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

Friday, April 29, 2011

My Secret

I have a secret.  I’ve been having a love affair for years.  This is not a casual affair but a serious affair of the heart.  It began as an in innocent infatuation, eventually becoming a mild obsession.  Okay, maybe not so mild.  There is even a book, sadly not written by me, that sums up my love and desire and tells me I am not alone:  My Love Affair With England.

My infatuation began as a little girl learning about pilgrims coming from a faraway land called England where Kings and Queens ruled.  Even with the poverty and the burning at the stake it sounded so much more interesting than American history! I read fairy stories and there was always a Prince and a Princess.  And then one day a beautiful girl named Diana married a not-so-handsome prince named Charles. I had no idea what the rest of the world thought; I knew she chose July 29 because it was my birthday.   I watched the entire wedding with my best friend Tammy and when it was over we spent the next few days building palaces out of shoeboxes and pretending we were princesses.  I was smitten by all things English and knew I would someday visit.

I may very well be more versed in English history than my own, even though I do love American history.  I have a reasonably good handle on the cobwebby lines of succession, which monarchs went mad and which were murdered, and have read extensively regarding the intricacies and eccentricities of the class system.  Nearly all my favourite authors are English; my facebook pseudonym is Jane Austen.  I have a master’s degree from an English university and my spell check is still set for UK spelling which is why I spelled favourite with an ‘o.’  I’ve even learned to translate the language differences between speaking American and speaking English and when I am there I can slip with ease into using words like lift, loo and lorry.

My husband took me to England for the first time in the spring of 1999 and I still remember staring unblinkingly out my plane window in anticipation of my first glimpse of Shakespeare's “sceptered isle.”  I wrote in my journal that morning:  “America may be the home of my birth but England is the home of my soul.”  I hadn’t even landed yet!  I’ve been blessed enough to return to England many times and my love has not diminished.  I love the people, the food, the cathedrals, the cities, the countryside and even the weather. When we lived in Iceland it was sort of like parking an addict within sight of the meth trailer; England was so close and inexpensive to fly to that I went several times a year.  By myself, on family vacations, girl’s getaways – any excuse!

I don’t know if the love affair is genetic or if my children are a product of my obsession but they have requested to watch the wedding with me.  When queried, my #1 listed his reasons as “1. Because it’s England; 2.  It’s the Royals; 3.  I want to pretend to be there and 4.  It’s a fairytale.”  My #2 said, “I don’t want to miss it and there will probably be like 6,475,038 custard tarts that everyone will be eating.”  I tried to explain that custard tarts would likely not be on the menu and he stared at me aghast. He quickly announced He was having custard tarts at His wedding!

All of this explains why, at 1:00 in the morning, I am in a cheap hotel in Spokane, Washington that doesn’t even have an alarm clock, confessing my affair.  I’m in the hotel because we left yesterday afternoon, spur of the moment for Montana to get our household goods so we can move into the new house on Sunday.  I’m awake because, like most of the rest of the world, I can’t wait for the Royal Wedding.  I fell in love when Diana married, I wept when she died and can hardly stand the anticipation of waiting for her beautiful Prince to marry his beautiful Princess in thirty seven minutes.  I have to wake the boys and then post this later as I have no wi-fi in this cheap hotel!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The good news is that the RV went in to the dealer yesterday for the last of its repairs.  Hooray!  It will be practically brand new again and ready to sell.  The bad news is that once again, we are homeless!  We really can't complain because this time we are staying in a pet friendly hotel with a refrigerator, a pool and breakfast; the best part is that our RV insurance pays for it. We don't get the privilege of staying with friends but in the end, a hotel is probably better for maintaining the friendship.  Not to mention they can come borrow our pool as it looks like we'll be here several days!

As for news on the home buying front, there isn't any.  The seller is gathering multiple roofing estimates so we don't quite know what he is thinking yet.  We were meant to be moving into the house May 1 as it is a lease to buy situation but it's nearly certain that won't be happening.  So we Wait.  That awful-but-necessary-for-character-building word again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Moving Forward, In the Same Place

Today has been somewhat confusing but we are still operating on Peace.  We remain peaceful that we are meant to be Salem.  We remain peaceful that God is doing something bigger than ourselves.  Yet, new issues have cropped up with the home buying situation.  A home inspection revealed the house needs a new roof; the current one will not make the five-year mark the mortgage company likes to see.  The seller knew this per his own buying inspection two years ago but is not willing, yet, to pay for a new roof.  He would like to raise the purchase price to pay for the roof; somewhat ridiculous given the state of the economy, the home buying market, the fact that he has already lowered the price and in 7 months, we have made the only offer on the house.  Everything seemed so clear just days ago and now we are uncertain.  Are we hearing God correctly?  It is so easy to second guess ourselves.

Beyond that, any of this could come crashing in at any moment.  The VA could refuse Donald's case for benefits, highly unlikely but always a possibility.  Maybe we won't qualify for a mortgage, even though we are pre-approved.  The seller could refuse to make any of the repairs and the house deal could fall through.  Perhaps the RV won't ever sell and we'll be stuck with a giant, portable guest house with its accompanying payments.

On the other hand, maybe we are listening and hearing correctly.  Maybe this house on the street that means "place of rest" will be a blessing to someone other than us.  Maybe we'll be able to offer rest and peace to other hurting souls.  Maybe God has brought us to Salem because He has a plan so much larger than we can possibly see at the moment.

Right now we have no idea what is ahead.  And that's okay because that's how we've been living life for the last couple of years.  I'm not sure what is in the next five minutes but I am trusting in the One who has a hope for my future, a plan for good and not harm.  Trust along with me and let's see where He takes us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Big News from the Big Adventure

"One of the joys of traveling is visiting new towns and meeting new people."

This quote is attributed, whether factually or not I don't know, to someone with far more travel experience than I.  For the moment I leave his identity a surprise but offer this hint :  he killed more than forty million people during his years of violent military campaign, ahem, travel.  I'm certain anyone who met him did not share his joy.

Genocide, aside, one of the joys of traveling really is visiting new towns.  The new people part is a bit harder for me but as they are often part of the travel package, so be it.  Checking out local customs, seeing the historical sights as well as the everyday places, eating local fare.  I haven't visited a new town yet on the Big Adventure that I didn't find myself considering its "settling down" potential.  One thing I've learned about myself in the last six months is that I may not be as hard to please as my children may think.  I've enjoyed nearly every major city we've visited on the BA and could see myself putting down some roots in several of them.

Roots are another Interesting Topic when visiting new towns and meeting new people.  I've never felt strongly about having roots anywhere; this and my ability to throw things away are just two of the ingredients making me a nearly perfect military wife!  As a child I knew I would go far away to college some day.  In college I couldn't wait for grad school.  In grad school I was excited for that First Real Job.  The military gave me overseas living as well as great stateside places.  I love to get under the skin of a new place for a few years but always look forward to the next stop.    Considering where my roots will go is serious, serious business for someone afflicted with wanderlust.  Looking at a place in terms of "forever" gives me commitment qualms.  Nothing short of a sense of God's direction could give me peace about choosing a town for root development and we have been praying for months about where God would have us.

The longer we stay in Salem the more peaceful we become about staying here.  I amend my earlier blog about Salem meaning a place of rest; it actually means peace but Chemeketa, an Indian word used throughout the city, means place of rest.  The night we heard the meanings of those two words a great sense of well-being came over Donald and me.  We began pondering the possibility that perhaps we were stuck in Salem for a bigger purpose.  My friend Becky gave me some good advice when we asked her if we were crazy to consider settling here with no job prospect.  Her good words were something to this effect:  when you move to a new place it's important to immediately begin thinking of it as Home.  If you don't get Home into your head then you waste a lot of time being concerned about where you are going next.  I wish she had told me this when I was about five because I may have adopted an entirely different approach to What Is Next.

We don't have a job offer, which is why most normal people move to a new area.  Then again, what about our lives could be measured by general standards of "normal?"  We live with PTSD, in an RV with two dogs.  How is that normal?  We are still waiting to hear about Donald's veteran's benefits and thus do not have a clear picture of our finances yet.  But, we have found a church we are quickly beginning to love and, as my brother in law said, what better reason to move somewhere than for a good community?  So we've gone one more not-normal step and begun negotiating on a house.  Never owned one of those before.  Houses mean roots.  What's Really Interesting is that the house is on Chemeketa Street:  a Place of Rest.  After our last few years of much unrest we really like the sound of having roots in a place of rest.  We keep praying for direction and our sense of peace remains.  We appreciate all you who continue to pray for us as well.

The Big Adventure may be nearly over in terms of traveling the country in an RV but we sense the Adventure is really only beginning to unfold.  I'll be reporting as things develop so keep checking back.  By the way, we have a nearly brand new RV for sale, still under warranty, if anyone knows anyone interested!!!

PS:  The alleged speaker of that fine quote is none other than the founder of the Mongol Dynasty, Genghis Khan.

PSS:  Here's a link to view the house:  www.chemeketastreethome.com

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Dog's Life

Holly has made her appearance in a number of photos shot on location but I thought maybe you'd like to take a peek at both dogs over the past few months.
Holly frequently eats like this; she is saving her seat on the couch.

Thomas spends a lot of time in front of this register.  So does Shake!


Naptime again!

This is a neurotic dog in the truck . . .

. . .and this is a normal dog in the truck.

A boy and his dog
Shake, in my bed.  He's been under my covers since he was 7 weeks old.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's NOT in my head!

My eyelids unglued themselves at 4:30 this morning and my first conscious thought was, "It's really cold."  Not cold as in "my-husband-stole-the-blankets" but cold as in "it's-been-raining-in-the-Pacific-Northwest-for-a-week-and-we-must-be-out-of-propane" cold.  The rain kept pattering down even as I rolled over to do  the sensible thing, which was, of course, wake Donald.

We've been through this before but it has been some time.  Our Florida Keys, San Antonio, Tucson, Georgia winter has been so lovely and warm we've barely used the heat the last three months.  We actually had the A/C on several times.  We knew Oregon would be rainy and chilly but had forgotten just how chilly spring could be.  We've already filled both our propane bottles once since our arrival.  This morning's problem was that not one, but both bottles were empty because Someone forgot to refill the last time he switched bottles.

I'm not a lounge in bed type but the only defense against the 50 degree air was to snuggle deeper into the covers.  Donald had Ideas about how to keep warm but I was too busy blaming him to feel romantic.  I snuggled my dog instead.

Being the hunter-gatherer he is off, right now, in search of heat for the family.  I reflect once more my gladness at not being a pioneer.  No propane for them, just frigid mornings gathering sticks while cold air blows up your dress.  I believe I can handle lots of circumstances but being cold just isn't one of them.  Almost nothing can ruin my outlook quicker than the cold.  I remember having a huge fight on top of a mountain with my then-fiance about my freezing limbs and he informed me that it was all in my head.  We had been cross country skiing for hours and the cold was most emphatically not in my head.  It was not a pleasant trip home and I recalled that conversation this morning.  I wanted to ask Donald if the cold in the RV was in my head but better sense prevailed and I went back to sleep instead!

The sun is making a brief appearance, my propane just arrived and it looks like the day will only get better from here!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Salem: Place of Rest

We are still in Salem.  My optimistic post regarding our truck last Friday turned out to be a pipe dream.  We have now replaced all the tires, shocks, brakes, little o-ring thingies in the fuel injector, bearings, and joints.  Plus an oil change.  We've spent more on our truck in the last week than my husband makes in two months.  Now that's a bit of a sticker shock!  The good news is that the truck is running and feeling great.  Anybody have any wood to knock?

Yet we still wait in Salem.  We decided to get some things repaired on the RV that are under warranty and the parts are ordered but not here yet.  Donald is also trying to get his six month check up with the VA hospital in Portland so we can cross that off our short to-do list.  Interesting that we hauled tail so quickly from Tucson up through California only to come to a grinding and expensive halt in Oregon.

Salem is in the lushly verdant Willamette Valley, through which the Willamette River flows, virtually all fruit and vegetables grow and wineries abound.  This is a peaceful and productive valley.  Last night we found out that Salem means place of rest.  We are resting in this place.  We are resting in the company of old and new friends.  We are visiting churches.  We are resting in the confidence that God is at work here in Salem.  Doing what, we are unsure.  And so we rest and, there's that word again, wait.

"The Lord is my shepherd; he makes me want for nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside calm waters.  He restores my soul. . ."

Friday, April 8, 2011

Skate Story

I'm pleased to report the country song is over.  My house, my truck and my dog are all returned to me.  My in-laws successfully arrived yesterday, the birthday is over and as we breakfasted this morning my boys shared a skate park story.  I had meant to blog about it when it occurred but I promise, it's still pretty funny several weeks later.

The day after the big skateboard buying event in Tucson Donald and I walked to the park to check on the boy's progress.  We took a few photos and then my husband decided to show the boys some tricks.  Let's keep in mind that I have known him nearly twenty years and I have never seen him on a skateboard.  Ever.  I'm pretty sure his skating knowledge only spans a couple of junior high years despite his self-proclaimed skill.  Basically he hadn't been on a board in a LONG time.  He took several cursory spins around the park and then tried to flip #2's board.  He flipped it all right.  The flip, surprisingly, worked.  The landing was the problem.  After completing the flip he landed dead center on the board which could have been awe inspiring if it hadn't been accompanied by a loud CRACK!  The board actually broke in half, much to the open-jawed dismay of my two children and their buddy.

The best part of the story is the walk home.  Sort of a walk of shame for Donald; for #2 it was a slumped shoulder and fiercely trying not to cry in front of his friend walk.  As the two boys walked in front of me I heard #2's buddy say, "Dude, doesn't your dad know there's a weight limit on these things?"  It was all I could do to keep my snorts of laughter to myself.

It goes without saying that Donald did not snort with laughter.  Especially as he had to make an emergency trip to the skate store to replace the board!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Our truck checked out fine with the mechanic on Monday.  Yesterday we noticed it was leaking diesel.  This is not fine.  We are officially homeless (can't pick up the RV until we have a truck to haul it), truck-less and dog-less.  We didn't want to inflict Shakespeare on the good hospitality of the Williams' so off he went to a kennel on Monday.   No home, no truck and no dog.  Do we sound like a country song yet?!

I'm really hoping to have all three in place by the time my in-laws arrive this afternoon.  It's generally customary to actually have a home for your guests when you've invited them to visit!  They aren't terribly fussy but I suspect they would like a roof.  Oh, and it's #1's birthday today so I have a cake to make and a supper to prepare, with the help of the local Thai restaurant.  Last year we took his cake to the psych ward so Donald could help celebrate.  However this day turns out, it's bound to be better than last year!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I would love to think that we are such amazingly delightful people that friends and family just cannot help but invite us into their homes when we encounter vehicular difficulty.  However, I'm fairly certain it's something more like the goodness of their hearts and possibly familial responsibility that urges them to say, "Hey, just move in!"  Whichever the case I have developed a new term for the Twist's:  situationally parasitic.

We are still in Salem but without the RV as the dealer needed to keep it several days.  They are going to take care of some minor, warranty covered repairs as well.  Our seminary friends threw open their doors and we set up our refugee shelter in their living room.  They are the fourth family we have "moved in" with since beginning the Big Adventure, although the Lewis' in Virginia win since we were there a month when we were in between selling our motorhome and receiving our fifth wheel.  The only reason they remained our friends is probably because they were gone for three weeks!  We have lived with both parents and now the Williams' in Salem.  See?  Situationally parasitic!  This should serve as a warning to all of you if we head your direction.  If the RV is well you have no worries but if something goes wrong, and we will pray against Murphy's Law, your goodness will take over, you will invite us in and we will become situationally parasitic again.  At least we are aware of our issues and as soon as we live in something that doesn't hitch to our truck you probably won't see us for some time!

Speaking of trucks, ours, thankfully, is fine.  Brakes are not a problem so no more worries there.  In between vehicle servicing we have been busy catching up with friends.  We are loving our time with the Williams family, spiced with great food and excellent conversation.  Oh, and lots of Legos for our boys!  Yesterday we drove to Portland to buy a birthday gift for #1 who will be eleven tomorrow.  While there we managed to find Donald's best friend from high school and we were able to hang out with his family awhile.  My in-laws are driving this way tomorrow for the birthday and then we look forward to everyone traveling to the Oregon coast together to spend time with Donald's aunt and uncle.  After the coast we will probably head back to Salem as we have some ongoing work to be done on the RV.  Remember way back in November when Donald took out a wooden fence at a KOA in South Dakota?  We are finally getting the body work done from that little injury.

And then?  We really don't know yet.  The job offer in Virginia was ruled out for us and together we ruled out the job in Washington state.  Donald just did not feel it was something he wanted to do or that it would use any of his gifts and skills.  At present we have nothing to chase and no real inkling of where God would have us settle down.  The one thing we would love more than anything else seems to be out of the realm of possibility.  Of course, God delights in impossibilities.  And that's Who would have to arrange it because there is no way I can make it happen!

Lastly, concerning impossibilities, it was just a year ago that Donald began his third stay in a mental hospital.  Out of that stay came a return of his faith in God, missing since his initial injury in 2007.  It's slow going but he maintains his faith and hope and he trusts in God's plan for us, since we sure don't have one yet!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My RV in Salem Waits (It's no Psalm this time!)

About 40 minutes after we left Mt. Shasta on Friday my husband turned to me and said, "I have good news and bad news.  Which do you want first?"  This happened to be one of those mornings when all was silent in the truck, everyone reading or doing school work.  As far as I could tell nothing had occurred out of the ordinary.  I replied, "doesn't matter!"  So Donald cheerfully said, "The good news is that we are mobile, on the road and there is nothing stopping us from getting to Salem today."  Which made no sense at all since I had no reason to suspect otherwise.  Then came the bomb.  "The bad news is that when we stopped for gas there was a small incline and the RV bottomed out.  The black plastic drain outlet tube completely shattered."

This doesn't seem like too big a deal; just a drain tube right?  Except that every ounce of liquid from one toilet, three sinks and a shower all has to drain from that one tube.  The boy's have their own toilet with separate tank/drain system so that is all we can use.  No cooking, washing dishes, brushing teeth, washing faces, and certainly no showering because our holding tanks can only hold so much and then have to be drained through that very important outlet.  Luckily Salem has a dealer for our brand of RV, not that we can claim this one under warranty!  But it means another delay in getting to Washington.

We are beginning to wonder if we are meant to get there at all because last night we noticed a significant grinding noise in the truck coming from the vicinity of the brakes.  Since all this is happening at the weekend we have to wait for Monday before we can get any repairs started.

As depressing as all this could be, it is actually one of those "blessing in disguise" things because we have dear friends from seminary whom we have not seen in nearly 10 years living about a mile from the RV park whose bathhouses have become our own.  I had that camp nostalgia again when the boys and I were sprinting through the rain in the dark to brush our teeth the first night!  Instead of seeing our friends for one evening as we pass through town they have opened their home to us most graciously and we are having a wonderful weekend.  They even have boys (plus an adorable daughter) so my kids are over the moon!  To boot, Donald's former pastor's daughter also lives in Salem with her husband and two girls and we've been able to connect with them as well.

We do not know how long we will be in Salem but we do know it's an awesome place to be "stuck" so far!

Friday, April 1, 2011

From Sunburns to Snowballs

Mt. Shasta

When we left Tucson Monday morning #2 was sporting his first significant sunburn resulting from sunblock not applied often enough and too many hours in the middle of the day at the skate park and the D-M picnic last Saturday.  Poor guy even had tiny blisters on his nose.  I take full responsibility and feel terrible about it.  Doesn't seem to phase him at all, especially yesterday afternoon when we arrived at a KOA located at the base of Mt. Shasta to find several feet of snow piled high, some filthy from plows and the rest sparklingly bride-white.  The boys did not care a bit about exposed skin in their shorts and t shirts.  They plunged right in and had an old fashioned snow ball fight (begun, of course, by the Biggest Kid) within five minutes of stopping the truck.  We weren't even checked in yet!

What is this stuff?

A new friend, come to join the fun

Wet to the knees!

Onward to Oregon today!