Empty Nesters Fly the Coop

May 30 – Sunday

My husband and I, along with Rocky the beagle, are packing up in our camper and headed west tomorrow morning. This is what Bryan pictures our retirement will look like — traveling the country. I’m not as sure. I am more of a reluctant traveler. I don’t like to leave, but once I’m there, I love experiencing and learning new things.

Several of our family and friends wanted to see some of our travels, so that is the purpose of this and subsequent posts on this blog. I plan to publish about once a week or so (we plan to be gone a month) and have more pictures than text. No promises though. 🙂

Featured post

Diary of a Ragamuffin – The Beginning

rag·a·muf·fin [raguh-muhf-in]  

noun

1.  a ragged, disreputable person; tatterdemalion.
2.  a child in ragged, ill-fitting, dirty clothes.
ragamuffin jeans
My great grandma used to call me this as a child when my sister and I didn’t meet her standards of clean and she had to take us out in public.  I really didn’t understand the meaning, but I thoroughly understood the connotation.  I hated being called that. It stuck with me.  And for many years I have felt like a ragamuffin.
Was a I poor?  No.  Dirty?  Of course not.  But, I have never fit in well.  I have never been enough.  I wasn’t smart enough.  Or pretty enough.  Or thin enough.  Or tough enough.  Or funny enough.  I think you get the idea.  And maybe you can relate.
I have covered my ragamuffin tendencies well through the years, even earning a college degree (after marrying), and landing a job teaching children, which I felt called to do.  I also managed to give birth to two beautiful children in the process, and assume the role of pastor’s wife.
This year I have experienced some major crises, including breast cancer, marital problems, and major opposition at my job.  These have forced me to depend more on God, and search for solutions, but at the same time, it brought the ragamuffin feelings to the surface.
Through prayer and good counseling, I have discovered that I AM enough.  I am a ragamuffin redeemed by Christ.  This was not a new revelation for me, however, I have started living it out more.  Which leads me to this blog…and a major career change.
At the end of May, I will leave my teaching career and embark on a new journey.  One that has not been planned out by me, but I am trusting the One who does have it planned out.  Will you join me as I chronicle this adventure?
This is the diary of a ragamuffin.
Featured post

Returning to the coop

To be clear, we’ve been home for quite awhile now, I just haven’t taken time to write about our way home.

I started a travel journal last year and named it “Adventure Awaits”. But what does “adventure” mean to you? I immediately think of outdoors-y things – hiking, camping or ziplines to name a few. However, Bryan actually described it better by saying, “Something new. Anything out of your comfort zone.” Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines adventure as “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks”. Using this definition, I’m not sure I’ve had any adventures!

Our adventures on our way home involved stops in

  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Jackson, Wyoming
  • Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming
  • Kimball, Nebraska (at a Super 8 which I was SUPER excited about)
  • North Platte, Nebraska (home of Buffalo Bill Cody)
  • Greenwood, Nebraska and
  • (Bryan only) Omaha, Nebraska (Whew, Nebraska is a loooooonnng state)

We drove 5,345 miles round trip on our little adventure and got as high as 9,346 feet.

We hiked and walked dozens of trails. Visited historic musuems and a dinosaur museum. Ate at new restaurants. Marveled at God’s creation. Almost attended the Testicle Festival. Our trip was amazing, enjoyable and relaxing.

But I was ready to come home. Home, where things are familiar and easy. Home, where the not so exciting and not so extraordinary restaurants are. Home, where I know others and I am known. Home is always a bit more appreciated when you’ve been without it for a time.

For now, these empty nesters have returned to the coop until next time. Below are some of my favortite pictures from our last week. If you want to know specifics, just ask.

Adventures in Arches

Our week in Moab, Utah was wonderful and warm. By warm, I mean ranging from 99 degrees Farenheit to 109. Nevertheless, we hiked and photographed to our hearts’ content.

Recluctant to Ready

I can truthfully say that this reluctant traveler has been changed into a (somewhat) ready one. After the first week we have logged 2,040 miles. Whoever can claim that there is not a Creator has never looked around at our beautiful country.

One benefit to traveling is all the things you learn along the way. Of course, to learn, there must be questions. I didn’t realize how many questions I had until I started writing them down. Here are just a few:

  • What is there to do in Chandler, Oklahoma?
  • Why does Oklahoma have a panhandle?
  • What’s the history of Route 66?
  • Why is “HITCHHIKERS MAY BE ESCAPED INMATES” a needed sign along the interstate?
  • What kind of black bird is common in Texas?
  • Why and when did Cadillac Ranch start?
  • How fast do blades of wind turbines turn?
  • Wonder when they started putting up “Historic Route 66” road signs up?
  • What does a sage bush look like?
  • Wonder what they hunt here (in New Mexico)?
  • Does New Mexico get snow?
  • Why are there A/C units on rooftops in Albequerque?

Thankfully because of Google, I found the answers to many of my questions.

For instance, we discovered a nearby horse/hiking trail in Chandler, as well as visited the Lincoln County Museum of Pioneer History. It was free and interesting!

Another answer is the Great Tailed Grackle. That was the bird that made quite a racket at the rest area we stopped. Click https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great-tailed_Grackle/media-browser/516796 to listen.

As a teacher, I know that the best readers have questions while they read. I wonder if the best travelers also have questions? Until next time . . .

Cookie crumbles

That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Except, it wasn’t the cookie, it was the cookie jar.  

I broke it.  I didn’t mean to and I immediately regretted it when I heard the clatter.  The cookie jar was suddenly sprawled out on the tile kitchen floor in different sized pieces.  A few were large, but many were just shards of brown ceramic.  

Just like that, our fun was over.  My nine-year-old sister and I had been building a fort all throughout the house and looking for items to hold the blankets and sheets down. I’m sure we grabbed some encyclopedias ( those were large informational books that many households had in order to research….before Google). I don’t remember any other items we picked, but I’ll never forget the cookie jar.  

I’ve later learned that it was a Twin Winton Ranger Bear made in California, USA and is a collectible today.  We always called it the Smokey Bear cookie jar, as they did wear the same type of National Park Ranger hat, but the real Smokey Bear usually wore jeans  and carried a shovel.  

Our bear had a ranger hat, a little green tie and the cutest dimples.  He was adorable.  I have no idea of the back story on him — where and when my mom acquired him.  I do know we weren’t used to getting into him without permission.  

So, what made me think it was ok to use him as a weight?  Maybe I reasoned he was heavy, especially if filled with cookies?  Maybe I tested him first on the corner of the blanket and inferred he was big enough for the job?  Maybe I didn’t wonder about it at all, just plopped the cookie jar on the blanket and moved on. 

Whatever my thoughts were, we finally got the fort the way we wanted and started playing follow the leader through the maze of blanket tunnels.  There were giggles and laughs and probably orders from me (I am the older sister, after all) to follow.  In my memory (which we all know can be pretty unreliable) I can see a blanket slipping in slow motion. From my location under the sheet there was nothing I could do to save the cookie jar and I knew what was coming next.

Our play ended immediately as my mom ran in yelling (rightfully so).  She was angry and we were remorseful, but nothing could repair the cookie jar to its previous condition.  The blankets came down, encyclopedias put back on the bookshelf and tears fell.  

After that my memory gets very fuzzy.  I think that was the last time we ever played fort.  I believe the cookie jar was glued back together, but I don’t remember seeing it again.  However, even after more than 30 years later, I still remember the feelings of remorse, guilt and sorrow.

It reminds me that there are decisions we make in our lives that sometimes result in a broken cookie jar on the kitchen floor of our hearts.  We messed up.  It probably wasn’t intentional.  We are not perfect beings. And there’s usually no way to fix it perfectly.  There will always be cracks in the cookie jar and possibly missing pieces.  

So, we can choose to try to repair it ourselves by super gluing the pieces back together or we can throw it all away and replace it with another cookie jar.  

I think God does a better job of repairing or replacing than I ever could.  Isaiah did say the Lord was the potter and we are the clay. (Isaiah 64:8)  And the Lord compared Himself to the potter in Jeremiah 18.  “But the jar [the potter] was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.” (v.4).  …”as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.” (v.6).  

If we allow God to take our broken pieces and start over, I know He will make something beautiful and useful once again.  

Falling for the off-sides trap: What soccer taught me about spiritual offenses

[Special note: This was originally written in 2015, but on the advice of my husband, I did not publish then.

offside trap – when a defender(s) acting on a common understanding or trigger, moves forward in a line to catch one or more opponents offside ]

My Bible study group is studying the book by John Bevere, “The Bait of Satan:  Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense”.   I was reluctant to teach it because I had already read and studied it about 10 years earlier.  It was “old news” to me.  I had “graduated” from its teaching, or so I thought.

Do you ever feel like that when you read the Bible?  If we’re honest, I think we do…we read a story, glean its truths and apply it to our lives.  Presto-change-o, we’re better Christians.  Next!

As I was preparing for the next lesson at my daughter’s softball practice, my husband was with our son at his high school soccer game.  Before I go any further, I need to give a little background on the soccer situation.

My red-headed first born, R.,  was initially introduced to soccer at age 3, in a recreational league in our town.  I loved watching him play and learn the game.  As R. grew, so did his love for the sport.  My husband ended up getting involved by coaching as well.

When R. entered high school, the only sport he wanted to really play was soccer.  It’s a spring sport in our part of the country, so he had to wait almost the entire school year.

That was a difficult season for this mom.  I had to watch my son sit the bench 96% of the time and the coaches bumble most every game.  I drove many hours to pay to sit and watch my son sit.  I watched as other boys who were clearly tired, while we were losing by 4, 5, sometimes 6 goals to 0, and yet the coaches wouldn’t play my son.  It was apparent to even me that they didn’t know what they were doing.  This frustrated R., but I think it infuriated me.  My husband was trying to be the voice of reason by telling me, “You don’t understand sports.”

“He has to ‘pay his dues’…he’s only a freshman.”

Okay, so I refrained from giving the coach a piece of advice, and I thought ‘It’ll be better next year’.

Fast forward to this year, R. is now a sophomore, and hopefully, a bit more mature.  Most other high school soccer programs we knew about had started practicing in early January.  R’s team did not because their coaches were both basketball coaches and the team was still in its season.  To an on-looker, it seems that they don’t care about soccer.  Is it just an extra paycheck?

With one full practice before their first game, I was shocked to see all the starters, with the exception of 2, were basketball players.  One had not even played last year.

So, last week, sitting in my car, preparing for Bible study, I texted my husband asking if R. was playing.  Hubby said, “Half time 3-0 them.”

“Oh me.  And R. hadn’t played yet?”

“Nope”

And then it hit me, like a soccer ball to the face when you’re not looking.  I had been studying about offense and I was truly offended with these coaches.  I had been aggravated, frustrated and irritated with them.

In the words of Bevere, “Offended people react to the situation and do things that appear right even though they are not inspired by God.  We are not called to react but to act.” (p. 50)

Boy, was I reacting.  I wasn’t afraid to share my opinions with others…mainly my son, my husband and a friend of mine, who all agreed with me, by the way.

Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.  – Proverbs 26:20 NLT

BAM.  Just like that, conviction flooded my heart.  I had been adding fuel to the fire after every game.  Every critical comment, every sarcastic remark, every glaring jab was like pouring gasoline on a bonfire.

I realized I have to model some way to R. that this is a spiritual test for me…and him.  It’s developing spiritual fruit and character if we’ll allow it.  So how do I go about doing that?

First, I have to repent, which means asking God for forgiveness, but also turning from the thing.

Second, I must model the correct talk, or lack thereof.  I had the opportunity to do this at his last game.  In order not to tempt myself, I sat alone.  Mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

And while nothing changed at this game, R. still sat the bench for most of the game, as he sat, I prayed.  I prayed for him to be a good teammate, to be sportsmanlike in all his plays, to be able to endure the waiting and for God to use this for R.’s character-building.  I prayed for me too, to be able to not only to keep my mouth shut, but to truly give up any offense, in other words, to forgive the coaches.

This has taught me once again that I am in constant need of a Redeemer.  I can only pray that through this that R. and I will both become more like Him. I do not want to be caught in an ‘off-sides trap’!

Tree trimming tokens

As I unwrapped my Christmas ornaments, memories inundated my mind.  The yellow taxi cab with a Christmas tree strapped on the top of it was from a visit to my brother-in-law who lives in New York City and the delicate gold metal cutout of a ship from a visit to the same brother-in-law when he lived in Boston.  The fragile white starfish prompts scenes of our fabulous family beach vacation to Gulf Shores. 

Perhaps the most meaningful are the personal ornaments I received as gifts.  My kids created several as they were growing up and thankfully their teachers included their pictures on some of them.  Each passing year these become increasingly valuable.  

Teaching Is a Work of Heart

My profession as a teacher lends itself to receiving Christmas ornaments as gifts.  However, I don’t believe they are as popular as they used to be. My favorites are the ones with a handwritten name.  If it was on a card, I usually attach to the ornament.  Tonight, I unpacked this one: 

The back is best, though.  I had only been teaching for two and a half years when I received this.  How I wish I could time travel and reteach those students!  And yet, she said I was a great teacher.  Maybe she was told to write that, I don’t know, but I do know it has been a treasured part of my Christmas tree ever since.  

This Christmas, perhaps instead of giving things, you could give some words.  Positive words.  Kind words.  Encouraging words.  Words of gratitude and words of love.  Most of all, true words.  You don’t know how long someone will keep that card or note.  Don’t flatter or exaggerate, just honestly write.  It might be the most treasured gift you can give. 

An open letter to my children’s “other” mothers

Paper - Made with PosterMyWall (2)An open letter to my children’s “other” mothers:  

You know who you are — my kids’ friends’ moms.  The moms who always seem to be available, even though you may or may not work a full-time job. The moms who, according to my kids, cook better than I do, are more fun to be around and have a cleaner house than mine. The moms whom I’m sometimes a bit jealous of (if I’m honest). So, I have something I’ve been meaning to say to you:  Continue reading “An open letter to my children’s “other” mothers”

Loving to laugh

Have you ever heard a rambunctious laugh?  If so, you’ll likely never forget it.  It usually starts out as a giggle, grows to a chortle and crescendos into cackling and guffawing.  It is highly contagious.

My mom has that kind of laugh.  It’s loud, full of joy and one of the things we have in common that I love.

IMG_0954 (1)
Mom and me

This is one of my most favorite pictures of my mom and me.  On a whim we entered one of those photo booths in the mall. We fed the machine money and quickly read the directions.  It started flashing and we weren’t ready. Caught off guard, we both got tickled. The more my mom tried to suppress her snickers, the harder it was for us to keep our composure. After every flash, we saw the preview of the picture on the video screen above us.  Before long we were howling and shrieking behind that photo booth curtain. When the picture-taking was over, we both had tears in our eyes as we waited for the machine to spit out the film. It is a great memory.

As you can see, my mom and I have the same smile — that wide-grinned toothy smile. We also both love to release our ha ha’s like a horse tossing his head back.

The belly laugh we shared that day put us both in a good mood for the rest of the afternoon. Long before scientific studies proved it, the bible declared it, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Prov. 17:22a NLT)

Do you know just some of the ‘good medicine’ benefits of laughter?

  • Releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural ‘feel good’ chemicals.  They help stave off depression and can help relieve pain temporarily.
  • Protects the heart.  Increases blood flow and improves function of blood vessels.
  • Relaxes the body.  A good long belly laugh relieves stress and physical tension, leaving muscles relaxed for a possible 45 minutes after.

I’ve been told I smile too much and laugh too loud (and probably too often at work).  I use humor to deflect confrontation, tension and even boredom. Reviewing these health benefits (and others. . .hello, laughter even burns calories!),  I resolve to colorfully crack up considerably more!

 

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