Saturday, June 24, 2006

Into the Fog

We have arrived in Carmel. Unbelievably, we have now been here more than a week. The trip across country (or half the country) gave us opportunities to see some old friends, relax a little between packing and unpacking and spend time with the girls. We had suprisingly good weather with only a few rain drops. The new-to-us pop up camper was perfect. We had thought to only use it half the time, but ended up using it every night. We can now set it up in 10 minutes or less and take it down in about 15 minutes. The girls think it is akin to an amusement ride or piece of playground equipment.

We did feel like the poor relations in a few of the campgrounds. The monster RVs named Tsunami, Apocalypse, Venetian and the like dwarfed our Lilliputian camper. The RV drivers would pull into their spaces pulling SUVs and mini vans, push out the 16 additional pop outs on their RVs to bring their total floor space to something only slightly smaller than our house, put up their satellites and water filters and plug into the electric/water and sewer. Some of the campers had been stationary a bit long with wooden porches and decks, birdhouses and full patio tents.

After seven days on the road, we arrived in Carmel last Thursday afternoon and the whirlwind began. Our household goods arrived on Friday in a huge truck that blocked the road and caused one minor fender bender with our first introduction to Carmel police. The boxes filled up the house, the garage, the carport and spilled out into the driveway. Our purging efforts prior to moving had not been enough! We've spent the week purging more, unpacking, finding creative use of spaces, re-arranging and stuffing things in. We put the girls' room together early on and they seem unaffected by the chaos other than to use the boxes and stuff as additional playthings. We've taken them walking and to the beach and library. We love being able to walk from the house to the beach, to the post office and so many other places. The first few days were sunny and warm. The infamous Carmel fog showed up on Wednesday. Drive two miles north, south or east and it is sunny. The locals tell us the fog stays for June and July, but that fall and spring are lovely here. We have trees everywhere--any window I look out of I see beautiful conifers and broad leaf trees. We have blue jays that crack nuts on the patio. We feel blessed to be in the fog and spending two years here.

The next few weeks we will spend getting connected: finding a church, doctors, classes for the girls. If you are in the area, come by for a visit. We only have a few boxes left and you can help us unpack or purge.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hindsight Faith is 20/20

My grandmother, Mama, had many sayings, including "hindsight is 20/20." We learned again this week that we are simply not in control and even our best efforts to be in control and solve everything would leave us with solutions less than desirable. We've had a roller coaster week. We signed listing papers last Tuesday for our house and it actually went on the market with MLS/ on Saturday. The mother of a friend of a friend came by last week twice to look at the house--after it was on the market. We thought the visits exciting and a good start to indicate interest. Then on Sunday afternoon, the realty company called to schedule a showing for Sunday night. Monday morning after my walk, our realtor Jodie called and said "I have a full price offer for your house."

As MeiLin's book "Lily's Purple Plastic Purse" says: "Wow! That is all we could say. Wow!"

We had to hustle some this week as we had not actually received any confirmation of if Mike was in the July class so we were in a bit of a quandary on possession dates. We decided on Monday to counter with a rent back until June 19. If Mike was in the July class, we would move by then. If he was in the September class, well, we might be living in the pop up camper for awhile. The buyer accepted our counter offer Tuesday and we found out Mike is indeed in the July class.

We took a walk last night after a spring rain. The air was cool and damp. Mike tried out his "moo" cell ring with the cows; they seemed interested, maybe too interested. We just can't believe all we have experienced, done and been a part of in the last 17 years. God is amazing and we are humbled! I vowed (again) to try to stop controlling things. I might make it through the week.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

That's not a knife...

This last week I've been recovering from back surgery. Finally, relief from the nagging, sleep-depriving pain in my right leg we've been struggling with for the last six months. I have to say I was pretty nervous about the whole thing as I had never been in a hospital during my first 40 years. Talk about an impetus for a mid-life crisis - hit 40 and stuff stops working. But, despite some early hiccups in my care and a rather lengthy diagnosis phase, I ended up with a superb doctor and woke up pain-free from my surgery (less the pain associated with the surgery).

So, at home this week, trying very much not to twist/bend/lift/stress my back. It's tough not being able to pick up the girls, and the desire to mow the lawn or organize the barn is strong. But, the fresh memory of the last 1/2 year is enough to not want to do any more damage. I did do some walking (the doctor said I could and should walk) and am now very sore since I haven't done any exercising in months.

Our lives continue to change in other ways too. We're moving closer to our move to Monterey, CA, with a projected class start date of 5 July. Two weekends ago we moved the rest of our alpacas to Oklahoma and sold our stock trailer. Last weekend we sold two more shelters and a bunch of other farm stuff. We also purchased a popup camper. Yesterday we sold the Ford F250 Pickup (snif!). Next week we're putting the house on the market.

The next three months will be interesting to say the least. Another adventure for the family, a new place to live, new experiences for us and the girls. In all this we are always blessed and thankful - especially for friends and family who supported us. Thank you.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Saying Goodbye to Alpacas

This weekend the last of our alpacas left our small ranch. We transported eight alpacas down to Oklahoma to a new owner. Outracing thunderstorms and tornado wall clouds, stopping at Braums on the way for a nostalgic burger and sundae and driving 730 miles in one day, we said good-bye to our daily life of alpacas. Today, new owners came to our place to take home our last two alpacas, our stock trailer, scale and miscellaneous items. We cleaned out the barn this morning and gave these new owners even more than they had purchased from us, at such a pitch was our purging fervor.

The odd thing is that we don't really feel the sadness everyone asks us about. While we will miss individual animals and many of the people we have met in the industry, the fact is that now with two small children, busy work lives, upcoming move and Mike's continued disc/nerve issues, we have felt overburdened. I felt joy today in how little was left in the barn and that I now do not have to feed anything more than two barn cats and our family everyday. I don't have to worry about worming schedules, shots, fly spray, breedings, pregnancy tests, transport to other farms, alpaca shows, marketing, business plans...
We loved the business, but we started it when we were childless. We had a lot more free time.

And yet, tonight when I looked out at the boys' pasture, it did seem odd not to see Cleveland munching on grass, rolling in the dust spot or spread out drying his body after the night's rains. Cleveland was the first baby born on our farm. He is now a proven sire and, after a restrictive diet, weighs in at 185 lbs. Cleve is the best of alpacas -- the poster child. He doesn't spit, kick or get flighty when perfect strangers want to love him and squeeze him and hug him. I was pleased when his new owner recognized his special qualities and declared she would never sell him. MeiLin fed him carrots, grass and stones (he passed on the the latter) through the fence since she was a year old. We'll miss him more than the others.

I feel lighter tonight. And, yet, just a little jealous of Cleve's new owner--she could be feeding him carrots and giving him a quick hug right now.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Take a moment...

Heather's granddad, Victor Menking, passed away this week and she flew down to Abilene, Texas to be with family to celebrate and honor this great man. He and Elline just celebrated their 60th anniversary two days before hand and Papa served his country for over 40 years.

Death is never easy. When Heather's dad called to tell us, Heather wasn't home at the time, so I took the call. And I knew. I knew because Papa had been ill. I knew because Dad hesitated. I knew because my heart already ached with the loss. Not just for me, but for Heather and her family, and for my children who will have trouble remembering Papa in the years to come because they are so young now.

I lost my Opa many years ago, yet the day we found out is still fresh in my mind. But what I remember more is what took place a number of years later. Heather and I were watching a movie, The Doctor (1991), with William Hurt. It was not particularly memorable, but one scene had a deep and unexpected impact on me. Hurt, who is playing the doctor, is walking towards his car in a garage and comes upon an elderly gentlemen who is standing beside his car, struggling. I don't remember why; lost keys, forgetfulness, something else. But his mannerisms or struggles or appearance reminded me so much of my Opa that I was overcome with grief and loss in that dark theater, and I broke down and cried.

The pain and loss subside, but never fade completely. They are part of who we are and as difficult as it is, I'm thankful. Without the hurt, I wouldn't be reminded how important it is to cherish our time together now. To be thankful for every moment we have. To strengthen the ties to family that give us our strength and sense of place. To hug my girls instead of being upset when they do something that drives me crazy. To love my wife, my friend.

60 years. Heather and I will celebrate our 17th this year and, although thankful for every year, I'm awed by those who have 40, 50 and 60. I pray there will be many more for us. If you listen to NPR at all, you may know that on Fridays, the have a story about the StoryCorps. This is a project that travels around the U.S. and invites people to come into a sound booth and record stories about family, friends and life. One couple, Danny and Annie Perasa, are exceptional. Not in the eyes of the world so much; they are not particularly beautiful, rich, influential or well spoken. But the story they tell about their love cuts to the heart. Danny talks about his love for Annie in basic terms; "Being married is like having a color television set, you never want to go back to black and white."

I invite you to go to the NPR web site and listen to their last recording before Danny passed away as anything I could write would diminish what you will hear ( and hit the "Listen" button under the title). I hope that my love for Heather is as evident to her and our children as Danny's love is for Annie.

So thank you and good bye, Papa. We will miss you. And Lord, help us all to cherish our family and friends now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Historical: A Windy Valentine

Heatherly here. Mike is on a business trip and unreachable. It is Valentine's Day, although the candy fest began last Thursday with library story time and continued through a 4-year old's birthday party on Saturday, children's church valentine cookies on Sunday and then yet another Valentine celebration complete with heavily iced cupcakes at MeiLin's violin class last night. No wonder MeiLin is a bit confused and asked last night if it would still be Valentine's Day when Aunt Mandy comes on March 1.

This morning, the girls opened a package from my parents--lovely little kitty face purses in plush fabric and bright colors. The purses contained more candy of course. Unfortunately for me, the girls will focus on the fruit gel Cinderella snacks (Disney knows what girls want) while Monica and I struggle with the chocolate temptation. Have you ever noticed that given a choice, most children will choose the cheap, pure sugar, pastel or outrageous colored treats and leave the lovely (but apparently dull) chocolates for the adults?

Our ladies' bible study started again last night with a study of John and Stasi Eldredge's Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman's Soul. Reading Stasi's observation that most little girls go through a twirling stage and want to be lovely gave me a new appreciation for my own daughters' current ballerina/princess passion. Maiya will come to me dressed in a lovely pink fairy costume complete with little wings and declare "I'm pretty!" She then smiles and laughs as I confirm she is beautiful and give her a hug. Perhaps Stasi is right: deep in every woman's heart is the desire to be beautiful, to give beauty to the world. It is an embarrassing thought to me sometimes, conflicted with societal pressures and connotations. Yet, the beauty we want to unveil is the beauty of a 2-year old little girl twirling in the kitchen to music, dressed in outlandish satin and netting over her pajamas, her eyes shining and laughter coming from her heart.