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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sunday Funny

I believe I was propositioned on Sunday morning.  It was certainly a new and interesting experience.  I rode my bright yellow bike to the local Safeway early in the morning for the paper.  It was a typical Oregon spring morning; riotous loads of flowers every color in the rainbow but with a dismally grey sky threatening to pour down any second.  Not wanting to waste time, I left my helmet on, locked my bike, walked straight to the papers, selected my Oregonian, handed over my two dollars and walked straight back.  As I approached my bike there was a reasonably normal looking man, mid-forties (ish), who tried to strike up conversation outside the recycling center, where unfortunately for me, my bike was locked.  I made zero eye contact as I tried to fasten my paper to my bike rack and unlock my bike quickly.  In the space of about 90 seconds I realized he was not okay as he not only inquired if I was into roller derby or mud wrestling but also asked if I wanted his phone number while informing me he could teach me to downhill ski.

I think you all know by know that Unsolicited Conversation with Unknown Persons makes me nervous.  Further Unsolicited Conversations with someone who may or may not be On Something when I am alone in a deserted parking lot early in the morning made me want to a.  laugh hysterically and b.  see if I could break my previous time for biking home.  I know, I know, Jesus loves this guy and probably would have had some fish and bread with him for breakfast.  If Jesus had been bike riding with me I may have hung out a little longer just to see which way the conversation would turn.  Maybe the guy would have tried to give Jesus a downhill ski demonstration, just like I received.  I'm sure the guy wasn't a real threat and most likely he was just being friendly.  However, I think I'll start having the Sunday paper delivered from now on!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shameless Advertising

I realize I haven't done a blog in more than a week; this may be due to my obsessive worry about my financial future.  We STILL haven't heard from the VA, Donald doesn't have a job (not for lack of trying:  he has put in about 20 applications), our mortgage is on hold and our RV has not sold yet.

So.  I'm going to use the blog as a shameless advertising platform.  Hey, it's my blog and I'll do what I want to!!

If anyone knows anyone who may be At All Interested in buying an RV (tis the camping season, by the way!) please point them our direction.  We have a 2011 Heartland Bighorn 3800BH 5th Wheel.  It's 39 feet,with 5 slides, 2 bathrooms, queen master bedroom, and a bunkhouse that sleeps up to 6.  There are 3 leather couches; the living room couch has a blow up bed inside so the RV sleeps up to 10.  The kitchen has an island and a pretty good size refrigerator.  Massive amounts of basement storage space and one closet in the master bedroom is plumbed for a washer/dryer.

The RV is advertised on RV Trader (www.rvtraderonline.com/listing/2011-HEARTLAND-RV-BIGHORN-3800-BH-98694728 and has 12 accompanying photos.  The price listed was chosen by the dealer with whom we have it consigned and is REALLY negotiable, as is delivery.

Friday, May 20, 2011

When War Comes Home Don't Retreat

I've had multiple queries about last weekend's retreat.  I don't have an easy answer to "how was it?"  It was not the sort of retreat from which one comes home refreshed and relaxed.  If anything, it was downright depressing most of the time.  I spent nearly the entire weekend with that tense feeling in the back of my throat that means I may be on the verge of tears.  As you all know by now, this is a Very Uncomfortable Place for me, even more so in the presence of strangers.  And yet, I cannot call them strangers; while our details may be different, our stories are the same.  Our struggles are the same.  Our questions are the same.  Our broken hearts are the same.  Our tears flow for the same reason.  And through the weekend we all discovered we are no longer alone.

About 140 other women attended the retreat; most of them spouses.  There were also mothers, daughters, sisters and caregivers.  All branches of the military were represented and when I mentioned to a career Marine wife that my father and grandfather had been Marines she quickly corrected me:  "Are Marines!"  The Marines are unquestionably a tough lot; what makes them so tough is that they train tough for tough situations and they fiercely stick together, even long after their tours of duty end.  Their motto, Semper Fidelis, is Latin for Always Faithful.  Like the Marines, we learned this weekend that we are a chosen few, the wives of Wounded Warriors.  We cannot leave each other behind because together we are stronger.  Unlike the Marines, we had no training opportunities for living with PTSD, no pre-deployment exercises or work-ups, no War Games.  For my family, because Donald was injured in a training simulation, PTSD happened rather like a flash flood.  One day we were normal and the next day hell broke loose.  I didn't get to try PTSD on for size to see if I could handle wearing it for awhile.

All of us are in various stages of acceptance; some of the women are very angry at their New Normal, all are sad for what has been lost and many of us, including me, have reached acceptance but need much encouragement to soldier on.  The pain present in the room during our seminars was palpable.  PTSD is a depressing topic to spend much time on; faced with it for an entire weekend was a big downer.  The blessing of the weekend came from sharing stories, sharing tea, sharing our lives with a Battle Buddy, someone who "gets it."  Family can be wonderfully supportive; both my parents and Donald's have been awesome.  Friends have frequently lent an ear, a shoulder, a glass of wine, all to my eternal gratitude.  To spend a weekend with 140 women who walk in my shoes and can affirm that I am not crazy is priceless.  The support continues.  We aren't leaving each other behind. We will be Always Faithful.  Emails and Facebook posts are allowing us to encourage one another daily, sometimes immediately.  We came alone to the retreat, weary, sad, angry, and scared.  We left as a sisterhood, a battalion stronger together than alone, able to return to the front lines once more.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Those Majestic Mountains

Yesterday I flew over the Rocky Mountains on my way to Colorado Springs for the When War Comes Home Don't Retreat.  I've seen those mountains hundreds of times, from the air and on the ground.  I grew up near them and every summer I backpacked in them, I rappelled in them, I didn't shower for a week in them.  I've driven through many of the passes and reached some pretty high peaks.  I felt like I was seeing them for the first time yesterday but not because of their beauty.

As I looked down from my cramped window seat my brain registered "Oh, the Rockies."  My soul registered something else.  I did not see the mountains in all their grandeur, I saw what looked nothing more than a green velvet (or velour!) blanket, stretched over a bed lumpy with feet, shins and knees.  Those mountains did not look intimidating, huge, scary, or insurmountable.  Furthermore, I could see miles of flat farmland on both sides of the mountains.  I've often imagined the pioneers traveling flat mile after mile until they reach the foot of one of the mountains and are faced with the fear of how to get over such a massive obstacle, something they've never encountered and maybe were totally unprepared for.  Suddenly I was able to see my life as God must see it.  He can see the obstacles but to him they are a sort of lumpy bed.  He can see the beginning and the ending of the obstacle, even if it stretches from Mexico to Canada.  He can see what is on both sides of the obstacle.  From the ground my life seems to be an endless mountain chain.  Tiny little me, standing at the foot of a behemoth; I can't even see the top or the sides.  One mountain and valley after another and I can't go around the chain; I have to go through.  The reality is that in the grand scheme from the air, the mountains really aren't that big after all.  There is a beginning and end.  There is flat land on both sides, even if I can't see it.  There is peace in knowing my struggles and obstacles have an end and that the One with the Plan has flat land ahead.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wrapping up the Big Adventure (Or Are We?)

We are officially settled in Salem but not quite home owners, yet.  After a flying trip to Montana and back we are now in possession of all our goods and it was a bit like Christmas to see all the things that have been in storage since last June.  Everything is unpacked and in place which means we are open for house guests.  We are planning a house warming but not until the closing in July.  Consider this your invitation with details TBD!  We are a bit nervous because the VA still has not come through with Donald's settlement.  As we have to prove viable income to get a mortgage Donald has been busy filling out job applications.  He is very educated but also highly specialized and really isn't sure what he wants or what he is capable of doing.  And, of course, it has to include Holly.  Furthermore, there aren't a lot of jobs available so we are praying for divine leading to the perfect spot for him.

The traveling part of the Big Adventure is, indeed, at an end.  But obviously life itself is a Big Adventure and no one's life is more a testimony of that fact than ours.  We arrived in Salem on April Fool's day with intentions of being here two days.  On May 1 we moved into the most charming house in the world with intentions of buying it and putting down roots.  I intend to keep blogging since it is an effective way for me to creatively keep everyone abreast of our continuing developments.

Being an amateur statistician (it really entertains Me, if no one else!) I have been keeping track of Certain Items during our travels.  You may, or may not, be interested to know that between November 9 and May 1:

1.  We travelled nearly 22,000 miles and visited 7 National Parks.

2.  We visited or stayed at 11 military bases.

3.  We stayed in 18 KOA Kampgrounds.

4.  We stayed in 3 hotels.

5.  I made 75 sandwiches on my lap while Donald drove, most of them peanut butter and jelly.  I haven't eaten one in weeks now!

6.  We've changed our oil 6 times and used over 35 tanks of diesel.  You can guess the math on that substantial expense!

7.  I told Shakespeare to sit, during travel, approximately1,000 times.  I obviously need to give that one up.

My summation of the Big Adventure is this:  mile after mile we saw the changing beauty of the natural world in places we were privileged to see for the first time, we were introduced to local colors and flavors, we learned to share a very small space and didn't kill anyone in the sharing, and we located and were blessed to spend time with precious friends across the country with whom we had lost contact.    The first stanza of a favorite Tolkien poem is this:  "All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost, the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost." We spent six months wandering the country but we weren't lost.  We remained confident in who we are and where we were at all times.  Geography does not change that though in a deep trial and time of redefinition, we are still beloved children of God and we are always in His care and keeping. Our spiritual roots are deep, old and unchanged by life's frost.  Our continual prayer was that God would lead us to where He wants us and we are certain it is Salem, for what purpose is still a mystery.  Now that we have a home in Salem, Oregon we are planting physical roots and still feel very much on a Big Adventure, albeit in a house that is always level and does not rock when I exercise!