travel


A few years ago we took a family vacation to the Black Hills in South Dakota. We toured museums and viewed mountainsides that had been carved into art and we played.

One day, after stopping in at a university to see yet another display of fossils and rocks and bones, we had lunch on the grounds. I’d packed sandwiches and such, and because we didn’t see any Keep Off the Grass signs, we spread it all out and picnicked. People were coming and going so it was a little like picnicking in a fish bowl. I was mildly uncomfortable because that’s how I get whenever I am doing something that causes people to look at me. I imagine their disapproval. I wonder if I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing.

While I’m sitting on the grass, handing out the food and imagining all that criticism from all those passing people, I look over and see Carter. Eating his sandwich. On the lawn. Where people can see him.

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My husband and my children don’t have the same hangups that I do. They don’t think the same way. They don’t wonder or care, usually, what other people think. They say things like:

No one is looking, or

You’ll never see these people again so who cares, or

If it’s really a problem, someone will tell us to stop.

My husband and my children, because of their whatever attitudes, often have a lot more fun. They seem to live more freely. They try things more easily. They do things like:

Going to a movie alone, dressed in his Hallowe’en costume complete with creepy-eyed contact lenses, just because he wanted to and couldn’t find a friend who could go with him. As a teenager, I would have never done that.

Taking up interesting hobbies, like knitting, even though he might be teased for it. I still have a hard time doing something for which I might be teased.

Developing their personal tastes in things like art and music, even though they aren’t typical interests among their peers. This one, I understand.

I’m getting better at all of this. I’m getting better at caring more about what God thinks and less about what people think. Oh, what freedom! I’ve been able to say no sometimes and to be okay, for the most part, with what others might think about it. I’ve also been able to say yes to some things I wouldn’t have said yes to before. Nice.

I keep this picture of my uninhibited, creative, sandwich-eating boy on the desktop of my computer. It reminds me to let go of the fear of being criticized, and to embrace the joy of living in the moment.

Thanks, Carter, for showing me how to really eat a sandwich.

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Life has been fast-paced lately, and I’ve found it hard to write enough sentences to put together into anything resembling a blog post. This week I’ve decided to repost some old stuff that was fun to write at the time, and fun to remember now. I hope that’s okay!

Thanks for your patience.

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In all the big and little ways of being happy, there are not many that equal coming home.

There’s something about walking into familiar, you know? Even if the boys have been on their own all weekend and the house can’t keep their messy secret, outing them by all the dirty dishes in the sink and the scattered this-es and thats.

Homecoming is the final gift of home-leaving.

I was away for the weekend, a road trip by myself. It’s been a long time, just the CBC and me, and the long prairie road. I drove by photographs I didn’t stop and take – the leaning hip-roofed barn, the wild turkeys, the hawk on the fence post – and I sang off-key and I thought mindless thoughts about things I don’t remember.

Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan

Manitou Lake, Saskatchewan

I spent the weekend in the company of women, sharing writing dreams and listening to things said and not said, and tasting the rich chocolate of fellowship and homemade chilli and good bread and prayer on my tongue, with the words and the walks and the water.

I came home from it all to Sunday afternoon resting and eating and boy hugs and a husband and a nap on the couch, and even the Monday morning mountain of laundry can’t bitter the sweet of the time away, and of the return.

Last week I flew away to a green island in British Columbia, Canada. It was wonderful. There wasn’t any snow! I travelled with four other women and a baby, and while the weather was rainy and cool, the time spent was warm and sweet.

The harbour in Vancouver. See the big white ferry? That is NOT the one we took. Ours was much smaller!

The harbour in Vancouver. See the big white ferry? That is NOT the one we took. Ours was much smaller!

See that teeny little boat down there? That was ours. The rain held off for the forty-five minute ride across the water, and the scenery was breath-taking.

See that teeny little boat down there? That was ours. The rain held off for the forty-five minute ride across the water, and the scenery was breath-taking.

We docked here, on Keats Island.

We docked here, on Keats Island.

And we ended up here, at Barnabas Landing. Rainy weather but warm hearts.

And we ended up here, at Barnabas Landing. Rainy weather but warm hearts.

The beautiful, ever-changing view as the clouds lifted and fell on the islands across the water and the mountains in the distance. Majesty!

The beautiful, ever-changing view as the clouds lifted and fell on the islands across the water and the mountains in the distance. Majesty!

The week was hosted by the organization Come before Winter. Founded by Karen Alexander, from Austin, Texas, it has grown into a ministry which travels around the world, ministering to women in ministry. Cool, yes?

I attended a Come before Winter renewal in Saskatchewan several years ago, and what struck me then was the actual ministering that went on. CbW team members met us when we arrived, carried our bags into the hotel, knew our names. Throughout the week there were activities and much study, but the take away for me, that time, was the gracious care given to the participants. To me. It’s not something women, caregivers, experience very often.

This time, I was expecting it. The caring attention and the love. And it was wonderful, but it wasn’t the focus of the week for me. This time, it was the study.

We studied Exodus, a book I already loved for the rich story it shares, but we studied it from different perspectives. We looked at things like narrative (looking at the story with the purpose of identifying and writing the story of my own walk with God), transformation (the importance of spiritual practices in the rhythm of life), structure (looking at the structure of two chapters, 19 and 24, in order to discover how they reveal that God’s presence is intertwined with the covenant established at Mt. Sinai), and theology (expanding our understanding of the nature of God). And there was art and there was exercise and there was quiet, reflective time.

And there was conversation. The holiness of community. Connections, deeply spiritual, made among women meeting each other for the first time. Renewal of relationship among some who had met before. Belonging, sharing, communing.

Beautiful Pauline, the wife of Benny, a friend I haven't seen in thirty years. I was so blessed to meet and become heart-joined with this amazing woman. Pauline, I think a trip to Australia is in our future!

Beautiful Pauline, the wife of Benny, a friend I haven’t seen in thirty years. I was so blessed to meet and become heart-joined with this amazing woman. Pauline, I think a trip to Australia is in our future!

Julia and Sally, the women who, along with Brooke, I was privileged to share words with each evening. (Sorry Brooke, but your eyes were closed in every picture I have of you!)

Julia and Sally, the women who, along with Brooke, I was privileged to share words with each evening. (Sorry Brooke, but your eyes were closed in every picture I have of you!)

Naomi, one of my wonderful roommates. Ms. Peanut Allergy. Thankful for EpiPens, and nurses who know what they are doing. I love this girl!

Naomi, one of my wonderful roommates. Ms. Peanut Allergy. Thankful for EpiPens, and nurses who know what they are doing. I love this girl!

Imogene and Barbara, who brought laughter and delight and joy and soul with them. Oh my! What blessings!

Imogene and Barbara, who brought laughter and delight and joy and soul with them. Oh my! What blessings!

And then I came home.

Home to snow and family and snow and empty cupboards and that long list and snow.

But I am carrying with me, still and quiet and deep, the beauty of that island and the renewal of that shared time.

Sunday morning, early, and I’m not supposed to be getting ready to leave. This isn’t what Sunday mornings are about, usually. Not in my world, anyway.

But here I am, packed and ready and waiting for the coffee to finish perking so I can have a cup before I go. Off for a week to the west coast, where the forecast is rain for every one of the six days I will be gone.

But there won’t be any snow and I’ll be able to smell the ocean, and a walk in the rain never hurt anyone.

Off to spend some days, heart-stirred and kingdom-blessed, with women who love and serve and honour. Blessed by communion.

I’m torn, as I always am when I leave my family behind. I’m torn between where my heart lives and where my heart leads. It’s always been this way. It’s the way of wives and mothers whose lives are very knit into the ones they love. It’s hard to leave.

They’ll be fine.

Three boys can take care of one dad for one week.

The loaves of bread and the cookies are in the freezer, and the kombucha is made and ready. The list for the meals (easy, frozen and packaged stuff that makes me cringe a little) is on the board. The chores are second nature, and the school work, well, they’ll do a little but probably not everything they should.

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But they’ll be fine.

And I’ll fly away, heart-torn but thankful for the tearing. It’s love, you know.

I’ll be gone until next weekend, and I don’t think I’ll be able to blog in that time. Have a great week, and may you be blessed with love, my friends.

We returned home early Friday morning from nine days in the Dominican Republic. It was our first experience having a warm Caribbean holiday and it was great. We did create many new memories, enjoyed wonderful new experiences and learned new things. The sun, sand and ocean were great.

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Using a local “moto” taxi was also a fun experience.

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And taking an eight-hour trip into the mountains to visit a coffee farm where shade grown organic coffee is grown was one of the highlights. Fifteen  years ago Julia Alvarez and her husband Bill Eichner bought a clear-cut mountain side and started their coffee farm. I believe it was to give back to the country they loved. The mountainside is now lush with tropical trees, wild fruit, shrubs and plants with coffee bushes interspersed throughout.

When we arrived at the farm we were met by Autumn, a young college graduate on a two-year volunteer program with the Peace Corps. She is working with a village of forty-four families to do health education. In a few minutes Michael arrived. He is on a one year program working in the community and on the farm helping to promote bio diversity. Both were very informative and we learned a lot about health needs and issues in a mountain community as well as the tropical vegetation and what takes place on an organic coffee farm.

Perhaps more importantly, I was impressed with the two young Americans spending their time in a Dominican mountain community helping to improve the lives of the people there, and I was reminded once again that our world is made better by those coming behind us.

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Before we started our trip down the mountain we had a sumptuous meal with a wonderful couple on another coffee farm.  We were impressed with their gracious hospitality.

IMG_0380Most significantly I came home realizing that when you spend time with the people you love whether it be on the beach, a mountain top or at home you have had a good day.

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I’ve been away for a few days. I left the husband and the children and the chickens and the goats, and I flew away to beautiful British Columbia to speak at a women’s workshop, and it was wonderful. Traveling with two of my favourite people, laughing and sharing and killing time together in airports. Being reacquainted with old friends and meeting new ones, and staying up way too late with Michelle in the evenings and still feeling like we didn’t have enough visiting time.

And the Once Upon a Time story workshop, a full day of sharing space and time and words with thirty beautiful women, it has come and gone. And back I have flown, and this morning I awake to my real life.

I awake to the children and the coffee and the windy Saskatchewan morning. And I shake my head a little to remind myself of where and who I am. I walk into my kitchen, pull the old yellow bowl out of the cupboard, and I make the morning pancakes. The boys are full of the stories I missed. Of last Friday, when Dad picked Carter up in the semi and they spent the day together, hauling fertilizer and such. And oh yes, the swimming pool opened! And Clayton came to spend the night. And Tyson and Garrett spent an afternoon together, working on Garrett’s old bike, trying to get it running. And I listen.

Then out they go, to begin the day. Lyndon is hoping to get the barn roofed, but the wind may cause some problems. In my quiet kitchen, as I wash Susan’s casserole dish, I am thankful for her and her thoughtful feeding of my family while I was away. In the background I hear the peeping and cheeping of the baby ducks and turkeys in my upstairs bathroom. Soon they can go out to the barn. Not soon enough, I think.

I mix up some cookies and as I stir and bake, I think of the women I spent time with just a few days ago. I think of Gretta and her boys. And I say a little prayer for her, and for her friends who attended the workshop with her. And I wonder if Lorie’s training for her new job went well. And I think of Anita, who I haven’t seen for thirty years, and I pray for her upcoming move. And I wish I’d had more time to get to know Susan and Molly and Erin and Melissa and Mitsy and Linda and …

The timer dings and the cookies come out of the oven and the boys and their dad come in for coffee. And my real life steals over me, quietly and sweetly.

My husband and I spent the last week in Las Vegas. It was fun to get away with friends, to take a break from life and worry, and to enjoy being together in a new place. We’d heard lots about Las Vegas from friends who’d gone, so we had some idea of what to expect. But not much. Really, we felt like four hillbillies venturing out of, well, the hills, as we navigated airports and security and customs.

Travelling can be a pretty intimidating process these days. I mean, you are standing in a line, shoeless and beltless and purseless … expecting, I don’t know, lice powder for your hair or something.

I haven’t travelled in a while.

And then, Vegas. Land of slot machines and naked women, where everywhere lingers the smell of cigarette and cigar smoke combined with the heavily flowered scent of carpet cleaner. Where people walk down the street with huge drinks in their hands. Where hustlers wave pictures of naked women for sale, wave them right in front of your face as you are walking down the street, and where people actually take them, the pictures, and put them in their back pockets. And where there is no choice but to step on all those naked women who had been dropped on the sidewalk, to walk on a carpet of women dropped like trash.

And where billboard vehicles advertise more sex, more entertainment. Where everywhere, someone has a hand stretched out. Where drunks sleep it off in elevators and on stairs and in corners. Where people will do anything, wear anything, say anything, just to get you to stop and look and, hopefully, pay.

This is the Vegas that slapped me in the face. This is the Vegas I didn’t like.

But there were things that I loved. I loved spending time with my friend Debbie at the discount mall the first day, figuring out how to navigate public transit, and listening to our fellow passengers talk about what they’d seen and what they wanted to see.

I loved the Venetian hotel for its quieter atmosphere, and I loved the hand blown glass flowers on the ceiling of the lobby of the Bellagio. I loved watching the Bellagio fountains from the window of our hotel room.

I loved sharing homemade nachos with my husband in the century old El Torvo Hotel at the Grand Canyon, and I loved buying my Kokopelli earings there, the ones Lonnie and Lyndon made fun of. And I loved this sign, above the toilets in a Grand Canyon hotel. I mean, really? Is this a problem there?

I loved watching the zip line riders at Freemont Street, especially the seventy-five-ish-year-old woman who rode with her daughter and granddaughter, and I loved the supper buffet at the Golden Nugget. And I loved sharing it all, the weird and the wonderful, with our friends.

I loved my last day in Vegas. Lyndon and I spent the day walking and seeing things we wanted to see but hadn’t yet had the time for. We walked the strip on last time, leaving early in the morning before the hustlers and the crowds. We ate bacon and eggs at Johnny Rockets in the food court of the Venetian hotel. We wandered through the Bellagio one last time, looking for the art gallery with the Monet exhibit.

Oh my, the Monet exhibit. That was a treasure. I wandered through the three small rooms, with the self-guided tour phone pressed to my ear, and I almost cried at the beauty and the history that surrounded me. And my sweet husband walked over and he held my hand for a minute and he didn’t rush me, because he knew what it meant.

And we wandered all the way to the other end of the street, past the M&M store and the Coca Cola store, and we ended up in the Rainforest Cafe at the MGM Grand for lunch, where we shared an Ultimate Chocolate half-size desert that was enough to feed us and our three boys.

And we had one last afternoon nap in our room on the ninth floor of the Flamingo hotel, and we spent one last evening on the strip. We watched the volcano erupt in front of the Mirage, and we caught the last half of the pirate show at Treasure Island, and it was a beautiful, warm night. And we watched the gondolas one last time at the Venetian, and spent a happy hour in the Peter Lik Gallery, gazing in wonder at his amazing photography.

But when it was time to come home, we were ready to come home. We’d seen and experienced and laughed and wondered. Made memories. Shared fun and escaped life for a while.

But coming home. That is always good.

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