Saturday, August 12, 2017

Protected, At Peace and Thankful

I have not posted since my sweetheart and I returned from our trip to the Oregon Coast last week. I had plans to share our trip with you and then continue with my 'Grand Trip' series of posts.  That will happen in time, but we have had a major event in our lives that has totally changed everything for us for awhile. If you follow me on Facebook you've already read about what happened.

We returned home from our trip on Friday afternoon - rested but glad to arrive home. I was coming down with a bit of a cold and I felt I needed to rest and drink a lot of fluids so I could try to stave off any further illness.  My sweetheart parked our home-away-from-home next to our driveway where it always sits between trips out and about. Once the trailer was parked and secured I went out and took a few things out - only things that were very important or things needed for the evening or the next morning. I planned to return the next day, Saturday, to bring in the things that don't stay in the trailer all the time - all of our clothing and the food items that were added for our trip to the coast.  I will be forever grateful that I took the time and the energy to retrieve what I did - my camera bag, my laptop, my devotional bag with my Bible and devotional books, my housecoat and a small jewelry bag that I had added for the days away.  I also brought in a darling antique mirror I had purchased at the coast so I could enjoy it. I had a pretty rough night with breathing and coughing and a very sore throat so the next morning I chose to sit in my comfy chair, with my feet up, and watch Hallmark movies through the day while I snoozed, coughed, sniffled and drank gallons of water.  Sometime in the afternoon I told my sweetheart I didn't feel well enough to go to the trailer to remove the clothing and the food items - I would do it Sunday afternoon.  Now, that shouldn't have been a problem - but it became a VERY major problem!  It's a decision that I would redo if I could, but I will never be able to go back.

We went to bed at a normal time that Saturday night. I hoped to be able to sleep so I took two Benedryl in hopes that I would be able to breathe and sleep at the same time.  It seemed to work and we were sound asleep when, just before midnight, my sweetheart heard the doorbell ring. In my deep sleep I had not heard anything!  He quickly stepped into his jeans and went to the door. There was no one there so he stepped out on the porch to see if someone was nearby. He saw no one but what he did see stirred both of us into immediate action.  Our home-away-from-home was on fire! A young man who had been driving by saw the fire, called nine-one-one, rang our bell to wake us and ran to our neighbor's home to wake them. My sweetheart's 'new' pickup was parked very close to the flaming inferno of our trailer so he quickly ran to move it.  By the time he moved it away from danger it had already sustained fire damage. If he had hesitated to move the truck for more than a few minutes longer it would have been a total loss.

When my sweetheart alerted me of the fire and told me to get dressed and get out I quickly dressed with no idea if the house was or would soon be on fire. In my rush I grabbed my shoes and my purse and we got my little dog out.  It seemed surreal as I stood and watched the flames that rose high above the roof of our home.  I ran around the sidewalk and street barefooted as I watched the firemen work on the fire.  Then I realized that I was clutching my shoes! so I finally put them on.  Our neighbors from all around were outside watching the fire, standing with us and supporting us. The young man who saw the fire and acted quickly to make sure we were safe stood with me while my sweetheart spoke with the fire chief.  My sweetheart had assured me that our home was not involved and that brought immense relief in the middle of the tragedy.  The fire crew worked for a long time to be sure that the fire was completely out and that everything in harm's way was safe. We were assured that the fire was not caused by the propane system in the trailer.  The firemen said it acted like an electrical fire and we believe they are right, but there are no answers. Because there was no suspicion of arson, and because we owned it outright with no other 'interested parties' involved, there will be no investigation to find the cause.  We have surmised and suspected and tried to find a reason in our minds for the fire. Still, there are no answers.

Our home-away-from-home was a total loss.  Much of it was destroyed beyond recognition. It is a burned and charred mess of what was once beautiful. Most of the floor of what remains is still stable and we have been able to go inside and open burned or charred cabinets to see if anything could be retrieved. Very little was salvageable. What didn't burn was destroyed or severely damaged by the extreme heat, thick black smoke and the water used to extinguish the fire. We have spent many hours looking and picking through the rubble to see if something remains. I've stood and sobbed as I looked at the disfigured, charred remains.  I've stood in disbelief inside of the blackness of what still stands with the horrible smell that a structure fire leaves behind.  At first it was very hard to face but as days have gone by I've been able to remember the joy we had there. Those memories will always be sweet. And I have peace because I know that God was watching over us and that we will go on from here.

We are working through the insurance process with two insurance companies - one for the pickup and one for the trailer. The people at both companies have been so kind and compassionate.  The pickup is at a local repair shop that has been owned by the same family for many years.  We have been so pleased with the way they have responded to us. The insurance company that is handling the loss of the trailer needs lists of all of the personal and household items that were destroyed.  The lists must include replacement cost for each item listed so there is a lot of research involved. We were asked for any photos we have of the interior and the things we lost.  As we've searched through the rubble we have photographed many things that were destroyed. Some things were totally consumed or burned beyond recognition. Fortunately, it's not hard to remember what was in every cupboard and closet and storage bay.  It's a daunting task but we will soon be finished and will be able to submit the final required paperwork for review and settlement.

Our yard all around the trailer is singed and ugly from the destruction that fire, extreme heat and thick, black smoke brings.  The grass is burned and black.  We're fairly sure we've lost all of the roses in my little rose garden. They are brown and dry and 'crisp'. One small tree will come out. Soon the remains of the trailer will be taken away and we will begin to deal with the damage to the yard.  We had planned to make changes to that part of our yard someday in the future.  The time for that is now and we can visualize that one day it will be a beautiful part of our property once again. Forever changed, but beautiful.

We've been asked if we are afraid to have another RV. Won't we be afraid something like this will happen again?  No, we are not afraid.  God has given us such incredible peace and we are beginning to look to the future and dream again.  Something like this puts everything into perspective. We are SO grateful that we were safe. We treasure what's really important. It's not the stuff!  It's life and each other and those who are dear to our hearts. We have good neighbors and friends who have been there through the last days to go the extra mile to care for us. There will be another home-away-from-home and there are more adventures on the road ahead.  And as the sign that hangs in the entry way of our son and daughter-in-law's home reminded me, there is always, always, always, SOMETHING to be thankful for!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Special Gift

Today is my birthday! My sweetheart gave me a very special gift - a trip to the Oregon Coast for a few days.  He knew this birthday would be hard. It's the first one without my mom so he chose to take me to a place I love - a place that always makes me relax. And make my heart sing.

I'd like to tell you a bit about what my dear, little mother endured to bring me into this world.  She was in her eighth month of pregnancy. I was supposed to arrive in September but apparently God had other plans.  My dear mother had been dealing with bouts of appendicitis on and off for a few months. The doctors told her and my father that they could do surgery but it would mean that my life would end. Since things were not at a critical point my parents chose to wait and give me a chance to live.  I'm sure glad they did!  On the morning of August second my mother had an appendicitis attack that took her to the hospital. There was no waiting!  My parents were assured that, at that point, surgery could proceed and that I would be fine. The doctors said I would stay right where I was for the next month.  Surgery went well - and then labor began.  Then, thirty-two hours after her surgery, I was born!  Healthy and strong. When I tell my story I like to say that the doctors were wrong because they didn't know me. My story is (and I'm sticking to it!) that during the appendectomy I heard voices and wondered what was going on out there so I decided to come find out for myself!

My mom had a great sense of humor.  Over the years it seemed I couldn't get sympathy from her.  After I had a baby she chuckled and said she couldn't sympathize because I hadn't just had an appendectomy.  Then, after I had an appendectomy she told me, 'no sympathy' because I wasn't eight months pregnant!  Honesty, she was very sympathetic and compassionate but she loved to tease.

Over the years I have given my mother roses on my birthday. She always laughed and said I wasn't supposed to do that - I was the one who should get roses.  And I always said, 'these are for you because you worked so hard to bring me into the world and you worked hard to make sure I grew up to a good, strong lady'.  She never refused the roses. In fact, she showed them off with pride to anyone who came by.

I really miss my mom, especially today, but I wouldn't ask her to come back from the joys of Heaven to celebrate with me today.  Instead, I will cherish the memories through the years and continue to be thankful for her every day.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Grand Trip - Reunion and Discovery

Thank you for your sweet comments about the first part of our 'grand' trip.  It's fun to go back and see the photos and relive the miles and miles of travel my sweetheart and I enjoyed early this spring. The next part of our journey was very special. It involved a reunion and discovery of new places beyond.  After the wonderful visit with my dear friend we had a short drive to our next destination the following day. It wasn't long before we stopped at a beautiful RV park near my father's family. We had looked forward to a few days with them on our trip south. This was a reunion that meant a lot to all of us. It had been a few years since I had been able to travel their way.  We had a wonderful time together. I loved being with my father's family again - his sister, brother and his dear wife and my cousins and their children and grandchildren.  It was just what I needed!

My father's youngest sister has always been like a second mom to me. I attended college close to her home and I spent many weekends and holidays there when I wasn't able to come home. She watched over me and took care of me with the same love as she gave her own daughters. I've always told people my aunt and uncle had three daughters - and I was the fourth!  One of the days we were together she took us out to lunch at a favorite place of hers.  I wasn't too sure about eating there when I heard the name of the place!
 The food was incredible and the decor absolutely delightful. They played tunes from my younger years - 'my kind of music'. It was hard to keep from singing along when I was supposed to be eating! And we dined with Elvis. . .
And Marilyn!
These were life-size figures. It was hard to get good photos with the big windows and the bright  California sun shining in. What fun we had that day - good food, a great atmosphere and time with my sweet aunt and cousin.

We planned our schedule to include Easter Sunday with them. What a treat that was!  We attended church with my two aunts and my uncle. It was a special blessing to sit beside these dear people who mean so much to me. And it was a wonderful, uplifting service. Beautiful roses lined the walk from the church to the parking lot. I had to stop and take photos of two of them that touched my heart.  A yellow rose - my favorite.
And a gorgeous apricot-colored rose - my father's favorite.
That afternoon we all gathered for Easter Dinner at the home of one of my cousins and his wife.  This is an annual tradition and I have never been able to be part of it. It meant so much to me to be there with them - it might become an annual event for us!  My dear aunts and uncle, my cousins and their families gathered together to give thanks and share in a wonderful meal. My dear, little mother collected cobalt blue depression glass.  My cousin's wife (at whose home we gathered) began to collect it after she was in my mother's home. My mother had directed me to share some pieces of her collection with my cousin's wife when the day came that my dear mother was gone. I had carefully chosen, packaged and traveled with some very special pieces. There are no words to share the deep meaning of these gifts - for me or for my sweet cousin.  As we entered her home that Easter afternoon my eyes filled with tears because my mother's big blue vase greeted us. It was filled with an assortment of flowers my sweet mama would have loved. And her favorite cobalt blue candle holders graced the center of the very long dining room table. We had a great time together. It was fun to watch my cousins' grandchildren play and hunt for Easter eggs.

It was very hard to say goodbye. There were tears as we hugged and we promised to return again. The next morning we headed south toward places where we had never been before.  One of the nice things about traveling with our home-away-from-home is that we can stop for lunch when and where we chose - as long as there's a safe place to get off the road that is big enough for our vehicles. Rest stops along the way made good places to stop for lunch.  We stopped somewhere in mid-California and ate lunch. Later that day we made a brief stop at another rest stop and it wasn't long before we had neighbors parked beside us.  We couldn't help ourselves - we had to go over and talk to them and ask permission to take photos. This vintage car was parked next to us. . .
And this nineteen-thirty-six Yosemite National Park tour bus was right next to it!
These were both owned by the same family. They had taken them to be part of a family wedding in Northern California and they were on their way home again. We had a great time talking to them.  They were quite interested to hear about Daffodil, my little vintage trailer and they enjoyed seeing pictures of her. Vintage vehicle and trailer folks always have something to talk about!

We traveled quite a ways on the freeway toward Los Angeles.
 It wasn't long before we saw oil wells beside the freeway. That's a sure sign that we are in Southern California.  When I was a little girl we often traveled many hours from Oregon to Southern California to get to my grandma's house. I always knew we were getting close to her house when I started to see oil wells. I felt that again when I saw this first one.
Later we turned off the freeway and headed east.  We followed miles and miles of phone lines and wondered what might be ahead.
We drove on through dry countryside that is so different than where we live, but it has a beauty of its own.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at the RV park where we had reservations to stay for the night. We found a quiet spot under the trees. There was even a cute, little white fence.
The sun dropped behind the hills and canyons behind us as evening settled in. Big clouds moved in from the coast beyond and soon it was dark. We were comfortable and happy to be here. Tomorrow would be a new day and we had more adventures ahead. We were far from home and the memories of the past days were sweet.  Very sweet!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Grand Trip - The Beginning

Early this spring my sweetheart and I embarked on a grand trip - a trip we had long dreamed of. Plans were made and we were off for adventures far from home.  This was my view through the passenger side rear view mirror.  You can see our home-away-from-home coming along behind, especially in the little section at the bottom corner of the mirror.
I shared a bit of our trip here.  We were away from home for seven-and-a-half weeks - that's almost two months!  We met new friends, visited family and dear friends along the way, experienced life in other parts of the Western United States and took millions of photos.  I probably didn't take millions of photos but there are a lot of them. I will do a series of posts to give you an idea of the scope of our travels and the places we enjoyed along the way.

We left home on Sunday afternoon - my sweetheart, my little dog, Joey, and I. Off we went with our home-away-from-home following behind.  Our route was carefully planned and stops along the way had been thoughtfully 'mapped' out on our calendars and our road maps.  Our first destination that evening was on the southern end of Oregon a few hours south of home.  We spent the night in a beautiful state park along the banks of a beautiful river.

Not long after breakfast the next morning we crossed the southern Oregon border into California.  We made the required stop at the California Agricultural Inspection Station to be sure we didn't have certain fruits and vegetables that could spread disease to the vast agricultural crops of California. The inspector asked if we had any citrus fruits. We smiled and said, 'no', but I chuckled as we drove away because a few miles back, just before we came to the inspection station, we had eaten the two oranges we had on-board.  I told my sweetheart it was a good thing we didn't have to report the citrus fruit in our tummies!

We drove for many hours over miles and miles of freeway. We passed by Northern California's Mount Shasta. . .
And crossed over Lake Shasta which is beautiful and full after many long years of drought in California.
Nearing our stop for the next couple of days, we turned off the freeway and drove through farmland on back roads. . .
 On straight roads. . .
And roads that took a turn.
We drove through the countryside and a few small towns until we came to the place where we would spend the next two nights. We are members of Thousand Trails RV Resorts and Lake Minden was one of the locations we wanted to experience.  We checked in and found our spot near the corner of the lane beside the lake.
The big back windows of our home-away-from-home looked out on the lake behind us. It was still and quiet as evening approached.
But the next morning was a totally different scene!  The early morning sun shone on the trees across the lake. Green trees became gold. Pure gold, so it seemed.
We drove from the lake to the nearby home of a very dear friend - a friend I met through our blogs. She had dinner waiting for us when we arrived and lunch again the next day. She and I spent time together - chatting and thrifting and antiquing - and just enjoying being together again.
Our time together went fast - too fast - and soon it was time to say goodbye.  My sweetheart and I had places to go and more dear people to see!  Our travels took us just a short distance where family was waiting for our arrival. Our grand trip had begun just as we had hoped - with precious people who were helping us make precious memories!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Missing But Not Lost

I've been missing from my blog lately, but I wasn't lost! A lot is going on in my life and, at times I wonder if I'm really just going in circles. I still need to organize and edit the millions of photos from our 'big' trip over a month ago. Shortly after we arrived home from that trip we celebrated the graduation of two grandsons - two brothers - one from high school and one from middle school.

Recently we went away for several days of camping and fishing at a beautiful lake high in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. I took a lot of photos but didn't have internet access to share them here. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you've probably seen a few photos from the lake. For some reason my cell phone could usually connect to Instagram and Facebook but not to the internet in general.

My sweetheart and I - and some of our family - are working very hard to get my dear, little mother's home ready to sell. It's hard work and has been a hard decision for me. My father built their home when I was in high school and I love the little cottage and yard.  We thought and prayed much about selling our home and moving into my family home but we sensed that it's best to sell instead of making it ours. I took a lot of photos before I started taking things apart inside my dear, little mother's home so we can always look back and remember the wonderful place where we all spent time with two people who were so dear to us. I plan to share those photos with you soon.
I will be back with blog posts that - so far - are in my head. Posts that need to be put in words. And photos. This is a place where I love to come to 'talk' to you and share what's on my heart. Perhaps I need to get off the merry-go-round of life more often and stop here for awhile!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

God's Gifts

I love books - and I love to read them, I love the way they look on the shelf and I love to hold a book and read what's written inside. My love of books came from my dear, little mother. She was a librarian for a few years before she traveled from California to Seattle, Washington to attend a tiny Bible Institute where she met my father! Her love for books has always been obvious. Even when she went to Heaven her home was still filled with books - gorgeous, old vintage books with exquisite covers, rare vintage books that are falling apart from much use, complete sets of books by her favorite old authors and newer books that inspire and bless the soul. She read to me from the time I was too young to remember and trips to the local library were a regular event as I grew older. I began to collect books - and I still love books! I love to snoop through the book section of thrift stores and I'm always drawn to books at garage sales. Once in a while I find a book that calls to me and I know I need to add it to my list of books to read. That happened recently in the back corner of a Goodwill near Palm Springs, California! I found a book - just one - that had to come home with me. And I'm enjoying every word!

One of my current favorite fiction authors is Debbie Macomber. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, as do I, and her stories are often set in cities I know. It seems to add something special when I can visualize the setting. While Debbie usually writes fiction, she has written a few non-fiction books that are a great read - and very soul-stirring. I picked up one of those books at the Goodwill when we were traveling through California recently. The opening pages spoke deeply to my soul. She shared a parable that made me think. And search my heart. I'd like to share it with you. She wrote:

"There's a story that goes something like this:
"A woman arrived at the gates of Heaven to be met by St. Peter.
"'You may first want to join the others at the throne,' he said to her, 'and then greet those you loved on earth. But when you are ready, I'll take you on a tour of Heaven.'
"When the time came for her tour, she could hardly take it all in. It reminded her a little of her earthly home, but she could see that earth had only been a pale shadow of what she was seeing now. They explored every nook and cranny of Heaven - waterfalls, fields of flowers, exquisite buildings, and streets of gold.
"As the tour drew to an end, she noticed one massive door they had not yet explored. A gold padlock secured it. 'What's in that room?' she asked.
"You don't want to see that room,' St. Peter said, steering her away from it. 'It's only a storeroom.'
"But I do. May I see inside? I want to see every bit of Heaven.'
"St. Peter didn't answer. Instead he took a large key out of his pocket, put it in the lock, and turned it. The tumblers clicked and the padlock opened. He took the lock off and opened the door. The woman had to blink several times to take it all in. Inside the cavernous room were stacks and stacks of gifts, wrapped in all the colors of the rainbow and tied with all the colors of Heaven.
"She clapped her hands with delight. 'Is this where you store presents for everyone in Heaven?'
 "'No. These gifts are not for Heaven, they were meant for earth.'
"What do you mean were?' She walked through the stacks and came to a pile marked with her name.
'Look, these gifts are for me.' She fingered the paper and ribbons. 'May I open them?'
"No. You don't need them now.' St. Peter put a hand on her shoulder, guiding her toward the door.
"'But if I don't need them now, does that mean I needed them on earth?' She couldn't take her eyes off the pile. To think she would never get to enjoy all those beautifully wrapped gifts.
"He nodded his head. 'Yes, you needed them on earth.'
"She looked around the room, realizing that there must have been millions of gifts. Maybe more, since she couldn't see an end to the room. 'Why weren't my gifts sent to me on earth?' As she looked closer, she could read names on all the gifts. 'Not just my gifts, why haven't any of these gifts around the room been sent?'
"St. Peter sighed. 'You don't understand. Every one of them was sent.' Moving his arm in an arc that encompassed the whole room, he said, 'All of these and more. These are the ones that were returned unopened.' He moved her toward the door. 'Many people on earth don't recognize God's gifts and fail to open them.'"

Debbie goes on to say:

"I love gifts - both giving and receiving. When I first heard this story, I wondered if there was any truth to the parable. Had God sent gifts to me that I hadn't opened? When I get to Heaven, I don't want to discover that I failed to recognize the gifts God sent into my life. I don't want to miss a single one.
"Unfortunately, in real life God's presents don't always come gaily gift-wrapped, and they are not always easily recognized. Some even initially come looking like challenges. And often these gifts are people shaped."
(From 'God's Guest List: Welcoming Those Who Influence Our Lives' written by Debbie Macomber)

Perhaps the reason this parable touches me so deeply is because I watched my dear, little mother embrace the gifts - the people - God sent her way. She was good at that. Very good. Her life made a difference in the lives of many people along her journey here on earth. Perhaps it's because she is so newly arrived in Heaven and, looking back, when all is said and done, I want my life to make a difference. The way she did! I don't want to miss the gifts God sends to me.

Monday, May 29, 2017

In Memory

Happy Memorial Day!

With gratitude to those who gave so we can live in freedom.