What a disaster!

Doc from BTTF

Doc from BTTF

There is much I would like to share about my experience. For now,  I encourage you to visit this website to volunteer and/or donate, as the LORD leads.

Responding to disaster.

I’m heading home following an unscheduled adventure!  Just 2 days after completing the 3rd and final leg of my R.A.T., I received an email from the leaders of the recently formed Rock Disaster Response Team. The call for volunteers to help Samaritan’s Purse (“SP”) in recovery efforts for Northern California fires tugged on my spirit. 

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ve felt that God has been calling me to spend my retired life in disaster recovery and/or human trafficking rescue. The timing of this call to arms was perfectly nestled between R.A.T. ending and a European trip beginning. I made the necessary arrangements, completed yards of paperwork, and packed my ULA Catalyst to hit the road again. 

In addition to completing numerous online forms, you must get yourself to the site and bring your own linen. A partner church must qualify as a lighthouse church (in this case, San Andreas Community Covenant Church) and they then host the SP Senior Leadership Team, which goes in ahead of all the other volunteers. When overnight volunteers arrive, the church arranges space for sleeping.

SP has some of the most amazing equipment, including a shower trailer (6 shower rooms, each with bench & sink), a cooking trailer (including stove top, ovens, counters and a freezer), not to mention, the DVR unit which houses the tool shop and office.

It was a gratifying and deeply fulfilling experience to help people who lost all their possessions and their homes in this ravaging fire. 

What you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.

Matthew 25:40

Home for a minute, “Home” for the holidays

There’s no place like home.  Home is where the heart is. Anywhere I hang my hat is home.

At the moment “home” is Lincoln, NE.  Lincoln is more interesting than I thought it would be.  More on that in a later post.

Things change quickly and now “home” is St. Louis.  I visited a friend of 19 years i haven’t seen for 5 and now with a friend of 29 years I haven’t seen for 14!  It has been tons of fun to catch up with such wonderful sisters!  Let’s go back to where I left you hanging.

Between East Coast and West Coast, Christmas 2014.

I had to be at the Charlotte airport to catch my flight home to San Diego and did not want Don and Margo to get up at o’dark thirty again to get me to the Clemson station. I decided to rent a car for the 2-hour drive.   I reserved a car through Enterprise in Anderson, and they had no car available when I arrived. Reminded me of Jerry Seinfeld: “You know how to take the reservation, but you don’t know how to hold the reservation.”

The Enterprise rep suggested we “start the paperwork and maybe a car would be available by the time we’re done.” Mama didn’t raise no fool.  If I “started” the paperwork, that would keep me locked into an Enterprise rental until a car showed up. Lucky for me, Hertz was right outside the door across the parking lot and they did have a car, though it cost a good bit more than the car I reserved.

Away I drove, sad to leave after a too short visit with Margo.

Thankfully the ride to the airport was uneventful.  I was on a huge plane with 9 or 10 seats per row, flanked by two woman. The young woman to my left sold something and the military was her client.  She was deathly ill.  She was kind to show me how to operate the in-seat tv screen, no doubt sharing her virus in the process.

The woman to my right was going to visit her daughter who escaped the holidays because they were too painful to celebrate.  Her daughter had one child and he had been killed while at a baseball camp.  Another camper had hit him in the back of the head with a baseball bat.

I didn’t want to press for details cause it seemed difficult for her to talk about losing her only grandchild.  She was a woman of faith and we said all those things one says about God–He is faithful, with us through every trial, has a grander purpose than we can know–and yet … words are so inadequate.

The flight home was smooth sailing.  Well, smooth flying.  I spent the next couple of days getting ready to travel down the west coast.

First stop Seattle to spend Christmas with family.  My reserved flight to Seattle, connecting in Oakland presented challenges. The first flight was delayed which meant a missed connection–the last flight out of Oakland to Seattle for that day,  The Southwest rep calmly suggested I sleep in the Oakland airport overnight. WHAT!  In the end I flew the next day on a nonstop flight, but it was frustrating to have my plans delayed.

My daughter was ill when I arrived just a few days before Christmas. I spent a rainy Monday negotiating Pikes Place, that famous Seattle market packed with holiday shoppers.  I had saved my holiday shopping til arriving in Seattle and went to several other downtown shops in the rain. I was cold and wet in a very short time. Needless to say, between sharing virus spores with my seatmate on the Charlotte to San Diego flight and spending the day in the rain, I was ill myself by Christmas day.

Nonetheless, we celebrated Christmas with family and friends. My brother and SIL were in town and their daughter hosted us all for dinner and a lively game of Pictionary.  I was glad to not have any plans for the next several days and equally glad that Urgent Care was across the street from my daughter’s home. Between the antibiotics and rest, we were finally all well again.

IMG_2008My daughter and I had tickets to see Mike Birbiglia on New Year’s Eve at the historic Moore Theater.  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner before the show at List.  What a great night we had!

East Coast R.A.T. complete and Christmas and New Year’s celebrated in grand style, I was ready to begin the West Coast R.A.T.  More adventures to come!

East Coast – Boston

cropped-images1.jpgNote to Reader: I did not take this picture. However, it looks exactly like I felt.

The RAT (Retired American Tour) began December 3rd with a plane ride to Boston, MA to visit my nephew Grant and his beautiful family–Anna, Caleb and Jacob.

My seatmate was a young man named Jacob who was heading home to see his family after spending a couple of years at a Krishna monastery.  http://www.krishnasd.com/.  We shared our respective beliefs for the entire plane ride!  As Jacob explained aspects of his faith, I was able to point to Bible passages that said the same thing as well as speak intelligently about precepts that were different.  I was excited that I had enough Word in me to confidently participate throughout our discussion. The extra blessing came as we exited the plane and the woman walking ahead of us, who happened to have been sitting in front of us, stopped and turned to face us. “I listened to your conversation and a couple of times I wanted to join in.  I’m a believer and I was blessed.”

View from the bedroom window.

View from the bedroom window.

My nephew Grant and his family live in a lovely little town near Boston and they were gracious to turn their spare bedroom over to me for a couple of nights. Their home is so comfortably cozy and wonderfully decorated in a beautiful country motif.  Props to Anna for her style.

Anna and the boys fetched me from the airport and we met Grant in the North End to eat dinner at a family style Italian restaurant, Lafamiglia Giorgio’s. http://lafamigliagiorgios.com/  With good food and even better company, we had a wonderful time visiting over dinner.  We also stopped at in an Italian bakery to get dessert.  I ordered an Amaretto Cannoli – excellent!

(left to right) Jacob, Me, Caleb

(left to right) Jacob, Me, Caleb

My nephews were a little reserved around me at first. After all, Caleb and I hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years and I never met Jacob.  Once we got to their home, Caleb was all about showing me his room, his drawings, and his 2 million legos. We became old pals fast.  Jacob ran everywhere Caleb ran.

In spite of eager helping hands, we managed not to burn the place down.

The next night we went to Lady of Fatima Shrine which was delightfully decorated with Christmas lights. Though I’m not Catholic, I lit a candle for my Grandma who was a devout Catholic.  In spite of eager helping hands, we managed to avoid burning the place down.

It was a cold night and fun to go back home to hot chocolate.

My nephews are very active and almost every picture looks like an action shot ’cause they’re always on the move.

Jacob zooming

Jacob zooming

Likewise, Caleb

Likewise, Caleb

Long story short, circumstances separated Grant from the rest of our family for many years.  I would have never known this nephew but for an action taken by Grant’s wife Anna. So it was extra special to visit Grant and his family and I can never thank them enough for opening up their home to me.  I really enjoyed my first east coast stop and look forward to connecting with my Massachusetts family again soon.

Coming Home

This past Saturday marked the end of 10 weeks of retired life and I’ve been traveling for 9 of those weeks. The commitment made to stay off social media and Words with Friends while traveling was kept. I rarely looked at e-mail.  Staying off Twitter and instagram (I quit facebook a couple of years ago) meant not sharing pictures and thoughts as I traveled. I did not blog either.  I wanted to fully engage in who I was with, what I was seeing, and where I was.

That’s the who-what-where.  Here’s the why.

Planning this journey began early last year.  As retirement approached, I found myself thinking about the many people who had been in my life, especially those who had impacted my life for good.  I hadn’t seen or spoken to some of these dear people in years. I decided that I would see each one and thank them for how much they improved my life and thereby helped improve me.

The other reason for my journey was to have as much alone time with God to learn where He planned to use me in this new season of retired life.

The Christmas tree was set up before I left home in early December, and surprised me when I returned in the wee hours Saturday following a day of Amtrak travel.  My sister and BIL would be staying in my apartment for the holidays and I thought a little decoration would help it feel more like Christmas.  I had seen so much and met so many people, I had completely forgotten the tree.  She still stands, completely decorated and lit every night. Daily devotionals, mail, e-mail, money matters, laundry and correspondence have had priority.  Perhaps I’ll make the time this weekend to pack her away until Christmas 2015.

I resolved not to make any plans my first week home to give time to setting my house in order, catching up on all the paper and making arrangements for what must come next–like taking down the Christmas tree.  🙂  Then I’ll make time to reconnect with all the local folk.

I’ll be unpacking trip memories through blogging.  You’re welcome to travel with me as I revisit the past 9 weeks and its people and places.

Autumn Leaves Between the Sleeps

The only time of year that I absolutely deeply dislike living in what some call “America’s Finest City” is now.  It just isn’t Autumn without red, gold, orange and brown leaves on the trees, the smell of wood burning in the fireplace, a clear blue sky and chill enough in the air to wear two layers of flannel or wool.  I would like to find a place where it is always Autumn.  I would move there in a New York minute.

Of all the places I’ve lived with four seasons (New York, Vermont, Kentucky, Colorado),  Vermont is my favorite.  I felt the best about myself and enjoyed life immensely during the few years I lived in Vermont.  I was married to a really nice boy, but didn’t know it.  Vermont is pretty and old and feels stable and solid.  And Vermont made the covered bridge famous.

I’ve lived through numerous difficult seasons of life since divorcing Artie and leaving Vermont, and so many times I wish I could go back in a time machine and make different choices.  Still, the difficult seasons have made me stronger and I’m beginning to feel comfortable in my own skin. 

I know the weather here is what’s supposed to be so fine about this city.  Perhaps as I get older I’ll appreciate it more.  Until then, I long to drive over country roads through forests covered with colorful leaves.

Seasons of weather, seasons of life, won’t you share how you feel about seasons?