Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Good Investment

Home Sweet Temporary Home
 In mid-summer, I was blessed to find a buyer for the camper that Buck and I lived in for eight months (end of January through the end of September, 2008) while we built our new home. Moving into our humble abode on our wide open acre, in the coldest part of winter, made it quite the adventure! If you know anything about campers, you realize that they are not designed for year round living, unless, you are located in an area with moderate temperatures. That certainly doesn’t describe winter in southeastern Pennsylvania.  

Although our small, interim home was modern and cozy, winter dictated that we had no indoor plumbing as long as there was the possibility of freezing conditions. So, that meant no running water until May and yes, we had a rented outhouse! We had the luxury of access to water in a neighbor’s barn and that was our source for filling and toting our water jugs. We heated water on our three burner propane cook-top, for washing dishes and for our “bird baths”, as I lovingly referred to them. We made weekly trips to my daughter and son-in-laws home to shower and do our laundry. My daughter, Sarah, used to joke about our visits being like your kids coming home from college, only we would usually show up with food as well as bags of dirty clothes.  

Our temporary home was quite comfy for the two of us. Although we didn't have running water for three and a half months; we did have electricity, a propane furnace, small oven, tiny microwave and a compact, but adequate frig and mini-freezer. Much to Buck's delight, we were able to have cable and I was thrilled to have internet access and high speed at that, which I had never had before! We never felt deprived in any way! Except for the inconvenience of our water situation, for us, it was cushy camping at it's best and we both were so happy and excited to be there on our little piece of heaven! I'm so thankful that we had those eight months to enjoy together and to build sweet memories that I will always cherish!

Our hilltop location meant exposure to high gusty winds and on one blustery February day my absentmindedness got me in trouble. It was so windy that I was frightened by the way the camper was rocking and I decided it would be better to pull in our slide outs, providing less area for the winds to push against. It would have been a better idea, if I would have remembered that we had hay bales stacked around the perimeter to block the cold air and better insulate the floor. By the time I realized why there was resistance to pulling in our bedroom slide out, it was too late. I was sickened when I comprehended what I had done! I ran outside to access the damage and found the side panel grossly altered. I was beside myself and called Buck to confess my stupidity. When he got home from his workday, he reassured me that it was no big deal and he could make it like new again. How blessed I was to have such an easy going, forgiving husband!

It didn't take long for us to understand just how poorly insulated campers really are. Being fashioned for three season habitation at best, our fuel dollars didn't go very far as we tried to stay warm during the bitterness of that winter. We were shocked when we figured out that it cost more to heat our 30 foot camper when compared to heating our three bedroom A-Frame style home! We had to be resourceful to create a comfortable sleeping environment, as some nights literally felt like we were sleeping in a tent! We were thrilled when spring finally arrived!

When I sold the camper, I was disappointed by how much value was lost in those two years of ownership. It was a temptation to think we had made a bad investment, only getting a return of half of our purchase price. But as I look back, I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to live on and enjoy our property for those eight months while our dream home was coming together. Living there made Buck's role as general contractor so much easier as we went through the stressful home-building process and we made so many sweet memories there as we "roughed it" in our small, comfortable residence . Those precious memories made it worth every penny and I have no regrets about our decision to make the camper our temporary home. They are a treasure I will forever hold in my heart!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Searching For Joy In The Midst Of Melancholy

In my last post, I shared that I was working on a writing assignment for my church's writer's group. I really struggled in putting it together since the timing coincided with our wedding anniversary and I was in the throws of a new wave of grief. I wanted my composition to be positive and uplifting, painting a picture of this colorful season with words, but I found it very difficult to do so and to be honest at the same time.  The end result feels disconnected to me. Perhaps this is what happens when a writer just goes through the motions. I compromised by sandwiching the sights and sounds of a picturesque fall season with the bookends of my genuine endeavor to appreciate this most beautiful time of year.
                                                               Autumn Melancholy

Autumn at Muddy Run
Autumn, a much loved and favorite season for so many, stirs mixed emotions inside of me every year and even more so since my sweetheart no longer shares my life. Even though I am surrounded by so much beauty, I have to be intentional to search for the joys of the season. There is so much to be appreciated, especially being so blessed to live in the beautiful rolling hills of rural, southeastern Pennsylvania. With a prominent population of deciduous trees, I am treated to a feast of colorful progression that includes all the warm colors of the rainbow.

Thoughts of autumn engage my senses as I think about my favorite apple festival that takes place on the first Saturday in October, each year in Darlington, Md. Vendors line the small town’s streets with canopies, tents and farm wagons bulging with baskets of apples of every color and variety and heavy laden tables filled with pies and dumplings. The air is filled with the intoxicating fragrance of cinnamon,  caramel sauce and kettle corn. Everywhere you look is an explosion of color with lavender asters and mums of white, yellow, purple, rusty orange and my 
personal favorite, burgundy, providing a sea of color for the throng of festival goers to wade through as they pick out the perfect ones to take home . Many playful scarecrows are created that day as families have fun stuffing plaid flannels shirts and old worn out blue jeans to make whimsical characters to decorate their front porches along with their pumpkins, hay bales and colorful Indian corn.

How to Make a Scarecrow BodythumbnailThe fall season beckons campers to the outdoors to enjoy the last of the favorable weather. They are wooed by the joys of crackling campfires, cooking outside and hikes on rugged trails, strewn with noisy, crispy leaves. I can almost smell the bacon and camp-stove coffee when I close my eyes.

Now is the season when we will see deer more frequently, since the monstrous combines have recently harvested the cornfields, exposing their secret hiding places. Of course, this also means we will notice camo-clad hunters as they enter and exit wooded areas at dusk and dawn in pursuit of meat for their tables.

Scott Shephard Photogra

Autumn conjures thoughts of honking, south bound, flocks of geese in v-formation under a perfect deep blue canopy with billowy, cotton-like white clouds. I think of long lines of yellow school buses, football games, homecoming dances and chilly days that encourage me to dig out my favorite, warm, comfy sweaters and cozy blankets and throws. In my imagination I can smell the fragrance of crayons, earthy leaves, wood smoke and simmering pots of soup. 
Autumn sunset view from my front porch
Often, my favorite part of an autumn day is a gorgeous sunset when the Creator of all things bright and beautiful does His most amazing artistry, painting the sky with passion and indescribable beauty in shades of breathtaking pink, coral and purple. It is my desire to be diligent in savoring all that this season has to offer, in order to overcome the melancholy that wants to rob me of the joy and beauty of this most colorful season. I can only accomplish that commitment by depending on the daily strength that the Lord provides for me...Grace For Today.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8 


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Anniversary Melancholy

Sunset glow at Muddy Run Recreation Park

Autumn beauty At Muddy Run
Today would have been our fourteenth wedding anniversary. I was hopeful that maybe it would be easier this year, but last week was emotion-filled and made it pretty clear that this third time of facing this date on the calendar was not going to be any less painful. Autumn has always been challenging  for me because it is that time of transition, forcing me to say goodbye to my best-loved season of summer and facing the reality of another approaching winter, my least favorite season of the year.

So many memories come to mind in October. I have been seeing deer pretty regularly lately, since the cornfields have been cut by the monster combines, exposing all their secret hiding places. I am always thrilled to see them, but they always make me think of Buck, my late husband, who was an avid hunter and gifted marksman, both with bow and gun alike, although he much preferred the challenge of bow hunting.

I had a writing assignment to complete this week for my writer’s group at my church. We were encouraged to write about autumn, bringing in all our senses to paint a picture with words. I was not prepared for the difficulty this little project would present. I decided to visit Muddy Run Recreation Park, a picturesque area surrounding a man-made reservoir. I thought the beautiful outdoor environment would inspire me, but the setting was not at all conducive to creativity, and instead hit me with a crushing wave of grief! 

I suppose I should have known better, since it was our favorite local place to hike during all the seasons and we had spent so many fun-filled hours there through the years. I thought I had dealt with the memories during prior visits over the past two years, but visiting in the fall and expecting to compose my thoughts in a creative way, while surrounded by so many happy memories was just too much for me. It made me wonder if I will ever again, be able to enjoy the places that we once shared and enjoyed together. I look forward to the day when the memories will bring smiles instead of tears! I trust it will happen as my heart heals. In the meantime I hold on to God’s promises during the ups and downs. I continue to understand that the journey of grief will always be unpredictable but doable as we trust the Lord to accompany us whether we are in the valley or on the mountaintop. He is Faithful every step of the way!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11