Ambushed

Voting proved to be an unexpected challenge this year.

A few weeks ago, I voted early in the Super Tuesday election.  Over the decades, I’ve learned the benefit of voting early to avoid long lines on election day, as long as I’m prepared to do so in the early timeframe.  If not, I will wait until election day when I’m as prepared and informed as I can be on my decisions because I take this responsibility seriously.  Voting early was a great decision, as the voting lines this year were very, very long on election day, due to both the presidential primary and an open seat in our congressional district for the first time in many years.

As I entered the voting area at a nearby grocery store and dug my driver’s license out of my purse, I suddenly felt ill at ease and tried to figure out why I felt this way as I also talked with the election volunteer.  It didn’t take long for me to realize what was wrong.  For over fifteen years, I have seldom, if ever, gone to vote by myself.  I always took my elderly mother with me.  Now, for the first time in many years, I was all alone while voting.

Voted

I kept my composure fairly well during the initial process, but the tears started to flow in earnest while I was selecting my candidates at the voting machine.  Thankfully, I had my *long* written list with me, so the process went fairly quickly, and after pushing the big red “Cast Ballot” button, I headed to the restroom nearby to grab a tissue and wipe the tears streaming down my face.  A sweet older lady walked in and even asked if I was ok, and I assured her that I was fine.  I briefly shared why I was teary so that she wouldn’t worry, and to my surprise, she gave me a little hug, which made me want to cry even more.  I somehow kept it together at that moment, thanking her for her kindness, and I made it through the balance of the day with no issues for the most part.

Hubby was out-of-town on business that night, so I took the opportunity to sit outside on the back porch with the dogs and a book before bedtime, thanks to the warmth of our new propane table heater which provided just the right amount of heat to keep me comfortable in the late evening cool.  After about fifteen minutes, though, the tears started flowing again.  Sometimes I just need to let them flow, and this was a time to just have a good ol’ cry with only the dogs as witnesses.

As I sat there, I remembered the many times Mom and I went to vote together and the call I nearly always got from her on the first day of early voting to remind me that we needed to go vote soon.  I also remembered one particular election.  A few years ago, Mom was very sick on the day that the voting machines were brought to the assisted living place where she lived.  I had already told her that I would come to her room and escort her through the initial process, while also voting early there myself.  Due to her illness that day, it was very hard for her to even get out of bed, but she insisted on voting anyway.  I helped her get dressed and pushed her in a wheelchair to the lobby to go vote, and I will never forget her insistence on voting that particular day.  There was a certain gentleman running for office for the first time, and she was determined to throw her support behind him.  I missed Mom terribly that night as I sat there all alone with only my sweet pups and years worth of memories to keep me company, and it was time to just succumb to another round of grief for a few minutes.

My parents instilled me in the importance of this precious opportunity we have to select our leaders.  Perhaps their passion for voting was reinforced by the fact that my father’s younger brother died in a prison camp in Europe in WWII, paying the ultimate price for his country at a young age.  My father and brother also served in the military in wartime, so the very least our family could always do was to vote after doing our due diligence as far as candidate research.

I’m so grateful for the influence of my older family members in this regard, especially my late brother’s influence in more recent years when he challenged me to learn even more about candidates before voting.  He died in 2007, but I still “hear” his admonitions to be more diligent in gaining knowledge, even though it is not an easy process.  My views were forever impacted by his own passion in this regard, for sure.

Still, voting without Mom hit me very hard because I was not emotionally prepared.  I shared my experience on my Facebook page with a trusted group of friends, and one of my best friends shared that such an experience is referred to in grief counseling circles as being “ambushed.”  She and her mother have been attending a grief group for the past few months, and I appreciated her sharing this terminology that gave some clarity and justification for what I had experienced.

Here is the definition of “ambush,” courtesy of Oxford Dictionary.

am·bush

[ˈambo͝oSH]

VERB

  1. make a surprise attack on (someone) from a concealed position:

    “they were ambushed and taken prisoner by the enemy”

    synonyms: attack by surprise · surprise · pounce on · fall upon ·

    [more]
    lay a trap for · set an ambush for · lie in wait for ·

I certainly felt ambushed by both memories and emotions that day.  Mom’s absence loomed very large, and for a brief moment, I even thought about just walking out to avoid making a scene while voting, but I’m grateful that I didn’t have to leave before casting my ballot.  Who would have ever dreamed that voting could bring back such vivid memories and strong emotions.  Obviously, I certainly did not.

The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the less I worry about tears and just try to “let them be.”  If the tears come, let them come.  I think it’s just memories paying a little visit to keep my heart tender and keep me grateful for what was, as well as grateful for what is today.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve been “ambushed” like this after the death of a loved one, and I seriously doubt it will be the last time.  Hopefully, I can just experience these moments for what they have to offer, then move on with a nugget of gratitude for it all, even if it is hard.  Life never promised to be an easy affair.

“Sometimes we need the salt of tears to remind us how to savor the sweetness of life.” — Lysa TerKeurst

Amen, Lysa.  Such wise words.

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Welcome to Seattle, Ya’ll!

Enjoying the unseasonal cloudy and cool weather and an update on the wonderful rains!

We enjoyed a glorious, relaxing and fun week in Maui.  But more on that later when I get the pictures done.

 You may recall that it started raining in Texas well before we left on our trip and a series of thunderstorms *quickly* filled up the reservoir that supplies some of our water.  It hasn’t stopped raining since then except for a few periods lasting no more than about three days at a time.  While we were in Maui, I kept getting severe weather alerts on my phone for our home area, and several friends shared about the downpours we were receiving.

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As I’m typing this post this morning after my first cup of coffee, it is 47 degrees with 90% humidity, and the high today will struggle to reach 60.  Normally, the average high for late May should be around 85 degrees, but it’s not uncommon for the temperature to go well above that, too.  So, I decided to check the average weather in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, and it seems we are right on track with Seattle’s weather in May!

So, if I never visit Seattle, at least I now what it feels like to be there in May.  And it is “loverly!” 

With more severe storms in our forecast for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, we have decided to scrap some tentative plans to go out in the RV for a little getaway, hopefully with our son coming along.  I’m not into camping during super-cell storms at all, and we are having an epic load of them these days.  Some friends of ours went to Copper Breaks State Park two weekends ago with their trailer in tow, and not long after they arrived that evening and set up, they found themselves running to the bathroom/shower building nearby to dodge an oncoming tornado.  Apparently, it absolutely rained buckets of water during that storm, along with some small hail.  We were flying out to Hawaii that day and receiving regular text updates about what “dogs” we were while they were trying to not die at Copper Breaks!  It is funny now…  😉  Glad they, along with their trailer and truck, are fine most of all.

You have to be tough to camp in Texas in May and June at times, and there are lots of tough people out there.  I’m just not sure I’m one of them, but kudos to them for being brave souls!

More lakes are rising dramatically, and it’s an amazing thing to witness.  “All droughts end with a flood” seems completely spot-on at this time.  Just check out a few of the lakes that have seen a dramatic increase over the past few days and weeks, especially the first one.

Lake Alan Henry

Lake Arrowhead

Lake Brownwood

It’s amazing what the rain has done for the spirits of the people in our area.  It’s like hope has finally returned and the doom and gloom of the drought may actually be behind us, at least for a while.  And right along with the lifting of spirits with the return of rain, it seems my own spirit is finally on the rise after several long, depressing months following my mother’s death.  I swear she is up there levying God to make some good things happen for me and for this area that was her home for 93 years because everything just seems to be making a 180 degree turn right now in so many ways.  It would be so like her to do that.  Always thinking of others.

I enjoyed several hours alone at a lovely spa in Hawaii while Hubby played golf, and it was a great time of reflection and peace for me.  God felt so very close as I had the unique opportunity to spend time with him in this gorgeous place.  The various health treatments must have helped the blood start flowing to my brain again, literally, and I have felt so much better physically since that day, and walking quite a bit while we were gone certainly helped, too.  The quiet time with God helped me to realize that it’s time to start moving on while remembering Mom and our good times together.  I had one teary time as I sat alone amid the beauty, but I have not cried a single tear since then.

There is too much of life left to live, and it’s time to quit wasting it on being sad.  I’m not sure what all that will mean for me going forward, but I’m ready to see what life has to bring my way.

One thing that became clear was that it is time to pursue my photography hobby once again.  I’ve put it away for too long, and the passion that God has given me for photography is going to waste in some way.  This happened *before* I even mentioned this small revelation to my Hubby.  When he told me on my birthday, the day we flew home from Hawaii, that he wanted to upgrade my camera equipment when we got home, it confirmed my earlier revelation.  God works in mysterious and glorious ways, and the blessings are flowing all around right now, for sure.  The new camera and lenses are already in hand, and I’m looking forward to new photographic experiences with them and hopefully improving my skills significantly.

IMG_6966

The drought is finally over.  Spring has returned in so many ways, and my heart is grateful for the sustaining power that saw me through it all once again. ❤

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Thankful for a Seagull

Today, I count my dear readers among my many blessings. There is so much to be thankful for that it leaves me almost speechless this morning. Today, I will once again start a new year of gratitude tracking, and if you have never done this, list at least three things each day that you are grateful for, I highly recommend giving it a try! With gratitude for your friendship today! – D

Animal Wonder

A lone seagull at Bolivar A lone seagull at Bolivar

On this wonderful Thanksgiving Day, most of us have turkeys in mind when we think of birds, not seagulls. So, what does this unassuming little seagull have to do with Thanksgiving?

There is a story that goes along with this gull sighting, and it is a story that I want to share here sometime. I will just say for now that I am thankful for this little bird that almost made me cry crocodile tears when I saw it a few years ago. This is far from my best bird photo, but it is one that is near and dear to my heart because of the circumstance where I saw this bird.

We will be enjoying another fabulous meal together with family at our home today, and I will most definitely give thanks for my many blessings once again. I wish you all a very…

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Thank You So Much, Veterans!

American Flag Veterans

I want to thank our veterans and all active duty people for your service today!  I am also remembering my own family members who served today, including my father, my brother and several uncles, including one uncle that did not come home from WWII after being held as a prisoner where he ultimately died.  Most of us cannot begin to fathom what they endured and continue to endure every day.

Today is always such a humbling day for me when I think about the many sacrifices made by those that serve and their families.  I pray that we all increasingly value their contribution for the important role they continue to play to our nation every single day.  Although many of us only say this once a year, in reality, you are in our minds and hearts and prayers all the time.

Video Tribute by Erik Wahl at Vimeo

Operation Heal Our Patriots
Samaritan’s Purse

God bless you one and all – with much love and a humble heart today.

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Home Improvements

It is always a good week when we complete some significant improvements to our home, and such was our week last week.

Weathered Wood Roof
New Timberline “weathered wood” roof and new Attic Breeze solar attic fan

After several weather delays beginning early in September, we finally had our new roof installed last week, and it looks great.  This is our third roof on our home that is just under thirty years old, and once again, we opted to go with a totally new color.  This time, we selected a Timberline shingle in a  “weathered wood” color which looks great with the new paint color we used last summer on the outside trim.  This is a better shingle than what we had on our previous roof and also carries a better warranty.

This same company also installed an Attic Breeze solar attic fan for us when they installed the new roof, and they only need to return sometime this week to install the required soffit vents to complete their work at our house.  The vents were painted to match our trim a few weeks ago, using some exterior paint that we had leftover last year.  The solar fan will automatically run anytime the attic is 100 degrees or higher, but so far, the weather has been cool enough that the fan has not yet turned on.  It may be quite some time before our weather warms up enough for the fan to actually turn on, too.  The fan carries a lifetime warranty, and we should also be able to claim a tax credit this year for installing this particular fan, which is always a nice little perk.  We do not know anyone that has installed a solar unit like this one yet, as this one is fairly new, so I guess we will be one of the first houses in our area to get one.

We also had the opportunity to use our RV as a “home away from home” last week while our new roof was installed.  I am so glad that we had somewhere else to go, as I’m sure the dogs and I would not have had a good experience at home on those days, and I can only imagine how noisy it was inside the house.  Almost every picture was hanging crooked when we returned home, and some light fixtures in the master bathroom came loose from the ceiling, since that room has no attic above it.  The local RV park where we stayed was surprisingly great.  I’m not sure why we never really checked out RV parks closer to home until now, except that we thought we probably would not ever need to use one.  We briefly considered day-boarding the dogs for those days, but it was cheaper and easier to use the RV as our home base, and it also gave me a place to escape the noise at home, too.  It was a win-win situation in every way.  The lovely rig next to us had Alaska plates on the pickup and the fifth wheel, and I wish I could have spoken to the owners, who looked like a retired couple.  What a drive they made to get here!  They were busy and headed out most of the time, and I wondered if they might be visiting family or friends that live in the area.

It was great to have a calm place hang out while the roof was installed, and I even managed to get some chores done in the RV, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom areas, putting lemon oil on all of the cabinet doors and cleaning out some interior storage areas to swap summer items for winter items.  I also found time to finish a good audiobook, The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst, and I highly recommend this book for any ladies that are interested in the topic.  It is always a timely one for me, it seems.

Premier RO System
New Premier Reverse Osmosis system

We also purchased and installed a Premier reverse osmosis system under our sink in the kitchen, along with a matching water spigot at the sink.  The unit will supply water at our sink and to our ice maker.  We are both so happy to finally have a reverse osmosis system for our drinking water, as this has been an item we have considered purchasing for several years.  While our tap water is fine to drink, neither of us really care for the taste of it.  When I embarked on my diet back in January, I started drinking more water and fewer diet soft drinks, and Hubby has also started drinking more water, too.  This system will eventually pay for itself with the money we save buying gallons of water and cases of bottled water.  We found this set at Costco at a great price, about $100 less than advertised elsewhere online for the same unit, and it was the same brand that was highly recommend by a friend.

Outdoor Sound System Control Unit
New Russound control unit – We have five more units to eventually install in the house, too.
Bowers and Wilkins Outdoor Speakers
Bowers and Wilkins outdoor speakers, custom painted to match our patio

The last item that was installed over the past week was the outdoor control panel for our new sound system on our back porch.  Our son installed the patio system with custom speakers, with the exception of building the wooden housing box for the control unit and painting it to match our exterior paint, which Hubby was able to do this weekend.  The main receiver and CD/DVD player were installed under our bar in the living room in a cabinet that was pre-wired with electricity when we bought our house, and the system is expandable with more control units for other rooms.  The sound system in our home has needed updating for a while, and our son will continue to help us install better speakers and the updated control units in some of the other rooms over time.  We have five more control units to use with the system, and over time, it is going to be a fabulous setup throughout the house and should also increase the resale value a bit, too.

Along with our new Chinese Pistache tree in the back yard and updates to our back porch area that we made in the spring, we have made some great progress this year on updating the outside of our house.  Our backyard is a more inviting place now, and we have been able to use it much more over the past few months.  If we can’t be camping, at least we now have a pleasant area to enjoy outside at home that is more protected from the elements.

Our garden has pretty much run its course for the year, the leaves on the trees are just beginning to turn, weekly grass mowing is now down to just once every two or three weeks, fun fall activities are in full swing, and life is just so good.  Red passed his first obedience school test last week, and we will begin intermediate classes in two weeks.  I also had my first colonoscopy done last Monday, and all is well.  I do not have to return for another test for ten years, and I am so grateful for that outcome.  If you are 50 or older and have not yet had your baseline test, please do so.  If I can do it, you can, too!

I so love this wonderful time of year, especially when the extra chores and necessary home improvements that come along with warmer weather months finally subside right along with the temperatures.  Even though home ownership can be a hard thing at times, I am more grateful than ever for our lovely home that we have been given to live in and raise our children in over the years.  We have so many great memories here over the years, and hopefully we have many more great memories in store.

Now it’s time to start thinking a bit more about the upcoming holidays!

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June Joy

As of June 16, we have been married for 35 years! ❤

Hubby had to work on our anniversary and also had to leave town on business early the next morning to travel to Tennessee, so we just enjoyed a nice dinner at a local steak restaurant that we both like a lot.  As usual, the food was wonderful, and I even managed to stay on my diet, too, opting for a steak, fresh grilled asparagus and a small tossed salad.  We enjoyed our nice relaxing evening together, especially immediately after a fun weekend trip to the canyon with our son for the Father’s Day weekend.  It does not seem possible that 35 years have passed, and I grew quite teary as I posted about it on my Facebook page that same day.  You see, our days have not always been easy ones, but the growth we have both experienced as a result of the really bad times is something I would not trade for now.  We are both able to help others in their own time of difficulty now as a result of that growth, and that will forever be a part of our mutual life ministries, for sure.  God has seen to that already, even when we least suspect it.

I deliberately postponed my big spring cleaning push of the year at home until the “dust finally settled,” literally.  We have had so many days of blowing dust this year that is was honestly pretty pointless to embark on deep cleaning until it settled down with the summer rains and planting of the cotton fields in the area.

Haboob at Sunset
Haboob at Sunset earlier this year

Happily, that time has now come, and I have made some good progress on cleaning over the past few weeks.  I also had the carpet and tile professionally cleaned once again, and that is always a real treat for us.  I am taking my cleaning efforts a bit more slowly this year, as there is really no rush to kill myself to get it done.  Deep cleaning is definitely not one of my favorite things to do in life, but it is so nice to make progress and just “git ‘er done, ya’ll!” 🙂

Since we received our first big rainstorm that dropped over five inches a few weeks ago, we have been continually blessed to continue receive even more beneficial rain almost weekly, spaced just far enough apart each week to keep our lawns and trees watered regularly.  Our area has now received 9 inches, which is such a huge blessing!

Backyard Flooding
Backyard flooding

To bring us out of the drought, though, we still need about 30 more inches, especially for our water sheds, so the prayers will keep going up.  Since we are now in stage two water restrictions, the rain has been especially wonderful, as we have been able to refrain from watering the lawn completely.  However, we also received some hail, and we had to have a new roof put on the rent house two weeks ago.  The major damage likely came from a big hail storm that hit while we were away over Easter weekend, and the damage was made worse after a smaller hail storm recently.  Anyway, the new roof is done, and we will have an adjuster out in a few weeks to also look at our roof, too.  We have also had a reprieve from 100 degree temperatures so far, and this, combined with the wonderful rain, has kept our climate pretty much perfect in June, if not a bit unseasonably cool.  Cooler temps may now be coming to an end, at least for a few days, as the temperature should near 100 degrees this weekend, but I’m still so very grateful that we’ve had such a great weather month so far.

Our entire area is so green and beautiful, and it almost feels like I’m on a little vacation right here at home after months and months of dry and windy weather and dirt that literally seemed to be everywhere.  It’s not hard for anyone in our area to enjoy being outdoors among all this dirt-free greenery, and it makes me wonder if people who live in more temperate areas grow complacent with their beautiful scenery over time.  I can bet that will seldom happen for me, and I’m just so happy to be here right now.

I make it a point to spend time outdoors each morning these days, sipping my cup of Hazelnut coffee, reading my bible, working through my bible study homework and playing with the dogs a bit.  The dogs are happy to be out with me to explore the yard, look at the birds, lay in the soft green grass and chase each other around the yard.  Having two large, young dogs is something new for us, and it is so fun to watch them play with such energy, especially when they chase each other round and round the new tree in the middle of the yard.  If I get involved in the mayhem, I really have to watch them or they could knock me down, but it is still so much fun!

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Girly Girl and Red (aka The Complainer!) He did not like sitting still to have his picture taken.

My cannas are blooming with their pretty red blooms, and my Red Rocket crape myrtles are also starting to bloom right on time and should be in full bloom by the 4th of July holiday.  My little vegetable garden of tomatoes and peppers is making good progress, and I picked the first ripe tomatoes last Monday, just in time to serve to my girlfriends on Monday evening when they joined me here for a salad dinner outside.

2014-06-20 15.26.27
Our Red Rocket crape myrtles are in bloom once again.

I’m also cherishing travel memories of trips I’ve made over the few weeks, too.  I have been especially blessed to have seen so many cherished family members and friends in a thirty-day period.  I even reconnected with one of my best friends from high school recently, finally meeting her for lunch at a nearby restaurant on Wednesday and visiting for three hours.  She recently retired from her job and contacted me out of the blue to meet for lunch, and I hope this will just be the start of many more wonderful visits with her.  She was, and still is, a beloved sister in Christ and holds a special, unique place in my heart to this day.

I’m glad to finally be done with my posts about our big trip back in May, and I still have posts to come about my epic road trip with my 93 year-young mother and my 83 year-young aunt to Oklahoma, as well as a quick Father’s Day weekend trip with our son to the canyon.  We also have a longer trip planned for the 4th of July weekend back to a nice private campground with full hookups in northern New Mexico with some friends in our RVs, and we are definitely looking forward to going back there with them once again, just as we did twice last year.  Having full hookups is always a special treat for us, since most of the parks we visit only have water and electric hookups on site.  That is fine for a weekend trip, but for anything more than two or three days, having the sewer line is a real blessing.  Ah, the simple things to be thankful for on vacation now, including unlimited showers in our very own RV.

The last news of the past month is our purchase of a DISH Tailgater satellite system for the RV.  Even though we took our wonderful trip to Kauai and Big Sur back in May to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, we also decided to finally purchase the satellite as our gift to each other, too.  We do not intend to sit around at camp watching television too much, but it will be nice to have it for the times we are inside the RV and would enjoy having some decent programming to watch, especially on hot summer afternoons and cold winter nights.  Also, most places where we camp on the weekends nearby have no cell phone or over-the-air television signal available, and one issue that results from that fact is not knowing if we are at risk of severe weather or tornadoes headed our way.  Up until now, we had no way of knowing if we were at risk, except for our NOAA weather radio, which travels with us wherever we go and stays alert for us overnight when we are at home as well.  Now, we can tune in to local television news and know exactly what is happening most of the time and if bad weather may be headed our way soon.  We also camp in the RV in the winter months, and we will enjoy having some viewing options at night for a change, as I think we have now watched every DVD movie we own several times.  We just subscribed to a pay-as-you-go plan for the satellite and will only pay for the months we want to use it.

Married for 35 years to my sweet hubby.

Having a clean house, almost free of dust.

Rain, rain, rain!

Green grass. Green trees. Flowers blooming. Vegetables growing.

Hazelnut coffee. Bible study.  My sweet dogs.  Cool mornings.

Getting to see special family and friends again.

Seeing the Oklahoma City area without fear of blowing away in a tornado for the first time.

Father’s Day weekend with my two favorite guys.

Satellite TV when camping.

Looking forward to a trip with good friends very soon to the mountains of New Mexico.

Sharing my joy here.

My heart is filled with such joy on days like this!  Isn’t God wonderful to bring us to these times where our “cups” can be filled up once again?  Such are my days right now.  Life is good, and I am blessed!  😀

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Ugg!

Dear Ol’ Man Winter with your single digit temperatures, below zero wind chills, slippery ice and every other day snow showers. I am now properly prepared for you once again!  I even found these beauties for half-price, too.

New Uggs!

Yes, getting a brand-spanking new pair of Uggs is definitely a memorable day for me.  If this pair lasts as long as my last pair, they will probably outlive me.

Thank you, God, for toasty warm shoes at a bargain price!  😉

D
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