  You should see Shakespeare and Holly watch this bi-ped on a leash.  They really look confused, as if they know that something is familiar but yet Not Quite Right.  Again, I'm curious.  I've met him and he seems like a fairly sweet, quiet boy.  Is he secretly a demon child, prone to climbing every RV ladder in sight?  Is he just a Terrible Two?

In my last post I mentioned Bob, the helicopter pilot who saved us from serious expense with our pickup.  He didn't have to help us; he could have thought to himself, "If they don't know when their engine sounds bad then it's their own dang fault when it implodes!"  It was a true kindness on his part and we are grateful.  When we brought the new/used truck home we had several hours of men wandering over to check it out and give their approval.  Guys we had not met yet wanted to see "the new rig."  This is a small piece of common ground that brings a trailerhood together.

Another RV snapshot is the mid-fifties couple who go for a walk every evening just before sunset.  She pushes him in his wheelchair.  Really, it is very touching.  Why is he in a wheelchair?  Not knowing the answer we assumed it was a long term situation and then, two nights ago, we saw him slowly perambulating on his own.  It took us a second to recognize him without the chair.  Fighting the lump in my throat, I stepped outside to watch a little longer, making sure he was okay.

I love to watch the young, single guy who lives in front of us and down a few spaces and I don't mean that statement the way it sounds.  He owns an older Jaguar that he keeps under cover on all but the nicest days but never drives it.  Why?  What amuses me most is how he does his laundry.  He piles his basket on the front of a skate board and skates it to the laundry room.  How ingenious is that?  I've considered asking Thomas to give it a try but really prefer to not have my unmentionables scattered to the four winds.

Then there is the couple who have a beautiful motorhome with a 10 inch hole drilled in the side so their cat can slide down a plastic tube into an elaborate, multi-storied, outdoor cage.  I truly appreciate them caging their cat but also think they must have no interest in ever selling their RV because who would buy it with a 10 inch hole?  It tells me, without ever having spoken to them, that they are big time cat lovers who spare no expense in their cat's happiness.  I may not agree with the extent of their devotion but I can admire their commitment all the same.

There is another older couple who go to the pool nearly every evening.  I watch them out my kitchen window as I prepare supper.  She is a tiny, glamourous looking older woman who saunters to the pool looking as if she is going to an elegant, poolside cocktail party, complete with Jackie O sunglasses.  He carries his and hers swimming noodles.  Does she get in the water looking like that?  Does she fix herself up like that every morning?  I only hope I look that good when I'm her age.

I watched a family in another section of the park while I was walking Shakespeare one night.  What looked like half a dozen (but was probably only 3-4) very small children swarmed out of a mini van toward a beat up, ancient and rather small motorhome.  A weary looking young mother, who reminded me of the old woman in the shoe, hoisted a baby higher on her hip as a Great Dane named Daisy bounded from the car up to the door of the RV.  How on earth do they all fit in an RV, especially one that has no slides?  Watching them made me exceedingly grateful for our five slide, 40 foot RV in which my children have their own bedroom/bathroom.  I wonder what their story is.

I'll cap off the observations and snapshots by an anecdote about a man who works here in the park.  Apparently he used to live here in an RV but moved into a house some time ago.  He works part time but even when he isn't working he still spends time here.  I've seen him frequently at the pool with a handful of grandkids.  Donald has had several lengthy conversations with him and sums it up like this:  the man has found community here and wherever folk find community they are loath to lose it because as humans, we go where we find a niche.

This is, for now, our fascinating community.  What I really wonder is, do they wonder about me?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"We none of us want to be in calm waters all our lives."  Penned by that ingenious author of brilliant dialogue, Jane Austen.

Even if I did want to be in calm waters all my life, it just isn't going to happen.  Since my previous wine and roses post we have had to get a new truck.  One of our neighbors was a helicopter pilot in the National Guard for 36 years.  Those guys get paid the big bucks to listen for things that "don't sound right."  Which were his exact words to Donald last week with regard to the start up sound of our diesel truck.  Donald and I pretty much stared blankly at each other because we sure couldn't hear anything.  Since it is our only vehicle and must pull our house when required, Donald decided to take it to a professional.  The professional said some gibberish about two of eight valves completely not working as well as head gaskets being blown.  His prescription was a princely sum of $5,000.  After swallowing hard, several times, we realized there is no way we have that kind of money.  Remember, we just spent $4,000 fixing the same truck in April.  Since we had already discussed trading in for a truck with a better engine we decided the time was right.

As in, right now.

Donald spent 12 hours last Thursday truck hunting, finally returning home, exhausted, with his kill at nearly 10 pm.  He found a dealer willing to give us half what the old truck ought to have been worth and in trade, we bought a 2002 Dodge 3500 dually with a Cummins engine.  It's exactly what my step dad recommends and he knows, being a rancher who hauls stuff as well as an amazing mechanic.  It's not terribly pretty and the back seat is not really large enough for my long-legged and still growing boys.  Not to mention packing in two dogs.  However, the engine and transmission are better, it has less miles than our old truck and the tires are brand new.  Major plusses, all.

This week we get a loaner car from the dealer because they are installing our fifth wheel hitch and trailer braking system.  I forgot how small cars are after riding around in a Ford King Ranch F250 for the last year!  It's a sporty, cute, little Kia something or other and I feel minuscule in it!  My country girl self can't wait to get back into her big, noisy diesel.  It certainly isn't a "green" vehicle but I love it!