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all but the cats write here ... to remember, to share, to mumble, to shout ... follow along by RSS or email if you like.

Filtering by Category: getting away

Housekeeping

bethany

I’ve never been the most consistent housekeeper, but you all pretty much know that by now. I do make lists often though, so will attempt to briefly update you on what we’ve been up to since the last post about the Land Ho! Art Sale in June.

The Sale is over!

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The Land Ho! sale ran for two weeks, and we sold a nice amount of work! Enough to get a good nest egg going for our Land Fund, even after paying off all of the costs of scans and canvas and paint and shipping supplies. It was a lot of work to get everything ordered, packaged, and shipped, but it felt good to wrap up that whole effort and call it finished. Big thanks to everyone who ordered something, or sent in a donation, it was mightily appreciated!

Finishing up at Keren and Bobby’s …

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After hogging Keren and Bobby’s basement and driveway and back yard for months on end, with all the forging and art making and sprawling that we seem to do, it was time to move on. We had to finish up some work first though that we’d started before the Art Sale became a thing, so we focused on the renovations in the basement that had been started before it was turned into a temporary studio and shipping center. Lots of trim and painting and flooring and sanding and door hanging before we had to call it quits because Michael had a Sol LeWitt job coming up in Cambridge Massachusetts … but first we had to get the trailer to Chicago so the boys and I could help out at my folks while he worked at Harvard.

Getting Out …

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Getting out of any long-term stay is hard, and leaving after 6 months is even more difficult. There was a torn awning to remove and dispose of (sadly), many tools to sort and stow, and a seemingly endless list of things to pack and dispose of and tend to. We badly wanted a few days to ourselves before landing in Chicago, but it seemed like the window was getting so small that we might not have more than a night or two on the road. We had to be there by Friday August 10th at the latest. On August 3rd, we got a call that my Dad had something that appeared at first to be a heart attack, and he was in the hospital. We prayed, packed faster, and managed to get on the road on the 6th. After a few hours of heading over the mountains, we knew that Matilda’s transmission wasn’t just sending out warning signals, it was in its death throes.

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After stopping for a night with Caleb and boys (pure bliss!) we tried to limp North but had to admit that we weren’t going to make it. We were forced into a …

Mini Transmission Vacation!

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It was now Tuesday August 7th and we were in Wilkesboro NC with just 4 days until Michael had to hop on Amtrak in downtown Chicago. It was now looking like Dad had open heart surgery looming in the next week or so as he had some afib and a faulty valve, and they were busy giving him tests to rule out possible complications. We had to find someone who could get and replace the transmission in a 1995 F250 in 2-3 days. We asked God to point us in the right direction, limped into a big truck body shop, got a recommendation for a transmission place in the next town that said they might be able to help, and landed in a VFW campsite nearby.

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After chatting with a friendly veteran, befriending the camp host’s 4 crazy dogs, and getting the camper set up, we took off to see if these folks could indeed help us. Matilda’s 20’ of red and white loveliness looked like the runt of the litter when parked among the rest of the trucks in Gear Jammer Transmission’s crowded lot. The mechanics came on out, crawled under Matilda and poked around, and made a few phone calls. After being assured they could get a new one and put it in in the next 48 hours, we hitched a ride back to our campground with the friendly owner.

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Before collapsing for the night, we took the transmission guy’s recommendation of a hole-in-the-wall BBQ place a short walk from our campsite, devoured a quiet and delicious meal together, and mused on the way in which we were getting my strongly desired “few nights to ourselves” before landing in Chicago. It was hard to fully relax with the worries about Dad and his pending surgery, which ended up suddenly scheduled for Friday the 10th, but it was still lovely to be on our own and puttering for a couple of nights. We got a purring Matilda back late on Thursday, and prepped for an early Friday morning start.

Dad’s Surgery

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Friday was our drive to Chicago day, and Dad’s surgery. I’d talked to him a couple times by phone, and knew he had no fears at all. We trusted that all was in God’s hands, and got on the road. He was scheduled for a valve replacement, a double bypass, and an ablation. He ended up with a quadruple bypass, a new valve to replace what they discovered was an abnormal 2-flap one, and a maze procedure. By the time we arrived in their driveway just before midnight, he was out of anesthesia and back in one piece in the ICU.

Michael and Harvard

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Saturday morning we took stock of the state of things at the house where my brother Stephen and his wife Rene and son Paul were caring for Mom, briefly visited Dad in the hospital, and then Michael packed up in time for me to take him to the train heading downtown, where he’d hop on Amtrak to go East. I must have messed up my Metra schedule while reading it on my phone in the truck the day before, because the train he was to catch only ran on weekdays, and at the last minute I had to hightail it into Chicago to drop him directly at the station. The prospect of Michael being gone for 5 weeks while I was helping with Mom and Dad and the household, while also parenting and homeschooling, loomed large, and I tried to get my head around how to handle it all as I drove back to the house.

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Michael dove deep in Cambridge where he was helping re-install a huge Sol LeWitt wall drawing in a museum on Harvard’s campus. A 5-story atrium with tight spaces and convoluted scaffolding and minimal AC was more challenging than some jobs, and between Harvard’s work rules and delays from the construction crew working in the same space, the job stretched to 7 weeks. Getting him back at the end of that time was pretty delightful.

The Scene at 4N405

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Since we arrived on August 10th, much has changed. Dad was in the hospital for another two weeks after we got here, and was more than ready to come home when they pulled the final drainage tube out. Mom took a pretty steep dive downwards after he went into the hospital, missing the connection of being with him daily, and having seen what happened to him when he passed out while at the park. Their bond is a huge part of what keeps her going, and without seeing him or being able to be with him at all, she lost a lot of ground and basically stopped being able to walk.

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Her care needs increased a lot as a result, and she currently needs 2 or 3 people’s help on a daily basis. They decided to move into the in-law apartment at my brother’s new home, which includes a flat floor plan and wider doorways, and plans are in motion to add a kitchenette and laundry to accommodate their needs. In the meantime, we have added a Hoyer lift, a wheelchair, and a ramp down the front steps to the household. Dad has gained strength steadily, and recovery is going well enough that he’s back to work and up to long walks and carrying boxes to the car. Those boxes would be the result of the sorting of his vast book collection down to one bookcase’s worth to take along to the new place.

 A telegram my grandfather Elmer sent to his fiancée Juanita for Valentine’s Day in 1937, 8 weeks before they were married.

A telegram my grandfather Elmer sent to his fiancée Juanita for Valentine’s Day in 1937, 8 weeks before they were married.

We’re currently taking care of Mom with a lot of help from my sister Martha, working on sorting and emptying the house of a lifetime of accumulation (it is minimal by most standards!), and preparing to fix the house up for sale once they move. There’s a lot to do, and we’re here as long as we’re needed.

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The land we had our eye on is still available, but we’re not focused on it at the moment. We’ve tried to just do what’s in front of us for years now, and the current situation is no different. There are needs, there is work that we know in our hearts is ours to do, and we’re in it with everything we’ve got.

Onward …

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One Thousand Days

bethany

We spent the 1000th day of being on the road in Brooklyn. The boys and I at least, Michael was working his butt off at UCONN installing a Sol LeWitt piece that day. It felt momentous to me, this getting into the 4 digit category, and kind of stunning. One Thousand Days. So many, that much of it is getting blurry, in terms of where/when/with whom, and … what year was that?

 DAY 2

DAY 2

The boys and I have kept journals since day one, though I'm the only one tracking the overall numbers. It kind of annoys Michael a wee bit, I think because the trip has become so very one-day-at-a-time that marking the overall duration seems pointless, or just plain distracting? I somewhat get that, but couldn't help myself in at least writing Day #1086 in my journal this morning when I curled up to write about yesterday.

Hitting #1,000 back in October made me shiver. How much have the boys changed in that time? What's growing, hardening, softening, missing, or coming into focus? Is Douglas's spine forever bent from curling up in his bunk? How on earth have we survived financially? (just fine, thank you God). Have I really slept in that camper for 850+ of those nights? Is Matilda about to croak in a pricier way, rather than just creak? Shouldn't we have visited more people by now? Was I really so self conscious about sleeping “in public” at a truck stop? What on earth do we have back in that storage space in PA, and is it covered in mold by now?

 DAY 999

DAY 999

Just for kicks, a few stats, as of 12/18/2017 … day #1086

>  Number of “people visits” we've made … 78

>  Shortest visit … 2 hours

>  Longest visit … 3.5 months*

>  Number of visits where it hurt at least a bit to leave … 78

>  Number of states we've been in … 41

>  Number of regular campgrounds we've stayed at … 57

>  Number of days just boondocking** … 71

>  Miles driven towing the trailer … 16,505

>  Miles put on Matilda in total … 45,345

It's funny, this tracking the days bit makes me focused in a way I never have been. More attentive to the passage of time in days, and only days. What's accomplished, said, noticed, felt, enjoyed, annoying, disappointing … it's all measured one day at at time. No schedule whatsoever to make us pay attention to weeks or months or semesters or vacation days left or hours worked or anything of the sort. It's a more profound shift than I had any idea was coming, and it has consequences.

I notice the temperature, the humidity, the insect sounds, the birds, the temperaments of my boys, my moods, my body's reactions to things, the health of the cats, the fragility of my nails, the color of the light, the spirit in which something is said, body language cues, how much stuff we have added since we left home (partly by how Matilda feels when she tows), how quiet my boys can be, how patient my husband is, how much I enjoy the boys' bedtime rituals, how media affects us all, how our relationships shift when we don't have media, how little most things really matter, how much I long for community, how delicious humanity is, how much I depend on God, how slowly I walk now, how grounded I feel, how at peace I can be for long stretches of time.

 DAY 1,012

DAY 1,012

Some of these bits came into focus on that thousandth day in Brooklyn … a day spent visiting friends and old stomping grounds. I was in the city I'd lived in for 9 years, but moved away from almost 5 years before. I never imagined I'd feel so differently walking through Fort Greene … evidence of a shift in perspective, almost entirely within myself. It's rare to get such a clear glimpse … the 1000th-day-me, seeing the Brooklyn-girl-me way ahead, disappearing around the corner onto Myrtle Ave. Feeling her to my core, and realizing how much she'd changed.

I've written and erased many many sentences about how I'm different now, but none of it is ringing true. Too pat or facile, or, quite possibly, incorrect. I feel the difference, but I can't pin it down really.

 DAY 1,057

DAY 1,057

Maybe this will help a little?

1,000 days ago I would not have ...

  • Bought orange and turquoise cowboy boots, and worn them delightedly and almost daily.

  • Not cared at 4pm where we were going to be for the night.

  • Not been particularly concerned about things like having $20 in our bank account and none in the wallet.

  • Any idea that 1,000 days later I'd still not have driven Matilda while towing the trailer

  • Wakened with the sun for weeks on end.

  • Thought it was possible to fit another 6 Nerf guns, thousands more Lego pieces, dozens more books, a keyboard, a remote control plane, a large backpack full of survival gear, costumes, a scroll saw and dremel kit and several more drills and many other tools, piles of 'walking' sticks, boxes of art supplies, and 6 more inches of Douglas into the trailer.

  • Had any idea there was such delight to be found in Unplanned Living. That it was desirable, delightful, softening, and addictive.

  • Woken up parked in between semis at a truck stop, and felt right at home.

  • Thought it possible that I'd struggle to remember what's in our storage space.

  • Been able to walk through Brooklyn after a delicious breakfast at Smooch with Susan, with my heart beating in rhythm with my feet … feeling 6 feet tall, visible, peaceful, and as solid and light and whole as I've ever been.

 DAY 1,086

DAY 1,086


Onward ...

 

 

 

* Not counting the first 5 months in Knoxville, figuring out that we didn't need to figure out any way to survive financially on the road, we just needed to Go.

** That means being in a place with no hookups of any sort, be it a rest area or national forest or roadside pullout. I don't count parking in driveways as boondocking, though we spent many many months parked in driveways or back fields or cul-de-sacs.

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“The One that Got Away, and the One that Didn't”

bethany

We left Palmetto and needed a few solo days as a family before Michael took off for a Sol LeWitt install in NYC, leaving the boys and I parked on the east coast of Florida, near friends in Jupiter. We didn't have a campsite booked when we pulled out, and didn't really have a budget for anything, so aimed for a boondocking site that was mentioned somewhere online, supposedly on the edge of a USAF Bombing Range in central FL. Right up the boys' alley, and so I did my best to navigate us in the right direction. We pulled up at the gate at long last, only to discover that all three camping areas were “Closed for a military event” and that was that. When we asked for any local alternatives, the gate guard mentioned a County Park on the other side of the lake we'd been circling, before allowing that “You can turn around right over there ...” and shooing us off.

We pulled around the bend and out of sight before pulling over to do some Googling and some calling. There's a mighty LOT of Googling and calling on this trip by the way, mostly done by me. I don't know how we'd do what we do without it, though the Atlas is pretty handy too, and lives on my lap when we're driving. But back to the side of the road along Arbuckle Lake in central Florida, just out of sight of the tight-lipped USAF gatekeeper. Michael called the County Park number, and got a very down-to-earth guy named John (I can ALWAYS tell the character and accent of who he's talking to, as he unconsciously mimics every single one), who said that they had plenty of sites for a mere $22 a night, and only a couple spots were currently taken. As I was really hoping not to WalMart it for the next two nights, we headed the long way around the lake (the USAF owned half the perimeter), and several phone calls and a hitch hiker later, we finally found John. Google didn't know where he was, once again telling us “You Have Arrived” in the middle of a deserted road. (A paved one this time, however!)

John chatted, showed us possible sites, offered parking advice, chatted some more, talked about his grandkids and the history of the place, mentioned the gators and their usual hunting spots, pointed out the fence 15' from our door which marked the border with the other side of the USAF Bombing Range from where we'd started, and made us feel right at home. Michael parked, and I raced through inside setup while he chatted with John some more. We seem to have that bit down to a science now … Michael and the boys unhitch, put down the leveling jacks, stow the sway bars and all that, and get the whole camper leveled out. I do the power and water and sewer hookups, and move all the things inside back to their “camped” places that were secured elsewhere during travel.

We kept the cats in the first night, not willing to let them out after dark, though Michael took the boys out on a moonlight wander, which included the sighting of an owl. The next morning we got up for sunrise (yes, really!) and scoped out the lake, the dock, and the humongous wild grapefruits just out of reach over the fence. The USAF fence. Just barely out of reach, mind you.

We mucked around, did a little hike, and let the cats out but kept a pretty close eye on them as the gators were known to stroll past our chosen campsite at times. We had a little point of land between our campsite and the water, which was defined by The Fence, a reedy bit on the lakefront where gators were known to feed, and cypress trees along the third side that bordered the boat ramp inlet. A magical little spot with some benches built into the trees, and piles of lizards scampering through the cypress knees. A veritable cat paradise.

My nervousness about the cat/gator situation was much higher than Michael's, and honestly it's higher than the rest of them pretty much all the time when it comes to the cats. I'm the natural worrier, and wary of rule-breaking, as well as of the cats getting into fights that they very likely might lose. Most places require leashes, which we have and sometimes use, but Sparrow HATES it, while Edmund has learned to tolerate it. We often go against campground rules though and let them wander, after checking with the vibe of the place, and sometimes with our immediate neighbors. The dangers of local wildlife and traffic are assessed, as well as the likelihood of offending others or angering the campground hosts. Most places people seem to gladly turn a blind eye, or more often truly enjoy them, sometimes trying to get the cats to come and have their ears scratched. They never comply, but skitter just out of reach. This place had no rules, just cautions from John about the gators.

So the second night there, Michael gets it in his head that it's a crime to let those massive grapefruits fall off and rot, and he's determined to get one. He knows better than to tell me what he's plotting however (see the previous paragraph) and so the first thing I know about it is him coming in the door of the camper with one of the grapefruit cradled in both hands, and a rather triumphant grin on his face. He explained his process of making sure that our camper was between John and the chosen tree, and how he'd just barely hopped the fence. It was truly the best grapefruit I think I've ever eaten, and chock full of seeds, which we saved. So delicious in fact (stolen fruit and all), that the next day a second one was procured with the assistance of a certain smallish someone standing on his father's shoulders. Ahem.

The second afternoon was a lazy one, and I was sitting outside the camper reading, keeping half an eye on the cats' whereabouts, after scanning the water and not seeing any gator heads at the time. Lost in my book, I suddenly heard the SNAP of jaws at the tip of the point, and saw thrashing and splashing through the bushes. Terrified, I threw down my book, hollered in the camper that there was “a gator that just caught something on the point and I don't know where the cats are!”, before taking off at a hesitant trot towards the point. I quickly found Sparrow, unceremoniously tossed her inside, and went back to hunting for Edmund. It was clear that if he was dinner then that was it, but I called, went as close to the still twitching water as I dared, and then ran the other way, hunting and calling.

I finally found him waltzing slowly up to the camper from the other end of the park, and my heartbeat began to slow a wee bit. It only took about 2 minutes in all, but it was an awful two minutes. I know it's the price I pay for letting them out, and the risk we take, but the alternative is miserable cats as they've never known being cooped up. So be it.

I suspect what did turn into gator dinner was a heron or something like that, though I never went close enough to check for floating feathers.

Lots more photos here.

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the rules of summer ... 20 years and counting

bethany

the Rule clan has been getting together for a week every summer for the last 20+ years, and this past week was no exception.  as one of my nephews is in his 20's now, i think that means we started the year he was a baby.  it's become a tradition that's not missed, except for really good reasons like some of the years my brother was living in Ecuador, or Michael having a job that he couldn't afford to miss.  but most years, it's been all of us, and that all now = 15.  the first 15 or so years were mostly spent camping ... and yes, that would be tenting. 

one of the exceptions was the year we went to the hotel in brown county state park in indiana, during which michael asked me to marry him (not for the first time, but it was the first time i actually accepted).  that was the year too that we went crawling through some caves, back when my claustrophobia wasn't quite so bad.  so, a fairly memorable time. 

we stopped the tenting bit about 5 years ago, as it wasn't so fun or easy for my mom anymore, and it became a much simpler process for all of us to just get a house together somewhere for a week.  far easier packing, smoother meal prep for 15 at a time, and stuff to do no matter what the weather.  there was the epic tenting year that involved a huge deluge and high winds and flying tarps and lots of fun drama ... those are a thing of the past. 

we always seem to find some form of drama however, and this year was no exception ... the electric golf cart that came with the house rental proved to be the kicker, as there were more paths on the 40 acres we had to ourselves than there was battery.  it died several times, at varying distances from the house, and one rescue involved a fair bit of hunting and gps-ing and scavenging of batteries and chargers, though it ended up being solved by the loan of another golf cart from the campground on the adjoining land. 

there were many games (loved learning Thunderstone this year), many songs, mucho fishing, many conversations, and many companionable silences.  and waaaay too much food!  i forgot to take a picture of it, but this house has been used as a guest house/retreat center for a long time, and so had the biggest table and best stocked kitchen of any place we've ever stayed.  the table easily sat 16, and we could have eaten 3 meals without having to do any dishes.  truly comfortable, easy, and spacious. 

i try not to think about how many more years we'll have the whole family together, but just enjoy the times we do have, and savor the moments a little more fiercely.  hug a little harder.  feel a little deeper.  watch a little more carefully.  know a little more fully what it means to love, to grow, and to feel the passing of the years. 

it was a good year, a great year in fact, and one that i'm very thankful for.

.....................

we spent one night in a campground after leaving the rental house, and then moved on to Crown Point Indiana, where we're starting some house projects for friends, and hoping that the rain doesn't entirely foil our plans!

onward ...

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