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Never Too Late to Learn

September 20, 2016 was the beginning of another one of our adventures.  This time, we were leaving “home” for 6 months.  Escaping winter was our reason, and we were also looking forward to trying out new jobs as campground hosts at Osprey Cove on Naval Station Mayport.  This also gave us the chance to try out the “full-time” RV lifestyle.  At the time, I didn’t realize the profound impact this journey would have for me.

There were so many lessons crammed into the past 7 months.  Lessons about grace, life, joy, peace, and growth.  It is my hope to capture those lessons here as I remember them, and record the new lessons we are about to learn.  Over the next 32 days, we will finish packing and storing “stuff”, moving out of our house and selling whatever we don’t need, become the proud owners of a 5th wheel that we have yet to discover, and dive into a full-time RV lifestyle.  I’m pretty sure I have a lot of learning in my future!

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Unsettling Thoughts

This is an unsettling time.  Growing up, I remember when Inauguration Day was a special day.  We would watch the process on TV with excitement.  You know what else I remember?  I remember that up until very recently, it was okay to have different opinions.  Now I see it dividing families, destroying families, and devastating our country.

It’s like we have two pandemics right now.  The media seems determined to whip the country into a frenzy over both the virus and the political climate.  Not to mention anything else that might spark a controversy.

Have you noticed how everything is breaking news?  Every storm is life-threatening and catastrophic? 

How about this?  We turn off the news, and turn on the prayer?  Prayers for a peaceful transition of presidential power, prayers for a transition from hate to peace – or at least truce. 

Regardless of who you voted for, what you ate for breakfast, the brand of toilet paper you use, or the color of your underwear (if you wear them 😉) – we can be friends?  If we could focus all the energy and money that is being expended on hate and drama, we could accomplish some pretty amazing things.

Random acts of kindness and grace would be an awesome movement right about now – however, I would settle for random acts of civility.

Joy In My Heart!

Do you remember that old Sunday School song – I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy Down In My Heart?  Well, I’m singing that song from the rafters!

See these feet?  They have been doing great and wondrous things! 

Let me give you a little back story.  When I met Bill, he was a runner.  I. WAS. NOT.!!!  Secretly, I thought it would be cool, but I also knew for certain that I could never keep up with him and didn’t even know where to start.  Life happened, Bill stopped running, and I still never started.  More life happened.  Bill started running again, and at that point, I was starting to get pretty disgusted with myself.  Still didn’t do anything about it.

Life continued to happen.  Bill didn’t run as much but would do substantial walking.  I finally got to THAT point and did something about my health.  I started exercising and eating better – and it worked.  Bill could walk a lot faster than I could, but we would walk together.  I held on to the hope that someday I could keep up with him and maybe run together.  Then I started running (I found a path that was out of public view) and discovered I could.  We did some running together, and then more life happened. 

I continued with my running, but it was a little harder for Bill.  I figured I wasted too much time and we wouldn’t be able to run together anymore.  A while back, I started walking more than running – and that was something we both enjoyed.  I also met some really great walking buddies along the way.

Bill started having some health issues with his heel, and then his back.  It was to the point that even walking was uncomfortable.  I felt like I had lost my desire to run, at the same time, I really missed the feeling after a good run.  Bill was tenacious about dealing with the health issues – and kept at it until surgery corrected the problem. 

With such an inspiration to encourage me, I started to believe that maybe, just maybe – we might have another shot.  Now, I know that we do!  We have been out together several times, running on the beach.  We are both starting back slowly.  It’s only been about 6 ½ months since surgery.  

I understand that my motivation to run has to come from within to be sustainable, and I will still choose to walk with my wonderful walking friends.  But running with Bill, side by side – fills me with indescribable joy (and the motivation to keep going).  I don’t care how fast, or how far.  I will work my tail off to make sure I can stay beside him.  (By the way, his long legs cover a lot more ground than my less-than-long legs do!)  God is truly an amazing God.  By His grace, I have a second chance at doing this simple yet profound activity with the man I love!

Merry Christmas!

For the past few years I have had a love/hate relationship with Christmas.  Specifically since we started our nomadic lifestyle.  Traditions have always been important – brought a great sense of comfort and seemed the springboard to create more memories.  Not having a “sticks and bricks” home, it is really hard to do all the things you do in a house for the holidays.  I know that this is a choice we made – and I will admit that this is one of few negatives of this lifestyle.  I will admit that I struggle with this time of year mentally. 

My growing up years were filled with happy memories of messy, large, happy family and friends gathering to celebrate.  I don’t remember the gifts – but I do remember the love that flowed with abandon.  I just assumed that our holidays were the way everyone celebrated.  Bill came with a different outlook on the holidays, so I had to learn to adjust my expectations.  I learned to scale down what our holidays were.  Now, being away from family and a house, I feel like holidays have little importance other than the interruption of mail, stores being closed, etc.  I am not casting blame – and this is definitely no reflection on Bill – I will completely own “my feelings”.  It is my attitude that needs some work and adjustment.  I really enjoy our lifestyle and the freedom to explore and move about as we please.  My big challenge is to find ways to rekindle my holiday joy (whatever the holiday is).

This experience has given me a lot of insight into those struggling with depression during the holidays (and every day).  This year, more than ever, not having the freedom to gather with family and friends due to health concerns, reach out to friends. 

I have learned much from spending time alone walking.  I have learned that I look forward to talking and listening to others.  I want to really pay attention to what they are saying – understanding more than just the words.  I want to look into their eyes to see if they are smiling or if their words match what their eyes convey. 

I have learned that if you don’t know and respect your own worth, you can not expect others to recognize and respect it either.  If you are constantly making yourself a doormat – you can’t be upset when they walk all over that mat.

At the Exchange (Navy department store), there is a lovely young lady that is a cashier.  Every other word out of her mouth is “I’m sorry”.  I purchased a backpack as a gift, and the exchange went something like this:  “I’m sorry, the store policy is that I have to unzip all the zippers and look inside.  Is that okay”  Me:  “Of course, please don’t apologize for a store policy.”  Her: “I’m sorry.  No ma’am, it’s just that some people get really upset.”  Me:  “You’re just doing your job – and doing it very well.”  Her:  “I’m sorry…” and so it went.  I have learned that the more you apologize to people, the more that some of them will make you feel you have done something wrong. 

I have learned that my “version”/”view”/”perspective” is just that – mine.  No one else can tell me what I feel, what I think, what my “reality” is.  That is simply their opinion (2-cents worth – and probably not worth that!).  When you are able to respect my view, I will respect yours.

Wow – rereading this, and it sure doesn’t sound like Merry Christmas, does it?  I remind myself that I do have a choice about how and what I am feeling.  I choose to be joyful and grateful for the reason for this holiday season.  The birth of new beginnings, the hope of sweet life and growth, the joy of knowing that we were created as unique and wonderful children of God, knowing that love is a gift that each of us a capable of sharing, and peace – knowing that you are enough – just as you are and allowing your soul to be filled with God’s peace.

I think there is a lot of grace in this lesson.  Instead of beating myself up for my feelings, I am able to acknowledge them and move forward.  It will be a very Merry Christmas, because it will originate from my heart. 

My wish for you this Christmas season is that you find comfort and joy in being YOU.  Unique and wonderfully created by a loving God – there are no others like you.  Remember that He cared enough to send His Son to save us all.  Find it in yourself to be worthy (because He already sees you as worthy) of that fantastic and loving gesture!

Big, Huge Grace – Unimaginable Grace!

So, when I was growing up – and to this day – our daily pre-meal Grace sounds something like this:  God is Great, God is Good, let us thank Him for our food.  Amen.  Simple, right?  Every day, at least 3 times a day.  Sometimes it probably sounds like something we just trot out without much thought.  I would disagree – wholeheartedly.  Those may be the words coming out of my mouth – but so much more comes from my heart.  If you are paying attention, you will probably notice that “Amen” doesn’t mean my head pops up, and my mouth pops open.  That’s because my heart hasn’t said Amen yet.

This past week has been so grace-filled – and my gratitude is overflowing.  Grace because I know that I could never do enough to earn the blessings in my life.  We’re talking grace of ginormous proportions. 

I’ve mentioned how well Bill is doing in our other blog. I am so proud of him!

On Friday, the piano keyboard I ordered was delivered.  I took piano lessons for many years while I was in school.  I started to learn on an old player piano.  It had these old rolls with paper, and you would load one and then start pedaling and the keys would play as if by magic.  Later, Mom and Dad saved up and bought a brand new upright piano for me.  My first piano teacher was pretty intimidating, and those lessons were awfully long “half hours”.  Honestly, practicing every day probably wasn’t my favorite thing.  Okay, no probably about it.  Thirty minutes felt more like hours.  Except when Dad would sit in his recliner and listen to me play.  I know that Mom appreciated it as well, but it was often her job to make sure I practiced.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized and appreciated the sacrifices they made for this.  I know that money was tight, and not only did they have monthly payments on the piano, but weekly lesson fees and music books as well.  Recitals were very uncomfortable for me, but I made it through them.

Recently, I felt prompted to start playing again to see if I remembered much and if I was even a little proficient.  Given our lifestyle, I was thankful for having a small Casio keyboard that allowed me to reacquaint myself with piano.  A gifted friend that teaches piano offered guidance and support, and Bill was cheering me on.  One thing led to another, and now – miracle of miracles – I have a full-size keyboard to play.  I am working hard to live up to even a small portion of what it is capable of.  I find that half an hour is definitely not sufficient.  There also seems to be a time warp problem.  I find myself sitting down to just play for a minute, and two hours later I am still sitting there. 

I am ready for stay-at-home shelter-in-place orders.  In fact – bring it on!  I’ll let you know when I’m ready to go out again.  I can work from home, I have my knitting, I have my piano, I have my Bill, I have dogs to walk and miles to log.  I have access to a great exercise bootcamp video and a super workout spot on our site.  Last week, I was able to hit 4 out of 5 days doing a workout in addition to daily walks.  I do miss having my friend to exercise with, and I have room for one more, but I don’t mind solo.

I am grateful.  For so many things – health and a body that is able to move; Bill and my family, a place to live, food to eat, the ability to serve others, a job, and a host of skills that fill me with joy.  If I listed all my gratitudes and blessings, this post would never get done. 

Grace lesson – choose an attitude of gratitude.  When you view life through a filter of gratitude, you will find joy and blessings beyond measure.

Reflections

The other day, I went on my last walk around Crystal Lake for this year before we head south.  The water was like glass, and the trees with their glorious fall dress were reflected in all their beauty.  A mirror image, it captured the beauty and the clouds in the sky, the pretty reds and yellows and the brown dead leaves.

Reflections (images) are interesting, and for me they provoke the “thought” kind of reflection.  The reflections on the lake seem to be less harsh/clear than the mirror reflections.

When you look at your own reflection, what do you see?  What do you see if you look at a friend or family member’s reflection?

On this particular day, I was reminded of my friend, Judy.  When I see her, I see gentleness and compassion, encouragement, and a sense of adventure.  She reflects these qualities just as the lake reflects the beautiful fall colors.  Judy inspires me to try harder, be better, and make my reflection shine a little brighter.  (And she is helping me rediscover my love of piano to the detriment of her ears!)

Grace Lesson:  Make sure you have at least one “Judy” in your life!  I am blessed to have many people that reflect beautifully.  I have grateful – I understand the value of the gift that God has given me by bringing them into my life.

Don’t Wait…

We just experienced the most wonderful weekend – a time full of blessings and joy.  It was a combination of Dumonts Are On The Road Again and Thelma and Louise roadtripping. 

We spent Thursday through today (Sunday) at Pioneer Trail Campground in Escanaba, Michigan.  My cousins, Janet and Debbie, brought my aunt/their mom, and we brought mom.  It was family time, sister time, cousin time, and it was AMAZING!!!

The weather was NOT spectacular – it was cold and rainy with some wind.  We never left the campground.  We didn’t have great plans to go out on the town.  We talked.  Sometimes we walked and talked if there was a break in the weather.  We laughed, we cried, we ate.  We made incredible memories.

For fun, we all used Color Street nail strips and did our nails. 

For more fun, we roasted marshmallows and made S’mores.  Then we experimented with dipping roasted marshmallows in Baileys, in Kahlua, and in Rum Chata.

The nails, the food, the walks – they were fun.  The weather – we really didn’t care.  I have to tell you, though – the time and the talks – I’ll never forget.  I am so grateful to Janet and Debbie for taking the time to make this possible – grateful for Mom agreeing to come with us.  And to our Knight in Shining Armor – Bill – this man is priceless.  He pulled the house, kept the fire going (even in the rain), grilled our steaks and cooked our shrimp boil – and did it with a smile.  The only guy in the group (except Champ and Murphy – our 4-legger men). 

Grace Lesson:  Don’t wait to make memories.  Family is so precious.  You don’t have to have activities and events planned to have fun.  Set down and talk to each other.  Make eye contact, make heart contact.  Then be sure to thank God for the wonderful people he brings to your life – they are your true treasures.

Joy, Faith, Hope, Encouragement

I think I am couple blogs behind.  I’ve been thinking about these “4 words” for almost a month now.  That’s all they are – 4 words.  If that is where you want to leave them.  I want – am aiming – for them to be more than just words.  In other words, I want them to be verbs in my life, not just nouns (technically the noun form of encouragement would be encourager – and that would be okay).

There is a song that includes the line “there’s always a reason to always choose joy”.  Sometimes that is a challenge.  I lost my wallet a month ago.  There is a slim to bordering on miraculous chance I will find it somewhere in our house.  More likely, I dropped it or left it on a counter somewhere.  Whoever found it chose to avail themselves of the cash inside and not turn the wallet in or attempt to return it.  I had saved several hundred dollars and stashed it in the wallet.  Not smart, I get it – but that’s what I did.  I am (still) trying to convince myself of the joy of starting to save all over again and hoping that perhaps the person who found it really needed that money more than I did.

Even harder – choosing joy when I learned that my uncle had passed away.  I knew he had some health problems – some really tough ones – but this was still a shock.  I’ve written about him and my aunt before.  They have “the Funny Farm”.  There is great joy in knowing him and his family.  Great joy in the wonderful memories that flood my mind just thinking about him. 

Faith – when I choose joy, sometimes it requires me to really exercise my faith.  Faith in things unseen, faith in the goodness of people.  Exercising faith requires me to let go of control (this exercise is really tough for me – harder than pull-ups, fast running, burpees, weight-lifting , etc.).  When I choose to exercise my faith, it becomes easier the next time (just like physical exercise!?!?), and starts to feel very comforting.

I have been listening to Zig Ziglar, Wayne Dyer, Brene Brown, and Tara Brach on audiobook.  If you’re looking for inspiration – check them out.  Zig talks about the importance of being a person than inspires hope and encouragement in others.  A worthwhile endeavor indeed.  If you can set your ego aside, get your focus somewhere other than yourself, sharing encouragement and hope can be an act of gratitude.  It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose or extravagant.  Simply share (honestly) a sense of hopeful encouragement.  You don’t have to look far to give it a try.  And, yes, in these COVID times, you can be socially distanced, appropriately masked and still do it.

When dealing in hope and encouragement, don’t go there if you don’t mean it.  As an example, I offered to start something I thought would be beneficial.  Received very positive feedback and spent a great deal of time and energy in planning.  Reached out for help in implementing – and ….. nothing.  I choose to look at this as a lesson to remind me not to offer encouragement and hope to someone else if I am not going to back up the words.  Verbs, not nouns.

My Grace Lessons:  Choose Joy, Exercise Faith – Share Hope, Give Encouragement

Masks

Spoiler Alert – there may not be much grace in this post!

I’m positive that I’m not alone in this – but I am so tired of the mask controversy.  Sick of hearing about conspiracies, hoaxes, political agendas, it’s just the flu, “my constitutional rights not to wear a mask, etc.  Seeing people intentionally gather in large groups and then later seeing the rise in case numbers.

How about this one?  Oh, it’s just “insert name” – I don’t need to wear a mask.  So, tell me, “xxx” is immune to the virus?  Is this because they look friendly/are your friend/don’t look like they are sick?  Besides, they don’t wear a mask around me (and probably don’t wear a mask around anyone else…WHAT???).

I think (my opinion) that our nation has become spoiled and lazy.  There seems to be a pervasive attitude that our comfort supersedes health and safety of others.  When our elected officials make decisions that are in the interests of the general population, they are called idiots or morons.  (Some Michiganders quite proudly display this very sentiment about our governor in their yards and on their vehicles.)  I understand that you DO have the right to freely express your opinions.  I’m just curious about how they would handle the current health situation in the world?

For those who have been unaffected by the virus (and I think that population is diminishing) – what will it take for you to decide this might be a *real* thing?  Will you have to personally know someone that has died from it?  Who, exactly, in your life would you like to sacrifice?  Please enlighten me – tell me your credentials/education/experience with this virus?  What makes you the superior source of information?

If they don’t live in your house or are not in your immediate circle, or if they choose to engage in risky behaviors (even if they do live in your house or are in your immediate circle) – wear the damn mask!  Be bold enough to disregard what that person or others might think.

Rambling Thoughts

Our former neighbor died about 10 days ago.  We only saw him a couple times a year since we moved and talked via phone less than that.  He was a very unique kind of guy – very much a loner and independent in the extreme.  He had some medical issues, and could barely walk – and honestly – it was hard to watch him walk.  I am sad that he died alone, and really sad that I didn’t know him better – because I have a feeling he had a very interesting life story.  I wish I could have done more for him, and at the same time realize that what he did allow us to do for him was very difficult for him.

Grace Lesson – When someone “pops” into your mind, and you start thinking about what you should/could/ought to do – realize that at any moment, those “shoulds, coulds, and oughts” may turn into regrets.  Too little, too late.

 

The North Country Trail Run has been cancelled this year.  Most running events have – or have turned virtual.  This is a run that just couldn’t be replicated virtually.  In all honesty, I’m glad it was cancelled.  Bringing the large number of people this event draws into our small community here is not a good scenario.  We are not blessed with abundant health care facilities (in number or in size), and a sudden increase in virus presence could be devastating.  I am sorry that I will miss the view at 26 – it would be easy for me to drive to the site and go backwards on the trail to see that glorious view – but it wouldn’t be the same.  And trying to do the course alone wouldn’t be wise since the course is only “visible” when it is marked.

Grace Lesson – My wants/wishes take back seat to the health of the community.  The view at 26 in 2021 will be even sweeter!

 

Track Running – I have been running on a high school track – it’s only about a year old – and what a delight!  I usually have the track to myself and my thoughts.  The surface is truly a joy to experience!  Running in circles is not nearly as boring as it sounds – allows for imagination and thoughts to run with wild abandon.

Grace Lesson – New opportunities!

 

Grace Lesson from before – Spend more time watching clouds and birds.  I already learned this lesson earlier this year when we were sheltering in place.  I promised myself I would remember it.  I broke my promise.  I am going to give myself another chance.  I’m worth it.

Open My Eyes

Although the blog has been silent lately, my mind has not.  I’ve been learning much about myself – and while surprising, what I am realizing makes sense.

When the pandemic started, it was interesting to read about people gaining weight during quarantine – “eating all the snacks at once”.  For me, I lost weight.  I didn’t buy snacks – I bought food with space and nutrient value in mind.  Living in an RV with limited storage space forces you to prioritize like that.  My perceived threat response was to conserve space and resources and simultaneously build and maintain healthy immune systems.  I viewed the threat as not just an attack on me personally, but a much larger scale.  Our meals were smaller in proportion, healthier, and with a noticeable absence of snacks/sweets.

Lately, my stress level has changed – or so I thought.  (It was, in reality, a change in perceived threat.)  Our pantry certainly reflects a change.  More sweets and snacks, larger portions with less thought to nutrition.  At first, I attributed this to “numbing” to the pandemic threat and made a conscious effort to get back on track.  That wasn’t working so well, so I started paying attention to what I was eating, what I was craving, and the situations that preceded food.  I realized that I was eating (very poorly) in response to a different perceived threat.  Sure enough, I could predict when I would be hitting the sweets.  Something would happen that, in my mind, I would perceive as an insinuation that I was not enough.  It might have been something as simple as stating my plan and having another person make a suggestion to override and do it “better”.  This happens often enough, and it is easy to believe that your thoughts and actions are not enough.  (This revelation helped me understand how/why I struggled with a much higher body weight in the past.  First, food offered comfort – sugar and sweet stuff just helped transport the comfort level.  Second, I could control/choose the comfort.)

Generally, I try to avoid conflict and please those around me.  It is easier to give in to whatever option is offered so as not to offend.  It BECOMES very easy to believe that your ideas and plans are not good enough.  Growth sometimes causes discomfort.  I can say, with confidence, that I have grown over the past couple 5 years.  The discomfort generated by not feeling well, the scales creeping up, and a few other things were concerning.  With some reflection, it was pretty easy to figure out why the scales were creeping up, and my attitude was creeping down (and health and general sense of well-being).  Knowing what I am missing is a huge plus this time.  It doesn’t make the work any easier – I know changing will be a challenge.  I also know what the payoff will be – and I want it with a passion.

God is amazing – that seems so trite to say – but I am humbly grateful for the messages he puts in my path.  Pastor talked about Fruits of the Spirit this morning.  Next to Grace, this is probably one of my favorite topics.  His message had a different slant that I don’t recall hearing before.  He talked about the traits of love and the fruits of the Spirit and took it a bit further.  He brought in the topic of judging others against oneself.  He reminded us that patience looks much different from one person to another – as does every other trait of love and fruit of the Spirit.  Just like running (my interpretation) – the only person I have to compete against is myself.  The only person that is qualified to judge my traits of love and fruits of the Spirit is God.  Remembering that – hammering that into my brain – will allow me to respond to “helpful suggestions” more reasonably.  More reasonably in terms of my self-worth, my self-care, and my attitude.

 

Time to incorporate some Grace, drop a ton a judgment and comparison (mostly against myself) – and open myself to the Fruits of the Spirit and the traits of Love.

 

God and His Amazing Grace!  This is my Grace Lesson.