Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cooking for 12 in a Tiny House

Is exactly how I've been spending most of my time. This whole getting ready to go out of town for an extended period of time and leave meals for the two men left behind, plus pack enough food for a three day road trip for the other ten of us without having to stop for fast food, plus make our regular meals, well, frankly it's wearing me out a bit...even with all the help I get. I can honestly say that I am getting sick and tired of cooking. 

And it's sort of a mess and overtakes our small kitchen/dining area. 

He's helping wash dishes. I never, ever, ever turn down help...even when it's not really helpful. Because, why?  Why would I say no now and then expect it later when he is old enough?  That makes no sense to me and deprives him of pridefully contributing. 

The freezer is getting full and I'm almost done. Indian curry chicken is the last flipping freezer meal I have to make. After that I'll be on easy street just keeping up with daily meals and getting road trip food ready. 

We are planning on leaving the mountaintop on Tuesday...and there is plenty of excitement in the air. The kids can't wait to get going and get to sunshine at Papa's house, and I'm looking forward to the three day drive...mostly because I can't cook in the 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Feeling Adventuresome??

We've been busy getting ready for our Grand Adventure...and we haven't even starting packing yet.  I took the van in for an oil change, tire rotation and vehicle inspection to make sure we would be sea worthy on such a long trip, and two mechanics and somewhere around 2k later...we are.  I'm grateful that we had the money to get the work done, but I can't help but to think that we needed the work because we had the things seem to break down more when you get found money.  

I don't know why, but I always have this nesty need to clean the house before we leave.  It doesn't matter if we're just going out for a day in town, we still tidy up before we go because I hate coming home to a mess, and generally, by the time we come home we are worn out and don't need the added chaos of tripping our way inside with groceries...and it's rare that we don't come home with groceries.  I was deep cleaning the bathroom the other day, which I really don't do all that often due to our lack of water, and I kind of had to laugh at myself for even worrying about it when I was leaving the house in the hands of two men who will most likely live like bachelors until the very last day of our return.  In the days since I cleaned the bathroom not one person has commented on its newfound cleanliness, which leads me to believe I should stop worrying about cleaning the house and just start

And then there are all the loose ends that I don't want to leave dangling before we go.  Things like quarterly taxes reported, homeschool grades reported, financial aid applications turned in for the 2015/16 school year for Columbus and Cleo, and lots of freezer meals for the two bachelors that we are leaving behind.  Slowly, I've been pecking away at my to-do list, and today I finally reached a point that it seemed prudent to stop and actually map out our route.

I'm planning to stop in or around Texarkana, TX on our first day, and someplace a little East of El Paso, Tx the second day.  We would like to leave here in the next week or so - we're flexible! 

If we have any volunteer hosts around those areas we would love to hear from you!  

Last year when we made this trip we had hosts in Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and San Diego that we stayed with. It was an enjoyable experience for us, and I think our hosts, too.  It was fun and interesting to meet new people along the way and hear about where they are from, and some of their life stories.  In many ways, staying with our hosts is what made our Grand Adventure...Grand!

Those visits with our hosts added many memories and stories to our own life, from sand sledding in New Mexico with an amazing family that showed us more warmth and love than I ever imagined possible from "strangers," to the fellow large family, homeschooling grandmother in Texas who gave the little kids handmade, tiny, wool felted babies that were cherished in and out of pants pockets for the rest of our trip and I still find in my washing machine a year later, to adopted grandparents in San Diego who laughed and cried with us, played games, did crafts, and went above and beyond in every way possible.  Each one of them we recall fondly and are better for having experienced.  

Two of the wool felted babies that made our cross country trip with us...

The internet and meeting strangers from it can be a scary thing, and we infact had a running joke about ending up in a basement freezer chopped up in tiny pieces, thanks to Sugar King who has a wicked and overactive imagination, but our experiences were the exact opposite of that and filled with an unimaginable amount of love that enriched us and our travels.

So, if you're feeling adventuresome and are interesting in being part of our Grand Adventure, you can pop me an email at: room4more (@) icloud (.com)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Patience Pays

I took a drive down the mountain last week to get blood work done to check my thyroid levels before we leave for Arizona.  I live with that fickle witch - hypothyroidism, and I've struggled with finding the right dose of medication to be symptom free for the last year, and I wanted current blood work on file just in case an issue came up.  After I was done at the doctor I ran a few errands, mostly, we needed chicken feed and hay for the animals.  That night was forecast to be zero degrees, not including the windchill, and I wanted fresh, dry hay for animal bedding and a few bales to stack around the bees to insulate their hive and hopefully keep them from freezing to death.  

The first place I stopped was out of hay, so I got the chicken feed and the cashier reminded me to try the the Farmers Co-Op for hay.  So, I stopped there on my way out of town.  I walked into the large metal building filled with cowboy boots, hats, animal and farm implements, and the common site of a group of men, young and old, clustered around the hub of the store - the cashiers counter.  Good ole boys, you'd call them.  I felt at home, like I belonged, as I approached them in my work boots splattered in mud and red and silver glitter (don't ask me how my little people got glitter glue on my boots, but they did, and I haven't even bothered to see if it will come off because every time I see that glitter sparkle I see their smiling faces), my thick brown jeans lined in fleece, three layers on top and the absence of anything feminine.  Life in these small towns is rugged and no one expects you to put on shows.  They just figure the dirtier you are - the harder you worked, the more life you've lived, and they've all been there.  There's no shame in dirt and mud around the mountain.  

How ya doin today, asked the older man in overalls from behind the counter.

Good, and you? I asked.  

There's no reason to rush things around here. Polite and friendly still counts, and if you don't show it - it's an offense you can't afford in such a small population, especially when no matter how much you might look like you fit in - when you open your mouth and speak without a southern accent it will be obvious you are not from around these parts.  And that matters more to some natives than it does to others, but some of them will never accept you just because you are not from here.  

It's a fine day. What can we do for you?

Do you have straw?

Yes, he said, how many bales do you need?

How much is it? 

$5.50 a bale.

I did the math in my head - Four bales for the bees, and no way to get by with any less. I wanted two bales for the bedding, but I didn't want to spend that much on straw when I knew I was paying top dollar, so I settled on five bales and making do as I got out my debit card.

The old man in the overalls asked if my card was for credit, and I told him credit or debit, whichever was easiest for him.

He got all excited then and announced we have a debit card!

The owner came over and they ran the card through the machine, and then asked me to enter my PIN.  I did, and it was denied, so they asked me to re-enter my PIN, and again it was denied.  The owner had gotten on the phone after the first denial and was explaining things to the person on the other end of the line.  That's when the old man in the overalls explained that they had been having problems with their credit card machine taking debit cards.

I set my purse down then and adjusted my stance, relaxed into the counter, and made myself comfortable.

The owner waited for the customer service person on the other end of the phone to stop talking so that he could explain that the last eight people who had used a debit card had their PIN denied, so he didn't think it was a customer issue, it was a problem with the machine.

I stood and listened, and after a bit the old man in the overalls offered to run my card as credit if I was in a hurry.

No, I told him, take your time and see if you can get it figured out. I'm in no rush. 

The owner talked on with customer service and was eventualy put on hold, and he took that opportunity to cover the mouthpiece of the phone and tell the old man in the overalls that if this works sell her the bale for $1.00.

The old man told the owner; she bought five bales!

Well, make it worth her while, was all the owner replied before he turned his attention back to the phone.

They tried running my card another time, this time after they reset the machine, and still my PIN was denied.  

Just run it as credit, the owner said, mildly frustrated, before he went back to his phone call.

The old man in the overalls re-ran my card as credit and handed me a slip of paper to sign.  I looked at the total....$5.48.  He sold me all five bales for a dollar a each.

I like these small towns.  I like how they slowly roll through the day mindful of keeping the small things small.  I like how they stop and look you in the eye, and they don't care so much where you've been, they care more about where you are now.  I like how they've managed the fine art of caring while at the same time minding their own business.  And I like it when they let me, a newcomer, in.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Finding My Way

It was easy to decide that I wanted off of our cold mountaintop for the winter once the ground started freezing and I remembered just how slow and monotonous the days of winter pass.  Before then I had hesitated at the expense, the long 36 hour drive by myself with nine kids in tow, and the idea that I might again be running away from dealing with the colorful cornucopia of emotions that come after loss.  

I once knew this girl who loved to go on vacations.  Big vacations, small vacations, it didn't matter to her.  She would jump at any opportunity to get away.  Her house could be falling apart, and she would be sick and tired of it all - all the kids crammed into a tiny house, the lack of money, the endless list of needs combined with the limited resources, and she would dream, plan and plot for a break, a vacation away from it all.  The roof would be leaking, but come tax return time - on a vaction they went.

It never made any sense to me to runaway for a week, to exhaust your once a year financial chance at real change, only to have to come back home to a leaking roof for another year.  It always seemed to me that if she stopped for just one year and delt with some of the unpleasant issues at hand...she just might not want a vacation so bad, might not need a break so much; and she just might find something at home that she had missed before. But that's me and I'm known for being painfully practical.  

When I left the mountain last year I was clearly running away, and I knew it and I didn't care.  I wanted as complete of an escape from every known thing about my life and the mountain as possible.  I wanted away from that heartbreaking six pound empty spot that lay in my bed and left a ten ton crater in my world.  Last year, I felt entitled to run as far, as fast, and as hard as I wanted.  Sometimes in life the right thing is whatever it takes to just get through it.  Sometimes the best that we can hope for is to wake up each day and breathe our way through the minutes turned hours until it is time to go to bed again and repeat.  My goals last year were small when I left here.  I simply wanted to make my way through the worst of the pain and come out still standing on the other side.  And it didn't really matter so much how I got there - it just mattered that I did.

One year later has been everything for me.  I waded, treaded and back-floated my way through 365 days of varying degrees of pain and bright spots.  And in those days I've lost myself and my mind more than once.  And I can tell you that because it's normal to feel crazy, seriously crazy, while grieving.  I've been there and back, and now I'm here, and I don't even expect to stay here anymore.  I don't even want to stay here.  It's got to change - life does, I do.  That's just the way it is - there is no stopping it. And really, why would we want to? 

Living the last year has been one of the single greatest things I've ever done.  Not in a I'm great for it sort of way, but in a great-profound way.  I started my grief journey far more centered and balanced than I ever imagined grief possible.  I discovered that there is a spiritual safety net that does indeed catch our fall when we need it most and I found peace and refuge in it.  And I can't really explain that the same way that we can't really explain profound things like what it feels like to give birth, or go to war, or watch a loved one die.  But I can tell you with every certainty that it is there and very real.  I don't think that it is there for the little things, and when I say little things I mean things that we think are big, but really aren't.  I think that it is there for the things big enough that they warrant our idea of God reaching down and taking us in his arms.  I have faith in this to the point that I would promise it to my children.  I could look them in the eye if need be and tell them that when the hurt comes and you start to find yourself lost in a spiral of surreal pain the line between you and everything else fades away and there is something there for you, and I can't explain it to you beyond that, but I can promise you that it will be there when you need it most and it will hold you for long enough to find your way again.

But we can't be propped up and held forever, there comes a point that we must go-it alone.  It's a lonely and lost place to go from being held to the point that you can find beauty in such intense pain to being stood on your own.  Left to figure and sort it all out in worldly terms, with our minds and hearts limitations, a lifetime of societal ideas and customs, platitudes and denial.  Left hanging onto a memory that seems impossible to carry in this world.  Left in a shadow to find and sustain your own light.  I've spent most of the last year and my grief in this place, knowing that there is something more, but unable to find it.

I got lost in the mess of grief that felt just exactly like I always imagined it would.  Dark and dank and stanky.  Pain and numbness and undecided on which was worse, less dangerous.  For months I involuntarily imagined myself on my knees in the woods, my bare arms laid out, hands palm up on a stump, and a man with an axe held high over his head, ready to swing down and take them.  And I wanted him to take them, because they were no good to me without a baby to put in them, because I would trade them for white gauzed stumps stained in red to just hold my baby one.more.time, because it would be a real physical wound that would finally match my internal pain.  Grief is not rational.  I've said this before, and I will say it again.

At the end of this first year I look back over the distance traveled, the experiences had, the wide range of emotions felt, and I feel ready to move past the pain and the hurt, the lost, the uknowning, and seek healing.  In hindisght I don't think that there was much healing last year.  I think last year was more about survival, about finding a way to cope and making amends with reality.  

In a way it is hard to leave the mountain this year.  David and I have found this sweet soft spot in our marriage that took some hard tears to get to.  I hate to leave that right now, because it is rather newly found, but I also know that it will still be here when I get back.  We are a distraction to each other, and there are things that we both want to do this year that will probably be best done without the other.  

I feel less and less at risk of running away from myself and more and more like I am running towards myself.  I am eager to get to the wide open flatness of the desert and discover what lays in wait in the simple nothingness of it.  Which is odd, because before last year I never even liked the desert.  But I've learned that some of the best gifts in life come from what appears to be nothing but a vast, open, empty place.