Reconnecting With Friends

Once again, life seems to be in just a bit of upheaval here again, but thankfully, it is nothing like we had back in the winter when my mom fell and broke her hip.  It is more a confluence of little things and slightly larger things that are taking my precious personal time that I try to guard as much as possible until circumstances demand some of it.  I am missing my quieter mornings right now, for sure, but hopefully things will return to normal soon, too.

I managed to take some time off earlier today to reconnect personally with a high school friend who is in town for a couple of weeks to see her elderly parents.  We have not seen each other in person since 1976, although we reconnected a few years ago on Facebook.  My friend and I met for a tentatively scheduled two-hour coffee visit at Starbucks, and four and a half hours later, we had to finally cut off our visit with the hope that we will be able to get together one more time before she leaves to return to North Carolina.

On my drive home, I felt especially blessed to have been able to reconnect recently with so many long-lost friends from my younger days, and I have been truly amazed at how we have all been able to pick right up where we left off.  The love and caring concern is still there in every reunion, and I realized that I have so many dear friends, even though we have been apart for decades.  I have also been amazed at how similar a path many of us have walked in our respective lives as far as life challenges, too.

Today, my friend and I discovered that we share several similar family struggles, including one that is quite unique.  This certainly helped to fuel the discussion for our extra long visit, but we also found that the friendship that we enjoyed in high school was founded on such a solid foundation that we will likely be dear friends the rest of our lives, despite the fact that we live hundreds of miles apart.

There are days that God sends such a special treat my way when I need it most, and this was one of those days, a special reunion with a dear friend that blessed me in such a wonderful way!  I am especially grateful today, and I have cried tears of joy… always a good thing.

This beautiful song has been a favorite of mine for decades, and it expresses my heart so perfectly today where my friends, both new and old, are concerned.  May it bless you richly today.

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Our RV Trips Map

My new permanent page is now up!  Even though this is just a start for this page, I think it is a good start.  This page can also be found going forward at the top of my site, just above the header.

Header

Our RV Trips Map

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am working on this permanent travel page that is mostly related to our RV trips, and here’s why.  It is pretty common to find such a map on blogs of people who are living full-time in their RVs and even on some that just take a number of extended, long-distance trips.  As you probably already know, we are mostly RV weekend “warriors” and longer RV vacation travelers, but we have attempted to visit as many state parks as we could over the past three years since we purchased our RV.  We live in a part of the country that is too often bypassed by tourists, based on our sometimes well-earned reputation for harsh weather at times, but I believe that is an unfortunate situation because there are some absolutely stunning places to see in our part of the country.  Actually, visitation is on the rise, as more people discover the epic beauty of some of these places for themselves.

For instance, the #1 rated state park in the nation, as rated this year by Fodor’s, is Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which sits just south of Amarillo.  Amarillo is located right on I-40, one of the busiest interstates in the nation, yet I am amazed at how many people in other parts of the country have never even heard of Palo Duro Canyon.  It is the second largest canyon in the United States, and it is just a magnificent sight to see anytime of the year.  So with this one example in mind, over time, I hope to share a little more about this greater West Texas region for those that might consider adding it to their travels plans at some point in the future.

I recently read listened to Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck, narrated by Gary Sinise, and I would highly recommend that book, especially this audiobook, to anyone that has a bit of wanderlust in the soul.  One quote really jumped out and stuck in my mind concerning the big highway systems, too.

When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing.
John Steinbeck

I. could. not. agree. more!  Even with all of the travel resources at our disposal these days, most of them for free online, we are still drawn to these super-highways and away from the real parts of our country that, to me, make it so very special and unique.  I also look at many of the commercial RV parks and how RVs are literally just crammed side by side, and I know in my heart that this part of the RV lifestyle will never be for us, except for a short-term stay at times.

From the very beginning three years ago, our desire was to get away from the urban centers more during our limited vacation time, and travel to state and national parks as much as possible.  Since then, we have visited over twenty such parks, and we have made some fabulous memories with friends and family, just doing simple things together, such as hiking, biking, cooking over real campfires, playing games, looking at skies full of stars that took our breath away, seeing and listening to some really wild animals, watching breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, meeting people from just about everywhere and talking with them at length, and most of all, seeing so many of the “little” places that we would never have seen otherwise.  Even on our most recent trips to Kauai and Big Sur, we once again found ourselves in the middle of some exquisite state parks, as that almost seems to feel like “our thing” to do now.

I adore seeing more and more young families in their tents, pop-up campers and small trailers doing the same thing, too.  I have never seen a kid that didn’t like to go camping, and I hope in some way to also encourage more families to give camping a try, in whatever manner you are most comfortable.  We camped in a tent for years in our early married life, and those were some of the best memories ever.  I’m probably beyond tent camping days now, but I wouldn’t trade for those fun times either.

Hubby travels extensively for business, and over time, he has grown quite weary of airline travel.  It has lost its’ appeal to him for vacations now, and that is yet one more reason why we made the decision to buy the RV.  We certainly still enjoy the occasional trip to places further away, for sure, but we absolutely adore getting away regularly in the RV now and bringing our two special four-legged pals along with us.

While more detailed information on my travel page is still in process, I finally have the map ready to share.  I hope this will be a good start for anyone that might want more information on places to visit and camp in this greater West Texas area.  I have only listed the places we have personally visited to date, though.  Hopefully in a few weeks or months, I will finish the page with a little summary of each place we’ve visited, too.  As we visit new places, they will be added to this same map.

Unfortunately, the map is quite large and will be best utilized by opening it up at the “View Larger Map” link, shown just below the map on the left or by simply clicking the link provided here.

Our RV Trips Map
(click here)

Learning to create and use this interactive Google Map has been a bit of a challenge, but it seems to work very well when the full map is used.  So, please… check out the full map!

The map has three main categories, which is the most I can create for free apparently, and they can easily be toggled on and off on the map, as desired.

1.  State and national parks/forests where we have camped (Must-see places are denoted by *)

2.  Other campgrounds where we have camped

3.  Places of interest for any visitors (All places on this list are highly recommended. I have also included a few restaurants in several areas, too.  We all have to eat, of course, and if you dine out of the RV for one meal in an area, you have my recommendation on where to go. Please check to see if reservations are suggested, too.)

While I had RV travelers somewhat in mind when creating this map, it can certainly be a little travel guide to these areas for others, too.  These beautiful parks are certainly not just for campers, especially since many of them have other lodging options inside the park or very close by.  There are many more points of interest that I could share on the map, but for now, I felt it prudent to just stick with the more popular ones that I would most recommend to visitors with limited time in the area.  Of course, that is just my opinion, too.  Over time, I think I will add more points of interest, featuring more of those “little” places we’ve discovered.

One way to quickly “tour” the map is to just click down the list of each of the places in the box, and a small box will pop up with a photo and a web link to the internet site for that page.  You can also click directly on the map icons to bring up the information boxes, too.  I personally selected the best photos and link online for each place just under the photo, along with any posts that I have written about that park and a few brief comments about it.  Again, please use the larger map for this feature.

Map Information

We hope to continue to explore new parks over time, with a goal of visiting at least one new park each year.  We have grown so fond of several of the parks we’ve already visited, though, that it is a little tough to pull ourselves away.  But, Texas has so many wonderful parks that I’m sure we will continue to push on out to explore even more of them as time off from work permits.  We have certainly enjoyed really getting to know several of these parks and their staff members so well that they feel like our home away from home now, too.  I’m anxious to share even more about so many of these great places here as well.

While I continue to work on the travel page, I am happy to answer questions about any of these places shown on the map.  Just leave a comment below with your question.  If I cannot answer it, I’ll try to find an answer for you.  😉

The greater West Texas area is a special and unique and often quite wild part of the country with some amazing scenery to share and some special stories to tell to those that take the time to see and hear them.  I can tell a few myself.  I hope this map helps to begin to share just a few of those stories to you, too.

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Found

What I am sharing today is probably more for me personally than for you, dear reader. I was a part of this wonderful conference this past weekend, and I want to share it here for keeps.

We laughed together, especially about salsa.

We cried together, when many women accepted Jesus Christ.

We worshiped together, in loud and perfect harmony.

We prayed together.  I will never forget Mary’s prayer.

We hugged together. A total stranger totally blessed me.

I fell in love with Jesus all over again, and I have been powerfully reminded once again of whose I am. God works in mysterious and not-so-mysterious ways each and every day, and my cup of gratitude absolutely overflows once again today.  I can only imagine what Heaven will be like one day, after singing along with 7000 other women in unison praise this past weekend.

Our lesson for these two days was based on the first chapter of John, and it was a timely one for me.  May it never leave my mind or my heart.

“You’re all I need to feel alive.  This heart has FOUND its’ home.”
— “Found” by Travis Cottrell

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Wordless Wednesday – Ruins

Ruins

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What’s Old Is New

Dear fellow RVers, have you seen the new Winnebago Brave for 2015?

I am a big fan of retro RVs and trailers, and while we would still likely pass on this one for now, I think Winnebago may find huge success with it.  Some fellow RV friends told us about this new model while we were on our trip this past weekend to the mountains, and after Red chewed up the magazine page they gave us with all the information on it, I looked it up online and found this video.

What do you like and dislike about it?

I really like the layout of the cab, living room and kitchen areas, as it is very similar to what we presently have in our motor home but a little more functional, especially the sofa that converts several ways, even to a long table.  We also have the pull-down bed over the cab, just like they show in the video, although ours is not electric.

About the only thing I don’t like is the main bedroom configuration, but I think there is another model that has both a slide-out and a better bedroom arrangement, the 27B model.  If we happen to find one of these 27B models in good shape a few years down the road, I would definitely consider buying it, if we think we could live with a 26 foot RV instead of our 31 foot RV.  I would also prefer one of the other colors, not the Mellow Yellow.  The 27B model is so similar to our present configuration, and I think that is why I like it.  Having the shower separate from the rest of the bathroom has been so handy for us on so many occasions, especially when our son comes along on a trip.  I can see where this model is likely too small for those that travel more than we do or full-time in their RVs.

We are so happy with our present motor home, though, it may be hard to ever part with it, especially since it is completely paid in full and feels like our home away from home now.  It’s always fun to look, though!

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Come Hop On In!

For something a bit different here today, I’ve been invited by Mama’s Empty Nest to participate in a blog hop post!  It’s all about blog writing today, and I was asked to share my thoughts on the four questions below.  If you would like to read her great blog hop post from last Monday, please check out her wonderful blog soon!

Since this is a blog hop, I would also like to invite you to participate, if you would like to do so.  If you would like to respond to these same questions in your own dedicated post next Monday, one week from today, please leave me a comment below with a link to your own post, and I will add a link to your post here.  I would love to read your thoughts on this topic!

Backyard Welcome

If you are a new visitor to my blog, welcome!  I’m glad you’re here, so grab a cub of coffee and come sit on my porch with me!

As a little background, I have written regularly in blogs for over ten years now.  On the advice of a dear friend, I first began writing in a private blog journal during a particularly difficult time in my life, and I was hooked almost immediately for several reasons.  The primary benefit that I experienced from writing regularly was the opportunity to really examine my thoughts in a much deeper way.  In essence, I was my own fan, as well as my own critic, along with what I truly believe was some serious divine intervention in a few instances, and I have treasured this growth process ever since.  I still keep a private blog journal today.

A couple of years after I started my private blog, I then joined a mostly private group of blogging moms that I thoroughly enjoyed via a social network that was completely new to me, and I made several long-distance friends there that are even Facebook friends today.  Sadly, it fell apart due to issues with that network at that time, but I’m glad to still be able to keep up with some of those dear friends that I made there, even though our interactions are much more limited via Facebook.  I enjoyed writing at that previous site so much, though, and I also enjoyed reading the posts of my friends there.  We found an online kinship that was new to me, but I also found that I really loved writing more than ever, too.

Even before this special network fell apart, though, I made a decision to finally create a public blog for topics and thoughts that I wanted to share in a more public format.  After my previous experience with a network that went down completely, I also wanted to create a blog at a place that I felt would not experience those same issues of viability long-term.  With that desire in mind, I opted for WordPress, and I have not regretted that decision at all.  My public space here has been a true joy for me, and over the past year, I once again renewed my commitment to post regularly and continually improve my writings.

With that background in place, please hop on down with me to the questions for today!

1.  How does my creating process work?

My creating process for each post usually starts with an idea or experience that interests me to a point that I want to both share it with readers (both present and possible future readers) and preserve it in a written format for myself.  If an idea meets both of these criteria, I then move on to the next step.  If not, I will just write in my private blog or share those thoughts via an Instagram picture or a Facebook post, if appropriate.

First, I begin with a quick draft where I write down a list of main thoughts for the entire post, refraining from going into detail until later in the process.  Often, this is as far as I will get with a post because if I am not happy with the main points, I do not pursue that topic further.

The next step in the process is to add the detailed thoughts, and this is what can get me in trouble in a hurry.  I can bloviate with the best of them, and I frequently must go back and condense, condense, condense.  Often, this is where I am fact-checking for details as needed, too, such as “What was the name of that cute little bakery where we stopped in Big Sur that had the beautiful garden?”  Google search is a life saver sometimes, isn’t it?  Somewhere in this lengthy process, I finally come to a point in this detailed process where I am satisfied that I have conveyed my points concisely and accurately and hopefully with a little personality and fun.

My final steps in writing a post are to check for basic errors and to re-read it as if I was a reader that was not familiar with the topic at all.  I also allow for a style of conversational talk in most posts, too.  I am not writing a paper for college English here – been there, done that – and I want to convey my thoughts in my own unique voice most of the time.  Of course, the final step is checking for possible spelling and grammatical errors, and I try to put my best effort into proofreading.

As I said, this is usually how my writing process works, but there are times that I just throw caution to the wind and just type and post, kind of like the “grip it and rip it” theory in golf.  Sometimes that is simply the best approach, too.  As I think back on memorable posts that others have written, I certainly remember several posts that seemed to fall into this last category and were so striking and heartfelt in the process.

Occasionally, I will also participate in “photo only” posts, particularly on Wordless Wednesdays.  I dearly love photography, but right now, I am experiencing a bit of a “drought” as far as inspiration in this area.  This makes me sad, and I hope to break out of this “drought” very soon.

 

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My posts here at My Five Fs fall into five main categories (genres) that most interest me, day in and day out.  Unlike some bloggers who keep a more narrow focus of just one category of writings on their blog, I chose to encompass these five categories of writings on my blog when I began writing here four years ago.  This broader focus allows me to write about the things that are on my mind and heart the most at any given time, and it helps me to stay inspired to write.  I would likely become a bit bored if I only focused on one area, so this format seems to work well for me to help me stay motivated to write.

Different people blog for different reasons, and some also attempt to derive income or notoriety from their blogs.  My Five Fs is a more personal space for me to share some things that I believe some others might be interested in reading, even if the readers are more interested in one specific category here than the others.  This blog also allows me a place to challenge myself in my writing activities, which is one of my empty nest goals.  I have always loved to write but seldom had the time to really do so regularly until this stage of my life.

Even after four years of writing here at My Five Fs, I still want to challenge myself to expand my writings in all five categories even more.  Finding free time to write is still a frequent challenge for me, but I hope to pursue this goal going forward to hopefully include more creative writing adventures (fun), more food and diet posts (food), more posts related to current books I’m reading (faith, fun), some “throwback” posts (family, food, fun), and some posts specifically related to topics of timely interest to explore further in my own faith walk (faith).

 

3.  What am I working on?

I have several things in process here at My Five Fs at this time.  I have some travel posts in process from recent trips that were quite memorable for me, including my long weekend trip back in June where I took my 93 year-young mother and my 83 year-young aunt on a road trip to Oklahoma for the first time all by myself.  That was quite a trip, and I have some great stories to tell, as well as even more insights on aging, which seems to be a recurring topic in my life right now for some reason.  We also recently took two wonderful RV trips, including our 4th of July trip to the mountains of northern New Mexico with some friends.  It was particularly memorable for me this time, as I ended up in the emergency room nearby to get three internal stitches and seven external ones.  More to come on that one, but for now, just know that it only took an hour and the trip was still great!  I am also considering writing a post on how I recently defended my copyright on three photos on a public Facebook page (that has over 12,000 followers) where a book author actually took outright credit for three of my photos.  That was interesting, to say the least.  As far as my own Facebook posts, that one went a bit viral among my outraged friends, and their encouragement helped me to set the record straight.

I am also working on a new permanent page that is Texas travel-related, and I have actually been working on it off and on for months.  Hopefully it will “make it to print” later this year, and I hope it will be a nice resource page for a few people, too. (9/14/14 – link to permanent page added)

Recently, I considered making some changes to the look of my blog, but after spending quite a bit of time looking at options, I decided that I really am happy with my blog just the way it is right now.  Contentment is a wonderful thing.

 

4.  Why do I create what I do?

I generally write posts that others will hopefully find interesting or perhaps even make them think a bit at times, as well as to challenge myself to be a better writer and explore some topics in a deeper way.  I also write a few posts more for myself as a journal entry, knowing all the time that it is something more personal and may not appeal to others so much but still might appeal to some.  Over the past four years, I have created a comfortable place here that feels like an “online home” for me, especially since I have also incorporated some other “pieces of life” on the blog, such as my Goodreads updates, my Twitter feed (mostly retweets of tweets I like), and links to sites I frequent in each of my five categories.

To take this final question a bit deeper, though, I felt challenged to start a public blog after attending a commencement ceremony at my daughter’s university when she received her master’s degree a few years ago.  The speaker was quite good, and at one point, he specifically challenged the graduates to have a presence online and not let their “voice be silent.”  He was addressing that point to the graduates, but this mama also took it to heart.  I thought about it for months, and finally decided to work a bit harder to really find my own voice in several ways, including blogging.

I appreciate each and every one of you that spends a little of your precious time here with me when you can, and I will always strive to put my best foot forward for you when you visit, while still keeping things real in the process.  Thanks for stopping by today! 😀

Update 9/10/14:  This great article, entitled “Kill Your Darlings” is written by the folks at WordPress, and it speaks to the whole “condense, condense, condense” that I spoke of earlier in this post.

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