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

Saturday, October 29, 2011


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?"


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!