Category Archives: travel

27 Years

It is not raining which is what makes the rainbow over the lake even more surprising. Calling to me while grilling lunch, my husband of 27 years and I share the moment. We laugh and take pictures.

It has been an anniversary weekend of surprises, both good and hard, and in these last hours I try to hold it in all that was good while remaining curious about what still feels hard.

Returning to reality is always challenging, but there is something in our story that makes it feel moreso. Our long-distance start and breakneck continuation hold clues to the longing to step out of the whirlwind.

I do not take this space away lightly. So much came together to bring us here. I almost thought it would not happen and held the idea and plan loosely.

Adult sons worked together to hold down the home front while the people still living there pulled together to keep things rolling. Grandparents and extended family filled the gaps. Christmas gifts of food, drink, and sweets were brought along to sustain us.

Friends generously offered a place to land, one of our favorites. We stayed in a different room of the house this year, changing things up. It had everything we needed to enjoy time together, our greatest need of all.

It is a gift to be married to someone who you just want to be with. While we both enjoy adventures, we also love slow days and sharing space and reading and cuddling on the couch with no agenda.

We like to take walks and eat snacks and one of us saves all of the paper bits to paste into a travel art journal. We found a musty antique store and walked through it laughing over memories but not buying any of them.

We stayed off of screens mostly. I posted some links to looks back at anniversaries of days gone by in Facebook and felt gratitude for where this one found us.

Twenty-seven years is not a traditional milestone anniversary. When looking it up, all eyes are on 30, the next big one. While it is good to look ahead, it is even better to be here now. Every year we say, I still do is a big one.

This year’s celebration was one to savor and revel in. While acknowledging that difficulties and disappointments may arise during our time away, we also felt the joy of hard work and honesty, and its resulting rest together.

Mere hours remain until our return to reality. There is clean up and packing and ending the time well. I smell breakfast cooking and realize that I have skipped yoga time to write, and I am okay with that.

There is deep gratitude for the goodness we shared here. There is joy of anticipating seeing the faces we love and beginning the first full week of the new year with them.

Rehearsal Dinner Blessing

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I find it interesting, curious, and playful that the morning we were to drive to Lancaster, PA, to begin celebrating the wedding weekend by hosting the rehearsal dinner, Ecclesiastes 3 and 4 were my scheduled readings. This is from a plan chosen in January, focusing on a different section of the Bible each day.

While reading I wrote down today’s season . . . harvest, healing, building, laughing, dancing, embracing, quitting searching, mending, being quiet, loving, seeking peace.

This is how the day began.

Gradually, adult children convened and loaded various younger siblings into their cars, leaving Steve and me with the youngest to bring up the caravan’s rear, several minutes, or hours, behind. The best decisions made were to send the beverages ahead with my parents to be dropped off at the rehearsal dinner location and to have those involved in the rehearsal riding with siblings.

When all was said and done, Steve and I were checking into the AirBnB and hurriedly changing at 5. Dinner was set to be served at 5:45. In our hurry to arrive on time, we may have turned the wrong way onto a one-way, two lane highway, the lights of a semi truck shining in our eyes.

Did I just turn onto a one-way road?

I DON’T KNOW, DID YOU? WE ARE ON A ONE-WAY ROAD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!

I am waiting for traffic to clear, so that I can turn around.

We sat in the left-turn lane face to face with another car who patiently waited on us. Every day, every moment, is such grace.

We arrived at the Hollinger House intact and greeted our guests who were waiting on this porch ready to begin the festivities. It was a beautiful sight, a beautiful beginning to the weekend.

My morning reading felt long ago when I composed the following to share as a rehearsal dinner blessing . . .

This is a season to harvest the love that was planted in hearts generation upon generation ago. It is a healing time where we acknowledge that though, by all means, all is not well, all is healing. We can rest in that today.

It is a time of building, as a new family is joined and created, built upon this foundation of love. We gather to laugh and dance and live in the moment that is now.

Embracing one another right where we are today, we celebrate with Caleb and Dana that they can quit searching, because they have found the one their soul loves.

This is a time to keep in our hearts, to mend what was torn, and to be quiet about what would divide us. We are hear to love and celebrate in peace.

There is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. All people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. (Ecc. 3:12,13)

We spent the rest of the weekend putting these words into practice as we celebrated the long-awaited union of our son and his beloved bride. And it was so very good.

All a gift. All deep, deep grace. Every moment.

Veranda View

The rising sun casts light over the mountains, calling last hues of orange to waken. Flecks of green and gold raise their hands to be noticed amidst the predominant brown. Bare branches along the ridge top stab a brilliantly blue sky. Leaves litter the ground, shrugging their way down the trees.

Autumn is heavy upon us.

From my perch outdoors on the third floor veranda of the Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center, I hear sounds of voices young and old. Coffee steam rises from the eight ounce hotel lobby lidded cup in my hand.

Couples check out, walking to their cars, coolers and roller bags in hand. Children argue as parents snap at them and each other. It’s a time of transition, and I get to be still a little while longer, drinking coffee, rocking in a chair, writing, before my turn to depart.

As always, time away has been kind. Unexpected, unpredictable, unfamiliar, yet kind, nonetheless. My heart feels the rustling of return. Places I thought had settled comfortably, nudge for attention.

I sit with what is right now. Crisp air, bright sun, chirping birds, laughing child. Rocking, feeling the steady back and forth movement, drinking in the comforting warmth and wake of hot coffee.

Solace.

This moment offers Sabbath for my heart, a heart full. So much is happening behind the scenes rather than front and center. I hold loosely. I hold close.

The more present in reality we are, the more fullness we feel. There is a very thin veil between life and death. ~ Scott Moore

I am feeling the presence, the fullness, the joy of life, the grief of death. All of it. During lulls in the passing traffic, I can hear the leaves hit the ground.

Eight ounces of hotel coffee does not last long. Minutes tick past the hours that remain before I, too, must pack up, roll out, and return. A golden gleam from the lawn below catches my eye. It takes me back to church in childhood, my sister shining her Strawberry Shortcake compact mirror in the pastor’s eyes.

This vintage Strawberry Shortcake makeup compact has Strawberry Shortcake on the cover and has a mirror inside the lid. The compact was originally from the Berry Pretty Face Boutique set and had face cream in it, but it's now empty. You can use it to store makeup, pills, small jewelry, or anything else that will fit inside. The Berry Pretty Face Boutique set came with strawberry scented lip gloss, face cream, and cologne and items from this set are some of the more rare and hard-to-find…

 

Image result for strawberry shortcake compact mirror

The brilliant golden shine is not a golden ball of reflected sunshine but an outdoor ground light remaining on from a time change that has not been adjusted.

Nothing gold can stay. ~ Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Three (More) Years

 

Morning coffee at my parents with my uncle. Glad to be here while my heart misses there. #allendercenter #theseattleschool #morningcoffee

This update graced my Facebook status Saturday morning. With a full heart I continued to wrestle and sort out all the feelings surrounding the Externship program and not stepping into it this year. Among hugs and sympathetic remarks, a dear friend commented, Give it three more years.

Though an inside joke for us, in that moment I realized that I had grown, am growing, will continue to grow through this process! My ability to read and hear her words as a statement of hope and not despair was a huge indicator that good work is happening in my heart.

The last time she mentioned three years , I was not hopeful. I was angry, stuck, and lost. I felt forgotten and left behind. Now I believe that I am right where I belong, and that it is a good place. I know that three years will look both better and worse, and that I can plan and dream but there are no guarantees surrounding outcomes.

Earlier this week another friend texted a picture that she took during my first weekend in Seattle. We were at the market downtown enjoying Sunday afternoon together before my flight home.

I was caught off guard by how well the image depicted exactly how I was feeling the moment it came through. Wistful, longing, ponderous, contemplative. All of the above. I remembered how I felt in that moment as I let settle all that had stirred in me after that first weekend.

I remembered her kindness to offer space while showing me all of the best downtown places and sharing her beautiful heart with mine. It was such a kind time. Neither of us knew what we were stepping into at the beginning or how it would look in the end.

I only know that she and her husband were the first I told I was considering the program. I was curious to see if they would be willing to host me. They enthusiastically cheered me on, welcoming me into their home and life on the realest of real terms. This family became mine as they graciously opened their home and hearts each of the four weekends.

We sat together on Tuesday, separated by thousands of miles, joined by technology for a brief time of texting as I responded to the picture. I expressed gratitude for her following the prompt to send it to me. It was perfect. She jumped in as we caught up on life and shared heart space in the midst of mothering.

Three years. I will be 50 then. Another son will be 18 and my youngest will all be teenagers. Things will look very different. That intention sounds promising. It allows space for presence, not wishing away the time but fully engaging it.

None of us knows what the future holds, but I will hold to the hope of three (more) years.

Tabletop Tableau

This was the view across the room from me this morning as I sat in an oversized chair in my Airbnb drinking coffee and reading. Today is the last day of Certificate 2 training. How do I hold that?

Monday evening a precious friend stopped by the house to affix an EzPass to my windshield and capture the tolls for my trip. She also gave me a gift bag care package. Peeking in I saw snacks and a stuffed owl.

I didn’t see the cards tucked in between everything, one for each day, with instructions about when to open them. Each unique card held words of blessing and encouragement specific to the day.

This is a part of her glory. She is a writer. I was the recipient of her lavish gift of words. I assembled the cards on the tabletop under the staircase to remind me of truth and give me courage to step into hard places.

Some cards contained lunch money. Others a blessing. Each met me in exactly the right space for what the day held and what my heart needed.

I am preparing for the last session. Lunch is with myself today in solitude, pondering all that these days have held and preparing to end well. What do I hold? What do I toss?

It is my second attempt at writing this post. I wrote a first one while sitting at one of the wooden chairs that flank the table. I hit publish and rushed out the door. It vanished.

I sat all morning holding my disappointment while trying to release demand as to why my post vanished and where it went. I needed to remain present to all that was happening in morning session and group.

I will hit publish again for a second time on these new words for my morning thought. Then I will brave the rain and return to my table and receive what the afternoon holds.

Coloring

One of the many challenges I face while doing this work is that of staying present in my own story and not carrying everyone else’s along with me.

Last week I sat with a wise friend who reminded me that while I play a major role in my children’s stories for a season, I am not their entire story. They will each walk their own path of growth and self-discovery with God, separate from me.

It is easy and familiar to make myself too big and too responsible. I feel a need to carry each of them with me on the journey. Instead of focusing on the work I need to do for healing, I circle back to how my woundedness has harmed those in my world. This keeps me from the task at hand, which is uncovering more of my own story and tending to my own heart.

We are all wounded and wounding souls. As I get closer to my own wounds, I see how my response to them has wounded others. This week is for tending to my own story. There will be space and time to process with those in my world when I return.

A friend gave me a care package Monday evening before I left. Among the thoughtful items in it was an adult coloring book. It has turned out to be one of the kindest gifts.

Last night, my mind swirled with all of the life still going on at home and all of the things I can’t control in everyone’s world. The bigness of this trip was bearing down on me. I struggled to stay upright and grounded.

Flipping through the coloring book, I came across this page. The scripture and flowers spoke to me as I tore it from the book and began to color one flower, then another.

I focused on the worries of my heart, giving them over to God. As I colored each flower I focused on a particular care or person. My mind stayed present in the moment.

Before bed last night I looked up the reference in my Bible and read the surrounding verses.

Unless the Lord had helped me I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” But your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:17-10

Yes. This.

My prayer this week is that the doubts in my mind will be replaced with the comfort of God and with renewed hope and cheer, supported by the Lord’s unfailing love.

Blessings, Friends! Thank you for your love and support on the journey and for joining me here in this space. Each of you is a gift to my heart.

How to Enjoy Spring Break

1. Pack up the kids and head out of town.

2. Visit the new home of your adult daughter and son-in-law.

3. Sleep in the best room of the house on account of being the oldest person and the Baab (and Scoby) of the family.

4. Attend church as a family on Palm Sunday.

5. Pick up pizza after church and arrive home to find everyone singing karaoke.

6. Join in.

7. Do a Costco run with adult daughters and pay for everything in the cart, because looking around you realize you are the Baab and that’s what the Baab in the group does.

8. Come home and play Game of Things after figuring out where the pen is.

9. Laugh a lot and then some more.

10. Shop at LUSH getting bath bombs for most.

11. Meltdown on a double dog walk and crash from exhaustion while everyone else plays Quiplash into the night.

12. Keep your regularly scheduled Tuesday call due to no WiFi to send an email postponing it.

13. Go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art with 9 other people related to you.

14. Relax and enjoy the museum.

15. Watch Netflix Nailed It over lunch.

16. Read 2 books.

17. Dream deeply and vividly each night.

18. Watch the kids open the pool for the season with a polar bear swim.

19. Wrestle your demons while your kids exercise their freedom.

20. Grab a second of hotspot to blog quickly before going off grid again and diving into a third book in as many days.

Re-entry

Last Monday morning looked much different than this one. I woke at 4, head full of thoughts. I spent time writing out a story of 19 year old me, then loaded the car, ate a quick breakfast, and exited my friend’s house in the pre-dawn hours. It was time to begin the final leg of my journey.

GPS set arrival time at 12:30, but I knew there would be stops pushing it further back. Still, it was a helpful estimation and motivation to begin putting miles behind me. I was ready to be home.

I would hit the ground running upon return. Monday was choir day. It was also pre-assessment band concert day for two of my children. Thursday and Friday were days off of school for parent conference. Tuesday and Wednesday remained for unpacking, regrouping, and tending to all that was missed in my absence. There was lots to tend.

Friday and Saturday brought an overnight trip to Northern Virginia to witness one son’s performance in a band battle and to celebrate another son’s birthday. I did well at placing the remaining children in overnight care before realizing that we had done nothing for the pets, causing a scramble. Sunday was my turn to solo parent so husband could attend a class in Springfield, MD. There is not a pause button for life.

This morning I rose after a night full of restless dreaming to a feeling of futility. I struggled to move from my bed to face the day. The tired was to the bone. It made for a rockier than usual Monday routine. I helped with breakfast and lunches, remembering that I had not taken time to restock the snack drawers or assess the bread situation in the fullness of the weekend.

People snapped at each other. I fought back tears of discouragement and frustration. We somehow managed to get out the door and to school. I returned to walk the dog, call my sister, leave a voice mail, and send my son off to a day of studio recording with his bandmates.

Then there was quiet. Real quiet. That is when the text came through. A new friend connection from Certificate 2 training had read something that she was sitting with and sent the link to me. I opened it and wept. She asked questions about my tears and spoke truth to my heart. It was a sweet place of being seen.

Monday morning continued with Bible reading catch up in a chunk of Genesis. Before opening my Bible to the designated reading, I cried out to God to show me where he is in all of my mess. He gave me an answer as I read chapters 32-39, through the stories of Jacob and Joseph. I journaled this response.

God,
You are in the wrestling, the dreaming
You are in the scandal, the scheming
You are in the calling, the trapping
You are

He is.

Final Destination

Stay in the left four lanes of traffic.

The friendly GPS companion voice alerts me to a fact of which I am well aware. There are a lot of lanes of traffic to navigate. I stay in lane two of four. Traffic zips past me in spite of the 55mph posted speed limit. I keep checking.

Pain calls me to tension in my wrists, and l realize I have a death grip on the steering wheel. Deep breaths in and out and a growing trust in the vocal cues of my virtual co-pilot allow me to relax just a little.

I drive regularly on 81. There are a lot of trucks there, too. I am familiar with truck traffic, just not the kind outside of Chicago in more than two lanes. I strain to hear the next exit number and almost miss it. A last-minute swerve of faith puts me in the right direction. I breathe a prayer of thanks.

If there’s a traffic jam, you sit in it.

Choosing to move from the middle lane jammed with trucks to the left passing lane that is zipping along, I cut some travel time and break free of the congestion. Now to find a gas station with restroom facilities. I am still learning to stop at the last rest area before transitioning to a new traffic pattern, even if I don’t think I have to go.

Only I can know if I have to go to the restroom. No one else can do it for me. Here is a formula for me to remember from this day forth. 8 children + 46 years old = always stop

Today’s leg of the journey is short, only four hours compared to yesterday’s eight. Four hours is still a long time, though, and I am grateful for the coffee break provided by a friend and for an Allpoint ATM, since the tolls are taking a toll on my cash stash. I failed to thoroughly research that part of the trip. There are a lot of toll roads.

I should really look into EZ Pass.

After finishing the audio book, I caught up on podcasts for the remainder of the trip. Arriving in Batavia at my AirBnB, I was pleasantly surprised.

This is a restful, gracious space, kinder than I could have imagined. When I booked my (closer) location in December, I had no idea that the weekend before departure I would receive a message that my host had unexpectedly died (which is never expected), and my reservation was cancelled. This reservation was made last-minute, and is exactly right. I feel so grateful.

Exhausted from the drive, I plan to hunker down for the evening. There is a jacuzzi tub to soak in and a yoga studio on the third floor. The house is large and quiet and so right for this trip. Am I in denial about an early morning tomorrow and the beginning of three days of training?

Hmm . . . maybe?

Goodnight! Especially to the homefront. You are loved.

And missed.

 

On the Road

It was a full day of driving once I got on the road at 8:45, headed to a friend’s house in Toledo for leg one of my trip to Certificate 2 training in Geneva, IL.

Originally I thought I would rise and get on the road before everyone else woke up, getting a chunk of driving behind me and winding up at my destination in the early afternoon. It didn’t quite work that way, though.

I wanted to say a proper goodbye to everyone and didn’t want them setting pre dawn alarms and trying to get up before me. I decided to keep my usual routine and leave after dropping the girls off at school.

And walking Dewey.

Time in the car was long. I am grateful for Sheetz restrooms and turnpike service areas. I packed plenty of fruit, water, and protein bars to eat in the car. I’m listening to An American Marriage on audio book after hearing an NPR segment on it a week or two ago. A Contigo mug from home kept the coffee hot all day.

I arrived at my friend’s house at 5. Warm hugs and delicious stir fry awaited before we headed out to exercise. By exercise I mean enjoy the hydro massage tables and massage chairs and then decide we were really tired and ready to return home.

Hot tea and relaxing conversation, and I am ready to retire for the evening. I may stretch the kinks out on my yoga mat before hunkering down with a book to relax my eyes and brain. It is a luxury to be in my room by 9, one that I do not take for granted.

Thank you, Home front, for your tireless work to help this happen. I miss you all and am so thankful for you. Hugs and love!