Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Christmas Journey Chapter

My last post was before Christmas, I had just finished making a manger scene with Kai ~~ and Kai told me that Mary had butterflies in her tummy because she was SO EXCITED to have a baby,  and Joseph was smiling and winking about this baby that was soon to be born.   And we had just hung eight stockings that Santa would soon fill. That is all Kai knows about Christmastime ~~ butterflies, smiles, joy-filled anticipation.  I would like to keep it that way forever.
This Christmas season we did NOT anticipate or expect a hospital stay with our son.  We did not anticipate illness or pain or tears or MRI’s or CT scans or EEG’s or EKG’s.  We didn’t.  We thought the Christmas-Journey-Chapter would be ALL butterflies and winks.

I wish for each of us…it was all butterflies and winks and smiles and sunshine.  Yet this Incredible Journey of Life can hold painful twists and turns that no one expects or anticipates, no matter the season.   And....I know we were not the only ones who had an unexpected and painful detour this Christmas season. I know ….because we have dear friends in the midst of a family crisis,  another facing serious health issues, another grieving the painful loss of a loved one,  another aching with monthly disappointment of unanswered prayers.   I know because there are families in Connecticut who ache with empty arms this Christmas. I know because while in the hospital with our son --- all the rooms were filled with other families, wishing they too were someplace else.  Instead of butterflies and winks and smiles,  many of us have felt,  labor, and pain and tears.
That is how life's journey on earth is sometimes.  And each one of has been  “there .”  We have.
The story of CHRISTmas is… in the labor, in the tears, in the pain, in the darkness,  He comes.   God comes. To be with us.  To comfort us.  To heal us.  To BE with us.   And we are not alone.
And that is the Gift of Christmas.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmastime in Maxine

Merry Week-Before-Christmas from Avila Beach-

Today the sun is bright, and blue sky is even brighter, and there are diamonds dancing across the bay.  This feels and looks so much different than Christmas’s past ~~ familiar Christmas d├ęcor is still packed away in boxes in PA.  Instead of being busy with shopping , pet therapy visits, parties, baking , planning family gatherings ~~ we are looking for housing , looking into job opportunities, and anticipating another week+ of taking Maxine on to new sites, visiting family in southern and northern California.   J

 We have a tiny Christmas tree with homemade decorations perched on our dining room table, Kai has an art project on the wall, we have a few Christmas cards out, and twinkle lights here and there.   Plain and simple.  We told some new friends, (Keith and I met a couple, w/dog, at the doggie beach, they invited us for dinner on Sunday evening in their Pismo Beach home---{Yes, Peg, Melissa’s mom there not only is a Pismo Beach, but people  actually live there!!!}  What warm hospitality to invite strangers into your home! about our journey and how different this Christmas feels for us all. Lisa and Dick, our new Pismo Beach friends,  are gracious and wonderful people, & we so enjoyed our evening  with them  ~~ and as I was ooh-aahing over their Christmas Tree, telling them how odd it feels to have our Christmas things still in boxes .... Dick responded quickly, “Yes, but how many people can say they’ve just had the adventure of a lifetime traveling cross country with your family?”

As they say in PA, “True That!”

So though Christmas looks and feels so different, I am still learning that different  is OK.  More than OK .

A few of you have been asking…. So what’s next? AND, some of you have asked us not to stop writing……Because you want to hear the rest of the story J   We do too J We’ll keep writing and we’re thankful you’re still with us on this incredible journey.

As far as what is next….. As far as our plans ~~~ well, there are dreams in our hearts.  We are not sure what we will do, or where we will work, or where exactly we will live. I know, that is SO CRAZY.  Sometimes I think that too.  But I think CRAZY might be OK as well.

Abby and I were talking yesterday while the guys were out fishing. The hunter-gatherer guys (whooo-yah) were out getting food for the family.  We were talking about other journeys, other families, other stories.

Like…. The Pilgrims on the Mayflower ~~ they landed in Plymouth.  And, the first thing they did was gather toegether on dry ground and thank God for …., well, for everything.  And then… They still lived on the boat, searching for the best place to build, plant. They met friends, Squanto, Massasoit, who gave them wise counsel on how to begin in this strange and long awaited new land.  The journey across the Atlantic was one thing, beginning again was a whole ‘nother adventure.   Were the women so ready to nest?….the children so ready to run?….and the men so ready to build?

Like ....Noah and his crew.  I laughed out loud thinking about them.  I mean really.  40 days and 40 nights rocking and rolling with all those animals,  children and grandchildren, in the dark seas…  He had a Promise from God tucked in his heart, but not a clue what life ahead really looked like.  When he landed….he had a weee too much to drink.    He did.   I don’t know if he was celebrating or just plain exhausted or overwhelmed or all of the above. God bless that guy.  What a journey.
And then ….of course…. I thought  of Joseph and Mary, who was GREAT with Child. Nine months pregnant, donkey transportation, no reservations, dust, dirt. Did Mary long to be in a place she called “home”on this first CHRISTmas day? Perhaps ~~ But, I think that perhaps  the Promise-Giver and the Promise-Given made the journey and the stable worth it all. True that.

The Reason for the season!


Woo Hoo for Christmas in California!
When Kai and I made a manger scene this morning....she was coloring Mary. As she made swirls on Mary's tummy she said, "These are butterflies in her tummy, she is so excited!" Then when she colored Joseph, she put a smile on his face and said "He's winking ;-) " And Gigi treasured these things in her heart.



Monday, December 10, 2012

The Sand Dollar

I'd like to share a story with you....
about a Sand Dollar.
Whenever I find a sand dollar, it is sort of like seeing a rainbow. 
It is like an oh wow and a dazzling moment all rolled into one.

Today we are camped on a bluff overlooking Avila Beach, 5 or so miles south of the city of San Luis Obispo.  We can hear the gentle waves, seals barking (yes really), watch pelicans dive for their dinner, walk to the sand and sea, and enjoy the beauty of the ocean from our front door. And there is a DOG BEACH.  Chester and Bailey think they have died and gone to heaven.  Seriously.

We moved from magnificent Morro Bay to Avila Beach yesterday.... Maxine crossed "the travel line!" into San Luis Obispo, and now we are camped in this small harbor just south of SLO.  One year ago, the six of us sat in a small cafe here, and  just dreamed of this journey. And talked.  And dreamed some more.
While here, we found pieces of sand dollars. Six pieces to be exact. None of them fit together.  They were just pieces. As we talked and prayed about our journey west (which was just a dream at the time & seemed so complicated to put together), I sensed the Lord saying ---- I will put the pieces together, no worries. Just give me the pieces. 

And now, one year and 2 months later (with an incredible-journey in our hearts), we are perched on a bluff overlooking Avila Beach.  It is so beautiful. we've been here for a few days, we've been talking/praying/wondering about "how" all the pieces will now fit together. And it is here, Avila Beach, we are parking for now, while we figure out the pieces of life here in the San Luis Obispo area ~~ a place we are now calling "home".  As the puzzle pieces are out there, I don't like to admit this but...... I tend to be the doubting Thomas in the group.  I do.  It's the truth.  Augh.

 I'm the one who whispers in Keith's ear at 2:00 in the morning,

 "Sweetie, are you awake?" 

" I am"

"Do you think everything is going to be OK?"

I can see him roll his eyes in the dark.

"Why are you rolling your eyes and smiling?"

"Because you never disappoint me ... ...  Yes, it will be OK.  More than OK."



Back to the Sand Dollar.  God is SO KIND with me. SO KIND.

Today, Kai and I took a walk up the road from our campsite.  As we were walking, we met the camp host, Bruce.  We introduced ourselves, and told him about our journey from sea to shining sea.   He was so friendly, and so interested in our story... and he told us a bit of his story as well.

After visiting, we walked a bit further.  Kai picked a white daisy with a purple center to give to her Mommy, then we turned around to walk back to Maxine. We walked past Bruce's home.  Then we heard a voice call, "Kai!"  We turned around and it was Bruce.  "I have a something to give you, Kai."  He asked her to close her eyes and hold out her hands.  She was shy to do so. Bruce told her he would give her the gift regardless.

Then, in her hands he placed a beautiful Sand Dollar.
NO WAY.  I wanted to shout HOLY SAND DOLLAR!!!
I looked at Kai, she looked at me....and our eyes were wide.  "THANK YOU!" we said. 
Bruce told us that Sand Dollars are a rare find on Avila Beach, but he wanted us to have this one.

It was a gift. 
Just placed in our hands.
Here, I have something to give you....
I kid you not, as we walked down the hill to our little home, the birds were singing.
Kai looked up, and she said, "Thank you for singing to me!"

And I had no words........
I  held a Sand Dollar in one hand........and Kai's tiny hand in the other.
I think it's all gonna be OK.  I do.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Road Narrows

Good Morning.  It's Aloha Friday. We are in Morro Bay, California, it's a beautiful sunny day, 13 short miles from San Luis Obispo.  I have butterflies.  I do.

Yesterday we traveled the most gorgeous (I should say one of the most gorgeous…since we have traveled a lot of gorgeous)  winding stretches of highways ~~  this bit of highway is famous for beauty, it is … HWY 1 between Big Sur and Morro Bay. One side of the road is MOUNTAIN & REDWOODS, straight up to the sky, the other side of the road is STEEP CLIFFS, straight down to the sea.  The road is so narrow and twisty and beautiful --- it is like with every curve , you take a deep breath in, and say “ohmygosh, look at that view.”  And then you say, “yikes” because that cliff is so darn close. And steep-down.  With no guard rails sometimes.
Derek drove Maxine along this stretch of beauty,  and at one point he just started laughing out loud...  He saw a sign that read,  ROAD NARROWS.  He said, “Road narrows?  You gotta be kidding me.”  The road was already so narrow, Maxine had been hanging  her sides and hiney over the edge on every bend.  Anyways, as Derek was taking the curves like a champ, and staying between the mustard and mayo, (that's what we call those colored lines on the HWY's),  the adults were enjoying the breath-taking views,  kids and dogs were snoozin', and I was remembering  another trek down HWY 1, about 42 years ago (that sounds like a long time ago, geez).

Keith and I were just young whipper-snappers (that is a totally crazy expression, where did that come from?), and we,  & 4 others (my brother and his sweet wife included), did a 14 day camping bike trip, as in bicycle, trekking from San Franciso to Santa Barbara, via the coast. Who woulda ever dreamed, way back then, that I'd marry my bike-buddy, let alone be riding in a motorhome named Maxine,  with our kiddos & grandkids and dogs, towing a turquoise VW-Van along this same stretch of HWY.  .............I mean, seriously. 

(I think God smiled BIG 42 years ago.....and He is still smilin'.  Hang onto your hat, you just never know what surprises are around the next bend.) 

A trip down memory lane....our first home in Mount Hermon, California, tucked under the Redwood Trees
Big Sur..... Daddy and daughter

Morning in the Redwoods, camped at Big Sur

Snuggling on the beach at Big Sur

Highway 1, in the distance, Cambria, Morro Bay, then...San Luis Obispo
(Where in the world is the BIKE LANE? Still wonderin' after 42 yrs....)

PS..... This morning's post is not getting posted til now...tonight.  AND.....Ta-Daaaa....Today...
We crossed over "the line" into San Luis Obispo.  You might have heard us yell  YEEE HAH.  We tootled around a bit, and had lunch at the Creeky Tiki on Higuera Street, where we had lunch a year ago.   BUT,  I don't think it's really official yet,  that we are REALLY in SLO, because Maxine stayed camped in Morro Bay, & she has not crossed the finish line yet.   Just sayin'. ;-)
At the Creeky Tiki for lunch....Kai is in Yeee-Haw mode

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why Not!

It feels surreal to be on the West Coast.  After 7000+ miles, I can’t believe we did it!  We made it!  We just saw our first mileage sign to San Luis Obispo.  143 miles. It gives me butterflies in my stomach to think we are almost ‘home’.  Wow.  Home. What a thought. 

Ya know, it all started with a thought.  An idea.  A dream.  And we took it seriously.  Weird to think back...  Some people ask why? And I guess we simply said,  ‘why not?’  WHY NOT move our family from the east coast to the west coast.  Why not go from the city to the beach?  Why not try out sunny, warm winters over the wet and cold.  Why not try something different?  Why not follow a dream?  Some people dream and then wait for the lightning bolt from heaven or the writing on the wall or for EVERYTHING to line up P.E.R.F.E.C.T.L.Y. before they do something about it.  But sometimes you just gotta GO.FOR.IT. (thank you Auntie Jayne-o)  regardless of the rain or the tide or the moon or the whatever! Usually there are more reasons not to than there are to.  But why not go?  What do you have to lose?  Just try. Isn’t DESIRE enough of a reason to go? Isn’t the dream itself big enough of a reason? Whatever the dream is, IT IS worth it.  Here we are – crazy kids – 2 seniors, 2 adults, 2 kids & 2 dogs, 31 feet in a motor-home, almost 8000 miles, 3 months, coast to coast.  

-- Let me just say, it was worth it all, AND I would do it all. over. again. --

We haven’t made it to the destination yet, but my goodness, the journey has been worth the ride!  And I would venture to say the destination will be worth it as well.  Great moments. Lasting memories. Amazing experiences.  So many treasures along the way.  At the beginning it felt like a long journey, now it feels like a life LIVED.  Not that our life before wasn’t fulfilling.  It was.  It was happy, safe, and comfortable. But sometimes there’s something inside of you that whispers, “there’s something more”.  And if we chose not to go, life would have been fine.  Good. Happy. Secure.  But we would have always wondered…..WHAT IF?

Even when you make a decision to follow your dream, it’s not smooth sailing all the time.  Let. Me. Tell. You. =)  Even in the beginning, even before we left, I thought,  ‘what the heck are we doing?!’ But I knew that the dream to go would be worth it. Sure we’ve had our times – flat tires, rainy days, stinky toots, melt-downs, plumbing mishaps, grumpiness.  But we’ve also had rainbows, starry skies, snuggle-mugs of coffee, date nights, sandy beaches, tube-rides, majestic views, (did I mention) lobster rolls =).  

To be a FULL time traveling mom has probably been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  You’d think I’d have time to read magazines while one the road, pin on Pintrest, watch movies, exercise, go on leisurely strolls.  To tell you the truth, it was about 2 1/2months into it before I opened my first mag and watched a movie!  But the other day Kai said, “It was nice to have a Mommy & Daddy day.  It was like a Sunday”.  Even though we are with each other 24/7, living together  is different than spending  time together. We still have had to be purposeful to carve out time to spend with each other. Watching our kids grow and change everyday together has been special. And the moments carved out have been a priceless experiance. I can’t help but know that this time will be forever engraved on the hearts of my children, whether they remember the journey or not, their hearts will know. 

As we flipped over the calendar to December, (I still can’t believe it’s December!) we read words THE JOURNEY IS THE REWARD’. How timely! Has the journey been good?  YES!  Has it been worth it?  Yes. Every moment of it has been worth it ALL.  Will the destination be as good?  I’m sure it will be.  Oh, Yes. Yes, it will!

So……..Why not? Why not follow a WHAT IF?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Smellin' the Barn & other thoughts

  Thinking about chapters and books……………

Last night I was pondering about chapters/books as all us adults were talking about this final leg of our journey. Derek & Abby and Keith & I were having this conversation (while Chester was outside barking , and Kai ‘n Jack were dancing and playing and jabbering/singing to the sounds of country music) …. As I said, we were having this conversation, broken and interrupted as it was, about our being on the home stretch.

We are  camped in Santa Cruz, (listening to the pounding surf) & according to the map, we’re just a few inches from “home” ~~~ Not exactly sure if we will be on the road 3 or 4 or 5 or 10 more days. It’s like we don’t want it to end, but at the same time, “We’re smellin’ the barn” … as they say.

I was thinking about our chapter conversation from a post or two ago. One chapter ending, another beginning. I think it's more like a good book ending .... then the sequel will begin.

Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but…….. You know when you are reading a really good book. And you can’t wait to pick it up and read a little more. And you fall in love with the characters, because they are so very real. And you can feel all the emotion and drama and you laugh and cry and smile and sigh as the people and situations bring light and life to the story. And…… after a really good spot you might even close the book for a moment and hold it close. And ponder a line or two, or chapter. And …when you get close to the final pages, you become extra curious about how it will all wrap up, but on the other hand, you really don’t want it to end because it’s just so good.

This is how I feel today. About our “book”.

As the final chapter unfolds, I want to soak in each word. I don't want it to end, but I want to see what happens. I don’t want to jump to the sequel before this story is done. I don’t want to be thinking more about what is happening next, than what is happening now. I want to really LIVE this last chapter and not miss a moment...

You know, you just can't start a new book, til you've  finished the one you're  readin'.  And that’s the truth.

(PS The sun is shining, it is warm, Kai is NOT wearing leggings, she is playing in the sand, & Papa is wearing his ALOHA shirt. Oh yes he is!)

Another Diner Drive-in Dive & Surprise

Blue skies, smilen’ at me, nothin’ but blue skies do I see.

After the storm rocked and rolled Maxine all Saturday night and all Sunday morning long, the  SUN finally poked out around noon …. & SPARKLED across the sea.  WE could FEEL the clouds lifting in our spirits as well.  Totally.

Besides the SUNSHINE, the highlight of our Sunday was getting to see our niece Sara, who lives in San Francisco.  She met us for lunch at another Diners, Drive-ins, Dives spot, this was a BBQ place that Guy Fieri raved about.  Honest and true, the meal was just ok, (Jack Stack Kansas City BBQ is hard to beat),  but the company was over the top.   It was take-out only, so we grabbed our grub and ate in Maxine, in the parking lot (we literally took up  ½   the parking lot).
We loved seeing Sara, catching up on her latest travels and marathons.  She is our most favorite niece (our only niece---still our favorite!).  It was a great surprise to be able to share a few hours with her, and I think she was especially thrilled to be able to experience first hand what “lunch in Maxine” looks and feels like.
After lunch, and good bye hugs, we then cruised down the coast for about an hour, landing in Santa Cruz around sunset.

As I type, I can hear the pounding surf …and last I checked, the stars were out.

We are hoping we don’t have to go into ARK-Mode again tomorrow.  But…….for now, skies are clear.  wahoo

Cousins and Kai and Muffin the Kitty

Chester getting some lovin' from Sara (notice he is NOT on the couch)

These are the blue skies that are smilen' at us today... ;-)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rockin' and Rollin'

December 1st ~
HaPpY BiRtHDaY to ChEsTeR
The Most Dog-Gone Amazing 4-Legged Buddy and Therapy Dog
You're Pawsitively The Best
Woof Woof
I promised the birthday pup his very own, and first I might add, In 'n Out burger.
He is still waiting.  Pretty patiently.
Yesterday Maxine was so PROUD & THRILLED to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. 
 We were pretty thrilled too. I know we've been in California a few days,
 but whenever I drive over the Golden Gate I feel like I'm "entering" California. 
There's just something about the Golden Gate.
We parked Maxine in Pacifica,
at a park right on the shoreline,
 ~~~ just around the corner and down the hill from San Francisco.
Where you can feel and smell the sea spray.
Derek & Abby had a date at Fisherman's Wharf
and they told us about, fresh salmon,
huge CHUNKS of fresh crab on a ceaser salad, and crab chowder.
(serious drool and jealousy on my part)
They brought us freshly baked San Francisco sourdough bread...and clam chowder.
(such good kids)
Today, December 2nd,
We are still parked in Pacifica, California,
waiting for THE STORM to pass
Still thinking of NOAH.
 Maxine rocked and rolled all night long
..... it was primarily due to HUGE WIND and large amounts of sideways blowin' RAIN.  
And it is still raining this morning.
And we are still inside.
Kai is waiting for sunshine.
"Is it still raining?  Seriously, I thought this was the land of sunshine."

Chester is waiting for the rain to stop so he can get that promised In 'n Out Burger.
"I am the picture of patience."

We are all waiting for the rainbow to come out
so we can de-board the ark.

I think I see blue sky on the horizon.

I think.

Our tails are beginning to go thump thump thump.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Last day of November....

Well, here it is, the last day of November, and we are still on this chapter of our journey.  
The Travel Chapter.
As Derek mentioned the other day, 
sometimes you just want to read ahead to see what the next chapter holds.  
But, no peeking allowed.   I so want to peek.

It's been a BIT rainy these past few days in Northern California.

Not quite 40 days and 40 nights of rain ~~ but, I admit, I've been thinking of Noah. 
 A lot. 
Every time I smell wet dogs, I think of Noah. I do.

Since Gold Beach Oregon ---- 
we've trekked inland to avoid high winds & flooding along the coast.

We drove through GARGANTUOUS and MAJESTIC Redwood Forests.  
We walked beneath them and stood in awe. 
Kai and Jack splashed and stomped in rain puddles.

We celebrated with my parents, their 63rd Wedding Anniversary, 
at a cozy restaurant on the pier in Trinidad, California.
We saw orange starfish on the rock.

Yesterday, I woke up to Maxine decorated with flowers 
and balloons and ribbons and streamers  
~~ my family totally spoiled me on my birthday~ you are the best.
(and for the phone calls and facebook messages and e-cards ----thank you, I felt so loved!!!)

We're now in Petaluma, and my parents, affectionately nicknamed "YoYo and Boomer" are safely back in their Sacramento home.  Thank you for visiting us and sharing in the journey!  It was so much fun to celebrate anniversaries and birthdays and a Thanksgiving Dinner by the sea...and just be together.  

Tomorrow,  come rain or shine, we will continue our journey south,
and we'll keep adding pages to our travel chapter.
Pictures too.

Even in the rain, God continues to give us rainbows, literally.
Love that about Him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Today, November 27th...

Crossin' from Oregon into C A L I F O R N I A !

Gold Beach -- Golden Memories

Gold Beach, Oregon, in November
(random order---family popcorn thoughts-- thoughts that pop-up)

Smooth rocks
Miles of sandy beaches
Sound of the waves
Whale spouts
Pelicans skimming the surface of the sea
 Campfire on the beach
Long Walks
Jackets, scarves, hoodies, & leggings
Happy Dogs
Happy Campers
Walking along the coast
Giant rocks jutting out of the water
Whale watching
Seeing YoYo & Boomer!!! (Diane’s parents,who came to camp with us in their RV J)
 Thanksgiving Dinner together at our campsite
Thanksgiving outside, driftwood for our centerpiece
The fragrance of turkey, cooking on the weber
Beautiful campground by the ocean (sorta had the place to ourselves!)
Hearing the pounding waves through the night
Walking through tall seagrass along a sandy path
Chester digging to China
Sneaker waves…that sneak up and get ‘cha
Sandy feet
Galloping horses at the water’s edge….at sunset
Wet dogs
Footprints and paw prints in the sand

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bandon, Oregon.... Right at the top!

We've met such amazing people along our journey from sea to shining sea,
...just sayin', though.. ... Bandon, Oregon, is  right at the tippy top, for warmth & hospitality.

We started our Thanksgiving Day in Yachats, Oregon, with thankfulness ~~ sitting around Maxine's table ~~~ & not really having a "plan" for Thanksgiving Dinner, as we were going to be traveling. 

We sorta thought we might eat like the Pilgrims did.... a lot of very fresh seafood. (Kai must have heard us talking about the seafood plan).  We were open to eat "out" or "in".  I think we were all LEANING towards "out". However, restaurants were slim pickins. I was secretly hoping someone would invite us pilgrims in for turkey dinner and all the trimmings.

We arrived in Bandon, walked and romped on the gorgeous beach. Drove through town, a town that was very quiet & very closed on Thanksgiving Day.  We pulled into Bandon By the Sea RV Park. It was 3:45.  Keith and I went into the office/gathering place to register.  When we opened the door......we were greeted by the aroma of freshly roasted turkey, and all the fixen's, and some of the friendliest people on earth.

Shirley, the owner of the park, asked us to join them for their annual Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner, "Only day of the year you get a campsite AND dinner.  Dinner starts at 4:00....we have plenty, come join us!"

We parked.  Got Maxine set up for the night.  And then, we all walked down to dinner.  (Well, Kai road her bike.)  We told Kai we were going to have turkey with new friends. She yelled, "TURKEY?WE GET TO EAT TURKEY? NOT SALMON!! YEAH FOR TURKEY!"

Thank you Bandon friends for sharing with us.  It was one of the most memorable & yummy Thanksgiving dinners ever!  You blessed our socks off and filled our hearts and tummies.

God Bless you all.