Brighter Days

Spring has finally arrived!  Warmer and brighter days are hopefully here to stay for a while.  Of course, in a few short weeks, I will most likely be lamenting the heat, so I will definitely enjoy these more temperate days while we have them.  This past weekend, we scalped our yard, pulled weeds and unwanted grasses and got the back porch area ready for outdoor dining once again.  We are also breathing a little sigh of relief that the new tree we put in the back yard last year is blooming heartily this year.  Thankfully, we will not be using the warranty on it, but I’m still glad we had the one-year warranty for it, just in case.  However, my ten beautiful crape myrtles are looking a bit suspicious, and I’m going to be devastated if we lost them over the winter months.  I have babied them so much over the past few years since we planted them to try to keep them alive.  Right now, though, it’s not looking good for them and will probably cost $500 or more to replace them.  Honestly, I’m not sure we will do that if they die off, due to landscape water restrictions in place now, which were not in place when we planted them years ago.  Keeping a decent yard these days is tough, tough, tough.  I so hope to see this beautiful sight in a few weeks once again.

2014-06-20 15.26.27

Storm season has also begun just to the north of us, it seems.  I followed the storm chasers online in Oklahoma a few days ago, and I was sad to see that Moore got clobbered once again.  I have a cousin that lives just north of Moore, and we tease him that Moore is a magnet for tornadoes.  Sadly, I think that is a true statement, for some reason.  Thankfully, he and his family are fine.  It is a beautiful place to live, and I see why people want to live there, for sure.  I’m just not sure I could handle living right in the worst part of tornado alley.  Tornadoes are bad enough where we live at times, and don’t think I would make it too well in an area with even more of them.

Our new vacation year began again on March 1 when Hubby’s yearly allowance renewed, and we will be headed out of town on Wednesday evening for a long holiday weekend.  We will be traveling to the northern tip of the hill country once again, just as we did last year when we discovered what a wonderful time of year it is to camp there with wildflowers blooming all around and nice temperatures.  We are traveling about two weeks earlier than we did last year, but hopefully we will still see some great flowers and just enjoy a relaxing time together with the dogs.  We are also going to check out our first COE campground, even though we will just spend one night there.  I’ve looked at this particular campground before, but this is really the first trip that it has made sense for us to make a quick stop there.  Hopefully I will have a good report to share about it later, as I have not yet read about it on any other sites by RV travelers or other campers.  We know the lake is down 14 feet, but at least there is still a lake there to see.

I wish you all a blessed holy week and a Happy Easter!  We hope to attend a sunrise service at the park early on Sunday morning and are looking forward to that special time once again.

D
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Come On Spring!

I’m going to attempt to play catch up here a bit on the blog today, covering several things, including weather, travels, Christmas and where I’m at today in dealing with Mom’s passing.

I think this has been the longest and hardest winter I’ve ever endured.  The weather here has been quite a challenge ever since Christmas, with repeat bouts of ice and snow and slippery roads, more than we are accustomed to having, at least in more recent years during the drought.  The good thing that came of the nasty weather, though, was several inches of precipitation that has apparently lifted our immediate area out of the drought, at least for now.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that our lakes are once again full, not even close, but at least the moisture in the soil for the farmers and ranchers is back to a level where they can hopefully get by a little better.

For me personally, the icy roads were the biggest weather challenge, especially while Mom was sick.

What it looked like at home for much of this winter
What it looked like at home for much of this winter
Snow in December
The snowy view from the hospital for most of the last week of December and early January

I, or another gracious driver who offered to drive me, had to make the treacherous drive back and forth to help care for Mom daily while she was hospitalized, and on one morning, my car slid terribly on the ice.  It was the worst sliding episode I’ve ever experienced, and I was barely creeping along.  Fortunately, I didn’t hit anyone, and no one hit me.  I am so very grateful for that good outcome because many other people were not so fortunate.  About two weeks ago after several inches of snow fell in a short time, there were about 200 wrecks here in our immediate area in just a few hours, and that was just one day this season.  There were many more days just like that one.  The problem is that our roads are seldom treated properly, if they are treated at all, when ice and snow hits, and that makes driving here a real challenge in such conditions.  That is also why we have to be careful about planning our RV travel days in winter months.  Driving an RV on roads like this is just not a good plan… at all.

I need spring.  I need it for more tolerable weather and also for my spirit.  I am ready for brighter days, milder temperatures, green grass and trees, planting tomatoes, walking the dogs at the park, and hopefully an end to some of the things that have taken most of my time since late January when my mother passed away.  I am still dealing with estate matters and most likely will be for most of March, if not longer.  It is boring and sometimes tedious stuff, complicated a bit by one particular in-law that I must deal with in this process, and I am just so ready to just be done with it all.  I need to start moving on from this, but the estate business just keeps dragging me back to this hard and sad time in my life and spending more and more money with the attorney.  The latest bill was almost $2k.  Yikes!

I want to set aside the present for a bit, though, and finally backtrack to Christmas with Mom and also to two trips we made in the RV this winter.  Both trips were to Davis Mountains State Park in far West Texas, which has definitely become one of our “go to” places to visit.

We had an early Christmas celebration with my mother on the Sunday before Christmas, and we had a great time with her while her health was still good.  Let’s just say that I will always remember the Christmas of 2014, for sure.  The last time I saw my mother in good health was that special evening at our house, celebrating Christmas with her.  We kept dinner simple with a tasty chicken pot pie and lots of homemade cookies.  We then opened our gifts with her, visited together and played with the dogs.  She was still getting used to big ole puppy Red, who just wanted to be her pal, but she adored Girly Girl who is older and more settled around people.  Mom loved all of her gifts, which consisted mostly clothes and a new watch, as well as some good teas which she loved.  I took some nice pictures of her, and my last picture of her before she got sick was a cute photo of her opening her new watch that I picked out especially for her.  It was a snap-on style without a clasp, similar to the one she always wore that had seen better days, and she was so happy to receive it.  After our nice evening together was done, I took her back to her apartment nearby, carried her things to her room for her, gave her a hug and a kiss, thanked her for our gifts, told her I loved her, and went back home.

At least Mom got to wear the watch for a few days, even though she never got to wear the new clothes.  They still had the tags on them when I cleaned out her apartment.  But honestly, who could ask for a more memorable last visit while her health was good?  I definitely believe that was a God-thing, and I will always be so grateful that we had such a good last visit with her at Christmastime.  After she went to the hospital, the seizures and strokes had taken a big toll on her, and things were just not the same after that.

Davis Mountains in the Snow
Davis Mountains in the snow on Christmas Eve morning between Balmorhea and Fort Davis

We had two days at Davis Mountains State Park with all of our kids over Christmas for the very first time before we had to return home earlier than planned to care for Mom, and I have some pictures to share from both trips.  We reserved one hotel room in the historic section at the Indian Lodge in the park for our California kids, in addition to our RV accommodations, and it all worked out great.  The kids loved their room at the lodge, with the only exception being the noise of people walking around in the room above them at times early in the morning.  We opened gifts in the RV on Christmas morning as usual, and we also enjoyed our traditional sausage toasts for breakfast.  We even had a little decorated tree that was a mini version of our big tree at home, and we also had a “fire roaring in the fireplace,” which was actually just a DVD playing on the television.  The weather was crisp and beautiful while we were there, and we enjoyed some outdoor time together in the warmer afternoons, including a hike from the state park to the national historic site at the fort.  We also enjoyed an epic game night at the Indian Lodge on our last night there.  If we return here on future Christmas trips, we hope to actually make it to a Christmas Eve service in town, too.

FYI… the restaurant at the Indian Lodge is going to close in September and will be closed for about a year for expansion.  It is a sorely needed update, but food options are a bit limited in the area, too.  I hope that guests at the lodge are aware of this before they book their travel plans, and I hope that area restaurants will keep this in mind to try to help accommodate guests, too.

We all had a good time on our Christmas camping trip in the boondocks, and I hope we can have a do-over sometime and enjoy this time together as we originally planned because it was a truly great plan for our little family.  This trip was just too short, but I’m still grateful for the brief time we had together as a family once again.  Those times are scarce these days, for sure.

Christmas tree at Indian Lodge
Christmas tree at the Indian Lodge
Davis Mountains State Park Christmas Sunset
Sunset at Davis Mountains State Park at Christmas
Fireplace at Indian Lodge
Fireplace at the Indian Lodge
First Camping Christmas
Our first RV camping Christmas!

On our trip back to Davis Mountains State Park a couple of weeks ago, we had a combination of freezing weather, followed by a couple of gorgeous days, typical West Texas weather.  😀  It never snowed while we were there, but the dense fog froze and created an absolutely stunning sight, which we later learned was called a “hoarfrost.”  The entire area was just stunningly beautiful, but the sight was especially impressive at the top of Skyline Drive, which experienced more fog than the lower areas in the park and in town.  The entire Fort Davis area remained below freezing for about forty hours, which gave us a full day to enjoy this unique beauty that I called “Elsa Land.”  It was also a quiet day in the campground, since most everyone stayed indoors or took off in their cars like we did for much of the day that never got above 25 degrees, according to the temp readout in our car.

I just had to share these photos, as I doubt we will ever see such an impressive sight in this area again.  We had no clue when we went on this trip that we would see such a sight, and we will always remember this surreal and beautiful day that we spent just trying to stay warm while seeing some of the most beautiful and unique sights ever.

The high temp on Friday was 25 degrees.
The high temp on Friday was 25 degrees.
Fort Hoarfrost a
Historic old trees at Fort Davis National Historic Site
Fort Hoarfrost b
Fort Davis National Historic Site
Indian Lodge Hoarfrost b
Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park
Indian Lodge Hoarfrost
Valley view from Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park
RV Campground Hoarfrost b
A gorgeous ice-covered tree in the campground at Davis Mountains State Park
RV Campground Hoarfrost
The RV campground was very quiet on a 25 degree day with everything covered in ice, but it was a gorgeous sight!
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost c
The road seemed to disappear into the thick fog on Skyline Drive.
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost d
What a gorgeous sight at the top of Skyline Drive at the overlook, where the fog still hung quite heavy.
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost Feb 2015 a
Up close view of the hoarfrost on the tree at the overlook – so impressive to see
Skyline Drive Hoarfrost Feb 2015 b
“Elsa Land” at the top of Skyline Drive – what a sight!

We did quite a bit of driving in the area on this trip, and we checked out the town of Alpine a bit more.  On a return trip sometime, we want to tour the Museum of the Big Bend, which in located on the Sul Ross campus there.  We like Alpine and will probably spend more time there on future trips.  There is also an Amtrak station there, right in the middle of town.  We also attempted to find Prada Marfa on another day, but after driving all the way to Valentine and not finding it, we gave up and returned to Fort Davis via the scenic route instead of driving back through Marfa.  I’ve since learned that Prada Marfa is located just past Valentine, too.  We drove all that way and only needed to drive another couple of miles to see it.  Oh well, we enjoyed the drive anyway.  I should have done my homework better on that one.

I should also mention that the drive from Alpine to Fort Davis to Balmorhea is a must-see, as the scenery is truly beautiful, even in the winter months.  We also drove the 75-mile scenic loop at Fort Davis again, and that is always a beautiful sight as well.  Also, on this trip, we visited the library for the first time and enjoyed seeing it and looking at some interesting books on the area.

And speaking of books, I found this wonderful book in my mother’s things after she passed away.  It was given to my grandfather (my father’s father) by one of his cousins who lived in Fort Davis on a beautiful ranch with her husband for many years.  I will treasure it always now.

Old Fort Davis by Barry Scobee
Old Fort Davis by Barry Scobee, a book I will treasure always now

The trip back to the area was good for both of us.  This has been a very stressful winter, and we both needed this break.  We were blessed to have good driving weather and road conditions on the two days that we were on the road in the RV, even though our return trip was pushing it just a bit.  A big winter storm moved through our home area while we were gone and dropped several inches of snow.  The temperature did not get back to 32 degrees until the Sunday afternoon that we drove home, but thankfully, the main roads were all clear by the time we got back, and we had no issues getting home at all.  We had a backup plan in place to leave the RV at an RV park about an hour from home and just drive back with the dogs in the car, if needed, though.

Hubby and I finally sat down together and did a tentative travel plan for the rest of this year, and we are hopefully going to have a re-do of last year’s trips for the most part.  So many travel plans were upended for us in the early months of 2014, and we want the opportunity to have a re-do on pretty much the entire year, especially the trips that were impacted in some way by Mom’s various illnesses and in other ways, too.  We will decide later on what to do about Christmas, too.  Right now, staying home with all the years of Christmas memories here with Mom is not something I want to do.  It may be time for new traditions.  We’ll see.

I’m doing ok these days, I guess.  Life is just different since there is a big, gaping hole in it now, and I’m doing my best to just learn to live with that void at this point, having both good and not-as-good days.  Tears come on go on a fairly regular basis, although less often each week.  I still regularly have thoughts of taking Mom to new restaurants and stores when they open here, and I wonder if those will ever go away.  Eventually, the void will be filled with other people and activities, I’m sure.  The best thing for me seems to just continue to make progress in the tasks that need to still be done, stay in God’s word, and also take some time to do some things that I enjoy regularly.

I have enjoyed reading updates from those of you on my list over the past few weeks.  Slowly but surely, I hope to find the time to get back to posting more regularly here, but I’m just going to take things one day at a time for a while.

Right now, the sun is shining and I’m listening to birds singing outside.  I think they are ready for spring, too!  🙂

D
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